Monday, January 16, 2017

Air Marshal Sir Michael Giddings 1920 - 2009

(The Telegraph April 13, 2009) On July 21 1942, Giddings took off in a Spitfire from the aircraft carrier Eagle as one of a group of 31 sent to reinforce Malta. As the formation approached the island, a cultured voice gave instructions to turn on to a northerly heading. This perplexed the leader who was querying the order when the gruff voice of an RAF controller immediately told him to continue on an easterly heading – thus foiling a German attempt to lure the Spitfires to Sicily. Over the next three months Giddings flew with No 249 Squadron. Early in August, a crucial convoy departed from Gibraltar with supplies and fuel for the island. Giddings and his fellow pilots provided cover as the convoy came under intense attack while approaching Malta. Only four merchantmen and the tanker Ohio reached the safety of Valetta harbour. During August and September intelligence indicated that the Germans were building up their air forces for a new offensive against the island. Giddings flew on sweeps to strafe enemy aircraft on Sicilian airfields but, on the morning of October 11, the Axis air forces mounted their final blitz against Malta in an effort to subdue the island's tenacious resistance. Over the next 14 days Giddings was scrambled three or four times each day to intercept German bomber formations and their fighter escorts. He had already damaged two Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters when he was scrambled on the 17th. He damaged a Junkers 88 bomber before a fierce dogfight developed with the escorts during which he shot down a Bf 109 over St Paul's Bay. When some 40 German and Italian fighter-bombers were detected approaching Malta, seven Spitfires of No 249 were scrambled. Giddings attacked a gaggle of Italian Macchi 202s and hit one, which exploded in front of him. He fired at another, which streamed smoke from its engine, but before he could see the final results, he was forced to break away. Five days later, as he was taking off, a constructor's truck appeared on the runway and he crashed into it at high speed sustaining a broken wrist and arm. He returned home in November. Kenneth Charles Michael Giddings was born on August 27 1920 at Walthamstow and educated at Ealing Grammar School. He was conscripted into the RAFVR in 1940 and trained as a pilot in the USA. On his return to the United Kingdom he was commissioned and joined No 122 Squadron flying Spitfires on sweeps over France. After recovering from his injuries, Giddings returned to flying as an instructor on fighters and in the summer of 1944 he was appointed a flight commander with No 118 Squadron flying the Spitfire IX. During the airborne operations at Arnhem, he shared in the destruction of a Messerschmitt Bf 109. The squadron was re-equipped with the Mustang and provided a long-range fighter escort for the bomber force. In March 1945 over Bremen, he engaged a Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter and damaged it. He went on to command No 129 Squadron in April and after V-E Day took the squadron to Norway. He was awarded a DFC for his "great skill and determination".

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