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Monthly Archives: December 2015

31 December 1940: Malta and the Med After 7 Months of War

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Chateau Bertrand

Chateau Bertrand handed over to RAF Ta Qali

AFTER 7 MONTHS MUSSOLINI’S SEA POWER HAS FAILED TO DOMINATE

A total of nine Royal Navy submarines have been lost in the Mediterranean since Italy declared war in June.  This is viewed as a poor exchange for the sinking of 10 Italian merchant ships of 45,000 tons.

Most of the lost submarines were the large, older boats transferred from the Far East and unsuited to the waters of the Mediterranean. In the same period the Italians have lost 18 submarines from all causes throughout the Mediterranean and Red Sea areas.

Mussolini’s claimed domination of the Mediterranean has not materialised. In spite of the loss of French naval power, Force H and the Mediterranean Fleet have more than held the Italian Navy in check.  As 1940 draws to a close, the balance of power in the Mediterranean increasingly rests with the Allies.  (1)

As a result, Malta has been regularly supplied and reinforced.  At the same time, the Italian Regia Aeronautica has proved unable to subdue Malta through bombing raids.  Despite limited resources, RAF fighters and anti-aircraft gunners have frequently forced enemy raiders to turn back before their attack can be launched.  In recent weeks, with the arrival of Wellington bombers, the Island has been given an attacking role in the war against the Axis in Italy and Greece.

A significant Luftwaffe force has now been moved into Sicily.  As yet they have carried out no missions over Malta. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 DECEMBER 1940 TO DAWN 1 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Overcast. 

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 31 DECEMBER 1940

KALAFRANA  Sunderland aircraft of 228 Squadron operated on 10 days during the month, carrying out 11 long reconnaissances mainly to the north east of Malta, including one night naval co-operation patrol.  In addition, one search patrol for missing Swordfish was undertaken but was not successful.  Two communication flights were carried out by Sunderlands between Middle East and Gibraltar with passengers and mail.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  B Company HQ moved from Chateau Bertrand to new premises on Imtarfa Hill.  Chateau Bertrand was handed over to the RAF.  The CO addressed officers and NCOs of the unit.  During the month air raids have only been intensive during the arrival of convoys.  New defence posts have been sited at Il Kella, Ghain Tuffieha village and St Paul’s Church.  Drastic economy has been made in the use of petrol.  Bathing parties walk and all buses have been stopped except for special services.  The unit has supplied fatigue parties to Targa Battery and Fort Mosta, unloading ammunition.  A junior NCOs course is in progress at Ghain Tuffieha camp.  Subjects covered consist of weapon training, section leading, map and compass work, etc.  A long-service decoration has been awarded to several members of the unit.  There has been a certain amount of flooding of beach posts due to bad drainage requiring the removal of personnel to temporary alternative accommodation.  The RAF petrol barge in St Paul’s Bay has been driven onto the rocks by rough seas. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  1630 hrs  Company take over of Rinella Sector complete.  During the month Maltese labour was employed alongside troops in constructing anti-aircraft posts around the aerodrome.  On each air raid alert these posts were manned by one NCO and two men.  Training for the inter-platoon fitness competition and route marches were carried out when possible.      

(1)  www.naval-history.net

 

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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in 1940, December 1940

 

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30 December 1940: 21000 Refugee Children Treated to Christmas Cheer

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CONSTABULARY CHRISTMAS PARTIES A HUGE SUCCESS

A Miles Magister training aircraft was airborne as enemy raiders approached

A Miles Magister training aircraft was airborne as enemy raiders approached

A fund set up to provide Christmas cheer to children most affected by the war in Malta has been declared a resounding success.  45 parties were held across Malta and Gozo, including one for 200 children hosted by the Marquis Scicluna at Dragonara Palace and another for 500 supported by the military authorities at Luqa.  In total 21000 children were entertained with free cinema or live shows, Christmas trees and games, before tucking into a slap-up tea.  Every child went home with a small gift.

Hundreds across Malta for contributed to the appeal, raising £687 in cash but also donating toys, groceries, sweets and free entertainment.  In a letter to the Times of Malta, appeal organiser Philip Pullicino, Adjutant of the Special Constabulary, described the beaming smile on thousands of happy faces at the parties.  He expressed the Force’s thanks, saying the results show that: “the welfare of children, especially of distressed children, holds a high place in the hearts of the people of Malta.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 DECEMBER TO DAWN 31 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Clear and fine. 

1130 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy SM 79 bombers escorted by five fighters which cross the Island from north to south at 16000 feet.  Six Hurricane fighters are scrambled to intercept.  A Glenn Martin aircraft is approaching the Island; five Swordfish and one Magister are also airborne.

1146 hrs  Three bombers and six fighters are reported over Luqa at 16000 feet; Three bombs are dropped on the aerodrome itself and some 7 more high explosives and incendiaries across the area.  One building of the Royal West Kent Regiment is damaged.  A direct hit demolishes an anti-aircraft post; there are no casualties.  Considerable blast effect is felt across the whole area but there are no casualties.  The raiders are engaged by heavy anti-aircraft fire; no claims. 

1158 hrs  A second formation of six enemy aircraft is reported approaching the Island but turns away without crossing the coast.  

1220 hrs  Raiders passed sounds.  A search is organised for unexploded bombs and two are reported to the Southern Infantry Brigade: one at the entrance to a quarry and the second between a cookhouse and dining hall.  All friendly aircraft are confirmed landed safely.

1500 hrs  Major Jacobs, Royal Engineers, visited Luqa to inspect the unexploded bombs and confirmed they must be left for four days before being dealt with.  Sentries are posted to prevent any traffic movements near the bomb sites and all ranks serving in the area are ordered to wear steel helmets until further notice.

1640 hrs  Eight Wellington bombers take off from Luqa.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 30 DECEMBER 1940

KALAFRANA  Sunderland L2159, pilot W/C Nicholetts, left for Gibraltar to pick up important passengers.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3; dealt with 0.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  D Company, less tank hunting platoon, move to Rinella Sector. 

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

 

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Posted by on December 30, 2015 in 1940, December 1940

 

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29 December 1940: Italian Bombers Are Back Over Malta

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Italian SM79 bombers seen over Malta today

Italian SM79 bombers seen over Malta today

FIRST ALERT FOR 9 DAYS

Italian bombers returned to the skies over Malta today, after an extended break.  The air raid alert sounded just before 11 this morning, the first time since 20 December.  The alert was followed by the appearance of three formations of enemy bombers.  Malta fighters and anti-aircraft guns were swiftly in action.  The raiders turned away with no bombs released.   

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 DECEMBER TO DAWN 30 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Clear and fine. 

1050-1120 hrs  Air raid alert for a large formation of enemy bombers reported north east of Grand Harbour.  A second formation is reported 18 miles out to sea, then a third ten miles due east.  The first formation departs to the north west.  The remaining raiders approach Grand Harbour, pass over the Island then turn north west and retreat.  Anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders with accurate fire.  Malta fighters are scrambled; no claims.  No bombs are dropped.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 29 DECEMBER 1940

Nil report.

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Posted by on December 29, 2015 in 1940, December 1940

 

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28 December 1940: Enemy Submarine Scare Off Coast of Malta

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ENEMY SUB DETECTED NEAR GRAND HARBOUR

HMS Parthian

HMS Parthian

An enemy submarine was reported by Jade tonight after an Asdic contact six miles off the entrance to Grand Harbour.  The contact was attacked and four hours later Parthian, on leaving harbour, reported seeing bubbles as from a submarine about five miles south east of the original contact point.  A n initial search around the bubbles failed to locate anything.  A further investigation of the area is expected.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 DECEMBER TO DAWN 29 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Cold and wet.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 28 DECEMBER 1940

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Aircraft moved from Ta Qali to Luqa. 

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Temporary preparations were completed for the expected arrival from the UK of personnel for the ammunition group and ammunition supply service.  Permanent offices and accommodation are in the course of being erected.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  COs A and D Companies reconnaissance of Rinella Sector.

 

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Posted by on December 28, 2015 in 1940, December 1940

 

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27 December 1940: Cold and Wet Threatens Morale in Malta

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Rum ration issue (c) IWM E12371

Rum ration issue, North Africa (c) IWM E12371

RUM RATION ISSUED TO TROOPS

The continuing heavy storms, strong winds and exceptional cold are beginning to affect troop morale in Malta.  The stormy weather has persisted throughout December, which is turning out to be the coldest month for 17 years, according to records.  After 36 hours of non-stop rain, today military chiefs ordered a rum ration to be issued to troops.   A tot is regularly issued to troops in North Africa to help cope with cold desert nights.

The air raid siren has been silent for a full week which brings a certain calm.  However, the cold, wet weather is restricting work and social activities, leaving troops frustrated and often bored.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 DECEMBER TO DAWN 28 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Storms and continuous rain. 

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 27 DECEMBER 1940

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Command physical training course.

MALTA SIGNAL COMPANY  Classification of Signallers of 2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment: 11 passed, one failed.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Weather very bad it has rained continuously for 36 hours; a rum ration was issued in the evening. 

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Sorting of ammunition began: 25 pounder and 3.7in gun at St Clements and 40mm Bofors at Mosta.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A and D Companies Lyon light training at Della Grazia. 

 

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Posted by on December 27, 2015 in 1940, December 1940

 

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26 December 1940: British Fleet Unchallenged in Mediterranean

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ConvoyCONVOY PASSES THROUGH ITALIAN WATERS TO NORTH AFRICA WITH NO ATTACKS

Ships of the Mediterranean Fleet have brought another convoy successfully through the entire Mediterranean without a single challenge from the enemy.  Although the Allied vessels passed close to the Pantelleria Islands and Sicily, no opposition was encountered from the Italian navy or air force.  The convoy was carrying reinforcements and supplies for Allied forces in North Africa.  In recent days British warships have also launched attacks in the Adriatic and the RAF have attacked air bases in Tripoli.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 DECEMBER TO DAWN 27 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Continuous rain. 

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 26 DECEMBER 1940

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; dealt with 1 (Italian 43lb).

 

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Posted by on December 26, 2015 in 1940, December 1940

 

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25 December 1940: Malta’s First Christmas at War

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As Malta faces its first Christmas at war the Island’s inhabitants each find their own way of marking the festival.  Continuing heavy rain failed to dampen the spirits of the season.  After five days without the air raid siren and a week without bombing raids, here was an opportunity for some relaxation

Malta's Governor wishes all in Malta a Happy Christmas

Malta’s Governor wishes all in Malta a Happy Christmas

MILITARY CHIEFS SPREAD CHRISTMAS CHEER

Malta’s Governor and C in C Lt Gen Dobbie visited military units across the whole of the Island today, to boost morale and give Christmas greetings in person.  The visit follows a Special Order of the Day distributed to all ranks and their families: “I wish all ranks and their families in Malta a Happy Christmas”.  Officers of all military units serving in Malta became waiters for the day and served Christmas Dinner to the other ranks in a move which has become an annual tradition in the British Army.

CHRISTMAS DAY FOR THE ARP

From the log book of Cottonera ARP Centre

On Christmas Eve Ref Fr C Spiteri arrived at 5.30pm to take confession from all the ARP reservists at the Centre.  Throughout the day, the men cleaned the Chapel and the rest of the premises at St Joseph Conservatory, Cospicua.  In the evening they were given a fine supper and at 11pm a special treat of beer, cheese cakes and sweets.

Christmas Day was celebrated in the Chapel with Mass, Holy Communion and Benediction.  During the day men enjoyed themselves singing and playing string instruments.  In the afternoon three squads were allowed to go to the cinema at 4pm and another three squads at 6pm. (1)

CHRISTMAS DAY FOR EVACUEES

Young Charles Grech of Sliema, now living as a refugee in Mdina, recalls how his family celebrated their first Christmas Day of the war:

On Christmas Day we threw a party, which was good by the standards of those days and everybody enjoyed every minute, particularly the teenagers.  For a few hours, everybody seemed to have forgotten the war and was joking and laughing. 

The Christmas lunch was not a bad one for those times, for father managed to get hold of a turkey from a farmer, who lived in the region of Wied il-Qlejja and who owed my father a favour.  We…also had cakes and biscuits, custard and non alcoholic drinks.  Alcoholic drinks had vanished and whoever had some in stock used to hide them away, valuing them as much as gold. (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 DECEMBER TO DAWN 26 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Heavy rain; cold.

No air raids.

0925 hrs  A mine is reported on the shore at Mellieha by 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment and rendered safe.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 25 DECEMBER 1940

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  His Excellency visits Camerata and wishes troops a prosperous and victorious new year.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  The CO visited posts and companies of his command and gave a brief address, pointing out the tasks that lay before the unit, and the necessity for a constant state of preparedness.  Xmas dinner throughout the unit was a big success and the usual custom of officers waiting at table for the other ranks was carried out 

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Issues of 3.7in gun and 40mm ammunition to many new gun positions.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Battalion Commander and Lieutenant Governor visited Companies.

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

(2) Raiders Passed, Charles Grech (translated by Joseph Galea Debono), Midsea Books, 1998

 

 

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Posted by on December 25, 2015 in 1940, December 1940

 

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