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MALTA ON FULL ALERT
Troops across Malta were placed on high alert tonight as the Island expects an attack from Italian naval forces at dawn tomorrow. The report was based on intelligence information received at Malta high command that the Italians are to bombard the Island as a reprisal for attacks on the Italian city of Genoa. Enemy fighters have been patrolling the seas around the Island all day without crossing the coast. Four Italian cruisers have been spotted by reconnaissance aircraft in the vicinity of Malta. The alert was followed by a series of bombing raids across the Island.
MEDITERRANEAN FLEET BATTLE AT CAPE MATAPAN TO PROTECT MALTA CONVOYS
While Malta is under threat of naval bombardment, the Mediterranean Fleet is engaged in a sea battle of the southern coast of Greece. The Fleet sailed yesterday into position off Cape Matapan to intercept an Italian battlefleet of one battleship, six heavy and two light cruisers plus several destroyers which were believed to be on a mission to intercept convoys through the Mediterranean to key Allied positions including Malta.
Vice-Adm Pridham-Wippell, commanding cruisers Ajax, Gloucester, Orion and the Australian Perth and destroyers engaged an Italian cruiser squadron this morning. Admiral Cunningham who embarked from Alexandria with carrier Formidable and battleships Warspite, Barham and Valiant joined the battle and by noon the Italians had also been reinforced by the battleship Vittorio Veneto. Lieutenant-Commander John Dalyell-Stead of 829 Squadron Fleet Air Arm pilot took off from Formidable in his Swordfish and launched a brave attack on Vittorio Veneto and damaged the ship but was shot down in the return fire and perished. RAF aircraft joined the battle through the afternoon. By evening the Italian heavy cruiser Pola had been damaged, two more heavy cruisers and two destroyers sent to help her were also crippled by Royal Navy guns and finished off by the Australian Stuart. Pola was later abandoned and sunk by Navy destroyers. The Mediterranean Fleet suffered no losses.
PILOT’S LUCKY ESCAPE
A Hurricane fighter pilot was lucky to survive when his aircraft was attacked over Malta this afternoon. Sergeant Reginald Goode of 261 Squadron was one of four pilots ordered up just after 5 pm to deal with enemy aircraft which were carrying out harassing patrols around the Island’s coast. The Hurricanes engaged a Messerschmitt 109 and a dogfight ensured. Goode’s aircraft was hit from behind by a burst of machine-gun fire and he was hit in the back and neck by shrapnel. He fought to regain control of the damaged plane and managed to land at Ghain Tuffieha but the Hurricane’s tail section broke off on impact. Sergeant Goode was taken to hospital with serious injuries.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 MARCH TO DAWN 29 MARCH 1941
0700 hrs Continual patrols round the Island by enemy aircraft as yesterday; Hurricanes airborne when necessary. One Hurricane force-landed due to engine failure; the aircraft is written off but the pilot uninjured.
1333-1345 hrs Air raid alert for two ME 109 fighters which approach the Island and cross the coast. They are engaged by anti-aircraft guns and turn away without launching any attack.
1718 hrs Air raid alert for enemy aircraft patrolling close to the coast. Four Hurricanes on defensive patrol have a short combat with a ME 109.
1726 hrs One Hurricane has to make a forced landing near Ghain Tuffieha military camp; the pilot is seriously injured.
1750 hrs All clear.
1820-1829 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.
2300 hrs A warning is sent out by General Staff to all military units that four Italian cruisers have been seen close to Malta. Bombardment from the sea is to be expected at dawn.
0100-0148 hrs Air raid alert for 18 enemy aircraft which fly over the Island from the north and use flares to light targets before dropping bombs in various locations, including Rabat, Imtarfa, Dingli, Hal Far, Kalafrana and Delimara. Reports indicate that some are delayed-action bombs. Bombs in Rabat exploded in Hal Bajjada Street, College Street and the Nigret district, causing damage to buildings and killing and injuring people. One civilian is killed and eight are wounded; several houses are demolished. There is no moon, it is very dark and no Malta fighters are scrambled. Anti-aircraft guns engage unseen targets with predicted barrage; no claims.
OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 28 MARCH 1941
ROYAL NAVY HMS Utmost carried out a night attack on a convoy believed carrying German troops and stores; two transport ships believed sunk.
AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance between Malta and Tunisian coast for enemy shipping.
KALAFRANA One Sunderland left for Greece with Mr Anthony Eden and other passengers.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (50kg).
2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT 9 conscript recruits joined the Battalion.
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