Algiers to Anzio with 72 & 111 Squadrons

A Spitfire Squadron
ISBN 1-873203-68-3
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by Greggs Farish and Mike McCaul
The experiences of a mobile Spitfire squadron Engineer Officer in North Africa, Malta, Sicily and Italy during WW2

This excellent book, compiled by Michael McCaul, is taken verbatim from the diaries, accompanied by many excellent photographs, which Greggs Farish was able to maintain (in discreet but total non-observance of the rules then in force) while serving as Engineer Officer with 72 Squadron in North Africa, Malta and Sicily from November 1942 to September 1943, and with 111 Squadron in Italy from October 1943 to February 1944.

A historically valuable account of life on a mobile Spitfire squadron operating in the Mediterranean theatre of war from November 1942 onwards...

When No. 72 (Basutoland) Squadron received orders at Ayr in August 1942 to prepare for overseas service as a ‘mobile’ fighter squadron, little did either its pilots or ground staff know that by November of that year, their Squadron would be part of the first major Anglo/American amphibious operation to be launched in the European theatre in the Second World War.

This expedition was given the codename operation  ‘Torch’. Its primary objective was to make landings in Morocco and Algeria. It was then to be the task of those who had landed at Algiers to drive eastwards to Tunis, to occupy Tunisia as soon as possible, and vitally, to secure airfields on the way for use by the Royal Air Force, operating in support of the land forces known as the British 1st Army, formed in July 1942.

This was the beginning of Greggs Farish's war which continued with Operation Husky, the invasion of Italy via Sicily in 1943 and the long, hard slog through Italy that followed.

Greggs gives his unique perspective on it all and reveals what his duties as engineering officer entailed, and the difficulty of keeping the squadron aircraft in an airworthy state in often very challenging conditions.

Illustrated with many historic photographs, this book contains a wealth of information that will be of interest to historians and researchers interested in the role of the The Royal Air Force in the North African and Italian campaigns during the Second World War.

Reprimanded for stealing a Spitfire

Greggs Farish had a unique claim to fame for an incident that occurred during the Italian campaign. It is reported in another of our books Under the Red Eagle as follows:

When some Spitfires in the Anzio beachead were grounded for lack of spares, three attempts were made to fly in a stock but in each case the aircraft crashed due to foul flying conditions and an uncertain surface. The Engineering specialist – a "Flying Officer" in rank who had never in fact flown – took off in a Spitfire, landed safely and serviced the aircraft on the spot. Alarm ensued at his Wing and he was hauled back pronto. Having thus flouted all the Regulations he gathered together his engineering band and announced, "Flying a Spit is a doddle!"

A Court Martial now loomed, although opinion amongst the officers and men on 239 Wing was that he should get an immediate award. Not so. Later, in Administrative Routine Orders, we followed the further trail of the intrepid Engineering Officer:

Flying Officer Farish of 72 Squadron was on 15.3.44 found guilty by General Court Martial of:

(a) An act likely to cause damage to one of His Majesty’s aircraft in that not being a qualified pilot he improperly and without authority took off and flew a Spitfire.

(b) Conduct to the prejudice of good order and Air Force Discipline he flew the same aircraft without authority contrary to K.R. and A.C.I. para. 693.

It seemed hardly necessary to split the charge between "taking off" and actually "flying"!

In the event, he was sentenced to be severely reprimanded and to forfeit 12 months seniority as a Flying Officer. The finding and sentence were confirmed.

We on 239 Wing still thought he should have got a decoration and wondered whether we could get him posted to us? We would promote him!

details softback | 250 pages | b/w photos