Having already read Dr Murray's excellent first book on this subject, Bouncing-Bomb Man: The Science of Sir Barnes Wallis, I was half expecting the Haynes Dam Busters Manual to cover very similar ground. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this new publication covers new subject matter such as the earthquake bomb raids and a very detailed look at high-level bomb aiming. For readers wondering why earthquake bombs and high-level bomb aiming have been included, 617 Squadron "The Dambusters" employed both until the end of World War II. And as the book reveals a river barrage and a dam were attacked with these weapons in late 1944, and the Sorpe dam was revisited (by 9 Squadron, RAF) in October 1944 and attacked with Tallboy bombs.
The first three chapters cover the development of the 9,250lb bouncing bomb, codenamed Upkeep, and the preparation for and execution of the raid on the Ruhr dams (Operation Chastise) by 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force. The reader is provided with many fine diagrams of weapon parts, targets, etc. I particularly like the nicely annotated Avro drawing of a Type 464 Lancaster with all the modifications required for the operation. There are also separate tables in Chapter 3 with signal code words, crew duties during the attack and a list of five secondary targets, although one of those dams mentioned was apparently attacked in error as it may have been misidentified by the crew as the Ennepe reservoir which was further up the bombing list. The description of pre-raid activities by 617 Squadron reveal some fascinating facts: in order to allow night flying training to continue during daylight blue and yellow celluloid was applied to the cockpit glazing and crew goggles respectively.
For many readers whose only knowledge of the raid on the Ruhr dams was gleaned from the 1955 film The Dam Busters this book will explode a few myths about the raid, such as the origin of the methods used for setting the release height and release distance of the Upkeep bouncing bomb. The nail-and-string method used by 617 Squadron described in the book would have caused a modern-day Health & Safety person to take a fit.
After the Dams Raid, 617 Squadron became a special operations unit armed with high-capacity Blockbuster bombs. Chapter 4 covers these weapons, and as with Upkeep, their assembly, fuzing and loading procedures are covered in some detail. There is also a sub-section dealing with the subject of target marking and a brief mention of 617 Squadron's acquisition of P-51 Mustangs for this purpose. The chapter concludes with accounts of raids on the Anthéor Viaduct, the Michelin factory at Clermont Ferrand and a number of other targets selected for these 4,000lb and 12,000lb weapons.
Chapter 5 looks at the development, testing and production of Barnes Wallis's Earthquake bombs. Again the author has included plenty of photographs and drawings to describe the Tallboy and Grand Slam weapons. There is also a brief look at bombing tactics; it's interesting to note that 617 Squadron flew a quite different formation compared with 9 Squadron during the run in to the target. Modifications required to produce the Lancaster B.I Specials that could carry 21,500lb bombs to Germany, and in some cases back to the UK, are also examined.
The next chapter covers the Earthquake bomb raids against railway tunnels, E-boat pens, V-weapon sites, U-boat facilities, viaducts, canals, etc. The attacks on the V-weapons sites at Éperlecques, Wizernes, Siracourt and Marquise-Mimoyecques are described especially well and the author has even covered the raids on the V-weapon storage sites at St Leu d'Esserent and Rilly-la-Montagne. Profiles of all the targets are given which include construction dates and details, number and types of bombs dropped, and the targets' current status. Geographic coordinates are also provided.
617 Squadron Lancasters also dropped 500lb Johnny Walker underwater 'walking' mines during operations against the battleship Tirpitz so they are included in the Haynes Dam Busters Manual. The book lists a total of 80 Tallboys dropped against the Tirpitz including 17 during Operation Paravane flown by 9 and 617 Squadrons from Yagodnik in Russia.
Chapter 7 covers high-level bomb aiming, concentrating on the Mk.XIV and SABS Mk.IIA bomb sights which are both described in some depth. There is a brief introduction to the mathematical principals of hitting a target, then the internal mechanism of the analogue computers and the sights are described in some detail. I was very impressed with the author's collection of 20 or so photographs and diagrams which are included here. As in previous chapters the author has filled in gaps in the photographic record by including pictures produced using 3D modelling applications and dioramas, the image of the V-2 complex at Wizernes being one of my favourites.
The book concludes with four appendices: (i) names of all the crew members who took part in the attack on the Ruhr dams on 16-17th May 1943, (ii) a list of all the Type 464 Provisioning Lancasters and subsequent history of each airframe, (iii) a list of Lancaster B.I 'Specials' with targets and weapons used, and (iv) a list of bombs currently on display.
The binding of these new Haynes Manuals is identical to the car Workshop Manuals that they have been publishing for many years now. This initially put me off buying one until I saw the Apollo 11 Owners' Workshop Manual in my local bookshop. Rather than being a blow-by-blow account of how to de-construct and reconstruct the subject, the books are in fact an enjoyable and highly informative good read.
Dr Murray has clearly thoroughly researched this subject. I thought I had found one error on page 46 where it states that Gibson's radio operator signalled 'Goner 68A' on observing their Upkeep explode at the Moehne dam. I thought the code would have been 'Goner 68X' but it transpires that the target designation letters were changed very close to the actual raid.
And for those interested in British aviation during WWII who have ever wondered why the Type 464 Lancasters used on the dams' raid initially had their serial numbers suffixed with a G, you will just have to buy the book to find out.
Donald B. Forbes, 11 October 2011.