Hal Far Airfield 1923 - 1945
 
 Between the World Wars


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The end of the First World War brought a gradual run-down at Kalafrana leaving only HMS Engadine to operate as a seaplane-carrier in the Mediterranean. In October 1919, No 268 Squadron was disbanded. Squadron 267 lingered on till August 1923. The specialised needs of the Fleet Air Arm were given low priority during this period.

When the Dardanelles crisis struck in autumn of 1922, naval operations started to pick up again. The prospect of further carrier operations in the Mediterranean provided the need for a permanent landing base in Malta. On 16th January 1923, the first aerodrome at Hal Far was officially opened by His Excellency Field Marshall Lord Plumer, the Governor and Commander-in-Chief, who was accompanied by the Maltese premier and Ministers of the Legislative Assembly, senior Navy and Army officers. This was also witnessed by the first flying display by aircraft from Kalafrana. Hal Far was just a grassy plain overlooking Kalafrana and to which a connecting road was constructed.

1924 marks the real beginning of carrier operations in the Mediterranean. Naval aviation came to consist of carrier-borne wheeled undercarriage aircraft flying off vessel resembling the HMS Argus. In January 1924 a number of Fairey Flycatchers were shipped to Malta and erected at Kalafrana. In June 1924 the HMS Eagle shipped six Fairey Flycatchers, six Blackburn Fleet Spotters, Supermarine Seagull Fleet Reconnaissance amphibians and Blackburn Dart Torpedo Bombers. These units practised deck-landing trails, air attacks on Malta and set the precedent for the future functioning of Hal Far Airfield.

While Hal Far initially originated as an airfield extension to Kalafrana seaplane base, on 29th March 1929, Hal Far was upgraded to become an RAF Station in its own right. Thus Kalafrana became a sort of satellite for flying boats. However it continued as a shore base for carrier aircraft in the Mediterranean. This operational activity continued into the 1930ís and was augmented with the presence of the Italian fascist regime. Aircraft carrier activity increased dramatically and HMS Eagle, Glorious, Courageous, Furious and Hermes were familiar sights in the Grand Harbour, with Hal Far reckoned as their second home. The carriers would normally disembark their air complement to Hal Far before entering port. Normal visitors to Hal far Airfield were Blackburn Ripons, Blackburn Baffins, Fairey IIIFs, Fairey Flycatchers, Fairey Seals, Hawker Nimrods and Hawker Ospreys.

In February 1935, three out of the six carriers namely HMS Courageous, Eagle and Furious happened to be at the port simultaneously. This is further conformation of the significance of the Island in the Mediterranean.

On 6th May 1935, the Hal Far based units took part in the Jubilee celebrations of His Majesty King George V. Blackburn Ripons from 812 Squadron excelled by carrying out illuminated night-flying, whilst two Avro Tutors, presumably belonging to the Station Flight, performed illuminated aerobatics.