21 August 1941: Malta Attacks Sink 45000 Tons of Enemy Shipping

21 Aug

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Destructive raids by our aircraft have caused serious casualties to enemy shipping in the Mediterranean. During the week Blenheim and Swordfish aircraft from Malta have sunk or seriously damaged 44600 tons of enemy shipping between Sicily and the African coast.  A destroyer which was escorting a convoy was torpedoed by Swordfish aircraft and probably sunk.

HMS Taku arrives Malta

HMS Taku arrives Malta

Blenheim and Swordfish aircraft from Malta have continued their day and night offensive against enemy shipping between Sicily and the African coast, with the following results:

  • Destroyer torpedoed, almost certainly sunk
  • 4000 ton tanker bombed and seen to explode
  • 4000 ton tanker bombed and left on fire
  • 800 ton schooner bombed and set on fire
  • 800 ton schooner bombed and left with a heavy list
  • 6000 ton merchant vessel torpedoed and almost certainly sunk
  • 3000 ton merchant vessel torpedoed and almost certainly sunk
  • 3000 ton merchant vessel torpedoed
  • 8000 ton merchant vessel sunk by bombs and torpedo
  • 9000 ton merchant vessel torpedoed, beached and subsequently set on fire by bombs
  • 6000 ton tanker torpedoed and left on fire

On one occasion enemy fighters successfully prevented a day attack on a convoy, but during the night a successful torpedo attack on the same target was made by Swordfish.

Three heavy night attacks were made on the harbour at Catania. The Central and Port railway stations were hit and a fire, apparently oil-fed, was visible 70 miles away.  Shipping was almost certainly damaged and photographs show a large burned out area among trucks and cargo on the Central Quay.  Barracks at Passero were also bombed and set on fire.  Fighters carried out high and low level sweeps over southern Sicily but no fighter opposition was encountered.  Seven seaplanes were destroyed or severely damaged at Syracuse, where oil cisterns were attacked with cannon fire and three balloons were shot down in flames.

Tripoli was attacked on two nights by a total of nine Wellingtons but, though bursts and fires were seen on the Spanish Mole, accurate observation was hampered by a smoke screen. A Maryland engaged in leaflet dropping over Tunisia was shot down by French fighters.

The enemy made a few ineffective night raids on Malta. On 19 August twelve enemy fighters approached the Island but were chased back to Sicily, where three of them were destroyed.  On 21 August at dawn three fighters with nine others as high cover attempted a low-flying attack on two aerodromes but caused no damage.  Malta fighters were unable to engage them due to poor visibility.


One of the merchant ships from convoy Operation Substance left Malta tonight. The fast freighter SS Durham sailed to the westward under cover of darkness with no protective escort. Durham’s route will take her through Tunisian waters from where she will head for Gibraltar.  The freighter is expected to arrive on Sunday.


Weather  Very windy.

0602-0700 hrs Just before dawn there are a number of reports from ground stations of the report of an aircraft with navigation lights on. A formation of enemy raiders appears 20 miles north east of the Island.  Hurricanes are ordered to carry out a dawn patrol and are scrambled when a single aircraft appears 18 miles north of Malta.  Several enemy aircraft follow and 105 Squadron are scrambled.  Three raiders eventually make low-flying attacks on Hal Far and the Safi dispersal area.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders in a dogfight over Luqa.  Bofors, light anti-aircraft guns and light machine guns engage the raiders vigorously.  A Bofors guns claims two hits on one Macchi.

Another formation of nine enemy aircraft appears 18 miles north and 126 Squadron are scrambled. The raiders circle 30 miles north of the Island before turning back towards Sicily.  The Hurricanes do not intercept.

Civilian casualties  Sliema  Annunziata Borg, age 60.


ROYAL NAVY Taku arrived from Alexandria en route to UK; discharged bulk kerosene. Unbeaten returned from patrol, having obtained 1 hit on convoy or escort, results unobserved owing to counter attack. P33 did not arrive at 0700 as ordered. SS Durham sailed independently for Gibraltar.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 5 Wellington. Departures 1 Beaufort. 69 Squadron Patrols Pantellaria to Marittimo Island and Tripoli.  Beaufort patrolled Tunisian coast. 38 Squadron 16 Wellingtons sent to attack Tripoli harbour damaged buildings and port facilities 

HAL FAR  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 9 Swordfish attacked three escorted troopships returning from Tripoli but attack hampered by poor visibility.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.


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


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