I Wish I Had Your Wings: A Spitfire Pilot and Operation Pedestal, Malta 1942. By Angus Mansfield. Stroud U.K.: The History Press, 2016. Photographs. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 192 ISBN: 978-07524-9782-2
Malta, an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, was the best base from which the British could attack German and Italian supply lines that reached from Europe to North Africa during the Second World War. In 1940, Italian air and naval forces besieged the island, planning to starve its British population into surrendering. The German Luftwaffe joined in repeated merciless attacks in 1941.
By 1942, bombing had turned the isolated island into ruin. Most of the starving inhabitants lived in underground shelters; with few supplies remaining and, based on the likelihood of not being resupplied, they calculated a September surrender date. Desperate to avoid losing the island, the British collected a fleet of their fastest and largest merchant vessels with an escort of fighting ships. This force was deployed in Operation Pedestal to resupply Malta. Their victory was costly and horrific.
Mansfield tells of the months leading up to Pedestal and of the operation itself. He primarily uses logbooks, letters, and papers written by Spitfire pilot John Mejor and Merchant Marine captain David Macfarlane to recreate the action that produced a turning point in the war. Macfarlane was Mejor's uncle, but they did not know they were in the fight together until Pedestal ended.
Over Malta prior to 1942, German Ju 87, Ju 88, and Bf 109 and Italian aircraft outnumbered British Spitfires at least five-to-one on a daily basis. Sometimes the odds were as high as twenty-to-one. German and Italian bombers, submarines, and fighting ships destroyed most of the British supply ships that attempted to run the thousand-mile gauntlet from Gibraltar to Malta. Facing minimal opposition, they attacked convoys at will.
Replacement Spitfires made part of the resupply trips...