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2-8 August 1942: Without a Convoy Malta Will Fall

07 Aug

MALTA WAR DIARY: OPERATION PEDESTAL – SANTA MARIJA – EVENTS ON MALTAGC70 UPDATED DAILY.  STARTS 9 AUGUST                                                                                                                

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SUPPLY SITUATION NOW CRITICAL

“I was a waitress at Xara Villa, where the pilots of Ta Qali lived.  I was 15.  We used to lick the plates we collected after the meal, before we sent them down to wash.  When they realised, the pilots even left us a little on the plate.”  Maria Parsons (nee Spiteri), GeorgeCross Island Association

Malta command is facing a crisis.  Unless another convoy reaches the Island by Friday of this week, supplies of food and fuel will run out within days.  The minimal stores delivered over recent weeks by submarine and by fast minelayers Manxman and Welshman have been barely enough to meet a few days’ needs.  Without immediate help, Malta could fall into enemy hands.

2 August 1942: Cluster Bomb Kills 13 Year Old

Butterfly bomb

A 13 year old boy was killed yesterday in Birkirkara by a German anti-personnel bomb. The village is now the most densely populated in Malta thanks to the many refugees from Grand Harbour who have taken shelter there.  In an air raid centred on Ta Qali late on Sunday evening, Birkirkara was showered with butterfly bombs – cluster bombs which are released from canisters holding up to 100 each.

The Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Sections were drafted in to clear the dozens of unexploded small bombs reported across the area.  At least one remained undetected.  Yesterday afternoon a group of boys were playing hide and seek behind rubble walls surrounding the fields outside the village.  13 year old Joe Galea jumped over a wall and landed on one of the bombs which exploded, killing him instantly.  Adapted from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 AUGUST TO DAWN 3 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Aerodrome working parties and transport:  500 men each at Ta Qali and Hal Far, 1000 at Luqa.

0915-0954 hrs  Air raid alert.  Six JU 88s with an escort of 20 plus fighters including ME 109s drop 2800 kg of bombs on the area of Safi strip.

1310 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft; two return early.  The remainder intercept the enemy: red section is attacked by two MEs with no outcome.  Blue section sight six Messerschmitts, dive past but lose them on tearning.  F/Lt Watts fires on one ME but sees no strike.

1350 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are also scrambled to intercept enemy fighters. Sgt Weaver probably destroys one ME 109. P/O Guthrie crashes in a field on the outskirts of Zebbieh and is killed.  Sgt McLeod is reported missing: Spitfires search for him until dusk without success.

1445 hrs  All clear.

1657-1715 hrs  Air raid alert for an enemy fighter sweep which does not cross the coast.

2250-2325 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which does not cross the coast.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer James Guthrie Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Sergeant McLeod, Royal New Zealand Air Force.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 2 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P43 and Una arrived and were swept into Marsamxett Harbour by Rye.

AIR HQ Arrivals  Two Hudsons, one Liberator, two Beauforts from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis.  Departures  One Hudson, one Catalina to Gibraltar; two DC3 to Bilbeis; one Hudson to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down by enemy aircraft: pilot killed.  One Spitfire in formation jumped by enemy aircraft: pilot presumed shot down; missing.

3 August 1942: Radio Interference Hampers RAF Fighter Ops 

RADIO CONTACT CUT DURING DOG FIGHT

RAF Spitfire pilots are reporting interference with their radio signals over Malta.  Signals were interrupted at a crucial moment during an air battle with Messerschmitt fighters this morning.  Early reports suggest the problem only occurs over land: interference clears once aircraft fly out to sea.  The radio signal interruptions could threaten the effectiveness of defensive fighter operations over the Island.

TROOPS GO HUNGRY

…there was less and less food. Our ration went down to 1,000 to 1,400 calories a day. We had one tin of bully beef for eight men, and one slice of bread each (when I went to Malta I weighed 10.9 stone, when I came back it was 8.6 stone) . Our uniforms and boots were wearing out. We put bits of cardboard in the boots to protect our feet. All supplies had to come in by sea, and there were enemy submarines that could be seen in the clear water. From the Garrison Fort we heard that it was feared we could no longer hold the island.  Jimmie Ferguson, Royal Irish Fusiliers (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 AUGUST TO DAWN 4 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine.

0615-0700 hrs  Air raid alert.  Enemy aircraft do not cross the coast.

0810-0900 hrs  Three Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: nothing to report.

0933-0955 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled: nothing sighted.

1105-1200 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne to act as escort to minesweepers: nothing to report.

1115-1135 hrs  Air raid alert.  Seven Spitfires Hal Far and eight of 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: two of 229 return early.  The remainder sight six Messerschmitts overhead and try to gain height but are bounced by the MEs and have to break away without firing a shot.  All pilots report marked VHF radio interference.

1233-1305 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: two return early.  The others sight nothing.

1455-1515 hrs  Air raid alert.  Enemy aircraft do not cross the coast.

1610-1625 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy fighters.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron scrambled to intercept sight four ME 109s which turn and make for home very fast: no contact.

1755-1820 hrs  Air raid alert.  Enemy fighters are reported approaching the Island.  Seven Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept: nothing sighted.

1855-1945 hrs  Three Spitfires 229 Squadron carry out a patrol but sight nothing.  The weather is hazy, visibility two miles.

2200-2235 hrs; 2230-2345 hrs; 2359-0025 hrs  Air raid alerts, each for single enemy aircraft, none cross the coast.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 3 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy, Rye, Hythe, and Swona carried out sweep of five cable strip inshore of QBB 273. 4 moored mines were swept.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Beaufighters, five Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Liberator to LG 224 or Fayid.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down into sea: pilot rescued, injured.  One Wellington overshot on landing: pilot and crew uninjured.  Transit aircraft missing  One Wellington en route from Gibraltar to Malta.

LUQA  The Secretary of State visits Luqa aerodrome.

TA QALI  Wing Commander Douglas Hamilton ceased to be attached from Headquarters, RAF Mediterranean.  Wing Comannder Pike, DFC, arrived on move of 249 Squadron to Ta Qali.  All pilots of 603 Squadron posted to 229 Squadron on formation at Ta Qali.

4 August 1942: Spitfire Pilot Wins Close Dog-fight

Spitfires over Malta (2)

Malta Spitfire pilot Lt Swales was flying one of four Spitfires of 229 Squadron this morning when they encountered two Italian Macchi fighters.  Lt Swales attacked, firing a short burst, followed by S/Ldr Douglas who fired all his ammunition but could not get closer than 400 yards.  No strikes were seen but Lt Swales had not finished.  He turned on the other Macchi and fired a 5 second burst at 200 yards into the starboard wing and fuselage of the enemy aircraft, which started to smoke.  The Italian swooped into a steep dive and Lt Swales followed him down, firing until all his ammunition was spent.  The Macchi was last seen at water level, smoking badly.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 AUGUST TO DAWN 5 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Luqa working parties are reduced by the withdrawal of 450 men of 1 Brigade.  Total still employed on all aerodromes approximately 1500 all ranks.

0725-0900 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali search for a missing Wellington.  They see a large oil patch and circle at deck level but find no wreckage.  Enemy fighters are reported but not seen.

0830-0845 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  They sight two Macchi 202 fighters which are attacked by S/Ldr Douglas and Lt Swales.  One Macchi is probably destroyed by Lt Swales.  A Dornier flying boat escorted by fighters later picks up the pilot.

0915-0945 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept: nothing to report.

1445-1530 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft and climb to attack three ME 109s but are unable to catch them.  Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled and sight three enemy aircraft but are ordered on another course and see no others.  All Spitfires report marked radio interference over the Island which is not as bad at sea.

1625-1710 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft but sight nothing.

1735-1750 hrs  Air raid alert for 20 enemy aircraft carrying out a fighter sweep.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft but are unable to make contact.  Spitfires from Hal Far are also airborne: one Re 2001 is probably destroyed.

2220-2340 hrs  Air raid alerts for two enemy aircraft which approach separately and drop bombs on Mellieha Ridge and on Gozo.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                                     Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 4 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  WD Vessel Snipe carried out night run with Coast Artillery Searchlights.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Hudsons, two Wellingtons, three Beaufighters from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down in combat: pilot baled out, uninjured.

HAL FAR  185 Squadron is stood down.

1ST BN CHESHIRE REGIMENT Night firing exercises on Pembroke ranges.

5 August 1942:  Malta’s Children ‘Ghostly Pale’

Food shortages had become desperate. It had reached the point where bread, an important staple for most people, had become rationed with hardly enough for the average family and its quality greatly reduced by the addition of potatoes and other ingredients. I still remember my mother, with three growing hungry youngsters, bartering a gold ring on the Black Market in exchange for a badly needed loaf of bread – just to put something into our empty stomachs.  My mother, like most mothers, often kept herself short just to give us a little extra to eat.…

As the siege tightened we begin to notice the lean and haggard faces of the men, women and children around us, the young and the old.  You begin to notice the start of sunken cheeks and dark shadows under the eyes. You begin to see the thinness of the arms and legs of chidren. You feel general body weakness where the minimum effort saps one’s strength. You see the faces of people of fair complexion beginning to turn a ghostly pale or ashen gray and those of darker complexion into a ghastly greenish hue.

The pangs of hunger had become so acute that chewing the end tip of my leather belt became a common practice, as with most others.  The taste sometimes still lingers. For a while water consumption, when not cut off, helped fill the voids in our stomachs, but you can’t fool the body all the time.  Waistlines now had shrunk to the point where, with continued belt tightening the tip of one’s belt was now reaching the small of one’s back…

It was during a heavy air attack at Marsa Creek, an inlet a short distance from my home, where a freighter was hit sending some of its cargo of flour in great clouds high into the air. Just  as soon as the dust had settled, crowds of kids, including my nine years old brother Francis, descended on the scene widely scooping up from the ground, in empty tins and cans, grit, dust and all, as much flour as possible to take home.  At this unexpected bounty, little as it was, my mother, completely surprised and overjoyed, quickly added water kneading it into a kind of dough and cooked it. We could not wait until it was ready and when it was, we literally wolfed it down, crunching the dust and grit between our teeth and offering deep thanks to God for his loving beneficence…

The ravages of the siege with its acute food shortages, continuous bombing and sleepless nights left its mark in the form of early deaths, weakened constitutions, miscarriages and stillborn babies. With weakened immune systems they fell prey to infections and diseases which in normal times would have been easily overcome but became fatal for people so weakened. There were outbreaks of typhoid and of polio, a disease then practically unknown in Malta. Their death certificates may show statements such as ”death from natural causes ” or “death from this disease or that” but really they were war casualties.  Joseph V Stephens, May 17, 2012

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 AUGUST TO DAWN 6 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Pen-building on aerodromes continues on the same scale as yesterday.  Extensive beach and aerodrome patrols are carried out by 1 Brigade.  Major General R MacK Scobie CBE MC arrived by air from ME to take over as GOC Troops, Malta.

0850-0935 hrs  Air raid alert.

0930-1015 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali search for an enemy pilot in the sea but find nothing.

1030-1200 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept an enemy fighter sweep; two return early.  The other two see eight ME 109s and attack one apiece, each firing a three-second burst but seeing no strike.  The Spitfires swing round to make a second attack but the Messerschmitts get away.

1045-1155 hrs  Air raid alert.

1207-1239 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are airborne on intercept patrol: nothing sighted.

1745-1810 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled and sight 15 enemy fighters.  One Re 2001 attacks Sgt Irwin but overshoots.  Sgt Irwin closes in and counter-attacks with a three-second burst at 250 yards, hitting the root of the port wing and forward of the fuselage.  The Italian fighter streams glycol and dives away: probably destroyed.  Sgt Irwin is then attacked by another Re 2001 and hit by an explosive shell.  His Spitfire goes into a downward spin but Sgt Irwin is unhurt.  Four of the Spitfires report marked radio interference.

2330-2350 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which drop bombs on Mellieha Ridge and on Gozo, causing civilian casualties.

Military casualties  Nil.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Gaetana Abela, age 20; Samuel Zammit, age 63.  Gozo (Gharb)  Kalang Mizzi, age 60.  Gozo (San Lawrenz)  Nazzerna Attard, age 28; Josephine Farrugia, age 66; Carmela Farrugia, age 35; Mary Farrugia, age 35.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 5 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P44 returned from patrol off Kuriat, having scored 2 hits with 3 inch guns on a 2000 ton [merchant vessel] off Linosa and was swept in by Hythe.  M/S Flotilla swept 19 mines in Northern rectangle of QBB 273.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Catalina, one Spitfire, one Beaufighter, two Hudsons from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis.  Departures  Three Hudsons, one Catalina to Gibraltar; one Wellington to LG 224; one DC3 to Bilbeis.

6 August 1942: Shoes Made From Old Tyres

The shortage was not just in food. It was in everything. Clothes and shoes, for example, were completely unobtainable. Shoes, which wore out quicker than clothes, were substituted by scrapped vehicle and aircraft tyres for soles and with pieces of string to hold them [on] the foot.”  Joseph Zahra, 2011

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 AUGUST TO DAWN 7 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0645-0750 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol; two return early.  No enemy aircraft are sighted.

0900-0930 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled on intercept patrol; one returns early: no sightings.

1010-1030 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: nothing to report.

1150-1220 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1420-1445 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  They sight enemy fighters and climb to three thousand feet.  The enemy aircraft change course and are lost in the haze.

1700-1730 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but find nothing.

1940-2030 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron search for enemy shipping but sight no craft.

2226-2243 hrs  Air raid alert.  A single enemy aircraft drops bombs three miles north east of Grand Harbour.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                              Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 6 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy carried out Oropesa, SA and LL sweep of Marsaxlokk approaches and anchored there for the night. One moored mine was swept in inshore strip and this strip is now considered clear.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One DC3 from Bilbeis.  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; one DC3 to Bilbeis.

LUQA  A further decrease in the working party strength brings the figure for the aerodrome down to just over 800 all ranks.

7 August 1942: No Deliveries to Relieve Malta

HMS Speedy minesweeping off Malta (NWMA Malta)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 AUGUST TO DAWN 8 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Slight increase in strength of working parties provided by 4 Brigade brings the total for all aerodromes up to approx 1400 all ranks.

0830-0915 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: nothing to report.

1315 hrs  Two Beaufighters Mark VI of 248 Squadron arrive at Ta Qali.

1405-1435 hrs  Air raid alert for six ME 109s which cross the Island at very high altitude.

1630-1650 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol: nothing to report.

1830-1945 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are airborne: nothing sighted.

1945-2025 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron search for enemy shipping: no craft sighted.

2325-2335 hrs  Air raid alert.  Only two of the five enemy aircraft which approach the Island cross the coast, dropping bombs near Torri L’Ahmar, Il Maqhtab and in the sea off St Andrews

Military casualties  Nil.                                                              Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 7 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept Otus into Marsaxlokk and then swept centre line of QBB 273 while returning to Marsamxett.  Otus remained bottomed off Delimara Light until dark, when she surfaced and proceeded alongside Shell Pier to unload cargo.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Beaufighters, four Hudsons, one Wellington from Gibraltar; three Beauforts from LG 224; three Beauforts from LG 226; two Baltimores from Burg Arab.

LUQA  The camp cinema is now running.

8 August 1942: Enemy Tactics Aim to Use Up Malta’s Fighter Fuel

Sir Ronald Mackenzie Scobie in Athens

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING 8 AUGUST 1942

From:  Governor & C in C Malta               To:  C in C Middle East              Rptd:  The War Office

  1. Quietest week in many months for bombing.  Enemy air effort limited to attempts to wear down fighter strength and waste our aviation petrol by fighter sweeps and tip and run tactics.  Average 30 fighter sorties daily against Island.  Total 10 bombers by day, 17 by night.  Bombs widespread.  Enemy fighter casualties four destroyed, two probable, one damaged by RAF.
  2. 2.  RAF and Infantry working parties totalling 2000 men and 150 vehicles completed building of 30 pens for RAF in record time.
  3. 3.  Military damage and casualties nil.
  4. 4.  Major General R Mack Scobie arrived 6 August to take over GOC.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 AUGUST TO DAWN 9 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0930-1015 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept 30 approaching enemy fighters including ME 109s and Re 2001s.  Two Spitfires return early.  The remainder sight eight Macchi fighters.  Then two ME 109s are seen diving on three Spitfires as another six pass overhead.  Eight more Messerschmitts join the fight and the Spitfires spiral down towards the MEs.  P/O Jones fires a burst at 50 yards at a ME 109 which is chasing a Spitfire: the Messerschmitt turns into the sun and is seen spinning downwards, streaming glycol.  Sgt Beurling fires at a ME 109 which streams glycol and dives into the sea from 20000 feet.  Sgt Beurling is shot up and crash lands at Luqa; he is unhurt.  Sgt Budd attacks a ME 109, opening fire at 100 yards and hitting the starboard wing.  Sgt Budd is himself shot up and slightly wounded in the shoulder.  Three ME 109s are destroyed and another damaged.

1030-1115 hrs  Air raid alert.  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron patrol off Grand Harbour: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1215-1235 hrs  Air raid alert.

1626-1706 hrs  Two Spitfires Hal Far carry out a search.

1936-2027 hrs  Two Spitfires Hal Far patrol off the coast of Sicily in search of E boats: nothing sighted.

2145-2205 hrs  Air raid alert for a single aircraft which drops bombs in the sea north of Gozo.

Military casualties  Sergeant Clarence Kelly, Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 8 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Otus proceeded to bottoming berth at 0600, having discharged all cargo except five torpedoes. Minesweepers cut two mines while clearing special area. After dark, Otus completed unloading.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Catalina, two Beaufighters from Gibraltar; one DC3 from BilbeisDepartures  Four Hudsons, one Catalina to Gibraltar; one DC3 to Bilbeis; one Wellington to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire damaged in enemy action: pilot uninjured.  One Spitfire failed to return to base:pilot missing.

TA QALI  One ME 109 destroyed by P/O Jones, one by Sgt Beurling.  One ME 109 damaged by Sgt Budd.  Two Spitfires damaged.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 47.  Dealt with: 16 High Explosives, including 2 delayed-action (1 x 1800kg; 2 x 500kg; 6 x 250kg; 3 x 50kg; 3 x 35kg; 1 x 12kg); 127 anti-personnel bombs plus a few oil incendiaries.

(1)  An Irish Fusilier in Malta, BBC WW2 People’s War, contributed by IpswichMuseum.  WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar.

(2) Canadian Air Aces and Heroes, WWI, WWII and Korea

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed.  For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com.

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Posted by on August 7, 2017 in 1942, August 1942, Uncategorized

 

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