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Avro Anso–Dambuster antecedent (sort of)

17 May 2022

There is an Avro Anson in the RAAFA Aviation Heritage Museum (Bullcreek Australia) which has been touched by history. Aviator David Shannon (Royal Australian Air Force) learned multi-engine flying in this Anson while in training during World War II (WW II).

Avro Anson within the RAAFA Aviation Heritage Museum (Bullcreek Australia). Flown by David Shannon (RAAF) who later flew with 617 Squadron on Op Chastise—his crew’s target? The Eder Dam—Geoff Wong image ©2022

This was the aircraft which was used to ultimately advance Shannon to heavy bomber piloting. It was as a Lancaster bomber pilot he became a charter, and the youngest, pilot with the RAF’s 617 Squadron which had been formed for Operation Chastise. This was one of WW II’s famous special ops raids—its mission was to destroy three dams in the Ruhr Valley so that electrical power would be denied to Axis war factories. His specific target was the Eder Dam, which he and his aircrew successfully hit—contributing to the dam’s breaching.

Much has been written about this mission, both pro and con, short view and long view, but no one denies the aviation skill, technical inventiveness of Barnes Wallis (the bouncing bomb developer) as well as the brilliantly simple aiming and delivery system which was evidenced.

Enough, though, cannot be written about 617 Squadron’s daring, however. Flying in at 60 feet above the reservoir surfaces, at a stringently observed speed of 240 mph, directly into German flak batteries—often repeatedly. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that of 19 aircraft launched for this mission just 11 returned (42% loss for stats lovers).

It was in this Avro Anson that Shannon was able to become the pilot he became to fly daring missions into Axis airspace during some of the most trying times for the RAF in WW II. Shannon trained in and flew this aircraft. To see and touch this Avro Anson is to touch history. If only one could sit in the pilot’s seat?

Avro Anson within the RAAFA Aviation Heritage Museum (Bullcreek Australia). Flown by David Shannon (RAAF) who later flew with 617 Squadron on Op Chastise—his crew’s target? The Eder Dam—Geoff Wong image ©2022

Thanks to Geoff Wong for these images as well as letting us know about this gem down under.

One Comment leave one →
  1. theflyingyorkshireman permalink
    17 May 2022 17:24

    As a young air cadet with our school’s Combined Cadet Force (CCF) in 1955, I had my first “fam” (familiarisation) flight in an Avro Anson from RAF Thornaby-on-Tees, North Yorkshire.
    Happy memories!

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