To Force the Enemy off the Sea

... from Helion & Co

Title: To Force the Enemy off the Sea
Author: John Vimpany & David Boyd
Publisher: Helion & Co
ISBN: 978-1-80451-085-8

A new 141-page soft-cover book with 'The Story of the RAF's North Coates Strike Wing', from Helion & Co. It tells the story of the Beaufighter equipped Strike Wing, with 236, 254 and 143 squadrons of Coastal Command, who were tasked with stopping the German shipment of iron ore from Sweden down to the industrial region of the Ruhr.
In the initial stages of the war Coastal Command used aircraft such as the Hudson and the Beaufort but resources were stretched and there were other priorities which took precedence over the coastal convoys but by 1943 the new, more powerful Beaufighter became available, along with new tactics for them to use. Of the 3 squadrons, it explains how 2 operated the powerful Beaufighter, while one used the Torbeau, which carried the torpedoes to attack the ships. The attack tactics are neatly and clearly explained, with diagrams, as are the German convoy arrangements, which had well armed flak ships to accompany them, and operating near the European coastline, were in easy range for fighters which could come to their aid. The Beaufighters carried out the attack but also relied on RAF fighter escorts to defend them against any Luftwaffe fighter attacks. There were many successes and some failures, notably the Channel Dash and the unfortunate chase of the cruiser Nurnburg. Despite times when the operations of the wing were questioned, it did continue to operate successfully through to the end of the war. As well as details of many of their operations, there are chapters looking at the Operational Life of North Coates Camp, details of the men who led the various squadrons within the wing, and a closing section that considers the Balance Sheet of the Wing over the period of 1943-45. The Wing was closed once the war came to a close, and a Post-Script does look at how the airfield was later used to house Bloodhound SAM units until it was finally closed and the land sold-off. A flying club remains on the site, remembering the history of North Coates.
Plenty of illustrations throughout the book, with diagrams showing convoy arrangements, attack tactics and lots of archive images. With a lot of personal accounts and memories, it is helped not only with the official records, but also the personal notes of Dick Vimpany, father of one of the authors, John Vimpany, who served in the Strike Wing during the war, so some very personal connections within the story. An interesting read of a specialist unit within Coastal Command, and how priorities and capabilities changed over the course of the war. There is additional support data provided in the 4 appendices at the end of the book.
Thanks to Helion Books for our review copy.

Robin