14 August 1940: Any Casualties Would Put Guns Out of Action

14 Aug

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antiaircraft gunners defend Valletta bigAnti-aircraft guns in Malta may be forced to lay idle if shortages of Artillery manpower cannot be solved quickly. In a telegram to the War Office, the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief warned that any casualties among existing gunners would put guns essential to the Island’s defence out of action. Malta is still awaiting reinforcements from Heavy Ack Ack Regiments promised by HQ in London. Local recruitment of Maltese gunners has fallen short of target by nearly 25%.

In addition to the shortage of personnel to man guns, Malta lacks sufficient operations room staff essential for gun and searchlight communications. Shortfalls are currently being made up through secondment from other regiments but this is seen as only a short term solution.

In a strongly worded conclusion, the Governor urged the War Office to send reinforcements without further delay.


The War Office has written to the Governor and Commander in Chief Malta asking for information on the whereabouts of two Italian airmen reported missing in action. The telegram asked for a response as soon as possible giving any available news of General Cagna and Prince Pallavicini, who are believed to be prisoners of war.

The War Office has been informed that their aircraft was brought down in flames by one of HM ships on 2 August approximately 90 kilometres from Algerian coast. It is believed that the two officers were picked up by a British submarine.

General Stefano Cagna (2)

General Stefano Cagna (2)

It appears that on the late afternoon of 1 August, Prince Pallavicini was aboard a SM 79 piloted by General Stefano Cagna of 32 Stormo which led 10a Brigata in a group of 25 aircraft in an attack on convoy of Operation Hurry carrying Hurricane fighters through the western Mediterranean towards Malta. General Cagna’s aircraft is believed to have been shot down by a Skua from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal.

Their demise was witnessed by following pilot 2nd Lt Gastaldello: “it was about 3:30 pm with good visibility when we spotted out the enemy convoy around 90km off the coast of Formentera. I was able to count up to twenty ships when they furiously started to shoot, with shocking and loud explosions below us… Suddenly I saw the Sparviero piloted by General Cagna in front of me, heading nose-down towards the target being hit by anti-aircraft artillery and exploding in mid-air. Instinctively I pulled up my plane and doing so I managed to avoid the largest mass of debris coming all around me from the explosion, even though some of them hit my plane…The epilogue of our mission was the loss of three planes and many others being damaged.” (1)

Guglielmo Marius Hubert Marie de Pierre de Bernis de Courtavel, who became Prince Pallavicini in 1937, volunteered for war service and asked to join the Regia Aeronautica operations in the Mediterranean. General Cagna, the youngest general of Italy, was reknowned as a brilliant pilot before WW2 and was a popular Regia Aeronautica commander.


Weather  Fine and hot.

1717-1728 hrs  Air raid alert. Approaching aircraft subsequently identified as friendly.


AIR HQ  One Skua on reconnaissance.  

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Bomb Disposal UXB  1 incendiary Zabbar.




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Posted by on August 14, 2015 in Uncategorized


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