Jonathan Falconer has returned to the Dam Buster story after two previous books. Inevitably, there is overlap with the earlier books, but this new review of an iconic bombing campaign is well worth reading. With a new publisher, the production and treatment is different and there is both new perspective, information and images. Most available photographs of the period are in black and white, but the author has made good use of the rare colour photographs that are available.
NAME: The Dam Busters
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: Jonathan Falconer
BINDING: Soft back
PRICE: GB £14.99
SUBJECT: RAF, WWII, Avro Lancaster, Barnes Wallis, bouncing bombs, hydro-electric power, Operation Chastise, Guy Gibson, strategic bombing, propaganda
DESCRIPTION: Jonathan Falconer has returned to the Dam Buster story after two previous books. Inevitably, there is overlap with the earlier books, but this new review of an iconic bombing campaign is well worth reading. With a new publisher, the production and treatment is different and there is both new perspective, information and images. Most available photographs of the period are in black and white, but the author has made good use of the rare colour photographs that are available. The publisher has set the book for four colour printing and this means that images are located as needed in support of the very readable text rather than being segregated into plate sections. The Foreword is by the late Richard Todd OBE who was a distinguished paratrooper during WWII, becoming then an accomplished actor and portraying Guy Gibson in the film Dam Busters. Todd identifies this book as the definitive work on the subject of the Dams Raid. The author has begun the story with the first attempts of the RAF Bomber Command to take the war to the Germans. He very effectively covers the outstanding achievement of Barnes Wallis in his determined development of a new type of bomb which opened targets previously impossible to attack, using the force of water to complete the effects of the explosion. The author follows the story of the creation of a unique squadron of highly skilled bomber crews, equipped with the superlative Avro Lancaster four engine bomber, as they prepared and executed a unique attack that caused worthwhile damage to German industrial capacity and produced a major propaganda coup that raised British spirits. The author concludes his account with a glimpse behind the scenes at the making of the classic film The Dam Busters and draws his personal conclusion that the Dams Raid was a pyrrhic victory. This is one of many conflicting conclusions about the raid. At the time it was hailed as a great victory although subsequent evidence shows that the practical impact of the raid on German industry was not as conclusive as the bombs creator had hoped. There are those who will take a different view by drawing from a wider perspective. The cost in crew and aircraft lost during the raid was tragic but in military terms very affordable. The use of a new weapon caused the Germans considerable concern because they had very little knowledge of exactly what the weapon was
and what its limitations might be. The raid was a considerable confidence booster for RAF bomber crews and demonstrated the great potential the Lancaster provided in expanding and intensifying the strategic bombing of Germany. The bouncing bomb is what marks its inventor firmly in history, but it overshadows his very considerable contribution in designing the twin engine Wellington bomber that was the work horse of Bomber Command through the first half of WWII and then the work horse of Coastal Command, where its unique method of construction allowed very rapid speed of building, one aircraft having been built in less than twenty four hours, and the ability to absorb amazing levels of damage. Although the raid was not repeated, the Germans could never be sure that this was a one time event, requiring movement of people and production from areas vulnerable to a future raid on reservoirs. For the British, the raid was an event that came at a very good time with the presentation of an outstanding victory. That may have owed more to propaganda than to military assessment, but then wars are taken to victory on the confidence of the military in their ability to triumph and in the conviction of all those who support them that victory is inevitable. As a result the full value of the Dam Busters is very difficult to quantify decades later. What is beyond debate is that a group of individuals came together to achieve something that had never been accomplished before, that their product was innovative and outstanding, that they achieved that result through determination and courage.