The crews used the dam towers in Derbyshire to practise delivering the bouncing bomb, with daring runs 50ft above the water. Now, almost 80 years later, the Dambusters are back – according to reported sightings of their ghostly Lancaster bombers. The mystery centres on the Ladybower Reservoir, where the village of Derwent was flooded to supply Sheffield with drinking water in the 1940s.
According to folklore, the village church spire emerges when water levels fall. But there is no spire, the church was demolished.
There have also been many “phantom” bomber sightings reported to national park staff.
One was by a woman sitting in a car with her husband one fine, sunny afternoon.
She claimed to have seen a plane fly by “as quiet as a mouse”, large and dark like the Lancaster model. She watched it disappear into the trees before turning to her husband who exclaimed: “Did you see that?”
Another couple reported seeing a silent Lancaster flying over the reservoir in the moonlight.
Dr David Clarke, of Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Along-side sightings of the phantom spire of Ladybower, others have reported strange occurrences in the Derwent valley that are often described as ‘timeslips’.
“These include the sound of eerie church bells and organ music coming from beneath the water where the village of Der-went once stood.”
He asked: “Is it possible more recent visits, including the one in 1993 to mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing raid, have triggered an existing folk memory to produce vivid experiences of the type reported by Ladybower visitors?”
“The process whereby tradition, belief, suggestion, imagination and memory interact with objects in the landscape is an ongoing dynamic one, that produces accounts of mysterious ‘timeslips’.”
Only two Lancasters survive. One is part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Fight. The other is in Duxford aircraft museum.
An RAF spokesman said: “I have heard rumours that aircraft resembling old wartime Lancasters have been seen flying over the Peak District hills, but I can confirm they are not ours.”
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