Keynote

Ted Barris - Dambusters: Canadian Airmen and the Secret Raid Against Nazi Germany 

It was a night that changed the Second World War. The secret raid against the hydro-electric dams of Germany’s Ruhr River took years to plan, involved an untried bomb, and included the best aircrews Allied Bomber Command could muster – many of them Canadian. The raid marked the first time the Allies tactically took the war inside Nazi Germany. It was a mission that became legendary.

On May 16, 1943, one hundred and thirty-three airmen took off in nineteen Lancaster bombers on a night sortie, code-named “Operation Chastise.” Hand-picked and specially trained, the Lancaster crews flew at treetop level from England to the industrial heartland of the Third Reich and their targets – the Ruhr River dams – whose massive water reservoirs powered Nazi Germany’s military industrial complex.

Each Lancaster carried an explosive, which when released just sixty feet over the surface of the reservoirs, bounced like a skipping stone to the dam, sank and exploded. The raiders breached two dams and severely damaged a third. The resulting torrent devastated power plants, factories, and infrastructure a hundred miles downstream. Every one of the one hundred and thirty-three airmen on the mission understood the odds of survival were low. Of the nineteen bombers outbound, eight did not return. Operation Chastise cost the lives of fifty-three airmen, including fourteen Canadians. Of the sixteen RCAF men who survived, seven received military decorations for valour.

Based on personal accounts, flight logs, squadron war diaries, maps, and photographs of the Canadians involved, Dam Busters recounts the dramatic story of these young Commonwealth bomber crews tasked with the high-risk operation against an enemy prepared to defend the Fatherland to the death.

Ted Barris is an award-winning journalist, author, and broadcaster. He regularly writes in the national media (National Post, Air Force magazine, Zoomer among many), and has hosted many CBC Radio network programs and shows on TV Ontario. His weekly blog The Barris Beat features commentary and narrative from his travels/experience. Among his 18 previous bestselling, non-fiction books: Juno, Behind the Glory, Deadlock in Korea, Victory at Vimy, and Breaking the Silence. In June 2014, his book The Great Escape: A Canadian Story won the Libris Non-Fiction Book Award of the Year.

Dam Busters is Ted’s 18th non-fiction book, published by HarperCollins. It was released on Sept. 11, 2018, and within two days landed on the Globe & Mail’s bestsellers list; it’s been on the list seven weeks straight