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Monthly Archives: November 2015

30 November 1940: Malta Needs More Reconnaissance Aircraft

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Glenn Martin Maryland

Glenn Martin Maryland

GLENN MARTIN SQUADRON TOO SMALL TO COVER MOVEMENTS OF DISPERSED ITALIAN FLEET

Royal Navy headquarters Mediterranean today issued a report on the current situation of Malta in the war effort.  

According to the report, the establishment of a new Naval base at Suda Bay, combined with the dispersal of the main Italian fleet following the attack on Taranto have facilitated the transit of convoys to Malta through the eastern Mediterranean. Supply runs from Alexandria together with two ships which reached the Island direct from England via the western Mediterranean have resulted in the build-up of stocks of all stores in Malta and greatly eased the supply problem.

However, the recent dispersal of the Regia Marina has made the job of reconnaissance by the Glenn Martin squadron in Malta much more challenging.  While the Italian fleet was based in Taranto and Brindisi, reconnaissance could either find them in harbour or, if not, confirm they must be at sea.  However, since the fleet been dispersed, a handful of RAF aircraft capable of long range reconnaissance cannot keep track of all the main enemy units.  As a result, the report says that little progress has been made with proposed attacks on enemy convoys proceeding from the west of Sicily to Tripoli.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 1 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Stormy and cold.

No air raids.  

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 30 NOVEMBER 1940

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Demonstration of use of anti-tank screens. Battalion strength 472.

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Posted by on November 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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29 November 1940: Olympus Restored After Bomb Damage

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DELAYED REFIT FINALLY COMPLETED

HMS Olympus

HMS Olympus

HM Submarine Olympus left Malta today after four months of extensive repairs. Olympus was undergoing refit in the Dockyard on 6 July when she was hit and badly damaged during a heavy air raid.  A bomb hit the submarine as she was lying in No 2 Dock, piercing the hull and puncturing the dock itself in 17 places. 

HMS Olympus is an Odin class submarine, originally designed for long-distance patrolling in Pacific waters. From 1939 she served out of Sri Lanka until being redeployed to the Mediterranean earlier this year. 

HARBOUR FIRE COMMAND STRENGTHS

  • Royal Malta Artillery 3 Officers, 135 other ranks (OR).
  • Haywharf Target Shed: 2 OR
  • Ta Xbiex: 2 OR
  • Delimara: 1 OR
  • Detention Barracks: 2 OR
  • Fort Tigne: 124 OR
  • Sliema Point: RE 6 OR
  • Sliema Point Battery: 4 OR

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 30 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Stormy and cold.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Gunner Edward Dean, 7th Heavy Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 29 NOVEMBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Repairs and refit completed, HMS Olympus.

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Posted by on November 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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28 November 1940: Convoy Bombed as Ships Head for Harbour

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SS Clan Forbes

SS Clan Forbes

CROWDS COME OUT TO WELCOME ARRIVALS

After surviving a sea battle yesterday, Malta’s latest supply convoy was attacked by enemy aircraft as it neared its final destination. At around 2 o’clock this afternoon, a formation of ten bombers escorted by ten fighters approached the convoy from the east, split into two groups and unleashed two payloads of twelve high explosive bombs over the ships as they approached Grand Harbour. However, no damage was caused and Clan Forbes and Clan Fraser, with HMS Manchester and Southampton docked safely and began to unload stores, ammunition and personnel.

A buzz of excitement had spread through Valletta since early this morning, following rumours that ships have been sighted on the horizon. Just as the ships were spotted approaching the Harbour, air raid alert sounded and most of the population headed for cover. 

But as soon as the ‘all clear’ sounded, hundreds dashed to the Upper and Lower Barrakka gardens and the bastions overlooking the Harbour, ready to welcome the convoy as it steamed into port. The crowds sang and shouted, and waved handkerchiefs. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 29 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Cool.

0906-0926 hrs  Air raid alert for eight to twelve Italian CR42 fighters which approach from the north at 23000 feet, circle Malta and then fly away to the north. Malta fighters are scrambled and a Hurricane shoots down one CR42 into the sea in flames, 20 miles north of the Island.  Four Wellington bombers take off during the raid.

1053-1111 hrs  Air raid alert for an unknown number of enemy raiders which approach the Island and drop several bombs in the sea to the north of Malta. They are engaged by Fleet Air Arm.  Three Blenheim aircraft approaching Malta during the raid land safely at Hal Far.

1329-1430 hrs  Air raid alert for six Italian CR42 fighters which approach from the north and spit into two formations over Valletta. One formation comes in over Delimara and is chased out by Malta fighters.  Another formation of ten bombers at 17000 feet escorted by ten fighters at 19000 feet then approaches from the east, splits up and bombs a convoy approaching Grand Harbour.  No ships are damaged.  Bombs are also dropped on land between San Rocco and Verdala Barracks.  Anti-aircraft guns launch a heavy counter attack and Malta fighters are scrambled.  Several dogfights follow: one CR42 and one enemy bomber are shot down into the sea by fighters.  A second CR42 is probably shot down by fighters. The Italian crew of the bomber are rescued and taken prisoner.  They confirm that their aircraft was a SM79 and was destroyed by a Malta fighter.

SS Clan Fraser

SS Clan Fraser

The convoy of two destroyers and two merchant vessels arrives safely in harbour.

2308-2320 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the east coast of the Island but when illuminated by searchlights it retreats immediately.

Enemy casualties  Sottotenente Gaio Del Cerro, pilot, and Sergente Luigi Conte, air gunner, of SM79 bomber, 194a Squadriglia, 30o Stormo, shot down and taken prisoner; Sergente Giovanni Lozzari, 2nd pilot, and Ovidio Venanzi, 194a Squadriglia, 30o Stormo, shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 28 NOVEMBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Operation ‘Collar’ successfully completed. Decoy and Hotspur arrived for refit but were sent out to escort Gloxinia into harbour, as she had one engine broken down. Griffin arrived for repairs.  Hire transports Clan Forbes and Clan Fraser arrived with guns and military and naval stores. 

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Fourth convoy arrived with ammunition in large quantities. Unloading began.

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

 

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Posted by on November 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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27 November 1940: Malta Convoy Attacked off Cape Spartivento

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Reconnaissance from Italian cruiser Bolzano spotted convoy

Reconnaissance from Italian cruiser Bolzano spotted convoy

BRITISH AND ITALIAN FLEETS LOCK IN BATTLE

Malta’s latest convoy was involved in a fierce sea battle in the Mediterranean today. Just before 10 o’clock this morning, the convoy was off Cape Spartivento in Southern Sardinia.  Admiral Somerville, commander of Force H sent to protect the convoy from the north, received a report from air reconnaissance that a significant force of the Italian fleet was in the vicinity.  Shortly afterwards he heard that additional ships of the Mediterranean Fleet had arrived from Alexandria, meaning that he was well equipped to match the Italian threat. 

Italian bombs miss Ark Royal

Italian bombs miss Ark Royal

Somerville immediately ordered his forces into two groups to form a protective shield over the convoy and repel attacks. Swordfish aircraft were prepared for take-off from HMS Ark Royal.  At 12.22 hours the two opposing forces came within range and the Italian cruiser Fiume opened fire, which was quickly returned.  The British naval ships were initially outgunned; HMS Berwick was hit by two shells which killed seven men and wounded nine others.  The British vessels rallied and the Italian destroyer Lanciere was badly damaged by a broadside from HMS Manchester.  The Italians again showed superior fire power before withdrawing from the engagement after just 54 minutes of battle.  Admiral Somerville’s forces set off in pursuit but as they approached Italian shores they were forced to turn back. The convoy was able to continue its safe passage to Malta.

MAILING DATES MUST REMAIN SECRET

Military personnel have been informed that for security reasons, no notice can be given of the opportunities for despatch of mail from the Island. In future, mail must be submitted to their Headquarters on Sundays and Thursdays.  It will then be censored and forwarded to the administration office on Mondays and Fridays.  Air Mail opportunities will continue to be notified to personnel by signal as previously.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 28 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Cool.

0757-0805 hrs; 0859-0911 hrs; 1147-1203 hrs  Air raid alerts for enemy formations but on each occasion the raiders turn away while still five or more miles from the coast.

2255-2314 hrs  Air raid alert. Air raid alert for two enemy raiders which approach the Island separately, from the north and east.  One crosses the coast near San Rocco, heads south and circles round Benghaisa, dropping several bombs in the sea nearby as well as high explosives on land south of Benghaisa Fort and near Windrock at Hal Far.  The second raider flying in from the east drops all its bombs in the sea off St Thomas’ Bay.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 27 NOVEMBER 1940

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Mail arrived from UK.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Strength of Battalion 27 officers, 889 other ranks.

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Posted by on November 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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26 November 1940: Supply Convoy Braves Western Med

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HMS Manchester

HMS Manchester

OPERATION COLLAR BRINGS SUPPLIES THROUGH SHORT SEA ROUTE TO MALTA

Malta’s latest supply convoy has been sent through the hostile waters of the western Mediterranean, despite the threat of enemy attack. Until recently the route has been deemed too dangerous for all but the most urgent of supplies, and convoys have been taking the long sea route to the Island, via the Cape of Good Hope and Alexandria.  However, the balance of sea power in the Mediterranean has swung towards the Allied Navies, following the recent decisive attack on Italian fleet in Taranto harbour

Two merchant ships for Malta, SS Clan Forbes and SS Clan Fraser, sailed from the UK two weeks ago in fast convoy with SS New Zealand Star which is bound for Suda Bay.  Passing through the Straits of Gibraltar late yesterday they were joined by the cruisers HMS Manchester and Southampton carrying 1370 Royal Air Force technicians for Malta who had been brought out in Franconia to Gibraltar.  Escort for the convoy through the Mediterranean is made up of destroyers Duncan, Hotspur and Vidette, and corvettes Gloxinia, Hyacinth, Peony and Salvia.

HMS Southampton

HMS Southampton

To avoid the threat of air attack from Sicily, the convoy is following a route close to the coast of Algeria which currently remains neutral. Force H of the Mediterranean Fleet is providing additional protection to the north, with the battlecruiser HMS Renown, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, cruisers HMS Sheffield and Despatch, and nine destroyers.  Other units of the Mediterranean Fleet including HMS Ramillies and cruisers HMS Newcastle, HMS Berwick and HMS Coventry are heading for a position south of Sardinia to meet the convoy and provide additional escort.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 27 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

0635 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but turns back some distance before reaching the coast.

Military casualties  Sergeant Dennis Ashton, Pilot, 261 Squadron RAF.                         

Enemy casualties  Tenente Giuseppe Becarria, 23o Gruppo Autonomo, pilot of Fiat CR42 fighter pilot.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 26 NOVEMBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY Convoy MW4 of four ships arrived and convoy ME4 of five ships sailed. Malaya entered harbour with an underwater defect which was quickly repaired. Newcastle sailed with Ramillies to the west. 

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Posted by on November 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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25 November 1940: Is Mussolini Ready to Sue for Peace?

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Mussolini

Mussolini may seek peace

ITALIANS ARE UNDER PRESSURE

Sources in London have revealed that there are indications Mussolini ‘would not be averse’ to negotiating a separate peace with the Allies. However, it seems doubtful that Allied commanders will look favourably on such approaches, coming as they do after Greece has achieved significant gains against Italian forces in Albania.  London military strategists believe that with sufficient support, Greek forces could press home a full victory over the Italians.  Already one Government which was regarded as almost an ally of the Axis is convinced that Italy is losing the war.

However, elements of the British press believe that a separate peace with Mussolini would be of little benefit, as Hitler has already gathered a great military and aerial power in the Balkans which he would immediately deploy in over-running Italy.

Despite recent air raids on key Italian targets from Malta, many believe that Italy is still not feeling the full weight of British strength. In a forthright commentary, the Sunday Express reminded Mr Churchill of his promise of hammer blows against Italy with the words: “Strike them! We want Mussolini in a rat cage, not at a conference table.”

The Express believes that an all-out air offensive on Italy is the only solution: “Only when stilettos are out, and the Italians are crying for vengeance on the men who led them to catastrophe, will they be prised from Mussolini and Hitler, and an Italian revolt would be the signal for risings in other tortured lands.”

MOTOR CYCLE BAN

The Malta Government has announced that from today no motor cycles are allowed on the road without a special permit issued by the Director of Transport.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 26 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather   Fine.

1445-1501 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve enemy fighters which approach the Island from the north. As they cross the coast they split up into two formations.  Anti-aircraft guns open fire and the raiders quickly turn east and head back to base.

0323-0400 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which approach from the north east but turn away 25 miles from Malta.

0625-0650 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of enemy fighters which fly over the Island at 23000 feet. Malta fighters are scrambled: one CR42 fighter is shot down in flames and falls into the sea. One Hurricane is also shot down.  Both land in the sea, killing both pilots whose bodies are later recovered.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 25 NOVEMBER 1940

TA QALI  A/F/Lt Newton Adams posted to this station from HQ Mediterranean for duty as Accountant Officer.

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Posted by on November 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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24 November 1940: Civilians Risk Their Lives Watching Raids

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Civilians slow to head for shelters

Civilians slow to head for shelters

TIMES ACCUSED OF ENCOURAGING RISK-TAKING

The Times of Malta today highlighted the fearlessness of the civilian population who it seems like nothing more than watching as the Island’s fighters and anti-aircraft guns fight off enemy raiders:  “Our gunners and our fighters may be well-assured of a good audience watching their feats…from improvised grand stands all over Malta…City life was little disturbed. It was cinema and shopping hour.  Cinemas stopped only while the barrage was actually on.”

However, those concerned for public safety are deeply concerned at civilians’ enthusiasm for remaining out of shelter during raids. In an official letter the ARP Centre in Floriana reported that in yesterday morning’s air raid some 70 per cent of the local population was out of doors, running from one street to another despite ongoing anti-aircraft fire.  The letter is one of a number sent to the Inspector of Police expressing concern and asking that the police should be more insistent that civilians take shelter so that such incidents can be avoided.

However, another letter from the ARP Centre at Mosta attributed some of the blame to the Times itself: “When the maroons are fired, instead of running to a safe place people by the hundreds go outdoors and on terraces to watch the aeroplanes. The shelters…are only being utilised as public conveniences.  The public…is much influenced by what is written in the local papers: the Times of Malta, to quote an instance, encourages the public to disobey the air raid orders – are they laws? – by the thrilling description of air-fights, falling of planes in flames, and parachutists who bale out…” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 25 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

1707-1743 hrs  Air raid alert for six Italian CR42 fighters which carry out a low-flying machine-gun attack at dusk on Luqa aerodrome. One Wellington on the ground is hit by incendiary bullets and burned out; another two are damaged.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack guns of the aerodrome’s ground defences engage the raiders, damaging one aircraft.  The rest escape into cloud.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Joseph Faiella.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 24 NOVEMBER 1940

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  All available personnel attended church parade at St Dominic’s, Rabat.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Message sent out re futility of engaging high flying aircraft with light machine gun fire.

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

 

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Posted by on November 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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