We delve into The Dam Busters

Q&A with Dr Iain Murray

14 May 2018

Ahead of our special 75th anniversary screening of The Dam Busters (Thu 17 May, 19:00), we spoke to Dr Iain Murray, a local expert and writer on The Dam Busters and Sir Barnes Neville Wallis, the engineer and inventor most famous for developing the 'bouncing bombs' used by 617 Squadron ('The Dam Busters') to breach the Möhne and Eder dams in Germany in 1943. 

Iain tells us all about the film, gives us some fascinating insights and things to look out for, and shares what he thinks we should most look forward to from the special anniversary screening, which comes to DCA live from the Royal Abert Hall...

When did you first see The Dam Busters, and why is it so close to your heart?

"It's got all the good ingredients for a film..."

Although released in 1955, The Dam Busters wasn't shown on TV until May 1971 - the week Barnes Wallis retired. I had just started school, so it would have been a very exciting film to see at that age. It's got all the good ingredients for a film - secrecy, gadgets, danger and both skill and bravery needed to succeed against a ticking clock. The scenes attacking the dams are repeated almost shot-for-shot in the Death Star attack at the end of Star Wars.

Any fascinating facts or top tips for someone watching the film for the first time?

The surprising thing about the film is that most of it is true - there are some simplifications and some real people are compressed into one character, but largely it's a true account. The shots of the bombs bouncing during the attacks are genuine archive footage from the test site on Loch Striven (near Dunoon) ... two of these bombs were recovered from the loch last year as part of an operation that I helped to set up, and these bombs are now in museums. Keep your eyes peeled for a silver Canberra jet bomber in the background of one of the airfield shots... I guess the film-makers thought no-one would notice, but that was before the film was restored in HD!

What do you think will be most interesting or enjoyable about the live aspect of the screening?

It will be good to see how the film (and the mission itself) continues to be remembered after 75 years. The last remaining British airman who flew on the raid will be the guest of honour, and he has done much to remember the sacrifice of his fellow flyers and preserve the true story behind the mission despite more recent criticism that it was a "sideshow". And I hope to hear the wonderful Dam Busters March on the Royal Albert Hall organ!

Don't miss The Dam Busters at 75: Live From the Royal Albert Hall on Thu 17 May. Tickets are selling fast and can be booked in advance online or at our Box Office (01382 432 444).

Dr Iain Murray has written numerous books about Sir Barnes Wallis and The Dam Busters. You can find out more about his work on his website, and you can visit the Barnes Wallis Foundation here

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