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Monday 8 July 2024

Catching Up on My Reading no 21

Operation Biting by Max Hastings. 

Sometimes you just bet a bit lucky. I actually picked this book up in my local Tesco's for half price- not as a remainder of anything but simply as a 'club card offer.  Could not turn it down. 
Was I disappointed?  No not a bit. 

There is no doubt that Max Hastings does his research and knows his stuff.
For the uninitiated 'Operation Biting' was Britain's first combat parachute drop into occupied France during WW2/ The objective being twofold first and foremost to acquire information and technology concerning the German radar system and second- should the raid be successful to give the public a much needed victory when in early 1942 the war was going badly.


 I first learned of operation Biting from that doyen of 1960s sources' The Victor Book for Boys' which back in those far off days saw nothing wrong in telling young boys about WW2- without all the blood and nastiness of course- The Raid on Bruneval  ie Operation Biting appears in the 1969 Annual.

The reality was of course a bit different- though I was quite surprised how much of the basic operation did appear in the comic.

 However Max Hasting sticks firmly to the reality. The lead up, the planning and the actual raid are all covered in often minute detail. None of which is the slightest bit tedious but rather the opposite.. Essentially Biting was a 'smash and grab' raid against the German 'Wurzburg' type radar station on the French coast  . The actual raid being carries out by C Company of 2nd Parachute Battalion led by Major John Frost. The book contains in its appendices a complete order of battle for the company in its rather peculiar 'Operation Biting ' organisation right down to who was in each of the aircraft detailed for the actual drop.

The narrative is detailed yet pacey- the German defenders are shown in as much detail as the British as are the French resistants who provided much of the detailed intelligence need for the operation. 
 Hasting does not shy away from British blunders either which came close to ending the  raid in failure. 
 For those who don't know the operation - except perhaps from the Victor - no spoilers here.
 For weargsamers this will give you the detail to refight the raid almost blow by blow if such is your wont. 
 The narrative is backed up by a  bundle of photographs of the participants and maps of the battle area.
 If WW2 special operations are your thing then this book will be a valuable addition to that subject.