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