If you’ve ever wondered how it felt to be part of the iconic Dambusters squadron, its audacious bombing raid is being brought to life through Virtual Reality, so users can experience the heroic RAF crew's daring Second World War mission.
Heroic Wing Commander Guy Gibson led 617 Squadron of the Royal Air Force on an audacious bombing raid to destroy three dams in the Ruhr valley, the industrial heartland of Germany, on the night of May 16-17 in 1943.
As it secured the surrounding area’s water supply, and its reservoir was used to generate electricity, it was thought that destroying the dam and others in the region would cause massive disruption to the Germans.
Gibson was tasked with hand-picking bomber crews from other Lancaster squadrons to give the mission the greatest chance of success. The 617 Squadron was made up of aircrew from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
By 1942, a weapon had been developed that was capable of destroying the heavily fortified dams – an innovative bouncing bomb – and the aircraft to deliver it, in Operation ‘Chastise’.
Now, an immersive virtual reality prototype allows viewers to experience the Lancaster bomber of Wing Commander Guy Gibson.
Sitting inside an accurate physical set of a Lancaster, audiences are ‘completely immersed and able to reach out to feel the window, fuselage and desk’ of the bomber, says All Seeing Eye, the Gloucestershire-based technology studio behind the experience.
Participants suit up in a vest integrated into an authentic ‘Mae West’ life preserver – so-called because those fighting in the Second World War thought they looked like a buxom woman when wearing them
Sitting inside an accurate physical set of a Lancaster, audiences are ‘completely immersed and able to reach out to feel the window, fuselage and desk’ of the bomber, says All Seeing Eye
Inside the aircraft, you can hear crew speaking, while over the intercom chatter can be heard, and outside, ‘the night time landscape zips by’, the firm explains
Then, ‘the aircraft moves over the dam, dodging flak from anti-aircraft guns’ as it ‘flies’ towards the water
Participants suit up in a vest integrated into an authentic ‘Mae West’ life preserver – so-called because those fighting in the Second World War thought they looked like a buxom woman when wearing them.
All Seeing Eye says the vests are worn in the virtual reality experience ‘in order to feel the roar of the Lancaster’s engines and the booms of the German flak.’
Inside the aircraft, you can hear crew speaking, while over the intercom chatter can be heard, and outside, ‘the night time landscape zips by’, the firm explains.
The Dambusters squadron was formed by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, centre
The Dambusters in 1943, with Wing Commander Guy Gibson front row (centre ). On the night of May 16/17 1943 they engaged in one of the most legendary air raids of the war, using hydro-statically detonated bombs to devastate German dams
'The Dambuster raid': A Lancaster Bomber during the Second World War. The Avro Lancaster was a British four-engine Second World War heavy bomber made initially by Avro for the Royal Air Force (RAF)
Then, ‘the aircraft moves over the dam, dodging flak from anti-aircraft guns’ as it ‘flies’ towards the water.
‘Flying low, the aircraft approaches the Möhne dam and drops the experimental ‘Upkeep’ bouncing bomb. The guns of the Lancaster roar as they fire back at the defences.
‘The bomb detonates successfully, but the dam is not destroyed,’ the technology studio continues on its website.
A wartime photograph showing the damage inflicted on the German Eder dam by the RAF's 617 Squadron, the 'Dambusters'
Another wartime view of the devastation caused by the 'Dambusters' raid of May 1943. Bouncing bombs were used by the RAF's 617 Squadron to cause breaches in German dams
The ambitious historical project has been done in conjunction with the Imperial War Museums which provided historic consultancy on the wartime experience, ‘ensuring that we portrayed the events of Operation Chastise as realistically and faithfully as possible.’
Ollie Lindsey, of All Seeing Eye, told the Times: ‘We’ve had the nephews and nieces of Lancaster crews through. We’ve had one daughter of a wireless operator. For her, seeing what her dad actually experienced was hugely overwhelming.’
It is due to open to the public at the RAF Museum at the former Hendon Aerodrome either later this year or early in 2019.
The Dambusters: How bouncing bombs - and incredible flying by RAF pilots - flooded the Ruhr valley and delivered a crucial blow to the Nazi war machine
On May 16, 1943, 19 Lancaster bomber crews gathered at a remote RAF station in Lincolnshire for a mission of extraordinary daring - a night-time raid on three heavily defended dams deep in Germany's industrial heartland.
The dams were heavily fortified and needed the innovative bouncing bomb - which bounced on the water over torpedo nets and sank before detonating.
To succeed, the raiders would have to fly across occupied Europe under heavy fire and then drop their bombs with awesome precision from a mere 60ft above the water.
19 Lancaster Bomber crews armed with Bouncing Bombs set off to attack several dams in Germany on May 16, 1943
The Eder Dam, pictured, was destroyed as part of Operation Chastise on the early hours of the morning on May 17, 1943
The Mohne and Eder Dams in the industrial heart of Germany were attacked and breached by mines dropped from specially modified Lancasters of No. 617 Squadron.
The Sorpe dam was was also attacked by by two aircraft and damaged.
A fourth dam, the Ennepe was reported as being attacked by a single aircraft (O-Orange), but with no damage.
Up to 1,600 people were estimated to have been killed by floodwaters and eight of the 19 aircraft dispatched failed to return with the loss of 53 aircrew and 3 taken prisoner of war.
Wg Cdr Guy Gibson, Officer Commanding No. 617 Sqn, is awarded the VC for his part in leading the attack.
The raid, orchestrated by Guy Gibson and the RAF's 617 'Dambuster' Squadron, was seen as a major victory for the British, and Wing Commander Gibson is recognised as one of the war's most revered heroes.
Their success was immortalised in the classic 1955 film The Dambusters, its thrilling theme tune and gung-ho script evoking the best of British derring-do.