9th May 2013, 11:25am  (updated 17th May 2013, 9:01am)
Historic performance marks 70th anniversary of legendary Dambusters raid
University of Lincoln cast at RAF Scampton Talented Lincoln students took their place in the history books when they opened a spectacular memorial to mark the 70th anniversary of the famous Dambusters raid.

The World War Two mission of 1943, codenamed Operation Chastise, resulted in the destruction of two German dams by 617 Squadron from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. It marked a significant moment in the war effort, as well as Britain’s engineering and military history. On Thursday 16th May 2013, it was commemorated by a special collaboration between the Royal Air Force, the University of Lincoln’s School of Performing Arts and BBC Radio Lincolnshire.

The event included a performance from the University of Lincoln’s Performing Arts students, a symbolic flypast and landing of the RAF’s Lancaster Bomber and a concluding sunset ceremony. Two of the three surviving members of the original Dambusters aircrew attended this official commemoration event at RAF Scampton.

The Dambusters Project, which represents the first collaboration of its kind, documented the lives of 617 Squadron, based on the accounts of the aircrew themselves.  Students from the University of Lincoln have been working on the event with the RAF for several months.

Conan Lawrence, University of Lincoln, said: "The School of Performing Arts is proud to be part of this ground-breaking collaboration with the BBC and Royal Air Force. The performance that our undergraduates and recent graduates delivered at RAF Scampton on 16th May was truly unique, and reflected the professional values that the School and University foster. Taking place in an original Lancaster hangar, in front of a distinguished audience and just before the nationally broadcast commemoration of 617 Squadron's pioneers, was a humbling experience for us all. We are honoured to have travelled in the slipstream of heroes."

Tom Briggs, second year Drama student at the University of Lincoln, said: “It was a huge honour to take part in a project so close to the heart of the RAF. The more time we spent on the project, the more we realised just how important the raid is in the history of the RAF, and the esteem that 617 Squadron are held in. I think we all feel privileged to be telling their stories. It has been a fantastic experience and incredible to work with the RAF and the BBC – a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Earlier this year, the students undertook training at RAF Cranwell in preparation for the performance. Their two days of intensive training, which included team building, drill instruction and assault course training, marked the first time in the RAF base’s history that non-service personnel have received residential training.

The Dambusters project was coordinated by Squadron Leader Howard Leader, 7644 Squadron of the Royal Air Force, and Michael Hortin, Programmes Editor at BBC Radio Lincolnshire. The performance has also been researched, co-written and directed by Emma Rogers, a University of Lincoln graduate who is now working with BBC Radio Lincolnshire.

Michael Hortin said: “We are delighted to honour this significant anniversary with such a fitting tribute. The Dambusters’ mission was a major wartime event for the country - and particularly the people of Lincolnshire, from where the 617 squadron flew - which we are keen to commemorate."

The memorial was featured in an outside broadcast on BBC2 at 7pm on Thursday 16th May, and the drama performance was included in a special overnight show on BBC Radio Lincolnshire from 7pm on Thursday 16th May to 6am on Friday 17th May.
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