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14 June 1942
MALTA FIGHTERS TO PROTECT CONVOYS
At 2000 hrs this evening the Air Officer Commanding called all Malta’s pilots together to announce that two convoys have been assembled in a concerted attempt to relieve the critical supply situation. The recent reinforcements of Spitfires, Beaufighters and Beauforts are here to help protect the ships from enemy attacks, he revealed. In a desperate bid to get a sufficient number of ships through to the Island, it has been decided to mount a dual convoy, approaching from the eastern and western Mediterranean, in the hope of dividing the efforts of Axis forces.
Operation Vigorous, the ‘eastern’ convoy of eleven merchant ships with escort, met yesterday with Force A off Tobruk, bringing the total protective force to eight cruisers and 26 destroyers, plus corvettes and minesweepers, and the veteran battleship Centurion. The convoy came under immediate air attack: one merchantman was damaged and another limping into port with engine trouble was sunk by enemy aircraft.
A Malta-based reconnaissance pilot reported today that two Littorio battleships have left Taranto harbour in the company of four cruisers and ten destroyers and at the same time two cruisers moved from Cagliari to Palermo with their escorting destroyers. The heavily armed Italian naval force is on course to intercept the convoy heading from Tobruk. Reconnaissance has also revealed that despite reductions in enemy bombing activity over Malta, German and Italian air forces remain in significant numbers on Sicilian aerodromes. They are believed to be in a state of readiness to attack the two convoys.
Four Wellingtons were despatched tonight to strike enemy vessels reported 60 miles from Cape Geroghambo 60 degrees. Only one Wellington was able to release its two torpedoes. The enemy force put up a heavy smoke screen, and although results were not observed, one of the torpedoes was seen to run well. Smoke screen prevented the other three Wellingtons from attacking. A shadowing Wellington saw glow on the water after the attack.
Meanwhile Operation Harpoon, consisting of six merchant ships carrying 39000 tons of cargo and oil, and the American tanker Kentucky with 14100 tons of fuel and kerosene, left Gibraltar on Friday. They are escorted by an anti-aircraft cruiser, HMS Cairo, nine destroyers, the fast minelayer HMS Welshman and a number of smaller ships. Further cover is being provided by HMS Malaya, carriers Argus and Eagle carrying operational aircraft, three cruisers and eight destroyers.
The ‘western’ convoy was also attacked today, by the Italian Regia Aeronautica: torpedoes sank the freighter Tanimbar and damaged the cruiser Liverpool which has been taken in tow by Antelope. Argus and Eagle were also hit, with the loss of some crew. Under orders not to enter Malta in order to save fuel, the protective escort returned to Gibraltar leaving the remaining merchantmen with less cover. HMS Welshman has left the convoy and is heading alone at speed for Malta.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 JUNE TO DAWN 15 JUNE 1942
Weather Wind south-westerly. 100% cloud; Slight rain.
0630-0709 hrs Three Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are airborne to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat. Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to provide top cover for 601 Squadron.
0810 hrs Eight ME 109s patrol over the Island at 20000 feet. Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept: they sight four ME 109s but the enemy fighters immediately dive away.
0817-0850 hrs Five Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.
PM Four aircraft 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled three times without sighting the enemy. One aircraft of NAS out on patrol: no sightings.
1330-1335 hrs Two Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept a single approaching aircraft which is later identified as friendly.
1345-1410 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol: nil report.
2155-2315 hrs One Beaufighter on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: claims one JU 88 destroyed.
2213 hrs Air raid alert. Three enemy aircraft drop bombs anti-personnel bombs on Safi, Hal Far and in the sea.
2215-2345 hrs One Beaufighter is on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.
0140 hrs; 0350 hrs Air raid alerts.
Military casualties Nil. Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 14 JUNE 1942
ROYAL NAVY Sweeping continued and Munscair Rock buoyed.
AIR HQ Arrivals One Hudson from Gibraltar; one Hudson en route from Gibraltar to Matruh landed at Malta. Departures One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Wellington to Shallufa. Aircraft casualties One Wellington crashed on take-off: crew safe. One Baltimore crashed on landing from operations: crew safe.
LUQA AM One Baltimore 69 Squadron cross-over patrol western Sicily, south Sardinia base. One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance (PR) Messina and Augusta. One Spitfire (PR) Taranto Harbour. One Baltimore 69 Squadron cross-over patrol Malta, western Sicily, south Sardinia base. PM One Spitfire PR Messina and Straits. One Spitfire PR Palermo Harbour and western aerodromes. One Baltimore 69 Squadron special search western Sicily, toe of Italy and Gulf of Taranto. One Spitfire PR Palermo Harbour. One Spitfire PR Taranto.
1905-0050 hrs Four Beaufighters 235 Squadron on shipping protection Allied forces: S/L Cook destroyed one JU 88.
2219-0515 hrs One Wellington S/D Flight on A patrol, to drop flares if requested: no ships sighted; no flares dropped. One Wellington S/D Flight on D patrol, to drop flares if requested: two separate aircraft sighted – lights on. One Wellington S/D Flight on reconnaissance for enemy fleet in the Ionian Sea: sighted one small destroyer.
2311-0655 hrs One Wellington S/D Flight despatched to locate and illuminate Italian fleet. Sighted five ships: shadowed until requested to illuminate. Flares dropped to illuminate for Wellington strike.
2335-0635 hrs Four Wellingtons 38 Squadron despatched to attack Italian fleet. One aircraft attacked; smoke screen made results difficult to observe.
0350-0920 hrs Nine Beauforts 217 Squadron despatched to attack Italian fleet. One torpedo hit one battleship or heavy cruiser, causing a column of water followed by thick smoke. One torpedo hit on battleship or heavy cruiser causing flames and dense black smoke. One torpedo hit on destroyer amidships, causing a column of smoke: destroyer seen listing to port.
0450-0920 hrs Five Beaufighters 235 Squadron on patrol over [Malta] convoy. F/Sgt Farquhar and Sgt Briffat attacked one Macchi 202 and also observed a JU 88 hit in the windscreen. Sgt Hall and Sgt Burnside claimed one JU 88 damaged.
TA QALI 2000 hrs The Air Officer Commanding met aircrew personnel at the Officers Mess. 2110-2200 hrs Two Spitfires 603 Squadron are despatched to carry out a dusk patrol of the Sicilian coast. They sight a stationary destroyer half a mile from shore.
15 June 1942
“The air over and around Malta rapidly became thick with aircraft, and this continued until sunset. Sorties were continually being made by Spitfires, Beaufighters, torpedo-carrying and reconnaissance aircraft.” (1)
SPITFIRES TAKE AIR WAR TO SEA
From dawn today 170 sorties were made by Malta-based Spitfires and another 12 by Beaufighters to cover the transit of the two convoys through the Mediterranean. They intercepted and destroyed three JU 88s, three JU 87s, three ME 109s, two BR 20s and two float planes, probably destroyed two JU 88s, one ME 109 and one Macchi 200, and damaged five JU 88s, one JU 87, three ME 109s, one BR 20 and one unidentified bomber. Malta lost three Spitfires and one Beaufighter.
WESTERN CONVOY UNDER FIRE
Reports are coming in that the western convoy Operation Harpoon came under attack early this morning near Pantelleria, from Axis aircraft and the Italian navy. Despite setting up a smokescreen, two Allied destroyers and three of the merchant ships were hit and disabled. The damaged Kentucky, with its essential cargo of fuel for Malta’s fighters, was taken in tow but after further enemy action the convoy commander made the reluctant decision to sink her in order to save the remaining ships. The rest of the convoy including two other damaged vessels went on its way slowly towards Malta.
Several fighter missions were flown from Malta in an attempt to protect the beleaguered convoy. In a counter-attack by the Island’s air forces, four Albacores released torpedoes at a cruiser, scoring two hits: smoke and steam were seen to pour from the vessel. Another torpedo was dropped at a large destroyer, scoring a probable hit. Later three more Albacores attacked and probable hits were obtained by two torpedoes on a cruiser. Two Beauforts also attacked the enemy naval force striking the leading cruiser. Other aircraft arriving on the scene reported the whole ship ablaze.
After a fast passage from Pantelleria without further incident, HMS Welshman entered Grand Harbour at 0730 hrs today. The ship was unloaded, oiled and re-ammunitioned, and sailed at 1400 hrs this afternoon to reinforce Force X.
EASTERN CONVOY ABANDONED
Enemy naval forces were also in hot pursuit of the eastern convoy, which had to undertake a series of direction changes in an attempt to ward off her attackers. In a fierce sea battle early this morning the destroyer Hasty was disabled by a torpedo, killing twelve men, and had to be sunk. HMS Bedouin was badly hit and came to a standstill. She was taken under tow but this afternoon an Italian aircraft scored a direct hit with a torpedo and she sank. This afternoon the destroyer Airedale was hit several times and disabled; she was later sunk.
Meanwhile, Malta-based air forces launched a series of raids on the Italian fleet, disabling the heavy cruiser Trento. However, the Luftwaffe continued relentless attacks on the Allied convoy and by 1800 hrs today only six merchant ships remained from the original eleven.
By this evening the eastern convoy ships were facing a serious shortage of fuel and ammunition due to enemy attacks and diversionary tactics. With a strong Italian fleet still in pursuit, the decision was taken to abandon the eastern convoy operation. The remaining ships returned to Alexandria: none of the merchantmen reached Malta.
MALTA COUNTER ATTACKS
Tonight five Wellingtons were despatched to attack the enemy force as it returned to Taranto. One aircraft scored a hit with a torpedo on the port side of the leading battleship, the flash from the explosion being clearly seen. Despite repeated efforts, a heavy smoke screen prevented the other aircraft from taking aim.
Nine Beauforts attacked two enemy naval forces in position 090 degrees Malta 210 miles. One force consisted of two battleships, one cruiser and seven destroyers; the other, two cruisers and seven destroyers. The Beauforts dropped nine torpedoes: one hit a battleship or heavy cruiser, throwing up a column of water 50 feet high, followed by thick smoke and flames visible 35 miles away. Another torpedo hit was claimed on a battleship or heavy cruiser causing dense black smoke. A destroyer was hit amidships and left listing to port.
Later 12 Beauforts of 39 Squadron ex Middle East were despatched to strike at enemy shipping. En route to the target the aircraft were intercepted by ME 109s and two were shot down into the sea, while five returned to the Middle East. The remaining Beauforts hit a Littorio battleship with at least one torpedo. A destroyer was also hit amidships and a possible hit was scored on a battleship before the Beauforts returned to Malta.
Photographic reconnaissance later reported that the Italian fleet had returned to Taranto after its attempt to intercept the convoy – but the cruiser Trento was a conspicuous absentee. A large Italian destroyer was also photographed in tow off south west Sicily.
AIR ACTIVITY DAWN 15 JUNE TO DAWN 16 JUNE 1942
Weather Wind southerly; 50% medium cloud.
0610-0955 hrs; 1030-1445 hrs Eleven Beaufighters 235 Squadron are on patrol over the Malta-bound convoy. S/L Wigmore and P/O Crow destroy one Ro 43; P/O Cohen and Sgt Nacott chase two JU 88s but their guns will not fire. Sgt Armitage and Sgt Hector fail to return.
0615 hrs; 0715 hrs Air raid alerts. Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to intercept reported ME 109s: no sightings.
0720-0955 hrs Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are despatched on a series of offensive convoy patrols. Convoy observed to be under fire from two forces; no enemy aircraft seen.
0840-1100 hrs The convoy is not sighted in the given area: eight unidentified warships are seen.
0841-1135 hrs One Baltimore 69 Squadron despatched to patrol Pantelleria sights two destroyers, then two cruisers with two destroyers and a seaplane 25 miles to the south.
0900-1120 hrs; 0930-1145 hrs Two Beauforts 217 Squadron are despatched to attack two enemy cruisers and escorting destroyers. They claim one possible torpedo hit on a cruiser.
0912-1155 hrs Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are airborne on offensive convoy patrol. F/Lt Winfield destroys one BR 20. P/O Goldsmith destroys one Cant 506 and one BR 20 with F/S Evans. F/S Farquhason damages one BR 20. Four enemy ships are sighted: two cruisers and two destroyers. One destroyer is reported to be smoking from the stern.
0925-1045 hrs Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to escort Albacores on a strike mission against Italian cruisers. They make no contact with the Albacores but they sight the cruisers towards Pantelleria.
0945-1145 hrs Two Italian cruisers are seen heading for Pantelleria. A large patch of oil is observed 30 miles east of Linosa.
0955-1110 hrs Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali carry out a patrol: nothing sighted. S/Ldr Hamilton’s undercarriage collapses on landing; pilot unhurt.
1115-1415 hrs Eight Spitfires 601 Squadron are airborne on offensive convoy patrol. P/O Ingram and Sgt Rowlandson destroy one JU 87. W/O Belcher claims one ME 109 destroyed. Sgt Rowlandson runs out of petrol and has to bale out: he is safe. P/O Smith claims one JU 87 probably destroyed and one ME 109 damaged. 2/Lt Bartleman destroys one JU 87 and damages another.
1125-1230 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to cover the return of Albacores.
1210-1320 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron on convoy patrol see black smoke 300 degrees Ta Qali.
1302-1332 hrs Four aircraft 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne on convoy patrol: no engagement.
1303-1610 hrs Four Spitfires 601 Squadron and two 126 Squadron on convoy patrol. P/O Scollan probably destroys one JU 87. Sgt McConnell, 601 Squadron, fails to return.
1330-1345 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron take to the air on convoy patrol but return with engine trouble.
1350-1400 hrs Three Spitfires 603 Squadron on convoy patrol: nothing sighted.
1405-1450 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to escort the rescue launch: they observe a pilot being picked up.
1409-1640 hrs Four Spitfires 126 Squadron on convoy patrol. F/Sgt Schade destroys one ME 109.
1455-1730 hrs Four Spitfires 126 Squadron on patrol destroy one unidentified float plane.
1505-1640 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to escort Albacores on a strike mission. They see a large column of smoke and a cruiser burning 45 miles south of Pantelleria. Another vessel – possibly a submarine or cruiser – is lying on its side.
1525-1625 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron on convoy patrol: nothing sighted.
1525-1645 hrs; 1540-1700 hrs; 1600-1655 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali at a time are airborne on convoy patrol: nothing sighted.
1612-1706 hrs Four aircraft 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne on convoy patrol: no engagement.
1640-1820 hrs Four Spitfires 601 Squadron on patrol locate the Malta-bound convoy 20 miles east of Linosa.
1700-1755 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron on patrol see the Malta-bound convoy 15 miles east of Lampedusa and report 20 vessels, including at least two large merchant vessels. They observe HMS Welshman steaming towards the convoy.
1706-1810 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are on patrol: no engagement.
1730-1940 hrs Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are on patrol. F/O Horne damages one JU 87. P/O Smith fails to return but is later picked up by the convoy.
1800-1920 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali intercept three Cant 1007s and ME 109s attacking the approaching convoy 30 miles south west of Gozo. F/Sgt Williams damages one ME 109; F/O Smith damages one Cant 1007.
1802-2010 hrs Four Spitfires 126 Squadron on patrol: no combat.
1805-1925 hrs; 1915-2000 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali at a time are airborne on convoy patrol.
1810-1950 hrs Four Spitfires 185 Squadron patrol the convoy approaching from the west. F/Lt West destroys one ME 109 and probably destroys one JU 88. F/Sgt Sim destroys one JU 88 and P/O Sternberg damages one JU 88. One Spitfire is damaged.
1825-1930 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are on patrol: no interceptions.
1840 hrs Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far patrol the western convoy. P/O Broad destroys one ME 109. P/O Barol is shot down in the sea but is picked up uninjured.
1920-2055 hrs;1950-2120 hrs; 2030-2155 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali at a time are airborne on convoy patrol.
1924-0120 hrs Nine Beauforts 217 Squadron Luqa are despatched to launch a torpedo attack on enemy shipping forces but do not locate the fleet.
2020-2200 hrs Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are despatched on convoy patrol. One crash-lands five minutes later with engine trouble: the aircraft is damaged but the pilot is unhurt.
2025-0039 hrs Five Wellingtons 38 Squadron are despatched to attack enemy shipping forces. Only F/O Hawes attacks, seeing a flash of explosives.
2105-2145 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne on convoy patrol.
2125-2212 hrs Four Spitfires 126 Squadron are on patrol: no combat.
2140 hrs The Spitfires intercept ten JU 88s twelve miles west of Gozo. P/O Jones destroys one, F/O Lucas and P/O Watts jointly destroy one. P/O Linton damages one and P/O Lucas another.
2145-0045 hrs One Beaufighter is on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: no combats.
2221-2310 hrs Air raid alert sounds for eight enemy aircraft approaching the Island. JU 88s drop high explosive bombs on the Hal Far, Siggiewi and Ta Qali areas. Light Ack Ack damage one JU 88.
0245 hrs; 0400 hrs Air raid alerts. Italian anti-personnel bombs are dropped on Kalafrana and in the sea off Grand Harbour.
Military casualties Sub-Lieutenant Cyril Casey, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Fleet Air Arm, HMS St.Angelo; Lieutenant William Paton DSC, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Fleet Air Arm, HMS St.Angelo; Flight Sergeant Allen Harris, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Charles Hector, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Pilot Officer Patrick Hedley, Royal Air Force VR; Sergeant Jack McConnell, Royal New Zealand Air Force; Flight Sergeant Alick Greaves, Royal Australian Air Force; Gunner Loreto Cachia, Royal Malta Artillery.
Civilian casualties Naxxar Paul Vella, age 11. Siggiewi Nicholas Farrugia, age 43. Tarxien Louis Pulis, age 14.
OTHER OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 15 JUNE 1942
AIR HQ Arrivals One Beaufighter from Gibraltar; five Beauforts from Middle East strike. Aircraft casualties One Beaufort damaged by enemy aircraft crashed on landing: wireless operatior injured; remainder safe. One Beaufort crashed on landing: crew safe. One Spitfire damaged in combat crashed in the sea: pilot safe. One Baltimore failed to return from operations: crew missing. One Spitfire reported missing from patrol: pilot missing. One Beaufort crash-landed: crew safe. One Beaufighter missing from operations: crew missing. One Spitfire shot down in combat: pilot safe. One Spitfire crash landed with glycol leak: pilot safe. One Spitfire shot down in combat: pilot safe. One Spitfire crash landed: pilot safe.
HAL FAR AM Four aircraft 185 Squadron are scrambled on two occasions without sighting the enemy. 0845-1150 hrs Four Albacores of the NAS were airborne on strike. Two scored strikes on a cruiser and another a probable strike on the same cruiser. The fourth scored a hit on a large destroyer. 1508-1843 hrs Three Albacores of the NAS are despatched on strike, claiming two probable hits on an enemy cruiser. One Albacore failed to return: Pilot S/Lt Casey, Observer Lt Paton.
LUQA Ration strength is 2002, the highest in the history of Luqa Station. 0620-0845 hrs One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance (PR) of western [Malta] convoy sighted two forces – one to the north and another to the south, 225 degrees Pantelleria 25 miles. Both forces were observed to be firing. One Spitfire PR Taranto Harbour; crashed on landing on return, possibly due to a burst tyre on take-off – pilot safe. 0650 hrs One Baltimore 69 Squadron on shipping search. P/O Patrick and F/Sgt Harris fail to return. 0934-1403 hrs One Baltimore 69 Squadron on search for Italian naval units. 1245 hrs One Baltimore 69 Squadron on patrol; Sgt Baum, F/S Greaves, Sgt Firboy, Sgt Perslow failed to return. 1300-1600 hrs One Spitfire PR Taranto. 1820-2120 hrs One Spitfire PR Taranto. 2015-0410 hrs One Wellington S/D Flight on patrol, sights a convoy and drops flares. 2210-2240 hrs One Wellington S/D Flight on patrol: recalled after 30 minutes.
TA QALI Constant patrols by Spitfires and escorting single aircraft attacking the Italian navy. Hits were scored on three battleships, two cruisers and two destroyers. One vessel arrived. 0820-1125 hrs Four Beaufighters 1435 Flight saw convoy at 1030 hrs, observing one large ship and three small, and two formations of four destroyers, six motor torpedo boats, four merchant vessels and one tanker in tow by a naval auxiliary, two other auxiliaries, two smoke generators and a large fire on the water surrounded by flotsam.
16 June 1942
FIRST TWO MERCHANT SHIPS GET THROUGH
Supply ships Troilus and Orari entered Grand Harbour in the early hours of this morning to a warm welcome, after surviving a concerted air and sea attack on their convoy off Pantelleria yesterday. The two merchantmen were escorted by Cairo, Welshman, six destroyers, four fleet minesweepers, and six motor launches.
Only two merchant ships of the original six which set out from Gibraltar on Friday under Operation Harpoon have so far reached Malta. The remains of the fragmented convoy had almost made it to Grand Harbour last night when they ran into a minefield. Orari and Matchless were damaged and the Polish destroyer Kujawiak was sunk. Badsworth was damaged off Zonkor Point and Hebe by a near miss from a bomb. While returning to harbour after having acted as a navigational mark, Justified struck a mine and sank with the loss of three Maltese ratings.
Unloading was started as soon as the two ships were berthed, Maltese stevedores working on Troilus and Army personnel on Orari. They will work continuously day and night, unless large formations of bombers cause the red flag to be raised over the Dockyard area. Working parties are then sent to shelters ashore, lorries near the ships dispersed, and a smoke screen put up over the harbour.
There was only one air raid during the day, which caused no damage. Cairo and four destroyers sailed for Gibraltar at 1930 hrs this evening.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 JUNE TO DAWN 17 JUNE 1942
Weather Wind westerly, no cloud.
0520 hrs The air raid alert sounds for approaching enemy fighters. Three Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept. P/O Goldsmith destroys one ME 109.
0555 hrs Air raid alert: four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled: no engagement.
0645 hrs Air raid alert for sixteen ME 109s and four JU 88s which approach Grand Harbour . Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to intercept. The Harbour barrage fires and a smoke screen is sent up. Spitfires of 603 Squadron see the JU 88s turn north east, away from the harbour barrage. They attack destroyers off Grand Harbour.
0649 hrs Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are also scrambled to intercept. S/L Lawrence fires a short burst at extreme range at a ME 109 which is believed destroyed.
0700 hrs Unloading of the convoy ships begins.
0800-0920 hrs; 0910-1005 hrs Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa at a time are airborne on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.
0928-1020 hrs Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron carry out a defensive patrol over Grand Harbour: no interceptions.
1000-1055 hrs Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne on patrol: no combat.
1025 hrs The air raid alert sounds for approaching formations of JU 88s and ME 109s. Eight Spitfires from 185 Squadron are scrambled to intercept. The Spitfires are jumped by twelve ME 109s. F/Sgt Vineyard and F/Sgt McNamara are shot down and bale out in the sea.
1027-1135 hrs Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron on intercept patrol sight two men in the sea.
1055-1245 hrs Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far search for their two pilots. They are spotted by four Spitfires 603 Squadron, who guide two Air/Sea Rescue launches towards the spot. Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa join the escort until their rescue is complete; they are unhurt.
1112-1200 hrs Four more Spitfires 603 Squadron patrol over Grand Harbour during the rescue. Sgt Urwin lands without undercarriage; he is unhurt.
1650-1745 hrs Enemy fighters are reported heading towards Malta. Eight Spitfires 601 Squadron are scrambled to intercept. Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron join the patrol.
1700 hrs Air raid alert: nine ME 109s patrol the Island. Only two cross the coast but all nine aircraft soon retreat and there is no engagement.
2155-2255 hrs; 2200-2320 hrs Single Beaufighters of Malta Night Fighter Unit carry out intercept patrols: no combat.
Night Three alerts for single aircraft. Bombs are dropped on Mellieha, Gudja, Safi and Kalafrana. Heavy Ack Ack destroys one BR 20 and damages one JU 88.
2215 hrs Air raid alert.
0130-0300 hrs; 0330-0515 hrs Single Beaufighters of Malta Night Fighter Unit carry out intercept patrols: no combat.
0210 hrs Air raid alert.
Military casualties Stoker 1st Class Joseph Baxter, HMS Badsworth; Petty Officer Vincent Caruana, HMS Justified; Able Seaman Henry Gatt, HMS Justified; Stoker 1c Joseph Medina, HMS Justified.
Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 16 JUNE 1942
AIR HQ Departures One Hudson to Mersa Matruh; one Hudson to Gibraltar; two Beauforts to LG 05; one Lodestar to Heliopolis. Aircraft casualties One Spitfire in aerial combat crashed in the sea: pilot safe. One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot safe. One Spitfire landed with undercarriage up: pilot safe.
LUQA 1400-1600 hrs One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance (PR) of Catania, Gerbini, Gela, Biscaria, Comiso, Pachino aerodromes. 1800-2020 hrs One Spitfire on PR of Palermo sights a convoy. He reports one cruiser in two and one unidentified ship with an escort of two destroyers. 1815-2125 hrs One Spitfire PR of Taranto also photographs two merchant vessels escorted by three destroyers at sea.
TA QALI Convoy arrived from Gibraltar and 70 airmen accommodated at Boschetto Gardens in marquees, then posted to this and other stations next day.
17 June 1942
15 REMAINING SUPPLY SHIPS NOT COMING
Just 15000 tons of supplies arrived with the two ships, Troilus and Orari, extending the supplies available in Malta by only eight weeks. The failure of two massive convoys to bring more than a token delivery of essential supplies is a massive blow to the besieged Island. The population is already on starvation rations; access to water and domestic fuel is severely limited. Aviation fuel and ammunition supplies are extremely low.
The Times of Malta this morning published a broadcast made by The Governor, Lord Gort, last night outlining the implications to the people of Malta: “Some days ago, two convoys set out, one from the West and one from the East to bring supplies which we need to restore our situation. The Western convoy had to endure severe and prolonged attacks, and only two merchant ships survived the ordeal. They are now in the Grand Harbour…These cargoes are essential for our future and well being. The Eastern convoy, after suffering from prolonged and intense attacks by the Luftwaffe, was ordered to turn back…
I must break to you what the arrival of only two ships means to us. For some time past we have been short of supplies and further privations lie ahead of us…Every effort will be made to replenish our stocks when a favourable opportunity presents itself. Meanwhile we must stand on our own resources and every one of us must do everything in his or her power to conserve our stocks and to ensure that best use is made of all the available resources that remain to us. We must make all possible savings in every commodity and stock…”
Having lost supremacy in the skies over Malta, the Axis have proved themselves to be in control of the seas. The Island is now isolated and the plan is clear: to starve Malta into submission.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 JUNE TO DAWN 18 JUNE 1942
Weather Wind southerly; no cloud – haze.
0800 hrs Air raid alert. Eight Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa and seven of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept approaching aircraft. They are airborne too late to intercept one JU 88 and five ME 109s which fly over the Island at 20000 feet.
0900-0940 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron patrol near the Sicilian coast but make no interceptions.
1045-1120 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol: nil report.
1141-1229 hrs Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are on intercept patrol: nothing sighted.
1405-1455 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne on patrol: nil report.
1545-1705 hrs Eleven Spitfires 601 Squadron are airborne on patrol: no combat.
1735-1830 hrs Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy fighters which carry out a patrol: P/O Goldsmith claims one ME 109 damaged.
1803-1838 hrs Eight Spitfires 601 Squadron are on patrol: no combat.
1930 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept an approaching small formation of enemy fighters which trigger the air raid alert: no engagement.
2337-2352 hrs One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit airborne on patrol: destroys one JU 88. bombs are jettisoned in the sea north of Mellieha.
0100 hrs Air raid alert.
Military casualties WOI Frederick White, Corps of Military Police.
Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 17 JUNE 1942
ROYAL NAVY Two magnetic mines were detonated by Swona in Grand Harbour entrance channels.
AIR HQ Arrivals One Lodestar from Heliopolis. Departures One Beaufort to LG 05; one Lodestar to Heliopolis. Aircraft casualties One Wellington crashed due to engine failure: pilot safe, rest of crew injured.
LUQA 0730-0945 hrs One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance (PR) Tripoli. 1410-1815 hrs One Spitfire PR Lecca, Reggio, Bari and Foggia.
18 June 1942
CHURCHILL MESSAGE OF SUPPORT
“It is a great comfort to me to feel that you are in full control of this vital island fortress. You may be sure we will do everything to help you.” Winston Churchill to Lord Gort, 18/6/42 (1)
AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 JUNE TO DAWN 19 JUNE 1942
Weather Wind easterly; strong. 80% cloud.
1035 hrs Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept three approaching enemy aircraft which trigger the alert, then carry out a patrol: no engagement.
1040-1205 hrs Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are on patrol: no combat.
1145-1215 hrs Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne on intercept patrol: no combat.
Military casualties Nil. Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 18 JUNE 1942
ROYAL NAVY Three mines detonated in Marsamxett and Grand Harbour entrance channel.
AIR HQ Arrivals Two Hudsons from Gibraltar; one Lodestar from Heliopolis. Departures Three Hudsons to Gibraltar.
19 June 1942
A Fairey Albacore of the Fleet Air Arm crashed at 1030 hrs this morning shortly after take off from Hal Far on a test flight. Four soldiers of 2nd Battalion the Devonshire Regiment, Lance Corporals Williams and Winsor, and Privates Sutton and Downs, hurried to the rescue and managed to help the injured pilot, Sub-Lieutenant Jordan, to safety. The observer, Sub-Lieutenant Todd, was killed in the crash and the soldiers carefully rcovered his dead body from the wreckage.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 JUNE TO DAWN 20 JUNE 1942
Weather Wind south-easterly; 100% medium cloud.
0630 hrs Air raid alert.
0640-0730 hrs Seven Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept and attack one ME 109: no claims. Two ME 109s carry out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 15000 feet.
0730 hrs Air raid alert. Six ME 109s are reported approaching the Island. Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne to intercept: no combat. Four patrol while two carry out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 18000 feet.
1015-1100 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol: nil report.
1210-1320 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali and nine Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne on patrol: no interceptions.
1410-1450 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are on intercept patrol: nil report.
1535-1620 hrs Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are on intercept patrol: no combat.
1729 hrs Three enemy fighters carry out a patrol. Seven Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no engagement.
1800 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.
1904-1930 hrs Four Spitfires 126 Squadron are on patrol: no combat.
2000-2030 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are on patrol: no sightings or combat.
2145 hrs Air raid alert for approaching hostile aircraft. One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit to intercept: no combat. The Beaufighter remains on patrol until 2308 hrs.
Military casualties Sub-Lieutenant Richard Todd, Observer, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 19 JUNE 1942
AIR HQ Arrivals Four Beauforts, twelve Wellingtons from Gibraltar. Departures One Lodestar to Heliopolis; nine Wellingtons to LG 224. Aircraft casualties One Wellington crashed on take-off: crew safe.
20 June 1942
MALTA ON SIEGE RATIONS – BELOW SURVIVAL LEVEL
Lt Governor Sir Edward Jackson today announced further cuts in rations to the Maltese population, saying they were “a far greater hardship…than any you have had to bear hitherto.” He explained the measures were necessary in order for the Island to survive until an undisclosed ‘Target Date’ when further supplies might be expected.
Sir Edward revealed that the rations previous weekly rations would now be issued only every two weeks. A family of five will now receive monthly: 2000 grams sugar, 1300 ml oil, 400 grams cheese, 200 grams tea, 800 grams fats, 400 grams coffee, 3 bars soap, 4 tins corned beef, 4 tins fish, 4 matches. The average per capita intake is lowered to 1500 calories per day, which the Ministry of Food in London acknowledges is insufficient.
GOVERNOR REPORTS CONVOY RESULTS TO LONDON
From:- Governor & C in C Malta To:- C in C Middle East Rpt:- The War Office
Military Situation Report for Week Ending 20 June 1942
1. Enemy air activity against convoy has been very slight consisting of a few fighters on [reconnaissance] and some night raiders only 12 of which dropped bombs.
2. Details of convoy operation presumably already known to you. Only two merchant ships arrived night 15/16 June bringing 15000 tons stores sufficient for approx one month’s supplies. Separate resume of supply position and other severe cuts now being made has been sent to Mideast defence committee and chiefs of staff.
Large organisation for unloading ships consisting of 2300 men and 240 vehicles from Army daily working in shifts as unloaders, lighter parties, dockside labour, tally clerks, messengers, telephonists and parties for dispersal dumps. [Motor transport] sub-depots, traffic control, smoke screen party, first aid parties and so on, adapted to situation of only two ships and these unloaded cargoes dispersed in 108 hours working night and day. No attempts made by enemy to interfere. Parties on convoy unloading were in addition to 1700 men and 100 vehicles provided for aerodrome ground staffs.
3. During night raids Ack Ack destroyed one BR 20 and damaged two JU 88s. RAF over Island and protecting convoy destroyed seven JU 88s, three JU 87s, two BR 20, four ME 109s, two float planes. Probably destroyed or damaged 12 bombers, 7 fighters. Attacks on Italian fleet made by Malta based Beauforts and Wellingtons – results known to you.
4. Following is total of work on improvement of aerodromes carried out by Army for RAF in last three months. 27 miles dispersal track, 10 Wellington pens, 168 fighter pens, 37 light bomber pens, 21 Fleet Air Arm pens. This in addition to crater filling, improvement of runways etc.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 JUNE TO DAWN 21 JUNE 1942
Weather Wind westerly, moderate to strong. 100% cloud.
0725 hrs Air raid alert. Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled and chase six Messerschmitts from five miles north of St Paul’s Bay back to Sicily.
0805 hrs Air raid alert for a patrol of enemy fighters. Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no engagement.
0910-1010 hrs Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far on patrol: nothing sighted.
1029-1150 hrs Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne on patrol.
1120 hrs Air raid alert for a small formation of hostile fighters which patrol the Island: no combat.
1140-1200 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali patrol: nil report.
1221-1312 hrs Four Spitfires 185 Squadron on patrol: nothing sighted.
1510-1610 hrs Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol.
1600 hrs Air raid alert for a reported formation of enemy bombers. The Spitfires see six Messerchmitts but ignore them and fly on in search of the reported bombers. Two of the Spitfires 603 Squadron see two ME 109s north of Grand Harbour and give chase but do not engage.
1606-2107 hrs Eight Beaufighters 235 Squadron Luqa are despatched to act as escort for Beauforts: no combat. They sight one liner of 10-12000 tons with two destroyers.
1715-1800 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron on patrol: nil report.
1817-1946 hrs Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far on patrol: nothing sighted.
1900 hrs Convoy unloading is complete.
1915 hrs Air raid alert. Three enemy aircraft carry out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 28000 feet.
1919-2020 hrs; 2026-2140 hrs Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa at a time are airborne on intercept patrol: no combat.
2155-2355 hrs One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit is airborne on intercept patrol.
2250 hrs Air raid alert for three approaching enemy aircraft. Bombs are dropped south of Hal Far and in the sea. The Beaufighter destroys one JU 88.
Military casualties Nil. Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 20 JUNE 1942
ROYAL NAVY Swona sweeping Grand Harbour and Marsamxett entrances. Unloading of Troilus and Orari completed. After four days and nights of constant labour, by this afternoon 12000 tons deadweight of cargo had been transferred to storage facilities. Naval and Military working parties were released and the remainder of the unloading was then completed under normal conditions by Maltese stevedores. Less than four hours were lost from disruption due to smoke screens during the work. Although more than ten hours were spent under alert, no bombs were dropped on the harbour area.
AIR HQ Arrivals Four Hudsons, ten Blenheims, one Wellington from Gibraltar. Departures One Hudson to Gibraltar; two Wellingtons to LG 224. Aircraft casualties One Hudson crashed on landing: observer killed; remainder of crew injured. One Beaufort attacked by enemy aircraft during a strike: crew missing.
HAL FAR 2327-0448 hrs Three Albacores NAS took off on strike mission: nothing sighted.
LUQA 1015-1150 hrs Two Baltimores 69 Squadron despatched on search for enemy shipping were recalled to base. 1131-1430 hrs Two Baltimores 69 Squadron despatched to continue search. One sights an enemy convoy of five vessels. 1608-2113 hrs Twelve Beauforts 217 Squadron despatched to attack enemy shipping. The convoy was not sighted and one aircraft failed to return. 1800-1950 hrs One Spitfire on photo-reconnaissance photographed enemy convoy. 2201-0404 hrs One Wellington S/D Flight searched Cape Bon area in co-operation with Fleet Air Arm: no sightings.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal for week-ending 20 June: UXB Reported (50kg or over) 22; dealt with 11(3 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg, 1 x 15kg anti-personnel, 2 x AP containers) plus 153 x 2kg Butterfly bombs. Work retarted by having to keep a party standing by for priority bombs on Docks area.
(1) The Air Battle for Malta, James Douglas-Hamilton, Pen & Sword Aviation, 2006
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