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Talking of Flood Insurance… Dambusters

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Lancaster Bomber
Lancaster Bomber

Further to my recent blogs on flood insurance, a little trip back in time to May 16th 1943 when RAF 617 Squadron, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC and 133 crew in 19 Lancaster bombers took off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire attempting possibly the most daring aerial military mission of all time. They were to fly across the English Channel, over Holland and to Germany where they would attempt to breach the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams on the river Ruhr, with revolutionary spinning bombs, designed by Dr. Barnes Wallace to bounce across the water as it was feared that conventional bombing would have no accuracy on such small targets from such a height.

Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC. All round top bloke
Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC. All round top bloke

During World War II, the Ruhr valley was the industrial heartland of Germany and the idea was to cripple the production of military hardware by literally drowning the whole valley. The crew members had all been picked by Gibson, on the instruction of ‘Bomber’ Harris, head of Bomber Command, to have survived at least 60 bombing missions previously to ensure they had the necessary experience, experience that was going to involve flying at 220 mph at exactly 60 ft above the ground… at night… whilst being heavily shot at. The danger they were facing can be measured by the fact that one of the planes had to turn back before it even reached Holland as its wing had clipped the sea and it had lost its bomb, and also the fact that 56 of the 133 men died and 8 of the Lancasters were lost.

The mission however, was a success as 2 of the 3 dams were breached. The RAF, at dawn, immediately sent out a Spitfire on reconnaissance and the devastation was summed up by its pilot Frank ‘Jerry’ Fray:

“When I was about 150 miles from the Möhne Dam, I could see the industrial haze over the Ruhr area and what appeared to be a cloud to the east. On flying closer, I saw that what had seemed to be cloud was the sun shining on the floodwaters. I looked down into the deep valley which had seemed so peaceful three days before [on an earlier reconnaissance mission] but now it was a wide torrent. The whole valley of the river was inundated with only patches of high ground and the tops of trees and church steeples showing above the flood. I was overcome by the immensity of it.”

Not that your business is likely to suffer any such devastation, the likelihood of the RAF bombing you is pretty remote. However just so you know, your business insurance policy would not have covered you anyway as almost all policies exclude loss due to ‘war, riot, civil commotion’ etc.

The moral of this one? Always check the small print of your policy to see not only what you’re covered for but also what you’re not! Huzzah for 617 squadron!

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