4 May 1942: Pilots Watch Helpless as Spitfire Ace Shot Down in Flames

04 May

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Flt Lt Norman MacQueen


RAF fighter pilots at Ta Qali had to watch helplessly as one of their comrades was jumped by a German fighter this afternoon.  Flight Lieutenant Norman MacQueen was one of eight Spitfire pilots scrambled to intercept a heavily protected formation of Italian bombers attacking Grand Harbour.  He was heading back towards Ta Qali from where his comrades watched as he was jumped by a Messerschmitt fighter.

“Norman was flying with another Spitfire and about to attack some 109s, when we saw a 109 sweep across the sky behind him.  Vainly we shouted, ‘Turn! Spit!’ as if there was some hope that he might hear us.  But evidently neither of them saw the 109 and just kept straight on.  We saw the 109’s tracer going right into Norman’s machine.  His spitfire lurched and gave up a thin smoke trail.  For some time it seemed to be under control and circled downwards as if he hoped to land.  Then suddenly the nose went forward, and the machine dived like a stone into the ground, bursting into flames as it hit.” 

The award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to Flight Lieutenant Norman MacQueen was announced in the London Gazette on 1 May 1942. (1)


A new Infantry Brigade as been formed today, increasing the Malta Command structure from three Infantry Brigades to four.  The Western Infantry Brigade is now added to the Central, Northern and Southern Brigades to improve efficiency and coverage across the Island.  The new Brigade will include 4th Bn The Buffs (Royal East Kent) Regiment, 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry and 8th Bn Kings Own Royal Regiment, whose former Commanding Officer, Lt Col F G R Brittorous, DSO, MC, takes over command of the new Brigade.


Weather  Wind westerly.

0703-0737 hrs  One JU 88 and four ME 109 carry out a reconnaissance patrol across the Island.  They are engaged by Heavy Ack Ack: no claims.

1013 hrs  The air raid alert is sounded for plots of enemy aircraft approaching the Island.

1025 hrs  Six enemy fighters approach from the south east and attack Marsaxlokk Bay.  Four ME 109 fighter bombers drop bombs near a trawler and an oil barge in the Bay.  Bombs also land on Wolseley Camp and near the camp Battery.  Guns of E Coy 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt engage two ME 109s which are seen to leave the Island smoking.  Guns of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt engage one ME 109: hits claimed.

1038-1047 hrs  Six JU 88s escorted by ME 109s attack Luqa aerodrome and the Safi strip.  Bombs on the main airfield explode near three defence posts: one 15 cwt lorry is destroyed.  A working party of 11th Bn Lancashire Regt engages the attacking aircraft with light machine guns, claiming damage to two JU 88s.  Bombs explode either side of their position: 2/Lt Angell and Cpl Latchem are slightly hurt.  Twelve bombs are dropped on Safi strip.

1110 hrs  All clear.

1621 hrs  The air raid alert is sounded for incoming formations of enemy fighters and bombers.

1626 hrs  Four ME 109 fighter bombers with fighter escort carry out a repeat dive-bombing attack on Marsaxlokk Bay.  This time bombs score a direct hit on the oil barge and sink it. Bombs are also dropped on Wolseley Camp, damaging a guard room and a gas decontamination centre.

Guns of Fort Ta Silch engage two ME 109s flying east to west at 50 feet.

1645 hrs  Three JU 88s bomb Pieta, Manoel Island and Floriana.

1650 hrs  Three JU 88s carry out a dive-bombing attack on the Hal Far area.  Only one bomb falls within the perimeter of the aerodrome, damaging one Swordfish aircraft.

1650-1700 hrs  Five JU 88s at 2-3000 feet and three ME 109s at 50-300 feet are engaged by seven guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery.  One gun claims one ME 109 damaged.

1715 hrs  Raiders passed.

1740 hrs  Four Spitfires are scrambled from Luqa and four from Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept an incoming formation of enemy aircraft.  They are unable to reach the height of the five Cant 1007s who come with a close escort of Macchi 202s at 21000 feet.  14 ME 109s engage the Spitfires.  F/Lt MacQueen, 249 Squadron (Ta Qali), is fired at by a ME 109.  His machine crashes near Naxxar and explodes.  Sgt Brennan (Ta Qali) probably destroys one ME 109.  Sgt McConnell (Luqa) engages ME 109s but is hit in the radiator; the pilot is unhurt.

1750 hrs  Five Cant 1007 bombers drop bombs between Corradino and Paola from a high level.  Ack Ack guns destroy one enemy aircraft and damage one.

1815 hrs  Raiders passed.  All seven remaining Spitfires land at Ta Qali.

1930 hrs  A Spitfire on transit from Gibraltar to Malta overshoots the runway and crashes, slightly damaging the aircraft.

Night  Two short alerts: bombs in the south east of the Island and in the sea off Grand Harbour.

2250 hrs  Air raid alert.  A Wellington aircraft on transit from Gibraltar to Malta stalls while coming in to land at Luqa and crashes.  The aircraft is written off but the crew are unhurt.

2305 hrs  Air raid alert.  Incendiaries are reported south of Fort Ta Silch.

2310 hrs  All clear.

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant Norman MacQueen, DFC, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 249 Squadron; Gunner James Ancient, 186 Battery, 74 Light Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Artillery; Private Saviour Bonello, 2nd Battalion, King’s Own Malta Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Naxxar  Carmelo Schembri, age 14.


ROYAL NAVY  Captain (S), Tenth Submarine Flotilla and staff left for Alexandria by air.  Oil lighter and tug C308 at Marsaxlokk machine gunned by ME 109s, only slight damage was caused, but during a later raid, the oil lighter was dive bombed and sunk.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Blenheims, two Spitfires, two Wellingtons, one Hudson, one Beaufort from Gibraltar; one Hudson from Gambut.  Departures  Three Wellingtons to 108 MU; one Hudson to Gibraltar; one Hudson to Heliopolis.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed on landing; crew uninjured.  One Spitfire shot down: pilot killed.

LUQA  0810-0945 hrs  One Spitfire on photo-reconnaissance of Italian aerodromes.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  1800-2400 hrs  Working party at Ta Qali continues.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Exercise continues.  There has been no action.  Troops have just “stood to” morning and evening.  1800 hrs  Exercise finishes; Bn stands down and we revert to normal.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continue.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 8; dealt with 21(4 x 500kg, 14 x 250kg, 2 x 50kg, 1 x Italian anti-personnel bomb container).

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  0500 hrs  Exercise “Stand to” down.  0730 hrs  Luqa working parties continued.   1800 hrs  Exercise “Stand to” completed.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Our Commanding Officer Lt Col F G R Brittorous, DSO, MC was given command of the new Western Infantry Brigade, consisting of 4 Buffs, 1st Durham Light Infantry and 8 Kings Own.

(1) Diary of Squadron Leader Lord David Douglas-Hamilton, Blackwood’s Magazine, May 1944


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Posted by on May 4, 2022 in 1942, May 1942


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