Coastal Command of the RAF tended to be the poor relation when compared with Fighter Commmand and Bomber Command. It was lower down the scale of priorities when it came to new aircraft, receiving some that were regarded as obsolete for bombing. Yet its work was far from being any less hazardous. The scale of casualties sustained on some operations were remarkably high. Low level attacks on any ship with anti-aircraft defences was always a risky undertaking. Attacking a heavily armed warship was very much more so.
The Photographic Reconnaissance Unit had been keeping a close eye on the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen since [permalink id=17410 text=”HMS Trident had torpedoed her”] in March. When she was spotted moving south on the 16th May it rapidly became the task of Coastal Command to try to finish the job:
Coastal Command flew 517 sorties, of which 37 were on convoy escort. Shipping protection patrols by Fighter Command involved 791 sorties.
A total of 133 aircraft of Bomber Command and six aircraft of Coastal Command laid 306 sea mines. Eleven aircraft are missing.
Two forces wrere despatched to attack the Prinz Eugen, which had been sighted steaming to the Southward off the Norwegian coast.
The first force was unable to locate the cruiser, but part of the second force, which consisted of 52 aircraft, including 27 torpedo-carrying Beauforts, carried out an attack. Two possible hits with torpedoes are claimed. Considerable enemy fighter opposition was encountered and nine of our aircraft failed to return. Five enemy fighters were destroyed. The Prinz Eugen has since been identified by photographic reconnaissance as having arrived at Kiel.
A successful attack was carried out by Hudsons on two convoys off Texel and Terschelling respectively. Three ships (one of 4,500 and two of 2,500 tons) were hit and left burning and seven others of between 2,000 and 6,000 tons were hit. Of the 18 Hudsons despatched, five are missing.
Another Hudson made five hits on a 350 ft. camouflaged vessel near Molde. A large cloud of smoke was seen issuing from the bows.
Spitfires and Hurricane Bombers made a number of attacks on small craft, as a result of which a minesweeper, a barge and a launch were sunk and other vessels damaged. Enemy air activity off our coasts was again on a small scale, consisting mainly of shipping and weather reconnaissances. No attacks on our coastal shipping have been reported. Three aircraft were destroyed by our fighters and a further five were damaged.
From the Air Situation Report for the week as reported to the British War Cabinet, see TNA CAB 66/25/7