Sir Max Hastings is one of greatest and most respected military historians. In his new book – Chastise: The Dambusters Story 1943 – he offers a fresh and compelling account of the dambusters raid. Sir Max grew up embracing the story, the classic 1955 movie, and the memory of Guy Gibson – the 24-year-old wing-commander who led the raid. In the 21st Century, however, he urges that us to view the dambusters as a far more complex event. The aircrew’s heroism was entirely real, as was the brilliance of Barnes Wallis – inventor of the `bouncing bombs’ – but commanders who promised their young flyers that success could shorten the war were nothing less than fantastical. Some 1,400 civilians perished in the biblical floods that swept through the Mohne valley, more than half of them Russian and Polish women, and slave labourers.
Here is a dramatic retake on familiar history, by a master of the historical letters. Hastings sets the Dams Raid in the big picture of the bomber offensive and of the Second World War, with moving portraits of the young airmen, of Barnes Wallis, the monstrous Harris, and the tragic Guy Gibson; together with a superb narrative retelling of one of the most extraordinary episodes in British history.
Masterpiece … manages with great skill to combine the accumulation of strategic and political disaster with the real experience of those fighting on the ground – Antony Beevor on Vietnam, Spectator.