MoD re-enacts historic Dambusters mission on Twitter for 75th anniversary of raid

Comms chiefs at the Ministry of Defence have turned to social media to tell the tale of one of the RAF's most famous missions of the Second World War - the Dambusters raid.

Wing Commander Gibson and his crew board their Lancaster A3-G for the Dambusters raid (pic credit: Crown Copyright)
Wing Commander Gibson and his crew board their Lancaster A3-G for the Dambusters raid (pic credit: Crown Copyright)
On 16 May 1943, Lancaster bombers from 617 Squadron breached the defences of dams along the Ruhr, in Germany’s industrial heartland. The 75th anniversary of the raid was promoted by the MoD’s official Twitter feed.

More than 30 tweets were sent last Wednesday night promoting #Dambusters75, in what was the first time the MoD has used the platform to re-enact an historic event.

The mission was brought to life by using a mix of past and present, with archive photographs and transcripts from radio messages during the raid interspersed with multimedia graphics and video footage.

Wing Commander John Butcher, the current commanding officer of 617 Squadron, which has been reformed to fly Britain's new F35 stealth fighters, was given control of the MoD’s official Twitter account to recount the story of the raid.

In a top secret mission, called Operation Chastise, British airmen took to the skies to deliver the bouncing bombs developed by British engineer Barnes Wallis. 

The mission was a success, destroying two major damns in the Ruhr valley and damaging a third. But the tweets did not shy away from the human cost of the mission.
They documented the losses of British bombers in the order they took place 75 years ago. 

Almost half the airmen sent out on the mission never returned home – with 53 out of 133 killed.

In a video clip, Wing Commander Butcher paid tribute to the "bravery" of his predecessors and said there were some "similarities" between then and now. 

He said: "In 1943 they were using the cutting-edge Lancaster with new technology to attack the dams with the bouncing bomb, and then when you compare to today when we’re using the F35 which is at the very cutting edge of technology and will be for the foreseeable future, there are some really strong links in capability between the two."

In a recent PRWeek analysis, the MoD was found to be the most active government department on Twitter over a 12-month period and among the highest scoring departments for engagement.

Using social media to communicate the story of the raid helped support the RAF’s centenary celebrations and highlighted the links between then and now, according to Heather Monro, senior comms officer in the MoD’s campaigns team.

She said: "We’re looking a lot at the future of the RAF as well as the past so there’s a lot of heritage involved with the 617 Squadron. Obviously they were the Dambusters and that’s what they were created to do but they are also the squadron that’s talking about the new F35 jets. We really wanted to make that connection between the old and the new."

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