Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings

Tag Archives: Luftwaffe

The Island that Refused to Die

Malta-Masthead

Book in progress (November 2013-present)


Status (November 2017): Manuscript complete. 649 pages. Being proofed.
Above mast painting by Rowland Hilder, 1942

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Occupying a strategic place in the narrows of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta was a British Imperial island during the Second World War. It was a rocky aircraft carrier from where the British could launch attacks on Sicily, and its natural harbor allowed the Royal Navy to exercise dominion over the middle sea.

The Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, was determined to take the island for his own, and in June 1940, he had the men and the machines to do it. But he (and later the Germans) had badly underestimated the fighting spirit of islanders. Although out-manned and outgunned, Royal Air Force aircraft flown by British, Commonwealth and American pilots harried enemy attackers and Allied vessels based there wreaked havoc on German and Italian shipping. The Nazis responded by trying to blast Malta off the map and starving it into submission.

Besieged, the island hung on against the odds, kept alive through a tenuous and erratic supply line (vulnerable convoys sailing from Gibraltar and Alexandria), wielding massive influence on the battles raging in North Africa and sparking fierce naval clashes which gutted the Axis merchant fleets and scarred the Italian Regia Marina, that other Royal Navy. The phrase “naval battles of World War II” may conjure imagery of the Pacific, but more surface engagements were fought in the Mediterranean than in any other place during the war — 50, compared to 36 in the Pacific and 49 in the Atlantic.

Malta’s ordeal lasted for over 900 days (nearly two-and-a-half years) as her defenders fought a lonely, heroic campaign, a private little war against the might of two Axis militaries and paving the way for the Allied liberation of the Mediterranean.

Below follows some of the assorted art and graphics connected with this work. They’ll probably never be published in the way I intend anyway.

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Malta Map 1942

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Aircraft Profiles

Aircraft Profiles from World War II | PDF | 47 Pages | 8 Megabytes

A collection of aircraft and naval digital artwork that I have done over the years, mostly to see whether I could, but a few are for as-of-yet incomplete books. Each piece is accompanied by a short history detailing the exploits of the pilot or the aircraft itself.

Aircraft Profiles (Right click to save)

 

Aviation Art

Major Gunther Rall attacked by American P-47 Thunderbolts

A veteran of the Eastern Front, Gunther Rall was moved west in 1944 to face Anglo-American airpower. On 12 May, a flight of three Thunderbolts jumped his Me109 as he flew a patrol over Germany. In a dazzling display of aerobatics, he shot down two, including the ace commander of the U.S. 56th Fighter Group, “Hub” Zemke, but when more Thunderbolts appeared, he found himself in the fight of his life. After a bullet severed his thumb, Rall unbuckled his seat belt and bailed out. He never returned to combat again. German high command was fearful that his death in battle would have a debilitating effect on morale.

In February 1945, just months before the war ended, he took command of a new fighter wing but spent the bulk of his energy in attempting to spare his pilots from needless operations. Despite his absence from the aerial battleground for nearly a year, he ended the war as the No. 3 ace in the Luftwaffe, with 275 enemy planes downed in combat (only five kills were needed to become an ace).

He served with the post-war Luftwaffe der Bundeswehr, eventually reaching the rank of general. He died on 4 October 2009.

Gunther RallA jovial man, Rall frequently appeared on Discovery Channel’s aircraft shows in his later years. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)

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Hornet Launch

An SBD Dauntless prepares to takeoff from the USS Hornet in the Pacific.

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British Aerospace Harrier Mk. II

The Gee Bee and the Goblin

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These illustrations were created in 2001 for an unfinished book on the RAF. The style is a little embarrassing now, but it was impressive to me then, a neophyte to the technological world, enthralled at what could be managed on computers.