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Monthly Archives: August 2016

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

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WAR CABINET REVIEWS OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS FROM MALTA 14 TO 21 AUGUST

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.

SUBSTANCE CONVOY SHIP LEAVES MALTA

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.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 AUGUST TO DAWN 22 AUGUST 1941

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.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 21 AUGUST 1941

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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20 August 1941: Malta’s Homes and Crops at Risk From Incendiaries

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Precious crops at risk from incendiaries

Precious crops at risk from incendiaries

INCENDIARY ALERT ACROSS MALTA

An alert has been issued to householders across Malta to remove any inflammable objects or temporary fittings from roofs. (1)  The warning by the Lt Governor’s office is necessary due to the very large numbers of incendiaries being dropped during the current campaign of night air raids by the Italian Regia Aeronautica.

Since 12 August, hundreds of 2kg incendiaries at a time have been scattered across Malta. Although small, the bombs contain fuel oil and can burn fiercely for up to ten minutes.  The Island’s stone buildings are not especially at risk, but in the dry summer heat any inflammable material is vulnerable to the bombs.  Precious food crops are also in danger of destruction. 

ITALIAN RADIO CLAIMS ‘DARING ATTACKS’ ON HAL FAR

A particularly audacious action was carried out on Malta. In the early hours of yesterday an Italian fighter formation escorted by another formation of fighters flew over Malta and from a very low level machine gunned the highly equipped air base of Hal Far, while another formation crossed the sky over the Island.  The daring attacks of our fighters although met with a furious anti-aircraft fire were crowned with success.  Two large twin-engined bombers were set on fire and destroyed, while another two bombers and two single-engined planes were hit and rendered unserviceable.  Furthermore several other aircraft to the south of the airfield were hit and, judging by the flames, they sustained extensive damage.  The enemy’s anti-aircraft batteries were likewise attacked with armaments from on board our aircraft.  British fighters flying over Malta did not engage our planes, all of which returned normally to their respective bases. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 AUGUST TO DAWN 21 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 20 AUGUST 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Otus arrived with petrol and stores from Alexandria. Urge returned from patrol having sighted convoy, but was prevented from attacking by counter attacks.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Blenheim. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols Lampedusa, eastern Ionian Sea, Trapani and Tripoli harbour. 126 Squadron 6 Hurricanes attacked barrage balloons, seaplanes and petrol tanks at Augusta. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB dealt with 2 (2kg incendiary).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  His Excellency the Governor visited Gozo. A guard of honour of 3 officers and 106 ranks was provided by the Battalion. 

(1) Malta Diary of a War, Michael Galea, BDL Publishing 2015

 

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Posted by on August 20, 2016 in 1941, August 1941, Uncategorized

 

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19 August 1941: Malta Dockyard Diver Awarded Empire Medal

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5 incendiaries near Xlejli Tower

5 incendiaries near Xlejli Tower

GIUSEPPE GAUCI DEFIED ENEMY BOMBERS

London Gazette 19 August 1941

Awarded the British Empire Medal (Civil Division): Giuseppe Gauci, Diver, HM Dockyard, Malta:

“Diver Gauci showed great coolness and devotion to duty when carrying out an underwater examination of a ship which had been damaged. Gauci knew that further bombing attacks were to be expected and that, if one came while he was in the water, there was little chance that he could be removed from the target area before the bombs dropped.  By his coolness he set an example to the diving boat’s crew which enabled the examination to be competed and the ship to sail.”

MALTA CABLE LINES GO UNDERGROUND

Malta’s naval wireless telegraph (W/T) receiving station is soon to be moved underground near War Headquarters at Lascaris Barracks. The existing Cable and Wireless station in St Angelo will also be moved there.  Local under-sea cables damaged by enemy action are currently in the process of repair. Buried land-lines are being laid to provide a securely protected communications system immune from enemy bomb attacks.  The War Office is anxious to ensure cable capacity is kept at a maximum, particularly to maintain a reliable route for the high volume of cable traffic between Malta and Alexandria.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 AUGUST TO DAWN 20 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

1034-1055 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve Macchi 200 fighters which approach to within six miles of Grand Harbour at 23000 feet before turning away northwards. Twelve Hurricane fighters are scrambled and have time to reach sufficient height to pursue the raiders towards the coast of Sicily.  F/Lt Lefevre shoots down one Macchi over land and is attacked as he turns away but evades damage.  P/O Burke shoots down one Macchi in flames over land and a second over the sea.  His own aircraft is slightly damaged but he is able to land safely.  The remaining nine Macchis turn away from the engagement.

2122-2200 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north at 17000 feet and drop hundreds of incendiary bombs on Zeitun and along a ridge Ghaxaq-Bir-id-Deheb-Luqa causing a string of fires, including a large one near Gudja. Two people are killed and five wounded in Zeitun.  Five fall near HQ of 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment at Xlejli Tower and ignite but are extinguished within three minutes.  One other rank is slightly injured.  A large number of high explosive bombs are dropped in the sea.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled.  Searchlights effect one illumination but there is no engagement.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Cyril W J Errington, Royal Navy, HM Submarine Upright; Leading Aircraftsman Alexander L S Tennent, Royal Air Force (Auxiliary Air Force).

Civilian casualties  Zeitun  Joseph Cutajar, age 19; Consiglia Farrugia, age 48.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 19 AUGUST 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 3 Beaufort, 9 Wellington. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance of Tripoli, Lampedusa, and several aerodromes in Sicily. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Two Swordfish carried out shipping searches in the Pantellaria area.   

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB dealt with 10 (2kg incendiary).

 

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Posted by on August 19, 2016 in 1941, August 1941

 

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18 August 1941: Malta Submarine Sunk by Mystery Explosion

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Cant Z501 organised rescue

Cant Z501 organised rescue

P-32 LOST IN ATTACK ON ENEMY CONVOY

Malta-based submarine P-32 was sunk today as she closed in to attack an enemy convoy. At around 1530 hours this afternoon, the submarine was just beneath the surface off the coast of Tripoli when she spotted through her periscope a convoy of four enemy merchant vessels.  P-32 dived to 50 feet and moved rapidly to close on the nearest of the ships, a 6000 ton oil tanker.  As the submarine began to resurface there was a major explosion and she sank almost immediately to the seabed. 

Chlorine gas began to fill the submarine which was also flooding fast. Her Commanding Officer and two ratings attempted to escape through the conning tower but one of the ratings died in the attempt.

According to Italian sources, the explosion was witnessed by the crew of an Italian Cant Z501 which flew over the scene. They reported four men in the water, two alive and two dead.  The aircraft returned to signal to the survivors that help was on its way.  Lt David Abdy RN and his coxswain are reported to have been picked up by an Italian boat and taken prisoner.  The cause of the explosion is not known at this stage but is likely to have been a mine.

P32 Casualty List

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 AUGUST TO DAWN 19 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Gunner Evan Morris, 182 Battery, 4 HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 18 AUGUST 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Unbeaten and Urge sent out to intercept convoy north of Pantelleria.

AIR HQ Departures 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols Tunisian coast and searches for convoy.  Patrols of western Ionian Sea, Messina, Reggio Calabria, Augusta and Syracuse. 38 Squadron 5 Wellingtons sent to attack Tripoli harboub, dropping bombs and incendiaries form 4-9000 feet. 105 Squadron 3 Blenheims set to attack shipping near Lampedusa.  

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  99 other ranks ceased attachment to 24 Fortress Company RE and re-attached to RAOC.

 

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Posted by on August 18, 2016 in 1941, August 1941

 

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17 August 1941: Apathy Prevails in Italy, Says British Foreign Secretary

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Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden

Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden

ITALY TO BE HIT BY AIR AND SEA AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY

The War Cabinet in London today received a report from the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the current state of Italian morale. Summing up his report, Anthony Eden wrote:  “apathy and weariness are the salient characteristics of the prevailing mood in Italy.” 

According to the report, by the end of Italy’s first year at war Mussolini had lost much prestige; the short war he had promised still dragged on. Mussolini has fallen out with several of his Generals.  For the Italian population, the glamour of early victories in the Mediterranean is already wearing off and the attack on the Soviet Union is seen as likely to prolong the war

The collapse of Italy’s empire in Africa and Germany’s perceived abandonment of Italy to the tender mercies of Allied navy and air forces in the Mediterranean have dented morale. Rations have seriously deteriorated and the cost of food is continually rising; the situation is now considered ‘serious’.

Some are reporting that among the general public a desire for peace seems universal. Many deny any Fascist sympathies and some in private openly criticise the Government.  Many Italians are at heart anti-German, whereas few are anti-British.  An American in Rome states: “Everyone we know listens to the English radio…including the police and carabinieri.” 

The Italian press has found it necessary to print warnings such as: ‘Every speech and every gesture which might disaffect the public spirit is criminal. There must be no speaking against the governing classes, nor spreading of false news, nor criticism of any sort.’

Morale among the armed forces is no better. According to an American information, feeling between the Italian and German armed forces is very bad and disagreement exists from commanders downwards.

Army morale is poor; the regular Army dislike interference from Mussolini and his political allies; there is a shortage of uniforms and equipment, as well as food. The Navy has lost all its former prestige, apart from the submarine service.  Morale has been undermined by the presence of German officers on every ship from destroyers upwards.  A reliable source describes the Italian Air Force as being in a ‘fairly poor state and adds that it is not unusual for pilots to request ground-based employment on the excuse of nervous breakdown.

However, the British Foreign Secretary warns against assuming an early capitulation: “The chances of knocking Italy out of the war (ie forcing her to a separate peace) can now be discounted, since the Germans would certainly forestall any such move in Italy by converting the present moral occupation into a physical occupation of the country. But the more depressed and restless the Italians become the less effective is the Fascist Government’s contribution to the German effort, and the greater do Germany’s policing responsibilities in Italy become.” 

The Foreign Secretary concludes: “The moral of this is that, even though we cannot now hope to knock Italy out, we should not relax efforts to hit metropolitan Italy by air and from the sea whenever opportunity offers.  Each blow against Italy is a blow against Germany.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 AUGUST TO DAWN 18 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and fresh.

PM  Eleven Hurricanes are scrambled to intercept a formation of six enemy aircraft spotted 60 miles north of Malta. Four of the raiders turn back towards Sicily, followed later by the other two.  Five Hurricanes are ordered to land and three others develop various troubles and have to land.  The remaining three are ordered to intercept a single aircraft identified as a Caproni seaplane which is reported 10 miles east of Zonqor Point.  Two Hurricanes open fire and see black smoke emitting from the seaplane’s port wing; the aircraft then jettisons a large object, believed to be a mine.  Later reconnaissance of the area reveals a large patch of oil and some wreckage on the surface.   

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 17 AUGUST 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Marylands on shipping patrols.  Three Hurricanes sent to attack seaplanes in Syracuse Harbour, damaging several aircraft. 38 Squadron 4 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli Harbour, Spanish Quay and area. 105 Squadron 3 Blenheims sent to attack shipping south of Pantelleria. 

HAL FAR 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a convoy of 6 merchant ships and 6 destroyers. One merchant ship was torpedoed and bombed, a second was hit and down by the bows, one tanker was struck by a torpedo and left on fire.  One Fulmar patrolled over Gerbini and Catania aerodromes dropping bombs on Gerbini.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 8.

 

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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in 1941, August 1941

 

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16 August 1941: Royal Malta Artillery is Example to Allied Troops

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Harbour guns praised

Malta’s harbour guns vigilant

MALTESE AND BRITISH ARTILLERY PRAISED FOR ‘UNCEASING WATCHFULNESS’

The Royal Malta Artillery has been held up as an example to Allied Troops across all war fronts. In a speech today, the Secretary of State for War stressed the need for British Troops to maintain constant vigilance, quoting as an example the Maltese defenders’ recent successful action against the Italian attempted invasion:

“On 26 July there were certain coast defences on the Island of Malta manned by the Royal Malta Artillery which had not opened fire for the whole of the war. There they had stood at their posts, day after day, night after night.  What a good reason for boredom; what an excuse for relaxing vigilance.” 

The Secretary of State then followed with a description of the attack, saying “by the skill and unceasing watchfulness of the Royal Malta Artillery, a British machine-gun detachment and some anti-aircraft guns manned by Maltese, this first serious attack of Italian surface craft was smashed.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 AUGUST TO DAWN 17 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

No air raids.

1730 hrs  Four enemy aircraft cross the Island at 24000 feet unseen by Malta fighters.

0430-0505 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses the coast and drops incendiary bombs just outside the boundary of Hal Far aerodrome. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions.

Military casualties  Lance Corporal Joseph Muscat, Royal Army Service Corps.

Civilian casualties  Hamrun  Carmelo Pisani, age 29.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 16 AUGUST 1941

AIR HQ Departures 1 Blenheim, 4 Hurricane. 69 Squadron 5 Marylands on striking force patrols.  Photoreconnaissance of Catania port and aerodrome.  Four Hurricane fighter sweeps over Southern Sicily in the morning and afternoon.  

HAL FAR 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish attacked central quay and merchant ships at Catania harbour with determination and great success; large fires and explosions were observed.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion gave a charity dance at the Vernon Club from 1430-1630 hrs in aid of the Volunteer Aid Detachment.  The Regimental Dance Band played and the show was a great success.  HE the Governor and Lady Dobbie were present.  The sum of £25 was handed over to the charity.  In the evening the band played for a dance at the Sliema Club.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4.

 

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Posted by on August 16, 2016 in 1941, August 1941

 

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15 August 1941: Malta Bombers Destroy Axis Fuel Supplies

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Blenheim Mk IV

Blenheim bombers

TWO BOMBERS LOST IN RAID ON BENGHAZI CONVOY

Malta-based Blenheim bombers sank an enemy tanker, left a second ablaze and damaged two other merchant ships in a bombing attack on an Axis convoy as it was approaching the port of Benghazi in Libya tonight. Five Blenheims of 105 Squadron which arrived at Luqa last month carried out the attack on a convoy of merchant ships in the Gulf of Sirte.  Two of the Blenheims failed to arrive back at Malta; returning pilots reported that they had faced a barrage of defensive fire.

The aircraft of Pilot P/O P H Standfast had scored a successful hit on a tanker with a high explosive bomb but as he pulled away the aircraft was hit by gunfire from the Axis ships and exploded, they said. His crew have been named as Pilot Officer H C Sorenson, Observer and Sergeant D A D Hoare, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner.

Pilot F/O H J Roe Blenheim flew low over the target, unleashing his HE bomb on one of the tankers, but as he pulled away the wing tip struck the ship’s mast, and the aircraft crashed into the sea. His crew were Flt Sgt S R Samways, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner and Flt Sgt J D Timms, Observer.

The achievements of 105 Squadron were hailed in the international press today, following Monday’s successful bombing raid on Southern Italy:

“On Monday a successful attack was made on chemical works at Crotonne, Southern Italy. Many direct hits greatly damaged storage tanks and containers, and the whole objective was a mass of flames when the raiders left.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 AUGUST TO DAWN 16 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

1716-1737 Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber which carries out reconnaissance escorted by six Macchi 200 fighters. 17 Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.

0347-0415 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft approaching from the north and drop bombs in the sea before receding. Hurricane fighters are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions. 

0424-0510 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses the coast at Dingli and follows the coastline to Hal Far, dropping containers of hundreds of incendiary bombs near Siggiewi, Zurrieq and Hal Far. The containers are reported as resembling ‘Molotov bread baskets’.  High explosive bombs are also dropped on Zabbar and on Hamrun, where houses are demolished and one civilian seriously injured.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions.

Military casualties  Sergeant David A D Hoare Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR); Flying Officer Hubert J Roe, RAFVR; Flight Sergeant Stuart R Samways RAF; Pilot Officer Harold Sorensen RAFVR; Pilot Officer Peter H Standfast RAFVR; Flight Sergeant John D Timms, RAF, all 105 Squadron.                                                                   

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 15 AUGUST 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Osiris arrived from Alexandria and berthed in Marsaxlokk to discharge petrol.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Bombay. Departures 1 Bombay. 69 Squadron  Maryland reconnaissance Catania harbour, western Ionian Sea, Tunisian coast.  Reconnaissance for results of convoy attack last night.  On reconnaissance over Tripoli one Maryland was attacked by three fighters, shots were exchanged but no damage caused. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons sent to attack Catania harbour in two waves of 4 and 5 aircraft.  Fires started and bombs damaged railway station, lines and buildings, and destroying oil tanks. 105 Squadron 5 Blenheims sent to attack merchant ships approaching Benghazi exploded one tanker left a second on fire; two other vessels were hit and damaged.  Two Blenheims failed to return.  

HAL FAR  One Fulmar patrolled over Gerbini and Catania.

 

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Posted by on August 15, 2016 in 1941, August 1941

 

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14 August 1941: Malta Defence Volunteers Praised for Excellence

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COSPICUA VOLUNTEERS EXCEED EXPECTATIONS

Malta Defence Volunteers have been praised by their ‘parent’ British regiment today for their excellence and enthusiastic approach to their work. The Volunteer Force in the Cospicua area were put through their paces by 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment in a series of competitions, including ‘best road block’ and ‘best defended village’. 

The Cospicua volunteers were judged to have put up a very good performance. According to a senior officer of 1st Bn Cheshires, “they were most keen and seemed to know their job”.  The results are especially remarkable considering the Cospicua units have had only two weeks’ training compared to 18 months for most villages. 

WAR CABINET REVIEWS WEEK 7-14 AUG

Governor's Palace, Tripoli

Governor’s Palace, Tripoli

Wellingtons operating from Malta made six successful night attacks on Tripoli, during which they dropped 42 tons of high explosive bombs and over seven tons of incendiaries. Many large fires were reported in the town and near the power station; a direct hit on the power station during one air raid caused a big explosion which was visible from a very long distance.  Government offices, the Governor’s Palace and a heavy anti-aircraft position were among other objectives hit.  A railway station was destroyed and military transport vehicles on the Benghazi road were attacked with machine-gun fire.

During daylight on 9 August, six Blenheims made many direct hits on blockhouses and barracks at Misurata, and on ammunition and supply dumps at Beurat; these targets were either completely destroyed or blown up. Several lorries attacked on the main road were destroyed or overturned.  Malta’s effective attacks on Sicilian air bases may have obliged the Italians to strengthen their fighter defences in that theatre. On 8 August, four Blenheims despatched to attack shipping in Catania harbour were met by a patrol of 30 CR 42 fighters and were obliged to abandon their task.

Naval aircraft, operating under the Air Officer Commanding, Malta, attacked Augusta on 9 August and hit the gasometer. On the night of 10-11 August, these aircraft hit the 13000 ton merchant vessel California at Syracuse with two torpedoes, as a result of which she sank in the harbour.  Another night attack by Swordfish was made on the submarine base at Augusta, resulting in a large fire on a quay; other aircraft caused a big fire in the barracks at Syracuse.  Blenheims attacked and hit a French collier of 700 tons off Lampedusa, which is believed to have sunk.

On 11 August, three Blenheims attacked a chemical works at Cotrone (95 miles south of Taranto); direct hits were made on tanks and containers, and the target was left in a mass of flames. Three other Blenheims destroyed buildings at Cariati, 30 miles north of Cotrone.

Small formations of Italian long-range bombers operated over Malta on two nights during the week. On 11-12 August, nine aircraft were reported, two of which were shot down into the sea by Hurricane night fighters.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 AUGUST TO DAWN 15 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

1720-1746 hrs  Air raid alert for a small enemy fighter patrol off the north of the Island. Twelve Malta fighters are scrambled but the raiders flee before they can be intercepted.

0239-0326 hrs  Air raid alert for five JU 87 and BR 20 aircraft approaching from the north east. A formation of JU 87s crosses the coast from Salina Bay over Ta Qali and recedes northwards.  Four 500kg high explosive bombs are dropped near Tal Balal crossroads.  The second group of bombers crosses the coast over Zonqor, dropping incendiary bombs near Zebbug.  The raiders then head south to Delimara, where anti-aircraft guns open fire and they recede north east, dropping bombs in the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 14 AUGUST 1941

AIR HQ Departures 1 Beaufighter, 3 Blenheim, 5 Wellington. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols of Tunisian coast and Ionian Sea.  Photoreconnaissance Tripoli, Catania and Augusta. 38 Squadron 4 Wellingtons two sorties against shipping in Catania scored several hits on merchant vessels and harbour. 105 Squadron 4 Blenheims searched for convoy. 

HAL FAR  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 9 Swordfish made a very successful attack on a convoy of five merchant ships and five destroyers. Two merchant ships were torpedoed.  One Fulmar patrolled over Catania and Gerbini, dropping bombs on Gerbini.  A second Fulmar patrolled over Palermo and Trapani, dropping one high explosive bomb and one flash bomb on the aerodrome.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  1515 hrs The Regimental Dance Band made its debut over the Rediffusion service.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

 

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Posted by on August 14, 2016 in 1941, August 1941

 

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13 August 1941: Malta Aircraft Lost on Propaganda Run

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propaganda leaflet dropMARYLAND SHOT DOWN AT TUNISIA

One of Malta’s reconnaissance aircraft failed to return to base today after a mission to drop propaganda leaflets over Tunisia. Destinations for the leaflet drop were the towns of Bizerta, Tunis and Sfax, areas ruled by the Vichy French but currently being used by Axis troops. 

The Maryland of 69 Squadron would have to dive to very low altitude to release the tens of thousands of leaflets over the target. An intelligence report has suggested that the aircraft was attacked during the mission and shot down over the sea.  However, according to the report only two of the three crew members were rescued from the water and taken prisoner. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 AUGUST TO DAWN 14 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

0148-0223 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber which approaches from the north, circles east of Delimara, turns west and eventually crosses the coast near Benghaisa. Hundreds of small incendiary bombs are dropped across Kalafrana and on Benghaisa, including near an anti-aircraft gun position.  22 fires are reported in the direction of Hal Far.  There are no reported casualties.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions.

Military casualties  Sergeant Dennis L J Lawrence, Royal Australian Air Force.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 13 AUGUST 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish attacked Augusta submarine base. Due to poor visibility so Swordfish pilots chose individual targets. Bombs were dropped on Syracuse as well as Augusta, with large fires and explosions in both places.

AIR HQ Arrivals 4 Blenheim, 5 Wellington. Departures 69 Squadron  4 Maryland striking force patrols Ionian Sea and east Tunisian coast.  Reconnaissance Lampedusa harbour.   One Maryland was sent out to drop propaganda leaflets on Bizerta, Tunis, Sfax and surroundings but failed to return. 38 Squadron 7 Wellingtons sent to attack Tripoli in two formations of 4 and 3 aircraft dropped bombs on target.  Sgt Williams crashed on Luqa aerodrome on landing, badly damaging his aircraft.  8 Hurrricanes carried out a fighter sweep over southern Sicily.    

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2; dealt with 12 (3 x 2kg anti-personnel; 10 x 2kg incendiary)

 

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Posted by on August 13, 2016 in 1941, August 1941

 

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12 August 1941: 44 Unmarked Unexploded Bombs Reported Across Malta

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'Molotov bread basket' incendiary bomb container

‘Molotov bread basket’ incendiary bomb container

BOMB DISPOSAL OFFICER DISMANTLES MYSTERY BOMB

A total of 44 unexploded bombs reported following last night’s air raid are of a type never encountered before by Allied forces, according to the Bomb Disposal Officer. During the raid hundreds of small incendiary bombs were dropped on land surrounding Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto, and across a path inland towards Ta Qali.  The count of unexploded bombs reported so far includes 22 at Zeitun, 9 at Marsa, 4 at Hamrun, and one or two at Birkirkara, Balzan, Lija, Sans Souci and Valletta.

The Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer, Lt G D Carroll, went to Zeitun early this morning, scene of the largest concentration of unexploded incendiaries. The bombs he found were dark grey, about 12 inches long and weighing 2kg.  But he could find no markings or numbers of any kind to suggest a fuze type or operating mechanism.  Eye-witnesses reported that flashes were seen in mid-air behind enemy planes during the raid.  The reports suggest that several bombs were loaded into one container which exploded and discharged them in mid-air – an operation similar to the Russian ‘Molotov Bread Basket’.

Leaving the area under guard, the Bomb Disposal Officer carefully removed one of the bombs and packed it in sandbags for transporting back to Lintorn Barracks in Floriana, where the bomb was dismantled to determine a method for making it safe. The incendiary, which is probably Italian, is made up of two dark grey cylinders joined end to end, one with a steel casing containing fuel oil, the other an electron casing containing thermite.  He found the actuating mechanism under a cap screwed on the end of the thermite cylinder; it was evidently armed by an arming vane which unscrews the safety pin from the cap.  He could now devise a means of dealing with the unexploded incendiaries and by the end of the day 34 had been made safe by the RE Bomb Disposal Section.

A report on the operation of the bomb has been cabled to the War Office in London for the information of other bomb disposal officers in the field.  Information gathered from attack sites suggested that each container held an estimated 40 incendiaries mixed with some 200 small high explosive bombs marked Tritolo SAV 937.  Each batch fell roughly in a line about a mile long.  The resulting fires on stone or earth lasted about 10 minutes.  It is believed that the targets were aircraft and petrol dumps.  Further investigations are in hand. 

GOZO IS ‘A PLEASANT SURPRISE SAY 8TH BN MANCHESTER REGIMENT

Troops of 8th Bn Manchester Regiment are settling in to their temporary posting on Gozo today, having arrived yesterday for intensive training.  The Battalion is the latest infantry unit to arrive on Malta’s sister Island to provide a military presence as a precaution against enemy invasion.  According to their Commanding Officer: 

“The troops soon made themselves at home. Gozo proved a pleasant surprise and will prove to be an excellent station.  The population are very well disposed towards troops and the change after our sojourn in defence posts is very welcome.  We had the opportunity of studying the topography of the Island which is very good for field training, with no wire to impede our movements. Ridges, knolls and wieds are plentiful, roads are good and the bathing is excellent.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 AUGUST TO DAWN 13 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and fresh.

1716-1739 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve enemy fighters which approach Gozo from the north east, and carry out a patrol round the Island at 24000 feet. Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders recede eastwards, turn north east and finally north.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 12 AUGUST 1941

ROYAL NAVY  All ships of the 2 August convoy have completed unloading, except for coal. Rorqual arrived from Alexandria with petrol and stores. P32 sailed for patrol east of Tripoli.

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols of Tunisian coast and western Ionian Sea.  Hurricane photoreconnaissance Catania aerodrome and port, and visual recce of Augusta. 38 Squadron 4 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli railway station area dropping bombs and incendiaries, damaging the station and railway line, buildings and vehicles. 

HAL FAR  One Fulmar machine-gunned aircraft on Catania aerodrome and dropped two bombs plus one flash bomb on both Catania and Gerbini aerodromes.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 44; dealt with 34 (2kg incendiary).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion leaves Gozo and is relieved by 8th Bn Manchester Regiment.  Bn returns to Malta: headquarters and HQ Company at Xlejli Tower, A Coy at Gudja Camp, B Coy at Pembroke Ranges, C Coy static defence at Safi landing strip, D Coy at Mqabba and Zurrieq. 

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Battalion HQ at the Citadel, Rabat, Gozo.  A Company at Gharb and Zebbug, B Coy at Nadur, C Coy Xghajra, D Coy At Rabat, E Coy Xewkija and Sannat.

 

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Posted by on August 12, 2016 in 1941, August 1941

 

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