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Max Hastings for Operation Biting

Tuesday 28th May

St Swithin's Church, 37 The Paragon, Bath, Somerset BA1 5LY
Doors Open
Start Time

Max Hastings is a former war-correspondent and former editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph. He has authored innumerable bestsellers including Abyss, Vietnam, Operation Pedestal and Catastrophe.

Operation Biting was one of the most thrilling British commando raids of World War II, and probably the most successful. Max tells a story that has become almost forgotten, yet deserves to rank among the epic miniatures of the greatest conflict in history.

In February 1942 RAF intelligence was baffled by a newly-identified radar network on the coast of Nazi-occupied Europe, codenamed Würzburg.

The brilliant scientist Dr.R.V. Jones proposed an assault to capture key components. The nearest accessible enemy set stood upon a cliff at Bruneval in Normandy. Winston Churchill enthused, as did Lord Louis Mountbatten, chief of Combined Operations. A company of the newly-formed Airborne Forces was committed to the operation, which took place on the night of 27/28 February.

Amid heavy snow 120 men landed, some of whom were mis dropped almost two miles from their objective. They nonetheless launched the assault, dismantled the German radar, and after three nail-biting hours in France and a fierce battle with Wehrmacht defenders, escaped in the nick of time by landing-craft across stormy seas to Portsmouth.

Hastings recounts this almost literally cliffhanging tale in a wealth of previously unchronicled detail. He portrays its remarkable personalities: the ‘boffin’ R.V.Jones; the peacock Mountbatten; the troubled husband of Daphne Du Maurier, Gen.’Boy’ Browning, who commanded the Airborne Division; ‘Colonel Remy’, the French secret agent whose men reconnoitered Bruneval at mortal risk; Major John Frost, who led the paras into action; Charlie Cox, the little RAF technician who stripped the Würzburg and became an unexpected hero; Wing-Commander Charles Pickard, a legendary bomber pilot who led the drop squadron.

Seldom have so many fascinating personalities been brought together to fulfil a mission that became a front-page triumph in a season of British defeats. Recounted in Hastings’ familiar blend of top-down and bottom-up action detail, Operation Biting is an extraordinary tale of daring.

MAX HASTINGS is the author of over thirty books, many about the history of war, among which the most recent bestsellers are All Hell Let Loose, Catastrophe, Vietnam, Operation Pedestal and Abyss.

In his early years as a correspondent, he reported on eleven wars, of which the last was the 1982 Falklands conflict. A former editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph, he has won many prizes both for journalism and his books, and continues to contribute columns to The Times and Bloomberg. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an Honorary Fellow of King’s College, London and was knighted in 2002.