Book Review
Enemy Coast Ahead
Enemy Coast Ahead - The Illustrated Memoir of Dambuster Guy Gibson
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by: Fay Baker [ AWESOME_ODP ]


I am sure that most people have seen the film Dam busters, but have you ever wondered what it took to train the men to carry out such a task? This book is the memoir of the leader of the raid Wing Commander Guy Gibson, and gives a unique insight into the fascinating story of the challenges he faced as a pilot during World War II up until his untimely death in September 1944.

The following is taken from the Pen and Sword website:
Prior to World War Two, Wing Commander Guy Gibson joined the Royal Air Force. In 1944, he wrote down his experience of serving in the RAF. Aged just 25, Gibson had completed two full tours, each of 30 operations, with Bomber Command, and had led the now-famous Dam Busters raid against the dams of the Ruhr Valley in May 1943. He died aged 26 in 1944, when his Mosquito crashed near Steenbergen in the Netherlands.

Gibson’s story is an incredible one. He struggled daily to work the Handley Page Hampden, and then the Avro Manchester, flying both into enemy airspace with great difficulty. He goes into detail on this, describing the troubles facing him, and how he managed to overcome them. He also addresses the rapid professionalization of the Bomber Command. At the start of the war, they seemed ill-equipped and unprepared to confront Germany, but they grew in confidence and stature, to represent one of the defining units of the Second World War. Gibson recounts this change.


This soft back book is published by Greenhill Books care of Pen and Sword publishing, containing 435 pages, with a black and white photographic section with over 100 photographs. With a forward by James Holland and introduction by Marshall of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur Harris GCB, OBE,AFC, this book retails at £9.99. First published in 1946, two years after the death of WC Gibson and has been published at various times since then.

Guy was terrified every time he set foot in the cockpit of a plane, but despite this admission he flew more combat missions than most (73 rather than the 50). Having flown this many missions he could have sat out the remainder of the war, but he was compelled to carry on. Gibson was a man with a troubled childhood, a distant Father and a Mother with a personality disorder. He overcame the disappointment of being turned down on his first attempt of joining the RAF due to medical grounds and with a determination that he would be recognised for, tried again and was successful.

The contents are as follows:
Forward by James Holland
Introduction by Arthur Harris
Forward and Dedication by Guy Gibson
Chapter 1 Flight Out
Chapter 2 Peace and War
Chapter 3 Learn by Mistakes
Chapter 4 The Fun Begins
Chapter 5 Balloon Cables and Bottles
Chapter 6 Maximum Effort
Chapter 7 Sustained Effort
Chapter 8 Battle of the Barges
Chapter 9 Interlude
Chapter 10 29 Fighter Squadron
Chapter 11 Dusk Readiness
Chapter 12 Find the Hun
Chapter 13 The Heavy Brigade
Chapter 14 Turning the Tide
Chapter 15 The Shape of Things
Chapter 16 Squadron X
Chapter 17 By Trial and Error
Chapter 18 Some Were Unlucky
Appendix I: Lasting Images - Operation Chastise
Appendix II: Roll of Honour

This book gives a unique insight into a man who was all professional in front of his men, but fragile and scared underneath. After completing 72 ‘trips’ he said goodbye to his squadron, but was asked to go on one more, this was the Dams Raid and the rest as they say is history.


I enjoyed this book, as it gives an insight into a man who was not super human, but just a man in an unimaginable time of war and uncertainty. Written by the man himself this is a no nonsense memoir that gives a glimpse of men who did their duty, under the command of a man who was driven to do his best to ‘get the job done’. A good addition to any book collection and one that can be read on the train or beach due to its size..
Fay Baker has a read of 'Enemy Coast Ahead - The Illustrated Memoir of Dambuster Guy Gibson' a reprint offering from Pen and Sword that will make for some interesting reading.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781784384906
  Suggested Retail: £9.99
  PUBLISHED: Nov 28, 2019
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

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About Fay Baker (Awesome_ODP)

Copyright ©2021 text by Fay Baker [ AWESOME_ODP ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


James Holland's own book "The Dambusters" published in 2012 if memory serves is an excellent read.
NOV 28, 2019 - 03:14 PM