Deep Sea Attack, Battlefield Bombers

B2116

Another fine book from a prolific author who has established a reputation for good writing and thorough research. After years of relative neglect, the Coastal Command story is becoming popular and this is an outstanding example of the relative neglect being convincingly corrected. There are two excellent photo plate sections with some rare photographs and this is a book that provides a narrative of the Coastal Command story of long range maritime operations.

The author has covered the full story of the deep sea attack capabilities and operations of Coastal Command and made a very good job of it. This is an enjoyable and very informative book for all those interested in maritime warfare and aviation. Highly Recommended.

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NAME: Deep Sea Attack, Battlefield Bombers
DATE: 081214
FILE: R2116
AUTHOR: Martin W Bowman
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 206
PRICE: £25.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War Two, Second World War, maritime warfare, naval aviation, coastal patrol, maritime patrol, maritime attack, convoys, U-boats, German surface warships, Battle of the Atlantic, search and rescue
ISBN: 1-78383-197-9
IMAGE: B2116.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/lchtyg6
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: Another fine book from a prolific author who has established a reputation for good writing and thorough research. After years of relative neglect, the Coastal Command story is becoming popular and this is an outstanding example of the relative neglect being convincingly corrected. There are two excellent photo plate sections with some rare photographs and this is a book that provides a narrative of the Coastal Command story of long range maritime operations.

Coastal Command was a victim of the vicious political campaign conducted by the RAF to retain control of all British military aircraft. It is perhaps understandable that a military organization should strive to gather the maximum power and the biggest military empire because politicians are always looking to cut military budgets. What is less excusable is that the RAF sought total control but was only interested in making strategic bombardment its highest priority, with home defence interceptors as its secondary priority. In its other responsibilities, for naval aviation and army co-operation, received scandalously little attention. Happily, the Royal Navy was able to take back control of ship-based naval aviation in 1937, giving time to correct the neglect it had suffered since the creation of the RAF in 1918. The Army was less fortunate and entered WWII with a woefully poor support from the RAF, being confined mainly to Lysander short field observation aircraft, that were almost totally unarmed, and Fairy Battle light bombers that were sitting ducks for the Germans and promptly despatched by German fighters as the Blitz Krieg was launched on France and the Low Countries.

The unfortunate political omission was in leaving seaplanes and land-based patrol/attack aircraft in the hands of the RAF. This was to cause many lives to be lost on the North Atlantic convoy routes because the Coastal Command aircraft were unable to provide reconnaissance, attack and fighter defence the whole way across the Atlantic. A very large coverage gap enabled the Germans to support their U-boats with long range patrol aircraft that reported the position and track of every convoy, were able to directly attack some merchant ships, and allowed the U-boats to spend much of their time on the surface where their speed was very much higher, batteries could be kept fully changed, and the submarines could be vectored onto the convoys in maximum numbers. None of this was the fault of Coastal Command because it was as much a victim of RAF priorities as the warships and merchantmen they should have fully supported. It is also difficult to be too hard on the RAF. Some senior officers were too political. Having hung on to maritime patrol, the RAF clearly did not have the funds to cover all their responsibilities and the Royal Navy might have faced similar problems had it acquired all naval aviation duties. However, the RN fully understood the urgent need for maritime patrol and attack aircraft and would have fought hard for extra funding, not least because they were also fully aware of the naval need and the other naval assets that would have to work with naval aviation.

The aircrews performed magnificently. They made the most of the inadequate equipment available to them and demonstrated the highest courage in pressing attacks against fierce opposition. That elan was to continue through WWII with growing successes as Coastal Command began to receive the equipment it so desperately needed. That allowed the Atlantic Air Gap to be closed and made it very difficult for U-boats attempting to leave their French bases, or to return. When on patrol, they were constantly threatened by Coastal Command aircraft and were forced to remain submerged for prolonged periods, making them significantly less able to conduct war on the convoys.

The ability to operate long range operations was extremely limited in 1939. The Avro Anson trainer and the army co-operation Lysander were both pressed into service to provide at least some equipment for coastal patrol and in 1940, after the evacuation from Dunkirk, this was increasingly required for anti-invasion patrols. The Lysander was modified to have a twin plate tailplane to enable the fitting of a four gun power operated turret from straffing German troops as they came ashore. That is some indication of the level of desperation. The biplane flying boats that were on strength did have longer range but were far from satisfactory, most being biplane aircraft of a past age.

The Sunderland flying boat was a happy exception having been developed from the Empire C passenger flying boat. It therefore offered a dependable four engine monoplane with good range and defensive guns in power operated turrets. The Germans referred to it as the ‘Flying Porcupine’ and its reputation was such that an unarmed Sunderland on a ferry flight was able to drive off a heavily armed German fighter by a crew member firing a ‘Tommy Gun’ from one of the empty turrets. Flying close to the water, the Sunderland was very difficult to shoot down and very able to defend itself. What it lacked was the fire power in the nose to keep U-boat flack gunners’ heads down during an attack run. This was addressed by adding fixed machine guns in the hull, firing forward under the control of the pilot. One challenge in a flying boat was to add a bomb bay. The Sunderland addressed this by carrying bombs on trolleys that ran on tracks in the underside of both wings. These were winched out through opening hatches in the hull, prior to an attack.

The American PBY-5 Catalina was a popular Coastal Command aircraft, acquired both in the flying boat and amphibious forms. A twin engined aircraft in widespread US use, the Catalina was able to operate for up to twenty hours on its internal fuel. It did carry offensive weapons on underwing racks, but it had only light defensive armament and excelled as a maritime reconnaissance aircraft, one relocating the Bismark as she tried to evade the British warships hunting her.

Radar and search lights were added to the more modern aircraft and this gave them a considerable advantage in hunting enemy ships and submarines. However, what was to give Coastal Command a credible long range patrol and attack capability was the introduction of four engine heavy bombers and the twin engine Mosquito and Beaufighter. Unlike flying boats, these aircraft were able to carry bombs in an internal bomb bay and a variety of offensive weapons under their wings and fuselage. The Mosquito and Beaufighter proved highly effective against surfaced U-boats and surface warships, having a heavy forward firing gun armament. The twin engine Hudson and the four engine heavy bombers were also suitable for modification to carry a large lifeboat that could be dropped to survivors in the sea, keeping them secure until flying boats or ships could reach them.

The author has covered the full story of the deep sea attack capabilities and operations of Coastal Command and made a very good job of it. This is an enjoyable and very informative book for all those interested in maritime warfare and aviation. Highly Recommended.

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