Six raids that changed the course of history. A bold claim, but one that is probably justified in modern history. Some of the stories in this book will be more familiar than others, but I suspect we all will have a passing awareness of them all.
The book opens with ‘Operation Judgement’ the account of the attack by obsolete British biplanes – surely a total anachronism in that period – on the Italian Fleet in Taranto. It’s a tale of courage, of daring and of perseverance against the odds and an operation that with hindsight would probably never have taken place, and yet; it was a success, against all the odds and contrary to common sense.
That last sentiment could equally be applied to all the raids related in this book. Every single one was hazardous in the extreme, and incurred what could be construed as disproportionate loss of life or serious injury, seemingly planned haphazardly yet instrumental in causing damage, inconvenience ( not as trivial as that sounds) and helping to affect the course of the war.
‘Operation Archery’, the first true combined operation, involving all three services, was instrumental in deceiving Hitler that the Allies were planning an invasion.
‘Operation Biting’; The first major operation by the Airborne Division and garnered their first battle honour,Bruneval. Major John Frost led his troops in an attack on the ‘Freya’ line of radar installations, ably assisted by the Royal air Force and a group of civilian scientists. This is the attack that helped to reduce the casualty rate of Bomber Command, those brave crew who suffered greater losses than any other command in the R.A.F.
‘Operation Gunnerside’ A raid that was instrumental in thwarting the Nazi attempt to build an atomic bomb.
‘Operation Chariot’. Arguably the greatest raid of all, the amphibious attack on the dry dock at St Nazaire, the sheer and unmitigated bravery of the persons involved and the sacrifices that were made.
‘Operation Deadstick’ A battle that has become enshrined in our minds and in history thanks to the determination, courage and the sometimes sheer bloodymindedness of the characters involved. Who amongst us has not heard of Pegasus Bridge’ orJohn Howard? There are not enough superlatives to describe the tenacity or the raw courage shown by these men.
Ross Kemp is a familiar name and face. To some – the more ‘mature’ amongst us – he is one of the brothers Mitchell from that popular, cheerful and uplifting weekly drama ‘Eastenders’to others he is the fierce fighter of the fictional S.A.S troop in ‘Ultimate Force’. I remember him as a rather good Baron in panto. Mr Kemp has also become an award winning documentary maker, and his time on the ground with the blokes in Afghanistan was a joy to watch. He allowed those armchair warriors amongst us to see the human side of our troops and between himself and his cameraman brought startling and dramatic footage of the fighting.
Recently he has been exploring both the worlds most dangerous places and some of the most feared gangs in cities around the world, and this does make for dramatic and fascinating viewing.
Since including writing in his pantheon he has written several military style thrillers as well as books to accompany and complement his television shows. He is an ardent supporter and patron of Help For Heroes.
This is an excellent book, well written without being over complicated and yet totally informative. It’s a book that I both enjoyed and was informed by. No military or historical treatise but rather a very good book to have and enjoy.
Four and a half MH.