Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the Dam Busters raid utilising the bouncing bomb designed by Barnes Wallace and featured in the film “The Dam Busters.” We remembered, at Mass at the Ilford Hospital Chapel, those who had died in that very brave attack which, it has been reckoned substantially shortened the Second World War. Yesterday evening a special ceremony was broadcast featuring both the Lancaster bomber and the Spitfire both of which played a significant part in the attack: the bomber dropping the bouncing bombs and the spitfires photographing the damage done by them. There are now only two Lancasters flying: one in Canada and one in Lossiemouth.
Many years ago now, in my youth when I had a dance band we were booked to play for a dance for the 617 Squadron Association on Hayling Island. It was to begin at 7.30 p.m. and our booking was until midnight. Usually with bookings like this you know that you will not be needed until around 8.00 p.m. at the earliest so whilst we wouldn’t be late we would tend to arrive dead on time which we did. Only to find that everybody was already there and waiting. We quickly set up and began.Then started one of the best evenings I remember. There was a totally free bar and the organisers made certain that the band were kept well supplied. Bands usually retired to a private room for some sandwiches (often they have seen better days!) during a break whilst the paying guests have their buffet; not with these guys -we were invited to share the most lavish buffet with the guests. All the men wore dinner jackets and the ladies were dressed in elegant gowns. After a wonderful buffet they had their Grand Daw with the most fabulous prizes. We carried on playing until just after midnight when we saw some other musicians arrive; they had been booked to take over from us. This event was going on all night! We were then invited to stay and join in if we would like to. All these years later I look back on this as a very great privilege to have been involved in one of the social functions for such a gallant group of men. Sadly very few are left but their historic achievement will never be forgotten.