An Order of Canada-appointed author is back in Huntsville this week to tell the story of one of World War II’s most secretive operations.
On the night of May 16, 1943, 19 Allied bombers raided Nazi Germany’s industrial powerhouse, the Ruhr River Dams with an untested bouncing bomb. It’s the subject of Ted Barris’ book “Dam Busters,” as well as his talk in Huntsville on May 10, just ahead of the raid’s 80th anniversary.
According to Barris, “Operation Chastise” was put together in a matter of weeks, with the mission kept top-secret until the day of the raid. He says 133 Allied airmen were hand-picked, trained, and led by British officer Guy Gibson for the treetop flight that would take them from the United Kingdom into the heart of Germany.
“One of them comes from the Muskoka area, guy named George Dearing. He was a gunner, a bomb-aimer, and he was one of Guy Gibson’s crewmen,” says Barris. “Canadians really were sprinkled across all 19 of the Lancaster bombers that were chosen to go. So it’s very much a Canadian-represented bomb-operation, and unfortunately many were lost.”
Despite the losses and captures, Barris says the raid achieved its goal. He says the crews breached two dams, damaged another, and washed out a major part of the surrounding area.
“While it might seem that it was a tactical or strategic defeat, in fact it was a morale boost for the Brits,” says Barris. “This was their first turning of the tide of the war in 1943, to essentially say to the Germans ‘we caught you off guard, and this is the way we’ll turn the tide and win of the war’. So Britons could be proud of the fact they were still in it, and they had the means to win.”
The Kiwanis Club of Huntsville Muskoka will host the talk at Huntsville’s Trinity United Church at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Tickets are $20 per person, by cash or e-transfer to [email protected]. Call the club’s Rick Brooks at 705-635-2101 to register.