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Monthly Archives: September 2015

23 September 1940: Danger to Malta ‘Extreme’ Says Churchill

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ISLAND VULNERABLE TO ATTACK FROM THE SEA

British Prime Minister has responded strongly to the issues raised in Gov C in C’s telegram to War Office of 19 September in which he says that the infantry garrison of Malta would be ‘dangerously weak’ if the Island were attacked from the sea.

In a note to the Chief of Imperial General Staff, Sir Winston Churchill said: “The telegram confirms my apprehensions about Malta. Beaches defended on an average battalion front of 15 miles, and no reserves for counter-attack worth speaking of, leave the Island at the mercey of a landing force. You must remember that we do not possess the command of the sea around Malta. The danger therefore appears to be extreme. I should have thought four battalions were needed….”

And to Secretary of State for War the Prime Minister wrote: “Do you realise there is no command of the sea at Malta, and it might be attacked at any time by an expeditionary force of twenty or thirty thousand men from Italy, supported by the Italian Fleet?” (1)

Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa

Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 24 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine with scirocco.

1045 hrs Three Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa. One crashes on landing and is badly damaged. Passengers Major General Freysburg, staff officer Lt Colonel Stewart and the crew escape unhurt. The aircraft is badly damaged and cannot be repaired with materials currently available on the Island.

1725-1740 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 1940

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA Two Sunderlands 228 Squadron arrived from Middle East for a prolonged stay, bringing a maintenance party of 16 and an important Naval officer en route for Gibraltar.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Platoon training began again.

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

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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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22 September 1940: Destruction in Luqa Village

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BOMBS MISS AIRFIELD AND STRIKE VILLAGE

Enemy bombers attacking Luqa aerodrome missed their target today and created devastation across a nearby village. 25 high explosive bombs were dropped in this morning’s raid. Only one hit the aerodrome, the other 24 rained down on the village of Luqa. Ten houses were demolished and one 16 year old boy was killed.

Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production

Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production

LORD BEAVERBROOK PRAISES MALTESE VALOUR

Lord Beaverbrook, Minister for Aircraft Production, in a message to Malta said: “The world needs no proof of your people’s devotion to our common cause, but it will never forget their valour and constancy in these days of crisis.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 23 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

1115-1135 hrs Air raid alert for a formation of four CR 42 fighters escorting five SM 79 bombers which drop 25 bombs around Luqa aerodrome from 15000 feet. One bomb hits the aerodrome and the remainder fall around Luqa village, demolishing ten houses and killing one civilian boy. Two bombs fail to explode. Ack Ack guns engage; no hits claimed. Malta fighters are scrambled and are about to attack at 16000 feet when they are drawn off by a false alarm of a dive-bombing attack. One Gladiator at 10000 feet is surprised and attacked by three enemy fighters but not hit.

Three reported unexploded bombs at Luqa are found to have their safety pins intact.  

1210 hrs  Hal Far and Luqa areas are declared clear of unexploded bombs. Three dug out by the bomb disposal team were found to have their safety pins in place.  

2045 hrs  An enemy submarine is reported 1½ miles off Ghallis Tower heading south east. Coastal guns are ordered not to open fire in case the submarine fires back at them but to report the vessel’s location immediately.

2240 hrs  A coastal defence post reports the sound of engines offshore.

Civilian casualties  Luqa Paul Magri, age 16.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 1940

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA Latecoere aircraft carried out 5¾ hour leaflet patrol over Bizerta and Tunis. One Sunderland left for Middle East.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Beach guns in Battalion sector placed under command.

(1) Malta Diary of a War, Michael Galea, PEG 1992

 

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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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21 September 1940: Malta Faces Food Shortages

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Poor House Luqa saved from unexploded bomb

Poor House Luqa saved from unexploded bomb

POLICE TO CARRY OUT SPOT CHECKS FOR HOARDING

From today, police will carrying out spot checks on grocers’ shops across in an operation to root out hoarding. The Food and Commerce Control Officer (FCCO) told the Council of Government that Malta is facing shortages of essential commodities and it believes that hoarding is adding significantly to the problem.

He went on to explain that despite current supplies of staple food items being sufficient to make rationing unnecessary, shortages are beginning to appear among certain commodities. This is not only a problem of stockpiling by individual households; some grocers are suspected of building up a surplus in order to charge higher prices for essential items.

Up to now the FCCO has been issuing a fixed amount of essential commodities to be issued to wholesalers for distribution each month, based on normal rates of consumption. However, it seems the supplies are no longer able to meet demand. The FCCO believes that hoarding has created these shortages.  

Evidence has emerged that many are already hoarding several food items. As a result essential commodities are disappearing from grocery shops and remain unavailable for long periods as the Island faces delays in supply deliveries. Some grocers appear to be selling without any special restriction or attempt to even out supply. Where grocers do try to ration fairly, some families are sending different members to different grocers to obtain multiple supplies.

The spot checks are part of a determined effort by the FCCO to root out hoarding and ensure an even supply and fair pricing for essentials. To combat artificial price rises, it is also proposed to announce publicly the appropriate prices of essential commodities – possibly after Mass every Sunday. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 22 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine with scirocco.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 1940

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Practice ‘Man Marsa’ out to various posts.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Bomb Disposal UXB  Incendiary x 1 Poor House, Luqa.

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

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Posted by on September 21, 2015 in 1940, September 1940

 

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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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