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18-24 October 1942: Malta Key to El Alamein Offensive

24 Oct

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“The rugged and indomitable courage of the people of Malta have been an inspiration and encouragement to the Empire.”                                                                                                                                    Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet Admiral Sir John Tovey announcing a gift of £1755 from the Home Fleet to the Malta Relief Fund

18 October 1942: Petrol Running Out

Troops use cycles to save petrol (NWMA Malta)

Military chiefs met today in Valletta to discuss how to manage the rapidly decreasing fuel supplies on the Island.  Officers from all Army units were called to attend a Petrol Economy Conference held at the Castille.  With no immediate prospect of a convoy reaching Malta, the conference focused on ways of rationing fuel use in order to conserve existing stocks.  All possible methods of saving petrol were discussed and several measures decided on, which will be put into operation immediately.

THREE AXIS SUPPLY SHIPS HIT IN RAF AND NAVY ATTACKS

This afternoon a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire sighted two merchant vessels with a 5-6000 ton tanker and one 3-4000 ton merchant vessel with seven destroyers to the west of Sicily, heading southwards.  Two Swordfish and one Albacore aircraft were despatched to make a night attack but failed to locate the primary target.  They came upon a single merchant vessel of 4-5000 tons 40 miles north west of Pantelleria and attacked with a single torpedo, scoring a direct hit on the stern.  The merchantman was last seen down by the stern and going round in circles.

Reconnaissance aircraft also spotted the merchant vessel which was attacked last Wednesday night, beached near Homs.  A Swordfish and an Albacore were despatched to make another attack.  The Albacore launched one torpedo by the light of flares dropped by the Swordfish but bad visibility prevented the observation of results.

In another offensive mission tonight, four Wellingtons of 69 Squadron Luqa were despatched to attack an 8000 ton tanker escorted by two destroyers, 50 miles east of Point Stilo.  Three Wellingtons found the convoy and attacked, one torpedo hitting the tanker’s port bow and causing a red flash.  Four 500 lb and two 1000 lb bombs were also dropped but the results were not observed.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 OCTOBER TO DAWN 19 OCTOBER 1942

Weather   Fog over the sea in the morning; light showers morning and evening.

0622-1010 hrs  Two Hurricanes Royal Navy Air Service search off Grand Harbour for a missing dinghy but find nothing.

0701-0738 hrs  Air raid alert for about 50 enemy fighters approaching the Island, escorting seven bombers.  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept.  Six ME 109s engage them, splitting up the Squadron formation.  P/O Reid probably destroys one ME 109.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled to intercept: F/Sgt Mortimer (126 Squadron) destroys one ME 109.  The enemy bombers turn back while still 15 miles north of the Island and only the fighters come near, some crossing the coast.  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali attempt to intercept the fighters, which evade combat.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.  One Spitfire is damaged in combat: pilot unhurt.

1006-1106 hrs  Air raid alert for 35 enemy fighters including a four bomb-carrying ME 109s approaching the Island.  The raid probably includes some JU 88s which turn back before reaching Malta.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa, eight Spitfires Hal Far and seven of 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept but do not engage the enemy.  Three ME 109s drop six high explosive bombs on Ta Qali aerodrome.

1124-1158 hrs  Air raid alert for an approaching formation of 15 enemy fighters and fighter bombers.  Seven Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled to intercept.  Bombs are dropped on Luqa, Ta Salib and San Christu Church area.  Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1335-1430 hrs  Air raid alert for 20 plus enemy fighters and fighter bombers which approach the Island but do not cross the coast.  Six Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept and attack two ME 109s: S/Ldr Stephens damages one.  There are reports that the fighter bombers break off and return home before reaching Malta.

1547-1701 hrs  Air raid alert for 75 plus enemy fighters including some fighter bombers which cross the coast in small groups.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron and eight 126 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: Sgt Hamilton 1435 Squadron damages one ME 109.  Eight Spitfires Hal Far, plus four 229 Squadron and eight of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are also scrambled but do not engage.  Bombs are dropped on Gharghur and Qrendi strip, and on Luqa, damaging one Wellington on the ground.  Ack Ack fire: no claims.  One Spitfire of 126 Squadron crashes in a field near Gharghur: the pilot P/O Stevenson is killed.

1836-1936 hrs; 2101-2124 hrs; 2227-2258 hrs; 2347-0027 hrs; 0144-0312 hrs; 0350-0450 hrs  Air raid alerts for a total of 12 enemy bombers of which 9 cross the coast.  Anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries are dropped on Qawra Point, Birkirkara, Hamrun, the Dockyard and Floriana, and in the sea.  Two civilians are killed and three injured in Fleur de Lys.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.  HQ Company and billets of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment are sprayed with anti-personnel bombs.  Three Beaufighters 89 Squadron are airborne on intercept patrols. One Beaufighter sights an enemy aircraft which takes evasive action and escapes.  One Beaufighter on patrol over Sicily attacks and damages a JU 88 over Gerbini.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer James Stevenson, Royal Canadian Air Force, 126 Squadron, RAF.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Anthony Camilleri, age 40; Carmela Gatt, age 45; Paul Parlar, age 62; Doris Spiteri, age 8; Maria Carmela Spiteri, age 6; George Zammit, age 8.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 18 OCTOBER 1942

P 211 HMS Safari

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept P 211 to sea.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar; one Liberator from LG 224.  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; one DC3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire damaged in combat crash-landed: pilot uninjured.  One Spitfire crashed: pilot killed.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Spitfire was despatched on a search for enemy shipping from Messina to Cape Rizzuto.  One Baltimore was despatched to search for enemy shipping off the Greek coast.  One Spitfire was despatched on search for enemy shipping Cape Spartevento to Cape Rizzo.  One Spitfire was despatched on photo-reconnaissance of Sicilian harbours and aerodromes.

10th HEAVY ACKACK REGIMENT, ROYAL ARTILLERY  2/Lt W J Healy was wounded in action at XHE 25.

10th Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  D Company takes over guard duties of Wardia crossroads.

19 October 1942: Booby-Trapped Cluster Bombs on Malta

Butterfly bomb

A Sapper of Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal narrowly escaped being blown up today when he encountered a new type of anti-personnel bomb.  The Bomb Disposal Section was called out to deal with a number of unexploded German 2kg ‘butterfly’ bombs which have become all too familiar across the Island since June.  The Sapper was following normal procedure to check whether or not the bomb was armed when he noted the fuze number which was 67, instead of the normal 41.  Instead of going ahead and dealing with the bomb, he withdrew and reported the different fuze number to his Sergeant.

The action would save his life and those of his squad.  The Type 67 is a delayed-action fuze: it can be set to blow the bomb at any time from five to thirty minutes after it falls.  The bomb can kill up to 25 metres away and injure anyone within 150 metres.  Although in this case the maximum time had passed, like any clockwork mechanism, if this one had merely jammed any movement could restart the clock – and then there is no way of knowing how long it has left to run.

From now on, butterfly bombs can no longer be considered relatively harmless if left undisturbed.  Any number of them might explode at random, triggering others within range.  The public has been told about the new hazard and warned to stay well clear of any suspect objects.  With at least thirty reports of unexploded butterfly bombs today alone across civilian and military areas, the RE Bomb Disposal Section is now facing the more complex job of clearing hundreds of potential time bombs.

Adapted from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

AXIS CONVOY CANNOT ESCAPE MALTA-BASED ATTACKS

The convoy intended for attack by Swordfish and Albacore aircraft last night was again located and photographed this morning by a reconnaissance Spitfire from Malta, 35 miles north west of Lampedusa.

Despite very bad weather, two Swordfish and two Albacores were despatched tonight to attempt another attack.  At 2210 hours they located two merchant vessels and five destroyers which had now reached 53 miles south of Lampedusa.  One Swordfish dropped flares allowing the others to launch three torpedoes.  At least one scored a hit on a merchant vessel, producing a flash and a thick cloud of smoke which obscured the results of the other three missiles.

An hour later four Wellingtons found two merchant vessels and three destroyers some 50 miles south of Lampion and attacked with bombs and torpedoes.  At least one 1000 lb bomb scored a hit on a merchantman.  Then at 0328 hours two Swordfish and two Albacores located the tanker and three destroyers, 80 miles north west of Tripoli.  Of two torpedoes fired at the convoy, one was seen to hit the tanker, producing a large green flash.

During the night three more sorties were made by Wellingtons, one dropping two 1000 lb bombs near the merchant ship which had been attacked by Swordfish hours before and was now stationary.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 OCTOBER TO DAWN 20 OCTOBER 1942

Weather   Frequent showers throughout the day, heavy at times during the morning.  Lightning very early.

0622-0730 hrs  One Hurricane Hal Far on a search: nothing seen.

0623-0652 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 plus ME 109 fighter bombers approaching the Island.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept: F/Sgt Scott damages one ME 109.  The remaining fighter bombers cross the coast.  Two ME 109s dive on Hal Far airfield and drop bombs damaging two Hurricane aircraft on the ground.  The runway remains serviceable but 160 gallons of petrol are burned out in a pen.  Ack Ack fire: no claims.

0726-0807 hrs  Air raid alert for 25 enemy fighters which cross the coast on a high sweep.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds: no claims.  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept and see six ME 109s to the south of the Island: the enemy evade combat and flee back to base.

0825-1010 hrs  One Hurricane Hal Far searches for a missing pilot, five miles east of Zonqor, north of Grand Harbour and over St Paul’s Bay 20 miles: nothing seen.

0957-1018 hrs  Air raid alert.  40 plus Italian fighters and ME 109 fighter bombers are reported heading for Malta.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron and seven 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept.  P/O Walton probably destroys one Re 2001.  Eight Spitfires are also scrambled from Hal Far but do not engage.  The raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on the Gharghur area and on Salina Bay between the Salt Pans and Salina Battery.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1031-1044 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy fighters cross the coast at great height, apparently on reconnaissance.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1200-1217 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 plus enemy fighters including fighter bombers.  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept and attempt to engage four ME 109 fighter bombers: no claims.  Fighter bombers cross the coast and drop bombs on Ta Qali.

1322-1342 hrs  Air raid alert for 20 enemy fighters including fighter bombers which come in and drop bombs on Attard.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.  Eight Spitfires Hal Far are airborne and engage the raiders: Capt Kuhlmann and Sgt Gunstone each damage one ME 109.  One Spitfire is damaged in combat and crash-lands: pilot unhurt.

1457-1527 hrs  Air raid alert for 40 enemy fighters including several fighter bombers heading for the Island.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa, plus four of 229 Squadron and seven of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept but the enemy turn away into cloud cover and evade engagement.  Several raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on Mosta.

1653-1742 hrs  Air raid alert for 40 enemy fighters including ME 109 fighter bombers which drop bombs on the Luqa area and near Mqabba.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.  Eight Spitfires Hal Far plus four Spitfires 229 Squadron and three of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept: the enemy is sighted on several occasions but make use of clouds to evade engagement.

1759-1852 hrs  Air raid alert for an attempted dusk raid by 40 enemy bombers and fighter-bombers which approach the Island in two formations.  Two Beaufighters 89 Squadron Luqa with three Spitfires are scrambled to intercept.  One formation is engaged 25 miles west of the Island by three Malta aircraft which force the bombers to jettison their bombs in the sea.  The same three fighters then intercept the other formation to the east of the Island forcing several to jettison bombs.  Only three bombers cross the coast: one JU 88 is pursued by F/Lt Pring of 89 Squadron and destroyed.  Bombs are dropped on Luqa and Hal Far aerodromes; delayed action bombs high explosive bombs land near Bir Miftuh Church.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

2115 hrs  There is an unconfirmed RDF report of a vessel 063 degrees 13 miles from Fort St Elmo, moving 30 at knots from west to east.

0225-0235 hrs  Air raid alert.  One enemy aircraft approaches to within 20 miles north of the Island and drops flares and bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 19 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe swept in P 35 and P 247.

Coast at Madliena

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Beauforts, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson, one Liberator to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire damaged by enemy action crash-landed: pilot uninjured.

LUQA  2114-0134 hrs  Four Wellingtons 69 Squadron airborne to attack an enemy southbound convoy: one hit with a 1000 lb claimed.  0105-1513 hrs  Five Wellingtons 69 Squadron airborne to attack the same convoy: no hits observed.  One Spitfire and two Baltimors 69 Squadron despatched during the day on reconnaissance.

10th Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  D Company take over guard duties of Qawra Point and Madliena.

20 October 1942: Maltese ‘Spirit of Resistance’ Recognised

From:  Governor (Gen Viscount Gort)                   To:  Secretary of State for the Colonies

During the month ended 20th October, total of 134 alerts, 90 by day, 44 by night.  61 bombing raids, 38 by day, 23 by night.  64 people were killed (28 men, 18 women, 18 children), 63 were seriously injured (19 men, 25 women, 19 children).  128 houses were seriously damaged including (repeat including) 48 in Gozo.

Recent recrudescence of enemy air attacks has if anything tended to raise morale by taking people’s minds off continued privations in the shape of shortage of food and other commodities.  From the outset of the new phase of attacks, it has been clear that the spirit of resistance has not fallen during the lull of the previous few months.

NEWS CORRESPONDENT PRAISES ISLANDERS’ RESILIENCE

A news correspondent in Malta said today that the Islanders are becoming used to the almost continuous roar of planes and detonations of anti-aircraft guns. “The people come out into the streets at night, watch the search lights pick out planes, and urge anti-aircraft gunners to quicken their rate of fire.”

An advertisement appeared in The Times of Malta today inviting applications for vacancies on the staff of a school on the Island – one for classics and the other for mathematics and science.

MALTA TROOPS PRACTISE SEABORNE LANDINGS

The General Officer Commanding Troops in Malta attended an exercise today held by 2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment.  The Battalion were demonstrating the results of recent training, particularly practice landings from motor launches.  The GOC also watched an exercise by 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment practising assault course techniques.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 OCTOBER TO DAWN 21 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Frequent showers throughout the day.  Thunder and lightning very late evening.

0640-0711 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 enemy aircraft including fighters and fighter bombers approaching the Island.  Six Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept but sight nothing.  Eight Spitfires Hal Far are airborne on patrol at 21000 feet east of the Island but do not locate the enemy.  The raiders take advantage of 100 per cent cloud cover at 7-8000 feet to cross the coast and drop four bombs on Ta Qali aerodrome.  The airfield’s anti-aircraft gunners open fire, damaging one ME 109.

Wardija

0700 hrs  Two ME 109s machine-gun St Paul’s Bay.  Wardia Observation Post reports seeing a ME 109 attack and machine-gun a Gozo boat.

0910-0950 hrs  One Spitfire 249 Squadron is airborne to act as escort to a submarine: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1106-1150 hrs  Air raid alert for 25 enemy fighters which approach the Island in small groups, taking advantage of cloud cover.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept: no engagement.  ME 109 fighter bombers drop four bombs on the Safi end of Luqa runway, causing craters, and near St Nicola Church.  One Spitfire 1435 Squadron is damaged in combat: pilot unhurt.

1415-1426 hrs  Air raid alert as a small number of raiders approach to within 18 miles of the Island and then recede.  Four Spitfires Hal Far are airborne on patrol to the west of the Island and Grand Harbour as cover to incoming aircraft: no engagement.

1700-1805 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled on intercept patrol: no sightings.

Military casualties   Gunner Paul Busuttil, 2nd Heavy Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Private Vincent Casha, Malta Pioneer Group, Malta Territorial Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 20 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P 42 swept in by Speedy, having been met and escorted by two Motor Launches. P 42 claimed hits on two merchant vessels in convoy: her batteries were damaged by an accurate depth charge attack.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two BEauforts, one Liberator, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  one Hudson to Gibraltar; one Beaufort to Shallufa; two Beauforts to LG 224.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron despatched on a search near Lampedusa for enemy shipping attacked last night.  One Baltimore 69 Squadron sent on photographic reconnaissance Cotrone Harbour.

21 October 1942: Malta Blitz Fails To Stop Sinking of Axis Supplies

Submarines of the Malta flotilla has sunk three enemy merchant vessels in recent days and damaged several others.  The submarine successes follow a week in which the Island’s air forces have launched eleven attacks on enemy convoys attempting to supply Axis troops in North Africa.

It is clear that despite his renewed heavy bombardment of the Island Kesselring has failed to stop its forces interrupting enemy supply lines.  Combined attacks from Allied aircraft and submarines based on both sides of the Mediterranean have halted fuel tankers, caused merchant ships to turn back and sent tons of supplies crucial to Rommel’s war effort to the bottom of the sea.

Ack Ack at Work

ARTILLERY ORDERED: HOLD FIRE TO SAVE AMMO

Gun positions are still restricted to 15 rounds per gun despite the recent increased enemy activity.  Artillery commanders have ordered every gun position to reserve fire for good targets.  At the same time they urge positions which get a good target to ‘engage it hotly’.

QUESTIONS IN PARLIAMENT

Mr William Thorne (MP for West Ham Plaistow) today asked the Secretary of State for Air in the House of Commons how many times Malta had been raided; how many people have been killed, the amount of property damaged and the number of aeroplanes brought down since the declaration of war.  Sir Archibald Sinclair replied: “Up to 19th October there have been 1,660 bombing attacks on Malta, and 1,069 enemy aircraft have been destroyed. I understand that, up to 20th September, 1,386 civilians had been killed and 6,704 buildings destroyed or damaged.”

Commander Sir Archibald Southby, MP for Epsom then asked whether in view of what he had said he does not think it necessary in the interests of the people of Malta, to hit Italy from the air.  The Secretary of State answered:  “We have been hitting Italy from the air, and we shall go on hitting Italy.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 OCTOBER TO DAWN 22 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  A showery day: thunderstorm and heavy shower early.

0703-0735 hrs  Air raid alert as 15 ME 109s including fighter bombers approach the Island.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept: P/O Walton damages one ME 109.  The remaining raiders use cloud cover to drop bombs on the Safi strip and Gudja.  One high explosive lands in Tal Liebru and four on Xlejli.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

0847-0915 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 German and Italian fighters including seven ME 109 fighter bombers heading for Malta.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept but are unable to engage. The raiders cross the coast and drop bombs near Siggiewi and on the Safi runway, damaging one aircraft on the ground and one motor transport vehicle.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

0930-1030 hrs  Air raid alert as 25 German and Italian raiders including fighter bombers approach the Island.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron are scrambled to join the eight of 126 Squadron still airborne from the previous raid.  P/O Walton destroys one Macchi 202.  Bombs are dropped on Luqa and Ta Kandia.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

18 pounder gun

1126 hrs  Air raid alert as 15 enemy aircraft including Re 2001s and ME 109s approach the Island.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no claims.  The raiders launch a dive-bombing attack on Qawra Tower post which returns fire.  Bombs land on the searchlight position and the 18 pounder gun position.

1254-1354 hrs  Air raid alert for 40 plus enemy raiders approaching the Island under cloud cover.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no claims.  Bombs are dropped from a great height on Ta Qali.

1530-1605 hrs  Air raid alert: 25 enemy fighters including fighter bombers drop bombs 10-15 miles north of Gozo.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept but see no raiders: none cross the coast.

0435-0515  Air raid alert.  Four enemy aircraft approach and recede within five miles of Grand Harbour, dropping all bombs in the sea.  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron is airborne and damages one HE 111 north of the Island.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 21 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe swept P 247 and P 35 to sea, and escorted P 37 and P 211: the latter reported having sunk one southbound ship east of Pantelleria and P 37 two hits on a southbound merchant vessel.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One DC3 from LG 224; two Wellingtons from Shallufa; one Beaufort from Gibraltar. Departures  One Liberator, one Hudson to Gibraltar; two Beauforts to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington overshot runway on landing; undercarriage collapsed: crew uninjured.

LUQA  One Beaufighter 69 Squadron despatched on shipping search near Greek Islands and photographed shipping in Corfu harbour.  One Spitfire 69 Squadron despatched and photographed Navarino and Tripoli.

TA QALI  229 and 249 Squadrons stood down.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  During period 15-21 October the Battalion has found two impressed lorries, one motorcycle and five other ranks for work on Hal Far aerodrome.  During the hours of daylight two twin Lewis guns have been manned for anti-aircraft defence of the Safi strip.

22 October 1942: Luftwaffe Crew Captured After 3 Days Adrift

RAF Air Sea Rescue Launch

The pilot and crew of a JU 88 bomber were rescued today after three days adrift in a dinghy off the coast of Malta.  The bomber was taking part in a dusk air raid on Monday evening when it was shot down by Flight Lieutenant Pring of 89 Squadron and ditched in the sea.  The crew managed to bail out and get into their dinghy.

Two hours later an enemy search and rescue vessel was spotted searching for the crew but did not find them.  The dinghy was left drifting helplessly until it was spotted today and the RAF Rescue Launch set out in pursuit.  All four crew members survived and were taken prisoner.  They have been named as pilot Oberleutnant Ernst Neuffer, age 27, wireless operator Unteroffizier Fritz Hinterberg (21) and crew members Unteroffizier Hans Ehrentraut (28) and 24 year old Unteroffizier Joseph Stern.

TROOPS BACK TO FULL STRENGTH ON AIRFIELDS                

The number of Army personnel has returned to its former high levels following the recent air raids.  1000 men are now working daily on the aerodromes, repairing pens and filling craters to keep runways open following air attacks.  So far during the recent blitz none of the airfields has been unserviceable for more than a few minutes.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 OCTOBER TO DAWN 23 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Fair to fine.

0714-0748 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 enemy fighters including ME 109 fighter bombers heading for Malta.  Eight Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept but encounter no enemy aircraft.  The raiders cross the coast at great height taking advantage of cloud cover and drop bombs on Hamrun and Birkirkara, damaging property and causing civilian casualties.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

0935-1039 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 ME 109s and Macchi 202s including fighter bombers approaching Malta.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept: F/Lt McLeod destroys one Macchi 202.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are also scrambled to intercept: F/Lt McElroy and P/O Lowrey destroy one ME 109; P/O Sanderson destroys one Macchi 202; S/Ldr Woods probably destroys one ME 109 and damages one; Sgt Stead damages one ME 109 and one Macchi 202.  The remaining raiders drop bombs on the Ta Qali and Mosta areas.

1120-1220 hrs  Air raid alert for 25 enemy fighters and fighter bombers approaching the Island.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept: no claims.  The raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa, Ta Qali and Hal Far.  Heavy Ack Ack fire and also Light Ack Ack who destroy one ME 109.

1343-1401 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of enemy fighters approaching the Island.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but see nothing.  The enemy is believed to have turned back.

1512-1619 hrs  Air raid alert for 60 German and Italian fighters escorting fighter bombers towards the Island.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: Sgt Brown and P/O Walton each damage two Macchi 202s.  Eight Spitfires are also scrambled from Hal Far but are unable to gain sufficient height to engage.  Many fighter bombers jettison their bombs in the sea.  Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are also airborne but see nothing.  About half of the raiders cross the coast in cloud cover: fighter bombers drop bombs near Luqa and Kirkop.  Heavy Ack Ack engage: no claims.

Military casualties  William Osborne, Foreman of Stokers, HM Dockyard.

Civilian casualties  Hamrun  Carmel Calleja, age 37; Mary Calleja, age 11; Anthony Debono, age 54; Carmela Debono, age 42; Alfred Fenech, age 73; Alfred Muscat, age 4; Jennie Scerri, age 17; Filippa Whiddatt, age 12.  St Julian’s  Carmela Sciberras, age 56.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 22 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept P 44 in from patrol.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Beaufighter from Gibraltar.  Departures  One DC3 to LG 224; one Wellington to Shallufa.

LUQA  One Baltimore 69 Squadron despatched on shipping search along the Greek coast.  One Spitfire 69 Squadron despatched on photo-reconnaissance of Taranto and Brindisi.  Three special Wellingtons 69 Squadron, one carrying bombs and two carrying torpedoes, despatched to attack an enemy tanker sighted by a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire.  All aircraft returned owing to severe electrical storms which make it impossible to locate or attack the convoy.

23 October 1942: Battle For El Alamein Has Begun

Night offensive begins at El Alamein (c) IWM E18467

At 9.40 this evening a four hour Allied ground and air bombardment began targeting Rommel’s forces at El Alamein.  As the shelling subsided, ground troops and armoured divisions began their advance across Axis minefields.  The offensive follows weeks of attacks on enemy supply convoys, designed to weaken Axis troops and reduce their firepower.

LUFTWAFFE BOMBERS STAYING AWAY

Observers report that no JU 88 bombers or other twin-engined aircraft have approached Malta since Monday.  Enemy air raids are now confined to ‘tip and run’ attacks by heavily escorted fighter bombers.  However, the poor weather since Monday has worked to the raiders’ advantage, giving the agile ‘Jabos’ the advantage of cloud from which to launch attacks and escape.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 OCTOBER TO DAWN 24 OCTOBER 1942

Weather   Showers.

0630-0736 hrs  Air raid alert as 35 enemy aircraft including ME 109 fighter bombers approach the Island in four quick raids.  Eight Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept: Sgt Saunders destroys one ME 109, F/Lt Charney damages another.  F/O Lindsay’s Spitfire is shot down and he is killed.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled to intercept: no claims.  Bombs are dropped near St Paul’s Bay, and on Mosta and Imtarfa.  Light Ack Ack guns destroy one ME 109.

0830-0910 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 fighters and fighter bombers which fly round the east of the island.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: Sgt Marshall damages one ME 109.  The raiders then recede.

1010-1038 hrs  Air raid alert.  30 enemy fighters including fighter bombers approach the Island. Three ME 109 fighter bombers drop high explosive bombs on the south east side of the runway at Ta Qali, and on Mosta, damaging property and wounding one civilian.  Eight fighter bombers drop bombs near Zurrieq village and on St Nicola and Kirkop areas.  Malta fighters are airborne and engage, damaging two ME 109s.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1240-1301 hrs  Air raid alert.  15 enemy fighters approach the Island at great height.  While fighters strafe the airfield with machine guns, three ME 109 fighter bombers dive down and drop six high explosive bombs on the Ta Qali dispersal area.  Malta fighters are airborne; no engagements.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1559-1622 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 enemy aircraft approach Malta.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron and four 126 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no claims.  The raiders do not cross the coast.

2210-2300 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron is airborne to intercept reported enemy raiders which turn back 35 miles from Malta: no sighting.

Military casualties  Flight-Lieutenant Alec Lindsay, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Michael Sultana, age 73; Carmelina Grech, age 9.

Enemy casualties  Unteroffizier Heribert Wagner, pilot of a Messerschmitt BF 109 fighter, shot down and killed.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 23 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Una returned from patrol and was swept in by Hythe.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Hudsons, two Liberators from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire crashed on land while in combat: pilot killed.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron despatched on photo-reconnaissance of Taranto and Brindisi.  One Spitfire 69 Squadron sent to search for enemy shipping along the west coast of Greece.

24 October 1942: Rations To Be Cut Again

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING 24 OCTOBER 1942

From:  Governor & C in C Malta               To:  C in C Middle East              Rptd:  The War Office

1.  Enemy now forced to use fighters or fighter bombers only.  RAF have maintained superiority over Island and little damage done.  Air and submarine offensive against enemy convoys maintained.

Raider over Grand Harbour

2.  During daylight. 37 alerts.  Dusk 19 October 40 bombers approached intercepted by six Spitfires.  Three crossed coast rest jettisoned bombs in the sea.  Two JU 88s destroyed.  Remaining alerts each few fighter bombers heavily escorted.  Total 500 Spitfire sorties against 1245 enemy sorties.  Nine fighters destroyed, four probably destroyed, sixteen damaged by RAF.  Four ME 109s destroyed by Lt Ack Ack, two damaged by small arms.  Only three Spitfires destroyed, four damaged.

3.  By night.  Eight alerts.  18 aircraft approach, 13 crossed coast.  Bombs scattered localities.  Beaufighters damaged one JU 88, one HE 111.

4.  Offensive.  Total five Swordfish, five Albacore, eight Wellington sorties against enemy convoys.  Result one Tanker, two merchant vessels hit by torpedoes, one merchant vessel hit by 1000 lb bomb.  Other results unobserved due to bad weather.  Submarines have also been very successful recently.

5.  Admin.  Further economies in motor transport fuel have cut out all mobile training.  Army now existing on less than 4000 gallons petrol per week.  Rations being slightly further reduced on 1st November but calorific value unchanged.  Winter accommodation suffering from lack of petrol and materials.

6.  Military damage negligible; casualties five Other Ranks wounded.

7.  Many unexploded bombs disposed of including 200 anti-personnel and large number of German 1 kg incendiaries.  New type delayed action Butterfly anti-personnel bomb fuze 67 already reported separately.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 OCTOBER TO DAWN 25 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Mainly fine.

0635-0740 hrs  Air raid alert.  40 enemy aircraft approach the Island in a series of fighter bomber raids.  The bombers dive to attack Ta Qali and Luqa aerodromes, damaging one aircraft on the ground and injuring three airmen.  Malta fighters are airborne: no engagements.  One ME 109 is destroyed by Light Anti Aircraft fire.

1011-1038 hrs  Air raid alert for 20 enemy fighters and fighter bombers approaching at great height.  Four Spitfires from Hal Far and eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept: no claims.  The raiders cross the coast at height and drop bombs between Luqa and Grand Harbour, on the Mqabba area and the Safi strip, and on Zurrieq.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1300-1348 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 enemy fighters including a few fighter bombers.  Eight Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept: Black Section are jumped by enemy fighters and one Spitfire is shot down: Sgt Saunders is killed.  The fighter bombers drop bombs on the Ta Qali area.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1521 hrs  Air raid alert.  40 ME 109s and Macchi 202s including a few fighter bombers are intercepted by Malta fighters well to the north of the Island.  Bombs are dropped on the Luqa area, damaging one aircraft on the ground.  One ME 109 and one Macchi 202 are destroyed by fighters and one ME 109 probably destroyed.  One Spitfire is damaged in combat and crash-lands: pilot uninjured.

1615 hrs  Enemy fighter bombers attack the RAF Station at Burmarrad.  Three bombs land nearby: one on soft ground fails to explode.  Another bomb lands near the motor transport drivers’ billet of 2nd Bn King’s Own Malta Regiment, destroying the ablution facility.  Bombs also explode near their defence posts causing slight shock to ten men manning the posts.

1629 hrs  All clear.

2109-2154 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa is airborne on patrol: no sightings.

Military casualties  Private Philip Kanter, Royal Army Medical Corps, No 90 General Hospital;  Sergeant Raymond Saunders, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 24 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P 247 returned and was swept in by Speedy.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two DC3 from LG 224; two Beauforts from Gibraltar.  Departures  Two Hudsons, two Liberators to Gibraltar; two Beauforts, one DC3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down by enemy fighters: pilot killed.  One Spitfire damaged by enemy action: pilot injured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 54.  Dealt with: High Explosives 13 including 3 with unmarked delayed-action fuzes (4 x 250kg, 10 x 50kg); 1 Italian anti-personnel bomb container; 357 anti-personnel bombs; 5 oil incendiaries.

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed.  For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com

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1 Comment

Posted by on October 24, 2012 in 1942, October 1942, Uncategorized

 

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One response to “18-24 October 1942: Malta Key to El Alamein Offensive

  1. John Ernst Bradac

    June 19, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    October 22, 1942 was the day Oberleutnant Ernst Neuffer was captured. Ernst was married to my Grandmother’s sister, Emmy. Ernst was released from a Canadian POW camp and moved back to Germany. My Grandfather was a Command Sergeant Major in the US Army and fought in WWII, where he met my Grandmother. Years after the War, Ernst and John Victor Bradac, My Grandpa, became close as Brothers. Thank you for documenting Ernst’s crash and survival. It means a lot to this family that had ties to both sides of the Great War.

     

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