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Monthly Archives: February 2016

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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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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10 February 1941: Malta’s 300th Air Raid Today

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Operation Colossus X Troop

X Troop, No 11 Special Service Battalion

OPERATION COLOSSUS UNDERWAY

The first British airborne commando operation was launched from Malta today. Eight Armstrong Whitworth Whitley aircraft which arrived on the Island on Friday last took off from Luqa in clear weather at 1800 hours, as dusk fell.  They carried 38 officers and men of a specially trained Commando unit, X troop, of No 11 Special Air Service Battalion.

The unit is to carry out top secret mission to destroy a fresh water viaduct near Calitri, southern Italy, which supplies water to a large portion of the Italian population as well as several ports used by Italian military, including Taranto. The aim is also to test the unit’s capability and equipment, as well as ability of RAF to accurately deliver them to their target.  Six of the aircraft are carrying arms, explosives and rations; the other two are equipped with bombs for a diversionary assault on the railway yards at Froggia.

AMMUNITION DAMAGED IN AIR RAIDS

Precious ammunition delivered by SS Essex has been rendered unserviceable through bomb damage. Essex was hit and badly damaged during the recent attacks on HMS Illustrious in Grand Harbour.  As a result, water has leaked into the ammunition holds and damaged the cargo stored there.  A considerable quantity of 3.7” anti-aircraft shells and 40mm Bofors shells have been under six feet of sea water in the ship’s hold for several days. Some 25-50 per cent of shells are estimated to have been affected but it will take up to eight weeks to assess the full extent of the damage.

MALTA URGENTLY NEEDS SUPPLIES

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the C in C Middle East with an urgent order for additional equipment for Malta via the next convoy, including full scale war equipment and additional stocks of components and spare parts for machine guns; unit medical equipment (plus a medical officer if possible); 30 days’ rations for all personnel, to be followed by seven months’ supply; plus galvanated corrugated steel sheets, tubes, tanks, boilers and timber for construction purposes.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 11 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine; good visibility.

Enemy aircraft are carrying out continual reconnaissances during daylight hours all round Malta, particularly the south, approaching at times sufficiently close to trigger the air raid alert.

0745-0815 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1840-1920 hrs  Air raid alert for one enemy aircraft which approaches the Island and drops bombs on Hal Far and Kalafrana.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 10 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ  Eight Whitley aircraft left on a special operation.

LUQA  Eight Whitleys left for Operation Colossus; one failed to return, force landed south east of Naples.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Having completed training on Bofors four officers and 50 other ranks took up fire positions in the Harbouer area.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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Posted by on February 10, 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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