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Monthly Archives: February 2016

25 February 1941: Rock Shelters Essential in Every Place, Says Governor

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CIVILIANS DIG OWN SHELTERS IN BELIEF THAT ONLY ROCK CAN PROTECT THEM

Digging to create underground shelters

Digging to create underground shelters

Maltese civilians are giving up hours of their own time to dig underground shelters, in the belief that only the Island’s rock can protect them from German raiders. Government officials have acknowledged that the determined dive-bombing by German aircraft has been a considerable shock to the population and conceded that the provision in every locality of rock shelters in which the public have confidence must be speeded up.  In a broadcast on 4 February, the Governor said:

“I wish to assure all the people of Malta that the Government is fully alive to the urgent necessity of providing bomb proof shelters with the minimum of delay, and is straining every nerve to do so. You must however realise that shelters hewn out of the rock take a considerable time to complete, and the problem is complicated by a shortage of skilled miners and a shortage of tools.”

In response, communities across Malta decided to take matters into their own hands. For weeks volunteers have been labouring hard provide shelters for their neighbourhoods.  In Rabat alone, 120 volunteers responded to a public appeal, including several women; work on nine shelters in the area is now progressing well.

In Pieta young women have been working on a shelter for a month from five in the morning to six in, aided by their husbands and even children. As one of the voluntary miners wrote today:  “We went to it with a vengeance. The larger part of the workers were Special Constables, Wardens and members of the MVDF, but little girls and boys helped in clearing the unearthed rubbish…When the sirens wailed…work continued without a single thought to the enemy above us.  As the sun sank lower into the horizon, we dropped our picks and shovels and trudged off to our beds with blisters on our fingers, and weariness in our bones, but with the full conviction that what we started to do will prove useful towards the maintenance of the security of our folk at home.”

The shortage of skilled miners arose following the heavy raids on HMS Illustrious, when 400 Gozitan miners left Malta and returned to their home Island.  However, they have now returned and, with the Dockyard producing the much-needed tools as quickly as possible, Government projects to create rock shelters are underway. (1)

ITALIAN COMMANDER UNDER HOUSE ARREST AFTER CLASH WITH MUSSOLINI

Italy’s military chief in North Africa, Field Marshal Graziani, has been placed under house arrest in Rome. According to diplomatic sources in Rome, after the significant Italian defeat at Bardia the Field Marshal returned to the Italian capital to attend the Supreme War Council presided over by Mussolini. 

In a bold statement, Marshal Graziani emphatically denied all responsibility for the Italian defeats in North Africa. He provided evidence the Council of having warned Il Duce of the likely failure of his military plans in Egypt but had been overruled.  The Marshal then tabled his resignation from the Fascist Party.

Marshal Graziani resigned last June but was ordered by Mussolini to withdraw his resignation. He is expected to be replaced in North Africa.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 26 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0705-0721 hrs  Air raid alert for two ME 109 fighters which cross the coast and are engaged by guns of Tigne fort

0819-0824 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

0930-1019 hrs  Air raid alert for four Dornier 215 bombers, one Heinkel 111 bomber and a large formation of ME 109s which cross the Island. Malta fighters are scrambled and shoot down two Dornier 215s confirmed and one probable.  Anti-aircraft guns also claim one bomber hit.  One Hurricane makes a forced landing in the sea four miles off Delimara due to engine trouble; the pilot is picked up safely.  No bombs are dropped on the Island.

1220-1254 hrs  Air raid alert for two ME 109s which cross the coast; engaged by guns at Fort Delimara.

1315-1420 hrs  Air raid alert for a small formation of ME 109 fighters which machine gun flying boats in St Paul’s Bay.

1530-1610 hrs  Air raid alert for four ME 109 fighters approaching the Island. Malta fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders.  Ack Ack guns also open fire.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 25 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  HMS Upright from Malta attacked and sank a warship heading for Libya, believed to be a Condottiere A cruiser.  

AIR HQ Arrivals Glenn Martin Maryland. Departures 1 Whitley.  Glenn Martin Maryland arrive direct from the UK having flown overland by night. 

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland arrived from the UK.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  The Battalion handed over its ‘close and defend Valletta’ role to 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment and will now come under the command of the Northern Infantry Brigade to be mobile reserve.

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

 

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Posted by on February 25, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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23 February 1941: Governor Broadcasts Defence of Conscription

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GOVERNOR REACTS TO PUBLIC CONCERN

Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

The introduction of compulsory conscription has caused a certain amount of tension among Maltese communities, it has been reported. While many have responded positively to assisting in the defence of Malta, relatives of some facing the call-up have expressed strong emotions at the prospect of their menfolk engaging in battle. 

To calm the situation, the Governor defended his policy in a Rediffusion broadcast to civilians across the Island:

“The coming months may bring situations which will require our biggest possible efforts, and we may need to use all our resources of all kinds to cope with the problem. We must be as strong as possible in order to ensure that all attacks are decisively beaten off, should they be attempted.  The Government must, therefore be in a position to utilise the resources of Malta (including the manpower) to the best advantage, and it is for that reason that conscription of manpower is being brought into being.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 24 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0700-0715 hrs  Air raid alert for two ME 109 fighters which cross the coast over Grand Harbour and then retreat without launching any attack.

1017-1055 hrs  Air raid alert for four JU 88 bombers escorted by five ME 109 fighters which approach the Island from the east, cross the coast over Delimara and drop bombs 60 yards from a gun position and on the Hal Far road at Benghaisa. They are engaged by Ack Ack: no claims.  Eight Hurricane fighters are scrambled and come within sight of the raiders, who swing away west and then north.  Anti aircraft guns also engage and one gun position reports two aircraft smoking badly as they retreat. 

Enemy casualties  Oberfahrnrich Roman Heil, III/StG 1, pilot, and Gefreiter Heinrich Stamm, III/StG 1, wireless operator of a Junkers JU 87 Stuka shot down, picked up from the sea by RAF Launch and taken prisoner.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 23 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  HMS Upright from Malta attacked the ‘Fanny Brunner’ class merchant vessel Silvia Tripcovich en route for Libya, which burned out and sank.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from Middle East with passengers.

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

 

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Posted by on February 23, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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22 February 1941: New Battalion to Defend Harbour and Valletta

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1ST BATTALION CHESHIRE REGIMENT TO HAVE DUAL ROLE

Porte des Bombes

1 Cheshire will man exits from Valletta including Porte des Bombes

1st Bn Cheshire Regiment has been given the task of defending the surroundings of Grand Harbour and approaches to Valletta.  The 655 strong Battalion, which arrived in Malta yesterday, will have a dual role: defend the Harbour Sector from seaborne and airborne attack and also to control the movement of the civil population both into and out of Valletta, in the event of a land attack.  Their HQ will be established at St Francis Ravelin.

One Company will be disposed in the areas of Kalkara, Vittoriosa and Cospicua, where their special tasks will include the co-ordination of the defence of the Sector alongside the Royal Navy, and of the Corradino Heights in co-operation with the Dockyard Defence Battery. In the event of an enemy attack the Company will operate to prevent the entry of enemy airborne troops through the Cottonera Lines from the outlaying countryside as well as preventing the movement of the civilian population through these Lines.

A second Company will operate in Valletta with the role of the coastal defence of the City and control of the civilian population within, should the need arise. A third Company will operate in the area of Msida Bastion and Pieta, to man the exits from Valletta via the Porte des Bombes and to control the movement of the civilian population in or out of the City, with particular reference to civilians attempting to enter during active operations from the area Balzan, Birkirkara, Hamrun and Qormi.

A fourth Company will be allocated in the area Msida-Gzira-Tigne with the object of defending Marsamxetto Harbour from enemy attack and also of preventing movement by the population of Sliema into Valletta when necessary.

Two Platoons of 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment at present in the Harbour Sector will now revert to the Southern Infantry Brigade.  4th Bn Buffs will also return to their original locations and duties.  All other military personnel still stationed within the Harbour Sector will be responsible for their own local protection in the event of a general attack, including from parachutists, and will man their defences on receipt of the codewords ‘Defend Harbours’ which will be issued direct from the CO of 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 23 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0717-0800 hrs; 1127-1132 hrs  Air raid alert; raids do not materialise.

1400-1425 hrs  Air raid alert for three ME 109 fighters which cross the coast and circle over Grand Harbour at 15000 feet. Hurricanes are scrambled but the Messerschmitts recede without making an attack before the Malta fighters can reach sufficient height to attack them. 

1600 hrs  A mine is spotted floating in the water in Ghain Tuffieha Bay. The beach defence position is evacuated.

0455-0555 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which circle over the Island for an hour without dropping any bombs. The raiders are engaged by Ack Ack.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 22 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  HMS Ursula from Malta attacked and sank a Sicilia class transport heading for Libya.

 

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Posted by on February 22, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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14 February 1941: Mines Crush Homes in Valletta & Senglea – 5 Dead

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Senglea

Senglea

FIRST MINES TO BE DROPPED ON LAND

Heavy mines struck homes in Valletta and Senglea tonight, causing serious damage and killing civilians. The 314th air raid on Malta was the first of a series of three waves of attacks.  Over a period of three hours, ten JU 88 bombers dropped bombs, parachute mines and flares on all sides of Grand Harbour, as well as along the coast at Tigne and on St Thomas’ Bay.  Five civilians were killed and twenty injured when land mines landed in Valletta.  One landed on lower Merchants Street, damaging a primary school, a military billet and five tenement houses.  Rev Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, felt the blast:

“The worst thing was a parachute mine which descended upon a building about 300 yards from us. It went off with a most frightful shudder. This appears to be the latest devilry that we are to contend with. It brought down the building on which it fell, and partially destroyed some houses around.” (1)

Several mines landed across Senglea detonating on impact and destroying 25 houses and badly damaging 30, causing a shower of masonry so great that windows were broken in 150 more buildings, including some as far away as the Dockyard.

During the raids, bombs were dropped on Tigne Barracks causing slight damage and injuring one man. A number of anti-personnel mines were also laid round the beaches of Mellieha and in the sea off Fort St Elmo. 

GOVERNOR INSISTS WITHOUT ADDITIONAL MEDICAL PERSONNEL MALTA IS INSECURE

From: Governor & C in C                       To:  War Office

Regret I cannot retract from my requirements stated in my telegram of 25 November 1940. A further ten officers and at least 150 other ranks are considered vitally necessary for the collection of casualties from heavy troop concentrations in widespread vulnerable areas and also for general maintenance.  Frontages are problematical and as an attack may develop from sea, air and landings, close contact with troops must be maintained by medical personnel adequate for heavy casualties.  Failing these reinforcements, the medical position in Malta is still considered insecure.

From: War Office                      To:  Governor & C in C

The use of field ambulances for the evacuation of casualties in Malta, taking into consideration the distances involved, is not considered justified. It is thought that main dressing stations are superfluous and that the chain of evacuation should be via regimental aid posts, supported by advanced dressing stations or reception stations, and thence direct to general hospitals.  If the personnel of 161 Field Ambulance together with the former Malta medical establishment is not considered enough for the collection of casualties, would it be possible to form a bearer company from locally enlisted personnel, if this were authorised?  If so, cable your proposals.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 15 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Dull at first, clear later.

1426-1513 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

2040 hrs  Air raid alert for the first of three air raid alerts in which a total of ten enemy aircraft, believed to be JU 88 bombers, head towards the Island in close succession under clear night skies. They approach the coast at 10000 feet and then glide along it at heights varying between 300 and 2000 feet, dropping bombs, parachute mines and flares.  

Bombs are dropped near Camerata, destroying the Elementary School, then two mines are dropped in the Dockyard area. One mine is dropped in Grand Harbour near Ricasoli and another a quarter of a mile off the coast.  Bombs are dropped on Grand Harbour, St Elmo, Fort Leonardo, the Dockyard and Tigne areas, as well as in St Thomas’ Bay.  Five civilians are killed and 20 injured; one serviceman is slightly injured at Tigne Barracks.  

2150 hrs  One mine lands on lower Merchants Street in Valletta damaging the Model School and five houses and badly damaging the billet of B Company, 4th Bn The Buffs.  One man is cut by broken glass, the others are slightly shaken.  Two mines land in Senglea, destroying 25 houses badly damaging 30; 150 more have windows and doors blown in but are still habitable. Malta fighters are airborne through the raids; no interceptions.  An inspection later confirms that mines have been laid in the sea off Fort St Elmo.

One Fulmar is despatched to patrol the southern coast of Sicily with the aim of attacking aircraft returning from the raids: no results.

2340 hrs  All clear.

0014-0036 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses over Luqa aerodrome. Searchlights locate the plane, anti aircraft guns engage and the raider turns away without dropping any bombs.

0530-0600 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Civilian casualties  Valletta  Joseph Aquilina, age 64; Speranza Borg, age 80; Philip Camilleri, age 63; Susanna Mercieca, age 85; Rosario Spagnol, age 14.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 14 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ  Maryland photoreconnaissance of Catania. Photographs (not of whole area) show 12 JU 35s, 11 Heinkel 111s and eight CR 42s in the northern half.  A visual report cites a total of 12 JU 52 transport aircraft, 30 bombers and 12 fighters.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Catania.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Field firing at Mayesa.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  19 Platoon, E Coy, acted as the enemy in a practice attack on Bingemma Fort.

(1)  Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History 

 

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Posted by on February 14, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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13 February 1941: New German Force Heads to North Africa via Med

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Rommel in North Africa

Rommel in North Africa

VICTOR IN FRANCE AIMS TO REPEAT SUCCESS

A major new German military force is set to cross the Mediterranean to North Africa, according to intelligence sources. Their commander, Major General Erwin Rommel is reported to have already landed in Libya.  Following his success in the invasion of France in 1940,  Rommel has been given the task by Chancellor Hitler to take on the British in North Africa, following heavy Italian defeats in the region. 

Observers and reconnaissance have recently made several reports of military forces amassing in Italy and Sicily, as well as extensive merchant and naval shipping movements through the Mediterranean to Libya. Malta bombers are expected to play a key role in impeding the successful transfer of resources to the North Africa campaign.

GERMAN BOMBERS ARMOUR-PLATED

German bombers are reinforced with armour-plating, according to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief. Reporting the discovery in a telegram to the War Office today, Lt Gen Dobbie has recommended that the Army should be issued with A/P SAA .303 ammunition.  If the issue is approved, the Island would need an initial delivery of one million rounds, rising to five million rounds in time for the forthcoming increase to the Garrison recently authorised by London.

A WEEK IN MALTA – REPORT TO THE BRITISH WAR CABINET FOR 6-12 FEBRUARY

The Island was persistently but ineffectively raided by enemy aircraft, which included German bombers and probably fighters. Forty-five bombers maintained a prolonged attack on the night of 8th/9th, during which our Hurricanes destroyed two JU 88s and damaged a third; relatively unimportant damage was sustained at Luqa and Hal Far, though civilian property suffered considerably.  On the 12th, two intercepting Hurricanes were lost, but one pilot was rescued from the sea.  ME 109s have been reported over Malta, but have not been in action.

Our aircraft reconnoitred Tunis and the coast and sea routes from Italy to Tripoli and Benghazi. On the night of 11th/12th the aerodromes at Comiso and Catania in Sicily were attacked with over five tons of bombs by Wellingtons from Malta.  At least four enemy aircraft were destroyed at Catania and large fires were started at both aerodromes. 

Enemy transport activity on a considerable scale has been maintained between Sicily, Tripoli and Sardinia.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 14 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine and clear.

1508-1522 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber accompanied by six ME 109 fighters which approach the Island from the north on reconnaissance at 22000 feet. Hurricane fighters are scrambled but on sight of them the ME 109s turn away and fly off.  Anti-aircraft guns open fire, hitting the JU 88 which is last seen losing height with smoke pouring from one engine.  No bombs are dropped on the Island.

1915-1932 hrs; 1942-2001 hrs; 2200-2235 hrs; 2331-2325 hrs; 2340-0040 hrs  Air raid alerts for a series of nuisance raids over the Island. Hurricane fighters are airborne in turn throughout.  In the first raid bombs are dropped between Mosta and Naxxar.  In the second, from Rinella to Della Grazia and one enemy bomber is damaged by a Hurricane.  In the third, raiders cross the coast over Dingli; bombs are dropped to the west of Ta Qali aerodrome; three fall on B block of Imtarfa Hospital, killing three patients, seriously wounding six and slightly wounding another six.  The third attack approaches from the south and drops bombs in the sea off Fort Leonardo.  In the fourth, bombs are dropped on the Grand Harbour area.  Searchlights pick up a single bomber heading away over the north coast.  During the raids bombs are also dropped on Pembroke and on Luqa aerodrome, seriously damaging one Wellington and slightly damaging one Whitley.

Military casualties  Private Lawrence Duckworth, 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment; Private Robert McGill, King’s Own Malta Regiment; Private James Frederick Scott, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 13 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm attacked and believed sank a merchant convoy heading for Libya.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Sunderlands. Sunderland patrolled western Ionian Sea.  69 Squadron  Maryland photoreconnaissance Comiso and Gela aerodromes: Comiso eight JU 88s of which one burned out, 11 HE 111s, one SM 79, plus 16 unidentified fighters; Gela seven bombers, nine fighters unidentified but with dark camouflage.   

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from Middle East en route for UK. One Sunderland 230 Squadron arrived from Middle East with passengers.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Gela and Comiso.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battle practices on Ghain Tuffieha ranges.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Private L Duckworth was killed by a bomb on an air raid shelter at Imtarfa Hospital.

 

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Posted by on February 13, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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12 February 1941: First Messerschmitts Over Malta Destroy Two

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ME 109 fighters

ME 109 fighters

HURRICANES NO MATCH FOR ME 109

Messerschmitt 109 fighters made their first appearance in the skies over Malta today. Twelve of the fast and agile fighters approached the Island as escort to a bombing raid this afternoon.  They quickly made their mark against the six Hurricane fighters sent up to intercept them, shooting down three of them in a series of dog fights. 

One of the Hurricanes was claimed south of Siggiewi by Oberleutnant Joachim Muncheberg, head of the 109s fighter unit, 7 Staffel, Jadgeschwader 26, which arrived in Sicily only last Tuesday. Flown by veterans of the Battle of Britain, the Messerschmitt 109e fighters have been drafted in to support Fliegerkorps 10 in its bombing campaign against Malta. 

Returning from this afternnon’s operation, Malta pilots reported that their Hurricane fighters are so much slower than the ME 109s that they are now at a real disadvantage.

PILOT’S LUCKY ESCAPE

Hurricane fighter pilot P/O D J Thacker had a lucky escape today when his aircraft was shot down into the sea. P/O Thacker, who arrived in Malta a couple of weeks ago, was flying one of six Hurricanes scrambled to tackle a dozen Messerschmitts and three bombers launching an air raid this afternoon.  In a series of dog fights, Thacker’s Hurricane was hit, wounding him with shrapnel.  He managed to escape as the aircraft ditched in the sea off Fort St Elmo.  He was soon rescued by launch and taken to hospital.

WAR OFFICE ORDERS REINFORCEMENTS TO BE SENT IMMEDIATELY

Following recent exchanges of telegrams with Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief, the War Office has written to the Commander in Chief Middle East with orders to send 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment to Malta immediately, to be followed by a rifle battalion as soon as one can be made available.  The date of the Battalion’s movement to Malta is to be notified as soon as possible.

OPERATION COLOSSUS UNSUCCESSFUL – SAPPERS CAPTURED

Photoreconnaissance of the target of Operation Colossus revealed today that the viaduct remains intact, following Monday night’s attack. According to the returning Whitley crews, equipment failures and navigational errors made it difficult for them to deliver all the paratroopers to the exact location.  Despite this, reports confirm that charges were successfully laid and exploded at the viaduct but the structure held.  The Royal Engineers involved were tracked as they left the area and taken prisoner.  One of the Whitleys crash-landed during the attempted raid on Foggia and did not return to Malta. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 13 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine and clear.

0813-0830 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1530-1610 hrs  Air raid alert for three JU 88 bombers escorted by twelve fighters which approach Malta. Some of the fighters are identified as German Messerschmitt 109s – the first which have been seen over the Island.  Six Hurricanes are scrambled and there are several engagements, including a dog fight over Hal Far and another north of the Island.  Two Hurricanes are missing after the raid; one pilot is rescued from the sea off Fort St Elmo, slightly wounded.  A third Hurricane makes a forced landing at Luqa; the pilot is slightly wounded and the aircraft damaged but repairable.  No bombs are dropped on the Island.

1909-2000 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which approach the Island and drop bombs near the control tower of Luqa aerodrome. Malta fighters are scrambled; searchlights do not illuminate the aircraft and there are no interceptions.

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant Gerald Watson, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  HMS Utmost from Malta attacked an 8000 ton merchant ship heading for Libya and badly damaged its aft section. HMS Unique from Malta attacked a 6000 ton merchant ship heading for Libya, probably sunk. 

AIR HQ  Sunderland patrol western Ionian Sea. 0815-1327  Maryland photoreconnaissance of the results of Operation Colossus: excellent photographs show the bridge intact.  

KALAFRANA  Marine Craft Section pinnace rescued a Hurricane pilot from St Paul’s Bay.

LUQA  One Maryland photoreconnaissance for results of Operation Colossus. 148 Squadron Four Wellingtons bombing raid on Catania and Comiso aerodromes.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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Posted by on February 12, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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11 February 1941: Malta Ack-Ack Strength ‘Dangerously Low’

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antiaircraft gunners defend Valletta bigMALTA ANTI-AIRCRAFT PERSONNEL AT DANGEROUSLY LOW STRENGTH

Malta’s anti-aircraft gunners are being overstretched, leaving the Island vulnerable, according to the Governor and Commander in Chief in a telegram to the War Office today:

“Owing to non-arrival of specialist, anti-aircraft batteries or reinforcements, and the failure of recruiting in Malta, …[I] have had to improvise. 8 Heavy Ack Ack guns are being manned by personnel from the Field and Searchlight regiments and drafts from other Ack Ack Regiments, making the latter at dangerously low strength.  Five Light Ack Ack guns are manned by detachments from the Infantry.  The situation now is 86 heavy guns manned, 8 unmanned, and 49 light guns manned, 3 unmanned.  This is stretching all units to the extreme limit and I must introduce a system of relief which will reduce the number of guns in action.”

Lt Gen Dobbie proposes the introduction of conscription in Malta to improve the situation but this would not have an impact until mid-May at the earliest, and then only if anti-aircraft specialists in the form of one heavy and one light Ack Ack battery arrive soon. Until then, a number of guns essential to the proper defence of the Island will have to remain unmanned.

Stressing the urgency of bringing Malta’s Ack Ack batteries up to strength, Lt Gen Dobbie said: “the current establishment on the Island is inadequate to give reasonable relief to current serving personnel.”

MALTA RECONNAISSANCE DUO AWARDS ANNOUNCED

Reconnaissance pilot Flying Officer Adrian Warburton of 431 Flight (now 69 Squadron) has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in Malta. The award was announced today by the London Gazette with the following citation:

“This officer has carried out numerous long distance reconnaissance flights and has taken part in night air combats. In October 1940, he destroyed an aircraft and again, in December, he shot down an enemy bomber in flames.  Flying Officer Warburton has at all times displayed a fine sense of devotion to duty.”

F/O Warburton might never have survived to earn his award, had it not been for his observer/navigator, Sergeant Frank Bastard, whose Distinguished Flying Medal for saving both their lives was announced in the same edition of the London Gazette:

“This airman was observer of an aircraft the pilot of which was injured and rendered unconscious causing him to fall forward over the control column. Sergeant Bastard, however, managed to take over the control and flew the aircraft level until the pilot recovered.  He subsequently assisted the pilot, whose left arm was useless, by manipulating the throttle when landing on the aerodrome.  His actions were instrumental in saving the aircraft and crew.  He has also been engaged in numerous combats with enemy fighters and has at all times displayed exceptional keenness and set a fine example.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 12 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine; clear and warm.

1610-1700 hrs Air raid alert for four enemy bombers which approach from the south west and cross the Island. Before the air raid warning is heard in the area, two JU 88s and one JU 87 swoop down on St Paul’s Bay and machine-gun the Sunderland mooring sub-station causing minor damage; no Sunderlands are at the mooring.  One petrol lighter in the Bay is slightly damaged but serviceable. 

Six Hurricanes are airborne and engage. Light automatic machine guns on the ground open fire and succeed in silencing the rear gunner of one JU 88 as well as damaging the aircraft.  An aircraft is seen in flames over the sea; two crew bale out.  The bomb rack falls off one of the enemy aircraft and the rack and bombs are hit by an Ack Ack shell.  Pieces of the rack are later gathered up in the Pembroke area. 

2012-2029 hrs  Air raid alert for three approaching enemy aircraft. One Hurricane is scrambled.  Bombs are dropped in the sea off Della Grazia and the raiders retreat.

2055-2155 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft which do not cross over the Island. Explosions are heard to the north east of Gozo

2300-2315 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by returning friendly aircraft.

2352-0006 hrs  Air raid alert; no raid materialises.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 11 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 5 Wellingtons; 7 Whitleys. Operations from Malta by Wellington bombers and Swordfish overnight. Wellingtons attacked aerodromes in Comiso and Catania; five tons of bombs dropped starting fires and destroying aircraft.

LUQA  Five Wellingtons arrived from UK.

 

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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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9 February 1941: Churchill Praises Malta’s Defenders

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British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

ILLUSTRIOUS DEFENCE SHOWS ALLIED POTENTIAL SAYS BRITISH PM

Winston Churchill has praised the achievements of Malta’s ground and air defenders against the blitz launched on the Illustrious in January. To date 85 enemy aircraft have been shot down over Malta plus another 24 probables and 33 damaged. In a speech today, he referred to the Island as an example of Allied resistance:

“In the Central Mediterranean, the Italian Quisling, who is called Mussolini, and the French Quisling, commonly called Laval, are both in their different ways trying to make their countries into doormats for Hitler and his new order, in the hope of being able to keep or get the Nazi Gestapo and Prussian bayonets to enforce their rule upon their fellow countrymen. I cannot tell how the matter will go, but at any rate we shall do our best to fight for the Central Mediterranean.

I dare say you will have noticed a very significant air action which was fought over Malta a fortnight ago. The Germans sent an entire Geschwader (squadron) of dive-bombers to Sicily. They seriously injured our new aircraft carrier Illustrious, and then, as this wounded ship was sheltered in Malta harbour, they concentrated upon her all their force so as to beat her to pieces.

But they were met by the batteries of Malta, which is one of the strongest defended fortresses in the world against air attack. They were met by the Fleet Air Arm and by the Royal Air Force and in two or three days they had lost, out of 150 dive-bombers, upward of ninety-fifty of which were destroyed in the air and forty on the ground. Although the Illustrious in her damaged condition was one of the great prizes of the air and naval war, the German Geschwader accepted the defeat. They would not come any more.

All the necessary repairs were made to the Illustrious in Malta harbour, and she steamed safely off to Alexandria under her own power at twenty-three knots. I dwell upon this incident not at all because I think it disposes of the danger in the Central Mediterranean but in order to show you that there, as elsewhere, we intend to give a good account of ourselves. But, after all, the fate of this war is going to be settled by what happens on the oceans, in the air and, above all, in this island.”

HELMETS TO BE WORN DURING RAIDS

Orders have been issued to troops that steel helmets must be worn by all personnel in the open during air raid alerts. In addition, any personnel who have to look up must wear eyeshields.  No such protection should be removed until 30 minutes after the ‘raiders passed’ signal.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 10 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine and clear.

0725-0740 hrs; 1032-1050 hrs  Air raid alert; raids do not materialise.

1430-1535 hrs  Air raid alert for a large number of enemy aircraft approaching the Island in two formations. Twelve Hurricanes and three Fulmars are scrambled and the raiders turn back without crossing the coast. 

1620-1650 hrs  Air raid alert for an enemy aircraft flying southwards very slowly over Delimara; raid does not materialise.

1835-1930 hrs  Air raid alert for an unidentified aircraft approaching the Island; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 9 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ Departures 2 Sunderlands. 69 Squadron  Maryland despatched for photoreconnaissance special mission (Operation Colossus) believed successful.  Sunderland patrol for enemy shipping depth of 100 miles north and south Tunisian coast.  

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Middle East with passengers and freight. One Sunderland left for Gibraltar with passengers.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland special mission successfully accomplished.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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Posted by on February 9, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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8 February 1941: Malta Under Alert for 9 Hours

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RAID AFTER RAID TARGETS SOUTHERN AIRFIELDS AND DOCKYARD

Heinkel HE 111 employed in raids today

Heinkel HE 111 employed in raids tonight

Malta was under alert for over nine hours tonight as enemy bombers carried out a constant series of air raids. The alert sounded just after six in the evening heralding in the first of the raiders who approached in a group of three and bombed Hal Far aerodrome.  They were followed by wave after wave of similar raids, aircrafts approaching in twos and threes, mainly targeting Luqa and Hal Far airfields as well as the Dockyard area, dropping their bombs from heights varying between 400 and 15000 feet.  Up 70 enemy bombers were employed in the raids, including both JU 88 and HE 111s.

Malta fighters were scrambled throughout the night and shot down one enemy bomber plus another probable. Many bombs were dropped on the south of Island, damaging the Leper Hospital and many civilian houses were damaged.  There were no casualties and only slight damage to military property.  During the attacks Swordfish aircraft returning from a mission managed to land safely at Hal Far.

Rev Reginald Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral sat up through the night with his parishioners: “There were about 140 people sleeping in the Crypt. I got them to bring cards, draughts, etc., as they just do nothing but sit about – or lie about. I have produced about 20 old hassocks from the church, which they use as head pillows and some bring deck chairs, etc. I feel sorry for the women with babies…there were long intervals of silence punctuated with sudden burst of furious gunfire.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 9 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1505-1525 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which approaches from the south east over Delimara and makes a reconnaissance flight over the Island.

1649-1722 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft seven miles west of the Island. Marsaxlokk reports a single plane flying in high from the south west.  Four Hurricanes, two Fulmars and six Swordfish are scrambled; no engagement.

1810-0315 hrs  Air raid alert. Four formations of three enemy aircraft approach the Island a few minutes apart.  Bombers swoop in very low and drop bombs on Hal Far, damaging a hangar and causing considerable damage to civilian property.  One civilian guard is killed, three civilians and two soldiers are wounded.  Searchlights engage and illuminate four of the raiders.

Bombers attack Luqa aerodrome, damaging the runway and two Glenn Martin Marylands. Bombs are also dropped near Luqa reservoir, west of Qormi, between Mqabba and Zurieq, on Marnisi and Hamrun, and between Paola and Corradino.  Six Hurricanes and two Fulmars are airborne and shoot down two JU 88 bombers plus another probable.  One aircraft is reported crashing near San Pietru.

Through the night a series of enemy aircraft approach the Island in ones and twos and dive-bomb Luqa aerodrome and the surrounding area. The Leper Hospital, St Vincent de Paule hospital and some civilian houses are damaged.  One civilian is killed and another severely injured.  30 goats are killed.  In another attack bombs are dropped in Marsa, on Tarxien and near Hompesch Arch.  During the attacks Swordfish aircraft returning from a mission landed safely at Hal Far.

Civilian casualties Sliema  Francis Grech, age 17, Malta Auxiliary Corps.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 8 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm fired five torpedoes on Tripoli harbour. One aircraft force-landed in Tunisia. 

AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland. Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli Harbour.  Maryland photoreconnaissance Palermo, west Sicily and Trapani; eight Whitleys arrived for operation “Colossus”. 148 Squadron  Six Wellingtons left for Middle East.  

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Gibraltar and UK with passengers and mail.  

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli; one Maryland reconnaissance of western Sicily ports.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 6.

(1)  Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History 

 

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Posted by on February 8, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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6 February 1941: Orders Issued to Prepare for Invasion

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INFANTRY BRIGADES WILL BE READY

In the light of recent evidence that the enemy has assembled parachutist troops and troop carrying planes, orders are being issued to troops to prepare for possible invasion. The infantry defences of the Island are divided into two brigade sectors: Northern and Southern Infantry Brigades.  The dividing line runs from Pieta through Attard and Siggiewi to the coast. 

In the event of an enemy landing, the use of light tanks, flame throwers, armoured cars, gas and dive bombing aircraft is believed highly probable. Troops are being issued with defensive equipment and trained in relevant procedures.

Flag signals over the Castile, Valletta

Flag signals over the Castile to call troops back from leave

A system of emergency recall for troops on leave or otherwise away from duty has now been introduced. On the relevant signal, those on the standard three days’ leave in the Valletta-Floriana area will report immediately to the commandant of the rest camp at Msida, who will organise such personnel into fighting bodies ready for orders.  The signals, to be shown from the Castille Tower only, are: by day two black balls vertically plus a flag; by night one red and one white light horizontally. 

GOVERNOR CONCERNED ABOUT FOOD SUPPLIES

Lt Gen Dobbie is concerned that the carefully planned system of rolling supplies, designed to ensure sufficient stocks in Malta, is at risk. He has written to the War Office, copy to the Commander in Chief Middle East, the Rear Admiral in charge of Alexandria and the Secretary of State for Colonies

“I request an immediate decision in regard to the source of supplies for Malta. The success of the current scheme is dependent on efficient co-ordination by staff for all the Island’s requirements.  Supplies of refrigerated products must be made by the specified dates if the stocks in Malta are to be maintained at the required level.  If this is not done, the rolling programme of convoys set up to keep the Island supplied will break down.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 7 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Wet with strong north westerly wind; low cloud and poor visibility.

1801-1845 hrs  Air raid alert for three approaching enemy aircraft which cross the Island once or twice but drop no bombs.

1945-2045 hrs Air raid alert for three approaching enemy aircraft which fly over the Island in very bad weather. They drop bombs in countryside near Tarxien and in the sea off Kalafrana and Delimara causing no damage or casualties.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 6 FEBRUARY 1941

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland sea patrol between Tripoli and Benghazi.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal  UXB dealt with 2 (3.7” Ack Ack shells).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Two defence posts evacuated for wire to be thickened and shrapnel mines laid in the area.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Defence of Harbour order issued to all concerned.   

 

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Posted by on February 6, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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