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Monthly Archives: July 2015

31 July 1940: Gladiator Pilot Burned in Dogfight

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FIRST GLADIATOR TO BE LOST IN COMBAT

Gladiator 'Charity' (1)

Gladiator ‘Charity’ (1)

The pilot of one of Malta’s three Gladiator fighters was badly burned today in a hard fought air battle.  All three Gladiators were scrambled when a formation of seven enemy fighters escorting a single bomber was reported heading for the Island.  Flying Officer Peter Hartley led Flg Off Woods and Flg Off Taylor into the attack which quickly developed into a dogfight at 18000 feet over Valletta. 

One of the enemy fighters was quickly shot down and while two others held back to protect the bomber, the rest engaged the Gladiators in a fierce fight.  Flg Off Hartley’s aircraft NN5519 (‘Charity’) was hit in the fuel tank and burst into flames.  Despite suffering severe burns, he managed to bale out and parachuted down off Xrobb l’Ghagin.  His Gladiator crashed into the sea off Fort St Leonardo. 

Flg Off Hartley described the moment he was hit:  “Suddenly the great radial engine in front of me erupted in flames as the forward fuel tank was hit.  Fire soon enveloped the cockpit and, as I was wearing only shorts and shirt, I was quickly in such agony that I would have jumped even without a parachute.”  Flg Off Hartley was picked up by the RAF Air Sea Rescue launch from Kalafrana and taken to Imtarfa Military Hospital.  He is being treated for multiple burns to his extremities, face and neck. 

With the loss of its first Gladiator in combat, Malta’s fighter flight is reduced again, to one serviceable Hurricane and two Gladiators. (1)  

DOCKYARD WORKERS’ RESILIENCE PRAISED BY ROYAL NAVY

The consistently high morale of Dockyard workers through the hardships since the onset of attacks on Malta has been praised in a Royal Navy report.  Despite heavy bombing raids and the effect on the men’s nerves of mass evacuation of families to the countryside, workmen are turning up as normal and working without complaint. 

The first air raids and resulting damage to areas surrounding the dockyard forced entire communities to relocate further inland.  As a result, for some days workmen were absent resettling their families, many finding it impossible to reach work due to a lack of transport.  However, in the past two weeks attendance levels have returned to normal.

However, though the behaviour of the men in shelter during raids is praised, there are still some concerns about responses afterwards, when some workers are showing proving slow to move from shelters. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 JULY TO DAWN 1 AUGUST 1940

Weather   Hot and humid with heavy, low cloud.

0943-1005 hrs  Air raid alert for one enemy bomber escorted by seven fighters which approach from the east of Gozo.  Three Gladiator fighters and Ack Ack guns engage.  The bomber turns back.  One enemy fighter is shot down in the sea by fighters five miles east of Grand Harbour.  One of Malta’s Gladiators is shot down by enemy fighters and crashes just off the beach near Fort Leonardo.  The pilot, F/Lt P W Hartley, is badly hurt but escapes by parachute.  He is observed descending towards the sea off Delimara.  A power boat is sent out from Kalafrana which rescues the pilot who is admitted to the station sick quarters suffering from burns and other injuries.

1530-1600 hrs  Air raid alert for fourteen enemy aircraft which fly over the Island in two formations at too great a height to be identified.  No bombs are dropped.      

1830-1850 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which fly over the Island above the cloud and retreat without dropping any bombs.

Enemy casualties  Capitano Antonio Chiodi, 75a Squadriglia, pilot of Fiat CR42 fighter, shot down and died when his aircraft crashed into the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 31 JULY 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Swordfish on special reconnaissance reported an enemy cruiser of Bande Nero class 85 miles south east of Delimara at 1840 hrs.  An air striking force was despatched to make a dusk attack but failed to locate the enemy.  Visibility reported as three to ten miles. 

AIR HQ  Aircraft casualties  One Gladiator. 

KALAFRANA  During July 45 local recruits were posted to the Station for initial training and 34 were posted from here to other Units.  A number of airmen were temporarily attached to Luqa to assist in the formation of that Station.

HARBOUR FIRE COMMAND  During July the harbour defences were increased by two 4.7in. and two 4in. guns at Grand Harbour and by three 4in. guns at Marsamxetto Harbour.  Strength: Other Ranks 925.

(1)  Gladiators Over Malta, Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, Wise Owl Publications, 2008

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Posted by on July 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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30 July 1940: Hundredth Air Raid Since 11 June

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Hurricane colour

APPEAL LAUNCHED TO BUY FIGHTER PLANES FOR MALTA

An appeal was launched today to raise funds for a fighter plane to serve over Malta.  The initiative is a response to recent reductions of fighter strength to critical levels.  The appeal is being organised by the Anglo-Maltese League, in conjunction with Barclays Bank and Allied Malta Newspapers.

Announcing the campaign in the Times, the organisers said:  “None can have failed to appreciate the great service of the Royal Air Force in the air defence of these Islands against the bombing attacks by Italian aeroplanes, nor can any have failed to observe that other territories of the British Empire have subscribes towards providing additional planes for the Royal Air Force.  The Anglo-Maltese League, in full conviction that it is fulfilling the earnest desire of all Maltese and English people in these Islands, has consequently undertaken to open a fund, which has been styled ‘The Fighter Plane Fund, Malta’ in order that a ‘fighter’ may be presented to the British Government for service over Malta and as an expression of Malta’s admiration for and gratitude to the Royal Air Force.”  (1)    

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 JULY TO DAWN 31 JULY 1940

Weather  Cloudy, hot and humid. 

1035-1045 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy bombers and nine fighters which approach to within five miles of the Island but then turn back.  Malta’s fighters are scrambled but do not intercept.  No bombs are dropped.    

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 30 JULY 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Oswald reported three troopships escorted by six destroyers steering south from the Straits of Messina.  The signal was received too late for air action to be taken. 

  

(1)  Malta: Blitzed But Not Beaten, Philip Vella, Progress Press 1985

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Posted by on July 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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29 July 1940: Malta is ‘Most Bombed Spot in the Empire’

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INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT VISITS MALTA SHELTERS

3000 people living in single shelter (NWMA)

3000 people living in single shelter (NWMA)

Malta is the most bombed spot in the British Empire, according to the overseas press.  A correspondent of the Daily Mail who has just returned from Malta described his visit to the Island’s ancient cellars and tunnels, where 10000 homeless or evacuated islanders are now living. 

The biggest shelter has become almost the permanent home of 3000 people.  According to the press, the Knights of Malta who honeycombed Valetta with a vast system of underground chambers did the present inhabitants a good turn, as those chambers have become ready-made shelters impenetrable to the heaviest bomb.

Some who have shut up their shops carry on trade nearby, he reports.  One woman, selling eggs from her own hens, was ready to retreat to the shelter.  When the alarm sirens sound, mothers collect their children and cooking pots, and file to safety.

Malta has been bombed on an average twice daily but residents say that it is not as bad as they expected, and that Mussolini cannot bomb them into submission.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 JULY TO DAWN 30 JULY 1940

Weather  Fine and warm. 

0952-1027 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy fighters and two bomber swhich approach from the north in two formations.  Malta fighters are scrambled but do not engage.  Ack Ack guns at Tigne, San Giacomo, San Pietru, Marsa, Spinola, Manoel and HMS Terror engage the raiders.  No bombs are dropped.       

1000-1027 hrs  Air raid alert for two formations of five enemy fighters which cross the Island.  No bombs are dropped.    

Military casualties  Private John Foote, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment                                         

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 29 JULY 1940

AIR HQ  Departures  2 Sunderland.    

KALAFRANA  Two Sunderlands 230 Squadron left for Alexandria.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  A Regimental memorial chapel at Christchurch Pembroke Church was dedicated this morning by the Army Chaplain General Mediterranean, Rev D B L Foster.  The Governor and C in C Lt Gen Dobbie unveiled the badge of the Regiment, dedication plate and memorial tablets to the men who died during the service of the Regiment on the Island.  16 officers and 215 Other Ranks attended the ceremony. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Work began on new RAF barrack blocks.

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Posted by on July 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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28 July 1940: Malta Flying Boats Survive Dog Fights

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THREE SUNDERLANDS AMBUSHED ON APPROACH TO MALTA

Sunderland Flying Boat (1)

Sunderland Flying Boat (1)

A Sunderland flying boat on a mission over Sicily today survived a dog fight despite being outnumbered.  Sunderland L5804 was returning from patrol over Augusta and Syracuse when it was attacked by three formations of fighters.  The raiders were used explosive tracer as well as ordinary ammunition, punching large holes in the hull and putting the turret, elevator and rudder controls out of action.  Three members of the crew were wounded in the legs; LAC D A Campbell was badly wounded.  Despite this, the flying boat managed to shoot down two of the Italian fighters.  One was shot down in flames and the other driven out of control, though it was not seen hitting the water. 

The Sunderland turned towards Malta, limping home at an altitude of 10 feet, and chased by fighters until within sight of the Island.  Its engine seized on the approach to Kalafrana and it landed on the water, before beaching near the seaplane base just after 11 this morning.  Repairs on the aircraft began immediately.

A second Sunderland returning from reconnaissance over Cape Spartivento was also attacked by three Italian fighters.  One fighter broke up in the air, a second broke off combat as though damaged.  The third pursued the Sunderland until within range of Malta without causing damage.  A third Sunderland on return from reconnaissance was chased by two fighters to close to Malta but they did not press home an attack.  All the Italian fighters were identified as monoplanes.    

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 JULY TO DAWN 29 JULY 1940

Weather  Fine and warm. 

1130-1155 hrs  Air raid alert for one bomber and ten fighters which approach the Island from St Paul’s Bay towards Hal Far.  They are engaged by heavy Ack Ack fire.  One raider is brought down and crashes in the sea 15 miles south of Malta.  The rest turn back before crossing the coast.  No bombs are dropped.    

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 28 JULY 1940

AIR HQ  Aircraft casualties 1 Sunderland  0430 hrs  One Sunderland on creeping ahead patrol over the Ionian Sea, then reconnaissance of Augusta and Syracuse, where five flying boats are spotted.  The Sunderland attacked three waterships near Augusta, dropping three 250lb bombs: no result.  A second Sunderland on reconnaissance sighted a submarine off Cape Spartivento and dropped five bombs: no results visible.  One Sunderland on reconnaissance.  All three Sunderlands were attacked; one returned to Malta damaged; repairs began immediately. 

KALAFRANA  Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 Squadrons operating 12 hour naval patrols over wide area covering Greek coast, south Italian coast and Sicily under direct instructions from Middle East and HQ Mediterranean. 

(1)  Website: Malta Family History

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Posted by on July 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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27 July 1940: Ack Ack Reinforcements for Malta

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LONG SEA ROUTE DELAYS ARRIVAL TO SEPTEMBER

12 Heavy Ack Ack guns to be shipped to Malta

12 Heavy Ack Ack guns to be shipped to Malta

Military chiefs in London are assembling Artillery units for despatch to Malta.  Twelve heavy and ten light Ack Ack guns plus ammunition and personnel are being prepared for immediate embarkation.  However, they will sail the long sea route and cannot be expected to reach the Island until September.  A further eight heavy and ten light Ack Ack guns destined for Malta will be transported via a warship but there is no embarkation date as yet.

Urgently needed officers and specialist technical service staff will travel by fast transport ship through the more dangerous waters of the western Mediterranean.

DOCKYARD NEEDS UNDERGROUND WORKSHOPS

The Vice Admiral Malta has indicated the need for underground workshops to enable the Dockyard to function fully during air raids.  Valuable time is currently being lost as workers take refuge in shelters following the alert.  Underground workshops would require considerable investment but would potentially restore productivity to pre-war levels.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 JULY TO DAWN 28 JULY 1940

Weather  Fine and warm. 

0510-0520 hrs  Air raid alert.  No air raid follows.

1110-1135 hrs  Air raid alert for one bomber escorted by ten fighters, which fly over the Island – probably on reconnaissance to assess the results of night raids.  Malta fighters are scrambled but do not intercept.  The raiders are engaged by Ack Ack gunners who hit one fighter which ditches in the sea 15 miles of the south east coast.  No bombs are dropped.    

1640 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy fighters which follow two of the Island’s Sunderland flying boats on patrol.  The Sunderlands engage the raiders and three enemy fighters are destroyed.  One Sunderland is damaged and lands at Marsaxlokk.  Three of the crew are injured.    

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 27 JULY 1940

KALAFRANA   Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 Squadrons operating 12 hour naval patrols over wide area covering Greek coast, south Italian coast and Sicily under direct instructions from Middle East and HQ Mediterranean.  Three recruits medically examined for the RAF.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  The Provost Marshall gave a very helpful lecture to the troops with a view to helping them keep out of trouble during their stay in Malta.

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Posted by on July 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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26 July 1940: Italy Claims Malta’s Strategic Role is Over

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ITALIAN PROPAGANDA CLAIMS MALTA NEUTRALISED

Power Station

Power Station hit today: brief interruption to power supply

The Stefani news agency of Italy has claimed that Malta “has lost for ever its efficiency for England”, Hinting that military installations on the Island have been destroyed by Italian bombing, the announcement added that “Britain can no longer consider Malta to be one of the strategic bases of the Mediterranean.”  However, the news agency also admitted that the British Government is still using the Island as an aeroplane base.

ROYAL LADY ADVERTISES ROOMS WITH SHELTER

Hotels are now joining the drive to create more shelters for the public during air raids.  One hotel in Gozo has placed an announcement in the newspaper inviting those without a suitable refuge to make use of its facilities:

“For safety, bedrooms are available at the Royal Lady Hotel, Mgarr, Gozo which has air raid shelter under the rocks.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 JULY TO DAWN 27 JULY 1940

Weather  Fine and warm. 

1543-1610 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which approach the Island in three formations.   Three Gladiators are scrambled and intercept: the enemy turn away to the east without crossing the coast.

0237-0420 hrs  Air raid alert for a series of up to six enemy bombers which approach from the north at five minute intervals over a long period, crossing the coast over Valletta.  They approach either in a steep glide to low altitude or a shallow dive with a slight left rudder at high speed.  They are picked up by searchlights and engaged by Ack Ack fire.  One raider is believed hit.  A third enemy aircraft flies in very low over Delimara.  Bombs are dropped on Valletta, Grand Harbour and Marsa Creek, on Kirkop and Ta Silch, and in the sea off Manoel Island.  The electricity power station is damaged, disrupting the electricity supply.  One delayed action bomb explodes in the Rabat area.    

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 26 JULY 1940

KALAFRANA  Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 Squadrons operating 12 hour naval patrols over wide area covering Greek coast, south Italian coast and Sicily under direct instructions from Middle East and HQ Mediterranean.

LUQA  Strength of Station: RAF officers 16, airmen 104; Army officers 9, other ranks 250; civilians 4.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 1 HE 250lb Gzira.   

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  £216 was today sent to the Malta Relief Fund.  The money was voluntarily collected by the officers, WOs and ORs of the Battalion.

(1) Source: When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint Malta, 1981 

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Posted by on July 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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25 July 1940: Hurricanes Heading for Malta Delayed

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OPERATION ‘HURRY’ HELD UP AT GIBRALTAR

An operation to move twelve Hurricanes through the Mediterranean to Malta has had to be postponed. Under Operation ‘Hurry’, it was planned to transport the much-needed fighters from Gibraltar by aircraft carrier through the western Mediterranean to a point from which they can fly the remaining distance to reach the Island.  

Aircraft Carrier HMS Argus

Aircraft Carrier HMS Argus

The Hurricanes sailed today aboard carrier HMS Argus sailed today from the United Kingdom as planned for Gibraltar.  However, the operation to move the aircraft onward from Gibraltar to Malta, planned for 28 July, has had to be postponed.  The earliest expected date is now 31 July.  Stores and personnel for the new Squadron will be transported as originally planned by submarines Proteus and Pandora for passage to Malta. 

CULTURAL DIFFICULTIES AFFECT TROOP MANAGEMENT

Malta’s infantry commanders are facing challenges in the management of expanding Maltese units due to differences in language and legal procedures.  The Island’s Governor and C in C proposes to appoint a senior Maltese officer, Lt Col Vella of King’s Own Malta Regiment, to the position of Administrative Command of all Maltese infantry and volunteers.  He will be assisted by one British and one Maltese officer and two civilian clerks.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 JULY TO DAWN 26 JULY 1940

Weather  Fine and warm.  

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 25 JULY 1940

AIR HQ  0430-1500 hrs  One Sunderland on reconnaissance patrol.  Nothing observed at Augusta or Syracuse.  1525-1850 hrs  A second Sunderland on reconnaissance over Augusta, Syracuse, Cape Parsaro, Cape Maddalena: small craft sighted but nothing of importance.

KALAFRANA  Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 Squadrons operating 12 hour naval patrols over wide area covering Greek coast, south Italian coast and Sicily under direct instructions from Middle East and HQ Mediterranean.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Major General S J P Scobell this morning inspected posts of the Battalion.

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Posted by on July 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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