Heroes of Coastal Command, The RAF’s Maritime War 1939-1945

The RAF record in maritime warfare is mixed but its crews served with distinction, courage and determination, making an important contribution to survival and ultimate victory. The politicians decided in 1918 to summarily dispense with the RFC and the RNAS, drafting their personnel into the new RAF which was given a monopoly of military aircraft ownership with some disastrous consequences – Highly Recommended.

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NAME: Heroes of Coastal Command, The RAF's Maritime War 1939-1945
FILE: R3025
AUTHOR: Andrew D Bird
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PRICE: £25.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War II, World War 2, Second World War, maritime 
reconnaissance, maritime attack aircraft, anti-submarine patrols, convoy escort, flying 
boats, float planes, SAR, airdropped lifeboats, long range patrol, flying artillery, 
rocket armed attack aircraft, torpedo bombers

ISBN: 1-52671-069-2

IMAGE: B3025.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y3qp2u96
LINKS: 
DESCRIPTION: The RAF record in maritime warfare is mixed but its crews served 
with distinction, courage and determination, making an important contribution to 
survival and ultimate victory. The politicians decided in 1918 to summarily 
dispense with the RFC and the RNAS, drafting their personnel into the new 
RAF which was given a monopoly of military aircraft ownership with some 
disastrous consequences  – Highly Recommended.

The birth of the RAF in 1918 had one immediate effect in that it ended the Royal 
Navy plans to launch a concentrated air attack from a carrier task force against the 
German High Seas Fleet in its ports. In the longer term it had an almost catastrophic 
effect on British military aviation. It delayed the development of advanced aircraft 
and concentrated on strategic bombing, with home defence interceptors and little else. 
The Royal Navy battled on and was rewarded in 1938 when it secured control of 
naval aviation once more and started a program of expansion  and upgrading with a 
number of monoplane specifications circulated and upgrades to its aircraft carriers 
and carrier building program. Unfortunately, the RAF had been allowed to set up 
Coastal Command in 1936 and managed to retain control of flying boats and long 
range maritime patrol aircraft.

There will always be controversy about the relative merits of who controlled what 
maritime aviation assets and responsibilities with the RAF was so heavily focused 
on strategic bombing that it almost dropped the ball on fighter development and made 
its Coastal Command a Cinderella organization depending on hand-me-downs from 
Bomber Command. That in itself was a major weakness that cost many lives at sea, 
but it was initially compounded by a lack of co-operation at senior level with the RN 
that increased losses of shipping and people. Against that, the flying personnel of 
Coastal Command performed beyond all reasonable expectations and their courage 
and skill went a long way to covering up defects in political management and senior 
command.

Initially they had to depend largely on poorly suited aircraft. Obsolete and obsolescent 
bombers did offer range and did have a capacity to carry bombs and aiming 
equipment, but they were in most other respects very unsuited to the type of long 
range patrol that Britain needed to protect warships and merchant convoys. It almost 
cost Britain the war. With the exception of the Short Sunderland flying boat, which 
was a brilliant conversion of a civil airliner and so effective that its defensive 
reputation saw the crew of one unarmed Sunderland driving off German fighters with 
a single Tommy gun, the aircraft as initial war time maritime patrol resources were 
sadly lacking.

The situation took time to improve and it was not until mid-war that enough 
production, and supplies of US aircraft, allowed the Coastal Command to receive the
 kit they desperately needed. Once adequately equipped, they were able to develop
 air superiority in protection of convoys and warships, taking the war to the enemy 
with considerable success. Co-operation with the RN had also developed and its initial 
lack was more to do with Service separation and lack of training together before the 
war. By mid war there was mutual respect and understanding between Coastal 
Command, the Royal Navy and its Fleet Air Arm. The level of co-operation and skills 
were rewarded with great success.

Coastal command was to receive B-24 Liberator bombers that were produced by a 
company with strong experience of building flying boats, which might explain the 
depth of the fuselage. The B-24 had very good range and was ideal, as was the PBY 
Catalina in its flying boat and amphibian forms. The Beaufighter and Mosquito 
proved a further enhancement of Coastal Command capabilities, the Mosquito 
including a version with the 57mm Mollins guns that was quickly replaced by 
Mosquitoes with under wing rockets for attacking surface submarines and surface 
warships. With bomber production more than keeping up with the heavy losses of 
Bomber Command, Coastal Command began receiving Lancasters and Boeing B-17s 
with excellent range and bomb bays that could be modified to carry air-dropped 
lifeboats for survivors far out into the Atlantic. There were also several modified 
aircraft, including the Lockheed Hudson which was a modified passenger aircraft and 
noted in Coastal Command service for forcing a U-Boat to the surface and then 
accepting its surrender.

The author has combined careful research and explanation of equipment and tactics 
with first hand experiences of those who flew for Coastal Command with such 
distinction.