Image size: 1600 x 1211 pixel. 538 KB
Date: Thursday, 22 July 1943
Place: Scampton, Lincolnshire, England
Photographer: Unidentified Royal Air Force official photographer
24 year old Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, Commander of 617 Squadron (Dambuster), with members of his crew. Left to right: Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar (award for Dambusters Raid: Victoria Cross); Pilot Officer Frederick Michael Spafford, bomb aimer (award for Dambusters Raid: Distinguished Flying Cross); Flight Lieutenant Robert Edward George Hutchinson, wireless operator (award for Dambusters Raid: bar to Distinguished Flying Cross); Pilot Officer Andrew Deering (award for Dambusters Raid: Distinguished Flying Cross) and Flying Officer Torger Harlo Taerum, gunners (award for Dambusters Raid: Distinguished Flying Cross). Wing Commander Guy Gibson, who led the Royal Air Force's 617 Squadron, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the raids - but was tragically killed when his plane was shot down in September 1944, just months before the war ended. Born in India in 12 August 1918, Gibson moved with his family to Cornwall in 1924. He attended St Georges's Prep School in Folkestone, Kent, from the age of eight and later studied at St Edward's School, Oxford. In 1936, Gibson joined the RAF, becoming an Acting Pilot Officer and later a Pilot Officer. He learnt to fly at No 2 Flying Training School at RAF Scopwick in Lincolnshire. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Gibson was a bomber pilot with 83 Squadron, flying the Handley Page Hampden. After completing his first tour of duty, the young pilot volunteered for RAF Fighter Command, avoiding the normal six-month rest from operations at a flying training establishment. He was posted to 29 Squadron, flying Bristol Blenheims in a day fighter and bomber escort role. In April 1942, Gibson was promoted to Wing Commander, aged just 23, and was later posted back to command 106 Squadron RAF Bomber Command. His bravery was apparent from an early age, and he won the Distinguished Flying Cross and later the Distinguished Service Order in recognition of his leadership qualities. In 1943, Gibson was selected to command the RAF's new 617 Squadron, tasked with destroying dams in the German Ruhr Valley, as part of Operation Chastise, later nicknamed 'Dambusters'. To accomplish this, the pilots were provided with bouncing bombs, developed by Barnes Wallis, which had to be dropped from a height of 18m to roll into the dams and explode at a predefined depth. Despite losing 53 men in the mission, the Dambusters raids were ultimately successful and provided a huge propaganda boost to Britain's war effort. Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1943 in honour of his role in the attacks. After a brief period away from active service, the wartime hero returned to duty in 1944. He was killed during a bombing raid on Rheydt, Germany, when his plane was shot down under mysterious circumstances. It is now believed that Gibson's aircraft may have crashed after being attacked by friendly fire. He left a wife, actress Eve Moore, whom he married in 1940 after meeting her at a party in Coventry. The couple had just bought a family home in London when Gibson was killed. Gibson was remembered by his colleagues as tough, brash and often aloof. When he died, aged 26, he was widely recognised as one of the most experienced bomber pilots in the RAF.
Imperial War Museums (IWM) TR 1127