Monthly Archives: June 2016

30 June 1941: Six Hurricanes & Pilots Lost From Malta Convoy

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HMS Furious

HMS Furious


After successfully delivering 21 Hurricanes to Malta on Friday the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal returned to Gibraltar where another 26 aircraft were transferred from HMS Furious.  With 16 Hurricanes still on board, Furious sailed with Ark Royal yesterday escorted by cruisers Renown and Hermione with seven destroyers. 

This morning both carriers reached the rendezvous this morning and the Hurricanes began to take off in groups, each led by six Blenheims which would guide them to Malta. However, the tenth aircraft to take off from Furious had collided with the bridge of the carrier, starting a fire which killed three Fleet Air Arm officers, damaged five other Hurricanes and injured their pilots.  Accompanied by Ark Royal and escort the carrier turned back immediately for Gibraltar.


Anti-aircraft guns have been put in position to prevent the landing of enemy troop-carrying aircraft. Obstacles have also been erected around the coast with the same object.  Anti-shrapnel mines have been laid along ditches beside the Victoria Lines and also in the Ta Qali areas in the north.


The Royal Malta Artillery has 20 fewer officers than it needs. The Governor and Commander in Chief has submitted an application to the War Office for approval to grant five immediate commissions.  Eleven cadets are currently under training at the local Artillery School. 

Approximately eight of a draft of 27 officers now believed to be in Egypt were originally asked for to cover RMA vacancies which it was anticipated could not be done from local resources. Lt Gen Dobbie is keen for additional officers to be provided from this source to make up the numbers to full strength.


Weather  Very windy.

1200-1219 hrs  Air raid alert for 11 Macchi 200s which approach to within 25 miles north east of Malta in two formations.  Hurricanes 46 Squadron are scrambled and intercept just below cloud at 17000 feet, shooting down two Macchis.  A third is chased by a Hurricane to within 15-20 miles of Sicily, attacked and damaged. 

Enemy casualties  Tenente Armando Cibin, pilot of Macchi 200 fighter, 7o Gruppo, 54o Stormo, shot down and crashed into the sea.


GENERAL STAFF  Improvement in mail deliveries and weekly broadcasts are much appreciated by all ranks.

ROYAL NAVY  Good progress was made in the month in clearing the corners of the harbours and the dangerous area of the North East Coast of enemy mines.

AIR HQ Arrivals 35 Hurricane, 6 Blenheim. Departures 3 Blenheim. 69 Squadron 6 Marylands sorties on reconnaissance. 82 Squadron 6 Blenheims made a low level attack on ships in Tripoli Harbour.  Six direct hits were made on a merchant vessel, probably the Erperia  and two on the Oceania or Neptunia.  Seaplanes on the water and disembarked troops were machine-gunned. 

KALAFRANA  June saw a considerable increase in the use of Kalafrana by flying boats on communication flights between the UK, Gibraltar and Middle East. There were 31 arrivals and departures during the month.  The increase in operations from the Island increased demand for services of the Marine Craft Section for search and rescue work.  15 patrols rescued 8 British personnel (1 dead) and 2 Italian (1 dead).  3 patrols by Swordfish resulted in the rescue of one Italian pilot.

TA QALI  46 Squadron arrived from Hal Far. 9 Hurricanes arrived ex HMS Furious, 12 ex Ark Royal.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal  Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 45; dealt with 36.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Strengths officers 27, other ranks 864.


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


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29 June 1941: Malta 12 Attacks on Axis Convoys & Bases in a Week

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In its weekly review of the progress of the war, the War Cabinet in London hears a report on attacks by aircraft operating from Malta on shipping between Sicily and North Africa and bombed objectives on the North African mainland.

Maryland bombingAt dusk on 25 June, four Marylands attacked a convoy of four large merchant vessels of about 20000 tons, escorted by six destroyers, and scored at least one direct hit. Later in the same evening seven Swordfish torpedoed two of the merchant vessels which probably sank, and possibly hit a third.  From these operations one Maryland and one Swordfish were reported missing.  Another convoy was attacked by three Marylands on 29 June, 30 miles off Tripoli, and near misses observed.

Wellingtons carried out five night attacks on Tripoli, in two of which they were supported by Swordfish. On one of these occasions seven Swordfish laid sea-mines in the harbour.  The Spanish and Karamanli Moles were hit many times and a number of fires were started.  Bombs were also seen to hit one large and one medium size merchant vessel, and a vessel of 6000 tons was set on fire.

Successful day attacks on Tripoli were also made by Blenheims and Marylands.

Today Blenheims failed to locate a convoy. As an alternative they bombed and completely destroyed a factory to the east of the town. 


Weather  Cloudy; humid.

No air raids.

Military casualties Sergeant John A Cover, Pilot, Royal Canadian Air Force, 82 Squadron; Sergeant Richard G G Fairweather, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 82 Squadron; Sergeant Allan T Thomas, Observer, RAFVR, 82 Squadron.


ROYAL NAVY  Urge successful attack on cruiser (believed to be Gorizia); two hits claimed, followed by a large explosion. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish sent to attack Tripoli encountered severe weather and turned back. 

AIR HQ Arrivals 6 Wellington. Departures 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.  3 Marylands made a high level (15-21000 ft) bombing raid on Tripoli Harbour in daylight; results not observed. 82 Squadron 9 Blenheims despatched to attack convoy approaching Tripoli.  One Blenheim received a direct hit by a bomb from another aircraft.  6 Blenheims went out again to attack merchant ships in Tripoli Harbour; one returned with engine trouble.  The remainder crossed the coast wide of the target and bombed Sorman aerodrome nearby, starting several fires among aircraft on the ground. 148 Squadron  7 Wellingtons sent to attack Spanish Quay and shipping in Tripoli Harbour encountered severe weather.  4 aircraft reached target and attacked, damaging quay and ships.


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


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28 June 1941: Thousands on the Move Again in Malta

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159 have fled from Valletta & FlorianaThousands of Maltese are on the move again, thanks to the increase in air raid shelters in target areas on the Island. During the past month alone more than 3000 evacuees have returning to their homes either because of the new provision, or the promise of air raid shelter accommodation in their home district.  All areas around Grand Harbour have registered increases in population.  A total of 41 people have moved back to Cottonera, 397 to Paola and Tarxien; 366 to Zabbar and 669 to the Sliema area.

Meanwhile others are still leaving danger areas due to continuous sleepless nights caused by air raids. During the month 159 have fled to safety from Valletta and Floriana, both of which have recently heavily bombed recently. 1790 have left from Qormi and 402 from Balzan.  375 have found refuge in Birkirkara, 353 in Mellieha, 150 in Zurrieq and 131 in Zebbug. (1)


A new fighter squadron has been formed at Ta Qali today following the recent arrivals of new Hurricane aircraft on the Island. 126 Squadron will be led by Wing Commander Alexander C Rabagliati who arrived in Malta as part of Operation ‘Rocket’ on 6 June with other members of 46 Squadron, members of which will form the core of the new squadron.

W/Cdr Rabagliati has already been very active in fighter operations over Malta, having shared in the destruction of one SM79 and damaged two more, destroyed a CR42, destroyed one Macchi and damaged a second in just three weeks.


Weather  Hot and sunny.

No air raids.


ROYAL NAVY  All available submarines (Union, Upright, Unique, Upholder) to patrol East of Messina to intercept Vichy French vessels thought likely to proceed to support Syria.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 6 Wellington, 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron 5 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 (130lb HE).

(1) When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint Malta 1981


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


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27 June 1941: Malta Fighter Numbers Up As 21 Hurricanes Arrive

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Hurricane reinf on carrierThe first phase of a major operation to increase the fighter force on Malta was successfully completed today as 21 Hurricanes landed on the Island. The latest delivery followed the success of Operation ‘Rocket’ three weeks ago (6 June 1941 maltagc70). Having delivered her cargo to the Mediterranean, aircraft carrier HMS Furious returned to port in the Clyde to load up an even larger cargo of 64 Hurricanes and 9 Swordfish.  The carrier sailed for Gibraltar on 22 June where 22 Hurricanes for Malta were transferred to HMS Ark Royal.  Escorted by cruisers Renown and Hermione plus five destroyers, Ark Royal passed safely through the western Mediterranean to her rendezvous point early this morning.  Blenheim aircraft flew out from Gibraltar to the rendezvous to escort the Hurricanes onward to Malta.  One Hurricane failed to reach the Island and has been reported missing.  


Malta’s sister Island of Gozo is to have its own band of paid coast watchers. The measure is part of a move to increase security in the light of an expected Axis invasion which may target Gozo as a possible foothold from which to launch a main attack on Malta.  The War Office has agreed to the recruitment of 70 coast watchers for the Island who will be paid from Army funds at a rate of 4 shillings per day. Each watcher will also be issued with one suit of denim battledress.


Weather  Hot and sunny.

1010 hrs  Hurricanes begin landing at Luqa from Operation Railway.

1146-1220 hrs  Air raid alert for a SM 79 bomber escorted by 25 Macchi 200 fighters which approach Grand Harbour from the north. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage, destroying six Macchis confirmed, plus two probable, and damaging the SM 79 and other fighters.  Two Macchis are seen to crash; one near Birzebbuga is completely burned out and scattered over four fields.  The pilot bales out but the parachute fails to open; his body is found near Ta Karach and an ambulance attends the scene.  The second Macchi crashes into the sea; its pilot is rescued and taken prisoner.  P/O Barnes, who shot him down, visits the Italian pilot for afternoon tea.

2152-2220 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft approaching from the north.  Seven heavy anti-aircraft guns launch a barrage and one aircraft recedes north.  The other crosses the coast north of Grand Harbour and drops 50kg bombs between Valletta and Sliema, including Pieta Creek.  One bomb demolishes a house in Pieta, where a crater in the road causes a traffic diversion.  One gunner is killed and three injured.  50kg bombs are also dropped in the sea off Salina Bay and St Thomas’ Bay.  Anti-aircraft guns launch a barrage; no claims.  Hurricane night fighters are scrambled but searchlights do not illuminate raiders and there are no interceptions.

0305-0350 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches from the north and drops 50kg high explosive bombs on Zabbar and Marsa, as well as Ta Qali and in the sea off the north coast. One stick of bombs start a fire at Salvatore Gate which is soon under control.  Several unexploded bombs are reported on land.  Anti-aircraft guns open fire; no claims.  Malta night fighters do not intercept due to lack of searchlight illuminations.

Military casualties  Lance-Bombardier Frederick J Hopkinson, 7th HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Enemy casualties  Sergente Alfredo Sclavo, pilot of Macchi 200, 90a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo, 4o Stormo, shot down and died. Sottotenente Neri de Benedetti, pilot of Macchi 200, 90a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo, 4o Stormo, shot down and taken prisoner.


ROYAL NAVY  A convoy of four liners (same as  departed Naples 25 June) arrived in Taranto, but not known whether these were original four.  The ships were later attacked in harbour by Blenheim aircraft which claim to have damaged Esperia (causing slight damage) and Neptunia

AIR HQ  Arrivals 21 Hurricane, 4 Wellington. 69 Squadron 6 Maryland reconnaissance missions.  82 Squadron 3 Blenheims made a surprise low-level bombing attack on Tamet aerodrome, setting fire to three aircraft and machine-gunning others, as well as personnel on the ground. 148 Squadron 6 Wellingtons night bombing raid on Tripoli Harbour, especially Spanish Wharf and the main unloading facilities.

TA QALI  10 Hurricanes arrived ex Ark Royal. One overshot aerodrome on landing; pilot uninjured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 (50kg removed for sterilising).


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


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26 June 1941: Five Hour ‘Nuisance’ Night Raids on Malta

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Rev R M Nicholls describes the impact of Italian ‘nuisance raids’ and considers the invasion of Russia

Italian bomber over the Grand Harbour dark“Ten days ago we returned to Valletta to sleep. There had not been much night bombing, and my wife wished to return. If blitzes occur we shall go back to Birkirkara.  On our first night back we had five raids spread over many hours; and for…three nights we have had raids more or less continuously from about ten pm till 2 or 3 o’clock o’morning.  Last night was the longest period for some time.  It seems to be Italians; and the technique seems to be for a single plane to cruise about, at a height out of reach of either searchlights or guns; then after half an hour of this to drop three or four bombs and bolt for home.

After a short interval the ‘Raider Past’ is sounded and a little later the ‘All Clear’. Then, ten minutes after, another plane approaches and the poor folk who have just climbed back into bed have to turn out again and go back to the rock shelters.  I lie and read, or write, in our funk-hole hearing the distant or near drone; and then zonk – a couple of bombs give their metallic roar.  ‘Now he’ll go home’ I say to myself. But last night one of them met one of our fighters waiting or searching for him and down he went into the sea…

The Cretan business is over and we lost. I am told that the C-in-C Mediterranean said that it had to be held at all costs; but we failed. Largely through our usual mismanagement, said an officer who heard a lecture by someone who came here to tell us about it.

Now has come the invasion of Russia. That was a tremendous surprise to me.  I never dreamt of it.  But I can see the point clearly.  Hitler is afraid lest Russia should attack in the Balkans just as he has all his forces engaged in a great attack on Britain.  Russia did something of the same sort early in the war – Finland, Poland, and later Bessarabia.  While Hitler was busy Stalin might well attack the Dardanelles.  I think that this kind of explanation is really more likely than the mere demand for oil and grain.” (1)


Troops across Malta were reminded today of the rules governing the posting and censorship of letters written by service personnel. The communique states that all such correspondence addressed to any address overseas must be forwarded to the battalion’s orderly room for censorship and posting.  On no account must such correspondence be posted in the civil Post Office or in any other way than through the orderly room.  Failure to adhere to these rules will incur the severest disciplinary action.


Weather  Hot and sunny.

No air raids.

Military casualties Flight Sergeant Harry S M Bolton, Royal Air Force (RAF), 69 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Ernest W Gimson, RAF, 69 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Brian P Hanson, RAF Volunteer Reserve, 69 Squadron.


ROYAL NAVY  Reconnaissance of Taranto Harbour AM showed two liners in harbour, but PM reconnaissance showed a convoy of four large ships steering south off Taranto. Utmost successful attack, sank 6000 ton ship.  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish bombed shipping and port facilities in Tripoli Harbour.

AIR HQ Arrivals 4 Wellington 148 Squadron. 69 Squadron 3 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance. 4 Marylands made a high-level bombing attack on Tripoli Harbour in daylight, dropping 3000 lbs of high explosive, damaging Spanish Wharf and causing fires. 148 Squadron 4 Wellingtons made a successful night bombing attack on Tripoli Harbour.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

(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 June 26, 2016 in 1941, June 1941


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25 June 1941: Malta Attacks to Stop Axis Convoy ‘At All Costs’

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  • Today seven enemy fighters were shot down by Hurricanes and one Italian bomber badly damaged
  • HM Submarine Osiris departed Gibraltar with 70 tons of fuel for Malta


Malta’s Royal Navy and RAF commanders received urgent orders today to stop an enemy convoy ‘at all costs’. Intelligence reports had been received in London of a fast German troop convoy consisting of four large liners as well as merchant ships heading out of Naples for North Africa.  In a combined sea and air operation HM Submarines Urge, Unbeaten and Upholder were immediately sent to intercept while  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm were also ordered in to the attack, followed by RAF Blenheim low-level torpedo bombers. 

Neptunia SS Italian

SS Neptunia

In view of recent Blenheim losses, 69 Squadron was also asked to assist in the attack. The Maryland reconnaissance squadron was given the task of dive-bombing the convoy to cause a distraction and enable the main attack to be pressed home.  Four Marylands spent this morning practising over Filfla; the aircraft of Flt/Lt Warburton was damaged in the exercise.

A group of Marylands took off from Malta this afternoon to shadow the convoy. The 13 Swordfish of 830 Squadron FAA followed at 6pm and used the Marylands to locate their target.  A second flight of four Marylands took off ahead of the Blenheims to launch the main night attack on the convoy. 

At dusk four Marylands launched their bombs on the liners Esperia, Marco Polo, Oceania, and Neptunia south of Messina.  Seven of the Swordfish followed in with torpedoes, scoring two hits on a merchant ship.  Escorting Axis ships launched a fierce barrage: one Swordfish and one Maryland are reported missing.  The submarines surfaced nearby in earshot of the engagement but visibility prevented them from closing for an attack.  One merchant vessel was seen burning amidships and the convoy turned away towards Taranto.


Weather  Hot and sunny.

0856-0927 hrs  Air raid alert for an Italian SM 79 bomber escorted by 15 Macchi 200 fighters which crosses the Island, apparently on reconnaissance, at 21000 feet.  Nine Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders at great height, 20 miles south of Delimara.  The bomber is hit and damaged, its undercarriage drops and a stream of oil is seen from the aircraft.  Three Macchi 200s are shot down. The rest of the raiders are chased out almost to Cape Passero.  An SOS is picked up, stating “Macchi 200 fallen into the sea 11 miles south of Cape Religione; go immediately.”  Wreckage is seen in the sea 20 miles north-east of St Paul’s Bay.  One heavy anti-aircraft gun fires a pointer round; no claims.

1345-1349 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft which approach to within 3 miles of Grand Harbour before turning away to the north.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled but unable to intercept because the leader cannot reach the altitude of the enemy in his aircraft.

2210-2310 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island from the north, unobserved by early warning systems. Bombs are dropped on San Pietru and in the sea north east of St Paul’s Bay. The air raid alert then sounds.  During the raid several Malta aircraft depart on offensive operations, their navigation lights on and landing lights on the aerodrome exposed.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raider; no claims.

2321-2338 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which drops bombs in the sea off St Thomas’ Bay before receding northwards.

0141-0158 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses the coast to the south east of Grand Harbour and drops 500lb high explosive bombs on Zeitun.

0238-0349 hrs Air raid alert for five enemy aircraft which approach singly from the north, on the same course as Wellington bombers of 148 Squadron flying in from the Middle East, two hours ahead of schedule.   100lb and 500lb high explosive bombs are dropped between Safi, on the road between Zurrieq and Qrendi, on Zabbar, and the sea 15 miles east of Grand Harbour, off Filfla and in St Thomas’ Bay.  The night Hurricanes are scrambled and engage on two occuasions; no claims.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant D A R Holmes, pilot, 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm, HMS St Angelo; Leading Airman J R Smith, 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm, HMS St Angelo; Bombardier James T Skinner, 4th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery.


NAVY  Important transport convoy of four large liners departed Naples; sighted south of Messina and attacked at dusk by 4 Maryland aircraft with bombs and 2 Swordfish of 830 Squadron with torpedoes.  2 hits claimed; one merchant vessel was seen burning amidships, and the convoy turned towards Taranto. 1 Swordfish (crew S/Lt Holmes and L/A Smith) and 1 Maryland failed to return.

AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron 3 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.  Photos of Castel Benito show 45 bombers, 22 fighters and 8 transport aircraft; at Mallaha 6 fighters and 2 bombers; at Palermo 14 fighters, 2 transport aircraft; at Trapani 18 fighters. 

TA QALI  Hurricane caught fire during refuelling (fire extinguished); cause so far unknown.


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


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24 June 1941: Malta Submarine on Cloak and Dagger Mission

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Malta-based submarine HMS Utmost returned to patrol today after taking part in a daring ‘cloak and dagger’ mission on enemy soil. Utmost left Malta a week ago for her 8th war patrol in the Mediterranean.  Lt Commander Cayley’s orders were to patrol the Tyrrhenian Sea at the mouth of the Straits of Messina and seek an opportunity to destroy a vital railway line used to transport Axis military resources to join convoys for North Africa.

A suitable target was identified yesterday and under cover of darkness Utmost surfaced and headed for the shore.  Just after midnight a small folding boat, a Folbot, was launched from the submarine 400 yards off the coast and special forces personnel Lt D R Schofield, Royal Fusiliers, and Lance Corporal F C Morgan rowed ashore.  They set charges within a railway tunnel with the aim of blowing up a train as it passed through, then rowed back to the submarine which remained close to shore to observe the results.

At 2 am the train passed through the tunnel but the explosives failed to detonate. The Folbot was launched again and Schofield and Morgan rowed ashore for a second attempt.  They placed the explosives and waited for some hours but no train materialised.  As daylight was approaching they decided to blow up the railway and return to Utmost, reaching the submarine at 5am.

Utmost dived and left the area unchallenged to continue her anti-convoy patrols. (1)


Weather  Hot and sunny.

1018-1035 hrs; 1135-1152 hrs  Air raid alerts for several enemy formations heading towards the Island.  20 Hurricanes in total are scrambled but the raiders remain far to the north of Malta and do not come close enough for the Hurricanes to engage.  Several interceptions are attempted but the enemy aircraft recede out of reach in every case.

Military casualties  Fusilier Joseph Burke, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers; Cook Francis Borg, Malta Auxiliary Corps.


ROYAL NAVY  All available submarines including Urge, Unbeaten, Upholder sailed to patrol positions to intercept an important convoy believed proceeding through Straits of Messina to Tripoli.

AIR HQ Arrivals 4 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 4 Wellington 148 Squadron. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron 7 Maryland missions on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.

KALAFRANA A Heinkel Float Plane arrived from UK to undertake special operational work for the Government Intelligence Section, manned by civilian personnel.



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Posted by on June 24, 2016 in 1941, June 1941


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