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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you only want one book about the Raid.....
...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...
Published on 16 May 2012 by Martin Bull

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Contains factual inaccuracies
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...
Published 12 months ago by CorinneDS


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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
By 
Martin Bull - See all my reviews
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...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 (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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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. Guy Gibson was no square-jawed Bomber Command "Top Gun" as played by Richard Todd in the film, but a fairly ordinary pilot, who had to work hard at it. Only turned 24, the product of a difficult childhood and with an awkward marriage, with enormous responsibilities on his shoulders, Gibson was fearful, yet also courageous (he really earned his VC over the dams). Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the bomb, was totally immersed in a weapon that could shorten the war, and didn't see the human consequences of his idea until 8 of the 19 crews didn't come back - he was devastated and never quite forgave himself. Mr. Holland also interviewed German survivors of what is still referred to as the "Möhnekatastrophe", and fills in personal details of the crews who flew the mission, four of whom are still with us. And yes, the dog does get a mention or two!

All in all, another splendid effort by Mr. Holland.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book but it doesn't really add to what we already know., 15 May 2012
By 
Big Jim "Big Jim" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and informative, 15 Aug 2012
By 
Terry D "tdawson735" (UK) - See all my reviews
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James Holland's book goes far beyond the limitations of the cult 1955 film 'The Dam Busters' and brings together a substantial amount of information on the events leading up to the attack on Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams on the night of 17 May 1943.

When presented with the initial concept of attacking the dams with a bouncing bomb the first reaction of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris (C-in-C of Bomber Command) was that 'this is tripe of the wildest description ... there is not the smallest chance of it working.' But, after a discussion with Air Chief Marshal Lord Portal, Chief of the Air Staff, Harris changed his mind and did everything possible to make the project a success.

This fascinating insight into the command structure of the RAF (and the various Ministries and industrial companies involved in the project) is supplemented by personal profiles of many of the men, several from various countries of the then-Empire, who'd make the attack. They were generally very young - Gibson was 25 and had already completed 154 operational sorties; his two flight commanders were 21 and 22.

The project was approved against an impossibly short, three-month, timescale. In that time they had to assemble a force of 19 specially adapted Lancasters and train 133 aircrew whilst, as Holland emphasises, the design of the actual bomb was still far from complete. Earlier tests on a small prototype had simply demonstrated the concept.

Everyone was also well aware that low level night attacks by heavy bombers over heavily defended areas of Germany were close to suicidal. The Lancaster was a large aircraft with a wingspan of 102 feet and, including the bomb, would weigh 30 tons. In order to avoid German radar and night fighters 617 Squadron would cross the North Sea at around 200 feet and then, over the target, drop to 60 feet. The correct 'bounce' required that the three-ton bomb - spinning at 500 rpm and code-named Upkeep - be dropped at a precise distance from the dam from an aircraft flying at 220 mph.

Eight of the 19 aircraft, each with a crew of seven, failed to return from the mission.

Despite these losses - and earlier analyses - James Holland's research shows that the raid was a success. The knock-on effect on the production of German munitions, weapons and aircraft was significant whilst German prestige and the war effort demanded that the Mohne and the Eder dams be rebuilt and fully functioning by the autumn, some five months away. It required moving 70,000 workers into the area and confiscating essential machinery, no matter the consequences, from wherever they could be found. At today's prices the reconstruction work cost the Nazis close to £6 billion pounds.

Part of this operation - it was completed on time and, strangely enough, without further attacks by the RAF - also involved the withdrawal of 7,000 labourers from construction work on the Atlantic Wall. This shift in resources resulted in Rommel's planned defences against the Allied invasion on 6 June 1944 being significantly weakened.

It's interesting to note that a smaller version of the bomb, code-named Highball, was proposed for use by RAF Mosquitoes against German shipping and the Nazi's remaining capital ships. Highball was never used and Upkeep was only used once, on the attack on the dams on the night of Monday, 17 May 1943.

In September 1944 Gibson flew a Mosquito on a mission over Germany but, on the return leg, the aircraft crashed in Holland, killing both Gibson and his navigator. Whilst the formal RAF report assumed he either ran out of fuel or was hit by enemy ground fire recently released evidence suggests that a Lancaster bomber, returning from a separate raid over Germany, mistook the Mosquito for a Junker 88 (both are twin engined aircraft with a single rudder) and opened fire, destroying the Mosquito.

'Dam Busters' is an excellent and informative book - a first-class companion to Target Tirpitz - The Epic Quest to Destroy Hitler's Mightiest Warship - and thoroughly worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Apres moi..., 24 July 2013
By 
Crookedmouth ":-/" (As seen on iPlayer) - See all my reviews
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James Holland tells us that only one book has been written about the dams raid - Brickhill's "The Dam Busters". A quick search on Amazon suggests that the assertion isn't entirely correct; Max Arthur wrote "A Landmark Oral History" in 2008 and several others have been published in 2013 alongside Holland's treatment. Nevertheless, it's a little surprising that so few have been written before now and the main problem with Brickhill's 1954 classic is that many of the details of the raid were unavailable to him so soon after the war. Clearly it is about time that the story was brought up to date, and with several documentaries on the subject surfacing in the last few years and a new film in the pipeline, now seems to be as good a time as any.

In the 70 odd years since the raid, the work of RAF Bomber Command has come in for intense scrutiny and not inconsiderable criticism. This is unsurprising; in the years since the war it was natural for public opinion to look with some discomfort on the horrors visited on the civilian population of Germany. Then again, in this age of precision bombing and surgical strike, it is hard to appreciate the daunting technological and operational difficulties faced by the RAF, and the immense political imperatives faced by the Allied leadership in maintaining pretty much the only concerted offensive against the enemy until D-Day*. Whatever the justification of modern attitudes to the bombing offensive, the achievements of Operation Chastise are easily tarred with the same brush. However, as Holland makes clear, it was a very different proposition than the contemporary area bombing campaign and it presaged the more discriminatory approach that we see today.

I admit that it's been quite a few years since I read Brickhill so it's hard to tell just how much more access Holland had to the truth than his predecessor or how better our understanding of the raid is because of that. Nevertheless, it's an epic story and Holland presents it very well indeed. He is also fastidious in presenting the "good side" to the dams raid story - the astonishing speed with which the Upkeep weapon was turned from a hazy concept into a working bomb and the similarly astonishing speed with which the squadron that carried it was formed and trained. Of course there is also the great courage and skill of the crews who delivered Upkeep. Holland is also careful to include a discussion of the impact of the raid and it is clear that he is no revisionist. Although it can - and probably will - be argued from both sides until the War fades from memory, Holland makes a reasonable case that the raid, at the cost of a few aircraft and their crews, had a disproportionate effect on the on the Nazi war machine.

Nor does he ignore the human factor - Holland paints a vivid and, in places, moving picture of the bomber crews, the scientists and politicos who developed the bomb and some of the German civilians who suffered the consequences of the raid. To be honest the latter is de rigeur these days (and rightly so) but in The Dambusters, Holland does rather pay it lip service. By contrast, there is an interesting inclusion of the testimony of one of the flak gunners at the Moehne Dam which adds a nice perspective to the story. Also interesting is the description of Guy Gibson; very much a "warts and all" treatment.

This IS a very well written book and a highly recommended read. The Kindle version is well presented with few (if any) typos or formatting glitches and a nice set of well reproduced photos. Perhaps a few more maps would have helped.

=========================

If this is your first foray into the WW2 Allied bombing offensive, you will find a huge selection of other titles to try, but my personal favourite (and rather in the "look back in shame" camp) is Len Deighton's novel "Bomber" - just as epic a read as The Dambusters, but presenting the more workaday face of the war. Martin Middlebrook's expansive series (The Peenemunde Raid, The Berlin Raids, The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission etc) on the campaign is also well worth a look - perhaps a little dated but remaining both accessible and detailed.

* Yes. I know that's a simplification
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, tells it how it really was, 8 July 2012
By 
Rod (Scottish Borders) - See all my reviews
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For those who think the film told the whole story, just try this
It is fully researched with commentary from both British and German witnesses
It shows how well the film was made by including all the essentials of what happened in a movie, yet the book adds so much to the depth of the real truth of what happened, those involved and, above all, how fast the designers and engineers did the massive amount of work that was needed
And how much the actual guys that flew were prepared to lay their lives on the line. And just how many didn't return
The hard back edition has great line drawings of the Lancaster bomber and photos from the raids
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for all military lovers, 6 July 2012
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This is a truly excellent book about Operation Chastise and I recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. Well researched and superbly written, it tells the story of the dams raid in an easy to read/easy to understand style. Like all of Mr Holland's other books - novels or factual - this is a must-read book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of James Holland's Dambusters, 18 Jun 2012
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This is a very detailed and well researched book that spreads much new light on many of the aspects of the mission. Much of the genius of Barnes Wallis is disapated by poor vision from very senior officers. Only the driving energy of Wing Cdr Gibson and a few senior RAF officers made it a successful operation. In many ways the timescales were determined by the water level in the lakes yet the dragging of heels albut jeopardised the mission.

The fact that the Sorpe Dam should have had a priority above the Eder Dam shows that the assessment of economic warfare was at a very early stage. Most people know that the damage done by the raid was significant but was quickly repaired. However the diversion of resources to effect the repairs wrecked many of the programmes that the Germans had in place to continue the war.

James Holland's greatest attribute is his ability to describe the raw courage that young men, some barely more than children, displayed. Also the grief expressed by Wallis at the loss of so many young lives is poignantly illustrated. This is a well balanced description of one of the most innovative operations in the history of warfare.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An adventure story in real time, 10 July 2012
By 
Penelope Simpson "penny simpson" (dorset, england) - See all my reviews
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Utterly gripping and despite being a well known tale of derring-do, Mr. Holland gives the story a freshness and lightness of touch that makes it all the more moving. I found myself repeatedly wondering if it could possibly be true. Heart-stirring stuff that could be a boy's own adventure if it wasn't part of our history.
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Dam Busters: The True Story of the Inventors and Airmen Who Led the Devastating Raid to Smash the German Dams in 1943
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