28 July 1940: Malta Flying Boats Survive Dog Fights

28 Jul

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Sunderland Flying Boat (1)

Sunderland Flying Boat (1)

A Sunderland flying boat on a mission over Sicily today survived a dog fight despite being outnumbered.  Sunderland L5804 was returning from patrol over Augusta and Syracuse when it was attacked by three formations of fighters.  The raiders were used explosive tracer as well as ordinary ammunition, punching large holes in the hull and putting the turret, elevator and rudder controls out of action.  Three members of the crew were wounded in the legs; LAC D A Campbell was badly wounded.  Despite this, the flying boat managed to shoot down two of the Italian fighters.  One was shot down in flames and the other driven out of control, though it was not seen hitting the water. 

The Sunderland turned towards Malta, limping home at an altitude of 10 feet, and chased by fighters until within sight of the Island.  Its engine seized on the approach to Kalafrana and it landed on the water, before beaching near the seaplane base just after 11 this morning.  Repairs on the aircraft began immediately.

A second Sunderland returning from reconnaissance over Cape Spartivento was also attacked by three Italian fighters.  One fighter broke up in the air, a second broke off combat as though damaged.  The third pursued the Sunderland until within range of Malta without causing damage.  A third Sunderland on return from reconnaissance was chased by two fighters to close to Malta but they did not press home an attack.  All the Italian fighters were identified as monoplanes.    


Weather  Fine and warm. 

1130-1155 hrs  Air raid alert for one bomber and ten fighters which approach the Island from St Paul’s Bay towards Hal Far.  They are engaged by heavy Ack Ack fire.  One raider is brought down and crashes in the sea 15 miles south of Malta.  The rest turn back before crossing the coast.  No bombs are dropped.    


AIR HQ  Aircraft casualties 1 Sunderland  0430 hrs  One Sunderland on creeping ahead patrol over the Ionian Sea, then reconnaissance of Augusta and Syracuse, where five flying boats are spotted.  The Sunderland attacked three waterships near Augusta, dropping three 250lb bombs: no result.  A second Sunderland on reconnaissance sighted a submarine off Cape Spartivento and dropped five bombs: no results visible.  One Sunderland on reconnaissance.  All three Sunderlands were attacked; one returned to Malta damaged; repairs began immediately. 

KALAFRANA  Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 Squadrons operating 12 hour naval patrols over wide area covering Greek coast, south Italian coast and Sicily under direct instructions from Middle East and HQ Mediterranean. 

(1)  Website: Malta Family History

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1 Comment

Posted by on July 28, 2015 in 1940, July 1940


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One response to “28 July 1940: Malta Flying Boats Survive Dog Fights

  1. Bud Rose

    July 29, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Allen. These Sunderlands would have been Mark 3 models with four Pegasus 18 engines. They had 9 cylinders with no external oil pressure to the rocker boxes where the rocker gear was lubricated by a saturated felt pad. High melting point grease was hand fed into the pads and we changed them every 120 hours..Some aircraft were known to keep flying with at least one cylinder/piston/conrod missing as there was no external pressure oil on the engine and there was no way of having an indication in the aircraft until the engine siezed. Propellor feathering was completed by a pump on the rear of the engine which fed high pressure fluid through a hollow engine bolt near the top of the engine to the constant speed unit on the front and to the propellor. Loss of engine oil made feathering impossible. We had 4 of these aircraft from 1943 at Hobsonville Air Force Base till 1947 when they were sold to National Airways for their Pacific Islands service. The aircraft armament was impressive and fighters very seldom got the better of a Sunderland. They also carried a good load of bombs and depth charges. Regards. Bud.


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