830 Squadron - ‘In Via Gloriae’  2



1. See Dad's First Action - 22 July 1941

Poolman dates Dad's arrival in Malta as 22 July. But Dad's first appraisal (see Documents) from CO Frankie Howie covers a three-month period from 6 July, which chimes with his recollection of starting end June/early July. So there may be confusion on dating.

Dad had been a week in a submarine, then straight to the dentist for his wisdom tooth, then an air test of his new plane, and into action with the instruction - stick to Bibby like a leach. Not so easy, as it turned out, on his first mission. Edgar Bibby had arrived in Malta in early June 1941 with Osborn, Pain, Davies and others from 829 Squadron.

A reconnaissance Maryland of 69 Squadron sighted the enemy convoy heading for Tripoli. Four Blenheims attacked at 7pm, while it was still light. At 9pm, five Swordfish led by Howie arrived over the target. They aimed their torpedoes at the 7000-ton motor tanker Brarena, which had been hit by the Blenheims and was under tow by the destroyer Fusiliere. The tanker was destroyed and the destroyer possibly hit.

2. See Dad's Attack on Augusta - 13 August 1941

Charles Lamb ('War in a Stringbag') led the dive-bombing sortie on the submarine base at Augusta. Dad was in the second sub-flight of three Swordfish with Bibby and Coxon, which attacked at midnight. His aircraft was hit by flak and the bombs would not release until his third dive at the target. Director of Naval Operations was unimpressed: "These operations seem more properly the function of RAF aircraft and must tend to reduce 830's striking power for torpedo attacks and mine-laying, which is their job".

Cedric Coxon was one of six pilots who had flown in from Ark Royal on 25 July with replacement planes and crew. The group, led by Bill Garthwaite, were all volunteers, despite hearing that life expectancy for aircrew on Malta was only six weeks.

3. 14 August 1941 (not in Dad's account)

The next night, nine Swordfish left Hal Far for a torpedo attack on a convoy of five merchant ships. There was no moon and poor visibility when Garthwaite's ASV Swordfish located the target around 9pm. By 9.30 Dad had left in the first flight of three planes with Osborn and Whitworth, which attacked at 11pm. His contact torpedo struck a 3000-ton ship, and his crew saw smoke rising but no explosion. At the end of the night, two merchant vessels and one destroyer were reported probably sunk, and one ship damaged.

4. See Dad's Attack on Ship - 16 August 1941

Five Swordfish led by Coxon raided Catania harbour, where a large ship was unloading supplies. The plan was for Coxon and Lamb in the first two Swordfish to fly ahead and cause maximum alarm, while the others left Malta at staggered intervals between 10.30 and 11.30 pm. The Swordfish carried two 500-lb bombs and eight 25-lb incendiaries each, instead of their 1600-lb torpedo. Dad was last to arrive and, as he describes, the plan succeeded in its aim of surprise.

5. See Dad's Attack on Convoy - 6 September 1941

A Maryland on reconnaissance from Malta's Luqa airfield found a convoy of three merchant ships escorted by four destroyers. Six Swordfish left Hal Far at 8pm and began their attack two hours later. Dad was in the second wave led by Bibby, and attacked a 6500-ton tanker along with Lt Aldridge. They stopped the tanker in the water, but later it was seen steaming very slowly under smoke from its escorting destroyers. Coxon made his first sinking on one of the merchant ships.

6. 8 September 1941 (not in Dad's account)

Dad joined Bibby, Osborn and Thorpe in an extensive 'rat hunt' for a 4000-ton tanker reported off Augusta, but, if it was there, they could not find it.

7. See Dad's Attack on Convoy - 12 September 1941

A convoy of six merchant ships and six destroyers were reported between Pantellaria and Lampedusa on 11 September. Coxon and Robertson took an ASV radar Swordfish to find it, and around 10pm the strike force of five Swordfish left Hal Far. Visibility was terrible but they attacked at midnight, leaving one ship probably sunk and two damaged. Blenheims finished off one of the damaged ships at dawn, with the loss of three aircraft to enemy fire. Meanwhile fitters, riggers and armourers repaired the damaged Swordfish, which set off again at 8pm on the 12th for the convoy.


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