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16 July 1940: First RAF Casualty as Fighters Outnumbered 10 to 1

16 Jul

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Wreckage of CR42 destroyed today

Wreckage of CR42 destroyed today (1)

FIRST RAF CASUALTY

Malta’s already beleaguered fighter flight suffered a blow today with the loss of the Island’s first RAF pilot in combat today.  Flight Lieutenant Peter Keeble had been serving as a pilot at Hal Far airfield since March of this year.  He was piloting a Hurricane this morning which met a numerically superior force of Italian Fiat CR42’s.  He attacked a leading fighter but died when his aircraft was shot down by the fighter near Bidni.  As Keeble’s Hurricane went into a dive the Italian was hit by Ack Ack light machine gun fire from 1st Bn Dorset Regiment.  He unable to come out of his pursuit dive and crashed near Bidni, just 100 yards from the Hurricane.  The pilot was captured alive but dies soon afterwards.  No enemy bombs are dropped during raid.      

MALTA FIGHTERS OUTNUMBERED BY TEN TO ONE

First RAF casualty in five weeks of fighting.  During the same period two and only occasionally three British fighters have met Italian formations up to 20 strong.  Yet they have destroyed 10 enemy aircraft and probably destroyed seven more. 

TROOPS NEED THEIR MAIL

Lack of mails and news of dependants who may have been evacuated from their home, coupled with reports of bombing of various districts in England is seriously disturbing troops in Malta.  The Governor and Commander in Chief today urged the War Office most strongly that every effort should be made to despatch letter mail to Malta by any means possible.  He further asks whether cheap cable facilities could be made available in England to the dependants of Malta forces, so that casualty information can be sent easily to the Island.     

His plea follows a previous telegram on 10 July asking for mail to be sent as soon as possible from England to Malta.  Troops are naturally anxious to get news of their relatives and especially those who were living in the Channel Islands as in the case of some of the Dorsetshire Regiment.  Lack of such information is proving unsettling especially as civil casualty lists and names of towns attacked are not published in newspapers.  Lt Gen Dobbie has asked that the mail and other essential requirements be included in the fast convoy leaving very shortly with aircraft for Malta. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 JULY TO DAWN 17 JULY 1940

Weather  Fine. 

0915-0930 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy bombers with six CR42 fighters which approach the Island from the North in two formations.  One Hurricane and one Gladiator are scrambled and intercept the raiders.  One Hurricane is shot down by an enemy fighter; the same fighter is then shot down nearby. 

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant Peter Keeble, Royal Air Force.                                           

Enemy casualties  Tenente Mario Benedetti, 74a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo Autonomo, pilot. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 16 JULY 1940

AIR HQ  Aircraft casualties  One Hurricane.  Anti-submarine and reconnaissance patrol by one London: nothing to report.

KALAFRANA   Aircraft K5261 P/O Minchinton 202 Squadron on anti-submarine patrol.  Corporal L Wills, Nurse Orderly, attached to Luqa for medical duties.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  The air raid alert on Luqa airfield was changed to a bugle for all signals.  Corporal Adams stood by as bugler.

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

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1 Comment

Posted by on July 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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One response to “16 July 1940: First RAF Casualty as Fighters Outnumbered 10 to 1

  1. Paul

    July 16, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    It took me a while to find out what was the “London” anti-submarine and reconnaissance aircraft. “Only 31 were built”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saro_London

     

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