Heroes of Coastal Command – the RAF’s Maritime War 1939-1945, Andrew D. Bird

Heroes of Coastal Command – the RAF’s Maritime War 1939-1945, Andrew D. Bird

Coastal Command is best known for its role in the battle of the Atlantic, but as this selection of eleven short biographies demonstrates the Command carried out a much wider range of operations, takes advantage of the long range of many of its aircraft to reach out as far as Iceland and the far north, and down in the Bay of Biscay as well as across to Norway and all of the waters around the British Isles.

The idea is good, and the selection of people is good. However it feels like the book has been finished in a hurry, and it really needed a good firm edit. Sentences end suddenly in mid-flow, punctuation is often random, and there are sudden changes in topic. It sometimes feels like everything the author has found in his research has been packed in, so in the middle of an account of a raid we suddenly divert to the childhood of a newly introduced crew member. What makes this expecially infuriating is that there are many well written sections which show what the rest of the book should be like.

On a more positive note we get a good idea of just how costly Coastal Command operations could be, with many of the characters we are introduced to dying in combat. This also includes several of the subjects of the chapters, which gives the book a rather sobering tone. 

The choice of people is excellent, giving us a good idea of just how varied Coastal Command’s duties were. We get tales of defensive coastal patrols, anti U-boat patrols, shipping strikes along the coast of Norway and the Continent, an expedition to the Arctic, and one particularly dramatic and costly air-sea rescue mission.

This is an excellent idea for a book, somewhat led down by the need for more proofreading, but the range of experiences covered still makes it a interesting read.

1 – Wing Commander ‘Jack’ Davenport AC, DSO, DFC*, GM – 455 Squadron
2 – Wing Commander Edric ‘Sam’ McHardy DSO, DFC* - CdeG Someone on my Shoulder
3 – Flying Officer Lloyd Trigg VC DFC – Consolidated Courage
4 – Group Captain Gage ‘Bill’ Sise DSO* DFC*
5 – Flight Lieutenant Dennis Healy DSO NWC – High Arctic Flight
6 – Lieutenant Colonel Jean Maurice Guedj DSO, DFC*
7 – Wing Commander Roger Morewood MID
8 – Flying Officer Allan Triggs MBE, DFC and Flying Officer John Watson
9 – Flight Lieutenant ‘Ken’ Gatward DSO, DFC* and Sergeant Gilbert ‘George’ Fern

Author: Andrew D. Bird
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 277
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2019

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