The ‘Dambusters’ on VE-Day

For many units, VE-Day was a quiet one, bar the inevitable celebrations. A look at the operations record book of the most famous RAF unit, No 617 Squadron, is no exception. "VE Day talk given by Station Commander," it says for 8 May 1945, the station in question being Woodhall Spa. “Remainder of day was a stand down with the exception of crews taking part in ‘Exodus’ operation." This involved five of the 617’s Lancasters, plus many more from other squadrons. Operation ‘Exodus’ was the repatriation of British prisoners of war back to the UK, which had begun on 2 May. It involved many types other than Lancasters — Dakotas, of course, as well as Halifaxes, Liberators, Stirlings and others. No 617 Squadron played its part, flying five ‘Exodus’ missions, involving as many as 12 of its aircraft. The last of those was on 13 May. Several other ‘Exodus’ tasks were cancelled. Today, of course, 617 flies the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning from RAF Marham, Norfolk — not an aircraft able to perform such sorties!