The Dam Busters: The True Story of the Legendary Raid on the Ruhr by James Holland - review by Leo Mckinstry

Leo Mckinstry

Raid over Troubled Water

The Dam Busters: The True Story of the Legendary Raid on the Ruhr


Bantam Press 448pp £20

Almost seventy years after it took place, the Dam Busters Raid still grips the public’s imagination. No British exploit during the Second World War was ever more daring than the attack carried out in May 1943 by the men of 617 Squadron, led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, against a trio of huge dams in the Ruhr valley. Through a mixture of courage, superb airmanship and innovative genius, the squadron managed to breach two of the three mighty structures, giving the Allies an enormous propaganda coup and bringing devastation to the German economy. The triumph, however, came at a significant cost, as eight out of the nineteen RAF bombers on the raid were brought down with the loss of fifty-three lives. 

The episode has all the right ingredients for a compelling tale. The unfolding narrative has its own natural dramatic tension, from the nervous anxiety of the first preparations to the uplifting climax of the bombers’ success. There is also a rich cast of characters, including Sir Arthur Harris, the gruff,

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