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22-28 November 1942: Convoy Brings Only 3 Week Supply as Polio Strikes Malta

28 Nov

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22 November 1942: Malta Troops Stealth Mission to North Africa

ORDERS TO SAIL FOR ‘FRENCH PORT’

HMS Welshman

1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry received orders today to make ready to move tomorrow.  Carrying only fighting-scale equipment, the Battalion are to embark with Royal Engineers and seven detachments of Breda 49mm guns by Welshman and Manxman and one destroyer.  Their destination is top secret, referred to only as ‘a certain port’.

The port in question – believed to be in North Africa – has a population of French, Italian and Maltese, and military planners hope that the British troops will receive a friendly reception.  The plan is to land them from the destroyers’ lifeboats and skiffs instead of the usual military landing craft.  The troops will then aim to persuade the French forces in the port to support the allies, and with their help hold the town until the Battalion could be joined by larger Allied forces advancing on land towards the area.

At 1015 hrs this morning the Commanding Officer of 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry joined a conference at Fortress HQ with captains of the naval ships, Brigade command and Admiral i/c Malta, after which the Battalion’s Platoon Commanders were fully briefed.  Early this evening the CO confirmed that the Battalion was to move in motor transport to the docks at 1230 hrs tomorrow.  Parties were already at the docks and Ordnance Depots, loading up rations, stores and ammunition.

But at 2015 hrs a message was received from the HQ of 4 Brigade cancelling the entire operation.  The reason is as yet unknown.

SUBMARINE DELIVERS THE GOODS

HMS Thrasher

HMS Thrasher arrived in Malta today from Beirut, carrying a cargo of aviation fuel [avgas] as well as stores and passengers.  The submarine’s tanks had been modified to enable her to carry the maximum amount of avgas.  HM Submarine Traveller, which has been similarly adapted and loaded, left Beirut the same day and is expected at Malta tomorrow. The deliveries will help reduce the shortage of the fuel on the Island and keep its air forces operational until a tanker can get through.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 23 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Showery.

No air raid alerts.

0610-0700 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far carry out an anti E-boat patrol off the coast of south east Sicily: nothing sighted.  One Spitfire is hit by machine gunfire from a ME 109 and seen to dive into the sea five miles south west of Pachino, leaving no trace.  F/O Maynard is killed.

0625-1715 hrs  Twenty Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are airborne with other squadrons to provide a standing patrol over Malta: no enemy aircraft seen.

0625-0740 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.

0720-0825 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron patrol over Malta: nothing sighted.

0815-0930 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.

1100-1220 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on patrol: no sightings.

1200-1325 hrs; 1345-1450 hrs; 1440-1540 hrs  Twelve sorties of Spitfires 185 Squadron: nothing sighted.

1500-1620 hrs  Twelve Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne to act as cover for Spitfire bombers but did not make contact.

1515-1615 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne to act as cover for Spitfires and Beaufighters returning from operations: no sightings.

Military casualties  Lance Corporal James Humphreys, 226 Provost Company, Corps of Military Police; Flying Officer Anthony Maynard, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Vincent Sciberras, age 44.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 22 NOVEMBER 1942

HMS Turbulent (L)

ROYAL NAVY  Thrasher was swept in by Hebe, who then swept Turbulent to sea.  Euryalus and ten Hunts sailed for Port Said.

AIR HQ  A message from the Navy:  “Thank you very much for your signal and for the support your fighters gave us.  To have helped Malta in her gallant battle is a great honour.”

Arrivals  Two Beauforts from Gambut; one Hudson from Gibraltar; four Wellingtons from LG 104.  Departures  One Liberator to LG 224; one Hudson to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire crashed in enemy territory: pilot killed.  One Beaufighter crash-landed on aerodrome: crew injured.  One Beaufighter shot down by anti-aircraft fire: crew seen in dinghy.

LUQA  1200-1315 hrs  Three Spitfire bombers 126 Squadron Luqa, escorted by eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron were dispatched to attack Comiso aerodrome: bombs were observed hitting the runway.  No enemy aircraft were seen: all aircraft returned safely.  A total of 10 Beaufighter sorties on reconnaissance patrols:  one Cant Z 506B, two JU 88s and three SM 82s destroyed; one JU 90, one SM 82 damaged; one Beaufighter missing.

Night  Eight Wellington sorties targeted Bizerta docks.  Attacks were successful but hampered by rain and low cloud.  Five special Wellingtons 69 Squadron carrying torpedoes were sent to attack a 5000 ton motor vessel.  F/Lt Dokersley scored a direct hit amidships.  Four Beaufighters were despatched on a low-flying attack on Palermo: one small fire was started.  One Beaufighter is missing, two damaged.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Convoy unloading progressing well: all cargo should be discharged by Wednesday evening.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Bn continues unloading convoy.  One Officer employed at Red Dump.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Convoy unloading proceeding satisfactorily.  Relief party commences work at Pink Dump to give personnel 24 hours leave.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties with additional 6 Officers, 250 Other Ranks as Brigade reserve.

10th Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Working parties at Pink Dump: A and HQ Coys.

23 November 1942: Operation Breastplate 

The secret mission which was planned for today involving units from Durham Light Infantry and the Royal Engineers has been revealed as codename ‘Operation Breastplate’.  The project is the brainchild of American military leaders who have requested help from Malta in securing the north-south coastal corridor in Tunisia as part of Operation Torch.  The target port has been named as Sousse.

Lord Gort

Today Welshman was ordered to disembark the army guns, stores, and extra boats which had been loaded for the operation which was called off last night. It is believed that Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief, Lord Gort, has come out against the plan, doubting its potential to succeed.  He is understood to be concerned at the risk to the Malta-based forces, armed with minimum equipment and weakened by months of severely reduced rations.  Lord Gort has counselled deferral, at least until a full convoy arrives and is unloaded safely in Malta, to strengthen the Island’s forces and replace resources taken up by Breastplate.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 24 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Cloudy; slight rain afternoon and evening.

No air raid alerts.

0625-0720 hrs; 0715-0820 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron, then four 249 Squadron Ta Qali on standing patrol over the Island: no sightings.  Thick cloud at 6000 feet.

0900-1030 hrs  Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa and four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne for reported incoming raiders which do not approach Malta.

1100-1150 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne to act as cover for returning Spitfires.

1110-1150 hrs  Eight sorties by Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far: nothing sighted.

1230-1335 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne on intercept patrol: no sightings.  One Spitfire develops engine trouble at 6-7000 feet: pilot Sgt Wallace is heard over the radio saying he is bailing out.

1425-1355 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1445-1730 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron search for missing pilot: no sightings.

Military casualties  Sergeant Thomas Catchpole, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 114 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant Carl Johnson, RAF VR, 227 Squadron; Flying Officer John Mathias, RAF VR, 114 Squadron; Flying Officer Douglas Truscott, RAF VR, 114 Squadron; Sergeant Thomas Wallace, RAF VR, 229 Squadron; Sergeant Ralph Webb, RAF, 227 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 23 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept Traveller in from sea.

AIR HQ  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one DC 3, three Beauforts to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  Four Beaufighters missing from operations: crews missing.  One Beaufighter shot down by enemy: crew missing.  One Swordfish crashed in sea due to engine failure: crew saved.  One Spitfire crashed in sea: pilot missing.

LUQA  Message received from AOC RAF Malta:  “I am very grateful for the kind message of congratulations and thank all ranks Luqa for their loyal and enthusiastic support during the past five months.” 

Heinkel HE 115

0701-1115 hrs  Two sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering Messina, and harbours and aerodromes in Tunisia.  Two sorties by Baltimores 69 Squadron for weather reconnaissance Tripoli.  0805-1230 hrs  Four Beaufighters carried out a sweep in the Sousse-Sfax area: one HE 115, one Cant 506 destroyed; one schooner shot up.  1026-1200 hrs  Three Beauforts 39 Squadron escorted by two Beaufighters were dispatched on practice bombing of Lampedusa: results not observed Light Ack Ack was encountered but all aircraft returned safely.

0100-0531 hrs  Three special Wellingtons 69 Squadron on separate shipping search in Cape Bon-Bizerta area.  A special torpedo-carrying Wellington on offensive reconnaissance for shipping in the waters between western Sicily and southern Sardinia found a small merchant vessel, leading two 5000 ton merchant vessels, 88 miles east of Capo Carbonara heading west.  The Wellington made a successful torpedo attack on the leading vessel, scoring a hit amidships.  The merchant vessel was later sunk by gunfire from one of Malta’s submarines.

TA QALI  0805-1230 hrs  Four Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive sweep: Sgt Tucknell destroys one HE 115; F/O Coate destroys one Cant.  Visibility poor over the sea with showers; clear over the Island.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The night shift did extremely well, discharging well over 700 tons.  Total cargo discharged to date (1700 hrs today): 4674 tons.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Convoy duties continue.

1ST Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Re-organisation and re-issue of kit stored [in readiness for aborted mission].  Night  Three Officers and 140 Other Ranks were detailed for a 12 hour shift and worked throughout the night unloading flour from lighters at the docks.  One Sgt and six L/Cpls are reporting daily to the APM Valletta to assist the CMPs Valletta.  One Officer and 50 Other Ranks standing by for crater filling at Qrendi.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Bn provided 8 Officers, 230 Other Ranks unloading M/V Robin Locksley.  One Other Rank attached to 1st Bn Cheshire Regt as extra Tally Clerk.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Convoy work confined to unloading and storing of air force and motor transport petrol. 

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties with additional 6 Officers, 250 Other Ranks as Brigade reserve.

10th ACK ACK BRIGADE  Operation Instruction issued modifying aerodrome barrages for Heavy Ack Ack gun lay-out and to keep runways free from shell splinters while still protecting them.

10th Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Working parties at Pink Dump: A and HQ Coys.

24 November 1942: Malta Submarines ‘Torch’ Attacks Leave Axis Ships Ablaze

HMS Porpoise

Three submarines returned to Malta today after successful operations in support of Operation Torch.  HMS Porpoise has just completed a short patrol in the Khoms–Misurata area. Five days ago she she torpedoed and sank a tanker which had been stopped by an aerial torpedo attack the previous day.  At 1016 yesterday, off the Kerkennah Bank, Porpoise launched a gunfire attack on the 730 ton Italian naval auxiliary Giacomo.  The vessel, which was carrying benzene, quickly caught fire and was abandoned. Enemy aircraft interrupted the operation before Porpoise could pick up more than two prisoners.

HMS P 211 (Safari) under Commander B Bryant, DSC returned to Malta from a very successful patrol off the East Tunisian coast in the Gulf of Sirte during which the submarine steamed a total of 2800 miles.  At 1431 hrs on 13 November she gunned and sank the Italian auxiliary brigantine Bice five miles off Sousse. Only the Captain of the Bice was taken prisoner; he was found to be carrying secret papers, including the week’s recognition signals for Italian aircraft and minor war vessels.  The brigantine’s remaining ten survivors were left in their boat and are said to have given P 211 an enthusiastic send off on her departure.

P 211 HMS Safari

Three days later P 211 torpedoed a 2500 ton merchant vessel at Ras el Ali anchorage.  The merchantman blew up in a sheet of flame and was still burning twenty four hours later causing the anchorage to be shut down.  At dawn next morning, P 211 fired a torpedo at a concentration of small vessels near the pier. The torpedo exploded at the landing place and an ammunition lighter blew up.  The same evening the submarine torpedoed and sank a schooner in the south western corner of Marsa el Brega.

In the early morning of 18 November a small light vessel with no crew was sunk by gunfire from the submarine, 10 miles from Ras el Ali. Later that morning, P 211 gunned an enemy tank landing craft (LCT), silencing one of its guns and causing ammunition to explode.  Then two days ago, at 1156 on 22 November, P 211 gunned another LCT two miles south of Ras el Sultan, scoring two hits. After ten minutes, the action was broken off, all ammunition having been expended.

P 247

HMS P 247 (Saracen) was also guided into Malta today, having followed Operation Torch with a patrol of the approaches to Tunis and Bizerta. At 1644 on the 5 November she torpedoed and sank an Italian Cobalto Class U boat at a range of 800 yards. Despite passing through much oil and wreckage; the submarine could find no survivors.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 25 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Showery; thunderstorms at night.

0645-0740 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa renewed the search for Sgt Wallace who bailed out yesterday.  Nothing was seen of a dinghy or pilot.

0735-0845 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on a standing patrol to protect shipping in Grand Harbour: no enemy aircraft seen.

0735-1640 hrs  Spitfires of 126 Squadron and other squadrons are airborne on a standing patrol over Grand Harbour: no enemy aircraft seen.

0745-0845 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron search for Sgt Wallace: no sightings.

0825-0930 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on standing patrol: no sightings.

1115-1140 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 ME 109s approaching the Island at a great height: a few cross the coast on a fighter sweep.  Ack Ack fire pointer rounds: no claims.  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: they dive to attack a ME 109 but it gets away.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are also scrambled and turn to chase ME 109s but are jumped by Macchi 202s: no combats.  The remaining enemy raiders are driven off by Spitfires.

1300-1350 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on standing patrol: no sightings.

1335-1440 hrs  Four sorties of Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far: nothing sighted.

1440-1545 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne to act as cover for returning Spitfires: no enemy aircraft sighted.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 24 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P 211, P 247 and Porpoise were swept in by Hythe.

AIR HQ  A total of 18 Wellington sorties: target Bizerta docks.  Due to poor visibility, not all aircraft dropped bombs.  Some bombs were seen to burst in the target area.  Five torpedo-carrying Wellingtons on enemy shipping search: one merchant vessel was hit and seen to be down by the stern.  Arrivals  Two Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Beaufighter, two Hudsons to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter failed to return from operations: crew missing.

HAL FAR  0910-1020 hrs; 0920-1045 hrs; 1145-1305 hrs  12 sorties of Spitfires 185 Squadron, including an intruder raid over Lampedusa and a fighter sweep of Comiso area: nothing seen.

Malta bombers attack Sicilian airfield (c) IWM MH8054

LUQA  0700-1635 hrs  Four sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering harbours at Naples, Messina, Palermo and Cagliari.  Night  One special Wellington 69 Squadron despatched on shipping search in Cavoli-Marittimo area: nothing of importance to report.

TA QALI  0750-1155 hrs  Four Beaufighters 272 Squadron carried out offensive reconnaissance of the Gulf of Tripoli: W/Cdr Buchanan destroyed one JU 52 and at least ten khaki-clad figures were seen in the water.  1300-1605 hrs  Three Beaufighters 272 Squadron carried out an offensive sweep: F/O Coate destroyed one BV 222 and damaged one DO 24.  1420-1525 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali carried out a bombing sweep of Gela aerodrome.  Bad weather prevents all but one of the Spitfires from releasing bombs on target.  Explosions are not seen due to heavy cloud at 5000 feet.

Night  Five Beaufighters carrying bombs attacked docks at Palermo.  Only one aircraft located the target due to bad weather: no results observed.  One aircraft is missing.  Four Beauforts made two sorties and laid mines in enemy waters.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Great difficulty is being experienced unloading the 100 Octane petrol.  The fumes are very bad and men can only work for a short time in the hold.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Convoy duties continue.

1ST Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  42 drivers reported to sub-depots for convoy duties.  A detail of 40 men were sent to Brown Dump for a 12 hour shift and afterwards 20 were maintained there by D Company as unloading party till 1200 hrs on 26th.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  10 Officers, 232 Other Ranks unloading M/V Robin Locksley.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  All dumps still reduced in activity as priority given to unloading of petrol from convoy.  Commodities from dumps being removed to RASC and civilian stores.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties with additional 6 Officers, 250 Other Ranks as Brigade reserve.

10th Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Working parties at Pink Dump: A and HQ Coys.

25 November 1942: British and US Military Chiefs Meet in Malta

Air Chief Marshal A W Tedder, KCB, two American Generals P W Timberlake and L H Brereton of the US Army Middle East Air Force, and the DMI Middle East Brigadier Airey arrived in Malta today en route for Algiers.  Air Officer Commanding Malta, Air Vice-Marshal Park, will be leaving with them early tomorrow morning for a one-day conference.

HMS Utmost

At noon today the Italian Press claimed the destruction of a British submarine. It is believed Utmost was spotted in moonlight while still on the surface by patrolling Italian shipping.  Her sinking has been claimed by the Italian torpedo boat Groppo, which located the submarine below the surface early this morning heading  towards Malta, and launched depth charges.  There were no survivors.

Lieutenant Coombe had only recently taken command of Utmost, which destroyed almost 70000 tons of shipping under its previous Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander R D Cayley, DSO, DSC, RN.

Utmost crew celebrate former success (c) IWM

WAR OFFICE CHECKS STATE OF MALTA RATIONS AFTER STONEAGE CONVOY

From:  The War Office                To:  Commander Malta

Cable firstly daily ration scales civil and military immediately prior arrival Stoneage.  Secondly amendments proposed as a result of increased stocks.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 26 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Mainly fair; showers in the evening.

0625-0700 hrs  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are airborne for protection of an incoming convoy: no enemy aircraft seen.

0700-0815 hrs  Six Spitfires 229 Squadron on standing patrol: no sightings.

0800-1650 hrs  22 Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa and other squadrons are airborne to maintain a standing patrol over Malta: no enemy aircraft seen.

1055-1113 hrs  Air raid alert for a number of enemy fighters approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron are scrambled to intercept and see about 15 raiders.  One of the Spitfires does not return: F/Lt Burgess is reported missing.  Four Spitfires of 229 and 249 Squadrons are also scrambled.  Spitfires of 249 Squadron dive from 29000 feet and damage one ME 109.  None of the enemy aircraft cross the coast.

1405-1520 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron carry out a diversionary sweep: they see five Macchi 202 fighters but cannot engage.

1500-1600 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron on standing patrol over the Island.  One crash landed with undercarriage trouble: pilot unhurt.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 25 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  The Vice Admiral, Malta, reported that the unloading of the four merchant ships of Stoneage had been completed.  MLC 511 carried out exercises with the Army in Comino Channel.  Rye swept P 212 in from the sea.  Hythe swept Thrasher out: she sailed for Gibraltar and thence for refit in the UK.  Manxman sailed for Algiers, for minelaying operations under the orders of the Naval Commander, Expeditionary Force.

Fortress B17E

AIR HQ  17 Spitfires (9 carrying bombs) attacked Gela aerodrome: explosions were seen in dispersal areas and among buildings.  Arrivals  One Fortress from Heliopolis; fifteen Beaufighters from Gambut; eleven Wellingtons from Shallufa via Gambut.  Departures  Five Beauforts to ECDU.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire failed to return from operations: pilot missing.

HAL FAR  1035-1140 hrs  Eight sorties of Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far for attack on Gela aerodrome – four with bombs and four to act as close escort: one hit recorded.

LUQA  Four sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron.  0055-0259 hrs  Eight Wellingtons made an attack on Tunis docks.   Flares and bombs were dropped and a large fire started which was reported to be burning furiously.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Only five gangs required to work today.  The job should be finished by the night shif.  The difficulty unloading 100 Octane petrol is slowing up proceedings.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  0800 hrs   Working party unloading SS Robin Locksley completed duties.  Other convoy duties continue.

1ST Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  One Sergeant and 27 Other Ranks detailed to brown dump for guard duties.

SS Robin Locksley

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Bn provided 10 Officers, 232 Other Ranks unloading M/V Robin Locksley1600 hrs  Unloading completed: 7351 tons unloaded in 127 hours.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties with additional 6 Officers, 250 Other Ranks as Brigade reserve.

10th Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Working parties at Pink Dump: A and HQ Coys.

26 November 1942: Convoy Supplies Enough For Three Weeks

MALTA STILL UNDER SIEGE

The unloading of last Friday’s convoy MW 12 and distribution of stores to safe keeping was completed today, bringing some relief to the besieged Island of Malta.  The first priority was to supply sufficient aviation spirit for aircraft to continue defensive and offensive operations, and that has been achieved.

HMS Clyde

Fuel stocks are now greatly improved compared to the beginning of November when supplies were at a very low ebb.  Interim deliveries of aviation fuel by submarines Clyde, Parthian, Traveller and Thrasher from Beirut provided just enough for Malta’s fighters to stay airborne and protect the Allied convoy from the east.

The next urgent requirement for Malta is food. The Island’s siege rations are currently expected to be exhausted by the middle of December. Manxman’s delivery of 300 tons of concentrated foodstuffs helped to relieve a critical situation before the convoy arrived.  But even with the safe stockpiling of cargoes from Robin Locksley, Denbighshire, Mormacmoon and Bantam, only a small increase in rations is possible.  Further significant supplies will be needed before Malta’s population can be properly fed.

Operation Stoneage has proved that passage to Malta through the Mediterranean is still not without risk.  Enemy aircraft managed to launch attacks, one causing serious damage the cruiser Arethusa, with the loss of 159 men.  Malta’s air forces are now better placed to keep the Mediterranean open for future convoys.  But until safe passage can be secured, Malta remains under siege.

Merchant ship Denbighshire

CARGO SHIP BLAZE

A fire broke out at 1.45 this afternoon on board Denbighshire in Grand Harbour. The blaze is believed to have started when petrol fumes ignited in the empty No 2 Hold.  All available ship’s fire-fighting equipment was immediately brought into use, assisted by shore appliances.  The fire was brought under control by 4.30 pm but not before it had caused extensive damage.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 27 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Heavy rain mid-morning, becoming fair.

0655-1515 hrs  12 Spitfires 126 Squadron and 1435 Squadron Luqa patrol the Island protecting shipping in Grand Harbour.

1000-1020 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept approaching unidentified aircraft: plot proves to be friendly.

1125-1205 hrs  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron are scrambled to intercept a reported enemy raid which does not approach Malta.

2310-2320 hrs  Air raid alert: aircraft identified as friendly.

0326-0624 hrs  One Albacore searches for the crew of a missing Wellington: nothing sighted.

0510 hrs  Three Baltimores were despatched to try and locate friendly naval units and to search for the Wellington’s dinghy.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Kenneth Cope, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 104 Squadron; Flying Officer Royston Giles, RAF VR, 225 Squadron; Pilot Officer William Goulding, RAF VR, 242 Squadron; Sergeant Joseph Watling, RAF VR, 242 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Mary Tonna, age 60.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 26 NOVEMBER 1942

P 45 enters Grand Harbour

ROYAL NAVY  P 45 and P 48 sailed, swept out by Speedy.

AIR HQ  0757-1305 hrs  Six Beaufighters carried out offensive sweeps in the Gulf of Tripoli: one JU 52 destroyed and a schooner shot up.  One Beaufighter was damaged.  Night  Considerable enemy shipping was again active between Sicily and Tunisia.  Two Wellingtons and five Beauforts were out but the weather was very unfavourable and although three torpedoes were dropped no hits were observed.  Bad weather prevented operations over Tunisi; Gerbini was targeted instead.  A total of 12 Wellingtons attacked Gerbini aerodrome: many hits on the target area causing one fire.  Photographs show many craters on the landing area, including one made by a 4000 lb bomb on the edge of the runway.

Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar; two Wellingtons from LG 104.  Departures  One Fortress, six Beaufighters to Algiers; one Wellington to LG 104.  Aircraft casualties  One Baltimore struck a vehicle on landing: crew uninjured.  One Wellington failed to return from operations: crew missing.

LUQA  Five sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering harbours in Italy and Sicily.  1945-2328 hrs  Five Wellingtons 104 Squadron were despatched to attack Gerbini aerodrome.  Bombs were dropped and fires started in the north west corner of the aerodrome.  All aircraft returned safely.  2110-2230 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron on patrol over Sicily arbited to the south of Catania observing fires on Gerbini aerodrome at 2130 hrs and a large explosion in the centre of the airfield.  Accurate heavy Ack Ack was encountered. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Unloading finished by 0800 hrs this morning.  30 men clearing up the ships, which took all day.

Mormacmoon in New York

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1745 hrs  Party employed unloading SS Mormacmoon completed duties.  Other convoy duties continue.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Activity at dumps slackening.  Foodstuffs being cleared from dump to RASC stores.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties with additional 6 Officers, 250 Other Ranks as Brigade reserve.

10th Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Working parties at Pink Dump: A and HQ Coys.

24 FORTRESS COMPANY ROYAL ENGINEERS  Lt Johnson and 35 Other Ranks proceeded to Qrendi for work on fighter pens.

27 November 1942: Polio Outbreak in Malta

Army medical services have reported an outbreak of poliomyelitis in Malta.  The highly infectious virus was diagnosed today in a serviceman in one of the Island’s military hospitals.   The diagnosis confirms suspicions of at least two other cases since 15 November, including one on Gozo.  Malta has just one iron lung, the apparatus used to assist patients with the severe respiratory difficulties caused by the disease.

Polio has been identified in Malta before but the number of cases has never reached epidemic proportions.  However, there are particular concerns with the present outbreak, with the increased risk of spread between civilians crowded into air raid shelters and temporary accommodation.

FORCE K ARRIVES

HMS Cleopatra

Force K steamed into Grand Harbour this afternoon, under the protection of Malta Spitfires.  Under Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron – three cruisers Cleopatra, Dido and Euryalus, with Fleet destroyers Jervis, Javelin, Kelvin and Nubian – experienced no air attacks during their passage from Alexandria to Malta.  Grand Harbour is now full of ships – a sight the Islanders have not witnessed for many months.

In view of Force K’s safe passage it has been decided to send Motor Torpedo Boats to Malta as soon as the weather allows.  They will be moved to Benghazi as soon as possible, to be ready at short notice to make the crossing.  In the meantime, two MTBs will remain at Ras el Hillal to act as a striking force against any enemy shipping attempting to reach Tripoli by the Eastern Route.

Motor Torpedo Boats at Manoel (c) IWM A14545

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 28 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Slight showers morning, otherwise fair.

0615-1010 hrs  Four Beaufighters 227 Squadron Ta Qali airborne to act as escort to naval units: visibility good – no sightings.

0634-0810 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far continue search for crew of missing Wellington: nothing found.

0750-0905 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on search: nothing sighted.

1030-1150 hrs; 1115-1225 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron, then four Spitfires 185 Squadron are airborne to act as escort for HM ships.

1145-1240 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron on escort patrol, followed by standing patrol over the harbour.

1355-1455 hrs  Spitfires 1435 Squadron and 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne with four of 229 Squadron to act as escort to an outgoing naval unit: no enemy aircraft seen.

1355-1500 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne to act as escort to a minelayer: nothing sighted.

1430 hrs  Three cruisers and four destroyers arrive in Grand Harbour as Force K, under the command of Rear Admiral Power.  Four Spitfires, ten long-range Spitfires and twenty-five short-range Spitfires provided continuous protection for the convoy for the last 75 miles of its voyage to Malta.

1435-1550 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on standing patrol: no sightings.

1520-1705 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne to act as escort to naval units: no sightings.

1632-1657 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which approach to within 10 miles north west of Gozo.  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled to intercept and patrol between 2500 and 10000 feet: the raiders turn back before reaching Malta.

1652-1657 hrs  Air raid alert for several enemy aircraft which approach to within ten miles north east of Gozo.

2051-2012 hrs  Air raid alert: aircraft identified as friendly.

Military casualties  Flying Officer William Guilfoyle, RAF VR, 93 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 27 NOVEMBER 1942

HMS Upholder

ROYAL NAVY  P 37 sailed, swept out by Speedy.  Manxman sailed for Alexandria en route to Haifa.  HMS Welshman was sailed for Alexandria and Haifa to collect submarine torpedoes which are urgently required.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Beaufighters from LG 104; one Hudson from Gibraltar; one Wellington from LG 109; one Wellington from LG 224.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.

LUQA  14 Officers, 25 Senior NCOs and 134 Other Ranks 227 Squadron arrived for operations.  0600-1700 hrs  Five sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering harbours of Italy and Sicily.  1916-2358 hrs  Six Beauforts 39 Squadron were despatched to lay mines in the approaches to Bizerta harbour: all returned safely.  14 Wellingtons 40 and 104 Squadrons were despatched to attack the docks at Bizerta.  Bombs were dropped from 4000-6000 feet and a good-sized fire started in the area of the iron ore wharf.  Night  One Beaufort found a convoy of three merchant vessels and one destroyer, 37 miles west of Marittimo.  A torpedo was aimed at one merchant vessel but a heavy sea mist made it impossible to see the results.

TA QALI  0950-1435 hrs  Four Beaufighters 272 Squadron carried out an offensive sweep between Zarzis and Cape Bon: W/Cdr Buchanan destroyed one JU 88 and damaged one ME 110.  Visibility good.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Broken Case Store Party completed duties.  Other unloading duties continue.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties with additional 6 Officers, 250 Other Ranks as Brigade reserve.

28 November 1942: Breastplate Back On

40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun and crew Malta 12 May 1942 (IWM)

The special mission by Malta troops to Sousse in French North Africa was reinstated today, as units were ordered to prepare for embarkation.  All guards and working parties of 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry have been on 8 hours’ notice of departure since yesterday and are busy packing the minimum kit allowed for the journey.

The embarkation force will now include one troop of Field Gunners, one of Bofors Gunners, one detachment each of Royal Engineers and Royal Army Service Corps, another of the Royal Army Pay Corps, and Commandos. The mission plans have also been amended to include several transport vehicles.  All stores, vehicles and kit bags are to be loaded onto the M/V Melbourne Star by 0300 hrs, leaving only the Army personnel, ammunition and seven days’ rations to be added immediately before departure.

TOP SECRET TELEGRAM

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

1.  During the month ended 20th November there were 59 alerts: 45 by day and 14 by night.  33 bombing raids: 28 by day and 5 by night.  33 people were killed (12 men, 11 women, 10 children).  16 were seriously injured (7 men, 2 women, 7 children).  29 buildings were seriously damaged.

2.  The breaking up by the RAF of what threatened to be a serious aerial bombardment in the last 10 days of October, the news from North Africa, and the arrival of a convoy of four ships including two United States vessels and one Netherlands on the last day of the period under review, added buoyancy to an already high morale.  The public is proud that Malta is hitting back and bearing a part in the stirring events of this new phase of the war.

3.  His Majesty’s Government’s gift of £10,000,000 [to Malta] is widely appreciated and acclaimed.

MALTA SPY HANGED

Carmelo Borg Pisani, convicted of crimes against the Government and sentenced on 19 November, was hanged early this morning at Corradino Civil Prison.  He had appealed unsuccessfully for clemency.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 29 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Slight showers morning, becoming fair to cloudy.

0730-0820 hrs  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are airborne to fly south of Comiso, searching for signs of the Spitfire of F/Lt Burgess, missing since 25 November: no wreckage is seen.

1305 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne to cover the return of 185 Squadron from attacking Gela aerodrome.

1415-1500 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron search for a missing Spitfire: nothing seen.

1430 hrs  An anti-personnel mine explodes near Dock 3 badly injuring a Maltese civilian, whose leg is blown off. 

Night  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron is airborne on intercept patrol over the Island: no enemy aircraft seen.

Military casualties  Warrant Officer Class II George Edwards, Royal Canadian Air Force, 249 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 28 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  HMS Thunderbolt arrived at Malta to join the Tenth Submarine Flotilla for Special Operations. She had sailed from the United Kingdom direct to Malta, making the passage in eighteen days.  Thunderbolt was swept in by Rye, who subsequently swept P 43 and Traveller to sea.

Axis aircraft on Gela aerodrome

AIR HQ  A total of 22 Spitfires including eight carrying bombs attacked Gela and Comiso aerodromes: bombs were dropped on the dispersal areas.  The escorting fighters damaged two JU 52s.  Two Beaufighters on a sweep along the Tunisian coast from Sousse to Zuara destroyed one CR 42.  Other Beaufighters on various patrols destroyed two SM 79s.  One JU 52 was destroyed on the ground and various targets shot up.  Two Wellingtons bombed the docks at Tunis as a diversion during a mining operation carried out by Beauforts.

Arrivals  Two DC 3 from El Adem; one Liberator from LG 224.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; two Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire crashed in the sea: pilot missing.  One Beaufighter failed to return from operations: crew missing.

HAL FAR  1105-1230 hrs  12 Spitfires 185 Squadron, four carrying bombs, attacked Gela aerodrome.  Explosions were seen in the south eastern dispersal area.  Sgt Houlton sighted a formation of nine JU 52s just off the coast of Sicily and damaged two of them.  1800-2235 hrs  One Swordfish and three Albacores RNAS searched for shipping in the Straits of Messina: mission abortive.

LUQA  0630-1640 hrs  Five sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering harbours and aerodromes in Sicily and Italy.  Three Baltimores 69 Squadron carried out weather reconnaissance.  2145 hrs  Eight Beauforts 39 Squadron were despatched to lay mines in the entrance of Tunis harbour: all aircraft returned safely.  Eleven Wellingtons 104 and 40 Squadrons were despatched to attack Bizerta docks in two waves: bombs were seen to burst well within the target area.

Baltimore serviced at Luqa (c) IWM GM1027

Night  A photo-reconnaissance Spitfire having sighted a convoy consisting of one 4-5000 ton tanker and one 4-5000 ton merchant vessel rounding Cape Spartivento westwards, two torpedo-carrying Wellingtons were despatched to attack.  One Wellington found and attacked the convoy five miles north of Capo Orlando, in a heavy rainstorm, but the torpedo appeared to run astern of the target.

TA QALI  0635-1050 hrs  Two Beaufighters 227 Squadron despatched on operation to bomb shipping in the Sicilian channel: F/Lt Schmidt destroyed one CR 42.  1005-1415 hrs; 1400-1630 hrs  Two Beaufighters 227 Squadron at a time on offensive sweep: nothing sighted.  1300-1650 hrs  Two Beaufighters 272 Squadron on bombing mission and offensive sweep: F/Lt Rankin damages one SM 79.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Working party 1 Officer, 25 Other Ranks C Coy and 25 A Coy required to clear part of Floriana Parade Ground to make a dump for goods from the convoy.  Task will last about 5 days.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Convoy duties continue.  1 NCO, 4 men with mobile Breda gun attached to 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Breda gun and crew from GP6 report to 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry at Cammerata Barracks.  Dumps given order to close down as soon as clear of all goods (completed 1715 hrs): personnel return to Coy lines.  Motor-transport sub-depot Gzira party remain in position.  Guard remaining on Brown Dump (petrol).

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged at sub-depot.

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

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