On Friday 17 May, BBC Radio 2 marks the Dambusters 70th anniversary with a special day of programming.
Chris Evans to broadcast from the home of the Dambusters – RAF Scampton – and to fly in a Lancaster Bomber
Featuring Dambusters veterans and Barnes Wallis’ daughter
The largest live music event for the anniversary - Friday Night Is Music Night presents The Dambusters 70 Years On from Biggin Hill Airport
The Central Band of the RAF to perform a new composition, plus the Military Wives Choir and the BBC Concert Orchestra
Chris Evans’ Breakfast Show will come from RAF Scampton and later he will fly in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Lancaster Bomber.
The Jeremy Vine Show will come from Biggin Hill Airport, and from 8pm Jeremy and Dermot O’Leary present a special Friday Night Is Music Night from an aircraft hangar at Biggin Hill. This will be the largest live music event commemorating the anniversary of this iconic Second World War raid.
Bob Shennan, Controller Radio 2, 6 Music and Asian Network, said: “Radio 2 is proud to commemorate the Dambusters 70th anniversary with a truly memorable day of programming, culminating in a special Friday Night Is Music Night at Biggin Hill.”
Starting the day’s proceedings, The Chris Evans Breakfast Show will come from RAF Scampton, the airfield where airmen of 617 Squadron (the Dambusters) were based. During the show, Chris will broadcast from a Lancaster Bomber on the ground (this being the historic aircraft which made the daring raid), the original Dambusters hangar, and their Wing Commander, Guy Gibson's office, which still contains artefacts from the time of the operation. He’ll also be chatting to various guests including Colin McGregor (brother of actor Ewan) who flew RAF Tornados for 617 Squadron.
Following his show – and subject to weather conditions - Chris is due to fly to Biggin Hill Airport in the Lancaster Bomber, which is one of only two in the world still airworthy. On landing he will talk about this incredible experience on Jeremy Vine’s show. It will also be filmed for that evening’s The One Show on BBC One.
Chris Evans said: “The Lancaster Bomber holds so many emotions for so many people. It is a true icon for myriad reasons. To be even considered for such a project made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. The fact that I am going to fly in it is as exciting as my job gets.”
The Jeremy Vine Show, 12-2pm, will come live from Biggin Hill Airport that day, commemorating the anniversary with a tailored programme.
The day culminates with Friday Night Is Music Night presents The Dambusters 70 Years On from 8-10pm on Radio 2. This unique radio programme, to be performed live in front of an audience of 2500 people in an aircraft hangar at Biggin Hill Airport, is the largest music event commemorating the anniversary of the Second World War raid.
Dermot O’Leary and Jeremy Vine, accompanied by music from the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Central Band of the RAF and the RAF Squadronnaires will re-tell the story of the Dambusters. There will also be a performance from the Military Wives Choir.
Jeremy Vine said: “This a huge day for us at Radio 2. From the team who brought us Titanic Minute-by-Minute will be a detailed account of this legendary episode from World War Two. Friday Night Is Music Night will stir us like we have never been stirred before. I’m especially glad that Dambusters pilot Les Munro and bomb-aimer George 'Johnnie' Johnson will be a part of it.”
There will be special messages from Dambusters pilot Les Munro and bomb-aimer George 'Johnnie' Johnson, both aged 93 and two of just three remaining veterans from the raid. And Barnes Wallis’ daughter Mary Stopes-Roe will be reading from a letter she wrote to her father when she was 14 years old after hearing about the successful raid.
The BBC Concert Orchestra and the Central Band of the RAF will combine to perform music including ‘Dambusters March’, made famous by The Dambusters film. And the Central Band of the RAF will perform for the first time a new composition by Nigel Hess called ‘The Bouncing Bomb’ which was written specifically to mark this 70th anniversary.
Dermot O’Leary said: “Honouring the Dambusters veterans, the BBC Concert Orchestra, The Central Band of the RAF and the Military Wives Choir – all brought together for Friday Night Is Music Night and coming from an enormous aircraft hangar. It’s going to be one memorable event.”
Talking about the 70th anniversary, veteran George 'Johnnie' Johnson said: “It was sensational at the time and 70 years on it is still remembered by a number of people. Also, it can bring together [two of the] surviving members of the original squadron. That is something that is worth celebrating as well.”
Veteran Les Munro said: “Seventy years on and I still have memories of the Dambusters Raid and how it affected so many people on both sides of the war. The Bomber Command Memorial [a tribute to the 55,573 Bomber Command crew who lost their lives in the Second World War] means we will always remember and hopefully learn from the past so future generations will not experience the pain and upset of another world war.”
Talking about how she would like her father, Barnes Wallis, to be remembered, Mary Stopes-Roe said: “As a man of high principles, great intelligence, a good deal of wisdom as well and a lot of fun.”