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Kent, Malta and Midway
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In this series of articles, we’re taking a break from the hustle and bustle of close engagements, and instead taking a tour of some of the locations featured in the game of War Thunder, that also have a very real existence in their own right.

Manston Airfield in War Thunder Manston Airfield through Google Maps

The small corner of Kent  that appears in the Dover location, for instance, has seen more than its fair share of action over the years. The history of Manston Airfield alone could fill many pages: it was home to the first Meteor Squadron, as well as acting as the base for the Lancasters and Wellingtons used in the testing of Barnes Wallace’s Bouncing Bomb experiments.

In 1943 the trials themselves took place to the North of Manston Airfield, off the coast near Reculver. The tests took place there because of the seclusion of the site, and the shallow waters, which allowed what was left of the bombs to be recovered and studied. This stretch of the coast also appears in the game.

In 1940 Manston also played a vital role during the Battle of Britain, being one of the closest mainland airfields to the continent. While the RAF and Luftwaffe were heavily engaged on this front, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini decided to press his advantage and called for an offensive on Allied forces throughout the Mediterranean, ordering bombing runs on Malta within hours of making the announcement.

In the game Gaijin have not only recreated the main islands of Malta itself, but also paid close attention to the crucially important port of Valletta. It was here that the main action of the Siege of Malta took place, and also where the legend of Faith Hope and Charity was born – these were the names of three Gloster Sea Gladiators which fought off all comers for 10 days. 

In actual fact there were more like six Gladiators protecting the whole of Malta, though not all of them were airworthy at the same time. These were eventually joined by four Hurricanes which, together with the remaining Gladiators, continued to resist the efforts of the Regia Aeronautica and Luftwaffe to unseat them.

Malta was of crucial strategic importance to anyone attempting to control the Med, and therefore of crucial importance to the outcome of the war as a whole. In the game, key sites from Valletta have been faithfully modelled, as has the wider countryside around it, including RAF Luqa, the airfield above the capital.

Valletta Port on Malta in War Thunder Valletta Port on Malta through Google Maps

Another small island that was of great strategic importance was that of Midway Island, the scene of the Battle of Midway, during which the American Forces inflicted upon the Japanese navy a devastating defeat – its first since the Battle of Shimonoseki Straits in 1863.

The Japanese plan was to lure the American forces into a battle which would clear the way for them to establish the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere without further interference from the US, and allow them to be the dominant force in the increasingly ironically named Pacific. The Japanese were unaware however that their encryption had been broken, and that the Americans were busy setting a trap.

Aware of the Japanese plan to mount an operation at a location known only as ‘AF’, American cryptanalysts, strongly suspecting ‘AF’ to be code for Midway Island, arranged for an unencrypted message to be sent stating that the water purification at Midway Island had broken down. Shortly afterwards they intercepted a Japanese communication stating that ‘AF was low on water’, confirming their suspicions.

Shortly after this stroke of good fortune, the new code books that were to be distributed to the Japanese navy, the introduction of which would mean an end to decryption until the new cipher was broken, were delayed, giving America a crucial few days in which to glean even more information about the deployment and number of enemy units. 

When the battle came, the Americans were extremely well informed about their opposition, while the Japanese had virtually no sound information about theirs at all. Regardless of the advantage, all plans of battle disintegrate into nothing as soon as the first shot is fired, victory is never a cut and dried affair, and a great deal of brave men on both sides died over the course of the battle.

Midway Island in War Thunder Midway Island through Google Maps

Both islands that make up Midway Island are included in the game maps – Eastern Island, which contained the airstrip that made it of such strategic importance at the time, and the smaller Sand Island, which now also has an airstrip.

The game features a great many real world locations, rendered in a surprising and impressive amount of detail. Over the coming months we’ll be taking a closer look at a number of these, both in history, and the game of War Thunder.

Author: Henry 'DigitalDigging' Rothwell

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