Author to reveal untold history of High Peak dambuster at Furness Vale talk

A High Peak community group is hosting a talk next week from an historian who has uncovered new details of the area’s links to the famous RAF 617 Squadron – the Dambusters – with the full story set to be revealed in a forthcoming book.

By Ed Dingwall
Friday, 25th February 2022, 3:47 pm

Frank Pleszak, author of The High Peak Dambuster, will be addressing a public meeting of the Furness Vale History Society at the village community centre on Tuesday, March 1, at 7.30pm, following a packed out appearance in November.

His subject for the night is the little-known tale of Sergeant Jack Marriott, a flight engineer from Chinley who died when his Lancaster bomber crashed en route back to Britain after the bombing raid on the Ruhr Valley in May 1943.

Frank, who lives in Marple Bridge, said: “I got into a chance discussion with my neighbour Norma when I bumped into her on a dog walk, and it turned into an incredible journey of discovery into what really happened during the most famous of all wartime stories.

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Local historian and author Frank Pleszak.

“Norma’s uncle, Jack Marriott was sadly, but mysteriously killed on his way home from the dams, and she had all this incredible documentation from the Air Ministry, a letter from the commanding officer Guy Gibson, and the production company which made the film.”

He added: “Even though everybody has heard of the Dam Busters in reality most people know very little. What is generally known is based on the 1955 film. As good as it is, and it’s very good, it has lots of inaccuracies. At the time it was made some of the details of the raid were still subject to the Official Secrets Act.”

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An unofficial blue plaque has been fixed to the former Marriott family home in New Smithy for some years, but Jack’s part in the operation has rarely received the attention of some of the more famous squadron members.

In the film Jack’s Lancaster was shown crashing near to the Eder dam, but in reality, it had dropped its ‘bouncing bomb’ and managed to fly part of the way home before being shot down as it approached the Dutch border.

Frank said: “My research led to discussions with some of the leading experts on the subject and has resulted in a book which describes Jack’s life and the true details of what happened that night when Jack, and 52 of his fellow airmen lost their lives, and what happened after the war. It’s really quite surprising.

“As a former pilot myself, I learned all about what it took to fly a Lancaster and what they were going through at every stage. It gave me a new appreciation of the courage, commitment and physical stress involved.”

He added: “Jack’s story didn’t end that night and it continues right up to the present day. In 2018, Norma was invited to the unveiling of the first permanent memorial at the crash site.”

As well as sharing the story of the new book, Frank is returning to one of his earlier works as he prepares to take part in this summer’s events to mark the 80th anniversary of the bombing of New Mills and Hayfield.

The High Peak Dambuster is published by Pen & Sword Books, RRP £25. To learn more about Frank’s work, visit pleszak.blog.

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