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“Valletta and Floriana are showing their battle scars today. Roads, avenues and houses have been hit, and water mains punctured.” War Diary, 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment
COULD PILOT’S DEATH HAVE BEEN AVOIDED?
The morale of Malta’s fighter pilots took another hit today as one more of their number was lost following an air battle with Luftwaffe fighters. Canadian Flying Officer Henri F Auger was pilot of one of six Hurricanes of 261 Squadron scrambled to intercept five enemy fighters and a JU 88 on a reconnaissance mission over Malta early this evening.
Auger’s Hurricane was hit and badly damaged in a dogfight and crashed into the sea off Delimara. Auger managed to bale out safely in the sea between Filfla and the mainland, where he was spotted by another aircraft, signaling his whereabouts. However, the rescue launch was not sent out immediately as enemy aircraft were still in the vicinity. When the launch did arrive at the scene some time later, there was no trace of F/O Auger. (1)
F/O C D Whittingham expressed the frustration of his fellow pilots in his diary for today: “Auger ran into a bunch of 109s. Saw his parachute coming down, south of the Island. But he was never picked up. The pilots in the squadron were all very indignant because they felt that control should have sent some searchers up. Things being as they are … people’s nerves somewhat frayed, what with the stream of so many casualties, bombing at night and bad news in Greece and Libya. There was a general moan, and Ginger got some pretty outspoken abuse from various members of the Squadron.” (2)
MALTA DESTROYERS HEAD OUT TO ATTACK CONVOY
Malta-based destroyers Jervis, Jaguar, Janus and Juno set out today to attack a major German convoy in the Mediterranean. Three merchant ships – to be carrying essential supplies to German military forces in North Africa – were spotted by reconnaissance steaming out of Naples with an escort of four destroyers. Two more Axis destroyers and two light cruisers had also been seen nearby.
As they approached the point of interception with the convoy the Malta destroyers encountered an Italian armed motor ship steaming unprotected out of Benghasi towards Tripoli. The destroyers attacked and sank the Italian ship but the convoy managed to escape damage.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 APRIL TO DAWN 24 APRIL 1941
0840-0935 hrs Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber escorted by six fighters. The JU 88 crosses the Island on reconnaissance from the south east to Grand Harbour. Hurricanes and anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.
0943-0950 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.
1217-1250 hrs Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft which patrol 15 miles off the east coast of Malta. Six Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders do not cross the coast.
1741-1855 hrs Air raid alert for one JU 88 which crosses the Island on reconnaissance escorted by five ME 109s. Six Hurricanes and anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims. One Hurricane crashes; the pilot bales out. A search is launched but the pilot is not located.
0032-0103 hrs Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which crosses the coast on reconnaissance at high altitude. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.
Military casualties Flying Officer Henri Ferdinand Auger, Royal Air Force, 261 Squadron.
OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 23 APRIL 1941
ROYAL NAVY Destroyers sailed to intercept a southbound convoy covered by a force of two cruisers with destroyers. On the way out a northbound transport of 4000 tons was sunk but the convoy was possibly warned by this action and took evasive action, so not located.
AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland patrol area between Cape Bon and Trapanix. Maryland patrols eastern Tunisian coast AM and PM. 148 Squadron 2 Wellington bombers night raid on Tripoli Harbour facilities.
1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT PM The PAD Platoon were called out with their fire engine to assist with putting out a fire in Valletta.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 0.
ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Six storemen proceeded to Ordnance Dump, Gozo, for duty.
2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS One secton of carriers returned from Gozo.
(1) From website Battle of Britain London Monument
(2) Diary of Flying Officer C D Whittingham, from Malta – the Hurricane Years, Christopher Shores, Brian Cull, Nicola Malizia, Grub Street 1987
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