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 victory.