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.!




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.




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 …




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.




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.




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.




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.




RAF cover British retreat in the desert

26th January 1942: RAF cover British retreat in the desert after Rommel’s latest attack

A particularly successful attack was made on the 26th, when our fighters, in spite of severe sand-storms, continuously machine-gunned M.T. and tanks moving between Antelat, Saunnu, Msus and Charruba. At least 120 vehicles were destroyed or damaged and many enemy troops were killed or wounded. Our bombers had already helped to disorganise enemy movement towards Msus by dropping 40 tons of bombs in continuous attacks throughout the previous night.




Five Stuka’s shot down in one sortie

At 300 yards I opened fire with all my guns at the leader of one of the rear sections of three, allowing too little deflection, and hit No. 2 and No. 3, one of which burst into flames immediately, the other going down smoking and went into flames after losing about 1000 feet. I then attacked the leader of the rear section…from below and behind, opening fire with all guns at very close range.




Escape from occupied Europe

I turned, leading my three comrades. I was surprised to see men on board it. There were five of them, all on their feet, at the risk of upsetting the frail skiff waving everything they had, handkerchieves, coats, etc. One whom I saw distinctly was wearing a mackintosh and waving a soft hat as high as he could.