617 Squadron

The RAF Benevolent Fund has launched a new fundraising challenge to mark the anniversary of the formation of 617 Squadron – the RAF squadron best known for its role in Operation Chastise, also known as the Dambusters raid. The raid, an attack on three dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, involved 133 aircrew flying 19 specially adapted Lancaster bombers.

The Fund is inviting supporters to join the Lancaster to Lancaster Rowing Challenge to collectively row 3,500 miles, the equivalent distance between the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Ontario, Canada and RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, the homes of the only two remaining flying Lancasters.

The charity is looking to recruit 350 participants to join the challenge, each committing to rowing 10 miles over the course of the year from 21st March, the anniversary of the formation of 617 Squadron.

Emma Wolstenholme, Honorary Ambassador to the RAF Air Cadets, has given her support to the challenge. Following a 16-year career in the RAF, Emma left the service in 2020 as a Squadron Leader, having served as DPSO to the Chief of the Air Staff and Media Operations in Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, Emma attempted to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean on a mission to raise money for the Royal Air Force Air Cadets while beating the Guinness World Records for a female solo cross-Atlantic row. Sadly, Emma was forced to abandon her challenge due to a complete electrical failure.

Emma Wolstenholme said: “It’s important for me to support the RAF Benevolent Fund as it’s my way of giving something back. Last year I took part in the Fund’s Dambusters Ride 100-mile cycle with my sister and partner, and not only was it a great day out and a fantastic challenge, but the money raised supports the whole of the RAF Family.

“As the Honorary Ambassador to the RAF Air Cadets, I was thrilled that the Fund has extended its remit to support members of the Air Cadets. Many cadets go on to join the RAF, so it’s important to know that support is there for them if they need it.”

For more information or to register for the Lancaster to Lancaster Rowing Challenge, please visit rafbf.org/lancaster-rowing-challenge.

Lisa Hunt, Community Fundraiser at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “Whether your complete your miles on a rowing machine or on the water, your efforts will not only celebrate the formation of this important RAF unit – they will also raise much-needed Funds that will allow us to continue supporting members of the RAF Family for years to come.”

In return for your support, participants who hit their fundraising target will receive a RAF Benevolent Fund t-shirt and a bespoke Lancaster medal which has kindly been sponsored by the International Air and Space Training Institute (IASTI), an organisation committed to educating and training the next generation of aviation professionals.

The RAF Benevolent Fund supports serving RAF personnel, veterans, and their families, when they need it most. The Fund provides financial, emotional and practical assistance to help people live with the dignity and independence they deserve.

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