Saturday, November 7, 2009

Roald Dahl's further adventures WWII

I can but imagine the above scenes as he saw them in the great expanse. His mistaken mission to no man's land was so typical of the errors that cost lives during the war. Fortunately, he received recoverable albeit lifelong injuries. Spared for his later covert fiascoes consistent with his personality? Note the Eleusina and Battle of Athens campaigns . He was alongside Pat Pattle which must have been,again only I can imagine, an intoxicating experience for Dahl given his temperament and the initial attendant disappointments must have been telling when transferred as attache to the British embassy in Washington. Was MI6 a shot in the arm to him and a boon to the British allied cause just when needed?The delivery of the package was again beyond the call of duty or fuelled his addiction to adventure and danger. Confusion of aerial engagement none knowing whom they shot down is well voiced by Dahl at the time.The pilots hiding is reminiscent of the rescue of pilots by the French resistance and also of my reading of stories of their being sheltered and hid by Monsignor O'Flaherty in Rome. Just an interesting aside. Note the rest of the narrative and their being lost from the squadron.

Dahl was rescued and taken to a first-aid post in Mersa
Matruh, where he regained consciousness, but not his sight, and was then taken
by train to the Royal Navy hospital in Alexandria. There he fell in
and out of love with a nurse, Mary Welland. Dahl had fallen in love with her
voice while he was blind, but once he regained his sight, he decided that he no
longer loved her. An RAF inquiry into the crash revealed that the location to
which he had been told to fly was completely wrong, and he had mistakenly been
sent instead to the no man's land between
the Allied and Italian forces.[7]
February 1941, Dahl was discharged from hospital and passed fully fit for flying
duties. By this time, 80 Squadron had been transferred to the
Greek campaign and
based at
Eleusina, near Athens. The squadron was now
equipped with
Hawker Hurricanes. Dahl
flew a replacement Hurricane across the Mediterranean Sea in April 1941, after
seven hours flying Hurricanes. By this stage in the Greek campaign, the RAF had
only 18 combat aircraft in Greece: 14 Hurricanes and four
Bristol Blenheim light
bombers. Dahl saw his first aerial combat on 15 April 1941, while flying alone
over the city of
Chalcis. He attacked six Junkers Ju-88s that were
bombing ships and shot one down. On 16 April in another air battle, he shot down
another Ju-88.
On 20 April 1941, Dahl took part in the "Battle of Athens",
alongside the highest-scoring British Commonwealth ace of World War II,
Pat Pattle and Dahl's
David Coke. Of 12 Hurricanes
involved, five were shot down and four of their pilots killed, including Pattle.
Greek observers on the ground counted 22 German aircraft downed, but because of
the confusion of the aerial engagement none of the pilots knew who they shot
down. Dahl described it as "an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards
me from every side."

The wing returned back to Elevsis. Later on in the day,
the aerodrome was
strafed by Bf 109s, but none
of them hit any of the Hawker Hurricanes. The Hurricanes were then evacuated on
21 April 1941 to a small, secret airfield near
Megara, a small village, where
the pilots hid.
Approximately 50 miles (80 km) north the Luftwaffe was
searching for the remaining Hurricanes. By approximately 6 or 7 a.m., about
thirty Bf-109s and Stuka dive-bombers flew
over the seven pilots who were hiding. The Stukas dived bombed a tanker in the Bay of
Athens, and sank it. Dahl and his comrades were only 500 yards (460 m)
away from the incident. Surprisingly, neither the bombers nor the fighters were
able to spot the Hurricanes parked in the nearby field. At some time in the
afternoon, an
Air Commodore arrived at
the airfield by car and asked if one of the seven could volunteer to fly and
deliver a package to a man named Carter at Elevsis. Roald Dahl was the only one
who volunteered to do it. The contents of the package were of vital importance,
and Dahl was told that if he was shot down, or captured, he should burn the
package immediately, so it would not fall into enemy hands, and once he had
handed over the package, he was to fly to
Argos, an airfield, with the rest
of the seven pilots in the squadron.

For the rest of April, the situation was
horrible for the RAF in Greece. If the Luftwaffe had destroyed the remaining
seven planes, they would then have had complete control of the skies in Greece.
They intended to wipe them out. If the squadron were to be found, it would mean
the worst. According to Dahl's report, at about 4:30 p.m. a Bf 110 swooped over
the airfield at Argos, and found them. The pilots discussed that it would take
the 110 roughly half an hour to return to base, and then another half hour for
the whole enemy squadron to get ready for take-off, and then another half hour
for them to reach Argos. They had roughly an hour and thirty minutes until they
would be strafed by enemy aircraft. However, instead of having the remaining
seven pilots airborne and intercepting the 110s an hour ahead, the CO ordered
them to escort ships evacuating their army in Greece at 6:00. The seven planes
got up into the air, but the formation was quickly disorganised as the radios
were not working. Dahl and Coke found themselves separated from the rest of the
They could not communicate with them, so they continued on flying, looking
for the ships to escort. Eventually they ran out of fuel and returned back to
Argos, where they found the entire airfield in smoke and flames, with tents
flamed, ammunition destroyed, etc.; however there were few casualties.
Roald Dahl and David Coke took off, three other aircraft in the wing somehow
managed to get away. The sixth pilot who was taking off was strafed by the enemy
and killed. The seventh pilot managed to bail out. Everybody else in the camp
was hiding in the slit trenches. Immediately after Dahl and Coke figured out
what was going on, the squadron was sent to Crete. A month later they were
evacuated to Egypt.
As the Germans were pressing on Athens, Dahl was
evacuated to Egypt. His squadron was reassembled in Haifa. From there, Dahl flew
sorties every day for a period of four weeks, shooting down a Vichy French Air
Potez 63 on 8 June and another
Ju-88 on 15 June, but he then began to get severe headaches that caused him to black out. He was
invalided home to Britain; at this time his rank was

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