31 October 1941: Enemy Attacks Over Malta Show ‘Marked Increase’

31 Oct

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Malta submarine base HMS Talbot

Malta submarine base HMS Talbot


In October enemy air activity showed a marked increase over recent months. Air raid alerts were numerous but the enemy still showed reluctance to cross the coast and come within range of the fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft defences. 

As in the previous month the enemy dropped many bombs in the sea and on remote areas of the Island but a few raiders showed more initiative. Machine-gun attacks were made on aerodromes and on 14 October enemy aircraft were engaged by machine guns manned by 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment, who claimed hits and damage to one Macchi fighter. 

The enemy had their main bombing success on 25 October when a Government fuel dump was set on fire by a lucky hit. Nevertheless in view of the number of raids damage to property and persons was remarkably small.


During October fourteen patrols were carried out by submarines of the Tenth Flotilla and seven by submarines of the First Flotilla sailing from Malta. During these patrols, twelve ships were sunk and a further four damaged.  Of these, the five sunk by the Tenth Flotilla totalled approximately 12,000 tons and the two damaged 10,800 tons. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm made fifteen sorties as a result of which eight merchant ships totalling 48,000 tons are claimed as sunk and five merchant ships totalling 34,000 tons are claimed as damaged. 

828 Squadron, consisting of eleven Albacores, was sent from England to reinforce 830 Squadron. Unfortunately, owing to their lack of training in night flying and particularly night torpedo dropping, they are as yet of no value in this respect.  828 Squadron carried out two bombing raids which were in the nature of night flying training.


Weather  Fair.

0132-0229 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy bombers, three of which cross the coast and drop 250kg and 500kg high explosives and hundreds of small bombs on Manoel Island, Pieta Creek and Valletta. Two Hurricanes are airborne at 14000 feet.  One raider is spotted at 11000 feet and illuminated by searchlights.  Hurricane pilot Sgt Mackie dives onto it and delivers two attacks from 50 yards’ range: one from astern, the second from astern and below.   One of the bomber’s crew bales out, possibly the rear gunner as there is no return fire.  The bomber bursts into flames.  The second Hurricane pursues the other two raiders back towards Sicily but is unable to intercept.

0304-0427 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy BR 20 bombers, one of which crosses the coast and drops hundreds of small bombs in the area of the Castille in Valletta. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but do not intercept.


AIR HQ  Departures 1 Catalina, 1 Cathay, 5 Wellington. S/D Flight 1 Wellington search for convoy. 18 Squadron 5 Blenheims attacked a factory at Licata.  40 Squadron  5 Wellingtons attacked Naples and Palermo. 104 Squadron 4 Wellingtons attacked a convoy.  9 Wellingtons attacked Naples and Palermo. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked a factory at Licata. 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Albacores attacked a railway junction at Canicatti and sulphur factories at Licata, starting fires in both locations.

TA QALI 15 officers and 247 airmen of 40 Squadron arrived from Luqa. Officers accommodated at Xara Palace, Rabat.  7 Marylands and 3 Hurricanes arrived with 69 Squadron.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths officers 33, other ranks 867.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 19 officers, 733 other ranks. Recruits joined during October: 31.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Companies have been issued with new types of grenades no’s 68, 69 and 73.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths 27 officers, 9 WO1, 216 other ranks.


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


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3 responses to “31 October 1941: Enemy Attacks Over Malta Show ‘Marked Increase’

  1. Dermot Lyons

    October 31, 2021 at 6:30 pm

    Good evening. As I was born on Malta in January 1941 I follow your daily diary with great interest.

    I enjoy spotting the occasional “Whoopsy” and therefore must ask what is the type and maker of the aircraft described as a “ Cathay”?

    In all my 70 +years of study of aircraft I have ever heard of that one.

    Keep up the excellent work!

    Best regards

    Dermot Lyons

    • maltagc70

      October 31, 2021 at 7:02 pm

      The note of “1 Cathay” is a verbatim transcription from the official War Diary, Air HQ Malta, October 1941. I regret no more is known here either. Perhaps other readers can assist? Ed.

    • maltagc70

      October 31, 2021 at 10:21 pm

      A Cathay is a Short Brothers flying boat.


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