Canadian Spitfire Ace scores four over Malta

Flight-Sergeant G F “Screwball” Beurling of No. 249 Squadron RAF, standing by a sandbag revetment at Ta Kali, Malta, with the rudder and unit emblem cut from a crash-landed Macchi MC.202 of the Regia Aeronautica, one of four enemy aircraft which he shot down over Gozo on 27 July 1942.

Malta continued to be the target of heavy bombing by the Luftwaffe and the Regia Aeronautica. The invasion of the island was no longer in prospect but it remained a crucial base at the crossroads of the Mediterranean. Daily raids were an exhausting business for pilots defending the airfields and port facilities that menaced Rommel’s supply lines. One man was in his element:

The 27th was my biggest day on Malta. At six A.M. Bryden, Willie, Georgia, Scarlet, Micky Butler, Hogarth, Hether, and I scrambled to intercept a fifty-plus attack from seven Ju 88s and their lighter escort.

We slammed up the hill to 25,000 feet where the fighters were covering the bombers. The Ju’s were just going to work on Takali when we came along and they plastered the joint, leaving the drome pocked with bomb craters.

I was the lucky lad who spotted the sweep and called into the RT: “Enemy aircraft at four o’clock, slightly below!” and led the gang in, with everybody hotfooting after me. I spotted four Machis running in line astern and took Number Four.

They saw me coming and pulled into a climbing turn to the right. As they did I came up on my man’s starboard quarter and let him have a burst. It was a straight deflection shot which went into his engine and radiator. He flicked into a spin, but managed to pull out and crash-landed on Gozo, able to walk away from the mess.

A second or so later I got Number Three exactly the same way. The poor devil simply blew to pieces in the air.

Just as I was about to turn my attention to Number Two I spotted a couple of Messerschmitts directly under me, so instead of pressing the attack on the Macchis, I half-rolled and shot down past the Me’s, pulling up sharply under their bellies.

I let the first guy have it full-out and caught him in the gas tank. Down he went. I still had time for a shot at his team~mate and blew pieces off his wings and tail. He flew off in a hurry, skidding all over the sky. What happened to him God knows.

It had been a pretty good party. Bryden shot down his second Schmitt and must have killed the pilot, for the ship dived straight into the sea from 20,000 feet. Willie the Kid picked off another with a pretty deflection shot. Hether damaged another. As we disentangled ourselves and started for home, Ops ordered us to keep the hell away from Takali, as the Ju’s had wrecked the place.

We dropped into Luqa instead and had scarcely refueled and re-filled our magazines before another scramble call came through and Hether, Willie, Bryden, and I were off to the races again.

This time four 88s came over, escorted by about twenty Messerschmitts and we came in for the second act. The Luqa and Halfar lads had gone up first and destroyed all four bombers before they even reached the Maltese coast.

As we climbed, the sky was white with parachuting Germans from the big jobs, the Me’s circling around to protect the riders from harm. We got above the Me’s at 17,000.

To start the doings Willie and Red went down through the Messerschmitts, five of which promptly jumped on Willie and shot his Spitter full of daylight. I horned in and followed the Me’s down. Three promptly went away from there, but two stayed to fight.

I started chasing one of them around in tight turns and we split-assed uphill and downdale until he went into a dive to get away. I went along, picked him up in the sights and put a one-second squirt into his glycol tank. He rolled over and went into the sea from 1,000 feet.

During this mix-up I had been on the second Me’s tail for a split-second, just long enough to give him a quick one. He streamed black, oily smoke from his engine and was last seen by Hether, running for cover. Whether he reached Sicily or not, I have no idea. He was counted Damaged.

See George F. Beurling: Malta Spitfire: The Diary of an Ace Fighter Pilot.

On 8 June 1942, Beurling had flown into Malta from HMS EAGLE and joined No. 249 Squadron RAF, with whom he became the top-scoring Allied fighter pilot on the island, achieving 26 victories between 12 June and 14 October 1942.

Ground crew refuelling a Supermarine Spitfire Mark VC(T) from a petrol tin at Ta Kali, Malta.

High oblique aerial view of Ta Kali airfield, Malta, taken at 5,000 feet from the south-east.

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