Malta Squadron Spitfire Pilot Caterpillar Club Medal Group
James Tarbuck was a pilot in 185 Malta Squadron arriving in Malta in August 1942 having taken off from H.M.S. Furious as part of Operation Bellows. He became a member of the Caterpillar Club having baled out and survived. He is also confirmed as qualifying as a member of the Goldfish Club having been recovered, from his dinghy, by High Speed Launch. Whether he actually applied or joined the Goldfish Club can never be known.
James, born 1920, died in 1943 and is buried on Malta in the Naval Cemetery at Capuccini.
The group consists of 1939/45 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Africa Star, War Medal, Royal Life Saving Society Medal named to J TARBUCK JUNE 1934 with additional 1936 Bar.
The lot also includes The Caterpillar Club brooch, correctly named on the reverse to SGT PILOT J TARBUCK –
this brooch is in its original box with Presented by IRVING AIR CHUTE OF GT BRITAIN LTD on the inside lid.A rare 185 FIGHTER SQUADRON Badge with fixing pin to rear, in white metal is also present. This appears to be locally made.
2 photographs (downloaded) of James Tarbuck are shown within the paperwork.
He flew into Malta on Operation Bellows, having taken off from H.M.S. FURIOUS on August 11th 1942. 38 Spitfires took off from HMS Furious on that flight. Those of 185 Squadron are listed below.
Goldfish Club – Notably Pilot Officer James Tarbuck baled out during a combat engagement with the enemy over Malta. “A” Flight The 185 Malta Squadron Operations Record Book records that on the 15th August 1942, from Hal Far, 0925: Scramble 8 aircraft lead by Capt. Swales, Plot +20. Capt. Swales and Sgt. Tarbuck shared a M.E. 109. Sgt Tarbuck was shot down and baled out. O.K. and picked up by H.S.L. The H.S.L. (High Speed Launch was HSL 128.) The Operational Crew Sheet (AIR27/1140) confirms that Sgt Tarbuck went UP at 0925 in Spitfire EP 410. The handwritten note by his name confirms Shot down – O.K. – 1 M.E. 109 Destroyed.
Other notable events are listed in chronological order:
136224 Pilot Officer James Tarbuck Timeline with source in brackets.
1920 – Born, Son of James and Alice Mary Tarbuck, of Liverpool. (BDM)
1934 – June – Awarded Royal Life Saving Society Medal named to J. TARBUCK (as per medal)
1942 – 11th August – Operation Bellows – took off, Spitfires, from H.M.S. Furious for Hal Far, Malta. Joined A Flight 185 Squadron. (185 The Malta Squadron)
1942 – 14th August. Records show this was his Maiden Flight with 185 Squadron. Patrol – in EP410 UP 1400 DOWN 1535 (Operational Crew Sheet (AIR27/1140)
1942 – 15th August. EP410. UP 0655 DOWN 0815 (Operational Crew Sheet (AIR27/1140)
1942 – 15th August – Sgt Tarbuck in EP410, claimed half a kill but was then was forced to bail out. He landed in the sea and was picked up by HSL 128 3 miles off Benghaisa Point. (185 The Malta Squadron)
1942 – 15th August – Scramble 8 aircraft lead by Capt. Swales, Plot +20. Capt. Swales and Sgt. Tarbuck shared a M.E. 109. Sgt Tarbuck was shot down and baled out. O.K. and picked up by H.S.L. (Operations Record Book)
1942 – 15th August – EP 410 – Sgt Tarbuck J. UP 0925 DOWN blank Note Shot Down – OK ME 109 Destroyed. (Operational Crew Sheet (AIR27/1140)
1942 – 20th August – EP 196 – UP 1410 DOWN 1500. (Operational Crew Sheet (AIR27/1140)
1942 – 25th August – BR 376 – UP 1125 DOWN 1220. (Operational Crew Sheet (AIR27/1140)
1942 – 26th August – EP 695 – SCRAMBLE – UP1820 DOWN 1855
1942 – 28th August – EP 122 – SCRAMBLE – UP 1835 DOWN 1920
1942 – 30th August – BR 387 – SWEEP OVER SICILY – UP 1530 DOWN 1655
1942 – 14th October – Tarbuck damaged one JU88 and one ME109 (185 The Malta Squadron)
1942 – 15th October – Air Raids, scrambled. Hal Far, Malta. Sgt Tarbuck damaged an ME 109 (185 The Malta Squadron)
1942 – 16th October – Tarbuck damaged an ME 190 but did not claim. (185 The Malta Squadron)
1943 – 9th February – London Gazette entry. 1033034 James TARBUCK (136224) (London Gazette)
1943 – 13th February – A Flight sent up a high cover escort for a returning PRU job with Sgt Tarbuck leading. (185 The Malta Squadron)
1943 – 21st February – Congratulations sent to Sgt Tarbuck on his Commission. (185 The Malta Squadron)
1943 – 1st April 1943 – Died of Disease in Malta. CWGC – Capuccini Naval Cemetery, Malta. (CWGC)
1943 – 7th April 1943 – Death notice in the Liverpool Daily Post (Liverpool Daily Post)
1943 – August 26th – Death reported – Died on Active Service. (FLIGHT Magazine)
Pilot Officer James Tarbuck (136224 R.A.F.V.R.) died of disease in Malta whilst on active service and is buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery.
He died 1st April 1943, aged 23 years and was the son of James & Alice Mary Tarbuck of Liverpool. He was, furthermore, the Uncle of Jimmy Tarbuck, the well-known Liverpudlian comedian.
James Tarbuck features on numerous occasions in the excellent book 185 The Malta Squadron book as referenced above.
This lot comes with various copy documents of research.
It is reported that prior to joining 185 Fighter Squadron, having flown off HMS Furious on Operation Bellows, he flew Hurricanes in 1942, however this has not been verified. This would make a superb Fighter Pilot research project. His service papers can be sourced from the National Archives at Kew.
The Operational Crew Sheet and Operations Record Book (AIR27/1140) entries for August 1942 can be sent electronically if required.
Please note that the Air Crew Europe Medal and the Badge will have security tags fitted.
Further relevant background information follows:
August 11, 1942 Operations Bellows
Seen from the flight deck of HMS Victorious, a Fairey Albacore takes off from HMS Indomitable, while HMS Eagle brings up the rear. Eagle was lost during the operation.
Shortly before the departure from Scapa, the Admiralty decided that Furious should carry out Operation Bellows, to reinforce Malta (known informally as a Club Run) with Spitfires at the same time as Operation Pedestal. The departure of Furious was delayed by technical difficulties caused by the flight deck, that sloped upwards to a point amidships. A Spitfire made a practice take-off, with wooden wedges in the flaps to ensure a 25° angle and Furious steaming at 30 knots (35 mph), into a 10 kn (12 mph) wind. The Spitfire was thrown into the air by the rise on the flight deck, bounced onto the forward slope, fell off the front near stalling speed and narrowly avoided ditching. An immediate request was made to the Air Ministry for constant-speed propellers and two days later, a Spitfire with the new propeller took off easily, leaving 38 aircraft still on board to be flown to Malta. In company with HMS Manchester, she joined Nelson and the convoy three days before the start of Operation Pedestal.
No. 185 Squadron
(625196) Sgt. Reginald Charles Bolland – KIA 1944 504 Sqn.
Sgt. L.P. Garvey RNZAF (Co. 36 6 SF)
Sgt. L.R. Gore
+(GB.1208683) Sgt. Daniel Geoffrey Guy – KIA Dec. 7, 42
(NZ413543) Sgt. John Arthur Houlton 485/185 Sqn.
Lt. Keith Cowie Kuhlmann SAAF
+(83982) F/O Alec Ian Lindsay – KIA Oct. 23, 42 possible friendly fire Bofors guns.
+(117995) P/O Anthony Richard Hutton Maynard KIA Nov. 22, 42
P/O Patrick A. J. O’Brien RAF
+(404981) P/O Robert Bruce Park – KIA Nov. 19, 42
+(1268639) Sgt. Lawrence Harold Swain – KIFA Sept. 13, 42
+(136224) Sgt. James Tarbuck – later died from injuries in 1943
F/O P. A. Woodger RAF – 185 Sqn.;
“A” FLIGHT 185 Fighter Squadron – Malta
– regular, published Airmen, this is not a definitive list.
Lt. Keith Cowie Kuhlmann SAAF
P/O Patrick A. J. O’Brien RAF
Sgt. L.R. Gore
136224) Sgt. James Tarbuck – later died from injuries in 1943
F/Sgt Carmody – killed Feb 1943