31 October 1940: Air Battle For Malta Reviewed

31 Oct

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JU 87 dive-bombers disappeared from skies after losses

JU 87 dive-bombers disappeared from skies after losses


For the first month of the war with Italy, SM79 bombers carried out raids and reconnaissance unescorted by fighters. When successes against them by our fighters started, the tactics changed and no bomb was dropped by day on Malta for a continuous period of five weeks. During this time the Italians sent strong formations of up to twenty fighters carrying out offensive patrols in an evident attempt to neutralize Malta’s fighter effort. Their efforts met with little success and Malta’s few fighters were instructed that, unless bombers were included, action against fighters was to be avoided and only stragglers were to be attacked.

The next phase began when day bombing was resumed by large formations of 10 to 15 bombers, escorted by 20 to 25 fighters. This presented a difficult problem but Malta’s few fighters tackled the attacks courageously, with the occasional success against the enemy. The attacks were not sustained but they were followed by dive-bombing attacks by JU 87s, also heavily escorted by fighters. On the third dive bombing attack, two bombers and one fighter were shot down by Hurricanes. Since then no further dive bombing attacks have taken place. Enemy air activity was almost negligible during the first half of October.

In view of the night bombing during moonlight in the early weeks of the war, a night fighter effort has been worked up. On the first occasion it was called into action, a Hurricane carried out a determined attack on a SM79 which was last seen flying very low and apparently in great difficulty.

There were no further night attacks for several weeks.   The next attempt did not materialize: the enemy aircraft were caught in searchlights and turned back before reaching the Island. Several more weeks elapsed before another attempt was made by some four bombers working in pairs, raiding Malta by moonlight. A Hurricane shot down one bomber in flames and damaged a second so seriously that it probably did not return to base. The remaining bombers approached the Island but returned before crossing the coast.


Weather  Gusty with occasional rain.

No air raids.

HMAS Vendetta

HMAS Vendetta


ROYAL NAVY  Vendetta ready for sea on completion of refit.

AIR HQ  Departures 4 Wellingtons.

KALAFRANA Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. A working party of 60 technical NCOs and airmen were temporarily detached to Luqa to assist in special offensive operations being carried out from there, leaving only a skeleton staff of English personnel in workshops at Kalafrana.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strength 29 officers, 842 other ranks, 2 RAOC (attached).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  This month A and B Coys moved to new positions at Ta Qali and Dingli. Range practices have been held and NCOs completed a course on hand grenades. Signals have improved communications in the Ta Qali area. Progress was made in construction of rear defences at posts in the unit’s area. There has been a considerable amount of sickness throughout the unit, among the officers; jaundice has been prevalent at Ta Saliba.

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Posted by on October 31, 2020 in 1940, October 1940


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