The Dam Busters March

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The Dam Busters March is the theme to the 1955 British war film The Dam Busters.[1] The musical composition, by Eric Coates, has achieved the distinction of becoming synonymous with both the film and the real Operation Chastise.[2] The Dam Busters March remains a very popular accompaniment to flypasts in the UK.


Coates' son, Austin Coates, recounted in a BBC radio interview that the march was not actually written for the The Dam Busters. It just so happened his father had been carrying out an exercise in composing a march that emulated the musical forms of Edward Elgar, such as in the Pomp and Circumstance Marches. It was only a few days after completing the composition that Coates was contacted by the film's producers.

However, Coates had a profound dislike of writing film music and turned down their numerous requests. It was not until they told him that this was "a film of national importance" that he agreed. On hearing more about the film, he came to the conclusion that the piece he had just finished would be perfect overture. The march was performed for the film by The Associated British Studio Orchestra.

The film's musical score was completed by Leighton Lucas.

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]

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.

In the early 90's, Land Rover featured "The Dam Busters March" on their world renowned versatile vehicle, Land Rover Defender television advert.

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: