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Scene from the deck of USS Wasp upon approach to the fly-off point for operation Bowery, on the morning of 9 May 1942. Another carrier in the background is HMS Eagle, also laden with Spitfires.
The aircraft shown here, BR344, was a Merlin 46-powered Mk. VC prop. An interesting feature is the wavy demarcation line between the upper camouflage and lower surfaces, and also the inscription “Guns loaded” chalked below the cockpit. The operational career of this aircraft on Malta lasted only 8 days – it was struck off charge on 17 May.
Operation Bovery was the first delivery of Spitfires Mk. V to Malta which was successful end-to-end. 64 Spitfires Mk. VC were launched during that mission and 62 of them arrived to the beleaguered island. Through carefully planned reception, all aircraft were immediately refuelled, rearmed and take off again within a few minutes of the landing and thereby avoid the incoming German air raid. With more Spitfires at its disposal, the Malta fighter force was able to effectively hit back at the enemy and it didn’t look back ever since.
More about carrier-borne Spitfires deliveries in the Mediterranean can be read in 1942: Defence of Malta [US Navy]