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Dambuster-in-Chief (Hardback)

The Life of Air Chief Marshal Sir Ralph Cochrane

Aviation > Dambusters Aviation > Royal Air Force Aviation > WWII Military > Biographies WWII

By Richard Mead
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526765079
Published: 6th October 2020


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Ralph Cochrane was born in 1895 into a distinguished naval family. After joining the Royal Navy, he volunteered in 1915 to serve with the RNAS in airships and was an early winner of the Air Force Cross. In 1918 he transferred to the fledgling RAF and learnt to fly, serving in Iraq as a flight commander under ‘Bomber’ Harris. His inter-war career saw him as a squadron commander in Aden before he became the first Chief of Air Staff of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. During the Second World War he served mainly in Bomber Command and commanded 5 Group from early 1943. He formed 617 Squadron and was instrumental in planning the legendary Dambuster Raid, the most spectacular of the War, as well as the sinking of the battleship Tirpitz. An inspirational leader, he trained 5 Group in low level target marking skills.

Post war Cochrane held a string of senior appointments commanding Transport Command, Flying Training Command and finally as Vice Chief of Air Staff, retiring in 1952. He died in 1977.

It was nice to read a book about one of WWII’s unsung heroes in Sir Ralph Cochrane, when you think that he must have had to play an important and strategic role in Bomber Command during the war.

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UK Historian

"For the serious World War II reader, author Mead’s minor masterpiece not only adds Operation Chastise to one’s depth of the RAF’s most dangerous, controversial victories, but also a new name to rank alongside Great Britain’s most heroic warriors."

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This is a fascinating biography of one of the most important figures in Bomber Command ruing the Second World War, and helps explain the part he played in turning the fortunes of the command around after the disasterously inaccurate results early in the war.

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History of War

The Dambusters is one of my absolute favourite stories from WWII, and the film, with Richard Todd, remains one of my favourite films of all times. I had the original book, by Paul Brickhill, but I never tire of reading about the people who were involved, and this bio of Cochrane tells the story of an extraordinary man. Brilliant.

Books Monthly

As featured on Scale Modelling Now

Scale Modelling Now
 Richard Mead

About Richard Mead

Richard Mead was educated at Marlborough College and Pembroke College, Cambridge. He has written General ‘Boy’: The Life of Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Browning and The Last Great Cavalryman: The Life of General Sir Richard McCreery, Commander Eighty Army, The Men Behind Monty, Commando General – The Life of Sir Robert Laycock and Sam - The Life of MRAF Lord Elworthy all in print with Pen and Sword Books. Richard and his wife live in Gloucestershire and he has two grown-up sons.

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