14 May 1942: Fighter Aces Lost in Ferocious Battles Over Malta

14 May

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John Livingstone “Tony” Boyd

The battle for Malta today lies in the hands of the young fighter pilots of the Allied and Axis air forces, as fierce dog fights continue in the skies over the Island.

At 0915 hours this morning, fighter ace Sergeant John “Tony” Boyd, DFM, was piloting one of three Spitfires of 185 Squadron scrambled from Hal Far to intercept enemy aircraft heading for an attack on Luqa aerodrome.  Over the sea to the ast of Grand Harbour, the Spitfires caught their prey.  Sergeant Boyd attacked a Messerschmitt 109 piloted by Luftwaffe Leutnant Alfred “Martello” Hammer, causing serious damage.  Hammer survived, managing to limp back to Comiso in Sicily, where he crash-landed.  Boyd had to watch as fellow Spitfire pilot Sergeant Colin Finlay was shot down.

Three hours later Tony Boyd was in the air again, as one of four Spitfires sent up to attack a dozen Macchi 202 fighters over Hal Far.  This time, he was not so lucky, as witnessed by Pilot Officer Reade Tilly from the ground:

Alfred “Martello” Hammer

” A dog fight started overhead some 3 Ju88s came in with 109 escort Ack Ack going like mad, bursts all over the sky, then I saw a 109 sit on a Spitfire’s tail and I heard the brrr on cannon. The Spit rolled over and dived vertically in what appeared to be a controlled evasive manoeuvre, doing a series of aileron turns: there was no smoke trail and apparently he was OK but for some reason I felt he’d had it. Sure enough he started to pull out too late at 100 feet, then when it looked as if he would make it, the pilot either died or lost consciousness and ploughed into the deck on the far side of the drome at 300 mph. So at 1305 hrs the career of Sgt. Pilot Tony Boyd came to an abrupt and spectacular end – just a terrific explosion and a long sheet of flame.” (1)

One of the enemy fighters had turned back and got onto Sergeant Boyd’s tail, firing several rounds on target.  He crashed some 250 metres from the perimeter of Luqa airfield and was killed.  Tomorrow was due to be Tony Boyd’s last day in Malta before he returned to England for a period of rest and recuperation.  He was 22 years old.


Weather  Wind south-westerly; cold and rough.  Little cloud.

0651 hrs  One JU 88 with an escort of three ME 109s drops one large bomb in Sliema.

0755 hrs  ME 109s patrol to the north of the Island.

0855 hrs  A formation of 24 enemy aircraft approach and fly thirty miles to the south east before turning back towards the Island.

0900 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron and eight Spitfires 249 Squadron from Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept.  F/O West destroys one JU 88 and damages one ME 109.  Sgt Hesselyn destroys one JU 88.  F/Sgt Williams damages one ME 109 and then makes a belly-landing at Ta Qali due to a shortage of petrol.

0907 hrs  13 Spitfires 126 and 601 Squadrons are also scrambled from Luqa to intercept.  P/O Tilly and Sgt Goldsmith each destroy one ME 109.  F/Lt Winfield probably destroys one ME 109.

0915 hrs  Three Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far and intercept a number of ME 109s to the east of Grand Harbour.  Sgt Boyd destroys one ME 109.  Sgt Finlay is shot down and killed.  Remaining Spitfires land 1010 hrs.

Three JU 88s with ME 109 escort drop bombs on Luqa aerodrome, damaging one lorry and wounding one soldier.  Four ME 109 fighter bombers drop bombs on Ta Qali aerodrome.

0940-1004 hrs  ME 109 fighters dive on Hal Far and are engaged by light Ack Ack machine guns of B Coy 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt.  One JU 88 and four ME 109s are engaged by two guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery.  One gun claims hits on the JU 88.

1015 hrs  Raiders passed.

1130-1145 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne from Ta Qali to intercept ME 109s carrying out a fighter sweep: no engagement.

Caproni Re 2001 Falco

1237 hrs  Three JU 88s approach the Island with an escort of 40 plus fighters, including Italian Caproni Re 2001 (Falco) aircraft.

1245 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are airborne and intercept twelve Macchi 202s carrying out a fighter sweep over Hal Far.  Sgt Ferraby probably destroys one Macchi 202.  Sgt Boyd is shot down and crashes 200 yards from a defence post at the edge of Luqa airfield: he is killed.

1300 hrs  Eight Spitfires 126 and 601 Squadrons are scrambled from Luqa to intercept enemy aircraft.  P/O Ingram and F/Lt Barnham claim one JU 88 destroyed; Sgt Goldsmith claims one JU 88 destroyed.

1335 hrs  Five Spitfires 603 Squadron from Ta Qali intercept three JU 88s carrying out a bombing raid on the airfield.  All three are attacked by F/O Mitchell, F/Sgt Hurst and P/O Sherwood: claim three destroyed.  One crashes on the aerodrome and is burned out with no survivors.  Another recedes north, smoking badly.  F/Lt Sanders damages one ME 109.

1350 hrs  Raiders passed.

1713 hrs  Three JU 88s with an escort of forty ME 109s and Macchi 202s approach the Island from the south east and drop bombs in a scattered pattern across the Hal Far, Gudja and Safi areas.

1715 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled but do not engage.

Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron from Ta Qali make contact with the JU 88s after they have dropped their bombs.  F/Lt Buchanan probably destroys one ME 109.  F/Sgt Fox destroys one ME 109 but is himself later shot down into the sea.

One JU 88 receives a direct hit from Heavy Ack Ack.  One baler out lands between two defence posts of 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt.  Personnel of D Coy help to round him up and he is taken to the RAF Guard Room.  He speaks English slightly and receives only slight injuries on landing.

1734 hrs  13 Spitfires 126 and 601 Squadrons from Luqa are scrambled to attack the enemy aircraft.  P/O Tilly destroys one ME 109; S/L Barton probably destroys another.  P/O Tilly and P/O Johnson each damage one ME 109.  One JU 88 is also damaged.

1843 hrs  Raiders passed.

Night  Two alerts sound for three enemy raiders, of which only one crosses the coast.

0045-0115 hrs  One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit (MNFU) is airborne on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: claims one BR 20 destroyed.

0330-0445 hrs  One Beaufighter MNFU is airborne on patrol: no interceptions.

Military casualties  Sergeant John Boyd, DFM, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Colin Finlay, Pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Harold Fox, Royal Canadian Air Force, 249 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Naxxar  Joseph Deguara, age 20.  Sliema  Rosina Busuttil, age 32; Angelo Falzon, age 73; Sarah Falzon, age 67; Alfred Micallef, age 16; Beatrix Scicluna, age 14; Winnie Smith, age 56; Dr Hector Vassallo, LLD, age 41.

Enemy casualties  Hauptman Emil Brain, Pilot, JU 88 bomber; Obergefreiter Herbert Burger, Observer, JU 88, baled out from crashing aircraft and taken prisoner; Gefreiter Rudolf Hertzler, Observer, JU 88; Obergefreiter Rolf Hueppop, Air Gunner, JU 88; Obergefreiter Hermann Koester, Wireless Operator, JU 88; Obergefreiter Ferdinand Lechner, Air Gunner, JU 88; Unteroffizier Johannes Meinel, Air Gunner, JU 88; Unteroffizier Johannes Prokesch, Pilot, JU 88; Unteroffizier Otto Richter, Wireless Operator of JU 88; Feldwebel Gunter Schwerdt, Pilot, JU 88; Obergefreiter Karl Heinz Stadtmann, Observer, JU 88; Feldwebel Paul Stahl, Wireless Operator, JU 88 bomber.


AIR HQ  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Wellington to 108 MU.  Aircraft casualties  One Lodestar crashed on take-off; crew injured.  Two Spitfires shot down in combat; pilots killed.  One Spitfire shot down in the sea; pilot missing.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  Party of one Officer and 20 Other Ranks filling ammunition belts for aircraft at Ta Qali aerodrome.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Luqa working party of 50 men continues as yesterday.

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

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Lt C Falzon, No 1 Works Company RE is injured by enemy action and admitted to hospital.  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 6; dealt with 9 (1 x 500kg; 7 x 250kg; 1 Italian AP bomb container).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 trucks, 7 Officers and 230 Other Ranks building pens at Hal Far.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Working parties continue building pens at Luqa airfield.

(1) Malta: The Spitfire Year 1942, Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, Grub Street, 1991


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Posted by on May 14, 2022 in 1942, May 1942


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