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To mark the 70th anniversary of the formation of 617 “Dambuster” Squadron, historian and television presenter Dan Snow has unveiled a new set of commemorative tail art on one of the unit’s Tornado GR4s.

Though the squadron is currently based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, the event was held at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, this being the home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. The date of the unveiling, 21 March 2013, was significant for it was on this day in 1943 that 617 Squadron was officially formed. It was put together at RAF Scampton specifically to undertake one operation – Operation Chastise – the breaching of dams vital to the German war effort.

Speaking about the special anniversary Dan said: “I’m delighted to be here today on such a significant occasion 617 Squadron were formed to deliver precision attacks on key locations during World War II. The squadron today has exactly that same role.” Whilst at Coningsby, Dan had the opportunity to fly as a passenger in the specially-painted Tornado GR4, ZA412:

“It was absolutely thrilling – we went low level and it was brilliant to experience such excellent RAF flying skills. It was a great day for it, beautiful weather and there was some amazing scenery! We flew at low level over the Derwent Dam, and I was able to appreciate how difficult a task and how accomplished the airmen of that era were. Their modern day counterparts are equally as impressive, being able to get to exactly the right point in space, at the right speed and height.”

The commemorative tail artwork follows the design of the squadron’s badge – a “wall in fesse, fracted by three flashes of lightning in pile and issuant from the breach water proper” – which is indicative of the successful attack on the dams in May 1943. The design of the badge was approved by King George VI in March 1944. The squadron’s motto is Aprés moi, le déluge; “After me, the flood.”

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