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GOVERNOR & C IN C REVIEWS LESSONS LEARNED FROM ITALIAN SEABORNE RAID
Military chiefs in Malta have conducted a detailed review of the Italian seaborne attack on Malta and the events leading up to the assault. The Governor & Commander in Chief has released its findings to the War Office for distribution to other theatres of war:
- Attacking craft included was two-man submarines, one-man motor boats.Warning of possible seaborne attack received July 25 about six hours before action.
- Larger vessels turned away when about 12 miles distant whilst sounds of motor engines were heard several times until 0330 hrs on 26th.
- Air raid lasted from 0413 to 0443 hrs when raiders passed was sounded.
- Minutes later an object was spotted 300 yards out to sea, then the [St Elmo] bridge span was blown up and searchlights illuminated.
- Some crafts were 200 yards, others 2000 yards.
- Guns fired later at vessels between 1000 and 3000 yards, one craft at 200 was sunk on the third round.
- Illuminated area very effective up to 1800 yards, fighting lights necessary beyond this range.
- Night calm, visibility good.
- Distribution of fire scheme could not be tested entirely as enemy vessels kept close together and not dispersed.
- One formation of five in line ahead were broken up by the sinking of the first three; others appeared disabled but later came into action.
- I consider the present scheme of one twin to each fixed light is suitable.
- Craft in the last stages of their approach moved so slowly under cover of darkness and during the air raid that two, possibly three vessels reached 300 yards off shore without making any appreciable sound. They were so small that they were very hard to discover. At ranges of 3000 yards in calm sea these could not be identified easily from wreckage; crews may abandon boats which are apparently disabled and return to them later if they are still sound.
- Manoeuvrability of the craft was better than anticipated; they were capable of executing a 180 degree turn in an incredibly short time.
- In addition to travel corrections, number one had to forestall sinking and turning of targets.
- The number of rounds expended during the second attack was larger than expected owing to the evasiveness of the craft.
- Tracers proved invaluable, particularly at short ranges and given the high speed of targets.
- No director sights are available, so the gun commander had to stand outside the shield to direct the gun layers on to proper targets, as their view from within is very limited. Electric fans inside the shields proved of great value in clearing away smoke from telescopes.
- As there were no enemy aircraft during the attack, Bofors guns in the forts came into action during the second attack at ranges of 1500 to 2000 yards, with rapid and accurate fire. As this is not their primary role they cannot be depended on in the scheme of defence.
- Ammunition expended: 585 rounds 6 pounder 10 cet.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 AUGUST TO DAWN 7 AUGUST 1941
Weather Sunny and hot.
0247-0325 hrs Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft approaching from the north. Two raiders turn back 40 miles before reaching Malta. The third approaches to ten miles north of St Paul’s bay when the raider begins to lose height and dives in flames; its bombs explode as it hits the sea. A series of distant explosions is heard from the direction of Sicily. Three Hurricanes are scrambled but there is no opportunity to engage.
Enemy casualties Capitano Bernardino Dalle Nagare, Commander of the 65a Squadriglia, 31o Gruppo, 43o Stormo, bomber pilot.
OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 6 AUGUST 1941
AIR HQ Arrivals 6 Beaufort, 9 Wellington. Departures 69 Squadron Strike force patrols by two Marylands. Photo-reconnaissance Gela, Comiso, Licata, San Giovanni, Reggio Calabria, Catania, Messina, Comiso and Augusta. 105 Squadron 4 Blenheims sent to attack convoy of 6 merchant vessels and 6 destroyers unable to complete mission. Fleet Air Arm 2 Fulmar patrol over Gerbini and Catania, machine-gunned bombers Gerbini aerodrome.
HAL FAR 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a convoy of 6 merchant ships and 6 destroyers. Three merchant vessels were torpedoed, leaving one submerged and another sinking fast.
1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT Battalion in Gozo.
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