Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Ulster microlight crews re-trace route of famous World War II Ruhr raid

By John McGurk

GERMANY calling! An Ulster flying squad is taking a trip back in time for an airborne taste of one of the RAF's most legendary wartime missions.

Those magnificent men in their flying machines - members of the Ulster Flying Club - are on course to retrace part of the journey made by the daredevil RAF heroes The Dambusters during the Second World War.

Two intrepid teams from the microlight section of the Ards Aerodrome-based club set out this weekend on a 2,000-mile round-trip to the heart of the Ruhr.

There were outbound stop-offs in Kent, England and Valenciennes, France.

But today - weather permitting - should see the Ulstermen set out from their German base at Bad Neuenahr on an extra-special journey.

The club's nine microlight and two fixed-wing pilots will fly to the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams, which were the targets for the crack RAF 617 Squadron during the war. On the night of May 16/17, 1943, 19 specially modified Lancaster bombers dropped bouncing bombs at the dams, which were vital for Nazi Germany's wartime steel industry.

The RAF team's extraordinary bravery was immortalised in the 1955 film The Dambusters and is set to be retold by Lord of The Rings movie-maker Peter Jackson in a planned 2008 remake.

Flying instructor Gerry Snoddon is leading the team on the trip, which is aimed at increasing the experience of club members.

Before setting off, the Dundonald man said: "As a club, we go on a flying trip every year and every year we go a little further. For this year we talked about France, Holland and Belgium.

"And then I said 'why not go to Germany and, while we are there, go to see those places'?

"We are not going to recreate the Dambusters' run exactly as they did it. But we are going to see where their targets were and that sort of thing."

Gerry, who has more than 4,500 hours flying instructor experience, taught every one of the men on the Dambusters' mission.

"It should be a good run for us and help to extend their experience," he added.

"As an instructor, I can help them with navigation and give them a wee bit more confidence. It should also be great craic."

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