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Malta’s defenders shot down a total of 11 enemy aircraft today in just three engagements. Mid-morning a large formation of 20 Macchi fighters approached the Island. 21 Hurricanes in total (twelve of 126 Squadron and nine of 185 Squadron) were scrambled and intercepted the raiders when they were still some distance north of Grand Harbour.
F/Lt Jeffries spotted a Macchi circling at 19000 feet 30 miles off the coast and led his section of 185 Squadron in the attack. The Macchi was last seen diving vertically towards the sea. Four Macchi fighters then counter-attack but the Hurricanes manage to evade them.
126 Squadron engaged the raiders at 20 miles off the coast. S/Ldr Rabagliati attacked two Macchis, reporting one spinning down towards the sea emitting smoke. P/O Burke attacked two Macchis in turn, claiming hits on both; one was seen diving down towards the sea. F/O Carpenter engaged three Macchis at high altitude, shooting one down. P/O Russell and F/Lt Lefevre attacked and shot down one Macchi apiece. Three enemy parachutes were observed descending towards the sea; a fourth Italian also baled out but his parachute did not open.
One Macchi only crossed the coast, flying at low altitude over Kalafrana and Hal Far. Bofors gun positions launched a fierce barrage and the Macchi was last seen losing height over Dingli Cliffs.
This afternoon it was the turn of Malta fighters to go on the offensive. Eight Hurricanes of 249 Squadron headed for Cape Passero on the southernmost point of Sicily, where a formation of twelve Macchi fighters had been reported in the air. It became clear that the Macchis were protecting a hospital aircraft which was flying at sea level. The Hurricanes launched an attack and a fierce dogfight ensued, during which three Macchis were destroyed, plus one probable, and two damaged. Two Hurricanes were shot down; P/O G V Smith and Sgt J C Kimberley are missing. The Hurricanes turned back towards Malta with the Macchis following close on their tails. One Hurricane was hit by a bullet during the return flight but otherwise all remaining aircraft returned safely. Speaking after the engagement, S/Ldr Barton said, “This is the toughest engagement I have experienced to date: the Macchis just stayed and fought.”
Then in the early hours of this morning two enemy bombers took advantage of the approach of Wellington bombers to reach the Island without interception. High explosive bombs were dropped in the sea and incendiaries over Kalafrana and Marsaxlokk before two Malta night fighters can intercept. Searchlights illuminate one of the bombers and the Hurricanes engage, shooting it down in flames into the sea, to “the cheers of half of Malta” according to one eye-witness. Two crew members were seen to bale out of the bomber but after a thorough search only one could be found and rescued.
The bombers in tonight’s raid were later identified as Cant Z 1007s. This is the first known incident of the bomber being used in night raids over Malta.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 5 SEPTEMBER 1941
Weather Fine and warm.
1043-1115 hrs Air raid alert for 20 Macchi 200 fighters approaching the Island. 12 Hurricanes 126 Squadron are scrambled and attack the formation 20 miles north of Grand Harbour, shooting down four Macchis and damaging another. Nine Hurricanes 185 Squadron also engage the raiders out to sea, shooting down one. One Macchi crosses the coast and flies over the Island at low altitude. Bofors gun positions at Kalafrana and Hal Far engage, both claiming hits, and the Macchi is observed losing height over Dingli Cliffs.
1546 hrs Eight Hurricanes of 249 Squadron engage 12 Macchi 200 fighters five miles off Cape Passero. Three Macchis are destroyed, plus one probable, and two damaged. Two Hurricanes are shot down; P/O Smith and Sgt Kimberley are reported missing. The Macchis follow the Hurricanes back towards Malta. One Hurricane is struck by a bullet during the return flight.
0443-0530 hrs Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island with incoming Wellington bombers. The raiders drop high explosive bombs in the sea at Delimara Point, and incendiaries over Kalafrana and in fields near Marsaxlokk. Searchlights illuminate a bomber which is engaged by Hurricane fighters and shot down in flames into the sea. Two crew bale out; one wounded man is rescued and taken prisoner. The bomber is later identified as a Cant Z1007, the first time that this type has been identified over Malta at night.
Military casualties Sergeant John E Jones, wireless operator/air gunner, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Sergeant Lewis D Parry, observer, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Sergeant Walter H Wallace, pilot, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Sergeant James C Kimberley, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 249 Squadron; Pilot Officer George V Smith, Royal Air Force, 249 Squadron.
Enemy casualties Pilot Sergente Luigi Contarini, 90a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo, 4o Stormo; Pilot Sottotenente Andrea Della Pasqua, 9o Gruppo, 4o Stormo; Pilot Tenente Colonello Carlo Romagnoli, Tenente Colonello, Commander of 10o Gruppo, 4o Stormo.
OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 4 SEPTEMBER 1941
ROYAL NAVY Unbeaten returned from patrol in Straits of Messina having sunk a schooner Q ship. Vichy convoys and a hospital ship were sighted but nothing else.
AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Reconnaissance of Kerkennah area, western Ionian Sea and Tripoli. Two Fulmars patrolled Catania, Gerbini and Comiso; bombs dropped on Comiso and Catania. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Three Swordfish, two with torpedoes and one with a mine, left for Tripoli to attack shipping outside harbour. No shipping was located but a mine was laid outside the harbour; torpedoes were not released. 38 Squadron 13 Wellingtons attacked motor transport depot destroying several buildings and starting fires. 105 Squadron 5 Blenheims attacked shipping and port facilities Crotone Harbour. Enemy fire blew off the wing of Sgt Wallace’s Blenheim and the aircraft crashed, killing the crew.
1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT The Battalion held a defence scheme exercise in conjunction with the Fortress Royal Engineers and troops of 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers. ‘Enemy parachute troops’ attacked targets in Corrodino, the Dockyard, Floriana and Valletta.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 37 (1 x 500kg; 36 x 2kg incendiary).
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