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28 May 1941: Civilians Wearing Army Uniform a Security Threat

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Soldiers with small arms crop

Uniforms to be stamped with Army ID

CLAMP DOWN ON MISUSE OF ARMY UNIFORMS

Civilians in Malta have been spotted wearing items of Army uniform which is believed to have been passed to them by service personnel. With the ever-present possibility of invasion, the wearing of official uniforms by unauthorised persons presents a significant security threat.  The situation is also creating a shortage of stocks of military clothing which cannot be made up readily while the Island remains under siege.

According to military chiefs, the situation has now reached serious proportions and it has become common to see civilians wearing military clothing such as shirts, boots and socks. As a result urgent measures have been introduced to tackle the problem. 

All troops have been informed that by disposing of any item of kit, clothing or necessaries to any person whatsoever, they commit an offence under Section 24 of the Army Act; disciplinary action will be taken accordingly, with the possibility of Court-Martial if the offence persists.

From now on all garments will be stamped with the soldier’s Army number on issue. Any soldier requiring a new garment or article of kit is now required to produce the old one in exchange or alternatively furnish a satisfactory explanation as to why he cannot do so.  A strict record will be kept of all issues made, in order to ensure that replacement issues are not made too frequently.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 MAY TO DAWN 29 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 28 MAY 1941

AIR HQ Departures  3 Beaufighters.  69 Squadron  Maryland patrol eastern Sicilian coast including Augusta and Syracuse harbours.  2 Marylands patrol of eastern Tunisian coast AM and PM.  Maryland reconnaissance Messina Harbour and approaches. 139 Squadron Two Blenheims 139 Squadron attacked a ship in Sfax harbour and blew it up.

LUQA Three Beaufighters left for the Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion’s petrol ration has again been reduced but as consumption is well within previous ration there should be little effect.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Summer dress came into force.

 

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Posted by on May 28, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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27 May 1941: Blenheim Bombers Lost in Attack on Convoy

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Blenheim Mk IV BBLENHEIMS EXPLODE DURING LOW-ALTITUDE BOMBING RUN

Two Blenheims of 82 Squadron were shot down today while engaging in an offensive operation in the southern Mediterranean. The Blenheims were among six sent to attack a large convoy escorted by destroyers as it headed for Tripoli in Libya.  Early this afternoon they reached the six merchant vessels with their escort of eight destroyers and launched their attack. 

The bombers flew in low over the ships to release their bombs in the midst of very heavy anti-aircraft fire. Two of the merchant ships were hit but two of the Blenheims were also destroyed as they dived down towards the vessels.  It has been suggested that the resulting explosions destroyed two of the Blenheims.  The pilots of the two bombers have been named as Flt/Lt G M Fairbairn and Sgt E B Inman.  Their crews were Sgt R J Austin, Sgt K P Collins (1), P/O P J Higgins and Sgt S W Kemp.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 MAY TO DAWN 28 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0719-0745 hrs  Air raid alert for two Italian SM79 bombers which approach the Island possibly on their way south for reconnaissance. Anti-aircraft guns open fire; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

0923-0957 hrs  Air raid alert for two SM 79 bombers escorted by 12 ME 109 fighters which cross over the Island from the north at high altitude, apparently on reconnaissance, then split formation, reform to the east of the Island and recede northwards. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

2250-0010 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which cross over Grand Harbour singly, laying mines. Anti-aircraft guns fire one short barrage; no claims.

0025-0050 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching from the north. One stick of bombs is dropped on Gozo.

0335-0402 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber which crosses the Island, dropping bombs near Qormi.

Military casualties  Sergeant Ronald Joseph Austin Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), Flight Lieutenant Garnet Mackenzie Fairbairn, RAFVR, Pilot Officer Peter John Higgins Royal Air Force VR, Sergeant Edwin Bentall Inman, RAFVR, Sergeant Stanley William Kemp, Royal Air Force all 82 Squadron; Sapper Joseph Chircop, Royal Engineers, Malta Territorial Force.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 27 MAY 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Beaufighter. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance east of Malta to Cape Stilo.   Maryland reconnaissance southern part of eastern Tunisian coast reports convoy.  Maryland sent to locate ships reported by RAF finds convoy 80 miles east of Malta, escorted by 4 SM 79s and one Cant Z501. 139 Squadron Six Blenheims (five of 82 Squadron, one of 139 Squadron) attacked a large convoy escorted by destroyers.  F/Lt Fairbairn and Sgt Inman were shot down.

LUQA  One Beaufighter 252 Squadron left for Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The unit was examined by the Petrol Commission but no means were found by which either vehicles or petrol consumption could be reduced. Motor Transport staff were commended on their fuel controls.  Command Signal Exercise held at 0430-0815 hrs involving Bn HQ and Signals.  The exercise was to test out communications.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  0430-0815 hrs Bn and Company Headquarters took part in Malta Command Exercise No 2. The Battalion celebrated Bois des Buttes anniversary with a holiday: a Fur and Feather show was held during the morning and sports, games and entertainments in the evening.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 3 (1 x 250kg; 2 x 500kg).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Two companies to Xlejli Tower to take over defence of Luqa aerodrome. Remaining two companies disposed one at Zurrieq, one at Kirkop landing strip.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Command Signal exercise involving HQs down to Companies. Very little traffic through Battalion area. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  HQ and all three companies all on bicycles to concentrate on Marsa in the Southern Infantry Brigade reserve. Warning for ‘Picnic’ force to move issued to A Company.  Night interrupted with raids all night.

(1) Sgt K P Collins was injured but survived and was taken prisoner.

 

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Posted by on May 27, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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26 May 1941: Food Rationing Measures Tightened Up

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food queueCHANGES NEEDED TO ENSURE FAIR DISTRIBUTION

New measures have been introduced to tighten up the distribution of Malta’s food rations and ensure a fair distribution of supplies. Under rationing measures introduced in April, wholesalers have been allowed to supply any retailer in any part of the Island. However, there are concerns that competition may result in uneven distribution of food to populations, and possibly to price increases. 

Under the new regulations, the 100 wholesalers are each assigned an area in which to conduct their trade. The scheme is overseen by the Food Distribution Office which calculates entitlements for distribution to wholesalers and grocers of rationed goods, according to the number of their registered customers.  Grocers hold purchase permits which they hand to wholesalers in return for their fortnightly issue of ration supplies. 

CURFEW CHANGES

As from today the curfew ends at 0530 hrs. As a result, morning stand-to for troops will be at 0430 hrs and evening at 2015 hrs.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 MAY TO DAWN 27 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1629-1644 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy aircraft which approach to within 12 miles of the north coast. 12 Hurricanes are scrambled but the enemy turns away northwards before any encounter.

1743-1812 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches to within sight of the east coast of Malta and then circles for some time apparently unable to sight land. One stick of bombs is dropped on the coast of Gozo.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.

2146-2303 hrs  Air raid alert for three unidentified aircraft; two approach from the north and one from the east. One from the north crosses the coast at St Paul’s Bay but is driven off by a heavy anti-aircraft barrage.  The other two retreat without launching any attack.

0305-0435 hrs  Air raid alert for three unidentified aircraft approaching from the north east. One crosses over Gozo and passes down the Malta coast to Dingli.  Flares and one bomb or mine are reported in the Mellieha Bay area.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 26 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Swordfish offensive operations.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Beaufighters. Departures Aircraft casualties  139 Squadron  Two Blenheims 139 Squadron dropped 8 x 250lb bombs on a merchant ship at anchor, scoring three direct hits which bounce off; no damage observed.  Two more Blenheims 139 Squadron attacked the same ship which was abandoned.  It was hit below the water line.  Three Blenheims despatched to attack two ships reported due to leave Sfax; ships seen stationary outside harbour but the Blenheims did not attack.  On the return they dropped 8 x 250lb bombs on an abandoned merchant vessel, scoring near misses.  All aircraft returned safely. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands patrol eastern Tunisian coast, one AM the other PM.  2 Marylands patrol eastern Sicilian coast, one AM the other PM.   

LUQA  Two Beaufighters arrived from Gibraltar.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  General Alarm Exercise took place AM until 1630 hrs; all ranks rose at 0230 hrs. The Exercise was a great success and much was learned from it.  One the whole we held the enemy well but in places they were allowed by umpires to penetrate.  Where they did so, the need for mobile reserves which we have emphasised for so long was proved. 

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  D Company draws 120 bicycles.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Malta Command Exercise ‘Defend Three Cities’.

 

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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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25 May 1941: Air Chief of Faith, Hope and Charity Leaves Malta

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AOC Malta Air Commodore Forster Maynard (r)

AOC Malta Air Commodore Forster Maynard (r)

AIR OFFICER COMMANDING TO BE REPLACED

Air Vice Marshal Forster Maynard, AFC is to leave his post as Air Officer Commanding at the end of the month. The former World War I fighter ace was appointed Air Officer Commanding Mediterranean in November 1939.  When Italy declared war the following June, he was responsible for creating the only fighter forces to defend Malta when he organised the assembly of Gladiators ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Charity’ from packing cases.  Since then he has overseen the strengthening of the Island’s fighter forces in the face of heavy German air raids, as well as the introduction of offensive bomber operations against Axis convoys.  He will be replaced by Air Vice Marshal Hugh Pugh Lloyd MV DFC.

AMMUNITION USAGE FOR WEEK ENDING 25 MAY

  • 4.5” HE 191 rounds
  • 3.7” HE 1260 rounds
  • 3” HE 134 rounds
  • 40mm 40 rounds

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 MAY TO DAWN 26 MAY 1941

Weather  Very hot.

1150-1214 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 to 40 enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north and withdraw before reaching the coast.

1327-1430 hrs  Observers report the approach of three formations of enemy aircraft which have not been reported by fighter control and raise the alarm. While one plot of four ME 109s circles the Island, apparently screening aircraft in transit between Tripoli and Sicily, a second formation turns inland and is over Ta Qali moments after the alert sounds.  The ME 109s machine-gun a searchlight station on the airfield, wounding one gunner.  Two Hurricanes are burned out and three others seriously damaged on the ground (but repairable).  A Lister engine is damaged and 90 gallons of oil are lost.  One pilot and one airman are injured by shrapnel and admitted to hospital; two other airmen are slightly wounded.  Bofors, heavy and light anti-aircraft guns engage; the Bofors claims hits on two ME 109s.  One ME 109 is believed probably shot down into the sea.  No Hurricanes are scrambled owing to the apparent error in fighter control which is immediately under investigation.

1755-1820 hrs  Air raid alert for a large fighter patrol which scouts round the Island. Seven Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders do not cross the coast; no engagement.

Civilian casualties  Naxxar  Francis Mifsud, age 38.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 25 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Since it is now apparent that Lampedusa is used as a refuge for small merchant vessels on the Sicily to Tripoli route, 4 Swordfish were despatched to lay ‘cucumber’ magnetic mines. A fifth Swordfish carried flares but owing to electrical failure none were dropped.  Illuminating cartridges lit the harbour for short periods enabling two cucumbers to to be laid near the harbour entrance.  Moderate light anti-aircraft fire was encountered.  Two Swordfish returned with their cucumber mines, one with engine trouble.  All aircraft returned safely.   

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland; transatlantic flying boat Golden Horn from Gibraltar carrying Air Vice Marshal Lloyd, MC, DFC. Departures 1 Sunderland; transatlantic flying boat.  69 Squadron  Maryland southern part of eastern Tunisian coast.  Maryland reconnaissance northern part eastern Tunisian coast.  Maryland patrol east of Malta up to Cape Stilo for a convoy reported yesterday by a submarine.  Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli reports convoy.  Maryland reconnaissance eastern Sicilian coast reports enemy vessels.  

LUQA  Six Blenheims 139 and 82 Squadrons searched for troopships without success.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  C Company relieve D Company of 8 Manchester and will come under the command of 8 Manchester.

 

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Posted by on May 25, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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24 May 1941: Malta Submarine Sinks 3 Enemy Convoy Ships

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HMS Upholder

HMS Upholder

UPHOLDER TORPEDOES TROOP TRANSPORT

HM Submarine Upholder has sunk a third enemy ship in a month in an attack today off the coast of Sicily. On her 10th patrol since joining the Mediterranean Fleet, Upholder spotted three very large troop-carrying liners.  Despite the troop convoy being well-protected by a destroyer and torpedo boats from the Italian fleet, the submarine launched an attack, firing torpedoes at the largest of the liners, the 18000 ton Conte Rosso, which sank within 40 minutes, with the loss of some 1300 from the 3000 plus troops on board. Upholder escaped undamaged despite being attacked with 37 depth charges during the encounter.

Commanded by Lt Commander M D Wanklyn, RN, HMS Upholder has been in Malta since December, as part of 10th Submarine Flotilla, based at Lazaretto.  In the past month, the submarine has sunk German ships Arcturus and Leverkusen, as well as the Italian Antonietta Lauro and the Conte Rosso.  Just yesterday Upholder torpedoed and damaged a French tanker.

MILITARY COMMMUNICATIONS IN MALTA UNDER THREAT

Malta’s telephone systems are inadequate to cope with the demands of its defensive forces, according to the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief. Essential telephone communications systems have frequently been cut in recent raids, placing the entire defensive operation under threat.

The problem is due to the shallow depth of underground cables, which are no more than 18 inches below ground level, leaving them extremely vulnerable to damage in heavy bombing raids such as those in recent weeks. As the subsoil of the whole island is rock, it is not possible to bury cables deeper underground. 

As a result, Lt Gen Dobbie has concluded that military communications need to be installed independently of the telephone system. He has made an urgent request to the War Office for 45 radio sets, plus nine operators for specialist models, to be sent to Malta as a matter of urgency.  He has also asked London for an expected despatch date for the equipment, as he believes that some supplies destined for are currently being delayed in the Middle East.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 MAY TO DAWN 25 MAY 1941

Weather  Heavy rain and strong, cold wind, clearing later.

1455-1505 hrs  Air raid alert for a patrol of 12 enemy aircraft which approach to within 10 miles of the north coast of the Island before turning back to the north.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 24 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upholder sank Conte Rosso.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron PM  Maryland patrol east Sicilian coast. 2 Marylands patrols eastern Tunisian coast including Lampedusa Harbour to Zuara reported several vessels and convoy movements.  One Maryland machine-guns a Dornier 18 from 50 feet with no opposition. 139 Squadron Two Blenheims are despatched to attack merchant vessels south of Djerba and score hits with two bombs.  

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  General Alarm Exercise due to begin at 0300 hrs cancelled due to heavy rain.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Two Other Ranks are selected to act as gang-leaders for Maltese labourers.

 

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Posted by on May 24, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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23 May 1941: Malta Bomb Disposal Officers Killed

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Royal Navy Bomb & Mine Disposal team (NWMA)

Royal Navy Bomb & Mine Disposal team (NWMA)

MINE EXPLODES WHILE BEING DEFUZED

Two Royal Navy Bomb & Mine Disposal officers were killed today when a mine they were working on exploded. Electrical Lieutenant Antony Gusterson Rogers, GM and Commissoned Boatswain Lord J H Sheldon, GM were trying to disarm the mine when it detonated, killing them both instantly.  The Royal Navy team is responsible for dealing with all unexploded mines and have been under pressure in recent weeks with the large numbers dropped on land as well as in the two main harbours.

Boatswain Sheldon has been involved in bomb disposal in Malta since June 1940, when he volunteered to assist Royal Army Ordnance Corps officers following the first Italian attacks of the war. He was awarded the George Medal in September last year for his work.  Since last month Boatswain Sheldon has been in charge of Naval ratings who assist in the uncovering and removal of  parachute mines, and all unexploded bombs within Royal Navy premises.

Elect Lt Rogers was also awarded the George Medal in September last year while he was serving in mine disposal in London. Both officers have been recommended for a posthumous additional award for ‘gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty’ during their service in Malta.

MALTA LACKS VITAL STRATEGIC INFORMATION

The GCiC has written to the War Office asking for faster transmission of military news to Malta. Information is currently reaching the Island two days behind the general wireless broadcasts, leaving military chiefs starved of vital news.  In a telegram today Lt General Dobbie has asked for a regular resume giving details of enemy methods of fighting and Allied means of countering them, as well as details of any success achieved through new methods of using weapons currently deployed in Malta.

GERMAN PARACHUTE FLARES WARNING

All service personnel have been warned that German parachute flares are liable to ignite by spontaneous combustion even when thought to be safe after defusing. From today it will be considered an offence to tough one of these flares.  Any person finding a flare is required to report the matter immediately to his unit, which will then list such reports and forward them to General Staff.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 MAY TO DAWN 24 MAY 1941

Weather  Intermittent rain (heavy later) and squalls; poor visibility.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Electrical Lieutenant Antony Gusterson Rogers, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and Commissioned Boatswain Lord Joseph Herbert Sheldon, HMS St Angelo.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 23 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upholder attacked Captaine Damiani; probably sunk. 

AIR HQ  69 Squadron One Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast. Marylands reconnaissance of northern part of eastern Tunisian coast.  Blenheims could not be despatched due to very unfavourable weather conditions.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 2 (2 x 250kg).

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Warning issued for move and composition of ‘Picnic’ detail. CO examined Poor House for billet for Luqa companies.

 

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Posted by on May 23, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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22 May 1941: Claims of Corruption in Ration Distribution

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Queuing for kerosene (NWMA Malta)

Queuing for kerosene (NWMA Malta)

KEROSENE DELIVERY SYSTEM NEEDS RADICAL OVERHAUL

Allegations have emerged of families being cheated of their kerosene ration. 506 gallons – the entire ration for 800 people – failed to be delivered in one district alone.  65 families in Qormi did not receive one expected delivery.  Following the reports, the Paola Assistant District Commissioner, C Dimech, proposes radical changes to the distribution system in his area. 

Kerosene carts are supposed to deliver supplies house to house, collecting a coupon in return for the allocated ration for that household. However, Mr Dimech has submitted a report today described the deliveries in his area as disorderly, bordering on corruption:

“Householders were compelled to abandon their homes to go in search of the tank-carts. Those who did not suffer this inconvenience were chancing to remain without their ration.  Even those who were ready to accept this sacrifice were not always sure to get their kerosene after wasting two or three hours trying to push their way in to reach the tank…

The kerosene seller having disposed of his kerosene used to call at the Police Station, Tarxien, where the chit given him by the supplying depot was filled up and signed by a Police Sergeant or Constable without any reference being made to the coupons collected…These coupons which were left in the hands of the delivery men to be returned to the depot clerk were not being counted before a next supply was issued. Thus sellers…might easily sell or otherwise dispose of some of these coupons.”

Kerosene is an essential commodity for lighting and cooking; the lack of even a single delivery can cause serious difficulties for householders. Many have complained that the kerosene ration, even when they do receive, it is insufficient for their needs.  Housewives claim they cannot cook one hot meal a day on half a gallon of kerosene, let alone light the house. 

Commissioner Dimech has now taken steps to remedy the situation in Paola. He has started a new system of distribution street by street, overseen by one of his men as well as the usual police escort. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 MAY TO DAWN 23 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1126-1310 hrs  Air raid alert for six ME 109s which patrol to the east of the Island. Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no interception.

1547-1618 hrs  Air raid alert for four ME 109s which patrol to the west of the Island.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no interception.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 22 MAY 1941

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance after Blenheim attack reveals merchant vessel smoking and probably abandoned. Two Marylands patrol eastern Tunisian coast report a convoy.  A Maryland is despatched to shadow.  Four Blenheims 139 Squadron are despatched to attack and successfully bomb a tanker. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 3 (3 x 250kg).

(1) When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint 1981

 

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Posted by on May 22, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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