Last Sunday I attended Remembrance Day at the Guildhall and was reminded of the Dambusters story. It seems that the Salisbury district has a close tie-up with the RAF exploit which resulted in the blowing up of the Möhne and Elder dams in the Ruhr Valley, Germany in May, 1943.

It was essential that the men of 617 Squadron, who were to do the job, should have a place to practice the skip bombing technique devised for the operation. This place was found in the New Forest, Ashley Walk just outside Godshill village. It is now a peaceful place to walk but during the Second World War it was an experimental bombing range.

For some time before the raid on the dams, Lancasters of the squadron, under Wing-Commander Guy Gibson, practised low level flying and bombing there. The height was about 100ft and one aircraft actually crashed, although the crew escaped unhurt.

During the training, people living in the vicinity saw the individual aircraft make a run at the target and drop a bomb which bounced several times and then exploded. Meanwhile the other aircraft circled awaiting their turn - this was the technique carried out in the actual raid.

When the Dam Busters film opened at the Regal cinema, Salisbury in 1955 it was something of an event. The Air Cadets Band marched through the streets and formed a guard of honour at the cinema where a whole host of top military persons attended the screening. Two people who were also invited but unable to attend were Mrs F Durnford, of Southampton, who was Wing-commander Guy Gibson’s nanny, and Mr John Sykes. Mr Sykes who in 1955 was living at Woodside Road, Salisbury, flew as an air gunner in the night raid on the Möhne and Elder dams and he lived to tell the tale!