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Category Archives: 1940

21 December 1940: Ammunition Supplies Poorly Labelled and Wet

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SS Clan Forbes

SS Clan Forbes

CONSIDERABLE WORK NEEDED BEFORE AMMUNITION SERVICEABLE

Ammunition unloaded from a recent convoy will need considerable remedial work after some supplies were found to be inadequately labelled and others affected by moisture.  According to the RAOC which manages ammunition stocks, many packages were incorrectly marked.  As a result a large quantity of 3.7in gun of different types have been mixed together during unloading of the merchant ships SS Clan Forbes and Clan Fraser.  Due to the urgency of unloading the ships at maximum possible speed, the problems only came to light once the supplies had reached their storage depots.

The Inspecting Ordnance Officer has concluded that considerable work will be needed not only to sort these into the correct types and batches before they can be issued to troops for the defence of Malta.  Many boxes containing cartridges were also found to have become wet in transit.  These will also need to be unpacked, examined and cleaned before issue.

The bulk of the ammunition has been stored at Mosta, Targa and St Clements, with small amounts at Gargur and St Michael’s, Valletta.  However, some issues have also been made direct to the Royal Artillery.  Steps will have to be taken to ensure that ammunition in each location is checked and brought up to usable standard.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 DECEMBER TO DAWN 22 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Very cold. 

No air raids.

1440 hrs  A mine is reported 100 yards from the shore at Ghar Lapsi floating towards Wied Zurriek.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 21 DECEMBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Norwegian tanker Hoegh Hood and destroyer Havelock arrived, the latter to remain for refit.    

AIR HQ  Departures  1 Sunderland.    

KALAFRANA  Sunderland L5803, pilot F/Lt Burnett, left for UK for overhaul.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Completion of storage of ammunition received from SS Clan Forbes and Clan Fraser.  There were forty different types received: 48000 rounds each of 40mm and 3.7in gun; 8700 rounds of 6 in Howitzer; 60,000 rounds of 25 pounder; 13000 contact anti-tank mines; 58000 grenades 36M; 5½ million rounds SAA; 18 tons gunpowder. 

 

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

 

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20 December 1940: Med Fleet Commander First Visit to Malta

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NAVY CHIEF ARRIVES WITH LATEST CONVOY

HMS Warspite

HMS Warspite

The Royal Navy Commander in Chief Mediterranean arrived in Grand Harbour today aboard his flagship Warspite on his first visit to the Island since the outbreak of war with Italy.   Admiral Cunningham is in Malta to discuss the supply situation with the Governor and Commander in Chief, Lt Gen Dobbie, and Vice-Admiral Malta Sir Wilbraham Ford.

HMS Warspite arrived with a large supply convoy, codenamed MW5, which set out from Egypt on Monday in two operations to make the 1000 mile journey through the Eastern Mediterranean to Malta.  Freighters Lanarkshire and Waiwera with their Royal Navy escort formed the first part of the supply convoy; the second included merchantmen Pontfield, Rodi and Volo plus Naval escort, joined later by freighters Devis and Hoegh Hood with escort.  Meanwhile, Warspite was on patrol with the Mediterranean Fleet providing distant cover for the passage of Convoy MW5 to Malta.

Large crowds turned out on the bastions overlooking Grand Harbour to welcome the arriving ships.  Although there were two air raid alerts during the day, no Italian aircraft approached close enough to the Island to disrupt the approach of the convoy.

With the arrival of MW5, a number of empty supply ships lying at Malta left Grand Harbour for Alexandria.  Merchantmen Breconshire, Clan Ferguson, Clan Macauley and Memnon sailed this afternoon escorted by the anti-aircraft cruiser Calcutta, destroyer Wryneck and three corvettes.  A second convoy also left Malta this afternoon for Gibraltar, including merchantmen Clan Forbes and Clan Fraser, accompanied by battleship Malaya and five destroyers.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 DECEMBER TO DAWN 21 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Very cold and damp. 

1055-1150 hrs  Air raid alert; no air raid develops.

1600-1610 hrs  Air raid alert; no air raid develops. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 20 DECEMBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Destroyers Griffin, Greyhound, Gallant, Dainty and Hasty dock for refuelling.  Aircraft carrier Illustrious launched two air attacks on Tripoli with fifteen aircraft each. 

ARMY HQ  1100 hrs Command exercise ended.

 

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

 

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19 December 1940: RAF Malta Lacks Essential Facilities

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British Air Council in Session 1940

British Air Council in Session 1940

RAF FACILITIES CANNOT MEET PRESENT DEMAND

Lack of facilities on Malta are restricting the effectiveness of air operations from the Island, according to a report to the British War Cabinet today.  The comments came in a memorandum to the Cabinet by the Secretary of State for Air, in which he reported on the damage caused by RAF bombing operations over Axis targets.  Introducing his report, the Secretary of State outlined the difficulty of obtaining accurate data, due to the understandable playing down of raid damage in the Axis press, combined with a tendency for RAF pilots to underestimate their success.

Referring to operations from Malta on Italian targets, he commented:  “Several reports refer to the small amount of damage to Naples.  But we have only carried out 14 sorties and dropped 13 tons of bombs on this city.  The major difficulties of operating from Malta, with only one small aerodrome and an improvised maintenance service, have precluded a heavier scale of attack.”

From a close examination of all the evidence available on the results of RAF raids over both Germany and Italy, the Air Staff have concluded that the effect of British bombs on the enemy has been greater relatively to the size of the force at the country’s disposal than the results of German attacks on Britain.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 DECEMBER TO DAWN 20 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Very cold and wet. 

0737 hrs  Two mines reported at Paradise Bay are made safe.

1130-1150 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Private Louis Gatt, King’s Own Malta Regiment; Corporal Charles Moxon, 2nd Bn The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 19 DECEMBER 1940

ARMY HQ  0700 hrs  Command exercise began.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Command exercise dispositions: A Company two platoons St Andrew’s area and one platoon Tigne area; B Company (vulnerable points) guards at Cable & wireless, Gargur Battery, Mosta Fort, Mosta Fort Magazine, Muesum and Rabat stations, Dingli and Id Dweira, one platoon in reserve at Mosta Fort; C Company (anti-parachutists) Posts TV 1-8 manned, one platoon in reserve at Sherwood Camp; D Company (anti-parachutists) Posts PB 1-7 and IT 1-5 manned, one platoon in reserve at Gomerino; HQ Company defence of Bn HQ area.  Telephone communications between vulnerable points and HQs are not considered satisfactory; direct communication is therefore essential.

 

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

 

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18 December 1940: Malta Dockyard Men Awarded George Medal

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George Medal

George Medal

LONDON GAZETTE ANNOUNCES MEDALS FOR DOCKYARD WORKERS

The London Gazette today announced the awards for gallant conduct to two workers at Malta Dockyard.  B J Lewis, Chargemen of Fitters, and Frank Mallia, Chargeman of Labourers were both awarded the George Medal which recognises civilian gallantry in the face of enemy action.  These are the first such awards to the Island’s civilians since the Medal was instigated on 24 September 1940 by King George VI.  The London Gazette citation read:

“During an enemy air raid on the area of the Corradine a bomb scattered splinters and debris dangerously near to a gun and its crew, one of the crew being killed.  To protect the equipment from further damage volunteers were called for to erect round it splinter plates, weighing three-quarters of a ton each.  Lewis and Mallia volunteered immediately for this service and Mallia’s exemplary coolness and his leadership inspired his gang to undertake the task.

On the following day these men and their gangs underook the transport and re-erection of a gun, a task which in normal times would have taken fully four days using all available daylight.  They did it in five days and three hours in spite of frequent aerial bombardments, with no protection beyond their steel helmets.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 DECEMBER TO DAWN 19 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Very cold and wet. 

1035-1045  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1255 hrs  A mine is reported at Mellieha by 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment.

1305 hrs  A mine is reported off Mqabba by 2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment. 

1326 hrs  A mine explodes of Marfa east; no damage.

2330-2359 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber approaching the Island.  Bombs are dropped on the Dockyard, breaking glass and frames of doors and windows in the Torpedo Depot, Msida and in the Dockyard Police quarters at Pieta. Bombs also fall on Zabbar areas and in the sea off Grand Harbour.  Further bombs on the Tigne area and near the Army ranges break windows at St George’s Barracks, used by Navy evacuated families.  The bomber is picked up by searchlights and pursued by a fighter, before being shot down in flames off Benghaisa.

0145-0159  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft approaching the Island.  Searchlights are illuminated but do not locate the raider.  No attack develops.

Enemy casualties  Tenente Giulio Molteni, 193a Squadriglia, 87o Gruppo, 30o Stormo, pilot of a Macchi SM 79 bomber.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 18 DECEMBER 1940

Nil report.

 

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

 

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17 December 1940: Snow Falls on Malta in Record Freeze

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SNOW ON RABAT

Residents of the hill-top town of Rabat stared and shivered this morning as flakes of snow fell across the area.  Temperatures have plummeted in recent days, in what has been described as the coldest winter in Malta for 17 years.  While young children took to the streets excited at their first glimpse of snow, their parents were more concerned with how they will keep their families warm during this exceptionally cold spell.    

HMS Triton

HMS Triton

VESSELS MISSING

Two Malta-based vessels have bee reported missing after failing to return from missions in the past two days.  HMS Triton has been on patrol in the Adriatic and Free French submarine Narval on patrol off Kerkennah, Tunisia.  Both vessels failed to return from their missions and are now presumed lost.  The Italian news has claimed that one British submarine was successfully bombed in the central Mediterranean by an aircraft on 16 December.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 DECEMBER TO DAWN 18 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Very cold and wet; some snow. 

0945 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching the Island.  Malta fighters are scrambled to intercept.

1000 hrs  Six enemy raiders are identified ten miles north east of Grand Harbour.  They turn and head away from the Island over Delimara.

1026 hrs  Raiders passed sounds.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 17 DECEMBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Destroyer Griffin left to join the Mediterranean Fleet. 

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  A mine washed up in a dangerous position alongside a beach defence post; the post was evacuated.  The mine later disappeared.   

 

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

 

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16 December 1940: New Convoy Embarks for Malta

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SS Waiwera

SS Waiwera

CONVOY MW 5A & B UNDERWAY

Two freighters bound for Malta set sail from Alexandria this afternoon carrying fresh supplies.  Operating under the convoy code MW 5A,  Lanarkshire and Waiwera will be escorted through the eastern Mediterranean by the battleship Malaya and destroyers Defender, Diamond, Nubian and Wryneck.

Under a dual operation, the ships are intended to link up another supply convoy, codenamed MW 5B in two sections.  Setting sail from Port Said yesterday were three merchantmen, Pontfield, Rodi and Volo have been joined by HMS Ulster Prince.  The second section put out from Alexandria early today.  Freighters the Devis and the Norwegian Hoegh Hood are escorted by the anti aircraft cruiser Calcutta and destroyer HavockHM Submarine Parthian will also shadow the convoy. 

The two groups of ships are expected to rendezvous tomorrow to complete their journey.  The Mediterranean Fleet is already at sea, and standing by to provide cover for the entire operation.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 DECEMBER TO DAWN 17 DECEMBER 1940

Weather   Cold and overcast.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 16 DECEMBER 1940

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Brigade commanders conference.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  There was an outgoing mail today.  

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Platoon Fitness Competition. 

 

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

 

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15 December 1940: Sliema Now a Ghost Town Says Evacuee

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Sliema is 'like a ghost town'

Sliema is ‘like a ghost town’

CHRISTMAS PREPARATIONS BRING SENSE OF LOSS TO CHILD REFUGEE

Young Charles Grech of Sliema, now living as a refugee in Mdina, recalls how his family approached the first Christmas of the war in Malta: 

“We decided to lay on something special to celebrate this first war Christmas…  [My father] told me, ‘You know what we should do!  We’ll go down to Sliema and fetch the Christmas decorations, festoons and lights and put them up over here.’  As he used to import these decorations himself, we had loads of them at home. 

Next morning, we woke up early and, after hearing Mass at the Cathedral, we went down to Sliema.  It was like a ghost town.  Not a soul could be seen in the streets except for the odd emaciated dog or cat.  The shops were all boarded up and the streets which had always been full of life, were now deserted.  Even our footsteps echoed in the silence.  One could hear a pin drop… When I looked out of the balcony, from where I used to look out on a lot of activity before we left Sliema, I saw an empty street.  Houses were all closed and there was no sign of traffic or life.  I felt sad at this.” (1)

NAVY NEEDS MOTOR BOATS

The Royal Navy has launched an appeal with an advertisement in The Sunday Times of Malta today:

“Wanted – motor boats.  Small fast motor boats are required for Naval Service.  Any person owning such a boat and willing to sell it is requested to forward particulars forthwith to the Admiral Superintendent, HM Dockyard.” (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 DECEMBER TO DAWN 16 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine and cold. 

1050-1147 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy formations approaching the Island.  Six Hurricane fighters are scrambled, as the formations head towards Grand Harbour.  A Sunderland aircraft is also approaching the Island.  After 30 minutes the enemy formation is still some distance to the south of the Island; Malta fighters fly south to investigate.  One Hurricane lands at Ta Qali.  No air raid develops and the Sunderland lands safely.

1645 hrs  Two mines are reported at Mellieha by 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment and rendered safe.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 15 DECEMBER 1940

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2; dealt with 2 (Italian 43lb).

(1)  Raiders Passed, Charles Grech (translated by Joseph Galea Debono), Midsea Books 1998

(2)  Malta: Diary of a War, Michael Galea, PEG Malta, 1992

 

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

 

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14 December 1940: Five Air Raids Over Malta

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Swordfish attack Italian heavy cruiser Pola at Naples

Swordfish attack Italian heavy cruiser Pola at Naples

A YOUNG MALTESE OFFICER JOINS HIS UNIT

2nd Lieutenant Maurice Agius recalls his first day as a commissioned officer in the Royal Malta Artillery:

“I left my parents’ house in Attard just after 8am.  My parents had joined the rest of the Agius clan in a large house in Attard, as it was considered to be safer than Sliema, where we all lived…

I was very self-conscious as I walked to Birkirkara, about a mile away, to get the bus – the Attard bus route had been stopped to save fuel  I was wearing my brand new service dress with one pip on each shoulder.  I had been granted a War Emergency King’s Commission as second lieutenant in the Royal Malta Artillery and I was to report to the Adjutant 2nd AA Regiment RMA…I felt rich overnight since my daily pay had been increased from one shilling and four pence to ten shillings and six pence.  A little anxious, I looked out for anyone in military uniform as I walked to the bus terminus.  Other Ranks would now be saluting me and I wanted to make sure that I returned their salute…

On my way to Paceville it struck me how little I knew of army matters… I was nineteen years of age, too young to get a licence to fire a shotgun but old enough to fire four 3.7 inch HAA guns.  I was a little apprehensive but very enthusiastic.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 DECEMBER TO DAWN 15 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.    

1000-1023 hrs  Air raid alert for some twelve enemy fighter aircraft approaching the Island at 20000 feet.  Six are spotted 12 miles due north of Grand Harbour.  Six Hurricane fighters are scrambled to intercept.  Observers at Marsaxlokk report six enemy raiders over Tarxien heading due west.  Marsaxlokk then reports ten aircraft over Hal Far heading towards the sea.  Anti-aircraft guns at Ta Karach and Delimara open fire, scattering the enemy formations.  Six CR 42 fighters are then seen over Rabat heading east, while four others head west over Tarxien.  No bombs are dropped.

1300-1340 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy bombers and five fighters approaching the Island.  Four Malta fighters are scrambled.  The raiders cross the coast over Spinola at 16000 feet, passing from north to south.  Bombs are dropped in the sea off St Julians, on Gzira and Marsa, on Grand Harbour, on the eastern edge of Luqa aerodrome and between Giacomo and Hal Far.  The head away over Delimara.  Civilian property is damaged and some civilians injured.  Ack Ack guns engage and Malta fighters are airborne; no claims. 

1845 hrs  Two mines are reported at Mellieha by 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment..

2125 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy bombers which approaches the Island from the North East and drops bombs on land near Tal Bajjada searchlight and in the sea south of Delimara.  Searchlights are illuminated but unable to locate the raiders.

2209 hrs  Two Wellington bombers which approached the Island during the raid land safely at Luqa.

2220 hrs  Raiders passed sounds.

2225-2310 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which approach the Island but do not cross the coast.  Nine bombs are dropped about a mile out to sea between Delimara and Benghaisa.

0045-0107 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber which approaches from the north, skirts the coast of the Island and drops incendiary bombs in the Kalkara/Cospicua area as well as in the sea off Leonardo.  Searchlights are illuminated but unable to locate the raider.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 14 DECEMBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Swordfish aircraft 830 Squadron attack Naples, damaging the Italian heavy cruiser Pola. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  No 1 Works Company completed Hompesch Ack Ack gun position and accommodation.  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 4 (Italian 130lb x 1; 43lb x 3).

(1)  Recollections of a Malta HAA Gunner, Maurice G Agius, Allied Publications 2008

 

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

 

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13 December 1940: Medical Staff Work On Through Bombing

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Imtarfa Hospital

Imtarfa Hospital

HOSPITAL SERVICES PRAISED FOR RESILIENCE

The Medical and Health Department has praised the staff of the medical services for their work since the outbreak of war with Italy.  In its annual report, the Department outlined the challenges faced since then, providing sufficient hospital accommodation and first aid stations to treat war casualties, as well as sanitation for air raid shelters and refugee centres. 

At 3am on 11 June, within nine hours of Mussolini’s declaration of war on the Allies, hospital services were ready to receive war casualties, the first of which were treated four hours later.  The report praises staff of the medical services who have continued their work under difficult conditions, and even while bombs were falling close to hospitals:

 “Conditions frequently called for the highest effort and it was unstintingly given.  No ordinary leave was taken and absences on account of sickness were negligible.  Even in bombed areas and with their homes destroyed, our members remained at their post and carried on as best they could in spite of all hardship.  Doctors, chaplains, sisters and nurses remained at the bedside of the patients during severe air raids over their hospitals.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 DECEMBER TO DAWN 14 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Cold; storm conditions eased 

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 13 DECEMBER 1940

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  New posts in the Ta Qali area were occupied by personnel of A and B Companies.  A mine was collected by the Royal Navy off a beach post at Ghain Tuffieha.   

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

 

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

 

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12 December 1940: Is Lack of Raids a Lull Before a Storm?

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storm clouds

Storm clouds gather over Malta

DEFEATS OF REGIA AERONAUTICA MAY PROMPT NEW STRATEGY AGAINST MALTA

Military chiefs in Malta are pondering the recent lack of air raids on the Island.  Only two air raid alerts have sounded in the past two weeks, and in each case enemy aircraft turned back well before reaching the coast.  The last actual raids were on Thursday 28 November, when Malta fighters fought off an attack on an inbound convoy, destroying three Italian fighters and one bomber in a single fierce dogfight.

The lack of enemy activity has raised questions over the position of Italy’s Regia Aeronautica in the Mediterranean.  Although exceptionally wintry weather conditions may be a factor, the lack of success in the battle for Malta, and the increasingly heavy aircraft losses since a full fighter force arrived on the Island may have prompted a suspension of activity.

Recent media reports have suggested that Mussolini’s military leadership has been destabilised by recent attacks on his fleet, in which Malta played a significant role.  This, added to the heavy toll inflicted on his air force by the Island’s anti-aircraft guns and fighters, may have caused him to rethink his strategy in the Mediterranean.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 DECEMBER TO DAWN 13 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Storms.

0730 hrs  2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment at Mqabba reported five red mines bobbing around in waves 150-200 feet from shore.  They are reported to Southern Infantry Brigade HQ. 

1207 hrs  Storm conditions in force.

1415 hrs  A mine is washed ashore at Mellhieha and reported by 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment..  It is rendered safe by two Royal Navy officers.

2225 hrs  Orders are issued to all Battalions to note all mines and report the mine situation twice daily at 0730 and 1700 hrs.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 12 DECEMBER 1940

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Various mines were spotted near the shore during the day; all were reported to Southern Infantry Brigade HQ.  Storm alerts were raised during the day.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; dealt with 1 (Italian 130lb).

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Training exercise to test defences of depth posts and additional positions of Selmun Company area, and to test Reserve Company and additional troops in counter-attack.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  The Brigadier and CO carried out an inspection at Dingli.  The Governor visited B Company and viewed positions from the roof of the airways building.  The GOC visited Ghain Tuffieha in the evening.   

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Platoon Fitness Competition for 8, 14 and 17 Platoons.   

 

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

 

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