Malta: June - November 1941


Dear Mr Poolman,

Thank you for your letter of the 23rd March 1979, including a list of some of the operations by 830 Squadron in which I took part. The list is by no means complete as it does not include "Rat Hunts'', ASV flights and all the mine laying trips. However as my memory is rather rusty, I will confine myself to the details you request as I can remember them.

I arrived in Malta in H.M.Submarine Cachalot, in late June or July. This can be easily checked as the "Cachalot" was sunk on the return journey. She had been in Malta about two weeks, before starting out on her return journey.

I reported straight to 830 Squadron at Halfar. I was welcomed, told that they were desperately short of pilots and that I would be flying that night. I asked to see a dentist, as I had an impacted wisdom tooth and could bearly open my mouth. This was arranged. My tooth was fixed and I was back in time to unpack, air test the aircraft I was to fly and attend the briefing. At the briefing we were told that the target was a tanker, which had been damaged by the RAF. It was on its way to Pantellaria and was escorted by a Destroyer, After the attack, the Squadron would form up above a "flame float" and return to Malta. We were told that Torpedoes were in very short supply and under no circumstances were we to attack anything but Merchant Shipping. Edgar Bibby, a very experienced V.R. pilot was to be my leader that night. I was told to stick to him like a leech and do everything he did.

We took off at dusk. I got tucked in behind Bibby, and as it got darker 1 had no trouble in distinguishing his little blue formating light against the stars. We continued on our way for over an hour and then started to lose height. I could see nothing, but then I was too busy sticking to Bibby. We eventually levelled out and I noticed we were very close to the water. I glanced ahead and saw we were headed straight for two ships. One was a Destroyer, which seemed to be towing the other vessel. We seemed to be very close, I reached out my left hand to make the Master switch and to my horror felt the "fish" drop. There was nothing for it but to keep following Bibby. Suddenly Bibby's light disappeared, I swung round left hoping to catch him, but no luck. I climbed up to 2000ft hoping to see the the flame float, and join up with the rest of the squadron. I searched for over an hour and saw nothing. I was completely lost. I had no Observer so I took out my photo copy of various courses from various destinations and set a course from Pantelleria, hoping to see the searchlights from Malta to guide me home. This in fact happened and we arrived back about two hours after the rest of the squadron. We were given up for lost. The ship was sunk by Bibby and there was no news of the destroyer.

13/14.8 - The Target was Military Installations, Docks and Shipping in Augusta. We took off at dusk and flew most of the way in formation over the Sea and crossed the Coast south of Augusta at about 8000ft. We were greeted by heavy flak and shortly after crossing the coast my aircraft was hit by heavy Ack Ack under the port wing. The explosion seperated me from the squadron and caused me to lose about 1500ft in height. The aircraft appeared to be flying O.K. so I climbed up to 8500ft and joined the attack on Augusta. I put my aircraft into a dive aiming at a large warehouse. At about 2000ft I pressed the bomb release button and pulled out of the dive. To my surprise only the Incendiaries were released. I then climbed up to 3000ft, which took some time in a Swordfish, and carried out another attack. The bombs refused to come off. I then climbed up for a third try. This time I made the jettison and pulled out severely, thinking I had a hang up. This time all was well. The target area was well alight, the flack was very heavy, we seemed to be flying through hoops of flaming onions. I headed out to sea and arrived back at Malta, about two hours after everyone else.

16/17.8 - The Squadron took off at intervals to attack ships and the Dock installations. Sub/Lt. Caldwell was suffering with "Malta Dog" and was using an empty flare float tin about every 20 minutes. I decided to approach the Target from well out to sea, as he was illuminating our progress. We arrived last on the scene. The other aircraft had obviously made a very successful attack. The dockside area was well alight. We approached from the sea at 8000ft. As we crossed the coast over the Harbour, I closed my throttle and continued gliding towards a ship moored to the keyside. When I was in position I dived and released my Bombs at 1500ft. One Bomb dropped on the keyside, on a number of crates, the other hit the forward part of the ship. There was a big explosion. It was obvious that no one heard our approach, and that they were taken completely by surprise. One solitary gun opened up, but by this time we were low over the water on our way home.