11 November 2011

Mudville Heights: Memoirs of the US Navy Anti-submarine Squadrons at RAF Dunkeswell, Devon During WW2

The Battle for the Atlantic proved to be one of the most important strategies of WW2. U-boats were sinking allied shipping at an alarming rate and with such appalling loss of life. In order to combat those losses RAF Coastal Command began to set up and operate a number of anti-submarine squadrons, and for once the tables began to turn on the German Navy.

Strikes on U-boats out in the North Atlantic and Bay of Biscay continued for nigh on 3 years, but despite the tables being turned, tons of merchant ships still fell prey to U-boats and the RAF seemed destined to battle on alone, then in 1943 the USAAF set up a land based anti-sub unit at St.Eval, Cornwall which was operated for several months with B-24 Liberators, before switching to a new airfield at Dunkeswell in Devon on 6th August.

Despite the success of the USAAF, Dunkeswell was destined for change once again when in September squadrons of the US Navy Fleet Air Wing Seven began to arrive, and would remain here until the end of WW2 flying the Navy version of the B-24 Liberator the PB4Y-1 .

On arrival it was soon realised that conditions on the base were far from adequate, with roads and paths around the living quarters just a sea of `mud` the men had to wear knee high boots just to trek across to the wash rooms, and it was those conditions combined with harsh winter elements that prompted someone to nick-name the base "Mudville Heights" and from then on, as one crew member put it "The name just kinda stuck!".

In this new book, the author tells the fascinating story of Dunkeswell as an airfield in WW2, with first hand accounts from the men who served there. Stories of a dedicated bunch of young Naval Aviators destined to fight it out with the dreaded U-boat menace above the icy depths of the North Atlantic & Bay of Biscay, flying their PB4Y-1 Liberators laden with high octane fuel and high explosives, through appalling weather and hostile conditions, enduring patrols of anything up to 16 hours in order to bring freedom to our nation.

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