Tuesday, 28 October 1941

Newmarket: warning order for operations to the Middle East

F/Lt Jackson and P/O Austin are given orders to fly to Portreath. How much they are initially told one has no way of knowing, but they are to fly from Portreath to Malta across France, for operations into Yugoslavia. It is not clear why they are being routed to Portreath, as the distance to Malta is no shorter, and the Stradishall log shows that Wellingtons are regularly transported to the Middle East from Stradishall via Malta; also, the Whitleys carrying the paratroops for Operation COLOSSUS back in February had flown direct to Malta from Mildenhall.

Correspondence in November from Portreath and Stradishall shows that the warning order is signalled to Newmarket at about midday on the 29th, but the Stradishall log (which is entirely contemporary) shows that its Ops office is informed by Newmarket at 19.15 on the 28th, so the warning order must have been received at Newmarket on the 28th.

Both aircraft have to be quickly equipped with a complete set of six auxiliary 66-gallon/300 litre fuel tanks, two in the bomb-bay, four in the rear fuselage. The aircraft are in the workshops for the conversion, which makes it impossible for the crew to do the necessary equipment checks on other equipment; this has consequences at Portreath. Initially operating on an ‘enhanced Flight’ basis, 138 Squadron is still well below nominal strength in all aspects, including engineering staff. Two ground staff are to accompany the expedition.