830 Squadron  -  ‘In Via Gloriae’



Kenneth Poolman brings the memories of my father and others into his book 'Night Strike From Malta', which tells the story of 830 Squadron. This graphic account is my source for the wider picture of Dad's 'Action' on the next two pages. I am also grateful to Tony Spooner's book 'Supreme Gallantry - Malta's Role in the Allied Victory 1939-1940', which is the main source for my 'Appraisal' below.

Poolman served in the Fleet Air Arm and seaman branches of the Royal Navy, before taking a degree in English at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Spooner led the radar-equipped Wellington 'Special Duties Flight' which guided the Swordfish to their targets. He was also in the Wellington which alerted 830 Squadron to its target on 11 November 1941, when four planes were forced to ditch off Sicily and Dad became a prisoner of war.

Thanks to Mr BJ Pullen for the 830 Squadron badge © Crown Copyright is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office.


It was "More by chance than design," writes Tony Spooner, that "on 19 June [1940] a dozen Swordfish aircraft flew into the small FAA airfield at Hal Far." Just a few days before, they had been a training squadron for new pilots, based off the French Riviera. Then France surrendered; Italy declared war; and 767 Training Squadron needed a new home. The Swordfish pilots ready for operations flew off first to French Tunisia and then to Malta - the only destination within their limited range. They arrived at Hal Far in the middle of an air raid, managing to land on a runway blocked with old cars and other obstacles to deter invaders. Changing their name to 830 Squadron, they gave Malta its first official strike-planes.

On June 30 1940, the squadron began offensive operations with a dive-bombing attack on oil-storage tanks at the Sicilian port of Augusta (lack of oil kept the Italian Navy in port after mid-1942). From July 1941, their attacks on convoys were greatly assisted by the code-breakers of Bletchley Park, and the arrival of ASV radar. From May to November 1941, the Swordfish of 830 Squadron sunk more than 100,000 tons of enemy shipping and damaged a further 130,000 tons. And November 1941, for a variety of reasons, became a high watermark of Malta-based forces destruction of Axis shipping. Sir Archibald Sinclair, the Minister for Air, appreciated the trend two months earlier in his message to AOC Malta:

"[We have noted] the audacious attacks by the Beaufighters on enemy air bases, the steady and deadly slogging of the Wellingtons at the enemy ports, the daring and dextrous reconnaissances of the Marylands, culminating in the tremendous onslaughts of the Blenheims and Fleet Air Arm Swordfish on Axis shipping in the Mediterranean. You are draining the enemy's strength in the Med."

Then the pendulum swung back for a while. Rommel was trying to drive the allies out of North Africa and threaten our oil supplies in the Middle East. But with his own supplies cut by the Malta-based forces, he appealed to Hitler for help.

So in late 1941, Field Marshal Kesselring was withdrawn from the Eastern Front with Fliegerkorps II to bomb Malta out of business; half the U-boat fleet cutting supplies to Britain in the Battle of the Atlantic were reassigned to the Mediterranean and cutting supplies to Malta; and 100,000 troops were diverted for an invasion of Malta (which never took place).

The island earned its George Cross.

Rommel wished it had been invaded instead of Greece in 1941; and Montgomery acknowledged the battle of El Alamein could not have taken place if Malta had fallen. More Germans surrendered after their defeat in North Africa than after Stalingrad in January 1943. The invasion of Italy followed, which led to the overthrow of Mussolini, and Italy's switch to the allies in September 1943.


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