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Monthly Archives: May 2016

31 May 1941: Valletta Law Courts Collapse into Main Street

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Bombing Aub Auvergne now law courtsEXPLOSION IN TIGNE CAUSES LAW COURTS TO COLLAPSE

Passers-by in Valletta were lucky to escape injury this afternoon when a large building collapsed into the City’s main street. The ruins of the building which housed the former Courts of Justice, already badly damaged by the blast of an enemy mine, caved in without warning leaving large blocks of masonry blocking Kingsway.  The collapse of the building, formerly the Auberge d’Auvergne, was apparently caused by shock waves from an explosion in the Tigne area. (1)

GENERAL STAFF REVIEW OF THE MONTH

The month of May has been noticeable for a gradual but marked decrease in German air activity. During the first few days the heavy night raids on the Dockyard continued with bombing and minelaying.  The cruiser Gloucester and part of the Naval light striking force finally left Malta on 2 May, and the Germans turned their attention to the aerodromes.  After a few days these too ceased.  Reconnaissance by JU 88s continued and about the middle of the month a squadron of ME 109 fighter bombers was operating from Sicily by day.  Towards the end of the month these left and it was apparent from the tactics that the Italians had once more taken over the night raiding of Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 MAY TO DAWN 1 JUNE 1941

Weather  Fine.

1030-1040 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of a Glenn Martin Maryland.

No enemy air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 31 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY During the month three or four submarines were continuously on patrol. 830 Squadron had only five flying crews through the month.  Blenheims of anti-ship bomber squadrons reported successful attacks on twelve merchant vessels and two destroyers.  The Bomb Safety Officer dealt with 14 unexploded 50kg bombs and one 500kg. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 2 Sunderland. Departures 2 Sunderland; 1 Beaufighter.  69 Squadron  2 Marylands patrol eastern Tunisian coast AM and PM.  2 Marylands patrol PM Ionian Sea to Greek coast. 82 Squadron Three Blenheim bombers attacked Florida II off Sfax; direct hits were scored, causing explosions and volumes of black smoke. 

LUQA  One Beaufighter left for the Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  As a result of General Alarm Exercise at beginning of week personnel are to be withdrawn from selected posts to form a mobile reserve. One platoon of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt will also come under this unit for operations.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal  Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 251; dealt with 109.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths: officers 30; other ranks 684

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  69 conscripts enlisted during May.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths: officers 25, other ranks 123.

(1) Malta Blitzed But Not Beaten, Philip Vella, Progress Press 1985

 

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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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30 May 1941: Malta Telephones & Telegrams Under Strain

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Fortress telephone exchange overloaded

Fortress telephone exchange overloaded

FORTRESS TELEPHONE EXCHANGE OVERLOADED

Troops have been informed that telephone calls must be restricted in order to reduce congestion of the Fortress Telephone Exchange. The measure has been introduced following damage to several cables in recent raids which have put communications under a severe strain. 

Troops have been told to make very effort to keep calls as short as possible; any lasting more than five minutes will be disconnected. A random listening check is also being undertaken and any calls considered unnecessary or in excess of five minutes will be brought to the attention of the General Officer Commanding.  Persistent offenders will have their telephones removed.

MALTA TELEGRAM SERVICE UNSATISFACTORY

The present system of private telegrams through Cable and Wireless to and from troops in Malta is unsatisfactory, according to the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief. In a message to the War Office today, he points out that it is now undesirable to divulge the names of units in Malta.  However, he believes that sending telegrams by cable instead of wireless telegraph will further increase the delay in transmission of messages, which is already the subject of some discontent among the Island’s troops.

Lt General Dobbie has requested that, in future, all cables should be sent by wireless telegraph. In addition, he proposes the address should include minimal information: for Other Ranks only the army number, rank and name or, for officers, the rank, name and initials, plus the single word Malta as the address.  Arrangements will be made for sorting and forwarding to the correct recipient.  Once confirmed, the instructions should be broadcast in a suitable form via the BBC in London.

EXTRA MILITARY VEHICLES ON THEIR WAY TO MALTA

14 motor cycles; 52 cars (2-seater) including 43 utility and 5 standard; 35 lorries 3-ton; 12 lorries 30 cwt; 13 ambulances; 5 vans 15 cwt; one petrol tanker; eight lorries 3 ton with seats (in lieu of eight motor coaches); two trailers; also spare parts. These now complete the establishment for Malta, with reserves. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 MAY TO DAWN 31 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine and warm. 

2143-2214 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which approach Grand Harbour from the north east but are turned away by a barrage from anti-aircraft guns, two raiders dropping their bombs in the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 30 MAY 1941

AIR HQ  Departures  8 Beaufighter. Remainder of 252 Squadron left for UK.  69 Squadron  Maryland patrol of eastern Tunisian coast; convoy not identified due to a mishap in the aircraft which went out of control over the target.  2 Marylands reconnaissance Malta to Greek coast for enemy naval movements.  Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli approaches for enemy shipping. 82 Squadron On information that Italian merchant vessel Florida previously attacked and damaged had been towed out of Sfax Harbour, three Blenheims despatched to attack and dropped 4 x 250lb bombs, scoring near-misses with delayed action bombs.      

LUQA  Eight Beaufighters left for Middle East, the other two remaining for repairs.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Advance party left for Gozo AM; platoon includes one section of A Company and one section of D Company.

 

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Posted by on May 30, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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29 May 1941: New Anti-invasion Force for Malta

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CHESHIRES TO PROVIDE MOBILE MACHINE-GUN COMPANY

Cheshire machine guns cropA mobile machine-gun company is being set up ready to tackle enemy troops invading the Island. Their task will be to put a ‘stop’ in the event of the enemy gaining a footing on the Island, or to support a counter attack to drive the enemy into the sea.

1st Bn Cheshire Regiment have been detailed to provide manpower for the company, in addition to their existing role in the defence of the harbour and close-down of Valletta.  The machine-gun company will be part of the new anti-invasion Fortress Reserve and will be mobilised on receipt of orders from Fortress HQ.  On receipt of the code word ‘Libya’, personnel and equipment will be despatched by motor transport to the machine-gun company rendezvous as quickly as possible.

The Fortress Reserve also includes one troop of two ‘I’ tanks and one light tank at Marsa and the same at Birkirkara. They also form part of the defences of Luqa, Ta Qali and Hal Far aerodromes, and Kirkop landing strip, and work alongside Reserve Battalions from the Northern and Southern Infantry Brigades. 

LONG GRASS AND THISTLES TO BE CUT

Long grass and thistles close to military sites across Malta are to be cut back. The measure is to reduce the risk of fire spreading and causing damage to key facilities. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 MAY TO DAWN 30 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1032-1055 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber escorted by 20 ME 109s which carries out reconnaissance at high altitude over the Island, passing over Luqa and Naxxar. Anti-aircraft guns engage and destroy the JU 88.

0259-0436 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy aircraft which approach the Island individually from the north east. Four turn drop bombs in the sea to the north then turn back before reaching the coast.  One crosses the coast and drops bombs on fields the Grand Harbour area.  No anti-aircraft guns engage and no Hurricane fighters are scrambled.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 29 MAY 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 10 Beaufighter. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance southern part of eastern Tunisian coast.  2 Marylands reconnaissance Greek coast report enemy ship movements.  Maryland reconnaissance of shipping route to east of Malta. 

LUQA  Ten Beaufighters arrived from Gibraltar.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Mobile Company on reconnaissance. A party is to be sent to Gozo again including one platoon of unit. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 2 (2 x incendiary).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  D Company embarked to “Gozo Training Camp”.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  The pipers played “Retreat” at Church Square, Mellieha.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A Company embarks for ‘Gozo Training Camp’. E Company takes over mobile company duties at Luqa.  

 

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Posted by on May 29, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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28 May 1941: Civilians Wearing Army Uniform a Security Threat

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Soldiers with small arms crop

Uniforms to be stamped with Army ID

CLAMP DOWN ON MISUSE OF ARMY UNIFORMS

Civilians in Malta have been spotted wearing items of Army uniform which is believed to have been passed to them by service personnel. With the ever-present possibility of invasion, the wearing of official uniforms by unauthorised persons presents a significant security threat.  The situation is also creating a shortage of stocks of military clothing which cannot be made up readily while the Island remains under siege.

According to military chiefs, the situation has now reached serious proportions and it has become common to see civilians wearing military clothing such as shirts, boots and socks. As a result urgent measures have been introduced to tackle the problem. 

All troops have been informed that by disposing of any item of kit, clothing or necessaries to any person whatsoever, they commit an offence under Section 24 of the Army Act; disciplinary action will be taken accordingly, with the possibility of Court-Martial if the offence persists.

From now on all garments will be stamped with the soldier’s Army number on issue. Any soldier requiring a new garment or article of kit is now required to produce the old one in exchange or alternatively furnish a satisfactory explanation as to why he cannot do so.  A strict record will be kept of all issues made, in order to ensure that replacement issues are not made too frequently.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 MAY TO DAWN 29 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 28 MAY 1941

AIR HQ Departures  3 Beaufighters.  69 Squadron  Maryland patrol eastern Sicilian coast including Augusta and Syracuse harbours.  2 Marylands patrol of eastern Tunisian coast AM and PM.  Maryland reconnaissance Messina Harbour and approaches. 139 Squadron Two Blenheims 139 Squadron attacked a ship in Sfax harbour and blew it up.

LUQA Three Beaufighters left for the Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion’s petrol ration has again been reduced but as consumption is well within previous ration there should be little effect.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Summer dress came into force.

 

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Posted by on May 28, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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27 May 1941: Blenheim Bombers Lost in Attack on Convoy

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Blenheim Mk IV BBLENHEIMS EXPLODE DURING LOW-ALTITUDE BOMBING RUN

Two Blenheims of 82 Squadron were shot down today while engaging in an offensive operation in the southern Mediterranean. The Blenheims were among six sent to attack a large convoy escorted by destroyers as it headed for Tripoli in Libya.  Early this afternoon they reached the six merchant vessels with their escort of eight destroyers and launched their attack. 

The bombers flew in low over the ships to release their bombs in the midst of very heavy anti-aircraft fire. Two of the merchant ships were hit but two of the Blenheims were also destroyed as they dived down towards the vessels.  It has been suggested that the resulting explosions destroyed two of the Blenheims.  The pilots of the two bombers have been named as Flt/Lt G M Fairbairn and Sgt E B Inman.  Their crews were Sgt R J Austin, Sgt K P Collins (1), P/O P J Higgins and Sgt S W Kemp.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 MAY TO DAWN 28 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0719-0745 hrs  Air raid alert for two Italian SM79 bombers which approach the Island possibly on their way south for reconnaissance. Anti-aircraft guns open fire; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

0923-0957 hrs  Air raid alert for two SM 79 bombers escorted by 12 ME 109 fighters which cross over the Island from the north at high altitude, apparently on reconnaissance, then split formation, reform to the east of the Island and recede northwards. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

2250-0010 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which cross over Grand Harbour singly, laying mines. Anti-aircraft guns fire one short barrage; no claims.

0025-0050 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching from the north. One stick of bombs is dropped on Gozo.

0335-0402 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber which crosses the Island, dropping bombs near Qormi.

Military casualties  Sergeant Ronald Joseph Austin Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), Flight Lieutenant Garnet Mackenzie Fairbairn, RAFVR, Pilot Officer Peter John Higgins Royal Air Force VR, Sergeant Edwin Bentall Inman, RAFVR, Sergeant Stanley William Kemp, Royal Air Force all 82 Squadron; Sapper Joseph Chircop, Royal Engineers, Malta Territorial Force.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 27 MAY 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Beaufighter. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance east of Malta to Cape Stilo.   Maryland reconnaissance southern part of eastern Tunisian coast reports convoy.  Maryland sent to locate ships reported by RAF finds convoy 80 miles east of Malta, escorted by 4 SM 79s and one Cant Z501. 139 Squadron Six Blenheims (five of 82 Squadron, one of 139 Squadron) attacked a large convoy escorted by destroyers.  F/Lt Fairbairn and Sgt Inman were shot down.

LUQA  One Beaufighter 252 Squadron left for Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The unit was examined by the Petrol Commission but no means were found by which either vehicles or petrol consumption could be reduced. Motor Transport staff were commended on their fuel controls.  Command Signal Exercise held at 0430-0815 hrs involving Bn HQ and Signals.  The exercise was to test out communications.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  0430-0815 hrs Bn and Company Headquarters took part in Malta Command Exercise No 2. The Battalion celebrated Bois des Buttes anniversary with a holiday: a Fur and Feather show was held during the morning and sports, games and entertainments in the evening.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 3 (1 x 250kg; 2 x 500kg).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Two companies to Xlejli Tower to take over defence of Luqa aerodrome. Remaining two companies disposed one at Zurrieq, one at Kirkop landing strip.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Command Signal exercise involving HQs down to Companies. Very little traffic through Battalion area. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  HQ and all three companies all on bicycles to concentrate on Marsa in the Southern Infantry Brigade reserve. Warning for ‘Picnic’ force to move issued to A Company.  Night interrupted with raids all night.

(1) Sgt K P Collins was injured but survived and was taken prisoner.

 

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Posted by on May 27, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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26 May 1941: Food Rationing Measures Tightened Up

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food queueCHANGES NEEDED TO ENSURE FAIR DISTRIBUTION

New measures have been introduced to tighten up the distribution of Malta’s food rations and ensure a fair distribution of supplies. Under rationing measures introduced in April, wholesalers have been allowed to supply any retailer in any part of the Island. However, there are concerns that competition may result in uneven distribution of food to populations, and possibly to price increases. 

Under the new regulations, the 100 wholesalers are each assigned an area in which to conduct their trade. The scheme is overseen by the Food Distribution Office which calculates entitlements for distribution to wholesalers and grocers of rationed goods, according to the number of their registered customers.  Grocers hold purchase permits which they hand to wholesalers in return for their fortnightly issue of ration supplies. 

CURFEW CHANGES

As from today the curfew ends at 0530 hrs. As a result, morning stand-to for troops will be at 0430 hrs and evening at 2015 hrs.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 MAY TO DAWN 27 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1629-1644 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy aircraft which approach to within 12 miles of the north coast. 12 Hurricanes are scrambled but the enemy turns away northwards before any encounter.

1743-1812 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches to within sight of the east coast of Malta and then circles for some time apparently unable to sight land. One stick of bombs is dropped on the coast of Gozo.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.

2146-2303 hrs  Air raid alert for three unidentified aircraft; two approach from the north and one from the east. One from the north crosses the coast at St Paul’s Bay but is driven off by a heavy anti-aircraft barrage.  The other two retreat without launching any attack.

0305-0435 hrs  Air raid alert for three unidentified aircraft approaching from the north east. One crosses over Gozo and passes down the Malta coast to Dingli.  Flares and one bomb or mine are reported in the Mellieha Bay area.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 26 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Swordfish offensive operations.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Beaufighters. Departures Aircraft casualties  139 Squadron  Two Blenheims 139 Squadron dropped 8 x 250lb bombs on a merchant ship at anchor, scoring three direct hits which bounce off; no damage observed.  Two more Blenheims 139 Squadron attacked the same ship which was abandoned.  It was hit below the water line.  Three Blenheims despatched to attack two ships reported due to leave Sfax; ships seen stationary outside harbour but the Blenheims did not attack.  On the return they dropped 8 x 250lb bombs on an abandoned merchant vessel, scoring near misses.  All aircraft returned safely. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands patrol eastern Tunisian coast, one AM the other PM.  2 Marylands patrol eastern Sicilian coast, one AM the other PM.   

LUQA  Two Beaufighters arrived from Gibraltar.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  General Alarm Exercise took place AM until 1630 hrs; all ranks rose at 0230 hrs. The Exercise was a great success and much was learned from it.  One the whole we held the enemy well but in places they were allowed by umpires to penetrate.  Where they did so, the need for mobile reserves which we have emphasised for so long was proved. 

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  D Company draws 120 bicycles.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Malta Command Exercise ‘Defend Three Cities’.

 

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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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25 May 1941: Air Chief of Faith, Hope and Charity Leaves Malta

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AOC Malta Air Commodore Forster Maynard (r)

AOC Malta Air Commodore Forster Maynard (r)

AIR OFFICER COMMANDING TO BE REPLACED

Air Vice Marshal Forster Maynard, AFC is to leave his post as Air Officer Commanding at the end of the month. The former World War I fighter ace was appointed Air Officer Commanding Mediterranean in November 1939.  When Italy declared war the following June, he was responsible for creating the only fighter forces to defend Malta when he organised the assembly of Gladiators ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Charity’ from packing cases.  Since then he has overseen the strengthening of the Island’s fighter forces in the face of heavy German air raids, as well as the introduction of offensive bomber operations against Axis convoys.  He will be replaced by Air Vice Marshal Hugh Pugh Lloyd MV DFC.

AMMUNITION USAGE FOR WEEK ENDING 25 MAY

  • 4.5” HE 191 rounds
  • 3.7” HE 1260 rounds
  • 3” HE 134 rounds
  • 40mm 40 rounds

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 MAY TO DAWN 26 MAY 1941

Weather  Very hot.

1150-1214 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 to 40 enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north and withdraw before reaching the coast.

1327-1430 hrs  Observers report the approach of three formations of enemy aircraft which have not been reported by fighter control and raise the alarm. While one plot of four ME 109s circles the Island, apparently screening aircraft in transit between Tripoli and Sicily, a second formation turns inland and is over Ta Qali moments after the alert sounds.  The ME 109s machine-gun a searchlight station on the airfield, wounding one gunner.  Two Hurricanes are burned out and three others seriously damaged on the ground (but repairable).  A Lister engine is damaged and 90 gallons of oil are lost.  One pilot and one airman are injured by shrapnel and admitted to hospital; two other airmen are slightly wounded.  Bofors, heavy and light anti-aircraft guns engage; the Bofors claims hits on two ME 109s.  One ME 109 is believed probably shot down into the sea.  No Hurricanes are scrambled owing to the apparent error in fighter control which is immediately under investigation.

1755-1820 hrs  Air raid alert for a large fighter patrol which scouts round the Island. Seven Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders do not cross the coast; no engagement.

Civilian casualties  Naxxar  Francis Mifsud, age 38.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 25 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Since it is now apparent that Lampedusa is used as a refuge for small merchant vessels on the Sicily to Tripoli route, 4 Swordfish were despatched to lay ‘cucumber’ magnetic mines. A fifth Swordfish carried flares but owing to electrical failure none were dropped.  Illuminating cartridges lit the harbour for short periods enabling two cucumbers to to be laid near the harbour entrance.  Moderate light anti-aircraft fire was encountered.  Two Swordfish returned with their cucumber mines, one with engine trouble.  All aircraft returned safely.   

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland; transatlantic flying boat Golden Horn from Gibraltar carrying Air Vice Marshal Lloyd, MC, DFC. Departures 1 Sunderland; transatlantic flying boat.  69 Squadron  Maryland southern part of eastern Tunisian coast.  Maryland reconnaissance northern part eastern Tunisian coast.  Maryland patrol east of Malta up to Cape Stilo for a convoy reported yesterday by a submarine.  Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli reports convoy.  Maryland reconnaissance eastern Sicilian coast reports enemy vessels.  

LUQA  Six Blenheims 139 and 82 Squadrons searched for troopships without success.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  C Company relieve D Company of 8 Manchester and will come under the command of 8 Manchester.

 

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Posted by on May 25, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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