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Monthly Archives: September 2016

30 September 1941: Submarines Sink 49 Axis Ships in 3 Months

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RAF raid on German ammunition dump in Libyan desert August 1941

RAF raid on German ammunition dump in Libyan desert August 1941

ROYAL NAVY MONTHLY REVIEWS SEPTEMBER 1941

Between June and the end of September, submarines have sunk a total of 49 enemy ships – an overall 150,000 tons – in the Mediterranean. Added to the losses inflicted by the RAF this represented a high proportion of Axis shipping bound for Libya.

12 patrols were carried out during the month by submarines of 10th Flotilla.  In addition, Triumph proceeded to a successful patrol in the Adriatic, Perseus to an area off Kefalonia, and Otus and Osiris direct to Alexandria.

Unbeaten carried out a spirited bombardment of a tunnel which caused consternation to the local home guard, and Upright sank a destroyer of the Generale class.  The most successful operation was against a fast convoy east of Tripoli, during which Upholder scored one hit on each of Oceania and Neptunia in a night attack and after reloading returned to sink one of them with two torpedoes at dawn.  The other ship’s fate is unknown.  The Vulcania of the same convoy was intercepted by Ursula which scored one hit on the ship causing it to list slightly and reduce speed.

No bombs were reported as having fallen on the Dockyard or other Naval establishments. No unexploded bombs were dealt with by the Royal Navy during the month. 

AIR HQ REPORTS A TOTAL OF 233 TONS OF BOMBS ON TRIPOLI THIS MONTH

During the month sweeps over enemy territory by Malta fighters, some equipped to carry 40lb bombs, were added to the strategy.

Marylands and photoreconnaissance Hurricanes of 69 Squadron have covered the Italian convoy routes daily as well as making frequent reconnaissances of Sicilian and southern Calabrian ports and aerodromes, and of Tripoli. Naples has also been visited.  The excellent photographs, visual and sighting reports obtained have indirectly been responsible for the increased pressure of offensive effort from Malta during the month.

Offensive Operations:  Wellingtons of 38 Squadron carried out 26 operations during September, with an average of eight aircraft on each sortie. Over 233 tons of bombs have been dropped on Tripoli during 17 raids, causing considerable damage to harbour installations and the town. Palermo has been attacked five times, Messina twice, Benhazi and Kuriat once each.

Blenheims of 105 and 107 Squadrons carried out 31 operations, 20 of these directed against enemy shipping. Considerable damage was done to the chemical works and harbour installations at Crotone, factories at Licata, transport centres at Homs, barracks at Misurata and a power station at Porto Empedocle.  Five sweeps have been made along the Tripoli-Benghazi road during which petrol tankers and other transport vehicles have been bombed and machine-gunned.

Hurricanes (equipped with cannon) of 249 Squadron attacked the railway station at Pozallo, while those of 185 Squadron have carried out three bombing raids on Comiso aerodrome. On one of these raids a Hurricane was lost but the pilot was subsequently rescued. 

Swordfish of 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm carried out 16 operations, 13 of these against enemy shipping, and have sunk two motor vessels and one destroyer, as well as damaging others. Mines have been laid on two occasions in Tripoli Harbour and once at Palermo.  As a result of torpedo attacks two merchant ships are claimed sunk, one destroyer and three merchantmen probably sunk, seven damaged and a further five probably damaged. 

Beaufighters of 272 Squadron were attached to this command during ‘Operation Halberd’ and were used to attack Sardinian and Sicilian aerodromes. Searches were also made south of Sicily for torpedo boats.

On 14 nights Fulmars have operated over aerodromes in southern Sicily, dropping small bombs and machine-gunning aircraft on the ground. One Fulmar force-landed in the sea; the crew were rescued.

Defensive Action: 126 Squadron carried out 31 scrambles during the month, 249 Squadron 22 and 185 Squadron 66. The Malta Night Fighter Unit had 22 scrambles and shot down two enemy aircraft.  Eleven enemy aircraft were confirmed destroyed, plus one probable and five damaged, against the loss of two Hurricanes.

Enemy Activity: There have been nine day alerts and 20 night alerts during the month. None of these raids was heavy and bombs have only been dropped at night.  Damage has been negligible and confined to civilian property. 

HURRICANES ATTACKED AS THEY SEARCH FOR MISSING PILOT

Malta fighters were attacked tonight by five enemy aircraft as they helped search for one of their own Hurricane pilots reported missing after a raid. Eleven Hurricanes of 185 Squadron had earlier attacked Comiso aerodrome but as they returned to their base at Hal Far they learned that one of their pilots, P/O Donald Lintern, was missing.  Five Hurricanes took off again to escort a Fulmar which was sent to search for the missing pilot.  As they circled the area to the north of Gozo, enemy aircraft approached and attacked the Malta fighters.  In the ensuing dogfight one of the enemy fighters was shot down.  P/O Lintern was not been found and the search was eventually called off.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 1 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and fresh.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Sergeant Robert L Kitch, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 200 Squadron; Pilot Officer Donald W Lintern, RAFVR, 185 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 4 Wellington. Departures 6 Beaufighter, 4 Blenheim fighter. Fleet Air Arm One Fulmar on offensive patrol over Gerbini and Catania aerodromes dropped high explosive bombs on Gerbini dispersal area. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked a motor transport depot in Tripoli. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance eastern and southern Sicily, east Calabrian coast and Tripoli.  Patrol of east Sicilian coast and shipping search off Tripoli area. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked shipping and motor transport near Misurata and Beurat.  1 Blenheim attacked a schooner.  1 Blenheim on search for shipping north of Crotone. 

HAL FAR  185 Squadron 11 Hurricanes attacked Comiso aerodrome, 5 carrying bombs and 6 acting as fighter escort. High explosive bombs and incendiaries were dropped on buildings and a dispersal area.  The aircraft of P/O Lintern failed to return. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Mobile machine-gun company carried out an exercise to the north west of Rabat.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths 33 officers, 870 other ranks.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 21 officers, 443 other ranks.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 18 officers, 708 other ranks. Recruits joined in September: 77.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths 18 officers, 8 WO1, 214 other ranks.

 

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

 

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29 September 1941: Malta Centre for Allied Propaganda Radio

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SOE propaganda broadcaster Sefton Delmer speaks to Germany

SOE propaganda broadcaster Sefton Delmer speaks to Germany

TRANSMITTER READY FOR BROADCAST TO AXIS HELD TERRITORIES

A radio transmitter for the Ministry of Information has been set up in Malta to broadcast to Axis held territories including Italy and North Africa. The branch of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) on the Island has notified the War Office today that the transmitter is ready.  It can cover an area between longitude 10 and longitude 18 east, latitude 27 and latitude 44 north and has a directional aerial that can target specific zones for propaganda messages. 

Propaganda broadcasts to Germany are already established on the Home Front.  The plan is for broadcasts from Malta to be made in French, Italian and Arabic. Italian-speaking personnel are already available in Malta but French and Arabic speakers are still required before the broadcasts can begin.

MALTA CONVOY SHIPS ATTACKED ON RETURN VOYAGE

Two merchant ships which delivered vital supplies to Malta have been attacked on their return voyage through the western Mediterranean. SS City of Pretoria and Port Chalmers were part of the ‘Operation Substance’ convoy in July and sailed from Grand Harbour on Saturday as part of the current ‘Operation Halberd’ shipping movements.  On the first night Port Chalmers drove off an attack by Italian motor torpedo boats. 

The ships then and separated to avoid enemy detection, heading along the North African coast under the disguise of French colours. However, City of Pretoria was attacked by three torpedo bombers and stalked by enemy submarines on the last leg of her crossing towards Gibraltar. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 30 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 29 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 7 Beaufighter. Fleet Air Arm One Fulmar Fleet Air Arm offensive patrol over Catania, Gerbini and Comiso made a machine-gun attack and dropped bombs on Gerbini aerodrome, causing a violent explosion and fire. 38 Squadron 10 Wellingtons attacked a motor transport park in Tripoli. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance/patrols Catania, Comiso, Augusta, Cagliari, Palermo Harbour, Naples and Messina Harbours. 107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked targets at Buerat. 272 Squadron 4 Beaufighters attacked Elmas aerodrome and seaplane base. 

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Controlled minefields were laid at St Paul’s Bay and Salina Bay.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  75 men per Company of all ranks attended a lecture on censorship given by the Chief Censor for Malta.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (15kg)

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  All ranks except three distributed from Poor House.

 

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

 

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28 September 1941: Malta Convoy Arrival a ‘Marvellous Sight’

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Troops ready to disembark in Grand Harbour today (c) IWM A5771

Troops ready to disembark in Grand Harbour today (c) IWM A5771

IMMENSE CROWDS OUT TO WELCOME SHIPS

The remaining eight merchant ships of the convoy under ‘Operation Halberd’ entered Grand Harbour today bringing supplies and military reinforcements to Malta. SS City of Calcutta, Ajax, Rowallan Castle, Clan Ferguson, Clan Macdonald, Dunedin Star, City of Lincoln and HMS Breconshire docked this afternoon, the third major supply convoy to reach the Island this year.  Nearly 40 merchant ships have successfully landed their supplies; only one has been lost, the SS Imperial Star which was torpedoed yesterday.  The cost to the Royal Navy has been one cruiser and a destroyer sunk, and a battleship, carrier and two cruisers damaged.

After the enemy air attacks overnight, security measures on the convoy escort ships were on high alert. The cruiser Hermione launched an attack on Pantellaria to give the impression that the convoy was passing the island while it was well to the north.

No further enemy attacks on the convoy were launched and at dawn today fighters from Malta commenced continuous air cover. At 0830 hrs four ships of the Naval escort moved ahead of the convoy, arriving at Malta three hours later to a rousing welcome. Guards and bands paraded, to cheers from immense crowds ashore.  Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta, noted the events in his diary:

“There were vague rumours of it; lightermen were summoned on the local Broadcast; a churchwarden rang up to say he would be unable to read the lessons on Sunday, and two faithful choirmen sent word that they would be detained in the Dockyard.  After Mattins we had our first Carol practice, and in the middle Clement called out from his seat in the loggia “Convoy!” We rushed out of the drawing room and there on the horizon, a marvellous sight. The biggest Convoy since the war. We counted about 15 ships…

They were twice attacked off Sicily, once by day – easily beaten off – and once by night, bombers again. Nelson was slightly damaged and lost some speed. One merchantman, Imperial Star, was hit on the propellers and steering gear, but in no danger of sinking. She was too big to tow, especially as she would not steer; and the necessary escort could not be spared. So we sank her by gunfire. But what a pity!

These ‘Star’ ships are all pretty new – only about 4 years – and they cost a million to build (for the Australian chilled meat trade). I wonder what her cargo was worth. A million at least, I should imagine…

One wonders whether they brought some of the things which we are so short of. Here are some of them (NB. NAAFI has monopoly, but we may not buy there.): torches, nails, wood, toilet paper – but even as I write I realise that we are short of practically everything. The chemists have practically nothing and one realises how much one relies upon them for one’s needs – aspirin, throat lozenges, and a dozen other things, including some of the patent foods such as Sanatogen which would be so useful at this time. Ordinary food is also difficult to get. A vast cargo of beef went down on the Imperial Star – some say as much as 3000 tons. This will be greatly missed.

The Army has vast stores – enough for six months, and they live very well. It is a different proposition for the poor civilian. Indeed the wives, whether rich or poor have a hard task at their daily marketing, poor dears. And most of them can talk of little else. Those who are connected to the NAAFI are better off, as that maligned institution has many things which the private shops do not possess. Some folk are not too particular about dealing there when legally they have no such right; and I fancy the Manager has extended the privilege to a few. But I would not wish to ask favours, though as a retired officer I should have a higher moral claim than some who are allowed to use it.” (1)

Total military reinforcements brought by the convoy include a 600 bed hospital, 36 officers, 507 other ranks. The supplies included 8093 tons of kerosene and 1131 tons of motor transport fuel.  Having disembarked their troops and stores, the Naval vessels sailed again at 1830 hrs.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 29 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1230 hrs  A convoy of eight merchant ships plus escort arrives at Malta.

1530-1555 hrs  Air raid alert for two Macchi 200 fighters which approach to within half a mile of the coast, follow the coast line southwards and turn south east at Grand Harbour. Two heavy anti-aircraft guns fire pointer rounds; no claims.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no interceptions.

2221-2340 hrs  Air raid alert for five unidentified enemy bombers approaching the Island separately. Only two cross the coast at Kalafrana and Grand Harbour.  Searchlights illuminate one aircraft which  is barraged by heavy anti-aircraft guns.  The raiders drop bombs in the sea off Grand Harbour and off Tigne and retreat. 

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Harry Crossley, Royal Air Force (RAF), 113 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Albert E Smith, RAF, 113 Squadron; Flight Sergeant John Swan, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 113 Squadron; Able Seaman James H Phillips, Merchant Navy, MV Dunedin Star.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Operation Halberd successfully completed, with the exception of the loss of Imperial Star in the Skerki Channel; no casualties.

AIR HQ Departures 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 12 Wellingtons attacked Palermo. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland on patrol, 1 Maryland photoreconnaissance Taranto.  Marylands reconnaissance Pantelleria and westwards, Messina, Naples; Marylands shadowing enemy fleet; one Maryland on patrol. 107 Squadron 1 Blenheim patrol eastern Sicily.  2 Blenheims search for damaged merchant ship.  1 Blenheim patrol Cape Passero.    113 Squadron  2 Blenheims at a time on two anti-submarine patrols.  2 Blenheims on anti e-boat patrol off Pantelleria; Sgt Crossley failed to return.  2 Blenheims anti e-boat patrol Trapani. 272 Squadron 2 Beaufighters attack 2 e-boats.  10 Beaufighters attacked a convoy escort. 

TA QALI  344 airmen arrived from home establishment by convoy. Palazzo Parisio, Naxxar, taken over and 15 airmen housed there.  50 airmen are housed in the Manchester Regiment barrack block at Imtarfa.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  140 other ranks and one officer billeted at the Poor House.

(1) Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

 

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

 

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27 September 1941: Malta Convoy Attacked Repeatedly

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SS Imperial Star

SS Imperial Star

‘OPERATION HALBERD’ LARGEST SUPPLY SHIP FOUNDERS

The largest supply ship in the latest Malta convoy was left foundering tonight after she was struck by torpedoes during a raid by Italian aircraft. SS Imperial Star is only ship to have been lost while on a large scale convoy to Malta since the beginning of the year. 

Air attacks on the convoy began at 1300 hrs when a formation of 12 Italian Cant and BR 20 bombers approached from the north at low altitude. Guns from the convoy ships and Fulmars from Ark Royal managed to destroy or drive off eight of the raiders; the remaining four attempted an attack without success. 

Then at 1330 hrs a second wave of raiders attacked out of the sun.  Six BR 20 bombers approached line abreast and despite heavy gunfire from the ships three managed to press home their attack, hitting the Nelson with a torpedo and reducing her speed to 15 knots; fortunately this was the convoy speed also so that she remained with the covering force. A third wave of enemy aircraft approached but did not make any attack

Then at 1430 hrs came a radio signal from Malta: two battleships, four cruisers and 16 destroyers of the Italian fleet were just 80 miles from the convoy and closing fast. Fleet commander Admiral Somerville prepared for an attack: Prince of Wales and Rodney, with cruisers Edinburgh and Sheffield escorted by six destroyers were sent out to intercept; Ark Royal also prepared an air strike. In rapidly deteriorating weather the two fleets missed each other.  With no prospect of engagement with the Italian fleet, the ships returned to the convoy and at 1900 hrs the main force of the Mediterranean Fleet turned west to return to Gibraltar as planned. 

The Malta convoy with its close escort of five cruisers and nine destroyers continued its passage eastwards, taking the same route as the last convoy, ‘Operation Substance’, through the Skerki Channel close to the Sicilian coast. As the night skies cleared, Italian bombers relaunched their attacks, singly and in pairs.  Approaching low and fast to launch their torpedoes they were difficult to see against the dark sky. Cossack, Kenya, Oribi and the merchantman Rowallan Castle suffered near-misses.  The convoy ships took evasive action; two collided trying to dodge a torpedo, but another merchant ship was hit. 

SS Imperial Star was carrying 300 passengers as well as a large volume of supplies – was badly damaged, her engines stopped and her steering gear destroyed. HMS Heythrop took off the 300 troops and crew and HMS Oribi took Imperial Star in tow.  However, the 12000 ton merchant ship was too heavy for the destroyer and was unable to make way. Imperial Star was now low in the water and drifting towards the coast of Sicily and the decision was made to sink her.  The remainder of the crew was taken off and Oribi laid depth charges to sink her.  However, despite this and repeated shelling the merchant ship remained afloat and had to be abandoned.  There were no casualties on Imperial Star but three Fleet Air Arm pilots were killed defending the convoy.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 28 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Cloudy.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  SS Port Chalmers and City of Pretoria sailed for Gibraltar at 1100 hrs.

AIR HQ 2 Blenheims on convoy escort; 1 Blenheim anti-submarine patrol. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Palermo, Cape Carbonara, Sicily, Sardinia, east Sicilian coast and special patrols and searches.  1 Blenheim on anti-submarine patrol. 105 Squadron 6 Blenheims sent to attack Porto Empedocle; 4 returned due to bad weather, the remaining two carried out the attack. 185 Squadron 6 Hurricane fighters and 6 Hurricane fighter-bombers attacked Comiso aerodrome three times, dropping 5140lbs of bombs and setting fire to several buildings and aircraft. 252 Squadron 2 Beaufighters attacked Marsala seaplane base. 272 Squadron 6 Beaufighters attacked the seaplane base at Cagliara.  2 Beaufighters attacked Borizzo aerodrome.  3 Beaufighters on patrol over Trapani against e-boats. 

TA QALI  Sergeants Mess in New Camp taken over.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Battalion route march; the column was headed by the Battalion drums.

 

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Posted by on September 27, 2016 in 1941, September 1941

 

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26 September 1941: Malta’s Offensive Role Known – ‘Heavy Retaliation Must Be Expected’

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Attacks by Malta bombers and submarines now public

Malta’s role as base for air and submarine attacks publicised

GOVERNOR & C IN C CALLS FOR MAXIMUM OFFENSIVE ROLE WITH MINIMUM PUBLICITY

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has expressed serious misgivings about the amount an detail of media coverage which is now being given to the Island’s role as a base for offensive operations against Axis convoys in the Mediterranean. In a telegram to the War Office in London today, he wrote:

“I should be grateful if the services at home would give me a clear indication of the policy which it is desired should be followed in releasing information about the Fortress. Until April of this year a policy had been accepted which implied that publicity should not be given to any offensive operations carried out from Malta in order that we should avoid attracting attention from the enemy and so be given time to improve our defences.

Recently however statements have been made which have disclosed the actual types of aircraft operating from the Island and there appears to have been a definite policy to publicise the successful results of operations carried out by aircraft of the RAF and Fleet Air Arm, and by HM submarines. The Air Ministry have recently sent an official press representative here with a view to increasing publicity about RAF activities.  The Admiralty have indicated that an official photographer is going to be sent and this would imply that further publicity is to be given.  An American press representative is here at the present time.  No service received any warning that it was desired to send him here.  Recently the Admiralty have indicated their Lordships’ desire to give more publicity to the work of submarines operating from this base, but this latter proposal is not entirely supported by the Commander in Chief Mediterranean.

The decision to release or restrict information about Malta is obviously one which cannot be made locally but it is clear that the present policy of emphasising our offensive operations must now be making our activities well known to the enemy and sooner or later heavy retaliation must be expected. We are more prepared and ready to receive this retaliation but I should be grateful for an assurance that this result would be in accordance with the policy desired by the Services at home.

Service commanders are prepared to recognise the need for some publicity because of its effect on the civil populations throughout the Empire and particularly here. If this is essential we believe that it could be done without releasing to the enemy information which must be of definite value to him, eg types of aircraft, names of submarines.

From our point of view we would like to carry out the maximum amount of offensive activity from Malta with the minimum of publicity. Services here agree with this telegram.  The War Office is requested to pass copies to the Admiralty and Air Ministry, and the Middle East is requested to pass copies to the Commander in Chief Mediterranean and the Air Officer Commanding, Middle East. Commanders in Chief in the Middle East are requested to comment on this telegram if they so desire.”

The Air Officer Commanding endorsed Lt Gen Dobbie’s views in a separate telegram to the War Office today: “I heartily endorse the Governor of Malta’s views. I can really see nothing to be gained and much to be lost by publicising the base from which these operations are taking place, or giving any details regarding the types of aircraft.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 27 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1126-1139 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but does not cross the coast. Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no interceptions.

2143-2153 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches from the west, drops bombs 25 miles out to sea and turns back. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions.

2311-2330 hrs  Air raid alert caused by the return of friendly aircraft.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 26 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Operation Substance ships departing: SS Melbourne Star sailed for Gibraltar at 1130 hrs. Port Chalmers and City of Pretoria to sail in two days’ time with HMS Gloxinia as escort.

AIR HQ Arrivals 7 Beaufighter. Departures  4 Hurricane, 3 Wellington. 38 Squadron 1 Wellington attacked Palermo. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Marsala, Trapani and Palermo.  1 Blenheim patrol eastern Sicilian coast.  1 Maryland reconnaissance Cagliari.  107 Squadron 3 Blenheims on shipping sweep near Zuara. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish laid mines outside Palermo Harbour in a semi-circle covering the south east approach.  Wellington bombers created a very successful diversion. 

HAL FAR  Hurricanes 185 Squadron, one Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm and two Fulmars performed special escort duty for a convoy of one merchant vessel.

 

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

 

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25 September 1941: Largest Supply Convoy Yet Embarks for Malta

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A photo-reconnaissance Spitfire flew the route to Malta

A PR Spitfire flew the route to Malta

NINE MERCHANT SHIPS PLUS 27 STRONG ESCORT FOR ‘OPERATION HALBERD’

The largest supply convoy yet for Malta began its journey today through the western Mediterranean. Under ‘Operation Halberd’ nine merchant ships: Ajax, Breconshire, City of Calcutta, City of Lincoln, Clan Ferguson, Clan Macdonald, Dunedin Star, Imperial Star and Rowallan Castle are carrying over 80000 tons of supplies and hundreds of troops for the Island.

The ships for Malta, and their escort from the Navy’s Home Fleet sailed on 17 September from the Clyde for Gibraltar, where the convoy assembled yesterday. The merchant ships will be protected in the Mediterranean by the most powerful force assembled for a convoy to date, including three battleships, five cruisers, 18 destroyers and aircraft carrier Ark Royal carrying aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm to provide air cover.

Nothing has been left to chance. A photo-reconnaissance Spitfire flew the entire route from the UK to Malta to provide a detailed report on the position of the entire Italian navy before the convoy left Gibraltar.  The Spitfire landed safely in Malta on Monday.

In order to mislead the Italian fleet, the escorting vessels have divided into two groups; the supply ships taking the usual southern route within sight of the Algerian coast, with the normal Naval escort. However the remainder of the escort, a powerful fleet, is heading northwards, close to the Balearic Islands, hopefully undetected.  The aim is to lure Italian warships into battle unaware of the full strength of the escort fleet, and leaving sufficient Naval ships free to escort the merchantmen safely onward to Malta.  Also at sea are nine submarines, including six of Malta’s 10th Flotilla positioned along the convoy route ready to intercept any Italian warships.

The first convoy ships sailed westwards out of Gibraltar yesterday. Under cover of darkness they reversed course and passed through the Straits at 0130 hrs this morning.  Just after 0900 hrs the two groups of warships divided and the supply convoy began its journey eastwards through the Mediterranean towards Malta. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 26 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine.

2356-0015 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island and drop high explosive and incendiary bombs eight miles off the west coast before receding to the west.

0032-0055 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches to within eight miles of the Island, drops bombs in the sea off Dingli and recedes to the south west. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 25 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Maryland, 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron  1 Blenheim patrol eastern Sicilian coast and Crotone. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked motor transport yards and barracks in Tripoli. 105 Squadron 5 Blenheims attacked lorry convoys east of Sirte. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked transport near Beurat.  1 Blenheim attacked a convoy. 

TA QALI  4 sergeant pilots proceeded by Hurricane to the Middle East.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Demonstration by one platoon of A Company of attack showing the use of all weapons including small arms fire and live mortar bombs.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  A Company detached one Sergeant and 12 men to form three anti-aircraft light machine-gun posts at Luqa aerodrome.

(1) Red Duster White Ensign, Ian Cameron, Futura 1975

 

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Posted by on September 25, 2016 in 1941, September 1941

 

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24 September 1941: Lack of Luftwaffe in Mediterranean Leaves Malta Free to Attack

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Spanish Mole, Tripoli, after a raid (AWM MED0210)

Spanish Mole, Tripoli, after a raid (AWM MED0210)

LUFTWAFFE ABSENCE LEAVES AXIS CONVOYS VULNERABLE, BRITISH WAR CABINET HEARS

The absence of German aircraft in the Mediterranean has left Axis convoys vulnerable to attacks from Malta, the British War Cabinet heard today in its latest progress review. According to the report, for three months it has not been possible for the Germans to allocate adequate aircraft for the protection of the important supply route between Tripoli and Sicily, or for attacks on Malta.  In the face of heavy commitments in other theatres such as the Eastern Front, the German Air Force is facing a shortage of suitably trained air crews.  Luftwaffe command has been forced improvise, such as using a long-range bomber reserve training unit on operational duties.

During the past week Blenheim and Swordfish aircraft from Malta have sunk or seriously damaged 45000 tons of enemy shipping between Sicily and the African coast. An enemy destroyer was also seriously damaged off Tripoli.

Reconnaissance aircraft from Malta have continued to search for enemy shipping convoys which were subsequently attacked on every possible occasion by Naval and RAF aircraft, with the following results:

  • Laden schooner, total loss
  • Laden schooner, blew up (explosion destroyed attacking Blenheim)
  • 24000 ton liner hit repeatedly by Blenheims, last reported stationary
  • Destroyer direct hits amidships, badly damaged
  • 8000 ton merchant vessel (MV) 2 hits by Blenheims, damaged
  • 3000 ton MV, sinking and on fire
  • 8000 ton MV, sunk
  • Small MV hit by torpedo, probably sunk

On five nights Wellingtons made 33 sorties against Tripoli and dropped a total of over 50 tons of bombs. These attacks were principally directed against the harbour and, in addition to a number of hits on the Spanish and Karamanli Moles, many bombs were seen to fall on shipping lying alongside.  The barracks and buildings near the wireless telegraph station also were successfully bombe.

Two Blenheims made a good daylight attack on heavy motor transport and petrol tankers on the Misurata-Sirte road, resulting in considerable confusion, and the destruction of one petrol tanker and serious damage to 30 other vehicles; one Blenheim is missing. Another attack by 11 Blenheims was made on the barracks at Homs and Misurata causing serious damage.  Hits were also made on motor transport dumps and petrol lorries, and troops were sprayed with machine-gun fire with good effect.  Two of our aircraft collided over the target and a third crashed.

Enemy bombing activity has been on an extremely small scale. The only attack on Malta was on the night of 19-20 September, when one out of six aircraft crossed over the Island and dropped some incendiaries which did no damage.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 25 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and fresh.

0005-0035 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the west. Two only cross the coast and drop high explosive bombs on the Bajda Ridge area.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no engagement.

0047-0058 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer William E Law, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Squadron Leader Theophilus J S Warren, RAF, 107 Squadron; Flying Officer John T Waterfall, RAFVR, 107 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 13 Beaufighter, 2 Blenheim, 2 Wellington. Departures 1 Catalina. 38 Squadron 2 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli.  6 Wellingtons attacked Palermo Harbour. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Marsala and Licata harbours and eastern Ionian Sea. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked transport on Misurata road.  S/Ldr Warren failed to return; a search was carried out but was unsuccessful. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish laid mines outside Tripoli Harbour and dropped bombs on a barrack block.  A diversion created by Wellington bombers was very effective.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 5; dealt with 5 (2 x 150kg; 3 x 2kg incendiary)

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  E Company began formation; HQ at 21 Ghain Dwieli Street, Paola. 

 

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Posted by on September 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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23 September 1941: Work on Air Raid Shelters Weeks Behind Schedule

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shelters diggingPROGRESS ‘DISAPPOINTING’, SAYS GOVERNOR & COMMANDER IN CHIEF

Work on providing adequate air raid shelters for Malta’s population is weeks behind schedule. In a telegram today to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief outlines the present level of shelter provision and the challenges preventing their rapid completion:

“The estimated date by which each person in Malta would be provided with two square feet of rock shelter [can now] only be tentative. The position now is that only 1516 out of 76599 persons in the Public Works area are not covered by Government rock shelters, while the whole population of that area is already covered, if Government concrete and private rock and concrete shelters are taken into account.  In the area under the Supervisor of Shelter Construction, 54631 persons still require accommodation in Government rock shelters, but only 11571 persons have no cover, taking into account all forms of shelters.  The population of this area is 167366.

It is now essential that two square feet per person for the whole population in the Public Works Department area will be attained by the end of September and in the Supervisor of Shelter Construction’s area by the end of November.

Failure to obtain this result in June and August as previously estimated is due partly to exceptionally hard rock being encountered in certain areas and partly to the transfer of miners to services mentioned in my telegram of 30 August. Moreover, experience in actual raids showed the necessity for at least three entrances cum exits to each shelter, owing to the danger of such entrances and exits being blocked by direct hits or debris.  It was therefore considered advisable to provide additional exits and entrances simultaneously with the work of constructing shelters, and not to wait until each shelter was finished.

Progress made is rather disappointing but the whole system of control of the labour force is now under review and I will report results later. The revised estimate of the dates of completion of the two square foot programme does not affect previous financial estimates of expenditure to the end of December.

Work in Gozo is proceeding satisfactorily. 107 shelters are already in hand out of the total of 140 which will be required.” 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 24 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Rain mid-day.

0123-0130 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber which approaches the Island and drops bombs in the sea off Delimara Point. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions. 

Military casualties  Sergeant Peter F Bold, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) 38 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Walter F P Brown, RAF, 38 Squadron; Sergeant William J Poole RAFVR, 38 Squadron; Sergeant James C Sheridan, Royal Canadian Air Force; Flight Sergeant Robert H Toshack, Royal Canadian Air Force, 38 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 5 Blenheim, 1 Catalina, 5 Maryland. 38 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli.  One Wellington failed to return. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands reconnaissance Kerkennah, Kelibia and special mission. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked transport on Misurata road.  S/Ldr Warren failed to return.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A Training Exercise Without Troops for officers and warrant officers was held in the Rabat area on the subject of ‘Reconnaissance and taking up of machine-gun positions in defence’.

 

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Posted by on September 23, 2016 in 1941, September 1941

 

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22 September 1941: Malta Free French Air Crew Killed on Spy Mission

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Free French F/Sgt Georges Blaize (1)

Free French F/Sgt Georges Blaize (1)

SPECIAL OPERATIONS HEINKEL CRASHES INTO SEA

The Heinkel 115 used for clandestine operations from Malta crashed today with the loss of the crew and one passenger. The Heinkel which has been at Kalafrana since June took off just after midnight for its latest secret mission but appears to have got into difficulties and was forced to make an emergency landing on the sea, some 20 miles off the coast of the Island. 

The crew have been named as Free French pilot F/Sgt Georges Blaize and flight engineer Sgt Raoul Gatien. Also on board and acting as observer was Fleet Air Arm S/Lt Reginald Drake, who was attached to Naval air station HMS Grebe in Egypt but operating from Malta. 

Rescue aircraft and the high speed launch from Malta set out to search for the stricken aircraft. They found wreckage strewn over the sea and the bodies of S/Lt Drake and F/Sgt Blaize.  There was no trace of Sgt Gatien.

The Heinkel is the second aircraft to be lost on Special Operations from Malta; last Tuesday a Swordfish crashed while transporting a secret agent to North Africa. Only yesterday Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief referred to the Heinkel as the only aircraft based on the Island dedicated to the service of the Defence Security Officer (maltagc70.com 21 September 1941). The Heinkel, which still carried its German markings, was stored under cover at Kalafrana and used only at night.

PILOT NURSES DAMAGED AIRCRAFT THROUGH 200 MILE FLIGHT

A Blenheim pilot landed his badly damaged aircraft at Luqa airfield today after a tense 218 mile flight across the Mediterranean. Sergeant Williams’ Blenheim was one of six sent to attack German barrack blocks and fuel dumps at Homs in North Africa.  During the attack Pilot Wing Commander D W Scivier AFC made a sharp turn, coming up underneath Sgt Williams, whose aircraft propellers sliced through the fuselage of W/Cdr Scivier’s Blenheim, which plunged into a steep dive and crashed with the loss of the entire crew. 

Sgt Williams’ Blenheim was also badly damaged in the collision. He managed to keep the plane airborne and nursed it gently back to Malta.  Sgt Williams and his crew, observer Sgt R Scholefield and wireless operator/air gunner Sgt A Tuppen are being treated for shock.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 23 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Heavy rain mid-day.

0153-0214 hrs  Air raid alert for one enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but does not cross the coast. Bombs are dropped in the sea eight miles from shore.

0338-0355 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses the coast over Dingli, drops bombs on Balzan causing two slight casualties and damage to houses before turning south over Luqa and receding, dropping more bombs in the sea off Delimara.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Georges Blaize, Royal Air Force; Sub-Lieutenant Reginald G Drake, Royal Navy; Flight Sergeant Raoul Gatien, Royal Air Force; Leading Airman Kenneth Pimlott, HMS St.Angelo; Flight Sergeant Leonard Martin Barnett, observer, Royal Air Force, 105 Squadron; Sergeant Brian Gray BFM, wireless operator/air gunner, Royal Air Force, 105 Squadron; Wing Commander Donald William Scivier AFC, pilot, Royal Air Force, 105 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Spitfire, 1 Sunderland. Departures 2 Wellington. 38 Squadron 3 Wellingtons attacked a liner.  5 Wellingtons attacked motor transport depots near Tripoli.  Sgt Secomb failed to return. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland patrol east Tunisian coast.  1 Maryland photoreconnaissance Catania, Gerbini, Comiso.  1 Maryland on search for a convoy. 105 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked barrack blocks and fuel dumps at Homs. 107 Squadron 5 Blenheims attacked barrack blocks and fuel dumps at Misurata. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish attacked convoy off Kuriat, firing two torpedoes hitting one merchant ship amidships and another in the bows.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion was visited by a representative of the Times of Malta who took photographs and interviewed officers and men. He also watched various types of training going on in the Battalion.  Weapons training courses are underway: in time all ranks will have fired the rifle and also whichever automatic weapon they are most likely to use in battle.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 3 (2kg incendiary).

(1)  See also website: Les Francais Libres

 

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Posted by on September 22, 2016 in 1941, September 1941, Uncategorized

 

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21 September 1941: Malta is Centre for MI6/SOE Operations in North Africa

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Heinkel seaplane

Heinkel seaplane

ISLAND’S ROLE MUST BE PROPERLY RESOURCED, SAYS COMMANDER IN CHIEF

Following the loss of a Malta-based Swordfish while transporting a secret agent to North Africa, the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office to express his concerns at the ad hoc arrangements currently in place for such missions:

Most Secret and Personal: The following is for Chiefs of Staff from the Governor of Malta:

The Defence Security Officer’s organisation covering MI6 and Special Operations Executive activities from Malta is and must continue to be largely ineffective unless and until much more satisfactory arrangements are made for the transport of agents. This applies especially at the present time to those sections concerned with Tunis and Tripoli, but it is to be emphasised that similar difficulties will arise with the infiltration of agents into the Balkans and Italy unless local arrangements are greatly improved.

At present the means of transport at the direct call of the Defence Security Officer are quite inadequate and he is largely dependent on such help as the Flag Officer in charge of Malta, or the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Mediterranean, can give. Naval help is confined at the moment to an ex-Italian MAS [armed motor torpedo boat], which has definite limitations, and to submarines.  These latter of course can only be used when on their normal patrol.  I am informed seriously of the hope to send motor torpedo boats (MTB) with special engines here when a MTB flotilla is based on Malta but the date of this is still indefinite.  The Tunis and Tripoli problem is at present mainly an air matter and as such the RAF is the primary service which can provide the necessary assistance.  This however can only be done at the expense of other operations.

Valuable aircraft have already been lost, with highly trained crews. When, for local or technical reasons, Heinkel aircraft are unsuitable – or until aircraft resources available for the Defence Security Officer are adequate – the only way to land agents in most cases will depend on RAF or Fleet Air Arm (FAA) aircraft being made available by the AOC Mediterranean (with the consent of the Flag Officer Malta for FAA aircraft).  With the very limited number of Swordfish at his disposal, the AOC Mediterranean thus has to decide the relative importance of this work as opposed to his more normal operations of attacking ships.  It is obvious that a very clear instruction is needed which will guide him in deciding their relative importance.  Such an instruction is lacking at present.

The only aircraft resources available for the Defence Security Officer in Malta at present consists of one Heinkel seaplane together with such assistance as the Services can provide. Other Heinkels are expected later, but aircraft resources for the Defence Security Officer are at present entirely inadequate and will not be sufficient for some considerable time as at present envisaged.  (It is to be emphasised too that seaplanes have their limitations and effective results will depend on the availability of land planes and seaplanes or amphibians, fast MTBs and submarines, each in their proper sphere according to weather and local requirements.)  He cannot work effectively unless these facilities are adequate.  The present state of affairs means that vitally important work of this organisation, especially in Tunis and Tripoli, will not be effectively done for some months unless either

  • RAF or FAA aircraft are used as required at the expense of their proper work; in this connection it is emphasised that highly trained and specialised crews, also aircraft, are being hazarded when the task could well be done by other highly specialised operation crews and aircraft. There are very definite limits to this in FAA as the Swordfish is the only suitable type in Malta.
  • Suitable aircraft with crews are instantly sent out here expressly for this work.

I strongly favour alternative (b) but would point out that if the work of this organisation in Africa is to be effective and to give the expected help to the contemplated operation, then aircraft must be sent out immediately (repeat immediately). I am advised that the authorities in England responsible for this work have complete details of the type of aircraft which are needed to meet the special conditions for work in these areas.

I repeat that the business at present is on an extremely unsatisfactory footing and we need a clear guidance as to policy. I hope that this, and material assistance, will be forthcoming immediately.  Failing this the effectiveness of this important service cannot fail to be gravely prejudiced.  Flag Officer Malta, AOC Mediterranean and the DSO agree with this telegram.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 22 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather   Very cool.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Lieutenant Leslie F E Aldridge, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS St Angelo.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli Harbour.  1 Maryland on search for convoy.  1 Maryland patrol of eastern Tunisian coast. 105/107 Squadrons 2 Blenheims attacked a convoy. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish attacked convoy within sight off Lampedusa.  Two torpedoes were fired in conditions of poor visibility, but the target proved to be Lampion Rock; the convoy was not located.  One Swordfish crashed on landing at Hal Far with its torpedo still on board. The missile exploded, killing the pilot Lt Aldridge and seriously injuring the wireless operator L/A Pimlott. 

TA QALI  A Blenheim force landed at the aerodrome having been damaged by enemy action. Three Swordfish landed at the aerodrome.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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

 

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