The Dambusters raid in May 1943 remains one of the most celebrated and audacious operations in British military history.
The mission, known as Operation Chastise, was led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, who carefully selected aircrew from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the USA to form the elite 617 Squadron.
Using the remarkable 'bouncing bombs' invented by British engineer Barnes Wallis, 617 Squadron carried out a daring, low-flying attack on three heavily-protected dams in Germany's Ruhr valley, severely disrupting German war production.
Sgt John Murray initially trained as a rear gunner in the RAF as part of No. 57 Squadron. His crew, led by Sergeant Bill Divall, was posted to 617 Squadron in April 1943, to replace another crew Gibson had found 'unsatisfactory'.
Murray began his training for Operation Chastise on April 14, and for the next four weeks flew daily practice flights. These included long cross-country flights with precise turning points to develop navigation skills, and night flights low over water to simulate the conditions of the dam raids.
Divall's crew flew their final practice run on May 5, but were unable to continue due to illness and took no further part in the mission.
Sgt Murray was briefly transferred to the crew of Flight Sergeant Ken Brown, and continued training until two days before the mission. However, for reasons unknown Murray was not part of Brown's crew when it took off on May 17, as part of the third wave of attacks against the Sorpe Dam.
This RAF flight logbook is a remarkable artefact from one of the most incredible military operations in British history.
The logbook covers the period of December 1942 until March 1944, during which time Sgt Murray was posted to the legendary 617 Squadron.
It lists numerous top-secret training flights completed in preparation for Operation Chastise, using specially-modified Lancaster bombers. These flights include low-level practice bombing runs over RAF Wainfleet, cross-country night flights and low-level flights over water.
These logged training flights culminate on May 14 with a full dress rehearsal designed to simulate the routes, targets and the geography of the raid.
The logbook contains the clear signatures of four key members of 617 Squadron, each of who flew during the first wave of the raid:
Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, VC, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar (August 12, 1918 – September 19, 1944)
Wing Commander Guy Gibson was the first Commanding Officer of 617 Squadron, and was largely responsible for assembling and training the elite squadron in preparation for Operation Chastise.
Gibson was also the pilot of Lancaster ED932/G ('G-George'), the first plane to lead the attack on the Möhne Dam. This first bomb exploded short of its target, but Gibson then flew two further runs to draw flak from other planes in the formation, allowing for two direct hits and the breach of the dam.
Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts, and in June 1943 became the most highly decorated serviceman in the country. Having completed more than 170 operations by the age of 26, Gibson was killed in September 1944 when his plane crashed near Steenbergen in Holland, during a raid on Rheydt and Moenchengladbach.
Sqn Ldr Henry Melvin Young, DFC & Bar. (May 20, 1915 – May 17, 1943)
Squadron Leader Henry Melvin 'Dinghy' Young was one of the main organising forces behind 617 Squadron, and served as second-in-command during Operation Chastise, behind Wing Commander Guy Gibson.
Young was the pilot of Lancaster ED877/G AJ-A ('A-Apple'), the fourth plane to attack the Möhne Dam and the first to score a direct hit. During the return journey, the plane was shot down by anti-aircraft fire over the Dutch coast and all seven crewmen were killed.
Fl/Lt William Astell DFC (April 1, 1920 – May 16, 1943)
Flight Lieutenant William Astell was the pilot of Lancaster ED864/G, ('B-Baker') which flew as part of Formation No. 1. All seven crewmen were killed en-route to the Möhne Dam, when the plane collided with an electricity pylon near Marbeck and crashed into a nearby field.
Sqn Ldr David John Hatfeild Maltby DSO DFC (May 10, 1920 – September 15, 1943)
Squadron Leader D.J.H Maltby was the pilot of Lancaster ED906/G ('J-Johnny'), the fifth plane to attack the Möhne Dam and the second to score a direct hit, causing a large breach. Having returned safely from the mission, Maltby was killed a few months later during Operation Garlic, when his plane crashed into the North Sea following the cancellation of the mission.
Also included are several period photographs of Sgt Murray, taken during his service with the RAF, and a letter from the 617 Squadron Association detailing Murray's training flights and RAF career.