HELP THE 2005 MALTA SPITFIRE FUND
MALTA'S FIRST SPITFIRES
Brooks outlines the Spitfires presented by the people of Malta
donations to help fund the purchase of aircraft for the RAF, witnessed a
major resurgence upon the outbreak of World War Two. The idea dated from
World War One, many civilians felt that their contributions would help
finance aircraft in the hope that this would bring about the end of the
war that much sooner.
commencement of the Battle of Britain, the amount of money given increased
dramatically and mainly centred on one particular aircraft, the
Supermarine Spitfire. Funds were set up all over Britain by individuals,
groups and companies. If enough money was available, entire squadrons
would he purchased and the name of the contributing country, county; city
or town would be included in the squadron title and in some cases,
emblazoned on the aircraft fuselage.
this activity inspired one particular outpost of the British Empire to
follow suit... Malta.
1940 and 1941, the Maltese islands were constantly under siege. Day after
day the Italians, and later the Germans, pounded Malta in the hope that it
would fall to the Axis powers. It did nut, though it came very close to
starvation and suffering heavy air raids by day and night, the people were
still determined to help the war effort in any way they could. Since the
beginning of the onslaught, the islands had been defended by three
obsolete Sea Gladiators which became known as Faith, Hope and Charity.
summer of 1941, Hurricanes - had arrived to help in the defence of the
islands. On March 7, 1942, 15 Spitfire VBs were flown off the aircraft
carriers Eagle and Argus, the first of many.
SPITFIRES AS GIFTS
before the Eagle and the Argus steamed towards the beleaguered island, the
name Spitfire had inspired the population of Malta to give generously to
their own ‘Spitfire Fund’. Eventually two presentation Spitfire VBs, W32
10, named Malta, and W3212, Ghawdex (the alternative name for the island
of Gozo) were purchased as a gift from the generous Maltese people.
Both National War Museum Association, Malta
Ghawdex had been assembled by Supermarine at Eastleigh, Hampshire. They
were first flown on May 13 and 14, 1941, respectively. It almost certainly
will have been there that the aircraft were named and posed for publicity
taken on charge by 8 Maintenance Unit at Little Rissington in
Gloucestershire on May 14 and 16 respectively. They were released to 74
(Trinidad) Squadron on May 18, 1941, and began their careers at Gravesend,
Kent, five days later.
Detail views of the names “Malta” on W3210 and “Ghawdex” on W3212
||E & V Casser
first flown by 74 Squadron at 11:45 on May 23, 1941, when it undertook a
five-minute flight from Gravesend to West Malling, piloted by Sgt Dykes.
It undertook air- firing duties on the 26th.
convoy patrol took place on June 7 at 05:00 when it was flown by Pilot
Officer Krol. This proved to be uneventful, but on the 9th, during an
offensive sweep over France with other aircraft from the squadron, Pilot
Officer W J Sandman in Malta bagged a probable Messerschmitt Bf 109.
of June saw the aircraft carrying out bomber escorts known as ‘Ramrods’
and offensive patrols and fighter sweeps known as ‘Rodeos’. Malta was
usually flown by either Pit Offs Krol or Sandman and it was during a
‘Rodeo’ on June 27, 1941, that Pilot Officer Sandman RNLAF and Malta were
off from Gravesend at 20:50 on the evening of the 2 74 Squadron carried
out a ‘Rodeo’ over north-eastern France. Engaged by the enemy somewhere
between Amiens and Abbeville, three Spitfires of 74 came to grief, one of
them being Malta (the others being W3252 and X4668). Pilot Officer Sandman
managed to bale out and was taken prisoner. Malta, however, buried itself
in the French soil. It was 45 days old.
on the other hand, had a more chequered career. Like Malta, it was
delivered to 74 Squadron at Gravesend and its first recorded flight was
12:00 on May 24 with Sergeant Doerr flying it to West Mailing. Air-firing
and convoy patrols followed throughout the rest of May and into June, and
on the 16th, during a Blenheim escort operation, Pilot Officer Sandman
claimed a probable when a Bf 109F was seen diving to earth after he
the rest of the month, Ghawdex carried out further Blenheim escorts and a
lot of ‘Rodeos’. Its last recorded flight with 74 was on July 6, a sweep
flown by Sgt Lockhart.
overhaul by Air Service Training (AST), very likely at Hamble, Hants, W32
12 was transferred to 92 (East India) Squadron on then operating from
Biggin Hill on September 17. On September 24 the squadron moved to
Gravesend and remained there until October 20, when it moved to Digby,
next few months Ghawdex undertook convoy patrols, air-firing practice and
even formation flying. When 92 left for the Middle East in February 1 942,
the Spitfire was allocated to 417 (City of Windsor) Squadron, RCAF on the
6th. It saw no operational service with 417, hut four days later while it
was being flown by Sgt Hazel from Digby to Colerne, Wilts, it ran out of
fuel due to a faulty gauge over Bath and force- landed at Charmy Down in
only slightly damaged, Ghawdex was sent to 9 Maintenance Unit, Cosford,
Shropshire, on May 26, 1942, where it was stored. On February F, 1943, it
was transferred to AST at Hamble who undertook repair and conversion to
Seafire lB status for carrier-borne operations. The serial number was
changed to NX88 I and at this point, if not before, the name Ghawdex will
have disappeared from below the cockpit.
entered Fleet Air Arm service with 897 Squadron at Lee-on Solent, Hants,
on April 23, 1943. Beyond that it flew with 748 Squadron at St Merryn,
Cornwall, to August 1941; 761 Squadron at Henstridge, Somerset to October
1944; 759 Squadron at Yeovilton, Somerset, to March 1945.
spring of 1945, Seafire lB NX883 was issued to 768 Squadron and embarked
upon the escort carrier HMS Ravager until at least May 1945. The exact
fate of NXS8 I, once Spitfire V Ghawdex, is unknown.
Maltese presentation Spitfires never saw service in the islands. A letter
in The Times of Malta dated January 15, 1941, bemoaning this fact read:
“Sonic Maltese people are very anxious to know what has become of the
money collected in Malta for the fighter planes, namely Malta and Ghawdex.
“They were supposed to arrive in Malta by the end of the year. Nothing has
been heard about them lately. Will the government please note this serious
matter that concerns every Maltese citizen as it concerns me.”
it was stated that the Spitfire fund had been overtaken by other purchases
made possible by the generosity of the Maltese people. These included
ambulances, the Maltese Relief Fund, Malta Mobile Canteens and many
others. The reader was assured that two Spitfires had been purchased and
were now in squadron service in the UK and that they were greatly
contributing to the eventual defeat of the enemy.
Ghawdex did indeed play their part in the eventual victory. In memory of
the very generous gift by the people of Malta and Gozo, a commemorative
plaque was presented by the Ministry of aircraft Production to the
Anglo-Maltese league. This and the two Spitfires themselves cemented a
bond between people of Malta and Britain that is as strong today as it was
from Robin's article in the August 2003 edition of FlyPast
would like to donate to the 2005 Spitfire fund and you are in Malta,
please send cheques (payable to Merlins Over Malta) or cash to:
- The Spitfire Fund
- Malta Aviation Museum Foundation
- Ta'Qali RBT 13
- If you are in the UK please have a
look at the donation page of this website.
- Thank you!