This review is from my Goodreads page617 Squadron: The Dambusters at War by Tom Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was given freely for review by Sapere Books.
617 Squadron are best known for the 1943 Dambusters raids on the Mohne and Edersee dams in Germany which disrupted German war production. Plenty has been written and filmed about that mission but this book focusses on missions after that famous event. Tom Bennett himself was a member of the squadron and this personal book follows brave individuals and their experiences over France, Germany and Norway. The most high profile mission featured is the sinking of the Tirpitz at harbour in Norwegian Arctic territory late in the war. During that mission some didn't make it home with several spending the remainder of the war as prisoners while some were able to get their damaged planes to neutral Sweden and repatriation.
As well as detailed accounts of the missions the book also highlights life on the various bases and the camaraderie that kept morale particularly high in this band of brothers in arms. Each pilot, navigator, engineer or gunner featured has their personality clearly defined - this isn't just a book of facts, it's a book of people. Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and Brits - all feature equally here in a multi-national effort that also owes a heavy debt to Polish and other nationals who manned the fighters accompanying the bombers.
For me, it's this element that is most poignant. The book was first published in the mid 1980s from interviews and research in the years preceding. I was in my mid-teens and soldiers, airmen and sailors from the war were still of working age as I started my working life (I remember seeing First World War veterans marching on Remembrance parades). Many of the characters from this book were, at the time of publication, just starting their retirement or still in their post-war careers in Britain and the Commonwealth. Sadly, it's unlikely that any are still alive. It's a good thing that we still remember them.
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