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Monthly Archives: November 2016

30 November 1941: 1000th Air Raid Alert for Malta

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Macchi 202

Macchi 202

NEW MACCHI 202 STEPS UP ENEMY RECONNAISSANCE

The employment by the enemy of the new Macchi 202 as a reconnaissance machine has now made it possible for him to recce the Island much more frequently, as these machines are very fast and always fly too high for interception by our own fighters.  It must be assumed that these machines were equipped with cameras in similar manner to our Photo Reconnaissance Unit Hurricanes and Spitfires.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 1 DECEMBER 1941

0835 hrs  Two Macchi fighters crossed the Island. No damage or casualties; no bombs dropped. This is the 1000th air alert on the Island since the first raid in June 1940.

0832 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Two recce Macchi’s crossed at 17,500 ft.  No engagement.

1140 hrs;  1658 hrs;  1725 hrs  Air raid alarms; raids do not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 30 NOVEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  0500 hrs Ursula and Regent sailed for Gibraltar and United Kingdom to refit. Olympus arrived from Gibraltar with petrol and stores. 

LUQA  0724-1110 hrs One Maryland 69 Squadron special search Ionian Sea. 0844-0945 hrs Photo-reconnaissance unit 2 on reconnaissance Comiso, Gerbeni, Catania, Gela. 1146-1545 hrs Two Marylands search B to shadow convoy. 1345-1745 hrs One Maryland 69 Squadron SF 6 patrol.  One Blenheim 18 Squadron and one Blenheim 107 Squadron SF 11 patrol.  Six Blenheims 107 Squadron despatched to attack convoy.  Failed to locate target.  Six Blenheims 18 Squadron attacked convoy in central Ionian Sea.  One Wellington S/D Flight shipping search central Ionian Sea.  Two Beaufighters B F Flight attacked motor transport along road east of Misrata.

8th BATTALION MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Battle practices have been held on the Battle Practice Range, Pembroke. Rifle Companies and 4 Platoon took part, testing platoon in the attack. B Coy 2 Kings Own Malta Regiment are under command of the unit and training at Ghain Tuffieha camp.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1.

 

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

 

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29 November 1941: Air Crew Missing After Libya Strike

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ALBACORE FAILS TO RETURN TO HAL FAR

Albacore

Albacore

One Albacore has been reported missing after an air strike on a Libyan target last night by 828 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, based at Hal Far.  Five Albacores carried out the successful night raid on the Italian Regia Aeronautica base at Castel Benito near Tripoli.  Despite fierce enemy opposition, bombs were dropped among dispersal areas, destroying at least one aircraft and starting fires across the airfield.  The pilot of the missing Albacore has been named as S/Lt Walshe; his observer is S/Lt Lewis.

SECOND NAVY STRIKE FORCE FOR MALTA

Allied intelligence has discovered that Rommel’s fuel stocks are fast running out.  Seeing a real opportunity to cut off his supplies entirely, the Admiralty in London decides on an all out offensive against Axis convoys in the Mediterranean.  Malta is now to be at the spearhead of that attack. 

HMS Ajax

Already the base for Force “K”, Grand Harbour now sees the arrival of a second Strike Force “B” – including Ajax, Neptune, Kimberley and Kingston – carrying with them from Alexandria welcome supplies for Malta.  The Island is now equipped with four cruisers and four destroyers.

As if on cue, Axis supply ships set out from various Italian ports heading for Libya, closely observed by Malta’s reconnaissance pilots.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 30 NOVEMBER 1941

1057-1106 hrs Air raid alarm.  One recce Macchi crossed at great height.

1710-1728 hrs Air raid alarm.  Two recce Macchi’s crossed at great height.

1937-1939 hrs Air raid.

Military casualty  Sergeant George Tolcher, 1st Battalion The Hampshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 29 NOVEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Force “B” arrives, consisting of HMS Ajax flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H B T Rawlings Commanding Seventh Cruiser Squadron, with Neptune, Kingston and Kimberley.  Force “K” arrives.

AIR HQ  Two Wellesleys headed in from Heliolopolis, one crashed in the sea; the crew was saved.

LUQA  0800-1127 hrs One Maryland 69 Squadron special search.  0815-1140 hrs One Maryland 69 Squadron SF 10 patrol.  0905-1030 hrs One Maryland 69 Squadron photo-reconnaissance Tripoli.  Returned owing to bad weather.  Two Blenheims 18 Squadron SF 11 patrol.  Six Blenheims 107 Squadron attacked shipping in Navarino Harbour.  One Wellington S/D Flight special shipping search.  Ten Wellingtons 104 Squadron attacked administrative buildings at Benghazi. 

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

 

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28 November 1941: Luqa Leads the Attack

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AIR AND SEA HUNT FOR AXIS SHIPPING

69 Squadron are on the trail of the enemy.  At 0645 hrs this morning one Maryland takes off from Luqa, followed by a second five minutes later.  Their task is to search for shipping: the hunt is on again for Axis convoys attempting to supply Rommel’s North Africa campaign. 

RAF Maryland aircraft 1941

Within minutes, a third of their Maryland pilots takes to the air on SF 9B patrol.  His return at 1116 hrs triggers the air raid alarm, but spotters recognise the friendly aircraft before the Island’s gunners open fire.  In the afternoon, while Force “K” sails from Grand Harbour, another two Marylands are airborne; one to take over the SF 9B patrol and a second to cover SF 6.  They return to base soon after dark. 

Also on patrol are two Blenheims of 107 Squadron, operating in SF 2B, and one Wellington S/D Flight, also engaged in a shipping search. 

Meanwhile Luqa’s bombers are on the attack.  Six Blenheims, four from 18 Squadron and two from 107 Squadron, attack a tanker in the bay of Navarino.  Eleven Wellingtons from 40 Squadron launch a heavy raid on Benghazi.

TOTAL WAR

The Commanding Officer of 8th Battalion, the Manchester Regiment addresses his Officers, Warrant Officers and Sergeants.  He reminds them in no uncertain terms that the Battalion is engaged in a total war, pointing out the grave responsibilities which they all carry.  He orders all Officers and NCOs to ensure the men are ready, and fully trained in the correct techniques for seeking out the enemy, employing their weapons, and the use of covering fire. 

HARBOUR BOOM

There have been few enemy raids on Malta, and even fewer bombs dropped, in recent weeks  but the night rest of civilians is still being disturbed by explosions.

“We have a new horror…depth charges are let go in Sliema Harbour immediately below our drawing room window. At first it was very secret, but now we know in part. They are only small charges, 6 lbs I am told; but they shake the Cathedral to its foundations, the glasses rattle, and pieces of plaster fall down from the walls and ceilings.

These big detonations go on from nightfall almost every night, and continue at intervals of perhaps 15 or 20 minutes till dawn. We have not fathomed the exact reasons. Obviously they are a defence against attack by E-boats – but why have they only lately been in operation? Today we were given a possible explanation. It was said that at the Harbour attack [in July 1941 – see article, R], the boom was damaged, and also the listening apparatus; the latter may not yet have been replaced, perhaps owing to lack of parts. These depth charges may be a substitute.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 29 NOVEMBER 1941

1116 hrs  Air raid alarm; caused by return of Maryland.

1844-1858 hrs  Air raid.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 28 NOVEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Six Beaufighters and one Sunderland arrive from Gibraltar.

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

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

 

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27 November 1941: A Letter from Home

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HMS Utmost

HMS Utmost

A LETTER FROM HOME

After a day of intensive activity at Luqa, Corporal Jack Turner can at last have a few minutes to himself.  After weeks of waiting, he has received a letter from his home on the Isle of Man.  Ever conscious of security and the censor, Jack’s father knows he cannot tell or ask his son about the war. Still, contact with loved ones and simple reassurance that all is well are precious to those separated by thousands of miles.  

Stamped: airgraph service not available to Malta, forwarded by Air Mail: Upton, Nov 4th 1941

Dear Jack

I received your letter this morning, and am glad to know you are safe and well.  Your telegram arrived last Monday week and I replied by wire last Wednesday.  Pleased to know you had a good trip out, it must have been an exciting time.  Have written to [Mrs K] and sent the money for the Insurance and will forward it to her every 4 weeks.  I will also write and give her your message.  Will be writing to Betty in a day or two when I will forward your letter on to her.  We are all well at home and each of us send our love to you.  The weather has been on the cold side, but of course we can expect that now.  There is no fresh news to tell you, only let me have a letter when you can.  Cheerio and all the best.

Love Father. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 28 NOVEMBER 1941

0049-0129 hrs  Air raid alert.  Two enemy aircraft came in from north and crossed the coast between Grand Harbour and Madalena.  Ack Ack barraged on three occasions claiming one enemy aircraft destroyed. 

1106-1125 hrs  Air raid alert.  Recce raid by two enemy fighter aircraft.  Heavy Ack Ack barraged at 24,000 feet.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 27 NOVEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Utmost returned from patrol off Del Armi, having sunk TriesteSokol returned from patrol of Navarino having got two hits on a convoy after they left harbour.  Five Albacores attacked Castel Benito aerodrome.

HAL FAR  Night 27/28th Nov Five Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack Castel Benito aerodrome. Two small fires were started – one on the eastern side and one on the western side of the aerodrome.  Weather 8/10 to 10/10 cloud over target.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  18 Squadron  Four Blenheims attacked walled enclosure 11000 yards east south east of Mellaha aerodrome. Two Blenheims on SF11 patrol.  One Blenheim search for merchant vessels.  107 Squadron  Five Blenheims despatched to attack merchant vessels in Argostoli Harbour. Did not find target.  One Wellington S/D Flight on special shipping search.  Twelve Wellingtons 40 Squadron and nine Wellingtons 104 Squadron attacked Royal Arsenal at Naples.  

 (1)  With thanks to Ivor Ramsden of the MANX AVIATION AND MILITARY MUSEUM – a collection of militaria, civil and wartime aviation dedicated to the memory of those from the Isle of Man who served in a military capacity on the Island or overseas. 

 

 

 

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

 

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26 November 1941: Malta’s People Not Merely Spectators

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GOVERNOR PRAISES MALTESE WAR EFFORT

Reports appeared today of a speech by the Governor at the opening of the latest session of Government.  Lt General Dobbie praised the fortitude of Malta’s people who he says have “won the admiration of the whole free world”.  Their contribution is essential to the survival and defence of the Islands.   

Air Raid Precautions Zabbar (NWMA, Malta)

Nearly four thousand Maltese men have joined the military services.  Others have signed up for the Special Constabulary, the Air Raid Precautions Service and the Emergency Medical services.  Hundreds have formed labour forces, working tirelessly to rescue people from trapped buildings, remove bomb debris and to build defences and dig underground shelters.

Without those shelters, the death toll from Malta’s 350 bomb raids to date would have been much higher.  As it is, 344 people have been killed and 685 seriously injured – still a high casualty rate for a small island community.

Senglea 1941 (NWMA, Malta)

2552 houses have been destroyed or seriously damaged.  People living inland from the main bombing targets have opened their doors to house those who have had to leave their homes.  Each local community now has an organisation which looks after refugees, as well as the distribution of relief and rationing.  Every village has plans in place in case of a possible invasion. 

“Malta remains a target for the enemy’s bombers and a thorn, daily more venomous, in the enemy’s side,” says Lt Gen Dobbie.“We are not merely spectators of these great happenings.  We have a place in the struggle and a share of responsibility for the course of events.” 

A VIEW FROM DINGLI

A memory by Joseph Farrugia, Attard, Malta 2011

“The area round the harbour became the prime danger area of Malta . It was thickly populated. The source of livelihood of the Maltese was built around the harbour… Now however the threat of being bombed in your home and buried alive was very real. Life is precious so they literary fled the area and boarded the first bus they could take to the villages furthest from the harbour. Dingli was a place that fitted their idea of safety .

Every bus that turned up from Rabat had a load of what we referred to as refugees… The school was turned into a huge common residence . Each class was divide by curtains and housed four families. Privacy was thrown to the wind

The population of Dingli shot up from 1700 to 4500. This caused a social mixing of great proportions. What amazes me was the fact that the populations with different cultures soon integrated . It was because one can assume that all were united against a common enemy and discomforts social or otherwise were silently accepted.

The newcomers laughed at our dialect.  The Maltese language being a semitic language will always retain the consonants but you can juggle all kinds of vowels even dragging them so long as you do not change the order of the vowels. So we the locals had fun imitating the way the refuges pronounced certain words. I am sure that these new residents had their laugh behind our backs at our way of pronouncing certain words. Indeed I am sure that they felt superior when speaking their form of dialect because they considered our dialect as a lower form of speech. However we learned to live with each other in quite a short time.

The civic organization came readily into action and every new family coming to live in Dingli  was soon registered. This was a necessity because the rationing system was soon to be introduced. The war carried on as planned by the warring sides. We were always on the look out to see the Italian Savoya Marchetti bombers flying very high in the sky on their way to the harbour area.”  

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 27 NOVEMBER 1941

1530 hrs   Air raid alarm.  No engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 26 NOVEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Force “K” arrived at 1730, having failed to intercept enemy merchant vessels.

LUQA  107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF11 patrol; one Blenheim SF10 patrol. 18 Squadron  Four Blenheims attacked one merchant vessel and one destroyer.  Two returned due to bad weather. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2; dealt with 2 (Thermos).

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

 

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25 November 1941: Malta attacks target Rommel’s Supply Lines

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HMS BARHAM SUNK IN SEA BATTLE OVER AXIS CONVOY

Following attacks yesterday on Benghazi and the approaches to Sirte, ten more aircraft from Luqa flew south today to continue the offensive against the Afrika Korps in Libya.  Five Blenheims attacked motor transport on the road west of Misrata and five more struck another road convoy between Homs and Misrata, in an effort to cut supply lines to Rommel’s troops.  

HMS Barham

Meanwhile, another Axis convoy was spotted steaming towards Benghazi.  With Force “K” already engaged in the pursuit of the first, Force “B”, consisting of five cruisers and four destroyers, was despatched to tackle the second.  Admiral Cunningham took to sea in the flagship Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Barham and Valiant as well as eight destroyers. The fleet took up a strategic position, standing by to support the attacking Forces.   

HMS Barham magazines explode

At 1630 hours a violent shudder rocked the flagship.  Barham had been hit by torpedoes from a U-boat which managed to creep through the destroyer barrier undetected.  As the seconds ticked by, she keeled over.  A massive explosion ripped the ship apart and she disappeared beneath the waves.  Despite frantic rescue attempts which saved some, 841 men were lost.   

GOVERNOR DOBBIE REPORTS ON THE STATE OF THINGS IN MALTA

From Governor (Lt Gen Sir W Dobbie)         To: Secretary of State for the Colonies

(1) There were two air raids by day and twenty by night during the period 1st to 20th November.  Seven people were killed (six men and one woman) and four injured (two men and two women). Fifty-nine buildings were demolished or badly damaged. (2) Registration of labour for compulsory labour service has started. (3) It became necessary to effect economies on kerosene, and the winter ration, which is higher than the summer ration, has been reduced in the case of those who have electricity in their houses. A reduction had already been made for those who have gas.  In order to lessen the inconvenience caused by general tightness over control of kerosene, it has been decided to revert to summer time, and this was done on 2nd November.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 26 NOVEMBER 1941

1647 hrs  Air raid alarm.  No engagement.

Military casualties  Sergeant Marc Chabot, Royal Canadian Air Force; Sergeant Denis Kelly, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR); Flight Sergeant Granville Stephens, RAFVR; Sergeant Harold Whitaker, RAFVR, all 40 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 25 NOVEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Force “K” arrived, having sunk two tankers (CAT). Force “K” sailed again at 1800.

AIR HQ  Six Beaufighters heading in from Gibraltar. One is missing.

LUQA  One Wellington S/D Flight shipping search (bad weather). One Blenheim 18 Squadron and one Blenheim 107 Squadron SF10 patrol. One Blenheim SF11 patrol. Five Blenheims 18 Squadron attacked MT on road west of Misurata. Five Blenheims 107 Squadron attacked MT on road between Homs and Misurata. One Wellington S/D flight shipping search (very bad weather).

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1.

 

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

 

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24 November 1941: Invasion Force Heads for Malta

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KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT TRAIN TO REPEL INVADERS

The Kings Own Malta Regiment are carrying out manoeuvres today as part of Command Exercise “Victoria”.

1345 hrs  An urgent ‘message’ is received from Headquarters. Malta is now on real red alert, action “ASIA”.  Fifteen enemy warships have been reported 40 miles west of Gozo, on course for Malta.  All officers and men are recalled from leave, and all the Island’s defences are fully manned.  The Regiment is now at war stations. 

1615 hrs  The order comes to earmark men for loading arms.  Sixteen Other Ranks from 3rd Battalion are deployed at Ta Kandia and ten at St Edwards College, plus others at Pawla ordered to provide loaders as above. One platoon from Pawla is ordered to report to HQ.  

1647 hrs  Italian aircraft attack Malta.  Ten minutes later nine Hurricanes sent to investigate the possible convoy return to base, having been unable to locate the warships.  Despite the lack of a confirmed sighting, the Island’s defenders remain at the ready well into the evening.

2100 hrs A report is received from a RAF speed launch engaged on rescue operations that it has sighted ten small craft, identified “E” boats [German motor torpedo boat] about five miles north east of Delimara, on bearing 040.  All headquarters are informed.  Recce aircraft are sent out but nothing further was seen of the craft.

2127 hrs  The alert level is reduced and the Regiment is ordered to stand to. 

2319 hrs  The beach defences are finally stood down.  The Island will remain in a state of readiness for another twelve hours.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 25 NOVEMBER 1941

No air raids.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Harold Batchelor, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 69 Squadron; AC1 Thomas McCann, BEM, Royal Air Force, Sergeant David McKell, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant John Hutt, RAFVR, 69 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 24 NOVEMBER 1941

LUQA  One Blenheim 18 Squadron and one Blenheim 107 Squadron SF11 patrol.  18 Squadron  Five Blenheims search for M/V (merchant vessel). No sightings made. 107 Squadron  Six Blenheims attacked MT on roads east and west of Sirte. Eight Wellingtons 104 Squadron and six Wellingtons 40 Squadron attacked Bengazi. Sgt Parker failed to return.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 5 (Thermos).

 

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Posted by on November 24, 2016 in 1941, November 1941

 

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