Au Revoir, No. 617 Squadron

200px-617sqn-600The RAF stood down No. 617 squadron the other day as they withdrew their Tornado GR4B aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth. They were tasked with a maritime strike role using the Sea Eagle missile. Usually we don’t really note things on the squadron level but No 617 is rather special.

It was originally set up on 21 March 1943 at RAF Scampton with personnel from the RAF, RCAF, RNZAF, and RAAF (UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia). It was set up in great secrecy to carry out one mission, codenamed OPERATION CHASTISE. The objective was the three dams that provided hydropower and flood control for the Ruhr valley. The mission, which was extremely difficult technically, was accomplished on the night of 17 May 1943. This mission is where the squadron got its nickname “The Dambusters”. After the raid, the original commander Wing Commander Guy Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross. The squadron motto, on the crest shown above, was personally approved by King George VI.

For the rest of the war they continued with the specialist and precision bombing mission, which included sinking the Tirpitz in a Norwegian fjord.



After the war they replace their Lancasters with Avro Lincolns and then English Electric Canberra jet bombers. After their return from Malaya they were stood down for a time and then returned with the Vulcan strategic nuclear bombers, in its various missions.


article-2591409-1CA5F59F00000578-107_964x639In 1983 they transitioned to the Tornado, first in a nuclear strike configuration and then in a maritime strike role.

They carry the following battle honors;

Second World War

  • Fortress Europe 1943–1945
  • The Dams 1943
  • Biscay Ports 1944
  • France and Germany 1944–1945
  • Normandy 1944
  • Tirpitz, Channel and North Sea 1944–1945
  • German Ports 1945

Gulf 1991
Iraq 2003

As a unit who has even had a movie made about it, there is of course an appropriate march, as well

Their website is here:

The good news is that No. 617 Squadron is scheduled to come back as the lead squadron with the F-35 Lightning II



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72 Responses to Au Revoir, No. 617 Squadron

  1. Sadly of course Guy Gibson was later killed in WW II, flying in a Mosquito. My father (RIP) flew the so-called Supermarine Spitfire in WW II. He so loved to fly as a hobby and raced also, he owned several airplanes in his life. He kept up too with the whole British making of aircraft! He got to fly in the Concorde several times as a passenger, and saw the cockpit in flight once. Such stories he had! ;)

    • NEO says:

      Indeed he was, and the next wing commander, whose name escapes me at the moment also won the VC flying pathfinder missions in a Mustang.

      I knew a fair number of 8th AF guys, they were one and all impressed with the RAF, not to mention the parties. :-)

      • I do remember my father telling me that when the American Airman first arrived in England, (1942?), the fighter-pilots were given the Spitfire to fly, over their P-38’s, which were not considered agile enough in air combat with the German aircraft. But my father later got to fly the P-38 Lightning, and said he loved it!

        Btw, my father (an Irish Brit) could simply not handle hard-booze, he just could not drink much! Nor can I, save a brew now and then. Though we had our few drunks in the family, one of my grandfathers, and later my little brother! Who has been sober for ten years!

        • NEO says:

          I met a few you had flown the Spit, they all loved it, most compared it to a great sports car compared to the P-38 (and others) as muscle cars, very effective but not so agile, and so different tactics were needed.

          I seem to have outgrown it myself, just don’t handle quantities like I used to, or maybe I need to practice more :-)

        • Yes, as I remember Dad saying the “Lightning” was fast, but straight, and yet could climb quickly with them two motors! And used some for night recon. But of course it did well in the Pacific, and got old Yamamoto in the air (flying in a “Betty” Bomber) in the southwest Pacific!

          ‘Lightnings of the 1st Fighter Group were being flown across the Atlantic via Iceland to England, though most of them made the trip on freighters. On 15 August, a P-38F and a P-40 operating out of Iceland shot down a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor shipping raider over the Atlantic. This was reputedly the first Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed by the USAAF.’

        • NEO says:

          Yep, that’s what I’ve always heard as well. And it got nothing but worse, one of the Blue Angel pilots in the early 70s when they were flying F-4Js said that it took all of SouthEast Asia to turn around at speed.

          I would guess that to be the case, since at that point the Eagle Squadrons hadn’t yet been assimilated.


          This looked interesting! Gosh, I feel like a wee kid again, thinking of all this once again! ;) I sure miss that old man!

        • NEO says:

          That’s why I do these. I’m the same way, my first love was WW II and I’m old enough that I knew a lot of men who fought in it as well, mostly, like you, my father’s generation. :-)

          My word, how I miss those guys, makes me young, just thinking about them. :-)

        • Yes, my Irish Brit family, father, uncles, and my one great uncle (who fought the Japanese in Burma, some kind of Scots-Irish Rifles), all fought in WW II. What a generation! And few aunts were nurses also. Not to mention my one older cousin who was killed at Anzio! I can remember as a lad the men used to sit and talk some about the WW II. RIP all!

        • NEO says:

          Kind of all ties together sometimes, Jess’ grandfather-in-law was with the Green Rats in Burma. Strangely, i knew few who served in Italy, a few, mostly Airborne.

          The were that, the very last, perhaps, of the ‘Old Breed’ although perhaps if the need is there, so are the men. Or so I pray.

        • Yes, my one older cousin that was killed in Italy was part of the so-called Devil’s Brigade, both Canadian and American (USA-Canada on a red patch as I remember). He went to Canada after school and joined-up there. They were trained in the mountains of Montana as the story goes!

          Yes as we age, all of us former military become something of the Old Breed I guess, especially those of us that have seen combat. Just survivor’s really!

        • NEO says:

          Yep, so it was, on a red arrowhead. One hell of a brigade they were too.

          Even those of us that just hung around with you guys picked up some good lessons.

        • Well now for us, we don’t trust anyone “under” 50! ;)

        • NEO says:

          Only exception I make to that rule is Jessica, and she’s earned it. :-)

        • Yes, there are some exceptions, but few as you say! What is worse is when ya meet someone who is older, but still dumb as blazes! And its quite usually a liberal!

        • NEO says:

          Nearly always, and rarely have they had much contact with the real world.

        • And indeed glory to the Damn Busters # 614! The movie was British with Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave, and it had some real RAF members in it too! My father was a bit-actor himself a year or so after the war, (1946 as I was told), and during his college days. He was a tough act to follow!

        • NEO says:

          Glory indeed. I guess I knew at one time the movie was British bu had forgotten.

          Sounds like he was indeed. :-)

  2. You talk about military activity a lot, but you never served.

    • As I remember? NEO was in ROTC in college. That’s not perhaps straight-up in the military, but I am sure there are some connections and desire!

      • And yet never commissioned. He was afraid of Vietnam, by his own admission. War is scary. It always has been. Some people serve anyway.

        • Yes, war is scary! But in my family and generation (I am 64, 5 this Fall), it was almost more scary if you did not serve! And I was gung-ho for sure, so in I jumped into Her Majesty’s RMC’s (Royal Marine Commando’s). And volunteered with some of my other mates for service with the American Force Recon Marines, when we were pressed to it. We were just crazy young and full of it, but soon learned something of professionalism:Duty, Honour & Country! I have pressed thru most of my PTSD, which still comes and goes to some degree. But my faith in my God In Christ, has never been a farce or failure, and continues to pull me through till this day! Semper Fi! :)

        • Isn’t that the point? People always say “Duty, Honor, Country” but most never follow through. Case in point here.

      • Though, NEO has one up on me, I never did ROTC. Not my cup of tea.

        • Btw, just a note, but some of my best American Marine friends were Mormons! Tuff guys for sure! When I visited St. George, Utah several years ago, I bought a leather version of the Mormon big four: Holy Bible (KJV), Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. I am not a Mormon! But, I did want to seek to understand what they believe to some degree.

        • NEO says:

          I’ve never quite figured them out either, if you do, let me know. But I do know quite a bunch of them, and like them :-)

          BTW I graduated high school in 71 and would have college in 75 (if life hadn’t got in the way). I would have had to try very hard to get to Vietnam.

        • Not to contradict you, but why do you consider CARM authoritative, then. Besides the fact that Matt Slick is something of a joke, even amongst Evangelical Christians?

        • NEO, in 71, you could have enlisted. I also did not go to college, at least not as an undergrad. I did many years later as a grad student (a few times), but never did the college thing.

          But neither here, nor there, you make a lot of mistakes in your arguments of all stripes, but particularly the military ones.

        • @NEO: I am certainly not Mormon doctrine friendly, but I too respect some of their men and people!

          Somehow I thought you were older than me? I graduated a year early as a Catholic, (1966), and not too long after joined the RMC’s. Later, after my first tour I went to college, and then a bit later too went to OCS, and became an officer, (over ten years active service), and retired as a Reserve officer (Capt. Intell & Recon). My last combat service was Gulf War 1.

        • NEO says:

          Well my sister insisted I was 16 going on 40. Maybe it’s still true.

          Exactly on the Mormons.

        • Well I am just something of a history guy myself, but I guess I am somewhat military oriented top to bottom, though my religious and Judeo-Christian convictions are also foremost. It’s been that way most of my life, toward both. I am just a product of my clan I guess! ;)

        • NEO says:

          Not sure where I picked it up bu, Those tend t be my interests as well! :-)

        • Conservatism I suspect! ;)

        • NEO says:

          Fair bet, I’d say. :-)

        • @Joseph: I don’t know Matt Slick personally, nor really CARM closely, but I do read some of their posts, and the one’s I repeat and share, are simply biblically modeled to my mind, and yes I am too an old school type Evangelical Anglican. See both the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles, and The Irish Articles, 1615 with the Archbishop James Ussher. Note too, the latter are almost word for word in the Nine Articles agreed at Lambeth, on the 20th Nov. 1595. And yes, I am a historic and Reformational – Reformed Churchman. (Note however, I believe a true “Biblicism” is always somewhat eclectic, thus especially on Eschatology (End-Times) I am Historic Premillennial, with something of the Progressive Dispensational.)

          *I note, that you call yourself a “Liberal” Mormon, that for me btw, is simply an oxymoron! :)

        • Where did you receive your doctorate?

        • In England. Btw, what is your gripe here, with NEO it appears?

        • Where in the UK? I have a friend working on his Doctorate in Oxford. I am familiar with the educational system.

          I have no gripe with NEO, he just makes bad arguments with lots of mistakes.

        • Well, I have two doctorates, a D.Phil., and a Th.D., but I am perhaps most proud of my first degree (way back in the late 70’s), a Roman Catholic BA in Philosophy. I was an English Benedictine for a few years.

        • Who granted the degrees?

        • @Joseph: First, one wonders why YOU, a liberal Mormon are here, with us conservatives? And this blog does not appear to be a debate piece, but a conservative ideology place. I am not sure what you are pressing for? Btw, my e-mail is always open! :)

        • I do not think you are conservative. I’ve studied Edmund Burke and Conservative ideology, what makes you think you are conservative?

          BTW, why won’t you answer the question about the source of your doctorate? It used to be part of your signature but you do not want to talk about it. Just odd.

        • @Jospeh: Again, this is NOT the place to press, either my personal history, or my own ideology! (Why I mentioned my personal e-mail) Which is as I have said most certainly conservative, which is why I am HERE myself. Don’t press me on Sir Edmund Burke (here at least), and I won’t press you on your your handle of a Zen Mormon! (Whatever that is? ;) ) WE must learn to respect what people say, especially as to their personal religious ideas, for they are not always based on logic (as we can see in Mormonism), and I do have Mormon friends, personally. Sound good, I hope so?

        • But that is sort of the issue. Being Conservative is not religion. If you want to claim conservatism as an ideology, then you should be passably familiar with the functional nuances of the philosophy. This is not necessarily the case with most, including NEO. American political discourse is inherently flawed in that terms are routinely used where the speakers, or writers, have no actual familiarity with the beliefs. The same is actually true of most American Christians as well, but that is another issue altogether.

        • I have always maintained that St. Paul was himself a conservative, as both a Pharisee and Greco-Roman Jewish Hellenist!

        • I think this is sort of the problem with American Christianity specifically, and Modern Christianity in general.

          Paul was a first century Hellenized Roman Jew. Conservatism is a Western political philosophy that emerged in the last century or so. Not only do the two have nothing in common, they are not even in the same ballpark.

          If you like, you could explain how a political system that operated on the concept of amicitia and clientella (Seneca wrote the definitive treatise on it before Nero killed him…or ordered him to kill himself) is similar enough to western liberal democracy that the political philosophies would be similar.

          That would honestly be a good read if you could pull it off.

        • I can see that you have no real understanding of Western Philosophy! Especially Aristotle, and later Plotinus. (And of course too Plato) All too which certainly effected Augustine! We can see the Platonic effect in the Book of Hebrews certainly! Simply but profoundly the Greeks, to the (Greco-Roman) so affected the NT people and culture, and this certainly includes the Jews! Btw here also I would recommend reading the book by C.H. Dodd: The Apostolic Preaching and its Development! With the Appendix: Eschatology and History.

        • Well….you started claiming that Paul was Conservative, in clear historical contradiction of the actual terms of the political philosophies. In response, you start posting about Aristotle and Augustine, neither of which really factor into the Roman political model, nor really the Western Europe concept of Conservatism.

          Who awarded you a Doctorate? None of what you say makes sense. Is this a James White moment?

        • Let me share one of my favorite quotes from a contemporary English Brit:

          “Conservatism is not so much a philosophy as an attitude, a constant force, performing a timeless function in the development of a free society, and corresponding to a deep and permanent requirement of human nature itself.”

          This is something of the essence of a Free Society and People, and surely the spirit of the Judeo-Christian desire I believe at least myself! The Bible or Holy Scripture is a progressive revelation, and we can see this especially in the aspect of St. Paul’s most profound ministry of Law and Gospel… “But when the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4: 4-5) What a promise and history the British, and some other European Christians have had, as the Americans also! Sadly however, this is quite under attack today with simply the aspect and reality of lasciviousness & licentiousness in our culture of modernity & postmodernity! (Jude 4) Myself, I believe this is part of the whole social and so-called progressive nature of liberalism. Of course here I speak of the worst of that definition and reality!

        • Btw the ministry of Matt Slick and CARM was brought up, and negatively btw. But here is his own statement.

        • “The highest theology is not the cacophony of the scholastic doctors, but the awesome silences of negative theology.” (Luther, WA 3.372.20-27) Of course Luther’s negative or apophatic theology is sought in biblical lines & revelation, and not just the negative itself. And centred in the “theologia crucis ” …the Cross of Christ!

        • @Joseph: Sadly mate, your liberal bias so skews your general view of history, and it is quite obvious that you have not really studied the Jewish aspect of Hellenism, and especially Paul’s Greco-Roman influence! I would suggest you read the Book of Acts, chapters 9 thru 28, especially chapters 24 thru 26! Paul’s Jewish Pharisaism as his Roman citizenship always quite affected his life and thinking!

          The foundation of the church at Philippi introduces a new and very significant chapter in the life of Paul and the story of early Christianity, as Acts so clearly shows. Here St. Luke hurries on as quickly as he can to describe what happened in Philippi, the first city of Macedonia and a Roman colony, and only now does he stop to give another of his pictures on a broad canvas (Acts 16: 11-40). St. Paul too, attests the significance of this new stage in his work (Phil. 4: 15). For knowledge of the foundation of the church we are almost completely dependent on Acts! The first churches in Greece: Philippi, Thessalonica and Athens! And from here comes the scope of the Pauline Mission, one might describe the whole eastern hemisphere of the Roman empire here, i.e. Paul speaks as the Hellenistic Roman! And he defines his mission as extending from Jerusalem. But this is an odd thing for him to say, for Paul was certainly never a missionary in Jerusalem and Judaea: why then the mission of Jerusalem? The only possible answer is that, in his eyes, Jerusalem was the axial point in God’s plan of salvation for mankind and the place from which the gospel went out to the Gentiles, but to “the Jew first and also to the Greek (Gentiles).” (Rom. 1: 16) Indeed the Gospel comes from the Jews and a Jewish Messiah, (Rom. 15: 8-9, etc.) … “By the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God – so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ.” (Rom. 15: 19)

          I could go on, but the whole point is that Saul/Paul was so greatly influenced by his Greco-Roman, but Jewish Pharisaical Hellenism! (Acts 22: 3, 26-28, etc.)

          *Again, note Gal. 4: 1-7 (note too Paul’s example of Hagar and Sarah, Gal. 4: 21-31). Indeed the whole essence of the Gospel is toward spiritual liberty and freedom, Gal. 5: 1, which is always simply but profoundly ‘In Christ’! And certainly has its working background from the idea of the Greek and Roman “citizenship”, which is spiritualized In Christ, (Phil. 3: 20).

        • This is interesting. Very interesting. Are you Günther Bornkamm? I ask because the paragraph above is lifted wholesale from his book “Paul”.

          It can be found here…

          So you have two doctorates and you never learned not to plagiarize?

          I ask again, who awarded you your claimed doctorates?

        • Btw, Joseph, beware pressing “your” ad hom, i.e. people, persons, as James White, Matt Slick! Bad very bad mate! Only Holy Scripture and some aspect of sound logic, note at times God transcends however His own logic! :)

        • Except that I can think of no legitimate Evangelical scholars who respect them, and a few who openly call them shoddy.

          Have you read Mosser and Owen’s treatise on Evangelical counter-Mormon works? It is a decade or so old, but worth the read.

          Also James White has a fake doctorate.

        • @Joseph: First, all scholars quote other scholars, and if ya look, mine was not meant to be a complete quote of old Bornnkamn’s book of course, but I do have his book, both on my computer files (yes I used him), and an English Book copy translated by M.G. Stalker, (1971 Harper and Row). I bet I have more books, than you have money? But yes, read the whole of Gunther Bornkamm’s: Paul/Paulus, overall a great book! (Though of course I am one myself that follows the whole of “Paul’s” authorship of his NT Letters (setting aside perhaps Hebrews, but who knows really even there? As Timothy is surely mentioned in chapter 13: 23). And as I mentioned too, Dodd’s classic: ‘The Apostolic Preaching and its Development! (Btw, my copy is signed by Dodd, (1949), the year I was born. Oh how I miss them old English Book Shops!)

          YOU are it appears (from reading some of your own blog), not even a Christian? At least a classic one! So again, what are you doing here? It seems to me, that you appear to be seeking to quite convince yourself, that liberalism is true? Fine, but WE on this blog sure don’t need to hear your own personal “diatribe”! Move on mate, and I think I speak for both NEO and Jess!

          Btw, again, I don’t know that much about James White, I am an Anglican and British conservative myself, but surely more neo-Calvinist than White. Enough said here!

          This will be my last between us, at least on an open blog! But as I said, my e-mail is always open!

  3. This is simply British! Damn Busters Remembered, Squadron # 614;_ylt=Andr3Sm8FwxdKCZvaNca4pe.ulI6?p=damn+busters+&type=2button&fr=ush-mailn_02_srphttp

    • I missed this somehow, I was looking to post the 70th anniversary of the Damn Buster Attack? It’s in here somewhere? A hour long remembrance show, but simply awesome!

      • NEO says:

        I noticed a couple of documentaries on you tube although i did not see that particular one. If there isn’t someone needs to make it, or post it.

        • I think this is it? It is simply grand!

        • NEO says:

          Good stuff!! With the usual caveats on ‘panacea targets’, of course

        • Note # 4!

      • This looked quite interesting! The only American in the Damn Busters… Flight Lieutenant Joe C McCarthy (deceased, 1998)

        In March 1943, a special Royal Air Force (RAF) unit, 617 Squadron, was created to try a new tactic–low altitude bombing using deep penetration bombs that weighed from 9,500 to 22,000 pounds. Their first targets were three dams in the Ruhr industrial area of western Germany: the Mohne, the Eder, and the Sorpe. These dams supplied water for Ruhr steel mills and hydroelectric power. Twenty Avro Lancaster bombers were specially modified for this mission to carry a new, rotating skip bomb that would bounce across the lake, sink, and then explode at the base of the dam. So secret was the dambusting mission, that the pilots and navigators were briefed only the day before as to the actual targets. The three dams were struck, and two were breached, on the night of 16 May 1943. “Joe ” McCarthy, from Long Island, New York, was an original member of 617 Squadron. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1941 and soon transferred with his crew to RAF Bomber Command. From 1941 until late 1944, he flew the Hampden, Manchester, Lancaster, and Mosquito bombers and compiled a total of 80 combat missions. As Officer Commanding, German Aircraft Flight, he tested and flew over 20 different German aircraft, which had been taken from captured German airfields back to Farnborough for extensive engineering evaluation. During this period, McCarthy flew the first British operational jet, the Meteor, and the experimental Windsor bomber. Upon returning to Edmonton, Canada, he continued flight testing a variety of aircraft for cold weather operations as well as the experimental Canadian flying wing. During 28 years in the RCAF, he flew 64 different British, American, German, and Canadian aircraft. Later assignments included base executive officer for an F-86 NATO installation in France; Commander, Flying Training School, RCAF Station Penhold, Canada; and Commanding Officer of the 407 Maritime Squadron, flying the P2V Neptune. From 1961 to 1962, he was Chief of Air Operations for the United Nations’ forces in the Congo, and from 1963 to 1966, worked in plans and policy for CINCLANT/CINCLANTFLT. Wing Commander McCarthy’s final assignment was as base operations officer for two maritime squadrons flying the Argus antisubmarine warfare aircraft in Nova Scotia. He retired from the RCAF in 1969 and, after a second career in real estate, fully retired in 1986. Passed away 6th September 1998

        • NEO says:

          Wow, I knew none of that.

        • I heard this from my father, the Damn Busters were well known and spoken of with the Brits, and especially Airman! They had several other pilots and crew who were Aussies and a few Kimi’s and I remember?

        • *Kiwi’s

        • *as I remember (I can’t type today!)

  4. Jack Curtis says:

    Maybe massive air forces died with Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the funeral is conducted by drones? And massive navies and armies are dying of cirrhosis of the economies.

    No worries though; North Korea and Iran will make up for it with submarine-launched cruise missiles carrying nukes! (Much more economical)

    • NEO says:

      Hard to say, bu I doubt it, at least completely. No 617 squadron’s original mission would today be a one plane stealth raid, and not overly heroic. But the man (or woman) on the scene always has advantages as well.

      Cruise missiles are useful but they really aren’t that hard to defend against, and we do ASW better than anybody, except maybe the Brits. Why? because we practice against subs that are quieter than the sea.

      • Jack Curtis says:

        What worries me the most, is little diesel-electric (and very quiet) subs firing cruise missiles out of torpedo tubes. We can defend from such attacks if we know they’re coming; … But we have a lot of territory to defend. And cruise missiles with nukes may be as bad when shot out of the air as when reaching a destination, may they not? It’s not so much the big guys with ICBMs and nuclear powered navies that scare me, as the Irans and North Koreas and who knows who else is going to turn up?

        You used to need an army to wreck an ememy, but not anymore … But then, if the migrating magnetic poles set off some supervolcanoes, we may not have to worry about nukes at all, right?

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