Italian Re.2001 fighters of 2° Gruppo, Regia Aeronautica engage Spitfire Mk Vs of 249 San over the Grand Harbour on the island of Malta, Spring 1942. Desperately needed by the Axis Forces and defended by the RAF, this strategically important island in the Mediterranean became the target of some of the heaviest bombing and most intense fighting of WWII.
Following the Italian Declaration of War against Britain in the summer of 1940, it became clear to the German High Command that taking control of the island of Malta would be crucial if the German and Italian forces were to succeed in North Africa. This tiny British colony in the Mediterranean sat in the middle of Axis supply lines and allowed the Royal Navy and RAF to launch submarines and torpedo carrying aircraft to wreak havoc on Axis shipping, severely impacting Rommel’s desert forces
From June 1940 to November 1942 Malta became one of the most intensely contested and heavily bombed areas in the world. The Axis resolved to obliterate the island or starve its people into submission, and Malta came under continual day and night bombardment from the combined strengths of the Luftwaffe and Italian Regia Aeronautica. But the Axis forces were not prepared for the sheer determination and resolve of Malta’s defenders and its people.
Desperately keeping their worn-out Hurricanes flying, the RAF pilots continued their fight against Axis air and naval forces, despite German and Italian air superiority. Severe rationing hit morale, but the island held on.
Finally in March 1942 Churchill ordered the latest Spitfires to Malta. Supported by the US Navy and American Merchant ships, the island was supplied with Spitfires from HMS Eagle and then USS Wasp in April during Operation Calendar and, while many of these fighters were soon destroyed, more were supplied in May and June. Although still heavily outnumbered, the men of the RAF were gaining air superiority – the tide was beginning to turn.
When the Battle for Malta effectively ended in November 1942, it was a significant victory for the RAF against truly overwhelming odds, just as the Battle of Britain had been two years earlier. The RAF’s desperate fight to retain control of this tiny Mediterranean island, and the defiant courage of the people of Malta, is one of the epic stories of WWII.
This powerful piece by John Shaw, one of the world’s foremost Aviation and Military Artists, is reproduced from his original work in graphite, capturing the ferocity of the air war over Malta when the Axis air forces were at their maximum strength. With editions including the original autographs of Pilots who flew with the RAF, Italy and Luftwaffe over Malta and the Mediterranean, this stunning edition represents a historical account of this crucial and decisive period.Signatures:
Lieutenant Colonel COSTANTINO PETROSELLINI - 5 victories - Joining the Regia Aeronautica Italiana in 1938, he was first assigned to 63rd Gruppo, 41st Sqn, flying the Ro.37 over Yugoslavia, before moving to North Africa with 8th Gruppo, 92nd Sqn in July 1941 flying the Machi Mc.200. In December 1942 he moved to Sarzanna Air Base flying convoy escort missions over the Mediterranean against RAF fighters based in Malta. He scored 5 victories against RAF & American aircraft, but after the Armistice of September 1943, he sided with the Allies joining the Aeronautica Co-Belligerante in Sicily against the Luftwaffe. Flying the Reggiane Re.2002, he had three ground victories over Luftwaffe aircraft.
Group Captain BILLY DRAKE DSO DFC* - 24 ½ victories - One of the most outstanding RAF Aces of WWII, Billy Drake flew Hurricanes with 1 Sqn in France, scoring his first victory in May 1940, and then Spitfires with 421 Flight during the Battle of Britain. In April 1942 he took command of 112 Sqn in the Western Desert, flying P40 Kittyhawks with great success, accumulating at least 15 victories, including 1 kill over a Malta convoy. He then moved to Malta commanding the Krendi Spitfire Wing against Italian and German fighters, scoring the last of his victories over a MC202, on July 7th, 1943. After Malta he commanded 20 Typhoon Wing.
General JOHANNES "MACKY" STEINHOFF Knights Cross with Oak Leaves & Swords – 176 victories - After commanding 4./JG52 during the Battle of Britain he transferred to the Eastern Front in June 1941 scoring his 100th victory there. In April 1943 he took command of JG 77 in North Africa and then moved to Sicily flying missions in the Mediterranean against RAF Fighters in Malta. After the Normandy invasion he was sent to France but in late 1944 took command of the first Me262 unit, JG7, later joining Galland's JV44, where he scored 6 jet victories before being seriously burned in a crash. He finished the war with 178 victories and, after the war, rejoined the German Airforce, becoming Chief of Air Staff in 1966.
Squadron Leader HARRY MOON - Joining the RAF in June 1940 he received his wings in April 1941 and was posted to the carrier HMS Ark Royal for two of its missions, delivering Hurricanes to Malta. He was then assigned directly to 249 Sqn in Malta flying Hurricanes and after months of intense air fighting over the Island, transferred to 126 Sqn in February 1942 flying Spitfires. After leaving Malta he flew with the "Aden Defence Flight" and in May 1943 joined 274 Sqn flying Hurricanes and Spitfires from Tripoli and then flying air sweeps during the battle for Anzio. In April 1944 he moved back to England and flew throughout D-Day and the Normandy Invasion.
Wing Commander TOM NEIL DFC* AFC – 14 victories - One of the great Battle of Britain Aces, he flew Hurricanes with 249 Sqn at North Weald from May 1940, scoring the first of his many victories on 7 September. In May 1941 he moved with the squadron to defend Malta where he enjoyed much success, scoring his final aerial victory over the island. In between spells instructing he commanded 41 Sqn before joining the US 9th Air Force as Flying Liaison Officer with the 100th Fighter Wing. Flying Mustangs with them on D-Day he destroying a number of aircraft on the ground and was one of the first Allied pilots to land in France during the invasion.
Flight Lieutenant KEITH LAWRENCE DFC – 5 victories - He flew Spitfires during the Battle of Britain first with 234 Sqn, where he shared in the Squadron's first victory, and then in September with 603 Squadron, and 421 Flight. On November 26 he was shot down over the sea and after recovering was posted to Malta in January 1942 joined 185 Sqn, flying Hurricanes and Spitfires, eventually commanding the unit. During the heavy fighting that spring he destroyed or damaged 7 enemy aircraft over Malta. He returned to England in August as an instructor, returning to combat in February 1945 as CO of 124 Sqn. His final tally stood at 5 victories and 9 damaged.
Squadron Leader CYRIL "BAM" BAMBERGER DFC – 6 victories - Joining 610 Sqn in 1936, "Bam" he flew Spitfires throughout the Battle of Britain, first with 610 Sqn at Biggin Hill from July 1940 and then with 41 Sqn at Hornchurch, scoring his first victory in October. Volunteering for the defense of Malta in November 1940, he flew Spitfires with 261 and 185 Sqns, shooting down two Stukas over Grand Harbour in January 1941. After a spell in Tunisia with 93 Sqn he returned to Malta in 1943, downing another Stuka over Sicily. He finished the war with 6 aerial victories to his credit.
Group Captain ANTHONY "TOMMY" THOMPSON DFC - "Tommy" Thompson joined the RAF VF in July 1939 and was posted to 249 Sqn in October 1940, flying Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain shooting down a Bf109 and sharing a Junkers Ju88. In May 1941 he went with 249 Sqn to the defense of Malta, flying off HMS Ark Royal and in August joined the Malta Night Fighting Defence Unit at Ta'Qali. Damaging an Italian Br20 on November 11th he remained with the unit when it became 1435 Night Fighter Flight in December 1941. He went on to serve with 73 Sqn in the Western Desert and eventually became a test pilot.Remarque Editions
: Issued specially for the serious collector, each print in these exclusive editions will have an original pencil drawing created in the lower border of the print. There are two editions, the first limited to 15 prints worldwide, will have Remarque created on one side of the print. The second, exclusively limited to just 5 copies, will have two Remarque drawings created, covering both sides of the print.
Each remarqued print is conservation matted with all of the components of the Collector’s Edition but includes the original autographs of an additional three fighter pilots who flew in Malta and the Battle for the Mediterranean, creating an exclusive eleven signature edition:
Squadron Leader PERCIVAL GRAHAM LEGGETT – 2 victories - Completing pilot training in September 1940, he joined 245 Sqn at Aldergrove and then No.46 Sqn at Stapleford flying Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain, and was one of the youngest pilots to survive. During the famous encounter on 11 November 1940 when Italian aircraft carried out a raid on Harwich, Leggett shot down a Fiat BR.20 and shared in the destruction of another – the event was mentioned in a speech by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In June 1941 he joined 249 Sqn in the defense of Malta and was immediately in action that afternoon. In July he shot down a Macchi C.200 but was shot down in December 1941, baling out. Following his recovery he joined 73 Sqn in North Africa.
Hauptmann ERNST-WILHELM REINERT Knights Cross with Oak Leaves – 174 victories - He flew in the Battle of Britain with JG77 before transferring to the Eastern Front for Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Here his victories mounted quickly, passing the 100 mark in October 1942. After a very successful period in Tunisia and North Africa he moved to Sicily in 1943 for the defense of Italy. He flew against RAF and USAAF aircraft over Sicily, the Mediterranean and Malta, scoring 51 victories in the Battle for the Mediterranean. On January 2nd, 1945 he took command of IV./JG-27 and in March he transferred to III./JG7 flying the ME262. During 715 missions hescored 174 aerial victories.
Flight Lieutenant KEN EVANS DFC – 5 victories - Joining the RAF in 1939, he flew Blenheims and Beaufighters at night with 600 Sqn In September 1941 moved to day-fighters with 130 Sqn. In 1942 he joined 126 Sqn in the defense of Malta flying his Spitfire off HMS Eagle on 18 May. He saw much action during the bitter fighting over the island and became an Ace, in his first two months; he was also awarded the DFC and commissioned. Posted back to England as an instructor, in September 1943 he transferred to 165 Squadron as a flight commander. He left the RAF in 1947 but rejoined in April 1951 during the Korean War.