Friday, 19 September 2003

HMS Battler - Salerno September 19th 1943

In detail:

The time had come for the first section to fly off. What a moment that was for everyone, what opposition were we going to meet, the ship was just a few miles off the Italian coast, open to aerial and underwater attacks, but this did not deter anyone.

It was 0600 on the clock, a brilliant moon shone overhead, dawn was just beginning to break through the dark skies. Inside the Fighter Direction Office everything was a bustle, take off was at 0615, each squadron putting up 4 aircraft.

Doc is there of course. Doc hangs around at all the take offs and returns just in case. People bring their aircraft back in a bit of a mess sometimes, invariably the prang on the deck. Not often thank God.

On deck there is a roaring and revving as the first Spitfire gets ready, pilots of all aircraft are aboard. G for George, F for Freddie and good old N for Nuts. They are all waiting, checking gauges set. Her cannons are loaded, deadly things, each one carrying a present for the enemy.

0615 on the clock, the Commander Flying gives the green light and the first aircraft roars along the deck followed by the others in quick succession, our flight is airborne, it forms up and heads westwards to look down on the shores of Italy. Below thousands of troop ships and battle craft unload troops and supplies, above planes of the Royal Navy prevent any interference. After 1 hour and 20 minutes our aircraft return and another section take over, and so this cycle of take-offs continued day in and day out for 5 days.

5 days later

Yesterday with only 4 aircraft remaining our task was completed, we had made history by covering the biggest landing the world has ever known.

Last night we had evening quarters on deck for the men that lost their lives during the action, after which we proceeded – whether or not we will arrive back in England before XXX I really don’t know, but I can assure you that I am very much looking forward to doing so.

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