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The Dam Busters is a 1955 British war film, set during the Second World War, and based on the true story of the RAF's 617 Squadron, the development of the "bouncing bomb", and Operation Chastise, the attack on the Ruhr dams in Germany. The film falls into two distinct parts. First, Wallis struggles to develop a means of attacking Germany's dams, in the hope of crippling German heavy industry. Working for the Ministry of Aircraft Production, as well as doing his own job at Vickers, he works feverishly to make practical his theory of a bouncing bomb which would skip over the water to avoid protective torpedo nets. When it came into contact with the dam, it would sink before exploding, making it much more destructive. Wallis calculates that the aircraft will have to fly extremely low (150 ft) to enable the bombs to skip over the water correctly, but when he takes his conclusions to the Ministry he is told that lack of production capacity means they cannot go ahead with his proposals.

Angry and frustrated, Wallis secures an interview with Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris, the head of Bomber Command, who at first is reluctant to take the idea seriously. But he is eventually convinced and takes the idea to the Prime Minister, who authorises the project. Bomber Command forms a special squadron of Lancaster bombers, 617 Squadron, to be commanded by Wing Commander Guy Gibson. He recruits experienced crews, especially those with low-altitude flight experience. While they train for the mission, Wallis continues his development of the bomb but has problems, such as the bomb breaking apart upon hitting the water. This requires the drop altitude to be reduced to 60 feet. With only a few weeks to go, he succeeds in fixing the problems and the mission can go ahead. The bombers attack the dams. Several Lancasters and their crews are lost, but the overall mission succeeds and two dams are breached. The film's reflective last minutes convey the poignant mix of emotions felt by the characters – triumph over striking a successful blow against the enemy's industrial base is greatly tempered by the sobering knowledge that many died in the process of delivering it.

Starring ... Richard Todd, Michael Redgrave, Ursula Jeans, Basil Sydney

Director: Michael Anderson

Producers: Robert Clark and W.A. Whittaker


Year Released - May 1955

Length - 119 minutes

Music Composers:
Eric Coates and Leighton Lucas


Movie Distributed by Pathé



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