‘The Dam Busters’
1955 film

Both during and after the war, it suited the RAF to keep alive the memory of a one-off operation which combined an audacious method of attack, technically brilliant flying and visually spectacular results. These alone would have guaranteed the Dams Raid a secure place in history long after the war. However it took the publication of two books, Enemy Coast Ahead by Guy Gibson, and The Dam Busters by Paul Brickhill and the production of a film based on these two sources to give the raid its current status as a cultural icon. The Dams Raid has become one of those events, beloved of journalists and TV documentary list-makers, which are somehow supposed to epitomise Britishness.

In the early 1950s Associated British Pictures Corporation was the largest British film production companies, owning Elstree studios, Pathé News and other parts of the industry. Soon after Paul Brickhill’s book, The Dam Busters, was published in 1951, ABPC bought the film rights. Richard Todd, under contract to ABPC, was cast as Guy Gibson, and Michael Anderson and RC Sherriff were recruited as director and scriptwriter.

The part of David Maltby was given to the young actor George Baker, in one of his first important screen roles. He felt at the time that one of the reasons he had been cast was because of his physical likeness to David. He wrote to me in 2006:

[The casting director] had a photo of [David] and one of me and I must admit that there was a considerable similarity. Then when I met Gp Capt Whitworth he fell into the habit of calling me Dave, which was really quite disconcerting.

During the war Gp Capt Charles Whitworth had been the station commander at RAF Scampton, and when the film was being made he was asked to become the technical adviser. In a 2005 radio interview, George Baker told a story about David being so wound up after a raid that he used to shoot china plates with his service revolver to relieve the tension. He heard this story from Whitworth:

[Whitworth] would often refer to an incident thinking that I had been there. This is how the story of the plate shooting came to be told, quite obviously the men of the squadron became extremely tense before and after an operational flight but other indications from the Group Captain told me that he was a very funny man and a delightful companion. I feel very honoured to have had the chance to portray him in the film.

George Baker, of course, went on to star in many films and TV series, and is perhaps best known as Inspector Wexford in the Ruth Rendell series. I am very grateful for his help in writing this story.

George Baker's entry on IMDB

'The Dam Busters' entry on IMDB


Sequence from film ‘The Dam Busters’
showing attack on the Möhne Dam (as posted on YouTube).

(If this doesn't work, you can find the original YouTube posting using the following link:
YouTube excerpt from 'The Dam Busters')



The 1955 film ‘The Dam Busters’ was largely based on Paul Brickhill’s best-selling book of the same name.