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26 September 1941: Malta’s Offensive Role Known – ‘Heavy Retaliation Must Be Expected’

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Attacks by Malta bombers and submarines now public

Malta’s role as base for air and submarine attacks publicised

GOVERNOR & C IN C CALLS FOR MAXIMUM OFFENSIVE ROLE WITH MINIMUM PUBLICITY

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has expressed serious misgivings about the amount an detail of media coverage which is now being given to the Island’s role as a base for offensive operations against Axis convoys in the Mediterranean. In a telegram to the War Office in London today, he wrote:

“I should be grateful if the services at home would give me a clear indication of the policy which it is desired should be followed in releasing information about the Fortress. Until April of this year a policy had been accepted which implied that publicity should not be given to any offensive operations carried out from Malta in order that we should avoid attracting attention from the enemy and so be given time to improve our defences.

Recently however statements have been made which have disclosed the actual types of aircraft operating from the Island and there appears to have been a definite policy to publicise the successful results of operations carried out by aircraft of the RAF and Fleet Air Arm, and by HM submarines. The Air Ministry have recently sent an official press representative here with a view to increasing publicity about RAF activities.  The Admiralty have indicated that an official photographer is going to be sent and this would imply that further publicity is to be given.  An American press representative is here at the present time.  No service received any warning that it was desired to send him here.  Recently the Admiralty have indicated their Lordships’ desire to give more publicity to the work of submarines operating from this base, but this latter proposal is not entirely supported by the Commander in Chief Mediterranean.

The decision to release or restrict information about Malta is obviously one which cannot be made locally but it is clear that the present policy of emphasising our offensive operations must now be making our activities well known to the enemy and sooner or later heavy retaliation must be expected. We are more prepared and ready to receive this retaliation but I should be grateful for an assurance that this result would be in accordance with the policy desired by the Services at home.

Service commanders are prepared to recognise the need for some publicity because of its effect on the civil populations throughout the Empire and particularly here. If this is essential we believe that it could be done without releasing to the enemy information which must be of definite value to him, eg types of aircraft, names of submarines.

From our point of view we would like to carry out the maximum amount of offensive activity from Malta with the minimum of publicity. Services here agree with this telegram.  The War Office is requested to pass copies to the Admiralty and Air Ministry, and the Middle East is requested to pass copies to the Commander in Chief Mediterranean and the Air Officer Commanding, Middle East. Commanders in Chief in the Middle East are requested to comment on this telegram if they so desire.”

The Air Officer Commanding endorsed Lt Gen Dobbie’s views in a separate telegram to the War Office today: “I heartily endorse the Governor of Malta’s views. I can really see nothing to be gained and much to be lost by publicising the base from which these operations are taking place, or giving any details regarding the types of aircraft.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 27 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1126-1139 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but does not cross the coast. Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no interceptions.

2143-2153 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches from the west, drops bombs 25 miles out to sea and turns back. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions.

2311-2330 hrs  Air raid alert caused by the return of friendly aircraft.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 26 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Operation Substance ships departing: SS Melbourne Star sailed for Gibraltar at 1130 hrs. Port Chalmers and City of Pretoria to sail in two days’ time with HMS Gloxinia as escort.

AIR HQ Arrivals 7 Beaufighter. Departures  4 Hurricane, 3 Wellington. 38 Squadron 1 Wellington attacked Palermo. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Marsala, Trapani and Palermo.  1 Blenheim patrol eastern Sicilian coast.  1 Maryland reconnaissance Cagliari.  107 Squadron 3 Blenheims on shipping sweep near Zuara. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish laid mines outside Palermo Harbour in a semi-circle covering the south east approach.  Wellington bombers created a very successful diversion. 

HAL FAR  Hurricanes 185 Squadron, one Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm and two Fulmars performed special escort duty for a convoy of one merchant vessel.

 

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

 

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25 September 1941: Largest Supply Convoy Yet Embarks for Malta

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A photo-reconnaissance Spitfire flew the route to Malta

A PR Spitfire flew the route to Malta

NINE MERCHANT SHIPS PLUS 27 STRONG ESCORT FOR ‘OPERATION HALBERD’

The largest supply convoy yet for Malta began its journey today through the western Mediterranean. Under ‘Operation Halberd’ nine merchant ships: Ajax, Breconshire, City of Calcutta, City of Lincoln, Clan Ferguson, Clan Macdonald, Dunedin Star, Imperial Star and Rowallan Castle are carrying over 80000 tons of supplies and hundreds of troops for the Island.

The ships for Malta, and their escort from the Navy’s Home Fleet sailed on 17 September from the Clyde for Gibraltar, where the convoy assembled yesterday. The merchant ships will be protected in the Mediterranean by the most powerful force assembled for a convoy to date, including three battleships, five cruisers, 18 destroyers and aircraft carrier Ark Royal carrying aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm to provide air cover.

Nothing has been left to chance. A photo-reconnaissance Spitfire flew the entire route from the UK to Malta to provide a detailed report on the position of the entire Italian navy before the convoy left Gibraltar.  The Spitfire landed safely in Malta on Monday.

In order to mislead the Italian fleet, the escorting vessels have divided into two groups; the supply ships taking the usual southern route within sight of the Algerian coast, with the normal Naval escort. However the remainder of the escort, a powerful fleet, is heading northwards, close to the Balearic Islands, hopefully undetected.  The aim is to lure Italian warships into battle unaware of the full strength of the escort fleet, and leaving sufficient Naval ships free to escort the merchantmen safely onward to Malta.  Also at sea are nine submarines, including six of Malta’s 10th Flotilla positioned along the convoy route ready to intercept any Italian warships.

The first convoy ships sailed westwards out of Gibraltar yesterday. Under cover of darkness they reversed course and passed through the Straits at 0130 hrs this morning.  Just after 0900 hrs the two groups of warships divided and the supply convoy began its journey eastwards through the Mediterranean towards Malta. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 26 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine.

2356-0015 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island and drop high explosive and incendiary bombs eight miles off the west coast before receding to the west.

0032-0055 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches to within eight miles of the Island, drops bombs in the sea off Dingli and recedes to the south west. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 25 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Maryland, 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron  1 Blenheim patrol eastern Sicilian coast and Crotone. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked motor transport yards and barracks in Tripoli. 105 Squadron 5 Blenheims attacked lorry convoys east of Sirte. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked transport near Beurat.  1 Blenheim attacked a convoy. 

TA QALI  4 sergeant pilots proceeded by Hurricane to the Middle East.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Demonstration by one platoon of A Company of attack showing the use of all weapons including small arms fire and live mortar bombs.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  A Company detached one Sergeant and 12 men to form three anti-aircraft light machine-gun posts at Luqa aerodrome.

(1) Red Duster White Ensign, Ian Cameron, Futura 1975

 

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

 

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24 September 1941: Lack of Luftwaffe in Mediterranean Leaves Malta Free to Attack

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Spanish Mole, Tripoli, after a raid (AWM MED0210)

Spanish Mole, Tripoli, after a raid (AWM MED0210)

LUFTWAFFE ABSENCE LEAVES AXIS CONVOYS VULNERABLE, BRITISH WAR CABINET HEARS

The absence of German aircraft in the Mediterranean has left Axis convoys vulnerable to attacks from Malta, the British War Cabinet heard today in its latest progress review. According to the report, for three months it has not been possible for the Germans to allocate adequate aircraft for the protection of the important supply route between Tripoli and Sicily, or for attacks on Malta.  In the face of heavy commitments in other theatres such as the Eastern Front, the German Air Force is facing a shortage of suitably trained air crews.  Luftwaffe command has been forced improvise, such as using a long-range bomber reserve training unit on operational duties.

During the past week Blenheim and Swordfish aircraft from Malta have sunk or seriously damaged 45000 tons of enemy shipping between Sicily and the African coast. An enemy destroyer was also seriously damaged off Tripoli.

Reconnaissance aircraft from Malta have continued to search for enemy shipping convoys which were subsequently attacked on every possible occasion by Naval and RAF aircraft, with the following results:

  • Laden schooner, total loss
  • Laden schooner, blew up (explosion destroyed attacking Blenheim)
  • 24000 ton liner hit repeatedly by Blenheims, last reported stationary
  • Destroyer direct hits amidships, badly damaged
  • 8000 ton merchant vessel (MV) 2 hits by Blenheims, damaged
  • 3000 ton MV, sinking and on fire
  • 8000 ton MV, sunk
  • Small MV hit by torpedo, probably sunk

On five nights Wellingtons made 33 sorties against Tripoli and dropped a total of over 50 tons of bombs. These attacks were principally directed against the harbour and, in addition to a number of hits on the Spanish and Karamanli Moles, many bombs were seen to fall on shipping lying alongside.  The barracks and buildings near the wireless telegraph station also were successfully bombe.

Two Blenheims made a good daylight attack on heavy motor transport and petrol tankers on the Misurata-Sirte road, resulting in considerable confusion, and the destruction of one petrol tanker and serious damage to 30 other vehicles; one Blenheim is missing. Another attack by 11 Blenheims was made on the barracks at Homs and Misurata causing serious damage.  Hits were also made on motor transport dumps and petrol lorries, and troops were sprayed with machine-gun fire with good effect.  Two of our aircraft collided over the target and a third crashed.

Enemy bombing activity has been on an extremely small scale. The only attack on Malta was on the night of 19-20 September, when one out of six aircraft crossed over the Island and dropped some incendiaries which did no damage.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 25 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and fresh.

0005-0035 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the west. Two only cross the coast and drop high explosive bombs on the Bajda Ridge area.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no engagement.

0047-0058 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer William E Law, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Squadron Leader Theophilus J S Warren, RAF, 107 Squadron; Flying Officer John T Waterfall, RAFVR, 107 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 13 Beaufighter, 2 Blenheim, 2 Wellington. Departures 1 Catalina. 38 Squadron 2 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli.  6 Wellingtons attacked Palermo Harbour. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Marsala and Licata harbours and eastern Ionian Sea. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked transport on Misurata road.  S/Ldr Warren failed to return; a search was carried out but was unsuccessful. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish laid mines outside Tripoli Harbour and dropped bombs on a barrack block.  A diversion created by Wellington bombers was very effective.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 5; dealt with 5 (2 x 150kg; 3 x 2kg incendiary)

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  E Company began formation; HQ at 21 Ghain Dwieli Street, Paola. 

 

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Posted by on September 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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23 September 1941: Work on Air Raid Shelters Weeks Behind Schedule

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shelters diggingPROGRESS ‘DISAPPOINTING’, SAYS GOVERNOR & COMMANDER IN CHIEF

Work on providing adequate air raid shelters for Malta’s population is weeks behind schedule. In a telegram today to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief outlines the present level of shelter provision and the challenges preventing their rapid completion:

“The estimated date by which each person in Malta would be provided with two square feet of rock shelter [can now] only be tentative. The position now is that only 1516 out of 76599 persons in the Public Works area are not covered by Government rock shelters, while the whole population of that area is already covered, if Government concrete and private rock and concrete shelters are taken into account.  In the area under the Supervisor of Shelter Construction, 54631 persons still require accommodation in Government rock shelters, but only 11571 persons have no cover, taking into account all forms of shelters.  The population of this area is 167366.

It is now essential that two square feet per person for the whole population in the Public Works Department area will be attained by the end of September and in the Supervisor of Shelter Construction’s area by the end of November.

Failure to obtain this result in June and August as previously estimated is due partly to exceptionally hard rock being encountered in certain areas and partly to the transfer of miners to services mentioned in my telegram of 30 August. Moreover, experience in actual raids showed the necessity for at least three entrances cum exits to each shelter, owing to the danger of such entrances and exits being blocked by direct hits or debris.  It was therefore considered advisable to provide additional exits and entrances simultaneously with the work of constructing shelters, and not to wait until each shelter was finished.

Progress made is rather disappointing but the whole system of control of the labour force is now under review and I will report results later. The revised estimate of the dates of completion of the two square foot programme does not affect previous financial estimates of expenditure to the end of December.

Work in Gozo is proceeding satisfactorily. 107 shelters are already in hand out of the total of 140 which will be required.” 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 24 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Rain mid-day.

0123-0130 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber which approaches the Island and drops bombs in the sea off Delimara Point. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions. 

Military casualties  Sergeant Peter F Bold, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) 38 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Walter F P Brown, RAF, 38 Squadron; Sergeant William J Poole RAFVR, 38 Squadron; Sergeant James C Sheridan, Royal Canadian Air Force; Flight Sergeant Robert H Toshack, Royal Canadian Air Force, 38 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 5 Blenheim, 1 Catalina, 5 Maryland. 38 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli.  One Wellington failed to return. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands reconnaissance Kerkennah, Kelibia and special mission. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked transport on Misurata road.  S/Ldr Warren failed to return.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A Training Exercise Without Troops for officers and warrant officers was held in the Rabat area on the subject of ‘Reconnaissance and taking up of machine-gun positions in defence’.

 

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

 

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22 September 1941: Malta Free French Air Crew Killed on Spy Mission

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Free French F/Sgt Georges Blaize (1)

Free French F/Sgt Georges Blaize (1)

SPECIAL OPERATIONS HEINKEL CRASHES INTO SEA

The Heinkel 115 used for clandestine operations from Malta crashed today with the loss of the crew and one passenger. The Heinkel which has been at Kalafrana since June took off just after midnight for its latest secret mission but appears to have got into difficulties and was forced to make an emergency landing on the sea, some 20 miles off the coast of the Island. 

The crew have been named as Free French pilot F/Sgt Georges Blaize and flight engineer Sgt Raoul Gatien. Also on board and acting as observer was Fleet Air Arm S/Lt Reginald Drake, who was attached to Naval air station HMS Grebe in Egypt but operating from Malta. 

Rescue aircraft and the high speed launch from Malta set out to search for the stricken aircraft. They found wreckage strewn over the sea and the bodies of S/Lt Drake and F/Sgt Blaize.  There was no trace of Sgt Gatien.

The Heinkel is the second aircraft to be lost on Special Operations from Malta; last Tuesday a Swordfish crashed while transporting a secret agent to North Africa. Only yesterday Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief referred to the Heinkel as the only aircraft based on the Island dedicated to the service of the Defence Security Officer (maltagc70.com 21 September 1941). The Heinkel, which still carried its German markings, was stored under cover at Kalafrana and used only at night.

PILOT NURSES DAMAGED AIRCRAFT THROUGH 200 MILE FLIGHT

A Blenheim pilot landed his badly damaged aircraft at Luqa airfield today after a tense 218 mile flight across the Mediterranean. Sergeant Williams’ Blenheim was one of six sent to attack German barrack blocks and fuel dumps at Homs in North Africa.  During the attack Pilot Wing Commander D W Scivier AFC made a sharp turn, coming up underneath Sgt Williams, whose aircraft propellers sliced through the fuselage of W/Cdr Scivier’s Blenheim, which plunged into a steep dive and crashed with the loss of the entire crew. 

Sgt Williams’ Blenheim was also badly damaged in the collision. He managed to keep the plane airborne and nursed it gently back to Malta.  Sgt Williams and his crew, observer Sgt R Scholefield and wireless operator/air gunner Sgt A Tuppen are being treated for shock.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 23 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Heavy rain mid-day.

0153-0214 hrs  Air raid alert for one enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but does not cross the coast. Bombs are dropped in the sea eight miles from shore.

0338-0355 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses the coast over Dingli, drops bombs on Balzan causing two slight casualties and damage to houses before turning south over Luqa and receding, dropping more bombs in the sea off Delimara.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Georges Blaize, Royal Air Force; Sub-Lieutenant Reginald G Drake, Royal Navy; Flight Sergeant Raoul Gatien, Royal Air Force; Leading Airman Kenneth Pimlott, HMS St.Angelo; Flight Sergeant Leonard Martin Barnett, observer, Royal Air Force, 105 Squadron; Sergeant Brian Gray BFM, wireless operator/air gunner, Royal Air Force, 105 Squadron; Wing Commander Donald William Scivier AFC, pilot, Royal Air Force, 105 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Spitfire, 1 Sunderland. Departures 2 Wellington. 38 Squadron 3 Wellingtons attacked a liner.  5 Wellingtons attacked motor transport depots near Tripoli.  Sgt Secomb failed to return. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland patrol east Tunisian coast.  1 Maryland photoreconnaissance Catania, Gerbini, Comiso.  1 Maryland on search for a convoy. 105 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked barrack blocks and fuel dumps at Homs. 107 Squadron 5 Blenheims attacked barrack blocks and fuel dumps at Misurata. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish attacked convoy off Kuriat, firing two torpedoes hitting one merchant ship amidships and another in the bows.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion was visited by a representative of the Times of Malta who took photographs and interviewed officers and men. He also watched various types of training going on in the Battalion.  Weapons training courses are underway: in time all ranks will have fired the rifle and also whichever automatic weapon they are most likely to use in battle.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 3 (2kg incendiary).

(1)  See also website: Les Francais Libres

 

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Posted by on September 22, 2016 in 1941, September 1941, Uncategorized

 

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21 September 1941: Malta is Centre for MI6/SOE Operations in North Africa

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Heinkel seaplane

Heinkel seaplane

ISLAND’S ROLE MUST BE PROPERLY RESOURCED, SAYS COMMANDER IN CHIEF

Following the loss of a Malta-based Swordfish while transporting a secret agent to North Africa, the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office to express his concerns at the ad hoc arrangements currently in place for such missions:

Most Secret and Personal: The following is for Chiefs of Staff from the Governor of Malta:

The Defence Security Officer’s organisation covering MI6 and Special Operations Executive activities from Malta is and must continue to be largely ineffective unless and until much more satisfactory arrangements are made for the transport of agents. This applies especially at the present time to those sections concerned with Tunis and Tripoli, but it is to be emphasised that similar difficulties will arise with the infiltration of agents into the Balkans and Italy unless local arrangements are greatly improved.

At present the means of transport at the direct call of the Defence Security Officer are quite inadequate and he is largely dependent on such help as the Flag Officer in charge of Malta, or the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Mediterranean, can give. Naval help is confined at the moment to an ex-Italian MAS [armed motor torpedo boat], which has definite limitations, and to submarines.  These latter of course can only be used when on their normal patrol.  I am informed seriously of the hope to send motor torpedo boats (MTB) with special engines here when a MTB flotilla is based on Malta but the date of this is still indefinite.  The Tunis and Tripoli problem is at present mainly an air matter and as such the RAF is the primary service which can provide the necessary assistance.  This however can only be done at the expense of other operations.

Valuable aircraft have already been lost, with highly trained crews. When, for local or technical reasons, Heinkel aircraft are unsuitable – or until aircraft resources available for the Defence Security Officer are adequate – the only way to land agents in most cases will depend on RAF or Fleet Air Arm (FAA) aircraft being made available by the AOC Mediterranean (with the consent of the Flag Officer Malta for FAA aircraft).  With the very limited number of Swordfish at his disposal, the AOC Mediterranean thus has to decide the relative importance of this work as opposed to his more normal operations of attacking ships.  It is obvious that a very clear instruction is needed which will guide him in deciding their relative importance.  Such an instruction is lacking at present.

The only aircraft resources available for the Defence Security Officer in Malta at present consists of one Heinkel seaplane together with such assistance as the Services can provide. Other Heinkels are expected later, but aircraft resources for the Defence Security Officer are at present entirely inadequate and will not be sufficient for some considerable time as at present envisaged.  (It is to be emphasised too that seaplanes have their limitations and effective results will depend on the availability of land planes and seaplanes or amphibians, fast MTBs and submarines, each in their proper sphere according to weather and local requirements.)  He cannot work effectively unless these facilities are adequate.  The present state of affairs means that vitally important work of this organisation, especially in Tunis and Tripoli, will not be effectively done for some months unless either

  • RAF or FAA aircraft are used as required at the expense of their proper work; in this connection it is emphasised that highly trained and specialised crews, also aircraft, are being hazarded when the task could well be done by other highly specialised operation crews and aircraft. There are very definite limits to this in FAA as the Swordfish is the only suitable type in Malta.
  • Suitable aircraft with crews are instantly sent out here expressly for this work.

I strongly favour alternative (b) but would point out that if the work of this organisation in Africa is to be effective and to give the expected help to the contemplated operation, then aircraft must be sent out immediately (repeat immediately). I am advised that the authorities in England responsible for this work have complete details of the type of aircraft which are needed to meet the special conditions for work in these areas.

I repeat that the business at present is on an extremely unsatisfactory footing and we need a clear guidance as to policy. I hope that this, and material assistance, will be forthcoming immediately.  Failing this the effectiveness of this important service cannot fail to be gravely prejudiced.  Flag Officer Malta, AOC Mediterranean and the DSO agree with this telegram.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 22 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather   Very cool.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Lieutenant Leslie F E Aldridge, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS St Angelo.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli Harbour.  1 Maryland on search for convoy.  1 Maryland patrol of eastern Tunisian coast. 105/107 Squadrons 2 Blenheims attacked a convoy. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish attacked convoy within sight off Lampedusa.  Two torpedoes were fired in conditions of poor visibility, but the target proved to be Lampion Rock; the convoy was not located.  One Swordfish crashed on landing at Hal Far with its torpedo still on board. The missile exploded, killing the pilot Lt Aldridge and seriously injuring the wireless operator L/A Pimlott. 

TA QALI  A Blenheim force landed at the aerodrome having been damaged by enemy action. Three Swordfish landed at the aerodrome.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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Posted by on September 21, 2016 in 1941, September 1941

 

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20 September 1941: Submarine Raid on Axis Troopship Threatens Libya Campaign

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HUNDREDS OF AXIS TROOPS PERISH IN ATTACK BY 10TH SUBMARINE FLOTILLA

Neptunia and Oceania

Neptunia and Oceania

Submarines of 10th Flotilla returned to base at Manoel Island today from their most successful attack to date on Axis convoys.  Flotilla Commander George W G Simpson received information on 17 September from British intelligence that a fast convoy of transport ships was heading out of Taranto towards Tripoli, carrying troop reinforcements for the German Afrika Korps.  Submarines Ursula, Unbeaten, Upholder and Upright were ordered to put out immediately. 

Early next morning off Misurata Unbeaten located the convoy of three 20000 ton troop ships, Oceania, Neptunia and Vulcania, escorted by five Italian destroyers. Upholder fired four torpedoes: two hit Neptunia tearing large hole in her side, and one hit Oceania, destroying her propellers. The submarine then dived to evade counter-attack.  While the escorting destroyers closed in to pick up survivors, Upholder withdrew to reload.  She returned to the damaged Oceania and launched another torpedo which finally sank her.  The troopship Vulcania was attacked by the submarine Ursula but escaped and managed to reach Tripoli escorted by the destroyer Usodimare.

Meanwhile Neptunia tried to make way with a destroyer in attendance but came to a shuddering halt. Upholder closed in and launched two more torpedoes which sank the stricken troopship within minutes.

It is reported that at least 400 of the German troops were killed in the engagement. The scale of the Axis losses in the Mediterranean has caused the Italian Foreign Minister to question the possibility of sustaining the military campaign in North Africa: “the Mediterranean situation is dark, and will become even more so because of the continued loss of merchant ships. Commander Bigliardi, who is in the know and is a reliable person, says that in responsible naval circles they are seriously beginning to wonder whether we shouldn’t decide to give up Libya, rather than wait until we are forced to do so by the complete lack of freighters…”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 21 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1029-1118 hrs  Air raid alert for three Macchi 200 fighters which approach the Island from the north and cross the coast over Grand Harbour at 23000 feet while three others circle 35 miles off the coast. Hurricane fighters are scrambled but the Macchis recede rapidly over Delimara evading engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY Ursula, Unbeaten, Upholder and Upright returned from convoy interception east of Tripoli.  Upholder sank one ship of the Neptunia class and damaged a second whose fate is not known.  Ursula got one hit on Vulcania.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Wellington. Departures 1 Sunderland, 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Catania, Gerbini and Comiso. 105 Squadron 1 Blenheim reconnaissance east Sicilian coast. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked a merchant ship off Kerkennah Bank.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

 

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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in September 1941

 

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