Military Review

Night of heroes

Night of heroes


Dr. Barnes Wallace spent the last peaceful night at his cottage in Effingham, and in the morning, like all British people, he heard Chamberlain’s rather strange speech. What can he, the Vickers aircraft designer, do to reduce the war? Original ideas one after another visited his head. Wallace thought WHERE and HOW the bombardment could cause critical damage to Germany. Military production dispersed, they can not be destroyed by a single blow from the air. But maybe there are key points?

Coal mines! Roadways and tunnels hundreds of meters underground are invulnerable. Bombs will be able to bring down only the shaft of the mine, along with a lift, but the destruction can be quickly restored.
Oil! Ploiesti oilfields outside the coverage of British aircraft. German ersatz gasoline manufactures are numerous and well protected. Also a dubious target.
Hydroelectric power stations - "white gold"! In Germany, there are 3 dams - Meun, Eder and Sorpe. All in the Ruhr industrial area, they fully provide this huge industrial complex with water and energy. German industry requires 8 tons of water to produce 1 tons of steel.

Myung Dam forms a lake, maintaining the water level so that barges of ore and coal can freely approach the factories. The volume of the lake is more than 130 million tons of water. The Eder dam locks the river of the same name, creating the Eder reservoir. Zorpe forms a lake on the tributary of the Ruhr.
The dams are colossal. Myung 34 thick meters at the base and 8 meters on the ridge, has a height of 40 meters. The 500-pound bomb barely scratches the concrete. The dam of Zorpe is no less strong, although it is composed of soil. Two huge earthen mounds are fortified in the center with a concrete wall.
Breaking through the dams will not only destroy the hydroelectric power station and deprive the plants of water and electricity. Huge masses of water rush down into the valleys, sweeping away on their way highways, bridges, railways.

Huge dams can not be damaged by conventional bombs. Even with a direct hit, you need a huge charge of explosives (according to calculations up to 30 tons), none of the existing RAF bombers will pick up such ammunition. But the required power of the charge can be drastically reduced by correctly positioning it in space.

First, the entire volume of water locked in the reservoir presses against the dam and keeps its structure in a stressful state. Concrete works well in compression, but does not resist tensile well.
Secondly, in an explosion, water behaves like an incompressible medium. If the charge is eroded at the optimum depth from the pressure side of the dam, then a significant part of the shock wave will not dissipate in space, but will go into the wall, causing irreversible damage. Further, the water flows finally blur the dam.

Everything is fine, Wallace thought ... but there is one serious problem. Myon, Eder and Zorpe were protected by anti-torpedo nets, which meant that the bomb must be precisely placed in a narrow strip of space between these obstacles and the wall of the dam (which is almost impossible) or look for another way.


The motor refused to fly to Stuttgart and the Lancaster could not maintain altitude. Guy Gibson lost his order, but remaining on the same course. Over Stuttgart, he gave full throttle to 3 motors and, bombing on target, rushed back under cover of night, snuggling to the ground. It was Gibson's 173th sortie. He had the rank of lieutenant colonel aviation and Victoria Cross for flying merit. He was 25 years old.

On the same day, Guy Penrose Gibson was summoned to a meeting with Ralph Cochrane, the Vice-Marshal of Aviation.
“First of all I want to congratulate you on the new buckle to your order, Lieutenant Colonel.
- Thank you, sir.
- I can offer to make another flight.
Gibson shrugged and said a little tiredly:
“What kind of flight, sir?”
- Very important. Now I can not say anything. Unless: you will command the operation.
Gibson slowly replied:
- Yes ... I think so, sir.

Cockpit Avro Lancaster

So in March, 1943 of the 617 Squadron RAF appeared - a selective bomber squadron that sank Tirpitz, destroyed the Saumur railway tunnel, bombed German bunkers, imitated a sea convoy, and of course, Chastise, which is being discussed today.

Vikkers Type 464

In the 1943 year, a plan for the destruction of German dams from the air was created based on the calculations of Barnes Wallace. Dr. Wallace solved the puzzle, watching the children play, forcing the stones to jump on the surface of the water. To achieve a similar effect, the bomb should have been spun on board the Lancaster - after dumping, jumping several times on the surface of the water, she easily crossed all the anti-torpedo barriers, and then, ricocheted from the surface parapet of the dike, fell into the water on the pressure side.

Such a plan, in turn, gave rise to new problems. According to the calculations, the bomb must be reset from a height of exactly 18,3 m, the distance to the target at this moment is 390 meters, and the speed is 240 miles / hour. Lancaster has flown that distance in 4 seconds!

The discharge distance was determined simply: the width of the dam was known (it was determined from aerial photographs), which made it possible to manufacture the simplest optical range finder.
The definition of height was more difficult. Conventional means — barometric or radio altimeters — were not suitable for this — the flight altitude is too low. Found a brilliant solution: in the nose and tail of Lancaster 2 spotlights were installed, directed one - vertically down, the second - at a certain angle to the vertical, the rays intersected at a distance 18,3 m from the aircraft. During the flight, the searchlights gave two spots on the surface of the water and the pilots corrected their altitude. When the spots merged, the required height was reached.

After training, the 617 Squadron pilots managed to withstand the required height on the combat course without much difficulty. But the pilots did not feel great joy. When the plane enters a well-protected object at an altitude of 60 feet, the crew is very much at risk. And with the included spotlights ...

The original Vickers Type 464 bomb (also known as Upkeep) was a cylinder, 1,5 meter in diameter and tons of 4 in weight, of which Torpex was 2997 kg. Before dropping the bomb spun up to 500 rpm.

Flooding Germany!

16 May 1943, the reconnaissance Mosquito came back with fresh pictures of the dams, the water in Men was only 4 feet from the ridge. The reservoirs were completely filled after the spring thaw. A moonlit night will help the pilots to find the target.

Exactly at 21.10, the first five Lancaster went off. Total that night on the mission 19 bombers took off. Each carried a strange ammunition and 96 000 ammunition caliber .303 British. The shores of England were slowly melting behind.
The planes flew to the target at low altitude in open systems. The flight route went around the famous anti-aircraft artillery positions and night fighter airfields. However, the planes Barlow and Byers did not reach the target. No one knew where their anti-aircraft guns had shot down.

The leader’s crew was the first to attack the Myon Dam: the bomb successfully rolled onto the pressure side and exploded there. The dam has withstood. The target covered approximately 10 anti-aircraft guns, but Gibson’s Lancaster did not receive damage.

After the water in the lake calmed down, the crew of Hopgood went on the attack. Suddenly a red flame bloomed on the left wing tank, and a fiery trail reached behind the Lancaster. Looks like the scorer was killed, the Upkeeper bomb flew over the parapet and fell to an electrical substation. The plane frantically lifted its nose, gaining height, but a terrible orange flash swallowed the Lancaster, its wings flew off, and the flaming fuselage slammed into the ground, burying the pilots.

The third bomber got two shells in the wing, but was able to put his Upkeep exactly on target. A new explosion shook the dam. The lake boiled, white in a column of water shot up hundreds of meters in height. When the water calmed down, the dam was still standing.

The fourth "Lancaster" went on the attack. The crew of "A Apple" achieved a direct hit, but the dam withstood the blow this time.
Finally, the Matlby crew went on target. At this time, the aircraft freed from the bombs circled over the positions of anti-aircraft gunners with the included searchlights and side lights, trying to divert the attention of the Germans. When the water wall had subsided, the concrete body of the dam suddenly cracked and disintegrated under the pressure of water. Millions of tons of water, foaming and hissing, rushed through the hole, multimeter water shaft rushed down the valley, sweeping away everything in its path.

The remaining aircraft were retargeted to the Eder dam. The dam lay in the folds of the hills, which made the attack even more difficult, worse, there was fog in the valley. With six visits, the pilots could not hit the target. On the seventh call, the bomb worked without delay and the attacking Lancaster was destroyed by an explosion. The next attack was fatal for Eder.

Before and after

Worse things were in the second wave, attacking the dam "Zorpe". Only the fifth bomber managed to attack the target, but unsuccessfully - there were no holes. Three emergency aircraft were called up urgently. After several attacks, the pilots achieved the hit - the dam cracked, but still survived.
The two remaining reserve aircraft were sent to the reserve targets: one unsuccessfully attacked the Ennerpe dam, the second aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft guns.

That night from 19 "Lancaster", 9 did not return to base, 56 pilots died.

The results

According to the German archives, 19 bombers destroyed two large dams, 7 railway bridges, 18 automobile bridges, 4 turbine power stations, 3 steam power plants; 11 plants were destroyed in the Ruhr Valley, 114 enterprises were left without electricity.

The dams were quickly restored, but not because the damage was small. Urgent repairs only underscore the importance of dams for Germany, all the necessary human and material resources were immediately removed from other objects.

“Big whipping” (Chastise is translated in this way) became a legendary operation of the Second World War, during which the pilots of the Royal Air Force showed their professionalism and desperate courage.


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  1. Foamas
    Foamas 21 January 2012 10: 36
    The Germans blunted something ..
    At that time, air barrage balloons were also fashionable, as it was to prevent low-altitude bombing.
    Bombs, by the way, really smartly jump
    1. Glenn witcher
      Glenn witcher 22 January 2012 01: 17
      Fritz more protected the dam from the torpedoes - the grid was tightened. And anti-aircraft gunners should have dealt with the carriers. But Grandpa Wallace outwitted everyone. Nobody thought that depth charges would use that way.
  2. 755962
    755962 21 January 2012 11: 05
    The flip side of this approach was the extremely high requirements for the accuracy of the drop: if something went wrong, the bomb either bounced off the dam, or did not reach it, or jumped over the dam or did not dive as needed.
  3. muzhik
    muzhik 21 January 2012 12: 35
    Eternal memory to heroes!
  4. Strabo
    Strabo 21 January 2012 13: 59
    Nobody denies heroism, but according to such articles, many in the West think of course that the Allies won the war and not the USSR. But I think the explosion of several dams did not greatly affect the outcome of the war. If it were in 1941 then even the effect would have been greater, and so in 1943 the Red Army had already beaten the Germans.
    1. Santa Fe
      21 January 2012 16: 07
      No one in the West thinks the Allies won the war. This is a myth of Russian false patriots who have nothing to reproach the modern West with, they have to rummage through history and invent reasons "Everybody insults us"
      1. jamert
        jamert 21 January 2012 19: 35
        The older generation in America is not a fig overestimating its role in the victory over Germany. I had a political science teacher (a Jew of 73), he told all students that it was the Russians who won the war. But American youth do not even know the dates of the war.

        As for the materials of the article, this is from the book:
        Brickhill P. Ship Slayers / Barker R. Flooding Germany! - M .: ACT, 2001.
        1. Santa Fe
          21 January 2012 19: 49
          But American youth do not even know the dates of the war.
          What to do, jamert. Americans generally have little interest in the theme of World War II, only amateur fans are studying this topic, but among them no one puts Normandy above Stalingrad.

          Our false patriots, too, can not name the start date of the First World War. And they don’t remember the date of the battle of Borodino either
      2. smirnov
        smirnov 22 January 2012 23: 44
        There is nothing to blame ?? Yes, at least the massive bombardment of Dresden, and here, too, the blow to the dams, the civilian population suffers, not the soldiers ... The Anglo-Saxons have such a vision of war. That is, they can, "this is a war, all means are good" and if the enemy does the same, immediately howl: ayayai war crime ... Yes, and you can remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the fire of wooden Tokyo when more than a hundred thousand civilians burned down during the night -It's nothing to blame ??? and this offhand, if you dumped from this site, shit ...
  5. ivachum
    ivachum 21 January 2012 15: 07
    Just before that, they tried to bomb the dams with ordinary bombs - which was practically useless. And here is a special bomb to blow up dams and bridge supports.
    As far as I remember, the British could not repeat the success. Maybe, of course, I'm mistaken. wink

    By the way, the effect was still .... The Ruhr industrial district never reached its full production capacity, despite the restoration of the dams.
    1. Santa Fe
      21 January 2012 16: 12
      May 1943 of the year stood in the yard
      According to Russian false historians, the Second Front will "open" only in a year
  6. J_silver
    J_silver 21 January 2012 17: 55
    Well, I don’t know, I don’t know. - on the one hand, the unconditionally complex operation of destroying dams with the help of specially designed bombs and the method of bombing, on the other hand, is not very much honor!
    Now I can’t precisely operate with numbers, but the release of weapons in the Reich only increased, despite the bombing, even if you do not particularly discuss the primary goals of the bombing ...
    There was such an old book, it seems the Bomber, I don’t remember the author anymore, but it takes a long time to get to this shelf, as the history of how the small German town was bombed by mistake was painted in detail - the book is impressive. I advise you to find and read ...
    1. jamert
      jamert 21 January 2012 19: 39
      A small German town - isn't it Dresden? wink

      Have you ever seen books about how the small English town of Coventry was bombed?
      1. J_silver
        J_silver 21 January 2012 20: 00
        I sincerely advise you to find and read this book, by the way, it was written by an Englishman. There, events are viewed from both sides, on the one hand, the crew of the British strategic aviation aircraft is described as the main characters, and on the other, people are described. who were hit by a whole mix of strategic bombers. The book is quite old, I don’t even know if it was republished later and whether it is on the net ...
        I guess as well. that you know little about Coventry - this is a topic for another discussion ...
  7. Santa Fe
    21 January 2012 18: 52
    Russian official historiography likes to emphasize the fact: "Despite the intensifying bombardment, the industrial production of the Reich was growing," forgetting to tell about the reasons for the paradox.

    This strange fact is explained simply: from the beginning of the 1944 year, German industry completely curtailed the civilian sector of the economy, which would inevitably lead the economy to collapse. Despite all efforts, production chains were destroyed, quality fell, the population was exhausted. All the grandiose programs of Wunderwaffe were left on paper - only their unit production was managed.
    1. J_silver
      J_silver 21 January 2012 18: 57
      So it seemed to me that the quality was deteriorating mainly due to the depletion of a particular source of raw materials, because of this the strength of the armor began to deteriorate, for example ...
      And the bombing rather led to bitterness of the population and greater persistence in resistance ...
      1. Santa Fe
        21 January 2012 19: 15
        Silver, you are surprisingly adequate today.

        Well, firstly, Germany has never had special reserves of raw materials. And the sources that she had were used sparingly and had access to them until the very end of the war. (Example - Reich received Norwegian nickel until the fall of 1944).
        The decline in quality was due precisely to the violation of production chains.

        What does the anger of the population have to do with it? Even in 1939, the Germans did not differ in their affectionate disposition and sincerely hated "cowardly Americans" and "downtrodden children of the east"
        1. J_silver
          J_silver 21 January 2012 20: 07
          About raids in general is a separate song, when you start to think about any event, and even if there is something to remember from what you read and watched, then a lot of strange things are observed in a previously harmonious picture!
          It is very curious to look at the activities of German air defense - there is a very curious selection of characters - and local jerks, and even prisoners from different countries, who fired quite enthusiastically on the planes of the Allies, because they shared a common desire to survive ...
          This is in the film. If tomorrow the war with songs awaits the bombing of the Red Army, in real life they with great pleasure got up to guns and anti-aircraft machine guns ...
          1. Santa Fe
            21 January 2012 23: 50
            Holy Truth, Fortresses and Lancaster were shot from all barrels, only fire from the ground against strategic bombers was ineffective.
            Bombed from great heights. Fortresses, thanks to radar sights, climbed 7-8 kilometers. Only heavy 88 mm or 128 mm radar-guided anti-aircraft guns could get airplanes flying behind the clouds. There was nowhere to place them in the cities - a poor view from the street. and you can’t put it on the roof - it won’t stand the impact. The only places where the Germans could effectively shoot were anti-aircraft towers and air defense ships off the coast. But, due to their small number, the anti-aircraft fire was weak: only 5% of the Fortresses were shot down by anti-aircraft guns.

            The only serious countermeasures were fighters, but they did not take jerks and prisoners there.
            1. J_silver
              J_silver 22 January 2012 01: 16
              As far as I remember, there were not so many anti-aircraft towers, except for air defense ships off the coast, almost whole areas of artillery guns were created on the possible routes of movement of the columns of Allied aircraft - and it was in the air defense that young people were taken as the next stage of combat training after waving shovels at construction sites ...
              Well, and they didn’t take anyone into aviation, that's for sure ...
  8. J_silver
    J_silver 21 January 2012 20: 09
    In general, on the topic of the article - they all showed by box and in great detail ...
    1. Santa Fe
      21 January 2012 23: 51
      I, Silver, do not watch TV, so I don’t know much
      1. J_silver
        J_silver 22 January 2012 01: 17
        And I sometimes watch, especially popular science and historical programs ...
  9. kopar
    kopar 25 December 2012 11: 44
    Competent operation. What does it mean that it was invented by a person with a technical education.