My review of this book was originally written for ARRSE (www.arrse.co.uk) and appears with their kind permission.
This book describes the RAF’s campaign against the German Navy and Merchant Marine in the Atlantic, North Sea and English Channel. This was a vital part of the war, firstly in ensuring the UK’s survival and later in turning the screw on the blockade of Germany and preventing Kriegsmarine action against the D-Day landings. The operations were conducted by the RAF Coastal Command, at one extreme with 15 hour patrols hunting U-Boats and at the other with shorter missions across the channel against any surface shipping. It is a story of great technical innovation, endurance and immense physical courage.
The author’s approach is to rely heavily upon quoting from other works, particularly those of Hector Bolitho, interspersing them with his own words. Unfortunately the appalling editing (several passages are repeated, sometimes consecutively), poor punctuation, bad paragraphing and loose structure make this a hard book to enjoy. His frequent use of the passive form does not help either, and nor does some of his phrasing. The long passages quoted from Hector Bolitho suffer from the latter’s somewhat verbose and, to modern eyes, pretentious and pompous style.
[AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=”1783831979″]The chapter structure is odd. Some deal with a specific aspect of operations, such as air sea rescue or surface attack. Others with specific campaigns. Within a chapter, sometimes within a paragraph, the narrative can switch from the North Sea to the Bay of Biscay with little pause. Snippets of context on the wider progress of the war appear seemingly randomly. Similarly he adds personal details of aircrew and U-Boat commanders midway through the description of a low level attack, which destroys the rhythm of the narrative.
What saves the book from the waste paper bin is the actual story and the recollections of the aircrew, for whom flying into a barrage of anti-aircraft fire while having to remain on a fixed course to release their weapons was routine. The perils were exacerbated by operating at such low level that a sharp turn could put a wingtip into the sea causing an immediate, fatal crash. Theirs is a great story that deserves a far better account than this idle book provides (the author couldn’t even be bothered to provide a map).
One out of Five (and that’s for the aircrew).