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NEW AIR CHIEF SALUTES MALTA’S PILOTS
“Tonight we had a positively marvellous account by the new Air Vice Marshall over the Rediffusion of the work of the RAF here. I note a few of the principal points:
The most important part of the work is reconnaissance. In this, close cooperation is required with the Royal Navy, particularly submarines. The enemy has a great army in Libya. This must be constantly supplied from Italy by sea transport to Tripoli, and creeping along the coast to Benghazi. Or via the Straits of Messina across to Greece and down from there. It is 350 miles to Greece and 500 from there to Africa.
Day attacks on shipping are mostly by Blenheims. They attack from 20 feet above the water, and go straight for their target; the bomb is released and the plane swoops up to clear the masts. Sometime it comes back with part of a ship’s aerial caught. The released bombs travel straight on. The other day two such bombs entirely put out of action the engines of a 10,000 ton liner. The crew abandoned her. The enemy are terrified of our bombers.
If no shipping is seen the planes go on and bomb the Tripoli-Benghazi road: again from 20 feet. One came back with some branches of palm attached to the wing. All these have to pass through terrible barrages; it is the most dangerous work of all. For night attacks Swordfish are used. They can carry bombs, mines or torpedoes. The last are very effective. Not ‘did you get anything?’ but ‘how many?’ The torpedo is dropped from an altitude of 100 feet, 400 yards from the target. Albacores are also used for torpedoes.
Fulmars are to keep enemy planes from landing or from taking off. They are the “earth-stoppers” of the RAF Hunt. They drop bombs on the ‘dromes, Wellingtons carry a crew of six and a huge load of bombs. They have done immense damage. They are accurate, and do not bomb at random, usually making three runs over the target.
The fighters for the defence of Malta have to be ready at an instant’s notice. The pilots sit with part of their flying kit already fitted. Every second counts. They fly off and have to rise immediately to 20,000 feet. It is a great strain. In addition, hundreds of planes of different sorts pass through Malta on their way to the Middle East.” (1)
AIR RAIDS 16 DECEMBER 1941
0213 hrs Air raid alarm. One enemy aircraft approached from the north, crossed coast over Mellieha Ridge and orbited for some time over the Luqa area. One unexploded bomb west of Attard. Enemy aircraft not picked up until it dropped an unexploded bomb on Ta Qali.
0355-0418 hrs Air raid alarm.
0518-0600 hrs Air raid alarm. One enemy aircraft passed down the west coast and dropped bombs between Hassan, Hal Far and close to Island Bay searchlight position; no damage to equipment. One searchlight illumination of twenty seconds.
0851-0905 hrs Air raid alarm. One JU 88 approached from the east and passed over Grand Harbour.
1545-1552 hrs; 1930-2000 hrs; 2104-2119 hrs; 2152-2325 hrs Air raid alarms; raids do not materialise.
Military casualties Lance Corporal Robert Hewitson, 173 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers.
OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 16 DECEMBER 1941
ROYAL NAVY Group I sailed for Alexandria at 1100 hrs. Force K sailed to rendezvous with Breconshire at 1800 hrs. Five Albacores bombed Catania aerodrome, while five Swordfish with torpedoes attacked and hit a merchant vessel of 4000 tons, escorted by one destroyer in position 098 degrees Malta 60′.
HAL FAR Night Six Swordfish on a shipping search of the Kuriat-Kerkennah area made no sighting.
LUQA S/D Flight one Wellington search for merchant vessel near Lampedusa. 69 Squadron Two Marylands SF 9B patrol; one Maryland SF 10 patrol. Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2 PR Tripoli and Taranto. 107 Squadron One Blenheim SF1 patrol; one Blenheim SF 11 patrol. 18 Squadron: six Blenheims attacked shipping in Argostoli Harbour. 40 Squadron Twelve Wellingtons attacked shipping at Taranto. One aircraft bombed Brindisi.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 3.
(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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