A brand new history of the Dambusters raid from best-selling and critically acclaimed military historian, Max Hastings.
Operation Chastise, the destruction of the Mohne and Eder dams in north-west Germany by the RAF's 617 Squadron on the night of 16/17 May 1943, was an epic that has passed into Britain's national legend.
Max Hastings grew up embracing the story, the classic 1955 movie and the memory of Guy Gibson, the 24-year-old wing-commander who led the raid. In the 21st Century, however, he urges that we should see the dambusters in much more complex shades. The aircrew's heroism was entirely real, as was the brilliance of Barnes Wallis, inventor of the ‘bouncing bombs'. But commanders who promised their young fliers that success could shorten the war fantasised as ruthlessly as they did about the entire bomber offensive. Some 1,400 civilians perished in the biblical floods that swept through the Mohne valley, more than half of them Russian and Polish women, slave labourers.
Hastings vividly describes the evolution of Wallis' bomb, and of the squadron which broke the dams. But he also portrays in harrowing detail those swept away by the torrents. He argues that what modern Germans call the Mohnekatastrophe imposed on the Nazi war machine temporary disruption, rather than a crippling blow. Ironically, Air Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Bomber' Harris gained much of the public credit, though he bitterly opposed Chastise as a distraction from his city-burning blitz. Harris also made perhaps the operation's biggest mistake – failure to launch a conventional attack on the huge post-raid repair operation which could have transformed the impact of the dam breaches on Ruhr industry.
Here once again is a dramatic retake on familiar history by a master of the art. Hastings sets the Dams Raid in the big picture of the bomber offensive and of the Second World War, with moving portraits of the young airmen, so many of whom died; of Barnes Wallis; the monstrous Harris; the tragic Guy Gibson, together with superb narrative of the action of one of the most extraordinary episodes in British history.
About the Author
Max Hastings studied at Charterhouse and Oxford and became a foreign correspondent, reporting from more than sixty countries and eleven wars for BBC TV and the London Evening Standard. He has won many awards for his journalism. Among his bestselling books ‘Bomber Command’ won the Somerset Maugham Prize, and both ‘Overlord’ and ‘Battle for the Falklands’ won the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Prize.
After ten years as editor and then editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph, he became editor of the Evening Standard in 1996. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he was knighted in 2002. He now lives in Berkshire.
Praise for Chastise
`A virtuoso performance ... It is a white-knuckle narrative that brings clarity and insight to a much-loved tale, as well as offering a vital corrective to the drum-thumping conclusions of earlier books ... In Chastise, Hastings has written a page-turner with attitude' Sunday Times
Praise for Vietnam
`Masterpiece ... manages with great skill to combine the accumulation of strategic and political disaster with the real experience of those fighting on the ground' Antony Beevor, Spectator
`Will surely set the benchmark for years to come... This may be his best... Exhaustively researched and superbly written, it is both a balanced account of how and why the war unfolded as it did, and a gripping narrative on what it was like to take part...History as it should be: objective, immersive and compelling' Daily Telegraph, 5*
`Magnificent... One by one, the sacred canons of right and left are obliterated. The war is laid bare, with all its uncomfortable truths exposed' The Times
`Powerful and chilling... Hastings is masterful at describing the conditions faced by young American soldiers... [he] is second to none in his ability to describe military strategy with a clarity that makes things entirely understandable to the layman' Mail on Sunday, 5*
`An altogether magnificent historical narrative' Tim O'Brien
`A masterpiece' Frank Scotton
`Magnificent, his best work ... full of extraordinary and compelling detail and thoroughly informed by his own personal experience of so much of the war. It's written in unputdownable style, with a dispassionate, liberal-minded understanding of the detail of the war, which draws on testimony from every side and doesn't favour anyone. I've never read a better history of the wars in Vietnam, and it's hard to see how anyone will be able to improve on this' John Simpson