13 October 1941: Malta Faces Harsher Rationing as Convoy Situation Worsens

13 Oct

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Bread essential for morale, say experts

Bread essential, experts say


The supply of Malta by sea is now under severe threat: that is the conclusion now reached by the Island’s high command. Several important foodstuffs have become increasingly scarce since July, especially meat, and the Island is now facing the prospect of further shortages.  A conference of experts has been convened to discuss ways to make food stocks last longer between supply convoys. 

Their initial report reveals that the poorest in Malta rely mainly “on bread, edible oil, sugar and tinned milk. Tinned meat and tinned fish are extensively used for eating with bread.  Kerosene is universally used for cooking.” (1)

Asked to review possibilities for further rationing, or at least economies, in food consumption, they report: “The rations of coffee, tinned meat and tinned fish are very tight and could not be reduced without causing hardship.  Similarly no material reduction could be made in the rations of soap and matches.  A small reduction could be made in the ration of fats and edible oil, perhaps saving 150 tons a year.  The ration of sugar could, if necessary, be reduced, although sugar is a most important item in the diet of the Maltese, especially in the case of children…  The ration of kerosene is very strict considering that all cooking and heating is normally done with kerosene and that it is also very commonly used for lighting.

The main imported commodities which are not rationed are cheese, tinned milk, frozen meat, rice, tea, flour and bread… Butter has not been rationed because stocks are large…  Tea has not been rationed because it is only consumed by a comparatively small section of the population…  It has been found possible to control cheese and rice satisfactorily without rationing them…Issues of frozen meat have been severely limited, and with the increasing shortage of local meat, this commodity is becoming difficult to obtain… Further economies would be difficult, but the Island could of course subsist entirely on tinned meat if necessary…

Bread is much the most important article of consumption with the people of Malta. It is also a very heavy item in the import programme…  No material reduction in consumption has been attempted…  Such a reduction would not only cause hardship to the poorer classes, it would also have a bad effect on morale…  It is undesirable that any rationing of bread should be attempted…


Weather  Heavy rainstorm early evening.

1122-1140 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy fighters approaching the Island from the north east escorting a reconnaissance aircraft. When the raiders are still 12 miles from Malta, they split into two; six raiders recede and the remaining three cross the coast over Kalafrana to carry out reconnaissance.  Ten Hurricanes are scrambled and the reconnaissance aircraft turns away rapidly.  The Hurricanes chase the raiders back to the Sicilian coast but are unable to catch them.

1444-1500 hrs  Air raid alert for three Macchi 200 fighters which approach from the north east at great altitude and cross the coast over Grand Harbour. Seven Hurricanes are scrambled but unable to gain sufficient height to intercept. 

0535-0640 hrs  Air raid alert for 24 enemy Macchi 200 fighters approaching the Island. Nine cross the coast, split into two formations and dive down to an average height of 400 feet to launch a machine-gun attack on an area from the Cisk factory right across Luqa and the Safi dispersal area.  One bullet hits a Wellington bomber causing slight damage. 

The raiders are engaged at 11000 feet by a heavy anti-aircraft barrage and also by Bofors as well as searchlight and infantry light machine-guns. A Bofors position at Safi hits and damages one Macchi, a Bofors at Luqa hits and damages another two.  A third Bofors at Imsierah hits and damages a fourth.  A light machine-gun manned by 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment at Safi fires a long burst into another Macchi.

Five Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders as they leave their attack. P/O Barnwell of Malta Night Fighter Unit shoots one Macchi fighter down into the sea but then does not return to base.  It is thought his engine may have cut out over the sea.  A search is launched.  


ROYAL NAVY  Thorn left on patrol.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron 1 Maryland patrol north Ionian Sea; 1 Maryland search for convoy; 1 Maryland special patrol. Photoreconnaissance Tripoli. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked motor transport on the Benghazi Road. 221 Squadron 1 Wellington shipping sweep. Fleet Air Arm 1 Fulmar bombed and machine-gunned eastern perimeter of Castel Vetrano aerodrome causing three explosions. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish sent to attack convoy of 2 merchant ships and 2 destroyers south of Lampedusa dropped 5 torpedoes leaving one merchant vessel low in the water and on fire.  

KALAFRANA 0025 hrs Sunderland T9050 landed safely at Kalafrana having lost an airscrew, the controls being also damaged. Captain of the aircraft was F/Lt Milligan of 230 Squadron, with 8 passengers on board.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  His Excellency the Governor & Commander in Chief visited the Battalion.

(1) When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint 1981


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


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