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Secret of the Dambusters unveiled for the first time

The Australian War Memorial has unveiled a key piece from one of the most famous air raids of the Second World War: Operation Chastise, better known as the Dambusters Raid.

On the 80th anniversary of the raid, 16 May 2023, the Memorial is previewing an original Sorpe Dam model, used to prepare for the raids, which will feature in the redeveloped galleries in the new Anzac Hall.

“The bouncing bombs used in the raid were an audacious engineering feat used to damage three dams in the Rurhr valley,” Australian War Memorial Director, Matt Anderson, said.

“The ingenuity required to breach the dams was surpassed only by the skill and courage of the crews chosen to undertake the daring raid.”

The 3D models were used by pilots and aircrew in preparing for the operation.

“These models are 80 years old but look like they were made yesterday,” Australian War Memorial Senior Curator, Shane Casey, said.

“We have models for all three of the main targets – the Eder, Sorpe and Möhne dams – in our collection.

“The Sorpe Dam model will be displayed for the first time in the new Anzac Hall.”

The Australian War Memorial’s Senior Historian, Lachlan Grant said, “These models are 3D dioramas used by the pilots and aircrew to familiarise themselves with the targets ahead of the operation.

“The Dambusters Raid boosted morale in Britain and the Commonwealth at a time when things were not going well.

“There were 13 Australians in 617 Squadron who flew in the Dambusters Raid, including four pilots.”

The squadron made a daring raid using special bombs on German dams supplying the Ruhr industrial works. But the cost was high. Of the 19 Lancasters that took part in the raid, eight were lost, with 53 aircrew killed.

The Bomber Command operation took place on 16 May 1943. The squadron soon became famous as the Dambusters.

“For Australians, Bomber Command was statistically one of the most dangerous places to serve during the Second World War,” Dr Grant said.

“From the 10,000 Australians who served in Bomber Command, the names of the more than 4,100 who died are listed on the Memorial’s Roll of Honour.”

The original Sorpe Dam model will be displayed in the new Anzac Hall alonside the Memorial’s Avro Lancaster, "G for George", and a German commemorative copper plaque from the north tower of the Möhne Dam.

The new Anzac Hall will provide an additional 4,000m2 of gallery space underneath a roof inspired by the Australian Rising Sun badge.

The model of the Möhne Dam is currently on display in the Memorial’s Second World War galleries.

The new Anzac Hall is due to be completed in late 2025.

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