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What is an Immersive History?

Immersive Histories allows audiences to step back in time to a slice of history in order to see, hear and feel what it it may have been like to be there. Through an Immersive Histories experience, audiences will gain an understanding of a time, place and event in ways which are not possible through watching a film, reading a book or playing a video game.

What will I experience?

In Immersive Histories: Dambusters, audiences experience key events from Operation Chastise from a unique point of view inside an Avro Lancaster during the raid on the Mohne Dam. This is delivered to audiences through a virtual reality headset and haptics in conjunction with a physical 1:1 recreation of the interior of the aircraft which they can touch and explore. 

How long will the experience last for?

The experience lasts for just over ten minutes. 

What orientation is there at the beginning of the experience?

At the beginning of the experience, RAF Museum staff will give audiences a safety briefing which must be followed. The experience forms a part of the wider Dambusters exhibit at the RAF Museum which has information about the background and planning of the mission. At the very start of the experience there is a short sequence of text cards which communicate the background of the mission.

This experience is for two people. What are our roles?

Audiences can choose to step into the shoes of two of the Lancaster’s crew during the mission:

Flt Lt Robert Hutchison (Bar) was the Wireless Operator onboard the aircraft. Known to the crew as ‘Hutch’, he was born in Liverpool, UK and was 25 at the time of the mission. On the aircraft his responsibilities included receiving messages from and sending messages to base as well as launching a signal flare as they cleared the dam on their attack. The Wireless Operator station is on the left side of the aircraft just ahead of the wing spar. 

Hutchison was awarded the DFC for his participation in Operation CHASTISE.

He died on 16 September 1943 when his aircraft was hit by flak during a raid on the Dortmund-Ems canal.

Plt Off Harlo Torger Taerum was the Navigator onboard the aircraft. Known as ‘Terry’ to the crew, he was born in Alberta, Canada and was 23 at the time of the mission. On the aircraft his responsibilities included navigating them to their objective and home safely. He was also responsible for monitoring the aircraft’s altitude during their assault on the dam by observing the convergence of the spotlights on the water below them at 18.3m (60 ft). 

Taerum was awarded the DFC for his participation in Operation CHASTISE 

He also died on 16 September 1943 when his aircraft was hit by flak during a raid on the Dortmund-Ems canal. 

Which of the Dambusters aircraft are we in?

The experience takes place in ED932/G AJ-G ‘George’: an Avro Lancaster B Mk III Special Bomber (Type 464 Provisioning).
‘G-George’ was flown by Wing Commander Guy Penrose Gibson, DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar. It was the first aircraft to attack the dams during Operation CHASTISE. 

Gibson was awarded the VC for his leadership during the campaign.

Can we explore the whole aircraft or just a section of it?

In the experience audiences are able to explore the area directly around the wireless and navigator sections and into the cockpit up to the rear of the pilot’s chair. Audiences are not able to explore past these areas.  Audience members must remain mindful of other guests in the experience and ensure that they do not move too close to them.

Will we see other members of the crew? If so, who?

Yes, other members of the crew can be seen from both the Wireless Op and Navigator positions. In the cockpit you will be able to see Wing Commander Guy Gibson piloting the aircraft, with Flight Engineer Sgt John Pulford to his right. From the Navigator position you may also be able to see the Bomb Aimer, Plt Off Frederic ‘Spam’ Spafford as well as Front Gunner Plt Off George Deering firing back at the dam’s defences. 

Am I able to interact with them? 

No, the crew are not interactive.  

Do I actively contribute to the mission? Or am I in the role of an Observer?

No, in the experience you act in the role of an Observer only.

Am I able to interact with the other person taking part in this immersive experience?

No. The movements of the crew member in the position occupied by the other person taking part in the experience are not driven by their actions. 

Will we be able to see outside of the aircraft? If so, what will we see?

Yes - there is lots to see outside of the aircraft. You will be able to see the detailed landscape of the Ruhr Valley as it whizzes past at very low altitude, as well as the Mohne Reservoir as the aircraft goes on their attack run at 60 ft.

The clear night sky will also be illuminated by the tracer fire from the dam’s defences. You will also see other aircraft from No. 617 Squadron approaching the area in formation with you and making their attacks on the dam.

Will we see the Dam? Do we see it being destroyed?

Yes. This experience shows the events of Operation Chastise at the Möhne dam; the first to be attacked. The dam is highly detailed and features authentically placed flak emplacements. The power house below the dam is also featured, as well as the compensating basin.

You will witness the dam being ‘busted’ and the torrent of water which spreads from it into the valley below. 

How historically accurate is this immersive history?

We have gone to great lengths to authentically reproduce the events of the mission in as much detail as possible. The dialogue heard over the intercom is inspired by primary accounts from crew members who were flying the mission.

The airspeed and altitude of the aircraft has also been simulated accurately. Even the sound of the engines are recorded from RCAF FM213 of the, one of only two Lancasters still flying in the world. 

I wear glasses, can I still wear a VR Headset?

Yes, although especially large frames may not fit in the headset. 

What medical conditions can’t use this experience?

This experience is not suitable for visitors who are pregnant or who have pre-existing medical conditions including epilepsy, a serious heart ailment, high blood-pressure, wear a cardiac pacemaker or other implanted medical device.

This experience uses visual effects that may trigger epileptic seizures, seizures, fainting, loss of awareness or severe dizziness. To reduce the likelihood of a seizure do not use this experience if you are tired or need sleep.

Content viewed in this experience may appear very life-like and may cause your body and brain to react accordingly. This may lead to increased heart rate, spikes in blood pressure, panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD, fainting and other adverse effects.

If you have a history of negative physical or psychological reactions to certain real-life situations please do not use this experience. 

Please do not use this experience if you are ill, tired, under the influence of intoxicants or drugs or are not feeling generally well, as it may worsen your condition.

If you are unsure whether you have a medical condition which may be worsened by participating in it, please consult your doctor before entering it. Please read our Full Terms and Conditions of entry before purchasing your tickets.

What is the minimum age that a child can go on this experience?

This experience is recommended for visitors aged 13+. Children UNDER 16 must obtain permission from their parent of guardian before using this experience. Children 7+ may ONLY use this experience under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian

It may be that we can allow younger children on the experience with the permission of their parents. Young children should be supervised when near the experience and should not be allowed to use or play with it as it may lead to injury to themselves and to others.

Older children, participating on the experience must be monitored at all times by a responsible adult for any negative effects during and after their use of the experience. If any negative effects are observed they must immediately stop using the experience and be referred to a doctor. 

As the aircraft moves, does the floor that I am standing on move with it?

No, the floor does not move. However many have reported that it feels like it does due to the realistic motion of the plane in the headset.

Are there any other effects that simulate my Lancaster coming under fire e.g. blasts of air to simulate shrapnel whizzing by or sudden floor movements?

Not quite, but similar. The floor physical set is outfitted with haptics which rumble to communicate the roar of the engines - this can be felt by the audience through their feet. The audience also wear a ‘Subpac’ haptic vest during the experience which allows them to feel the rumble in their body. 

Do I get to see the Lancaster’s bomb-bay open and the Bouncing Bomb being dropped?

Upkeep, the ‘bouncing bomb’ weapon developed for Operation Chastise was not contained inside the aircraft’s bomb bay as it was too large. The bomb bay doors were removed and the weapon was slung below the aircraft on large caliper arms. Audiences will not see their own bomb being dropped as it effectively happens below their feet. They will see the explosion though. They are able to see other aircraft drop their bombs in the experience.

How does my flight end?

At the end of the experience there is a short sequence of text cards which explain the outcome of the mission as well as giving details of RAF casualties as well as those on the ground. 

Am I allowed to take photography of myself and my companion in the aircraft and post it on social media?

Yes absolutely. When you post to social media please use the hashtag #ImmersiveHistoriesDambusters or #BeADambuster 

How do I book my tickets for this experience? Do I just turn up on the day or can I book in advance 

You can book tickets in advance. You can also purchase tickets on the day at the Museum, but please be aware that prior bookings may stop you from being able to select the time-slot that you want.  

Am I likely to get disoriented/will I feel sick?

Some people do find that virtual reality experiences can give them motion sickness, or cause them to lose their sense of balance. If you find this during the experience, please stop use right away. It may be more comfortable to remain seated during the experience rather than standing.

How did you make sure the experience was historically accurate?

To produce the experience we collaborated with several historians and experts on the events of Operation Chastise and the Lancaster aircraft.  

Is the experience wheelchair accessible?

Yes, the experience is fully accessible to audience members in wheelchairs. However, it may be unsuitable for some wheelchair users dependent upon their medical condition. Please read our Terms and Conditions for entry before purchasing your ticket.

The RAF Museum would like to thank All Seeing Eye, Creative XR, Catapult Digital and the Art's Council England who supported this project 

#DambustersVRE #ImmersiveHistoriesDambusters
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