Sam Saunder's UK Training and Malta



Sam Saunder's UK Training and Malta


A description of Sam's further training in the UK then operations at Malta.
Photo 1 is an informal group photograph with airmen, two WAAFs and three dummies.
Photo 2 is an air-to-air view of a Wellington.




Temporal Coverage



Two printed sheets with two photographs


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So Sam came back to England, a dangerous crossing through the North Atlantic. There would have been a convoy of allied boats, the danger being German submarines. He must have had some leave and then started further training and tests at Harwell. In the logbook, his successful Night Vision Test was on 11th October 1941.

He was in Number 15 Operational Training Unit (OTU) from the 7th of November 1941 until the 25th of January 1942, he flew in Ansons and Wellingtons. These were exercises as an Air Observer and Gunner and were all cross country in the UK. At this point his total flying hours were 146.40 by day and 39.05 hours by night, none so far on ‘active’ service. This is part of the squadron he was with, perhaps at Harwell.

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In February 1942 he went to 38 Squadron, as a navigator flying across the Mediterranean in Wellingtons. He talked about being attacked by German aircraft in Malta; the aeroplanes being delivered by his squadron were destroyed on the airfield. He had to wait for more aircraft to arrive and their supplies were running out. It’s for this reason that he hated corned beef. The logbook shows that in fact this was only his 5th night with the Squadron, he flew into the eye of the storm, at night, to an island without supplies, under attack and now without hope of support. This was between the 16th February and the 4th of March 1942.

Four Wellington aircraft from a delivery flight for Malta were lost overnight. The four were among a group of thirteen which left Gibraltar in darkness heading for Luga. Italian news had reported one Wellington shot down in flames by fighters from Castel Vetrano airfield, with a crew of six taken prisoner. A second Wellington was also reported forced down at Modica by German fighters. The aircraft was undamaged but its crew of seven were captured. A third was shot down into the sea by JU88 aircraft just 45 kilometres from Malta. F/O J Willis-Richards was rescued by an Italian destroyer; the remainder of the crew did not survive. The fourth Wellington crashed on landing at Luga airfield the, the [sic] aircraft was a write-off but the crew escaped uninjured.

This is from a Malta war diary; “Enemy bombers launch yet another series of raids on Malta’s defences, this time concentrating on Luga. 36 High Explosive bombs are dropped on the airfield, including two massive 1000kg ‘Herman’ bombs. Yet again the Island’s infantry battalions are hard at work filling in craters to keep the aerodrome serviceable”.

Later in the month there were Wellington flights from Portreath in Cornwall to Gibraltar, Luxor, Shallufa, Heliopolois and Mersa Matruh, as Navigator. Total flying time so far 219 hours by day and 83 by night.

[photograph of an air-to-air view of a Wellington]


Penny Thickett, “Sam Saunder's UK Training and Malta,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 16, 2024,

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