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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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