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8 October 1940: Military Chiefs Discuss Possible Invasion of Malta

08 Oct

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GOVERNOR ANTICIPATES SEABORNE ATTACK

Malta Governor & Commander in Chief Lt Gen Dobbie

Malta Governor & Commander in Chief Lt Gen Dobbie

In the first of two telegrams, Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief wrote today to the Chief of Imperial General Staff at the War Office with his views on the prospects for Malta in the face of an invasion from the sea:

I cannot visualise a full dress attack on Malta unless the enemy are confident of being able to prevent the Mediterranean Fleet from intervening for a sufficient period to enable them to gain control of the Island. After consulting the Vice Admiral Malta I imagine that seven days is the maximum period the enemy could hope to have free from interference…  This limit would probably rule out a deliberate step by step attack and would necessitate a maximum effort at all possible places simultaneously, carried through with the utmost determination; German stiffening might give the necessary vigour.

The local naval forces likely to be available within the next few months are only a few submarines, and even these are uncertain. Motor Torpedo Boats would be extremely useful against sea-borne attack but cannot materialise for a long time, so I am not counting on them. It follows that the Navy here will not be able to do much to interfere with sea-borne attack. The Air Force available at present could not count on preventing the enemy from gaining air superiority if he made determined efforts to do so. The four fighter squadrons asked for, and which might have prevented such a result, cannot I understand come for some time. We must therefore face the fact that the enemy would have local air superiority, except in so far as our Ack Ack guns might interfere; this of course is a serious handicap. But the RAF reconnaissance aircraft should be able to give us warning of concentrations of shipping in Sicily, thus reducing the chance of a complete surprise.

I assume the enemy will have ample resources of men and material and that in order to gain a quick decision he will attack on a very wide front. Further, that he will use self-propelled armoured landing craft and will do the journey from Sicily at night, attacking at or before dawn. I assume also that these craft will carry some medium or light tanks and possibly flame-throwers, the latter to deal with beach posts. That the attack would be supported by fire from warships and intense air attack. From the foregoing consideration the following conclusions emerge:

  • (a) We must stop as many of the landing craft as possible from reaching the beach. To do this we need guns, since small arms fire is useless against their armour.
  • (b) In an attack of such intensity and so widely dispersed, the enemy may well get a footing at a number of points. Immediate counter-attacks will be essential and these must be assisted by the greatest possible supporting gun or mortar fire, to give them the best chance for success.
  • (c) Deliberate counter-attacks supported by strong artillery fire may be necessary in more than one area at once. These attacks must be made by forces strong enough to ensure success…

If we have to meet a full dress attack in the circumstances I have envisaged, we require the following additional troops and equipment: three battalions complete with mortars, one field battery, two anti-tank troops Royal Artillery, one or two sections of Field Company Royal Engineers or equivalent, 50 Lyon lights and 10 beach defence lights and 60 x 2” mortars, plus 100 anti-tank rifles, besides other weapons already asked for.

I suggest that these troops if sent here should be regarded as a reserve available to be sent elsewhere in the Near East should the naval situation change so that a full scale attack on Malta is deemed unlikely. But meanwhile some such force is needed if the fleet is to be freed from undue preoccupation with the safety of Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 OCTOBER TO DAWN 9 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

1935-2020 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy bombers which approach Delimara from the east at 14000 feet and drop bombs in the sea off Delimara, Wied Znuber and two miles off Grand Harbour. Two turn back before crossing the coast. The remaining two are illuminated and held by searchlights, then engaged by one Malta Hurricane fighter. One Italian bomber is brought down in flames into the sea off Delimara. Another is so badly damaged that it is unlikely to return to base; it is last seen by the Hurricane pilot and coastal observers flying at 1000 feet with one engine on fire. Two men are seen baling out towards the sea. The Hurricane lands safely. Searchlight crews are praised by the Air Officer Commanding for exceptionally good work.    

Military casualties  Private Ronald Frost, 2nd Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment

Enemy casualties  Tenente Adolfo Ferrari, 257a Squadriglia, 108o Gruppo, 36o Stormo, pilot of a Savoia SM79 bomber shot down.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 8 OCTOBER 1940

HMS Aba (1)

HMS Aba (1)

ROYAL NAVY  0655-1024 hrs  Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm despatched on patrol; nothing sighted. Hospital ship Aba arrived and departed: discharged three, embarked 52.  

AIR HQ  0345-0845 hrs  Glenn Martin 431 Flight reconnaissanace of Ionian sea, Taranto Harbour and Brindisi; nil report.

KALAFRANA  Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. 1230-1605 hrs Glenn Martin 431 Flight on reconnaissance; nothing to report. 0345-1515 hrs Sunderland 228 Squadron and 0403-1532 hrs Sunderland 230 Squadron reconnaissanace of Ionian sea, Taranto Harbour and Brindisi; nil report.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT 1200 hrs  CSM W Fry and five Other Ranks embarked as invalids on board a hospital ship at Malta for passage to UK.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT   Four discharged men left for UK.

(1)  http://hospital-ship-aba.blogspot.co.uk/

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed. For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com

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