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In 1943, under the command of Wing Commander Guy Gibson, 617 Squadron took to the night skies in their specially modified Lancasters on May 16-17, to drop Sir Barnes Wallis’s ‘bouncing bombs’ on the strategically important dams of Germany’s industrial heartland, the Ruhr.

Only 11 of the 19 aircraft returned to Scamton and 53 crewmen perished, but by any other reasonable measure, the mission had been successful.

Photographic reconnaissance of the area the following day revealed that the damage below the dams was substantial.

The Eder and Mohne dams released millions of gallons of water into the Ruhr valley, steel production in the valley was halted for the remainder of 1943, and photographs of the breached dams released by the Air Ministry and published in the British press gave the war effort a huge boost.

The operation’s triumph led to the decoration of the Dam Busters team together with the others involved in the development of the bombs and the aircraft. A dinner was held in London at Regent’s Street’s Hungaria Restaurant on June 22, 1943, to celebrate their achievement – and provide a great photo opportunity.

Together with a photograph taken that evening, an autographed colour-printed menu from this dinner signed by 18 crew members and others involved (including Barnes Wallis and Guy Gibson), stole the limelight in Wallis & Wallis’s 561-lot Lewes sale on January 6.

Consigned by the family of one of those involved in Operation Chastise with a reserve of £700, auctioneer Glen Butler had expected the menu and photograph to fetch around £1000.

In the event, bidding took off and several major dealers and collectors in the room and on the telephone contested it to a triumphant £4800 (plus 15 per cent buyer’s premium).