25 January 1941: Italian Aircraft Lands off Comino

25 Jan

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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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