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AIR AND NAVAL CHIEFS REVIEW JULY OPERATIONS FROM MALTA
The continued policy of the Command has been to intercept convoys en route between Italy and North Africa by day with the Blenheim detachments and by night with the shore-based Fleet Air Arm Swordfish. In addition, Wellingtons have concentrated on Tripoli port, causing considerable damage to the port facilities.
82 Squadron carried out three attacks on military transport and barracks, and one attack on shipping. They were relieved by 110 Squadron on 4 July, and carried out successful attacks on shipping, harbours and key roads with the loss of six aircraft. 148 Squadron carried out 13 successful sorties during the month, chiefly on Tripoli. Hurricanes of 46 and 185 Squadrons have made two successful attacks on seaplane moorings at Syracuse, at least three aircraft being burned out.
Beaufighters of 143, 252 and 272 Squadrons arrived towards the end of the month to cover a Naval operation. During their attachment they carried out two highly successful sorties against aerodromes in Sicily and Sardinia, destroying at least 38 aircraft and damaging many more.
Throughout the month Fulmars have patrolled over Catania by night and on one occasion shot down a bomber off Syracuse. Bombs were also dropped on aerodromes and towns. The activities of these lone Fulmars has done much to harass the nocturnal operations of the Italians and on many nights prevented enemy bombers from operating.
The whole offensive has been possible through the reconnaissances of 69 (Maryland) Squadron, which was reinforced by three aircraft from Egypt. The Squadron aircraft have been equipped with bomb racks and although not employed on offensive work during the month they have released bombs over their objectives during reconnaissance. They have also made two low-flying machine-gun attacks and at least two enemy aircraft were shot down during patrols.
249 Squadron carried out 29 day scrambles and 19 night scrambles. 46 Squadron, which was renamed 126 Squadron on 22 July, carried out 31 scrambles by day and 18 by night. 185 Squadron carried out 71 scrambles by day.
Malta submarines have carried out 13 patrols during the month. Four ships of approximate total of 16200 tons were claimed as sunk. A further two ships of approximately 7500 total tonnage were probably sunk. In addition, two hits each were obtained on a Condottieri “D” class cruiser and on a 500 foot floating dock.
830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm carried out three torpedo attacks on shipping. One hit was made on a tanker off Tripoli. Two hits were made on a tanker off Lampedusa. The total tonnage of these two ships is estimated at 10,000 tons. One or both may have been sunk but of this there is no definite evidence. In the third attack, a hit was obtained on the stern of a destroyer and a heavy explosion was observed in a ship of about 6000 tons. This ship may have been sunk but the evidence is inconclusive.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 JULY TO DAWN 1 AUGUST 1941
Weather Sunny and hot.
Day Nine enemy aircraft come to within 25 miles of Grand Harbour and then turned back. 23 Hurricanes are scrambled but make no contact with the enemy. S/Ldr Barton’s Hurricane’s engine fails and he has to make a forced landing but sustains no injuries.
2200-2248 hrs Air raid alert for a three enemy BR 20 bombers which approach singly from the north east and attack Grand Harbour, dropping 250kg bombs near the floating dock and on the Parade Ground of St Angelo destroying three mess rooms and injuring three people. Bombs are also dropped in the sea. Hurricanes of 126 Squadron are scrambled. Searchlights illuminate raiders three times but the Hurricanes are unable to make contact. P/O Stone chases a raider 30 miles out to sea but is unable to see it beyond the searchlights.
2350-0017 hrs Air raid alert for a single BR 20 which approaches from the north and drops 250kg bombs in the Grand Harbour area, as well as in the sea north east of Ricasoli. Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.
OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 31 JULY 1941
ROYAL NAVY P32 arrived from United Kingdom. Upholder arrived from patrol off Marittimo, having sunk a 6000 ton laden merchant vessel, and obtained 2 hits on a Condottiere D class cruiser. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish left to intercept a southbound convoy of 4 merchant ships and 5 destroyers 20 miles west of Lampion. Owing to poor visibility, convoy was located by ASV (radar). 2 torpedoes were fired and 1 hit obtained (unconfirmed).
AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Wellington. Departures 3 Wellington, 4 Blenheim (leader had engine failure and all returned). 69 Squadron Marylands made 8 reconnaissance flights including Sicily, Elmas and Monserrato. Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli strafed enemy aircraft on the ground at Zuara. Marylands on special patrol. 105 Squadron 6 Blenheims sent to attack convoy but were intercepted by enemy fighters and returned without dropping bombs.
KALAFRANA During July Sunderland and Catalina flying boats made considerable use of the station for flights between the Middle East and UK, with 28 arrivals and departures of aircraft during the month. Passengers included Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, Inspector General of the Royal Air Force, and Rt Hon Captain Lyttleton, AOC, Middle East. The rescue Swordfish carried out 8 patrols and marine craft 6. Numbers rescued during the month were 3 Italians by marine craft, 1 British and 1 Italian by floatplanes. Total rescues since 11 June 1940 are 42 by marine craft (including 7 dead) and 3 by floatplane.
1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT The Regimental Dance Band is being reformed in the Battalion. Auditions were held and instruments have been begged, borrowed and bought.
1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT Strengths officers 31, other ranks 876, RAOC (attached) 2.
2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT Battalion strength 22 officers, 393 other ranks.
3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT Battalion strengths 17 officers, 554 other ranks.
ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Strengths 27 officers, 8 WOs, 181 other ranks.
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