chapter  5
29 Pages

Survival Against All Odds: The Anti-Shipping Campaign in 1941

I n M iD -1941, just as the anti-shipping squadrons were ‘finding their feet’ , a large proportion of their personnel and aircraft resources was hastily withdrawn from operations and despatched to the Mediterranean in an effort to cut Rommel’s seaborne supply lines. Difficulties being experienced in the aircraft industry, both with regard to shortages of materials and limited testing facilities, also meant that the restocking and re-equipping of home squadrons was extremely slow, and this situation was exacerbated by the low priority accorded anti-shipping work in north-west European waters. Not until the New Year did the anti-shipping campaign gain in stature. Serious investment in the strike squadrons did not occur until after the ‘Channel Dash’ incident of February 1942. By this time, aircrews had to a large extent ‘re-invented the wheel’ by learning, very painfully, most of the lessons which had emerged years earlier during the operations of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Fleet Air Arm. The year of 1941 marked the wartime nadir for Coastal Command’s fortunes, but the seeds of victory were being planted.