Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings


Victory in previous battles is no proof of survivability in warfare, as Edward John “Jumbo” Gracie (1911-Feb 1944) eventually discovered. A popular if gruff pilot, Gracie has been described by his contemporaries as a man who joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot, simply so that he could fight the war sitting down. As a Flight Lieutenant, he flew throughout the Battle of Britain with 56 Squadron, shooting down four German aircraft before 1 August 1940 and a further three by August 30th, when he himself was shot down and spent the next few weeks in the hospital recovering from a near broken neck. On 21 March 1942, he flew into Malta at the vanguard of a nine-strong force of Spitfire replacements and took command of 126 Squadron, but was later promoted and commanded the Takali wing. According to sources, his command of the wing ended in a political fiasco after he erected a signpost threatening to public hang Maltese found guilty of thieving supplies and food from his airfield. He remained as a senior combat officer on Malta several months, shooting down an additional six enemy aircraft. Later assigned to fly long-range Mosquito nightfighters of 169 Squadron, he was killed on 15 February 1944 while escorting RAF heavy bombers during a nocturnal raid over Germany. He was 32 years old.

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