THIS week’s 75th anniversary of one of the most daring raids of the Second World War put the spotlight on the brave exploits of the airmen who took part in the bombing offensive against Nazi Germany.

The anniversary of the raid on three major German dams by 617 Squadron, later known as the Dambusters, will be commemorated across the country with a series of special events at the Bomber Command Memorial in London’s Green Park, where 53 pairs of flying gloves will be laid out to represent the men who died.

A total of 133 aircrew left for the raid in the early hours on May 17, on board 19 Lancaster bombers from RAF Scampton, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, but during the mission 53 men were killed and three captured.

Although it is the airmen who were remembered this week, this summer also marks the 75th anniversary of an extraordinary event, which saw the many men and women who built the aircraft with which Britain took the fight to Germany, thrust to the front of the Allied war effort.

Although the exact date is not known, many experts believe it was in early summer that a team of factory workers at Broughton built a Wellington bomber in just under 24 hours.

In doing so the plucky band of Welsh workers broke the world record of 30 hours set by a factory in California and at the same time sent a powerful propaganda message to the Nazi hierarchy that Britain was undaunted and untouchable when it came to producing weapons for the fight.

The operation was filmed by the Ministry of Information and became an important piece of propaganda, especially when it was shown in the USA as an example of how well the bombing campaign against Germany was progressing.

About 6,000 men and women worked at the factory in Broughton, which was established early in the Second World War as a shadow factory for Vickers-Armstrongs Limited, and at peak production they built 28 Wellington bombers a week.

The record-breaking attempt was a challenge. The usual time it took to build a plane was 60 hours - in order to put the bomber together so quickly some of the parts were pre-assembled - but the workers had to synchronise their efforts and follow a minutely detailed plan.

Thankfully the Wellington itself was easy to assemble, with an aluminium frame that slotted together like Meccano with a skin of varnished Irish linen.

The newsreel records that the bomber’s wheels lifted from the ground 24 hours and 48 minutes after construction began with a 2010 documentary also stating the build time after the first part of the airframe had been laid was “10 minutes less than 24 hours”.

The target time set by the workers was to assemble it in 30 hours or less, with a test pilot scheduled for an afternoon flight. However, assembly moved so fast the pilot had to be roused from his bed to make the flight.

The bomber was constructed over a weekend, starting on a Saturday morning with the workers donating their free time for the attempt and donating their bonus money to the Red Cross Aid to Russia Fund.

The role of women at the factory, who made up half the workforce, is made clear by the newsreel, with most saying they were motivated by having male relatives involved in the fighting.

Earlier this year, May Fox, who celebrates her 104th birthday this month and is believed to be Flintshire’s eldest person, spoke to the Leader about her time working at Broughton.

She was the first woman recruited by the aircraft manufacturers and went on to work at John Summers steelworks, Deeside, as a ‘flopper’ at first, then a ‘catcher’.

She said: “Women had to take on what were traditionally men’s jobs during the war years, and after the war ended many of them stayed on in those roles.”

Work started at 9am and by 1.45pm the fuselage left the jig with its electrics fitted. With the change in shifts noted on the newsreel, the propeller fitting occurred at 8.23pm, with the jovial workers making bets as to whether they will beat the 30 hour target.

The landing gear was on the aircraft by 10.30pm and by 3.20am the next morning the aircraft was being towed to the running shed.

The engines were started for the first time at 6.15am and although there was then a delay at this stage for two hours of “snagging” (last-minute ratifications), at 8.50am, the completed bomber was wheeled out of the factory door.

“The record? Yes, they broke it, those workers,” said the newsreel’s narrator. “They said they’d build a bomber in their spare time in 30 hours. Its wheels lifted from the ground in exactly 24 hours and 48 minutes.”

Seventy five years later Broughton continues its proud tradition of aerospace manufacturing with the site’s factory now assembling wings for the entire family of Airbus commercial aircraft.

But three-quarters of a century on, they’ll never forget the time they built a bomber in less than a day.