THE last of the Dambusters pilots, Squadron Leader Les Munro, has passed away in his native New Zealand, aged 96. The New Zealand Bomber Command Association announced his death, saying the Second World War veteran had experienced heart problems.
The Dambusters mission, which dropped newly developed ‘bouncing bombs’ onto German dams, was one of the defining moments of the Allied campaign in the war.
617 Squadron left RAF Scrampton, Lincolnshire, on May 16, 1943, with 19 bombers and 133 crew members, for the heavily industrialised Ruhr Valley. Only 77 men returned, but a mission that had not been assured of success had hit its target, destroying two of the dams and damaging another.
The two that burst flooded the valley, killing an estimated 1,300 people, who were mostly civilians.
Sqd Leader Munro’s plane made it home after being hit by flak over the Netherlands.
He continued to lead an active life into his 90s, as a patron of the New Zealand Bomber Command, and even piloting a plane as recently as January 2015.
Munro was the last surviving Dambusters pilot, but two further members of the mission are still with us, former front gunner, the Canadian Fred Sutherland, and British former bomb aimer George Johnson.