The Parcels

In December 1941 a batch of pilots and navigators gathered at Portreath Cornwall to fly coastal and night fighter Beaufighter aircraft to Cairo via Gibraltar, and Malta. There was quite a lot of preparatory work to be done first; collect the aircraft from BRISTOL AIRCRAFT at Filton, do some test flying, check equipment, test the armament of machine guns and cannons, assemble maps arid charts and plot courses, etc..

My aircraft, being a Night fighter, had only VHF radios and A.l. Radar; not for us the luxury of F/T and Loop D/F over the long sea Journeys. Finally, on the morning of 30 January 1942, alter a final briefing of the route and hazards to avoid, five Beaufighters set course for Gibraltar, Climbing through moderate cloud we came out on top into sunshine. I looked around for the other four, not a thing.

We could not afford time and fuel looking for them so set course South West for the Bay of Biscay; later we turned South passing over parts of Portugal (naughty) and then skirted the West coast of Spain to a point in the South West where we had to ‘turn left for Gib.’ We arrived at twenty to tour, landing on the hair-raisingly short runway.

An enjoyable four days were spent in Gib, shopping in the well stocked shops in the warm sunny streets, free from war-torn, blacked-out and rationed Britain. On the 3 February, as we were getting into our aircraft for the next leg to Malta, an officer from P & D (Receipt & Dispatch) drove up with nine parcels for us, Each parcel measured about 18 inches square wrapped in heavy brown paper and were of extraordinary weight. “This is a special cargo for Malta” he said, “ Hand it over to RBD Luqa (airfield) who are expecting it”.

The parcels were distributed amongst the aircraft not only to distribute the weight but also to ensure that at least some of them had a chance to arrive in Malla We left Gibraltar at 0900 and with some adventures on the way landed at Luqa at 1600 hours, a seven hour journey over the sea with no en-route navigation and so In dispersal. We were unloading our aircraft when the airraid warning sounded and all hell broke loose. l stood up in my cockpit to hand more stuff to the chap waiting below but he had vanished; a couple of airmen who had been digging a trench near-by had also vanished, their spades were on the way down from the vertical to the prone.

There was so much banging and booming and booming I began to feel quite at home (in UK). The trouble arose from the Germans who did not like the idea of Malta receiving more aircraft (ours) and were taking action. I watched a JU88 come towards the airfield at about 4000 feet followed by puffs of Ack-Ack, a burst of flack burst right behind his tail, the nose went down and the aircraft plunged vertically to earth to cheers from the gunners At about 1000 feet the JU88 leveled out and curved away from the gunners.; a very plucky ruse. With this tea-time diversion over (and no damage to us) we completed unloading the aircraft: but then a snag arose.

On presenting R & D with our nine parcels they said they knew nothing about them and didn’t want them, and suggested we take them on to Cairo as that was our destination, But our Boss was having nothing of that The strict instructions in Gib had been to hand the parcels over to an expectant R & D, and there were no orders beyond that. After much muttering we were told to dump them in the corner of an empty room.

Two days and much banging, booming and crumping later, we set course for Egypt where we handed over our aircraft maintenance and departed for the lush and wicked city of CAIRO.It was a week or so later that we had more news of the parcel. Apparently the money circulation in Malta was drying up as people hoarded coin, not trusting paper money, although that was disappearing also Our special cargo had consisted of bank notes for the Bank of Malta (9 million pounds was mentioned) to ease the problem We speculated amongst ourselves as to what might have been the outcome had the parcels been rejected outright and left to our disposal. Five Beaufighters meant ten men; suppose we could have divided it amicably.

P.S.  Back in Malta a year later I saw lithe sign of our modest ‘RELIEF’ of Malta. Bank notes were scarce, and had been cut in half and overprinted with black letters making them the same donate on as a whole note, Coin was also scarce and where bars and restaurant could not give change you got an I.O.U. I still have some of each and perhaps I will go back one day to redeem them I Maria Santa!

Rex G4MRS – January 1998.

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