Understanding and inference

This test is based on an article entitled "Dambusters: Death and glory" by Greig Watson. This describes a famous bombing raid during World War Two. You can read the original article on the BBC News Magazine site. Each question refers to a specific extract from the article which is included below.


Which of the following can you infer from the title Dambusters: Death and Glory?

The experimental four-tonne bomb had to be dropped at the right height, at the right speed and at exactly the right distance from the target: to allow it to achieve the improbable feat of skipping across water. It had to be carried in specially adapted planes, across occupied Europe, at night, by a squadron formed just eight weeks earlier. And, of course, the dams had to break.


Which of the following reveals that a raid of this kind had not been attempted before?


What is the effect of placing the sentence And, of course, the dams had to break on a separate line as a paragraph on its own?

While the dams and reservoirs of the Ruhr valley, which fed the industrial powerhouse of the Nazi state, had been identified as possible targets in the late 1930s, and noted engineer Barnes Wallis had been developing a suitable bomb since 1940, Operation Chastise was essentially a frantic race against time. The right combination of highest water levels and full moon, to make the attacks theoretically feasible, happened in mid-May. Full authorisation had been given in February.


Which of the following is closest to the meaning of the expression industrial powerhouse in the context of the passage?


What is meant by saying that the attacks were theoretically feasible?

The squadron - 617 - was formed on 21 March but crews came in for days afterwards. Official 617 Squadron historian Robert Owen said: "The crews had about six weeks to train in night-time low-level flying and navigation with only the sketchiest idea of what the mission was." But also AVRO, which made the Lancaster, had only slightly longer to modify the planes to carry a huge bomb which was still being developed.

And of course Barnes Wallis and his team had to make Upkeep (the bomb's codename) work.


From the information in the paragraphs above, what can you infer about the six weeks leading up to the bombing raid?

The first live Upkeep was tested from a Lancaster on 13 May, just three days before the raid began. The last major training exercise was on 14 May and the final aircraft was delivered on the afternoon of the operation. The first of 19 Lancasters took off from RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, at 21:28 on 16 May. They flew at treetop height to avoid radar, with the attacks going in during the early hours of 17 May.


What impression is given by the sequence of dates mentioned in this paragraph?

Among all the achievements behind the raid, Robert Owen selected one for the highest praise. "Airmanship," he said. "You are asking twentysomethings to fly an aircraft weighing over 63,000 lbs, about 30 tonnes, physically, no power controls, haul it around the sky at 100ft all the way into Germany and back, sitting on that one seat for six hours or so. We have all driven down the motorway for three hours and you know what that feels like - and that is without being shot at.


What did Dambusters’ historian Robert Owen admire most about the raid?

Of the four dams targeted, the Eder had the most difficult approach. Dambuster pilot David Shannon described the problems of his attack: "There was this huge gothic castle stuck up like an eagle's nest right up on a point and you had to fly over that and drop right down the hill. It was wooded and rough land and scenically it was rather beautiful, the situation of this lake, but not the sort of place to try and get in with a four-engine aircraft, down to 60ft, do your run, get your speed to 232mph and then have a sheer rock face at the end of it to climb up over the top." The experimental bomb, the new squadron and the bold plan had worked. A torrent had been unleashed. But at a cost, of the 133 aircrew taking part, 53 died and three were captured. Extensive damage was caused on the ground - though the impact on the wider German war effort is still hotly debated.


Which aspect of the Dambusters raid do people still argue about?

Estimates of the civilian death toll vary between 1,200 and 1,600, with Germans and foreign prisoners sharing the brunt of the water's fury. Around the world, news of the attacks spread to front pages and radio bulletins. Claims and counter-claims were made about the damage and number of deaths. In Washington for crucial negotiations, Winston Churchill basked in what he called a "gallant operation" causing "unparalleled devastation". A legend was born.


What is unusual about the expression the water’s fury?