I believe everything is important to preserve the past.
This is a message sent from Dai Whittingham.
The message about Leslie Green set me thinking, because I had been led to believe that the Malta casualties were all buried in Malta. It is hard to see from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site where Leslie was originally buried before his remains were moved to Catania, but there is no doubt from the date that he would have been serving at Luqa. The CWGC might have more details as to why he and his pilot were moved.
In 2001, during my time in command of RAF Waddington, we flew two 23 Sqn Mosquito pilots back to Malta (in an AWACS, because we could!) and spent time visiting the Sqn graves there and in Sardinia. We also laid a wreath at the Malta Memorial.
Peter Rudd and Jock Browne are sadly no longer with us, but Peter wrote an excellent book “Red Eagles: A History of No 23 Squadron, Royal Air Force”. The book is out of print but you may find it via Amazon or e-Bay. They were full of anecdotes about their time in Malta, and they were also able to pass some of that information on to the small aviation museum at Ta Qali.
There is one other casualty I should mention. We visited the Cappucini Naval Cemetery in Valletta, which contains several Sqn graves. The one name that remains clear for me is AC2 George Penfold who, from his rank, was obviously not a Mosquito pilot. Peter and Jock both remembered how he died. George Penfold was ground-crew on the Sqn and had been marshalling a Mosquito at Luqa on 9 Feb 1943.
At that time, some aircraft were dispersed around the airfield and had to come up the hill to reach the runway, often by using what remained of the goat tracks. A Hurricane had powered up the hill via a narrow, stony track and was unable to weave its nose as usual for forward visibility; Penfold, who was in front of 2 running Merlins, apparently did not hear the Merlin behind him, and the Hurricane pilot did not see him before it was too late.
So, a tragic and avoidable non-operational death on active service, but a great reminder that ‘they also serve’.
My other abiding memory of the Malta trip was the realisation that many of the names on the Malta Memorial and Sqn graves were, for Peter and Jock, also voices, faces and events despite the passage of time. The sight of a pair of graves in Cagliari (Sardinia) prompted the memory that the crew had crashed while trying to make a single-engine landing, which then turned into 2 octogenarians discussing asymmetric handling and the vices of the Mosquito, all while stood in the sunshine in a quiet Italian cemetery.
It was such a privilege to be with them.
Dai also added this information…
The 23 Sqn Association (of which I am Chairman) is holding its annual reunion in Lincoln, UK, on Sat 6 October. If any of your correspondents or readers would like to attend, please let us know soonest. We hope to be joined again by Jim Weston, who flew the Mosquito with 23 Sqn towards the end of the war. We are also hoping that the Sqn may be revived by the RAF as part of the new focus on space – no aircraft, but at least the badge would be back in service; no formal news on that, but the opportunity is at least a real one.