Rocky Mountain House is naming a street after a local man who was an airman in the Second World War’s legendary Dambusters squadron.
Fred Sutherland was a 20-year-old front air gunner on one of 19 Lancaster bombers that set out on the night of May 16 and 17, 1943, with the top secret mission to destroy dams in Germany’s industrial heartland.
Codenamed Operation Chastise, the mission for the 133 specially trained airmen was to blow holes in the massive dams to disrupt power and water supplies. Only 11 planes returned and 53 airmen were killed, including 14 of the 30 Canadians who participated.
Sutherland, who lived with his late wife Margaret in Rocky Mountain House for many years, passed away in January, leaving Britain’s Johnnie Johnson as the last surviving member of the raid.
In a 1 p.m. ceremony on Monday, 54th Street in Rocky Mountain House will be officially renamed Sutherland Drive.
Mayor Tammy Burke and members of the Sutherland family plan to unveil a memorial plaque and share a few remarks.
In a 2013 interview with the Red Deer Advocate, Sutherland recounted his experiences in the transparent nose of his bomber as it attacked the Eder dam with the ingenious bouncing bombs that had been developed specifically for this mission.
Sutherland said from his perch he couldn’t see if their bomb had done its work as the plane clawed its way into the sky to clear power lines after its bombing run.
Then he heard the pilot’s crackling through his headset: “It’s gone, it’s gone!
“We were talking quite a bit. We were kind of excited. We couldn’t believe it,” he recalled.