Celebrations were held at Eyebrook Reservoir today (Thursday, May 16) to mark the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters Raids.
The sun shone as a Lancaster bomber, two Spitfires and two Tornado fighter jets flew over the reservoir twice, thrilling guests at a special anniversary event, as well as the onlookers who enjoyed the display from vantage points around the reservoir.
The reservoir, built between 1937 and 1940 by Stewarts & Lloyds to supply water to Corby steelworks, was used as a practice site before the raids, in which 19 Lancaster Bombers carrying the “bouncing bombs”, invented by Barnes Wallis, took off from Lincolnshire to destroy the dams of Germany’s Ruhr Valley.
Among the guests at the celebration at Eyebrook were Dorothy Wright (78) and her husband Dennis (90) of Uppingham.
Mrs Wright’s family farmed near the reservoir and as a child she remembers the Lancasters flying over Eyebrook during practise flights.
She said: “I can remember how noisy the planes were. We were delighted to be invited to the anniversary event.”
Corby Council leader Tom Beattie and acting chief executive Norman Stronach, as well as children and staff from the Old Village Primary and Studfall School, in Corby, were also at the celebration.
Guests were entertained by members of Market Harborough Ukulele Band, who dressed in 1940s costumes and sang Second World War favourites.
There was a hog roast and everyone tucked into a slice from a giant Union Flag cake.
Group Captain Steve Lloyd, deputy head of the RAF’s historical branch, approached Marion Sweeney, manager of Eyebrook Trout Fishery, last year to ask if the reservoir could be part of the Dambusters 70th anniversary celebrations.
He said: “The Air Force still uses the lake as part of our history programme and we bring our young airmen here. There are still significant lessons to be learned about special operations and leadership from the raids.”
One of the guests was William Betts of Talbot Road, Rushden, a keen amateur military historian.
He showed off a pilot’s flying log belonging to Wing Commander Guy Gibson, who led in the Dambusters raids in 1943.
Mr Betts said: “I bought the log in 1970 for £5. It is a complete flying record and I thought people at the celebration would be interested to see it.
“I was really honoured to be at the flypast.”
Members of 422nd Corby Squadron RAF Cadets were at the reservoir acting as traffic marshals.
Cadet Alfie Wilson (15) said: “The flypast was absolutely fantastic. I’m really interested in aviation history and I knew all about the Dambusters.”
Cadet Rachel Beard (13) said: “It was a real privilege to be at the flypast. The aircraft were spectacular.”
The Dambusters raid, carried out by 133 airmen, was an attempt to cripple a major part of the Nazi war economy by carrying out attacks on three dams in the industrial heartland of Germany.
Fifty-six of the men did not return from the mission, which required them to fly the Lancaster bombers at just 60ft above the ground in the dark across northern Europe.
The Eyebrook Reservoir flypast was one of several events taking place to mark the anniversary of the raids, immortalised by the 1955 film starring Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd.
Tomorrow BBC Radio 2 will mark the anniversary with a day of special programmes.