As an Island nation, Britain would rely heavily on the contribution of long ranging maritime patrol aircraft during WWII, particularly the flying boats and brave crews of Coastal Command. Working alongside the mighty Short Sunderland, the American built Consolidated Catalina proved to be one of the most successful aircraft of its type, able to mount patrols which sometimes exceeded eighteen hours in duration and more than capable of destroying any enemy shipping they encountered along the way. During one such patrol on 17th July 1944, Catalina JV928, piloted by Scotsman John Cruickshank, was five hours into a mission west of the Lofoten Islands in the Norwegian Sea, when the crew obtained a radar signal from the sea below. Aware that the Royal Navy were reportedly in the area, the aircraft flew down for a closer look, only to be confronted by German U-boat U361 and its compliment of anti-aircraft guns. Immediately preparing to go on the offensive, Cruickshank executed a perfect attack run, only to see the depth charges to fail to release from the aircraft. Determined to press home their attack and with the weapon issue now resolved, the Catalina was brought in for a second run, this time into a hail of well aimed shells from the U-boat crew now fully aware of the aircrafts destructive intentions. Taking multiple hits to the front of the Catalina and inflicting significant injuries on crew members, the attack resulted in the depth charges deploying at exactly the right moment, straddling the U-boat and causing its destruction. John Cruickshank had suffered 72 wounds during the frenetic attack, but despite the pain and loss of blood, refused morphine so he could remain alert to help his inexperienced co-pilot land the aircraft following the five hour return flight. For his part in this action, John Cruickshank was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Although the Battle of Britain is regarded by most people to be the RAF’s most decisive victory of WWII, the constant str