Thomas Barker, BEM
World War Two Diary
1941 to 1943
introduced and transcribed by Lawrence M. Barker
content: Lawrence M, Barker © 2004 |
editing: my-malta.com © 2004
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WAR TIME MALTA DIARY
RAF Sgt.Thomas Barker *529747*
828 Squadron, Hal-Far
transcribed from the original Diaries
by Lawrence M Barker BA(Hons), MCIWEM
June - July 1942
Handed over the bar to Ravenhill, & then had the afternoon off to
celebrate - went swimming. Went out to Marsaxlokk [pron. Marsa-shlock] & Zeitun [Zejtun, pron. Zey-toon] with Tubby
Slater - the dusk air raid is still on - he dropped his dirt some
Nice quiet day again, except for 3 Cants which bombed Safi & scores
of fighters doing a sweep, but the Spits shake them up now. HMSub.
'Porpoise' tied up at Kala Jetty last night - should be some mail.
click photo to enlarge
Duty today - lovely day too - very few raids. Was stood down at 6pm
& at 10.30pm I had to get all the lads out of bed for a 'strike'
- but we still got those planes off the deck early of schedule. Packed
up at 6.0am.
Took the day off today; weather was nice & cool & cloudy. After lunch
I went on the bike to Valletta, sent Margo a cable & £10 (hope she
gets it) & then I went over to Birkirkara & Hamrun to have a shifti round.
Plenty of Air Raids today, but not much happened - it absolutely poured
with rain today. Willie reckons he's going back to 185 - I will know
where I stand then. A new bloke was put into our billet today - a
HQ Med bloke - & he doesn't like it.
Plenty of activity today - Spits did good work patrolling total of
about 12 I think - went to Valletta this afternoon, it's as dead as
door nails - came back & wrote to Marg - I received a lovely letter
Duty & Ord Sgt today - gee, this grub in the Camp is wicked. Nothing
happened except for the usual dusk raid - Willy tells us he's going
to 185 very soon. All my machines 'S' - I think...
Yes! after yesterday I can afford to take a day off. Went to Valletta
to take my shoes & my watch. Not much doing there except 'big eats'.
Hitched it back - went swimming after.
Went & sorted out the Flight since Willy has gone back to 185 - I
guess I can cope without him OK though - all the S'fish are 'S' anyway
- minor raids through the day & the usual dusk & night raids - did
plenty of swimming.
Well, I'm damned! just got the kites well under way & the 'bloke'
takes them off me for Curtis - apparently he can't cope with the Albacores
- I take those over tomorrow. Bombed by CANTS after tea & then a dusk
raid followed by all night effort - one dropped in the bay & blew
all windows out.
Had a few letters from Margo today; very nice too - well!, everyone
on the Island is sweating on the convoy getting here soon - troops
standing by & everyone on the top line. I worked until 9.30 tonight
on 'B' - I'm dead beat.
Well, I did think that I could have got 'B' OK so that I could have
the noon off, but no joy - just mucked about in the evening - usual
dusk & night raids.
Had the afternoon off & went to Valletta for my watch & shoes & had
'big eats' - I wonder what kind of a 'do' the Convoy is going to be
- The Itis have a Fleet of 4 Bs. 8 Cv. 24 Drs in Taranto - we stand
by from 0800 hrs tomorrow - Jerry tries to spitcher us again.
Soper - Davis & myself formed 'X' Flt to stand to for an emergency
- crews in pens continuously - bags of shiroc about again - the last
convoy had similar weather. Nothing doing all day but we sent an ASV
out at 23.00. S didn't do much all day so Lofty Davis & myself
palmed the night shift on to him.
06.30 - 'Welshman' off Delimara. 'Beaus' & Spits & Baltimores all snooping about.
09.00 - Albacores A.Y.X.B off on strike - went north east.
11.45 Albacores return - highly successfull - 4 hits on 2 Cruisers & 1 Dr. 'A' slightly shot up but destroyed a Macchi 202.
Y.B.X took off on strike against 2 Cruisers & 3 Drs. escorted by Spits
part of the way. 'Welshman' travelling at top speed past Delimara at 15.00 having been turned round in Grand Harbour -
18.00 the Albacores Y.X came back - 'B' is adrift some place - Apparently they met up with 12 Macchis & 'B' was shot down - Paton was Observer.
Jerry came over & bombed again at about 10.30 & then later on at night - I didn't
take much notice though - it's an impossibility to take cover on every
Eventually stood down from the 'readiness' do & reverted back to normal
routine - after all the efforts only 2 ships out of 6 from the West
reached here & the other Convoy turned back, it was a great disappointment
to the Island generally having waited so long for the ships to arrive.
Gort made a flannel speech about it in the evening - I caught a 'sneezer'
on Night Flying again - had to get all the troops from their billets
& had the kites standing by for a Cruiser at 11.00pm & blow me if
they weren't stood down just as they'd taxied out - bags of excitement
too when Jerry started dropping flares & bombs on the Strip.
Operation 'Harpoon' was intercepted some 120 miles southwest of Sardinia, as the convoy sailed from Gibraltar towards Malta.
Close to 100 aircraft from the Regia Aeronautica, consisting of Savoias, Fiats, Cants and Macchis, descended upon the Allied convoy and, despite the valiant resistance of less than a score defending Hurricanes and Fulmars, the Italians managed to inflict severe damage.
Another convoy set sail from the Eastern Med, but this too was intercepted, this time by the heavily armed Italian Navy and Luftwaffe aircraft, forcing what was left of the convoy to turn back.
After parade in the morning I took the day off - quite a lazy day
too for a change; still it won't do me any harm - no air raids of
any importance even though they're still unloading the ships.
Well, this food question is going from bad to worse, I guess something
will have to be done about it quickly - beer rationed to 2 bottles
a week too - phew! a few raids today but he's doing the bomb-throwing
at night now.
A black day today - Jordan & Todd took 'Y' up for a trip & crashed
- Todd was killed & Jordan smashed about - the only thing we found
wrong before the kite blew up was the A/S in coarse pitch. Very quiet
now with respect for Air Raids - had a quiet evening letter writing.
Fill this in before I turn in - feel nice & tired tonight after a
half day in Valletta - Soper tells me his girl has broken off the
engagement - poor chap? A nice bundle of mail from Margo, I guess
this must be one of those days when I miss her a lot - especially
after reading her letters - only three raids today.
Nothing much doing today with only one kite to look after. Had trouble
with A.C. Gilbert & had to run him - Whitfield gave him CO's Report.
Hell! what a 'do' Jerry gave us after dark - Flares even dropped around
this billet - 'shakey do'. Start my four days leave tomorrow.
Went to Valletta with Watkins & Ging had big eats in the 'Gutz' afterwards
went to the Flicks - saw a ropey show - at about 11.0pm hell let loose
on the Island again - kites diving, bombs whistling & terrific clatter
from the guns - one raider on fire.
Had to go up to Camp to see about the bloke I'd got on the rattle
- remanded again - spent the day swimming & boating - hardly any air
activity - terrific fireworks again after dark - Incendiaries mostly.
click image for full list
Had to attend the investigation about Gilbert's charge - had a swim
in the afternoon & then went to the C&P.O's Club - first time for
ages - I was asked several times as to where I'd been - thought I'd
been drafted - erf - erf! Beaufighters' had a good night of it - four.
Gilbert got 5 days pay - old Lofty Davis fooling around with detonators
blew his left hand off this morning. Last day of leave this - must
write some mail. Finished the day with the usual dusk raid.
Another batch of P.O.'s made-up, I guess it will be a sq'dn' of N.C.O.'s
shortly. Had my night duty tonight but was stood down at 10. The biggest
explosion ever; in the sea by the cliffs; about 500 D.A's went up
together - it was terrific.
Took the day off - too easy now with all these P.O's kicking about.
Went & fetched my boots from Valetta. A terrible job travelling these days with all buses stopped for week-ends & everything else cut down.
Rather befuddled about the raids during the night - I guess I was tired. Well, it's a piece of cake now with all the new P.O's - able
to have a half day again - a bit different from our first months & the winter.
Hell! these dawn raids of Jerrie's are blazers - about half an hour
of the sharpest raids possible - he ceratinly fixed up our kites &
his D.A.'s & stick bombs were scattered everywhere on the 'drome -
we were setting them off by firing at them with rifles - Duty.
A bit quieter last night & had the afternoon off today. Went to Valletta
for a chase round - the boy's aren't very optimistic over the Libya
news. At the moment of writing another dusk raid has just started.
Nothing much doing today, Itis raided the Island but the Spits really
got stuck into them. Horty Reid got a couple. Had one or two drinks
with Marshall & Co the new P.O's - went swimming too - O.K!
Plenty of raids today - fighter sweeps & Itis doing high level stuff
- very quiet in the Sq'dn', eventually made my way back down the goat
track & went swimming - gee! it gets hot these days - wonder what
the boys in Egypt are doing?
A beautiful day again, but one doesn't appreciate the weather here
- I'd like to chase those Malts up about our rations - I reckon the
starvation diet is easy compared with this - the Itis were busy again
- trying to help their convoys.
A marvellous 'do' today - Spits & A.A. knocked down 3 bombers (Itis)
& 4 fighter - one bomber fell the other side of Birzi - Took it steady
today - goodness knows when we're going to get some 'strikes' - I
guess this Naval Air Sq'dn' has 'wrapped up'.
Was intending to go to C&PO's but the lack of transport knocked it
on the head for me - Nothing doing as usual, if 'trade' doesn't buck
up I guess our pilots will have forgotten how to fly - the lucky guys
who are drafted got their clearance chits.
What! 88’s & 109’s again - Lord help us if he starts that game again
so soon - Takali & Hal-Far, 'Alabama' went down in his Spit - Itis
followed up with a high level attack in the evening.
Jerry is certainly back again pasting the 'dromes, but he's losing
more kites this time. As usual I was the Night Flying Jonah again
- 1st night ops for week or two & I pick it up - 'X' was shot down
& 'Q' pranged on the 'drome - a shakey 'do' over Messina.
Had the day off today - except for a couple of big Jerry raids nothing much happened - went with Lofty Marshall to the C&P.Os - had a quiet
run out - Lime & Lemon bis.
Iti seems to be bent on duffing up the place now, but it's certainly
costing them a lot in A/C & men - did the new Guard on the underground
Fuel Installation - of course the O.O. would come round when I'm on
- The grub is pretty grim!
Had the day off after the Guard. Went to Valletta with Ging & Lofty
- saw the Investiture with Gort giving out the 'gongs! The usual high
level raids carry on regularly. We had a run at Tombola while we were
there but no luck. Managed to get haffna big eats.
Another easy day; I've got a feeling that the Sq'dn' will shortly
wrap up & go somewhere; there's certainly no use in keeping us here
with only two kites left. I suppose it depends on the Libyan 'do'
as to whether we get any more kites - or a carrier.
Duty, & Ord. Sgt. today - its no good going round the Airmen's Mess
either because they've nothing but rations 'bics'. As usual, I clicked,
but at the last moment the strike was called off - out of range of
Albacores again I suppose.
Took the day off again - I guess it's the only thing left to do. Dalton
took charge of the Flight. I went to try & find a watch in Valletta
- Itis came over in force this morning - we're getting short of Spits
As usual - beautiful weather & unable to enjoy it; big raids on T'akali
& Luqa. Got the griff that I'm to be in charge of 80 men going to
Luqa to work on Beauforts - anyway it will be worthwhile if only to
help the war-effort.
Left for Luqa with 77 ratings, Lofty, Bill Lowe, Dalton & Jock Gorman.
Managed to get everything going nicely when we arrived here, & taking
into consideration the conditions here, that was pretty good going
- Lt/C. Roe wished me best of luck - I'll need it.
Tried sorting out something from the Beaufort Flight, as usual no-one
knew anything; in the end I packed my hand in digust & dismissed the blokes - if Luqa isn't interested I'm damned sure I'm not. Sub/Lt
Mand came up in the afternoon he's doing liaison - I palmed all cans
over to him.
Got organized a bit better today, not much work doing for the boys
except changing around the pens. I procured an office today in face
of fierce competition - not many buildings standing here. Went to Hal-Far to sort one or two things out.
Trouble! Wilson & Huckstep reported theft of all their kit - was up
till after 12 searching. - Fixed office up temporarily - felt dickie
so took afternoon off. Had interesting explanation of ration scheme
- it appears that officially we're underfed.
A nice day today with another letter from Marg. I think I'm holding
the detachment down O.K. This food question is serious now. The 'Welshman'
went out last night but whether she dodged the Iti cruisers is not
Still not much doing here but I'm getting plenty of mail & that's
something. After work Dalton & I went to Qormi & Hamrun shopping &
fixing ourselves up with Sandals out of Maryland stuff. Beau's shot
4 down during the night.
Apparently the boys had an interesting time down at Birzi last night
when a Jerry hit a Bofors pit killed 7. Shook the Mess a bit. The
Beauforts went on a daylight strike - 1MV - 2DRS, MV & DR sunk. All
kites returned a few being damaged. Had some more mail today - nice
Jerry has commenced activities again in style - spitchered 7 W.Kants
on the 'drome with his 'crackerjacks' they're deadly. Went to see
a punk show called the 'Whizz Bangs' - they were grim. Jerry paid us further visits during the night.
Nothing much doing in the way of flying - crews still standing by
O.K. I've an idea the C.O. was pleased with the temporary organization.
Went to Birzi after dinner to be at Hal Far for payment. Very dead
Six of our Beauforts went out on a daylight strike - 1 MV & several
DR's - They got the MV but three kites were shot down. Jerry pasted the dispersals & spitchered another Beaufort. Drew my pay OK, but
everyone else seemed to be short.
Packed up work early today. Nothing much doing - like every other
station on Malta, this place runs by accident. Bill Lowe received
draft orders for his Pilots' Course. Went into Hamrun with Charlie
Dalton fixed the old sandals.
Three more ratings left us today seems as though someone is definitely
trying to start relieving the Island. D.C's & Wimpeys; in fact any
old thing is taking away a few at a time. Saw the 2800th raid today.
88’s still doing their stuff & still being spitchered.
Rode down to Hal Far today & Birzi & checked over the kit again -
everyone there is all full up to the ears with buzzes about the FAA
future on the Island - 5 more Beauforts arrived - three of them are
being maintained by my blokes.
Beauforts made a strike - lost two & hit the target 1 M.V. The Spits
still doing great & at tea time they fetched the whole of the 'plot'
down - bags of 'flamers'
Nothing of interest happened during the morning: but the way the Spits
fetched 3 88’s down in the evening was great - At the Camp concert
the crew of the Beaufort who after being prisoners for 24 hrs captured
an Iti float plane (Cant) complete with crew & flew it to Malta; were
there giving us gen.
Went to Hal Far this morning & checked up on lost dobeying of mine.
I don't think I like that place now so much as Luqa. Went to Qormi
in the evening & fixed up some tailoring.
A few raids again today but he's getting a bit more opposition now
- thank goodness! Went to Qormi this evening to collect my shirt &
shorts - damn funny time I had trying to make the tiflar understand
how I wanted the sewing done.
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