On the Shelves – Dambuster-in-Chief, The Life Story of Air Chief Marshall Sir Ralph Cochrane

Richard Mead (SU 1960-65) has a new book coming out in October, Dambuster-in-Chief, The Life Story of Air Chief Marshall Sir Ralph Cochrane.

Ralph Cochrane was born in 1895 into a distinguished naval family. After joining the Royal Navy, he volunteered in 1915 to serve with the RNAS in airships and was an early winner of the Air Force Cross. In 1918, he transferred to the fledgling RAF and learnt to fly, serving in Iraq as a flight commander under ‘Bomber’ Harris. His inter-war career saw him as a squadron commander in Aden Before he became the first Chief of Air Ataff of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

During the Second World War, he served mainly in Bomber Command and commanded 5 Group from early 1943. He formed 617 Squadron and lead the planning of the legendary Dambuster Raid, the most spectacular raid of the war, as well as the sinking of the battleship Tirpitz. An inspirational leader, he trained 5 Group in low-level target-marking skills.

Post war, Cochrane held a string of senior appointments commanding Transport Command, Flying Training Command, and finally as Vice Chief of Air Staff, retiring in 1952. He died in 1977.

This superbly researched biography of an inspirational leader and airman is long overdue.