The Dambusters: Great Escape

Christened ‘The Beast’ by Churchill, Tirpitz was Nazi Germany’s most powerful and dangerous battleship. Protected by an elite squadron of German fighters, it was seen as invincible. After 34 attempts to sink it in its Norwegian lair had failed, the RAF sent in the 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron and 9 Squadron; in a spectacular raid on 14 November 1944 they managed to slip through German defences and sink Tirpitz.

With eyewitness accounts from surviving RAF crew, one of the Luftwaffe fighter pilots, and German sailors who were on Tirpitz that day, this documentary tells this extraordinary story from a uniquely intimate and personal perspective and offers new and intriguing evidence to explain the raid’s improbable success. Historian Patrick Bishop examines exactly how the German defences were breached.

The raid is recognised as the high point of precision bombing in World War II, as the bombers sent down their first nine bombs in 90 seconds. Breaking the speed of sound, the massive 12,000lb ‘Tallboy’ bombs fell like darts with deadly accuracy. The victors and the vanquished recall the resilience, ingenuity and extraordinary courage on both sides, on a day that had a terrible human cost; 1000 German sailors died that morning, but ‘The Beast’ had finally been slain.

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