Coastal Dawn: Blenheims in Action from the Phoney War through the Battle of Britain

Coastal Dawn: Blenheims in Action from the Phoney War through the Battle of Britain

by Andrew Bird


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Coastal Dawn: Blenheims in Action from the Phoney War through the Battle of Britain by Andrew Bird

In 1940, the defense of Great Britain rested with a handful of volunteer aircrew, Churchill’s ‘few’. Overshadowed in later folklore by the more famous Spitfire and Hurricane pilots, there were other pilots, observers and air gunners – just as courageous – flying the Bristol Blenheim MKIV-F. The future of the country and arguably that of the free world depended also on their skill, morale and sacrifice.

Remarkably little has been chronicled of these men and their aircraft – the trade protection squadrons formed by Hugh Dowding – allotted to 11 Group in October 1939. The aircraft’s range and endurance made it suitable for defense of coastal shipping against attack on the southern and eastern shores of Britain, and for operations further afield. Indeed during bitter fighting casualties among 235, 236, 248 and 254 Squadron Blenheims were high on operations over Norway, Holland, France, Dunkirk and then the Battle of Britain where the Blenheims were completely outclassed by Messerschmitt 109 and 110 fighters and fell easy victims, scythed from the sky. But the record of the aircraft and their crew was an immensely proud one.

Drawing on contemporary diaries, periodicals, letters, logbooks, memoirs and interviews with survivors, lauded historian Andy Bird reassesses the vital role they played and repositions it in history. In doing so, he justifiably embraces the heroes we have left behind.


Replete with examples of exceptional bravery and resourcefulness, these naturally dominate coverage. And tragedies also understandably abound – like the fratricidal incident between Blenheims L9456 and L9392 and two French Potez 631s. Personalities figure prominently, too. Characters include, for instance, Flying Officer Reginald Peacock – “in the annals of Royal Air Force Coastal Command the first and only pilot effort to ever achieve ace status in a Bristol Blenheim Mark IV fighter”. Some of the book’s fliers even participated in “The Great Escape”. And here and there, WAAFs appear – “to take ones [sic: one’s] thoughts away from aerial warfare”...I really enjoyed this informative, entertaining effort. Dozens of photos, three appendices, a selected bibliography and an index augment the account. How about those Bristol Aeroplane Company drawings of ventral Blenheim 0.303 Browning gun packs?
So grab some fried bread. Curl up with a hot mug of Horlicks. And follow the brave Blenheim fighter crews of RAF Coastal Command during Britain’s darkest days. The Aldis lamp is green! (Translation: “recommended”!)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781906502690
Publisher: Grub Street
Publication date: 07/19/2013
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.75(w) x 8.25(h) x 9.25(d)

About the Author

Andrew Bird is a historian of the Second World War, as well as a writer and broadcaster.

He has written two military aviation history books on RAF Coastal Command: A Separate Little War (Grub Street) HB 2003, 2005, PB 2008 Kindle 2012, and Coastal Dawn (Grub Street) HB 2012. Andrew's new style of writing for Coastal Dawn was a hit with readers going straight into the No 3 Spot of the Amazon top ten-bestseller list for the Battle of Britain.

Andrew has also taken part in historical documentaries: 2012 he was a consultant and contributor for War Heroes In My Family (Series 1) on Channel 5, made by 360 Productions. Acting as a consultant on BBC Who Do You Think You Are (Series 10) for Wall-to-Wall Media, which was transmitted in July 2013.

He is a full-time creative graphic designer, and has worked for an eclectic mix of people: Sir Julian Rose - Harwick Estates Organic's, George Harrison, Robert Hardy, Vince Hill and Rachel Goswell (of Slowdive, Mojave 3) to Reading Outreach Programme, HHR, Leander Club, The Guardian Media Group and Waitrose (part of the John Lewis Partnership).

Andrew was drawn by internationally acclaimed artist Dryden Goodwin for his 'Open' exhibition.

He is a member of the Society of Authors, and lives in Berkshire - in Elizabeth Taylors (the writer) former house.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements 6

Introduction 8

Chapter 1 God Be With You Till We Meet Again 11

Chapter 2 Bitter Springs 21

Chapter 3 Norfolk Rhapsody 51

Chapter 4 Prelude and Fugue 61

Chapter 5 Sea Pictures 91

Chapter 6 A Pastoral Symphony 112

Chapter 7 The Wind at Dawn 126

Chapter 8 Household Music 165

Chapter 9 Fringes of the Fleet 196

Appendix I Confirmed claims by Coastal Command Blenheim Fighter Squadrons in 1940 212

Appendix II Variations of the Bristol Blenheim Fighter 214

Appendix III Known production figures in Great Britain of the Bristol Blenheim Mk Is and Mk TVs 217

Bibliography 220

Index 222

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