As mentioned elsewhere, I come to the subject of WW2 aircraft from two perspectives; My first indoctrination came through the many ‘Airfix’ kits I built as a child and, of these, the Spitfire (although not my outright favourite) was always a prominent gift. Of far more relevance, however, I am currently studying the ship and aircraft wrecks of Malta for a project which is nearing completion. Of the many aircraft known to have been lost in Maltese waters, several are known to be either Spitfires or the aircraft they shot down and this work does much to explain the subject.
Divided into the following 6 chapters; First Blitz, Spitfires into the Breach, Back from the Brink, Deceptive Lull, Pedestal Convoy & October Blitz and Aftermath, the work is brought to a professional conclusion with Appendices, Colour Plates Commentary, Bibliography and Index.
Pages 36-45 contain four colour plates per page (i.e. 40 altogether) showing the Spitfire profile in the various livery schemes used throughout this time in Malta. My one overriding criticicism of this work is that the ‘Commentaries’ which accompany these excellent images are found on pages 90-95 when they could so easily have been placed together!
As with other books in this series, most of the personal pilot profiles are fascinating - such as Canadian Ace John ‘Willie the Kid’ Williams who, on completion of his tour of duty in Malta was tragically killed when the Liberator aircraft in which he was a passenger, overshot the runway at Gibraltar. American ‘Georgie’ Wynn was a pilot serving with the RCAF who claimed a number of kills before transferring to the USAAF. Just to conclude this multinational element of those who took part; pilot ‘Paddy’ Schade was born in Malaya to a Dutch father and Irish Mother. In 1942, on being ordered to Malta, he flew a replacement aircraft from the decks of HMS Eagle before becoming Malta’s first top ace for which he was awarded the DFM. In July 1944, however, he was killed in the UK in a mid-air collision.
Altogether, this book tells the complete story of those Malta Spitfire Aces alongside the story of Malta itself. They were people from ordinary and not-so-ordinary backgrounds who were forged together into a fighting force at a time when Malta was under constant attack because her very position in the central Mediterranean rendered her crucial to both sides.
Whereas the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle is already mentioned, I was particularly pleased to see USS Wasp also featured and, from the decks of which, so many replacement aircraft were flown. The coverage includes a revealing photograph showing those Spitfires sharing crowded deck space with USN F4F-4 Wildcats prior to their deployment.
With equally important contributions from local historian Frederick Galea, I consider this to be yet another welcome addition to this series of books. It is also one which has provided me with considerable additional information for my own project.