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9 February 1941: Churchill Praises Malta’s Defenders

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British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

ILLUSTRIOUS DEFENCE SHOWS ALLIED POTENTIAL SAYS BRITISH PM

Winston Churchill has praised the achievements of Malta’s ground and air defenders against the blitz launched on the Illustrious in January. To date 85 enemy aircraft have been shot down over Malta plus another 24 probables and 33 damaged. In a speech today, he referred to the Island as an example of Allied resistance:

“In the Central Mediterranean, the Italian Quisling, who is called Mussolini, and the French Quisling, commonly called Laval, are both in their different ways trying to make their countries into doormats for Hitler and his new order, in the hope of being able to keep or get the Nazi Gestapo and Prussian bayonets to enforce their rule upon their fellow countrymen. I cannot tell how the matter will go, but at any rate we shall do our best to fight for the Central Mediterranean.

I dare say you will have noticed a very significant air action which was fought over Malta a fortnight ago. The Germans sent an entire Geschwader (squadron) of dive-bombers to Sicily. They seriously injured our new aircraft carrier Illustrious, and then, as this wounded ship was sheltered in Malta harbour, they concentrated upon her all their force so as to beat her to pieces.

But they were met by the batteries of Malta, which is one of the strongest defended fortresses in the world against air attack. They were met by the Fleet Air Arm and by the Royal Air Force and in two or three days they had lost, out of 150 dive-bombers, upward of ninety-fifty of which were destroyed in the air and forty on the ground. Although the Illustrious in her damaged condition was one of the great prizes of the air and naval war, the German Geschwader accepted the defeat. They would not come any more.

All the necessary repairs were made to the Illustrious in Malta harbour, and she steamed safely off to Alexandria under her own power at twenty-three knots. I dwell upon this incident not at all because I think it disposes of the danger in the Central Mediterranean but in order to show you that there, as elsewhere, we intend to give a good account of ourselves. But, after all, the fate of this war is going to be settled by what happens on the oceans, in the air and, above all, in this island.”

HELMETS TO BE WORN DURING RAIDS

Orders have been issued to troops that steel helmets must be worn by all personnel in the open during air raid alerts. In addition, any personnel who have to look up must wear eyeshields.  No such protection should be removed until 30 minutes after the ‘raiders passed’ signal.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 10 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine and clear.

0725-0740 hrs; 1032-1050 hrs  Air raid alert; raids do not materialise.

1430-1535 hrs  Air raid alert for a large number of enemy aircraft approaching the Island in two formations. Twelve Hurricanes and three Fulmars are scrambled and the raiders turn back without crossing the coast. 

1620-1650 hrs  Air raid alert for an enemy aircraft flying southwards very slowly over Delimara; raid does not materialise.

1835-1930 hrs  Air raid alert for an unidentified aircraft approaching the Island; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 9 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ Departures 2 Sunderlands. 69 Squadron  Maryland despatched for photoreconnaissance special mission (Operation Colossus) believed successful.  Sunderland patrol for enemy shipping depth of 100 miles north and south Tunisian coast.  

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Middle East with passengers and freight. One Sunderland left for Gibraltar with passengers.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland special mission successfully accomplished.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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8 February 1941: Malta Under Alert for 9 Hours

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RAID AFTER RAID TARGETS SOUTHERN AIRFIELDS AND DOCKYARD

Heinkel HE 111 employed in raids today

Heinkel HE 111 employed in raids tonight

Malta was under alert for over nine hours tonight as enemy bombers carried out a constant series of air raids. The alert sounded just after six in the evening heralding in the first of the raiders who approached in a group of three and bombed Hal Far aerodrome.  They were followed by wave after wave of similar raids, aircrafts approaching in twos and threes, mainly targeting Luqa and Hal Far airfields as well as the Dockyard area, dropping their bombs from heights varying between 400 and 15000 feet.  Up 70 enemy bombers were employed in the raids, including both JU 88 and HE 111s.

Malta fighters were scrambled throughout the night and shot down one enemy bomber plus another probable. Many bombs were dropped on the south of Island, damaging the Leper Hospital and many civilian houses were damaged.  There were no casualties and only slight damage to military property.  During the attacks Swordfish aircraft returning from a mission managed to land safely at Hal Far.

Rev Reginald Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral sat up through the night with his parishioners: “There were about 140 people sleeping in the Crypt. I got them to bring cards, draughts, etc., as they just do nothing but sit about – or lie about. I have produced about 20 old hassocks from the church, which they use as head pillows and some bring deck chairs, etc. I feel sorry for the women with babies…there were long intervals of silence punctuated with sudden burst of furious gunfire.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 9 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1505-1525 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which approaches from the south east over Delimara and makes a reconnaissance flight over the Island.

1649-1722 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft seven miles west of the Island. Marsaxlokk reports a single plane flying in high from the south west.  Four Hurricanes, two Fulmars and six Swordfish are scrambled; no engagement.

1810-0315 hrs  Air raid alert. Four formations of three enemy aircraft approach the Island a few minutes apart.  Bombers swoop in very low and drop bombs on Hal Far, damaging a hangar and causing considerable damage to civilian property.  One civilian guard is killed, three civilians and two soldiers are wounded.  Searchlights engage and illuminate four of the raiders.

Bombers attack Luqa aerodrome, damaging the runway and two Glenn Martin Marylands. Bombs are also dropped near Luqa reservoir, west of Qormi, between Mqabba and Zurieq, on Marnisi and Hamrun, and between Paola and Corradino.  Six Hurricanes and two Fulmars are airborne and shoot down two JU 88 bombers plus another probable.  One aircraft is reported crashing near San Pietru.

Through the night a series of enemy aircraft approach the Island in ones and twos and dive-bomb Luqa aerodrome and the surrounding area. The Leper Hospital, St Vincent de Paule hospital and some civilian houses are damaged.  One civilian is killed and another severely injured.  30 goats are killed.  In another attack bombs are dropped in Marsa, on Tarxien and near Hompesch Arch.  During the attacks Swordfish aircraft returning from a mission landed safely at Hal Far.

Civilian casualties Sliema  Francis Grech, age 17, Malta Auxiliary Corps.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 8 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm fired five torpedoes on Tripoli harbour. One aircraft force-landed in Tunisia. 

AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland. Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli Harbour.  Maryland photoreconnaissance Palermo, west Sicily and Trapani; eight Whitleys arrived for operation “Colossus”. 148 Squadron  Six Wellingtons left for Middle East.  

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Gibraltar and UK with passengers and mail.  

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli; one Maryland reconnaissance of western Sicily ports.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 6.

(1)  Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History 

 

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

 

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7 February 1941: Secret Strike Mission Launched From Malta

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Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bomber

Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bomber

EIGHT BOMBERS ARRIVE FOR ‘OPERATION COLUSSUS’

Eight Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bombers landed at Malta this evening in preparation for a top secret mission to be launched from the Island.  The Whitleys left UK early today and flew partly over occupied France to reach the Malta.  On board were 38 paratroopers who will carry out the special mission codenamed ‘Operation Colossus’.  The troops are expected to spend some time in Malta in preparation for their mission, the date and location of which remains a carefully guarded secret. 

AIR RAID ALERT SIREN DAMAGE

A Fortress Order was issued today notifying troops that “damage has occurred to both the internal and the stands of general alarm sirens”. New instructions have been issued to ensure the proper use of sirens to avoid further damage:

when started from rest, the handle will be turned slowly and gradually brought up to full speed;

the siren will not be forcibly stopped but allowed to run down without being checked by hand

the sirens are top-heavy and if knocked over the stands are broken. To avoid this, companies must mount their sirens on a wooden base at least three feet square, securing the legs by metal clips.

DAMAGE TO CROPS

It has been reported to Fortress HQ that various crops have been removed by troops from private lands. In order to safeguard troops [from such accusations], it is essential that, should any serviceman see an unauthorised person entering private property and helping themselves to the crops, they should report the matter immediately to the authorities. 

Meanwhile troops are reminded that the removal of private crops is a very serious offence and is liable to cause ill-feeling between farmers and military personnel. Strong action will therefore be taken against any troops caught taking crops from private land, unless they have express permission from the farmer.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 8 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Unsettled; strong wind from the north west and heavy swells.

1725-1741 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1841-1900 hrs  Air raid alert for one enemy aircraft which passes briefly over the north coast and then retreats over St George’s. No bombs are dropped.

2115-2250 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which approach over Marsaxlokk and drop bombs between Marnisi Palace and Luqa aerodrome. Soon afterwards the raider returns and drops bombs between Tarxien and Tal Handaq before retreating over Qrendi.

2306-0115 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft. Three heavy high explosive bombs are dropped near Verdala Palace causing slight damage to the Palace and military property, and killing one child.  Bombs are also dropped on the areas of Luqa and Hal Far.  Raiders also machine gun Luqa, Hal Far and San Pietru.  Four bombs are dropped in a field near post R12 and fail to explode.

Civilian casualties  Zabbar  Carmela Vella, age 14.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 7 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 8 Whitley for special operation. Sunderland patrol off Tunisian coast for shipping. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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Posted by on February 7, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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6 February 1941: Orders Issued to Prepare for Invasion

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INFANTRY BRIGADES WILL BE READY

In the light of recent evidence that the enemy has assembled parachutist troops and troop carrying planes, orders are being issued to troops to prepare for possible invasion. The infantry defences of the Island are divided into two brigade sectors: Northern and Southern Infantry Brigades.  The dividing line runs from Pieta through Attard and Siggiewi to the coast. 

In the event of an enemy landing, the use of light tanks, flame throwers, armoured cars, gas and dive bombing aircraft is believed highly probable. Troops are being issued with defensive equipment and trained in relevant procedures.

Flag signals over the Castile, Valletta

Flag signals over the Castile to call troops back from leave

A system of emergency recall for troops on leave or otherwise away from duty has now been introduced. On the relevant signal, those on the standard three days’ leave in the Valletta-Floriana area will report immediately to the commandant of the rest camp at Msida, who will organise such personnel into fighting bodies ready for orders.  The signals, to be shown from the Castille Tower only, are: by day two black balls vertically plus a flag; by night one red and one white light horizontally. 

GOVERNOR CONCERNED ABOUT FOOD SUPPLIES

Lt Gen Dobbie is concerned that the carefully planned system of rolling supplies, designed to ensure sufficient stocks in Malta, is at risk. He has written to the War Office, copy to the Commander in Chief Middle East, the Rear Admiral in charge of Alexandria and the Secretary of State for Colonies

“I request an immediate decision in regard to the source of supplies for Malta. The success of the current scheme is dependent on efficient co-ordination by staff for all the Island’s requirements.  Supplies of refrigerated products must be made by the specified dates if the stocks in Malta are to be maintained at the required level.  If this is not done, the rolling programme of convoys set up to keep the Island supplied will break down.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 7 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Wet with strong north westerly wind; low cloud and poor visibility.

1801-1845 hrs  Air raid alert for three approaching enemy aircraft which cross the Island once or twice but drop no bombs.

1945-2045 hrs Air raid alert for three approaching enemy aircraft which fly over the Island in very bad weather. They drop bombs in countryside near Tarxien and in the sea off Kalafrana and Delimara causing no damage or casualties.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 6 FEBRUARY 1941

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland sea patrol between Tripoli and Benghazi.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal  UXB dealt with 2 (3.7” Ack Ack shells).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Two defence posts evacuated for wire to be thickened and shrapnel mines laid in the area.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Defence of Harbour order issued to all concerned.   

 

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Posted by on February 6, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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5 February 1941: Three German Divisions in Italy – Invasion Imminent?

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WAR OFFICE INFORMATION SUPPORTS INVASION POSSIBILITY

German armoured divisions are gathering in Sicily

German armoured divisions are gathering in Sicily

Sources in London have confirmed the presence of German formations in southern Italy and Sicily.   However, the actual numbers of troops are unconfirmed.  After reviewing all reports, the War Office  considers there may be as many as two or three divisions, including armoured and motorised units.

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief today expressed his views to the Chief of Imperial Staff in London on the current threat facing the Island:

“I have no further information which enables me to assess the likelihood of an attempt by the enemy to capture Malta by sea or air, or both. But presumably it is a contingency which must be faced, and I cannot ignore the fact that my one battalion in Fortress reserve is very inadequate to cope with all the tasks which might be required of  it. 

I am anxious about the reactions of the civil population in face of a determined attack. They have undoubtedly been strained by the recent heavy air attacks, and may become difficult to control, and thus hamper military movements.  The police could not be relied on to control them, and the army might have to accept this further commitment, which would be a most unwelcome additional strain on our resources. 

Since Malta is of such vital importance to the Navy, I feel we cannot afford to chance our arm, and I therefore think that at least one additional battalion should be sent here. In asking for this, I realise that not only may it be inconvenient to spare one but, what is more important, it places an additional burden and hazard on the Mediterranean fleet to bring it here.  But I hope that the extra strength it will give to this garrison will in the long run lessen the commitment of the fleet towards Malta, since the stronger the garrison the greater the deterrent to attack and the less likelihood of fleet being called upon to help. 

I am most reluctant to make this request but the issues are too great to justify taking a chance if it can be avoided. The personnel could be brought here by the methods most convenient to the Navy, if need be in driblets.  Transport can be extemporised here pending arrival of own vehicles.  But they should bring bicycles with them if possible.  The above all depends on the supposition that a determined attack is not an unlikely eventuality.” The Governor and C in C has also asked for the arrival date the first reinforcements of 4th Battalion The Buffs expected in Malta.  

In response to Lt Gen Dobbie’s telegram, the War Office wrote immediately to the Commander in Chief Middle East:

“The Commander in Chief Malta has asked for urgent reinforcement by two British infantry battalions. Please arrange for despatch from Middle East as soon as practicable.  It is very desirable that bicycles and carriers should accompany troops.  However, Malta states that transport can be extemporised there pending arrival of vehicles.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 6 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Overcast, some rain.

0001-0300 hrs  Four alerts sounded but no air raid took place.

Military casualties  Gunner Frederick Meringo, 40 Battery, 13 Mobile Coast Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 5 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals Two Sunderland. 0730-1015 hrs  Maryland visual reconnaissance Tripoli.  0540-1400 hrs  Two Sunderlands and one Maryland reconnaissance of shipping routes Messina to Benghazi, Benghazi to Tripoli and Tripoli to Sicily.  

KALAFRANA Two Sunderlands No 10 RAAF arrived from the United Kingdom with passengers and freight.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli.

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

 

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4 February 1941: ‘Hope’ is Lost – Gladiator a Write-off

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BOMBS ON HAL FAR DESTROY ‘HOPE’

Sea-Gladiator_FaithOne of Malta’s first trio of defensive aircraft, the Gladiator nicknamed ‘Hope’, was written off today. In a heavy air raid on Hal Far, bombs caused damage across the aerodrome, including to three aircraft – one of which was ‘Hope’.  Newly arrived pilot, P/O John Pain, described the aftermath of the raid:

“All the hangars [at Hal Far] had been hit, but there were a few aircraft in them and in one was ‘Hope’ of the famous Malta trio. She was in the throes of becoming a six-gun Gladiator, the only one in the RAF, but she received a bomb smack through the centre section and that was the finish of her.”

Work had just been completed on fitting the additional guns, a measure intented to make the Gladiator more effective against Stuka dive bombers. Only ‘Faith’ remains of the three valiant Gladiators.  ‘Charity’ was shot down in a dogfight last July. (1)

GERMAN RADIO SAYS ‘WE WILL TAKE MALTA IN A FORTNIGHT’

“Luqa aerodrome was the target [today] and got some battering, but no lives were lost. During that raid we had Commander Hale with us; and he was surprised at the great noise of the barrage. He led one of the squadrons at Taranto and was wearing his DSO ribbon, and also his new third stripe. We did not ask him many questions, as we feel that when men come here, they need to have their thoughts distracted rather than brought back to their doings.” (2)

MILITARY PROPERTY DAMAGED BY AIR RAIDS TO DATE

Luqa:  Officers’ Mess and quarters and one airmen’s barrack block destroyed; one Glenn Martin temporarily unserviceable

Hal Far:  one wing of sergeants’ quarters destroyed; sergeants’ mess and cinema badly damaged; one Swordfish and one Gladiator burned out; one Swordfish unserviceable one month, three Swordfish unserviceable one week. One hangar damaged but not destroyed.  One Hurricane hit by shrapnel written off but many parts salvaged.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 5 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Unsettled at first, becoming finer towards evening.

1407-1421 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1750 hrs  Air raid alert for two formations of JU 88 bombers heading for the Island from the east. They cross the coast over Delimara and dive bomb Hal Far and Luqa aerodromes. Two bombs damage the runway and barrack rooms at Luqa; five fall on Hal Far.  Four Hurricanes are scrambled and Bofors guns on the airfield open fire. 

1801-1838 hrs  A second formation crosses the coast over Rinella and launches a second attack.  Two bombs land between Sans Souci and Marnisi.  Every gun on Luqa aerodrome is firing, putting up a fierce barrage.  Six more Hurricanes and two Fulmars are scrambled and engage raiders to the north of the Island.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 4 FEBRUARY 1941

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Battalion commanders reconnaissance of Qrendi, Bubaqra, Siggiewi for possible move of troops to that area. A Company to take over the whole of Rinella. 

(1) Gladiators Over Malta, Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, Wise Owl 2008

(2) Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History 

 

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

 

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3 February 1941: New Bomb Disposal Officer Embarks for Malta

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REINFORCEMENTS BRING LATEST BOMB DISPOSAL INFORMATION & EQUIPMENT

Chapter 4 bomb on trolleyMalta is to have a second Army bomb disposal officer, it was confirmed today by telegram from the War Office in London:  

“Lt G D Carroll and Sgt Holland who are trained and experienced in bomb disposal have sailed via the long sea route. Date of arrival Malta not known.  It is intended that they should strengthen your bomb disposal organisation.  Lt Carroll is in possession of all the latest information in respect of bomb disposal up to the time of embarkation.”

Since November, a single Royal Engineers officer, Lt E E C Talbot, GC, has been responsible for all unexploded bombs across the Island, outside of Royal Navy or RAF premises. The increased intensity of bombing raids since the arrival of the Luftwaffe in Sicily has resulted in more unexploded bombs. Should the current BD officer be out of action for any period, the Island’s communities would be left vulnerable.

At the same time, a large quantity of bomb disposal equipment was loaded, along with other stores for Malta, aboard SS Waimarama:

Ammunition:

  • 75000 HE 25 pdr; 5000 18 pdr smoke; 5000 18 pdr shrapnel; 40000 18 pdr HE; 3500 3.7” Howitzer; 10000 mines shrapnel; 10000 detonators; 10000 cartridges; 516000 0.45” auto Colt; green signal rockets 575; general ordnance 492 tons.

Stores:

  • 28 ambulances, 25 motor cycles, 19 lorries, 10 cars, three water trailers and 17 other vehicles, plus 31 tons of motor transport stores
  • 525 tons of general Royal Engineers stores, 380 tons of timber and 3½ tons of bomb disposal equipment;
  • 917 tons of general military supplies and stores, 248 tons of NAAFI and victualling stores, 17 tons of medical stores and 121 tons of other ammunition and explosives

Meanwhile, spare parts for 60 mortars which should have been sent to the Island last June have not arrived. The Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office asking for the supplies to be traced, as they are now urgently needed.  However, according to the War Office, the spares were definitely loaded on a convoy some months ago and may have been misdirected on arrival in Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 4 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Cold and unsettled.

1142-1152 hrs Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which approaches from the south east and flies over the Island at 12000 feet on reconnaissance. Two Hurricanes are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns opened fire: no claims.

Military casualties  Gunner Bert Coote, 40 Battery, 13 Mobile Coast Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 3 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ 0812-1055 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli Harbour sighted four destroyers and twenty merchant vessels with another heading for harbour. Anti-aircraft opened fire: intense and accurate.  The Maryland was attacked by an Italian G50 fighter and returned fire: no damage observed.

Rome radio announced that the Spitfire overdue from yesterday’s reconnaissance mission came down yesterday near Viareggio and the pilot was taken prisoner.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli attacked by a G 50.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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

 

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