Chastise (The Dambusters raid) – Max Hastings Book Review

Chastise Dambusters RaidMax Hastings

A fantastic book on the famous 1943 Dambusters raid. As someone who knows this amazing war event based on the film. This book goes a long way to give that film a more rounded view.

The view of the film is that it was skill and the best pilots that got them through the raid but in fact it was much more a case of luck that gave them the success they had.

The film dictates that Guy Gibson (who was the Squadron Leader of 617 - the Squadron better known as the Dambusters) selected the crews for the mission drawing on the best pilots that the RAF had to offer - but this book goes a long way to tell that in fact that the crews are made up from group of young men with a whole lot of different experience.

Yes some of these are very experienced but for some pilots this was mission 5 or 6 and in some cases in the crews (like gunners) this was mission number one. They were also young guys - some of them only 18 or 19 and about do head into one of the most difficult and daring raids of World War 2.  Gibson indeed committed his most junior, and, if Hastings’ conclusions are to be believed, the least able crews, to the most challenging job, to be over Germany after the defences had been stirred into life and with dawn fast approaching.

Hastings further suggests that Gibson did not trust some of his pilots sufficiently - facts that have been disputed by other books and historians. I won't go into the details in the review - but the one belief in this is that Hastings could be trying to find a new take on what is a well told story in other books.

Hastings also goes into depth about the effects that the bombing had on the German war effort. Whilst of course the feet of Gibson’s men is never downplayed the actual effects of damage to Germany is exposed to not be as great as firstly expected. The crews of the bombers believed their mission was going to help speed up the end of the war and whilst it caused some damage and did delay things the main result was a huge loss of life to actually a whole lot of Migrant workers and some minor delays to manufacturing of no more than a few months.

For some other reviews that I've read of people with further knowledge of 617 Squadron and the Dambusters raid this book opens up questions that are perhaps factually incorrect. However Hastings is a very accomplished writer and a skilled narrator of a brilliant true life story and you can't take that away from the book. The chapter indeed which talks through the Dambusters raid itself for me was a non book down read.

If you have any kind of interest in the Dambusters raid then this is a great introduction to it and will give a very different view to the film of the same title.

Chastise can be bought through Amazon here:

More information can be found here about the raid.

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