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Monthly Archives: September 2015

20 September 1940: Lack of Mail Affects Troop Morale

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Air Mail malta bwONLY TWO LETTERS PER MAN IN FOUR MONTHS

The lack of mail from home is causing considerable uneasiness among troops in Malta. According to the Governor and Commander in Chief, in the last four months only two letters on average per man have been received from the UK. Of the mail received, a significant amount has consisted of trade circulars and advertising materials. Despite many opportunities for mail to be carried out by sea and air the regular air mail service proposed weeks ago has still not been put in place.

Since the increase in air attacks on the Home Front, troops’ anxiety for the welfare of their relatives has considerably increased. The problem has been made worse by an almost total lack of English newspapers and the necessarily vague nature of wireless news reports.

Lt Gen Dobbie has written to the War Office today expressing his concerns, saying that the transmission of all recent mail and any backlog to Malta is now of urgent importance, with mail from dependents having the highest priority.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 21 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Dull with showery periods.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 1940

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrives from Middle East with spares for grounded Sunderland.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Bomb Disposal UXB  High explosive 3 x 130lb Luqa.

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Posted by on September 20, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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19 September 1940: Malta Infantry Garrison ‘Dangerously Weak’

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GOVERNOR WARNS ISLAND COULD NOT REPEL ATTACK FROM THE SEA

Dragonara Palace needs new depth post

Dragonara Palace needs new depth post

The infantry garrison of Malta would be ‘dangerously weak’ if the Island were attacked from the sea, the Governor and Commander in Chief said today. He was replying to a telegram from the War Office, which is currently reviewing Malta’s Infantry Garrison in response to the recent escalation of air attacks. Lt Gen Dobbie was asked for a report on the present situation, outlining the current infantry situation and giving reasons for the reinforcement with two battlalions which he has requested.

The Governor and C in C stated today that five infantry battalions are engaged in beach defences, using 16 British companies and one of the Kings Own Malta Regiment (KOMR). Each battalion covers on average 15 miles of coastline. A total of eight companies cover the defence of the three aerodromes. In addition, a Fortress reserve battalion can be seconded from these defences (with support of the Royal Engineers and Royal Army Service Corps) for launching a counter-attack but this would leave the aerodromes partially undefended. 2nd and 3rd Battalions KOMR are used to guard other vulnerable points including Roya Engineers and RAF premises. However, he believes they are not yet sufficiently trained for full infantry duties.

As a result, Lt Gen Dobbie argues, Malta has very little depth in defence and lacks sufficient resources for any kind of counter-attack, although he cannot as yet predict the likelihood of attack from the sea. The two additional battalions would bring defences up to an appropriate level and also make possible a counter attack, should it be needed. However, he strongly advises that the additional battalions should be posted from the UK, fearing a negative reaction by the civilian population of Malta to high levels of additional local recruitment.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 20 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine, with scirocco.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 19 SEPTEMBER 1940

LUQA Three unexploded bombs are destroyed.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Bomb Disposal UXB  High explosive 1 x 50kg Qrendi.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Brigade commanders reconnoitred position for new depth post behind Dragonara Palace and anti-parachutist positions in Tal Francis, L’Imsierah, Tal Minsia area.

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Posted by on September 19, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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18 September 1940: Bomb Disposal Team Tackle UXB in Well

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DANGEROUS UXB IN SENGLEA

Italian 500lb bombs (NWMA Malta)

Italian 500lb bombs (NWMA Malta)

Malta’s bomb disposal team completed a hazardous mission today when they succeeded in retrieving an unexploded bomb from deep in a well. The 400lb Italian bomb had been lying under water for a week in the well which was inside a partly demolished house in Senglea.

The water was pumped from the well and Sappers of the Royal Engineers cleared out debris and mud from the bottom. The bomb, which was fuzed at both ends, was in a dangerous state. It was decided to hoist it up to the ground floor by means of a gin, tackle, sling and ropes.

Because of its condition the bomb had to be kept horizontal as it was hoisted from the well. However, it was two and a half feet long and the mouth of the well only three feet one inch wide, giving a very small clearance. There was also a risk of the sling slipping while the bomb was being hauled up.

A Master Rigger of H M Dockyard was called on to construct the lifting gear. Lieutenant W M Eastman, RAOC, assisted him by guiding the bomb from below, at the foot of the well. Captain R L Jephson Jones, RAOC, went to the top to guide it through the opening. The Navy then took the bomb to be dumped at sea. (1)

In a separate incident today, Lt Eastman defused a 50kg German bomb at Qrendi – the first of this type to be defuzed in Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 19 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine with scirocco.

1014-1040 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy fighter aircraft approaching the Island Three Hurricanes and two Gladiators are scrambled and engage the raiders. A Hurricane pilot claims one aircraft shot down. The remainder turn away before crossing the coast.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 1940

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  No 3 Post A Company evacuated due to unexploded bombs.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Bomb Disposal UXB  High explosive 1 x 400lb Senglea.

(1) UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010

 

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Posted by on September 18, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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17 September 1940: Corporal’s Bravery Under Fire

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RISKING LIFE TO SAVE AMMUNITION

NWMA Malta

NWMA Malta

The exceptional courage of a serviceman during an air raid on Luqa aerodrome today has earned him a recommendation for a bravery award. In a heavy dive-bombing and machine-gun raid on the airfield by JU87 Stukas, a Wellington bomber was set on fire. Ignoring the flames Corporal J G M Davis entered the aircraft to retrieve four Vickers machine guns and ammunition, despite some of that ammunition exploding around him. He succeeded but the Wellington was destroyed. A salvage dump and hangar were also ignited by the flames; a Hurricane aircraft inside was burned out. For his act of bravery Corporal Davis has been recommended for a British Empire Medal.

STUKA DIVE-BOMBER PILOTS ARE ITALIAN

German JU87 aircraft recently engaged in the battle over Malta are piloted by members of the Regia Aeronautica, it was revealed today. The pilot of a Stuka rescued up from the sea today was one of two taken to the Castille for interrogation. Under questioning he stated that the JU87 aircraft are operating from a base at Pantelleria and that the pilots are members of an Italian squadron.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 18 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine, with scirocco.

1040-1122 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 Junkers 87s and 25 CR 42s which approach the Island in three formations passing over Hal Far and dive-bomb Luqa aerodrome and a reservoir. Several hangars are machine-gunned. A salvage dump at the side of a hangar is set alight and the fire causes some damage to the hangar. A small office is hit by an incendiary bomb and demolished. One Wellington bomber which arrived in Malta this morning is burned out and a Hurricane burned out inside a hangar.

Malta fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders, along with Ack Ack and ground defences. Two Junkers and one Caproni are shot down by fighters. One destroyed enemy plane crashes at l’Iskorvit near Zammitello Palace, between Gnejna and Mgarr, and burns itself out; its pilot is taken into custody by the military authorities. The Marine Craft Section puts out from Kalafrana and picks up the surviving pilot and the dead gunner of one JU 87 eight miles north west of Filfla. In all, two Italian pilots are taken to the Castille for interrogation.

Fifteen unexploded bombs are reported in the Luqa area. They are believed to be delayed action bombs, so an exclusion zone is set up surrounding the bombs, to be enforced for seven days. Several roads are closed to all traffic; all military personnel in the area are required to wear steel helmets and follow restricted movement orders.

1555-1619 hrs  Air raid alert for three bombers and eight fighters which fly over the Island, probably on reconnaissance. No bombs are dropped.

Enemy casualties Sergente Maggiore Luigi Catani, 237th Squadriglia, 96th Gruppo Autonomo, pilot of JU 87 Stuka, shot down, rescued and taken prisoner. Sottotenente Francesco Cavalli, 70th Squadriglia, 23rd Gruppo Autonomo, pilot of CR42 shot down and taken prisoner. Primo Aviere Francesco Di Giorgio, 70th Squadriglia, gunner of CR42 fighter, shot down near Filfla and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 1940

AIR HQ  Departures 3 Sunderlands.

KALAFRANA  Three Sunderlands left for Alexandria. One returned to Kalafrana four hours later with engine trouble

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Construction work at A Company held up due to unexploded bombs. CO congratulated A and B Companies on standing up to air attacks.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Bomb Disposal UXB  High explosive 15 x 250kg or 500kg believed delayed action inspected and left 7 days Luqa. Incendiary x 3 Luqa.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS Instructions are issued regarding action of mobile reserve should large enemy formations approach.

 

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Posted by on September 17, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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16 September 1940: Malta Facing Fuel Shortages

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FUEL CONSUMPTION MUST BE REDUCED,SAYS GOVERNOR

Fuel to be rationed (1)

Fuel to be rationed (1)

The Governor and Commander in Chief today warned that Malta could run out of fuel in five weeks if current storage facilities are hit by enemy bombing raids. Present fuel stocks would be enough for 22 weeks, but only if use is strictly rationed. However, most of the existing fuel stocks are held in Shell above-ground tanks which are vulnerable to destruction at any time.  

Lt Gen Dobbie is introducing measures to reduce fuel consumption on the Island to 30000 gallons of motor transport petrol a week. Until underground storage is available, he has arranged to import petrol in either 44 gallon drums or 4 gallon tins, until a reserve is amassed equal to eight months’ usage. The new drums and tins will be dispersed as far as possible, to avoid significant loss of supply during air raids.

Operations are also underway to create underground fuel tanks for the Royal Navy and RAF. Scheduled for completion early next year, these will provide immediate secure storage facilities for fuel reserves.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 17 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine and warm.

0732-0816 hrs Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft which approach the Island at 19000 feet over Salina and turn north over Ta Saliba and Mellieha. They later return over St Paul’s Bay and fly onto Grand Harbour before turning away north and east. No bombs are dropped.

Military casualties  Gunner John Manara, Royal Malta Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 1940

AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland

KALAFRANA Two Sunderlands on patrol; one left for Alexandria.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  A regulation Air Mail today.

(1) History of Shell Oil on Malta

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Posted by on September 16, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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15 September 1940: First Messerschmitt Fighters Over Malta

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SIX ME109 FIGHTERS IN EARLY MORNING ATTACK

Messerschmitt Bf 109E

Messerschmitt Bf 109E

Messerschmitt 109 fighters were identified for the first time over Malta today. Six of the German fighters were spotted approaching the Island just before 8 o’clock this morning, as part of a massive formation which also included ten Italian CR42 fighters and 20 German JU 87 dive bombers.

The appearance of ME 109s is seen as a major development in the enemy air campaign over Malta. The high-performance, manoeuverable aircraft is regarded as a ‘killing machine’ by some and is feared by many since its use during the Spanish civil war. Its speed enables the Messerschmitt to out-perform Malta’s tiny Gladiator force and even the Hurricane is significantly slower; only the Spitfire seems to be able to defeat it.

RAF headquarters in Malta has responded with a message to the War Office warning that the Island’s fighter strength must be increased urgently to counter the recently escalated attacks.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 16 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine and warm; cloudy in the evening.

0758 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of enemy aircraft consisting of six Messerschmitt 109, ten CR42 and twenty Junkers 87s which approach the Island from the east. The JU 87s dive bomb Hal Far aerodrome from different angles, each releasing four bombs at a time, damaging the RAF ration store and some transport. Eight anti-aircraft gunners and one civilian are injured. Malta fighters are scrambled; one Hurricane is forced to land. Ack Ack, including Lewis guns at Delimara, and small arms fire engage low flying raiders. Eight Ack Ack personnel and one civilian are injured. One enemy aircraft is believed shot down by fighters out to sea but is not seen hitting the water; others are believed damaged.

17 unexploded bombs are reported around Hal Far aerodrome. They are inspected following the raid and identified as delayed action bombs. It is noted that those bombs which did explode did so after 5-10 seconds.   As the location of the UXBs does not prevent use of the aerodrome an exclusion zone is marked out around them which will be enforced for seven days. During that time all military personnel in the area are required to wear steel helmets and follow restricted movement orders.

1837-1845 hrs  Air raid alert for an aircraft reported by the Naval Signal Station on the roof of the Castille. The aircraft is later identified as friendly.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 1940

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA Two Sunderlands on patrol; one left for Alexandria and one arrived from there.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Bomb Disposal UXB  High explosive 17 x 250kg or 500kg believed delayed action inspected and left 7 days Hal Far.

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Posted by on September 15, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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14 September 1940: Malta’s Coastline Fortified Against Invasion

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HM Drifter Eddy under fire today

HM Drifter Eddy under fire today

OBSTACLES SET UP IN MALTA

A ring of obstacles is being set up along all vulnerable stretches of Malta’s coastline in a bid to deter invasion from the sea. The obstacles are pyramid blocks five feet high, made of concrete, each weighing one and a quarter tons and fitted with iron spikes. They are laid along the one-fathom line in two staggered rows with twenty feet between rows and also between each obstacle.

So far the installation of blocks has been completed in Mellieha Bay, St Thomas Bay, St Pauls Bay, Salina Bay, Caba Mistra and Marfa Peninsula Bays, and Ghain Tuffieha Bay north of Ghain Tuffieha Tower. Construction south of the Tower is underway but work has now ceased due to a lack of cement and deteriorating weather conditions.

TROOPS ORDERED TO REPORT UNKNOWN VESSELS

Troops manning the Island’s defence posts have been ordered to report the presence of any unknown vessels to the duty officer at their headquarters. To minimise mistakes in identity, all ranks are also required to familiarise themselves with Malta vessels which carry out inshore patrols. The orders follow a number of recent incidents of enemy vessels approaching the coast.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 15 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine at first, then unsettled and cloudy with thundery showers.

2023-2108 hrs  Air raid alerts for enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the east. Searchlights are active. One enemy bomber is sighted over Grand Harbour but when caught in a searchlight it is engaged by Bofors guns and turns away. Bombs are dropped out to sea off Ghallis Tower.

2103-2117 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching from the north. One incendiary bomb is dropped on Delimara Point; one high explosive is dropped on land near a military defence post, and four more in the sea. Lewis guns at Fort San Rocco engage a dive bomber: no claims. Some twelve enemy aircraft open very inaccurate fire at long range on the inshore patrol vessel Eddy; no damage or casualties.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY Jade attacked and is believed to have sunk an enemy submarine 6 miles off Selmun Palace. The attack report suggested the target was a U boat.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA Two Sunderlands on patrol; one left for Alexandria and one arrived from there.

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Posted by on September 14, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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13 September 1940: British Civilians Should Stay in Malta

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MORE EVACUATIONS WOULD HARM MALTESE MORALE

The War Office has asked the Governor and C in C today whether there should be any more evacuations from the Malta and if so how many. However, as it is impossible to evacuate large numbers of Maltese, the telegram recognises that they may form the impression of being left to face the music while the British are removed to safety.

Lt Gen Dobbie responded in the strongest terms against compulsory evacuation on the grounds that it would have a most unfortunate effect on the morale of the civilian population in Malta. He also cites the considerable risks presented by a journey through the Mediterranean and believes that families are likely to be as safe on the Island as at sea, if not safer. However, he is not against voluntary departures, provided it is explained to such evacuees that they travel at their own risk. He is doubtful whether any large number would wish to go.

Sunderland flying boat

Sunderland flying boat

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 14 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine; dull at times and fresh.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 1940

AIR HQ Arrivals 4 Sunderlands.

KALAFRANA Two Sunderlands 230 Squadron and two 228 Squadron under Squadron Leader Menzies arrived from Middle East for 3 days of operations.

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Posted by on September 13, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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12 September 1940: Malta Under Immediate Threat

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ESCALATION IN MIDDLE EAST PLACES MALTA UNDER THREAT

A message was issued today by Malta’s Army Headquarters warning Infantry Brigades that the war is expected to escalate in the Middle East. Intelligence reports have been received suggesting that major enemy attacks are imminent on the Home Front but also in the Middle East.

In that event it is now recognised that Malta would be immediately under threat. Following the communication, all ranks in Malta were warned of the new development and reminded that the safety of the Island depends on their vigilance at all times

Maltese needed to man guns (NWMA Malta)

Maltese needed to man guns (NWMA Malta)

MALTA CALLED ON TO PROVIDE MORE GUNNERS

The Governor and Commander in Chief will have to raise a higher number of Maltese to man the Island’s much-needed guns and searchlights, according the War Office. The difficulty of shipping British personnel to Malta means that manpower will have to be found locally, if not for specialist roles then to provide the cooks, orderlies and motorcyclists to support British units.

The War Office assumes that Malta will be able to raise two Heavy and one Light Ack Ack Batteries. On that basis, it is recognised that to man all its required guns the Island needs seven more Heavy and one more Light Ack Ack Batteries.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 13 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine; cloudy at times.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 1940

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Training continues.

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Posted by on September 12, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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11 September 1940: Dive Bombing Shows Malta Needs More Guns

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DIVE BOMBING ATTACKS SHOW NEED FOR MORE GUNS TO DEFEND MALTA

Malta needs more guns if the fortress is to survive, according to the Governor and Commander in Chief. Recent dive-bombing attacks by German Junkers JU 87s have shown the Island to be vulnerable. While Lt Gen Dobbie believes that 112 Heavy Anti-Aircraft guns currently planned would give sufficient protection against enemy formations heading for key targets such as the Dockyard, aerodromes and sea plane bases, recent low-level attacks have exposed a weakness in local defences. He proposes a further 32 Light Ack Ack guns in addition to the 60 currently on order, as well as an extra 24 searchlights and sound locators to support all the new artillery.

Skua operating on reconnaissance from Malta

Skua operating on reconnaissance from Malta

The Governor and C in C estimates that the Island needs six Heavy Ack Ack batteries and two Light Batteries, to make up a total of 248 Heavy and 22 Light guns to defend the Island. Manpower for 16 heavy and 20 light guns could be recruited in Malta, the balance would have to come from the UK. He proposes a new Royal Artillery structure of two battalions, in addition to two battalions of the Royal Malta Artillery.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 12 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Thundery showers with bright intervals; much cooler.

0500 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by return of friendly aircraft.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 1940

AIR HQ 1039-1329 hrs Reconnaissance by Skua east coast of Sicily reported destroyer outside Messina Straits, one destroyer and two merchant ships at Augusta and small craft at Syracuse.

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Posted by on September 11, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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