The Dambusters

The Dambusters is a factual account of Royal Air Force Squadron 617 who became known as the “Dam Busters” because of Operation Chastise, a mission using highly specialised bombs to destroy Ruhr dams in Germany. Led by 24-year-old Wing Commander Guy Gibson, a veteran of more than 170 bombing and night-fighter missions, twenty-one bomber crews were selected from 5 Group squadrons. The crews included RAF personnel of several nationalities, members of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). The daring Dambusters raids were met with jubilation by Allied forces during WWII.

The Dambusters, The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 1 September 1954, pg. 15.

In 1954, Australasian Radio produced a radio dramatisation of The Dambusters based on Australian author Paul Brickhill’s best-seller of the same name, in 26 half-hour episodes. The series featured a top-line cast, most of who were ex-airmen, including former members of the “dam-busting’ 617 Squadron and Royal Australian Air Force personnel: Paul Brickhill, author and narrator, flew with No. 92 Squadron RAF attached from the Royal Australian Air Force. Producer, Gordon Grimsdale, was an ex-fighter pilot. Charles Tingwell, who played the role of Guy Gibson, flew Spitfires and Mosquitoes in the Western Desert. David Eadier who played Air Vice-Marshal Cochrane, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross during WWII and took part in the first raid on the Tirpitz. And, ex-RAAF flight-lieutenant, Max Osbiston played the role of Australian Ace, Mick Martin.

“The wonder of this programme lies in the consistently true characterisation given by each performer.” [Around the Dial – Alexander MacDonald, 1 July 1954]

Author and Narrator: Paul Brickhill
Producer: Gordon Grimsdale
Scriptwriter: Morris West

Cast: Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, Allan Trevor, Coralie Neville, David Eadie, Alexander Archdale, Rod Taylor, Mary Jane Windsor.

Reviews

The Dambusters, The Sun (Sydney), 21 May 1954, pg. 15.

The Dambusters, Sunday Mail (Brisbane), 5 September 1954, pg. 22.

Around the Dial – Alexander MacDonald
The Daily Telegraph, 1 July 1954 (pg. 8)

MY compliments to Messrs. Taylor, Eadie, Osbiston, Tingwell and Meillon for presenting, at last, a completely adult half -hour radio serial — The Dambusters, heard on Tuesday nights over Station 2UE.

Credit is also due, of course, to author Paul Brickhill and producer Gordon Grimsdale, but, as both these gentlemen are aware, one bad actor alone can make the most thoughtfully written script sound like a parody of itself.

The wonder of this programme lies in the consistently true characterisation given by each performer.

As one who finds it almost impossible to distinguish (in the daily serials) between even two members of the cast, it is a rare pleasure to recognise each individual in a group of six or more. And it’s a rarer pleasure still to be able to believe in their existence.

This conviction is seldom, felt. For example, Dr. Paul, in the soap opera of that name, is a mellifluous ham who, at times, might be pardonably mistaken for a snide politician or a genteel dope-addict.

The same applies to the amorphous creatures in Cross-roads of Life , When a Girl Marries, etc, who all employ a glib and similar technique.

There is no such ambiguity in the cast of The Dambusters. Mr. David Eadie is punctiliously the Group Commander. Messrs. Rodney Taylor and Max Osbiston are the unmistakably Australian pilots, each with his own nicely calculated air of bravado; and Mr. Tingwell is the quite sharply defined Wing Commander.

And so, in their variously curt, and free-and-easy exchanges of conversation, the men of Squadron 617 carry the listener with them, surely, swiftly and easily, on one of the most spectacular air adventures in history— the R.A.F. raids on the Ruhr dams.

Controversy

Radio Roundup – J. H. Adams
The Sun (Sydney), 20 July 1954, pg. 19.

When Episode 7 of The Dambusters was broadcast over 5AD, Adelaide, things started to happen. Telephones ran hot and the next morning’s mail increased. Listeners in Adelaide were shocked. Protests were loud over this episode, which dealt with the drinking party in the RAF mess after the raids on the German dams.

On Tuesday night [13 July 1954] the episode was broadcast over Sydney’s 2UE, and the boys at the station tensed themselves to receive the blasts from indignant listeners. The cast certainly made it sound like a drinking session.

The recording ran its time. The telephone rang — and rang. But were indignant listeners registering protests about dramatised insobriety? Not one of them! Every call was in praise of the realism of the episode. It was true to life.

Is Adelaide a touchy, wowserish city? Or is Sydney tough and sophisticated? You can work that one out for yourself.

Anyhow, 2UE cabled London, to record RAF Chief Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris’ views on such mess parties. In his recording, which will be played over 2UE tonight, he is forthright.

He says, “It may well be that reference to parties and drunks will give rise to criticism and outbursts of unctuous rectitude. I do not attempt; to excuse them, if only because I approve of them. In any case, the drunks were on near-beer and high rather than potent spirits.

“Faced with death”

“These crews, shining youth on the threshold of life, lived under intolerable strain. They were, in fact — and they knew it — faced with the virtual certainty of death, probably in one of its least pleasant forms.

“They knew well enough that they owed their circumstances, to the stupidity, negligence and selfishness of older generations, who since 1918 had done little to avert another war and still less to prepare for it.”

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