Not Peace But a Sword by W/C Patrick Gibbs DSO, DFC and Bar

Discussion in 'Books and Films' started by Antipodean Andy, Dec 30, 2007.

  1. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    I finally managed to read this book and am now looking forward to reading Gibbs' Torpedo Leader which is perhaps the better known of his books.

    The book was written during the author's journey from England to North Africa, via South Africa and the Suez Canal. It recounts his meandering school life where he realises his future of working for the family shipping company is not for him. A flight to Paris to learn French stirs something within him and he decides to join the RAF. Not a great student, he is admitted into the RAF college at Cranwell on his second attempt and after much hard work. He learns to fly, does well and graduates into an RAF that is expanding rapidly. Gibbs at first flies Hawker Harts, a biplane bomber, and laments the modernisation going on around him, feeling as though he's getting left behind. To compound this, but at the same time appealing to his sense of challenge, he is posted to learn catapult take-offs and deck landings in preparation to join the Fleet Air Arm. While not keen to leave the expanding RAF behind, Gibbs is subsequently taught floatplane flying and then graduates from the torpedo school before being assigned to a Swordfish squadron operating from an aircraft carrier. While finding the life at sea incredibly boring, as an RAF type, he sticks it out before being assigned as an instructor to the Torpedo Training Unit.

    The RAF's expansion continues but Gibbs again feels left behind as Coastal Command's modernisation often gets overlooked and torpedo work is overlooked within Coastal Command in favour of recce and anti-submarine tasks! Eventually, though, Beauforts arrive. By then, the instructors are very keen to transfer to operational squadrons and put their skills to test in combat. This duly happens to Gibbs and he eventually completes an action-packed tour interspersed with several crashes, torpedo hits and daring raids on French and Belgian ports.

    The writing style takes a bit to get used to as the book was written more than 60 years ago. However, the author is very descriptive and paints a worthy picture of everything from a lazy afternoon on a beach to a flak and searchlight-filled sky above a French harbour. He is in awe of some of his colleagues who were the true Beaufort pioneers (perhaps he hadn't realised that he was one too?) and conducted "Rovers" over the North Sea looking for enemy shipping. Some true characters' memories are honoured by inclusion in this book (Hearn-Phillips etc). Throughout the book, though, Gibbs is self-deprecating, modest and, above all, champing at the bit to rise to the challenge and bitterly disappointed when a sortie isn't successful (his frustration during his recuperation from a badly broken arm is palpable). However, it is clear he learns from his experiences and applies this knowledge particularly well.

    Not Peace But a Sword is a valuable read for an insight into the anti-shipping strikes carried out by the RAF early in World War II. Written by an eloquent, observant pilot, it is a classic of its genre.
  2. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    On its way soon mate.
  3. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Already got it! I think you're thinking of Nesbit's Torpedo Airmen? Thanks, mate, it'll be an interesting read for sure. I hope I can return the favour with something of equal interest!
  4. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    Ah yes sorry. Bought it ages ago and forgot which one it was. Still wrapped up in plastic to protect it.

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