The night of 16 May, 1943. Nineteen specially adapted Lancaster bombers take off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, each with a huge 9000lb cylindrical bomb strapped underneath it. Their mission: to destroy three dams deep within the German heartland, which provide the lifeblood to the industries supplying the Third Reich's war machine. From the outset it was an almost impossible task, a suicide mission: to fly low and at night in formation over many miles of enemy-occupied territory at the very limit of the Lancasters' capacity, and drop a new weapon that had never been tried operationally before from a precise height of just sixty feet from the water at some of the most heavily defended targets in Germany. More than that, the entire operation had to be put together in less than ten weeks. When visionary aviation engineer Barnes Wallis's concept of the bouncing bomb was green lighted, he hadn't even drawn up his plans for the weapon that was to smash the dams. What followed was an incredible race against time, which, despite numerous setbacks and against huge odds, became one of the most successful and game-changing bombing raids of all time.
James Holland was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and studied history at Durham University. A member of the British Commission for Military History and the Guild of Battlefield Guides, he also regularly contributes reviews and articles in national newspapers and magazines and appears on national radio. His many books include Fortress Malta, Italy's Sorrow, The Battle of Britain and his fictional WW2 series featuring Sergeant Jack Tanner.
His interviews with veterans of the Second World War are available at the Imperial War Museum and are also archived on www.secondworldwarforum.com. He lives near Salisbury with his wife, son and daughter.