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No. 617 Squadron is a Royal Air Force aircraft squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland. It currently operates the Tornado GR4 in the ground attack and reconnaissance role. It is commonly known as the "Dambusters", for its actions during Operation Chastise against German dams during World War II.

The Plot

In 2010 documents from the national archives were released that detail plans made in early July 1943 for a second major mission for 617 squadron that would have taken place in July or August, just months after the Dam-buster raids. The plan was for the squadron to fly another extremely low level operation, this time over Rome and to assassinate Benito Mussolini by bombing his headquarters and his residence. The plan was derived by Air Marshal Harris and had the backing of Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary. In a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, dated 13 July 1943, Eden wrote: "Harris has asked permission to try to bomb Mussolini in his office in Rome and to bomb his residence simultaneously in case the Duce is late that morning. Eden reported that Mussolini's headquarters, the magnificent Palazzo Venezia in central Rome, and his private residence, Villa Torlonia, were both "unmistakeable" and could easily be identified by British bombers. Importantly, neither was within 1,500 yards of the Vatican, which the Allies had promised not to damage. "I suggest that if Mussolini were killed or even badly shaken, at the present time this might greatly increase our chance of knocking Italy out (of the war) at an early date. And I therefore ask your permission to lay the operation on," Eden wrote. But within two weeks, Mussolini was ousted by the Grand Council of Fascism and replaced by a caretaker government led by King Vittorio Emmanuele III, who negotiated a surrender to the Allies.

References

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