Monthly Archives: June 2021

14 June 1941: Malta Airfields Booby-Trapped Against Parachutists

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Military commanders are conducting tests to booby-trap Malta’s airfields to prevent the landing of enemy aircraft and parachutists. The Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer has been asked to put his knowledge of explosives to use in an experiment to assess the potential.  He is overseeing a team from 24 Fortress Company which is digging a series of camouflets in a quarry adjacent to Luqa aerodrome.  The camouflets will contain naval depth charges which would be primed once the alert is raised that an invasion is underway.  A test will be undertaken to assess the potential effectiveness of the booby-traps to defend the aerodrome.

HMS Victorious

HMS Victorious


43 Hurricane fighters landed in Malta today along with four Hudsons as part of ‘Operation Tracer’, the latest initiative to deliver reinforcements to the Mediterranean. Originally 48 aircraft were loaded aboard the new fleet aircraft carrier HMS Victorious which sailed under escort for Gibraltar on 31 May.  On arrival, 26 Hurricanes were transferred to HMS Ark Royal and 22 remained on Victorious.  Both vessels left harbour early yesterday, escorted by the battlecruiser Renown and seven destroyers. 

Four Hudsons few out from Gibraltar to meet the carriers at a rendezvous point to the south of the Balearic Islands. 47 of the Hurricanes successfully took off from their carrier in four formations, each led by one of the Hudsons.  One was observed turning away from its formation and heading towards North Africa, presumably suffering from engine trouble. 

The last formation to take off encountered navigational problems and as a result ran very short of fuel. One crashed in the sea before reaching the Island, with the loss of its pilot.  The fuel shortage caused two others difficulties on landing.  One managed to alight safely at Luqa, the second crashed in Wied ik Kbir, killing the pilot.

The Hurricanes were divided between the three airfields of Hal Far, Luqa and Ta Qali. 21 of the Hurricanes were refuelled departed today for the Middle East.  Another 13 are expected to leave within days; the remaining nine will stay in Malta.       


Weather  Hot and sunny.

No air raids.

1500 hrs  Orders are issued to infantry battalions to man all anti-aircraft positions as of 1600 hrs today until further notice.

2130 hrs  Anti-aircraft positions ordered to stand down.

0315 hrs  One Bombay crashes into the sea off Marsaxlokk with the loss of all crew.

Military casualties  Sergeant Robert MacPherson, pilot, RAF Volunteer Reserve, 260 Squadron.


AIR HQ  Arrivals 43 Hurricane, 4 Hudson. Departures 1 Wellington, 1 Sunderland, 21 Hurricane.  69 Squadron  3 Marylands on reconnaissance.

HAL FAR  11 Hurricanes arrived at Hal Far from Gibraltar.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  24 Fortress Company began work in quarry at Luqa for trial of naval Depth Charges for mining all aerodromes as protection against parachute landings.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Defence scheme for Luqa aerodrome issued; 100% manning of anti-aircraft guns ordered. Bn mounted guard duty over a crashed aircraft in Wied il Kbir. 


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Posted by on June 14, 2021 in 1941, June 1941


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13 June 1941: BBC Puts on Programme for Malta Troops

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The BBC is to introduce a special weekly message programme on its Empire Services network for troops serving in Malta. According to the War Office, the 20 minute programme will start next Wednesday 18 June at 7pm local time.  The BBC is expected to make an announcement on the Empire News shortly.  Malta’s Commander in Chief Lt Gen Dobbie has warmly welcomed the news.


A total of 11 enemy aircraft were shot down by Malta’s defenders yesterday, it has been confirmed. Most of the engagements took place out across the sea in the direction of Sicily and the local alarm was not sounded.

Searches continued today for survivors of yesterday’s air battles. Fleet Air Arm Fulmars and power boats searched for pilot P/O R H Munro who has been missing since his Hurricane went down during a dogfight yesterday morning.  Wreckage of two aircraft was seen floating on the surface but there was no trace of the missing pilot.  Meanwhile enemy aircraft carried out searches throughout the day between Malta and Sicily for missing Italian airmen.


Weather  Hot and sunny.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Midshipman John Collis Creasey, RNR, HMS Jade.


AIR HQ  Arrivals 2 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron 4 Marylands on reconnaissance.

ARMY HQ Northern Infantry Brigade  A training exercise was held to test the defences of Imtarfa Hospital.


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Posted by on June 13, 2021 in 1941, June 1941


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12 June 1941: Enemy Fire on Rescue Missions Kills Naval Officer

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A Cant rescue flying boat was also attacked

A Cant rescue flying boat was also attacked


Royal Navy trawler HMS Jade was attacked by two E boats in the early hours of the morning while she was on a mission to rescue a missing RAF pilot. Jade was sent out from Malta to search for Hurricane pilot P/O R Munro, whose aircraft crashed into the sea during a dogfight with Italian Macchi 200 raiders this morning.  She was 17 miles off the Sicilian coast when she encountered the E boats which both immediately fired torpedoes which just missed the trawler. Jade’s guns opened fire and a fierce gun battle followed with the E boats at close range, during which one of Jade’s crew was killed.  The trawler returned fire, constantly raking the E boats with machine-guns and damaging both, one seriously. The missing pilot was not found.

The encounter follows an incident earlier today when Hurricanes sent to intercept an enemy formation reported as approaching Malta fired on a red cross flying boat before seeing its identification markings. Once the pilots realised the situation they withdrew but the Cant aircraft was already ablaze and ditched in the sea. 


New plans have been put in place recapture of Ta Qali should it fall into enemy hands following an enemy invasion. Malta’s Northern Infantry Brigade is responsible for the area and has issued orders to 4th Bn the Buffs for immediate action to recapture the aerodrome, the retention of which is vital for the defeat of any incursion.

Two areas of high ground overlooking the airfield are identified as key to its. Tal Virtu is marked out as the best strategic point from which to recapture these bluffs.  In the event of an enemy take-over, 4th Bn The Buffs are instructed to assemble in positions around Tal Virtu, with one platoon in Mdina, posted on the roof of a building or buildings from which fire can be brought to bear on any parachutists descending on the town itself.  The chief entrances to Mdina will be blocked, with the exception of the main gate which will be defended by infantry personnel.


HM Submarine Rorqual arrived in Malta today from Alexandria with urgent reinforcements and supplies. Three officers and 21 other ranks disembarked. Also unloaded were two tons of medical stores, 62 tons of aviation fuel (enough for 3 days) and 45 tons of kerosene.  147 bags of mail were also delivered.


Weather  Hot and sunny.

0925-0956 hrs Air raid alert for an enemy aircraft on reconnaissance over Grand Harbour, escorted by Macchi 200 fighters, which passes over Luqa and Hal Far before leaving to the south west. The raiders are heavily engaged by anti-aircraft fire which splits the formation. 18 Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage and shoot down five enemy fighters into the sea.  Two Hurricanes also crash into the sea; P/O R Saunders is rescued, badly wounded.  The second, P/O R Munro, does not survive.  A third Hurricane is damaged on landing.

Noon  A formation of enemy aircraft is reported approaching the Island.  Hurricanes of 46 Squadron are scrambled and intercept.  They fire at a Cant flying boat before seeing that it is marked with red crosses, and evidently searching for casualties.  The Hurricanes immediately turn away but the flying boat catches fire and the crew bale out as it dives towards the sea.  In the ensuing dogfight four enemy fighters are confirmed destroyed.  One Hurricane crashes into the sea; the pilot Sgt N Walker is rescued. 

Evening  Another flying boat approaches the Island and is attacked and shot down by Hurricanes.

0220 hrs  While searching for the Hurricane pilot missing after this morning’s raid, HMS Jade is attacked by two E boats 17 miles south of Cape Passero, Sicily.  Both E boats fire torpedoes which miss Jade; a spirited encounter ensues at close range; one of Jade’s crew is killed by machine-gunfire. Jade returns fire, constantly raking the E boats with machine-guns and damaging both, one seriously.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Roich H McKenzie Munro, pilot, RAF, 249 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Mosta  Mary Barberi, age 74.

Enemy casualties  Sottotenente Vittorio Bertoccini, pilot of CR 42 fighter, 74a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo Autonomo.


ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish despatched to attack Tripoli Harbour and quays. Two returned with engine trouble; the remaining four dropped 2000lbs of high explosive bombs and 100lbs of incendiaries over Spanish Quay and buildings, starting several fires.  

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron 4 Marylands on reconnaissance.  One Sunderland en route to Malta from the Middle East attacked an Italian submarine 240 miles off Malta; the submarine crash-dived.

HAL FAR  One Fulmar force-landed in the sea; crew picked up safely and returned to Hal Far.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Vigorous training by parachutist-fighting platoons.

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


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Posted by on June 12, 2021 in 1941, June 1941


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11 June 1941: One Year On Malta Defenders Destroy 215th Raider

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In the year since Italy has entered the war, Malta defences including fighter planes and anti-aircraft guns have brought down 155 enemy planes and 60 others badly damaged.


Mail for Malta from the UK may have to be delayed if the Island is to receive urgently needed stores, the War Office warned the Governor & C in C today.  Following severe delays in mail deliveries at the end of last year, a new system has been operating by which most first class postal matter and all postcards have been despatched to Malta direct by Wellington service aircraft.  However, the recent urgent need for special supplies to the Island can only be met using the same aircraft capacity.  As a result, Lt Gen Dobbie will have to decide whether such deliveries must take precedence over the mail.  However, any decision will have to take account of the fact that the total allowed on Welllingtons from Gibraltar to Malta and the Middle East is limited to 100lbs per aircraft.

HMS Unique

HMS Unique


Report to the British War Cabinet to 8th June

On 3rd June HM Submarine Unique sank a laden 1000 ton merchant vessel in Lampedusa Harbour.  Early on the morning of 28th May a party from Upright carried out a landing four miles south-est of Punto Stilo Light, Calabria, and blew up the railway line.

On the night 7-8th June, seven Swordfish of the Feet Air Arm, operating from Malta, laid mines in Tripoli Harbour; as a diversion a bombing attack was also carried out, as a result of which several large fires were started at the west end of the harbour.  On the following night, Swordfish dropped flame floats, as it was thought the harbour might be covered with inflammable oil as a result of the sinking of MV Barmania, but no fires resulted; bombs were also dropped and a merchant vessel was fired.

Successful reconnaissances over the Ionian Sea and off the Eastern Tunisian Coast were carried out by Marylands from Malta. There are indications that the German air forces in Sicily have been drastically reduced. 

The enemy carried out a series of small night raids on Malta and some damage was caused to Luqa aerodrome; Ta Qali and Hal Far were also attacked by day. On the night 5-6th June, a HE 111 was held by searchlights and probably destroyed by a Hurricane; on another night two BR 20s were shot down into the sea.  Four Hurricanes intercepted four SM 79s fifty miles south of Malta, two of which they destroyed and badly damaged the others.  Another SM 79 with an escort of ME 109s attempted a reconnaissance of the Island and was also shot down into the sea 


Weather  Strong winds.

0620 hrs  Air movement monitoring picked up two enemy aircraft patrolling four miles to the south of Malta. Hurricanes are scrambled and attempt to intercept; no claims.

0845-0930 hrs Air raid alert for an Italian SM 79 bomber on reconnaissance, escorted by ten ME 109 fighters approaching the Island from the north, then turning to cross the coast over Kalafrana towards Hal Far. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage heavily, breaking up the formation.  The ME 109s sheer off northwards and take no further part in combat.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the SM 79 bomber to the east of Filfla.  In the engagement, one Hurricane and the SM 79 crash into the sea close to one another off Benghaisa.  An extensive search recovers only one body, that of the Italian airman.  Pilot F/Lt Burnett of 46 Squadron is missing.

1407-1420 hrs; 1436-1453 hrs; 1540-1612 hrs; 1623-1640 hrs  Air raid alerts triggered by a total of 22 enemy aircraft in five formations patrolling 30 miles north of the Islands. Hurricanes are scrambled on each occasion and the raiders turn back before engaging or reaching the Island.

0200-0230 hrs  Air raid alert for three unidentified enemy aircraft which approach from the north east to Zonqor Point. Two raiders cross the coast.  20 bombs are dropped off St Thomas’ Bay, in the sea two miles east of Kalafrana and also to the north west of Anchor Bay.  Nine red Very lights are seen fired from the sea east of Delimara Point.

0319-0338 hrs  Air raid alert for a single unidentified enemy aircraft which approaches from the north east and crosses the coast over St Paul’s Bay, dropping bombs between Ta Qali and Mosta, as well as eight east of Valletta.

0352-0410 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but turns back before reaching the coast.

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant Norman Whitmore Burnett, pilot, Royal Air Force, 46 Squadron; Squadron Leader Michael L Watson, Royal Air Force, 82 Squadron.


AIR HQ  General Haining and party passed through Malta. Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Beaufighter, 1 Sunderland, 1 Cunliffe Owen Flying Wing.  69 Squadron  4 Marylands on reconnaissance.  1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance of Gerbini aerodrome, revealing 12 ME 109s and 3 SM 79s; also Catania aerodrome, identifying 20 twin-engined aircraft and 10 Italian fighters. 82 Squadron 2 Blenheims attack convoy; 1 shot down.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A demonstration was given on the use of Italian hand grenades.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  A practical demonstration at Ghain Tuffieha of Italian grenades revealed them to be a poor weapon.   


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Posted by on June 11, 2021 in Uncategorized


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10 June 1941: Malta in Good Heart Says Army Brigadier

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Manchester Guardian, 10 June 1941

“Malta is in good heart. That is the news given to us by a senior General Staff officer who has just returned from the island. And Malta may well be proud of her deeds. She has suffered no fewer than five or six hundred raids, and a raid in Malta affects everyone in the island, for the bombs may fall anywhere in its hundred square miles of rocky land.

Much of Malta's coastline is inaccessible to invaders

Much of Malta’s coastline is inaccessible to invaders

Malta has been favoured by the stone formation which extends through the whole of the island. The bombs do not penetrate and leave no craters. The buildings are almost all stone built, with stone roofs, and bombing does singularly little damage to them. There has probably not been one single case of fire resulting from incendiary bombs. Throughout the island there are numerous stone galleries; some of them, used in bygone days to house slaves, have formed admirable shelters for the inhabitants. So safe are these that the children’s nerves have hardly been affected by the continuous air attacks.

When the Germans took over the attack from the Italians they commenced a series of systematic and most determined dive-bombing assaults. The defence was too much for them; they suffered some 20 per cent of casualties and then gave up.

Now the air attacks take the form of night bombing from very high altitudes; flares are dropped that illuminate the whole island, and the bombs fall indiscriminately and ill-aimed from heights out of searchlight range. Sometimes they vary this procedure by sending in “nuisance bombers”. These are single machines which fly over the island for a time and then fly off, signalling to the next one on the rota to do its piece.

What of the future? Malta looks forward with confidence. The configuration of the island, with its high cliffs and broken, rocky shores, is not favourable to landings. There are, indeed, five bays which break the contours of the land, but these have no doubt been looked after. The aerodromes have suffered little from bombing. They are on solid rock with only a foot or so of earth to make the level runways. The earth displaced by bombs is readily replaced.

The health of the garrison, we are assured, is excellent. Last summer was a cool one, and it is hoped that this one will be similar. A non-commissioned officer, who accompanied the Staff officer, said that the supply of beer was not up to the demand, but where is it?  He assured us that the quality was excellent.

Much of the defence is in the hands of Maltese troops, and their valour and efficiency have been well proved. It is comforting to hear that the beautiful church so well known to travellers has suffered little damage and that the King George V hospital is still intact. The State lotteries still flourish.”


Weather  Fine and warm.

1506-1534 hrs  Air raid alert for four ME 110 fighters which approach to within five miles of Grand Harbour. 17 Hurricanes are scrambled but do not intercept due to faulty radio transmission.

2013-2015 hrs  Air raid alert caused by the return of friendly Maryland aircraft.


ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron 7 Swordfish in operation to intercept a northbound convoy between Pantelleria and Marittimo Island unsuccessful.

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Wellington. 69 Squadron 3 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal Section will provide a standing patrol during hours of darkness with report centre at slit trenches outside “C” block Msida Bastion. Role: (1) to look out for and engage broken ground between Lintorn and Marsamxett Creek; (2) to liaise with and support posts at Haywharf and Rocco Post.  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 7 (3 x 15kg; 4 x 50kg).


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Posted by on June 10, 2021 in 1941, June 1941


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9 June 1941: Major Breach of Security in Malta

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gas respirator BWA secret security measure introduced as part of the Island’s anti-invasion preparations has been leaked to the enemy. In a recent broadcast, enemy propagandist Lord Haw Haw was heard to announce in English that yellow flaps are being worn on gas respirators in Malta.

The yellow flap was introduced to respirators as a recognition signal to enable the Island’s troops to differentiate enemy parachutists dropped disguised in British uniforms. Enemy knowledge of the measure now renders it useless. 

The Governor and Commander in Chief sent an urgent request for the broadcast to be checked, to establish whether the security measure had been compromised. According to the response the BBC monitoring service was unable to evidence of the statement but could not give an absolute guarantee that the comment was not made.  An immediate review of security measures has been organised.  However, questions remain as to how such information reached Germany.

Meanwhile initial interrogation of two Italian airmen taken prisoner yesterday has cast doubt on the reported build-up of invasion forces in Sicily. Surveys by Malta’s reconnaissance aircraft have also failed to support recent intelligence reports.  Malta’s military chiefs are beginning to wonder whether the invasion report has been deliberately circulated by the enemy.


Malta’s bus timetable has been further cut back as from today. According to the announcement, the measure is due to the need to exercise economy in the consumption of all essential articles, especially in petrol. There will now be no buses between 1130am and 2pm, except at weekends.


Weather  Fine and warm.

Early AM  Air movement monitors pick up four SM 79 bombers being ferried from Sciacca to Castel Benito, which are plotted on course to pass 30 miles west of Malta. Four Hurricane fighters are sent to attack and intercept the bombers 50 miles south of the Island.  They shoot down one SM 79 in flames into the sea.  A second is last seen breaking from the formation in a sharp dive, apparently out of control.  Two other SM 79s are badly damaged.  One Hurricane is damaged and ditches in the sea.

A search for survivors finds the Hurricane pilot uninjured. One Italian crew is rescued from the sea.  One of two Swordfish of 830 Squadron taking part in the search has to make an emergency landing on the sea; all the crew are rescued. 

Enemy search aircraft are monitored all afternoon to the south of the Island but Hurricanes are unable to intercept.

Military casualties  Captain Norman H Poole, 12th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.


AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Wellington, 1 Cunliffe Owen Flying Wing, 1 Beaufighter. Departures 2 Blenheim, 2 Beaufighter. 69 Squadron 3 Marylands on reconnaissance, one on shadow patrol; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.  2 Blenheims on search to attack convoy but failed to locate.  

HAL FAR 1 Swordfish 830 Squadron force-landed in the sea. The crew were picked up safely and returned to Hal Far.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 5 (15kg).

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  All ranks going to Gozo on leave are reminded that they must report on arrival to Headquarters, Gozo Training Camp, The Citadel, Rabat. Officers visiting the Training Camp, Gozo, on duty should whenever possible give 24 hours’ notice of their arrival.  The increasing number of respirators, A/G and steel helmets lost is reaching serious proportions.  The losses have resulted in failure to abide by the procedures in correctly marking the equipment.


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Posted by on June 9, 2021 in 1941, June 1941


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8 June 1941: Malta Civilians Warned to Prepare for Invasion

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Malta’s civilian population have been warned today that the Island is facing the possibility of invasion. In a broadcast on the Island’s Rediffusion service, the Governor and Commander in Chief revealed that warnings had been received of a possible attack by air and sea. 

However, aware that listeners knew the history of the fall of Crete, Lt Gen Dobbie was keen to reassure listeners that the Island stands ready. “Malta is better able to resist attack than Crete,” he said, and “circumstances justify quiet confidence.”  He also stressed that “the Government and fighting services are doing their utmost to see that Malta gives a good account of itself.”

Malta could learn from the siege of Tobruk

Malta could learn from the siege of Tobruk


Reviewing the Island’s defences in the face of possible invasion, Lt Gen Dobbie has cabled the War Office for guidance from any lessons learned in the defence of Tobruk:

“In view of the rapid neutralisation of anti-aircraft defences by the enemy in Crete, I would greatly appreciate any information on the methods of defence of heavy and light anti-aircraft positions, particularly at Tobruk where these have encountered heavy dive-bombing attacks. The preservation of the anti-aircraft defence of Malta is of paramount importance.”


One civilian was killed and another badly injured by mines in two separate incidents today. This morning 14 year old John Vella detonated two mines when he crossed a barbed wire coastal barrier in an attempt to reach the shore.  He was critically injured by shrapnel and received urgent medical treatment but died from his injuries three hours later.  Early this evening 56 year old Maria Attard also crossed a security barrier into a military zone, triggering a single mine; she suffered serious injuries to her legs. 

The mines have been laid in recent weeks as the Island implemented its anti-invasion measures. Civilians were warned not to enter zones which have been cordoned off and clearly marked.  Warnings have been issued again the light of today’s incidents.


Weather  Fine and warm.

1030 hrs  John Vella, age 14, enters a coastal area enclosed by barbed wire and sets off two mines.

1845 hrs  Maria Attard, age 56, enters a cordoned off area and triggers a mine which injures her in the legs.

2321 hrs; 0018 hrs  Air raid alerts for enemy fighter patrols which approach to within ten miles of the Island. Two Hurricane fighters at a time are scrambled and raiders recede with no engagement.

Civilian casualties  Marsaxlokk Grezzju Fenech, age 28.  Mellieha  John Vella, age 14.

Enemy casualties Primo Aviere Giovanni Bonanno, air gunner; Sergente Maggiore Gugliemo Mazzolenis, 2nd pilot; Primo Aviere Francesco Minuto, wireless operator; Primo Aviere Michele Turco, mechanic; all 99o Gruppo, 43o Stormo, crew of Fiat BR 20 shot down and died. Tenente Sergio Reggiani, pilot, survived and was taken prisoner. Primo Aviere  Lamberto Mariani, crewman; Aviere Scelto Marc N Mascellaro, crewman; Primo Aviere Umberto Micheli, crewman; Aviere Scelto Antonio Plamiere, crewman; Sottotenente Marcello Weber, pilot, all 193a Squadriglia, crew of Savoia SM 79 bomber, shot down into the sea and died.  Maresciallo Luciano Fabbri, pilot, survived and was taken prisoner.

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Swordfish dropped flame floats in an attempt to set fire to the large amount of oil floating in Tripoli Harbour, following the recent sinking of the MV Barmania.  Flame floats were dropped in large numbers without result.  Also bombing attack on ships in harbour and quays.

AIR HQ General Haining and party passed through Malta. Arrivals 2 Wellington, 2 Blenheim, 1 Maryland, 2 Beaufighter.  69 Squadron  4 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.  One Maryland chased by fighters from Pantelleria, two others chased by Macchi 200 fighters, one attacked. 82 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked three Q-boats near Pantelleria. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 8.


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Posted by on June 8, 2021 in 1941, June 1941


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7 June 1941: Malta ‘Master Key of the Empire’ Says Churchill

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British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)


Winston Churchill has written directly to Lt Gen Dobbie pledging full support in the protection of Malta. The British Prime Minister was responding to the Governor and Commander in Chief’s telegram of 5 June outlining the challenges facing the Island in its present role, and the measures needed to address them:

From: The Prime Minister   To: The Governor & C in C Malta

“I am entirely in agreement with your general outlook. It does not seem that an attack on Malta is likely within the next two or three weeks.  Meanwhile other events of importance will be decided, enabling or compelling a new view to be taken. 

You may be sure we regard Malta as one of the master-keys of the British Empire. We are sure you are the man to hold it and we will do everything in human power to give you the means.”


An immediate response to Lt Gen Dobbie’s statement has also come from the War Office:

“To enable plans to be made to meet your requirements please cable further details regarding anti-aircraft ammunition required, the role you intend for extra field or anti-tank guns and certain small stores which could be sent to Malta by air or submarine.”

Malta’s Governor & C in C replied within hours:

“Anti-aircraft ammunition requirements (4.5” x 6000 rounds; 3.7” x 40000 rounds plus 16 barrels; Bofors x 100000 rounds plus 166 barrels). Field or anti-tank guns are for direct fire onto the aerodromes, likely air landing places and beaches.  In addition, lessons from Crete indicate a further 24 Bofors for aerodrome defences in addition to the previous authorised number would be most welcome.  Also weapons and equipment sufficient for ten British battalions referred to in a previous telegram, and other specialised stores, details to follow.


RAF fighter unit 46 Squadron has been ordered to remain in Malta. The Squadron arrived yesterday as part of ‘Operation Rocket’, landing on the Island temporarily en route for the Middle East.  The 24 Hurricanes should have departed today for Egypt along with 15 others.  However, Squadron Leader Sandy Rabagliati, DFC, has been informed that 46 is to remain in Malta to strengthen the Island’s fighter force. 


Weather  Fine and warm.

0527-0621 hrs  Air raid alert for three formations of twelve, three and four enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the south. Twelve ME109 fighters cross the coast rapidly.  While eight remain at altitude, four dive low to machine-gun Hal Far aerodrome.  Heavy and light anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Ten Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.

0251-0429 hrs  Air raid alert for four Italian BR 20 bombers which approach from the north east and drop 15kg bombs on the Wardia, Luqa and Marsa areas, and on Manoel Island. Two Hurricane fighters are scrambled.  One BR 20 is illuminated by searchlights and engaged.  The aircraft bursts into flames, the crew bale out and it crashes between Qrendi and Hagiar Qim.  One parachute is seen descending over Marsaxlokk.  3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment posts a guard over the aircraft and take two prisoners – an Italian flying officer at the Blue Grotto and a sergeant at Wied Bassasa – who are handed over to the Detention Barracks at Corradino. A dead body is later discovered 300 yards from the aircraft and buried at St Andrews Cemetery.  A second BR 20 is illuminated and hit by a Hurricane; it is badly damaged and last seen over Hal Far heading out to sea, believed destroyed.  A third enemy aircraft is badly damaged.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant James H Adamson, Royal Air Force, 202 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant Greville V Nicholls, RAF, 202 Squadron.


ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish in successful attack on Tripoli: ‘cucumbers’ in harbour entrance.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron  4 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance of Catania aerodrome revealed 10 JU 52s, 9 HE 111s or JU 88s, 9 unidentified fighters.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A new intake of Malta volunteers is being trained in the Three Cities with D Company, who will provide equipment for them as well as for those in the Sliema area.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Ta Xbiex and Misida mine laying commenced by 24 Company. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 3 (15kg).


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Posted by on June 7, 2021 in 1941, June 1941


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6 June 1941: Malta Welcomes 43 New Hurricane Fighters

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Hurricane Mk II at Hal Far

Hurricane Mk II at Hal Far

43 Hurricane fighters flew in to Malta today in the latest operation to reinforce Allied fighter strengths in the Mediterranean. They include 25 of the faster Mark II fighter model.

29 of the Hurricanes began their journey in packing cases loaded onto HMS Argus in the Clyde.  The aircraft carrier arrived at Gibraltar a week ago, followed next day by the carrier HMS Furious with another 48 Hurricanes Mark II from the UK.  33 fighters were landed at Gibraltar.  24 were transferred to the carrier HMS Ark Royal ready for passage eastwards for Malta, along with another 20 on board HMS Furious

The aircraft carriers embarked on Wednesday, escorted through the western Mediterranean by the battlecruiser Renown, the cruiser Sheffield and six destroyers.  Arriving at the launch point this morning, the 44 Hurricanes took off to fly the remaining distance to Malta, escorted to the Island by eight Blenheims from Gibraltar.  One Hurricane was found to have defects and forced to return to its carrier.  The remaining 43 landed safely, divided between Malta’s three main air fields.


Weather  Fine and warm.

2005-2030 hrs  Air raid alert for three unidentified enemy aircraft which approach from the north east to Kala Bay. 15kg bombs are dropped on Kala Bay and searchlight site, on Gudja and Zabbar.

2354-0120 hrs  Air raid alert for several formations of three or more aircraft which approach from the north west and circle the Island. One aircraft crosses the coast and drops 15kg bombs on Ta Qali and near St Andrews, and between Salina Bay and Wardia.  “Bn HQ on Xlejli Tower sways – possibly mines dropped in sea or earth tremors. No explosions are heard or flashes seen.  Later bombs are heard to explode to the east of Valletta.”  Two Hurricanes are scrambled but searchlight illuminations are prevented by cloud and there is no engagement.

0210-0300 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which drop bombs on Luqa aerodrome, setting fire to a Blenheim aircraft, and on Kirkop. A large number of 15kg bombs land on the Safi area.  Bombs are also dropped in the sea off St Julians and to the north of Ta Qali.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.


ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Five aircraft in operations against Tripoli.

AIR HQ Arrivals 43 Hurricanes. 46 Squadron arrived from UK. 69 Squadron 4 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.

HAL FAR 17 Hurricanes landed at Hal Far from Gibraltar.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  50 men of various units who have come off the convoy ships are to be temporarily attached to the Battalion, to be employed until the convoy sails. Their job is to provide guards and light anti-aircraft gunners for the vessels. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 2 (500kg).


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Posted by on June 6, 2021 in 1941, June 1941


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5 June 1941: Malta Needs Major Reinforcements to Survive

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From: Gov & C IN C             To: War Office, Admiralty, Air Ministry      Copy: C in C Mediterranean; C in C Middle East

The recent operations in Crete and elsewhere have again changed the defence situation of Malta. When my original appreciation was made it was considered certain that the fleet would intervene at Malta within a few days.  It seems possible now that Malta might have to stand the full weight of a German airborne attack, probably supported by a subsidiary seaborne attack for a much longer period. 

Enemy could attack by air or sea

Enemy could attack by air or sea

Previously the loss of local air superiority has been reluctantly accepted but the seriousness of such a situation has now been brought home to us, though Malta is in a much better position to stand up to it than was Crete. These changes make a review of the situation and of previous conclusions very necessary, and the following considerations emerge:

1. Malta is more than ever important for the defence of Egypt, which seems to be the enemy’s objective, since it is the only base from which the enemy’s communications from Libya can be, and are being, effectively attacked. It is also the only quick means of reinforcing the Middle East by air. Its neutralisation may therefore become vital to the enemy and we must be prepared for him to attempt it.

2. Until recently it looked as if our naval control in the Mediterranean would increase and a seaborne attack was unlikely. Consequently certain readjustments by withdrawing troops from less likely beaches were made in order to meet airborne attacks. Now, however, heavy airborne attack will probably be supported from the sea and the rapid intervention of our fleet cannot be counted upon.  Therefore, beach defences as well as defence against air landings, must be ensured. 

3. I feel the outstanding lessons for Malta to learn from Crete are:

  • (a) the necessity of maintaining fighter aircraft in operation;
  • (b) the necessity of dealing with parachutists instantly before they can establish centres of resistance and others arrive;
  • (c) the necessity of preventing any aerodrome or landing ground falling into enemy hands
  • (d) the necessity to be certain of repelling seaborne attack which will probably synchronise with airborne attack.

4. (a) To maintain fighter aircraft we must start with adequate numbers and sufficient reserves on the spot to replace casualties.

(b) To deal with parachutists instantly entails an unwelcome dispersion of force and a large number of troops must be disposed primarily for this purpose. There must also be reserves with which to strike quickly.

(c) The defence of our aerodromes also requires many men and weapons. These will be subjected to heavy attacks from the air and casualties will undoubtedly be suffered.  Artillery sited specially to bring fire onto these aerodromes is essential.

(d) Beach defences will be subjected to heavy sea and air bombardment and must have adequate depth and sufficient local reserves to deal quickly with any penetration.  Artillery is also necessary to support them.  The struggle will be protracted and our reserves must be adequate for a very persistent effort on the part of the enemy.

5.These considerations point to the fact that the infantry garrison I said was necessary last October, ie ten battalions, is not only not excessive but is now actually less than is needed. Counting in 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment (the other two KOMR battalions are only forming) I now have nine battalions. I consider that two more are really needed if we are likely to be subjected to really determined attack.  More artillery is also required as what we have is inadequate to defend the aerodromes and the beaches simultaneously.  In view of the scale of attack on Malta now envisaged I can spare nothing, even if reinforced as above, for Gozo which is completely undefended, in spite of the serious military and civil disadvantages to Malta if this Island should fall into enemy hands.

6. The anti-aircraft defences, though considerable, are not yet complete and the weapons we have are gravely undermanned, so that existing personnel would be hard put to maintain a sustained effort over a long period and there is no margin for casualties. Anti-aircraft ammunition is also required to complete reserves. There are many gunners (approximately 1000) waiting in Egypt to come here, and also other badly-needed reinforcements, both Army and RAF.  The total is 2577 all ranks.  These must be got here somehow.  If the Commander in Chief Mediterranean cannot send these personnel by warship at an early date I earnestly request that special efforts be made to bring them here by air.  This would also provide a method of removing from the Fortress some of the families and [unnecessary mouths to feed].

7. In order to minimise air attacks on Malta, enemy bases must be attacked in Sicily. It is not advisable to keep large forces of bombers here indefinitely but as soon as concentrations are noticed in Sicily these must be violently attacked by aircraft. A fighter squadron should be earmarked to proceed here via Gibraltar at very short notice.

8. In addition to ensuring the defeat of an initial attack it seems to me most necessary that preparations should be made in advance for the quick reinforcement of the Fortress before the enemy could re-attack it after his initial effort had failed. It would be necessary to have at least a squadron of fighters ready to be brought here immediately we could receive them. With the prevailing winds it would be essential for these aircraft to be held in reserve in Gibraltar.  In addition it is clear that certain specialised stores and supplies would be required here with the least possible delay after the initial attack had been frustrated.  It is recommended that plans should be drawn up which would ensure vital supplies being readily available at Alexandria for quick shipment to Malta at the same time as the fleet was able to intervene.  If this view is accepted, detailed proposals can be made.

9. To sum up: the following are needed at once by the three Services for the defence of Malta:

  • (a) (i) A total of three squadrons of fighters, ie one more than at present contemplated, to be maintained to strength with reserves on the spot;
  • (ii) Army and RAF personnel currently in Egypt;   
  • (iii) certain small stores which can come by submarine or air.
  • (b) Additional requirements, though I realise commitments elsewhere and difficulties of sending them may not make their despatch possible:
  • (i) Two infantry battalions with carriers and motorcycles and bicycles for all other personnel, but without motor transport;
  • (ii) Additional field or anti-tank guns up to 30 with manning personnel. Egypt has been asked to provide Italian field guns.

10. So much for defence against attack. It is also essential that Malta does not fall through lack of supplies. With the exception of aviation spirit and fodder, generally-speaking our supplies with great care can last until the beginning of 1942.  My following telegram deals with this problem in more detail. 

Heads of all services here agree with my recommendations.


Weather  Fine and warm.

1449-1505 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

2207-2245  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which approach and cross the Island from different directions. One Sunderland approaching at the time is warned to keep clear.  17 high explosive bombs of 15kg fall are dropped between Kalafrana and Marsaxlokk and in the sea south of Hal Far. One 15kg bomb hits the roof of Loreto Church causing slight damage. 

0102-0220 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north east at 16000 feet, then cross the coast at Kalafrana. 15kg bombs are dropped on Ta Qali, the Dockyard, Tarxien, in the sea off Kalafrana, on Birzebbuga, Hal Far and Island Bay areas.  Searchlights illuminate three times.  A Hurricane night fighter of 185 Squadron piloted by F/Lt P Hancock engages a Heinkel 111, attacking from such close range that the two aircraft nearly collide; the Heinkel is severely damaged and the raider is suspected to have crashed in the sea. 

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Peter Lane, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 148 Squadron.


ROYAL NAVY  Utmost returned after carrying out successfully another special mission in the Gulf of Hammamet.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron 4 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.  139 Squadron  Squadron returned to UK.  Underground operations room now in use. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2; dealt with 2 (15kg).


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Posted by on June 5, 2021 in 1941, June 1941


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