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Great Raids of World War II (2006)

Showcases a series of daring raid made by various sections of the British military during World War II. The raids highlighted are "Stopping Hitler's A-Bomb", "Prison Busters", Radar Beam ... See full summary »


Jonathan Martin


Tim Newark


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Credited cast:
Robert Powell ... Narrator


Showcases a series of daring raid made by various sections of the British military during World War II. The raids highlighted are "Stopping Hitler's A-Bomb", "Prison Busters", Radar Beam Raiders", "Storm at St. Nazaire", "Cockleshell Raiders" and "Arctic Commando Assaults". Each raid is analyzed, the reasons for it taking place, the planning and execution plus the results and consequences. Written by Chris (Asgardian) from Adelaide, South Australia

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The greatest military confrontation the world has ever seen.







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12 June 2006 (UK) See more »

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The Social Construction of Reality.
9 May 2015 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

It's one of the most famous air raids of the war. In 1944, there are supposed to be 120 inmates an Amiens Prison doomed to be executed on a certain day: POWs and families who were accused of helping downed Allied flyers to escape. The RAF mounts a flight of fourteen uber-fast Mosquito bombers and sets in motion a detailed low-level plan to bomb the outer walls, the German barracks, and the walls of the prison itself, allowing the inmates to escape execution. It's remarkable achievement and a celebrated incident in RAF history.

The British may think of it as a valiant attack that was a victory. The French don't. Each side construes the raid differently. The facts are the same but the myths are in opposition to each other. "Reality" is what each group agrees that it should be.

Following the liberation of the village of Amiens, the British sent an investigator to gather details of the raid but he was balked at the start. It was impossible, then and now, to determine who had ordered the raid in the first place. The source of the order was one of the two secret intelligence agencies. MI6 was the older of the two and dedicated to secrecy and intelligence gathering. SOE had been formed only in 1940 and its goal was to organize armed attacks by the French resistance. The two agencies not only had different goals but were rivals for the same material, including aircraft.

There was never any question of the success of the raid in military terms. It was precisely executed. Two Mosquitoes were lost. But the damage to the prison was awful. Of the 700 prisoners, about 100 were killed in the bombing, and only a handful of those who escaped remained free. And this is where the British and French views diverge. For the British, the raid was a success because it allowed the escape of so many otherwise doomed prisoners. For the French, only a few dozen escapees avoided recapture, so that far more patriots were killed than freed. And this is one way we construct "reality." Labels help us too. The "Battle of Britain" was not decisive for the Germans, who didn't think of it as a win-or-lose "battle." It was one military tactic that didn't work well, so they turned to others. And in our own time, the amount paid from a large estate to the federal government can be either an "estate tax" or a "death tax." There is no ultimate reality. Instead, there are as many realities as there are people who believe them. To reduce this to the absurd, there are seven billion people in the world in 2015, and seven billion slightly different realities.

Somebody help me down from this lecture platform. Thank you.

Most of the program is taken up with footage from the original raid and with a reenactment of the raid by the host, who is a pilot, and his navigator in a small aircraft. The low-level flight over the English Channel still looks a little hairy to me. The pilot complains at one point that the surface is too calm, which makes judgment about altitude difficult. It's hard to imagine a calm English Channel. The last time I crossed, on a hovercraft, there were times when it bounced up sufficiently high that I thought the whole demonic thing would take off.

At any rate, the episode is a kind of post mortem review of the raid, an analysis rather than a flag waver. Overt propaganda is necessary at times, such as war, to keep us on the same page of "reality," but in the end it's just as well to try to be objective and dispassionate. That is, assuming historians and leaders can learn from our mistakes. In some version or other, the myths are likely to persist.

George Washington never chopped down that cherry tree.

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