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FUEL SHORTAGE THOUGHT TO HAVE CAUSED LOSSES
Eight Hurricane fighter aircraft which were due to land in Malta today have been reported missing. The fighters were part of an operation to deliver twelve Hurricanes as reinforcements for the Island’s RAF fighter defence force. The Hurricanes arrived in the western Mediterranean on board the aircraft carrier HMS Argus escorted by part of the Mediterranean fleet. The first of two waves of six Hurricanes and a Skua took off from Argus at 6.15 this morning to fly onward to Malta. The second wave set off an hour later.
Just after 9am the pilot of a Short Sunderland flying boat sent to guide the first formation to Malta saw two Hurricanes ditch into the sea. He was able to rescue one of the pilots, Sergeant R A Spyer, who reported that he had run out of fuel. The remaining four Hurricanes and the Skua landed safely at Luqa at 9.20am.
A bomber from Malta sent out to meet the second wave could find none of the expected aircraft. It is feared that all six Hurricanes and the Skua may have ditched in the sea, most likely due to lack of fuel.
Missing pilots named so far are Flying Officer E G Bidgood, Pilot Officer F J Boret, Flying Officer R W Clarke, Sergeant W G Cunnington, Pilot Officer J M Horrox, Flying Officer P W Horton and Flying Officer J R Walker, RAF.
Codenamed ‘White’, the fighter delivery operaton was a repeat of a similar manoeuvre, Operation ‘Hurry’ carried out in August. It had hoped the success of that operation would form a model for future aircraft deliveries to Malta.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 18 NOVEMBER 1940
Weather Fine and warm.
No air raids.
0930 hrs One Skua and four Hurricanes land at Luqa.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 17 NOVEMBER 1940
ROYAL NAVY Operation ‘White’ carried out but only five out of 14 aircraft reached Malta. Anti-submarine trawlers were sent to search for the missing aircraft off Gozo and Filfla but no trace could be found.
AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Skua; 4 Hurricanes
KALAFRANA One Sunderland on escort duty for a delivery flight of Hurricanes arriving from an aircraft carrier. The pilot F/Lt Woodward rescued the survivor of one Hurricane which had force-landed in the sea. He then joined F/Lt McKinley to search for further missing aircraft: no trace found. Sunderland of F/Lt Ware on search patrol for Wellington – no trace. A draft of 26 airmen of various trades were posted to Kalafrana from UK.
4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT) The Battalion is now the Fortress mobile reserve – to be used in a counter-attack role in the event of the enemy gaining a footing on the Island – and has been issued with 520 bicycles.
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