chapter  6
38 Pages

The Mounting Offensive, 1942

F o r C o a s t a l Command’s anti-shipping campaign, 1942 started just as 1941 had ended: squadrons were poorly equipped and suffered from low morale. The Command as a whole was acutely embarrassed when it was held primarily responsible for the ‘Channel Dash’ incident, where the German warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen sailed from Brest to Germany virtually unmolested. In its defence, Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert claimed that the failure to meet this challenge was directly attributable to his Command’s lack of resources. In the long term, the incident was, in fact, instrumental in securing serious invest­ ment in anti-shipping equipment. But for most of the rest of the year, the situation continued to deteriorate at the operational level. The promised re-equipment programme dating from 1941 had virtually ground to a halt through a combination of technical, industrial and political factors, and a stepping-up of the campaign, in part a reaction to the successful break­ out from Brest of the German warships, resulted in mounting aircrew casualties. However, just as the ‘Channel Dash’ spurred the Air Ministry into considering more closely Coastal Command’s material requirements, so the prohibitive casualties among aircrews engaged in offensive opera­ tions led to the first major review of anti-shipping tactics since the start of the war. The result was the decision to adopt Strike Wing tactics.