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WAR OFFICE INFORMATION SUPPORTS INVASION POSSIBILITY
Sources in London have confirmed the presence of German formations in southern Italy and Sicily. However, the actual numbers of troops are unconfirmed. After reviewing all reports, the War Office considers there may be as many as two or three divisions, including armoured and motorised units.
Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief today expressed his views to the Chief of Imperial Staff in London on the current threat facing the Island:
“I have no further information which enables me to assess the likelihood of an attempt by the enemy to capture Malta by sea or air, or both. But presumably it is a contingency which must be faced, and I cannot ignore the fact that my one battalion in Fortress reserve is very inadequate to cope with all the tasks which might be required of it.
I am anxious about the reactions of the civil population in face of a determined attack. They have undoubtedly been strained by the recent heavy air attacks, and may become difficult to control, and thus hamper military movements. The police could not be relied on to control them, and the army might have to accept this further commitment, which would be a most unwelcome additional strain on our resources.
Since Malta is of such vital importance to the Navy, I feel we cannot afford to chance our arm, and I therefore think that at least one additional battalion should be sent here. In asking for this, I realise that not only may it be inconvenient to spare one but, what is more important, it places an additional burden and hazard on the Mediterranean fleet to bring it here. But I hope that the extra strength it will give to this garrison will in the long run lessen the commitment of the fleet towards Malta, since the stronger the garrison the greater the deterrent to attack and the less likelihood of fleet being called upon to help.
I am most reluctant to make this request but the issues are too great to justify taking a chance if it can be avoided. The personnel could be brought here by the methods most convenient to the Navy, if need be in driblets. Transport can be extemporised here pending arrival of own vehicles. But they should bring bicycles with them if possible. The above all depends on the supposition that a determined attack is not an unlikely eventuality.” The Governor and C in C has also asked for the arrival date the first reinforcements of 4th Battalion The Buffs expected in Malta.
In response to Lt Gen Dobbie’s telegram, the War Office wrote immediately to the Commander in Chief Middle East:
“The Commander in Chief Malta has asked for urgent reinforcement by two British infantry battalions. Please arrange for despatch from Middle East as soon as practicable. It is very desirable that bicycles and carriers should accompany troops. However, Malta states that transport can be extemporised there pending arrival of vehicles.”
AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 6 FEBRUARY 1941
Weather Overcast, some rain.
0001-0300 hrs Four alerts sounded but no air raid took place.
Military casualties Gunner Frederick Meringo, 40 Battery, 13 Mobile Coast Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery.
OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 5 FEBRUARY 1941
AIR HQ Arrivals Two Sunderland. 0730-1015 hrs Maryland visual reconnaissance Tripoli. 0540-1400 hrs Two Sunderlands and one Maryland reconnaissance of shipping routes Messina to Benghazi, Benghazi to Tripoli and Tripoli to Sicily.
KALAFRANA Two Sunderlands No 10 RAAF arrived from the United Kingdom with passengers and freight.
LUQA 69 Squadron One Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli.
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