13 October 1940: Italy Must Fall and Malta is Key

13 Oct

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Sec of State Anthony Eden (r), Palestine, October 1940 (c) IWM E802

Sec of State Anthony Eden (r), Palestine, October 1940 (c) IWM E802

The War Cabinet in London has been told that the fall of Italy must be a priority and that Malta is key to this strategy. The recommendation came in a memorandum from the First Lord of the Admiralty:

“I feel that what we must aim at is to knock Italy out of the Axis as soon as possible and at the same time avoid, if we can, the full entry of France into the Axis. If we are to achieve the first of these, it is vital that we should strengthen Malta, reinforce the Eastern Mediterranean Fleet and the forces under the command of the General Officer Commanding Middle East. The bulk of our efforts must be applied in this direction, until at any rate we have carried out our special operation for putting through reinforcements through the Mediterranean to Malta and the Middle East.”


The British Secretary of State for War, Rt Hon Anthony Eden, paid a brief visit to Malta today en route to the Middle East. The Governor and Commander in Chief was alerted to the visit by a top secret telegram from the war office on Friday.  

The Secretary of State arrived by RAAF Sunderland flying boat from the UK. He landed at Kalafrana in the hours of darkness. A strong wind and heavy swell made the setting of flare paths impossible. Gun postitions and launches sent out into Marsaxlokk Bay used their searchlights to guide the Sunderland to a safe landing.  

The weather conditions enforced a longer stay in Malta, so after meeting with Lt Gen Dobbie and Naval and military commanders, the Secretary of State toured the Island, visiting as many infantry units as possible in the few hours available. He is expected to leave for the Middle East early tomorrow.


Weather  Fine.

No air raids.


ROYAL NAVY  Reconnaissance operations by Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm squadrons of Ionian Sea from Malta to Taranto to Corfu and return.  

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland A. 0700 hrs  Reconnaissance by Glen Martin 431 Flight signalled one destroyer and one merchant vessel in Ionian Sea. On landing reported 15 large warships and eight cruisers plus various small craft in Taranto outer harbour and three destroyers and six cruisers plus small craft in the inner harbour. In the Gulf of Taranto he spotted one destroyer and one merchant vessel. 0750 hrs Glenn Martin attacked by an enemy BR20 which was quickly outmanoeuvred and fired at, probably damaged. Reconnaissance continued but the Glenn Martin was again attacked by a P32 from below. He returned fire, severely damaging the P32 and probably killing the rear gunner. Meanwhile the Glenn Martin’s rear gunner engaged another fast twin-engined aircraft attacking from behind – no hits claimed. The rear gunner then reported five or six RO43 or 44s climbing to attack. The Glenn Martin pilot took evasive action and continued his reconnaissance.  

KALAFRANA Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. 1131-1700 hrs French Latecoere on patrol reported an Italian hospital ship at sea 1235 hrs. Sunderland A arrived from UK with important passengers. 1235 hrs A Sunderland flying boat picked up 12-15 Italian Naval airmen whose aircraft had been shot down by a Fulmar; they were based at Tobruk.

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Posted by on October 13, 2020 in 1940, October 1940


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