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Category Archives: December 1941

21 December 1941: 87 Enemy Sorties Against Malta in 24 Hours

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GERMAN BOMBERS IN HEAVY DAYLIGHT RAIDS

Italian Macchi Aircraft

The enemy launched 87 air sorties against Malta today,  including three daylight bombing raids.  Italian aircraft were seen in formation alongside Luftwaffe fighters and bombers in an audacious mid-day attack on Grand Harbour and other targets along the north coast of the Island.  On a day when the Catholic Maltese attend Mass, the many casualties include three civilians dead and twenty-five injured.

AIR RAIDS 21 DECEMBER 1941

0855-0957 hrs  Air raid alarm for one JU 88 escorted by 17 fighters which crossed the coast and dropped one bomb on the cookhouse of a searchlight position at Corrodino; no casualties.  Hurricanes engaged the raiders without results.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack guns also engaged, claiming two hits on a JU 88.

Tigne Barracks (NWMA Malta)

1123-1210 hrs  Air raid alarm for 30 enemy aircraft composed of five JU 88s, ME 109s and Macchi fighters which crossed the Island and dropped bombs on the Dockyard, Corrodino and Senglea areas, also near Mellieha searchlight position.  B Block, Tigne Barracks was hit, killing three Army personnel.  Civilian property sustained slight damage: three civilians were killed and 25 injured.

A number of anti-personnel grenades were dropped in the Manoel area.  Hurricanes engaged enemy aircraft: one Macchi was destroyed, one probably destroyed, one ME 109 damaged.  Two Hurricanes were lost, the pilot of one is safe.  Ack Ack engaged; no claims.

1305-1315 hrs  Air raid alarm for a reconnaissance raid by three enemy aircraft.

1512-1548 hrs  Air raid alarm.  27 enemy aircraft in several formations approached the Grand Harbour and Gozo areas.  Ack Ack engaged; no claims.

1706-1732 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft thought to be on reconnaissance dropped one bomb in the sea off Grand Harbour.

2040-0630 hrs  Four alerts were sounded for eight enemy aircraft, five of which crossed the coast.  Bombs and incendiaries were dropped on the Ta Qali, Rabat, Imtarfa areas, and in the sea.  Mines are reported to have been dropped six miles south east of Dingli, four miles south of Kalafrana and south of Filfla.  Ack Ack engaged during one alert; no claims.

Military casualties  Gunners Frank Anthony, Frank Coupe and William James, all 4th Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery; Flight Sergeant Brian Hayes, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Hamrun Carmel Cassar, age 8; Cospicua Saviour Cutajar, age 25; Zabbar Joseph Galea, age 20 and Anthony Psaila, age 16. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 21 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Olympus arrived with petrol and stores from Gibraltar.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 13 Beaufighters from Gibraltar.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland search for merchant vessel off C Pappos; one Maryland SF 6 patrol.  Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2  One Maryland Tauorga-Buerat; one PR Tripoli & Castel Benito; one PR Comiso, Gerbini.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 1 patrol; three Blenheims shipping search in Gulf of Sirte.  107 Squadron Three Blenheims and 104 Squadron nine Wellingtons despatched to attack Castel Benito aerodrome.  Four aircraft attacked Tripoli.  40 Squadron  Three Wellingtons attacked Castel Benito aerodrome.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  High explosive bombs dropped in various parts of area (especially in Dockyard area, Marsa, Luqa) during daylight attacks of considerable duration.  No military damage or casualties.

2nd BATTALION THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  One Hurricane crashed near Ghar Dalam (A Company HQ).  Pilot baled out uninjured was conveyed to Luqa by Captain M Holdsworth.

3rd BATTALION KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  E Company reports three bombs 400 yards east towards No 1 Dock.  One on St Clements Bastion.  A Company reports trouble with water mains.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 2 (containers of incendiaries).

 

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Posted by on December 21, 2021 in 1941, December 1941

 

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20 December 1941: Battle for Malta Has Begun

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AXIS LAUNCH DAYLIGHT STRIKES ON MALTA

After weeks of domination in the Mediterranean, suddenly the fortunes of war have turned against the British fleet.  In a matter of days Malta’s Strike Forces have been significantly depleted, and in Alexandria the battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant severely damaged in an attack by Italian manned torpedoes within the harbour.   The Italian Navy has secured dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Axis can now concentrate their air forces on the task of neutralizing the stronghold of the Allied position in the Mediterranean: Malta.

Dockyard School

AIR RAIDS 20 DECEMBER 1941

0916-1037 hrs  Air raid alarm for forty enemy aircraft comprising fighters and bombers which approached and attacked the Island.  Bombs were dropped on Zabbar, Marsascala, Sliema, Grand Harbour, Valletta and also in the sea.  Several houses were demolished, others damaged.  One civilian was killed, five seriously injured and thirty slightly injured in scattered localities.

Hurricanes engaged destroying one JU 88 and damaging three JU 88’s, 2 Macchi 202’s probably destroyed.  2 Hurricanes missing.  Enemy aircraft engaged by heavy Ack Ack and Bofors, one JU 88 damaged by Bofors fire.

All unexploded bombs reported are German, including incendiaries and High Explosives (HE).  One at the Dockyard School is found to be a 500kg HE.

1703-1731 hrs  Air raid alarm.  12 enemy aircraft crossed coast and dropped bombs in Senglea.  Heavy Ack Ack and Bofors engaged enemy aircraft over Grand Harbour.

2004-2020 hrs  Air raid alarm.  No engagement.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Brian Cavan, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 249 Squadron; Sergeant Howard Moren, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 249 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Zabbar  Anthony Lija, age 76.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 20 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY Jaguar arrived with Kandahar’s survivors.  Urge returned from patrol in Straits of Messina.  Battleship hit, did NOT pass to eastward, after attack.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland special search for damaged destroyer; one Maryland SF 6 patrol. Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2  Tripoli & Castel Benito; one Maryland PR Argostoli, Patra and C Pappos.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 1 patrol; two Blenheims despatched to attack merchant vessel (no attack made); four Blenheims attacked Zuara and district.  107 Squadron One Blenheim SF 1 patrol; five Blenheims despatched to attack Mellaha.  Target not located so attacked various targets in the vicinity.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  High explosive bombs dropped in various parts of area (especially in Dockyard area, Marsa, Luqa) during daylight attacks of considerable duration.  No military damage or casualties.

2nd BATTALION THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT 0916 hrs Attack on Grand Harbour area.  Two planes were observed in difficulties but not definitely seen to crash.  All clear 1045.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 69.

 

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Posted by on December 20, 2021 in 1941, December 1941

 

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19 December 1941: Loss of Navy Ships “Due to Rashness”

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NAVY COMMANDER’S TACTICS QUESTIONED

A source close to the Governor today disclosed that questions have been raised over the tactics of the Commander of HMS Neptune, appointed to lead yesterday’s operation on the approaches to Tripoli:

HMS Kandahar

“…the Governor and I lunched on board. The Admiral told me that HMS Ajax has a gamé leg – in other words a damaged shaft which cannot be mended here. The thing must come out from England, which means 4 or 5 months out of action. I said, ‘Will they not transfer you to Neptune?’ To which he replied softly, ‘There is no Neptune.’

Three nights before, the whole force bar Ajax had gone out and run on to a minefield. HMS Neptune sank with almost all hands, HMS Kandahar also (…150 saved). HMS Aurora was damaged, and HMS Penelope (though I do not know how badly).

Such are the vicissitudes of Naval war: one day a powerful force capable of making it extremely hot for enemy shipping; next day a very different thing. When we see ships go out, we always wonder whether they will come back.

The Captain of Upholder has been given the VC. His boat has done marvellously. Since writing this I have been told what I had heard whispered earlier, that the loss of those ships was due to rashness. K Force were very happy in their work with complete confidence in their Senior Officer, Captain Nicoll. They then found themselves under Rory O’Connor of Neptune.

A convoy was being searched for, and it was felt that they had missed it, and should turn back. The SO insisted on pushing on at a terrific speed, so much so the Engineer-Commander of one ship refused to do the speed (it being more than his horse-power) unless his Captain gave him orders in writing. Some ship signalled: ‘Could we not do one knot less?’. Then they found themselves in the minefield. This is only Force K’s view of course.” (1)

BRAVE RESCUE BID

From the War Diary of Vice-Admiral Malta:

“Today signals were received from Kandahar stating that she was still afloat, and she was also sighted by reconnaissance aircraft.  At nightfall Jaguar was despatched to endeavour to rescue survivors and, if conditions were favourable, tow Kandahar back to Malta.  In spite of the assistance of a special Wellington it was not until 0400hrs that Jaguar found and went alongside Kandahar, bow to bow.

By this time the sea had become very rough and after a very few moments it was apparent that this method of rescuing survivors must be abandoned.  Jaguar then lay off from Kandahar and the crew of the latter swam across.  Kandahar was then sunk by torpedo and Jaguar returned to Malta with eight officers and 157 ratings of her ship’s company including the Captain, Commander W G A Robson, DSO.” 

Maltese casualties from HMS Kandahar were L/Ck (O) Joseph Azzopardi, PO Std Joseph Bertuello, L/Std Andrew Schembri, Malta Port Division.

AIR RAIDS 19 DECEMBER 1941

0259-0432 hrs  Air raid alarm. Enemy aircraft on intruder patrols.

0837-1717 hrs  Five air raid alarms were sounded for 22 enemy aircraft approaching the Island.  No bombs were dropped.  Hurricanes intercepted on two occasions, damaging two enemy aircraft.  One Hurricane was lost.  Ack Ack engaged raiders during one alert.

2150 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Two enemy aircraft approached from north and patrolled south of Island before crossing coast.  Incendiary bombs dropped north west of Kalafrana and in Mqabba.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged by immediate and height control barrage.

Military casualties  Sergeant Cedric Tyson Brown, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Alfred McLevy, Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 203 Squadron; Pilot Officer Edward Elmer Steele,  Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Flying Officer Arthur Thomas Read, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 203 Squadron.

Enemy casualties  Leutnant Wilhelm Brauns, pilot of JU 88 bomber, shot down and taken prisoner; Obergefreiter Erwin Hesse, Air Gunner of JU 88 bomber, shot down and taken prisoner; Gefreiter Johannes Matuschka, Wireless Operator of JU 88 bomber, shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 19 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Utmost returned from patrol in Gulf of Taranto, having obtained a hit on a Garibaldi class merchant vessel.  Aurora, Penelope, Havock, Lance, Lively arrived.  Penelope and Aurora both damaged by mines.  Neptune sunk 30′ off Tripoli and Kandahar sinking.  Jaguar sailed to rescue survivors.

HAL FAR  Night 18/19th  828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Six Albacores despatched to attack convoy of six destroyers and three merchant vessels approaching Tripoli harbour.  Two hits claimed on 2000 ton merchant vessel.  One Albacore failed to return: the missing crew Lt Greenwood, pilot, and Lt Commander Langmore, observer.  830 Squadron  Five Swordfish despatched to continue attack on the convoy previously attacked by the Albacores.  The convoy was not sighted.  One Swordfish crashed on landing.  Crew unhurt.

LUQA  69 Squadron  Three Marylands special search.  Photo-reconnaissance unit 2 Tripoli.  18 Squadron  Two Blenheims special search; three Blenheims despatched to attack convoy off Tripoli.  107 Squadron  One Blenheim special search; three Blenheims despatched to attack convoy off Tripoli.  S/D Flight   One Wellington search to locate Kandahar.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  High Explosive bombs dropped on Luqa and Safi during raid lasting throughout the night.  Some damage to Signals installations.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 1 (50kg).

(1) Extract from diary of Rev Reginald M Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

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Posted by on December 19, 2021 in 1941, December 1941, Uncategorized

 

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18 December 1941: Loss of HMS Neptune and Kandahar

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BRECONSHIRE GETS THROUGH

The supply ship Breconshire arrived at Malta at 1500 hrs today to deliver her much needed load of fuel oil and stores, accompanied by the ships of her protective force.

After yesterday’s encounter with the Italian Navy, the two British forces separated, as destroyers from Force B and Force K took on the task of escorting Breconshire safely to Malta.  Admiral Vian turned with his fleet towards Alexandria.  The Italian convoys also divided: three ships setting course for Tripoli and one for Benghazi.  This afternoon the Tripoli-bound vessels were located and a Malta Strike Force of three cruisers and four destroyers was assembled in pursuit. 

The official report from the Royal Navy War Diary for Malta relates what happened next…

HMS Neptune

“HM Ships Neptune (Captain R O’Connor, Senior Officer), Aurora, Penelope, Kandahar, Lance, Lively and Havock were despatched…18th December to intercept an important Italian convoy which had been sighted earlier, heading for Tripoli.  It was appreciated that if the convoy was not delayed it was likely to be at the entrance to Tripoli before our force could intercept, but it was hoped that attacks by torpedo bomber and bomber aircraft, which were arranged to take place during the night, would have the usual effect of delaying the enemy.

A special Wellington was co-operating to lead our air and surface striking forces to the enemy.  The enemy’s convoy and escorting warships were discovered and reported by the Wellington split into groups and covering many miles of water to the eastward of Tripoli.

Albacores and Swordfish aircraft were sent to attack.  Although it is believed that only one ship was damaged by them, their attack had the expected effect of disorganising and slowing up the Italian convoy.  As a result, and also probably because of mines which had been laid in the entrance to the harbour, the convoy did not enter Tripoli till late the following day.

Unfortunately, the information regarding the position of the convoy did not reach Neptune before disaster had overtaken our force.  Having proceeded at maximum speed towards a point east of Tripoli they had just eased down on reaching the 100 fathom line when Neptune struck a mine and was brought to a stop.  The remaining ships sheered off to port and starboard and then turned back to get clear of the minefield.  Whilst engaged in getting clear, Aurora and Penelope both struck mines but were able to steam.

Aurora, who was fairly badly damaged, set course for Malta at her best speed of 16 knots, escorted by Havock and Lance, whilst Penelope stood by to tow Neptune when she had drifted clear of the minefield.  Kandahar entered the minefield and attempted to close Neptune to take off personnel, but, whilst engaged in this, struck a mine and had her stern blown off.  Neptune meanwhile had drifted down onto more mines and, when the third or fourth mine exploded under her, she turned turtle and sank.

Nothing could be done to approach Kandahar through the minefield and Penelope with Lively reluctantly returned to Malta.” (1)

800 SEAMEN LOST

Only 30 members of Neptune’s crew of nearly 800 survived the sinking.  Their lifeboat was spotted five days later by an Italian torpedo boat: only one of its occupants was still alive.  Maltese casualties from HMS Neptune  were Steward Angelo Falzon, Steward Emanuel Montanaro, Malta Port Division.

AIR RAIDS 18 DECEMBER 1941

0835-0854 hrs  Air raid alarm.  No engagement.

2311-0250 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Eight enemy aircraft raided Island.  Bombs were dropped in the sea and on land near Attard, Mgarr, Birkirkara and on Luqa aerodrome hitting a Wellington; one of crew was killed, another seriously injured.  Hal Far was machine-gunned and mines were possibly laid off Grand Harbour.  Ack Ack engaged enemy aircraft.

Military casualties  Sergeant pilot Frank Sunley, Sergeant Thomas Clarke, Royal Air Force.

Enemy casualties  Sottotenente Antonio Galati, pilot, 259a Squadriglia, 109o Gruppo, 36o Stormo, S84 crashed into the sea.  Maggiore Goffredo Gastaldi, 109o Gruppo, 36o Stormo, crewman on a S84, crashed into the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: THURSDAY 18 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upright returned from patrol having sunk certainly one and probably two northbound merchant vessels in Gulf of Taranto.  Forces K and B, Decoy, Havock and Breconshire arrived.  Neptune, Aurora, Penelope, Lively, Lance, Havock and Kandahar sailed.  Six Albacores attacked a convoy of three cruisers and three merchant vessels approaching Tripoli and fired four torpedoes, hitting two merchant vessels.  One Albacore did not return.  Five Swordfish left to attack same convoy, but failed to locate target.  One Swordfish crashed on landing.  Crew hurt.

AIR HQ  Departures  Seven Beaufighters for 108 MU.

HAL FAR  Night 17th/18th  Four Swordfish 830 Squadron despatched on a shipping search, located a tanker 4-5000 tons with destroyer escort.  Two hits claimed on tanker and an explosion followed by a subsequent fire was seen.  Four Hurricanes 185 Squadron engaged three BR 20s forty miles south south west of Filfla.  One enemy aircraft observed to be hit in wings and fuselage.  One of own aircraft “K” hit in the tail.  All aircraft landed safely.

LUQA  S/D Flight one Wellington on special shipping search.  69 Squadron  Four Marylands special search.  Photo-Reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2  PR Palermo, Tripoli; one Maryland PR Tripoli Harbour and Castel Benito.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim special search Keliba-Kerkennah; six Blenheims attacked two schooners near Kuriat.  107 Squadron  One Blenheim special search Kerkennah-Kuriat; three Blenheims despatched to attack merchant vessel (no sightings made).  104 Squadron  Seven Wellingtons attacked Tripoli and mined harbour.

2nd BATTALION THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  0025 hrs  One enemy aircraft machine gunned Hal Far area but no damage was done.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; dealt with 4 (1 x 250kg HE; 1 x Thermos; 1 x incendiary; 1 x anti-personnel).

(1)  See also Neptune Association

 

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Posted by on December 18, 2021 in 1941, December 1941

 

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17 December 1941: First Battle of Sirte

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MALTA SHORT OF FUEL

Breconshire

The transport ship Breconshire failed to arrive at the expected time today, causing concern to the Island’s high command.  As a fast-moving supply ship, she has become a lifeline for the Island.  She is capable of carrying 5000 tons of oil as well as other essential goods.

The operations of Force K from Malta have placed a heavy demand on stocks of fuel oil.  Regular deliveries are vital to keep the ships at sea but the nearest source is a thousand miles away, through hostile waters policed by increasing numbers of German U-boats.

Breconshire is reported to have left Alexandria on Monday, escorted by three cruisers and eight destroyers under Admiral Vian.  Three vessels turned back.  Yesterday, six destroyers and two light cruisers set out from Malta to meet the supply ship and cover her final journey to Grand Harbour.

FIRST BATTLE OF SIRTE

At daylight this morning as the two forces reached the rendezvous point, British submarines reported the presence of Italian warships nearby.  The Allied convoy was crossing paths with an Axis convoy en route to Tripoli.

Admiral Vian’s force had already been spotted by an enemy reconnaissance pilot and Axis aircraft had attempted an engagement, without success.  By late afternoon the two opposing Naval forces were in sight of each other.  As a precaution, Breconshire was detached from the main convoy for protection, accompanied by two destroyers.

After a few minutes of largely defensive fire which produced only minor damage to two British destroyers, the Italian warships moved away, returning to formation to protect their convoy.  A possible sea battle had been avoided and Breconshire is reported as heading for Malta. 

But the threat to the Island’s naval forces is not yet over.   (To be continued)

GERMAN MINES EXPLODED

A German attempt to blockade the entrance to Grand Harbour has been foiled.  Mines were located today during one of the regular minesweeping operations on all approaches to the Harbour.  The TMA mines were laid by Kriegsmarine S-Boats on Monday night.  The drifter HMS Swona, adapted for minesweeping duties, exploded two of the mines.  Located in the direct path of ships leaving Grand Harbour, they could have severely damaged part of Malta’s Strike Force and possibly blocked harbour approaches with damaged or sunken vessels.

AIR RAIDS 17 DECEMBER 1941

0905-0924 hrs; 1324-1327 hrs; 1537-1550 hrs  Air raid alarms; raids do not materialise.

2252-2331 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approached from north.  Heavy Ack Ack fired three immediate barrages.   Bombs near Attard, Poorhouse and south of Marsa.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 17 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Neptune, Kandahar and Jaguar sailed at 1500 on operations.  Four Swordfish located a tanker with destroyer escort, and hit the former with two torpedoes.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Five Blenheims and eight Beaufighters from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  Night 16/17  Five Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack Catania aerodrome.  4940 lbs High Explosive and 300 lbs incendiaries dropped including thirteen delayed action bombs.  Opposition exceptionally intense and accurate at all heights.

LUQA  S/D Flight  Two Wellingtons special shipping search.  69 Squadron  Three Marylands on special search, one shadowing fleet.  Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2  One PR Taranto, one PR Sfax.  18 Squadron  Three Blenheims special search, one for merchant vessel.  Two Blenheims SF 1 patrol.  107 Squadron  Two Blenheims attacked transport between Pisida and Zuara.  Two Blenheims attacked transport between Sorman and Zuara.  P/O Keene failed to return. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 1 (German 50kg).

 

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Posted by on December 17, 2021 in 1941, December 1941

 

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16 December 1941: Malta’s Air Aces

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NEW AIR CHIEF SALUTES MALTA’S PILOTS

“Tonight we had a positively marvellous account by the new Air Vice Marshall over the Rediffusion of the work of the RAF here. I note a few of the principal points:

The most important part of the work is reconnaissance. In this, close cooperation is required with the Royal Navy, particularly submarines. The enemy has a great army in Libya. This must be constantly supplied from Italy by sea transport to Tripoli, and creeping along the coast to Benghazi. Or via the Straits of Messina across to Greece and down from there. It is 350 miles to Greece and 500 from there to Africa.

RAF Blenheim

Day attacks on shipping are mostly by Blenheims. They attack from 20 feet above the water, and go straight for their target; the bomb is released and the plane swoops up to clear the masts. Sometime it comes back with part of a ship’s aerial caught. The released bombs travel straight on. The other day two such bombs entirely put out of action the engines of a 10,000 ton liner. The crew abandoned her. The enemy are terrified of our bombers.

If no shipping is seen the planes go on and bomb the Tripoli-Benghazi road: again from 20 feet. One came back with some branches of palm attached to the wing. All these have to pass through terrible barrages; it is the most dangerous work of all. For night attacks Swordfish are used. They can carry bombs, mines or torpedoes. The last are very effective. Not ‘did you get anything?’ but ‘how many?’  The torpedo is dropped from an altitude of 100 feet, 400 yards from the target. Albacores are also used for torpedoes.

Fairey Fulmar Mk II

 

Fulmars are to keep enemy planes from landing or from taking off. They are the “earth-stoppers” of the RAF Hunt. They drop bombs on the ‘dromes, Wellingtons carry a crew of six and a huge load of bombs. They have done immense damage. They are accurate, and do not bomb at random, usually making three runs over the target.

The fighters for the defence of Malta have to be ready at an instant’s notice. The pilots sit with part of their flying kit already fitted. Every second counts. They fly off and have to rise immediately to 20,000 feet. It is a great strain. In addition, hundreds of planes of different sorts pass through Malta on their way to the Middle East.” (1)

AIR RAIDS 16 DECEMBER 1941

0213 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approached from the north, crossed coast over Mellieha Ridge and orbited for some time over the Luqa area.  One unexploded bomb west of Attard.  Enemy aircraft not picked up until it dropped an unexploded bomb on Ta Qali.

0355-0418 hrs  Air raid alarm.

0518-0600 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft passed down the west coast and dropped bombs between Hassan, Hal Far and close to Island Bay searchlight position; no damage to equipment.  One searchlight illumination of twenty seconds.

0851-0905 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One JU 88 approached from the east and passed over Grand Harbour.

1545-1552 hrs; 1930-2000 hrs; 2104-2119 hrs; 2152-2325 hrs  Air raid alarms; raids do not materialise.

Military casualties  Lance Corporal Robert Hewitson, 173 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 16 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Group I sailed for Alexandria at 1100 hrs.  Force K sailed to rendezvous with Breconshire at 1800 hrs.  Five Albacores bombed Catania aerodrome, while five Swordfish with torpedoes attacked and hit a merchant vessel of 4000 tons, escorted by one destroyer in position 098 degrees Malta 60′.

HAL FAR  Night  Six Swordfish on a shipping search of the Kuriat-Kerkennah area made no sighting.

LUQA  S/D Flight one Wellington search for merchant vessel near Lampedusa.  69 Squadron  Two Marylands SF 9B patrol; one Maryland SF 10 patrol.  Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2  PR Tripoli and Taranto.  107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF1 patrol; one Blenheim SF 11 patrol.  18 Squadron: six Blenheims attacked shipping in Argostoli Harbour.  40 Squadron  Twelve Wellingtons attacked shipping at Taranto.  One aircraft bombed Brindisi.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3.

(1)  Extract from diary of Rev Reginald M Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

 

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Posted by on December 16, 2021 in 1941, December 1941

 

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15 December 1941: Stealth Attackers are Italian

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ITALIAN HIGH EXPLOSIVE BOMBS REPORTED ALONG NORTH COAST

The four raiders who bombed the Island overnight were Italian, according to reports received this morning.  The Regia Aeronautica are evidently continuing to work alongside the Luftwaffe in the air campaign against Malta.

Bahar ic-Caghaq

The claim was supported by reports of three unexploded bombs (UXB) received in Royal Engineers Headquarters this morning.  Bomb Disposal Officer Lieutenant G D Carroll was called out to locations along the north coast at Bahar ic-Caghaq and Madliena, and further inland at  Ghargur.  The UXBs were found to be Italian High Explosive (HE) bombs, each weighing in at 130lbs – the first of the type seen in Malta for over a month.  All three bombs were defuzed on site and removed for dumping at sea.  (1)

DIVERSIONARY TACTICS

The intrusion of aircraft over Malta throughout the night with no apparent bombing target may have a simple explanation.  The Italians are providing cover for a secret German operation designed to prevent Malta-based ships from attacking Axis supply convoys.

The Kriegsmarine 3rd S-Boat Flotilla has begun laying mines around the entrance to Grand Harbour, in an effort to prevent the ships of Force K from leaving.  The TMA (torpedo mines) are fired from the normal torpedo tube.  They then float on the surface, attached to a weighted anchor.  The TMA carries an explosive charge of 215kg.

S Boat

These fast-moving motor torpedo boats, capable of up to 50 knots, can approach the coast rapidly, lay their mines and escape, often before detection.  They have already carried out one abortive mission to lay a minefield in the path of the British ships: tonight is their second attempt. 

AIR RAIDS 15 DECEMBER 1941

0641hrs; 0710 hrs  Two alerts.  One raider crossed the coast dropping bombs at Mosta causing slight damage.  One Hurricane from Ta Qali airborne but no interception.

0740-0755 hrs  One JU88 approached the coast.  One Hurricane from Ta Qali airborne – no interception.  Raider damaged by anti-aircraft fire.

0946-1002 hrs  Air raid alarm.

1640-1643 hrs  Air raid alarm.

1940-2015 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Six enemy aircraft approached from north together.  Bombs in sea north of Gozo, in Comino Channel, and Mellieha Bay.

2040 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Two enemy aircraft approached from north, only one crossed coast over Delimara.  No bombs dropped.

2234 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One JU 88 approached from north crossing coast four times.  Bombs fifty yards from Fleur de Lys gun position – no damage.  Aircraft illuminated for four minutes, engaged by Hurricane with no result.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 15 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Unique arrived from patrol off Cape Del Armi [Strait of Messina], her attack on a battleship frustrated by heavy counter attack.  Six Swordfish in shipping search to the west made no sighting.

LUQA  S/D Flight  Shipping search Kerkennah area.  69 Squadron one Maryland SF 10 patrol; two Marylands SF 9B patrol.  Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2 one PR Taranto and one PR Messina-Naples.  18 Squadron one Blenheim SF 2B patrol.  107 Squadron one Blenheim special search for convoy.  One Blenheim SF 1 patrol.  40 Squadron twelve Wellingtons attacked oil storage tanks at Taranto.  104 Squadron: nine Wellingtons attacked oil storage tanks in Taranto.

TA QALI  1940-0559 hrs  Six alerts for a total of twelve raiders.  Six crossed the coast.  Bombs dropped in the aerodrome area and in Attard and Dingli areas.  Hurricanes were airborne, and engaged one raider, but no results could be ascertained.  Two short [searchlight] illuminations.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2; dealt with 4 (3 x 100kg; 1 x Thermos).

(1) Adapted from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010 

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Posted by on December 15, 2021 in 1941, December 1941, Uncategorized

 

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14 December 1941: German U-boats Patrolling the Med

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HMS Galatea

HMS Galatea

BRITISH LIGHT CRUISER SUNK EN ROUTE TO JOIN MALTA FORCE K

A German U-boat carried out a torpedo attack on a British light cruiser today, sinking the vessel close to the Egyptian coast.  The attack is further evidence of the build-up of German U-boats in the Mediterranean as the Axis try to counter the threat from Malta on convoys heading for North Africa.  Since September 1941 twenty-three U-boats have been sent to the Mediterranean, fifteen of them within the past month.  Of the twenty still afloat, at least thirteen are believed operating east of Gibraltar.

The British vessel was part of a light cruiser force which set out from Alexandria to join with Force K from Malta, in the hunt for Axis convoys bound for Benghazi.

Eight Italian supply ships had embarked in three convoys yesterday with protective cover provided by virtually the entire Italian battle fleet.  British submarines reported the convoy departures and a two-pronged operation was immediately organized in their pursuit.

Vittorio Veneto

The planned interception was given away when British submarine Urge torpedoed and damaged the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto in the Strait of Messina.  The ship survived but, alerted to the presence of enemy vessels, the convoys returned to port.

Some hours later, as Admiral Vian’s ships were heading back into Alexandria, the German U-boat U-557 fired torpedoes at the light cruiser Galatea.  The British vessel sank with the loss of its Commander, Capt E W B Sim, RN, and 22 officers, plus 447 ratings. 144 survivors were picked up by other ships of the British convoy.

By a strange twist of fate, U-557 was later rammed by an Italian Torpedo Boat Orione and sank with the loss of all hands.

AIR RAIDS 14 DECEMBER 1941

0331-0358 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft skirted Island and receded north over Mellieha.  Bombs in sea.  Heavy Ack Ack fired three barrages – also by GL height control.

0511-0645 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft patrolled off south coast for 1½ hours.

0738-0808 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approached from north, skirted east coast and receded.

1905-0440 hrs  Five alerts for seven enemy aircraft, four of which crossed the coast.  Bombs dropped on land and in the sea.  Hurricanes airborne; no interceptions.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER 

AIR HQ  Four Blenheims arrived from Gibraltar.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland special search Merrina, Taranto; one Maryland shadowing Italian fleet; two Marylands special search.  69 Squadron Photo-Reconnaissance  One PR Tripoli; one Maryland PR Tunis and Bizrata.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 2B patrol. 107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 2B patrol.  104 Squadron  Ten Wellingtons attacked Benghazi.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 5.

 

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13 December 1941: Battle of Cape Bon

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ENEMY VESSELS SUNK IN THIRD ATTEMPT TO CROSS MEDITERRANEAN

Alberto da Giussano

Four destroyers arrived in Malta today having survived an encounter with an Italian convoy in the Straits of Sicily, off Cape Bon, Tunisia.  The two Italian cruisers Alberto di Guissano and Alberico da Barbiano, accompanied by the torpedo boat Cigno, were making their third attempt to run fuel supplies to North Africa.  They had been forced to turn back on two previous occasions due to the presence of reconnaissance and attacking aircraft from Malta in the vicinity of their home port, Palermo.  The two cruisers were carrying 2000 tons of aircraft fuel for Axis fighter aircraft in Libya.

HMS Sikh, Legion, Maori, and the Dutch destroyer HNLMS Isaac Sweers were steaming eastwards en route from Gibraltar when they were spotted by an Italian reconnaissance aircraft.  The pilot’s information was intercepted by British intelligence and passed to the British destroyers, with the order to intercept the Italian convoy.

Meanwhile, Italian headquarters had decided their convoy was safely ahead of the British force and ordered the convoy to proceed.  However, it seems the cruisers’ commanders thought otherwise.  As the British destroyers rounded Cape Bon, they came upon the Italians making a turn northwards.  The delay created by this manoeuvre proved critical.

HMS Sikh

At 3.25 am under cover of darkness the leading destroyer Sikh let loose her torpedoes at the first cruiser, and then her guns fired on the second.  Taken by surprise, the Italians were barely able to respond before succumbing to the attacks.  Petrol tanks on the decks of Alberico da Barbiano burst into towers of flame and both vessels sank, accompanied by at least one Italian Torpedo boat. 

AIR RAIDS 13 DECEMBER 1941

0742-0807 hrs  Air raid alarm. One enemy aircraft approached Island on shipping recce.

1840-1843 hrs  Air raid alarm. Caused by return of own aircraft.

2225-0301 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approached from north over Mellieha Ridge.  Bombs dropped in sea.  Heavy Ack Ack fired one immediate barrage.

2345 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approached from north and dropped bombs St Paul’s Bay area.  Heavy Ack Ack fired one barrage.

Military casualties  Private Frederick James, 1st Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment; Fusilier Charles Rees, 2ndBattalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers. 107 Squadron:  Sergeant Ronald D Gracie, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), Sergeant E Crossley, RAFVR (died 24 December 1941).

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 13 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Sikh, Legion, Maori, Isaac Sweers arrived from Gibraltar, having sunk the Italian cruisers Alberto di Guissano and Alberico da Barbiano and probably one torpedo boat, and having heavily hit another torpedo boat.

AIR HQ  Three Blenheims arrived from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  Night 12th/13th. Seven Swordfish 830 Squadron and three Albacores 828 Squadron despatched on a shipping sweep.  Cape Bon – Pantelleria and 30 miles to the south: sighted nothing.

LUQA  69 Squadron Photo-reconnaissance Bizerte & Tunis, and special search Messina.  One Maryland SF 9B patrol; one Maryland SF 10 patrol.  107 Squadron  Six Blenheims attacked shipping at Argostoli.  Sgt Crossley and Sgt Gracie failed to return.  18 Squadron  Five Blenheims attacked shipping in Argostoli Harbour.  Sgt Jury crashed in sea but crew were saved.  40 Squadron  Eight Wellingtons attacked Benghazi, also mined harbour.  P/O Easton failed to return.

TA QALI  0749-0809 hrs  Air raid alarm for one enemy aircraft.  Hurricanes airborne – no interceptions.  Anti-aircraft fired.  1840-0645 hrs Five alerts, one for friendly aircraft, others for single raiders.  Bombs in sea off Dingli and Delimara and on land near St Pauls Bay.  No Hurricanes airborne – anti-aircraft engaged.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; dealt with 1 (German 50kg).

 

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12 December 1941: Malta Endures 7 Hours of Fear

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Target Malta

Target Malta

MALTA’S DEFENDERS FIGHT BACK

The Island was under alert for a total of seven hours today in a series of enemy air raids across Malta.  Between one and three aircraft at a time crossed the coast with the aim of bombing airfields and gun positions.

Most enemy activity took place under cover of darkness with bombs dropped in and around Ta Qali and Luqa airfields before attackers were driven off by Ack Ack fire.  A night fighter from Ta Qali also took off in pursuit.  The airfield’s defensive barrage and fighter aircraft were in action twice more before the enemy changed target.

This afternoon an audacious attempt was made to attack Luqa and Grand Harbour in daylight.  The raider was met with volleys of Ack Ack loaded with shrapnel, and machine gun fire, sustaining significant damage.  It is hoped the cost of this high-risk venture will deter further daylight attacks by the enemy.

REPLACEMENT AMMUNITION ON THE WAY

The Governor and Commander in Chief, Malta received a telegram today from the War Office confirming that a million rounds of ammunition are on their way by sea from the UK.  The supplies are intended to replace those inspected on 4 December and found to be badly corroded in transit unfit for use.  Lt Gen Dobbie had hoped to obtain replacements from the Middle East but stocks are urgently needed there to sustain the desert campaign.

AIR RAIDS 12 DECEMBER 1941

0054-0330 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Three enemy aircraft crossed coast.  Bombs near Ta Qali, Rabat, Tal Vita and Luqa.  Heavy Ack Ack fired immediate and predicted barrages.  One enemy aircraft remained in vicinity of Island for 2½ hours.

0446-0535 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approached from north and dropped bombs on Pembroke Ranges.

0550 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Approx three enemy aircraft approached from north.  Only one crossed coast and dropped bombs between Zebbug and Luqa.

0735-0755 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One JU 88 crossed coast over Mellieha and receded north over Qawra Tower.

1020 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Bombs near Ta Qali.

1520-1541 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Two enemy aircraft approached Island from North.  One aircraft remained at 7,000 feet while other dived to 50 feet over Luqa and Grand Harbour.  Ack Ack engaged, two heavy Ack Ack positions using shrapnel.  One plane believed damaged.  Light Ack Ack and light machine gun engaged claiming hits on enemy aircraft.

1924 hrs  Air raid alarm. Three enemy aircraft approached Island but did not cross coast.  One aircraft dropped bombs in sea south of Dingli.

2018-2205 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Four raids approached from north, only two enemy aircraft crossing coast.  Bombs dropped near Madliena, Naxxar and Ta Qali.  No damage or casualties.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 12 DECEMBER 1941

ORP Sokol (Falcon): Polish-manned submarine based in Malta

ROYAL NAVY Sokol, Upholder, P31 and P34 sailed at short notice for patrol in Central Ionian.  Seven Swordfish and three Albacores carried out shipping search between Cape Bon and Pantelleria.  One Albacore witnessed action between our destroyers and enemy force, and attacked half an enemy cruiser.

HAL FAR Four Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack Castel Benito aerodrome.  Bombs dropped on hangars and dispersal area on western side of aerodrome, starting a large fire possibly among a fuel dump.  Opposition slight.  Weather good.

LUQA  69 Squadron One Maryland SF 10 patrol; one Maryland SF 9 patrol.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 11 patrol; one Blenheim SF 2C patrol; one Blenheim despatched to attack shipping in Crotone Harbour (did not locate target); One Blenheim despatched to attack ships in Tripoli.  107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 2B patrol; one Blenheim SF 1 patrol; two Blenheims attacked munitions factory at Crotone; three Blenheims searched for convoy with three Blenheims from 18 Squadron (failed to locate target).  S/D Flight  One Wellington special shipping search.

TA QALI  0053-0636 hrs Various raids.  One night-fighter airborne.  Bombs dropped on several occasions.  Several barrages – no interceptions.  0735 hrs; 1020 hrs Two alerts.  Fighters airborne.  Gunfire.  Bombs on Land. 1914 hrs; 2212 hrs  Air raid alarms.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1.

 

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Posted by on December 12, 2021 in 1941, December 1941

 

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