Wednesday, January 18, 2017

(37664) Robert Alexander 'Butch' Barton 1916 - 2010

(The Telegraph - October 2010) The son of a Canadian civil engineer and a Scottish mother, Robert Alexander Barton was born on June 7 1916 at Kamloops, British Columbia. He was educated in Vernon, requiring a weekly journey by steamship to and from his home at Penticton. When he was 19 he went to a recruiting office in Vancouver and was accepted into the RAF. He travelled to England to take up a short service commission in January 1936. After training as a pilot he joined No 41 Squadron, flying biplane fighters. Following the outbreak of war he joined the newly-formed No 249 Squadron, whose CO was Squadron Leader John Grandy, later Chief of the Air Staff and a Marshal of the RAF. In December 1940 Barton was promoted to take command of 249 Squadron, and he destroyed two more enemy fighters. In 1941 his squadron was ordered to prepare for service in Malta, and on May 19 its Hurricanes were transferred to Ark Royal in Gibraltar. Barton opened his account in Malta on June 3, when he shot down an Italian bomber, the squadron's first victory over the island. Five days later he destroyed another bomber, this time at night. At first light, he returned to the scene to search for the Italian crew. Two men were found and rescued. Under Barton's leadership, 249 Squadron was one of the most successful fighter squadrons on the island. But on July 31 he was lucky to survive when the engine of his Hurricane failed as he took off and he crashed through some sturdy Maltese walls. His injuries included second-degree burns, and he was kept in hospital for several weeks. Yet by September he was back leading the squadron, and was soon involved in a fierce battle with Italian fighters, during which he was credited with shooting down one and damaging another. On November 22 he achieved his final victory when he shot down a Macchi MC202 fighter near Gozo. After two years' continuous and intense fighting, in December he was rested and returned to England. His deputy, Tom Neil (himself a Battle of Britain ace), wrote: "I was very conscious of the squadron's debt to him. Small and slight in stature, in no way a heroic figure and unassuming almost to a fault, he was a wonderful leader and one of the best fighter pilots it would be my good fortune to meet." The citation for the Bar to Barton's DFC concluded that "his excellent leadership inspires the pilots under his command".

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

(R/70978) Ian Roy MacLennan - 1919-2013

(The Telegraph) Flight Lieutenant Ian MacLennan, who has died aged 94, was one of the last surviving fighter “aces” who engaged in fierce air battles during the Siege of Malta to secure the island’s survival. MacLennan was a sergeant pilot flying Spitfires with No 401 (RCAF) Squadron in Britain when he crashed an aircraft. At the subsequent reprimand, his flight commander, rather pointedly, commented that “they are looking for volunteers for Malta”. A few weeks later MacLennan was on board the carrier Eagle in the Mediterranean. On the morning of June 9 1942 he took off with 31 other pilots and headed for the isolated island. Four hours later, with very little fuel remaining, the Spitfires landed at Ta Kali airfield; within minutes, they were airborne with Malta-based pilots to repel a large raid by Luftwaffe bombers. Before arriving in Malta, MacLennan had not fired his guns in anger – but he had figured out the grim business of shooting down the enemy: “I’d shot at ducks when I was a boy – I knew about deflection.” By the time he left Malta six months later he had become an “ace”, having destroyed seven enemy aircraft and damaging at least another eight. After damaging a Junkers 88 in July, MacLennan claimed his first success on August 10 when he shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109 which was escorting a bomber force attacking Luqa airfield. Four days later he shot down an Italian fighter; its pilot was rescued from the sea With Malta suffering, living conditions for everyone, including pilots, were primitive. They faced relentless attacks, and few fighter pilots were under greater pressure. The intensity peaked on October 11 when “The Last Blitz” began. MacLennan was in action immediately and damaged two enemy fighters over Grand Harbour. Later that day he intercepted a large force of Junkers 88 bombers as it approached the island. He dived into the formation, set one bomber on fire and shot down a second before attacking a third. He was hit by return fire but pressed on until his ammunition ran out. On October 16 he was forced to crash land his badly damaged Spitfire but he returned to the battle and, by the end of the month, had accounted for three more fighters and some damaged bombers. He was awarded an immediate DFM for his “great courage and tenacity”. Commissioned, he returned to Britain. Ian Roy MacLennan was born in Regina, Canada, on April 4 1919. He attended school in Gull Lake, Saskatchewan, and studied engineering at Saskatchewan University before enlisting in the RCAF in October 1940. After training as a pilot he arrived in England in the summer of 1941. He flew Spitfires on sweeps over France and on May 24 1942 damaged a Focke Wulf 190 off Calais. Shortly afterwards he left for Malta, where he joined No 1435 Flight. After returning from Malta and a period of rest in Canada, MacLennan joined No 443 (RCAF) Squadron as a flight commander. On June 7 1944, whilst covering the D-Day landings, he was on his third sortie of the day strafing enemy positions when his Spitfire was hit by ground fire and he was forced to crash land on the beach behind enemy lines. MacLennan was sent to Stalag Luft III. In January 1945 the camp was evacuated as the Soviet army approached. He was in the camp hospital at the time and was put on a train, which headed southwards. Nearing the Austrian border, he and a colleague escaped and hid in farms until they were able to reach the American lines. For many years he shunned any publicity. But in 2008 a television company flew him to Malta, where he was given a hero’s welcome.
(Times of Malta April 9, 2008, 08:44 by Fiona Galea Debono - photo by Chris Sant Fournier) Spitfire pilot Ian McLennan is still overwhelmingly emotional when he talks about 1942 in Malta. He may have gunned down the enemy over the island at the time but he has a problem fighting back the tears as he lucidly recalls the war. "Even then, I recall it was merciless - destroying cities that were not a menace to Germany. Malta was just being bombed. What for? I can see they should have taken it, being an important strategic country. We all know that. But, instead, they bombed the hell out of it, which did not achieve anything except kill people. Even then I thought: Why? Why were they strafing people?" Promoted to flight lieutenant of 1435 Squadron during his stay in Malta, he recounts in detail the tactics and strategies adopted by the fighter pilots, hands gesticulating wildly, now and again, portraying a swarm of Spitfires entangled in each other during combat. He explains, for example, what happens "when you run out of ammunition and are in a vulnerable state, with the enemy chasing you right down to the airport" as if it was only yesterday. When flying, the whole body is concentrating, thinking and looking, he recalls. "It is not so much a question of fear when you are up in the air, engaging in warfare," he says, but qualifies his statement: Fear is not the strongest emotion but it is there - "otherwise there is something wrong with you... You're concentrating and the orders were to get the bombers at all costs! "We were told all enemy aircraft had to be destroyed before reaching the shores of Malta (bombing them on land was creating too much of a mess), which was a good thing as we felt confident that we must have been winning the war," he recounts. Mr McLennan has returned to Malta twice since 1942 - once to show the island to his wife and another time when Queen Elizabeth and then President Ċensu Tabone inaugurated the Siege Bell Memorial - a ceremony he described as "emotionally moving, I don't know why... Well, yes," he says, on second thoughts, "It was a victory bell really; the lifting of a siege..." of which he played a "small part". The fighter pilot remained in Malta from July to December 1942. "I was a young man..." Much time has passed but "it (the experience in Malta) made a big difference to me and my life". He pauses to compose himself: "Even as a young man, I felt it was all wrong to be pounding the hell out of a beautiful place. People were dying..." He recalls an air raid and an older woman running to the shelter. He could see that she was terrified and tried to catch her to slow her down but "she flew, plunged and died". He recalls the steel rings of that particular shelter and wants to know where it is... The link to his past is evidently strong and Mr McLennan is reliving it. His Mdina connection is vivid. The pilot only spent one night in the mediaeval city and although all he did was rest and recover, having just landed off HMS Eagle, he still remembers the details and the novelty of the experience of sleeping under a mosquito net in a spacious room. "I was taken into a beautiful place that resembled a nunnery, alone in a lovely bed. I felt tranquil..." Getting off the aircraft carrier was nerve-wracking, he recalls. "We had no (arrester) hooks so you could not land back and that was it! It is a harrowing one-off experience. Then there was the long flight here; then finding Malta; then Ta' Qali; then to land..." In 1942, he would wander around Valletta when he was on leave and when the Ohio sailed in, he remembers finding a way to climb up to see her. During his stay in Malta, he has nostalgically retraced his steps to the vantage point. And there were also a couple of dances they were invited to, "with beautiful Maltese girls, but they were guarded by machine gunners - their mothers and fathers - and they needed them".

Monday, January 16, 2017

Air Marshal Sir Michael Giddings 1920 - 2009

(The Telegraph April 13, 2009) On July 21 1942, Giddings took off in a Spitfire from the aircraft carrier Eagle as one of a group of 31 sent to reinforce Malta. As the formation approached the island, a cultured voice gave instructions to turn on to a northerly heading. This perplexed the leader who was querying the order when the gruff voice of an RAF controller immediately told him to continue on an easterly heading – thus foiling a German attempt to lure the Spitfires to Sicily. Over the next three months Giddings flew with No 249 Squadron. Early in August, a crucial convoy departed from Gibraltar with supplies and fuel for the island. Giddings and his fellow pilots provided cover as the convoy came under intense attack while approaching Malta. Only four merchantmen and the tanker Ohio reached the safety of Valetta harbour. During August and September intelligence indicated that the Germans were building up their air forces for a new offensive against the island. Giddings flew on sweeps to strafe enemy aircraft on Sicilian airfields but, on the morning of October 11, the Axis air forces mounted their final blitz against Malta in an effort to subdue the island's tenacious resistance. Over the next 14 days Giddings was scrambled three or four times each day to intercept German bomber formations and their fighter escorts. He had already damaged two Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters when he was scrambled on the 17th. He damaged a Junkers 88 bomber before a fierce dogfight developed with the escorts during which he shot down a Bf 109 over St Paul's Bay. When some 40 German and Italian fighter-bombers were detected approaching Malta, seven Spitfires of No 249 were scrambled. Giddings attacked a gaggle of Italian Macchi 202s and hit one, which exploded in front of him. He fired at another, which streamed smoke from its engine, but before he could see the final results, he was forced to break away. Five days later, as he was taking off, a constructor's truck appeared on the runway and he crashed into it at high speed sustaining a broken wrist and arm. He returned home in November. Kenneth Charles Michael Giddings was born on August 27 1920 at Walthamstow and educated at Ealing Grammar School. He was conscripted into the RAFVR in 1940 and trained as a pilot in the USA. On his return to the United Kingdom he was commissioned and joined No 122 Squadron flying Spitfires on sweeps over France. After recovering from his injuries, Giddings returned to flying as an instructor on fighters and in the summer of 1944 he was appointed a flight commander with No 118 Squadron flying the Spitfire IX. During the airborne operations at Arnhem, he shared in the destruction of a Messerschmitt Bf 109. The squadron was re-equipped with the Mustang and provided a long-range fighter escort for the bomber force. In March 1945 over Bremen, he engaged a Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter and damaged it. He went on to command No 129 Squadron in April and after V-E Day took the squadron to Norway. He was awarded a DFC for his "great skill and determination".

Thursday, October 20, 2016

April 11, 2010 (Daily Mail): Spitfire pilot dies days after NHS backs down in row over his care fees

A heroic wartime Spitfire pilot has died just days after the NHS finally backed down in a row over his care fees. Former squadron leader John Mejor, 89 suffered from dementia. But NHS Devon decided that he was not entitled to the full amount of his £800-a-week care-home costs, agreeing to pay only £160. But his daughter Sally, who also looks after her 94-year-old mother, appealed saying she had previously cared for her father, saving the NHS ‘thousands of pounds’. A week before his death on March 24 his family was told that the NHS had agreed to fund his care in full for another year. Ms Mejor said that without the full funding the family would have been forced to sell their home in Exmouth, Devon. She said the family had waited ‘several months’ before NHS Devon decided to reverse its decision. She added: ‘If we had lost our home my mother would have needed care as well.’
(By Richard Savill The Daily Telegraph January 15, 2010) John Mejor, 88, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery in the war, was “a true hero of this country” and deserved better treatment, his daughter said. Sally Mejor Keyes, 54, added: “My dad put his life on the line for this country in our darkest days of the war and now in his desperate hour of need the NHS is deserting him. It is truly heartbreaking.” Mr Mejor, who lives in a nursing home in Exmouth, Devon, has had his nursing care funded by the NHS for the past 18 months. But his daughter has been told the full £800 a week financial support for his care was being withdrawn. She said: "They have agreed to pay us £106 a week, but we have to find the rest, just under £700 a week. “It is totally preposterous and disgraceful.” She added that she feared she would now be forced to sell her parents home, where her 94-year-old mother Cecile wanted to stay for the rest of her life. “It is an extreme form of action, but it may well be the only way we can afford to pay for my father’s care,” said Miss Mejor, who also lives in the house as her mother’s carer. Mr Mejor was accepted on the full package nearly two years ago after suffering several strokes. "At no point was it said there would be any time frame or, that should his condition improve even slightly, it would be pulled from us,” Miss Mejor said. She was told the changes were being made because her father’s condition had improved to a point where it was no longer considered to be in a “severe” category. However, she said her father’s “fundamental condition” had not changed from 18 months ago. Parveen Brown, who is responsible for continuing healthcare funding at NHS Devon, said every family had the right of appeal and a further discussion had taken place with the family. "We have agreed we will be setting up another assessment of Mr Mejor’s needs as part of the appeals process,” said Parveen Brown. "Until the appeal is completed the family will continue to receive full payment." Born in Belgium in 1921, Mr Mejor moved to Britain in the late 1930s. He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) in the summer of 1940 and started combat flying months later. He answered a call for volunteers for a special operation in 1942, and flew to help defend Malta. He shot down at least one German warplane but his own aircraft was hit. He baled out and was rescued from the sea by a Royal Navy launch. He made his last operational flight on June 6, 1944, over the D-Day beaches in Normandy and was awarded the DFC the same year. He commanded the RAF’s 130 squadron in the mid-1950s and later worked for Devon County Council. He was also chairman of Devon Conservation Forum.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Telegraph - September 14, 2002: To the wartime British public they were Faith, Hope and Charity: three obsolete Gloster Gladiator biplanes pressed into service in the desperate defence of Malta. The young men who flew them had no time for propaganda, however, preferring that other trinity: Freeman, Hardy and Willis. James Pickering is the last man alive to have flown one of those Gladiators into battle. Yesterday he joined with a small group of veterans of the siege of Malta to mark the 60th anniversary of the presentation of the George Cross to the people of the island. "You would take off in a Gladiator with some of the few Hurricanes we had on the island and head up towards the Italians," said Mr Pickering, 87. "Sometimes there would be a hundred plus - clouds of bombers and fighters swarming above. "And then, in a moment, you would be on your own - everything else had overtaken you." The gathering, at the Maltese High Commission in London, was paid a brief visit by Iain Duncan Smith, whose father flew Spitfires out of Malta after the lifting of the siege. "It is not so fashionable now to recall our great days," he told his small audience. But without Malta we could never have sustained our position in the Middle East. "We, the British and the Maltese, were a family fighting a terrible tyranny. To the people of Malta I would say: you are not forgotten." The siege of Malta, between 1940 and 1942, was one of the most intense campaigns of the Second World War. For a time the island, Britain's only base in the central Mediterranean, became the most bombed place on earth. Its capital, Valletta, was reduced largely to rubble by German and Italian air fleets operating from nearby Sicily, and its population, driven to the edge of starvation by an Axis blockade, was forced to seek refuge in cellars and caves. The small number of submarines and bombers based in Malta posed a standing threat to convoys supplying Italian and German forces in North Africa, thus its attractiveness as a target. When the young Flt Lt Pickering arrived in Malta from Egypt in August 1940 there were 22 fighter pilots on the island. Over the next eight months his squadron, only occasionally reinforced by replacements, was to lose 23. All but two of his friends died. "I lost so many friends there that I regard it now with some sorrow, but we did a good job. When I left, I swore I would never go back. I did later, though, after the war." Carmela Turner was 18 when she became a nurse on the island in 1939, and was to see the terrible effects of the constant bombing on the servicemen she cared for. During one air raid she was looking after an 18-month-old girl suffering from pneumonia. The baby was in an oxygen tent and could not be moved to a shelter, so Mrs Turner sat through the explosions by her side. She was finally relieved after being wounded by shrapnel. "We were always thinking how it would end - with surrender or invasion - but we wanted to win," she said. We were Maltese and we didn't want to let anyone down." Malta's courage was recognised in its darkest moment in April 1942 when King George VI awarded the George Cross to her people, but the ceremony could not take place until the following September. Revisionist historians have claimed in recent years that Britain expended too much blood and treasure maintaining the island - arguing that Italian logistical incompetence, rather than the efforts of the Malta strike force, was the real cause of the supply problems that prevented Rommel from seizing the Suez Canal and the oilfields of the Persian Gulf beyond.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Air Vice Marshal Keith Park

(Photo): Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park, a New Zealander who was a principal Royal Air Force commander in the Battle of Britain and who later commanded the RAF in the Mediterranean, Italy and the Far East. Shown here preparing to fly his Spitfire in Malta. (IWM) - December 1942 Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park, A.O.C., Malta, described the year's defence of the island in a Christmas message sent as a special Order of the Day to the R.A.F. "I wish to thank all ranks of the R.A.F. In Malta for the grand job done in 1942," he stated. "In the spring; the Axis decided to neutralise Malta to prevent attacks on convoys running from Europe to North Africa. A superior enemy air force was concentrated in Sicily and carried out intensive and sustained bombing attacks, which practically overwhelmed us from March to May. "In spite of intensive bombing our ground staffs carried on and when the blitz ended, the R.A.F. recommenced attacks on Rommel's convoys. "In July the enemy decided it was again essential to neutralise Malta, but after two weeks' hard fighting our Spitfire squadrons obtained the mastery. "Having received a convoy in August, the RAF, began an all out offensive against enemy air forces in Sicily and his shipping, ships being sunk almost dally. "In October the enemy decided it was time to sink Malta once and for all. He concentrated a bigger air force than had ever been seen in Sicily; then attempted a second Intensive blitz. "Though greatly outnumbered our fighter squadrons gave the enemy a sound thrashing and completely broke attacks. "The RAF then operated with greater intensity, attacking enemy shipping day and night, bombing his ports, aerodromes and inflicting heavy casualties on enemy air transport services between Europe and Africa. "Malta, by its own offensive operations, seriously interrupted Rommel's sea communications with Libya, thus contributing greatly to the victory of the Eighth Army in Egypt. "In November Malta switched to offensive operations north and west, giving invaluable support to the Anglo-American expedition in Algeria. "Now that a number of convoys have reached Malta from the East the siege of the island that lasted nearly a year has been raised and the RAF carried out in December a far heavier offensive than ever previously attempted from Malta. "Owing to the intensive nature of the operations throughout the year few original pilots or air crews present last winter are still with us, but what are here wi11 carry on the good work."

(402500) Adrian Philip 'Tim' Goldsmith DFC, DFM - 126 Squadron

Spitfire Pilot Tells Of Historic Battle - Goulburn Evening Post 1948. Speaking before the Goulburn Apex Club at its last dinner, Mr. A. P., "Tim" Goldsmith, former R.A.A.F. Spitfire pilot who was awarded the D.F.C. and D.F.M., revealed that during the siege of Malta, petrol was being supplied to the island in four gallon drums from submarines. Stationed in Malta in 1942, Mr. Goldsmith, who is now a resident of Port Kembla and is well-known in Goulburn, gave a colourful description of activities on the island at the time that it was under the heaviest bombardment of the early war years. His record shows that he has 16 "kills," 8 "probably destroyed," and 7 "damaged" to his credit. Arriving in Malta in February, 1942, the speaker, who had been flying Spitfires in England, was transferred to Hurricanes immediately on arrival. "Petrol was so short on the island that I was given cockpit instruction on the ground, and was told to fly the machine when the alert sounded," he said. "Because of the acute short age of petrol, we were unable to have any training flights, or survey the location of the 'dromes from the ground, Every flight was-an operational movement. "I had one hour 55 minutes flying time in Huricanes and had four combats with the enemy," he added. Emphasising the serious petrol position, the speaker stated that it was not uncommon to see the Governor of Malta, Lord Gort, riding a bicycle to inspect the island's installations. Although they were glad to I receive the petrol in drums, it was not an easy task to fill a Spitfire, with a capacity of 85 I gallons from four gallon tins. Describing regular German raids on the island, Mr. Goldsmith said the radar equipment would pick up the movement of the bombers, and plans would then be worked out to enable Spitfires and Hurricanes to intercept them, allowing for a minimum wastage of petrol. Once the fighters left the ground it was a matter of attack, and be attacked. In one raid two Spitfires and two Hurricanes were sent up against 88 bombers and 120 fighters. Four J.U.88's and two 109's were shot down, and in the speaker's opinion this must have been one of the most successful air combats of the war. He went on to state that a consignment of new Spitfires had been flown to the island from the Wasp, U.S. Navy carrier. They had been on the 'drome for 10 minutes when the Jerries came over, leaving four undamaged. Later the Eagle had brought 60 Spitfires to the island and in the first combat over 40 German planes had been shot down. This defeat had made the Germans give the matter thought, and as a result they sent over 48 Stuka dive bombers with 200 fighters. A total of 37 of the planes had been shot down. "A Stuka to a Spitfire is like a punter with a system to a bookie," said the speaker, "and that was the last daylight raid by Stukas." In his, address, Mr. Goldsmith gave graphic details of huge shipping losses in the Mediterranean in the early part of the war, and how gradual improvement in air strength had turned the tables.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Colin Henry Parkinson DFC - 229 Squadron

SPITFIRE PILOT'S MALTA DIARY Flight-Lieut. C.H. Parkinsor D.F.C., of Sydney, who for six months fought in the skies above Malta, shot down 10 enemy planes and probably destroyed and damaged many others. He kept a diary of his actions which provides a thrilling story of Malta's epic defence. "The 'Ice-Cream Boys' went over again tonight. I found a R.E. fighter with finger trouble. Flew out to one side, recognised it as an R.E., flew in behind, gave a long burst, and saw strikes. The kite faltered, glycol pouring out, and went into a vertical dive. A shower of enemy fighters attacked me, so I did a wild dive and escaped them. Last I saw of thc R.E. it was still heading for thc drink, at about 5000 or 6000 ft. I went home and reported. "Our quarters were nearly pranged last night. I was in bed, at about 2 a.m., when a low-flying aircraft woke me up. As soon as it passed over head, I heard the rush of bombs. The whole building shuddered (so did I). Showers of rocks hit the walls and roof, and a smell of dust tilled the air. but no explosion. We all decided to get out of the building in case was a D.A. Tho raid was still in progress when we arrived on the Bastion. There were two fires at Luqa. "The 'all clear' sounded; so we went to investigate, and find out where the bombs had fallen. It was a Maltese waiter in our mess who found it. He took one look, and was off like a streak of greased lightning. I took one look, and did not stay too long either. The bomb had hit a Bastion wall, bounced off, knocked down the wall of a small church, and fallen on the floor. It was about 4 ft. long and 18 inches, wide, and evidently a delayed action. "Rose 4.30 to 'drome. Scramble about 9 o'clock to 24,000 ft. Hun bombers came over, with large fighter escort. Our section did not see the bombers, but saw some fighters. An ME 109 swung in to attack a Spit., but the Spit. turned towards it. They then both went in opposite directions. I put mv nose down and went after the 109 with everything pushed. Got to within 150 yards, and gave a long squirt with cannon and M.G. fire. I allowed plenty for drop. Saw strikes and black smoke pour out of 109. He pulled up slightly and dived steeply. 1 kept on squirting till my cannon ran out of ammo. This took place south of Malta 15 miles. "Another 109 bounced me, but turned up sun and he lost me. 1 hea< ed for home at .1000 ft. Another kit dived at me. and I swung up su ngîiiu and did a steep tum on to h tail. It. was a Spit. Came bac to 'drome and claimed ono probable! "Delayed actions have been goin off all day round tho 'drome. A 400 pounder went off yesterday and tlc a large crater. ."Was awakened this morning by th sound of gunfire, and planes dive-boml ing. Went up on the roof and sai ME 10D fighters all over tho place, a low as 2000 ft. in some cases. Sal four 109's pass overhead down th sun, and dive on four Spits, who wer (lying up sun. The 109's opened fin and ono Spit, was hit and dived straigh tor thc deck. Thc other Spits, mixe it7 Johnson, an Australian, was th pilot, shot down. He is O.K. "A. cool wind blowing to-day. O readiness this afternoon. Hope l hav some luck. An SS would be nico con; peusntion for being on this island. N scrambles until about S o'clock. Fin ally took off and climbed into tho sui over Gozo. Reached J 1,000 ft., turnei south-east down sun, and reached th Malta coast iu time to seo aek-acl bursts over the centre of the island As wo drew lercl with the coastline in a steep I saw a JU SS underneatl with black smoke pouring out. of thi contre of the fuselage. I rolled oi my back and dived after it. At ¡ range of about 10 yards J. opened fire The SS tried to gain height, but burs' Into flames and finally disintegrated My machine flew right through the fal! ing wreckage. The SS was a detinili conner before I attacked it. CRASHED INTO SEA. "I bioko away up sun and saw ai ME 1CÍJ weaving in and out among i number of Spits. It was about tt givo one of them a burst, but I 30I a squirt in instead. ' The 109 contin ued weaving on its way westward un molested. I was close behiud. ll evidently saw me and started a dive, I gave a long squirt and followed it down through light cloud to about 200 ft. above thc water. Tho MF continued diving, and crashed straight in. I stooged about for another quar ter of an hour, and then came clown lo pancake. "Readiness this morning early. Was scrambled about S o'clock, nearly too late. Climbed to about 7000 ft., and came Tound south of Gozo to tho Malta coast, and met the JU's coming out, about 12 of them. Attacked an SS from beam and astern, and saw strikes on. the fuselage, wings and wing roots. Cannons packed up, so came home and claimed a damaged. "Riso for M.15 dawn readiness. Scrambled to 22,000 ft., but missed the bombers who dropped their load off Ta-Kali. My R.T. packed up, so I came back to laud .-just after the others. Taxied into the bay in time to see tho crews running like hell for the shelters, and a flock of JU 88's overhead. Nipped smartly out of my kite and made the world's record for a 200 vards sprint to the surface shel ter. Ono bomb lobbed just at the back of the shelter, and shook us all to the underpants. A stick of bombs I bad fallen, along the dispersal pens, anc punctured my new kite in the wings. After inspecting tho kite, I walked back to dispersal. With a roar a terrific D.A. went off 20 yards from my kite again. More holes and a rock bashed the spinner. "Bise 3.15. Headiness at 4.45. Every thing quiet until about 8.30. Scrambled up to about 24,000 ft., and was boun ced by 109's out of the sun. We all became separated, so I joined up with another bioko about 7000 ft. He broke away, so I joined up with a nest of two who flew out to sea. We saw two lOO's below us, so wo boun ced them. I gave one a good squirt, and saw bursts of cannon shell all over the fuselage and wings. The ME flew level for a few seconds, and then did a slow dive, down to the sea i and right in.".

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Flying Officer George Garrett Davidson - No. 126 Squadron

Flying Officer George Garrett Davidson, only son of Mrs. J. A. Davidson, 37 Palace St.,Brantford, Ontario, achieved an outstanding record as a fighter pilot during his more than three years service with the R.C.A.F. He had applied for enlistment the day news of the Second Great War broke upon Canada and was accepted as a student pilot in the early summer of 1940. After training at Western and British Columbia Schools, he graduated March 29,1941, from No. 6 S.F.T.S., Dunnville, receiving his wings and his commission (J/4931) as a pilot officer. He went overseas after a short furlough at home. An intrepid flier, he had two German Focke-Wulfs to his credit; was a pilot of one of the planes in an R.A.F. Spitfire flight that bombed and sank five Nazi E-boats, and received the thanks of the British Admiralty for it; took part in the Dieppe raid; went up one night, located and rescued in the black skies over England, an R.C.A.F. fighter pilot whose instruments had ceased to function. F/O Davidson, who was known to his friends as "Dusty", had an opportunity to return to Canada after his operational tours, but instead volunteered for service in the Middle East, and it was from a Malta base that his last flight was taken and he lost his life on November 14, 1942, off the Tunisian coast, Africa. Born in Brantford on February 1, 1918, he had been educated here, attending Central Public School and graduating with honors from the matriculation course at the Collegiate Institute. He was a member of St. Jude's Anglican Church. Besides his flying interests, he had a fund of musical talent and as a youngster played in the Brantford Boys' Band. Later, he had, on occasions, been with the Canadian Legion Band. His instruments were the trumpet and the saxophone. He was employed first with Reginald Cook and then by Barber-Ellis of Canada, Ltd. (Brantford Public Library)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

(AUS.404692) Virgil Paul Brennan - DFC, DFM

Virgil (Paul) Brennan was born on 6 March 1920 at Warwick, Queensland, fifth child of Edgar James Brennan, solicitor, and his wife Katherine, née O'Sullivan, both Queenslanders. Educated at Christian Brothers' School, Warwick, Downlands College, Toowoomba, and Brisbane State High School, Paul became a law clerk in Brisbane and studied part time at the University of Queensland. After enlisting in the Citizen Air Force of the Royal Australian Air Force on 8 November 1940, he trained as a pilot in Australia and at No. 1 Service Flying Training School, Camp Borden, Ontario, Canada. Brennan graduated 12th in a class of 53. Squadron Leader Bradshaw assessed Brennan: "Well disciplined. Confident, aggressive and self-reliant." Squadron Leader Priestley remarked: "Has progressed steadily, learns quickly and has no outstanding faults." 'Digger' Brennan arrived in Britain in August 1941. Following operational training, he served briefly in the Royal Air Force's No.64 Squadron. He was promoted temporary flight sergeant on 4 January 1942 and next month was sent to the Mediterranean. Posted to No.249 Squadron, on 7 March Brennan piloted one of fifteen Spitfires which flew from the aircraft-carrier, H.M.S. Eagle, to Malta. In mid-March the Germans began a major air assault on the island. Brennan and his comrades intercepted the waves of attacking bombers and their protective fighter screens: they had to contend with fatigue and inadequate rations while battling the enemy's superior forces. Proving himself a determined and courageous pilot, as well as an excellent shot, Brennan won his first victory ten days after his arrival when he destroyed a Messerschmitt 109. Further successes followed: on 20 April he shot down another Me-109; later in the day he dispatched a Junkers 88. Wounded in the left arm on 12 May, he was commissioned and awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal that month. By the time he left Malta in July, he had survived twenty-two combats, and been credited with the destruction of at least ten enemy aircraft and with damaging several more; a Distinguished Flying Cross was added to his previous award for gallantry. On his return to England, Brennan and Pilot Officer Ray Hesselyn, a New Zealander from No.249 Squadron, collaborated with the journalist Henry Bateson in recording their experiences in Spitfires over Malta (London and Sydney, 1943).
Granted the rank of acting flight lieutenant and posted as an instructor to No.52 Operational Training Unit, Brennan was subsequently repatriated on 17 April 1943. Slightly built and 5 ft 9½ ins (177 cm) tall, he had dark hair and brown eyes. Although there was aggression in his manner, he had an easy-going nature, an engaging sense of humour and was loyal to his friends; his flair for oratory made him a forceful debater. On 1 May he joined No.79 Squadron, R.A.A.F. His commanding officer observed that he was strained and tired, and that he seemed to be marshalling his reserves for the unit's forthcoming deployment to Goodenough Island, off Papua. For all that, Brennan shared his operational experience with other pilots. During their journey north, on 13 June 1943 the squadron's Spitfires reached Garbutt airfield, Townsville, Queensland. Brennan landed his aircraft in the stream of fighters, but the plane which should have landed behind him overran Brennan's machine and collided with it. Brennan died of his injuries on the way to hospital. He was buried with Catholic rites in Townsville war cemetery. (Sources: ADB, NAA)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pilot Officer John Livingstone Boyd, DFM - No. 185 Squadron

The Times of Malta June 23, 2011 - Born and raised in Queensland, Tony, as his mother chose to call him, enrolled in the Royal Australian Air Force and after training on Tiger Moths in Australia and Harvards in Canada went to England where, between July and August 1941, he flew Miles Masters with No. 59 Operational Training Unit. He joined No. 135 Squadron, based at Honiley, Warwickshire, flying Hawker Hurricanes Mk.IIa. In October 1941, he volunteered for service in Malta and was transferred to No. 242 Squadron which, together with No. 605, flew 24 Hurricanes off the decks of HMS Ark Royal and HMS Argus to Malta on October 11. On January 22, Mr Boyd scored his first success by heavily damaging a Junkers Ju 88. His log book entries for February 1942 show he flew Hurricanes belonging to Nos. 249, 126, 242, 185 and 605 squadrons. His first “kill”, a Messerschmitt Bf 109G, was confirmed on February 23. In April, he moved to No. 185 Squadron at Ħal-Far, still flying Hurricanes, even though Spitfires had arrived in Malta in March. On April 20, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal. He shot down a Junkers Ju 88 on May 8, 1942. By that time, Mr Boyd was itching to get his hands on a Spitfire. Operation Bowery brought 64 Spitfires to Malta on May 9 and a few of these were earmarked for highly-skilled Hurricane pilots like Mr Boyd. His log book entry after his first Spitfire flight reads: “It’s excellent at high altitude, a real wizard machine.”In the morning of May 14, 1942 he flew Spitfire Vc BR349, coded 3-C, and shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109G. Shortly after midday, he took off again to confront a flight of Macchi C.202s. One of the Italian fighters turned onto his tail and he was hit. Mr Boyd’s Spitfire began to slowly spin down and crashed just outside the perimeter of Luqa airfield. The following day, the Australian pilot was due to terminate his Malta tour and return to England for a rest period. Instead, his remains were laid to eternal rest at the Capuchin Military Cemetery in Kalkara.
(Photo: Megan MacDonald and Richard J. Caruana discussing details from Pilot Officer Tony Boyd’s personal flying log book at the Malta Aviation Museum, Ta’ Qali, with the Hawker Hurricane in the background) The Coffs Coast Advocate May 15, 2011 - Pilot in training Megan MacDonald gained incredible insights into her great uncle during filming for the Channel Nine series In Their Footsteps. The mum of three from Gayndah in central Queensland spent two weeks travelling through Australia and Europe to retrace Tony Boyd’s eventful, if short, life. The charismatic RAAF fighter pilot was part of the large-scale air fights in the Siege of Malta, a brutal two-year military campaign during WWII which earned the Mediterranean Island the titled of “the most bombed place on Earth”. Boyd died in action at the age of just 22, but MacDonald learned his extraordinary efforts in the sky were significant. “I don’t want to sound corny, but a lot of men and women made sacrifices and a lot of them lost their lives,” she said. “I’m not saying he won the war on this own, but (it shows) just the difference that one man can make - the morale to his squadron, his flying ability. To be able to pass that on not only to my family and my children but also it’s going on national TV so other people will know his story as well.” Incredibly, Boyd had the same amount of flying hours as his great niece when he was sent off to fight against the Italians and the notorious German Luftwaffe. “I’ve got under 20 hours and he went to war with the same experience,” she said. “You’re still trying to work out holding (the plane) straight and level, let alone flying into combat and being shot at and trying to do tactical manoeuvres. Obviously he was talented, but it’s hard to comprehend.” MacDonald’s trip to Europe included flying in a dual Spitfire plane in England and a Tiger Moth in Malta – two experiences which have further solidified her love of flying. “I’m not yet a solo pilot so to have flown in a Spitfire and taken the controls is, ah, what words do you use to describe that?” Memorable and significant, just like the life of Pilot Officer Tony Boyd.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Flight Sergeant Herbert Phillip 'Bud' Milligan - No. 229 Squadron

On July 21, 1942, HMS Eagle delivered another supply of Spitfires and pilots to Malta. Among the pilots was Flight Sergeant Herbert ‘Bud’ Milligan, an American volunteer with the RCAF. The pilots were given an information card which advised: Takeoff as normal except (a) Throttle fully open (b) Tail trim to central position (c) Cold air (d) See that knurled nut on throttle quadrant is firm Formation: Join up as soon as possible in predetermined positions. WIDE FORMATION. Fly on overload tank until it runs dry then switch on main tanks and switch off overload tank. Note: Jettison overload tank if necessary if EMPTY. Gives extra 45 miles endurance. Maintain strict R/T silence after leaving carrier. Only transmit in emergency. I.F.F. on at E.T.A. minus 30 minutes, approximately 90 miles from destination. Carrier call sign “PYFFO”. If separated or lost: On last leg head north. Turn east on reaching land (Sicily) and follow coast to easternmost point, then set compass to 222 degrees (M) for destination. Don’t Flap or Worry. Flight Sergeant Milligan landed at Luqa – flight time 3:20. 'Bud' Milligan climbed into No. 229 Squadron Spitfire B-2 on August 1 for his first scramble over Malta. He recorded in his pilot logbook, August 6 – ‘mixed with some Eyetyes’ during a 1 hour scramble in Spitfire X-V; August 15 – ‘Patrolled tanker Ohio badly damaged’. During September 1942, 'Bud' Milligan participated in three sweeps over Sicily with No. 229 Squadron. He recorded in his September logbook notations: “Hiskens killed; P/O Scott killed; Peters killed; Dusty Miller killed; Tim Roe killed; Micky Butler killed; Group Captain Churchill killed by flak; Bob Weaver shot down - P of W.” During October 1942, Milligan participated in twenty scrambles in twenty-four days. On October 5 he participated in a sweep over Sicily. The Officer Commanding ‘A’ Flight was Flight Lieutenant Art Roscoe, a former No. 71 Eagle Squadron pilot who volunteered for service on Malta. Milligan recorded in his logbook: 'Sweep over Sicily – Roscoe and I left over there - alone.' Other notations recorded in his logbook during October: 'Bryden shot down-lost his leg; Beurling shot down and bailed out-hit in ankle; Roscoe shot up and crashed; Rip Jones killed October 17, W/Cdr. Donaldson’s hand shot off by 109. Hoagy shot up and crashed at Qrendi – killed.' On October 24, 1942, Flight Sergeant 'Bud' Milligan was shot in the ankle when the Spitfire he was piloting was attacked by a Me.109. Milligan managed to fly the damaged airplane back to base. He was sent to Cairo with other wounded pilots and spent five months recuperating. Milligan cabled his parents in New Jersey, "It's not much. I'm okay - really." Bud Milligan arrived at Malta weighing 175 lbs. and left four months later weighing 128 lbs.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pilot Officer Robert Wendell 'Buck' McNair (DFC) - No. 249 Squadron

"The Germans are great fighters but the Italians are not so hot, the old Hun used to come down and brush the treetops.The Italians are good fliers but they are not good fighters,but the Huns are absolute wizard fighters. They sure are good.The Huns will shoot a man after he bails out of his plane but the Italians never do that.The Army co-operated with us 100 per cent. They had their trucks loaded with stones and gravel right on the airdromes and as soon as a raid was over they were right out to fill in the holes.I was just about to land (April 22, 1942) when I saw the Ju.88 buzzing off homewards. I didn't have any too much fuel, but anyhow I took after the Hun and chased him all the way to Sicily before I managed to overhaul him and shoot him down. When I got home I had barely a quiver left in my petrol gauge, but I had had a lot of satisfaction." Distinguished Flying Cross Citation: "This officer is a skilful and courageous pilot. he invariably presses home his attacks with the greatest determination irrespective of odds. He has destroyed at least five and damaged seven enemy aircraft. Four of these he damaged in one combat." (London Gazette/CP - Photo: DND)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

(402119) Kenneth John Gray (DFC)

(402138) John McKenzie Ross 89 Squadron November 30, 1941 – October 15, 1942