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Monthly Archives: February 2016

21 February 1941: Reinforcements for Malta – 1300 Troops Disembark

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OPERATION MC 8 DELIVERS TROOPS SAFELY

HMS Gloucester enters Malta (1)

HMS Gloucester enters Malta

Two battalions of infantry arrived today to reinforce the Malta garrison. Light cruisers HMS Orion, Gloucester, Ajax, and destroyers Mohawk, Nubian and Diamond entered Grand Harbour just before dawn this morning and docked at 0630 hours.  

Aboard Gloucester were 655 officers and ranks of 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment.  1st Bn Hampshire Regiment arrived in two ships, 339 officers and ranks by Ajax and 372 from Orion, which also carried individuals from other Malta-based units.

Forming part of a two-pronged Operation MC 8 which set out from Alexandria two days ago, the Malta convoy, Force B, was covered on the journey by two battleships and nine destroyers of Force A. Their passage passed without incident and their approach to harbour appears to have been unobserved by the enemy. 

Disembarkation of men and baggage began without delay and all men, except baggage parties, were clear by 1030 hrs. The convoy also carried tons of equipment, seventeen Bren carriers and other vehicles, sixty motor cycles, and a large quantity of guns and ammunition. The convoy ships sailed at dusk, except for Diamond which remains at Malta for refit. 

1st Bn Hampshire Regiment will be located in the area Ghaxaq-Bubaqra-Qrendi-Mqabba and will come under the command of the Southern Infantry Brigade.  The Battalion will be provided with as many bicycles as possible to make them mobile.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 22 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0630 hrs Three Cruisers disembark reinforcements including 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment and 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment.

1134-1155 hrs Air raid alert for six enemy bombers escorted by ten ME 109 fighters which approach the Island from the north and circle to the south east at 23000 feet. Eight Hurricane fighters are scrambled.  In response, six of the enemy aircraft dive and make a half-hearted attack on the Hurricanes but then withdraw.  No bombs are dropped.

1407-1412 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which crosses the coast and is engaged by anti-aircraft fire before retreating. No bombs are dropped.

1850-1910 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1955-2016 hrs Air raid alert for one enemy aircraft which crosses the Island and is engaged by anti-aircraft fire, then retreats without launching any attack.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 21 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Orion, Gloucester, Ajax, Mohawk, Nubian and Diamond arrived at dawn and sailed at dusk leaving Diamond to refit. 

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. 0535 hrs Sunderland reconnaissance of western Ionian Sea.  

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland returned from Gibraltar.

LUQA 148 Squadron  Six Wellingtons bombing raid on Catania and Comiso aerodromes.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  The Battalion acted as hosts to arriving Hampshire and Cheshire Regiments.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Two officers and one other rank arrived by convoy. C Company handed over defence of the emergency landing ground at Loreto to 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment and reverted to Ghar Dalam.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Three officers arrived by convoy

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB dealt with 3 (3 x 200kg German).

ROYAL ARTILLERY  One officer arrived by convoy.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  One other rank arrived by convoy.

 

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Posted by on February 21, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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20 February 1941: Head of British Army Visits Malta

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CIGS Sir John Dill, February 1941

CIGS Sir John Dill, February 1941

CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF JOINED BY FOREIGN SECRETARY

The head of the British Army, Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) Sir John Dill paid a top secret visit to Malta. He arrived yesterday by Sunderland aircraft with British Foreign Secretary Sir Anthony Eden.  The CIGS gave a short talk to officers at Australia Hall and toured as many military installations as possible during his brief stay on the Island.  Sir John Dill also held talks with the Governor and Commander in Chief which are likely to have focused on the increase in German forces in North Africa and the role of Malta in the security of the Mediterranean.

BRECONSHIRE AND CLAN MACAULAY SAIL FOR MIDDLE EAST 

The merchant ships Breconshire and Clan Macaulay which arrived in Malta in convoy MW 5½ left for the Middle East early this evening. They will make the crossing separately, escorted by HMS Havock and Hotspur respectively.  Breconshire is expected to join the main Mediterranean Fleet before detaching for the last leg of the journey to Alexandria. Clan Macaulay and escort will join with the anti-aircraft cruiser Coventry for the second part of her voyage.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 21 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather Fine; cloudy at times. Wind changed from north west to south east. 

1327-1335 hrs  Air raid alert for one enemy Heinkel 111 escorted by six ME 109 fighters which cross the north coast and circle the Island at great height. Hurricanes are scrambled and the raiders recede without launching any attack.

1658-1800 hrs  Air raid alert for six ME 109 fighters which approach and circle the Island; Hurricanes are airborne and no raid materializes.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 20 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY HMS Breconshire and HT Clan Macaulay sailed for Alexandria at dusk escorted by Hotspur and Havock.  These two destroyers have completed damage repairs and have been fitted with bow protection gear for use in special operations. 

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland. 0535-1558 hrs Sunderland reconnaissance of enemy shipping east of Aqtam.  Maryland photoreconnaissance of Taranto.  Maryland reconnaissance of Messina returned due to low clouds.  

KALAFRANA One Sunderland 10 Squadron left for Gibraltar and UK with passengers and mail.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Taranto; one Maryland photoreconnaissance Straits of Messina prevented by low cloud.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB dealt with 4 (1 x 4.5” Ack Ack shell;1 x 43lb Italian; 1 x 200kg, 1 x 300kg German).

 

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Posted by on February 20, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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19 February 1941: Immediate Compulsory Conscription For Malta

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Conscripts line up to register (c) Times of Malta

Conscripts line up to register (c) Times of Malta

CONSCRIPTION

Compulsory conscription is to be introduced to Malta. Governor and Commander in Chief has submitted a plan by telegram to the War Office in London for urgent approval so that the measure can take immediate effect.  This is the first time since 1792 that the able-bodied in Malta have been called up to defend their country. 

Launching the scheme to the media, Lt Gen Dobbie takes full responsibility for the introduction of conscription, which he believes will be approved and welcomed by the vast majority of the people of Malta, who would be glad to see Malta come into line with Great Britain.

The announcement is expected in today’s newspapers that, under the Compulsory Service Regulation, all men between the ages of 16 and 56 will liable to National Service.  Conscripts will not be required to serve outside Malta unless they join the Royal Navy.  Immediate measures will apply to all those aged 20-25 years on 3 March 1941, who will required to register for military service immediately. 

Notices will be sent out district by district, calling men to report to their local office. Any man presenting himself for conscription can apply for a postponement certificate on the grounds of hardship.  Exemptions will generally apply to only or eldest sons of the family, and the medically unfit.  Those who fail to attend when called will be liable to arrest by the police. (1)

Families will be protected by the regulations for Army Dependents Allowances in time of National Emergency which will be adapted accordingly. TheGovernor and CiC has also requested approval for the issue of Dependants’ Allowances to Maltese military personnel.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 20 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Cloud and strong wind, moderating towards evening.

1704-1722 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft approaching from the south west. They cross over the Island and fly away over Gozo northwards without launching any attack.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 19 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Two mines in the entrance to Grand Harbour and two in the entrance to Marsamxetto Harbour were detonated in rough weather, without sweeping. Both harbour entrances are now clear.  

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland. 

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from Gibraltar with distinguished passengers. One Sunderland left for Middle East with distinguished passengers.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB dealt with 1 (1 x 50kg German).

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

 

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Posted by on February 19, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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18 February 1941: Malta Fleet Cleared to Launch Attacks in Med

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Aircraft, ships and submarines cleared to attack Axis shipping

Aircraft, ships and submarines cleared to attack Axis shipping

ADMIRALTY ISSUES PERMISSION TO ATTACK AXIS SHIPPING

The Admiralty has issued a navigational warning to all Allied fleet commanders, including Vice Admiral Malta, declaring dangerous to shipping a large defined area between Italy, Benghazi, Tunisia and Sardinia. Within the given area surface vessels, submarines and aircraft may attack any vessels at sight, except French coastal traffic.  The same measures apply to areas of the Adriatic within 30 miles of Italian and Italian occupied territory, with exceptions for certain Yugoslav vessels.

REINFORCEMENTS ON THE WAY

Troops for Malta including the first reinforcements of 4th Battalion the Buffs are being despatched to Malta in convoy WS7, the Governor and Commander in Chief was informed today.  They are expected to arrive in early June.

MEASURES IN PLACE FOR SIREN FAILURE

A press release from the Lt Governor’s office today informs the public that if, at any time, the electric air raid alert sirens fail to function, the air raid warning will be given by the firing of three maroons or petards in succession, accompanied where appropriate by the sounding of hand sirens. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 19 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1132-1220 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve ME 109 fighters which approach the Island in a single formation at 25000 feet. On reaching the coast they split into three formations.  Eight Hurricane fighters are scrambled and maintain heights from 10-15000 feet, monitoring the raiders.  They engage a group of the raiders over Falka Gap.  After circling over the Island for 30 minutes the Messerschmitts make off northwards.

1910-1926 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island and drop parachute flares 15 miles off the coast. They do not cross the coast and no raid materialises.

0610-0637 hrs  Air raid alert for a small formation of enemy aircraft approaching the Island; no raid materialises.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 18 FEBRUARY 1941

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 (1 x 500kg, 1 x 1000kg German).

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

 

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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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17 February 1941: Ack Ack Gun Fires Prematurely Injuring Gunners

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3.7" gun

3.7″ gun

ANTI-AIRCRAFT FUZES BELIEVED FAULTY

Members of an anti-aircraft team in Malta have been injured by the premature firing of their gun. The incident took place during a recent intense barrage against enemy bombers.  The 3.7” gun was being operated at low fuze settings when it fired prematurely. 

Trials have since been carried out with the same and other fuze batches. They produced several more premature firings from five to 150 yards from the muzzle.  No casualties occurred during the trials.  Testers have concluded that the fuze type is unreliable and likely to cause premature firing at very low fuze settings.  The Governor and Commander in Chief has reported the problem to the War Office in London.

MILITARY CALLS MUST BE SHORT TO KEEP LINES CLEAR FOR EMERGENCIES

Troops have been issued with new strict guidelines to reduce the demand on the main Fortress military telephone exchange. Telephone calls through the Fortress Telephone Exchange are being seriously delayed, which could prove highly dangerous at critical times, such as a possible invasion.  The system can cope with only 96 subscribers on the line at one time – less than a third of the total number with access to the Exchange.

To free up capacity in the case of emergency, from now on only essential calls should be made, and these should be as short as possible; no private calls will be made between 0900 and 1300 hours. Callers must state clearly to the operator the number they require.  If a call gets through and the required individual is not present, the call should not be held while that person is found.  Instead an alternative number should be given or the caller should try later.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 18 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Dry, with poor visibility; wind rising towards evening.

1125-1150 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching the Island; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 17 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Drifter Ploughboy with a skid sweep and by firing a Lewis gun into the water detonated one mine off the breakwater. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB dealt with 1 (500kg German).

 

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Posted by on February 17, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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16 February 1941: Eleven Air Raids on Malta in 24 Hours

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SIREN SOUNDS EIGHT TIMES THIS EVENING (click here)

Night searchlights“…we heard the alarm siren no less than eleven times between 7 in the morning and midnight, but we held our services all the same.” (1)

For an eleventh night Malta has been under the air raid alert for hours at a time, on a day which saw eleven air raid alerts in just 24 hours. From before 6pm to after midnight, a series of alarms was triggered by enemy aircraft approaching singly and flying over the Island.  No bombs were dropped; instead the aircraft engaged in more mine laying.  One Hurricane was scrambled at a time in defence; there were no interceptions.

MALTA GUNS WILL BE OUT OF ACTION UNLESS REINFORCEMENTS ARRIVE

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief is becoming increasingly concerned at the lack of Anti-Aircraft personnel on the Island. In a strongly-worded telegram to the War Office in London today, he warned of serious implications for the Island’s defences, should the situation continue:

“The proposed establishment of anti-aircraft batteries in Malta is utterly inadequate. Raids are now frequent throughout the 24 hours and personnel have been standing to for long hours continuously day and night.  With normal sick wastage in other ranks there are no reliefs, and the officer establishment allows no reliefs even with none on sick leave.  Unless an adequate establishment is allowed to Malta, it will be necessary to put 25 per cent of guns out of action for resting. 

Your cable dated 1 December stated the new establishment for Heavy batteries would be seven officers and 210 other ranks. The number of officers must be increased to eight.   Further, your cable dated 21 November gives the minimum workable number for Light batteries. 

I request the immediate revision of the establishment and also that the batteries being sent from Egypt be up to the full revised strength.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 17 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0736-0800 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy Heinkel HE 111, which approaches from the south of the Island and swoops down over Hal Far, machine-gunning the airfield and several anti-aircraft gun positions. One Swordfish aircraft is damaged.  Anti-aircraft guns open fire; no claims.  Two Hurricanes and one Gladiator are scrambled; no interception.

0859-0949 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber escorted by twelve ME 109 fighters which approach from the east and fly over the Island at 9000 feet. Six Hurricanes are scrambled and engage the raiders.  The Messerschmitts immediately split into two formations, one climbing above and the other dropping below the Hurricanes.  One Hurricane crashes; the pilot, F/Lt J MacLachan, bales out and lands at Marsascala, injuring his arm.  Two more Hurricanes are slightly damaged and temporarily unserviceable.

1745 hrs; 1827 hrs; 1930 hrs; 2050 hrs; 2207 hrs; 2244 hrs; 2303 hrs  A series of air raid alerts for enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly.  Those approaching the coast are engaged by anti-aircraft fire.  All aircraft retreat without dropping any bombs.

0020 hrs  All clear.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 16 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 6 Whitley. Aircraft casualties Maryland attempted reconnaissance of Palermo and Trapani ports; bad weather prevented execution. 

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance attempted Trapani and Palermo prevented by bad weather. 148 Squadron Three Wellingtons bombing raid on Catania and Comiso.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 ( 2 x 43lb Italian).

(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 16, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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15 February 1941: Malta on Alert for More Parachute Mines

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Lookouts to be posted along the waterfront

Lookouts to be posted along the waterfront

A CHAIN OF LOOKOUTS WILL KEEP WATCH FOR ENEMY MINES

New measures are announced today following the dropping of parachute mines offshore in the Grand Harbour area last night. In clear moonlight, German aircraft laid the first mines in the entrances to Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour, causing the harbours to be temporarily closed.  Three mines exploded on land causing casualties and much damage to houses.

A series of lookouts manned by military personnel is being set up to report the location of any mines dropped into the sea during air raids. The Grand Harbour area will be divided as follows:  Ricasoli sector (two lookouts), Valletta shore (two), Tigne (two), Sliema Point, coastline west of Sliema, Dragonara Point, coastline west of Dragonara (one each).

Reports giving the bearing and approximate distance of mines dropped into the sea will be rendered immediately at the conclusion of a raid. Lookouts will not attempt to make reports during a raid as this would interrupt their watch, nor will they report bombs or mines bursting on land as this will only distract their attention from the main task.

GUARDS ON ENEMY AIRCRAFT

Following concerns about safety and security, military personnel are to mount a guard on crashed enemy aircraft. Orders have been issued that when an enemy aircraft crashes in the sector of a battalion or in the sea surrounding that sector, the company command in whose area the crash occurs will at once report the location and details to battalion HQ.  The battalion will also provide a guard to prevent anyone approaching within 25 yards of the machine, pending instructions from their HQ.

These measures are seen as essential, both as a safety precaution in case of unexploded bombs and to prevent looting by souvenir hunters. The guard will be maintained until it is ordered to be relieved by headquarters.  Battalions are also reminded that unauthorised service personnel are forbidden to touch or interfere with any crashed enemy aircraft, or any small component thereof.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 16 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather   Fine and clear.

0926-1030 hrs  Air raid alert for 20-25 ME 109 fighters approaching the Island, apparently on reconnaissance. Observers report that most are painted black and white but some are painted all white and some have yellow markings.  Eight Malta fighters are scrambled and damage three raiders; Ack Ack fire damages one.  One Hurricane is damaged and rendered temporarily unserviceable; the pilot is unhurt.

1331-1414 hrs  Air raid alert for ten enemy aircraft which approach and circle the Island at 34000 feet. Hurricanes are scrambled; no interceptions.

0015-0140 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft approaching the Island. Bombs are dropped on Sliema and on Marsa, injuring one civilian; one bomb fails to explode.

Military casualties  Private John Lancelot Wellman, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment.

Enemy casualties  Leutnant Wilhelm Gretz, 7/LG 1, pilot of Junkers JU 88 bomber shot down.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 15 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm sank one merchant vessel heading for Libya.  

AIR HQ  Night bombing operations by Wellingtons of 148 Squadron and Swordfish of 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Private J L Wellman died at General Hospital Imtarfa from a fractured skull as a result of enemy bombing on 13 Febuary 1941.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  C Company took over Corradino from 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment. 

 

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Posted by on February 15, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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