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21 June 1941: Malta Acts to Prevent Tank Invasion

21 Jun

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TANK TRAPS TEST LEAVES ENGINEER BEMUSED

Scaffold barriers in positionMalta’s military chiefs today conducted further tests to protect the Island’s key areas against an enemy invasion. Mines have already been laid at strategic points and last Saturday booby-traps were tested on the airfields to prevent the landing of enemy aircraft and parachutists.  Although most of the Island coastline is too rocky for the landing of military vehicles, some areas have been identified as vulnerable. 

Having reviewed the measures taken in 1940 against an expected seaborne invasion of England’s coast, Military commanders decided to try out ‘beach scaffolding’ structures to prevent the landing of tanks on Malta’s shores. The structures are normally erected on sandy beaches, half submerged in water so that tanks are stopped in their tracks and unable to gain traction to force their way forward due to the wet sand.

A specimen set of 50 scaffold poles and clips has been delivered to Malta to test the effectiveness of the system for the Island. Following last week’s trial of booby-traps at Luqa, the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer Lt G D Carroll – an engineering graduate – was asked to manage the construction of the barrier, assisted by men of 24 Fortress Company, RE.  The venue chosen was the Polo Ground at Marsa.  However, Lt Carroll was not impressed with the conduct of the test:  

Scaffolding diagramIf you’re going to build a fence to stop something, you don’t make it slope towards you – you slope it the other way: bracing, it’s called. So we duly erected this – it was about forty or fifty feet long and about 12 feet deep.  We had two tanks in Malta, one was an I-tank I think which was big, but not very, and one was called a light tank.

When we had got it all set up, the Colonel (the Chief Engineer) said we should use the light tank first, which was sensible. We got the light tank out on the correct side of the barrier and the driver stood off about five or six feet, revved the engine and then tore at the fence.  The tank went into the fence a yard or so – so sensibly the driver backed off and went in again, and the tank stopped; it wouldn’t move.  They examined it and one of the scaffolding poles had bent and gone in through the track of the tank and it couldn’t move. 

But then the Colonel said: ‘Right. Try it the other way.’  And the tank was sent round to the other side, where now the fence is sloping the wrong way.  The light tank tore into the back of the fence and went in about 12 feet or more and then it stopped.  And the Colonel’s words were: ‘That’s the way we’ll use it!’  Because on the correct side it had been stopped after eight feet and it had travelled 12 feet the other way!

I had to just sit and watch; I couldn’t say anything. I was flabbergasted: he was supposed to be the expert, he was the Chief Engineer.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 JUNE TO DAWN 22 JUNE 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

No air raids.

0217-0245 hrs Air raid alert for four unidentified enemy aircraft which approach singly from the north east, crossing the coast at various points. Bombs are dropped near Della Grazia searchlight and in the sea off Delimara and Rinella.  Ten heavy anti-aircraft gun positions fire three barrages; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no engagements.

0256-0317 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft approaching the Island. They turn away before reaching the coast.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 21 JUNE 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 6 Blenheim. Departures 3 Blenheim. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  0400 hrs An exercise was held to test the defences of Valletta, the Dockyard and Three Cities. Parachute troops were allowed in and appeared at various places and times.  The defences were successful and the majority of the ‘enemy’ were rounded up.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  24 Company commenced erecting tripods to obstruct likely landing grounds. Malta Command Exercise No 4 at 0400hrs to test defence of Valletta and Three Cities against parachute landings.  Standing patrol is Bomb Disposal Section. Officers to report in on 23 June at Marsa Club. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (15kg).

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Troops on parachutist exercise: defence of Three Cities.

 

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Posted by on June 21, 2016 in 1941, June 1941

 

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