Review: The Cinderella Service

Living History

The Cinderella Service-RAF Coastal Command 1939-1945 by Andrew Hendrie.

Published by Pen & Sword 2006/10. ISBN 9781848842021

It’s with some shame that it has taken over 65yrs before a truly competent & detailed publication has appeared about the exploits of RAF Coastal Command. It’s more favoured kin of Fighter & Bomber Commands, have been almost exhaustively mined over the intervening decades, yet bar for the odd book here & there Coastal Commands efforts & history have been sidelined to a few sentences or notations. Hendrie’s book will remain the unofficial history of Coastal Command for many a year, and it will fly that flag with pride, for such is the quality of Hendrie’s work.

We see how Coastal Command grew from a motley collection of some 240 odd wholly unsuitable aircraft for the most part in 1939. To a large efficient machine of around 1000 modern aircraft, with many specialist features & missions to boot. The book is broken down into 9 chapters, with the first two covering aircraft types & weapons accordingly. We see how Coastal Command struggled to get the aircraft it required, especially in the face of determined opposition from Bomber Command and also to some extent Churchill himself. The early make do collection was gradually replaced by more usable types, able to perform the tasks asked of it. Weaponry, as in any war develops at a pace and that was no different here. The aerial depth charge being Coastal Commands prime weapon is discussed in some depth, along with torpedoes, rockets and guns. The author makes due note of the initiative shown by the men of 10 Sqn RAAF, who employed some 18 machine guns on some of there aircraft early in the war, before being reined in by the powers that be.

After these 2 opening chapters we get into the meat of the book, the operational aspect. This is neatly sub-divided into Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), covered in Chapters 3 & 4), with chapters 5 & 6 covering Anti-Shipping (Merchant) and Anti-Shipping (Naval). The ASW chapters covers the Air Gap in the Atlantic, the Bay of Biscay campaign, operations in the Meditterean Sea and finally the coastal campaigns along NW Europe/Norway in the latter yrs of the war. The Anti-Shipping chapters concentrates upon a more limited geographical area but equally as interesting and even more dangerous. We see the formation of Strike Wings that tore into Axis coastal shipping and the perilous task of attacking German surface vessels-off all sizes. Chapter 7 deals with the less glamorous and even less publicised areas of Air-Sea Rescue, Photo Recon and finally Meteorological services. All of these lesser facets helped square the circle of Coastal Commands place & voice during the war.

With the final 2 chapters covering a retrospective angle and a conclusion, we are left with a plethora of some 21 Appendices, which cover and detail out the various results & consequences from the previous chapters. These alone are worth the book price alone in my opinion. The book is fully referenced & noted, with some 59 B/W photographs & illustrations, plus 3 maps to help the narrative along.

If any official history is ever wrote about Coastal Command, then this book will be heavily referenced in it, its that good.

5 stars

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