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About maltadefender

  • Birthday 02/26/1973

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    World War 1: German Air Service, Zeppelins, SE5s
    World War 2: BoB, Malta, Bomber Command, Eighth Air Force, Burma
    Jets: Phantoms and Buccaneers

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  1. I know that I should be building and painting but please bear with me. It's been a number of years since I looked into this story and there are some interesting twists and turns. Far more interesting than watching me daub cockpit green and flat aluminium around the place! As mentioned before, V7799 was part of the fourth production batch of Hurricanes, which commenced in July 1940. By the looks of it, she would have been complete by mid-late October and 'on the books' by November. The serial numbers indicate that she was one of several aircraft to have been shipped out together to Africa - most likely among the 34 Hurricanes that were loaded on to HMS Furious on 7 November 1940 bound for Takoradi in Ghana. The majority of the pilots were from 73 Sqn but there were also likely reinforcements for the newly-formed 274 Sqn - Johnny Southwell among them, quite possibly. The Hurricanes had no armament, no armour plate or anything else that might cost them range because they were heading for the 4,000 mile slog from the tip of western Africa all the way up to Egypt, known as the 'Takoradi Trail'. The guns, spares and ground crew all ran the gauntlet of passing through the Mediterranean on the cruiser HMS Manchester. The aeroplanes would follow on. The sea voyage lasted three weeks, then the adventure really began: flying over the jungles of Ghana, Nigeria and Chad, across the hostile breadth of Vichy-held 'Equatorial Africa' to reach British-held Sudan, following the Nile up to Egypt. It was fraught with hazard and whether over jungle or desert the odds were not good for any pilot who suffered engine trouble. The Hurricanes flew off the Furious and landed in Takoradi, where they were fitted with long range tanks (no mean feat as the Mk.I Hurricane had no provision for them). They were then ferried along the trail in groups of six as soon as they were ready, each flight with a Blenheim bomber to shepherd them along the route. One Hurricane was lost when it crashed into the sea on take-off from the Furious (pilot rescued). Four more were lost when one of the groups of six got lost (one pilot rescued). When they arrived in Egypt, the Hurricanes were immediately in the thick of it as the British were busy kicking the Italians off their toe-hold on the Egyptian border and back across Cyraenica. This was achieved in February 1941 with the Italians suffering staggering losses from which their African air forces never really recovered. With the Italians dealt with, it was decided that 274 should fly out one group of seven Hurricanes to reinforce Malta. In the end, six Hurricanes of 274 Sqn were due to set off for Malta on 17 March 1941 - the seventh having crashed after taking off from the final fuelling stop. Their escorting Wellington was delayed, however, so they made the sea crossing on 18 March, a day in which a 'real First World War dogfight' took place between the 261 Sqn Hurricanes and a dozen CR.42s over Grand Harbour. On 19 March there were four scrambles to intercept Me109s that were intruding on the hunt for returning British bombers but poor weather intervened each time. It is not believed that the new intake from Egypt took part in these sorties. On 20 March the weather was 'fair' but only two plots were seen heading over from Sicily and both turned away. On 21 March (again the weather being 'fair'), a lone Ju88 escorted by seven Macchis and two Me109s bombed HMS Defender, wounding two seamen, and no interception was made. Then came 22 March. The weather was again fine and a lone Ju88 overflew the Island first thing in the morning on a recce. Nobody was scrambled. At 08:30 five Ju88s were reported and four Hurricanes went up to meet them. Among them was Jim Pickering, who got in a deflection shot from 350 yards then tried to latch onto his target but he 'could not even keep pace with this shallow dive'. All well and good but in fact there weren't any Ju88s over Malta that morning - however two members of the crew of a He-111 were wounded by an attacking Hurricane. Eyewitness accounts are seldom reliable and in the case of what happened for the rest of the day the picture gets even more confused... By 16:05 the skies were much more heavily clouded than before when eight Hurricanes were scrambled to meet 10 Ju88s with an escort of 14 Me109s, which were coming over in three waves. This would be the first time that the replacements from 274 Sqn would go into action over Malta. The bombers were at 22,000 feet and their bombs fell in a line from St. Thomas Bay to Grand Harbour. The Hurricanes pursued the bombers away from the Island where they got bounced by the escort fighters and had to try and fight their way home. Four of the 274 Sqn Hurricanes and their pilots were shot down into the sea. "I was swimming when a battle started overhead," recounted 'Jock' Hilton Barber in Malta: The Hurricane Years. 'Suddenly a Hurricane came down in a screaming dive and splashed into the sea. This turned out to be P2653, the aircraft I had ferried to Malta in June of the previous year. Terry Foxton was killed." Among the other Hurricanes overhead was P/O Doug Witney, who said: "... 'Chubby' Elliot and self had a bit of a dogfight for a while trying to get on each other's tails as we were not certain the other was not a 109 until we saw the roundels." Amid such confusion, three more Hurricanes fell: P/O T. Garland in V7493, P/O D. Knight in V7493 and Sgt. R Speyer in V7672. The fifth Hurricane to fall was that of Johnny Southwell. According to the Malta GC website, the engagement is described thus: one Hurricane is shot down by a ME 109 which he then in turn shoots down. Both aircraft hit the sea. Four more Hurricanes fail to return. It is not known whether they lost their bearings in the cloudy conditions or were shot down as they were out of radio range. This sounds like a slightly different version of the story - and an incorrect one. JG26 was in Sicily from January to May 1941 and scored 42 victories without one single loss in combat. So amid all the reports that exist of the engagement, we can be certain of only one thing: it was a bitter blow. "This was the one day when we thought we had the edge," said another 261 Sqn pilot, John Pain. "It was the first time we had managed to get eight aircraft into the air in one formation in the nearly two months I had been on the Island. Of the eight pilots only three returned." Pain was one of two pilots sent out to accompany the air sea rescue launch in the search for survivors. They only found wreckage and oil in the sea. At the start of this thread I said that Johnny Southwell is buried in the Capuccini Naval Cemetery. The headstone certainly has got his name on it - among others - but who lies where is a matter of some conjecture. He reportedly fell over Grand Harbour but this seems to be off. In fact, where he ended up is a mystery. At the height of the bombardments in early 1941 and early 1942 it was unlikely that there would have been time to conduct a recovery of crashed aircraft and human remains. It is apparently very likely that Johnny Southwell's grave actually holds the remains of Warrant Officer Douglas Corfe, formerly of 610 Sqn, who was flying Hurricanes with 229 Squadron in North Africa and was one of the men who transferred across to reinforce Malta in April 1942 in one of the squadron's Desert scheme Mk.IICs. Corfe's Hurricane fell near Ghajn Tuffieha on 25 April 1942 but equally it might have been V7799. In truth nobody knows. So that's the history done as far as I can take it for now. Time to slap some paint about...
  2. I've got a kit to build at last... attic retrieval mission complete! Suddenly realised that all my serial numbers and so on are in 1/72 so I've ordered a set of 1/48 Ventura 8 inch black digits and thrown in a set of Xtradecal national markings for BoB era aeroplanes as well as there's a 47-inch roundel for the 'Night' port lower wing with a thin yellow wing round it. Looking into the original Airfix supplies in the box reminded me that this is of course sold as another 274 Sqn aeroplane of roughly the same era. I have to say I very much doubt that even this one was in Desert scheme. Having looked at a couple of WIP threads on these kits I was tempted momentarily to hunt out an Eduard cockpit set. But then I saw the price. Paying more for the detail set than I had for the model didn't strike me as good economics, particularly when Airfix clearly went to some lengths with the new tooling - and you'll never see any of it when it's buttoned up anyway. On the plus side I stumbled across some good info: V7799 was built under contract 62305/39 1940 which was the fourth block of 500 Hurricanes, all of which seem to have been built at Langley. I shall potter gently onward with the cockpit while chewing over whether to run with 'A' or 'B' scheme. I've also decided to build her with the pilot figure in place and the cockpit open. In March the weather isn't all that warm so I'm going to assume that Southwell wasn't in his desert kit and that he had blue battledress and his Mae West on.
  3. Still haven't made it up to the attic yet - I have to go through the kids' bedroom ceiling and they're asleep when ! get home! - but dug out the photo album. Here's the best shot of Fort Saint Elmo from the seaplane tour we took, with Grand Harbour to the top left of shot, where the Hurricane came down, and Sliema Creek in the bottom right of the shot, where the submarines were based. The cemetery in which Johnny Southwell lies alongside many other airmen and sailors is out of shot to the bottom left quarter, behind Nelson's old docks. The wooden lift for pulling wounded sailors off the decks and up to the hospital is still in place. This next shot illustrates quite well I think that Temperate Land Scheme was pretty appropriate for Malta most of the year. Aside from the sea at least! Admittedly a lot of the greenery would have been blasted away by bombs but it's certainly no 'desert isle'. This view is of Għajn Tuffieħa on the western coast, taken in early April so a fairly good analogue. The beach is about 15 mins drive from what was Takali airfield. In wartime it was where pilots and submariners would go when off-duty and there's the ruin of the old hotel which used to hold rooftop dances at night, at least during the early days of the siege. Being on the Island for only a week, I very much doubt if the subject of my build ever visited either the beach or the hotel. Here's the grave of John Sidney Southwell. In common with a lot of the graves in this cemetery there are two names per headstone. Walk on about a cricket pitch's length and you find Alex Mackie, whose final moments were described in the opening pages of James Holland's Fortress Malta. For those who haven't read it, Mackie was 'bounced' by 109s shortly after take-off in a Hurricane Mk.IIb night fighter when setting out on an intruder flight over Sicily. The panel on top of the fuel tank of the Malta Aviation Museum's restored Hurricane actually came from Mackie's aeroplane. One more for luck... this was the view of Luqa, the bomber base in 1941-42 and today Malta's airport, when climbing away northwards on the way home. Again, TLS would have been pretty effective for aircraft on the ground were it not for most of the topsoil being blasted away. For all that, the rationale for later requesting that aircraft be painted in 'Sea Scheme' is also abundantly clear - that's one blue sea, whatever the time of year. There's not quite the same intensity of discussion about the colours worn by Hurricanes in Malta as there is with the 'blue' Spitfires (or even the single miscreant Gladiator photographed in 1941). But there is some. For my money I always lean towards TLS in the first instance. Some of the late-1940 deliveries arrived with Mid-Stone/Dark-Earth upper surfaces, as did the Mk.IIcs that were flown out from Egypt as reinforcements in early 1942. But for the most part it was Dark Green/Dark Earth/Sky and any repainting (such as Sky Blue/Light Mediterranean Blue undersides and, in the case of 249 Sqn, spinners in flight colours) was carried out in the summer lull long after the Luftwaffe had departed for Russia. Anyway, that's enough of my prattle. Thanks for sticking with me. Next time I do solemnly swear to have a box full of plastic to inspect and my first faltering steps towards building a Hurricane!
  4. Hi all, I've yet to get into the attic to retrieve my kit so for starters here is a little on the subject matter. I'm going to build the latest Hurricane Mk.I Trop kit from Airfix and attempt to do so in the colours of my wife's great-uncle, Flying Officer John Sidney Southwell, known to most as 'Johnny', who was killed in Malta early in 1941 at the height of the first Luftwaffe onslaught on the Island between the 'Illustrious Blitz' and the departure of the Germans in readiness for Operation Barbarossa. Having joined the RAF in February 1939, Southwell served with 245 Sqn in France during the 'Phoney War' and he was shot down near Brussels on 17 May, making his way back rather promptly from the forced landing. He shared a probable Do-17z over Dunkirk and remained with 245 Sqn throughout the Battle of Britain. He was next assigned to 274 Sqn in the Western Desert and I am using these photos taken at the right period to base my build upon. These are shots of 274 Sqn aircraft in Temperate Land Scheme during the winter of 1940-41: On 17th March 1941 a flight of the squadron was detached to Malta to reinforce 261 Squadron. On 22nd March eight Hurricanes of 261 took off to meet ten Ju88's approaching Grand Harbour with a Me109 escort. In the ensuing engagement, five of the Hurricanes were shot down, including V7799 flown by Southwell. All five pilots were lost. I knew that my father-in-law had three uncles in the RAF and I think they all flew fighters. We went to Malta on honeymoon in early 2010 and only found a grave marked Southwell by accident when I was looking for Alex Mackie in Capuccini Naval Cemetery - sure enough, this was the brother who did not come back. I'll dig out the photos from Capuccini as well when I have a moment. The 274 Sqn aircraft were dispatched in haste and there certainly wouldn't have been an opportunity to repaint them under the sort of bombardment that the Island was under at the time. We know that the serial of the Hurricane that Johnny Southwell was shot down in was V7799 (whether or not this was a 274 or 261 aeroplane originally is a moot point for which any pointers would be welcome). Either way, I think it's safest to stick with TLS and a Night port wing without any squadron codes or identifying letters. A bit of weathering down below but fairly light touch on top by the looks of things and it won't be far wrong. Thanks for reading, I'm looking forward to the build.
  5. Hello everyone, I just squeaked my two builds for the Matchbox GB under the time limit and have a bucketful of Hurricanes to get built. I'd like to start with my wife's great-uncle's aeroplane... or at least something which will hopefully be as close as educated guesswork allows. A full bio can be found here so what I've got to do is interpret what V7799 would have looked like in March 1941 and then build it using the Airfix 1/48 Hurricane Mk.I Trop (new tool). Both Pilot Officer Southwell and his aeroplane were from 274 Sqn in Egypt and dispatched to reinforce 261 Sqn at the height of the first Luftwaffe assault on the Island. My feeling is a pretty secondhand looking Temperate Land Scheme with Vokes, I'm not sure if there would have been time or will enough to overpaint Sky with Sky Blue on the undersides, as was generally preferred in Malta, given the gravity of the situation at that time. All thoughts welcome! Many thanks, MD
  6. I fixed her up and the results are in the Gallery - not quite as magically true as she was first time - and put the matt coat on where needed. Radio wires added. She's done. It's been an absolute pleasure to build both this kit and the Gladiator. Thank you all for your company and thanks to the hosts - it was a fun one!
  7. Sorry it all went a bit quiet. It's been a bit mad on all fronts with an ill wife, some interest in employing me and three kids on half term. I didn't quite manage to get the radio aerials done in time, but got her as finished as i could today and photographed her outdoors in moody winter twilight. Thanks for sticking with me and thanks to the guys for a very enjoyable GB. More in the gallery...
  8. Matchbox PK-8 Gloster Gladiator Mk.I Completed from the Revell reboxing using the Pavla decal sheet markings for 87 Sqn 1938, with additional research on the colours by Rowan Broadbent at Pheon Decals. Brush painted using Tamiya flat aluminium as the base shade and flat blue for the rest of the airframe, rigged using drill'n'fill technique and EZ Line fine gauge. Still a cracking little kit with a lovely outcome. Made for idiots like me to get a reasonably straight and true biplane! Build thread is here.
  9. Matchbox PK-1 Hawker Fury Mk.I Built straight from the Revell re-box using brush-painted Tamiya acrylics (mainly flat aluminium and chrome silver). Rigged using EZ Line (fine). Drill'n'fill technique. Build thread is here. A gem of a kit that's still really rewarding.
  10. The poll has closed on the choice of schemes and it's K8027 of 87 Squadron that's the winner by one vote, using decals from the Pavla set. Having confirmed with the Broadbents of Pheon renown, I'm going to follow their guidance on the colours as Rowan's research is excellent in these very matters. According to Rowan, after it became a Flight Commander's aeroplane, the blue areas of the scheme were increased onto the horizontal stabilisers and the 'hump' behind the cockpit glazing to make K8027 look like she does in the attached pic from the top of Pheon's excellent Gladiator decal set. So that's how mine will be too. My only deviation will be to retain the propeller from the kit with its nose cap securely in place. Thank you to all who voted and have taken the time to read this far in the thread.
  11. Disaster! Overnight we were awoken to a crash. A mirror had fallen off the wall and fortunately not smashed because it had a soft landing - on my Fury! It was only a small mirror but it took a lot of stuff down with it. In view of the carnage the little Fury got off relatively lightly but it's the troublesome undercarriage that bore the brunt. Fingers crossed I can get it repaired and photographed ASAP.
  12. I'm done for tonight. Wings are on and the cabane struts have rigging. The engine is done and awaiting its chance to go on. The habitual problem of having interplane struts joined together in a single piece is that you can see the 'cheat bar' in its recess in the wing. I thought that I had shaved enough off these ones but the camera is a cruel mistress, so that will be a job for tomorrow, shaving them down. All in all, though, it was a productive evening and I'm happy with it.
  13. A little update... Here's the top wing mounted and aligned using the cabane struts. I've now put a second coat of aluminium on around the guns and painted them as they're going to be behind a cars cradle of rigging soon. I've finished detailing the engine and started painting the prop. I'll get those bottom wings on soon.
  14. Good point, well made! Top wing's on and the centre section struts are rigged. I'll put the bottom wings on and touch the engine up while I'm at it.
  15. Thanks, Steves! Will see how the poll shakes down tomorrow. In the meantime I started work yesterday with the cockpit and pilot, painting the engine, the cockpit canopy, the radiator and the exhausts. I've also been drilling the holes for threading my rigging through - as a result of which I now have a hole in my right index finger from drilling with only a miniature bit! Should at least remind me to buy an appropriate drill for said bit in future! Not least because there are lots more holes on a Gladiator than on a Fury. Anyway, here are the pics so far: As per the Fury I shall put the centre section together first and put the top wing on there, then fit the bottom wings and interplane struts. There's been quite a bit of flash to get rid of and one small disaster when clearing excess from the chat-outs in the cost for the struts to go through. The silver plastic is very brittle and the rear corner just popped off with very little pressure. I'll have to use filler to cover up the hole before painting. So far it could be worse I think...
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