chapter  4
21 Pages

Lessons Relearned: The Early Anti-Shipping Campaign, 1940

O n t h e outbreak of war there was no immediate requirement for anti­ shipping operations, but Coastal Command was fully engaged in other roles which went some way towards giving some aircrews the type of experience they would need when attacks on enemy merchant vessels were eventually authorised in May 1940. However, the full extent of Coastal Command's unpreparedness for operations against surface vessels was not exposed until the anti-shipping campaign was under way, and then tactics, equipment and training were very quickly shown to be inadequate. The Command did not have the benefit even of good intelli­ gence. So, for the first phase of the campaign, at least until mid-1941, operations against the enemy's merchant marine were little more than 'needle in haystack' affairs, and when, mostly by chance, targets were found, serious damage was rarely inflicted. It was also a period in which anti-shipping effort was diverted to other operations, such as reconnaissance for naval forces involved in the Norwegian campaign and anti-invasion patrols in the Channel area.