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LAC Ray Roberts: letters & diary

Everyone is starving here

In early November 1942, 20-year old Leading Aircraftman Ray Roberts left his base at Shallufa, Egypt for a posting in Malta, where he would be attached to No. 69 Squadron.  As an engine fitter, his time on the island was spent repairing and maintaining aircraft at Luqa.  The extracts below are from his personal diaries and from letters to his girl back home in England. 

From: 1194627, LAC Roberts, R, B Flight, 38 Squadron, Middle Eastern Forces

5th November 1942

My Dear Joan,

Just a few quick lines to let you know that I am still OK.  I am just going away for a little while.  I don’t suppose I shall be able to get your mail where I am going, but I will write as often as I can.  I am sorry this is so short Joan, but I have to leave right away. 

Give my love to your Mum, Dad & Nora. All My Love

Ray

  • Diary 5-6 Nov 1942  Left for Malta in Wellington Bomber as Front Gunner, 458 Squadron, Aussie Squadron.  Shot at SSE of island by ME 110.  Picked up by motor boat (RAF).  Landed safely. 
  • Nov 1942  Everyone is starving here.  We are being raided day & night.  Gosh!  Are we hungry.
  • The Aussies that brought us here were shot down in the sea last night.  They are posted missing presumed killed.
  • There is a lot of work for us to do here.  I’ll be glad when we get back.  We are starving.  Today I gave all my cigs away for a loaf of bread.

From: 1194627, LAC Roberts, R, SDF RAF Station, Luqa, Malta

16th  Nov 1942

My Dear Joan,

I hope this finds you well & happy.  I am sorry that I am  a little late in writing this week, but as you can see by my address, I have been on the move again…

We are getting a touch of English weather here at present, bags of rain.  I dare say you are finding it very cold now.  I should imagine that this island was a very nice place in peace-time, but for all that Joan there is no place like home.  Gosh! How I look forward to the day I can come back.  I would give the world just to wake up one morning & find I was home.  Still I guess we must have patience, & if things keep going as they are, then maybe it will not be long.

Do you ever go dancing nowadays?  I think that I have forgotten how to now.  It’s over eighteen months since I went to one.  Still I’ll make up for lost time one of these days when we are back together again.

Well Joan I don’t seem to have much news for now.  So I guess I had better close.  Don’t forget, you can write to me here.

Cheerio for now & All My Love,

Ray

From: 1194627, LAC Roberts, R, S.D.F. RAF Station, Luqa

24th November 1942

My Dear Joan,

I hope this letter finds you all well & happy.  I am still doing fine, except for the cold weather, & gosh, it does feel cold, after leaving the Middle East…

I haven’t had much chance to look around yet, as we are very busy…  I haven’t even been to the pictures for about a month.  Still I guess that’s one way of saving money.

Well, it’s getting very near Christmas now Joan, I sure wish I could spend it with you.  Have they got much of a programme for that week in Stafford? 

By the way, Joan, you should see the air-raid shelters here.  I should think they are the finest in the world.  Some of them are about eighty feet deep, in solid rock.

Well Joan, dear, I think this is about all for now, so I will close.  Wishing you a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year.  Give my love to your Mother, Dad & Nora.

All My Love,

Ray

From: 1194627, LAC Roberts, R, S.D.F. RAF Station, Luqa

9th December 1942

My Dear Joan,

Thanks for your letter.  I hope you are keeping well.  I am sorry that I am a little late in replying, but I had not got a scrap of writing paper to my name.  You see we are short of a lot of things here, and you just can’t get hold of stuff for love nor money.  However, the Padre came to the rescue, & issued some out…

It has been raining for the last two or three days, & we are up to our knees in mud…  I haven’t managed to visit Valletta, which is our nearest town, yet, but from what the other fellows tell me… there is nothing to buy & nowhere to go except to the pictures…

Here’s wishing you a very happy Christmas.

Goodbye for now & All My Love,

Ray

From: 1194627, LAC Roberts, R, S.D.F. RAF Station, Luqa

15th December 1942

My Dear Joan,

Thanks for your letter, & for the Christmas card.  I was glad to hear you are OK…

Well the weather here has taken a turn for the better these last two or three days.  I hope it continues that way.  Our Station Warrant Officer has organised a sort of cinema in one of the old buildings.  It’s not too bad, except that it breaks down about six times every performance.  Still it passes the night away…

You know Joan, I never thought I would end up like this, but I am actually billeted in the poor-house.  So I guess it will be Christmas Day in the Workhouse all right.

Well Joan dear, I am hoping with all my heart that this will be the last Christmas we spend away from each other…

All My Love,

Ray

  • DIARY 17-18 December 1942  Big raid today.  Jerry attacked with ME110s.  He destroyed 9 Wellingtons & two Spitfires.  [RAF records show that in addition to the nine Wellingtons, there were four Spitfires destroyed.  All had been on the ground at Luqa aerodrome which had been the main target of a combined raid by forty Junkers Ju88.]
  • December 1942 We get about three crashes a day & we have no equipment to repair them with.  We should be getting mail direct to here soon.  I shall be glad when I do.
  • Gosh.  It really is terrible here.  Work from dawn till dark & after, & hardly a thing to eat.
  • At last we got some mail from home.  We wrote back straight away.
  • How these RAF lads here have stuck this for twelve months is beyond me.  But when you look in their faces you can see that they are underfed & should all be sent home.
  • My mail is more regular now.  We are still working long hours.  Up to now I have had no chance to go down Valletta.  But I hope to soon.  

Ray’s posting on the island ended on New Year’s Eve and he was immediately sent to Cairo on recuperation leave.  His two months on the island had coincided with what would turn out to be the final stages of the Siege.

Extracts from diaries and letters of 1194627, LAC Ray Roberts, courtesy of David R Roberts, The Flying Erk, Matador, 2020

 

 

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