As a small boy, growing up in the post WW2 era, the stories of those who fought in the war, especially the 1955 film The Dam Busters, left a strong impression on my mind.
But somehow there was much missing from what I was told about the mission. I needed more details, to fill the gaps.
Living not far from Weybridge in the UK, the workplace of Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the bouncing bombs, Highball and Upkeep, and where Vickers Aviation‘s factories and workshops were, gave me the opportunity to visit the small museum, to see first hand some of the actual equipment used on the mission to bomb the dams of the German Ruhr Valley, bringing me closer to filling in the gaps, but James Holland in his book Dam Busters, gave some deeper appreciation of what actually took place. In addition his film, Dam Busters, produced with the BBC, brought life to his easy to read book.
The book tells of the struggles faced by many to bring about such a what was seen as an impossible mission, from Barnes Wallis, the RAF, the Admiralty, the aircrews, and those left behind.
The books tells how Guy Gibson, a young RAF Officer, having just finished a tour with Bomber Squadron 106, was asked to form a special squadron using the modified Lancaster 464, a four engined bomber aircraft, with highly trained crews. This had to be completed in a few weeks, before the May 1943 deadline, not knowing the target, nor the bomb which was to be used.
James Holland, brings into the book, personal recollections from those who took part, recalling personalities, private moments, even the death of Gibson’s dog Nigger.
This RAF Squadron was to become known as 617 Squadron, The Dam Busters.
James Holland also looks at the legacy left after the mission, was it worth taking such a risk?
Well worth the read, to fill-in those gaps of knowledge we all have in our history.