The Dam Busters –
Breaking the Great Dams of Germany
By Jonathan Falconer
Haynes Publishing – £14.99
As Richard Todd OBE (1919 – 2009) has written in the Forward of The Dam Busters – Breaking the Great Dams of Germany, 16-17 May 1943‘’A wealth of detail and meticulous research has been encapsulated into Mr. Falconer’s book in such a very readable style that I have red and re-read the work with enthusiasm and real pleasure.’’
It is without question, the sort of book that acts as the perfect accompaniment to that of the film itself, which probably explains why Todd wrote what he did.
Full of revealing photographs (both colour and black and white), four of which on pages 84-84, are a fascinating four-picture sequence that shows a modified Lancaster making a trial drop of an ‘Upkeep’ weapon. And although the shots might be a tad grainy (they are in fact movie stills, taken from a film that was only discovered in 1993), they clearly show what was at stake for the crewmen involved: ‘’Flying at probably not more than 40ft above the sea, its rear fuselage and tail plane are engulfed by the great plume of water made by the bomb as it makes its first bounce. Although the Lancaster emerges largely intact, the tail plane appears have suffered damage and it may have lost the tail wheel.’’
Of the 133 men who set out on the dams raid, 77 returned, and of these survivors, 32 were destined not to see the war’s end – which kind of puts their unquestionable, commendable bravery into some sort of perspective. That said, the trajectory of the devastation, which was triggered by the bombing raid, was clearly immense.
Once again, as a number of photographs in this book make clear (which, along with actual negatives and aerial shots/maps of the Sorpe and Mohne Dams, also includes an assortment of British media reportage), the immediate, social aftermath of the bombing reverberated throughout Germany.
To be sure, from the inspired development of Barnes Wallis’s bouncing bomb and the specialist planning of the raid, right through to the intensive training of 617 Squadron’s Aircrew and the daring attack itself, Jonathan Falconer regales the story of Operation ‘Chastise,’ in an altogether clear and resolute manner. He assesses the aftermath of the operation and reveals how overnight, the men of involved became the most decorated aircrew in the RAF – which in hindsight is hardly surprising.
The Dam Busters is an all-encompassing and concise assessment of one of the most celebrated successes of the RAF, which, to all intents and purposes, finally and invariably, lifted the spirit(s) of those on the home front.