I've just read about the impending Dambusters remake and your involvement in it and whilst you may have completed the script in 2007 I thought that you may be interested in a very interesting encounter my father and I had whilst visiting the Mohne Dam in 1994.
I was stationed at RAF Bruggen between 1993 and 1995 and whilst there I invited my parents over for a three week tour of Northern Europe. The tour would include well known places of interest regarding WW2 (to satisfy me and my dad's interest) and a tour of cities, palaces and gardens (to satisfy my mum's interest). It was an amazing holiday. As far as the WW2 agenda was concerned we managed to visit Arnhem (and, by chance, were extremeley privileged to witness the Sunday memorial service marking the 49th anniversary of the Para drop. Probably the most touching event I've ever experienced), Dachau and various war cemeteries to pay our respects to those who sacriiced themselves for us all.
But by far the most surprising episode was a chance meeting with two Germans on top of the Mohne Dam.
My dad and I walked out halfway along the top of the Dam and tried to imagine the event from that position. It was an amazing and humbling experience trying to imagine the daring feat and the subsequent devastation after the attack. As we were taking all this in we noticed two elderly couples walking across the Dam. As they approached the two German men immediately greeted us and started to chat.
I'm afraid that the fine detail of this encounter has been lost over time but the general gist was as follows.
One of them (indeed this was the gent who told the bulk of the story) was stationed in one of the gun towers on the dam whilst the other worked in a mine whose power was supplied from the Dam. Both men were friends at the time of the attack and both in their late teens. He related what the attack was like, how frightened he was at the time and commented how brave those crews were to undertake such an attack. The other related when the lights went out and the subsequent evacuation of the mine. What did take me by surprise was when the mine worker informed me that the lights and the machinery of the mine were working again about one week later (Wikipedia states everything had returned to normal by September).
This latter fact really hit home as I, probably like many people who have watched the film many times over, thought that this operation did hasten the end of the war (as the guilt ridden Wallis had hoped). Apparently the operation was, in the end, a powerful propaganda victory for the allies and not the actual strategic success that the allied command had hoped. I wonder if this was the reason for the great burden of guilt Wallis felt after the operation. All those aircrew lives lost for what would he may have perceived was a hollow victory.
The two German gents moved to South Africa after the war (this played on my mind too) and were visiting the Dam in remembrance (as we were)They were both warm, friendly and had a very genuine air about them. It was an encounter that is etched on my mind. An amazing coincidence which gave our trip a certain authenticity (as did the 49th anniversay at Arnhem).
I hope the new film does address and detail the actual aftermath and impact of the operation. Whilst the facts may indicate the operation was a partial success this does nothing to detract from those brave individuals (on both sides) who were involved in the events of that historic night
I'm looking forward to the film with great interest.
Love the site (what I've seen so far), your work and your wit. All the best to you and your friends for 2010.
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