To mark the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid, two members of Grantham’s cycling club, the Witham Wheelers, are taking on a huge challenge to raise money for a number of charities including the RAF’s leading welfare charity, the RAF Benevolent Fund.
Lincolnshire-based Wing Commander Mike Ainsworth and his team mate Lieutenant Colonel Ian Astley will be riding to the Dams via the crash sites and the graves of the airmen who paid the ultimate sacrifice on the Raid. The group plan to ride to the dams after the RAF Benevolent Fund’s Heritage Ride out of Woodhall Spa on the 13th May 2023. They will then cross to the Netherlands on the overnight Ferry after the Heritage Ride, then cycle over 600 miles in seven days, visiting the eight crash sites, 47 graves in five cemeteries, and three of the dams. Fittingly, the route will visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, where the majority of 617 Squadron’s casualties from the raid are buried on the 80th Anniversary of their sacrifice.
The challenge follows on from the cycle fundraiser Mike did in 2021 to mark the 100th birthday of the then last surviving Dambuster Squadron Leader George ‘Johnny’ Johnson, where Mike rode over 5,600 miles to raise money for the Fund.
“I take part in the Dambusters Ride every year – throughout my RAF career, I’ve always felt safe in the knowledge that the RAF Benevolent Fund would be there for me if times got tough. I’ve seen first-hand the incredible support they give not only to serving personnel but also to RAF veterans and their families, so it’s important for me to support the charity.”
“This year is particularly poignant as I’m also doing the ride in memory of Johnny Johnson, the last surviving Dambuster, who passed away last December. He was such an inspiration and will be missed dearly.”
The annual Dambusters Ride pays tribute to the Dambusters, members of the RAF’s 617 Squadron who were assembled to bomb three dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley on the night of 16-17 May 1943 – also known as Operation Chastise. This year marks 80 years since the risky raid, in which the revolutionary bouncing bomb, the brainchild of engineer Barnes Wallis, was dropped at low level on Germany’s industrial heartland in the Ruhr Valley. The mission was a success, but the cost was high; of 133 aircrew who left, 53 were killed and three became prisoners of war.
The Dambusters Ride consists of two elements: a Virtual Ride on the weekend of 20-21 May and a Heritage Ride taking place in Lincolnshire on Saturday 13 May.
For more information and to register for this year’s event, please visit rafbf.org/ride.
You can donate to Mike’s fundraising page by clicking here.
The RAF Benevolent Fund provides financial, emotional, and practical assistance to serving and retired RAF personnel and their families. This includes grants to help with financial difficulty, free memberships for Headspace, Airplay youth clubs, and more.
Mikes’ team are fundraising to COMMEMORATE the sacrifices of our forebears, SUPPORT the Royal Air Force family of today, and INSPIRE the next generation. Hence why they have chosen to raise money for the following charities:
- Commonwealth War Graves Foundation
- International Bomber Command Centre
- Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund
- Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Benevolent Fund
- Royal Air Force Air Cadets charities
- 617 Squadron Association’s flying scholarship fund