Supermarine Spitfire IXE aircraft, an example of what Mr. Middlemiss flew, of No. 412 (Falcon) Squadron, RCAF, preparing for takeoff.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-136915
"We were at the same height as bombers, and I was flying with the flight commander and as he was attacking a Ju 88, which I, which he shot down and then the 109 was on his tail, so I shot it down."
In 41 Squadron, we did all the usual things, interceptions, over Britain, convoy patrols, ‘Rhubarbs’, escorting bombers. In those days, they were pretty slow and didn’t carry much loads. And so they just bombed around the coastline and some of the rail yards. And from there, that’s when George Beurling came into 41 Squadron, and of course, he proved to be a pretty good shot on his first operational trip. He flew four in the, in the flight and flying out to where we were going, he spotted some [Messerschmitt]109s at 2:00, reported that to the wing commander and the wing commander plus everyone in the wing turned their eyes to 1:00 or 2:00, to see if they could see this 109. And none of us could, and the wing commander on a couple of other calls asked for like, if he could still see them. And he said yes. And then suddenly, he broke away on his own and we finished the trip, landed back at Mersten and then in came Beurling and that was when he claimed his first Me 109.
Of course, he got told off for leaving the squadron because that was a no-no and on probably the next trip, he did the same thing and just about this time, I left for Malta, flew off the aircraft carrier, HMS Eagle with 31 other airplanes or 30 and my airplane, 31 of us altogether. Four air got shot down as we approached Malta by 109s and one crash landed on Malta, but the pilot wasn’t hurt. And then shortly after on the next trip, out came Beurling. So, and of course the story goes, when we used to be on our days off, because we did sort of a half day on and then, actually, a full day on, from noon until noon the next day, and when we were off, we would go to the, what we call the parapet and watch the fights overhead. And that’s when we realized Beurling was the chap that he said he was because he could spot the enemy bombers and he would call out, say there was 12 [Junkers] Ju 88s and about 20 or so seconds later, we could count 20 or 12 Ju 88s.
In the meantime, he’s now counting and then he would say, well, and 24 109s escorting and that’s the same thing, about 20 seconds later, we were counting. So we, then the chaps that had been in 41 Squadron and myself had, I guess he really is as good as he says because we could see that in Malta.
In Malta, we had [Supermarine] Spitfire 5Cs, best tour plane in the world. Best prop [propeller] airplane in the world. So anyone who’s flown a spitfire will tell you the same thing. We could out-turn the 109s. They could out climb and out dive us, but we could out-turn them. And so that’s generally the tactics that you used, of course, you got involved in, in, when you were attacking. There was also the bad guys behind you attacking you, so until you got into that sort of fight, of course, you weren’t in the turning mood. It depended where, each sort of one fight that you got in was a different one than the one before. So like the one I shot down, when we were laid off on one of our trips and we were at the same height as bombers, and I was flying with the flight commander and as he was attacking a Ju 88, which I, which he shot down and then the 109 was on his tail, so I shot it down. But then knowing full well that the one I shot down would have his number two right behind me, so just as I was breaking away, I got hit and when I got hit, the airplane was spinning down and I kept hitting my right back and my right arm. So it was useless.
So the airplane was spinning down and I tried to get out of the airplane, but of course, the centrifugal force, it just held me in. So I had to get back in and stop the spin, rolled over on my back and bailed out into the blue skies. Pulled the ripcord, had a most quiet trip down into the water. Got my dinghy out, had some trouble inflating it, but eventually, got it inflated, got into it and at that time, my squadron was looking for me on the other side of the island. And, but I was spotted by two Spitfires from the squadron, an Australian and the Englishman, who were out covering the line, minesweepers. And they spotted me and called for air/sea rescue launch and along came the air/sea rescue launch, picked me up and took me in and then into a hospital for, to get sewn up and fixed up again.
You know, the day I got shot down, I just, I went down and of course, one of the things, I think, during the whole war is that you never thought it was going to be you. So you know, the day I got shot down, it was a great beautiful day that Malta was used to and you know, it was just another good day. Unfortunately, it didn’t end up that way.