27 April 1941: Hurricanes Arrive for New Fighter Squadron

27 Apr

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The largest delivery of fighters for Malta to date arrived on the Island today under the Royal Navy co-ordinated Operation Dunlop. This second delivery of Hurricanes in a month brought greater numbers than the first.  It provides an important boost to the Island’s fighter force, which has been struggling to cope since the introduction of Messerschmitt 109 fighters to Sicily in February.  Six of the new Malta machines are the faster Mark II Hurricanes; 17 are Mk I.

The delivery operation began at 2200 hrs on Friday when ‘Force S’ (Operation Salient) including six destroyers with light cruiser Dido and the minelayer Abdiel sailed from Gibraltar and turned west as if to head for the Atlantic.  An hour later the Force H convoy left Gibraltar to head eastwards, with the Hurricanes aboard Ark Royal escorted by the flagship Renown, with HMS Sheffield and five destroyers.  Force S then turned east to head for Malta where the six destroyers are to join the strike fleet.

Meanwhile ‘Force H’ with Ark Royal progressed safely through the Mediterranean yesterday, reaching the designated point from where the Hurricanes were to fly off for Malta.  However, bad weather prevented take-off, resulting in a tense night waiting in potentially hostile waters.

Finally the first formation of eight Hurricanes was cleared to take off at 0515 hrs this morning.  Two further formations followed; all three were guided towards Malta by a Fulmar of the Fleet Air Arm.  They were met by one Sunderland and two Marylands to bring them within sight of Malta.

As the formations approached, a German JU 88 bomber flew over the Island on reconnaissance with an escort of five Messerschmitt fighters. 20 minutes later 12 more Messerschmitts appeared, circling off the coast as the delivery Hurricanes were heading towards the Island.  P/O L G M Rees managed to land his Sunderland at Kalafrana but before it could be secured two of the ME 109s dived down and strafed it with machine-gunfire, setting the flying boat on fire and causing it to sink.  The High Speed Launch from Kalafrana was also attacked but escaped undamaged.   

Despite the attacks all of the Hurricanes landed safely; by 1045 hrs the last of them was on the ground.


The new Hurricanes will make it possible to form a second fighter squadron in Malta. The new unit, designated 185 will work alongside 261 Squadron which has been hard pressed to deal with the level of enemy activity over Malta since January.  185 Squadron will operate from Hal Far. 


Weather  Fine.    

0917-0940 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which crosses the Island on reconnaissance. Anti-aircraft fire a barrage at 19000 feet; others engage at height control.  Hurricanes are scrambled and engage three ME 109s; one is probably shot down.

0945 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 which crosses the Island from south to north on reconnaissance with an escort of five ME 109s. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage the bomber; no claims.  The MEs evade attack by heading south of Delimara.  12 more ME 109s then approach the Island in two formations.  

1007 hrs The 12 Messerschmitts circle off the east coast for an hour, then Gudja and Bubaqra raise the alarm as they head back in towards the coast. Two dive down over Kalafrana and machine-gun a Sunderland which had landed only 20 minutes before in Marsaxlokk Bay, destroying the flying boat.  Orders are later issued that every available Heavy and Light anti-aircraft gun and light machine-gun to be standing to whenever a Sunderland is moored in Marsaxlokk Bay.  Reports that mail was lost aboard the Sunderland prove unfounded.  

1120 hrs  All clear.

1245-1314 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 on reconnaissance. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage at heights between 15000 and 30000 feet; no claims.

Civilian casualties  Valletta  Antonia Caruana, age 35.


ROYAL NAVY  Operation Dunlop bringing additional aircraft from Force H to Malta was successfully carried out. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 23 Hurricanes, 3 Fulmar, 2 Maryland, 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.  Maryland reconnaissance western Ionian sea.  

HAL FAR  15 Hurricanes and 2 Fulmars arrived; all landed safely.

KALAFRANA One Sunderland left for Middle East with a number of 228 Squadron personnel. One Sunderland attacked at moorings by ME109s set on fire and sunk.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Two storemen returned from Ordnance Dump, Gozo.  


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


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