Eyes of the Night (ePub)
The Air Defence of North-Western England 1940-1941
In the early years of World War II two of Britain's most important industrial cities, Liverpool and Manchester were woefully unprotected from enemy bombing raids. Once the capitulation of France had occurred after Dunkirk, the Luftwaffe was able to base its vast bomber fleet at forward airfields that brought these strategic targets within their range. The effect was catastrophic and the two cities and surrounding industrial centres bore the brunt of the Nazi airborne blitz. It was clear that more anti-aircraft guns and fighter aircraft were desperately required to stop the slaughter of the population and vital industries. Thus was conceived 9 Group of the Royal Air Force, charged with the air defence of the entire region. This book relates how the Group was formed and the immense difficulties involved, mainly because of the shortage of suitable aircraft, guns and operational infrastructure. The battle in the air was fought mostly at night during a period when night-fighter tactics were in their infancy and aircrew were flying over an area of difficult mountainous terrain and in appalling meteorological conditions. The Allied casualty rate was high, not so much as a result of enemy fire, but because of navigational difficulties encountered by young inexperienced pilots and aircrew. Many a mountain bears the scars of a lost aircraft searching for its home airfield in zero visibility. Eventually things improved and the Squadrons within 9 Group started to bring down significant numbers of raiding bombers whether they approached from the East or took advantage of neutral Ireland's street lights to guide them via the Irish Sea to their intended targets.