King Charles

King marks Dambusters' 80th anniversary and pays tribute to RAF veterans

Watch: King meets WW2 veterans during visit to Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby.

King Charles has paid tribute to Second World War RAF veterans as he commemorated the 80th anniversary of the famous Dambusters raid.

His Majesty visited the home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) in Lincolnshire where famous aircraft such as Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Lancaster bomber – the aircraft used in the 1943 Dambusters raid – are kept airworthy for major displays.

Veterans (some of whom were more than 100-years-old), BBMF air, ground and support crews and guests all stood as the King arrived to meet them in a giant hangar.

When he stopped at one table, the King sat between two veterans and, referencing the RAF servicemen maintaining and flying the aircraft said, "thank God for all these men". He put his hand on the arm of an elderly man, adding, "people like you looked after us".

He asked veterans seated at another table, "these sorties you went on to Germany, how long were you in the air for?" A few moments later he said: "Being shot at the whole time, I suppose that's the horror (of being) a target."

Colin Bell, a former Flight Lieutenant who flew Mosquito bombers with 608 Squadron, known as the Pathfinder Group, made the King laugh when he told him "I'm 102 and a half – don’t forget the half".

The spritely pensioner only stopped working as a chartered valuation surveyor when he was 99, joking, "well, I thought I'd paid the Chancellor of the Exchequer enough money".

King Charles III speaks with Seb Davey from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight during his visit (Picture: PA).
King Charles III speaks with Seb Davey from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight during his visit (Picture: PA).

Commenting about the criticism RAF Bomber Command has received over the decades for targeting German cities during the war, he replied: "We're criticised by people who would not have come into existence if we had lost the war.

"And this is the most important thing, the objective of Bomber Command was to destroy the German capability of attacking us, that and nothing more.

"We weren't interested in killing civilians, we were only interested in destroying their cities that were producing armaments and other weapons to be used against us. And by and large, I think Bomber Command did a very good job."

King Charles posed for a group picture with the veterans and members of the BBMF, based at Coningsby, Lincolnshire, in the shadow of the famous Lancaster before he left.

Watch: Lancaster bomber flypast marks 80th anniversary of Dambusters raid.

Outside the hangar, the King met Typhoon jet pilots who had flown over Buckingham Palace to mark Trooping the Colour and spelled out the King's cypher CR with their formation flying.

Nineteen Lancasters, crewed by 133 airmen, took part in Operation Chastise on the night of May 16-17, 1943 – the Dambusters raid.

Led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the raid targeted three dams in the industrialised Ruhr region of Germany using the "bouncing bomb" invented by Barnes Wallis.

They successfully breached the Mohne and Eder dams while the Sorpe was damaged.

George "Johnny" Johnson, the last surviving member of the Dambusters died in December aged 101, but events have been staged this year to mark the military milestone.

Join Our Newsletter


Ukrainian firm shows how its drones are being armed against Russia

Ukraine's flat-pack cardboard drones destroying Russian jets

Army v RAF LIVE! | Inter Services men’s rugby league 2023