Friday, 17 May 2013




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.200px-617sqn-600Then 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.

1 comment:

  1. In 1953, just 8 years after the end of WWII, a group of students from the Wilhelmschule in the German city of Kassel (85% destroyed in the war) came to Barkingside and stayed with the families of boys at Ilford County High School. I did not take part in the arrangement that year, but did get to know the 18-year old German who stayed with one of my school friends.

    A year later my family received one of the German students, and the following month, with a group from my school, I stayed with his family. Whilst staying in Kassel we visited the Ederdam, a gigantic structure that had been completely repaired. Almost 60 years later I have never forgotten it.

    And I remain in regular contact with the German I met in 1953, and now with his wife and family as well as his younger brother and his wife.