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Old 04-29-2010, 04:18 PM
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James MacLachlan, 261 Squadron, diary for 16 February 1941, on Malta:

"At about 9.15 we were ordered to scramble, and climbed to 20,000 feet. We were still climbing over Luqa when six Me 109s screamed down on us out of the sun. We immediately broke away and formed a rather wide circle. Just as I took my place in the circle I saw four more Messerschmitts coming down out of the sun. I turned back under them and they all overshot me. I looked round very carefully, but could see nothing, so turned back on to the tail of the nearest Hun who was chasing some Hurricanes in front of him. We were all turning gently to port, so I cut the corner and was slowly closing in on the Hun. I was determined to get him, and must have been concentrating so intently on his movements that, like a fool, I forgot to look in the mirror until it was too late. Suddenly there was a crash in my cockpit - bits and pieces seemed to fly everywhere.

Instinctively I went into a steep spiral dive, furiously angry that I had been beaten at my own game. My left arm was dripping with blood, and when I tried to raise it only the top part moved, the rest hung limply by my side. Everything happened so quickly that I have no very clear recollection of what actually took place. I remember opening my hood, disconnecting my oxygen and R/T connections and standing up in the cockpit. The next thing I saw was my kite diving away from me, the roar of its engine gradually fading as it plunged earthwards. It was a marvellous feeling to be safely out of it; everything seemed so quiet and peaceful. I could hear the roar of engines above me and distinctly heard one burst of cannon fire. I could not see what was happening as I was falling upside down and my legs obscured all view of the aircraft above me. My arm was beginning to hurt pretty badly, so I decided to pull my chute right away in case I fainted from loss of blood. I reached round for my ripcord but could not find it. For some unknown reason I thought my chute must have been torn off me while I was getting out of my kite and almost gave up making any further efforts to save myself. I remember thinking that the whole process of being shot down, and being killed, seemed very much simpler and less horrible than I had always imagined. There was just going to be a big thud when I hit the deck and all would be over - my arm would stop hurting and no more 109s could make dirty passes at me behind my back.

I think I must have been gradually going off into a faint when suddenly I thought of Mother reading the telegram saying that I had been killed in action. I made one last effort to see if my parachute was still there and to my amazement and relief found that it had not been torn off after all. With anoter suprheme effort I reached round and pulled the rip cord. There was a sickening lurch as my chute opened and my harness tightened round me so that I could hardly breathe. I felt horribly ill and faint. Blood from my arm came streaming back into my face, in spite of the fact that I was holding the stump as tightly as I could. I could only breathe with the utmost difficulty and my arm hurt like Hell. I could see Malta spread out like a map 15,000 ft below me and I longed to be down there - just to lie still and die peacefully. I was woken from this stupor by the roar of an engine and naturally thought some bloodthirsty Gerry had come to finish me off. I don't think I really minded what happened; certainly the thought of a few more cannon shells flying past me didn't exactly cheer me up. To my joy, however, I saw that my escort was a Hurricane piloted, as I learned later, by Eric Taylor.He ahd quite rightly decided that he could do no good by playing with the Huns at 20,000 ft, so came down to see that none of them got me.

For what seemed like hours I hung there, apparently motionless, with Malta still as far away as ever. Once or twice I started swinging very badly, but as I was using my only hand to stop myself bleeding to death, I was unable to do anything about it. At about 1,500 ft I opened my eyes again, and to my joy saw that I was very much lower down. For a little while I was afraid I was going to land in the middle of a town, but I mercifully drifted to the edge of this. For the last 100 ft I seemed to drop out of the sky - the flat roof of a house came rushing up at me, and just as I was about to land on it, it dodged to one side and I ended up in a little patch of green wheat. I hit the ground with a terrific thud, rolled over once or twice, and then lay back intending to die quietly. This, however, was not to be.

Scarcely had I got myself comfortable and closed my eyes, when I heard the sound of people running. I hurriedly tried to think up some famous last words to give my public but never had a chance to utter them. I was surrounded by a crowd of shouting, gesticulating Malts, who pulled at my parachute, lifted my head and drove me so furious that I had to give up the dying idea in order to concentrate completely on kicking every Malt who came within range. From what the pongos [army] told me after I believe I registered some rather effective shots.

Eventually two very dim army stretcher-bearers arrived with a first-aid outfit. I told them to put a tourniquet on my arm and give me some morphia, whereupon one of them started to bandage my wrist and the other went off to ask what morphia was. In the end I got them to give me the first-aid outfit and fixed myself up. At last a doctor arrived who actually knew what to do. He put me on a stretcher, had me carried about half a mile across fields to an ambulance, which in turn took me down to the local advanced field dressing station. Here they filled me with morphia, gave me ether, and put my arm in a rough splint. When I came round they gave me a large tot of whisky, another injection of morphia and sent me off to Imtarfa as drunk as a lord. When I eventually arrived at the hospital I was feeling in the best of spirits and apparently shook the sisters by asking them to have a drink with me."

[quoted in Antony Rogers, "Battle over Malta: Aircraft Losses and Crash Sites 1940-42", Sutton Publishing 2000]


"James Archibald Findlay MacLachlan - known as "Jay" to his family, "Mac" to his friends and tagged "One-Armed Mac" by the press - is a true hero of World War II. Having lost his arm following combat over Malta, he was fitted with an artificial limb and continued to fight - way beyond the call of duty. It was perhaps inevitable that he would lose his life in action but along the way this modest man inspired other amputees who wanted to get back into the war. Mac flew Fairey Battle light bombers during the Battle of France, winning his first DFC. He then retrained on fighters and flew Hurricanes towards the end of the Battle of Britain. Having volunteered to go overseas, he led a formation of six Hurricanes from the deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Argus to the besieged island of Malta. Here, following several weeks of intense air combat during which he accounted for eight Italian and German aircraft, he was shot down by one of the Luftwaffe's top fighter aces, Oblt Joachim Muncheberg. Severely wounded in the left arm, he nonetheless parachuted over the island and was rushed to hospital. The arm could not be saved. However, within 16 days of the amputation, he persuaded his CO to allow him to fly a Magister two-seater, initially accompanied by another pilot, before going solo! On his return to England, where he was fitted with an artificial arm, Mac was soon given command of No1 Squadron equipped with Hurricane IICs for night intruder operations. By the end of 1942 he had accounted for five German night bombers and had been awarded the DSO and a Bar to his DFC, plus the Czech Military Cross. Following a six-month goodwill trip to the United States, where he was feted as a fighter pilot hero wherever he went, he returned to operations with the Air Fighting Development Unit. In company with Geoffrey Page, he participated in the destruction of six Luftwaffe training aircraft in one single sortie; but, on his next mission, his Mustang was hit by ground fire when crossing the French coast and crash-landed, with Mac critically injured. Taken prisoner, he died in captivity on 31 July 1943. Based on his diaries and letters, this is Mac's story, mainly told in his own words."

Dont visit the prisoners:

"When we shot the Germans and Italians down, we used to go and see them in hospital at Imtarfa - but one day I stopped the squadron from doing it. It was at the beginning of July [1942] and I was nearing the end of my time with the squadron. There was a raid and Woodhall was controlling it. He'd talked this raid through, giving us a brilliant running commentary. There were three Italian bombers in a tight V formation, with a great beehive of fighter escorts - about 80 plus Me109s and Macchi 202s - and the whole idea was that the bombers were decoys. There were ten of us - I had a four, Raoul Daddo-Langlois had a four and the New Zealander, Jack Rae, was leading his pair of two. We were flying in line-abreast, as we always did. Woodhall had got us into this marvellous position, up-sun, and at about 26,000 feet. I had pushed the thing up another 2000 because you never lost anything by having excess height. Bader always had this piece of doggerel that he used to recite, "He who has the sun creates surprise. He who has the height controls the battle. He who gets in close shoots them down."

We were now about 5,000 or 6,000 feet above these fellows, so I said to my guys, "Look we've got bags of height - we've got the sun but there are a lot of 109s about, so we'll go straight through the lot of them and have a go at the three bombers. After that, we go straight down to the deck." We went steaming into these bloody things. I had a go at the bomber on the left and saw it disintegrate, going down in flames. I saw Raoul's go falling away, and then Jack came through and knocked out the bomber in the middle. All three of them went down in flames, then I said, "Now roll on to your backs, fellers, and go down to the deck. There are far too many 109s about to stay and mix it." So we went down and landed at Takali.

The next day, I took two or three of the fellows who had been flying that day, plus one of the chaps from Headquarters who could speak Italian, to the hospital where all the Italians who had baled out were in bed. I walked across to the bed on the left of the ward and there was this good-looking young Italian with his arm all bandaged up. The interpreter said to him, "This is the CO of the squadron which shot your aeroplanes down, and these are some of the rest of the squadron." And this young Italian, who couldn't speak English, held up his hand and said, through the interpreter, "I have lost my hand." It made me feel terrible. Then the interpreter asked him, "What did you do in peacetime?" and the boy just said, "I was a professional violinist." I said to the chaps, "I'm going out now", and I waited for them until they had finished talking to the Italians. Then I said to them, "Look here, we are never going to visit these wounded prisoners in hospital again when there is an emotive injury or wound. It is so terrible and bad for morale. I can't stand it." For weeks after, long after I'd come back from Malta, I used to wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about it. It was a dreadful thing, because I had no feeling of hate for these people."

Squadron Leader "Laddie" Lucas, 249 Squadron (Later Wing Commander, CBE, DSO, DFC), quoted in "Forgotten Voices of the Second World War", Random House/Imperial War Museum 2004.

The young wounded Italian was the only survivor of his crew.
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