By Tim Saunders
The seizure of the Belgian castle stronghold at Eban Emael via German Airborne and detailed Forces used to be the dramatic beginning shot within the Nazis’ devastating may well 1940 offensive. Codenamed Operation GRANITE, it concerned glider forces in a bold ‘coup de main’ operation attaining overall shock and good fortune. The simultaneous attacks on key bridges at the Albert Canal also are defined in picture aspect.
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During heavy air fighting over Tunisia, the 52nd FG lost six Spitfires to fighters or flak. Returning to 6 April, early that day 11 aircraft from the 307th escorted A-20s sent to bomb La Fouconnerie, and en route to the target they were attacked by a dozen Bf 109Gs shortly after 0730 hrs. Lt Virgil Fields fired off all his ammunition at one of the fighters, and had the satisfaction of seeing part of the port wing of his victim fall off. He was duly credited with the first ofhis six victories upon returning to base, his victim believed to have been Ltn Klaas.
On 20 May Peck was awarded a DFC, having made 15 claims since arriving in Malta - 3 1/2 destroyed, three probables and no less than eight T 44 Pit Off Donald McLeod of No 126 Sqn arrived in Malta on 21 March 1942 and shot down two Bf 109s on the 24th and 25th of the month. However, he was himself shot down in flames on 2 April and baled out, injured. McLeod later transferred to the USAAF, and scored two more victories with the 83rd FS (via Brian Cull) damaged. He survived more than forty combats over Malta, and later spoke to American reporters of his experiences; 'I never even got a scratch or so much as a bullet through my aeroplane.
I fired at one Ju 87 and saw strikes on the wings and pieces flying off. The Stuka went into a steep downward spiral, finally getting out of control at 800 ft and going straight on in. ' It was not all sun in the desert, as evidenced by Spitfire VC VF-E of the 5th FS following a flash flood at La Sebala caused by a period of torrential rain during the spring of 1943 (No 165 Sqn Records via P H T Green collection) Capt Arnold Vinson of the 2nd FS made his first claims on 2 December 1942, when he damaged a Bf 109 and then shot down an Fw 190 west of Bizerte.