The RAF Spitfires Rugby 7s team have visited the iconic Derwent Valley Reservoirs and Dam to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the famous Dambusters story.
The rugby 7s team, who take their name from the iconic Royal Air Force Spitfire aircraft used in World War II, made a special stop at the Derwent Valley reservoirs and dam as part of a gruelling 500mile charity cycle. The team rode from Glasgow to Twickenham, to coincide with the final two legs of the IRB World Sevens Series, and planned the visit to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Dambusters’ Operation Chastise, on Thursday 16th May.
Famous for being used by pilots of 617 Squadron to practise for Operation Chastise, more commonly known as the Dambusters Raids on dams in Germany during World War II, Derwent provided a fitting stop for the Spitfires team, all of whom are serving RAF airmen.
In the immediate aftermath of the Dambusters raids in Germany photo-reconnaissance Spitfires of RAF Benson flew in to take pictures of the hits on the dams, and the team’s new 2013 camouflage rugby shirt, designed by Canterbury, is a fitting tribute.
The team visited the Dambusters Museum, situated in one of the famous twin towers of the Derwent Dam, where they were able to see the Barnes Wallis ‘Bouncing Bomb’ used in the Dambusters raids as well as an extensive collection of memorabilia. The museum was opened specially for their arrival and Vic Hallam, the owner of the Museum’s collection, will display imagery of the Spitfires’ visit along with the Canterbury RAF Spitfires Rugby 7s Camouflage shirt on the museums visitor’s wall.
Spitfires Team Manager, Flight Lieutenant Nick Monahan, a Puma pilot currently based at RAF Benson, commented, “Stopping off at the Derwent Dam as part of our 500 mile charity cycle and remembering the brave airmen who took to the skies for Operation Chastise was a very nostalgic moment for the whole Spitfires squad. We are very honoured to have our commemorative Canterbury shirt displayed in the Dambusters Museum.”
On Thursday 16th May, the official anniversary date of Operation Chastise, there will be a fly-past at the Derwent Valley reservoirs of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) which includes the Lancaster Bomber and a Spitfire.
The aim of the Spitfires’ charity bike ride is to raise £10,000 for their charity partners, Khelo Rugby and the RAF Benevolent Fund.
Khelo Rugby is a tag rugby project for disadvantaged children in India and the Spitfires have been involved in coaching children in the slums of Calcutta for over 18 months. Khelo is expanding within India and other countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Vietnam, which is helping grass roots rugby in developing rugby nations. The founder of Khelo rugby and Afghanistan 7s coach, Zaffar Khan, joined the RAF Spitfires on the ride.
The RAF Benevolent Fund is also a charity close to the RAF’s heart, which raises money to help RAF personnel and their families, past, present and future, in times of need. Their recent projects include funding for youth workers and play parks on numerous RAF stations across the UK through the Airplay scheme.
All the route data, daily blogs and photos of the charity cycle can be found at www.facebook.com/rafrugby7s and www.canterbury.com/blog.
The fundraising page is www.virginmoneygiving.com/rafrugby7s
Donations can also be made by texting RAFS77 £5 (between £1 and £10) to 70070.
The new RAF Spitfires Rugby 7s camouflage shirt is available to buy from www.canterbury.com and £5 from each sale will go to the charities supported by the RAF.