Emmerdale star in Elan Valley Dambusters tribute call
- 23 August 2010
- From the section Mid Wales
An Emmerdale star has joined a campaign calling for a replica bouncing bomb to be placed in a valley in Powys where it was tested in World War II.
Richard Thorp, who plays Alan Turner in the ITV soap, appeared in The Dambusters film in the 1950s.
He wants the Elan Valley, near Rhayader, recognised for the role it played in the daring RAF raid.
Bouncing bombs, designed by engineer Barnes Wallis, destroyed dams vital to the German war machine in 1943.
Wallis used Nant-y-Gro dam to test explosives in 1942.
Nineteen aircraft from the RAF's 617 Squadron set out to destroy the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany's industrial heartland, the Ruhr valley, but only 11 returned from the perilous low-level mission.
The attack was later to form the basis of the 1955 film The Dambusters, which starred Richard Todd, Michael Redgrave and a young Richard Thorp.
Mr Thorp, 78, who has been in the Yorkshire-based soap since 1982, was in his early 20s when he was offered the role of Sqn Ldr Henry Maudslay, one of the leaders of the wartime raid.
"I was very young and had just started my acting career and nobody knew me," said Mr Thorp, who lives near Knighton, Powys.
"I auditioned for a part, but it was a case of 'don't call us, we'll call you.'
"I was leaving when somebody said: 'What about him for Maudslay?' It was a much better part than I'd auditioned for and I was lucky enough to get it."
Mr Thorp said during filming he learned what the crews went through.
"We had these barmy Polish pilots who flew some Lancaster bombers during the filming," he added.
"They took me up one day and it was freezing inside, everything shook and it was noisy. I just don't know how they communicated above the noise.
"They had to stay in this inhospitable environment for seven-and-a-half hours, a round trip from Britain to Germany and back.
"It made me, and the other actors, aware of how incredibly brave these people were.
"There ought to be a memorial recognising the role played by the Elan Valley and the sacrifice made by the men of 617 squadron."
Mr Thorp was asked to join the campaign by World War II veteran Douglas Jones, 86.
He is calling for a replica of a bouncing bomb to be mounted in the Elan Valley.
Mr Jones, from Dutlas, near Knighton, said: "He (Mr Thorp) was most enthusiastic and as he was in the film it seemed natural to ask him for his help."
Nant-y-Gro dam, which was 35ft (10m) high, and 180ft long (55m), was used for the secret experiments by government officials who needed a testing site for the bombs.
The Elan Valley was already used as a firing range by the military and its remoteness made it a perfect location for Barnes Wallis' research.
Two trials were carried out on the dam. The first was in May 1942, but it did not damage it.
Two months later, a second experiment was carried out using a 500lb (226kg) anti-submarine bomb containing 279lb (126kg) of explosive.
It was suspended in the middle of the dam and detonated, blasting away a massive section of the central wall.
Wallis eventually devised his drum-shaped bouncing bombs which were designed to skim across water, roll down dam walls and explode at depth.