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The first wave of specially modified Type 464 (Provisioning) Lancaster bombers crosses the North Sea towards the Dutch coast at very low level on 16 May 1943 in Operation Chastise – the Dambusters attack on the Ruhr dams.

Wing Commander Guy Gibson leads with his crew of six in Lancaster ED932/G AJ-G. “And the moon dancing in those waves had become almost a hypnotising crystal,” he wrote later. Gibson almost ditched the 30-ton, four-engined bomber trying to light a cigarette – eventually getting the flight engineer, John Pulford, to light it for him.

On his right, John “Hoppy” Hopgood and crew in ED925/G AJ-M: “There he was, in his great Lancaster only a few feet from mine, flying perfectly steady, never varying position.”

On his left, lying dead level with Hoppy on the other side, was Harold “Micky” Martin and his crew in ED909/G AJ-P: “Now and again he would drop down even lower than I was, and I was a bit frightened in case he hit the drink. But apparently he knew what he was doing because he never came closer than 30ft to the water.”

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