Dambusters Evolution is Focus of University Lecture

617 Squadron

Date: 10 March 2016

Time: 6.30pm

Cost: FREE

The role of No. 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force, better known as the ‘Dam Busters’ will be the focus of a lecture taking place at the University of Wolverhampton next month. The lecture entitled ‘Planned Development or Haphazard Evolution? No. 617 Squadron, 1943-45′ will be presented by Dr Robert Owen, the Official Historian of the No. 617 Squadron Association. The lecture is a continuation of the joint partnership between the University’s Department of War Studies and the Royal Air Force Museum and takes place on Thursday 10 March 2016.

In this lecture, Dr Robert Owen will discuss the backstory to the units operations during the Second World War and the decision to keep them in existence as a precision-bombing unit. For the remainder of the Second World War, they carried out precision attacks using new and unconventional weapons, culminating with Barnes Wallis’s deep penetration bombs, ‘Tallboy’ and ‘Grand Slam’.

Many of the Squadron’s eventual operations emerged as the result of an inability to execute initial planning due to unrealistic expectations of weapon performance, delays in the development of a new weapons and political intervention. The Squadron played a major role in the assessment of weapons, equipment and new techniques and were often given alternative targets, taking advantage of their capabilities and to address specific issues. During its comparatively short period of active service No. 617 won 2 Victoria Crosses and more than 150 other decorations.

The numerous accounts written detailing the Squadron’s history fail to take into account many of the factors that determined its role and concentrate on the operational record and the weapons used. The result is a distorted and incomplete perception of the Squadron’s development and a misconception of its full contribution to the bomber offensive.

This lecture will identify the various policy and decision making bodies and examine their role in selecting weapons and targets for the Squadron. It will explore the issues which determined the role played by the Squadron, including changes in Air Staff policy for Bomber Command, choice of targets, the development and production of weapons and tactical requirements. Comparison is made between the planners’ original intentions for the Squadron and the final operational record.

The Trenchard Lectures in Air Power Studies form part of the RAF Museum’s Research Programme for 2016. ‘Planned Development or Haphazard Evolution? No.617 Squadron, 1943-45′, is the first of three joint lectures taking place at the University of Wolverhampton this year.

Dr Ross Mahoney, RAF Museum Aviation Historian said:

“The RAF Museum is once again delighted to be working in conjunction with our colleague at the University of Wolverhampton to bring the Trenchard Lectures in Air Power Studies to a wide audience. The year’s first lecture is about one of the RAF’s most famous units, the Dambusters. The lecture will highlight No. 617’s development beyond the famous Dams raids of 1943 and open up a new understanding of the Squadron’s contribution to the Second World War.”

Dr Peter Preston-Hough of the university’s Department of War Studies said:

“We’re delighted to be part of this prestigious series of lectures, which promises to provide an interesting insight into this area of history.”

This FREE lecture will be held in the main lecture theatre (MC001) at the University of Wolverhampton at 6.30pm on Thursday 10 March. As spaces are limited, organisers advise visitors to book their tickets in advance via the museum’s website to avoid disappointment.

For further information about the museums research programme or to book your FREE ticket to the lecture, please visit the museum website www.rafmuseum.org/cosford.

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