The Dam Busters March

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The Dam Busters March is Eric Coates' theme for the 1955 film The Dam Busters.[1] It is a musical composition which has achieved the rare distinction of having iconic status and become synonymous with said film - indeed, with Operation Chastise itself.[2] The Dam Busters March remains a favourite military band item at flypasts in the UK.


The composer's son Austin Coates recounted in a radio interview for the BBC that the march was not actually written for the film and had in fact been completed a few days before he was contacted by the producers. The composer had apparently been carrying out an exercise in composing a march in Elgarian form, which is the same structure as the famous Pomp and Circumstance Marches.

Coates had a profound dislike of writing film music and turned down numerous requests; he was prevailed upon by the producers, who told him that this was "a film of national importance". He was initially inclined to refuse the commission but, on hearing more about the film, came to the conclusion that the piece he had just completed might just be the very thing.

Other usage[edit]

The march is now the musical setting for the hymn "God is our strength and refuge", based on Psalm 46.

By the time the sheet music for the march was published in 1955, Carlene Mair had added the following lyrics:

Proudly, with high endeavour,
We, who are young forever,
Won the freedom of the skies.
We shall never die!
We who have made our story
Part of our Empire's [later: 'country's'] glory
Know our hearts will still live on
While Britons fly! [3]

The film score itself was completed by Leighton Lucas.

Fans of Lincoln City F.C. are known to sing the song with arms outstretched imitating aircraft after their team scores. It is also regularly played by Scottish football club Rangers F.C. post match.

The march is also featured in the 1973 Christmas special of The Goodies television series, "The Goodies and the Beanstalk".

Progressive rock band Jethro Tull were known to conclude their concerts in the late 1970s and early 1980s with a rock rendition of the theme.[4] It can also be heard on the live 1978 album Bursting Out.

In Chile, the orchestral version of this march was used for 40 years as a theme song for the radio news show "El Correo de Minería", in Radio Minería.

The march, with a lyric written for the occasion, was used as a theme song for the Norwegian YMCA Scouts national scout camp in Mandal in the summer of 1990.

A slightly re-arranged orchestral version is used in Danny Boyle's short film "Happy and Glorious," specially made for London's 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

The song is featured on the high score screen of the Dragon 32 game Tea Time.


  1. ^ "Eric Coates". Boosey & Hawkes. 
  2. ^ Jonathan Glancey (2003-05-06). "Bombs away". The Guardian. 
  3. ^ John Ramsden, The Dam Busters (London: Tauris, 188), pp. 101-2.
  4. ^ Jethro Tull rock rendition on YouTube

External links[edit]

Clips featuring the march: