RAF COASTAL COMMAND
CINDERELLA SERVICE HAD TO SCROUNGE FOR AIRCRAFT
The Vildebeest did not inspire confidence
Vickers Vildebeest Mk. IV at Martlesham Heath. (circa 1938)
(photo courtesy of IWM)
In the early months of World War Two, Coastal Command had “anti-shipping” operations as part of its remit. The agreed British-French air attack policy against the Germans was only to attack enemy military shipping. This precluded attacking German warships in harbour if merchant ships were present and might be damaged.
At that point, the only aircraft possessed by Coastal Command which could even attack German warships was the Vickers Vildebeest, a torpedo bomber which entered service in 1928. The restrictions against attacking German warships didn’t matter since Coastal COmmand had only two squadrons of Vildebeest aircraft.
They were slow: Maximum speed: 143 mph or 230 km/h
They had a short range: 1,250 miles or 2,010 km
They were fabric covered biplanes and of no use whatsoever.
Vildebeest Mk II of No. 100 Squadron RAF making a torpedo drop during target practice, circa 1936
The main task of Coastal Command was maritime patrol and reconnaissance of the seas surrounding Great Britain. This task included attacking U-Boats, protecting Channel convoys, protecting Atlantic convoys, and occasional search and rescue. It took time to build the command into an effective force to carry out its mission and to find the proper aircraft to use.