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17 October 1941: Malta Fighters Hampered by Fuel Shortages

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HMS Porpoise arrives Malta (NWMA Malta)

HMS Porpoise arrives Malta (NWMA Malta)

NEW TACTIC BY ITALIAN FIGHTERS EXPOSES LACK OF FUEL FOR HURRICANES

Fuel shortages prevented Malta fighters from fully defending the Island today when enemy raiders attempted a daylight attack. Eleven Hurricanes were scrambled in response to an alert just after 1530 hrs this afternoon, when early warning systems had spotted seven enemy aircraft approaching from the north.  The raiders, identified as Macchi fighters, suspended their approach while still 30 miles from Malta and began to circle, forcing the Hurricanes to fly out to them.  Two of the Macchis managed to evade the Hurricanes and crossed the coast near Grand Harbour.  Several Hurricanes turned back to attempt an engagement but ran out of fuel and had to land. 

COAL IN SHORT SUPPLY

Fossil fuels are also in very short supply and military authorities are seeking ways to economise. In a bid to conserve supplies, troops have been given new instructions on an economical means of providing fuel using coal dust. 

  • Mix eight parts coal dust to one part sand and two parts clay, or two parts coal dust, one part sawdust and one part clay.
  • Moisten as necessary, mould into balls and allow to dry.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 OCTOBER TO DAWN 18 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fair.

1047-1103 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which approach from the north and carry out reconnaissance. Hurricane fighters are flying into and out of Malta on escort duties so it is not possible for them nor anti-aircraft guns to engage.

1534-1555 hrs  Air raid alert for a total of seven enemy aircraft which approach the Island in three formations but circle 30 miles to the north. The first two formations remain at a distance, while two Macchi 200 fighters approach Grand Harbour from the north east and cross the coast.  Eleven Hurricanes are scrambled at the first alert but, owing to fuel shortages, they are unable to engage the two raiders.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage with one barrage; no claims.

0012-0019 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of Swordfish aircraft.

0403-0523 hrs  Air raid alert for seven enemy bombers which approach the Island singly from several directions. None cross the coast; all bombs are dropped in the sea, including one container of incendiaries eight miles offshore to the north east.  Four Hurricane fighters are airborne, two at a time, but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 17 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY Porpoise arrived from Gibraltar and United Kingdom. Ursula, P34 and Rorqual sailed for operations off Kuriat, but Rorqual returned with defects.

AIR HQ Arrivals 3 Wellington. Departures 3 Wellington. 18 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked a factory at Syracuse. 38 Squadron 3 Wellingtons attacked Trapani aerodrome.  4 Wellingtons attacked Elmas aerodrome. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols Syracuse, east Sicilian coast and special patrol.  Photoreconnaissances Cagliari, Sicilian aerodromes and Messina Harbour. 107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked motor transport at Zuara and Sirte. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish sent to attack a convoy of 4 merchant ships and 4 destroyers.  Two merchant vessels were hit and seriously damaged.  Despite intense, accurate fire from all ships all aircraft returned safely.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Officers from Battalion HQ and departmental clerks visited the Fortress Telephone Exchange. The amount of call traffic going through was a revelation.  A most interesting lecture was arranged at the Naval Canteen on ‘The Progress of the War’.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4.

 

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Posted by on October 17, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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16 October 1941: Malta Attacks Deter Axis Troop Sailings in Med

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  • A special whistle was instituted in the Dockyard today to give warning to “Take Cover” during daylight raids. 
  • 16 Malta-based Wellingtons attacked selected targets in Naples.
Castel Vetrano aerodrome

Castel Vetrano aerodrome

AXIS MILITARY PERSONNEL FORCED TO CROSS MED BY AIR

Malta attacks are delaying Axis troop transport across the Mediterranean, according to the British War Cabinet. According to their weekly report on the state of the war in Malta, there has been a marked increase in air transport activity between Sicily and Tripoli.  It has been suggested that these Italian transport aircraft are carrying military personnel deterred from making the crossing by sea owing to the dangers in the Mediterranean presented by attacks on shipping by Malta-based aircraft and submarines.

The War Cabinet review also reported that Malta reconnaissance aircraft located a number of enemy ships and numerous offensive sorties were carried out. A southbound convoy of three merchant vessels, two of 6000 and one of 8000 tons, and one tanker, escorted by five destroyers and four aircraft, was located 46 miles off Kuriate Island.  Two waves, each consisting of seven Swordfish, attacked this convoy, a further attack being made by six Wellingtons.   As a result of these attacks, two merchant vessels are considered sunk and one, possibly two, damaged.  A 4000 ton merchant vessel and a 1200 ton cargo boat were attacked by six Blenheims 58 miles from Sirte and both ships were probably sunk.  Seven Swordfish obtained two hits on a 6000 ton merchant vessel 75 miles south of Lampedusa; a destroyer was seen picking up survivors.  Other attacks were made on shipping but results could not be observed.

On two successive nights Tripoli was attacked and a total of about 22 tons of bombs dropped. Three large ships in the centre of the harbour were heavily attacked but results could not be observed.  Hits or near misses were obtained on the Spanish Mole and quay, the seaplane base, barracks east of Fort Hamidie, the Spanish Fort and the Arab quarter.

A convoy of 14 lorries was attacked by four Blenheims 15 miles east of the Gulf of Sidra. Three large covered lorries were destroyed and others damaged; one bomb burst in a cluster of drivers and passengers; the convoy and troops were also heavily machine-gunned.

Four Hurricanes carrying bombs attacked the aerodrome at Comiso, Sicily, but results were unobserved. A Fulmar bombed the aerodrome at Castel Vetrano causing a large explosion.

At Malta enemy aircraft crossed the coast on only a few occasions. On one night nine fighters machine-gunned Luqa doing only slight damage; one Macchi was destroyed by Hurricanes, anti-aircraft guns probably destroyed another and damaged five.  One Hurricane is missing.  On another night four bombers dropped bombs but caused no damage.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 OCTOBER TO DAWN 17 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Storms.

0407-0428 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy Cant 1007 bombers which approach the Island as Wellington bombers arrive from the UK. At least one bomber crosses the coast before the alert sounds, dropping 500kg and 250kg bombs near Mgarr.  Other raiders drop high explosive bombs in the sea off Ghain Tuffieha.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Samuel McAllister, Pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 107 Squadron; Sergeant Edward H Brenton, Royal Australian Air Force.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 16 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Truant arrived from the USA via Gibraltar. Clan Macdonald and Empire Guillemot sailed independently for Gibraltar at 1000 hrs.  Empire Guillemot returned later with engine trouble and remained off Filfla for the night. Unbeaten, Urge, Upright returned from Cape Passero, having sighted nothing but a hospital ship.  Three Swordfish on anti-submarine patrol sighted nothing.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 9 Wellington. Departures 1 Catalina, 1 Clare. 38 Squadron 16 Wellingtons attacked selected targets in Naples. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands on special patrols.  1 Blenheim patrol east Sicilian coast.  221 Squadron  1 Wellington on shipping sweep. 

 

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Posted by on October 16, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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15 October 1941: Malta Attacks Limit Axis Forces in Libya

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ATTACK ON TOBRUK NOT RULED OUT BY WAR CABINET

Tobruk

Tobruk

Attacks by Malta submarines and aircraft on Axis supply convoys in the Mediterranean have limited supplies to the Afrika Korps in Libya enough to prevent a large-scale offensive. However, some German and Italian reinforcements have continued to land there in recent days, according to reports to the British War Cabinet.  As a result, military leaders in London consider that an attack on Tobruk by Axis forces remains a real possibility.

69 SQUADRON PHOTO-RECONNAISSANCE REPORT

Malta’s Maryland photoreconnaissance unit has reported the following from today’s surveys of Sicilian aerodromes:

  • Palermo: No substantial changes since 6 September. 5 large aircraft, 6 medium, 11 small.
  • Catania: 29 aircraft including 7 BR 20, 1 SM 52, 7 Cant 135, 2 Cant 310, 11 small aircraft.
  • Gerbini: 23 aircraft including 1 SM 82, 15 Cant 135, 3 Cant 110, 4 unidentified.
  • The other airfields were not covered due to cloud.

LORRIES DAMAGE RAF TAXI STRIPS

It has been reported that heavy Army lorries including Scammells have been using RAF taxi strips as a route across aerodromes. As a result significant damage has been caused to the surfaces when wet.  Troops have been ordered to cease the practice forthwith.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 OCTOBER TO DAWN 16 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

0853-0911 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which cross the Island at very high altitude, probably on reconnaissance. Anti-aircraft guns fire a number of pointer rounds.  Ten Hurricanes are scrambled but and unable to intercept. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 15 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  HM Submarine Unique torpedoed and probably sank the Italian armed merchant cruiser Citta di Genova (5314 tons) to the south of Naples.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Catalina. 69 Squadron  1 Maryland special patrol; 1 Maryland search for convoy.  1 Blenheim patrol Sicilian coast.  Photoreconnaissance Palermo, Gerbini and Catania. 221 Squadron 1 Wellington patrol Messina and Naples. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish carried out a search for Hurricane pilot P/O Barnwell of Malta Night Fighter Unit; search unsuccessful.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 4 (2kg incendiary).

 

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Posted by on October 15, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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14 October 1941: Malta Pilot Last of Three Brothers Killed on RAF Service

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Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit

Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit

PILOT LOST AFTER BALING OUT OVER THE SEA

Ace Malta pilot David Barnwell, DFC has been declared missing, presumed dead after a search failed to find him following an engagement early this morning with a Macchi fighter. P/O Barnwell was in one of five black Hurricanes of the Malta Night Fighter Unit scrambled at 0530 hours this morning to engage nine Italian Macchi fighters which launched a low-level strafing Luqa aerodrome, while 15 other fighters circled off the coast.

 The Hurricanes engaged the raiders as they turned away from their attack.  P/O Barnwell was heard on the radio reporting having shot down one a Macchi 202.  Within moments he was on the radio again, “Baling out, engine cut, am coming down in the sea.”  A search was launched immediately: Swordfish rescue aircraft continued their efforts until late today, when RAF headquarters concluded that P/O Barnwell had not survived. 

P/O Barnwell had served with 185 Squadron at Ta Qali since last June. He shot down a Macchi 200 fighter on 11 July, followed by a BR 20 bomber on 25 July.  A week later he was asked to join Malta Night Fighter Unit under Squadron Leader G Powell-Sheddon.  Overnight on 5-6 August he shot down a BR 20 bomber and damaged another, followed by two more raiders on the nights of 4-5 and 8-9 September.

His award of the DFC followed at the end of September. The citation reads: “This officer has displayed outstanding courage and determination when attacking hostile aircraft of which he has destroyed at least four by night. He has in every way set an excellent example.”

David Barnwell was the youngest of three sons of the late Captain Frank Barnwell, Chief Designer of the Bristol Aircraft Company which produced the Blenheim and Beaufort bombers. He had two brothers, both of whom were RAF pilots and who lost their lives last year.  David Barnwell was 19 years old.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 OCTOBER TO DAWN 15 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

1518-1527 hrs Three enemy aircraft are reported approaching the Island. Ten Hurricane fighters are scrambled and the raiders turn back while still 15 miles from Grand Harbour.

0312-0422 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy aircraft approaching the Island as the same time as Swordfish are heading back to base. Only four raiders – believed to be JU 87 Stukas – cross the coast, one dropping 500kg bombs on land between Rabat and Imtarfa.  The remaining aircraft drop high explosive bombs in the sea three miles north of St Paul’s Bay and east of Delimara.  Four Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit are airborne, two at a time, but there are no searchlight illuminations or interceptions. 

Military casualties  Pilot Officer David U Barnwell, DFC, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 607 Squadron.                                         

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 14 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Unbeaten, Urge, Upright sailed at short notice for operation off Cape Passero.

AIR HQ Arrivals 10 Blenheim, 1 Clare, 4 Wellington.  69 Squadron  1 Maryland patrol Ionian sea; 1 Maryland shipping search.  Photoreconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes.  1 Blenheim reconnaissance east Sicilian coast. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish sent to attack a merchant vessel being towed southwards near Kerkennah Bank; the attack was successful and the ship sank within a few minutes.  Two Swordfish and high speed launches from Kalafrana and St Paul’s Bay search for P/O Barnwell without success.

 

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Posted by on October 14, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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13 October 1941: Malta Faces Harsher Rationing as Convoy Situation Worsens

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Bread essential for morale, say experts

Bread essential, experts say

ISLANDERS MAY BE DEPRIVED OF FRESH MEAT AS GOVERNMENT COMMISSION REVIEWS RATIONING IN MALTA

The supply of Malta by sea is now under severe threat: that is the conclusion now reached by the Island’s high command. Several important foodstuffs have become increasingly scarce since July, especially meat, and the Island is now facing the prospect of further shortages.  A conference of experts has been convened to discuss ways to make food stocks last longer between supply convoys. 

Their initial report reveals that the poorest in Malta rely mainly “on bread, edible oil, sugar and tinned milk. Tinned meat and tinned fish are extensively used for eating with bread.  Kerosene is universally used for cooking.” (1)

Asked to review possibilities for further rationing, or at least economies, in food consumption, they report: “The rations of coffee, tinned meat and tinned fish are very tight and could not be reduced without causing hardship.  Similarly no material reduction could be made in the rations of soap and matches.  A small reduction could be made in the ration of fats and edible oil, perhaps saving 150 tons a year.  The ration of sugar could, if necessary, be reduced, although sugar is a most important item in the diet of the Maltese, especially in the case of children…  The ration of kerosene is very strict considering that all cooking and heating is normally done with kerosene and that it is also very commonly used for lighting.

The main imported commodities which are not rationed are cheese, tinned milk, frozen meat, rice, tea, flour and bread… Butter has not been rationed because stocks are large…  Tea has not been rationed because it is only consumed by a comparatively small section of the population…  It has been found possible to control cheese and rice satisfactorily without rationing them…Issues of frozen meat have been severely limited, and with the increasing shortage of local meat, this commodity is becoming difficult to obtain… Further economies would be difficult, but the Island could of course subsist entirely on tinned meat if necessary…

Bread is much the most important article of consumption with the people of Malta. It is also a very heavy item in the import programme…  No material reduction in consumption has been attempted…  Such a reduction would not only cause hardship to the poorer classes, it would also have a bad effect on morale…  It is undesirable that any rationing of bread should be attempted…

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 OCTOBER TO DAWN 14 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Heavy rainstorm early evening.

1122-1140 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy fighters approaching the Island from the north east escorting a reconnaissance aircraft. When the raiders are still 12 miles from Malta, they split into two; six raiders recede and the remaining three cross the coast over Kalafrana to carry out reconnaissance.  Ten Hurricanes are scrambled and the reconnaissance aircraft turns away rapidly.  The Hurricanes chase the raiders back to the Sicilian coast but are unable to catch them.

1444-1500 hrs  Air raid alert for three Macchi 200 fighters which approach from the north east at great altitude and cross the coast over Grand Harbour. Seven Hurricanes are scrambled but unable to gain sufficient height to intercept. 

0535-0640 hrs  Air raid alert for 24 enemy Macchi 200 fighters approaching the Island. Nine cross the coast, split into two formations and dive down to an average height of 400 feet to launch a machine-gun attack on an area from the Cisk factory right across Luqa and the Safi dispersal area.  One bullet hits a Wellington bomber causing slight damage. 

The raiders are engaged at 11000 feet by a heavy anti-aircraft barrage and also by Bofors as well as searchlight and infantry light machine-guns. A Bofors position at Safi hits and damages one Macchi, a Bofors at Luqa hits and damages another two.  A third Bofors at Imsierah hits and damages a fourth.  A light machine-gun manned by 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment at Safi fires a long burst into another Macchi.

Five Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders as they leave their attack. P/O Barnwell of Malta Night Fighter Unit shoots one Macchi fighter down into the sea but then does not return to base.  It is thought his engine may have cut out over the sea.  A search is launched.  

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 13 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Thorn left on patrol.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron 1 Maryland patrol north Ionian Sea; 1 Maryland search for convoy; 1 Maryland special patrol. Photoreconnaissance Tripoli. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked motor transport on the Benghazi Road. 221 Squadron 1 Wellington shipping sweep. Fleet Air Arm 1 Fulmar bombed and machine-gunned eastern perimeter of Castel Vetrano aerodrome causing three explosions. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish sent to attack convoy of 2 merchant ships and 2 destroyers south of Lampedusa dropped 5 torpedoes leaving one merchant vessel low in the water and on fire.  

KALAFRANA 0025 hrs Sunderland T9050 landed safely at Kalafrana having lost an airscrew, the controls being also damaged. Captain of the aircraft was F/Lt Milligan of 230 Squadron, with 8 passengers on board.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  His Excellency the Governor & Commander in Chief visited the Battalion.

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

 

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Posted by on October 13, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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12 October 1941: Malta Signposts and Place Names to be Removed

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Milestone deletedSIGNPOSTING TO DISAPPEAR AS ANTI-INVASION PRECAUTION

Orders have been issued for all signposts, milestones and place-names in Malta to be removed by 1 November. After this date military units are to report any such signposts in their area to their Headquarters.

In addition, all military posts which are booby-trapped are to be marked around their perimeter by small black noticeboards with a red cross, indicating the danger of entering the area. Troops have been warned that it is extremely dangerous to approach any military post marked by the noticeboards.

 TRANSIT PASSENGERS NEED HOSPITALITY

The RAF in Malta is struggling to accommodate the number of passengers stopping off en route between the Middle East and the UK, the Governor and Commander in Chief has told the War Office in London. The Island frequently receives several transit passengers a week who must be fed and often housed overnight while they await onward flights. 

Hospitality is currently provided by RAF messes is placing them under financial strain, as well as eating into the already restricted rations available on the Island. Especially affected is Kalafrana, home to the Sunderland Flying Boats which provide much of the transport.  The current allowance of £30 allocated to the Station for entertaining visitors is woefully inadequate to meet these needs, according to Lt Gen Dobbie.   

A separate hostel or hotel for transit passengers has been considered but ruled out as uneconomical, he adds in his telegram. Instead, he proposes that RAF messes continue to provide accommodation but their expenses should be made recompensed via the Air Officer Commanding Mediterranean.

The Governor and Commander in Chief will continue to accommodate distinguished passengers as has been the practice to date.

DAMAGE TO CROPS

Military commanders are reminded today that it is now especially important to keep troops off cultivated land, as the sowing season in Malta has now begun. Paths which must be used will be limited to a width of not more than one foot and will skirt the walls of any cultivated area. 

Troops are to be reminded that short-cuts across fields are strictly forbidden; carts and motor vehicles must avoid crossing fields whenever possible. All poultry will also be locked up in pens, and not allowed to roam where they might damage newly-sown crops.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 OCTOBER TO DAWN 13 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

Noon  Two enemy aircraft approach the Island form the north. Two Hurricane fighters are scrambled but the raiders turn back and there is no interception.  The air raid alert is not sounded.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 12 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Rorqual arrived from Alexandria after minelaying in the Aegean en route. The submarine is expected to depart later this month for UK via Gibraltar. Sokol returned from patrol off Lampedusa, having seen an aircraft attack on a convoy at long range.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Wellington. Departures 1 Beaufighter. 38 Squadron 7 Wellingtons attacked shipping in Tripoli Harbour. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland on shipping search of Ionian Sea; 1 Maryland on special search; 1 Maryland special patrol; photoreconnaissance Trapani harbour and aerodrome.  221 Squadron  1 Wellington on shipping search east Tunisian coast.  1 Wellington on shipping search north west of Tripoli. 

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  A mine was washed up in shallow water near Il Parsot and rendered safe by naval experts.

 

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Posted by on October 12, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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11 October 1941: Malta Command Must Explain Loss of Bomb Disposal Officer

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RAF Blenheim

RAF Blenheim

ROYAL ENGINEERS OFFICER WAS WORKING FOR THE RAF

The War Office sent an urgent telegram today calling on Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief to account for the death of Lt Edward Talbot in an air crash. The Royal Engineers officer was aboard one of two RAF Blenheim bombers of 107 Squadron which are now believed to have collided while evading enemy fire on Thursday night during an attack on enemy shipping. 

Talbot was one of only two Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers currently in Malta; he had been on respite from his bomb disposal duties since May, when his command was transferred to Lt G D Carroll, RE. The Army bomb disposal squad is responsible for all unexploded bombs across Malta and Gozo, outside of RAF and Royal Navy premises.  However, with a shortage of suitable officers on the Island to fulfil all military needs, after several weeks of rest Lt Talbot was recently redeployed to assist the RAF.

In an immediate reply to the War Office, Lt Gen Dobbie stated: “Lieutenant Talbot attached RAF station Luqa for Intelligence duties. (My POR no 52 September 25 refers.) Army and RAF Intelligence officers exchanged periodically by local arrangements between Air Officer Commanding and General Officer Commanding [Army].”

In a further message Lt Gen Dobbie explained: “In order to ensure adequate liaison with RAF I have found it necessary in the general interest of the Fortress to attach four specially selected Officers for air intelligence duties. Three Officers are attached to aerodromes and one does duty with RAF Headquarters.”  It is understood that Lt E E C Talbot was carrying out one of the four intelligence roles, based at Luqa aerodrome.

Two more Malta Blenheims of 107 Squadron were lost today in a mission against enemy shipping. The bombers were among six sent to attack a convoy in the Gulf of Sirte.  Flying Officer R Greenhill’s Blenheim was shot down by enemy defensive fire.  Sergeant A Rough’s aircraft was reported to have been damaged and then crashed into the sea.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 OCTOBER TO DAWN 12 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

0935-1029 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching from the north. First a single raider crosses the coast over St Julian’s Bay, then turns northwards.  Then six raiders split into two formations and circle 15 miles off the east of Grand Harbour before retiring northwards.  11 Hurricane fighters are scrambled but do not gain sufficient height to intercept before the formation returns towards Sicily.

1636-1655 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy fighters which fly over Grand Harbour and retire northwards. 9 Hurricanes area scrambled but cannot gain sufficient height to intercept.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

0251-0319 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of friendly aircraft.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Ronald A Greenhill, Royal Air Force; Sergeant Gerald F McLeod, Royal Canadian Air Force; Sergeant Robert N Parker, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR); Sergeant Alfred D M Routh, RAFVR; Sergeant Alan M Smith, all 107 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 11 OCTOBER 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland shipping search; 3 Marylands on special patrol.  Photoreconnaissance Tripoli town and harbour, Trapani and Castel Vetrano. 107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked shipping in the Gulf of Sirte.  F/O Greenhill and Sgt Routh failed to return. Fleet Air Arm One Fulmar attacked barracks at Passero, dropping incendiaries and machine-gunning buildings. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish were sent to attack 2 merchant ships and 1 destroyer southbound off Marittimo.  The leader lost contact with the torpedo aircraft, who returned to base with torpedoes.  The leader alone located the convoy and attacked the leading merchant vessel; results not observed.

TA QALI  New airmen’s barrack block taken over.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Five Fusiliers are attached to RAF Luqa.

 

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Posted by on October 11, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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10 October 1941: Malta Bomb Disposal Officer Killed

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Lt E E C Talbot, GC, RE

Lt E E C Talbot, GC, RE

BOMB DISPOSAL OFFICER WAS ABOARD MISSING BOMBER

Malta’s first Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer has been reported missing, presumed killed. According to reports, he was aboard one of two Blenheim aircraft which failed to return from an attack on enemy shipping off the south coast of Italy last night. 

The missing Blenheim pilots have been named as Wing Commander C F A Harte and Flying Officer Whitford-Walders, both of 107 Squadron. Two other Blenheims involved in the mission returned safely to Luqa.  Early today, the RAF in Malta picked up Italian radio reports stating that two aircraft collided over the coast near Cape Spartivento with no survivors.

Lt Edward Talbot GC, MBE arrived last November to assume command of the Island’s Bomb Disposal Section. He has been on respite leave from bomb disposal duties since early May.  According to the current serving RE Bomb Disposal Officer, Lt George Carroll, his friend Lt Talbot had for some weeks been working with the RAF, collecting the reports from pilots on their return from operational missions. (1)

BRITISH PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN

The following communications have been approved today by the British Underground Propaganda Committee for transmission via rumour networks, in a bid to undermine morale among Axis troops and civilians:

Italy for general Mediterranean distribution

  • A ship with 500 Italian soldiers on board sailed into Malta and surrendered. They have mutinied and killed their officers.
  • During the last ten days seven [Axis] supply ships have put into Malta and surrendered. The British show special signal lights for deserters, who are given the choice of going to India or England. (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 OCTOBER TO DAWN 11 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Cooler with some rain.

1033-1052 hrs  Air raid alert for two formations of six enemy fighters which cross the Island. 13 Hurricane fighters are scrambled but there are no engagements.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 2 Blenheim. 38 Squadron 6 Wellingtons attacked convoy. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands on special patrol.  1 Maryland on convoy search.  Photoreconnaissance of Tripoli. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims searched for missing Blenheim crews. 221 Squadron 2 Wellingtons searched for convoy. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish carried out two attacks on a convoy of 3 merchant ships, 1 tanker and 5 destroyers.  The first lasted from 2208 to 2230 hrs during which the 3 merchant vessels were damaged, 2 seriously.  The Swordfish returned to base and refuelled, then attacked the convoy again at 0440 hrs, at the end of which two merchant ships were sunk.

ARMY HQ  Air Officer Commanding Vice Marshal Lloyd gave a lecture at the Marsa Club on the activities of the RAF in Malta, attended by officers and NCOs.

(1) UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

(2) Whispers of War: Underground Propaganda Rumour-Mongering in the Second World War, Lee Richards, 2010

 

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Posted by on October 10, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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9 October 1941: Italy, Sicily, Libya and Convoys Attacked From Malta

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Catanzaro

Catanzaro attacked

WAR CABINET REPORT ON MALTA: WEEK ENDING 9 OCTOBER

Eight Blenheims from Malta made a successful daylight raid on the power station, engine sheds and a munitions works at Catanzaro Marina, southern Italy, and hits were made on all the targets. The success of a night attack by two Blenheims on railway sheds at Catania was confirmed by photographs which showed five hits.  Hurricanes carried out three attacks with bombs and cannon fire against the aerodrome at Comiso, Sicily, and against railway stations in the vicinity.

Many offensive sorties were despatched against enemy shipping located by our reconnaissance aircraft. Swordfish made two successful night torpedo attacks on ships in convoy.  They sank a 6000 ton merchant ship off Cape Bon; and severely damaged two others totalling 15000 tons, and probably a third, 50 miles north east of Tripoli.  A Blenheim made a successful moonlight attack on a 2000 ton merchant ship off Tripoli and left her with her stern under water after making two hits.  A Wellington on patrol off western Sicily made one hit on a large merchant ship.

Eight Blenheims, unable to locate their shipping target, attacked the port of Zuara, west of Tripoli, straddling a destroyer and obtaining near misses on a blockhouse. One Blenheim was lost and one Italian fighter was probably destroyed during this operation.  The Misurata-Sirte road was attacked by five Blenheims which destroyed a petrol tanker and 14 lorries.

Three night attacks were made by a total of 24 Wellingtons on shipping at Tripoli. In the course of these attacks one merchant ship was set on fire and another of 10000 tons was hit, while burning oil from a tanker spread over a wide area.  Hits and near misses were also observed on two other merchant ships, and a number of lighters were destroyed or damaged.  Reconnaissance aircraft carried out wide searches for shipping, and a Maryland so engaged attacked a submarine off Syracuse with machine-gun fire.

A few enemy fighters crossed the coast of Malta by day, and bombs were dropped on the Island on two nights.  A few civilian casualties were caused; material damage was negligible.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 OCTOBER TO DAWN 10 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Heavy rainstorms.

No air raids.

Military casualties Private James Lawrence, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment; Wing Commander Frazer A Harte, Royal Air Force, 107 Squadron; Flying Officer Neville Whitford-Walders, Royal Air Force, 107 Squadron; Lt Ellis E A C Talbot, Royal Engineers (attached 107 Squadron RAF).

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 9 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY Unique, Sokol and Upholder sailed at short notice to intercept a convoy between Pantellaria and Lampedusa.  Upholder returned with generator problems.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Beaufighter. Departures 1 Bombay, 1 Catalina, 2 Sunderland, 4 Wellington. 69 Squadron 1 Blenheim and 1 Maryland patrols east Sicilian coast. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked motor transport on the Homs-Tripoli road.  2 Blenheims on shipping sweep of south coast of Italy.  Both failed to return (W/Cdr Harte and F/O Whitford-Walders). 221 Squadron 1 Wellington on special patrol; 1 Wellington in shipping search. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a southbound convoy of 4 merchant ships and 5 destroyers.  6 torpedoes were dropped and three hits claimed, stopping two merchant ships.  The same 7 Swordfish carried out a second attack on two other merchant ships and four destroyers of same convoy.  Five torpedoes were released and one hit stopped a merchant ship.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Fortress Orders state that no weapons are to be loaded in quarters.

 

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Posted by on October 9, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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8 October 1941: London Press Heralds Malta Attacks on Axis Convoys

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Fleet Air Arm Swordfish

“ITALIAN SHIPPING: ANOTHER HEAVY BLOW”

London, 8 October 1941 – from a press correspondent in Malta

“Another heavy success against enemy shipping in the Mediterranean – this time by planes of the Fleet Air Arm – was revealed in a dispatch from Malta last night. The story of the new blow followed hard on the Admiralty announcement yesterday morning that British submarines operating in the Mediterranean had hit with torpedoes and sunk or seriously damaged 11 enemy vessels. 

‘The Fleet Air Arm on Sunday night launched a sudden, savage attack against an Italian convoy steaming south in the Ionian Sea,” says the Malta message. “The convoy, which was first sighted before daylight, comprised four merchantmen of from 8000 to 10000 tons, two between 4000 and 6000 tons, and five destroyers.

A Fleet Air Arm formation attacked in bright moonlight. The first two planes swept in, attacking the rearmost vessels from starboard and from port respectively.  Before the Italians opened fire they were beyond range, leaving the largest merchantman listing heavily and belching black smoke, and a 6000 ton ship with its stern under water and also listing heavily.  The crews were seen taking to the boats and pulling towards a destroyer.  The destroyers frantically opened fire and laid a smoke screen which, however, a strong wind dispersed. 

The remainder of the formation then attacked the convoy. The leading plane straddled a large vessel with a stick of bombs, probably damaging its bows.  Another attacked a ship on the starboard column.  It swung out of line and stopped.  All the planes returned safely.’”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 OCTOBER TO DAWN 9 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Heavy rain in the afternoon.

Dawn  Enemy aircraft carry out air reconnaissance in the area where surface vessels were detected overnight.

Civilian casualties  Balzan  Susanna Galea, age 41.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 8 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Perseus arrived from patrol off Benghazi for docking and repairs.  Two small supply ships sunk. P34 arrived from the United Kingdom via Gibraltar.  

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Beaufighter, 8 Blenheim. 69 Squadron  Maryland patrols east Tunisian coast and 3 special patrols. 107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked transport on the Misurata-Sirte road. 221 Squadron 2 Wellingtons on special patrols. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish attacked a northbound enemy convoy of one merchant ship, a schooner and two trawlers.  Two torpedoes were dropped hitting a merchant ship which sank.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  An exercise with ‘attack’ by mobile infantry platoons and three tanks of Malta Tank Troop on Royal Artillery harbour gun positions and forts of San Pietru, Rocco, Rinella and Ricasoli.

 

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Posted by on October 8, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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