Message from Dai Whittingham

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.

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9 thoughts on “Message from Dai Whittingham

  1. Interested to read about 23 Sqn Association Reunion in Lincoln. Wish I’d known earlier as I could have circulated it to our members through our quarterly magazine ‘Confound & Destroy’ of which I am Editor. Perhaps it’s a good idea to link re events for the future? Our Reunion is always held in May and includes all Squadrons under RAF 100 Group, including 23 Sqn. Next year’s is 17 – 19 May 2019. Over the weekend we have a number of events going on, with a main Dinner on Saturday evening with old-time Singers and dancing … absolutely wonderful!! As a founding member of RAF 100 Group Association, I have supported and worked with veterans and families for over 20 years. I’m also Secretary worldwide, and author of 28 published books through which I promote their wartime role. So little is still known about them, while I remain passionate about preserving both their history and stories for the future. Our youngest at this year’s Reunion was a 14yr Air Cadet, the oldest 98yrs. We stay in touch daily, sharing every aspect of our lives … it’s the reason I refer to them as my ‘Kindred Spirit Family’. Each member precious, valued, loved. Please write to the main email address which will get to me direct. I’d be happy to hear from you.

  2. This is fantastic information. The more I hear about these airmen the more I respect and wonder in awe at the jobs they were expected to perform. I do have a photo of Leslie’s original grave which I will dig out and send to be put up on the site. I also wondered why he appeared to have 2 completely different graves. Thank you for all this new information

    Michelle

    1. Dai answered your question.

      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.

    2. About this you wrote…

      This is fantastic information. The more I hear about these airmen the more I respect and wonder in awe at the jobs they were expected to perform.

      This is why I have been writing so much about this squadron and so many others.

  3. Am interested in the 23 Squadron reunion later this year. Is there a website/contact where I can find more information please?

    1. Dai wrote this…

      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.

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