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Monthly Archives: July 2016

31 July 1941: Malta’s 800th Air Raid Alert Today

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AIR AND NAVAL CHIEFS REVIEW JULY OPERATIONS FROM MALTA

Fulmars have disrupted enemy night raids

Fulmars have disrupted enemy night raids

AIR HQ

The continued policy of the Command has been to intercept convoys en route between Italy and North Africa by day with the Blenheim detachments and by night with the shore-based Fleet Air Arm Swordfish. In addition, Wellingtons have concentrated on Tripoli port, causing considerable damage to the port facilities. 

82 Squadron carried out three attacks on military transport and barracks, and one attack on shipping. They were relieved by 110 Squadron on 4 July, and carried out successful attacks on shipping, harbours and key roads with the loss of six aircraft.  148 Squadron carried out 13 successful sorties during the month, chiefly on Tripoli.  Hurricanes of 46 and 185 Squadrons have made two successful attacks on seaplane moorings at Syracuse, at least three aircraft being burned out.

Beaufighters of 143, 252 and 272 Squadrons arrived towards the end of the month to cover a Naval operation. During their attachment they carried out two highly successful sorties against aerodromes in Sicily and Sardinia, destroying at least 38 aircraft and damaging many more.

Throughout the month Fulmars have patrolled over Catania by night and on one occasion shot down a bomber off Syracuse. Bombs were also dropped on aerodromes and towns.  The activities of these lone Fulmars has done much to harass the nocturnal operations of the Italians and on many nights prevented enemy bombers from operating.

The whole offensive has been possible through the reconnaissances of 69 (Maryland) Squadron, which was reinforced by three aircraft from Egypt. The Squadron aircraft have been equipped with bomb racks and although not employed on offensive work during the month they have released bombs over their objectives during reconnaissance.  They have also made two low-flying machine-gun attacks and at least two enemy aircraft were shot down during patrols.

249 Squadron carried out 29 day scrambles and 19 night scrambles. 46 Squadron, which was renamed 126 Squadron on 22 July, carried out 31 scrambles by day and 18 by night.  185 Squadron carried out 71 scrambles by day.

VICE-ADMIRAL MALTA

Malta submarines have carried out 13 patrols during the month. Four ships of approximate total of 16200 tons were claimed as sunk.  A further two ships of approximately 7500 total tonnage were probably sunk.  In addition, two hits each were obtained on a Condottieri “D” class cruiser and on a 500 foot floating dock.

830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm carried out three torpedo attacks on shipping. One hit was made on a tanker off Tripoli.  Two hits were made on a tanker off Lampedusa.  The total tonnage of these two ships is estimated at 10,000 tons.  One or both may have been sunk but of this there is no definite evidence.  In the third attack, a hit was obtained on the stern of a destroyer and a heavy explosion was observed in a ship of about 6000 tons.  This ship may have been sunk but the evidence is inconclusive.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 JULY TO DAWN 1 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

Day  Nine enemy aircraft come to within 25 miles of Grand Harbour and then turned back.  23 Hurricanes are scrambled but make no contact with the enemy.  S/Ldr Barton’s Hurricane’s engine fails and he has to make a forced landing but sustains no injuries. 

2200-2248 hrs  Air raid alert for a three enemy BR 20 bombers which approach singly from the north east and attack Grand Harbour, dropping 250kg bombs near the floating dock and on the Parade Ground of St Angelo destroying three mess rooms and injuring three people. Bombs are also dropped in the sea.  Hurricanes of 126 Squadron are scrambled. Searchlights illuminate raiders three times but the Hurricanes are unable to make contact.  P/O Stone chases a raider 30 miles out to sea but is unable to see it beyond the searchlights. 

2350-0017 hrs  Air raid alert for a single BR 20 which approaches from the north and drops 250kg bombs in the Grand Harbour area, as well as in the sea north east of Ricasoli. Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 31 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  P32 arrived from United Kingdom. Upholder arrived from patrol off Marittimo, having sunk a 6000 ton laden merchant vessel, and obtained 2 hits on a Condottiere D class cruiser.  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish left to intercept a southbound convoy of 4 merchant ships and 5 destroyers 20 miles west of Lampion.  Owing to poor visibility, convoy was located by ASV (radar).  2 torpedoes were fired and 1 hit obtained (unconfirmed).

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Wellington. Departures 3 Wellington, 4 Blenheim (leader had engine failure and all returned). 69 Squadron Marylands made 8 reconnaissance flights including Sicily, Elmas and Monserrato.  Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli strafed enemy aircraft on the ground at Zuara.  Marylands on special patrol. 105 Squadron 6 Blenheims sent to attack convoy but were intercepted by enemy fighters and returned without dropping bombs.

KALAFRANA  During July Sunderland and Catalina flying boats made considerable use of the station for flights between the Middle East and UK, with 28 arrivals and departures of aircraft during the month. Passengers included Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, Inspector General of the Royal Air Force, and Rt Hon Captain Lyttleton, AOC, Middle East.  The rescue Swordfish carried out 8 patrols and marine craft 6.  Numbers rescued during the month were 3 Italians by marine craft, 1 British and 1 Italian by floatplanes.  Total rescues since 11 June 1940 are 42 by marine craft (including 7 dead) and 3 by floatplane.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Regimental Dance Band is being reformed in the Battalion. Auditions were held and instruments have been begged, borrowed and bought.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths officers 31, other ranks 876, RAOC (attached) 2.  

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battalion strength 22 officers, 393 other ranks.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battalion strengths 17 officers, 554 other ranks.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths 27 officers, 8 WOs, 181 other ranks.

 

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

 

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30 July 1941: Malta Can Survive Only 100 Days Without Better Food Security

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FLOUR MILLS AND STORAGE MUST BE MOVED UNDERGROUND

Grain to be stored and milled underground

Grain to be stored and milled underground

With the Malta Garrison now fully manned, the Governor and Commander in Chief is turning his attention to the security of supplies essential to the survival of the Island during the current siege, especially foodstuffs. The production of flour is currently under threat, as Lt Gen Dobbie explains in a telegram to London:

“It is…important to provide a means by which the milling of wheat can be carried out under all conditions. At present we need to mill about 100 tons of flour each day for the civilian population.  Mills which carry out this work are concentrated in one small area at the head of Grand Harbour, and there is very considerable danger that the great majority of the might be put out of action suddenly, particularly if the Germans resume their mine-laying activities.  If this occurred the ability of the Fortress to withstand the siege would be reduced to approximately 100 days, which is the maximum period for which large stocks of flour can be stored in this climate.

This problem was recognised by the Naval authorities some time ago, and a small underground mill to provide part of the requirements of the Services was installed with the approval of the Admiralty. This mill is quite inadequate in size for the present storage of the garrison.  The only satisfactory solution is to provide for the milling of the whole of the requirements of the Island, including the Services, under a bomb-proof shelter…

Excavation can be provided as necessary with the existing mining force as part of the shelter construction programme… Experience with the underground Naval mill has shown that in this climate air conditioning is essential for maintenance and satisfactory production throughout the year.

I should be most grateful if an urgent investigation could be carried out with the appropriate milling firms in England and a report furnished as to whether satisfactory mills could be provided. If so I will examine the local problems arising from the scheme, in particular the arrangement which would have to be made with local milling companies…

All the Services here recognise the extreme importance of this problem…the destruction of our existing mills would nullify all arrangements which have been made to enable us to resist for approximately eight months. In other words, Malta could not resist a siege for more than 100 days if the existing flour mills were destroyed.  I consider this unsatisfactory state of affairs must be [rectified] as quickly as possible.   

EXTRA MALTESE PLATOON FOR GHARGHUR

From: Governor & C in C Malta                                     To: War Office

With reference to your telegram of 25 May authorising the formation of a Static Group of Kings Own Malta Regiment including ten platoons for Fort defence. Authority is now requested for the formation of an eleventh platoon for the defence of Gharghur radio station.  The importance of this has increased owing to the employment by the RAF of RDF sets.

HEAVY ARTILLERY INCREASE

From: Governor & C in C Malta                                     To: War Office

I propose to arrange the manning of an additional 24 eighteen-pounders by reorganising 26 Defence Regiment in three batteries. Detailed proposals for this establishment involve only minor additions to personnel.  Please cable approval.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 JULY TO DAWN 31 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny with a cool breeze.

2332 hrs  A mine guard loop indicates the presence of a vessel. The minefield is detonated but a subsequent search reveals no wreckage.

Night  An enemy fighter patrol approached to within 25 miles of Malta then turn back.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but do not made contact as raiders retreat before engagement.

HMS Cachalot

HMS Cachalot (1)

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 30 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Parthian arrived with stores and kerosene from Alexandria. HM Submarine Cachalot was rammed and sunk by the Italian torpedo boat General Achille Papa while on passage from Malta to Alexandria.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  4 Blenheim, 5 Wellington. Departures 5 Blenheim, 4 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily.  6 Beaufighters successful ground-strafing operation Elmas aerodrome and seaplane base, southern Sardinia destroying eight aircraft and damaging many more and causing a large fire in a hangar.  One Beaufighter attacked a large transport aircraft south of Pantelleria putting two engines out of action before running out of ammunition; the enemy aircraft was last seen descending towards the sea.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  NCOs and men attached to 59th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery on Bofors guns returned to the Battalion.  

(1)  Source Wikipedia WP:NFCC#4  

 

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

 

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29 July 1941: Maltese Gunners Praised for Defence of Harbour

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Royal Malta ArtilleryACTION OF ROYAL MALTA ARTILLERY EARNS UNIVERSAL ACCLAIM IN UK

The Chief of Imperial General Staff in London has written personally to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief praising the efforts of the Royal Malta Artillery in Saturday’s attack on Grand Harbour by Italian combat boats:

“Please convey my congratulations to all ranks of the Royal Malta Artillery manning fixed defences on their great success in breaking up the determined enemy sea-borne attack on Grand Harbour. The action of these gunners has excited universal admiration here in the United Kingdom.  The skill and determination shown by them will act as a strong deterrent to future enemy attacks by sea.”

Lt Gen Dobbie replied immediately:

“Your message to the Royal Malta Artillery is greatly appreciated by all ranks. It was a really good show and I agree will discourage future [enemy] efforts.”

In a separate communique today, the War Office asked for further details of the methods used by the Harbour Fire Command against the Italian raid for the benefit of Allied commands in other theatres of war:

“Request details of recent successful action by twin 6 pounders against E boats and submarines. Details such as the warning obtained, the ranges at which the enemy were engaged, the effectiveness of coastal artillery searchlights if used, the effectiveness of the distribution of fire scheme, any lessons learned from the action in the employment of the 6 pounder twin will be most useful as no practical experience in Motor Torpedo Boat defence has been gained in this country or other commands abroad.”

GOVERNER & COMMANDER IN CHIEF DEFENDS ROYAL ENGINEERS ESTABLISHMENT

Lt General Dobbie has strongly resisted a suggestion by the War Office in London that the establishment of the Royal Engineers in Malta could be reduced.

Fortress Royal Engineers units in Malta currently comprise 24 Fortress Company RE, 173 Tunnelling Company RE, RE Bomb Disposal, and two Works Companies RE Malta Territorial Force. The total establishment is 26 officers, 34 WOs/sergeants and 914 rank and file.  The units are responsible for military and defence construction, engineering and repair projects as well as providing manpower for infantry duties.  The Royal Engineers bomb disposal unit also deals with all unexploded bombs across Malta and Gozo outside of the boundaries of RAF airfields and the Royal Navy dockyard.  In a concise response to London today, General Dobbie wrote: “No possibility of disbandment of any unit can be foreseen.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 JULY TO DAWN 30 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 29 JULY 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily and Tripoli.

TA QALI  New Armoury taken over.

 

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

 

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28 July 1941: Malta Has New Night Fighter Unit

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MNFU Hurricanes will be painted black

MNFU Hurricanes will be painted black

EIGHT BLACK HURRICANES TO OPERATE FROM TA QALI

A new RAF unit dedicated to the defence of Malta at night is ready to begin operations. Led by former Battle of Britain flight commander Group Captain George Powell-Shedden, the Malta Night Fighter Unit will be based at Ta Qali. The unit has been formed to counter the frequent night raids by the Italian air force which have become increasingly intense in recent weeks. 

The MNFU will have a special fleet of eight Hurricanes which will be painted entirely in black. As soon as an air raid is plotted approaching the Island, the fighters will be scrambled and the runway briefly illuminated to allow them to take off.  They will work in conjunction with the Island’s searchlights which will illuminate the raiders to enable the camouflaged Hurricanes to close in unseen for attack.

ITALIAN MISSION ‘A PRETTY SUICIDAL JOB’ SAYS NAVY MINE DISPOSAL OFFICER

One of the surviving motor torpedo boats used on yesterday’s raids has been salvaged by the Royal Navy and examined for intelligence purposes. Leading the operation was Rendering Mines Safe Officer Lt Edward Dutton Woolley, GM, RN, who was called out on Saturday morning soon after the raid had been defeated.  The tug Justified took him to the Italian vessel which had been captured by the RAF seven miles offshore:

One of the prisoners captured, together with an interpreter, went with me as he had been persuaded into telling me how to render the thing safe when we found it. At least that was the idea.  When later on we came to the boat he just swore he didn’t know what it was, and that he’d never seen one before, so he wasn’t much use…

After about two hours steaming we came up to the derelict boat. Viewed through the glasses it was quite a small thing, about eighteen feet long and [looking just like] a racing motor boat…It appeared in good order but I could see a large steel case in the bows with a crimson flame painted on it which didn’t look very healthy, so I secured a line to the stem and got back to the ship without much hanging about, then took it in tow and started back for home.”

Commander Woolley chose a quiet sector of Manoel Island to beach the boat for further examination. The manoeuvre was a delicate one in view of the risk of explosion.  Finally he could examine the boat:

“When we got the deck cover off a most incredible contraption of pipes, wires and gadgets was disclosed, which was obviously the firing gear, so we lit cigarettes and pondered over it for a while. For a moment I had the same feeling again that I had when I saw my first mine – that I just couldn’t tackle it – and then again, just as before, the realisation that it had to be done by someone and it may as well be me.” 

After working into the evening, Commander Woolley had determined how the mechanisms worked. He returned to the boat this morning to finish the job:

“The next morning, Sunday, saw the end of the dismantling with the detonators and primers out and the whole thing reasonably safe. There was the main charge of 600 lbs, two primers, three three-ounce charges and over forty detonators.  One of the detonators blew when I was taking it out and ripped my arm but that was the only damage.  Later investigation however showed that we had been very lucky taking the primers out, as one of them unscrewed itself as it came out.  Had the other done the same, the striker pin would have been released and the main charge would have exploded…

The main idea was that the pilot should direct the boat at a ship and then jump overboard before it hit and went up. A pretty suicidal job I should think…” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 JULY TO DAWN 29 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and humid.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 28 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upright returned from patrol, having obtained 2 hits on a 500’ Floating Dock. HM submarine Upholder hit an Italian cruiser with two torpedoes.  Urge returned from patrol (Commanding Officer sick). 5 Swordfish left to intercept convoy, but turned back owing to high oil temperatures of engines. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish despatched to attack a southbound convoy off Pantelleria had to return due to overheated engines.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 13 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 3 Wellington. Departures 5 Blenheim, 2 Wellington.  The Commander in Chief Middle East, General Auchinleck, and the Air Commander in Chief Air Chief Marshal Tedder with their staffs left for the UK. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily, Tripoli and search patrols. 110 Squadron 3 Blenheims searched for two merchant ships, not found but bombed a converted sailing ship. 252 Squadron 8 Beaufighters attacked Catania, Syracuse, Marsala with success, 2 attacking each target.  They destroyed a large number of aircraft and damaged many more, and killed 25 ground staff.  One Beaufighter navigator Sgt T Armstrong was wounded.  Hurricanes provided cover between Sicily and Malta.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Arrangements were made to hand over the Sliema area to 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers.  C Company will receive personnel of 11th Lancs into their beach posts from tomorrow.  An area will be taken over by C Company from 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment.  Training of 40 RAF personnel in the use of rifles began; there are 200 to be trained.

TA QALI  S/Ldr G H Powell-Sheddon posted from Hal Far as OC Malta Night Flying Unit.

(1) Mines Over Malta, Frederick R Galea, Wise Owl Publicatons

 

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

 

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27 July 1941: Eight Ships Destroyed in Attack on Malta Says Italian Radio

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ITALY COMPARES YESTERDAY’S MISSION TO ‘THE GREATEST NAVAL BATTLE’

Radio BItalian radio has declared yesterday’s mission to attack Malta’s harbours as a resounding success, comparable to the greatest naval battle.  The Italian version of yesterday’s attack was reported in a special communique over  the country’s national radio this evening:

“The epic exploits passed into tradition have been taken up again by the daring feat mentioned in today’s ordinary communique. This exploit finds no precedent in any naval history because of the difficulties it presented and the results obtained.  During the night of 26 March, our MA [boats] had penetrated into Suda Bay and succeeded in sinking the cruiser York and two large ships.  The success achieved on that occasion gave reasons to believe that the penetration of the Malta base was possible, notwithstanding the formidable defence and the intense vigilance; so that the exploit had been carefully prepared and studied beforehand and was put into execution on the night of 25-26 July. 

Favoured by darkness, some light [naval] units approached the harbour entrance and then launched the assault against the enemy fortress. While they were doing so a searchlight illuminated one of the units and then the others were discovered.  A hundred [weapons] opened a rapid fire on them but this could not arrest the dash of our seamen and, a few minutes after, our light units which had succeeded in getting clear of the fire let go their torpedoes inside the Malta harbour – eight explosions with high flames ensued. 

It is not possible to say what damage was inflicted on the British Navy but knowing how our seamen delivered the attack one must rest assured that at least eight more British units have been rendered unseaworthy. With this exploit which may be compared with the greatest naval battle was concluded a three-day epic, opened on 23 July by the action of one of our submarines and so successfully carried out by our aviation and MAs. 

Our aviation proceeded during yesterday to hunt enemy shipping both on the high seas as well as at Malta where some damaged ship might have sought refuge. During the previous night our aircraft carried out an offensive action against the Grand Harbour zone and the dockyard of Valletta.  The enemy made use of many searchlights and night fighters and two of our bombers had undecisive engagements with enemy aircraft. 

Yesterday planes of our offensive reconnaissance flight with fighter escorts flew over Malta and during their return trip were engaged by three enemy machines on the Sicilian Channel but these were driven away by our fighters. Over Malta one of our formations was engaged by 30 British fighters most of which were Spitfires – a fierce encounter ensued in the course of which several Spitfires were shot down while three of our aircraft failed to return.  Our fighter formations were under the command of Carlo Romagneli and Francesco Beccharia.”

No Allied vessels were destroyed or damaged in the raid.   One of the Italian attack boats damaged the St Elmo breakwater but in doing so blocked access to Grand Harbour for the others, all of which were either destroyed or captured.

MALTA HAS NEW INFANTRY BRIGADE

A new infantry brigade was inaugurated at noon today, following the arrival of troop reinforcements on the convoy of 24 July. The Central Infantry Brigade consists of the newly-arrived 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, plus 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment and 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment.  Royal Artillery formations are still to be decided.  The Brigade Commanding Officer will be Brigadier I de la Bere.  The arrival of the convoy reinforcements brings the total of Malta Garrison serving personnel to over 25000.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 JULY TO DAWN 28 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and humid.

AM  Two SM 79 bombers were intercepted 50 miles off Malta by Hurricanes of 185 Squadron. Both enemy aircraft were shot down into the sea.

2230-2314 hrs  Air raid alert for a single Italian BR 20 bomber which crosses the Island from St Paul’s Bay to Mtarfa, turns south and then north, crossing the Island again over the same course. Heavy anti-aircraft guns fire three barrages at 18000 feet; no claims.  No Hurricanes are scrambled.

2334-0021 hrs Air raid alert for two BR 20 bombers which approach the Island a mile apart. The first drops bombs in the sea north of St Paul’s Bay; the second drops 250kg high explosive bombs on St Julian’s which puts a searchlight out of action wounding three men, two seriously.  250kg bombs are also dropped on Tal Qroqq.  No Hurricanes are scrambled.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 27 JULY 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 7 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 5 Wellington. Departures 2 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Marylands special patrol Ionian Sea and search patrol.  The Commander in Chief Middle East, General Auchinleck, and the Air Commander in Chief Air Chief Marshal Tedder with their staffs arrived today en route for the UK.  They are expected to leave tomorrow.

HAL FAR  AOCinC Air Marshal A W Tedder, CB, and AOC Mediterranean visited the station.

TA QALI  AOCinC Air Marshal A W Tedder, CB visited the Station.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  Brigade begins operations at noon.

 

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Posted by on July 27, 2016 in 1941, July 1941, Uncategorized

 

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26 July 1941: Italian Torpedo Boats Attack Malta Harbours

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Italian plan of attack

Italian plan of attack

RAIDING BOATS WIPED OUT IN MINUTES BY HARBOUR GUNNERS

A flotilla of Italian boats launched a daring attack at dawn this morning on Malta’s main harbours. It is believed the attack was aimed at the convoy ships in Grand Harbour and the submarine base at Manoel Island. But within a matter of minutes all the enemy vessels had been destroyed or disabled by Harbour defences. 

The Harbour gunners had been at their posts since before midnight last night, when enemy shipping was detected off the north coast of the Island. In anticipation of a naval bombardment, all coastal defence posts were ordered to ‘stand to’ and Swordfish aircraft were sent out to attack but the vessels were reported to have turned away.  However, the incident placed the Harbour Fire Command on high alert; gunners were not sent to barracks but ordered to sleep at their gun positions.

Just before dawn this morning the air raid alert sounded for a small group of enemy fighters approaching the Island. No attack was made but as All Clear siren died down, the sound of motor boat engines was heard off Grand Harbour. 

A minute later came the first intimation of the attack on the Harbour, with a heavy explosion under the St Elmo Viaduct. The order was given for all searchlights to be switched on and the sea outside Grand Harbour was lit up across a wide area, exposing the flotilla of enemy E-boats close to the shore. The gunners at St Elmo and Ricasoli and along the coastline opened fire.  The first enemy boat was blown up within 10 seconds, followed at short intervals by several others. 

Already woken by the air raid alert, many civilians watched: “the resulting fireworks display, as [the tracer bullets] ricocheted off the surface of the sea and formed interweaving patterns of dark red, green and light red, was a sight witnessed by the crowds, which surprisingly enough for the hour of the morning had gathered along Valletta bastions and Sliema front…” (1)

As it became lighter more E-boats were sighted and engaged with great success by the twin 6 pounders of the Harbour Fire Command, the Bofors positions at Dragut Point, Fort St Elmo and Ricasoli, and also from a coastal defence post.

Corporal L G Ferris of 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment was manning a gun at the defence post: 

Italian MTB

Italian MTB

I heard loud explosions in the mouth of the Grand Harbour. I went outside and saw two Motor Torpedo Boats.  I watched them for approximately ten minutes and decided that they were hostile craft, and so I engaged them with a Vickers Machine Gun… We continued to fire until both boats were sunk and all firing ceased at approximately 0530 hrs.  Daylight showed the wreckage of two boats with survivors clinging to them, and these survivors were picked up by a naval boat…” 

At about 0550 hrs we saw three other craft on the horizon and this was reported to Company Headquarters.”

Meanwhile the RAF reported enemy aircraft approaching the Island. Hurricanes fighters were sent to intercept and engaged the raiders.  While most concentrated on the Macchi fighters, two Hurricanes dived on enemy motor boats and opened fire, damaging at least two.

P/O Winton was surprised by a Macchi fighter: “and received such damage to his machine that his fan stopped. Using his speed to gain height, he was able to reach 700 feet and then baled out, both his parachute and dinghy doing all the things that a kind-hearted MO likes them to do… then he spotted a stationary torpedo boat.  He paddled the dinghy with his hands and, finding progress slow, towed it and swam towards the boat.  By climbing up the side he was able to peer into it and was confronted by eight very much dead Italians.

Taking possession of the boat was thus quite easy and as he couldn’t start it he waited, flying the flag at half-mast, since he didn’t know which side would rescue him. An Army rescue boat did a circuit round him – almost six hours after he had baled out on an empty stomach – and thinking he was an Italian, also that there was a machine-gun on the boat, left him to cool his heels for a time.  Before they could return a Swordfish with floats dropped in to pay him a visit and gave him a lift home…” (2)

The attacking force is believed to have consisted of one fast tender vessel carrying the strike flotilla, one two-man and nine one-man motor torpedo boats, one motor boat carrying two two-man submarines and two large rescue boats. The rescue boats and carrier apparently escorted the MTBs and submarines to within a couple of miles of Grand Harbour before turning out to sea.  Six MTBs, one two-man motor torpedo boat and a large motor boat were destroyed by coastal defences, three MTBs and two rescue launches were destroyed by the RAF. 

One two-man submarine exploded on attacking the St Elmo breakwater; the second, probably intended for an attack on Marsamxetto Harbour, ran aground and was abandoned by its crew. The outer span of the breakwater was brought down, effectively blocking access to Grand Harbour for the following attack vessels.  No other damage was caused.

Malta rescue boats and aircraft searched throughout the day for survivors. The enemy also carried out air searches and an Italian hospital ship remained 12 miles offshore for most of the day; the RAF did not mount any attacks.  In all, 15 dead bodies were recovered; 18 Italians were rescued alive and taken prisoner.  One MTB was recovered and brought in to Grand Harbour.  A one-man MTB was also recovered intact, and it is hoped to salvage other craft.  

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 JULY TO DAWN 27 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

0415 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft approaching the Island. They turn away without dropping any bombs.

0445 hrs  Five motor torpedo boats (MTB) are reported off Grand Harbour.

0446 hrs  A large explosion is heard from the direction of Grand Harbour.

0450 hrs  MTBs, one-man motor boats and two-man submarines are reported off Grand Harbour. The St Elmo alarm sounds again and sentries take up positions on all beach posts.

0500 hrs  The vessels are engaged by the twin six-pounders of the Harbour Fire Command at a range between 3000 and 500 yards. Bofors gun positions at Dragut Point, Fort St Elmo and Ricasoli also engage. Defence posts of 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment engage the boats with machine-gunfire.

Hurricane fighters join in the attack on the Italian MTBs.

Two MTBs are sunk and two disabled, along with the entire force of one-man speed boats and two-man submarines. One Bofors claims six hits on a MTB.  1st Bn Cheshire Regiment reports hitting one MTB with machine-gunfire at 1450 yards; the vessel then explodes.  

Eight two-man submarines attempt to break through the boom defences of Marsamxetto and Grand Harbour. Seven are either sunk or destroyed before reaching their target; one reaches the viaduct of Elmo breakwater and explodes, blowing it up.  Gas and water mains are broken by the impact; supplies are shut off by Royal Engineers personnel. 

0525 hrs  Air raid alert for a large formation of enemy aircraft approaching the Island 15 Hurricanes fighters are scrambled.  Nine of the Hurricanes sight two enemy rescue boats 15 miles from Malta on a north-easterly course.  Two fighters dive towards the boats and open fire from 500 yards, five of the remaining Hurricanes follow in to attack while one remains on lookout.  One of the boats is halted and appears to be sinking, the other is pursued for five miles before bursting into flames. Hurricanes also attack MTBs off the coast of Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto.

A Macchi fighter approaches and attacks one of the Hurricanes. Another Hurricane launches a counter-attack on the Macchi and shoots it down into the sea.  Hurricanes engage 15 Macchi fighters apparently on their way back to Sicily; two Macchis are shot down.

One Hurricane is shot down in the engagement and P/O Winston is reported missing. Another pilot reports having seen him in the sea 25-30 miles north east of Grand Harbour. 

0622 hrs  Raiders passed signal is sounded. Heavy machine-gun fire is heard out to sea.

St Elmo Viaduct has been damaged but the Harbour defences have not been penetrated. Reports claim a mixture of ten vessels including MTBs and one-man submarines sunk by shore gun batteries and Hurricane fighters; numbers are difficult to confirm due to the half-light.  However, excellent work by the twin six-pounders of the Harbour Fire Command undoubtedly accounted for the majority of the craft destroyed.

DAY  Swordfish aircraft and rescue boats from Kalafrana carry out patrols to search for survivors, totalling five and a half hours. P/O Winston is picked up unhurt.  Eighteen Italians are rescued alive and taken prisoner.  One disabled MTB is brought into Grand Harbour.  A one-man speed boat is also recovered intact and it is hoped to salvage other craft. 

The enemy also carry out searches for the missing MTBs, small submarines and Macchi pilots throughout the day. Hurricanes make no further contact with enemy aircraft. 

2152-2218 hrs; 2231-2348 hrs  Air raid alerts for six Italian BR 20 bombers which approach the Island singly. Although there is little moon, the raiders manage more hits on the Island than usual.  Bombs are dropped on fields between Mosta and St Paul’s Bay, where they cause a fire among crops which acts as a beacon for a second raider to drop more bombs.  250kg high explosive bombs are also dropped between Naxxar and Mosta, on Zonqor Point and Maddalena, on Zabbar and near Marsascala, on fields behind Sliema, and in the sea.  Hurricanes 249 Squadron are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns fire one barrage; no claims. 

An enemy hospital ship searches through the night for survivors of this morning’s engagement.

Military casualties  Lance-Sergeant Artificer Frederick G Morris, 4th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Enemy casualties  Sergente Maggiore Ruggero Gallina, 76a Squadriglia, 7o Gruppo, 54o Stormo, Macchi 200 pilot shot down and died. 

Italian attack on Grand Harbour casualty list

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 26 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Dawn attack on Grand Harbour and Marsamxett by enemy E and smaller M boats.  Attack decisively defeated, believed a total of 15 boats sunk by harbour defences and RAF.  18 prisoners collected.  St Elmo Viaduct torpedoed – our only casualty. Cachalot sailed for Alexandria with stores and personnel.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Sunderland. Departures 1 Blenheim. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily, Tripoli, Castel Benito and special patrols. 110 Squadron 3 Blenheims sent to attack ship reported by patrol but failed to locate it.

HAL FAR  Wing Commander R H Harris took over command of Station.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  A and C Companies now at Buschetto Gardens and D Company at Zebbug.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A machine-gun of a D Company defence post sank an Italian small vessel.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1. 0500 hrs Stand to for action on Harbour defences and action on damage to breakwater. 0530hrs Stand down. First action other than air attacks in this war in which men of FRE unit have taken part.  Results highly successful.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  A private was killed when handling an unexploded 25 pound shell which he had collected as a souvenir. Three Other Ranks were injured in the explosion.

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

(2) Air Battle for Malta, HMSO

 

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

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

 

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25 July 1941: Enemy Warships Heading For Grand Harbour

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ENEMY SHIPS AND E BOATS OFF GOZO AND MALTA

Malta’s defences moved to high alert last night as an enemy cruiser and destroyers were spotted heading towards Grand Harbour from the north east. The first response was to expect a coastal bombardment from the enemy warships.  As soon as they came within 15 miles, the air raid alert was sounded across Malta.

Minutes later a Royal Navy signal station on Gozo reported a flotilla of light craft, possibly E boats, off the coast off the Island’s coast. 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment were immediately ordered to ‘stand to’ ready to implement the Gozo Defence Scheme and repel an enemy landing.  The Scheme was developed as soon as the threat was identified of a possible enemy invasion of Malta via her sister Island (maltagc70, 5 July 1941).  Companies of troops are posted ready to counter enemy seaborne landings at Marsalforn, Mgarr and Cala Dueira.  

Five Swordfish of 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm were scrambled to intercept the enemy ships but just out of range of the coast defence guns, the ships turned away and headed northwards. 

Scene of Macchi fighter crash in Valletta

Scene of Macchi fighter crash in Valletta

ITALIAN FIGHTER CRASHES ON VALLETTA’S MAIN STREET

Shoppers in Malta’s capital city Valletta had a shock this morning when an Italian fighter aircraft crashed in the centre of Valletta. The Macchi 200 was one of three fighters and two bombers shot down during a reconnaissance mission.

Some 40 fighters were escorting two bombers sent to review the convoy in Grand Harbour when it was involved in a dog-fight with a Hurricane of 249 Squadron. The Macchi was badly damaged and began to lose height; the pilot baled out but too late for his parachute to open. The wife of Rev Nicholls of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral witness the fighter crash:

“It swooped screaming over the roof of the Palace over the Casino Maltese missing the top by feet, roared up Kingsway, and buried itself in Brizzi’s already ruined shop – the only blitzed building in that immediate neighbourhood. She was shopping, and finding planes overhead went into Collis and Williams chemist shop. The plane crashed five shops away, exactly 20 yards! Luckily it was not a bomber, and also there were about four walls between her and it.” (1)

As soon as the ‘Raiders Passed’ siren sounded, hundreds of Maltese emerged from shelter and rushed to the scene to celebrate the RAF victory.

TROOPS DISEMBARKED FROM ‘OPERATION SUBSTANCE’ CONVOY

  • Royal Navy 28
  • RAF 676
  • Royal Artillery 16
  • HQ 4 Heavy Ack Ack Regt 18
  • 5 Heavy Ack Ack Battery 230
  • 6 Heavy Ack Ack Battery 175
  • HQ 32 Light Ack Ack Regiment 12
  • 55 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 98 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 182 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 186 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 223 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 24 Light Wireless Section 31
  • 64 Light Wireless Section 26
  • HQ Infantry Brigade 12
  • Royal Engineers 5
  • 173 Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers 230
  • 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment 5
  • Royal Army Medical Corps 55
  • Other 83

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 JULY TO DAWN 26 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

1059-1130 hrs  Air raid alert for one SM 79 and one BR 20 bomber escorted by 40 Macchi fighters approaching the Island for reconnaissance at 22000 feet. 22 Hurricane fighters of 185 and 249 Squadrons are scrambled and engage the raiders over Grand Harbour.  Hurricanes of 249 Squadron attack the BR 20 and it begins to emit smoke.  Pilots of 185 Squadron give chase and attack, setting the port engine on fire and further damaging the fuselage.  It is last seen on fire, breaking up and descending towards the sea 20 miles north east of Malta.  Four pilots of 185 Squadron attack the SM 79.  The undercarriage falls and one parachute is seen descending from the aircraft which crashes in to the sea in flames 20 miles east of the Island. 

A pilot of 249 Squadron shoots down a Macchi; the pilot bales out but his parachute fails to open properly and he is killed. He is later identified as Sottotenente Francesco Liberti.  The Macchi crashes into the cellar of a bomb-damaged shop in Strada Reale, Valletta.  Two more Macchi 200s are shot down over the sea.  A wounded Italian airman is picked up by the sea rescue services six miles north east of Grand Harbour and taken to hospital.  The body of another is found on land, his parachute only half open.  All Hurricanes return safely.   

2235 hrs  A cruiser and destroyers are reported approaching Grand Harbour at 30 knots. 

2250 hrs  Light craft of the E boat type are reported off Gozo by the Naval Signal Station on Jurdan.  1st Bn Hampshire Regiment ‘stand to’ ready to move in opposition of any attempted landing as detailed in the Gozo Defence Scheme.

2250 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for three enemy aircraft which drop bombs in the sea, cross the coast and drop bombs on Ta Silch and the Ta Qali area.

2259 hrs  One enemy cruiser and two destroyers together with E boats are reported 14 miles off shore. A warning is sounded on Malta; all beach posts are ordered to ‘stand to’ and depth posts to ‘keep watch’.  A strike force of five Swordfish is sent out to intercept the enemy ships but the vessels apparently turn north east again.  

2325 hrs  Motor torpedo boats are reported off Madalena.

0012 hrs  Swordfish aircraft attack enemy vessels which recede.

0013 hrs  Beach posts on Malta are ordered to ‘stand by’.

0015 hrs  1st Bn Hampshire Regiment on Gozo ordered to stand down.

0035 hrs  Beach posts on Malta are ordered to ‘stand down’.

0100 hrs  St Elmo alarm sounds for surface craft approaching Grand Harbour. As they are not within firing range, normal routine is ordered.

0358 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft which drop bombs along the coast near Bahar ic Cahaq . Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.

Enemy casualties Tenente Silvio De Giorgi, pilot of Macchi200 fighter shot down and crashed into the sea, but rescued by a RAF Launch; Sottotenente Francesco Liberti, 98a Squadriglia, 7o Gruppo, 54o Stormo, pilot of Macchi 200 fighter, shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 25 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  At 2300 an enemy ship was detected and approached to within 14 miles of Malta.

AIR HQ Arrivals 6 Swordfish. 69 Squadron Marylands special patrols.  Beaufighter searched area between Malta and Sicily for Motor Torpedo Boats but found none.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Beach posts ordered to ‘stand to’ just before midnight due to a report of enemy shipping near the Island.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Unit personnel witness a Macchi fighter crashing into an already-bombed house in Valletta. No 2 Works Coy & 173 Tunnelling Coy provide a guard over the crashed machine.  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 (1 x 15kg HE, 1 x 100kg HE) .

(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 July 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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