830 Squadron - ‘In Via Gloriae’  3


ACTION (cont)

Lamb in an ASV Swordfish led off six torpedo-droppers for the next attack. Due to the shortage of torpedoes, only Coxon carried the modern Mark XII and the others had old MTB VIIIs. Dad's TAG (telegraphist-air-gunner) was JR Fallon, as he would be two months later on their last flight. This time they lined up on a 5000-ton merchant vessel. Fallon saw the torpedo running true, before Dad began throwing the Swordfish about to escape anti-aircraft fire. There was a bright flash and other crews saw the MV stop on fire. Coxon's torpedo just missed this time, and the old torpedoes of Osborn and Cotton went astray.

'Taffy' Davies, whose letter to Dad's father is in Documents, was observer for Freddie Nottingham. Both had come, with Osborn and Bibby and Pain, from Formidable in June 1941. Poolman describes Davies as 'a belligerent youth'. While Nottingham fired his torpedo at a 6000-ton merchant ship, Davies turned his machine gun on a destroyer, which was annoying him with her ack-ack. A minute later a violent explosion was seen around the merchantman.

The convoy continued limping towards Tripoli, when seven Wellingtons from Luqa airfield dropped 24,000 lb of bombs hitting four ships and starting fires in two of them. Twenty minutes later the 6000-ton Nicolo Odero, already hit by a torpedo, blew up. As Dad recalled, the Times of Malta called the combined action 'Ducks and Drakes in the Med'.

8. 10 October 1941 (not in Dad's account)

Howie made his last flight as CO on 31 July 1941, but kept in touch with 830 from HQ Valetta for another four months. Meanwhile 'Pancho' Pain took over as acting CO until October, when Lt-Cdr Hunt arrived from Arbroath, where he had been Chief Instructor on the observer course. Another newcomer, Lt Tony Spooner, had just flown out Malta's first radar-equipped Wellington from England. He was on his second patrol, when he located a convoy and its escorts east of Sicily. Six strike planes took off with Mark XII torpedoes, just delivered, and Bibby piloted the new observer CO in the lead aircraft .

A cloudy, wild night brought a rough sea, which was bad for torpedo dropping. Hunt located the convoy on his ASV screen about 9pm, and Osborn attacked the leading ship with a torpedo that exploded amidships. The 6000-tonner stopped in the water with a column of smoke rising two hundred feet. Lawson stopped another ship and Coxon's torpedo exploded into a third. Dad completed 'the grand slam' with a hit amidships on a fourth, which slowed to a crawl. Taylor and Cotton hoped to finish her off with their torpedoes, but one passed close ahead and the other just missed her stern.

The tired crews returned to Hal Far, where they were quickly refuelled and re-armed. They flew an hour and a half back to the scene of the attack, and after another forty-five minutes, Hunt picked up signals on his ASV twenty miles away. A heavy barrage marked their approach. Osborn and Taylor fired torpedoes that swerved off course in the choppy sea. Lawson's 'fish' hit home. Dad's crew saw their torpedo running straight at a 4500-ton tanker, before they took violent avoiding action from the flak.

From the first attack, one ship was claimed sunk and two damaged. But visibility was so poor in the second attack that only one 'seriously damaged' could be claimed. A damaged ship was later seen abandoned and sinking.

9. See Dad's Attack on Convoy - 13 October 1941

Pancho Pain was on the ASV in Bibby's Swordfish, when a merchant ship and two escorts came on the screen. Osborn, leading the strike force of five Swordfish, ordered the attack at 11pm. Shadows on the sea from clouds crossing the moon made it difficult to see the target. Osborn's torpedo exploded amidships with a flash and column of smoke. O'Brien's was on course, but no one saw the result. Dad's started a fire. Lawson began his run on the ship then lost sight of her in the shadows. But the 8000-ton Bainsizza was already sinking, and her escorting destroyer stood by for survivors.

10. See Dad's Attack on Convoy - 18 October 1941

An ASV Wellington picked up a convoy of four merchant ships from 3000-6000 tons escorted by four destroyers. Bibby took off with five Swordfish at 6.40pm, and started his attack 90 minutes later. Lawson stuck first at the stern of the 5000-ton Caterina, and Dad followed immediately with a hit amidships. The ship came to a halt and was attacked again by Taylor and Osborn in the light of its fires. A tremendous explosion sent smoke and debris past Dad's plane at 2000 feet, and a destroyer was caught in the destruction.

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