The Tirpitz was Hitler''s greatest weapon. The largest
battleship in Europe, ''the Beast'' as Churchill called it was
reputed to be unsinkable. Lurking off Norway, it threatened vital
convoys to Russia, tied up key British resources and -- despite
firing its guns only once -- cast an almost supernatural shadow
over the war effort. Nothing in the Allied armoury could compete.
So profound was the ship''s psychological effect that, in 1942,
rumour of its presence scattered an Allied convoy, leaving
undefended 35 merchantmen, 24 of which were sunk.
The fear ''the Beast'' inspired would stoke an Allied obsession:
to sink the Tirpitz, at any cost. Many men, over many years, would
attempt what came to seem almost impossible. In total 13 major
operations were launched. Midget submarines planted explosives
beneath her hull, with no lasting damage. Bold attacks by Fairey
Barracudas dive-bombers had little effect. It was not until 1944
that a daring raid by the RAF, under the command of one of the
heroes of the Dambusters raid, finally destroyed this potent symbol
of Hitler''s ambition.
Willie Tait had flown with Leonard Cheshire and Guy Gibson
during the destruction of the Ruhr dams. However the third
Dambuster consistently shunned the spotlight and his story till now
has never been told.
With exclusive access to Tait''s personal papers, best-selling
historian Patrick Bishop brings to life one of the most daring
missions of the Second World War in the words of the extraordinary
men and women whose courage and single-minded dedication would
strike a vital blow against the Nazis and hasten Allied