Hope & Charity
(Left click for larger image)
Gladiator (possibly 'Hope' destroyed
by German aircraft 4th February 1941 on Hal Far airfield.
Photo courtesy of Cheryl
Beasley (replaced Michael's photo
as this came out better)
Probably taken 1939/40.
Photo courtesy of Cheryl Beasley
To say Malta's air defences were small at the
beginning of WWII would be an under statement.
The total air power on Malta consisted of 4 Gloster Gladiator biplanes.
These were packed in crates & left at Kalafrana flying boat base
by HMS Glorious which left to join
the Norwegian campaign. In fact, there were enough parts to make up
8 biplanes but the Navy wanted 4 back to join the aircraft carrier HMS
The remaining 4 were assembled, 3 were to be used on operations with
the reamaining 1 kept in reserve. After assembling the biplanes the
Royal Navy decided on having them back for work in Alexandria, so they
were taken apart for re-packing.
Following talks between Air Commodore Maynard & the Royal Navy it
was decided to leave the biplanes on Malta & they were re-assembled.
Their first use in combat came at 0649 on the 11th of June 1940 when
10 Italian Savoia Marchetti 79 bombers bombed Grand Harbour. No aircraft
were shot down in this encounter.
On the 7th raid of the day the Gladiator's drew blood by shooting down
a Macchi 200 fighter. Although the biplanes were slower than the Italian
fighters they were more manouverable.
The aircraft were given names but not until after the war 'Faith, Hope
& Charity'. The 4th aircraft was called 'Desperation' but this was
first used in the 1980's..
Three bladed propellers were fitted in place of the usual two to give
the biplanes a faster rate of climb. Other parts were later used from
a Swordfish. Superchargers were left on maximum during the climb after
take off (which was against orders) so they could gain height faster.
This put extra strain on the engines & 2 of them blew pistons. Maintenance
crews converted Blenheim bomber engines to fit the Gladiators.
Faith, Hope & Charity fought for 17
days without relief & played a fundamental role in fooling the Italian
intelligence into thinking Malta had a substantial fighter defence.
On the 3rd September 1943 what was left &
tidied up of Faith was presented to the people of Malta by the RAF.
Faith in the Malta War Museum.
Photo courtesy of Michael Sanderson.
The National War Museum, St.Elmo's Fort, Valletta. Home of 'Faith'.