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RAF Coastal Command

Discussion in 'Allied Aviation Of WWII' started by brianw, Jul 23, 2013.

  1. brianw

    brianw Member

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    Following the adoption of the “Command” system in the RAF in 1937; the various “Areas” became commands, Fighter Command, Bomber Command and the Coastal Area became Coastal Command each with their own command structure eventually answering to the Air Ministry.

    While Fighter and Bomber Commands had clearly defined duties and objectives at the beginning of the war, Coastal Command had no clearly defined role, other than being a ground based maritime air defence unit. The Fleet Air Arm was the seaborne wing of the Royal Navy and in the early days there was, to say the least some animosity between the RAF and the Navy over the allocation of resources.

    Coastal Command’s remit grew with time, and by about 1942 had become a contributing force along with the naval escorts in the war against the U-Boat threat in the North Atlantic. By 1943 Coastal Command had taken delivery of some long range heavy type aircraft which enabled them to spend more time on patrol and armed with air-dropped depth charges and other weapons were able to detect and attack submarines independently, without naval assistance on the surface.

    Coastal Command also undertook some of the hazardous “Gardening” operations, the codename for airborne minelaying, as well as flying many regular meteorological reporting flights out over the Atlantic; then the only way of gathering the up-to-date information necessary for accurate weather forecasting.

    Early aircraft types operated by Coastal Command include:

    The Avro Anson.
    A small twin engine aircraft of limited range which were eventually withdrawn and re-allocated to a training role. The Anson was also used for rescue operations, dropping the MkI airborne sailing lifeboat to downed crews.

    The Lockheed Hudson.
    Another twin engine aircraft of American design. Still of limited range and capability.

    The Armstrong Whitworth Whitley.
    Yet another twin engine aircraft of limited capability.

    Until the time when the Blenheim, Beaufort and Beaufighter, in both bomber and torpedo bomber roles came along, Coastal Command were very much the poor relation to the Navy and RAF Bomber Command.

    Aircraft “seconded” from Bomber Command include:

    The Vickers Wellington, twin engine bomber. A great improvement on the earlier types.

    The Handley Page Halifax.
    Primarily the MkII which had been found a little less than suitable for Bomber Command duties. The Halifax flew many of the gardening and met sorties.

    The B24 Liberator.
    Deemed to be unsuitable for RAF Bomber Command duties, the Liberator was eminently suitable for Coastal Command service. With its very much increased range and superior weapon carrying capability, the Liberator came as a severe shock to the U-Boat crews especially in the “Black Gap” between Iceland and the Western Approaches where up until their introduction, no air cover was possible.

    Flying boats of Coastal Command.

    The American Consolidated PBY, known as the Catalina in Britain. With a reasonable range and able to carry depth charges on rails slung under the wings. A strange looking bird, the Catalina had a very high wing with two engines mounted on it and two very large blister type domes on the fuselage towards the tail. These blisters allowed the crew to look vertically downwards without having to roll the aircraft and they also opened up to allow personnel to be brought on board from the sea quite easily when the Catalina was used in the Air-Sea Rescue role. The Catalina was one aircraft with a truly amphibious capability; with its flying boat hull and retractable wingtip mounted stabiliser floats it could operate from water but it also had a fully retractable set of under-carriage wheels allowing it to operate from ground bases airfields.

    The Short Sunderland.
    A mighty and iconic flying boat with four engines, an enormous operating range and a cavernous hull. The Sunderland was well able to look after itself with four machine guns in the nose and four in the tail turret along with gunner’s ports on either side of the fuselage. The Sunderland was operated until well after the end of the war; one of the Sunderlands then based in the far east from Singapore managed to reach HMS Amethyst marooned and under fire from Chinese Communist Forces during the Yangtze Incident in 1949.

    Other aircraft types operated by Coastal Command include:

    The Spitfire and Mosquito.
    The Spitfire was used mainly in the photo reconnaissance role; a Coastal Command Spitfire first photographed the Wurzburg radar array. The Mosquito was highly successful in the anti-submarine role with its nose mounted cannons and bombing capability. There were also some Lancasters which ultimately became the mainstay of Coastal Command; the Shackleton.

    During the war Coastal Command flew over 240,000 operations, sunk 212 U-boats and destroyed 478,000 tons of shipping. 1,777 aircraft were lost, with 10,875 personnel killed in action.

    Air Sea Rescue service.

    Although the Air Sea Rescue service was originally not actually a part of Coastal Command it was operated by the RAF in support of the Directorate of Air Sea Rescue Services which was merged into the Directorate, Aircraft Safety. Prior to the war there was no dedicated rescue service, downed aircrews relied on the RNLI or nearby merchant or fishing vessels.
    When the ASR was formed it used a number of odd aircraft, basically whatever they could “blag” from other duties, aircraft such as the Westland Lysander which was used for spotting and the Supermarine Walrus; a slow bi-plane seaplane with an outdated “pusher prop” engine configuration.

    From mid 1940, the ASR was using the 63 foot Type 2 High Speed Launch; the iconic RAF Air Sea Rescue launch. The three Napier Sea Lion 500hp engines gave it a top speed of 37 knots and a range of 500 miles. The Type 2 HSL was designed as a rescue boat with an on-board sick bay and a medical orderly as a member of the 9 man crew.

    In all, 10,663 persons were rescued by Coastal Command in ASR operations. Of this total, 5,721 were Allied aircrew, 277 enemy aircrew, and 4,665 non-aircrew.
     
  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Some great names from th ewar here Brian, all great in their own way ... Great post and thanks for sharing ... :thumb:
     
  3. m.i.l.f hunter

    m.i.l.f hunter New Member

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    Here are some pictures of my Dad with the Wellington crew in 1943 in Malta.He is on far right.He flew from Malta for nearly a year as shown in his air gunners log book.He was with 221 squadron coastal command.The operational sorties are underlined in red.Out of the fifty young men that were on his airgunners course in 1941 only two survived the war,my dad being one of them.
    When he left Malta to come back to the UK it was on a Dakota,he had to sit in the astro dome and keep a look out for enemy fighters as he was the only one on the plane with any gunnery experience.He said he was crapping it because the Dakota that had left the day before full of civvie's had been shot down over the Med.
    All the best ,Pat.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  4. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Thanks for the info Pat, 2 from 50 is very low odds, but i guess if the men were given these stats in their training they would have still gone a head and done their part .. :cry:
     

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