Dambuster-in-Chief written by Richard Mead and published by Pen & Sword Books – £25.00 – Hardback – Pages 320
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. The book obviously talks a lot about Operation Chastise and this event has been made out to be an important part of the war in knocking out the Nazi supporting role and manufacturing. What also comes through is the relationships between Cochrane and some major names in the allied fight of WWII, I mean he worked with Bomber Harris and all those famous names in 617 squadron. This was a fascinating read and certainly one where we learn a lot about the man and how he influenced the course of a war.