The night of May 16th, 1943. Nineteen specially adapted Lancaster bombers take off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, each with a huge 9,000lb special cylindrical bomb strapped underneath them. Their mission: to destroy the German dams, symbols of German engineering and identity, and which provide the lifeblood of the Third Reich’s industrial heartland.
The crews of RAF Bomber Command are used to flying at around 18,000 feet, out of formation, with little realistic expectation of dropping their bombs within several miles of the target. Yet, these nineteen crews, most just ordinary young men and some with only a few operational missions to their name, were being expected to fly in formation, at less than one hundred feet, over hundreds of miles of enemy occupied territory, and drop these new weapons on a sixpence at a precise height of just sixty feet above the water. Most had never even dropped one of these astonishing bouncing bombs. They had to bomb at night, moreover, never having flown the terrain.
Even more astonishingly, Operation Chastise was pulled off in less than ten weeks. At the moment Barnes Wallis’ concept was given the green light, he had not even drawn his plans for the weapon that was the smash the dams. What followed was an incredible race against time, in which many disparate people played their part, and which, despite numerous set-backs and despite huge odds, it became one of the most successful and famous bombing raids of all time. As Holland shows, the damage caused by the raid was far greater and extensive than has previously been given credit.
In this new book, Sunday Times bestselling historian, James Holland, brings exhaustive new research and perspectives to provide a fresh account of this exhilarating story. This is a dramatic retelling of one of the most daring, extraordinary and outrageous raids of all time.
28 May 2012