fighters

Oct

14

1942

Spitfire Ace shot down over Malta

14th October 1942: Spitfire Ace shot down over Malta

Just as I shot Willie’s pal down, another Me nailed me from behind. He got me right in the belly of the Spit. A chunk of cannon shell smashed into my right heel. Another went between my left arm and body, nicking me in the elbow and ribs. Shrapnel spattered into my left leg. The controls were blasted to bits. The throttle was jammed wide open and there I was in a full-power spin, on my way down from somewhere around 18,000 feet.

Jul

27

1942

Canadian Spitfire Ace scores four over Malta


27th July 1942: Canadian Spitfire Ace scores four over Malta

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.

Jun

17

1942

The strain of constant battle readiness on Malta

What really worries me is the way my body’s in open revolt. For weeks past I’ve fought the increasing Dog pain, and, in the last few days, its utter lifelessness; but this morning I’ve been vomiting without success in the ruins of a stone house behind my Spitfire, vomiting into my oxygen mask while flying over the harbour, and repeatedly leaving this tent after coming down on the ground again.

Jun

8

1942

Malta – ‘you never have time to be scared’

8th June 1942: Malta – ‘you never have time to be scared’

Bombs were liable to come whistling around your ears any minute. If you looked up you’d see Spits and Me’s split-assing all over the sky and every once in a while some poor devil who hadn’t kept his tail clean would come spinning down in flames.

Flak went up in flowerbeds and parachutes came drifting down. From the ground the constant din of ack-ack batteries . . . Up high the clatter of machine-gun and cannon bursts and the roar of full-engined Spitfires, Me’s and Macchis diving … Erks scurrying about the drome, patching bomb craters… Engineers detonating time bombs …. Rescue launches rushing to sea to pick up floating parachutists …

The Maltese population trying to carry on the day’s chores between headlong dives for the shelter and protection of walls, cracked-up houses, or wrinkles in the rocks … Cats and dogs fighting in the streets in keeping with the tempo of the place … Never a dull moment, day or night.

That was Malta in the blitzes. Before you had been there a day you got the idea Jerry had decided to either sink the damned island or blow it away – and you weren’t far wrong.!

May

4

1942

American fighters take on Japanese over China

4th May 1942: American fighters take on Japanese over China

The Japs had laid this attack on a little differently They knew our situation from the two reconnaissance flights that preceded the bombers. They decided to forgo the fighters as bomber escorts and hold them off and away from the field with the hope of catching all of us when we returned – low on ammunition and gas.

Apr

20

1942

Spitfires for Malta are flown off USS Wasp

20th April 1942: Spitfires for Malta are flown off USS Wasp

The deck ofiicer began rotating his chequered flag and I pushed forward my throttle until I had maximum rpm. His flag then fell and I released the brakes and I pushed the throttle to emergency override to get the last ounce of power out of my Merlin. The Spitfire picked up speed rapidly in its headlong charge down the deck but not rapidly enough. The ship’s bows got closer and closer and still I had insufficient airspeed …

Apr

13

1942

Preparing to sail to Malta

13th April 1942: Preparing to sail to Malta

It is impossible to cross the deck without ducking under wings and tails, all tucked into one another. The Spitiires’ wheels are steadied by wooden blocks, their wing tips lashed to the deck by ropes and cables, but more Spitfires are suspended from the roof girders, slung there by canvas loops – they sway gently as our carrier rolls. Staring at these planes I coulld not help wondering how many of them and, indeed, how many of our pilots will be left in a week’s time.

Apr

10

1942

A fighter sweep across the Channel

10th April 1942: A fighter sweep across the Channel to provoke ‘the Boche’

Twelve of us took off three at a time; we gained altitude slowly, here and there picking up other squadrons, punctual at the meeting points, progressively coming in to join us, taking up position on either side, above and below so that we formed the point of an enormous arrow of about 250 fighters. All 2 Group had sent their squadrons – Northolt, Hornchurch, Kenley, Hawkinge, the Poles, the Czechs, the famous American Eagle Squadron, etc.

Mar

27

1942

Fighters clash over the Desert

27th March 1942: Fighters clash over the Desert

The enemy escort drew off some of our fighters, but other Hurricanes which had by now climbed to a dizzy height, dived like thunderbolts on the Stukas quickly followed by the top-cover Messerschmitt escort who were still higher. The first Hurricane to dive came streaking down the coast followed by a Messerschmitt, firing its cannons in furious bursts, peppering the air with black smoke puffs.

Jan

28

1942

RAF ace Stanford Tuck shot down over France

28th January 1942: RAF ace Stanford Tuck shot down over France during ‘Rhubarb raid’

RAF Fighter Command continued with a policy of taking the fight to the enemy with a series of ‘sweeps’ over northern Europe known as ‘Rhubarb raids’. This was designed to force the Luftwaffe to maintain a significant number of aircraft in the west, helping to relieve the pressure on Russia. The military value of attacking ground targets in France and the Low countries was limited and it proved to be costly in terms of aircraft and pilots. Many experienced pilots, veterans of the Battle of Britain, were lost in this way.