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8 December 1941: Malta Bombers Collide – Pilots Killed

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P34 HMS Ultimatum

P34 HMS Ultimatum

AIRCRAFT CRASH DURING RAID OVER SICILY

Two young airmen were lost last night over Sicily when their aircraft were seen to collide in mid-air during a raid.  The pilots were among a flight of four Blenheims of 18 Squadron based at Luqa, sent last night to attack the heavily-defended Catania aerodrome. A build-up of Axis forces on the airfield has been observed by recent reconnaissance flights from Malta.

The pilots have been named as Pilot Officer James Arthur Barclay, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and Sergeant William John Cuming, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, age 20, of Southampton. They were based at Luqa aerodrome.  P/O Barclay was on only his second attacking mission in Malta since being appointed Pilot Officer on 12 November 1941.  The two pilots were part of a raid two days ago by six Blenheims on enemy barracks at Homs, inland from Tripoli.  Sgt Cuming took part in six other successful air attacks on enemy targets in the past three weeks.

Private Reginald Lock of 2nd Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment was also killed today and three others injured when an enemy bomb struck a shelter at Hal Far.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 DECEMBER TO DAWN 9 DECEMBER 1941

2238 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft passed over Kalafrana and Hal Far. 

Military casualties  Pilot Officer James Barclay, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Sergeant William Cuming, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Private Reginald Lock, 2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 8 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Force B – also Kandahar and Jaguar and P34 arrived.  The latter reported having hit with one torpedo a 4000 ton merchant vessel in entrance to Straits of Messina on 5th December.  Counter attack by 38 depth charges.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Wellingtons and five Blenheims plus one Catalina and one Sunderland from Gibraltar; one Catalina from Aboukir. Departures  Ten Blenheims and one Wellington to 108 MU.

HAL FAR  Overnight three Swordfish took off to attack one merchant vessel of 3000 tons.  Target was not located.  All aircraft returned safely.  Four Albacores 828 Squadron despatched on a nuisance raid to Catania aerodrome.  Time over target 2130-0415 hours.  Bombs dropped 4580 lbs High Explosive and 250 lbs incendiaries.  All bombs dropped in target area causing two fires, one of which was probably an aircraft.  All aircraft returned safely. 

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF 6 patrol; one Maryland SF 9 patrol; one Maryland SF 10 patrol.  69 Squadron Photo-Reconnaissance One of Tripoli and Castel Benito aerodrome; one PR of Tunis and Bizerte.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 11 patrol; four Blenheims sent to attack Catania aerodrome.  P/O Barclay and Sgt Cuming collided and crashed.  Other two aircraft returned with bombs.  107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 1 patrol; one Blenheim SF 2B patrol.  Five Blenheims sent to attack convoy (no sightings made).

2nd BN THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  One bomb dropped Bir-id-Deheb on crossroads.  One bomb very near Elephant Shelter of D Company at Hal Far.  Private Lock killed as a result, three others injured. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; dealt with 1 (2kg incendiary).

 

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Posted by on December 8, 2016 in 1941, December 1941

 

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7 December 1941: Malta Under 11 Hour Night Alert

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AIR RAIDS 7 DECEMBER TO 8 DECEMBER 1941

0127 hrs Air raid alarm sounded after bombs dropped in sea south of Ghar Lapsi.  Two further raids approached and took over intruder patrols, attempting to shoot up returning Wellingtons [from last night’s attack on the Royal Harbour at Naples]. 

Ghar Lapsi (NWMA Malta)

A low level bombing and machine gun attack was made on Ghar Lapsi searchlight station, bombs dropped one mile south of Siggiewi.  No damage or casualties.  Ack Ack barraged twice, Bofors and Light Machine Guns engaged several low flying aircraft.

Rumours are circulating that Italian Regia Aeronautica pilots are flying German aircraft on missions over Malta.

0657 hrs All-clear sounds.  The Island has been on constant alert since 1959 hrs yesterday.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 7 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Three Swordfish left to attack one merchant vessel west of Malta, but failed to locate target.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Beaufighters, two Wellingtons, one Halifax from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  Four Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack Castel Benito Aerodrome.  One dropped bombs on Mellaha.  Bombs dropped on south side of Mellaha aerodrome causing large column of black smoke.  At Castel Benito dispersal areas were attacked and eight medium and one large fire started.  Opposition intense but inaccurate.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  S/D Flight  One Wellington shipping search. 69 Squadron One Maryland on anti-submarine patrol; one Maryland special search Ionian sea; one Maryland SF 12 patrol.  Photo-Reconnaissance  One Maryland Argostoli and Navarino harbours; one Maryland Tripoli Harbour.  PR Unit 2: one over Catania and Gela; another over Tripoli Harbour and Castel Benito.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim special search Kerkanna area for merchant vessel; one Blenheim 18 Squadron SF 2B patrol.  Five Blenheims despatched to attack convoy (failed to locate).  107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 11 patrol; five Blenheims despatched to attack convoy (failed to locate).  104 Squadron  Six Wellingtons attacked Castel Benito aerodrome.  Two Wellingtons attacked Tripoli.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3.

 

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Posted by on December 7, 2016 in Uncategorized, 1941, December 1941

 

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6 December 1941: Night Bombing Over Malta

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LAST BATTLE FOR P/O HUTT

The fate of Pilot Officer D F Hutt of 40 Squadron, reported missing after last night’s attack on Naples, is explained by a returning Regia Aeronautica pilot:  

“During the night between 5th and 6th December 1941 twenty Wellingtons from 40 and 104 Squadrons attacked the Royal Arsenal at Naples. Maresciallo Patriarca from 356a Squadriglia, 21o Gruppo took off from Capodichino airfield to intercept the incoming bombers. At 21:35 he spotted Wellington R1066 of 40 Squadron, flown by Pilot Officer D F Hutt, and engaged it in a long fight, firing 408 rounds of 12.7 mm ammunition before he finally shot it down.  Two members of the Wellington crew baled out near the port, Hutt included, but four others were killed.  Patriarca landed at Capua almost out of fuel, and with the tail of his fighter damaged by return fire.” (1)

German Junkers JU 88

German Junkers JU 88

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 DECEMBER TO DAWN 7 DECEMBER 1941

2308-0659 hrs 18-20 enemy aircraft approached the Island singly from east and south as intruder raids over aerodromes.  Bombs dropped on edge of Luqa, near Ta Qali, and Naxxar.  Bofors engaged low flying aircraft at approx 2,000 feet.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged illuminated targets by height control.  Searchlight operators identified two JU88s – Luftwaffe.

The RE Bomb Disposal Officer is called to Luqa on another high priority mission to defuze three unexploded bombs hampering air operations.  They are German.

2056 hrs  Air raid alarm.  14 enemy aircraft crossed coast, two only dropping bombs, one stick of six north of Rabat and others in sea.  The raids were of two kinds: (a) nuisance raids and (b) intruder raids – enemy aircraft following in our returning bombers.  Heavy Ack Ack barraged on one occasion only.  Searchlight operators identified two JU88s.

Military casualties  Gunner Thomas Hines, 26th Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 6 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Five Albacores attacked Castel Benito aerodrome with bombs and incendiaries.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 12 Wellingtons, 1 Whitley, 1 Cathay and 1 Halifax from Gibraltar; 2 Marylands from 201 Group.  Departures  Four Beaufighters for 108 MU.

LUQA  S/D Flight: one Wellington special shipping search.  69 Squadron Photo-reconnaissance over Catania and Gela, another over Tripoli and Castel Benito.   One Maryland SF 6 patrol; three Marylands special search, including one in Kefalonia area, a second in Zante area.  18 Squadron: one Blenheim SF 11 patrol.  Six Blenheims attacked barracks at Homs.  107 Squadron: one Blenheim SF 11 patrol.  40 Squadron: ten Wellingtons attacked Royal Arsenal at Naples.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 6; dealt with 3 (German 50kg). 

(1) Biplane Fighter Aces From the Second World War by Hakan Gustavsson.  Read more at http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se

 

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Posted by on December 6, 2016 in 1941, December 1941, Uncategorized

 

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5 December 1941: All Night Raids – Aircraft Believed German

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Breconshire

Breconshire

EYE-WITNESSES DESCRIBE LUFTWAFFE AIRCRAFT; UNEXPLODED BOMB IS GERMAN 50KG

German aircraft are believed to have been responsible for attacks on Malta overnight.  Air raids started at ten in the evening and the final all clear did not sound until 0530 hrs this morning.  20 minutes later another raid started, lasting for over an hour.  Reports have been coming in of bombs dropped on Luqa and Hal Far airfields.  Rumours are spreading that the attackers were not Italian, but German. 

First thing in the morning, the Bomb Disposal Officer is handed a Priority report of an unexploded bomb near an artillery battery at Targa Gap.  He heads straight for the location, up on the Victoria Lines.  The bomb is a 50kg: it is German. 

REINFORCEMENT REQUEST REFUSED

From: The War Office                                           To: Governor and C in C Malta

Regret NO increase in personnel can be allowed except by corresponding decrease elsewhere.  If you are prepared to do this cable details.

A DASH FOR OIL

The recent increase in Royal Navy forces operating from Malta has left the Island short of fuel.  As soon as darkness fell, the fast transport ship Breconshire sailed from Grand Harbour with an escort, to make a run for Alexandria to collect supplies.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 DECEMBER TO DAWN 6 DECEMBER 1941

2145-2229 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft dropped bombs in sea.

2201-0533 hours  Air raid alarm.  Bombs dropped Luqa, Hal Far, Ta Qali and other areas.

0550-0652 hrs  Air raid alarm.

Civilian casualties  Zurrieq  Anthony Farrugia, age 49; Zabbar  Clementa Pullicino, age 48.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 5 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Eddy detonated a “Red” mine in position 045 degrees St. Elmo 3/4′.  Breconshire, escorted by Kingston and Kimberley, sailed for Alexandria at 1700.  Ajax, Neptune and Lively sailed on operations at 2000.

Beaufighter

AIR HQ  From Gibraltar: 18 Blenheims, 7 Beaufighters, 3 Beauforts.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF1 patrol.  One Maryland SF 9 patrol; one Maryland SF 6 patrol.  18 Squadron  Two Blenheims SF 2B patrol.  Photo-reconnaissance Unit 2 on recce Comiso and Gela.  One Maryland on photo-reconnaissance Augusta and Crotone.  One Maryland photo-reconnaissance Lybian aerodromes.107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 11 patrol.

Two Beaufighters BF/Flight patrol over Pantelleria for protection of aircraft arriving from Gibraltar.  One Wellington S/D Flight special shipping search.  Ten Wellingtons 40 Squadron and ten Wellingtons 104 Squadron attacked Royal Arsenal at Naples. P/O Hutt [40 Squadron] failed to return.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2; dealt with 1 (50kg high explosive).

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Posted by on December 5, 2016 in 1941, December 1941, Uncategorized

 

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4 December 1941: Ammunition Supply Unusable – Sabotage Suspected

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VITAL AMMUNITION SUPPLIES NOT FIT FOR USE

Lt Gen Dobbie

A million rounds of ammunition recently arrived in Malta are not fit for use against the enemy, according to the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief.  In an exchange of telegrams with the War Office in London, Lt Gen Dobbie has raised serious concerns about the state of the supplies and questions the security of manufacture and packaging in Britain’s factories. 

Aerial reconnaissance has shown that German aircraft are amassing in Sicily and Malta’s gunners cannot be asked to defend the Island against a determined Luftwaffe with faulty ammunition, he says.  Every consignment will now have to be checked before issue, and that will take extra manpower.

From: Gov & C in C Malta                                                      To: The War Office

First.  100% inspection of 100000 ctg SA Ball .303” Mark VIIIZ straight in stripless belts indicates that probably nearly one million rounds will be unserviceable or fit for practice only due to corrosion of contents of sealed linings.  Sabotage at filling factory suspected; detailed report follows by cable.

Second. Above necessitates 100% examination of total holdings (4½ million rounds).  This vital for defence of fortress as all [is] now suspect.  Present RAOC staff unable to cope with existing ammunition repair and inspection work.  Essential that one inspecting Ordnance Officer and four RAOC ammunition examiners (2 Corporals, 2 Privates) be sent at once by air (repeat air) to carry out above special 100% inspection of SAA and other vital inspections of ammunition in Malta. 

FINDINGS OF INITIAL INSPECTIONS

100% examination carried out of 100,000 [units] packed in boxes…with original seals results: 8.1% unserviceable; 11.7% fit for practice only, 80.2% serviceable.  Defects: metal linings rusty internally; packing pieces damp and rotted; belts rotted and can be torn with fingers; cartridges corroded and incapable of extraction from belt.  All above defects are far worse at bottom of linings than top.  Cause of defects ingress of water source unknown.  No acidic reaction.  No external rust or signs of damp on labels.  Sabotage at filling factories (before linings sealed) suspected. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 DECEMBER TO DAWN 5 DECEMBER 1941

1345 hrs Air raid alarm.  Caused by return of Blenheim.

MILITARY CASUALTIES  Sergeant Robert George Kidby, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

P31 HMS Uproar

P31 HMS Uproar

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 4 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  P31 [submarine HMS Uproar] returned from patrol off Colonne, having most probably sunk a cruiser.

LUQA  One Blenheim 107 Squadron SF 2B patrol.  One Blenheim 107 Squadron SF11 patrol.  Four Blenheims 107 Squadron attacked marshalling yards at Messina.  Sergeant Kidby failed to return.  One Beaufighter BF/Flt attacked motor transport on road east of Sirte.  One Maryland 69 Squadron SF1 patrol.  One Maryland 69 Squadron SF6 patrol.  One Maryland 69 Squadron SF 9 patrol. 

TA QALI  Acting Wing Commander Powell-Shedden appointed officer commanding Ta Qali. Malta Night Fighter Unit – No 1435 Night Fighter Flight  – formed as separate entity under Squadron Leader I B Westmacott.  Establishment awaited.    All night operations cancelled – bad weather conditions – no flying.    

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Posted by on December 4, 2016 in 1941, December 1941

 

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3 December 1941: Malta Flying Ace Awarded DFC

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Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

SQUADRON LEADER GEORGE F POWELL SHEDDEN DECORATED

London Gazette, December 1941: Distinguished Flying Cross

“This officer has been engaged on operations almost since the war began.  He served with a fighter squadron in the Middle East theatre of war until June, 1940, when he returned to this country and took part in the Battle of Britain.  In July, 1941, Squadron Leader Powell Shedden was posted to Malta where he formed the night flying unit which has since performed sterling work in the night defence of Malta.  By his great and energetic organising ability, together with his courage and initiative in the air, Squadron Leader Powell Shedden has contributed materially to the successes obtained.  He has destroyed at least 5 enemy aircraft 3 of which were during the Battle of Britain.”

Squadron Leader Powell Shedden is to be promoted to Acting Wing Commander with effect from 4 December 1941.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 DECEMBER TO DAWN 4 DECEMBER 1941

2110 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One unidentified enemy aircraft, probably Italian piloted German aircraft off its course crossed the coast near Delimara.  No engagement took place as it was thought the aircraft might try and land but it receded north.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 3 DECEMBER 1941

HMS Olympus takes in supplies in Manoel Creek

ROYAL NAVY  Olympus sailed for Gibraltar with stores and passengers.  Upholder returned from patrol off Colonne, having unsuccessfully attacked returning cruisers and Mantovani

HAL FAR: No enemy air activity – conditions bad.

LUQA:  All operations cancelled (owing to bad weather).

 FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with (12 x Thermos).

 

 

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Posted by on December 3, 2016 in 1941, December 1941

 

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2 December 1941: Bomb Disposal Man Risks Life 19 Times

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Lt G D Carroll, RE

Lt G D Carroll, RE

BOMBS MUST BE CLEARED FROM THE OPERA HOUSE

“I had to get the bombs out.  I couldn’t carry them: depending as they did on vibration to explode, they could go off and destroy me…”  Lt George Carroll, RE Bomb Disposal Officer Malta, 1941-42

Malta’s Bomb Disposal Officer Lt Carroll and his squad have been working for a month without a break, dealing with 533 unexploded bombs, including over 450 “Thermos” anti-personnel cluster bombs.  Today Lt Carroll headed into central Valletta, to begin his greatest challenge yet: to remove 19 highly-sensitive Thermos bombs from the Opera House. 

As Bomb Disposal Officer he must carry out the dangerous operation himself – to avoid unnecessary loss of life.  He has spent hours in the past month devising a method of lifting and transport the bombs safely out of the building, one at a time.  Every single one could kill him.  

From War Diary, Fortress Engineers Malta, Appendix F:

“On 1st Nov 1941 the Police of Valletta unwittingly risking their lives, stored 19 complete Thermos bombs, and 15 fuzes from same (complete with detonators) in a lower basement room of the Royal Opera House. Removal of the complete bombs was inconvenient at the time owing to demands of more bombs lying in the open. The basement was heavily sandbagged, and research and experiment commenced to devise a means of removing the bombs when opportunity presented itself. The detonators were unscrewed and removed.

Opera House, Valletta

The Thermos bomb is designed to explode under movement induced by vibration or handling, after impact.  Falling on hard ground, the mechanism of the fuze may become so distorted as to act progressively on handling, and not instantaneously.  This was the state of the bombs in the Opera House.

After much experimenting, a self closing grab was devised, which could be slid over the bomb without disturbing it.  This grab was suspended from a cord, passing over pulleys on a curtain railway, leading to outside the room.  Pulling on this cord caused the grab to close round the bomb and lift it in a horizontal position.

By means of a second cord the suspended bomb was caused to travel along the curtain railway, until it was opposite to the basement window.  In this position a further cord was affixed which passed outside the window, over pulleys, and was operated from cover by a party in a shelter across the street. By balancing the tensions of the two cords, one suspending it and the other pulling out of the window, the bomb was manoeuvred over a tray carrying sand, resting in the bottom of the window bay, and lowered into it.

Thermos bomb

Lying in the sand, the grab was slid clear of the bomb and the tray hauled to street level by means of a third tackle, operated by the outside party.  When clear of the building this lifting tackle was allowed to run out from the face of the Opera House, lifting the tray with it, until the latter was free to be lowered into a sandbag emplacement built in the roadway.  By means of a spilling loop the bomb was then thrown into the emplacement onto 2′ of sand therein.  Steel plates lined the emplacement to economise in sandbags and the bombs were blown up in it singly.

The 19 bombs were taken out on two successive days.  The bombs were in two shelves. The afternoon of the first day was spent shifting the curtain railway.  The system did not work perfectly, for two bombs which were in most remote positions fell out of the grab, due to indirect and uneven lifting. They did not explode and were picked up again by the grab.

The Lieut. Governor wrote thanking us for this successful operation.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 DECEMBER TO DAWN 3 DECEMBER 1941

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 2 DECEMBER 1941

0034 hrs  Air raid alarm.  No engagement.

1848 hrs  Air raid alarm.  No engagement.  Bombs in sea.

ROYAL NAVY  Force “K” arrived, having intercepted and sunk one destroyer, one tanker and one merchant vessel.  Four Albacores left for operations, but returned owing to weather.

LUQA  Two Marylands 69 Squadron SF 1 patrol.  One Maryland 69 Squadron SF 9B patrol.  One Maryland 69 Squadron SF6 patrol.  Two Beaufighters attacked petrol tankers and lorries on road between Sirte and Homs.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 7 (Thermos).

(1) Extract from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010

 

 

 

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Posted by on December 2, 2016 in 1941, December 1941, Uncategorized

 

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