MALTA WAR DIARY: OPERATION PEDESTAL – SANTA MARIJA – DAILY EVENTS ON MALTAGC70 Updates direct to your computer if you sign up to follow maltagc70 (see R)
”the absolute last issue from Island reserves occurs in five days, on 15 August. After that we are down to the slaughter of horses and goats, once considered adequate for six months…the present census of animals on the Island is estimated to last from five to ten days.” Mr Trench, manager of food distribution in Malta (1)
TROOPS REHEARSE FOR CONVOY
Army working parties on the airfields were ordered to down tools today in order to complete rehearsals for a ‘forthcoming convoy’ operation. Thousands of men took part in the exercises, leaving only 500 at Luqa and 145 at Ta Qali to continue essential repairs and refuelling. Transport was dispatched to sub-depots, ready for the collection and transfer of supplies from Grand Harbour into a network of storage facilities. Tonight Malta command declared preparations complete: the Island’s forces are poised in anticipation that relief may be coming soon.
14 MERCHANT SHIPS READY FOR MALTA
This morning the Masters of fourteen merchant ships were each reading the contents of an envelope marked “Not to be opened until 0800/10th August”. The message inside was from the First Lord of the Admiralty. It read: “God Speed”.
Overnight the merchant transports navigated through dense fog to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar. With their warship escort, they form the largest convoy yet assembled in an all-out attempt to supply Malta, code-named ‘Operation Pedestal’. Ahead of them lie the most heavily-patrolled waters of the Mediterranean and an enemy determined to stop them.
The supply ships Almeria Lykes, Brisbane Star, Clan Ferguson, Deucalion, Dorset, Empire Hope, Glenorchy, Melbourne Star, Port Chalmers, Rochester Castle, Santa Elisa, Waimarama and Wairangi, plus oil tanker Ohio left the Clyde on 2nd August escorted by a protective fleet including cruisers Kenya and Nigeria and up to 16 destroyers. En route, Masters and crews of the merchant ships have been extensively trained in communication and manoeuvring skills they will need in the face of the expected enemy attacks.
Commander of the convoy is Vice-Admiral E N Syfret, CB, whose flagship Nelson also sailed from Scapa Flow last Sunday. By 1600 hrs today the convoy and escort forces were complete:
FORCE Z battleships Nelson and Rodney, cruisers Charybdis, Phoebeand Sirius, destroyers Antelope, Eskimo, Ithuriel, Laforey, Lightning, Lookout, Quentin, Somali, Tartar, Vansittart, Westcott, Wilton, Wishart, Wrestler (later replaced by Amazon) and Zetland and three aircraft carriers: Eagle, Indomitable and Victorious, plus a fourth, Furious carrying a delivery of Spitfires for Malta.
FORCE X cruisers Cairo, Kenya, Manchester and Nigeria and destroyers Ashanti, Bicester, Bramham, Derwent, Foresight, Fury, Icarus, Intrepid, Ledbury, Pathfinder, Penn and Wilton.
FORCE R refuelling vessels, including fleet oil tankers RAF Brown Ranger and Dingledale, HM Tugs Jaunty and Salvonia, plus escorting corvettes Jonquil, Geranium, Spirea and Coltsfoot.
Two decoy convoys escorted by cruisers and destroyers are due to set sail from the eastern Mediterranean as a tactic to divert the attention of the enemy from the main convoy in the west. One sailed from Port Said at dusk, the other from Haifa at 0400 hrs. They are due to rendezvous at 0800 hrs tomorrow morning and then to turn back when darkness falls.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 AUGUST TO DAWN 11 AUGUST 1942
Weather Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.
1120-1218 hrs Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept an approaching formation of enemy aircraft.
1130-1240 hrs Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled to intercept. Two return early.
1145 hrs Air raid alert. Sgt Mahar 185 Squadron is shot up and crash lands at Luqa: he is unhurt. 229 Squadron red section leader F/Lt Swannick breaks away at 7000 feet with his undercarriage down and does not pick up again. A parachutist is seen going down in the sea and later picked up. Sgt Sidney returned to base with his engine cutting out. P/O Foster and another Spitfire see enemy fighters at 24-26000 feet. They turn to attack but are jumped by two other fighters. Spitfire pilots see bombs explode on Ta Qali but lose sight of the enemy aircraft. They then receive a report of enemy aircraft heading north, change course to give chase but see nothing.
1155 hrs Two JU 88s drop anti-personnel bombs on Ta Qali aerodrome, killing Nursing Orderly LAC Holt and wounding Nursing Orderly Sgt Harris, who is likely to be in hospital for seven weeks). Five Beaufighters and two Spitfires are damaged; one ambulance is destroyed.
1224 hrs All clear.
1635-1810 hrs Two Spitfires 229 Squadron search for the missing Spitfire pilot: no sighting.
1915-1923 hrs Air raid alert. Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are airborne to search for unidentified aircraft which prove to be friendly.
1940-2030 hrs Two Spitfires 185 Squadron patrol off the coast of Sicily for E-Boats: none sighted. Two Spitfires 229 Squadron also search for enemy shipping, flying at an average height of 5-10000 feet. The sight no vessels but see an unidentified aircraft, thought to be a Spitfire.
2003-2230 hrs One Albacore of the Navy Air Service searches for enemy submarines but finds nothing. Pilot S/L White and Observer Lt Lashmore crash-land on return to base, damaging the aircraft; they are unhurt.
2144-0022 hrs Air raid alert. Five enemy Italian Cz 1007s with an escort of seven fighters drop thirty 100kg bombs on Luqa aerodrome and the Sliema area.
Military casualties Pilot Officer Jerrold Smith, Royal Canadian Air Force; Leading Aircraftsman George Holt, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
Civilian casualties Nil.
Enemy casualties Messerschmitt pilot Schmidt shot down into the sea: picked up by RAF rescue launch and taken prisoner.
OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 10 AUGUST 1942
ROYAL NAVY Otus sailed and proceeded to Gibraltar. Day One for Operation PEDESTAL of which a separate report has been made. Force Y, consisting of M/Vs Troilus and Orari escorted by Matchless and Badsworth sailed at 2030. Two Motor Launches escorted this force to a point one hour’s steaming from the end of the swept channel and then returned to Marsaxlokk where they anchored for the night.
AIR HQ Arrivals Two DC3 from Bilbeis; four Beaufighters from Gibraltar; one Baltimore from Burg Arab. Departures Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; two DC3 to Bilbeis. Aircraft casualties One Spitfire damaged in combat, crash-landed; pilot uninjured. One Spitfire shot down into the sea; pilot baled out – missing. One Spitfire in taxiing accident; pilot uninjured.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 11. Dealt with: 2 High Explosives, including 1 delayed-action (1 x 500kg; 1 x 250kg).
(1) Source: navalhistory.net. The Supply of Malta 1940-42
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