1-7 November 1942: Fuel Shortages Threaten Malta’s Role in War

07 Nov

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1 November 1942: ‘Spy Ship’ to Relieve Malta Fuel Shortage

Desperate shortages of aviation fuel in Malta have forced Allied naval commanders to come up with an innovative solution.  Intensive enemy air and sea activity makes it impossible to run a convoy through the eastern Mediterranean.  Instead, they have decided to send a captured former Italian ship disguised as an Axis supply vessel to carry supplies to the Island.

Former MS Rodi now Empire Patrol

The former Italian ship MS Rodi was seized by British Contraband Control at Malta on 10 June 1940, the eve of Italy’s declaration of war.  Renamed Empire Patrol she has since been in use by the Ministry of War Transport.

The plan is to disguise the ship under Turkish colours and send her unescorted through Turkish waters east of Cyprus.  She will then change to Italian colours and turn westwards, taking a standard route of Italian freighters bound from the Dardanelles to Southern Italy.

The Empire Patrol was loaded with 1200 tons of aviation fuel and 3000 tons of benzene, all carried in cans.  She left Alexandria this afternoon, steaming northwards at 15 knots.


Enemy E boats were spotted tonight off the coast by observers of 1st Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment.  Reports described a flashing light out to sea off Delimara.  The searchlights at Fort Delimara were illuminated and gun batteries opened fire on the E boats: no claims are reported.  It is believed that the enemy vessels were engaged in minelaying.


Weather  Cloudy to fair; slight shower early.

No air raids.

1205-1240 hrs  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled for a raid that does not materialise.  One Spitfire crashes, killing Pilot Officer Wright.  C Company 1st Bn Royal West Kent Regiment mount a guard on the crashed Spitfire at Tal Hlas Church, Zebbug.

2245 hrs  C Company 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt report a light flashing out to sea.

0200 hrs  D and B Companies 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt report lights exposed and two rounds fired by Fort Delimara.

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant Patrick Attenborough, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Pilot Officer Austin Bettridge, Royal Air Force; Sergeant Douglas Jenkins, Royal Air Force VR; Flight Sergeant Arthur Smith, Royal Air Force; Wing Commander Hubert Styles, Royal Air Force, all 233 Squadron; Pilot Officer Russell Wright, Royal Air Force VR; Warrant Officer II Albert Powles, Royal Canadian Air Force; Private Thomas Seville, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Nil.


ROYAL NAVY  P 43 and P 37 were swept out by Hebe and Rorqual by Rye.

AIR HQ  Departures  One Beaufighter, one DC 3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire crash-landed: pilot killed.

HAL FAR  185 Squadron released.

LUQA  One Spitfire was sent on reconnaissance of Patras and a shipping search of Cape Katakola.  The 5-6000 ton tanker seen off Cape Maria di Leuca on 29 October was lying in the roads off Patras Harbour with a destroyer.  One Baltimore 69 Squadron sent on shipping search of Sapienza south of Cape Matapan area sighted nothing.

TA QALI  No operations.

2 November 1942:  Operation Supercharge

‘Operation Supercharge’ tanks in W desert (c) IWM E18972

Overnight, Allied forces began an attack westward in the northern sector of the North African campaign under ‘Operation Supercharge’.  By dawn today they had reached their final objectives.  Meanwhile diversionary attacks were made in the central and southern sectors with some success.


Late this afternoon a Spitfire of Malta’s photo-reconnaissance unit spotted a convoy of one 5000 ton merchant vessel, one destroyer and one flak ship 15 miles east of Tripoli and heading eastwards.  At 2300 hours one special Swordfish and two Albacores were despatched to attack.  At 0151 hours they found the convoy 45 miles east of Homs.  The Albacores dropped two torpedoes which were seen to run well but the results could not be observed.


Weather  Fine.

1340-1409 hrs  Air raid alert for 24 enemy fighters including fighter bombers approaching the Island at a great height.  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne on a practice flight when they are diverted to intercept the approaching formation but they see no hostile aircraft.  Spitfires of 126 Squadron Luqa, plus seven Spitfires 229 Squadron and four 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept reported enemy raiders: no sightings.

Raiders head for Luqa airfield and attack.  RAF Regiment ground defences open up with machine gunfire and destroy one ME 109 which blows up in the air and crashes near Kirkop.  Bombs are dropped on Luqa, Kirkop and Misrah Blandun.  Ack Ack guns also fire: no claims.

1617-1638 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 enemy fighters approaching the Island at high altitude.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept and are jumped by ME 109s.  Sgt Weir is injured in the thigh and crash-lands back at base.  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are also scrambled but sight no raiders.  Six ME 109s cross the coast.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

Enemy aircraft are reported as having a painted white band around the fuselage aft of the cockpit.

0436-0515 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy bombers which drop bombs on Imtarfa, Rabat, Luqa, Zebbug and Birkirkara, damaging property, killing seven civilians and injuring 15.  Two nursing sisters are injured at Imtarfa.  Heavy Ack Ack fire.  Malta fighters are airborne: no interceptions.

Military casualties   Nil.                                                 Civilian casualties  (See 3 November).

Enemy casualties  Oberfeldwebel Heinrich Slany, pilot of Messerschmitt Bf 109.


ROYAL NAVY  P 35, P 44 and P 46 to sea for patrol swept out by Speedy and Parthian swept in by Hebe.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Beauforts from Gibraltar; one Liberator from LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire crash-landed due to enemy action: pilot injured.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron made photo-reconnaissance of Porto Empedocle.  27 Spitfire sorties were made against 54 plus enemy sorties.  10 Spitfire sorties were made in reconnaissance patrols north of Malta: no enemy aircraft or shipping sighted.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Working party 1 Officer 30 Other Ranks found by A Company to work for Royal Engineers in Floriana.

1st Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT C Company 1 Officer 50 Other Ranks on Luqa.  1 NCO 18 men assisting 173 Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers on Luqa.

3 November 1942: Empire Patrol’s Cover Blown

At 1330 hours today Empire Patrol, sailing under Turkish colours with fuel supplies for Malta, was spotted by a German Dornier 215 on reconnaissance to the north west of Cyprus.  Three hours later the ship’s monitors picked up traces of a submarine which was evidently shadowing the merchantman.

The ship had already been plagued with electrical and diesel defects which threatened her power and compromised her potential for evading attack.  The Royal Naval Reserve Lieutenant in command of the ship decided its disguise had been compromised and decided to abandon the mission.  Empire Patrol headed straight for Famagusta.

HMS Clyde

There was some relief for Malta’s ongoing fuel shortage today as HMS Clyde arrived from Beirut with a cargo of petrol and torpedoes.  This will provide a temporary top-up, but supplies are still inadequate to support the Island’s air strength, to defend itself and support the war effort in North Africa, which is now at a critical stage.


Malta-based Wellingtons launched successful attacks on enemy supply shipping tonight.  Just after 10 pm Wellingtons of 69 Squadron were despatched to attack an enemy southbound convoy heading for Benghazi.  One Wellington found two medium merchant vessels with three destroyers 118 miles north of Benghazi and attacked.  Two Wellingtons from the Middle East were in the same area and set off flares to illuminate the target.  The Malta Wellington’s torpedo scored a hit on the bows of one heavily laden merchantman, leaving it stationary and down by the bows.

A second convoy of eight vessels, including a tanker, was found 80 miles north of Cape Aamer.  Two Wellingtons attacked with bombs and two with torpedoes.  One torpedo hit was scored aft of the tanker.  A reconnaissance aircraft later reported three separate oil patches each 500 feet across at the location of the attack.  Reports confirm that one tanker and one merchant vessel were hit by torpedoes and sunk.  All aircraft returned safely.


Weather  Fair, becoming cloudy.

0850-0900 hrs  Nine Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to practice flying and for intercept patrol: no sightings.

1047-1110 hrs  Air raid alert for about 20 enemy fighters including fighter bombers.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept and sight two ME 109s but do not engage.  The raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa and Mqabba.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1342-1425 hrs  Air raid alert as 15 enemy fighters escorting fighter bombers approach the Island.  Seven Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept and chase the raiders down to 10000 feet.  Yellow Section engages three Macchi 202s north of Grand Harbour: Sgt Gunstone destroys one.  One Spitfire receives a direct hit and is burned out.  A few raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa, making one runway temporarily unserviceable, and on Mqabba.

1537-1606 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy fighters approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron airborne for practice flying and intercept patrol sight two ME 109s and give chase but cannot catch them.  Raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on Zejtun and on Hal Far, where a Spitfire suffers a direct hit and is destroyed on the ground.  Heavy Ack Ack fire.

1630-1720 hrs  Enemy fighters attack a submarine off south coast near Delimara.  4th Heavy Ack Ack Regiment put up a protective barrage over the submarine.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to provide a protective patrol.

0100-0137 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy bombers which cross the coast and drop bombs on Birzebbuga and the Hal Far-Kalafrana area.  Heavy Ack Ack fire.  Malta fighters are airborne: no engagements.

0458-0637 hrs  Two Beaufighters on anti E boat patrol.  No E boats are seen but a schooner is sighted and shot up.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Roland Ambrose, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Sergeant Thomas Bailey, RAF; Sergeant Charles Cockburn, RAF VR; Sergeant Thomas Elder, RAF; Flight Sergeant Ronald Mitchell, RAF VR; Sergeant Harold Warren, RAF VR; Flight Lieutenant Terence Sassoon, RAF VR; Sergeant Kenneth Thorne, RAF VR, all 202 Squadron.  Flying Officer Egbert Wall, Royal Australian Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Lija  Anthony Camilleri, age 56; Saviour Cutajar, age 48; Peter Fenech, age 82; Joseph Galea, age 55; Carmela Zammit, age 24; Anthony Zammit, age 10.  Zebbug  Joseph Abdilla, age 11; Antonia Bonanno, age 16; Salvina Bonanno, age 7; Emanuel Buhagiar, age 29; Philip Muscat, age 75; Anthony Muscat, age 18; Carmela Muscat, age 5.  Gozo (Victoria)  Carmela Galea, age 56.


ROYAL NAVY  Clyde arrived from Beirut and was swept in by Hythe, Speedy and four MLs; a large escort was used as it was suspected that mines were laid last night.  Speedy swept P 211, P 212 and P 217 out, and Hythe swept out Una and Utmost, to join major operations in the Mediterranean.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One DC 3, one Wellington from LG 224; one Liberator from Middle East.  Departures  One Beaufighter to Abusuier; one Liberator to Gibraltar; one DC 3 to Middle East.

LUQA  Spitfires 69 Squadron on photo-reconnaissance.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Working party A Company continues to work for Royal Engineers in Floriana.  1530 hrs  Funeral of the late [Lance Corporal] Tarr.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1645 hrs  Private T Seville died in No 90 General Hospital as a result of a gunshot wound to the knee.

4 November 1942: 8th Army Breaks Axis Lines

Panzer tanks in Cyrenaica

Malta troops today heard the news that the 2nd Battle of El Alamein has been won by the Allies.  Sources in North Africa report that the 8th Army has broken through in the Middle East.  The Axis losses of men and equipment is so great that Rommel has ordered his Afrika Korps into full retreat.

The skies over Malta remained silent throughout the day, giving the Island time to reflect on the significance of this major step forward in the war in the Mediterranean.


Weather  Mainly fine.

No air raids.

0600-0710 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron were airborne to provide cover for Beaufighters on anti E-boat patrol.  No enemy aircraft are seen.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Harold Bardsley, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Flight Sergeant Geoffrey Green, Royal Air Force; Sergeant Ernest Jones, RAF VR; Pilot Officer Edward Sleigh, Royal Air Force;  Sergeant Thomas Millar, RAF VR; Sergeant John Ritchie, RAF VR; Warrant Officer Joseph Keough, Royal Canadian Air Force, all 210 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.


ROYAL NAVY  Turbulent was swept in by Rye, who later swept out HM Submarines Pandora and Turbulent – the last two of the twelve submarines sailing to take up position for a major forthcoming operation in the Mediterranean.  No mines have yet been swept in the areas where the E boats were operating on the past two nights.

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Wellingtons to Gianaclis.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron on photographic reconnaissance of east Sicilian aerodromes and Catania harbour.

TA QALI  229 Squadron stood down.

5 November 1942: Axis Armies Taken Prisoner

Italians led into captivity at El Alamein

Having broken through the enemy’s position on the El Alamein line, the Eighth Army have continued in pursuit of Rommel’s forces throughout today.  The Allies have taken large numbers of Axis prisoners were taken and seized vast quantities of motor transport equipment and stores. The German rearguards have attempted a delaying action with fighting southwest of the Fuka escarpment.


Weather  Fine to fair.

1530-1557 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 enemy fighters which cross the coast on a sweep.  Heavy Ack Ack fire.  Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa join other fighters engaging the enemy: F/Lt Burgess damages one ME 109.

1929-1942 hrs  One Cant Z 1007 approaches the Island at 20000 feet and drops bombs in the sea over Comino Channel and St Paul’s Bay.  Beaufighter pilot S/Ldr Pain of 89 Squadron is airborne to intercept and shoots down the bomber in flames.  Two Italians are taken prisoner by the Gozo Patrol, 1st Bn King’s Own Malta Regiment.  One of them is wounded and admitted to 45 General Hospital; the other is handed over to the Camp Commander at St Andrew’s.

2250-2331 hrs  Two enemy bombers approach the Island and drop bombs in the sea off St Paul’s Bay and Grand Harbour.  Malta fighters are airborne: no engagements.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.


AIR HQ  Arrivals  Six Wellingtons from LG 224; one Wellington from Gianaclis; one DC 3 from LG 224; two Beaufighters from Middle East.  Departures  One DC3, one Liberator to LG 224.

HAL FAR  Night  The ASV Swordfish was dispatched to provide illumination for an attack on E boats by Beaufighters.  The Swordfish located and illuminated the enemy vessels but the Beaufighter strike did not make contact.

LUQA  Seven Spitfires 69 Squadron were airborne for photo-reconnaissance.

6 November 1942: Four New Squadrons in Malta

Two new Beaufighter Squadrons are now to operate from Malta.  The first aircraft of 227 and 272 Squadrons arrived today to prepare for operations.  13 Beaufighters of 227 Squadron and 16 of 272 Squadron landed safely from the Middle East ready to begin operations immediately.  They were joined by 13 Beauforts of 39 Squadron which also arrived from the Middle East.

104 Squadron Vickers Wellington Mk II

Detachments of 40 Squadron and 104 Squadrons RAF have been posted to Malta.  The Wellington medium bomber squadrons which form 238 Bomber Wing are to operate from Luqa aerodrome for the time being as part of the Allied offensive in North Africa.  Eight Vickers Wellington II aircraft of 104 Squadron, whose motto is ‘Strike hard’, have already arrived and more are expected imminently.  The policy is for 32 aircraft to be operational whenever possible.

Three other RAF squadrons in Malta were increased today with the arrival of 13 Beauforts from 39 Squadron, 13 Beaufighters 227 Squadron, 16 Beaufighters 272 Squadron from the Middle East.


HM Submarine Porpoise arrived today, carrying further supplies of aviation fuel, plus general stores and mail for Malta.  Porpoise sailed from Beirut last Thursday for this latest submarine delivery of urgent stores for the Island, known as ‘club runs’.


Weather  Fair early, becoming cloudy.

1112-1200 hrs  Air raid alert as 36 enemy fighters approach the Island at great height.  Spitfires of 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled and intercept the raiders well to the north and again over the Island but the enemy escapes engagement.  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are also scrambled to intercept.  They are jumped by ME 109s, break formation and return to base.  One Spitfire is slightly damaged in combat: pilot unhurt.  Half the raiders cross the coast: Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds – no claims.

1420 hrs  Spitfires of 126 Squadron Luqa patrol over Malta through the afternoon.

1545-1630 hrs  Sixteen Beaufighters 272 Squadron land at Ta Qali.

1645-1740 hrs  Six Spitfires 229 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.


ROYAL NAVY  Porpoise arrived and was swept in by Speedy.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  13 Beauforts from 39 Squadron, 13 Beaufighters 227 Squadron, 16 Beaufighters 272 Squadron from Middle East; one Beaufighter from photo-reconnaissance 69 Squadron; one Beaufighter from 89 Squadron; three Baltimores from LG 227; five Spitfires, one Liberator from Gibraltar; one Wellington from Gianaclis.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort ran into a bomb crater: crew uninjured.  One Beaufighter crashed on landing: crew uninjured.  One Wellington missing in transit from LG 224 to Malta.

HAL FAR  185 Squadron released.  1527 hrs; 1603 hrs Two Beauforts arrived.

LUQA  Six Spitfires 69 Squadron carried out photo-reconnaissance of Naples, Palermo, Trapani, Taranto, Augusto, Brindisi and Messina.  Six Wellingtons 69 Squadron carrying torpedoes were sent on reconnaissance for enemy naval units: no sightings.

4th Bn THE BUFFS   Personnel of Bn engaged on co-operational duties with RAF at Luqa aerodrome 0400-1900 hrs: 2 Officers 80 Other Ranks penmen & maintenance Spitfires; 2 Officers 100 Other Ranks GD bombing & refuelling Wellingtons; 2 Other Ranks GD Baltimores; 1 Officer 33 Other Ranks GD Beaufighters; 36 Other Ranks armament assistants.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Private T Seville buried at Imtarfa Cemetery.

2nd Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  9 trucks, 1 motor-cycle, 1 Officer and 20 Other Ranks reported for fatigue duties on Ta Qali.

7 November 1942: Aviation Fuel Enough For 4 Weeks


From:  Governor Malta                To:  Air Ministry             Rptd:  Cs in C Middle East, Brigadier Jacob, Foreign Secretary, First Sea Lord

1.  Stock of aviation fuel remaining 7th November was 1187 tons.  This includes receipts by submarine and a quantity of DTD 224 used for blending and mixing with 100 octane.

2.  Expenditure week ending 7th November was 286 tons.


Two nursing sisters injured in bombing of Imtarfa

From:  Governor & C in C Malta               To:  C in C Middle East              Rpt:  The War Office

1.  Enemy air activity reduced: three raidless days, seven alerts, total 160 fighters and fighter bombers.  Few bombs on aerodromes.  RAF destroyed one fighter, damaged one.  Small arms destroyed one fighter.

2.  Total 13 aircraft of which five only crossed the coast.  Slight damage civilian property and Imtarfa military hospital.  Two sisters QAIMNS, 15 civilians injured; seven civilians killed.  One Cant destroyed by Beaufighter: two Italian prisoners.

3.  Offensive activity by RAF against convoys continues.  One merchant vessel, one tanker hit.  One Beaufighter on patrol Sicily destroyed one JU 88.

4.  Some E boat activity off Grand Harbour on four nights; probably minelaying.

5.  RAF heavily reinforced for Operation Torch and army providing approximately 1700 personnel for maintenance of aerodromes and servicing aircraft.

6.  Morale very high on account of successes in western desert.


Weather  Cloudy, becoming fine.

No air raids.

0840-0915 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled: raid does not materialise.

1115-1155 hrs  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are airborne on patrol over Malta at 20000 feet: no enemy aircraft seen.

1430-1530 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne on intercept patrol: no sightings.

2015 hrs  Two Beaufighters 89 Squadron Luqa are sent on patrol over western Sicily.  One Beaufighter sights a JU 88 and shoots it down into the sea.  The other Beaufighter fails to return.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Lincoln Craig, Royal New Zealand Air Force, pilot; Sergeant Keith Donald, Royal New Zealand Air Force, air gunner; Flight-Sergeant Herbert Earney, Royal New Zealand Air Force; Sergeant Oliver Holmes, air gunner, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Flying Officer Samuel Morrison, Royal Air Force (VR); all 104 Squadron, RAF.  Flight Sergeant Alistair Paterson, Royal Australian Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.


AIR HQ  Arrivals  Five Beauforts 39 Squadron from Mariut; one Liberator, two DC 3s, four Wellingtons from LG 224; one Wellington from Middle East. Departures  One Liberator to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed on land: crew killed.  One Beaufighter failed to return from operations: crew missing.

LUQA  Aircraft of 40 Squadron arrived.  Nine Spitfires 69 Squadron on photo-reconnaissance morning and afternoon.  Wellingtons of 69 Squadron and 104 Squadron were sent on shipping searches in Marittimo-Cavoli area: no shipping sighted.

4th Bn THE BUFFS   Personnel of Bn engaged with RAF at Luqa aerodrome as for 6 November.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  During the week 1-7th November the Bn has found working parties at Hal Far: 2 impressed lorries and 4 Other Ranks for crater-filling; 1 motor-cycle and 1 Other Ranks as special D/R.

2nd Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  9 trucks, 1 motor-cycle, 1 Officer and 20 Other Ranks reported for fatigue duties on Ta Qali. 


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Posted by on November 7, 2022 in 1942, November 1942


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