5 September 1941: Malta ‘A Most Formidable Offensive Base’

05 Sep

Malta – World War 2. First visit to maltagc70? CLICK HERE  

Get daily updates direct to your computer – sign up to follow maltagc70 (see R)

Malta bombers attack Sicilian airfield

Malta bombers attack Sicilian airfield


Malta’s role as a base for attacks on Axis-held territories and convoys has now been revealed publicly in British media for the first time, according to the diary of a prominent figure on the Island:

“This place has become a most formidable offensive base. We of course, know it, but it has only today been revealed at home. Our bombers are over Sicily, Tripoli and Benghazi every night, and often farther afield. The roar of planes goes on a frequent intervals during the night. A man who is stationed at Luqa said that on the previous night sixteen planes left the island in three formations, each plane carrying two tons of bombs.” (1)


Over 65000 tons of enemy shipping have been damaged or destroyed by Allied aircraft in the Mediterranean in the past week. A series of successful attacks were made by Blenheims, Wellingtons and naval Swordfish operating from Malta against enemy shipping on passage to the African Coast and in harbour in Sicily and Tripoli.  In addition to a destroyer which was torpedoed and sunk, the following merchant ships were sunk or seriously damaged:

  • 5000 tons bombed, blew up
  • 8000 tons bombed, on fire from stern to funnel
  • 5000 tons bombed, on fire
  • 1200 tons torpedoed, left stationary and with a heavy list
  • Tonnage unknown bombed, on fire
  • Medium bombed, believed sunk
  • Medium bombed, blazing from stem to stern
  • 3/5000 tons bombed, left well alight
  • 8/9000 tons torpedoed, blew up
  • 9000 tons torpedoed amidships
  • 9000 tons torpedoed, seriously damaged
  • 9000 tons torpedoed, seriously damaged
  • 8000 tons probable hit with a torpedo
  • 8/10000 tons hit by bomb

During the week a total of 40 Wellingtons were despatched against Tripoli and at least six ships in the harbour were hit and a petrol dump exploded, while extensive fires were caused on the unloading quays and motor transport dispersal areas. Subsequent daylight reconnaissance showed that ships and stores were still burning.  On the night of 1-2 September the power station was attacked, two sticks of bombs falling across the target, and many others in the vicinity.

A night attack by Swordfish on a convoy off Cape Spartivento achieved complete surprise and resulted in at least four ships being hit. Such confusion resulted that the escorting destroyers fired on their own ships and several ships narrowly escaped confusion.

Hurricanes and Blenheims made daylight attacks on targets in Italy and Sicily. The power houses of two munition factories at Licata, Sicily, were hit by six bombs.  At Crotone, Italy, large explosions and fires followed hits on buildings in a munition factory, which subsequent photographs show to have been severely damaged.  In addition, a ship in harbour was hit three times, and ground targets were machine-gunned.  During a night attack on two Sicilian aerodromes naval Swordfish shot down an Italian bomber in flames. 

A few high-flying enemy aircraft crossed the coast of Malta by day, and there were two ineffective night attacks by about six aircraft.


Weather  Cooler and very pleasant.

0445-0545 hrs  Air raid alert for a three enemy aircraft approaching from the east. Only two make a half-hearted attempt to cross the coast.  One drops nine bombs in and around the grounds of Villa Gauci where troops are billeted; two bombs fail to explode and the Villa is evacuated.  Other bombs are dropped north of Dingli and in the sea east of the Island.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations or interceptions. 

Military casualties  Able Seaman Spiridione Zarb, HMS St Angelo.                                           


ROYAL NAVY  Osiris sailed for Alexandria with stores and passengers. Defensive minelaying in Marsaxlokk was completed.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 4 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 2 Wellington. Departures 5 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Catania, Augusta and Syracuse, Palermo Harbour, aerodrome and hydro-electric plant and Tripoli Harbour.  Reconnaissance patrols of Tunisian coast and western Ionian Sea.  38 Squadron  9 Wellingtons attacked ships alongside Tripoli Harbour; results uncertain.

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

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Royal Engineers officers came to discuss the Battalion’s accommodation problems.

(1) Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta. Courtesy of website: Malta Family History 


All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed. For conditions of use contact

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 5, 2016 in 1941, September 1941


Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: