Spitfire Malta Bound
By Philip West
Overall print size approx. 28”x20” / 71 cms x 51 cms
25 Prints in the Studio Proof Edition £195.00
Spitfire Malta Bound
On the 11th August 1942, Flight Lieutenant Geoffrey Wellum DFC, having just taken off from the deck of HMS Furious, leads his section of gathering Spitfires on the long journey to Malta.
They are much-needed reinforcements for the beleaguered island, now in the twenty-sixth month of its siege.
To enable each of the 38 Spitfires dispatched from Furious to reach Malta, over three hours flying time away,
they carry maximum fuel together with a centre-line over-load tank.
Even their ammunition is removed to save weight.
Escorting Furious to her aft is the Cruiser HMS Manchester together with Destroyers Brave and Lithe.
To their port side is the Ohio tanker laden with fuel during what became an epic voyage. In the distance HMS Eagle succumbs to an Axis torpedo attack.
The success of Operation Pedestal was absolutely critical for the survival of Malta, bringing desperately needed fuel, food and ammunition to the Island.
Losses were heavy but the courage and determination by all involved prevailed: five of the fourteen merchant ships, including the Ohio, made it through and the island was saved.
A magnificent Limited Edition Print signed by those involved in the Battle for Malta,
including the pilot of the main Spitfire depicted and four Royal Navy HMS Eagle crew members who survived the torpedo attack and subsequent sinking of their ship in just six and a half minutes.
Spitfire Malta Bound
Dame Vera Lynn. We regret we do not have biographical details on Dame Vera.
Squadron Leader Geoffrey Wellum DFC joined the RAF with a Short Service Commission in August 1939. He joined no 92 Squadron flying Spitfires in June 1940 at the time of Dunkirk.
He flew throughout the Battle of Britain, later completing over 50 fighter sweeps and escorts over northern France and Belgium until August 1941.
He then joined 65 Squadron as Flight Commander in March 1942 operating over northern France and flew off Aircraft Carrier Furious on operation Pedestal,
to Malta. He returned to the UK as a test pilot Gloster Aircraft and finished the war as a Pilot Attack Instructor.
Geoffrey was credited with three destroyed, four probables and several damaged and was awarded the DFC in July 1941.
Sqn. Ldr. H H Moon joined the RAFVR (Belfast) in May 1940 and was accepted for pilot training.
Upon completion of his training at 59 (Hurricane) OTU he joined HMS Furious bound for the Middle East.
At Gibraltar he transferred to HMS Ark Royal and subsequently took part in a reinforcement operation codenamed Railway 1 & 2.
Remaining in Malta Harry was posted to 249 Sqn. and had his first scramble on 7th July.
Between July and September he was scrambled on over 20 occasions, with little result although several fellow trainee pilots were killed. During November and December that year he was often scrambled as well as sent on various patrols. By this time the Luftwaffe was now back in Italy in strength, with aircraft numbers over 600 plus.
The Malta squadrons were very outclassed by the fast Ju88s and Me109Fs’ During this period Harry’s aircraft was hit on three occasions, twice badly while attacking Ju88s.
Twice he was forced to make glide landings.
Harry left Malta on a Sunderland during the night of April ½ 1941. He was then posted to Aden, where about ten pilots flying Hurricanes, formed the Aden Defence Flight.
Various other postings followed including convoy patrols in the Mediterranean. Suffering engine failure on one occasion, he baled out and was picked up by a Greek destroyer and taken to Malta.
In August 1943 he was appointed to Flight Commander 274 Squadron. Another engine failure left Harry six miles from base at 7000 feet,
leaving him to glide all the way back! In the following months, indeed years, Harry Moon flew countless operations including more convoy escort duties, attacking tanks in the Italian mountains,
strafing enemy transport vehicles, trains and strategic roads. Later on he flew Spitfires in sweeps over France,
escorted more convoys as well as bombers on supply drops. Harry finally left the RAF in 1948.
Able Seaman Les Goodenough enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1941 and joined HMS Eagle in December of that year at Gladstone Dock, Liverpool.
HMS Eagle joined Force ‘H’ at Gibraltar, where they convoyed and flew aircraft to Malta. Together with aircraft carriers Argus, USS Wasp and Furious, a total of 367 planes were flown to Malta.
On 11 August 1942 at 13.15 Eagle was hit by four torpedoes, fired from U73 and at 13.21 HMS Eagle sank.
One hundred and fifty eight ratings and two officers lost their lives, but 930 were saved. Les helped to save a rating, by passing him a carly raft which got fouled on a bolt on the flight deck,
which he cleared, but they both tobogganed across the flight deck and down into the water.
Later, Les served in HMS Brissenden and then in a landing party Fustian taking part in the landing at Augusta, Sicily. He left the Royal Navy in 1946, a Class A release.
Spitfire Malta Bound
Lieutenant Commander F R Davenport RN joined aircraft carrier HMS Eagle as Able Rating (supply branch) in July 1941 and saw action in the south Atlantic and Malta convoys – ten convoys in all,
supplying over 300 much needed aircraft for the defence of Malta. He survived the sinking of HMS Eagle by u-boat number 73 during operation Pedestal in August 1942.
He subsequently served in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean theatres of war including the European landings, Greek and Palestine campaigns.
Able Seaman Les Owen joined the Navy on 12 August 1941 as a seaman and his first weeks were spent at HMS Collingwood on a seamanship course.
In December 1941 he was drafted to HMS Eagle and in January 1942 sailed to “Gib” and took on 16 Spitfires which were sent there in crates to be assembled on the jetty and hoisted on the flight deck.
After two days out the “Spits” flew off to Malta. This they did about ten times and on 9 August they sailed to meet 16 merchant ships and the largest Naval fleet to be assembled since the First World War. From the second day they were attacked relentlessly by the German and Italian airforce and on 11 August were struck by four torpedoes and the Eagle sank in six minutes.
Les jumped about 14 feet into the water, unable to swim,
he joined other shipmates who were clinging on to a mess deck table and after a while they were picked up by a rowing boat from the tug “Jaunty” and transferred to the destroyer HMS Malcombe.
After 14 days leave, Les was drafted to “Whale Island” gunnery school and in January 1943 was drafted to HMS Wren,
a sloop of the bird class attached to the second Escort Group under the command of Capt Jonny Walter. Their duties were to protect convoys through the gap in the Atlantic,
which could not be covered by aircraft. After a while they joined the North Sea fleet, helping to protect the convoys to Russia, which was a very arduous and frightening task with a great loss of ships and men.
During “D” Day the group was detailed to protect the fleet from u-boats in the English Channel. On leaving the Navy in May 1946 Les went back to his old employment.
CPO T C Sprake BEM joined the Royal Navy as a boy seaman at the age of 15 in October 1936 and served on the South African Station joining HMS Eagle in Hong Kong on 1st July 1939.
“Eagle” was involved on active service in the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Eastern Med, South Atlantic, North Atlantic and the Western Med, where she was employed in ferrying Spitfires to Malta,
making ten trips in all. Over 300 were taken to Malta in this way.
His duties on Eagle were Anti-Aircraft Gun Director, his station being on the top of the foremast where he was when the Eagle was sunk by four torpedoes, sinking in six and one half minutes.
On returning to the UK he qualified as a Gunnery Instructor serving on Atlantic convoys and at HMS Excellent. He left the RN in October 1968.
F E (Ted) Shute manned a Hotchkiss Gun on SS Troilus during the “Operation Harpoon” convoy to Malta where he arrived on 16th June 1942.
He then served as a Coxswain on various RAF Craft including both Inshore Rescue Seaplane Tenders and the Offshore High Speed Rescue Launches.
During the Siege of Malta GC the RAF Marine Branch Launches rescued a total of 224 British and Allied Airmen, 38 German Airmen, 24 Italian Airmen and captured one spy.
With the Allied advance North through Sicily and Italy the Launches from Malta were also at the landings at Sicily, Salerno and Anzio.
Ted Shute returned to the UK and continued on ASR and MCS Launches spending a few months at RAF Calshot in the UK in early 1945 before going to Gibraltar until being demobilised in September 1946.
Spitfire Malta Bound