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Monthly Archives: November 2015

23 November 1940: Heavy Air Raids Return to Malta

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HMS Breconshire is on its way with supplies

HMS Breconshire is on its way with supplies

TA QALI AND LUQA AIRFIELDS BOMBED

After nearly a week without air raids, Malta’s two fighter airfields were targeted for heavy bombing today. High explosives and incendiaries were used in two attacks during daylight.  This morning five Italian bombers launched an attack on the newly established fighter station at Ta Qali.  The raid was witnessed by Adjutant of the Special Constabulary, Philip Pullicino:  “Ta Qali is missed badly and our house [in Mdina] is nearly hit: we get a stick of four HEs about two hundred yards away below the Bastions and we are quite shaken.  Luqa aerodrome is also missed and the bombs claim a horse, a donkey and five pigs.” (1)

The second raid in mid-afternoon was focused on Luqa, with some bombs falling on the Marsa area. The raid was watched by young Charles Grech:  “The residents of Casa Depiro [Mdina], as usual, went down to the basement.  However, I had devised a way to watch the air raids and keep track of all that was happening outside.  I had discovered a room far inside the basement which, back in time, when the palace was in its hey-day, was probably used as a stable as there were traces of dry animal excrement.  This room had a window hewn through the bastion wall and I used to stay there, exactly as if I was on the verandah, looking down at the view of the Island.  All the others were in the main room of the basement which used to be the kitchen of the palace.  It was the strongest room because the ceiling was vaulted and had big wide arches  The bombs which were dropped by Italian bombers in the early days of the war, weighing between 150 and 250 pounds, would not have threatened its safety.

I could hear gunfire in the distance. On Luqa airfield I could see smoke from exploding bombs.  Looking through a pair of theatre binoculars, which I secretly used to take down with me to the basement, I could identify them as Savoia Marchetti SM 79s.  These were three-engined bombers which could fly at a speed of 260 miles per hour and could carry a bomb load of 2205 pounds.  Shortly afterwards, I heard a whistling sound followed by a tremendous explosion and a very strong blast.  I was thrown inwards and found myself sprawled on the floor.  I got up quickly and, terrified, rushed to where the others were.  They were in a state of panic.  Some were crying and one or two were unconscious.  Others were asking whether their relatives were unharmed.

Considering the confusion there was in there, one would have thought that there had been a direct hit on the palace. When the air raid was over, I quickly ran to the verandah to spot where the bombs had fallen.  As I was rushing up, father asked me where the devil I had been, as he had been looking for me everywhere and mother was very worried when she had not seen me in the confusion.  I had to tell him a lie, as I did not want to give away my secret ‘hideout’, from where I could observe the air raids.

The bombs had fallen in a field about 400 yards away from the Despuig Bastion and had only caused three craters in the soil. Nonetheless, everybody was dazed.  Nobody had any experience of war.  We were in for far worse things.   Other bombs fell in the fields between Saqqajja and Tal-Virtu.

As usual, everyone had his own different views about the matter. Some said that the bombs were meant for that dummy aircraft at Ta’ Qali and that it was not right for the authorities to put it there.  Others blamed the old cannons, from the time of the Knights, lying in front of the Cathedral.  These guns and another small one, which was on Despuig Bastion, were removed shortly afterwards.” (2)

Clan Macaulay (3)

Clan Macaulay (3)

CONVOY HEADING FOR MALTA

The fast transport ship Breconshire set sail from Alexandria today with supplies for Malta, along with the freighters Clan Ferguson, Clan Macaulay and Memnon.   The convoy is escorted by cruisers Calcutta and Coventry, and destroyers Greyhound, Vampire, Vendetta and Voyager.  The main Mediterranean Fleet is also currently at sea and will be on hand if required to provide additional protection to the convoy.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 24 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

0900 hrs  Nine Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa.

1135-1210 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy formations of five Italian bombers, escorted by 16 CR42 fighters, which approach at 20000 feet and cross the Island, dropping sticks of high explosives and incendiaries in a line from Salina to Filfla, including on Ta Qali. Nine Hurricanes are scrambled and damage one enemy fighter which escapes into cloud.  One Hurricane is slightly damaged.

1515-1547 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve Italian fighters accompanying five SM 79 bombers which cross the Island at 17000 feet, dropping high explosives and incendiary bombs on the aerodromes and on Marsa. One high explosive hits the edge of Luqa aerodrome.  A water main pipe is burst on a road leading to the aerodrome.  Malta fighters are scrambled and damage two enemy aircraft which are possibly brought down.

Military casualties  Leading Aircraftsman Vincent Dawes, RAF.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 23 NOVEMBER 1940

AIR HQ Arrivals 9 Wellingtons.

TA QALI  P/O J Bourne arrived from UK on posting for duty as Station Signals Officer.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Three unexploded bombs round and reported to Northern Infantry Brigade.

(1) The Road to Rome, Philo Pullicino, MPI Publishing 2012

(2) Raiders Passed, Charles B Grech, trans Joseph Galea de Bono, Midsea Books 2002

(3) www.clydesite.co.uk

 

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

 

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22 November 1940: Dangerous Ammunition Falls in Raid

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Ack Ack at Delimara shot down a CR42 today

Ack Ack at Delimara shot down a CR42 today

CIVILIANS AND MILITARY PERSONNEL AT RISK FROM EXPLODING BULLETS

Warnings have been issued across Malta tonight following the fall of dangerous ammunition from an enemy aircraft. The incident occurred during the second of two air raids in the early hours of this morning, when an enemy aircraft came under anti-aircraft fire over Marsa.  Objects were observed falling from the Italian plane over Marsa and over Valletta.  On investigation they were found to be heavy machine gun ammunition, explosive and tracer bullets on metal belts. 

The Italian explosive bullets are particularly dangerous if handled: any small pressure on the nose of the bullet will cause it to detonate. Urgent warnings have been issued to the public not to touch any such objects but to report them immediately to the authorities.  Civil defence and military personnel have been instructed to handle the ammunition with great care.

BOMBING RAIDS ON ITALY

Three Blenheims escorted by nine Gladiators bombed the Italian line of retreat at Pogradets today, causing fires and explosions.

MALTA CASUALTY STATISTICS RELEASED

It has been announced officially that 96 civilians have been killed and 188 injured in air raids since Italy entered the war, while 290 houses have been damaged severely.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 23 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

0902-0925 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve Italian CR42 fighters in two formations of six which approach from the north at 21000 feet. They cross the coast for one minute, during which time anti-aircraft guns engage with heavy and accurate fire, shooting down one CR42 which crashes into the sea eight miles south east of Delimara.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 22 NOVEMBER 1940

AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA  Sunderland left for Gibraltar.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  E Coy practiced street fighting in Iz Zebbieh; GOC and Brigadier present.

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

 

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21 November 1940: Air Chief Missing en Route to Malta

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AIR MARSHAL’S WELLINGTON BELIEVED INTERCEPTED EN ROUTE TO MALTA

Wellington missing

Wellington missing

A British Air Marshal has been named as a passenger on a Wellington bomber which was reported missing en route to Malta yesterday. Since the start of the war Air Marshal O T Boyd was Commander in Chief RAF Balloon Command, responsible for controlling all the UK based barrage balloons.  He was recently promoted to Air Marshal and appointed deputy to the Air Officer Commanding, Middle East.  He was on his way to Egypt to take up this appointment, and expected to stop in Malta en route.  Three other RAF officers are also reported to have been aboard the aircraft.

The Wellington was one of seven which set off for Malta in the early hours of yesterday morning. The remaining six aircraft landed safely at Luqa.  According to pilot reports, Italian fighters were patrolling in the vicinity and it is believed they may have intercepted the Wellington carrying Air Vice Marshal Boyd.  After an investigation it has been confirmed that he was not carrying secret papers which could compromise the war effort, with the exception of one confidential letter the contents of which have not been confirmed.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 22 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

0034-0113; 0123-0153 hrs Two consecutive air raid alerts. The first is triggered by a single enemy raider which flies to within four miles of Gozo, where it circles before returning towards base.  Then a single raider flies across Malta from west to east, dropping three high explosive bombs and four incendiaries between Qormi, Ta Qali and Rabat.  Searchlights have difficulty illuminating the raider due to thick layers of cloud.  A Malta fighter is unable to intercept and the raider gets away.  Light machine guns at an Ack Ack post in Marsa open fire.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 21 NOVEMBER 1940

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Major General Scobell, General Officer Commanding, paid a short visit to the camp.

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

 

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20 November 1940: New Mail Service for Troops

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Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa today

Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa today

TELEGRAM SERVICE INTENDED TO MAKE UP FOR MAIL DELAYS

In view of what have been described as ‘abnormal delays’ in the mail service, a new scheme has been agreed with the Air Ministry to provide cheap means of communication for all ranks. It will come into effect immediately.

All ranks may send one private telegram per month to the United Kingdom according to the following conditions:

  1. Only applies to addresses in the United Kingdom
  2. Messages must relate to urgent private affairs.
  3. Text should not exceed twelve words.
  4. Addresses must be as short as possible.
  5. Charge for text will be one penny per word.
  6. Charge for address will be one penny per word.  If the address exceeds five words the excess words over five will not be charged for.
  7. Telegrams are to be written on ordinary service message forms to be obtained from Battalion HQ.
  8. The message will be censored and approved by an officer for transmission in plain language.  Careful censoring is essential as it must be borne in mind that it will almost certainly be intercepted by the enemy.
  9. Records are to be maintained by Companies showing the names of senders and payments made.
  10. Companies will pay into the Command Cashier at the end of each month the total cash received in respect of messages sent.  A statement will accompany the remittance showing the number of messages sent and the Fortress Headquarters authority for the service.

The success of the scheme depends on the careful control of the number of messages transmitted. Contents of messages must relate to essential business of an urgent nature and must not contain terms of endearment, congratulations or greetings.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 21 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Cold and damp.

No air raids.

0930 hrs  Six Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 1940

AIR HQ Arrivals 6 Wellingtons. Departures 1 Sunderland. 

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Middle East with passengers.

TA QALI 261 Squadron moved from RAF Station Luqa: 13 officers and 165 airmen being posted to this station for rations, accommodation, displine and duty.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Unloading of second convoy completed.

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

 

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19 November 1940: War Cabinet Inquiry into Hurricane Losses

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First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Dudley Pound

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Dudley Pound

FIRST SEA LORD REPORTS INITIAL FINDINGS

An immediate inquiry has been launched into the loss of nine aircraft flown off HMS Argus for Malta on Sunday.  Reporting to the War Cabinet, the First Sea Lord outlined the initial findings of the emergency investigation into the loss. 

According to the report, the first flight of six Hurricanes, led by a Skua, flew to Galleta Island, where they were met by a Sunderland flying boat to be guided onward to Malta. The second flight of one Skua and six Hurricanes also flew off Argus.  They were due to rendezvous with a Sunderland flying boat which was unable to take off owing to a defect.  A Glenn Martin was sent instead to meet the seven delivery aircraft instead.  However, the weather deteriorated and the Glenn Martin failed to make contact with the second flight. 

The report’s firm conclusion was that in both flights the machines were carrying a very small margin of fuel. The investigation had established that five of the aircraft in the first flight arrived at the rendezvous with very little fuel left in their tanks.  Two force-landed in the sea; one pilot was picked up by the Sunderland flying-boat. 

The second flight asked for a direction-finder bearing from Malta, which was given. At that time they were in a position due west of the Island.  It is not known whether their signal had been picked up.  Despite a thorough search, none of the pilots was located.

The distance from the point at which the aircraft flew off Argus for Malta was 385 miles.  This was 40 miles further west of Malta than the last time a similar operation was carried out.  It is believed that the early take-off was ordered when an Italian naval force was detected approaching the convoy.  This would appear to be critical given the findings regarding low fuel readings in the surviving aircraft.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 20 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 19 NOVEMBER 1940

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from UK en route for Middle East to rejoin 229 Squadron, also carrying eight passengers. Seven officers and 97 other ranks arrived from UK for posting to units in Malta were provided with temporary accommodation. 

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Hand grenade throwing practice. A Coy moved to new HQ near Imtarfa. 

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

 

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18 November 1940: Malta Shops Re-open All Hours

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Shopping hours extended

Shopping hours extended

NORMAL TRADING RESUMES

The Government today lifted restrictions on opening hours of shops across Malta. The move has been welcomed by retailers, whose businesses have been affected by commodity shortages as well as shorter opening times.  The civilian curfew hours will remain unchanged.

The restrictions, introduced on 29 May, required shops to close one hour before the 8.30pm curfew time and to remain closed until the curfew lifted at 6 o’clock in the morning. With the lifting of these restrictions shop owners are free to return to their normal trading schedules, making it easier for civilians to shop outside of their own working hours.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 19 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather   Fine.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 18 NOVEMBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY HMS Newcastle arrived with RAF reinforcements. She developed boiler and condenser defects and remained for repairs. 

KALAFRANA  Marine Craft Section rescued two crew of a Swordfish from a rubber dinghy three miles off Benghaisa.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Responsibility for bomb disposal assigned to Lt E E Talbot, Bomb Disposal Officer, RE.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Bomb Disposal taken over by Bomb Disposal Officer, Royal Engineers and so ceases to be responsibility of Inspecting Ordnance Officer.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Battalion handed over guard duty at War HQ Lascaris and Barracca to 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment. 

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

 

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17 November 1940: Eight Hurricanes Lost en Route to Malta

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Only 4 Hurricanes reached Malta

Only 4 Hurricanes reached Malta

FUEL SHORTAGE THOUGHT TO HAVE CAUSED LOSSES

Eight Hurricane fighter aircraft which were due to land in Malta today have been reported missing. The fighters were part of an operation to deliver twelve Hurricanes as reinforcements for the Island’s RAF fighter defence force.  The Hurricanes arrived in the western Mediterranean on board the aircraft carrier HMS Argus escorted by part of the Mediterranean fleet.  The first of two waves of six Hurricanes and a Skua took off from Argus at 6.15 this morning to fly onward to Malta.  The second wave set off an hour later. 

Just after 9am the pilot of a Short Sunderland flying boat sent to guide the first formation to Malta saw two Hurricanes ditch into the sea. He was able to rescue one of the pilots, Sergeant R A Spyer, who reported that he had run out of fuel.  The remaining four Hurricanes and the Skua landed safely at Luqa at 9.20am.  

A bomber from Malta sent out to meet the second wave could find none of the expected aircraft. It is feared that all six Hurricanes and the Skua may have ditched in the sea, most likely due to lack of fuel.

Missing pilots named so far are Flying Officer E G Bidgood, Pilot Officer F J Boret, Flying Officer R W Clarke, Sergeant W G Cunnington, Pilot Officer J M Horrox, Flying Officer P W Horton and Flying Officer J R Walker, RAF.

Codenamed ‘White’, the fighter delivery operaton was a repeat of a similar manoeuvre, Operation ‘Hurry’ carried out in August. It had hoped the success of that operation would form a model for future aircraft deliveries to Malta.    

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 18 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

0930 hrs  One Skua and four Hurricanes land at Luqa.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 17 NOVEMBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Operation ‘White’ carried out but only five out of 14 aircraft reached Malta. Anti-submarine trawlers were sent to search for the missing aircraft off Gozo and Filfla but no trace could be found. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Skua; 4 Hurricanes

KALAFRANA One Sunderland on escort duty for a delivery flight of Hurricanes arriving from an aircraft carrier. The pilot F/Lt Woodward rescued the survivor of one Hurricane which had force-landed in the sea.  He then joined F/Lt McKinley to search for further missing aircraft: no trace found.  Sunderland of F/Lt Ware on search patrol for Wellington – no trace.  A draft of 26 airmen of various trades were posted to Kalafrana from UK. 

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  The Battalion is now the Fortress mobile reserve – to be used in a counter-attack role in the event of the enemy gaining a footing on the Island – and has been issued with 520 bicycles.

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

 

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