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7 June 1941: Malta ‘Master Key of the Empire’ Says Churchill

07 Jun

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British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER COMMITTED TO PROTECTION OF MALTA

Winston Churchill has written directly to Lt Gen Dobbie pledging full support in the protection of Malta. The British Prime Minister was responding to the Governor and Commander in Chief’s telegram of 5 June outlining the challenges facing the Island in its present role, and the measures needed to address them:

From: The Prime Minister   To: The Governor & C in C Malta

“I am entirely in agreement with your general outlook. It does not seem that an attack on Malta is likely within the next two or three weeks.  Meanwhile other events of importance will be decided, enabling or compelling a new view to be taken. 

You may be sure we regard Malta as one of the master-keys of the British Empire. We are sure you are the man to hold it and we will do everything in human power to give you the means.”

RE-ARMING TREATED AS URGENT

An immediate response to Lt Gen Dobbie’s statement has also come from the War Office:

“To enable plans to be made to meet your requirements please cable further details regarding anti-aircraft ammunition required, the role you intend for extra field or anti-tank guns and certain small stores which could be sent to Malta by air or submarine.”

Malta’s Governor & C in C replied within hours:

“Anti-aircraft ammunition requirements (4.5” x 6000 rounds; 3.7” x 40000 rounds plus 16 barrels; Bofors x 100000 rounds plus 166 barrels). Field or anti-tank guns are for direct fire onto the aerodromes, likely air landing places and beaches.  In addition, lessons from Crete indicate a further 24 Bofors for aerodrome defences in addition to the previous authorised number would be most welcome.  Also weapons and equipment sufficient for ten British battalions referred to in a previous telegram, and other specialised stores, details to follow.

46 SQUADRON DIVERTED FROM MIDDLE EAST TO DEFENCE OF MALTA

RAF fighter unit 46 Squadron has been ordered to remain in Malta. The Squadron arrived yesterday as part of ‘Operation Rocket’, landing on the Island temporarily en route for the Middle East.  The 24 Hurricanes should have departed today for Egypt along with 15 others.  However, Squadron Leader Sandy Rabagliati, DFC, has been informed that 46 is to remain in Malta to strengthen the Island’s fighter force. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 JUNE TO DAWN 8 JUNE 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

0527-0621 hrs  Air raid alert for three formations of twelve, three and four enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the south. Twelve ME109 fighters cross the coast rapidly.  While eight remain at altitude, four dive low to machine-gun Hal Far aerodrome.  Heavy and light anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Ten Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.

0251-0429 hrs  Air raid alert for four Italian BR 20 bombers which approach from the north east and drop 15kg bombs on the Wardia, Luqa and Marsa areas, and on Manoel Island. Two Hurricane fighters are scrambled.  One BR 20 is illuminated by searchlights and engaged.  The aircraft bursts into flames, the crew bale out and it crashes between Qrendi and Hagiar Qim.  One parachute is seen descending over Marsaxlokk.  3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment posts a guard over the aircraft and take two prisoners – an Italian flying officer at the Blue Grotto and a sergeant at Wied Bassasa – who are handed over to the Detention Barracks at Corradino. A dead body is later discovered 300 yards from the aircraft and buried at St Andrews Cemetery.  A second BR 20 is illuminated and hit by a Hurricane; it is badly damaged and last seen over Hal Far heading out to sea, believed destroyed.  A third enemy aircraft is badly damaged.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant James H Adamson, Royal Air Force, 202 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant Greville V Nicholls, RAF, 202 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 7 JUNE 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish in successful attack on Tripoli: ‘cucumbers’ in harbour entrance.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron  4 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance of Catania aerodrome revealed 10 JU 52s, 9 HE 111s or JU 88s, 9 unidentified fighters.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A new intake of Malta volunteers is being trained in the Three Cities with D Company, who will provide equipment for them as well as for those in the Sliema area.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Ta Xbiex and Misida mine laying commenced by 24 Company. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 3 (15kg).

 

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Posted by on June 7, 2016 in 1941, June 1941

 

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