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Category Archives: November 1940

21 November 1940: Air Chief Missing en Route to Malta

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AIR MARSHAL’S WELLINGTON BELIEVED INTERCEPTED EN ROUTE TO MALTA

Wellington missing

Wellington missing

A British Air Marshal has been named as a passenger on a Wellington bomber which was reported missing en route to Malta yesterday. Since the start of the war Air Marshal O T Boyd was Commander in Chief RAF Balloon Command, responsible for controlling all the UK based barrage balloons.  He was recently promoted to Air Marshal and appointed deputy to the Air Officer Commanding, Middle East.  He was on his way to Egypt to take up this appointment, and expected to stop in Malta en route.  Three other RAF officers are also reported to have been aboard the aircraft.

The Wellington was one of seven which set off for Malta in the early hours of yesterday morning. The remaining six aircraft landed safely at Luqa.  According to pilot reports, Italian fighters were patrolling in the vicinity and it is believed they may have intercepted the Wellington carrying Air Vice Marshal Boyd.  After an investigation it has been confirmed that he was not carrying secret papers which could compromise the war effort, with the exception of one confidential letter the contents of which have not been confirmed.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 22 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

0034-0113; 0123-0153 hrs Two consecutive air raid alerts. The first is triggered by a single enemy raider which flies to within four miles of Gozo, where it circles before returning towards base.  Then a single raider flies across Malta from west to east, dropping three high explosive bombs and four incendiaries between Qormi, Ta Qali and Rabat.  Searchlights have difficulty illuminating the raider due to thick layers of cloud.  A Malta fighter is unable to intercept and the raider gets away.  Light machine guns at an Ack Ack post in Marsa open fire.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 21 NOVEMBER 1940

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Major General Scobell, General Officer Commanding, paid a short visit to the camp.

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Posted by on November 21, 2020 in 1940, November 1940

 

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20 November 1940: New Mail Service for Troops

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Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa today

Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa today

TELEGRAM SERVICE INTENDED TO MAKE UP FOR MAIL DELAYS

In view of what have been described as ‘abnormal delays’ in the mail service, a new scheme has been agreed with the Air Ministry to provide cheap means of communication for all ranks. It will come into effect immediately.

All ranks may send one private telegram per month to the United Kingdom according to the following conditions:

  1. Only applies to addresses in the United Kingdom
  2. Messages must relate to urgent private affairs.
  3. Text should not exceed twelve words.
  4. Addresses must be as short as possible.
  5. Charge for text will be one penny per word.
  6. Charge for address will be one penny per word.  If the address exceeds five words the excess words over five will not be charged for.
  7. Telegrams are to be written on ordinary service message forms to be obtained from Battalion HQ.
  8. The message will be censored and approved by an officer for transmission in plain language.  Careful censoring is essential as it must be borne in mind that it will almost certainly be intercepted by the enemy.
  9. Records are to be maintained by Companies showing the names of senders and payments made.
  10. Companies will pay into the Command Cashier at the end of each month the total cash received in respect of messages sent.  A statement will accompany the remittance showing the number of messages sent and the Fortress Headquarters authority for the service.

The success of the scheme depends on the careful control of the number of messages transmitted. Contents of messages must relate to essential business of an urgent nature and must not contain terms of endearment, congratulations or greetings.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 21 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Cold and damp.

No air raids.

0930 hrs  Six Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 1940

AIR HQ Arrivals 6 Wellingtons. Departures 1 Sunderland. 

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Middle East with passengers.

TA QALI 261 Squadron moved from RAF Station Luqa: 13 officers and 165 airmen being posted to this station for rations, accommodation, displine and duty.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Unloading of second convoy completed.

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Posted by on November 20, 2020 in 1940, November 1940

 

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19 November 1940: War Cabinet Inquiry into Hurricane Losses

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First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Dudley Pound

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Dudley Pound

FIRST SEA LORD REPORTS INITIAL FINDINGS

An immediate inquiry has been launched into the loss of nine aircraft flown off HMS Argus for Malta on Sunday.  Reporting to the War Cabinet, the First Sea Lord outlined the initial findings of the emergency investigation into the loss. 

According to the report, the first flight of six Hurricanes, led by a Skua, flew to Galleta Island, where they were met by a Sunderland flying boat to be guided onward to Malta. The second flight of one Skua and six Hurricanes also flew off Argus.  They were due to rendezvous with a Sunderland flying boat which was unable to take off owing to a defect.  A Glenn Martin was sent instead to meet the seven delivery aircraft instead.  However, the weather deteriorated and the Glenn Martin failed to make contact with the second flight. 

The report’s firm conclusion was that in both flights the machines were carrying a very small margin of fuel. The investigation had established that five of the aircraft in the first flight arrived at the rendezvous with very little fuel left in their tanks.  Two force-landed in the sea; one pilot was picked up by the Sunderland flying-boat. 

The second flight asked for a direction-finder bearing from Malta, which was given. At that time they were in a position due west of the Island.  It is not known whether their signal had been picked up.  Despite a thorough search, none of the pilots was located.

The distance from the point at which the aircraft flew off Argus for Malta was 385 miles.  This was 40 miles further west of Malta than the last time a similar operation was carried out.  It is believed that the early take-off was ordered when an Italian naval force was detected approaching the convoy.  This would appear to be critical given the findings regarding low fuel readings in the surviving aircraft.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 20 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 19 NOVEMBER 1940

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from UK en route for Middle East to rejoin 229 Squadron, also carrying eight passengers. Seven officers and 97 other ranks arrived from UK for posting to units in Malta were provided with temporary accommodation. 

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Hand grenade throwing practice. A Coy moved to new HQ near Imtarfa. 

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Posted by on November 19, 2020 in 1940, November 1940

 

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18 November 1940: Malta Shops Re-open All Hours

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Shopping hours extended

Shopping hours extended

NORMAL TRADING RESUMES

The Government today lifted restrictions on opening hours of shops across Malta. The move has been welcomed by retailers, whose businesses have been affected by commodity shortages as well as shorter opening times.  The civilian curfew hours will remain unchanged.

The restrictions, introduced on 29 May, required shops to close one hour before the 8.30pm curfew time and to remain closed until the curfew lifted at 6 o’clock in the morning. With the lifting of these restrictions shop owners are free to return to their normal trading schedules, making it easier for civilians to shop outside of their own working hours.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 19 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather   Fine.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 18 NOVEMBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY HMS Newcastle arrived with RAF reinforcements. She developed boiler and condenser defects and remained for repairs. 

KALAFRANA  Marine Craft Section rescued two crew of a Swordfish from a rubber dinghy three miles off Benghaisa.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Responsibility for bomb disposal assigned to Lt E E Talbot, Bomb Disposal Officer, RE.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Bomb Disposal taken over by Bomb Disposal Officer, Royal Engineers and so ceases to be responsibility of Inspecting Ordnance Officer.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Battalion handed over guard duty at War HQ Lascaris and Barracca to 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment. 

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Posted by on November 18, 2020 in 1940, November 1940

 

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17 November 1940: Eight Hurricanes Lost en Route to Malta

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Only 4 Hurricanes reached Malta

Only 4 Hurricanes reached Malta

FUEL SHORTAGE THOUGHT TO HAVE CAUSED LOSSES

Eight Hurricane fighter aircraft which were due to land in Malta today have been reported missing. The fighters were part of an operation to deliver twelve Hurricanes as reinforcements for the Island’s RAF fighter defence force.  The Hurricanes arrived in the western Mediterranean on board the aircraft carrier HMS Argus escorted by part of the Mediterranean fleet.  The first of two waves of six Hurricanes and a Skua took off from Argus at 6.15 this morning to fly onward to Malta.  The second wave set off an hour later. 

Just after 9am the pilot of a Short Sunderland flying boat sent to guide the first formation to Malta saw two Hurricanes ditch into the sea. He was able to rescue one of the pilots, Sergeant R A Spyer, who reported that he had run out of fuel.  The remaining four Hurricanes and the Skua landed safely at Luqa at 9.20am.  

A bomber from Malta sent out to meet the second wave could find none of the expected aircraft. It is feared that all six Hurricanes and the Skua may have ditched in the sea, most likely due to lack of fuel.

Missing pilots named so far are Flying Officer E G Bidgood, Pilot Officer F J Boret, Flying Officer R W Clarke, Sergeant W G Cunnington, Pilot Officer J M Horrox, Flying Officer P W Horton and Flying Officer J R Walker, RAF.

Codenamed ‘White’, the fighter delivery operaton was a repeat of a similar manoeuvre, Operation ‘Hurry’ carried out in August. It had hoped the success of that operation would form a model for future aircraft deliveries to Malta.    

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 18 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

0930 hrs  One Skua and four Hurricanes land at Luqa.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 17 NOVEMBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Operation ‘White’ carried out but only five out of 14 aircraft reached Malta. Anti-submarine trawlers were sent to search for the missing aircraft off Gozo and Filfla but no trace could be found. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Skua; 4 Hurricanes

KALAFRANA One Sunderland on escort duty for a delivery flight of Hurricanes arriving from an aircraft carrier. The pilot F/Lt Woodward rescued the survivor of one Hurricane which had force-landed in the sea.  He then joined F/Lt McKinley to search for further missing aircraft: no trace found.  Sunderland of F/Lt Ware on search patrol for Wellington – no trace.  A draft of 26 airmen of various trades were posted to Kalafrana from UK. 

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  The Battalion is now the Fortress mobile reserve – to be used in a counter-attack role in the event of the enemy gaining a footing on the Island – and has been issued with 520 bicycles.

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Posted by on November 17, 2020 in 1940, November 1940

 

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16 November 1940: Refugees Return Home to Harbour Towns

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RETURNING CIVILIANS NOW NEED SHELTERS

Grand Harbour and the Three Cities

Grand Harbour and the Three Cities

Thousands of former refugees have been returning to their homes surrounding Malta’s Dockyard and submarine base. The recent reduction in enemy air raids, the onset of winter rains and the difficult conditions faced by many refugees in temporary lodging inland are believed to have prompted their return.  Bus fares have also proved expensive for dockyard workers commuting from inland villages to work.

Since early August almost 22000 refugees have returned to communities surrounding Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto, and the number is increasing daily. Hundreds have returned to Paola and Tarxien; 2500 were reported to be back in Senglea alone by the end of October and many more intend to return as soon as shelters are complete.  Residents of Sliema are also moving back in great numbers.

They are doing so often despite the fact that there are no rock shelters near their homes. At Marsa people have to run over mile to take refuge in a shelter near the church.  From Paola and even from Tarxien people flock to the Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni – the only public rock shelter in the area.  Its capacity has been registered as 500 but it is believed that as many as a thousand have been seeking refuge there.

Residents of Vittoriosa and Cospicua have written to local press about the need for more shelters. One wrote: “Now that three fourths of the inhabitants…have returned to this city, an underground shelter is urgently needed.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 17 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Bright and fine.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 16 NOVEMBER 1940

KALAFRANA  Special message-dropping flight to an aircraft carrier.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Instructions from Assistant Director Ordnance Services for Inspecting Ordnance Officer to make up hostile bombs into landmines.

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

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Posted by on November 16, 2020 in 1940, November 1940

 

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15 November 1940: Picture Postcards of Malta Seized by Censor

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Postcards could aid enemy landing plans

Postcards could aid enemy landing plans

POSTCARDS HOME COULD BE USEFUL TO THE ENEMY

The public has been warned against sending postcards abroad showing views of Malta which may provide useful intelligence to an enemy considering invasion. From now on such postcards will be withheld by the censors, without their senders being notified.

NEW ORDERS SUPPORT FAMILIES OF MALTA TROOPS

Troops of the King’s Own Malta Regiment have been reassured that their families will be properly paid, should any serviceman be admitted to hospital. According to general orders today, there have been cases of servicemen in the General Military Hospital at Imtarfa whose family have not been paid Family Allowance.  The matter has been brought to the attention of the Commanding Officer who has issued immediate orders to rectify the situation.  From now on, officers of the Regiment will ensure that when a married man is admitted to hospital his Family Allowance will be paid directly to his wife, to avoid future hardship.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 16 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Bright and fine.

1350-1407 hrs Air raid alert for four or more enemy fighters, believed to be Italian CR42s, which approach the Island ad 21000 feet. Anti-aircaft guns engage the raiders which turn away before crossing the coast.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 15 NOVEMBER 1940

TA QALI  F/O O’Connell posted to RAF Station Ta Qali as Medical Officer.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Governor and Commander in Chief Lt Gen W J S Dobbie, RE, CMG, DSO visited the camp.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Mine reported drifting near defence post J8.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Matches and fuzes made up locally burning for 7 seconds ordered for trial with petrol bombs. Large quantity of 18 pounders received from convoy is marked showing life of cordite charges expires 1942 and 1943.

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Posted by on November 15, 2020 in 1940, November 1940

 

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14 November 1940: Malta Early Warning Systems Improved

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NEW RADIO DIRECTION FINDER (RDF) EQUIPMENT IMPROVES MALTA DEFENCES (1)

RDF equipment Mark 1

RDF equipment Mark 1

The system which provides essential early warning of enemy formations approaching Malta is undergoing significant improvement. RDF equipment detects incoming aircraft from some distance, enabling the RAF to scramble the Island’s defending fighter force to catch approaching raiders unawares and attack or deter them well before they reach the coast.  The information also supports the sounding of air raid alerts across Malta, giving troops and civilians time to get to shelter before bombers arrive.

There has been a RDF system in Malta since 1939, when stations were set up on Dingli Cliff. Three more sites are now planned and a centre to filter information is being set up in the cellar of a house in Scots Street, Valletta. New equipment has now arrived which can detect shipping and low-flying aircraft, along with experienced service personnel from the Home Front to man the updated systems. RDF Stations identify the approximate number of approaching aircraft (both Allied and Axis) as well as their height.  The details are passed on by telephone to the filter room and from there to all relevant points.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 15 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Private Arthur Phillips, 2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 14 NOVEMBER 1940

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland on patrol over Ionian Sea then posted to Middle East to rejoin 230 Squadron.

TA QALI  S/Ldr Balen OC 261 Squadron posted to RAF Station Luqa.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Approx 10000 rounds ammunition issued direct from ship to Royal Artillery towards 100% reserve.

(1) Radio Direction Finder equipment became known as RADAR

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Posted by on November 14, 2020 in 1940, November 1940

 

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13 November 1940: New RE Bomb Disposal Officer Gets to Work

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ROYAL ENGINEERS OFFICER TACKLES BOMB IN RESERVOIR

Lt E E C Talbot, GC, RE

Lt E E C Talbot, GC, RE (1)

The RAOC officers called on Malta’s new Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer to tackle his first bomb on the Island today. Lt E E Talbot, GC, RE, who arrived on Sunday from the UK was decorated three months ago for his bravery in dealing with an unexploded bomb (UXB) with an unknown fuze in South Wales.

His first UXB in Malta was found when water was drained from the reservoir at Luqa. Inspecting Ordnance Officer Captain R L Jephson Jones, RAOC, identified the bomb as a 250lb Italian high explosive.  

Lt Talbot was only too ready to get back to work; he would need some assistance.   Sapper Tom Meager had been manning a Lewis gun on the harbour bastions until that morning:  “Never volunteer for anything, they used to say in the army. I went on Parade one morning and they said ‘We need volunteers to deal with an unexploded bomb. Nobody has to volunteer. So if you don’t want to volunteer just fall out.’  And they all went and left me standing there.  He said, ‘Are you sure?’ and I said ‘Yes, I’ll have a go at anything.’ 

Tom Meager was sent out to Luqa:  “The first bomb we went on was an Italian 500 pounder and it landed in the surface reservoir by the airfield. There was about a foot of mud on the bottom of the reservoir and the bomb must have skidded in because it ended up in one corner and didn’t go off.

We waded through the mud to the bomb. At this stage we knew absolutely nothing about bomb fuzes, so we were completely ignorant of what could happen if we dealt with a bomb at all. Not knowing anything, we just went over, unscrewed the fuze and took it out, and that was it.  Nothing happened, because I’m still here.  It wasn’t until afterwards when we got more information about these things that we realised how close we had come to being blown up.” (1)

BARS DECLARED ‘OUT OF BOUNDS’ TO TROOPS

Troops of the Kings Own Malta Regiment have been informed today that the following bars have been placed out of bounds to all Other Ranks: the Rexford, Maricho, Captain Caruana, Crocha and the Officers’ Bar of the Monico.  These bars are now set aside for the use of officers only – and officers are not to enter any other bar. 

The following premises are placed in bounds to all troops: Harbour Bar, St Paul’s Bay, the Sportsmans Rest Bar, St Anne Street, Valletta; White Swan Restaurant, Strait Street, Valletta

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 14 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 13 NOVEMBER 1940

AIR HQ  Arrivals 8 Wellingtons.

LUQA  Eight Wellingtons arrive.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Bomb Disposal UXB  High explosive 1 from reservoir by Bomb Disposal Officer, Royal Engineers.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  A new Company HQ is established in Lintorn Barracks. The new formation consists of No 1 Section for Coast Defence (Engine Rooms), Nos 2 and 3 Sections for defensive works. Lt E E Talbot RE now joined the BD Section of the Company which continued its dangerous and valuable work.  Major Jacob left and Captain (A/Major) De Piro-Cowley assumed command.

(1) UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

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Posted by on November 13, 2020 in 1940, November 1940

 

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12 November 1940: Italian Fighters Attack Malta Air Reinforcements

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ITALIANS ATTACK BOMBERS BOUND FOR MALTA

Italian intelligence has been receiving information that that bombers are being sent to Malta to reinforce the strength of air forces on the Island. As a result, Italian fighter aircraft have begun intercepting patrols from the Island.  In recent days one Glenn Martin was recently shot down by fighters while en route to Malta.  One Wellington was also attacked but escaped with the loss of one crew member.  Other aircraft have been pursued as far as the Island’s coast.

FORTRESS MALTA NOW ARMED AGAINST INVASION

I-tank

I-tank

The War Cabinet in London was told today that the garrison of Malta, now consisting of six British battalions, two batteries of 25 pounders and a company of I-tanks, can be considered to provide reasonable insurance against an Italian landing. The garrison is almost entirely deployed on the beaches.

Governor and Commander in Chief General Dobbie has requested two more battalions, but this is on the assumption that seven days might elapse after an attack on Malta before help was received from the Mediterranean Fleet. This is viewed in London as possibly a rather pessimistic estimate, however on a recent visit to the Island the Secretary of State for War commented that the mobile reserve appeared ‘rather inadequate’.  Since then one more British battalion has arrived.  However, the recruiting of Maltese has fallen to 50 per cent of normal, largely, it is understood, on account of discontent with the pay offered; the matter is being taken up. 

According to the Cabinet report, the bombing of Malta has not been formidable, by London standards, and the civil population remains in good heart. The Naval authorities have requested minesweepers, to prevent the exits from the harbour from being mined, and some motor torpedo boats.  These would help prevent enemy warships standing off the Island out of range of the coastal defences and bombarding it.  Malta military chiefs are also anxious for a number of small submarines.

Members of the War Cabinet are aware of the significance of enemy communications to North Africa; most of this activity takes place at night. If the Germans begin sending reinforcements to Libya through the Mediterranean, it will become a matter of great importance to interrupt their supply lines.

The First Sea Lord added that Allied transport links between Alexandria and Malta will be greatly improved by the current British occupation of Crete.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 13 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

0940-1000 hrs  Air raid alert for six Italian Macchi 200 fighters which cross the Island in pairs at 20000 feet, some heading over Valletta and others over Marsaxlokk towards Luqa. Accurate Ack Ack fire splits the formations.  Malta fighters are also scrambled: one Hurricane shoots down a Macchi 200 into the sea in St Thomas Bay, killing its pilot whose body is recovered and brought to shore.  All bombs are dropped in the sea.

Enemy casualties   Tenente Giuseppe, 6o Gruppo Autonomo, pilot of Macchi 200 fighter aircraft.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 12 NOVEMBER 1940

KALAFRANA  Sunderland on special moonlight patrol over southern Italy.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Demonstration of anti-tank flame obstacle at Falka Gap. Experiments carried out to ascertain width of road pits necessary to stop tanks at Ghain Tuffieha.   

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Posted by on November 12, 2020 in 1940, November 1940

 

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