Mist and fog swirled eerily over the Eder Lake on the night of 16/17 May 1943 as four specially modified Lancasters of 617 Squadron, under the leadership of Wing Commander Guy Gibson, circled overhead. Their target, the mighty Eder Dam, was barely visible in the valley below. Immediately following the successful breach of the Mohne Dam, Gibson had led his remaining aircraft 50 miles to the south-east to hit their second target, the Eder Dam. Surrounded by high ground with thousand feet ridges, the Eder was altogether a more testing target. The Lancaster pilots would need to dive steeply into the gorge that formed the Eder lake before undertaking a steep turn towards the Dam itself. As if this were not demanding enough in the darkness of night, they then had to fly towards the target at precisely 60ft above the lake at the exact speed of 230mph, before releasing their Barnes Wallace designed hydrostatic bouncing bombs.
Pilots Shannon and Maudsley tried time and again to position their laden bombers correctly before managing to release their weapons – but the dam still held. Now success depended solely on Knight carrying the last bomb! With time and fuel now a concern, Knight’s first effort to position, like Shannon and Maudsley before him, failed, but his second run favoured the brave. Knight released his bomb with absolute precision, striking the wall at precisely the crucial point. With a tremendous explosion the Eder Dam collapsed before their eyes. Robert Taylor’s sensational new painting vividly shows the dramatic moment of impact. In the cockpit Knight and flight engineer Ray Grayston fight the controls to clear the dam, combining their physical strength to haul the lumbering Lancaster up and over the dam and to clear the high ground that lies ahead. Below and behind them, the second of Germany’s mighty western dams lies finally breached.
Sergeant Raymond E. Grayston
Ray Grayston has been serving in 50 Squadron when he was posted to 617 Squadron in March 1943. The flight engineer of Les Knight's Lancaster AJ-N, they attacked and successfully breached the Eder Dam. Ray was shot down on 16 September 1943, and was taken to Stalag Luft III as a POW.
Squadron Leader George L. Johnson DFM
Joining the RAF in 1940, George Johnson served with 97 Squadron before joining 617 Squadron. Bomb Aimer on American Joe McCarthy's Lancaster AJ-T, they attacked the Sorpe Dam, for which he was awarded the DFM. Commissioned a few months later, George retired from the RAF in 1962.
Overall print size: 36 1/2" wide x 22" high.
Image size: 30" wide x 14" high.