Deep Sea Hunters, RAF Coastal Command and the War Against the U-boats and the German Navy 1939-1945

B2115

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 from its shaky start, its rapid development, and its growing success to the end of WWII in Europe.

The author has cover the full story 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 Hunters, RAF Coastal Command and the War Against the U-boats and the German Navy 1939-1945
DATE: 081214
FILE: R2115
AUTHOR: Martin W Bowman
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 210
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: 1-78383-196-0
IMAGE: B2115.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/kqbbt5w
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 from its shaky start, its rapid development, and its growing success to the end of WWII in Europe.

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 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.

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.

Before the supply caught up with Coastal Command demand, the RN was forced to desperate methods, starting with mounting worn-out RAF Hurricanes on catapults fixed to the fore part of merchant ships. This was close to suicide missions because, once launched, the pilot had nowhere to land and the convoys could not stop to pick up pilots. The best hope was that a rescue tug following a convoy would reach a downed pilot before he died in the freezing ocean – a faint hope. However, the Catapult Aircraft Merchant ship system did dissuade some Luftwaffe maritime patrol aircraft from remaining in the area and denied reports to the U-boats. The MAC ships then offered pilots the possibility of somewhere to return to after launch. Fitting a fight deck to a merchant ship allowed a handful of Swordfish torpedo bombers and a handful of Wildcat fighters to be carried, but there was little protection for the embarked aircraft because there was no hanger deck below, the merchant ship retaining its cargo holds to carry vital supplies to Britain. The escort carrier was to give FAA crews the facilities needed for arduous Atlantic convoys and eventually, as numbers increased, hunter killer groups of escort carriers and anti-submarine warships could roam free of the convoys and accounted for many U-boat kills. This did not diminish the need for adequate Command Command support.

As the war continued, Coastal Command began to receive the very capable twin engine Beaufighter with heavy gun armament and the ability to carry bombs, depth bombs, torpedoes or unguided rockets. This was a dependable and rugged attack aircraft. The Mosquito also became available and a small number carried the 57 mm Mollins gun and 20 mm canon, but most were equipped with bombs or rockets. This equipment was light years on from the the handful of obsolete bombers and training aircraft that Coastal Command started the war with. In fairness there were some early exceptions because the Sunderland flying boat proved very successful, the modified US Electra passenger aircraft, the Hudson in RAF service, was a surprising success, and the British Whitley medium bomber may have been obsolescent as a strategic bomber in 1939 but it proved a good platform for maritime purposes and was an early radar-equipped attack aircraft that was also manned by FAA crews.

Coastal Command was to benefit from the supply of American aircraft, flying the B-24, B-17 and PBY5 with great success. These aircraft had long range and could carry useful bomb loads. As the Bomber Command needs were met, British heavy bombers were transferred to Coastal Command, including the superlative Lancaster.

The author has cover the full story 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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