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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
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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