Dambuster-in-Chief – The Life of Air Chief Marshal Sir Ralph Cochrane, Richard Mead

Dambuster-in-Chief – The Life of Air Chief Marshal Sir Ralph Cochrane, Richard Mead

As the title suggests, Sir Ralph Cochrane is most famous for his role in the famous Dams raid, which he played a major part in organising in his role as head of 5 Group of Bomber Command. However as this biography demonstrates, that was only part of an RNAS and RAF career that lasted for nearly 40 years, and thus stretched from the early years of naval aviation to the jet age. During that time he became an expert in training and bombing, played a major role in the pre-war expansion of the RNZAF and served as its first Chief.

The book is written in two distinct styles. For the pre and post war periods the focus is very much on Cochrane himself. This may seem self evident in a biography, but the contrast is clear when we reach the Second World War, where we get a mix of a biograpy of Cochrane and a history of the groups under his command. 5 Group gets the most attention, as that was where he spent the longest, and where he had the biggest impact. This is also where he most clearly emerges as an innovator, never hapy with the conventional wisdom of the day, whether it be about the best way to ensure accurate bombing or the most efficient maintainance routines.

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.

1 – The Cochranes of Dundonald
2 – From Fife to Scapa
3 – Lighter than Air
4 – Heavier than Air
5 – Moving Up
6 – Squadron Commander
7 – Staff Officer
8 – New Zealand
9 – Training
10 – 3 Group
11 – 5 Group
13 – 617 Squadron
14 – Operation CHASTISE
15 – Time and Distance
16 – Cheshire
17 – The Big City
18 – The Independent Air Force
19 – Germany and the Tirpitz
20 – Transport Command
21 – The Air Council
22 – Into Industry
23 – Family Business
24 – Reflections

Author: Richard Mead
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 320
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2020

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