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19 June 1941: 6000 Extra Troops for Malta

19 Jun

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Every serviceman must have rifle and bayonet

Every serviceman must have rifle and bayonet

REINFORCEMENTS ALLOCATED FOR MALTA BUT LIKELY TO BE DELAYED

Thousands of extra troops plus equipment and stores will soon be on their way to Malta, according to a telegram received from the War Office today. Marked ‘most secret – for officers only’, the message has been warmly welcomed by the Governor and Commander in Chief as well as all military commanders across the Island. 

The move follows an extensive review of the position of Malta after the successful German invasion of Crete. The strengthened Axis position in the Mediterranean places the Island firmly on the front line of the Allied campaign in southern Europe and North Africa.   Lt Gen Dobbie’s presentation of the challenges facing Malta (maltagc70 5 June) received a positive response two days later from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill himself (maltagc70 7 June).  Since then things have moved rapidly to provide the Island over 6000 extra troops and new RAF fighter squadrons to secure its future:

ARMY

  • Two infantry battalions total 1798
  • One HQ light anti-aircraft regiment and four batteries total 432
  • 173 Tunnelling Company total 225
  • And to replace troops intended for Malta but currently held up in the Middle East: two heavy anti-aircraft battery and one further light anti-aircraft battery total 679
  • Additional replacements for troops sent in WS7 but not arrived Malta total 1187
  • Additional replacements for troops sent in WS9 but not arrived Malta total 308
  • Additional replacements for troops prepared for WS10 but not arrived Malta: Royal Artillery 100; Royal Engineers 49

RAF

  • New fighter squadrons total 187
  • Servicing Blenheims 177
  • Operations room 18
  • Technical and other 62
  • General reinforcements 744
  • Equipment and stores: details to follow

However, although the reinforcements have now been allocated to Malta, the arrival of many is likely to be significantly delayed due to a lack of transport to bring them to the Island. According to the War Office telegram, the capacity currently available is at most 4600 and may be as low as 2000.  Malta’s Governor & C in C GCiC was therefore asked to cable the order of priority for the despatch of the above, showing each unit separately.  He responded immediately:

  1. Two RAF fighter squadrons, 200 servicing Blenheims and operations room total 619
  2. One infantry battalion total 899
  3. One HQ light anti-aircraft regiment and four batteries total 432
  4. Medical officers 32
  5. Replacements from WS7
  6. Replacements form WS9
  7. Two heavy anti-aircraft battery and one further light anti-aircraft battery total 679
  8. One infantry battalion total 899

In view of the proposed increases in infantry troops, Lt Gen Dobbie plans to increase the number of infantry brigades to three. In addition to the present Northern and Southern Infantry Brigades he will form a Central Infantry Brigade made up of three battalions.  Additional officers to form a Brigade HQ would be required for the new brigade, which would cover the harbour sector and Luqa aerodrome.

Lt Gen Dobbie ends by saying that it is essential that every man posted to Malta, including RAF personnel, brings a rifle and bayonet.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 JUNE TO DAWN 20 JUNE 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

1018-1038 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber escorted by 15 fighters which approach at very high altitude, then cross the Island from east to west, apparently on reconnaissance. Four heavy anti-aircraft guns engage, firing pointer rounds; no claims.

Military casualties Sergeant John N Harrison, pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR); Sergeant Leslie R MacDonald, RAFVR; Sergeant Lancelot N Rowbotham, RAFVR; all 82 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 19 JUNE 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 5 Blenheim, 1 Maryland, 3 Wellington, 1 Sunderland. Departures 3 Wellingtons. 69 Squadron 5 Marylands on reconnaissance.  One fired on an aerodrome near Misurata, making two runs to machine-gun eight SM 79 bombers, setting three on fire.  1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance Comiso reports 5 Macchi 200s and at Gela 12 medium unidentified fighters. 82 Squadron 4 Blenheims sent to attack a merchant ship; one returned with wireless failure and a second landed in the sea near Malta, cause unknown.  The crew were not found.  The remaining two attacked the enemy ship scoring near-misses.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 2 (15kg).

 

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed. For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com

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Posted by on June 19, 2016 in 1941, June 1941

 

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