It was the night of May 16th, 1943. Nineteen specially adapted Lancaster bombers take off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, each with a huge nine thousand pound cylindrical bomb strapped underneath them. 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, which had never been tried operationally before, at a precise height of just 60 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 10 weeks.
When visionary aviation engineer Barnes Wallis' 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 set-backs and against huge odds, became one of the most successful and game-changing bombing raids of all time.
©2012 James Holland (P)2012 Random House AudioGo
I had the extreme pleasure of hearing James Holland's talk about this book at the Borders Book Festival earlier in 2012. If knowledge, passion and enthusiasm was a sport, James would be on the top step of the podium. A fascinating yet brief introduction into a truly heroic effort to smash the dams.
This audio book was the next obvious step and I'm delighted to say it carries the same passion as the brief hour at the Book Festival.
A fascinating story of magnificent triumph over overwhelming adversity that changed the face of WWII. I had an inkling that these men were made of something 'a bit special', but I had no idea just how much the odds were stacked against this mission.
James Holland brings the fascinating story to life in this book. So much so, on more than one occasion, I found myself sitting in the car park at work transfixed when I really should have been in the office getting on with some work!!
This book proved fascinating. I had read much around the subject before, but his detailed explanation of both background and characters involved really brought this to life, as no pure factual account could.
He also really got over his enthusiasm for the subject!
The title doesn't reveal that because of Government Departmental disagreements and Ministry delays a whole year passed between Barnes Wallis designing the bouncing bomb, and when it was used on this raid! I was humbled by the dedication of those young RAF crews who defended Britain and attacked the enemy during the war, with such a grim statistic of the likelyhood of surving those raids, being so poor. 56 crew in 8 Lancasters failed to return from that mission. Such a heavy loss. Such destruction of natural resources, for the short term gain of causing great inconvenience. Was it worth it? Without detracting from Guy Gibson's leadership, himself only 24 years of age at the time, so sad that nobody remembers the names of the 56 who died that night, or those that returned. They were such brave men. This book should be an official dedication to 617 Squadron. We have those men to thank for the Britian of my childhood in the 1950's. One cannot bear to imagine the world today had Hitler succeeded. James Holland your book is a must have, 'lest we forget'.
Really great story well-written, but I was driven mad by the author narrating it, as he has a tendency to say 'wiv' instead of with and many other 'th's end up as either v or ff. I listened, gripped even through my gritted teeth, as the story was so good. I'm sure he's a great historian, but Mr Holland is not my favourite reader.
One of the most interesting and dramatic stories of the war, this is a very thorough and interesting book. It's always a bonus to hear a book read by the author, well done Mr Holland. There is a narrator's error about an hour into the book which didn't bode well but I don't notice any others after that.
As an avid aviation history buff I have always loved the Dam Busters film. This book went above and beyond what I was expecting and made me realise the film does now where near enough to credit all involve in the actual raid and designing of the bomb. I recommend this to anyone who has seen the film even if they thought the film was only ok as this will blow you away!!
Great story; told with real flair and great use of detail that adds to a sense of being there. Nice to have the author narrating but couldn't the producers have done something about James Holland's habit of pronouncing "th" as "v"? By the end the the recording it was making me a bit twitchy. So only three stars for the performance but overall a good yarn told by someone who writes popular history well
This is obviously an amazing wartime event and the book itself is very well researched and written by James Holland, who clearly understand his subject. It is, however, rather let down by the narration. Great author that he is, James doesn't do so well in narrating the story. Audio books should be easy to listen to but I frequently found myself annoyed by how fast it was being read and how the narrator was "snatching" his words at times. This expertly written book would have received a 5 star review if it had been read by someone with more skill at narration.
I was unsure if this was going to drag on a little due to its length, but it didn't. I've seen the film as most people have and wanted to know more. It showed how amazing it was, that it actually took place and the heroism and sacrifice that was made. There's too much detail to take in, in one read and will need to read it again. Fortunately it's all written and read to make it a joy. Definitely a buy.
Having seen the film on release and a number of times since I grew up with this daring raid, and to have a book that goes in to such detail about the rest of the crews, their lives sadly most of them short, really brought home to me in later life the true cost, of this life long interest. Having even stood in the middle of the two towers of the dam, looked up the valley and wondered how did they do it.
This well constructed book to me was well worth it, to add to my understanding.
"Great Story Poor Narration"
I have a wide interest in the history of the Second World War and was looking forward to listening to a modern and updated insight into the developments that lead to the development of the "bouncing bomb". The author has done a great job researching this history and the long road Barnes Wallis had to get his ideas excepted. Hoever I think he should have found someone else to do the narration maybe it's me but I found his narration incredibly irritating. It is all very well to be passionate but he reminded me of a true enthusiast who doesn't so much talk to you but lectures and hectors you with such passion that he turns you off the topic. I felt like I was listen a really forceful but fundamentally tiresome lecture. So obviously my taste, great subject but another narrator with some distance from the topic would have been much better.
"A different take on a well known story"
After seeing the movie a number of times I thought I knew the story of the dam busters. But James Holland's story brought to life both the story behind those that flew the missions (including people who were integral but not part of the movie) but also the story behind the making of the bombs and the people who made it possible.
The story is both very entertaining and educational.
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