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ONLY AN IMPROVED FIGHTER FORCE CAN PROTECT THE AIRFIELDS
Increased ground defences will not be enough to protect the airfields without an increase in fighter strength, says Malta’s Commander in Chief. Responding to the Chief of Imperial General Staff about the effectiveness of light automatic machine guns against attacks (maltagc70, 15 March), Lt General Sir William Dobbie stressed again the need for more, and better performing, fighter aircraft as “the only satisfactory solution” to ensure the security of the aerodromes. He also reminded the War Office that balloon barrages and RAF PAC Units (1) originally destined for Malta’s airfields had been diverted elsewhere.
Ground defences of the aerodromes and flying boat bases are currently: Hal Far Bofors 4, light automatics 20; Luqa Bofors 6, light automatics 31; Ta Qali Bofors 5, light automatics 27; Marsaxlokk (Kalafrana) Bofors 10, light automatics 29. It is believed that the effectiveness of the light automatics could be enhanced by the use armour-piercing ammunition (apparently none is currently available).
However, Lt Gen Dobbie concludes: “after all, the only satisfactory solution is a greatly increased force of fighter aircraft with adequate performance. I have pressed for this and trust the War Office will press this claim. Unless and until it is provided, an adequate deterrent cannot be expected, and Malta cannot play its part as a naval and air base.”
Six Hurricanes have arrived in Malta from the Middle East to reinforce 261 Squadron but the Island’s fighter force is still only a fraction of strength of Luftwaffe attacks. Only a week ago (maltagc70, 7 March) Malta’s Air Officer Commanding, Air Vice-Marshal Maynard, stated that without an increased fighter force he cannot protect the Sunderland and Wellington bomber squadrons based in Malta.
The initial reply from the War Office made no comment on the prospect of further fighters, concentrating remarks on ground defences:
“Experience shows that the Bofors, particularly used with a predictor, is the most effective weapon against the dive-bomber. We request confirmation of this, or otherwise.”
AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 MARCH TO DAWN 18 MARCH 1941
Weather Cold and wet, with some bright spells.
1036-1050 hrs, 1200-1214 hrs Air raid alerts for approaching enemy aircraft which turn away without crossing the coast. Malta fighters are scrambled; no engagement.
1800-1811 hrs; 0238-0249 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.
OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 17 MARCH 1941
AIR HQ 0730-1215 hrs 69 Squadron Maryland photoreconnaissance Naples Harbour. Three convoys heading for harbour.
HAL FAR 830 Squadron Operational flight against Tripoli postponed owing to bad weather.
1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT Anti-tank screen demonstration by 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.
2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT Snipers course at Pembroke Ranges.
(1) parachute and cable
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