Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Roald Dahl's 90th Birthday
The British Isles are celebrating the 90th birthday of Roald Dahl, the children's author of the well known children's classics "BFG," "Willy Wonka," and "Matilda."
Less well known are his exploits as an aviator in 1941 with the RAF's 80 squadron in the Mediterranean. Hospitalized in Alexandria after cracking his skull in a crash in the Libyan desert, Dahl was left behind by his squadron which had moved on to reinforce Greece. Trained to fly the obsolete Gloster Gladiator bi-plane, he was given a brand new Hawker Hurricane and told to ferry it to his Squadron in Greece upon his recovery. With virtually no instruction on his new aircraft, he successfully rejoined his squadron at Elevsis, near Athens.
At Elevsis he discovered that while the invading German Luftwaffe had brought nearly a thousand combat aircraft, while the RAF had only 14 Hurricanes, and 4 Bristol Blenheims to defend Greece.
With about 7 hours in-type he went into combat the very next day and shot down a JU-88 while on solo patrol. Dahl managed to get two more kills before being grounded for medical reasons.
He recounts his war experiences in the autobiographical "Going Solo" which I discovered quite by accident a couple of years ago. I recommend it heartily.