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Dam Busters: The Race to Smash the Dams, 1943 [Paperback]

James Holland
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 May 2013

The night of May 16th, 1943. Nineteen specially adapted Lancaster bombers take off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, each with a huge 9,000lb 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 formationover 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.

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Dam Busters: The Race to Smash the Dams, 1943 + The Battle of Britain + Fortress Malta: An Island Under Siege 1940-1943 (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi (9 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552163414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552163415
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.6 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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.

Product Description


"In his previous books... Holland combined a lively style with fresh insights based on deep historical research. Those qualities shine through this new account" (Literary Review)

"Though it is such a well-known story, it has never been told in such depth before. James Holland has mastered every detail" (Daily Mail)

"Holland tells the story with gusto and pace... he has truly and brilliantly plugged an enormous gap" (Mail on Sunday)

Book Description

The dramatic retelling of one of the most daring, extraordinary and outrageous raids of WW2 by one of the UK's most talented young historians

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you only want one book about the Raid..... 16 May 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
...then this may well be the book for you. As the previous reviewer has stated, there's nothing new covered in this book and to be fair to Mr. Holland, he doesn't claim that there is.
He does attempt to tell the full story in a slightly different way, offering a readable narrative while also setting the Raid in perspective with the bombing campaign and the wider war.In trying to cover the story of 'Highball'/618 Squadron as well I felt that the author may have bitten off more than he could chew; I almost lost track once or twice. But as the focus narrows to 'Chastise' itself, the reader is treated to a very exciting description of the attack on the Dams.
The author does put the case very well that many of the crews were far from being hand-picked or highly-experienced, and training for the Raid was not as comprehensive as previously made out ; which makes their achievement all the more remarkable. To Mr Holland's great credit, he doesn't take pot-shots at previous authors in the field and blends much of the most recent research into this book.
A good, readable account for the more general reader - maybe not one for the 'Dambuster anorak'.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Contains factual inaccuracies 8 Dec 2013
I've read this, and a lot of others on the Dambusters as part of research into the 3 who ended up at POWs on or just after 17 May 1943. James Holland has obviously been given access to a lot of John Fraser's (he was Hopgood's bomb aimer) letters etc, but there is plenty available about Anthony Burcher both on the internet and in other books, and it was he who was in fact Hopgood's tail gunner, not P/O Gregory as described at page 272. Page 319 has Fraser jumping and his parachute opening - in fact he was so low that he deployed the 'chute in the aircraft so it billowed and broke his fall. Holland also describes how Burcher found the injured W/Op Minchin and pushed him out, pulling his rip-cord - Page 320 describes how Minchin did not survive, though Burcher did, with serious injuries, however at page 361 Holland describes those "three lucky ones who had got out: John Fraser, John Minchin and Fred Tees. The messages that they were, miraculously, still alive would arrive later - much later". This smacks of sloppy editing/proof reading, and although the book contains extensive information some of which I haven't read before, where there are facts I know to be incorrect, it throws a question mark over the rest, and if I were related to John Minchin I'd find that error very offensive.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another James Holland winner 29 May 2012
By Teemacs TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was surprised (as was James Holland) to find how few books have been written on Operation Chastise. The best known is Paul Brickhill's "The Dam Busters", on which the celebrated film was based. But Brickhill's book was written in the 1950s, when much was still secret (he didn't even know what the bomb looked like). Everything was published after 30 years, and James Holland has made excellent use of it. He describes well the feverish preparation (less than 10 weeks from the idea to the attack), and how the crews went into action when only one live bomb had been tested and most of them had not even dropped a dummy bomb - and it all had to be done 60 feet above the water surface in pitch darkness. In the case of the Eder Dam, it involved an astounding bit of flying - the pilot of a light plane with Mr. Holland as a passenger found the turn on to the target difficult at 150 feet in broad daylight and wondered how on earth fully-laden Lancasters managed it at 60 feet at night. Mr. Holland also corrects the impression that the raid squandered the lives of aircrews for little return. To repair the Möhne in time for the September rains, Albert Speer had to take workers from the building of the Atlantic Wall. The lost factories, mines and communications also hit Germany hard at the point where it was about to launch Operation Citadel at Kursk, the German defeat at which was the start of the long retreat that ended at Berlin.

One of the great ironies (of which I wasn't aware) was the fact that the whole thing owed a lot to the British Admiralty, which was enthusiastic about a smaller version for RAF Coastal Command as an anti-shipping weapon (with "Tirpitz" particularly in mind). The smaller bomb was never used operationally.

Best of all, Mr. Holland fleshes out the characters.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Firstly let me say that this is a very readable, in depth look at the famous dambuster raid. It has a generous section on Barnes Wallis and his invention of the bouncing bomb, and also looks at the lives of the many protagonists who took part. It has quite a bit on the technicalities of the equipment and the raid itself so all in all it is quite a complete package. However it does seem to suggest overkill on this subject. It is yet another BBC tie in so between the various other TV documentaries, books and articles on the subject, anyone with an interest will find little in here that is new.
I suppose this is a bit like a new recording of a Mozart symphony. The notes are still the same but a new conductor and orchestra can bring something new to the piece. Mr Holland just about does this I suppose but my frustration is perhaps that his considerable talents could have been put to better use on a lesser known aspect of the war rather than something that has been done many times before.
Having said all that if you aren't familiar with the dambusters this book comes highly recommended
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thirteen weeks to do the job!
A really good read - I could not put this book down. One cannot help but admire and be proud of the young people who turned Wallace's imagination and industry into reality.
Published 5 days ago by Anzon
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine book, it will make most readers realise how little they knew...
This is one of those events about which many British people will feel they already know the story and assume that there is a mountain of literature on the subject, due in no small... Read more
Published 19 days ago by J. J. Bradshaw
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Enjoyed it.
Published 2 months ago by mick
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading
Most people in Britain will know the basic story of the "dam busters" probably from seeing the classic film. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mr Gordon Davidson
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, especially if you've only seen the film
I read the Paul Brickhill book many years ago & thoroughly enjoyed it. After many years now reading this account fills in a number of gaps, particularly on the German side & the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by M J Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner
OK - I admit it: I love Holland's work. Every book I read is full of things I didn't know on subjects I thought I knew about. Read more
Published 8 months ago by tommyr
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dam Busters
This is an excellent read. Full of back ground information. The work that Barnes Wallis and is team under took to convince the powers to be, including Bomber Harris, that this was... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Charliedog
5.0 out of 5 stars Dam busters
Bought this book as a stocking filler for a military son. Very well received and said to be interesting and informative.
Published 9 months ago by mkb
5.0 out of 5 stars More insight for this well know story
The new information available has made this story much more interesting. Barnes Wallis' struggle to bring this amazing bomb to be used to great effect is well emphasized. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Doug Waring
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and comprehensive review of the famous event, with lots of...
This book gives a fresh and unbiased review of the famous dams raid, with lots of background and interesting detail of the events leading up to the raid. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Andrew Falconer
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