26 September 1941: Malta’s Offensive Role Known – ‘Heavy Retaliation Must Be Expected’

26 Sep

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Attacks by Malta bombers and submarines now public

Malta’s role as base for air and submarine attacks publicised


Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has expressed serious misgivings about the amount an detail of media coverage which is now being given to the Island’s role as a base for offensive operations against Axis convoys in the Mediterranean. In a telegram to the War Office in London today, he wrote:

“I should be grateful if the services at home would give me a clear indication of the policy which it is desired should be followed in releasing information about the Fortress. Until April of this year a policy had been accepted which implied that publicity should not be given to any offensive operations carried out from Malta in order that we should avoid attracting attention from the enemy and so be given time to improve our defences.

Recently however statements have been made which have disclosed the actual types of aircraft operating from the Island and there appears to have been a definite policy to publicise the successful results of operations carried out by aircraft of the RAF and Fleet Air Arm, and by HM submarines. The Air Ministry have recently sent an official press representative here with a view to increasing publicity about RAF activities.  The Admiralty have indicated that an official photographer is going to be sent and this would imply that further publicity is to be given.  An American press representative is here at the present time.  No service received any warning that it was desired to send him here.  Recently the Admiralty have indicated their Lordships’ desire to give more publicity to the work of submarines operating from this base, but this latter proposal is not entirely supported by the Commander in Chief Mediterranean.

The decision to release or restrict information about Malta is obviously one which cannot be made locally but it is clear that the present policy of emphasising our offensive operations must now be making our activities well known to the enemy and sooner or later heavy retaliation must be expected. We are more prepared and ready to receive this retaliation but I should be grateful for an assurance that this result would be in accordance with the policy desired by the Services at home.

Service commanders are prepared to recognise the need for some publicity because of its effect on the civil populations throughout the Empire and particularly here. If this is essential we believe that it could be done without releasing to the enemy information which must be of definite value to him, eg types of aircraft, names of submarines.

From our point of view we would like to carry out the maximum amount of offensive activity from Malta with the minimum of publicity. Services here agree with this telegram.  The War Office is requested to pass copies to the Admiralty and Air Ministry, and the Middle East is requested to pass copies to the Commander in Chief Mediterranean and the Air Officer Commanding, Middle East. Commanders in Chief in the Middle East are requested to comment on this telegram if they so desire.”

The Air Officer Commanding endorsed Lt Gen Dobbie’s views in a separate telegram to the War Office today: “I heartily endorse the Governor of Malta’s views. I can really see nothing to be gained and much to be lost by publicising the base from which these operations are taking place, or giving any details regarding the types of aircraft.”


Weather  Fine and warm.

1126-1139 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but does not cross the coast. Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no interceptions.

2143-2153 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches from the west, drops bombs 25 miles out to sea and turns back. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions.

2311-2330 hrs  Air raid alert caused by the return of friendly aircraft.


ROYAL NAVY  Operation Substance ships departing: SS Melbourne Star sailed for Gibraltar at 1130 hrs. Port Chalmers and City of Pretoria to sail in two days’ time with HMS Gloxinia as escort.

AIR HQ Arrivals 7 Beaufighter. Departures  4 Hurricane, 3 Wellington. 38 Squadron 1 Wellington attacked Palermo. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Marsala, Trapani and Palermo.  1 Blenheim patrol eastern Sicilian coast.  1 Maryland reconnaissance Cagliari.  107 Squadron 3 Blenheims on shipping sweep near Zuara. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish laid mines outside Palermo Harbour in a semi-circle covering the south east approach.  Wellington bombers created a very successful diversion. 

HAL FAR  Hurricanes 185 Squadron, one Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm and two Fulmars performed special escort duty for a convoy of one merchant vessel.


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


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