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The Story of 217 Sqn Coastal Command 1939-1945.

Roy Nesbit's book takes us on a journey, through the 2nd World War, as seen from the perspective of a Pilot Officer (Air Observer.) He joined the RAF in 1940 as a prospective pilot and, with the rank of Leading Aircraftsman, he started his training. He takes us through the trials and tribulations of learning all that he could. His story is a detailed one accompanied by a host of diagrams and photographs that illustrate the life of a young trainee.

He was promoted to Pilot Officer in January 1941 and was posted to 217 Squadron, based at St Eval near Newquay in Cornwall. The Squadron badge shows a sharks head protruding from the sea, with the motto ‘Woe to the unwary’.

The book is very descriptive, a wander through his memories of the Squadrons day to day life. I had thought that all the detail might detract from the overall story, but found that I became engrossed in the way that he describes a Squadron at war. He tells of the beginnings of Coastal Command, its duties and the skills of the men who had to handle, sometimes difficult, aircraft of all kinds.

He drew me in with his descriptions of the area surrounding the airfield, the people, both Military and civilian. The history of that area of Cornwall; a trip to St Eval Parish church might be on the cards for me.

As I progressed through the book I felt a connection with the people that he served with. I became interested in their war. How they felt as they set off on such dangerous missions as attacking heavily defended French Ports such as St Nazaire, Lorient and La Pallice, bombing docks and laying magnetic mines in estuaries at the approaches to them. Their main aircraft being the Beaufort. It is the story of these dangerous operations, the loss of aircraft, and the men that flew them, that is the most memorable part of his narratives.

He takes us through to the period when 217 Squadron was sent to Malta, where they spent time attacking enemy shipping, then on to Ceylon where now flying Beaufighters they began to battle against the Japanese.

The accompanying photographs, well spread throughout the book, help to explain what Air Warfare was like during those dark years of WW2.

Roy Nesbit died in 2014 whilst this book was in production. It makes a fitting epitaph for one mans endeavour to serve his King and country in its hour of need.


I give this book 3 anchors.

A review by Granny.