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Monthly Archives: March 2021

31 March 1941: Threat of Invasion by Paratroops now High

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URGENT REVIEW OF ANTI-INVASION MEASURES

parachute troops 2Anti-parachutist measures in Malta need a complete and immediate overhaul, according to the Island’s General Officer Commanding (GOC) military forces. The GOC was responding to the latest military intelligence which states that there is an airborne division in Sicily ready to be deployed against Malta. The new information follows several reports in the past three months of enemy parachutists in Sicily.  Sources now confirm that there are at least 3850 parachutists in Catania and seven companies of paratroops in Palermo.

At an urgent conference yesterday of all three services, the GOC made it clear that anti-invasion measures must be stepped up with immediate effect. Following the conference orders were issued to all troop commanders to put in place the enhanced precautions against invading troops, such as blocking key roads and closing access to strategic areas.

ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY TO BE RE-ORGANISED

The Governor and Commander in Chief has decided that the organisation of 30 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery is unsuitable on its present factory basis, in the light of continuous enemy activity day and night. Manpower is not engaged permanently in Ack Ack defences; officers especially are available part-time only and the situation is proving difficult to administer. 

Lt Dobbie has recommended to the War Office that the present Battery should become a local Territorial unit manning 12 guns. Recruiting would be from the Dockyard and it is expected that the majority of present personnel will transfer to the new unit.  The Battery is also manning two multiple pom-pom guns on loan from the Navy and will need addition of personnel to man these: two Lance-Sergeants, four Bombardiers, four Lance-Bombardiers and 38 Gunners.  It is hoped that in making these changes the Battery can retain its esprit de corps and efficiency, which is very good within its present limitations.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 MARCH TO DAWN 1 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.

0500-0900 hrs Several enemy reconnaissance flights are carried out to either side of Malta. No attacks or engagements.

1137-1143 hrs Air raid alert for a small enemy formation carrying out reconnaissance around the Island without crossing the coast. Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 31 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Rorqual sank an Italian U-boat in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

KALAFRANA Only three operational patrols were carried out by Sunderland aircraft of 228 Squadron during the month.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  CO visited the detachment in Gozo. The troops are very split up and on bare and empty ground.  They have little to do and are not in the best of spirits.  Games and books will be sent out.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths 34 Officers, 225 other ranks, 2 RAOC (attached).

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 2 (1 x 3.7” Ack Ack; 1 x 50kg). Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 111; dealt with 60.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Total 99 conscript recruits and 16 volunteers joined the Battalion in March. Strengths: officers 28, British PSI 4, other ranks 612.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Total 90 conscript recruits and 12 volunteers joined the Battalion during March. Strengths: officers 25, other ranks 676. 2100 hrs Company commanders conference at Camerata re possible attack.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Parachute posts manned during ‘stand to’ periods. During the month, anti-tank screens were erected and tallymen supplied to assist with the unloading of a convoy. 

 

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

 

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30 March 1941: Malta Troops Think Postal Service is Fraud

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SERVICEMEN FEEL CHEATED AS MAIL ARRIVES MONTHS LATE

Air mail card 1 cropService personnel are becoming increasingly frustrated with the poor mail service between the United Kingdom and Malta. Many letters dated between 28 December 1940 and 18 January 1941 were among the mail delivered via the recent convoy.  However, among them were a large number carrying air mail stamps dated 1 March, for which the senders have paid a premium so that they would be carried quickly to Malta.

As there has been no air mail service to the Island for the last twelve months, this measure is regarded by troops as a simple fraud on the part of the General Post Office (GPO). As troops’ relatives often struggle to afford these additional costs, much unrest has been caused among service personnel. 

The Governor and Commander in Chief wrote urgently to the War Office today, urging them to clear up the muddle and simplify the despatch of private letters to Malta. In response, the War Office pointed out that the suspension of the air mail service to Malta was publicly announced in the press by the GPO on 11 June 1940 and that enquiries at any Post Office should have confirmed this. However, if any letters were marked with the [air mail] stamp on 1 March, it points out that they could only be sent by the normal route via the Middle East, hence the delay in arrival at Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 MARCH TO DAWN 31 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0610-0640 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island and drop bombs near Imgarr and on the Hal Far and Birzebbuga areas.

1000-1010 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft on reconnaissance at 24000 feet. Four Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1645-1725 hrs Air raid alert. A formation of 20 ME 109 and CR 42 fighters patrols five miles off Grand Harbour at 16000 feet to draw Malta Hurricanes while four JU 88 bombers, escorted by another four ME 109s come over the Island at 17000 feet and bomb Ta Qali aerodrome.  Most bombs miss the target; only two fall on the aerodrome, including one at the east end which fails to explode.  One Hurricane on the ground is slightly damaged.  Twelve Hurricanes are airborne but the raiders evade contact. 

Military casualties  Stoker 1st Class, Carmelo Fenech, Royal Navy, HMS St.Angelo; Gunner Frank Raffety, 7 HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 30 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Rorqual sank Italian tanker Laura Corrado in Tyrrhenian Sea. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Engineer works by 24 Fortress Company were stopped to give priority to Grand Harbour Defences. A parachute Mine on the Military Police Barracks, Valletta, caused widespread damage. Royal Engineers again employed on clearance and demolition of unsafe structures.

 

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

 

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29 March 1941: Secret Ops Battalion Deployed to Gozo

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A Glenn Martin Maryland was lost today

A Glenn Martin Maryland is lost today

COVERT OPERATIONS TROOPS SENT TO GOZO FOR ‘PICNIC’

The Independent Company, Special Service Battalion* has been sent to Gozo as part of operation ‘Picnic’.  The codename refers to the military detachment posted to defend Malta’s sister Island, thought to be the destination for an imminent Axis invasion.  The Battalion is specially trained in covert sea to land operations.  They arrived in Malta in January to take part in February’s Operation Colossus, the attempt to destroy a viaduct near Naples.  The Specials’ role was to help transfer the paratroops to a submarine for transport back to Malta. The Company is normally based at HMS Talbot, the submarine base on Manoel Island.

RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT LOST ON MISSION OVER CAPE MATAPAN

A Glenn Martin Maryland reconnaissance aircraft of 69 Squadron has been reported lost today. The pilot, Flying Officer Frederick R Ainley, was sent out to survey Cape Matapan following yesterday’s sea battle in the area. Information from Greece has confirmed that the Maryland crashed into the sea off the island of Zante, killing the pilot.  One crew member  was seriously injured and the other slightly hurt.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 MARCH TO DAWN 30 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

2025-2028 hrs, 2115-2217 hrs, 0037-0352 hrs, 0315-0330 hrs A series of air raid alerts sounds during the night for eight aircraft which come in singly at long intervals. They drop bombs on various localities, including Tarxien, between Rocco and Pietru, on open country near Mgarr and an anti-aircraft position at Tigne causing slight damage and no casualties.  Tactics employed in the last two raids resemble the ‘tip and run’ tactics of Italian air forces.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Frederick R Ainley, pilot, 69 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

Civilian casualties Rabat  Anthony Grech, age 51.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 29 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ 69 Squadron 0900 hrs  Maryland despatched on reconnaissance for enemy shipping east of Malta at the request of the Commander in Chief did not return. A communication is received from BAF Greece that the Maryland force-landed at Zante; the pilot F/O Ainley was killed, one crew member seriously injured and the other slightly hurt. 1230-1507 hrs Maryland reconnaissance between Malta and Tunisian coast for enemy shipping. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 4 (1 flare; 1 x 4.5” Ack Ack; 2 x 50kg). A number of unexploded bombs reported as large bombs inspected this week were found to be small bombs.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  GOC Malta inspected Battalion conscripts at St Elmo during training.

*forerunner of the Special Boat Service

 

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

 

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28 March 1941: Italian Ships to Attack Malta at Dawn

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MALTA ON FULL ALERT

Troops across Malta were placed on high alert tonight as the Island expects an attack from Italian naval forces at dawn tomorrow. The report was based on intelligence information received at Malta high command that the Italians are to bombard the Island as a reprisal for attacks on the Italian city of Genoa.  Enemy fighters have been patrolling the seas around the Island all day without crossing the coast.  Four Italian cruisers have been spotted by reconnaissance aircraft in the vicinity of Malta.  The alert was followed by a series of bombing raids across the Island.

Valiant fires her guns in the battle of Cape Matapan today

Valiant fires her guns in the battle of Cape Matapan today

MEDITERRANEAN FLEET BATTLE AT CAPE MATAPAN TO PROTECT MALTA CONVOYS

While Malta is under threat of naval bombardment, the Mediterranean Fleet is engaged in a sea battle of the southern coast of Greece. The Fleet sailed yesterday into position off Cape Matapan to intercept an Italian battlefleet of one battleship, six heavy and two light cruisers plus several destroyers which were believed to be on a mission to intercept convoys through the Mediterranean to key Allied positions including Malta.

Vice-Adm Pridham-Wippell, commanding cruisers Ajax, Gloucester, Orion and the Australian Perth and destroyers engaged an Italian cruiser squadron this morning.  Admiral Cunningham who embarked from Alexandria with carrier Formidable and battleships Warspite, Barham and Valiant joined the battle and by noon the Italians had also been reinforced by the battleship Vittorio Veneto. Lieutenant-Commander John Dalyell-Stead of 829 Squadron Fleet Air Arm pilot took off from Formidable in his Swordfish and launched a brave attack on Vittorio Veneto and damaged the ship but was shot down in the return fire and perished. RAF aircraft joined the battle through the afternoon. By evening the Italian heavy cruiser Pola had been damaged, two more heavy cruisers and two destroyers sent to help her were also crippled by Royal Navy guns and finished off by the Australian Stuart. Pola was later abandoned and sunk by Navy destroyers.  The Mediterranean Fleet suffered no losses. 

PILOT’S LUCKY ESCAPE

A Hurricane fighter pilot was lucky to survive when his aircraft was attacked over Malta this afternoon. Sergeant Reginald Goode of 261 Squadron was one of four pilots ordered up just after 5 pm to deal with enemy aircraft which were carrying out harassing patrols around the Island’s coast.  The Hurricanes engaged a Messerschmitt 109 and a dogfight ensured.  Goode’s aircraft was hit from behind by a burst of machine-gun fire and he was hit in the back and neck by shrapnel.  He fought to regain control of the damaged plane and managed to land at Ghain Tuffieha but the Hurricane’s tail section broke off on impact.  Sergeant Goode was taken to hospital with serious injuries.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 MARCH TO DAWN 29 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0700 hrs  Continual patrols round the Island by enemy aircraft as yesterday; Hurricanes airborne when necessary. One Hurricane force-landed due to engine failure; the aircraft is written off but the pilot uninjured. 

1333-1345 hrs  Air raid alert for two ME 109 fighters which approach the Island and cross the coast. They are engaged by anti-aircraft guns and turn away without launching any attack.

1718 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft patrolling close to the coast. Four Hurricanes on defensive patrol have a short combat with a ME 109. 

1726 hrs  One Hurricane has to make a forced landing near Ghain Tuffieha military camp; the pilot is seriously injured.

1750 hrs  All clear.

1820-1829 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

2300 hrs  A warning is sent out by General Staff to all military units that four Italian cruisers have been seen close to Malta. Bombardment from the sea is to be expected at dawn.

0100-0148 hrs  Air raid alert for 18 enemy aircraft which fly over the Island from the north and use flares to light targets before dropping bombs in various locations, including Rabat, Imtarfa, Dingli, Hal Far, Kalafrana and Delimara. Reports indicate that some are delayed-action bombs.  Bombs in Rabat exploded in Hal Bajjada Street, College Street and the Nigret district, causing damage to buildings and killing and injuring people.  One civilian is killed and eight are wounded; several houses are demolished.  There is no moon, it is very dark and no Malta fighters are scrambled.  Anti-aircraft guns engage unseen targets with predicted barrage; no claims. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 28 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  HMS Utmost carried out a night attack on a convoy believed carrying German troops and stores; two transport ships believed sunk.

AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance between Malta and Tunisian coast for enemy shipping.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Greece with Mr Anthony Eden and other passengers.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (50kg).

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  9 conscript recruits joined the Battalion.

 

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

 

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27 March 1941: Malta on Almost Constant Alert

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ME 109s an almost constant presence today

ME 109s an almost constant presence today

SEVEN ALERTS AS FIGHTERS PROWL MALTA COAST

From dawn until 1615 hrs the enemy kept a standing fighter screen of two and sometimes three formations of three to six aircraft mostly 10-20 miles east of Malta but at times covering the northern and southern approaches. The enemy’s intention is thought to be to intercept reconnaissance aircraft embarking on missions from Malta. 

When the enemy fighters approached too close to the Island, Hurricanes were scrambled to intercept them. One of them was attacked by two ME 109s which dived out of the sunlight to attack but without result.  The patrols succeeded in delaying the take-off of Glenn Martin Marylands of 69 Squadron on reconnaissance missions.  The Marylands took alternative routes to carry out their missions.  The resulting delays prevented one from completing reconnaissance of Messina in daylight.

CIGS AND SIR ANTHONY EDEN TOUR ISLAND

Chief of Imperial General Staff Sir John Dill toured military units today as part of his continued stay in Malta. He made an extensive tour of all sectors, gaining first-hand knowledge of the challenge’s facing the Island’s defenders.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 MARCH TO DAWN 28 MARCH 1941

Weather  Stormy.

0721-0755 hrs Air raid alert for two ME 109 fighters which approach the Island and cross the coast. They are engaged by anti-aircraft guns and turn away without launching any attack.

0840-0846 hrs, 0924-0937 hrs, 0953-1010 hrs, 1423-1435 hrs, 1456-1525 hrs  Air raid alerts for Messerschmitt fighters approaching the coast. Hurricane aircraft are scrambled and intercept; there is no attack over land.

1813-1818 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of two Glenn Martin Marylands from reconnaissance missions.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 27 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland patrolled area between Malta and Tunisian coast. Maryland photoreconnaissance Naples: 4 destroyers, 3 fleet auxiliaries, 3 merchant vessels plus convoy approaching.  Maryland reconnaissance Messina, forced to take off late due to enemy action, had to be abandoned due to failing light.  Maryland photoreconnaissance Brindisi.  

HAL FAR  830 Squadron Operational flight cancelled owing to bad weather.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENTGeneral Sir John Dill, CIGS, inspected A Company at Falka Gap.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Sir John Dill, CIGS, visited the Victoria Lines and inspected officers and men.

 

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

 

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26 March 1941: Raids on Malta ‘a Continuous Roar’

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Lady Sybil Dobbie

Lady Sybil Dobbie

LADY DOBBIE HEARS WHAT IT’S LIKE TO EXPERIENCE A RAID OVERHEAD

Rev Nicholls describes his time in the shelter during Sunday’s raids – on Malta’s National Day of Prayer:

“At noon and in the afternoon, the attacks came. They were very severe indeed. There were four people with us in our funk-hole. One dockyard man held his fingers in his ears, with his head between his knees; another a temporary NO who has a most dangerous job of detonating unexploded mines was white as a sheet. I stood among them reciting psalms, and as the barrage and the bombing increased in intensity I had to raise my voice louder and louder, until I was actually shouting the words. In the afternoon it was, if anything, rather worse – a continuous roar like the loudest thunder, and the expectation of hearing one drop very close or actually on top of us…

On Monday [24 March], my wife tried to explain to Lady Dobbie what it is like during a big show in Valletta. She admitted that she had never had a bomb near her, nor had sat under a big barrage. On that evening there was a smallish, but thorough, booming raid by about seven machines with – almost certainly – a big pack of fighters lying near. This we watched from the roof of the Palace.

It was a remarkable sight to one who has never seen the like before. There were 20 of our fighters flying over our heads, but they took no part, probably because the presence of a trap was known. The bombers were surrounded by bursting shells, which looked like twinkling diamonds as they burst. The raiders were in a great cloud of smoke and another hung over Valletta. I saw them persist till over their target, but then they broke formation, and one dropped suddenly some distance with smoke from its tail. This one was, later, recorded as brought down. I am glad to have seen one attack from a distance, even if it was not a very spectacular example.” (1)

MALTA ANXIOUSLY AWAITS ROYAL ARTILLERY REINFORCEMENTS

From: Governor & Commander in Chief                          To: War Office

Please confirmed the Royal Artillery reinforcements detailed on 8 February have arrived in Egypt and will be sent on at the first opportunity. They are very urgently required.  We would appreciate if small parties could be sent by air if the opportunity occurs.

COASTAL DEFENCES RENAMED

Malta’s regiments for coastal defence are to be renamed HQ Fixed Defences, Malta. The new title brings the Island’s formation into line with those in other theatres of war.  The organisation includes 1 Coast Regiment Royal Malta Artillery, 4 Coast Regiment Royal Artillery and 17 Defence Regiment Royal Artillery.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 MARCH TO DAWN 27 MARCH 1941

Weather  Pleasantly warm.

0800-0818 hrs Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which carries out reconnaissance over the Island at 24000 feet. Four Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

0915-0929 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches to 20 miles from the coast before returning. Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 26 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ 69 Squadron 1040-1405 hrs  Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli Harbour: hospital ship, 6 destroyers, 2 torpedo boats, 1 fleet auxiliary, 10 merchant vessels, 30 barges, 8 seaplanes.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 5 (1 flare; 3 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg).

(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 March 26, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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25 March 1941: Churchill’s Top War Team In Malta

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Anthony Eden & Sir John Dill

Anthony Eden & General Sir John Dill

ANTHONY EDEN AND GENERAL SIR JOHN DILL ARRIVE FROM ATHENS

Rev Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, meets distinguished guests at San Anton Palace:

On Lady Day, when I reached the Palace about 6 o’clock after my day’s work, I was told that some distinguished guests were expected about midnight. I met them all next day at dinner. Anthony Eden, with his Principal Private Secretary (named Stevenson) and another Secretary called Dickson, also General Sir John Dill the [Chief of Imperial General Staff] and Brigadier Mallaby [Deputy Director of Military Operations, War Office].

They had flown in a Sunderland flying boat from Athens by night, and the weather being rough the boat could not take off again, so perforce they must wait here till the sea became calmer. They were all in good temper though very disappointed at being delayed. After dinner some played billiards, while Lady and Sybil Dobbie and I talked about Malta, etc., to Sir John Dill in front of the fire.

MORE FIELD SECURITY POLICE NEEDED…

From: Governor & Commander in Chief                         To:  War Office

The considerable increase in the strength of the Malta Garrison necessitates the strengthening of the Field Security Police. Owing to the peculiar conditions in Malta, the normal establishment of a Field Security section would not be suitable for our purposes and it is suggested that a modified establishment should be approved.  This would require a further Warrant Officer, four sergeants and three Field Security Policeman be despatched from the UK. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 MARCH TO DAWN 26 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0615-1640 hrs, 0735-0835 hrs  Air raid alerts for enemy aircraft which approach and carry out reconnaissance over the Island.

Military casualties  Private Herbert Gunns, Royal Army Service Corps.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 25 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance between Malta and Tunisian coast for enemy shipping.  228 Squadron was transferred to the Middle East Command today leaving a detachment of 25 men at Kalafrana, including maintenance personnel.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from Middle East with Mr Anthony Eden and other distinguished passengers.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion is splitting up more and more, and once again a large number are leaving our command. Today we have had to provide 5 officers, 4 NCOs and 54 privates to work on unloading the ships of the convoy.  The hours of work are to be 1730 to approximately 2300 hrs.  The duty is liable to last for about 15 days.  We also sent off today 3 NCOs and 18 men to the 71 Mobile Coast Battery for training as anti-aircraft gunners.  On 31 March we are to send 2 officers and 45 other ranks to the anti-aircraft training school at Lija for training on Bofors and in mid-April we are to send a further 1 officer and 42 other ranks for Ack Ack training.  All these will be lost to us until more anti-aircraft gunners arrive on the Island, sufficient to man all weapons.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  7 conscript recruits joined the Battalion.

(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 March 25, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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6 March 1941: Airfield Attacks Expose Weak Ground Defences

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RE Bomb Disposal squad

RE Bomb Disposal squad

WAR OFFICE REVIEWS ANTI-AIRCRAFT CAPABILITY

Following recent air attacks on Malta’s aerodromes, the War Office is concerned about the level of ground defences to protect these vital facilities. They have written to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief asking for his views on the methods used by the Luftwaffe to attack the aerodromes.  The telegram also asks for his conclusions as to the best means by which anti-aircraft defence may deal with those attacks.

Meanwhile, the War Office has informed Malta that 225 Battery 25 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment is now ready for despatched to the Island, once shipping is available. One Battery of 68 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment will be despatched as soon as possible after the arrival of the next convoy WS 6.  Both Batteries are established to meet the requirements specified in the Governor and Commander in Chief’s telegram of 17 February.

In addition, a new battery of 74 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment was formed in Malta on 15 February comprising 59 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, with 10, 22 and 30 Light Anti-Aircraft Batteries, Royal Malta Artillery attached under its command. Lt Gen Dobbie now proposes to form 3 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery as soon as the additional Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillery arrives for 74 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment.

BOMB DISPOSAL SQUAD CLEAR 19 UXBS FROM HAL FAR

The Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Squad were called on by RAF commanders today to help clear unexploded bombs from Hal Far. The aerodrome was put out of action by yesterday’s mass air raid by 60 enemy bombers.  Apart from the damage done by exploding bombs, a large number of unexploded bombs across the airfield are hampering the clear-up as well as operations.

“Lt Talbot took on 19 of the unexploded bombs warranting immediate attention, all within reach of the runway. While he concentrated on those on the surface, his Sappers began hacking away at the ground for the remaining eleven. Fortunately the hard limestone had prevented the bombs from penetrating too far.  By early afternoon one 500kg AP and ten 500kg SAP bombs were exposed – all of them with extension caps.  In several cases the cap was jammed in position and the bomb had to be carted from the runway still fuzed…Each one was driven steadily to the nearby cliffs, to be rolled over the edge.  Work continued late into the day, by which time another two 200kg GP and seven 50kg GP bombs had been defuzed and dropped into the sea.” (1)

WAR CABINET HEARS REPORT OF YESTERDAY’S RAID

The Chief of the Air Staff today told the War Cabinet that particulars had just been received of a very heavy air attack on Malta [yesterday] by a force of over 100 German and Italian aircraft. Eleven Malta fighters had taken the air against this force.  The total losses inflicted on the enemy by our fighters and anti-aircraft guns had been 16 aircraft destroyed, one probably destroyed and eight damaged, for the loss of one Hurricane and one pilot.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 MARCH TO DAWN 7 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0659-0714 hrs; 0904-0927 hrs; 1129-1146 hrs Air raid alerts for a single JU 88 bomber approaching the Island each time. Hurricanes are scrambled; the bomber returns without attacking.

1657-1711 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy JU 88 bombers escorted by two ME 110 fighters which cross the Island at 16000 feet. Hurricanes are scrambled and the raiders are engaged by anti-aircraft guns; they withdraw without dropping any bombs.

2006-2155 hrs Air raid alert for eight to ten enemy aircraft which approach the Island and drop bombs along the north coast including Grand Harbour, Valletta, Pembroke and Balluta Bay in St Julian’s, as well as Hal Far and Delimara. One ARP Centre in Valletta is demolished, the Jesuits College and six other houses damaged.  Six civilians are slightly injured.  The enemy are observed to adopt night dive-bombing tactics and though not illuminated by searchlights are engaged by anti-aircraft guns using predicted barrage. There are no claims but the barrage forces the high release of bombs on several occasions.  

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 6 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals  5 Hurricanes, 2 Wellingtons.  Sunderland patrol western Ionian Sea.  Five Hurricanes arrived from Egypt to reinforce 261 Squadron.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 22; dealt with 21, including 19 at Hal Far aerodrome (1 x 5kg incendiary, 7 x 50kg; 2 x 200kg; 11 x 500kg).

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

 

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

 

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24 March 1941: Strain on Malta Pilots Equal to London Blitz

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FIGHTER PILOTS WORKING DOUBLE SHIFTS

From the diary of Flying Officer C D Whittingham, 261 Squadron:

“The convoy is still in, and it means the whole squadron at full strength the whole time, with double the usual shifts. I can only arrange a day off once in six days. In the circumstances the strain on pilots is equivalent to that of last September [London] blitz. We are having a steady flow of casualties, and are equipped with inferior [aircraft] than those which come over in great numbers. God knows why they don’t try to fight us more. I don’t see how we could cope for long, if they did. So far they have only taken obvious opportunities, such as diving on a straggler but they are there always, all the same, and so devilish hard to see, little silver camouflaged things. The Squadron-Leader, Lambert, ought to go down in history for the calm courage and the complete lack of bullshit he shows. A complete inspiration to every member of the squadron, and this who we all know that he was shanghaied here over six months ago – then a ferry pilot – that at heart he has not the liking or the inclination to be a fighter pilot, and in reality hates the life and the Island that with others such as Trumble etc. He could have gone, but has stayed on through sheer willpower, to be the very fine example that he is.” (1)

CIVILIANS LOOTING ENEMY AIRCRAFT

Strongly worded notices have been issued telling the public not to remove parts and equipment from crashed enemy aircraft. Despite previous warnings, civilians have again been rushing to the scene of downed planes and there have been several instances of items being taken as souvenirs.  As well as the serious danger of injury from fire or exploding bomb loads, aircraft parts may provide vital information to the military.  The notices expressly forbid anyone from approaching aircraft and from taking anything from them before police or military authorities have arrived.

ENEMY AIRCRAFT LOSSES 14, MALTA FIGHTERS 6

The War Cabinet today received a report of air raids on Malta over the past two days. In five air raids, three by day and two at night, 14 enemy aircraft have been destroyed compared to six Hurricanes.  In the two daylight raids on the convoy in Grand Harbour, it was confirmed that some of the vital cargo was destroyed by fire when two merchant ships suffered direct hits.  Two Royal Navy vessels were slightly damaged by near misses, one rating was killed and two seriously wounded.  The other attacks caused some damage in HM Dockyard, with slight casualties.

TEN MALTESE CAPTAINS TO LEAD CONSCRIPTS

A new post of Military Liaison Officer is expected to be appointed to assist with the leadership of Malta’s conscripts. The post will be at the rank of Captain, bringing the number of Maltese Captains to nine.  The Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office seeking approval for the additional rank, which is needed following the increase in local troops since the introduction of conscription laws.  The Military Liaison Officer will support the Director of Compulsory Service.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 MARCH TO DAWN 25 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0607-0628 hrs Dawn air raid alert for six unidentified enemy aircraft which approach the Island and dive-bomb the Dockyard, causing some damage to buildings and to ex-Italian vessel SS Adigo.  Four Hurricanes are scrambled but no enemy aircraft are illuminated.  Anti-aircraft guns also engage; no claims.  One Royal Artillery gunner is killed and three slightly wounded.

0858-0935 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which carries out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 24000 feet, with an escort of three ME 109 fighters. Eight Hurricanes are scrambled and ascend to a suitable height to deter dive-bombing.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1825-1913 hrs Air raid alert for a formation of ten Junkers 87 dive-bombers escorted by 20 ME 109 fighters which approach the Island and carry out a high level bombing attack on Grand Harbour. Eighteen Hurricanes are scrambled and take to the air in two formations but the raiders evade contact.  Anti-aircraft guns open up a barrage and bring down one bomber, damaging another two.

Military casualties  Gunner Stanley Crankshaw, 7th HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 24 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland patrolled area between Tunisian coast and Malta.  

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Tallymen supplied to assist with convoy.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Machine gun course started for 12 instructors. During a raid at 1900 hrs several bombs fell in the D Company area, two within 20 yards of their HQ and another 50 yards away.  One bomb fell just 5 yards away but failed to explode.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 (1 flare; 1 x 500kg).

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  17 conscript recruits joined the Battalion.

(1) Malta – the Hurricane Years, Christopher Shores, Brian Cull, Nicola Malizia, Grub Street 1987

 

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

 

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23 March 1941: Newly Arrived Convoy Bombed in Grand Harbour

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SS Perthshire was set on fire

SS Perthshire was set on fire

SUPPLY SHIPS DAMAGED

Four freighters of convoy MW6 arrived safely at Malta today guided through the eastern Mediterranean under the Royal Navy operation MC 9. Three merchant ships City of Manchester, Clan Ferguson and Perthshire sailed from Haifa on Wednesday last escorted by destroyers Griffin and Hotspur. City of Lincoln also embarked from Alexandria escorted by the destroyer Greyhound. The ships made a successful rendezvous north of Alexandria and sailed close to western Crete which provided fighter cover.

The convoy was covered by the main Mediterranean Fleet, including battleships Barham, Valiant and Warspite, the carrier Formidable and nine destroyers sailed from Alexandria to cover the convoy which they came upon at noon on Friday, just as enemy aircraft were approaching for attack; no damage was caused.

By 1600 hrs six more cruisers and three more destroyers joined the escort, followed by three more cruisers and a destroyer later that evening. With this heavy protection the convoy approached Malta, which then detached last night under cover of darkness to complete the final leg of its journey to Grand Harbour with a small detachment as protection.  Having negotiated the approach to harbor through a channel cleared of mines, all vessels docked safely just after 0700 hrs this morning.

Within an hour an enemy JU 88 bomber with fighter protection flew over Grand Harbour on reconnaissance. The ships’ presence was reported back to enemy HQ and later this morning a 30 strong attack was launched on the convoy.  Malta’s gunners were ready and a heavy barrage, along with a 12 strong Hurricane fighter force, drove the raiders off before they could press home their attack.  Later this afternoon the raiders were back – their strength increased to 45 – and they launched a fierce dive-bombing attack on the warships and merchant vessels.  One bomb hit the bridge of City of Lincoln; SS Perthshire was hit by an incendiary bomb and set on fire. The cruiser Bonaventure and the destroyer Griffin were both damaged by bomb splinters.

Fourteen Hurricanes were scrambled and destroyed or damaged twelve JU 87s. Hurricane pilot Sgt Frederick Robertson, DFM, had a lucky escape when his aircraft was attacked by a JU 87; the fuel tank was hit, setting his plane on fire but he managed to bale out and landed safely. His aircraft crashed near Rabat.

FOOTBALL MATCH GOES AHEAD DURING AIR RAID

The Army Cup Final was in progress this afternoon when the air raid alert sounded.  The match between the Royal Engineers and 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment was well underway as enemy raiders approached the Island and the decision was taken to continue the game, unless the raid developed directly overhead.  Players struggled to concentrate as the bombers roared over Grand Harbour but the game carried on.  The Royal Engineers won the match by 3 goals to nil.

TROOPS MOVING TO GOZO

Infantry troops are in the process of moving to Gozo to provide defence for the Island in the light of the anticipated enemy invasion. The troop movements have been organised under the guise of a major exercise.  The code name ‘Picnic’ will be used to refer to troops in Gozo.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 MARCH TO DAWN 24 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0700 hrs  A convoy of four merchant vessels with escort arrives in Malta.

0750-0825 hrs Air raid alert for a formation of enemy fighters accompanying one JU 88 bomber which flies over Grand Harbour at 24000 feet, evidently on reconnaissance. Ten Hurricanes are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1150-1220 hrs Air raid alert for a formation of 15 ME 109 fighters escorting 15 JU 87 Stukas which dive-bomb the newly-arrived convoy in Grand Harbour. The harbour barrage is put up: some JU 87s dive through the barrage but others release their bombs from above it.  One bomber is observed having difficulty coming out of its dive; it flies out over the coast and is later reported crashing out to sea.  12 Hurricanes are scrambled and take to the air in two formations.  One formation engages the JU 87s and are then attacked by ME 109s.  The bombing raid is not fully pressed home and the JU 87s turn away to sea immediately, with the ME 109s in close attendance.  Most of the bombs fall on land in the area of Corradino Civil Prison and to the east of the target; several people are reported injured.  The shelter of Rear HQ 1st Bn Dorset Regiment is hit by a heavy bomb; no casualties.  No ships are hit.  Ack Ack guns claim one enemy raider destroyed and two damaged.

1540-1620 hrs  Air raid alert for a force of 25 JU 87 Stukas and 20 ME 109 fighters which approach the Island and carry out a dive-bombing attack, dropping 500kg and 1000kg bombs on warships and merchant ships in Grand Harbour. Several land on the Dockyard area, damaging buildings.  One bomb in the grounds of Bighi Hospital causes a camouflet crater, another explodes on a boundary wall; a third fails to explode and is recovered from an officer’s garden.  There is some damage to merchant ships: the bridge of City of Lincoln is demolished by a direct hit.  One incendiary bomb lands in the hold of SS Perthshire; the fire is put out by a scratch firefighting crew collected by Captain K J Body, Staff Captain ‘Q’ and Commander Price, RN.  Some of the cargo is destroyed.  No warships are hit; there is some splinter damage to Bonaventure and Griffin A sergeant of 4th Bn The Buffs who was manning a Bofors gun position is killed, apparently by a delayed action bomb.  Thirteen enemy aircraft are shot down. 

Fourteen Hurricanes are scrambled in two formations, destroying nine JU 87s plus one probable and two damaged. One Hurricane is shot down; the pilot bales out and is rescued.  Anti-aircraft guns destroy four JU 87s and damage four.

Military casualties  Marine James Beazley, Royal Marines, HMS St.Angelo; Stoker 2nd Class Victor Campbell, HMS Bonaventure.

Civilian casualties Dingli  Joseph Zahra, age 27.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 23 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY Convoy MW6 and escort arrived at dawn using the searched channel north of Hurd Bank. The escort left at dusk to proceed to Alexandria.  The convoy was apparently not sighted at sea, but enemy reconnaissance aircraft which came over the Island as they were berthing did locate them.  Severe dive-bombing attacks on Grand Harbour followed which damaged City of Lincoln and Perthshire and caused slight splinter damage to Bonaventure and Griffin.  

AIR HQ Departures 2 Sunderlands. Sunderland patrol of Ionian Sea.  Maryland reconnaissance northern Ionian Sea. 69 Squadron Sea patrol east to Corfu.  

KALAFRANA Two Sunderlands left for the Middle East with passengers and freight.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE Troops continue move to Gozo for an exercise.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Royal Engineers won Army Cup Final defeating 1st Bn Dorset Regt by 3 goals to nil – the sappers are only team to win 3 seasons running. The game continued during a spectacular dive bombing attack on Grand Harbour. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 5; dealt with 1 (50kg).

 

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

 

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