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Published on : Thursday, December 5, 2013
Ian Maclennan was one of the last – if not the last – of the aces who defended the island of Malta in the Siege of 1940 to 1943. He was an RCAF Spitfire pilot on loan to the Royal Air Force, the only defence against the German and Italian forces trying to overwhelm the tiny Mediterranean island from the air and sea, The Globe and Mail reported Tuesday.
Maclennan died in White Rock, B.C., at 94 on 6 November, arrived on Malta as a Flight Sergeant on July 15, 1942. There was only one way to get there – by plane. He flew his Spitfire off the deck of the British aircraft carrier the Eagle off the coast of Algeria, using a strong wind to lift off.
“The Royal Navy had provided the Spitfire pilots with one lecture on how to take off and no information on how to land. The pilots en route to Malta were forbidden to attempt a landing back on the Eagle if their engine faltered,” Wayne Ralph wrote in his book Aces, Warriors & Wingmen. HMS Eagle was sunk by a German U-boat the next month.
Flight Sergeant Maclennan and other Canadians, including George Beurling, the top Canadian ace of the Second World War, helped defend Malta against flight after flight of German and Italian fighters and bombers. An ace is a pilot who has shot down five aircraft; Mr Maclennan’s score was seven, with a spectacular day as recorded in the notice that went with his Distinguished Flying Medal.
“One day in October 1942, this airman destroyed two of a force of thirty Junkers 88s which attempted to attack Malta. The next day he destroyed a Messerschmitt 109. Flight Sergeant Maclennan has displayed great courage and tenacity. He has destroyed four and damaged several more enemy aircraft.”
He said the defenders had many things going for them, including a code from the ground controllers to tell them where enemy aircraft were. It also helped that the enemy had the sun in their eyes.
“Our big advantage was that we had the sun behind us,” Mr Maclennan told an interviewer late in his life. His childhood in Saskatchewan had prepared him to shoot fast-moving objects in the air. “I’d shot at ducks when I was a boy. I knew about deflection.”
Mr. Maclennan was not one to romanticize the war or his part in it. Until the end of his life, he could be melancholy remembering the death of his brother, Bruce, in a daylight raid on Berlin in March, 1945. He blamed the recklessness of Arthur (Bomber) Harris, the head of RAF Bomber Command, who he felt should never have sent the Lancaster bombers on daylight raids, since they were armed with low calibre guns and were vulnerable to the new German jet, the Me 262, the type of aircraft that shot down his brother’s bomber.
After the war, Mr. Maclennan went straight into civilian life, studying architecture at the University of Toronto. None of his fellow students knew he was a war hero, although many were also veterans.
“He and I attended the University of Toronto School of Architecture and graduated together in 1950,” Ian Rutherford, himself a navigator in the RCAF, wrote in a letter in May, 2005. “During our time at the U of T, his exploits were completely unknown to me and most of our class although his leadership qualities were quite evident.”
Mr. Maclennan became senior vice-president at CMHC. He retired in 1977 and moved to White Rock, B.C. He worked on several architecture-related projects, perhaps the most important as a trustee on the development of Vancouver’s Granville Island. Once a blighted industrial area, it is now a successful mix of markets, restaurants and housing. Mr. Maclennan insisted it maintain a touch of its industrial roots, and he is mentioned in a plaque there. He also served as a juror on the Massey Medal Awards for Architecture and was a board member on projects to build housing for special-needs adults.
His wife, Nina Barry, whom he met in England during the war, died in May of this year. He leaves his daughter, Joss, and his son, Bruce.
Source:- Malta Tourism Authority