OPERATION HURRICANE – Review by Mark Barnes

Operation Hurricane was conceived as a mission to deal with as yet insufficiently damaged German industrial cities. It fitted in perfectly with Arthur Harris’ strategy of attacking the heartlands of the Reich. The city of Duisburg bore the brunt of the assault that took place on 14th and 15th October 1944; two raids by the RAF and one by the Americans. Thousands of people were killed and a significant amount of damage was done. But the ever present folly that all this destruction would cause a collapse in German morale with all the impact that can have was met with the reverse, just as it had been in cities all over Europe that had suffered sustained bombing.

This solidly researched book by Marc Hall gives an account of the raid itself in a sober fashion with all the stats and facts delivered in a easily digested style. These stories never make for pretty reading and it is difficult to try and be unbiased about things. The bombing offensive killed tens of thousands of people – mostly civilians. It was a campaign born out of one set of circumstances that was overcome by what we now call mission creep as the net of destruction widened. Finding a clear path through it is always a bit of a nightmare. Some people manage to be even handed but if that isn’t how you think then you will either sympathise with the people on the end of the bombing or be a supporter of the men carrying it out. Even then you might wish to separate the aircrews from the leadership sending them out sometimes night after night to pound the Nazi state.

I have never made any attempt to hide my own opinion that the Nazi state got what it deserved. I can appreciate the argument that the Allies moral position was utterly destroyed by implementing such a devastating campaign, but I have read my history and am well aware that, as said, from the offset this was Britain’s way of hitting back at the enemy at a time when it was losing the land war with no sign of a way back. Things were different by the time the squadrons took off to pound Duisburg but hindsight is a wonderful thing and there is nothing I can add to improve any side of the argument.

My admiration and support for the men who flew the bombers is immense. They are giants to me and I am unapologetic about that.

In this book the author sets out to detail what happened to the aircraft and crews who failed to return from Operation Hurricane. It forms part of a series of books from the publisher that have the intention of honouring the fallen of Bomber Command. We have heard the statistics so many times but books like this turn numbers into people. This is what they do best and it is at the core of what Fighting High wish to achieve as publishers. I support them one hundred per cent.

The book itself is pretty straightforward. The writing style is easy to live with and the amount of detail is immense. The author has spent years researching his subject, often following in the footsteps of the RAF investigators criss-crossing Germany looking for the graves of airmen in the immediate post war period. The work these men did, finding the fallen, is astonishing and probably little appreciated today. But there will have been many families in the British Commonwealth who were grateful that their son, brother or father had a proper grave. You will often see an inscription on gravestones in CWGC cemeteries that sums it up perfectly – To all the world he was only one, but to us he was all the world.

The events featured in this book will, above all, illustrate the huge sacrifice made by Canadians serving in Bomber Command and this seems quite fitting in the weeks when the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Lancaster bomber is touring the UK in partnership with the example flown by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. In between writing sections of this review I was able to drive out to my local airport and watch them depart. I don’t mind admitting the experience brought a lump to my throat.

Fighting High knows its audience and is steadily producing a really classy library of aviation history books. I always look forward to them. Marc Hall’s work displays the correct balance between information overkill and the kind of gently emotive stuff linking us with the young airmen who died for our liberty seventy years ago.

In explaining how they were not forgotten by the people working to ensure them a decent burial at the end of hostilities, the author keeps their flame alive today.

Reviewed by Mark Barnes for War History Online.

The Story of Those Who Flew, Fought and Failed to Return on 14 and 15 October 1944
By Marc Hall
Fighting High
ISBN 13: 978-095711-633-7

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.