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HURRICANES FOR MALTA
Six Hurricane aircraft have arrived in Malta to join the Fighter Flight. Early this afternoon two Hurricanes landed from Bizerta after a difficult journey across southern France and along the North African coast. As dusk fell, two more completed the same journey, followed by two more in the early evening. The six aircraft were all that reached Malta out of twelve Hurricanes and twelve Blenheims that set off from the UK on 18 June. They join recently arrived Hurricanes from Egypt and will significantly strengthen the Island’s defences.
Twelve Swordfish of 767 Deck Landing Squadron from Toulon have also arrived on the Island and are now under the operational control of the Air Officer Commanding, Mediterranean, with the agreement of the Commander in Chief.
GLADIATORS CLAIM FIRST SUCCESS
Italian Airmen Captured
Malta’s Gladiators claimed their first confirmed ‘destroyed’ enemy aircraft today. The success came during this evening’s raid. The two serviceable Gladiators were scrambled at around 1900 hrs. According to Flt Lt G Burges:
“Timber Woods and I were on the 1600 to dusk watch when the alarm went off. We took off and climbed as hard as we could go, as was the custom. We did not attempt to maintain close formation because if one aircraft could climb faster than the other then the additional height gained might be an advantage. Ground Control, as usual, gave us the position and course of the enemy. The enemy turned out to be a single SM79, presumably on a photographic sortie. It came right down the centre of the Island from Gozo, and on this occasion we were 2000-3000 feet above it. Timber went in first but did not see any results. I managed to get right behind it and shot off the port engine. I was told this happened right over Sliema and Valletta and caused quite a stir in the population. The aircraft caught fire and crashed in the sea off Kalafrana.”
The pilot and one crewman were rescued from the sea and taken prisoner. The remaining four crew did not survive. (1)
MYSTERY LIGHTS INVESTIGATED
Malta forces today launched an investigation into reports of mysterious flashing lights along the Victoria Lines. A working party of 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers was ordered to make a thorough search of the area between Naxxar caves and the quarries, looking for anything suspicious. Two men were found in one of the caves and taken for questioning. Police confirmed the men’s activities were legitimate and they were later released. However, searches of the area continue.
In a separate incident this morning a car owner near Luqa was seen changing the vehicle’s number plates. The new number 6057 was notified to Infantry companies and the vehicle will be monitored.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 JUNE TO DAWN 23 JUNE 1940
1915-1930 hrs Air raid alert. One three-engined SM 79 approaches the Island and is attacked by a Gladiator. The enemy raider bursts into flames, splits into two and falls into the sea off St Thomas’ Bay. Of the crew of seven, the pilot and assistant pilot are able to bale out and parachute into the sea, where they are rescued and taken prisoner. The remaining five crew five were killed.
2247 hrs A light is reported just above the quarry to the left of Naxxar Gap. Two officers investigated but found nothing.
Enemy casualties Tenente Francesco Solimena, 53o Gruppo, pilot of SM79, and Sottotenente Alfredo Balsamo, crewman, 34o Stormo, 216a Squadriglia, shot down and taken prisoner. Giovanni Mauro, Gianpiero Mencione, Remo Trovlusci and Remo Turrisi crewmen of SM79, 216a Squadriglia, 34o Stormo, shot down and died.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 22 JUNE 1940
ROYAL NAVY HM Submarines Otus and Olympus at Malta for refit.
8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT A court of enquiry, president Capt R Cooke, today assembled at Ghain Tuffieha camp to enquire into the circumstances in which Pte R G Bond became deficient of one suit of battle dress and two towels.
ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS: Bomb Disposal UXB Dealt with: 1 incendiary Sliema.
(1) From Gladiators Over Malta, Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, Wise Owl Publications, 2008
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