Monthly Archives: January 2021

31 January 1941: Malta Must Have Underground Shelters

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Malta needs shelters

Malta needs shelters

“A hard month has come to an end at last! Fifty-three raids – and what raids!  The night offensives have resulted in a clamour for rock shelters…Volunteers start digging.  Posters appear everywhere to dig, dig, dig.  ‘Wanted: – picks and shovels’ ‘Work one hour a day and be safe’ ‘Dig for victory’.” (1)

Civilians shocked by the severity of recent air raids have begun calling for many more underground shelters to ensure their safety. Many believe that only shelters hewn from Malta’s rock can protect them against the determined dive bombers seen in this month’s attacks. 


Malta urgently needs balloon barrages for the defence of the Dockyard, in addition to other air defences, according to the Island’s Governor and C in C. The need was identified in a review of defences during the raids on HMS Illustrious in Grand Harbour.

Lt Gen Dobbie has already applied to the C in C Middle East for supplies but the 25 available there are not considered sufficient to maintain an effective barrage. He has now written to the War Office in London asking for another 25 or so plus accessory equipment to be sent out immediately by flying boat, stressing that the additional protection is really important.


  • 69 Squadron (431 Flight) and 228 Squadron carried out reconnaissance on most days during the month.
  • 148 Squadron carried out 10 air raids, most of which were highly successful. The losses were one aircraft missing and one force-landed in the sea.  The latter crew were rescued by a British trawler but one died of wounds on admission to hospital. 
  • 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm carried out several patrols and attacked shipping with reasonable results.
  • There were 46 air raid alerts. Bombs were dropped in 11 air raids. 
  • 80 enemy aircraft were confirmed destroyed, 23 unconfirmed and 13 damaged.


Weather  Clear.

1050-1128 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft approaching the Island in two pairs from different directions. Six Hurricanes, one Wellington, one Fulmar and one Gladiator are scrambled.  Four Swordfish and one Glen Martin approach the Island and land safely.  No air raid materialises.

2320-0020 hrs  Air raid alert for two aircraft approaching the Island. They cross the coast and are picked up by searchlights as they circle over the Island.  One is identified as a JU 88 bomber.  Anti-aircraft guns open fire: no claims.  The raiders turn away, dropping bombs four bombs on open land near Grand Harbour and others in the sea off Rinella.


AIR HQ 0445-0906 hrs Sunderland patrolling eastern Tunisian coast for enemy shipping signalled two merchant vessels. Four Swordfish patrolling same area with torpedoes informed.  They sighted the vessels but did not attack as they were in Tunisian territorial waters. 0907-1147 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli area confirmed munitions depot; photos to be forwarded to Middle East.  Tripoli Harbour five destroyers, 15 merchant vessels (one damaged), two fleet auxiliary plus small craft.  Mellaha 30-40 aircraft. 0719-1032 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Catania, Comiso and Gela aerodromes.  Catania approximately 100 aircraft; Gela and Catania no visual contact. 0705-1054 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Syracuse, Augusta, Catania, Messina ports.  Syracuse six seaplanes, four merchant vessels, three cruisers plus two destroyers and one merchantman in the Straits.  Reggio Calabria aerodrome 25-30 dark bombers.   

KALAFRANA 23 long patrols were undertaken by Sunderlands of 228 Squadron on 18 days during the month, mainly to observe enemy naval and merchant shipping movements.

LUQA 69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland reconnaissance Catania, Comiso and Gela; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli area; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Catania, Messina, Augusta and Syracuse. 148 Squadron: 6 Wellingtons bomb Tripoli.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths: officers 28, other ranks 237, RAOC (attached) 2.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  21-31 January reported 9.  Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 50; dealt with 15.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  During the month anti-tank mines have been laid on beaches at St Paul’s bay. Beach wire in the Bay was repaired following storm damage.  The Battalion has been called upon to provide blood donors: the number of volunteers greatly exceeded the number required. 

(1) The Road to Rome, Philo Pullicino, MPI Publishing 2012


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Posted by on January 31, 2021 in 1941, January 1941


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30 January 1941: Germans Plan Airborne Invasion of Malta

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German forces based in Sicily will attempt to take Malta by landing troops from the air, according to the War Office in London. A top secret telegram to the Governor and Commander in Chief today confirmed that reports of such plans coming recently from Rome are believed to be authentic. 

At the same time, the telegram confirms that there is absolutely no evidence as yet of preparations for an invasion operation, and that air forces in Sicily currently constitute the only major German aid to Italy. The same intelligence source reports that the Germans believe significant action is necessary to prevent British and US forces from using Mediterranean and African bases for future operations against the Axis war effort. 


Military chiefs in Malta have been asked by the War Office to test the burning of a petroleum mixture to create a smoke screen as a means of defending the beaches. However, tests have been delayed by a shortage of benzene. 

Meanwhile the Garrison’s commanders remain unconvinced of the value of the method. They believe that naval ground mines and scaffolding are much more suitable for the purpose.  However, a supply of these already ordered from the UK have still not arrived and are new viewed as urgently needed.


Weather  Overcast.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Ian Riach Currie, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 261 Squadron; 2nd Lieutenant Guy Roger Edmund Follett, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment.


AIR HQ Arrivals 6 Hurricanes from Middle East. 1 Sunderland. 0730-0900 hrs  Maryland reconnaissance Pantelleria.  Visual report one merchant vessel in harbour with fleet auxiliary patrolling outside.  No aircraft seen on aerodrome. 0435-1307 hrs  Sunderland anti-convoy patrol east Tunisian coast; only two small French merchant ships.  

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Further mines laid on the beaches at Mellieha Bay, St Pauls Bay, Cala Mistra, Ghain Znuber Tower, Ghain Tuffieha Bay, Armier Bay, Sunshine Bay and to the east end of the Victoria Lines.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland returned from Middle East with passengers.

LUQA 69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland reconnaissance Pantelleria.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  B Company moved into Valletta to defend the town against invasion during the night.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  One Company remains in Senglea in support of civil authorities.


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Posted by on January 30, 2021 in 1941, January 1941


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29 January 1941: Malta Warned of Security Breach

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Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has been warned of possible breaches of the security of telegram communications to and from the Island. The warning came today from the office of cable censors in London.  This is not the first time such an alert has been issued and all those involved in secret communications have been asked to take additional precautions to avoid further breaches.


Military motor cycles 2The Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office expressing an urgent need for 100 additional motor cycles for Malta. Recent petrol shortages have been restricting vital military movements across the Island.  The shortage of motor cycles means that cars are used more than necessary, increasing the consumption of fuel.  Lt Gen Dobbie requested the additional vehicles be despatched to Malta by the first available ship, together with 11 month supply of spares including proprietary items.

According to War Office the current approved allocation of motor cycles for Malta as 190, of which the Island has 172, with another 46 already awaiting shipment to the Island. The Governor has confirmed his application for an increase to the allocation so that 104 more can be delivered as soon as possible.


Weather  Fine and cool.

0855-0942 hrs; 1042-1150 hrs; 1447-1452 hrs; 1643-1647 hrs; 1802-1835 hrs  Air raid alerts for approaching enemy aircraft which patrol round the east and south of the Island. Hurricane fighters are scrambled but there is no engagement and raiders do not approach the coast.  They are presumed to be either reconnaissance by new German squadrons or possibly minelaying.

Military casualties  Private Wiliam T Adams, 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment.


ROYAL NAVY Ursula arrived to join First Submarine Flotilla.

AIR HQ 0725-1300 hrs Sunderland anti-convoy patrol eastern Tunisian coast. 0941 hrs Sighted one cruiser and three medium merchant ships with Cant Z501 escorting.  Air alerts in Malta delayed despatch of the striking force until too late to proceed. 

LUQA  0833-1013 hrs  69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli and Castel Benito. Tripoli 1 destroyer, 3 merchant ships, four Cant and to east of harbour 5 merchant ships; one is seen to strike a mine. Castel Benito 29 dispersed aircraft.  Whole aerodrome not photographed but recce shows 8 SM 79s, 9 JU 88s, four unidentified fighters.  Two fighters up failed to intercept Maryland.  Signs of building fortifications round Tripoli 18 miles radius.  Trapani aerodrome six large light camouflaged aircraft and two unidentified fighters.  1 Maryland reconnaissance Trapani and Palermo.


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Posted by on January 29, 2021 in 1941, January 1941


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28 January 1941: Germans Pledge More Air Assistance to Italy

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Fliegerkorps 10 to increase in strength

Fliegerkorps 10 to increase in strength

Reliable intelligence sources have reported that German chiefs of staff have pledged to increase air assistance to Sicily. The pledge was made during a conference of German and Italian General Staffs which is said to have taken place between 13 and 16 January.  Intelligence operatives in Ankara have also reported the presence of three German air generals and two Admirals at the Italian Air Ministry, and two German generals and several senior staff officers at the Italian War Office.

On 10 January, Fliegerkorps 10, already in Sicily, were reported to have 255 aircraft (of which 179 were serviceable), including 209 dive and medium bombers and to have requested another four dive-bomber groups. The main objective of the additional German air support is said to be a sustained attack on British and Greek air and naval bases in the Mediterranean, which include Malta.

Although doubts have been raised about recent reports of massed German ground forces in Italy other than Ack Ack artillery, taken together the latest reports are believed to indicate closer Axis co-operation. An American newspaper man in Rome thought there were heavy tanks in western Sicily and that some kind of embarkation preparations were being made, but could name no port.


Weather  Overcast.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Sergeant Douglas Hunter Cameron, Royal Air Force; Sergeant Arthur Henry May, Royal Air Force; Sergeant Air Gunner Thomas Reay, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Sergeant Wilfred Warren, Royal Air Force.


AIR HQ  Two Swordfish on anti-submarine patrol.  

LUQA 0847-1108 hrs 69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli, Mellaha and Castel Benito.  As the Maryland returned two enemy fighters from Mellaha attempted to intercept; no damage.


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Posted by on January 28, 2021 in 1941, January 1941


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27 January 1941: Malta Needs More Ammunition Now

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Royal Malta Artillery

13000 shells used against Illustrious blitz (NWMA Malta)


Malta will need immediate and regular ammunition supplies if the current rate of air raids continues.   Lt Gen Dobbie has written to the War Office with an account of anti-aircraft ammunition used during the recent heavy attacks. 

In just three days in the defence of Illustrious against enemy bombers – 16, 18 and 19 January – almost 13000 shells were used, compared to 3300 across the other 17 days to 20 January. Over 8000 shells were fired against the Luftwaffe on 19 January alone, when the Harbour barrage was at its strongest.

In the light of this, the Governor and Commander in Chief pointed out to the War Office the need for regular supplies of ammunition to Malta, increased in proportion to the heightened usage, so that the Island does not risk a critical lack of ammunition should the intensity of attacks continue.

Responding to Lt Dobbie’s signal, the War Office has asked him to place appropriate orders with the Middle East, as soon as stocks of any category of ammunition fall below 90 per cent of what is needed. Replacement stocks are already being prepared for shipment to Malta to replace the recent heavy usage.


At the same time, the War Office is prepared to review Malta’s anti-aircraft defences in the light of the recent heavy scale of attacks, especially dive-bombing. Although the existing estimate of 112 Heavy Ack Ack and 60 Light Ack Ack guns, once fulfilled, is seen as adequate, more Light guns could be considered for around the aerodromes.  Lt Gen Dobbie has responded by asking for a further 12 for the purpose, preferably mobile, plus another 20 to hold in reserve. 


Six Swordfish from Malta attacked an enemy convoy in the Mediterranean today. A convoy had been spotted by reconnaissance aircraft steering south and in a prime location for attack.  The Swordfish, escorted by two Fulmars, were despatched at 1350 hrs to the given co-ordinates.  One merchant vessel was sunk, the second was missed by torpedoes and the armed merchant cruiser acting as escort was near-missed by bombs.

Tonight three Wellingtons from Malta attacked Capodichino at Naples tonight and secured direct hits on buildings. Two others bombed the Central Station, with its junction and goods yards.  The attacks follow successful raids earlier this week on aerodromes at Catania and Comino in Sicily.


Weather  Windy.

2025-2115 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft reported approaching Malta. It appears to retreat then comes back in at low altitude before turning away over Grand Harbour and dropping three bombs in the sea three miles off.  It is thought that the raiders are unable to distinguish the Island, as no searchlights are exposed – the only lights being flare paths lit for returning Wellington bombers.  The Royal Artillery report a man signaling with a red lamp.

0614-0630 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft reported nine miles south of Delimara, approaching the Island. It appears to retreat, then minutes later without warning a JU 88 bomber returns to attack Luqa aerodrome from 6000 feet. Two bombs hits a barrack block, killing four RAF sergeants and wounding eight, plus one Leading Aircraftsman.  The aerodrome’s anti-aircraft guns open fire and claim a hit on the raider.

Military casualties  Private Philip John Thomas, 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment.


AIR HQ  F/Lt G Burgess DFC posted from HQ Mediterranean to 69 Squadron for flying duties. 0500-1527 hrs Sunderland on anti-convoy patrol eastern Tunisian coast with striking force standing by.  0700 hrs reported small merchant vessel. 1025 hrs reported two merchant vessels with one escort vessel.  7 Swordfish and 2 Fulmars detailed to attack, sinking one 5000 ton merchant vessel.  A second 8000 ton merchant vessel was hit but the escort ship escaped damage.  All aircraft returned safely. 

LUQA 148 Squadron: 9 Wellingtons bombing raids on Naples, Catania and Comiso.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Four officers and 50 other ranks left for Fort Ricasoli to undergo three weeks’ Bofors training.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  E Company occupied Hal Far static defence posts around the aerodrome.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Private J P Thomas C Company is killed by accidentally setting off an anti-tank mine in a coastal minefield.


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Posted by on January 27, 2021 in 1941, January 1941


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26 January 1941: Dockyard Defenders to Get Bravery Awards

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Military Cross

Lieutenant Francis William Angle, Royal Malta Artillery: Military Cross

“This officer of the Dockyard Defence Battery was in charge of a MkVI A multiple pom-pom gun which was situated in a most exposed position about 200 years from the berth where HMS Illustrious was when subjected to intense dive-bombing.  He stationed himself on the director tower, and by his excellent example and coolness in the face of heavy bombing, encouraged his men to fire the gun with telling effect on the enemy.”

Sergeant Leone Apap, Royal Malta Artillery: Military Medal

“In the temporary absence of his officer on duty elsewhere, as a member of the Dockyard Defence Battery, he displayed remarkable qualities of leadership, initiative and courage. During the intense dive-bombing attacks on HMS Illustrious, on 19th January 1941, his MkVI A pom-pom developed a series of faults which eventually put the gun out of action.  Instead of applying routine procedures, which would have kept the gun out of action for some considerable time, he sent his detachment, except for three, to a safer place, while he, with the assistance of the three, set about clearing the faults.  This he was successful in doing in a short time, whereupon he reassembled his men, and once again went into action with considerable effect.  This NCO has consistently displayed a devotion to duty, which deserves commendation.”

Military Medal

Military Medal

Bombardier Gerald Balzan, Royal Malta Artillery: Military Medal

During the intense attacks on HMS Illustrious, many large calibre bombs fell within a few yards of the gun position, enveloping it in dust and smoke.  Showers of debris fell all around, and the NCO in charge of the gun became a casualty, together with two other men…Balzan, however, showed considerable courage and initiative, rallying the remaining three men…By his action, Bdr Balzan kept the gun in action until the end of the raid, when he attended to the three casualties.” (1)


Weather  Fine; partially cloudy.

1528-1535 hrs Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which crosses the Island at 10000 feet on reconnaissance. Anti-aircraft guns open fire.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled and attack the JU 88, chasing it back to the coast of Sicily.  The aircraft is last seen with smoke coming from its port engine. 

Civilian casualties  Valletta  Mary Healey, age 66.

Enemy casualties  Leutnant Helmut Fund, pilot of reconnaissance JU 88.


AIR HQ 0540-1330 hrs Sunderland on anti-convoy patrol eastern Tunisian coast with striking force standing by. 0708 hrs sighted one tug and seven barges 72 miles south west of Lampedusa.  The striking force was not despatched owing to existing instructions governing action of aircraft against shipping at sea.  A Cant Z501 seen near the barges dropped bombs in the sea and left when the Sunderland turned towards it.  

LUQA 1330 hrs  69 Squadron (431 Flight):  1 Maryland reconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes hampered by bad weather.

(1) Times of Malta, 4 August 2013


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Posted by on January 26, 2021 in 1941, January 1941


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25 January 1941: Italian Aircraft Lands off Comino

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Cant Z501

Cant Z501


Coastal defenders were taken by surprise early this evening when an Italian flying boat landed off Comino. The aircraft was first spotted by Malta’s early warning systems some thirty miles off.  Having circled at some distance for around 45 minutes, it approached and flew over the north coast of Malta showing navigation lights, leading coastal units to believe it was friendly.  Thinking this could be a free French flying boat, the order was given for beach lights at St Paul’s Bay to be illuminated to enable it to alight offshore.  The aircraft duly came down safely just off the coast of Comino. 

However, the pinnace from St Paul’s bay is sent out to the flying boat, which is identified it as an Italian Cant Z501. The seaplane’s four-man crew are placed under guard and taken back to shore.  When interrogated, the Italian pilot explained that they were lost and running low on fuel.  They had signalled to what they thought was their base, asking for searchlights to aid their return.  It was by chance that Malta’s searchlights were exposed at the critical moment, prompting the Cant to land.  The flying boat’s crew are members of 106 Squadron, 93 Group at Augusta in Sicily. 

It was later reported that a heavy swell had broken the float of the seaplane; it turned over and sank.


From: War Office                     To: Governor & C in C

We regret the artillery equipment you demanded [12 December] is not available. You should apply direct to the Middle East, copy to the War Office, asking whether any captured Italian guns can be released to meet your requirement.


The aircraft carrier Illustrious arrived at Alexandria at 1300 hrs today, less than two days after leaving Grand Harbour.  However, she docked with only 60 tons of fuel remaining. The carrier made remarkable speed, given that she is barely seaworthy, making a good average 23 knots for the journey. Such was her rate of progress that a cruiser force – detailed to provide cover but attacked en route off Benghazi – was unable to find her.  Four destroyers accompanied Illustrious out of Malta and six more, along with two battleships and a cruiser, protected her for the final stretch into Alexandria. 


The news was welcomed by the War Cabinet, which also received a report from the Royal Navy that Air operations from Malta began today against enemy convoys between Sicily and Tunis. Reconnaissance is being carried out by Sunderland aircraft, with 830 Fleet Air Arm Squadron standing by as a striking force.


Weather  Fine.

1105-1113 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber reported crossing the Island at considerable height, evidently on reconnaissance. One seaplane takes off from Marsaxlokk bay during the alert.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled but do not intercept.

1822-1912 hrs  Air raid alert for one unidentified aircraft spotted 30 miles off Malta which flies over the Island showing navigation lights.

2020 hrs  An enemy seaplane is found having landed in Comino Channel.  The pinnace from St Paul’s Bay identifies it as a Cant Z501 and rescues the crew; four Italians are taken prisoner. 

Enemy casualties Tenente Aldo Bellenzier, pilot; Francesco Bellomia, crewman; Primo Aviere Luigi Castelanni, crewman; Sotto Tenente Francesco de Losa, all of Cant Z 501 floatplane, taken prisoner.


AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland. 0540-1154 hrs Sunderland anti-convoy patrol western Tunisian coast with striking force standing by. 0605-1105 hrs  Maryland despatched to take photographs required by Air Ministry; bad weather prevented. 1010 hrs  Sighted heavily laden 5000 ton merchant vessel escorted by fleet; naval authorities informed. 

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Middle East from St Paul’s Bay with passengers.

LUQA  69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland special reconnaissance mission unsuccessful due to bad weather.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  C Company moved into Valletta to guard entrances to the City overnight.


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Posted by on January 25, 2021 in 1941, January 1941


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24 January 1941: Massive Unexploded Bomb in Ruins of Three Cities

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Demolition squads and military forces are facing an additional threat as they work to repair the damage from last week’s raids: unexploded bombs. Over 30 have been reported in the past week, 14 of which have been for high explosives from 250kg to 1000kg. Three have been uncovered by men working to clear the rubble of damaged buildings in the Three Cities.

RE Bomb Disposal, January 1941

RE Bomb Disposal, January 1941

On Sunday a foreman called his working party to an immediate halt and ordered them to withdraw after traces of an unexploded bomb were spotted among the debris beneath a large building. He reported the bomb to the local ARP warden who put in an urgent call to Royal Engineers HQ.  Bomb Disposal Officer Lt Edward E Talbot, with L/Sgt Reginald Parker and his squad of Sappers had to clamber over piles of rubble to reach the scene. They were faced with a building steadily crumbling into ruins.  As L/Sgt Parker recalled later:

“It had been several storeys high and was originally attached to similar buildings on either side. The adjacent buildings were now also in a very shaky state.  It was obvious that we either had something very large in the form of a bomb, or that something large had crashed into it…In this early stage we were hampered by herds of wild cats.  These were the poor animals left behind by the inhabitants.  They were herded together in fear and were starving.  They stubbornly barred our way and were very vicious and in the end we had to shoot some of them. “

With no mechanical equipment available to them in this location, the Sappers faced a mammoth task working with only picks and shovels to remove the remains of the collapsed upper floors of the building layer by layer in their search for the bomb. It was painstaking work: any sudden movement could collapse the building – and could detonate the UXB.

Cospicua nun wdc2151It was several days before they found any trace of the bomb, and several more before they had removed enough debris to expose the bomb itself. L/Sgt Parker was concerned; this was nothing like any bomb he had worked on before: “We found it to be the largest we had seen to date, and of such shape that we had not before encountered. As the bomb lay we could not see any fuzes…”  

Lt Talbot returned to examine the bomb, declaring it was an armour-piercing type designed to penetrate the armoured decks of capital ships. But in order to make it safe he needed to get at the fuze.  Carefully, the Sappers rolled the bomb over, conscious all the while that any disturbance could cause it to explode.  At last the fuze was exposed and, thankfully, it was not fitted with a clock which could be set to detonate at any time.  However, it was so damaged that removal proved impossible. 

Lt Talbot and his men were left with two options: to explode the bomb where it lay, or to remove it with its fuze in place. He rejected an explosion – a bomb of this size would cause devastation over a massive area in this already crippled City. Nevertheless to move the bomb still fuzed would be dangerous, apart from getting it out of the tricky location of cellars, crumbling funnel shaped excavation and the street of steps to get it away. There was the problem of moving it out of the densely built up area of the Three Cities.  But also this was a new type of bomb; if possible Lt Talbot should examine it thoroughly and report full details to the War Office in London.

L/Sgt Parker received his orders: “We were told [we had] to recover it fuzed or not. But take every precaution possible.  To get this unusual shape (slim egg shaped with pointed nose…) weighing…(over a ton) out of the cellars, up the crumbling funnel shape, and out on to the street of steps, still with the fuze in it was a worrying problem.  By means of blocks and tackles, the rigging of steel girders across the excavation to adjacent shaky buildings, and using brute force where all else failed, we managed at last to get the ‘beast’ on to the street of steps…” (1)


Weather  Fair.

1045-1110 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft approaching from the north in two formations. Six Hurricanes, two Fulmars and one Gladiator are scrambled; no interception.  At ten miles off Grand Harbour the raiders retreat without crossing the coast.

Enemy casualties  Obergefreiter Eugen Lehmann, crewman; Unteroffizier Karl-Heinz Pollzien, crewman; Gefreiter Heinrich Steffen, crewman; Unteroffizier Gustav Ullrich, pilot; 4/LG 1 all of JU 88 bomber.


AIR HQ 0510-1320 hrs Sunderland despatched to cover track of Illustrious proceeding to Alexandria.  Did not sight Illustrious which is presumed to have made greater speed than anticipated but visibility poor with surface haze.  1 Cant Z506 seen on return journey but not engaged. 0550-1545 hrs Sunderland patrolled western Ionian Sea for enemy shipping.  0920-1317 hrs  Maryland photoreconnaissance Gela, Sciacca, Castel Vetrano and Syracuse.  Castel Vetrano 3 SM 79s, 8 dark twin-engined aircraft.  Gela 4 unidentified single-engined aircraft.  Other sites not seen. 0105-1348 hrs Swordfish patrolled eastern Tunisian coast for enemy shipping.      

LUQA 69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland photo reconnaissance Gela, Sciacca, Castel-Vetrano, Syracuse aerodromes.  Photos unsuccessful due to freezing temperatures.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  An 18 pounder gun manned by personnel of HQ Company was mounted on hill feature 443.  

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  0945 hrs Bren guns C Company return to Marsa from anti-aircraft positions at Luqa. One platoon posted to Senglea for guard duty. 

(1) For this achievement L/Sgt Parker was awarded the George Medal; Lt E E Talbot was specially commended, as were Sprs James Lee Leonard, Lawrence Miller and Daniel McCarthy.

(2) UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012


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Posted by on January 24, 2021 in 1941, January 1941


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23 January 1941: HMS Illustrious Leaves Malta

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War Diary, General Staff Malta, 23 January 1941

HMS Illustrious (c) IWM A20659

HMS Illustrious (c) IWM A20659

HMS Illustrious left Malta at 1846 hrs this evening, escorted by destroyers Greyhound, Janus, Jervis and Juno which have been deployed from Souda Bay for the task. The ships steered immediately south, to move as quickly as possible away from Luftwaffe air bases in Sicily as concerns remain about the potential speed of Illustrious.

Dockyard workers have worked round the clock and through atrocious weather since Friday 10 January to complete sufficient repairs to render the carrier seaworthy, pausing only while the ship was under direct enemy attack. Although Illustrious was never hit during the raids on Grand Harbour, progress on repairs was set back several times when near-misses caused further damage and flooding under the waterline. 

Admiral Cunningham, Commander in Chief Mediterranean Fleet, has especially praised the Malta’s dockyard workers and the anti-aircraft barrage for their contribution to the survival of the vital aircraft carrier. Naval and military chiefs have monitored the repair work closely, anxious that Illustrious should leave Malta as soon as possible.  Fingers were firmly crossed that there would be no air raid today, to undo all that had been achieved. 

Passing the Dockyard late this afternoon, Rev Reginald Nicholls looked down at the carrier: “Illustrious was obviously raising steam. On and off after that I was praying for darkness to fall before any reconnaissance plane came over. Later, I noticed that the two destroyers in Sliema Harbour had cast off their cables from the buoy, and were held only by a wire. It has been dark now for two hours and I pray that the ships have got out.” (1)

Illustrious is believed to be heading for Alexandria where she will receive further attention before embarking for the United States for major repairs.


Naval and Air Chiefs today reported to the War Cabinet in London on the effectiveness of air raids on Sicily by Malta-based Wellington bombers. According to their report, successful bombing of Catania aerodrome a week ago has been followed by three further determined attacks on the nights of 15-16, 20-21 and 22-23 January, when nearly 35 tons of bombs were dropped.  Two hangars were hit and set alight, and a fire which was caused in the Administrative building was visible many miles distant.  Bombs fell among aircraft on the ground and a number of these burst into flames.  Single aircraft also attacked aerodromes at Comiso and Augusta, and targets at Syracuse.


Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Gunner Edward William Jones, 10 Battery, 7 HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.


ROYAL NAVY  Illustrious repairs completed sufficiently to make her seaworthy, thanks to a lack of air raids since 19 January. She sailed to the eastward escorted by Jervis, Juno, Janus and Greyhound.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 3 (1 x 1000kg – weight uncertain; 1 x 750kg).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  No 1 Works Company commenced work on an Ack Ack position at Ta Karach. Naxxar crusher and quarry was taken over by No 1 Works Company.

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


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Posted by on January 23, 2021 in 1941, January 1941


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22 January 1941: Malta Braced for Seaborne Invasion

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German troops and equipment are massing in Sicily, possibly in preparation for an assault on Malta, according to rumours circulating in Rome. The information was passed to the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief in response to his enquiry about any enemy troop movements in Sicily or en route, which might suggest an imminent seaborne attack on the Island. Malta Garrison was placed on full war routine at dawn today with the issue of the command code ‘Asia’ to all units.

German paratroopers are already in Sicily

From: Chief of General Staff, War Office                       To: Governor & C in C

We have had many reports of the presence of German troops in Sicily, including parachutists. But the volume of these reports is greater than their reliability which we cannot check and we have received no identification of German formations.  As you know air reconnaissance on 14 January showed no unusual quantity of shipping in Sicilian ports but the possibility of an operation starting from the Italian mainland cannot be excluded, though reports of German troops in Italy are unconfirmed.  At present therefore we have no grounds for believing attack on Malta immediate though possibility exists.  Would be glad to know how you feel as regards garrison to meet attack.

Following most secret report probably comes from MA Ankara dated 20 Jan addressed C in C Middle East: Reports circulating in Rome state that there are 30,000 (repeat 30,000) German troops in Sicily.  These include parachutists and two armoured or motorised divisions with a maximum of 1000 (repeat 1000) tanks and 350 aircraft.  These forces are reported to be destined for landing operations in Malta or in the rear of the British Army in Libya.  We have nothing to confirm or refute this information.

From: Governor & C in C                       To: Chief of General Staff, War Office

I cannot help thinking that reports are being circulated as bluff. Having consulted the naval authorities here who are satisfied that a suggested landing behind our lines in Libya is out of the question for a force of the nature indicated.  As for its being intended for an attack on Malta, I would point out that armoured or motorised divisions are not suited for such an operation…

Although I would naturally like the full garrison ie three more battalions, yet I am confident that in the existing situation the present garrison should suffice to do the trick. It is big enough to ensure that any attempt contemplated must be a really big one and so may be a deterrent.  What would help us more than anything is the immediate and substantial increase in the number of fighter aircraft with the necessary maintenance personnel – also some additional reconnaissance aircraft of which we are very short at the moment.  We want to avoid surprise and also to resist the heavy air attack which will undoubtedly precede and accompany any other attack.  We would also really like some more gunner personnel of which we are very short of establishment.


Meanwhile, Malta troops remain on high alert with anti-aircraft defence their primary task; extra guns have been issued for the purpose. Anti-parachute look-out posts are also manned from one hour before dawn and throughout moonlit nights.  Additional anti-tank mines have been issued in readiness pending further orders. 


Weather  Fine.

2109-2215 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft heading for the Island. One Wellington approaches from the south west, gives the correct recognition signal for friendly aircraft, then heads towards Hal Far showing navigation lights.  An unidentified aircraft approaches from the north west.  The Wellington turns off its navigation lights and circles before retreating due south as the enemy approaches.  An enemy aircraft crosses the coast and drops two bombs on land at Zabbar, in the Luqa area and in the sea at St Thomas’ Bay before retreating.  After the all-clear the Wellington lands safely at Luqa.


ROYAL NAVY  Jervis, Juno, Janus and Greyhound arrived to act as escort for Illustrious.

AIR HQ 0540-1030 hrs Swordfish on anti-ship patrol between Malta and the Tunisian coast. 1103-1250 hrs Spitfire on photoreconnaissance of Tripoli Harbour and Castel Benito; photographs show at Castel Benito 14 SM 79s, 1 S 62 and 4 BR20s and at Tripoli merchant ships, destroyers and flying boas. 

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Work began laying anti-tank mines and wires.

LUQA 148 Squadron bombing attack on Catania and Comiso.

TA QALI  No 157 Eucharistic Congress Street, Mosta, taken over as sleeping accommodation for officers as overflow from Torri Combo which is now too small.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  A working party is sent to assist with demolition of dangerous buildings in Senglea.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Demonstration of anti-tank obstacles prepared by 24 Fortress Company at Lintorn Barracks. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (1 x 500kg).


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Posted by on January 22, 2021 in 1941, January 1941


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