Liberators Over the Atlantic...

... from Fonthill Media

Title: Liberators Over the Atlantic
Author: Jack Colman and Richard Colman

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-650-4


As well as being known for its' role as a bomber as part of the 8th Air Force daylight raids over Europe along with the B-17, the B-24 was also used by the RAF for their long range ocean patrols, protecting convoys and hunting U-Boats.  This is a remarkable account from Jack Colman, one of those pilots who flew those long missions over the Atlantic.  Introduced to us by his son Richard, this is an account he wrote much later in life so that his family would know his story.  His son mentions that he wishes he had been more interested in his father's story while he was still alive, and only discovered it after his father had passed away, in 1994.

This account tells the story of his pre-war life, leaving school and getting a job with an insurance company, while having a real desire to fly after having an air experience flight when he was young.  He was unsuccessful in his first application to join the Auxiliary Air Force but stilled had hope for the new Volunteer Reserve.  He tells us about his basic training and then his journey to flying training in Canada. This is notable for what was clearly a very welcome reception by local civilians who made these young British servicemen feel welcome when so far from home.  Plenty of practice and getting qualified on the Hudson while also learning of the death of his father in a Luftwaffe raid on York while he was away. With training complete, so came the time for his first transatlantic flight, which was also an opportunity to ferry a Hudson from the USA to the UK.  A stint with Ferry Command led to his learning to fly the bigger 4-engined Liberator, where he includes a detailed description of the starting procedure.  Then a posting to an operational Liberator squadron of Coastal Command, based in Northern Ireland then largely on detachment based in Iceland.  He provides an absolutely fascinating and detailed account of his life during this period.  Not only concern for his new wife Peggy, back home in England, but the conditions on the base, the many and varied problems encountered due to the often extreme weather conditions, mechanical failures and the human relationships within a crew.  These VLR (Very Long Range) Liberators provided cover for convoys on the North Atlantic and the Arctic routes.  Long flights, often 14 hours or more, and how they coped with the long hours and keeping focussed on hunting U-boats, including the rush of adrenalin of undertaking an attack on a submerging U-boat or two.  At the end it comes with a posting away to new duties in 1942, but that is a subject beyond the scope of this book. 

While I have read many books on the subject of both Convoys and U-boats, this is the first I have read on the work of these Coastal Command crews who helped close the gap in the coverage of the North Atlantic route that helped win the Battle of the Atlantic.  Definitely one to recommend.

Thanks to Fonthill Media for our review copy.