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Category Archives: October 1941

11 October 1941: Malta Command Must Explain Loss of Bomb Disposal Officer

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RAF Blenheim

RAF Blenheim

ROYAL ENGINEERS OFFICER WAS WORKING FOR THE RAF

The War Office sent an urgent telegram today calling on Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief to account for the death of Lt Edward Talbot in an air crash. The Royal Engineers officer was aboard one of two RAF Blenheim bombers of 107 Squadron which are now believed to have collided while evading enemy fire on Thursday night during an attack on enemy shipping. 

Talbot was one of only two Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers currently in Malta; he had been on respite from his bomb disposal duties since May, when his command was transferred to Lt G D Carroll, RE. The Army bomb disposal squad is responsible for all unexploded bombs across Malta and Gozo, outside of RAF and Royal Navy premises.  However, with a shortage of suitable officers on the Island to fulfil all military needs, after several weeks of rest Lt Talbot was recently redeployed to assist the RAF.

In an immediate reply to the War Office, Lt Gen Dobbie stated: “Lieutenant Talbot attached RAF station Luqa for Intelligence duties. (My POR no 52 September 25 refers.) Army and RAF Intelligence officers exchanged periodically by local arrangements between Air Officer Commanding and General Officer Commanding [Army].”

In a further message Lt Gen Dobbie explained: “In order to ensure adequate liaison with RAF I have found it necessary in the general interest of the Fortress to attach four specially selected Officers for air intelligence duties. Three Officers are attached to aerodromes and one does duty with RAF Headquarters.”  It is understood that Lt E E C Talbot was carrying out one of the four intelligence roles, based at Luqa aerodrome.

Two more Malta Blenheims of 107 Squadron were lost today in a mission against enemy shipping. The bombers were among six sent to attack a convoy in the Gulf of Sirte.  Flying Officer R Greenhill’s Blenheim was shot down by enemy defensive fire.  Sergeant A Rough’s aircraft was reported to have been damaged and then crashed into the sea.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 OCTOBER TO DAWN 12 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

0935-1029 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching from the north. First a single raider crosses the coast over St Julian’s Bay, then turns northwards.  Then six raiders split into two formations and circle 15 miles off the east of Grand Harbour before retiring northwards.  11 Hurricane fighters are scrambled but do not gain sufficient height to intercept before the formation returns towards Sicily.

1636-1655 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy fighters which fly over Grand Harbour and retire northwards. 9 Hurricanes area scrambled but cannot gain sufficient height to intercept.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

0251-0319 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of friendly aircraft.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Ronald A Greenhill, Royal Air Force; Sergeant Gerald F McLeod, Royal Canadian Air Force; Sergeant Robert N Parker, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR); Sergeant Alfred D M Routh, RAFVR; Sergeant Alan M Smith, all 107 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 11 OCTOBER 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland shipping search; 3 Marylands on special patrol.  Photoreconnaissance Tripoli town and harbour, Trapani and Castel Vetrano. 107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked shipping in the Gulf of Sirte.  F/O Greenhill and Sgt Routh failed to return. Fleet Air Arm One Fulmar attacked barracks at Passero, dropping incendiaries and machine-gunning buildings. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish were sent to attack 2 merchant ships and 1 destroyer southbound off Marittimo.  The leader lost contact with the torpedo aircraft, who returned to base with torpedoes.  The leader alone located the convoy and attacked the leading merchant vessel; results not observed.

TA QALI  New airmen’s barrack block taken over.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Five Fusiliers are attached to RAF Luqa.

 

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Posted by on October 11, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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10 October 1941: Malta Bomb Disposal Officer Killed

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Lt E E C Talbot, GC, RE

Lt E E C Talbot, GC, RE

BOMB DISPOSAL OFFICER WAS ABOARD MISSING BOMBER

Malta’s first Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer has been reported missing, presumed killed. According to reports, he was aboard one of two Blenheim aircraft which failed to return from an attack on enemy shipping off the south coast of Italy last night. 

The missing Blenheim pilots have been named as Wing Commander C F A Harte and Flying Officer Whitford-Walders, both of 107 Squadron. Two other Blenheims involved in the mission returned safely to Luqa.  Early today, the RAF in Malta picked up Italian radio reports stating that two aircraft collided over the coast near Cape Spartivento with no survivors.

Lt Edward Talbot GC, MBE arrived last November to assume command of the Island’s Bomb Disposal Section. He has been on respite leave from bomb disposal duties since early May.  According to the current serving RE Bomb Disposal Officer, Lt George Carroll, his friend Lt Talbot had for some weeks been working with the RAF, collecting the reports from pilots on their return from operational missions. (1)

BRITISH PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN

The following communications have been approved today by the British Underground Propaganda Committee for transmission via rumour networks, in a bid to undermine morale among Axis troops and civilians:

Italy for general Mediterranean distribution

  • A ship with 500 Italian soldiers on board sailed into Malta and surrendered. They have mutinied and killed their officers.
  • During the last ten days seven [Axis] supply ships have put into Malta and surrendered. The British show special signal lights for deserters, who are given the choice of going to India or England. (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 OCTOBER TO DAWN 11 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Cooler with some rain.

1033-1052 hrs  Air raid alert for two formations of six enemy fighters which cross the Island. 13 Hurricane fighters are scrambled but there are no engagements.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 2 Blenheim. 38 Squadron 6 Wellingtons attacked convoy. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands on special patrol.  1 Maryland on convoy search.  Photoreconnaissance of Tripoli. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims searched for missing Blenheim crews. 221 Squadron 2 Wellingtons searched for convoy. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish carried out two attacks on a convoy of 3 merchant ships, 1 tanker and 5 destroyers.  The first lasted from 2208 to 2230 hrs during which the 3 merchant vessels were damaged, 2 seriously.  The Swordfish returned to base and refuelled, then attacked the convoy again at 0440 hrs, at the end of which two merchant ships were sunk.

ARMY HQ  Air Officer Commanding Vice Marshal Lloyd gave a lecture at the Marsa Club on the activities of the RAF in Malta, attended by officers and NCOs.

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

(2) Whispers of War: Underground Propaganda Rumour-Mongering in the Second World War, Lee Richards, 2010

 

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Posted by on October 10, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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9 October 1941: Italy, Sicily, Libya and Convoys Attacked From Malta

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Catanzaro

Catanzaro attacked

WAR CABINET REPORT ON MALTA: WEEK ENDING 9 OCTOBER

Eight Blenheims from Malta made a successful daylight raid on the power station, engine sheds and a munitions works at Catanzaro Marina, southern Italy, and hits were made on all the targets. The success of a night attack by two Blenheims on railway sheds at Catania was confirmed by photographs which showed five hits.  Hurricanes carried out three attacks with bombs and cannon fire against the aerodrome at Comiso, Sicily, and against railway stations in the vicinity.

Many offensive sorties were despatched against enemy shipping located by our reconnaissance aircraft. Swordfish made two successful night torpedo attacks on ships in convoy.  They sank a 6000 ton merchant ship off Cape Bon; and severely damaged two others totalling 15000 tons, and probably a third, 50 miles north east of Tripoli.  A Blenheim made a successful moonlight attack on a 2000 ton merchant ship off Tripoli and left her with her stern under water after making two hits.  A Wellington on patrol off western Sicily made one hit on a large merchant ship.

Eight Blenheims, unable to locate their shipping target, attacked the port of Zuara, west of Tripoli, straddling a destroyer and obtaining near misses on a blockhouse. One Blenheim was lost and one Italian fighter was probably destroyed during this operation.  The Misurata-Sirte road was attacked by five Blenheims which destroyed a petrol tanker and 14 lorries.

Three night attacks were made by a total of 24 Wellingtons on shipping at Tripoli. In the course of these attacks one merchant ship was set on fire and another of 10000 tons was hit, while burning oil from a tanker spread over a wide area.  Hits and near misses were also observed on two other merchant ships, and a number of lighters were destroyed or damaged.  Reconnaissance aircraft carried out wide searches for shipping, and a Maryland so engaged attacked a submarine off Syracuse with machine-gun fire.

A few enemy fighters crossed the coast of Malta by day, and bombs were dropped on the Island on two nights.  A few civilian casualties were caused; material damage was negligible.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 OCTOBER TO DAWN 10 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Heavy rainstorms.

No air raids.

Military casualties Private James Lawrence, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment; Wing Commander Frazer A Harte, Royal Air Force, 107 Squadron; Flying Officer Neville Whitford-Walders, Royal Air Force, 107 Squadron; Lt Ellis E A C Talbot, Royal Engineers (attached 107 Squadron RAF).

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 9 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY Unique, Sokol and Upholder sailed at short notice to intercept a convoy between Pantellaria and Lampedusa.  Upholder returned with generator problems.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Beaufighter. Departures 1 Bombay, 1 Catalina, 2 Sunderland, 4 Wellington. 69 Squadron 1 Blenheim and 1 Maryland patrols east Sicilian coast. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked motor transport on the Homs-Tripoli road.  2 Blenheims on shipping sweep of south coast of Italy.  Both failed to return (W/Cdr Harte and F/O Whitford-Walders). 221 Squadron 1 Wellington on special patrol; 1 Wellington in shipping search. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a southbound convoy of 4 merchant ships and 5 destroyers.  6 torpedoes were dropped and three hits claimed, stopping two merchant ships.  The same 7 Swordfish carried out a second attack on two other merchant ships and four destroyers of same convoy.  Five torpedoes were released and one hit stopped a merchant ship.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Fortress Orders state that no weapons are to be loaded in quarters.

 

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Posted by on October 9, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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8 October 1941: London Press Heralds Malta Attacks on Axis Convoys

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Fleet Air Arm Swordfish

“ITALIAN SHIPPING: ANOTHER HEAVY BLOW”

London, 8 October 1941 – from a press correspondent in Malta

“Another heavy success against enemy shipping in the Mediterranean – this time by planes of the Fleet Air Arm – was revealed in a dispatch from Malta last night. The story of the new blow followed hard on the Admiralty announcement yesterday morning that British submarines operating in the Mediterranean had hit with torpedoes and sunk or seriously damaged 11 enemy vessels. 

‘The Fleet Air Arm on Sunday night launched a sudden, savage attack against an Italian convoy steaming south in the Ionian Sea,” says the Malta message. “The convoy, which was first sighted before daylight, comprised four merchantmen of from 8000 to 10000 tons, two between 4000 and 6000 tons, and five destroyers.

A Fleet Air Arm formation attacked in bright moonlight. The first two planes swept in, attacking the rearmost vessels from starboard and from port respectively.  Before the Italians opened fire they were beyond range, leaving the largest merchantman listing heavily and belching black smoke, and a 6000 ton ship with its stern under water and also listing heavily.  The crews were seen taking to the boats and pulling towards a destroyer.  The destroyers frantically opened fire and laid a smoke screen which, however, a strong wind dispersed. 

The remainder of the formation then attacked the convoy. The leading plane straddled a large vessel with a stick of bombs, probably damaging its bows.  Another attacked a ship on the starboard column.  It swung out of line and stopped.  All the planes returned safely.’”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 OCTOBER TO DAWN 9 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Heavy rain in the afternoon.

Dawn  Enemy aircraft carry out air reconnaissance in the area where surface vessels were detected overnight.

Civilian casualties  Balzan  Susanna Galea, age 41.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 8 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Perseus arrived from patrol off Benghazi for docking and repairs.  Two small supply ships sunk. P34 arrived from the United Kingdom via Gibraltar.  

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Beaufighter, 8 Blenheim. 69 Squadron  Maryland patrols east Tunisian coast and 3 special patrols. 107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked transport on the Misurata-Sirte road. 221 Squadron 2 Wellingtons on special patrols. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish attacked a northbound enemy convoy of one merchant ship, a schooner and two trawlers.  Two torpedoes were dropped hitting a merchant ship which sank.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  An exercise with ‘attack’ by mobile infantry platoons and three tanks of Malta Tank Troop on Royal Artillery harbour gun positions and forts of San Pietru, Rocco, Rinella and Ricasoli.

 

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Posted by on October 8, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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

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Italian Motoscafo Turismo (E-boat)

Italian Motoscafo Turismo (E-boat)

ATTACK DETERRED BY COASTAL DEFENCES

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

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

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 OCTOBER TO DAWN 8 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine.

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

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

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

2200 hrs  A third formation of seaborne craft is reported.

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

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

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 7 OCTOBER 1941

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

 

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

 

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

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Count Ciano (r) with Hitler & Mussolini

Count Ciano (r) with Hitler & Mussolini

ENEMY STARVED OF SUPPLIES FOR NORTH AFRICA CAMPAIGN

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

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

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

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 OCTOBER TO DAWN 7 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

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

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 6 OCTOBER 1941

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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5 October 1941: Malta Urgently Needs Underground Fuel Stores

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

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

The following for Chiefs of Staff:

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

Wied-id-Dis

Wied-id-Dis

The defence works involved are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 OCTOBER TO DAWN 6 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

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

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

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

Civilian casualties  Zurrieq  Antonia Camilleri, age 24.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 5 OCTOBER 1941

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

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

 

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

 

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4 October 1941: Malta Urgently Needs Air Transport Links

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Regent sailed to attack convoy

Regent sailed to attack convoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 OCTOBER TO DAWN 5 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine, some cloud.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 4 OCTOBER 1941

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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LUFTWAFFE RECOGNISES MALTA IS A PROBLEM

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

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

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

Utmost nearly rammed by destroyer

Utmost nearly rammed by a destroyer today

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 OCTOBER TO DAWN 4 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Storms.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 3 OCTOBER 1941

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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Elmas aerodrome

Elmas aerodrome

AXIS AIRFIELDS, PORTS, MILITARY TRANSPORTS AND CONVOYS BOMBED

British War Cabinet Report for Malta: week ending 2 October

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

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

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

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

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

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 OCTOBER TO DAWN 3 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Heavy thunderstorm overnight, with torrential rain.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 2 OCTOBER 1941

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

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

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

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 6.

 

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

 

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