Operation Biting was one of the most thrilling British commando raids of World War II, and probably the most successful.
In February 1942 RAF intelligence was baffled by a newly-identified radar network on the coast of Nazi-occupied Europe, codenamed Würzburg. The brilliant scientist Dr RV Jones proposed an assault to capture key components. The nearest accessible enemy set stood upon a steep cliff at Bruneval in Normandy. Winston Churchill enthused, as did Lord Louis Mountbatten, chief of Combined Operations. A company of the newly-formed Airborne Forces was committed to the operation, which took place on the night of 27/28 February. Amid heavy snow 120 men landed, some of whom were misdropped almost two miles from their objective. They nonetheless launched the assault, dismantled the German radar, and after three nail-biting hours in France and a fierce battle with Wehrmacht defenders, escaped in the nick of time by landing-craft across stormy seas to Portsmouth.
Max Hastings recounts this cliffhanging tale in a wealth of previously unchronicled detail. He portrays its remarkable personalities: the ‘boffin’ RV Jones; the peacock Mountbatten; the troubled husband of Daphne Du Maurier, Gen. ’Boy’ Browning, who commanded the Airborne Division; ‘Colonel Remy’, the French secret agent whose men reconnoitered Bruneval at mortal risk; Major John Frost, who led the paras into action; Charlie Cox, the little RAF technician who stripped the Würzburg and became an unexpected hero; Wing-Commander Charles Pickard, a legendary bomber pilot who led the drop squadron. Seldom have so many fascinating personalities been brought together to fulfil a mission that became a front-page triumph in a season of British defeats.
Recounted in Hastings’ familiar best-selling blend of top-down and bottom-up action detail, Operation Biting tells a story that has become almost forgotten yet deserves to rank among the epic tales of courage and daring that took place in the greatest conflict in history.
PRAISE FOR ABYSS: -
”'Grabs from the get-go… as if this were the very best fiction” - Daily Mail
”'A brilliant, beautifully constructed and thrilling reassessment of the most perilous moment in history” - Daily Telegraph
”'Frightening but hopelessly addictive” - The Times
”'Magisterial… chilling” - Daily Express
”'Brilliantly told… compelling… Hastings has cleverly woven the story together from all sides describing them in dramatic, almost hour by hour detail… this is a scary book. Hastings sees little evidence that today’s leaders understand each other any better than they did in 1962” - Sunday Times
”'Deeply researched, incisively intelligent and compulsively readable. Abyss is as tight and smart account as any account and will earn pride of place even on a shelf already packed with books about the crisis” - TLS
”'A gripping retelling of those weeks of brinkmanship, reckless gambles, gung-ho generals and a thuggish USSR leader bullying a 'weak president’” - Sun
”'Superb… reads like a thriller as the gripping drama of the Cold War power politics plays out behind closed doors in Washington, Moscow and Havana” - Daily Mail
”'Hastings lays bare, with chilling clarity, the ease with which political theatre and bluster could well have escalated into a scenario of mutually assured destruction” - Observer