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“Malta is filled with admiration for the gallant efforts made to pass the convoy to the Island. We thank you and are most grateful.” Lord Gort to Chief of Naval Staff, Admiralty
WHILE MALTA CELEBRATES SANTA MARIJA CONVOY, COMMANDERS FACE SHORTFALL
While the Island continues to celebrate the arrival of supply ships and the oil tanker Ohio, behind the scenes Malta’s commanders are weighing up the real impact, if any, the delivery will have on rations and military operations. The fuel off-loaded from Ohio will undoubtedly enable Malta’s air and submarine forces to defend the Island while mounting renewed attacks on enemy convoys.
At the same time, the Governor faces the hard fact that the food and general supplies delivered last week are only enough to extend Malta’s survival for a further three months. Perhaps the greatest benefit of Operation Pedestal for the Maltese and the military garrison, is improved morale, as they now feel less isolated from their allies far beyond the Mediterranean. It is hoped that these raised spirits will carry them through the undoubted further hardships to come.
SEAMEN REMEMBER LOST COMRADES
“We were escorting the damaged Indomitable back to Gibraltar. A typical Mediterranean evening, the sea flat calm, the sun still high in a clear blue sky and the silence was sheer bliss after the deafening clangour of the previous few days. Suddenly we could feel the ship losing speed, the flag was lowered to half-mast and our attention drawn to Indomitable. From the stern of the ship we could see bundles toppling into the sea as ‘Indom’ buried her dead. There were some 50 of them – a sight that remains vivid in my memory to this day.” L Myers, HMS Rodney, WW2 People’s War (1)
16 August: A Day Without Warning
AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 AUGUST TO DAWN 17 AUGUST 1942
Weather Fine: visibility 10-15 miles.
0810-0905 hrs Two Spitfires 249 Squadron and two of 229 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.
0945-0955 hrs Two Spitfires 229 Squadron on patrol: one had an oil leak and radio transmission was not working so they returned.
1045-1145 hrs; 1100-1210 hrs; 1105-1235 hrs; 1115-1230 hrs Patrols by three to eight Spitfires 229 and 249 Squadrons: no sightings.
PM Two patrols carried out by four Spitfires from Hal Far per patrol.
1700-1810 hrs; 1800-1910 hrs Two Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol at a time: nothing sighted.
1820-1918 hrs Eight Spitfires from Hal Far patrolled at 16000 feet between Grand Harbour and Gozo.
1900-2005 hrs; 1950-2030 hrs Two Spitfires 229 then two of 249 Squadron on patrol: nothing sighted. The second patrol returned early due to low cloud.
Military casualties Nil. Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 16 AUGUST 1942
ROYAL NAVY Three Albacores of Naval Air Squadron searched without success for a merchant vessel reported to the north west of Malta.
AIR HQ Departures Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; one Liberator to Fayid.
17 August: Navy Thanks RAF For Convoy Protection
The following is a précis of a message sent by the Royal Navy to RAF HQ Malta: “The Navy are loud in their praise of the assistance given to the convoy by our fighter aircraft often operating under difficult circumstances. They engaged and destroyed a great number of enemy aircraft and greatly contributed to reducing the scale of attack.”
NEW SPITFIRE DELIVERY
AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 AUGUST TO DAWN 18 AUGUST 1942
Weather Fine; visibility 10-15 miles
0815-0920 hrs; 0820-0855 hrs; 0925-1003 hrs Four Spitfires at a time of 229 and 249 Squadrons Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.
1205-1240 hrs Air raid alert. Six Spitfires from Hal Far (two of Green Section) are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy fighters. P/O Stenborg and Sgt Weaver jumps nine ME 109s. Sgt Weaver shoots down two enemy aircraft and P/O Stenborg shoots down one, before being shot down himself by a ME 109. He bales out and is picked up by the High Speed Launch.
Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are despatched to cover the arrival of Spitfires: no enemy action.
1300-1350 hrs; 1345-1430 hrs; 1510-1610 hrs; 1600-1710 hrs Two Spitfires at a time of 229 and 249 Squadrons on patrol: no sightings.
PM 185 Squadron Hal Far fly 16 sorties over shipping in Grand Harbour.
1757-1810 hrs Air raid alert. Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept reported enemy raiders: no sightings.
2000 hrs Penn, Bramham, and Ledbury sailed for Gibraltar.
2320-2350 hrs Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which do not cross the coast; all bombs are dropped in the sea.
Military casualties Flight Sergeant Eugene Connell, Royal Canadian Air Force, 204 Squadron; Sergeant William Davis Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 204 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Edward Jackman, Royal Air Force, 204 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Walter Maconnell, Royal Canadian Air Force, 204 Squadron.
Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 17 AUGUST 1942
ROYAL NAVY Beauforts escorted by Beaufighters attacked an escorted merchant vessel west of Linosa and obtained one torpedo hit. This ship was subsequently sunk by [submarine] P 44, the force of the explosion being so great as to necessitate the submarine returning to Malta for repairs. [Submarine] P 42 was swept into Marsamxett by Hebe.
AIR HQ 1600 hrs Six Beauforts 86 Squadron escorted by five Beaufighters 252 and 235 Squadrons, and four long-range Spitfires 126 Squadron, attacked a convoy of two destroyers and one 7000 ton merchant vessel, patrolled by four JU 88s and two enemy fighters, in position 280 degrees Lampedusa, 35 miles. Two torpedo hits were scored on the merchant vessel which was left stationary, pouring white smoke and down by the stern. Two Beaufighters dropped four 250lb [semi-armour-piercing] bombs, scoring one direct hit on the stern of the merchant vessel. Beaufighters and Beauforts also attached the merchant vessel and other merchant craft with machine-gun and cannon fire. During the attack, one JU 88 and one enemy fighter were probably destroyed. Photographs confirm that the merchant vessel has been sunk.
Arrivals One Beaufort, one Hudson from Gibraltar; 29 Spitfires from Naval operation. Departures 17 Maryland to Abu Sueir; three Baltimores to LG 98; one Spitfire to Kilo 8; one Liberator to Fayid. Aircraft casualties One Wellington crashed on aerodrome: crew uninjured. One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot rescued uninjured. One Spitfire hit an obstruction on landing: pilot uninjured.
18 August: Malta’s Squadrons Praised For Attacks
“The Air Officer Commanding sends congratulations to Nos 217, 235, 126 and 1435 Squadrons for their successful attack on enemy convoy on 17 August 1942. This was a fine example of good team-work between Beauforts, Beaufighters and Spitfires.” Re-armed and refuelled thanks to the arrival of the recent convoy, Malta’s RAF Squadrons last night resumed their attacks on Axis convoys through the Mediterranean, with considerable success. With the battle for control of the Middle East again reaching a critical point, Malta can resume its key role as a base for disrupting the supply of Rommel’s forces in North Africa.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 AUGUST TO DAWN 19 AUGUST 1942
Weather Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.
Day Spitfires from Hal Far made eight patrol sorties over Grand Harbour.
0815-0850 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft. Sgt Beurling reports seeing five hostile fighters, not seen by the other pilots: no contact made.
1045-1155 hrs; 1135-1230 hrs; 1215-1315 hrs; 1300-1415 hrs; 1400-1515 hrs Two Spitfires 229 and 249 Squadrons at a time are airborne on patrol: nothing sighted.
1525-1630 hrs; 1550-1634 hrs Four Spitfires 229 Squadron at a time are scrambled to intercept reported enemy aircraft: no sightings.
1650-1715 hrs Air raid alert. Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron scrambled to intercept approaching fighters see six ME 109s above them, among some flak: no combat. F/Lt Woods’ aircraft has a malfunctioning wing flap and lands at Luqa; he is unhurt.
2230-2245 hrs; 0035-0042 hrs Air raid alerts. One enemy aircraft which comes to within 25 miles of Gozo and drops bombs in the sea.
Military casualties Nil. Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 18 AUGUST 1942
AIR HQ Arrivals Four Beauforts, one Hudson from Gibraltar. Departures One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Baltimore to LG 98; one Beaufighter to EDCU; four Beauforts to LG 224.
19 August: Gort Flies to Cairo to Meet PM Churchill
His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief Viscount Gort flew to Cairo today to report in person to the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, on the state of things in Malta following the arrival of the Operation Pedestal convoy. To cover the Governor’s absence, Vice Admiral, Malta is appointed as his Deputy.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 AUGUST TO DAWN 20 AUGUST 1942
Weather Fine: little or no cloud, increasing later; visibility 10-15 miles. Wind light, variable, becoming east south east, moderate.
0955-1030 hrs Air raid alert for twelve approaching enemy fighters. Two groups of four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept; two aircraft return early. The others sight three ME 109s above them: no combat.
1005-1050 hrs Two Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali patrol over a minesweeper: nothing to report.
1100-1205 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol: no sightings.
1150-1305 hrs Enemy aircraft are reported heading for the Islands. Two Spitfires are scrambled to intercept but the raid does not approach.
1749-1907 hrs Seven Spitfires from Hal Far patrol north of St Paul’s Bay and Gozo: nothing sighted.
2315-2320 hrs Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which drop bombs in the sea north of Gozo.
Military casualties Private William Kelly, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment.
Civilian casualties Birkirkara Gaetan Mansueto, age 40.
OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 19 AUGUST 1942
ROYAL NAVY Rye swept Una and P 44 into harbour.
AIR HQ Arrivals Two DC3 from Bilbeis; Four Beauforts, one Hudson from Gibraltar. Departures One Hudson to Gibraltar; two Beauforts to Shandur; six Beauforts, one DC3 to LG 224. Aircraft casualties One Beaufort engine failed; forced to land: crew uninjured. One Beaufort shot down into the sea while on shipping strike:crew missing.
20 August: Air Crews are Lucky Survivors
One Beaufighter of 227 Squadron and one Beaufort of 39 Squadron have been reported lost following the latest attack by Malta air forces on an enemy convoy. They were among a formation of twelve Beauforts and ten Beaufighters 227 Squadron on a mission to bomb a tanker and merchant ship with destroyer escort off Cape Stilo. The two aircraft were hit by flak as the enemy fired barrages to defend their vessels.
The Beaufighter of pilot Warrant Officer Donald Brixo from New Zealand and navigator Sergeant Douglas Paterson crashed into the sea. Flying Officer Peter Roper of Canada was also shot down in his Beaufort; he radioed that he and his observer were injured while the remaining crew were unhurt. Nothing more was heard of them and the crews of both aircraft have been officially reported missing. (2)
Another Beaufighter was shot down today off Kalafrana Bay, killing the Wireless Operator/Observer, Sergeant George Leslie. The pilot, Flying Officer Eyre, survived and was rescued by the High Speed Launch.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 AUGUST TO DAWN 21 AUGUST 1942
Weather Fine: wind south south-east, light to moderate; visibility 10-15 miles.
1005-1020 hrs Air raid alert. Nine Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali and nine of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept a fighter sweep. Sgt Beurling sights two Me 109s but does not engage.
1115-1135 hrs Air raid alert. Eight Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept enemy fighters. They sight four ME 109s at 24000 feet, ten miles north of Grand Harbour: no engagement.
1520-1535 hrs Air raid alert. Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron and eight Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept reported enemy aircraft (two of 229 return early): no sightings.
1715-1820 hrs; 1955-2035 hrs Four and two Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.
Military casualties Sergeant George Leslie, 227 Beaufighter Squadron; Private Walter Wade, 8th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster).
Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 20 AUGUST 1942
ROYAL NAVY Smoke was made for one large [enemy] formation approaching, but no attack materialized. 705 of QBB 273 searched by 17th Minesweeping Flotilla.
AIR HQ Twelve Beauforts 39 Squadron escorted by ten Beaufighters 227 Squadron, six carrying bombs, attacked a convoy comprising five destroyers, one 8000 ton tanker and one small merchant vessel, escorted by one Cant Z501 and six single-engined fighters in position 180 degrees Cape Stilo four miles, course 040 degrees, speed 5-10 knots. It was estimated that the tanker was fully laden and had a draft of 22-24 feet. Torpedoes were released with a 22 ft setting but no hits were seen on the tanker.
Explosions were, however, seen some distance from the convoy to port, but these may have been caused by bombs. It is now believed that the tanker was not fully laden at the time of the attack and had a much smaller draft than originally anticipated. This may have been why no strikes were made, as torpedoes were seen to run well.
Four Beaufighters dropped seven 250lb [semi-armour-piercing] bombs, scoring one possible hit on the stern of a destroyer. The tanker and other craft were also raked with machine-gun and cannon fire. A small pilot vessel was sunk by cannon fire a quarter of a mile ahead of the convoy. One Macchi 200 and the Cant Z501 were damaged.
Arrivals One Beaufort from Gibraltar. Departures One Hudson to Gibraltar; two Beauforts to LG 224. Aircraft casualties One Beaufighter crashed into the sea: pilot rescued; Wireless Operator/Observer missing, believed killed. One Beaufort and one Beaufighter believed hit by enemy flak while on shipping strike: Beaufighter observed crashing into the sea; both crews missing. One Beaufort hit by enemy flak while on shipping strike: pilot and A/Observer injured; rest of crew uninjured.
21 August: Oil Tanker Disabled in RAF Attack
RAF bombers have stopped a major delivery of fuel to Rommel’s forces in North Africa. This was the second attempt by Malta Beauforts and Beaufighters to disrupt the enemy convoy, following an unsuccessful attack yesterday. This time the attackers scored three torpedo hits and two near-misses with bombs on the 8000 ton oil tanker, which was brought to a halt, with oil pouring from both sides. They also destroyed at least five enemy aircraft in the attack. The tanker was later photographed beached in shallow water on the Corfu coast.
TIMES OF MALTA LAUNCHES ‘MALTA CONVOY FUND’
Malta’s leading newspaper today announced the launch of a fund to help the dependants of those killed trying to bring vital supplies to Malta in Operation Pedestal. Subscriptions are already coming in from those keen to express their gratitude for the sacrifice of convoy crews, airmen and gunners who lost their lives in the dangerous mission to relieve the siege. The funds raised will be co-ordinated by the Anglo Maltese League.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 AUGUST TO DAWN 22 AUGUST 1942
1335-1500 hrs Four Spitfires 229 Squadron and four 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept an enemy fighter sweep. Two aircraft of 249 Squadron lose the formation and return early. No enemy aircraft are sighted. The wheel of F/Lt Lovell’s aircraft (229 Squadron) collapses on landing.
1814-1901 hrs Four Spitfires from Hal Far patrol over a homecoming strike force: no interceptions.
Military casualties None named. Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 21 AUGUST 1942
ROYAL NAVY Gibraltar reported the safe arrival of Penn, Ledbury and Bramham.
AIR HQ 1800 hrs The tanker was again attacked by nine Beauforts 39 Squadron, escorted by eight Beaufighters 248 Squadron, and five Beaufighters 229 Squadron carrying bombs. Position 003 degrees Paxos, 12 miles, course 170 degrees, speed 6 knots. Three torpedo hits and two near-misses with bombs were scored on the tanker and a direct hit by a bomb was made on a destroyer. All aircraft also attacked the tanker with machine-gun and cannon fire. The Beaufighter escort shot down two P32s, one JU 52, two BR 20s and probably destroyed a JU 88. Photographs taken after the attack show the tanker to be stationary and oil flowing from both sides of it. Later photos show it to be beached in three fathoms of water in Saiada Bay, Corfu.
Departures Three Beauforts to LG 224; one Beaufort to Shandur. Transit aircraft missing One Beaufort en route from Malta to LG 224. Aircraft casualties One Beaufighter forced down into the sea by enemy action: crew missing. One Beaufort had engine trouble and crashed into the sea: Wireless Operator/Air Gunner slightly injured; rest of crew uninjured. One Beaufighter’s tyre burst: crew uninjured. One Beaufort believed hit by enemy flak, force landed in the sea: crew missing. One Beaufort hit by enemy flak while on shipping strike: Wireless Operator/Air Gunner injured; rest of crew uninjured. One Baltimore;s engine cut on landing: Wireless Operator/Air Gunner and A/Observer injured. One Beaufighter damaged by enemy flak crash-landed: crew injured.
22 August: Convoy 32000 Tons of Supplies but No Ration Increase
From: Governor & C in C Malta To: C in C Middle East Rpt: The War Office
Military situation report for week ending [22 Aug] 1942
1. Unloading convoy almost complete. 32000 tons unloaded, dispersed to and cleared from dumps mainly by army in 8 days. This will provide approx. 3 months additional food at present reduced ration scale. Slight increase in civilian bread ration may be possible; Army bread ration already increased one ounce to compensate shortage potatoes. Certain variety items received will make Army rations less monotonous but no major alteration practicable. Further economy in [motor transport] spirit necessary however.
2. No attempt by enemy to attack convoy in harbour. Activity confined to small fighter sweeps. No bombers crossed coast day or night; almost constitutes a record. 3 ME 109s destroyed for loss of one Spitfire.
3. 29 torpedo-carrying Beaufort sorties escorted by bomb-carrying Beaufighters attacked enemy convoys to Libya. One merchant vessel 7000 tons damaged – subsequently sunk by submarine P44. One tanker hit and stopped. Hits or near misses on two destroyers. One Ju 52 and six other aircraft certainly destroyed and five damaged over convoys. Three Beauforts, three Beaufighters missing.
4. Winter accommodation in the form of a simple section hut being built by troops as civil labour used on aerodromes. 1400 Army still working on aerodromes.
5. Military damage and casualties nil.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 AUGUST TO DAWN 23 AUGUST 1942
Weather Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.
1715-1810 hrs Ten Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft: no engagement. One Hurricane force-landed with undercarriage trouble: Pilot S/Lt Elliot unhurt.
Military casualties Flying Officer Norman Adams, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Sergeant George Form, Royal Air Force VR, 202 Squadron; Sergeant Cecil Lee, Royal Air Force, 202 Squadron; Sergeant Alan Morgan, Royal Air Force VR, 202 Squadron.
Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 22 AUGUST 1942
AIR HQ Arrivals One DC3 from LG 224; two Hudsons from Gibraltar. Aircraft casualties One Hurricane in accident on aerodrome: pilot uninjured.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 19. Dealt with: 3 High Explosives, all 250kg, plus 42 anti-personnel bombs.
(1) ‘WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar’
(2) Warrant Officer Donald Brisco and Sergeant Douglas Paterson 227 Squadron and Flying Officer Peter Roper, 39 Squadron, and his crew survived and were taken Prisoners-of-War.
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