Patrick Arends

Dam Busters reservoir - July 2012

In Derbyshire, between Glossop and Sheffield, a magnificent piece of engineering shapes the countryside. Three large reservoirs are separated by the Howden Dam at the north and the Derwent Dam at the south. (more)

Construction on the Howden Dam started in 1902, finished in 1914. It took till 1916 for the first water to actually overflow. From 1935 till 1945, the second dam and the Ladybower Reservoir were built. They provide water supply for south Yorkshire and all of Derbyshire.

Standing at the bottom, the shear size of these dams is incredible. It feels like standing in front of the Black Gates of Mordor! There is a path up to the top ("up, up, up the stairs we go...!"), from where you can appreciate the vast amount of water, which is retained. There's a little museum in one of the towers as well, worth a visit.

During World War II, these dams were used as target practice by the Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron. In order to breach several German dams and disable their war manufacturing in the Ruhr Valley (large amounts of water are required for the steel/war industry), Barnes Wallis designed the bouncing bomb. A 10t depth charge, which was dropped from a low-level flying Avro Lancaster bomber, bouncing along the reservoir, ending up at the dam wall, sinking to the bottom of the reservoir before exploding. Imagine flying this flying fortress in the middle of the night of 16-17 May 1943, only 18m above water level, at 240 mph! Heroic and crazy! The Squadron is known as The Dam Busters!

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