The Portsmouth Dambuster

617 Squadron 'the Dambusters'

617 Squadron 'the Dambusters'

Flight Sergeant Herbert Clarke, from Portsmouth, was 22 when he was serving as an Air Gunner with 617 Squadron of the RAF, the famous Dambusters. Although there is no evidence to suggest how long he had been with the Dambusters for, Clarke had been mentioned in Despatches. An operation that took place on 7 October 1944 would sadly cost him his life.

As advancing French and American forces prepared to cross the Rhine near Mulhouse in Eastern France, it was feared that the Germans would flood the Rhine valley by destroying the Kembs dam, which formed part of the hydro-electric system that also made the Rhine navigable. Led by Wing Cdr ‘Willie’ Tait, 617 squadron took part in a daring pre-emptive daylight raid fielding a total of 13 Tallboy armed Lancasters. 7 bombing from 8000ft to distract the AA fire and 6 from below 1000ft to stand the best chance of a hit. 2 Lancasters were lost but Tait’s bomb fell right next to the dam and 30 minutes later a violent explosion breached the dam, the resulting loss of water leaving boats high and dry as far back as Basle in Switzerland.

Flight Sergeant Clarke was onboard one of the lost Lancasters, serial number LM482. The Tallboy bomb failed to release on their first run in to the target. On the second run they were hit by light flak and crashed 8 kilometres away from the target. Attacking such a heavily defended target, with great skill and during daylight was a magnificent feat. And to go round again after their bomb failed to release was in the best traditions of the RAF, and especially of the Dambusters.

Flight Sergeant Herbert Clarke is buried in Durnbach War Cemtery, Germany.

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29 Comments

Filed under Local History, portsmouth heroes, Remembrance, Royal Air Force, World War Two

29 responses to “The Portsmouth Dambuster

  1. Mark

    Do you have any other information regarding this story?

    I’ve just started looking into my family history and although we had some details regarding what happened to my nans brother. The information above was news to us and I’d love to learn more about Herbert.

    Thanks.

  2. James Daly

    Hi Mark, thanks for your comment. As always I’m honoured to hear from a relative.

    Thats all the information I have about him for now. I compiled it based on the rafweb site, and also the lostbombers site. I first found his name on Portsmouth City Council’s list of names for the planned WW2 memorial. I then found his entry on the Commonwealth War Graves website.

    As 617 Squadron is such a famous unit I would imagine that there are plenty of books out there about them, and should include the Kembs raid. You could also try contacting the RAF Museum.

    Good luck, let me know if I can be of any other help. I would love to find out more about Herbert.

    James

  3. Mark

    Hello, please could you delete my comments as per the 5th April.

    Thanks
    Mark

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