Dambusters commemorated 80 years after daring raid
It's been 80 years since one of the most daring escapades of WWII, when Britain's Royal Air Force unleashed a secret weapon - the "bouncing bomb" on German dams.
Thirteen Australian airmen were part of Bomber Command's 617 squadron, involved in the Dambusters Raid on the nights of May 16 and 17, 1943, dropping the new bombs on dams in Germany's industrial heartland.
The new weapons were depth charges that could bounce along the water's surface before sinking and exploding.
Of the 19 Lancasters that joined the dangerous low-flying mission, eight were lost with 53 aircrew killed.
The squadron soon became famous as the Dambusters, with the ingenuity and courage involved in the operation documented in a 1955 film.
Veterans Affairs Minister Matt Keogh paid tribute to their bravery, saying Australian pilots Harold 'Mick' Martin and Jack Leggo were knighted for their part in the raid.
"The courage and skill these men showed while flying heavy bombers at an altitude of just 18 metres while maintaining speeds of 370 km per hour is truly remarkable, he said.
To mark the 80th anniversary, the Australian War Memorial has unveiled 3D dioramas used by the pilots and aircrew to familiarise themselves with the targets ahead of operation.
AWM director Matt Anderson says the original Sorpe Dam model used to prepare for the raids will feature in the redeveloped galleries in the new Anzac Hall, alongside the Avro Lancaster, "G for George".
"The bouncing bombs used in the raid were an audacious engineering feat used to damage three dams in the Rurhr valley," he said on Tuesday.
"The ingenuity required to breach the dams was surpassed only by the skill and courage of the crews chosen to undertake the daring raid."
AWM senior historian Lachlan Grant says four pilots were among the 13 Australians involved in the risky operation.
"The Dambusters Raid boosted morale in Britain and the Commonwealth at a time when things were not going well," he said.
"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 4100 who died are listed on the war memorial's Roll of Honour.