Introduced by Mary Stopes-Roe
Paul Brickhill’s account of 617 squadron’s legendary bombing raid is an exhilarating read, showcased in a suitably dramatic red and black binding.
The story of the 'dam busters' remains one of the classics of Second World War literature, and is the subject of a highly successful 1954 film of the same name. As Marshal of the RAF, Lord Tedder wrote in his original foreword, ‘The story which is told in this book cannot but make its readers feel humble in the face of such devotion, such self-sacrifice, and such courage.
This edition is illustrated with contemporary black-and-white photographs, including trials of the bouncing bomb, and portraits of notable figures including Wing Commander Guy Gibson and Barnes Wallis. Pictorial endpapers show Wallis’s sketched designs from his original proposal to the Ministry for War, and a fascinating introduction by his daughter, Mary Stopes-Roe, recalls her father trialling his invention in the garden with catapults and marbles over the old tin washtub.
Published in series with The Great Escape and Reach for the Sky.
Find the complete Paul Brickhill collection here
On 16 May 1943, 617 Squadron took off from RAF Scampton, bound for the Ruhr Valley. Their mission – Operation Chastise – was to bomb the dams of the Moehne, Eder and Sorpe; their weapon, especially designed for the quest, was Barnes Wallis’s bouncing bomb. The following day, nearly 350 million tonnes of water crashed down into the valleys below.
Brickhill invests his narrative with the energy of a thriller; himself a veteran of the Royal Australian Air Force, he combines the gripping story of that legendary raid with a history of 617 Squadron – charting the evolution of precision bombing and its use in the squadron’s subsequent missions: taking out power stations, canals, tunnels and even the Michelin tyre plant. The Dam Busters is a testament to the power of teamwork and inspiring leadership; the men’s immense bravery in desperate conditions shows how ‘exceptional skills and ingenuity can give one man or unit the effectiveness of ten.’
‘I can’t do anything unless I am convinced it is necessary for the good of England and for the good of mankind’
Barnes Wallis’s name will forever be linked with the development of the bouncing bomb and the Wellington aircraft, but, as an aeronautical designer and engineer, he had worked on rigid airships before the First World War. Later he developed the R.80, one of the most beautiful airships ever built, and the R.100, one of the most successful. Furthermore, he developed the swing-wing Swallow and worked on nuclear submarines and the de-icing of trawlers. Mostly though, he was a dedicated family man of immense faith and ‘belief in the spiritual and intellectual qualities of the people of this Nation and of the Commonwealth’.
Paul Brickhill (1916–91) was born in Melbourne, Australia, and educated in Sydney, after which he became a journalist for the Sydney Sun. In January 1941 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and trained in Australia and Canada as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme. He became a fighter pilot for the RAF but, on 17 March 1943, was shot down while piloting a Spitfire over Tunisia. Brickhill became a prisoner of war and was sent to Stalag Luft III where he assisted in a mass breakout in March 1944, which in turn became the basis of his 1950 bestseller The Great Escape. After the war he continued to work in journalism and author books, including The Dam Busters in 1951, and Reach for the Sky in 1954, the story of RAF ace Douglas Bader. He died in Sydney in 1991.
Mary Stopes-Roe was born in 1927 in York, the second of Sir Barnes Wallis’s four children. She spent the war years at boarding school in Salisbury, and then took a history degree at University College London. She married Harry Verdon Stopes-Roe, son of Dr Marie Stopes and Humphrey Verdon Roe, in 1948. In 1958 they moved to Birmingham University, where she later took a second degree with postgraduate study in psychology, and worked as a Research Fellow at the university’s Department of Psychology until her retirement.
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