Seventy years ago an RAF bomber raid destroyed important German dams. At the time many argued it was only a propaganda victory. It was much more than that, writes historian Dan Snow.At 9.28pm on 16 May 1943, the first of 19 Lancaster heavy bombers lifted off the runway into a clear, still early summer night.
It was another British raid on the Ruhr region of Germany. The industrial heartland of Hitler's war machine was straining to produce tanks, ammunition and aircraft for a final, titanic assault on the Soviet Red Army on the Eastern Front.
British aircraft had been levelling entire neighbourhoods, blasting and incinerating homes, factories and people in a series of massive but clumsy blows.
It was a raid sent to destroy a series of mighty dams, wreaking havoc with the Ruhr's vital water supplies. Known as Operation Chastise to its planners, it is remembered simply as the Dambusters raid.
The story of the Lancasters that left RAF Scampton that night is utterly remarkable for so many reasons. There was the ingenuity of the weapon they carried - a purpose-built bomb, codenamed Upkeep, designed by the brilliant Barnes Wallis to bounce along the surface of water like a skimming stone to avoid obstacles placed in its way.
In James Holland's recent book, Dam Busters: The Race to Smash the Dams, he states that "it is time to put the record straight". He insists that the damage was "absolutely enormous" and it was "an extraordinary achievement".
He points out that every bridge for 30 miles below the breached Mohne dam was destroyed, and buildings were damaged 40 miles away. Twelve war production factories were destroyed, and around 100 more were damaged. Thousands of acres of farmland were ruined.
Germans instantly referred to it after the raid as the "Mohne catastrophe". Even the cool Speer admitted that it was "a disaster for us for a number of months". German sources attribute a 400,000-tonne drop in coal production in May 1943 to the damage caused.
I'm sure I've said this before but my Mum worked on building Lancaster bombers on the outskirts of Manchester during the 2nd World War.
Over the next couple of years I'm sure that there will be many memorials to things that happened during both wars. Next year will be the centennial of the beginning of the 1st World War.
'A book is a friend that does what no friend can do - stay quiet when you want to think!'
Good news today in that my latest Steele novel 'Inceptus' has come back from my editor and so will be available in paperback from the beginning of June and possibly earlier in ebook format.
I have chosen the above cover and the blurb on the back cover is as follows:-
In this the 5th Steele novel Patrick tackles the person who has been surreptitiously dogging his footsteps over a number of his adventures. This is not without risk and the focus of his love, Naomi Kobayashi, disappears which seriously affects his ability to function as well as he can. We also find out more about the man himself.
The adventure takes him to Eire, France, the USA before he returns to resolve the issue in the UK.
Will Patrick finally rid himself of a deadly enemy?
Can our hero rescue his love or is it already too late?
Another Patrick Steele adventure filled with tension and action as well as the support provided by the team he has developed over the years.