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7 October 1941: Italian Forces Attempt E-boat Raid on Malta

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Italian Motoscafo Turismo (E-boat)

Italian Motoscafo Turismo (E-boat)

ATTACK DETERRED BY COASTAL DEFENCES

Italian air and naval forces attempted a repeat of July’s E-boat attack on Grand Harbour tonight but were deterred by efficient measures to defend Malta’s coastline. The first sign of the attack came at just before 2100 hrs when enemy aircraft closed in for a bombing raid.  In an attempt to distract the coastal guns, the six raiders all approached from different directions, dropping bombs in various locations around the coast.

While the raid was in progress, coastal monitors detected a flotilla of E-boats approaching the north coast of the Island, which then split into two formations. Aware that the tactic of a diversionary air raid was used in July, military chiefs raised the alert of another possible seaborne raid on Grand Harbour.  Coastal searchlights went into action, illuminating their offshore zones every 15 minutes.  The Central Infantry Brigade ordered troops to man all infantry beach and harbour posts in the Grand Harbour area immediately.  Naval vessels went on the offensive, dropping 60 depth charges throughout the night. 

At 2200 hrs a third formation of seaborne craft was reported off the coast but an hour later monitors reported that all enemy craft had left the area. No further incidents were reported but the extra precautions remained in place until dawn, when enemy aircraft carried out reconnaissance over the area where surface craft had been seen.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 OCTOBER TO DAWN 8 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine.

1050-1200 hrs  Air raid alert for some nine enemy aircraft in two formations which cross the coast. 16 Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no interceptions.  It is thought the enemy is trying decoy tactics again.

2051-2135 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft which approach the Island from various directions and drop bombs in the sea without crossing the coast. Two Malta Night Fighters are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and interception is not possible.

2100 hrs  Surface craft are detected 30000 yards off the coast of Malta and the alert is raised for a possible E-boat attack on Grand Harbour. Coastal searchlights are exposed every 15 minutes and the Royal Navy drop depth charges.  Central Infantry Brigade immediately mans all infantry beach and harbour posts in the Grand Harbour area in preparation for an attack.  Double sentries are posted on positions. No further incidents take place.    

2200 hrs  A third formation of seaborne craft is reported.

2300 hrs  All seaborne craft have left the area. Double sentries are maintained at beach posts throughout the night.  Troops are ordered to sleep at their posts.

0500 hrs  Beach and harbour posts stand down; status returns to normal.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 7 OCTOBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Catalina, 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 1 Wellington on shipping search.  7 Wellingtons attacked shipping at Tripoli. 69 Squadron Marylands patrol east Sicilian coast and east Tunisian coast; 2 Marylands on special patrols; photoreconnaissance of Tripoli. 107 Squadron 1 Blenheim searched for the dinghy of Sgt Hamlyn and crew; nothing found.  1 Blenheim attacked a merchant ship off Zuara. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish attacked a merchant vessel off Lampedusa and also Lampedusa Harbour.  One Fulmar despatched to attack Comiso and Gerbini aerodromes; the aircraft failed to return to base.  Pilot A/PO Arthur Jopling and observer Lt Manning are missing.  One Fulmar carried out a search to within four miles of the Sicilian coast without success.

 

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

 

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6 October 1941: 80 per cent of Axis Supplies Sunk by Malta Attacks

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Count Ciano (r) with Hitler & Mussolini

Count Ciano (r) with Hitler & Mussolini

ENEMY STARVED OF SUPPLIES FOR NORTH AFRICA CAMPAIGN

The ongoing success of aircraft and submarine attacks launched from Malta against Axis supply convoys is starving the enemy campaign in North Africa of troops, equipment and food. According to the Italian foreign secretary Count Galeazzo Ciano: “The supplies…are becoming more and more difficult. Only twenty per cent of the material set aside for September has been shipped and delivered.” (1)

Attacks from Malta on targets in southern Italy and Sicily are also having an impact, according to Italian news bulletins:

4 October  “British aircraft attacked Catanzaro Marina in southern Italy in daylight yesterday dropping a certain number of bombs and hitting the railway station and some residential dwellings.  Two people were killed and twelve injured among the civilian population.  Some railway lines were damaged.”

6 October  “Yesterday afternoon British planes were over the town of Catania and dropped a certain number of incendiary bombs and [high] explosive bombs of small calibre.  The bombs caused some damage and killed four civilians.  An enemy bomber and a fighter were shot down by anti-aircraft guns and fighters respectively.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 OCTOBER TO DAWN 7 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

1946-1957 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but turns away before reaching the coast.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 6 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Ursula returned from patrol south of Messina.  Trento and seven destroyers passed north through the Straits out of range, but an enemy report broadcast was never received. Sokol returned having failed to locate a missing Blenheim crew.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Beaufighter, 13 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 2 Wellington. Departures 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked shipping in Tripoli Harbour. 69 Squadron 4 Maryland special patrols. 107 Squadron 1 Blenheim searched for the dinghy of Sgt Hamlyn and crew.  4 Blenheims shipping sweep over Gulf of Syria. Fleet Air Arm 2 Fulmars on offensive patrol over aerodromes in Sicily dropped high explosive bombs on hangars and a slipway at Marsala and incendiaries on Licata, plus high explosive bombs and incendiaries on Gerbini dispersal area.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  C Company carried out firing practice with Vickers guns from beach pill boxes at towed targets; results highly successful.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  ‘Stand to’ periods for static companies at 0500 hrs and 1730 hrs.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  A mine was reported onshore near a beach defence post and reported to the Royal Navy who removed it.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Two detachments gained 1st and 2nd places in an inter-battalion firing competition.

(1) Siege Malta, Ernle Bradford, Pen & Sword 2003

 

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

 

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5 October 1941: Malta Urgently Needs Underground Fuel Stores

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GOVERNOR & COMMANDER IN CHIEF BIDS FOR UNDERGROUND FACILITIES TO IMPROVE DEFENCE OF THE FORTRESS

From: Governor & C in C Malta                     To:  War Office, copy to C in C Mediterranean

The following for Chiefs of Staff:

A stage in the rearmament of Malta has now been reached where I believe that the Chiefs of Staff should give consideration to the major works which are necessary to complete the defences of this fortress. It has not been possible to advance this problem previously as our main work efforts have been directed for the past 15 months at protecting the population, and this has occupied the major part of our specialised labour force.  It is now possible however to review the problem generally with a view to ensuring that our labour is used for the next two or three years in such a way that the defences of the fortress will be developed in the most efficient manner.

Wied-id-Dis

Wied-id-Dis

The defence works involved are as follows:

  • (a) Shelters for the civilian population: It is hoped that by the end of November this year every civilian in Malta will have two square feet of bomb-proof shelter. From that time it will then be possible to consider further diversions of labour from this work to the service.  It will be appreciated that the provision of two square feet per person will in no sense complete the shelter scheme and much further work will be required. 
  • (b) The provision of underground workshops in HM Dockyard: These are already underway and will take from two to three years to complete.
  • (c) The construction of an underground supply depot for the Army (work on this has started already)
  • (d) The provision of a secure supply of electricity
  • (e) The provision of an underground flour mill
  • (f) The provision of adequate underground storage for white oils
  • (g) The provision of underground hangars for aircraft
  • (h) The provision of a new Army magazine at Wied-id-Dis
  • (i) The provision of bomb-proof shelters for submarines at Marsamxetto

Labour items for (a) to (f) can be made available; (g) is already underway. It is estimated that items (h) and (i) can be commenced as soon as the remainder of the Government shelter construction scheme is completed.  Items (a), (b) and (c) are already underway. The provision of (d) and (e) are essential requirements of the defence of the Fortress.  Without an underground flour mill our whole scheme to maintain supplies within the Fortress to last eight months may be largely nullified. 

Item (f), the provision of underground oil storage, is my main concern. We need to store about 7000 tons of kerosene, 3500 tons of benzine and 9000 tons of aviation spirit.  These figures cover the whole requirements of the Fortress.  It is hoped that provision will be made for the storage of kerosene by the conversion of No 20 Underground Oil Fuel Tank in HM Dockyard.  No provision yet exists for the bulk storage of benzine.  Storage for 1000 tons of aviation spirit is almost complete at Manoel Island and for 1000 tons of aviation spirit in the Ghar Dalam installation is nearly ready.  This latter installation when completed early next year will provide 2500 tons of storage.  We therefore lack storage for 3500 tons of benzine and 5500 tons of aviation spirit.  The provision of underground tanks to contain these quantities is the most imperative need in the Fortress at the present time.  The present method of importing great quantities of white oils into the Fortress in tins is most wasteful of shipping space and is inviting a major disaster.  At present we have no alternative but to accept this risk but I want to eliminate it as quickly as possible.

I therefore earnestly recommend that the Chiefs of Staff should give approval forthwith for the execution of three Defence Works mentioned in the preceding paragraph. They are our main weaknesses at present and we must overcome them at all cost.  If approval is given detailed plans for the storage of white oils will be forwarded immediately.  The expenditure involved is insignificant compared with the sums of money which have been spent and are being spent on the defences of Malta, yet each of the three works has a major effect on the security of the Fortress as a whole.

Our initial efforts to construct bomb-proof hangars have not been entirely successful owing to the nature of the rock encountered and the Air Officer Commanding therefore prefers to rely on dispersal until we can complete these hangars. They will take much longer than originally anticipated.  I agree with this view.

Items (h) and (i) are essential to complete our defences. I would welcome approval in principle for these works in order to assist our plans for allocating labour.  The lack of these defences is at present being primarily counteracted by the principle of dispersal but this can never provide such a satisfactory solution as bomb-proof cover.  With good fortune we should be able to commence them all before the end of next year. 

Finally I desire to mention the construction of a graving dock for battleships. This is a very great undertaking and at present the Vice Admiral Malta (VAM) considers that the other major defence works to which I have referred in this telegram should be completed before the dock is commenced.  With the experience gained in this war I agree with the VAM that such a dock is an essential adjunct for the maintenance of the Mediterranean Fleet. 

Summed up it is the unanimous view of the senior officers in the Fortress that in order to complete our defences approval should be given forthwith for the schemes covering electricity supply, flour milling and the storage of aviation spirit, and that approval in principle should be given for the construction of major defence works which I have described. I request that an early decision may be given in order to avoid any loss of time in commencing the necessary excavations.      

From: War Office                                 To:  Governor & C in C Malta

Your telegram was considered by Chiefs of Staff. They were of the opinion that you should proceed with the three projects (d), (e) and (f) without delay.  Please therefore forward as soon as possible detailed proposals.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 OCTOBER TO DAWN 6 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

0934-1005 hrs  Air raid alert for two formations of three enemy fighters. Only the second formation crosses the Island, passing over Grand Harbour at great altitude.  Five Hurricanes 185 Squadron and twelve 249 Squadron are scrambled but are unable to reach the necessary height for interception.  The raiders recede northwards with no engagement.

1511-1542 hrs  With no prior alert, six enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north, cross the coast at 27000 feet and immediately split up. Two Hurricanes 185 Squadron and twelve 249 Squadron are scrambled but again are unable to reach the necessary height to intercept.  Two heavy anti-aircraft guns fire pointer rounds. 

0018-0023 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of friendly aircraft.

Civilian casualties  Zurrieq  Antonia Camilleri, age 24.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 5 OCTOBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Bombay. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked shipping in Tripoli Harbour. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Sicily, reconnaissance Tripoli Harbour area and convoy. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims searched for Sgt Hamlyn and crew without success.  2 Blenheims attacked railway installations at Catania. Fleet Air Arm 2 Fulmars on offensive patrol on aerodromes in Sicily.  One attacked Trapani aerodrome and Marsala seaplane base.  The other attacked aerodromes at Gerbini and Catania, dropping high explosive bombs on the Gerbini dispersal area and both aerodromes were machine-gunned at low level.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Until further notice curfew will be from 2100 hrs to 0545 hrs.

 

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

 

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4 October 1941: Malta Urgently Needs Air Transport Links

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Regent sailed to attack convoy

Regent sailed to attack convoy

ONLY AN AIR SERVICE CAN MOVE PERSONNEL, SUPPLIES AND MAIL FAST ENOUGH

From: Governor & C in C Malta                          To:  War Office

I request the following may be taken up with the Air Ministry and Admiralty:

  • The necessity for some regular form of communication to and from Malta, either by sea or air, has been recognised for several months. It has been accepted that any regular form of sea communication is out of the question for the present. Transport by air is thus the only solution, but I have not made proposals previously as I had been informed that the types of aircraft needed for this service were all required for more important work.
  • The necessity for air transport is:
  • To provide a means of moving personnel either east or west. At the present time communication with England is most irregular and very infrequent. A very considerable number of personnel have been awaiting transport from Egypt for many months.  Their number is quite beyond the capacity of the present movements of aircraft or submarines from that country.  Many instances have occurred of officers required urgently in England and the eastern Mediterranean being held up here for six weeks or more owing to the lack of transport.
  • The offensive operations from this base frequently necessitate certain stores for operational purposes being moved here as quickly as possible. Air is the only solution. At the present time the quantity of these stores exceeds the capacity of transport available.
  • For the prompt despatch and receipt of mail. The lack of this at the present time is leading to many long and detailed cypher telegrams which have to be sent since no other sure means of transmission is available. Again, the absence of news from home caused by the very infrequent mail service has, in these difficult times, an adverse effect on the morale of the Garrison.  This is further aggravated by the impossibility for the men to send letters home in any confidence that they will arrive in a reasonable time.
  • For the sake of the efficiency of this Fortress, the need for a regular and reliable air service is very great indeed, and has a direct bearing on our ability to conduct offensive operations for the reasons I have given above. Such a service would be of immense value to use but, on the other hand, it is not possible for us to judge here whether commitments in other parts of the world are more important than our own. I feel, however, that a stage has now been reached where I must represent the great necessity for this service to responsible authorities in order that it may be considered carefully in relation to commitments elsewhere.  Heads of Services agree with this telegram.

From: War Office                                                         To: Governor & C in C Malta

Your request is under urgent consideration here. The necessity for a regular air transport service is fully appreciated but the provision of an adequate number of aircraft of a suitable type is our chief difficulty at present.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 OCTOBER TO DAWN 5 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine, some cloud.

AM  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft heading towards Malta from the north. Eight Hurricanes 185 Squadron are scrambled and circle over the Island.  The raiders turn away without crossing the coast and there is no engagement.  One fighter of P/O Veitch crashes into the sea one mile from Benghaisa Point.  The rescue launch conducts a search and finds only wreckage.  It is thought the crash may have been caused by a failure in the oxygen supply.

1547-1610 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 enemy aircraft approaching the Island. 13 Hurricanes (two 185 Squadron and eleven 249 Squadron) are scrambled but the raiders retire towards Sicily and there is no engagement.

1613-1620 hrs  Air raid alert for the same formation which turns back towards Malta before circling away again.

1747-1758 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft approaching the Island. 13 Hurricanes (two 185 Squadron and eleven 249 Squadron) are scrambled but the raiders turn away before any interception.

0200 hrs  Summer time ends.  All clocks put back one hour. 

0310-0400 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly. One crosses over Gozo, dropping bombs in the sea.  The second crosses the coast of Malta and drops 50kg high explosive bombs between on the Safi area causing damage to civilian property and four civilian casualties.  Two Malta Night Fighters are scrambled.  One of the raiders is spotted by moonlight at 800 yards range but retreats rapidly and there is no engagement.

0512-0523 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches and drops bombs in the sea south of the Island. Searchlights illuminate the raider but it stays away from the coast and guns do not engage.

Military casualties  Leading Aircraftsman Duncan MacMillan, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Pilot Officer Peter J B Veitch, Royal Air Force, 185 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 4 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upright returned from patrol off Rasocolino, where she sank a small destroyer and sighted two U boats. Regent sailed at short notice to intercept convoy east of Tripoli. Sokol also sailed at short notice to search for the crew of a missing Blenheim.  Two Swordfish carried out an anti-submarine patrol for enemy submarines reported in vicinity of Malta, but without result. 

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Beaufighter, 4 Blenheim, 1 Maryland. 38 Squadron 11 Wellingtons attacked a convoy in the south Ionian Sea. 69 Squadron Marylands photoreconnaissance Tripoli, patrols central Ionian Sea, east Sicilian coast and special search for a convoy. 107 Squadron 8 Blenheims attacked Zuara  Sgt Hamlyn (with Sgt Latter and Sgt Williams) was attacked by Italian CR 42 fighters and ditched in the sea.  An air and sea search has been mounted. 830 Squadron Fleet air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a convoy off the coast of Tripoli leaving two merchant vessels sinking and a damaging a third.   

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Storms wash up several mines on the coast which are rendered safe.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  A mine was found floating dangerously close to a Battalion defence post; the post was evacuated but the mine disappeared during the night and the post was reoccupied.

 

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Posted by on October 4, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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3 October 1941: German Press Calls for Malta to be ‘Reduced by Constant Attacks’

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LUFTWAFFE RECOGNISES MALTA IS A PROBLEM

The German press is now calling for action to be taken against Malta in response to the Island’s role in attacks on Axis convoys, according to international media today. Under a picture of Grand Harbour, one caption reads: “The British stronghold in the Mediterranean has stood hundreds of enemy air attacks.  A German newspaper states that Malta can be reduced only by constant attacks.  The Luftwaffe recognises that the Island is a problem.”

Claims also appeared in the international press today from the Italian media that the country’s torpedo carrying aircraft sank five British cruisers during their attack on last week’s ‘Operation Halberd’ convoy. The Italians also claim that four merchant ships were torpedoed, at least three of them sunk.

However, the newspaper counters with a statement from the Admiralty in London that one ship of the convoy was damaged in an air attack and was sunk because it could not be towed. One escorting warship, HMS Nelson, was damaged by a torpedo which caused her to reduce speed; there were no casualties.

Utmost nearly rammed by destroyer

Utmost nearly rammed by a destroyer today

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 OCTOBER TO DAWN 4 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Storms.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 3 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Utmost returned from patrol north of Messina.  Enemy cruisers were sighted, but Utmost was nearly rammed by a destroyer and could not attack.  A 5000 ton merchant vessel was hit off Marittimo. 

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Beaufighter, 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols east Tunisian coast and three special patrols. 107 Squadron 8 Blenheims attacked Marina di Catanzaro.   Fleet Air Arm 2 Fulmars on offensive patrol over Trapani and Marsala machine-gunned floatplanes and bombed hangars and slipways. At Trapani a JU 87 is attacked and badly damaged.  On the return journey one Fulmar dive-bombed warehouses at Licata.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 2 (50kg)

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS Two Italian mines were found floating near a Battalion defence post; one was destroyed by the Royal Navy.

 

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Posted by on October 3, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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2 October 1941: Raids on Italian Aerodromes Ground 50 Enemy Aircraft

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Elmas aerodrome

Elmas aerodrome

AXIS AIRFIELDS, PORTS, MILITARY TRANSPORTS AND CONVOYS BOMBED

British War Cabinet Report for Malta: week ending 2 October

An important convoy carrying personnel and stores from the United Kingdom passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and arrived at Malta on 28th. Strong naval forces provided escort and cover.  In the course of several attacks by enemy torpedo-bombers south of Sardinia on 27th, HMS Nelson was hit by a torpedo which reduced her speed but caused no casualties.  Later in the day one ship of the convoy, SS Imperial Star (12427 tons) was torpedoed in the Sicilian Channel and subsequently sunk by our ships after her passengers and crew had been taken off. 

On the morning of 28th, as a diversion, the island of Pantellaria was successfully bombarded and while these operations were in progress units of the Mediterranean Fleet carried out a sweep from Alexandria.  An enemy force of battleships, cruisers and destroyers was reported at sea operating between Sardinia and Sicily on 27th and 28th but retired to the north before our forces could bring it to action.  An air striking force flown off from HMS Ark Royal was unable to make contact owing to low visibility.  Several important merchant ships taking advantage of the cover of HM ships left Malta and arrived safely at Gibraltar.  A total of 14 enemy aircraft was destroyed by our Naval fighters and ships’ gunfire during the operations.  Our losses were three fighters; the crews of two were rescued.

Fighters and bombers from Malta carried out many offensive operations in Sicily and Libya and, together with reconnaissance aircraft, assisted materially in the successful Naval operations above. On 27th September, 37 Italian aircraft were severely damaged on the ground or at their moorings by cannon fire from Beaufighters during attacks on aerodromes and seaplane bases at Marsala and Borizzo (Sicily) and at Elmas (Sardinia).  Two bombers and a seaplane were attacked while landing and probably destroyed.  On 28th Hurricanes made three attacks totalling 54 sorties on Comiso aerodrome, dropping a total of two tons of bombs.  On 29th Beaufighters severely damaged nine more aircraft at Palermo and on the following day five Hurricanes again bombed Comiso.

On four days a force of Blenheims made sweeps over the Gulf of Sirte and over the Tripoli-Sirte road, and destroyed or damaged many vehicles containing troops, supplies or petrol. Store sheds were set on fire and a wireless station hit.  A merchant ship of 1000 tons was sunk, another of 3000 tons left on fire and others were damaged by hits or near misses.  A successful attack was made by eight Blenheims on industrial plants and on a power station at Porto Empedocle, 60 miles south-east of Marsala.  Seven bombs fell on the power station, and a silo, brickworks and a road bridge were also hit.  Two Blenheim fighters machine-gunned one of two E-boats off Pantellaria, killing or wounding all the crew.  A merchant ship of 3000 tons in the Gulf of Taranto was hit by three bombs and set on fire, and was last seen almost submerged.

A total of 18 Wellingtons made two night attacks on Palermo harbour; bombs fell on the power station and in the shipyard and dock area, where two ships were probably hit. On another night Swordfish mined the harbour, while a Wellington created a diversion by bombing the aerodrome.  Three successful night attacks were also made on motor transport parks at Tripoli and over 37 tons of high explosive bombs and incendiaries were dropped.  Many fires broke out and, during one of the attacks, ‘merged into one vast conflagration’.  Swordfish and Wellingtons also mined the harbour. 

Italian aircraft approached Malta during four nights of the week but dropped their bombs in the sea. Fighters twice approached the Island during the day but did not cross the coast.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 OCTOBER TO DAWN 3 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Heavy thunderstorm overnight, with torrential rain.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 2 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Trusty and Upholder returned from patrol off Cape Vito and Naples: enemy battle fleet was not sighted.

AIR HQ  Departures 2 Beaufighter. 69 Squadron Maryland patrol east Sicilian coast.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Demonstration of fire power of mortars in the area of Sannat.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 6.

 

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Posted by on October 2, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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1 October 1941: Malta Command Reports Standard of Enemy Bomber Crews Deteriorating

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Lt Carroll (l.) & men of RE Bomb Disposal, Malta (NWMA Malta)

Lt Carroll (l.) & men of RE Bomb Disposal, Malta (NWMA Malta)

RAID SUMMARY SEPTEMBER 1941

  • No of air raids to date 828
  • No of air raid alerts this month 31 (including 21 night alerts)
  • Days without air raid alerts 12
  • Total time under alert 19 hours 23 mins
  • Average length of alert 38 mins
  • Civilians killed by enemy action 4
  • Civilians injured 4

ROYAL ENGINEERS BOMB DISPOSAL SECTION

Unexploded bombs dealt with July-Sept 1941 total: 224

  • High explosives: 15g x 21; 50kg x 8; 130lb x 1; 100kg/250lb x 8; 150kg x 2; 250kg/500lb x 2; 500kg x 2
  • Incendiaries: 2kg x 174; 70kg x 2
  • Anti-personnel: 2kg x 3; 12kg x 1

MALTA COMMANDERS REPORT ON SEPTEMBER RAIDS

The month was chiefly notable for the increase in the number of daylight raids, the majority being made by small numbers of the new Macchi 200s with in-line engines, flying, for the most part, at too great a height for interception by our own fighters. Night bombing increased presumably as a reprisal for our own heavy raids on enemy ports and aerodromes, but the standard of enemy bomber crews appears to be deteriorating.

Bombing occurred only at night. There were twelve night bombing raids, as a result of which three men and one woman were killed, and three men and three women seriously injured. Thirteen houses, one factory and one garage were demolished or badly damaged.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 OCTOBER TO DAWN 2 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

1155-1220 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy fighters approaching the Island in two formations. Eight Hurricane fighters 185 Squadron and six 126 Squadron are scrambled.  185 Squadron intercept the first formation five north of Gozo, damaging one enemy fighter.  The second formation which has positioned itself against the sun immediately launches a counter-attack on the Hurricanes which break off their action at once.  One Hurricane’s starboard wing is damaged in an engagement with a Macchi fighter but he returns safely.  Sgt Knight attacks another Macchi and damages its tail unit but is then attacked by three others and forced to break off the action.  The fighter of S/Ldr Mould DFC is shot down.

PM  One Swordfish 830 Squadron carries out a search for S/Ldr Mould without success.

Military casualties  Private Cyril Fletcher, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment); Squadron Leader Peter W O Mould, DFC and Bar, Royal Air Force, 185 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 1 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Thrasher arrived from patrol in the Gulf of Sirte having carried out two unsuccessful attacks.  Much anti-submarine and minelaying activity off Benghazi. Polish submarine Sokol arrived from Gibraltar and from patrol supporting ‘Operation Halberd’.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 9 Wellington. Departures 1 Maryland, 2 Wellington.  69 Squadron 2 Maryland special patrols. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Battalion mounting guard on convoy ships.

 

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Posted by on October 1, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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30 September 1941: Submarines Sink 49 Axis Ships in 3 Months

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RAF raid on German ammunition dump in Libyan desert August 1941

RAF raid on German ammunition dump in Libyan desert August 1941

ROYAL NAVY MONTHLY REVIEWS SEPTEMBER 1941

Between June and the end of September, submarines have sunk a total of 49 enemy ships – an overall 150,000 tons – in the Mediterranean. Added to the losses inflicted by the RAF this represented a high proportion of Axis shipping bound for Libya.

12 patrols were carried out during the month by submarines of 10th Flotilla.  In addition, Triumph proceeded to a successful patrol in the Adriatic, Perseus to an area off Kefalonia, and Otus and Osiris direct to Alexandria.

Unbeaten carried out a spirited bombardment of a tunnel which caused consternation to the local home guard, and Upright sank a destroyer of the Generale class.  The most successful operation was against a fast convoy east of Tripoli, during which Upholder scored one hit on each of Oceania and Neptunia in a night attack and after reloading returned to sink one of them with two torpedoes at dawn.  The other ship’s fate is unknown.  The Vulcania of the same convoy was intercepted by Ursula which scored one hit on the ship causing it to list slightly and reduce speed.

No bombs were reported as having fallen on the Dockyard or other Naval establishments. No unexploded bombs were dealt with by the Royal Navy during the month. 

AIR HQ REPORTS A TOTAL OF 233 TONS OF BOMBS ON TRIPOLI THIS MONTH

During the month sweeps over enemy territory by Malta fighters, some equipped to carry 40lb bombs, were added to the strategy.

Marylands and photoreconnaissance Hurricanes of 69 Squadron have covered the Italian convoy routes daily as well as making frequent reconnaissances of Sicilian and southern Calabrian ports and aerodromes, and of Tripoli. Naples has also been visited.  The excellent photographs, visual and sighting reports obtained have indirectly been responsible for the increased pressure of offensive effort from Malta during the month.

Offensive Operations:  Wellingtons of 38 Squadron carried out 26 operations during September, with an average of eight aircraft on each sortie. Over 233 tons of bombs have been dropped on Tripoli during 17 raids, causing considerable damage to harbour installations and the town. Palermo has been attacked five times, Messina twice, Benhazi and Kuriat once each.

Blenheims of 105 and 107 Squadrons carried out 31 operations, 20 of these directed against enemy shipping. Considerable damage was done to the chemical works and harbour installations at Crotone, factories at Licata, transport centres at Homs, barracks at Misurata and a power station at Porto Empedocle.  Five sweeps have been made along the Tripoli-Benghazi road during which petrol tankers and other transport vehicles have been bombed and machine-gunned.

Hurricanes (equipped with cannon) of 249 Squadron attacked the railway station at Pozallo, while those of 185 Squadron have carried out three bombing raids on Comiso aerodrome. On one of these raids a Hurricane was lost but the pilot was subsequently rescued. 

Swordfish of 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm carried out 16 operations, 13 of these against enemy shipping, and have sunk two motor vessels and one destroyer, as well as damaging others. Mines have been laid on two occasions in Tripoli Harbour and once at Palermo.  As a result of torpedo attacks two merchant ships are claimed sunk, one destroyer and three merchantmen probably sunk, seven damaged and a further five probably damaged. 

Beaufighters of 272 Squadron were attached to this command during ‘Operation Halberd’ and were used to attack Sardinian and Sicilian aerodromes. Searches were also made south of Sicily for torpedo boats.

On 14 nights Fulmars have operated over aerodromes in southern Sicily, dropping small bombs and machine-gunning aircraft on the ground. One Fulmar force-landed in the sea; the crew were rescued.

Defensive Action: 126 Squadron carried out 31 scrambles during the month, 249 Squadron 22 and 185 Squadron 66. The Malta Night Fighter Unit had 22 scrambles and shot down two enemy aircraft.  Eleven enemy aircraft were confirmed destroyed, plus one probable and five damaged, against the loss of two Hurricanes.

Enemy Activity: There have been nine day alerts and 20 night alerts during the month. None of these raids was heavy and bombs have only been dropped at night.  Damage has been negligible and confined to civilian property. 

HURRICANES ATTACKED AS THEY SEARCH FOR MISSING PILOT

Malta fighters were attacked tonight by five enemy aircraft as they helped search for one of their own Hurricane pilots reported missing after a raid. Eleven Hurricanes of 185 Squadron had earlier attacked Comiso aerodrome but as they returned to their base at Hal Far they learned that one of their pilots, P/O Donald Lintern, was missing.  Five Hurricanes took off again to escort a Fulmar which was sent to search for the missing pilot.  As they circled the area to the north of Gozo, enemy aircraft approached and attacked the Malta fighters.  In the ensuing dogfight one of the enemy fighters was shot down.  P/O Lintern was not been found and the search was eventually called off.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 1 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and fresh.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Sergeant Robert L Kitch, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 200 Squadron; Pilot Officer Donald W Lintern, RAFVR, 185 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 4 Wellington. Departures 6 Beaufighter, 4 Blenheim fighter. Fleet Air Arm One Fulmar on offensive patrol over Gerbini and Catania aerodromes dropped high explosive bombs on Gerbini dispersal area. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked a motor transport depot in Tripoli. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance eastern and southern Sicily, east Calabrian coast and Tripoli.  Patrol of east Sicilian coast and shipping search off Tripoli area. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked shipping and motor transport near Misurata and Beurat.  1 Blenheim attacked a schooner.  1 Blenheim on search for shipping north of Crotone. 

HAL FAR  185 Squadron 11 Hurricanes attacked Comiso aerodrome, 5 carrying bombs and 6 acting as fighter escort. High explosive bombs and incendiaries were dropped on buildings and a dispersal area.  The aircraft of P/O Lintern failed to return. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Mobile machine-gun company carried out an exercise to the north west of Rabat.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths 33 officers, 870 other ranks.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 21 officers, 443 other ranks.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 18 officers, 708 other ranks. Recruits joined in September: 77.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths 18 officers, 8 WO1, 214 other ranks.

 

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Posted by on September 30, 2021 in 1941, September 1941

 

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29 September 1941: Malta Centre for Allied Propaganda Radio

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SOE propaganda broadcaster Sefton Delmer speaks to Germany

SOE propaganda broadcaster Sefton Delmer speaks to Germany

TRANSMITTER READY FOR BROADCAST TO AXIS HELD TERRITORIES

A radio transmitter for the Ministry of Information has been set up in Malta to broadcast to Axis held territories including Italy and North Africa. The branch of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) on the Island has notified the War Office today that the transmitter is ready.  It can cover an area between longitude 10 and longitude 18 east, latitude 27 and latitude 44 north and has a directional aerial that can target specific zones for propaganda messages. 

Propaganda broadcasts to Germany are already established on the Home Front.  The plan is for broadcasts from Malta to be made in French, Italian and Arabic. Italian-speaking personnel are already available in Malta but French and Arabic speakers are still required before the broadcasts can begin.

MALTA CONVOY SHIPS ATTACKED ON RETURN VOYAGE

Two merchant ships which delivered vital supplies to Malta have been attacked on their return voyage through the western Mediterranean. SS City of Pretoria and Port Chalmers were part of the ‘Operation Substance’ convoy in July and sailed from Grand Harbour on Saturday as part of the current ‘Operation Halberd’ shipping movements.  On the first night Port Chalmers drove off an attack by Italian motor torpedo boats. 

The ships then and separated to avoid enemy detection, heading along the North African coast under the disguise of French colours. However, City of Pretoria was attacked by three torpedo bombers and stalked by enemy submarines on the last leg of her crossing towards Gibraltar. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 30 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 29 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 7 Beaufighter. Fleet Air Arm One Fulmar Fleet Air Arm offensive patrol over Catania, Gerbini and Comiso made a machine-gun attack and dropped bombs on Gerbini aerodrome, causing a violent explosion and fire. 38 Squadron 10 Wellingtons attacked a motor transport park in Tripoli. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance/patrols Catania, Comiso, Augusta, Cagliari, Palermo Harbour, Naples and Messina Harbours. 107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked targets at Buerat. 272 Squadron 4 Beaufighters attacked Elmas aerodrome and seaplane base. 

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Controlled minefields were laid at St Paul’s Bay and Salina Bay.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  75 men per Company of all ranks attended a lecture on censorship given by the Chief Censor for Malta.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (15kg)

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  All ranks except three distributed from Poor House.

 

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28 September 1941: Malta Convoy Arrival a ‘Marvellous Sight’

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Troops ready to disembark in Grand Harbour today (c) IWM A5771

Troops ready to disembark in Grand Harbour today (c) IWM A5771

IMMENSE CROWDS OUT TO WELCOME SHIPS

The remaining eight merchant ships of the convoy under ‘Operation Halberd’ entered Grand Harbour today bringing supplies and military reinforcements to Malta. SS City of Calcutta, Ajax, Rowallan Castle, Clan Ferguson, Clan Macdonald, Dunedin Star, City of Lincoln and HMS Breconshire docked this afternoon, the third major supply convoy to reach the Island this year.  Nearly 40 merchant ships have successfully landed their supplies; only one has been lost, the SS Imperial Star which was torpedoed yesterday.  The cost to the Royal Navy has been one cruiser and a destroyer sunk, and a battleship, carrier and two cruisers damaged.

After the enemy air attacks overnight, security measures on the convoy escort ships were on high alert. The cruiser Hermione launched an attack on Pantellaria to give the impression that the convoy was passing the island while it was well to the north.

No further enemy attacks on the convoy were launched and at dawn today fighters from Malta commenced continuous air cover. At 0830 hrs four ships of the Naval escort moved ahead of the convoy, arriving at Malta three hours later to a rousing welcome. Guards and bands paraded, to cheers from immense crowds ashore.  Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta, noted the events in his diary:

“There were vague rumours of it; lightermen were summoned on the local Broadcast; a churchwarden rang up to say he would be unable to read the lessons on Sunday, and two faithful choirmen sent word that they would be detained in the Dockyard.  After Mattins we had our first Carol practice, and in the middle Clement called out from his seat in the loggia “Convoy!” We rushed out of the drawing room and there on the horizon, a marvellous sight. The biggest Convoy since the war. We counted about 15 ships…

They were twice attacked off Sicily, once by day – easily beaten off – and once by night, bombers again. Nelson was slightly damaged and lost some speed. One merchantman, Imperial Star, was hit on the propellers and steering gear, but in no danger of sinking. She was too big to tow, especially as she would not steer; and the necessary escort could not be spared. So we sank her by gunfire. But what a pity!

These ‘Star’ ships are all pretty new – only about 4 years – and they cost a million to build (for the Australian chilled meat trade). I wonder what her cargo was worth. A million at least, I should imagine…

One wonders whether they brought some of the things which we are so short of. Here are some of them (NB. NAAFI has monopoly, but we may not buy there.): torches, nails, wood, toilet paper – but even as I write I realise that we are short of practically everything. The chemists have practically nothing and one realises how much one relies upon them for one’s needs – aspirin, throat lozenges, and a dozen other things, including some of the patent foods such as Sanatogen which would be so useful at this time. Ordinary food is also difficult to get. A vast cargo of beef went down on the Imperial Star – some say as much as 3000 tons. This will be greatly missed.

The Army has vast stores – enough for six months, and they live very well. It is a different proposition for the poor civilian. Indeed the wives, whether rich or poor have a hard task at their daily marketing, poor dears. And most of them can talk of little else. Those who are connected to the NAAFI are better off, as that maligned institution has many things which the private shops do not possess. Some folk are not too particular about dealing there when legally they have no such right; and I fancy the Manager has extended the privilege to a few. But I would not wish to ask favours, though as a retired officer I should have a higher moral claim than some who are allowed to use it.” (1)

Total military reinforcements brought by the convoy include a 600 bed hospital, 36 officers, 507 other ranks. The supplies included 8093 tons of kerosene and 1131 tons of motor transport fuel.  Having disembarked their troops and stores, the Naval vessels sailed again at 1830 hrs.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 29 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1230 hrs  A convoy of eight merchant ships plus escort arrives at Malta.

1530-1555 hrs  Air raid alert for two Macchi 200 fighters which approach to within half a mile of the coast, follow the coast line southwards and turn south east at Grand Harbour. Two heavy anti-aircraft guns fire pointer rounds; no claims.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no interceptions.

2221-2340 hrs  Air raid alert for five unidentified enemy bombers approaching the Island separately. Only two cross the coast at Kalafrana and Grand Harbour.  Searchlights illuminate one aircraft which  is barraged by heavy anti-aircraft guns.  The raiders drop bombs in the sea off Grand Harbour and off Tigne and retreat. 

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Harry Crossley, Royal Air Force (RAF), 113 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Albert E Smith, RAF, 113 Squadron; Flight Sergeant John Swan, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 113 Squadron; Able Seaman James H Phillips, Merchant Navy, MV Dunedin Star.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Operation Halberd successfully completed, with the exception of the loss of Imperial Star in the Skerki Channel; no casualties.

AIR HQ Departures 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 12 Wellingtons attacked Palermo. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland on patrol, 1 Maryland photoreconnaissance Taranto.  Marylands reconnaissance Pantelleria and westwards, Messina, Naples; Marylands shadowing enemy fleet; one Maryland on patrol. 107 Squadron 1 Blenheim patrol eastern Sicily.  2 Blenheims search for damaged merchant ship.  1 Blenheim patrol Cape Passero.    113 Squadron  2 Blenheims at a time on two anti-submarine patrols.  2 Blenheims on anti e-boat patrol off Pantelleria; Sgt Crossley failed to return.  2 Blenheims anti e-boat patrol Trapani. 272 Squadron 2 Beaufighters attack 2 e-boats.  10 Beaufighters attacked a convoy escort. 

TA QALI  344 airmen arrived from home establishment by convoy. Palazzo Parisio, Naxxar, taken over and 15 airmen housed there.  50 airmen are housed in the Manchester Regiment barrack block at Imtarfa.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  140 other ranks and one officer billeted at the Poor House.

(1) Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

 

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Posted by on September 28, 2021 in 1941, September 1941

 

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