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14-20 June 1942: Malta Convoy in Fierce Air & Sea Battles

Malta – World War 2. First visit to maltagc70?

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14 June 1942

MALTA FIGHTERS TO PROTECT CONVOYS

At 2000 hrs this evening the Air Officer Commanding called all Malta’s pilots together to announce that two convoys have been assembled in a concerted attempt to relieve the critical supply situation.  The recent reinforcements of Spitfires, Beaufighters and Beauforts are here to help protect the ships from enemy attacks, he revealed.  In a desperate bid to get a sufficient number of ships through to the Island, it has been decided to mount a dual convoy, approaching from the eastern and western Mediterranean, in the hope of dividing the efforts of Axis forces.

HMS Centurion 1918

OPERATION VIGOROUS

Operation Vigorous, the ‘eastern’ convoy of eleven merchant ships with escort, met yesterday with Force A off Tobruk, bringing the total protective force to eight cruisers and 26 destroyers, plus corvettes and minesweepers, and the veteran battleship Centurion. The convoy came under immediate air attack: one merchantman was damaged and another limping into port with engine trouble was sunk by enemy aircraft.

A Malta-based reconnaissance pilot reported today that two Littorio battleships have left Taranto harbour in the company of four cruisers and ten destroyers and at the same time two cruisers moved from Cagliari to Palermo with their escorting destroyers.  The heavily armed Italian naval force is on course to intercept the convoy heading from Tobruk.  Reconnaissance has also revealed that despite reductions in enemy bombing activity over Malta, German and Italian air forces remain in significant numbers on Sicilian aerodromes.  They are believed to be in a state of readiness to attack the two convoys.

Four Wellingtons were despatched tonight to strike enemy vessels reported 60 miles from Cape Geroghambo 60 degrees.  Only one Wellington was able to release its two torpedoes.  The enemy force put up a heavy smoke screen, and although results were not observed, one of the torpedoes was seen to run well.  Smoke screen prevented the other three Wellingtons from attacking.  A shadowing Wellington saw glow on the water after the attack.

OPERATION HARPOON

Meanwhile Operation Harpoon, consisting of six merchant ships carrying 39000 tons of cargo and oil, and the American tanker Kentucky with 14100 tons of fuel and kerosene, left Gibraltar on Friday.  They are escorted by an anti-aircraft cruiser, HMS Cairo, nine destroyers, the fast minelayer HMS Welshman and a number of smaller ships.  Further cover is being provided by HMS Malaya, carriers Argus and Eagle carrying operational aircraft, three cruisers and eight destroyers.

MV Tanimbar

The ‘western’ convoy was also attacked today, by the Italian Regia Aeronautica: torpedoes sank the freighter Tanimbar and damaged the cruiser Liverpool which has been taken in tow by AntelopeArgus and Eagle were also hit, with the loss of some crew.  Under orders not to enter Malta in order to save fuel, the protective escort returned to Gibraltar leaving the remaining merchantmen with less cover.  HMS Welshman has left the convoy and is heading alone at speed for Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 JUNE TO DAWN 15 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind south-westerly. 100% cloud; Slight rain.

0630-0709 hrs  Three Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are airborne to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to provide top cover for 601 Squadron.

0810 hrs  Eight ME 109s patrol over the Island at 20000 feet.  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept: they sight four ME 109s but the enemy fighters immediately dive away.

0817-0850 hrs  Five Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.

PM  Four aircraft 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled three times without sighting the enemy.  One aircraft of NAS out on patrol: no sightings.

1330-1335 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept a single approaching aircraft which is later identified as friendly.

1345-1410 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol: nil report.

2155-2315 hrs  One Beaufighter on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: claims one JU 88 destroyed.

2213 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy aircraft drop bombs anti-personnel bombs on Safi, Hal Far and in the sea.

2215-2345 hrs  One Beaufighter is on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.

0140 hrs; 0350 hrs  Air raid alerts.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 14 JUNE 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Sweeping continued and Munscair Rock buoyed.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar; one Hudson en route from Gibraltar to Matruh landed at Malta.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Wellington to Shallufa.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed on take-off: crew safe.  One Baltimore crashed on landing from operations: crew safe.

LUQA  AM  One Baltimore 69 Squadron cross-over patrol western Sicily, south Sardinia base.  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance (PR) Messina and Augusta.  One Spitfire (PR) Taranto Harbour.  One Baltimore 69 Squadron cross-over patrol Malta, western Sicily, south Sardinia base.  PM  One Spitfire PR Messina and Straits.  One Spitfire PR Palermo Harbour and western aerodromes.  One Baltimore 69 Squadron special search western Sicily, toe of Italy and Gulf of Taranto.  One Spitfire PR Palermo Harbour.  One Spitfire PR Taranto.

1905-0050 hrs  Four Beaufighters 235 Squadron on shipping protection Allied forces: S/L Cook destroyed one JU 88.

2219-0515 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on A patrol, to drop flares if requested: no ships sighted; no flares dropped.  One Wellington S/D Flight on D patrol, to drop flares if requested: two separate aircraft sighted – lights on.  One Wellington S/D Flight on reconnaissance for enemy fleet in the Ionian Sea: sighted one small destroyer.

2311-0655 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight despatched to locate and illuminate Italian fleet.  Sighted five ships: shadowed until requested to illuminate.  Flares dropped to illuminate for Wellington strike.

2335-0635 hrs  Four Wellingtons 38 Squadron despatched to attack Italian fleet.  One aircraft attacked; smoke screen made results difficult to observe.

0350-0920 hrs  Nine Beauforts 217 Squadron despatched to attack Italian fleet.  One torpedo hit one battleship or heavy cruiser, causing a column of water followed by thick smoke.  One torpedo hit on battleship or heavy cruiser causing flames and dense black smoke.  One torpedo hit on destroyer amidships, causing a column of smoke: destroyer seen listing to port.

0450-0920 hrs   Five Beaufighters 235 Squadron on patrol over [Malta] convoy.  F/Sgt Farquhar and Sgt Briffat attacked one Macchi 202 and also observed a JU 88 hit in the windscreen.  Sgt Hall and Sgt Burnside claimed one JU 88 damaged.

TA QALI  2000 hrs  The Air Officer Commanding met aircrew personnel at the Officers Mess.    2110-2200 hrs  Two Spitfires 603 Squadron are despatched to carry out a dusk patrol of the Sicilian coast.  They sight a stationary destroyer half a mile from shore.

15 June 1942

“The air over and around Malta rapidly became thick with aircraft, and this continued until sunset.  Sorties were continually being made by Spitfires, Beaufighters, torpedo-carrying and reconnaissance aircraft.” (1)

SPITFIRES TAKE AIR WAR TO SEA

From dawn today 170 sorties were made by Malta-based Spitfires and another 12 by Beaufighters to cover the transit of the two convoys through the Mediterranean.  They intercepted and destroyed three JU 88s, three JU 87s, three ME 109s, two BR 20s and two float planes, probably destroyed two JU 88s, one ME 109 and one Macchi 200, and damaged five JU 88s, one JU 87, three ME 109s, one BR 20 and one unidentified bomber.  Malta lost three Spitfires and one Beaufighter.

SS Kentucky has been hit

WESTERN CONVOY UNDER FIRE

Reports are coming in that the western convoy Operation Harpoon came under attack early this morning near Pantelleria, from Axis aircraft and the Italian navy.  Despite setting up a smokescreen, two Allied destroyers and three of the merchant ships were hit and disabled.  The damaged Kentucky, with its essential cargo of fuel for Malta’s fighters, was taken in tow but after further enemy action the convoy commander made the reluctant decision to sink her in order to save the remaining ships.  The rest of the convoy including two other damaged vessels went on its way slowly towards Malta.

Several fighter missions were flown from Malta in an attempt to protect the beleaguered convoy.  In a counter-attack by the Island’s air forces, four Albacores released torpedoes at a cruiser, scoring two hits: smoke and steam were seen to pour from the vessel.  Another torpedo was dropped at a large destroyer, scoring a probable hit.  Later three more Albacores attacked and probable hits were obtained by two torpedoes on a cruiser.  Two Beauforts also attacked the enemy naval force striking the leading cruiser.  Other aircraft arriving on the scene reported the whole ship ablaze.

WELSHMAN ARRIVES

After a fast passage from Pantelleria without further incident, HMS Welshman entered Grand Harbour at 0730 hrs today.  The ship was unloaded, oiled and re-ammunitioned, and sailed at 1400 hrs this afternoon to reinforce Force X.

Stricken HMS Bedouin

EASTERN CONVOY ABANDONED

Enemy naval forces were also in hot pursuit of the eastern convoy, which had to undertake a series of direction changes in an attempt to ward off her attackers.  In a fierce sea battle early this morning the destroyer Hasty was disabled by a torpedo, killing twelve men, and had to be sunk.  HMS Bedouin was badly hit and came to a standstill.  She was taken under tow but this afternoon an Italian aircraft scored a direct hit with a torpedo and she sank.  This afternoon the destroyer Airedale was hit several times and disabled; she was later sunk.

Meanwhile, Malta-based air forces launched a series of raids on the Italian fleet, disabling the heavy cruiser Trento.  However, the Luftwaffe continued relentless attacks on the Allied convoy and by 1800 hrs today only six merchant ships remained from the original eleven.

By this evening the eastern convoy ships were facing a serious shortage of fuel and ammunition due to enemy attacks and diversionary tactics.  With a strong Italian fleet still in pursuit, the decision was taken to abandon the eastern convoy operation.  The remaining ships returned to Alexandria: none of the merchantmen reached Malta.

MALTA COUNTER ATTACKS

Tonight five Wellingtons were despatched to attack the enemy force as it returned to Taranto.  One aircraft scored a hit with a torpedo on the port side of the leading battleship, the flash from the explosion being clearly seen.  Despite repeated efforts, a heavy smoke screen prevented the other aircraft from taking aim.

Nine Beauforts attacked two enemy naval forces in position 090 degrees Malta 210 miles.  One force consisted of two battleships, one cruiser and seven destroyers; the other, two cruisers and seven destroyers.  The Beauforts dropped nine torpedoes: one hit a battleship or heavy cruiser, throwing up a column of water 50 feet high, followed by thick smoke and flames visible 35 miles away.  Another torpedo hit was claimed on a battleship or heavy cruiser causing dense black smoke.  A destroyer was hit amidships and left listing to port.

Later 12 Beauforts of 39 Squadron ex Middle East were despatched to strike at enemy shipping.  En route to the target the aircraft were intercepted by ME 109s and two were shot down into the sea, while five returned to the Middle East.  The remaining Beauforts hit a Littorio battleship with at least one torpedo.  A destroyer was also hit amidships and a possible hit was scored on a battleship before the Beauforts returned to Malta.

Photographic reconnaissance later reported that the Italian fleet had returned to Taranto after its attempt to intercept the convoy – but the cruiser Trento was a conspicuous absentee.  A large Italian destroyer was also photographed in tow off south west Sicily.

AIR ACTIVITY DAWN 15 JUNE TO DAWN 16 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; 50% medium cloud.

0610-0955 hrs; 1030-1445 hrs  Eleven Beaufighters 235 Squadron are on patrol over the Malta-bound convoy.  S/L Wigmore and P/O Crow destroy one Ro 43; P/O Cohen and Sgt Nacott chase two JU 88s but their guns will not fire. Sgt Armitage and Sgt Hector fail to return.

0615 hrs; 0715 hrs  Air raid alerts.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to intercept reported ME 109s: no sightings.

0720-0955 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are despatched on a series of offensive convoy patrols.  Convoy observed to be under fire from two forces; no enemy aircraft seen.

0840-1100 hrs  The convoy is not sighted in the given area: eight unidentified warships are seen.

0841-1135 hrs  One Baltimore 69 Squadron despatched to patrol Pantelleria sights two destroyers, then two cruisers with two destroyers and a seaplane 25 miles to the south.

0900-1120 hrs; 0930-1145 hrs  Two Beauforts 217 Squadron are despatched to attack two enemy cruisers and escorting destroyers.  They claim one possible torpedo hit on a cruiser.

0912-1155 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are airborne on offensive convoy patrol.  F/Lt Winfield destroys one BR 20.  P/O Goldsmith destroys one Cant 506 and one BR 20 with F/S Evans.  F/S Farquhason damages one BR 20.  Four enemy ships are sighted: two cruisers and two destroyers.  One destroyer is reported to be smoking from the stern.

Spitfires over Malta

0925-1045 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to escort Albacores on a strike mission against Italian cruisers.  They make no contact with the Albacores but they sight the cruisers towards Pantelleria.

0945-1145 hrs  Two Italian cruisers are seen heading for Pantelleria.  A large patch of oil is observed 30 miles east of Linosa.

0955-1110 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali carry out a patrol: nothing sighted.  S/Ldr Hamilton’s undercarriage collapses on landing; pilot unhurt.

1115-1415 hrs  Eight Spitfires 601 Squadron are airborne on offensive convoy patrol.  P/O Ingram and Sgt Rowlandson destroy one JU 87.  W/O Belcher claims one ME 109 destroyed.  Sgt Rowlandson runs out of petrol and has to bale out: he is safe.  P/O Smith claims one JU 87 probably destroyed and one ME 109 damaged.  2/Lt Bartleman destroys one JU 87 and damages another.

1125-1230 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to cover the return of Albacores.

1210-1320 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron on convoy patrol see black smoke 300 degrees Ta Qali.

1302-1332 hrs  Four aircraft 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne on convoy patrol: no engagement.

1303-1610 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron and two 126 Squadron on convoy patrol.  P/O Scollan probably destroys one JU 87.  Sgt McConnell, 601 Squadron, fails to return.

1330-1345 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron take to the air on convoy patrol but return with engine trouble.

1350-1400 hrs  Three Spitfires 603 Squadron on convoy patrol: nothing sighted.

1405-1450 hrs  Four Spitfires  603 Squadron are scrambled to escort the rescue launch: they observe a pilot being picked up.

1409-1640 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron on convoy patrol.  F/Sgt Schade destroys one ME 109.

1455-1730 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron on patrol destroy one unidentified float plane.

1505-1640 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to escort Albacores on a strike mission.  They see a large column of smoke and a cruiser burning 45 miles south of Pantelleria.  Another vessel – possibly a submarine or cruiser – is lying on its side.

1525-1625 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron on convoy patrol: nothing sighted.

1525-1645 hrs; 1540-1700 hrs; 1600-1655 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali at a time are airborne on convoy patrol: nothing sighted.

1612-1706 hrs  Four aircraft 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne on convoy patrol: no engagement.

1640-1820 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron on patrol locate the Malta-bound convoy 20 miles east of Linosa.

1700-1755 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron on patrol see the Malta-bound convoy 15 miles east of Lampedusa and report 20 vessels, including at least two large merchant vessels.  They observe HMS Welshman steaming towards the convoy.

1706-1810 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are on patrol: no engagement.

1730-1940 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are on patrol.  F/O Horne damages one JU 87.  P/O Smith fails to return but is later picked up by the convoy.

1800-1920 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali intercept three Cant 1007s and ME 109s attacking the approaching convoy 30 miles south west of Gozo.  F/Sgt Williams damages one ME 109; F/O Smith damages one Cant 1007.

1802-2010 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron on patrol: no combat.

1805-1925 hrs; 1915-2000 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali at a time are airborne on convoy patrol.

1810-1950 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron patrol the convoy approaching from the west.  F/Lt West destroys one ME 109 and probably destroys one JU 88.  F/Sgt Sim destroys one JU 88 and P/O Sternberg damages one JU 88.  One Spitfire is damaged.

1825-1930 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are on patrol: no interceptions.

1840 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far patrol the western convoy.  P/O Broad destroys one ME 109.  P/O Barol is shot down in the sea but is picked up uninjured.

1920-2055 hrs;1950-2120 hrs; 2030-2155 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali at a time are airborne on convoy patrol.

1924-0120 hrs  Nine Beauforts 217 Squadron Luqa are despatched to launch a torpedo attack on enemy shipping forces but do not locate the fleet.

2020-2200 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are despatched on convoy patrol.  One crash-lands five minutes later with engine trouble: the aircraft is damaged but the pilot is unhurt.

2025-0039 hrs  Five Wellingtons 38 Squadron are despatched to attack enemy shipping forces.  Only F/O Hawes attacks, seeing a flash of explosives.

2105-2145 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne on convoy patrol.

2125-2212 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron are on patrol: no combat.

2140 hrs  The Spitfires intercept ten JU 88s twelve miles west of Gozo.  P/O Jones destroys one, F/O Lucas and P/O Watts jointly destroy one.  P/O Linton damages one and P/O Lucas another.

2145-0045 hrs  One Beaufighter is on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: no combats.

2221-2310 hrs  Air raid alert sounds for eight enemy aircraft approaching the Island.  JU 88s drop high explosive bombs on the Hal Far, Siggiewi and Ta Qali areas.  Light Ack Ack damage one JU 88.

0245 hrs; 0400 hrs  Air raid alerts.  Italian anti-personnel bombs are dropped on Kalafrana and in the sea off Grand Harbour.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant Cyril Casey, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Fleet Air Arm, HMS St.Angelo; Lieutenant William Paton DSC, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Fleet Air Arm, HMS St.Angelo; Flight Sergeant Allen Harris, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Charles Hector, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Pilot Officer Patrick Hedley, Royal Air Force VR; Sergeant Jack McConnell, Royal New Zealand Air Force; Flight Sergeant Alick Greaves, Royal Australian Air Force; Gunner Loreto Cachia, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Naxxar  Paul Vella, age 11.  Siggiewi  Nicholas Farrugia, age 43.  Tarxien  Louis Pulis, age 14.

OTHER OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 15 JUNE 1942

Beaufighter

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Beaufighter from Gibraltar; five Beauforts from Middle East strike.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort damaged by enemy aircraft crashed on landing: wireless operatior injured; remainder safe.  One Beaufort crashed on landing: crew safe.  One Spitfire damaged in combat crashed in the sea: pilot safe.  One Baltimore failed to return from operations: crew missing.  One Spitfire reported missing from patrol: pilot missing.  One Beaufort crash-landed: crew safe.  One Beaufighter missing from operations: crew missing.  One Spitfire shot down in combat: pilot safe.  One Spitfire crash landed with glycol leak: pilot safe.  One Spitfire shot down in combat: pilot safe.  One Spitfire crash landed: pilot safe.

HAL FAR  AM  Four aircraft 185 Squadron are scrambled on two occasions without sighting the enemy.      0845-1150 hrs  Four Albacores of the NAS were airborne on strike.  Two scored strikes on a cruiser and another a probable strike on the same cruiser.  The fourth scored a hit on a large destroyer. 1508-1843 hrs  Three Albacores of the NAS are despatched on strike, claiming two probable hits on an enemy cruiser.  One Albacore failed to return: Pilot S/Lt Casey, Observer Lt Paton.

LUQA  Ration strength is 2002, the highest in the history of Luqa Station.  0620-0845 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance (PR) of western [Malta] convoy sighted two forces – one to the north and another to the south, 225 degrees Pantelleria 25 miles.  Both forces were observed to be firing.  One Spitfire PR Taranto Harbour; crashed on landing on return, possibly due to a burst tyre on take-off – pilot safe.  0650 hrs  One Baltimore 69 Squadron on shipping search.  P/O Patrick and F/Sgt Harris fail to return.  0934-1403 hrs  One Baltimore 69 Squadron on search for Italian naval units.  1245 hrs  One Baltimore 69 Squadron on patrol; Sgt Baum, F/S Greaves, Sgt Firboy, Sgt Perslow failed to return.  1300-1600 hrs  One Spitfire PR Taranto.  1820-2120 hrs  One Spitfire PR Taranto.  2015-0410 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on patrol, sights a convoy and drops flares.  2210-2240 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on patrol: recalled after 30 minutes.

TA QALI  Constant patrols by Spitfires and escorting single aircraft attacking the Italian navy.  Hits were scored on three battleships, two cruisers and two destroyers.  One vessel arrived.  0820-1125 hrs  Four Beaufighters 1435 Flight saw convoy at 1030 hrs, observing one large ship and three small, and two formations of four destroyers, six motor torpedo boats, four merchant vessels and one tanker in tow by a naval auxiliary, two other auxiliaries, two smoke generators and a large fire on the water surrounded by flotsam.

16 June 1942

FIRST TWO MERCHANT SHIPS GET THROUGH

Troilus

Supply ships Troilus and Orari entered Grand Harbour in the early hours of this morning to a warm welcome, after surviving a concerted air and sea attack on their convoy off Pantelleria yesterday.  The two merchantmen were escorted by Cairo, Welshman, six destroyers, four fleet minesweepers, and six motor launches.

Only two merchant ships of the original six which set out from Gibraltar on Friday under Operation Harpoon have so far reached Malta. The remains of the fragmented convoy had almost made it to Grand Harbour last night when they ran into a minefield.  Orari and Matchless were damaged and the Polish destroyer Kujawiak was sunk.  Badsworth was damaged off Zonkor Point and Hebe by a near miss from a bomb.  While returning to harbour after having acted as a navigational mark, Justified struck a mine and sank with the loss of three Maltese ratings.

Unloading was started as soon as the two ships were berthed, Maltese stevedores working on Troilus and Army personnel on Orari.  They will work continuously day and night, unless large formations of bombers cause the red flag to be raised over the Dockyard area.  Working parties are then sent to shelters ashore, lorries near the ships dispersed, and a smoke screen put up over the harbour.

There was only one air raid during the day, which caused no damage. Cairo and four destroyers sailed for Gibraltar at 1930 hrs this evening.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 JUNE TO DAWN 17 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind westerly, no cloud.

0520 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for approaching enemy fighters.  Three Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept.  P/O Goldsmith destroys one ME 109.

0555 hrs  Air raid alert: four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled: no engagement.

0645 hrs  Air raid alert for sixteen ME 109s and four JU 88s which approach Grand Harbour .  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to intercept.  The Harbour barrage fires and a smoke screen is sent up.  Spitfires of 603 Squadron see the JU 88s turn north east, away from the harbour barrage.  They attack destroyers off Grand Harbour.

0649 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are also scrambled to intercept.  S/L Lawrence fires a short burst at extreme range at a ME 109 which is believed destroyed.

0700 hrs  Unloading of the convoy ships begins.

0800-0920 hrs; 0910-1005 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa at a time are airborne on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.

0928-1020 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron carry out a defensive patrol over Grand Harbour: no interceptions.

1000-1055 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne on patrol: no combat.

1025 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for approaching formations of JU 88s and ME 109s.  Eight Spitfires from 185 Squadron are scrambled to intercept.  The Spitfires are jumped by twelve ME 109s.  F/Sgt Vineyard and F/Sgt McNamara are shot down and bale out in the sea.

1027-1135 hrs  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron on intercept patrol sight two men in the sea.

1055-1245 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far search for their two pilots.  They are spotted by four Spitfires 603 Squadron, who guide two Air/Sea Rescue launches towards the spot.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa join the escort until their rescue is complete; they are unhurt.

1112-1200 hrs  Four more Spitfires 603 Squadron patrol over Grand Harbour during the rescue.  Sgt Urwin lands without undercarriage; he is unhurt.

1650-1745 hrs  Enemy fighters are reported heading towards Malta.  Eight Spitfires 601 Squadron are scrambled to intercept. Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron join the patrol.

1700 hrs  Air raid alert: nine ME 109s patrol the Island. Only two cross the coast but all nine aircraft soon retreat and there is no engagement.

2155-2255 hrs; 2200-2320 hrs  Single Beaufighters of Malta Night Fighter Unit carry out intercept patrols: no combat.

Night  Three alerts for single aircraft.  Bombs are dropped on Mellieha, Gudja, Safi and Kalafrana.  Heavy Ack Ack destroys one BR 20 and damages one JU 88.

2215 hrs  Air raid alert.

0130-0300 hrs; 0330-0515 hrs  Single Beaufighters of Malta Night Fighter Unit carry out intercept patrols: no combat.

0210 hrs  Air raid alert.

Military casualties  Stoker 1st Class Joseph Baxter, HMS Badsworth; Petty Officer Vincent Caruana, HMS Justified; Able Seaman Henry Gatt, HMS Justified; Stoker 1c Joseph Medina, HMS Justified.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 16 JUNE 1942

AIR HQ  Departures  One Hudson to Mersa Matruh; one Hudson to Gibraltar; two Beauforts to LG 05; one Lodestar to Heliopolis.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire in aerial combat crashed in the sea: pilot safe.  One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot safe.  One Spitfire landed with undercarriage up: pilot safe.

LUQA   1400-1600 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance (PR) of Catania, Gerbini, Gela, Biscaria, Comiso, Pachino aerodromes.  1800-2020 hrs  One Spitfire on PR of Palermo sights a convoy.  He reports one cruiser in two and one unidentified ship with an escort of two destroyers.  1815-2125 hrs  One Spitfire PR of Taranto also photographs two merchant vessels escorted by three destroyers at sea.

TA QALI  Convoy arrived from Gibraltar and 70 airmen accommodated at Boschetto Gardens in marquees, then posted to this and other stations next day. 

17 June 1942

15 REMAINING SUPPLY SHIPS NOT COMING

Just 15000 tons of supplies arrived with the two ships, Troilus and Orari, extending the supplies available in Malta by only eight weeks.  The failure of two massive convoys to bring more than a token delivery of essential supplies is a massive blow to the besieged Island.  The population is already on starvation rations; access to water and domestic fuel is severely limited.  Aviation fuel and ammunition supplies are extremely low.

Lord Gort

The Times of Malta this morning published a broadcast made by The Governor, Lord Gort, last night outlining the implications to the people of Malta:  “Some days ago, two convoys set out, one from the West and one from the East to bring supplies which we need to restore our situation.  The Western convoy had to endure severe and prolonged attacks, and only two merchant ships survived the ordeal.  They are now in the Grand Harbour…These cargoes are essential for our future and well being.  The Eastern convoy, after suffering from prolonged and intense attacks by the Luftwaffe, was ordered to turn back…

I must break to you what the arrival of only two ships means to us.  For some time past we have been short of supplies and further privations lie ahead of us…Every effort will be made to replenish our stocks when a favourable opportunity presents itself.  Meanwhile we must stand on our own resources and every one of us must do everything in his or her power to conserve our stocks and to ensure that best use is made of all the available resources that remain to us.  We must make all possible savings in every commodity and stock…”

Having lost supremacy in the skies over Malta, the Axis have proved themselves to be in control of the seas.  The Island is now isolated and the plan is clear: to starve Malta into submission.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 JUNE TO DAWN 18 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; no cloud – haze.

0800 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa and seven of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept approaching aircraft.  They are airborne too late to intercept one JU 88 and five ME 109s which fly over the Island at 20000 feet.

0900-0940 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron patrol near the Sicilian coast but make no interceptions.

1045-1120 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol: nil report.

1141-1229 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are on intercept patrol: nothing sighted.

1405-1455 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne on patrol: nil report.

1545-1705 hrs  Eleven Spitfires 601 Squadron are airborne on patrol: no combat.

1735-1830 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy fighters which carry out a patrol: P/O Goldsmith claims one ME 109 damaged.

1803-1838 hrs  Eight Spitfires 601 Squadron are on patrol: no combat.

1930 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept an approaching small formation of enemy fighters which trigger the air raid alert: no engagement.

2337-2352 hrs  One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit airborne on patrol: destroys one JU 88.  bombs are jettisoned in the sea north of Mellieha.

0100 hrs  Air raid alert.

Military casualties  WOI Frederick White, Corps of Military Police.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 17 JUNE 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Two magnetic mines were detonated by Swona in Grand Harbour entrance channels.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Lodestar from Heliopolis.  Departures  One Beaufort to LG 05; one Lodestar to Heliopolis.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed due to engine failure: pilot safe, rest of crew injured.

LUQA  0730-0945 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance (PR) Tripoli.  1410-1815 hrs  One Spitfire PR Lecca, Reggio, Bari and Foggia.   

18 June 1942

CHURCHILL MESSAGE OF SUPPORT 

“It is a great comfort to me to feel that you are in full control of this vital island fortress.  You may be sure we will do everything to help you.”  Winston Churchill to Lord Gort, 18/6/42 (1)

Spitfires 601 Squadron

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 JUNE TO DAWN 19 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind easterly; strong.  80% cloud.

1035 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept three approaching enemy aircraft which trigger the alert, then carry out a patrol: no engagement.

1040-1205 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are on patrol: no combat.

1145-1215 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne on intercept patrol: no combat.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                   Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 18 JUNE 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Three mines detonated in Marsamxett and Grand Harbour entrance channel.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Hudsons from Gibraltar; one Lodestar from Heliopolis.  Departures  Three Hudsons to Gibraltar. 

19 June 1942

A Fairey Albacore of the Fleet Air Arm crashed at 1030 hrs this morning shortly after take off from Hal Far on a test flight.  Four soldiers of 2nd Battalion the Devonshire Regiment, Lance Corporals Williams and Winsor, and Privates Sutton and Downs, hurried to the rescue and managed to help the injured pilot, Sub-Lieutenant Jordan, to safety.  The observer, Sub-Lieutenant Todd, was killed in the crash and the soldiers carefully rcovered his dead body from the wreckage.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 JUNE TO DAWN 20 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind south-easterly; 100% medium cloud.

0630 hrs  Air raid alert.

0640-0730 hrs  Seven Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept and attack one ME 109: no claims.  Two ME 109s carry out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 15000 feet.

0730 hrs  Air raid alert.  Six ME 109s are reported approaching the Island.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne to intercept: no combat.  Four patrol while two carry out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 18000 feet.

1015-1100 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol: nil report.

1210-1320 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali and nine Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne on patrol: no interceptions.

1410-1450 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are on intercept patrol: nil report.

1535-1620 hrs  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are on intercept patrol: no combat.

1729 hrs  Three enemy fighters carry out a patrol. Seven Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no engagement.

1800 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1904-1930 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron are on patrol: no combat.

2000-2030 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are on patrol: no sightings or combat.

2145 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching hostile aircraft.  One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit to intercept: no combat.  The Beaufighter remains on patrol until 2308 hrs.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant Richard Todd, Observer, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 19 JUNE 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Beauforts, twelve Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Lodestar to Heliopolis; nine Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed on take-off: crew safe.

20 June 1942

MALTA ON SIEGE RATIONS – BELOW SURVIVAL LEVEL

Queue for milk

Lt Governor Sir Edward Jackson today announced further cuts in rations to the Maltese population, saying they were “a far greater hardship…than any you have had to bear hitherto.”  He explained the measures were necessary in order for the Island to survive until an undisclosed ‘Target Date’ when further supplies might be expected.

Sir Edward revealed that the rations previous weekly rations would now be issued only every two weeks.  A family of five will now receive monthly: 2000 grams sugar, 1300 ml oil, 400 grams cheese, 200 grams tea, 800 grams fats, 400 grams coffee, 3 bars soap, 4 tins corned beef, 4 tins fish, 4 matches.  The average per capita intake is lowered to 1500 calories per day, which the Ministry of Food in London acknowledges is insufficient.

GOVERNOR REPORTS CONVOY RESULTS TO LONDON

From:- Governor & C in C Malta               To:- C in C Middle East              Rpt:- The War Office

Military Situation Report for Week Ending 20 June 1942

1.  Enemy air activity against convoy has been very slight consisting of a few fighters on [reconnaissance] and some night raiders only 12 of which dropped bombs.

2.  Details of convoy operation presumably already known to you.  Only two merchant ships arrived night 15/16 June bringing 15000 tons stores sufficient for approx one month’s supplies.  Separate resume of supply position and other severe cuts now being made has been sent to Mideast defence committee and chiefs of staff.

Large organisation for unloading ships consisting of 2300 men and 240 vehicles from Army daily working in shifts as unloaders, lighter parties, dockside labour, tally clerks, messengers, telephonists and parties for dispersal dumps.  [Motor transport] sub-depots, traffic control, smoke screen party, first aid parties and so on, adapted to situation of only two ships and these unloaded cargoes dispersed in 108 hours working night and day.  No attempts made by enemy to interfere.  Parties on convoy unloading were in addition to 1700 men and 100 vehicles provided for aerodrome ground staffs.

3.  During night raids Ack Ack destroyed one BR 20 and damaged two JU 88s.  RAF over Island and protecting convoy destroyed seven JU 88s, three JU 87s, two BR 20, four ME 109s, two float planes.  Probably destroyed or damaged 12 bombers, 7 fighters.  Attacks on Italian fleet made by Malta based Beauforts and Wellingtons – results known to you.

4.  Following is total of work on improvement of aerodromes carried out by Army for RAF in last three months.  27 miles dispersal track, 10 Wellington pens, 168 fighter pens, 37 light bomber pens, 21 Fleet Air Arm pens.  This in addition to crater filling, improvement of runways etc.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 JUNE TO DAWN 21 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind westerly, moderate to strong.  100% cloud.

0725 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled and chase six Messerschmitts from five miles north of St Paul’s Bay back to Sicily.

0805 hrs  Air raid alert for a patrol of enemy fighters.  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no engagement.

0910-1010 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far on patrol: nothing sighted.

1029-1150 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne on patrol.

1120 hrs  Air raid alert for a small formation of hostile fighters which patrol the Island: no combat.

1140-1200 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali patrol: nil report.

1221-1312 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron on patrol: nothing sighted.

1510-1610 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol.

1600 hrs  Air raid alert for a reported formation of enemy bombers.  The Spitfires see six Messerchmitts but ignore them and fly on in search of the reported bombers.  Two of the Spitfires 603 Squadron see two ME 109s north of Grand Harbour and give chase but do not engage.

1606-2107 hrs  Eight Beaufighters 235 Squadron Luqa are despatched to act as escort for Beauforts: no combat.  They sight one liner of 10-12000 tons with two destroyers.

1715-1800 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron on patrol: nil report.

1817-1946 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far on patrol: nothing sighted.

1900 hrs  Convoy unloading is complete.

1915 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy aircraft carry out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 28000 feet.

1919-2020 hrs; 2026-2140 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa at a time are airborne on intercept patrol: no combat.

2155-2355 hrs  One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit is airborne on intercept patrol.

2250 hrs  Air raid alert for three approaching enemy aircraft.  Bombs are dropped south of Hal Far and in the sea.  The Beaufighter destroys one JU 88.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                 Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 20 JUNE 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Swona sweeping Grand Harbour and Marsamxett entrances. Unloading of Troilus and Orari completed.  After four days and nights of constant labour, by this afternoon 12000 tons deadweight of cargo had been transferred to storage facilities. Naval and Military working parties were released and the remainder of the unloading was then completed under normal conditions by Maltese stevedores.  Less than four hours were lost from disruption due to smoke screens during the work.  Although more than ten hours were spent under alert, no bombs were dropped on the harbour area.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Hudsons, ten Blenheims, one Wellington from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; two Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Hudson crashed on landing: observer killed; remainder of crew injured.  One Beaufort attacked by enemy aircraft during a strike: crew missing.

HAL FAR  2327-0448 hrs  Three Albacores NAS took off on strike mission: nothing sighted.

LUQA  1015-1150 hrs  Two Baltimores 69 Squadron despatched on search for enemy shipping were recalled to base.  1131-1430 hrs  Two Baltimores 69 Squadron despatched to continue search.  One sights an enemy convoy of five vessels.  1608-2113 hrs  Twelve Beauforts 217 Squadron despatched to attack enemy shipping. The convoy was not sighted and one aircraft failed to return.  1800-1950 hrs  One Spitfire on photo-reconnaissance photographed enemy convoy.  2201-0404 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight searched Cape Bon area in co-operation with Fleet Air Arm: no sightings.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal for week-ending 20 June: UXB  Reported (50kg or over) 22; dealt with 11(3 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg, 1 x 15kg anti-personnel, 2 x AP containers) plus 153 x 2kg Butterfly bombs.  Work retarted by having to keep a party standing by for priority bombs on Docks area.

(1) The Air Battle for Malta, James Douglas-Hamilton, Pen & Sword Aviation, 2006

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31 May 1942: RAF Wins in the Skies but Belts Tight on the Ground

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“Rations have during the month been considerably reduced, and it is now a case of tightening belts until the next convoy comes in.”  (1)

Kingsway, May 1942 (NWMA Malta)

MAY 1942: THE ARMY VIEW

At the beginning of this month it became obvious that the enemy were not maintaining as many aircraft on the Sicilian aerodromes.  The attacks on this Island were on a reduced scale.  On 9th the Island received large reinforcements of Spitfires.  On 10th a minelaying cruiser brought supplies of Bofors ammunition to the Island and this ship was heavily bombed by JU 88s and JU 87s during its stay in the Dockyard.

The enemy was surprised to find over 60 Spitfires in the air waiting for him and also the heaviest Ack Ack barrage that has been seen over Malta for some months.  The result was – on that day the enemy lost 63 aircraft destroyed or damaged.

Since that time we have had air superiority over the Island.  Since this heavy defeat the enemy used mainly Italian aircraft and crews in his attacks and, although the raids have been on a much smaller scale, the percentage of enemy aircraft damaged or destroyed has been very high.  Towards the end of the month bombing raids against Italian targets were resumed from this Island.

A feature of the month has been the increase of enemy E Boat activity around the Island.  Undoubtedly some of these boats have been engaged in mine laying but this is probably not the only explanation of their activities.  On 17th some of these E Boats were engaged by our coast defences and one was left abandoned.  Rather than let this boat fall into our hands and reveal its secrets it was bombed and sunk by enemy aircraft.  On 18th an Italian came ashore at post T4 and, from information given by this prisoner, it appeared that the enemy may possibly be testing our coast defences with a view to making a ‘Commando’ raid against the Island.

During the month nearly all the troops… who are not manning key positions have been engaged in construction work on aerodromes, and salvage work clearing up the damage caused by the heavy bombing in the previous month.  The work on aerodromes has consisted of building pens to protect our aircraft and standing by to fill in craters and thus keep the aerodromes serviceable.

AIR COMMAND REPORTS ON STATE OF AIRFIELDS

By the beginning of May 236 pens had been completed in the aerodromes.  This work had to be given priority over slit trenches, because of the delay in the dispersal programmes.  The allowance of petrol to the RAF was 3000 gallons a week and was not to be exceeded.  All airmen living within four miles of the aerodromes had to march to work.  This limitation of petrol was a serious handicap to aerodrome work.

There was a grave shortage of miners owing to the shelter construction programme, and so any possibility of putting workshops underground had to be shelved, and we had to rely more upon dispersal than on underground workshops.  Stores were distributed to 27 houses throughout the Island and 60 per cent of the work at Kalafrana in engine and airframes repairs was moved to Gzira, including instrument, armament, airscrew, coppersmith and petrol tank repairs.

As regards work on the aerodromes there was a very serious shortage of rollers.  Rollers had to be used and manned during the whole of daylight hours with relief crews.  Often during the whole 24 hours when bombing was heavy and aerodromes had to be made usable.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 MAY TO DAWN 1 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; clear.

0922 hrs  Air raid alert: raid does not materialize.

1221-1259 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: no engagement.

1340 hrs  Seven Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept an incoming formation of Italian and German fighters.

1345 hrs  The air raid alert sounds as the fighters approach the coast.  603 Squadron Spitfires engage the Re 2001s and ME 109s as they attempt a sweep over the Island.  The Spitfires attack but no strikes are seen.  One Spitfire falls into a bomb-hole while taxiing and breaks its back: the pilot is unhurt.

1508-1610 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are despatched to search a position east north east of Grand Harbour.  They sight debris: an overturned float and a raft.

1804-1843 hrs  Three Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are despatched to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.

1945 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for incoming enemy fighters.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron and four of 601 Squadron Luqa are despatched to intercept enemy aircraft.  They chase the ME 109s but do not engage.

2235 hrs; 2350 hrs  Air raid alerts: raids do not materialise.

Military casualties  Gunner William Chandler, 74th Light Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Artillery; Private Domenico Vella, 1st Battalion, King’s Own Malta Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS 31 MAY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Trusty Star, Beryl, and ML 126 sent to Marsaxlokk to sweep the approaches to that Harbour.  HM 235 sweeping off Grand Harbour.  17 tons of oil fuel recovered from Breconshire.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Lodestar from Heliopolis; four Hudsons, two Spitfires, five Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Five Wellingtons, three Hudson to LG 222; one Blenheim, one Hurricane to Sidi Barrani; one Lodestar to Heliopolis.

LUQA  2055-0106 hrs  Six Wellingtons 104 Squadron Luqa were despatched to attack the train ferry terminus at Messina.  The raid was very successful: large fires are seen, believed to be commercial oil storage tanks.  Explosions were seen on the jetty and railway lines.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  Working parties Luqa aerodrome.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  15 Malta Volunteer Defence Force fired on Pembroke Ranges.  Shooting quite good.  GOC present.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1300 hrs  One unexploded anti-personnel grenade is reported at 526186.  Strengths:  Officers 36; Other Ranks 833; RAOC (attached) 5; RAMC 1.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continue.  Strength of battalion: 33 Officers, 654 Other Ranks.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Spr Briffa, No 2 Works Company RE, was involved in a motor-car accident and admitted to hospital.  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported nil; dealt with 8 (Italian Thermos).  Strengths  HQ Fortress RE 4 Officers, 18 Other Ranks; 24 Fortress Coy RE 5 Officers, 219 Other Ranks; 173 Tunnelling Company RE 6 Officers 204 Other Ranks; No 1 Works Company RE 5 Officers 225 Other Ranks; No 2 Works Company RE 6 Officers 229 Other Ranks; 127 Bomb Disposal Section 1 Officer 20 Other Ranks; 128 Bomb Disposal Section 1 Officer 16 Other Ranks.

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 vehicles, 4 Officers, 130-150 Other Ranks at Safi strip widening and levelling runway.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Day working parties building pens for aircraft 6 Officers 200 Other Ranks.  A Company Jebel Ciantar 4 Officers 131 Other Ranks; B Coy Ta Karceppu 5 Officers 122 Other Ranks; C Coy Inquisitors Palace 5 Officers 133 Other Ranks; D Coy Villa Azzopardi, Zebbug 5 Officers 125 Other Ranks; HQ Coy Ta Salvator 15 Officers 261 Other Ranks.  Chaplain and Medical Officer attached.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  The unit has supplied several working parties during the month for Ta Qali aerodrome and the work has consisted of constructing aircraft pens, repairing runways, filling in bomb craters and salvage.  Owing to the very heavy raids during the month this has been very arduous work.

(1) War Diary, 8th Bn The Manchester Regiment, May 1942

 

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27 May 1942: Malta Bombers Attack Two of Rommel’s Convoys

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MALTA NIGHT FIGHTER ATTACKS E BOATS

S Boat

Just after midnight, a Luqa-based Beaufighter aircraft on night patrol sighted eighteen E boats some twenty five miles south of the island.  F/Sgt Miller and F/Sgt Walsh launched a vigorous attack on the vessels with cannon and machine-gun fire.  They reported seeing definite strikes on vessels and claim to have damaged three of them.

Minutes later E boats were again reported, this time at closer range, near the small off Island of Filfla.  Infantry regiments manning Malta’s nearby coastal defences were placed on alert and the Harbour defences were manned in preparation for any possible attempted landing or seaborne attack.  By 4 am the E boats had withdrawn and beach sentries were stood down.  The night’s events fuel concerns that the enemy is planning an invasion.

MALTA BOMBERS STRIKE AT AXIS CONVOYS AND SUPPLY TRAINS

Luqa based bombers successfully attacked two enemy convoys overnight.  One Wellington bomber took off at ten this evening on a search for enemy shipping off the coast of Sardinia.  120 miles from Cape Spartivento, they located a convoy of two merchant vessels of 3000 and 5000 tons, heading south under the protection of two destroyers.  The Wellington crew targeted the larger of the merchant ships, causing explosions some 50 yards to port.  Bomber and crew returned safely to Luqa at 0325 hrs.

A second Wellington took off ten minutes later on a mission to locate and attack a convoy reported to be heading eastwards from southern Italy.  The crew sighted two 5000 ton merchant vessels and four destroyers 37 miles east of Ponte Stilo and unleashed their bombs.  One was seen to explode close to a merchant ship, which the pilot then closed on and attacked with machine-gun fire before withdrawing.  The bomber landed at Luqa at 0240 hrs.

Nine Wellingtons were also despatched from Luqa tonight to attack the train ferry terminus at Messina.  A heavy smoke screen restricted visibility and their bombs appeared to land either side of the target.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 MAY TO DAWN 28 MAY 1942

Weather  Wind south-easterly, moderate, becoming south-westerly later.  80% cloud above 15000 feet.  Visibility 10-15 miles.

0742 hrs  A formation of enemy fighters is reported approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept: no combat.

0818 hrs  Enemy fighters are reported heading for Malta.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept but do not engage.  W/O Miller returns early with oxygen trouble.

0830 hrs  Air raid alert: fighters approach but no bombing.

0915 hrs  The alert sounds for approaching hostile aircraft. Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne; nil report.

1553 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali airborne to intercept a reported plot of enemy aircraft: no engagement.; nil report.

1555 hrs  Air raid alert: fighters approach but no bombing.

1910 hrs  A formation of twelve enemy aircraft is reported heading southwards in the direction of Malta.  The air raid alerts sounds and four Spitfires 603 Squadron airborne.

1924 hrs  Twelve ME 109s cross the coast without being intercepted.  Four fighter-bombers head in to attack Luqa but drop bombs in fields in the area of Wied il Kbir.

2045-2126 hrs  The alert is raised for an approaching enemy formation.  One Beaufighter is scrambled from Luqa to intercept but develops engine trouble and part of the airscrew flies off.  He lands safely at Luqa.

2300-0040 hrs  One Beaufighter airborne from Luqa on intercept patrol sights an estimated eighteen E boats and attacks them with cannon and machine-gun fire.  Strikes are seen.

2320 hrs  The air raid alert sounds.  Enemy bombers approach the Island and drop bombs on Ricasoli and Luqa.

0050 hrs  The E boats are now reported to be off Filfla.  11th Bn Lancashire Regiment are placed on special ‘stand to’ for beach posts, 18 pounder positions are manned.

0100 hrs  Air raid warning sounds. Three JU 88s drop high explosive bombs on the Luqa area.

0106 hrs  Double sentries are posted by Beach Companies 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt for an E boat alarm.  Patrols are warned.

0120 hrs  1st Bn Cheshire Regiment are called out for partial manning of Harbour defences.  18-20 E boats have been spotted off Filfla.

0357 hrs  Beach sentries 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment stand down.

The Island remains on alert throughout the night: the all clear does not sound until 0907 hrs.

Military casualties  Gunner Frederick Fensom, 7th Light Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Artillery; Private Francis Lake, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment; Lance Corporal George Porter, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Luqa  Rosa Bonnici, age 60.  St Julians  Saviour Magri, age 58.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 27 MAY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  St Angelo and Trusty Star carried out a sweep and cut seven mines off the Grand Harbour.  Four Albacores and two Swordfish on an unsuccessful sortie. All returned.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Lodestars from Gambut; two Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Two Wellingtons to LG 222; one Lodestar to Heliopolis; twelve Hurricanes, one Beaufort to Sidi Barrani.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire damaged: crash-landed, pilot uninjured.

HAL FAR  1400 hrs  Twelve Hurricanes 229 Squadron left for the Middle East.

LUQA  2050-0456 hrs  Nine Wellingtons despatched to attack the train ferry terminus at Messina.  2210-0240 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on armed search for enemy shipping sighted six vessels and scored a near miss on a large merchant vessel.  2200-0325 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on search for enemy shipping scored near misses (50-60 yards) on the large merchant vessel in a convoy of two merchant vessels and two destroyers.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  0900-1700 hrs  Working party of 9 Officers and 200 Other Ranks plus 8 x 15 cwt trucks daily for reconstruction of pens for aircraft at Luqa aerodrome.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Working parties at Luqa and Ospizio continue.  Party at the Porte des Bombes no longer required.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1130 hrs  Pte G Porter sustained gunshot wounds in the head.  He died on the way to No 90 General Hospital.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continue.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3; dealt with 8 ( 2 x 1000kg;   6 x 250kg).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 vehicles, 4 Officers, 150-250 Other Ranks at Safi strip widening and levelling runway.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Night working parties building pens for aircraft 6 Officers 200 Other Ranks.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued.

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18 May 1942: Italian Spy Caught – Reveals Invasion Plot

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RAF Air Sea Rescue Launch

ITALIAN DIVER CONFESSES

A lone figure scrambled ashore this morning in Marsascala Bay and gave himself up to members of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment guarding the coastline.  Italian navy diver Giuseppe Guglielmo was immediately taken prisoner.  He later confessed that he had been dropped from a naval torpedo boat in the bay during the night, with a mission was to investigate the beach defences.  However, he was unable to locate the boat which was due to collect him.  Faced with few options, he decided to put himself at the mercy of Malta’s forces.

SEVENTEEN NEW SPITFIRES

Yesterday afternoon, HMS Eagle sailed from Gibraltar along with HMS Argus, under the protection of cruiser HMS Charybdis and six destroyers, to deliver of another seventeen Spitfires and six Albacores to Malta.  At 0830 hrs this morning, Charybdis escaped with a near miss from torpedoes, fired from an Italian submarine.  Despite being shadowed by enemy aircraft, some of which carried out a brief attack, the convoy reached the rendezvous point.  The aircraft were flown off successfully but the six Albacores experienced defects and had to return to Eagle.  All the Spitfires arrived safely in Malta.

AIRMEN SUFFER FOOD AND WATER SHORTAGES

RAF personnel at Ta Qali will no longer be able to supplement their diet between set meal times.  Commanders at the aerodrome today announced that the sale of bread and sandwiches in the canteens is to stop.  The measure is necessary due to the serious shortage of food supplies and is expected to remain in place until a significant convoy can reach the Island.  The announcement added that water use is to be rationed to nine gallons per head per day.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 MAY TO DAWN 19 MAY 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; clear.

0545 hrs  Six plus aircraft patrol fifteen miles north east of the Island. Then fourteen Caproni Reggiani Re 2001s and ME 109s carry out a sweep at 12000 feet.

0625 hrs  Four Spitfires are airborne from Ta Qali and sight four of the Re 2001s.  Sgt Brennan, F/O West and Sgt Gilbert each destroy one.

0705 hrs  Another Re 2001 is forced to land in good condition near Fort Leonardo; the pilot is taken prisoner.  (1)

0845 hrs  An Italian diver comes ashore at Marsascala Bay and is taken prisoner by 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt.

0845-0925 hrs  Two Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne from Ta Qali: nil report.

0927 hrs  Five ME 109s patrol around the Island at heights between 23000 and 15000 feet.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.

0940 hrs  25 ME 109s and Re 2001s are reported approaching the Island.  With the arrival of a new delivery of Spitfires expected, five Spitfires 601 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far to intercept the enemy aircraft.  Two are recalled.

1028 hrs  The remaining three Spitfires 601 Squadron are jumped by ME 109s.  P/O Scott claims one ME 109 destroyed.  Sgt Farlow is shot down.  The RAF Air/Sea Rescue launch puts out.

1100 hrs  Four Hurricanes 229 Squadron are airborne from Hal Far to escort to incoming aircraft. They engage enemy fighters: Sgt Pendlebury is shot down and killed.  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne to act as high cover for the Hurricanes.  Sgt Yarra attacks four ME 109s, destroying one and probably destroying another.

1114 hrs  Three Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far to help protect the rescue launch.  P/O Bisley destroys one ME 109.

1145 hrs  Sgt Yarra 185 Squadron runs short of petrol and has to land his Spitfire at Ta Qali.   Five Spitfires 249 Squadron are ordered up from Ta Qali to patrol.  Sgt Gilbert destroys one ME 109; Sgt Gray probably destroys another.

Sgt Farlow and a German pilot are rescued alive by the RAF launch but Sgt Pendlebury is found to have been killed during the air attack.

1300-1340 hrs  Six Me 109s fly over the Island at 18000 feet and are engaged by Heavy Ack Ack.  Two Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne from Ta Qali: nil report.

1600-1705 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are airborne to patrol over the Island: no combats.

1609 hrs  One Dornier 24 escorted by 20 plus fighters carries out a rescue search to the east of the Island.  Fighters are airborne but do not engage.

1724 hrs  20 ME 109s and Macchi 202s make a sweep over the Island.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds: one hits and damages a Macchi 202 at 23000 feet.

1750 hrs  Six Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne from Ta Qali: nil report.

1755 hrs  Six Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far to intercept the enemy aircraft.  They chase several ME 109s.  Two Spitfires (P/O Peck and Sgt Jones) fire at a ME 109 from extreme range; the aircraft is later seen to crash in flames by Spinola Ack Ack battery.

2043-2133 hrs; 2123-2217 hrs; 2340-0115 hrs; 0050-0400 hrs; 0245-0345 hrs; 0340-0445 hrs  Beaufighters maintain a standing patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: no engagements.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer John Boyd, Royal Australian Air Force; Pilot Officer Robert Charters, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Sergeant James Pendlebury, Royal Air Force VR, 229 Squadron; Lance Bombardier A Aquilina, 2nd Heavy Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

Enemy casualties  Johann Lompa, Pilot of ME 109 Messerschmitt shot down into the sea, rescued by RAF Launch and taken prisoner; Tenente Remo Cazzolli, 152a Squadriglia, Re 2001 Pilot, shot down and crash landed, badly injured and taken to hospital as a prisoner; diver Giuseppe Guglielmo, Italian Navy: taken prisoner.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 18 MAY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  17 Spitfires, 2 Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Four Beauforts, two Wellingtons to 108 MU; one Hudson, one Lodestar to Heliopolis.  Aircraft casualties  One Hurricane shot down in combat; pilot missing.  One Spitfire shot down in the sea; pilot injured.  One Beaufort failed to arrive at Middle East: crew missing.

HAL FAR  2015 hrs  Three Albacores of the NAS were airborne to attack a convoy.  The convoy was not located and they returned with their torpedoes at 0245 hrs.  2224 hrs  Four Albacores of the NAS took off to attack a convoy.  Two returned with mechanical trouble and the other two found their target but did not attack owing to unfavourable conditions.  They returned with their torpedoes, landing at 0340 hrs.

LUQA  No bombs on the aerodrome.  1015-1240 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance of Messina and Sicilian aerodromes.  2104-0400 hrs  One Wellington on search to locate and join Albacores strike onto enemy convoy in Tripoli area.

TA QALI  Eight Spitfires arrived ex Carrier.  Consumption of water reduced to 9 gallons per head per day.  Sale of bread or sandwiches in EF1 canteens to be discontinued until further notice owing to shortage of supplies.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT 0900-1700 hrs  Working party of 9 Officers and 200 Other Ranks plus 8 x 15 cwt trucks daily for reconstruction of pens for aircraft at Luqa aerodrome.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Luqa working parties increased this morning.  3 Officers and 100 men on pen-building.  2 Officers 50 men crater-filling.  1 NCO 11 men ammunition working party and 18 men driving trucks.  A Company 1 Officer 50 men for Ospizio Depot.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continued.  D Company moved from Jebel Ciantar to Boschetto Gardens.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  One half of No 2 Section, 1 Works Company RE commenced work at Hompesch (accommodation for RA and Infantry).  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3; dealt with 3 (1 x 500kg, 2 x 50kg).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 trucks, 4 officers and 140 Other Ranks working on pens at Hal Far.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Battalion working parties continue to be engaged at aerodromes doing valuable work.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued.

(1)  Italian pilot recalls his capture – CLICK HERE

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12 May 1942: Luftwaffe Fight Back – 9 Spitfires Lost

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  • Enemy losses 5 destroyed, 3 probably destroyed, 7 damaged 
  • RAF losses 7 Spitfires downed by enemy; 2 damaged on ground

    Savoia-Marchetti SM 84

GOVERNOR & COMMANDER IN CHIEF PRAISES RAF AND ARTILLERY

“I congratulate all the fighting services on their magnificent team work over the week-end and I particularly congratulate the Royal Air Force and the Anti-Aircraft defences on their notable success.  The Lufwaffe has seen that wounded Malta can hit back gamely.”  Signed Gort, General.

BRITISH REPORTER LOST FOR WORDS AFTER TOUR OF MALTA

‘Words do not exist to convey the picture of what has happened in Malta as the result of air raids, so I have tried figures instead,’ writes a correspondent of the British United Press who has just completed a tour of the Island.

Valletta 1942 (NWMA Malta)

‘The following buildings have been destroyed or damaged:  15500 houses (this counts blocks of flats as one house), 70 churches, 18 convents and nunneries, 10 theatres, 22 schools, 8 hospitals, eight of the principal clubs, five of the principal banks, 48 other buildings of which many were world-famous.  75 per cent of the houses of Valletta have been destroyed or damaged and more than 55 per cent of the buildings in most populated areas have been so smashed that complete rebuilding will be necessary.  There is hardly a hamlet on the Island that has not been hit.

The miracle is that the casualties are so low: 1104 killed, 1308 seriously injured, and 1299 slightly injured.  This is due chiefly to underground shelters.’  British United Press, Sunday 10 May 1942

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 MAY TO DAWN 13 MAY 1942

Weather  No cloud; haze.

0605 hrs  One JU 88 with an escort of ME 109s carries out reconnaissance.

0615-0720 hrs  Three Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept reconnaissance formation: no interceptions.

0946 hrs  Two ME109s are in the vicinity of the Island attempting to intercept a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire.  Two Spitfires 126 and 601 Squadron are scrambled to intercept the ME 109s: no engagements; they land at 1030 hrs.

1052 hrs  Three JU 88s with a fighter escort of over 35 ME 109s approach the Island from the south east and bomb Hal Far aerodrome.

1055-1207 hrs  Eight Spitfires 601 and 126 Squadrons are airborne from Luqa and engage in combat with enemy aircraft off Kalafrana with ME 109s: no claims.  One Spitfire is shot down; pilot unhurt.  One Spitfire crash-lands; pilot unhurt.  One bailer out is seen bearing 45 degrees off Grand Harbour.

1110 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron and eight Spitfires 603 Squadron attack JU 88s with fighter escort.  F/O West probably destroys one JU 88 and damages another.  P/O Linton damages one JU 88.  Sgt Hesselyn damages one ME 109 and destroys another.  P/O Mitchell is shot down in the sea and is missing.  Sgt Brennan is slightly wounded.  The remainder land at 1205 hrs.

1113 hrs  Seven Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far to intercept incoming enemy aircraft.  P/O Wigley damages one JU 88 and Sgt Yarra destroys one ME 109.  Owing to a bad crosswind at Hal Far, six of the Spitfires land at Luqa at 1216 hrs, without damage or casualties.

1139 hrs  Two JU 88s bomb Hal Far, causing no damage or casualties.

1140 hrs  One JU 88 is engaged by three guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery: no claims.

Three ME 109s carry out a patrol.

1344 hrs  Raiders passed.

1555 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialize.

1700 hrs  A formation of three Italian Savoia Marchetti SM 84 bombers with fighter escort approaches the Island.  Three Spitfires 603 Squadron, are scrambled from Ta Qali to intercept the incoming aircraft.

1705 hrs  Twelve Spitfires 126, 601 and 185 Squadrons are airborne from Luqa.  Sgt McConnell claims one Macchi 202 probable; Sgt Graves claims one JU 88 probable; Sgt Lusty claims one ME 109 damaged.  Two Spitfires are lost in combat: P/O Graves is unhurt but Sgt Graysmark is killed.  Sgt Bush receives gunshot wounds and his aircraft is damaged.  P/O Baily’s aircraft is damaged but he is unhurt.

1715 hrs  The Spitfires of 603 Squadron attack three SM 84 bombers high over Ta Qali as they attempt to bomb the airfield.  F/O Mitchell and F/L Sanders claim one SM 84 and P/O Sherwood another.

1735 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Ta Qali from a high level.  Four parachutes are seen falling from the sky.

1745 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron from Ta Qali are airborne on patrol as three JU 88s with fighter escort approach to bomb the aerodrome.  F/O Lee damages one ME 109.  F/Sgt Williams damages one JU 88.  One Spitfire is slightly damaged.

1749 hrs  Six Hurricanes 229 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far to intercept enemy aircraft.  All fire guns but make no claims.  Sgt Vidler lands at Luqa.  The other aircraft land at Hal Far at 1850 hrs.

1815 hrs  One section of 603 Squadron is waiting to take off from Ta Qali when the red flag goes up calling the operation to a halt.  The aerodrome is bombed, damaging two Spitfires on the ground.

1830 hrs  Two Spitfires 603 Squadron and three Spitfires 602 Squadron are airborne to intercept enemy aircraft: no engagement.  One Spitfire 601 Squadron engages one ME 109: no claims.

1942 hrs  All clear.

Night  Four alerts are sounded for ten enemy aircraft.  Bombs, including incendiaries, are dropped on Rinella, Salina Bay, St Pauls and Mellieha, and in the sea.

2159-2315 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: claims one JU 88 destroyed.

0100-0130 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne on patrol: no interceptions.

Military casualties  Sergeant Charles Graysmark, Pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 601 Squadron; Pilot Officer Herbert Mitchell, Royal New Zealand Air Force, 603 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Mosta  Joseph Schembri, age 11.

Enemy casualties  Aviere Scelto Francesco Carabellese, pilot; Primo Aviere Luigi Conte, Air Gunner; Averie Scelto Sergio Orsingher, crewman; Primo Aviere Gustavo Petrai, crewman; Sergente Eugenio Rivolta, crewman, Tenente Vinicio Vego Scocco, pilot; all shot down while crew of Savoia Marchetti S 84 aircraft of 14a Squadriglia, 4o Gruppo Autonomo, Regia Aeronautica.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 12 MAY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  The Greek submarine Triton sailed for Alexandria at 0030 with passengers.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Five Wellingtons, two Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Three Wellingtons to 108 MU; one Lodestar to Heliopolis.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down in the sea off Malta; pilot safe.  One Spitfire missing from operations; pilot missing.  One Spitfire force-landed; pilot injured.  One Spitfire shot down into the sea; pilot safe.  One Spitfire crashed on landing; pilot uninjured.  Two Spitfires collide on the runway during scramble; pilots uninjured.  One Spitfire damaged by enemy aircraft; crashed on landing; pilot uninjured.  ONe Spitfire shot down into the sea; pilot killed.

LUQA  No bombs on the aerodrome.

TA QALI  1350-1430 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron and two Spitfires 603 Squadron from Ta Qali patrol along the Sicilian coast at 31000 feet.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  2355 hrs 4th Bn The Buffs became embodied in Western Infantry Brigade.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Working parties four Officers and 100 Other Ranks for Luqa.  A Coy party 1 Officer and 33 Other Ranks still working at the Ospizio.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continued.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3; dealt with 14 (2 x 500kg, 5 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg, 2 x 35kg, 1 Italian AP container).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 trucks, 16 Officers and 297 Other Ranks building pens and filling craters on Hal Far aerodrome.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Chief task of unit during this period is maintaining Luqa aerodrome.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Unit supplied a working party of 150 men on Ta Qali aerodrome.

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11 May 1942: Spitfires Winning in the Air

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TIMES OF MALTA , MONDAY MAY 11 1942

Spitfires RAF 601 Squadron

  • Battle of Malta: Axis heavy losses
  • Spitfires Slaughter Stukas
  • 63 Enemy Aircraft Destroyed or Damaged over Malta Yesterday
  • Brilliant team work of Ack Ack gunners and RAF

The last two days has seen a metamorphosis in the Battle of Malta.  After two days of the fiercest aerial combat that has ever taken place over the Island the Luftwaffe with its Italian lackeys has taken the most formidable beating that has been known since the Battle of Britain two and a half years ago.  Indeed, in proportion to the numbers of aircraft involved, this trouncing is even greater than the Germans suffered at that time.

It has always been known that man for man, and machine for machine, the RAF were infinitely superior to the Hun, and everybody looked forward to the day when he could be met on terms of parity, for they looked upon the outcome as a certainty.  That day has arrived – the RAF even had numerical superiority over its fighter opponents for the first time – and the results have excelled the most optimistic expectations.  Our fighters have formed, with the A.A. Artillery, a team which has dealt out appalling destruction on the enemy…

WE HIT ENEMY VERY HARD SAYS LORD GORT’S FIRST REPORT

From:  Governor and C in C Malta To:  C in C Middle East Rpt The War Office  11/5/42

…Own troops combined effort made this week end to gain local air superiority.  Reinforcement fifty seven Spitfires arrived 9/5 also some Hurricanes.  Ack Ack ammunition expenditure restriction temporarily lifted.

Besides new building parties 1500 men earlier in week, parties total 700 men, 90 vehicles provided for assistance to RAF aerodromes for refuelling, ammunition belt loading, crater filling, motor transport driving etc from 9/5 in special effort to enable RAF to keep aerodromes serviceable and prepare fighters quickly.

Preliminary reports: 10/5 show very heavy loss inflicted on enemy and ninety per cent our fighters still serviceable.  Preliminary figures [enemy aircraft] 22 destroyed, 19 probable, 20 damaged.  Army Bomb Disposal Section disposed of 102 unexploded bombs totalling 21 tons.  Cut in troops rations accepted cheerfully.

Damage military installations:  Three Heavy Ack Ack gun positions attacked; some casualties, one gun destroyed.  Further damage billets, stores.  Pay office damage forced move fourth time.  Further damage ordnance depots.

Other effects:  Civil situation considerably eased by respite.  Civil morale still good.

Army casualties: 16 Other Ranks killed; 24 Other Ranks wounded.

Conclusion:  Enemy now moving proportion of air force away from Sicily with consequent lessening of attack.  Reinforcement Spitfires is enabling us hit enemy very hard which may deter from further efforts.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 MAY TO DAWN 12 MAY 1942

Weather  Strong south easterly wind; warm – no cloud.  In the afternoon a thunderstorm blows up and there is 90% cloud at 10,000 feet for the last scrambles.

0605 hrs  ME 109s patrol and a JU 88 carries out reconnaissance.

0655-0805 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne from Ta Qali on patrol  They chase the reconnaissance flight back towards Sicily and run into Macchi fighters.  P/O Plagis engages one, which takes evasive action, stalls and dives into the sea.

0725 hrs  Two alerts sounded for patrolling ME 109s and a recce by JU 88.

0733-0830 hrs  Three Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa to intercept the enemy aircraft.  One ME 109 is attacked: no claim.

1020 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron and six Spitfires 603 Squadron from Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept an incoming plot of 30 enemy aircraft including three JU 88s plus ME 109 fighters.  F/Sgt Williams damages one JU 88; Sgt Brennan destroys one ME 109 and damages another.  P/O Nash destroys one ME 109; P/O MacLean damages one ME 109.

1032 hrs  Nine Spitfires 126 and 601 Squadrons are scrambled from Luqa to intercept enemy aircraft.  One ME 109 is probably destroyed; one damaged.

1057-1110 hrs  Only one JU 88 crosses the coast and makes a dive-bombing attack on Hal Far aerodrome dropping nine bombs on the runways.  The aerodrome is unserviceable for one hour.

1146 hrs  Raiders passed.

1215 hrs  Nine ME 109 fighters carry out a patrol 30 miles east of the Island.

1424 hrs  Two ME 109s carry out a patrol to the south east of the Island.

1635 hrs  One enemy aircraft approaches to within 15 miles of the Island and then turns back.

1720 hrs  Seven Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali to intercept an incoming formation of enemy aircraft including three JU 88s and 20 fighters; one Spitfire returns early.  Three Spitfires destroy ME 109s.  F/Lt Douglas and P/O Barnfather collide over Ta Qali: both bale out successfully. One enemy aircraft makes a direct attack on Salina gun position.

1725 hrs  Seven Spitfires 601 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa.  Claims: one ME 109 probably destroyed.

1739 hrs  Seven Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far.  P.O McKay damages one ME 109 and P/O Wigley damages one JU 88.  The Spitfires land at 1830 hours without damage.

1745 hrs  Three JU 88s with fighter escort make a medium level attack on Luqa aerodrome, damaging one Spitfire.  One BR20 and two JU 88s drop eight high explosive bombs and a number of anti-personnel bombs on Ta Qali, causing craters on the aerodrome, damaging two Spitfires and injuring one airman and one soldier.

1805 hrs  Four ME 109s dive bomb Hal Far, dropping bombs at the side of the runway and in the dispersal area.  Two Hurricanes are damaged.

1840-1919 hrs   A German Dornier Do 24 flying boat carries out a search for survivors to the north of the Island, escorted by numerous ME 109s.

Night  No alerts or raids.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Trevor Davies; Ordinary Signalman Eric Dillon; Able Seaman John Freeman; Stoker Petty Officer Francesco Grech; Ordinary Signalman Norman Harris; Petty Officer Alan Kendall; Stoker Petty Officer John Knee; Ordinary Signalman John McClure; Able Seaman Cyril Newman; Boatswain Cedric Radcliffe: all C308.

Civilian casualties  Nil

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 11 MAY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  All sweepers returned to harbour at 0230, except C308. She struck a mine at about 0300 and sank. Seven survivors were picked up by the boom patrol picket boat. The Commanding Officer and eight of the crew were lost. Tug St Angelo detonated six mines.  The Vice Admiral, Malta pointed out that 12 mines had been cut and two had sunk ships in the last few days in the North East approach channel to the Grand Harbour. It was essential that at least two fleet minesweepers should accompany the next convoy and sweep it in.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Lodestars from Gambut; two Albacores from 235 Wing.  Departures  One Wellington to 108 MU; one Hudson to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  Two Spitfires collide: pilots injured.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  Party of one Officer and 20 Other Ranks for filling ammunition belts for aircraft at Ta Qali aerodrome.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT 0500-1000 hrs  Working parties four Officers and 100 Other Ranks standing by at the Addolorata Cemetery for crater filling.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continue.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 6 (2 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 trucks, 17 Officers and 324 Other Ranks building pens and filling craters on Hal Far aerodrome.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  1430 hrs  Luqa working parties continued – so far inactive due to inability of Luftwaffe to bomb aerodromes.

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9 May 1942: 60 Spitfires Reach Malta

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OPERATION BOWERY A SUCCESS

Spitfires 601 Squadron

Commanders in Malta are in celebratory mood tonight after the second major attempt to supply the Island with a Spitfire force proved a resounding success.  Under ‘Operation Bowery’ 60 new fighters reached the Island today out of a total of 64 which took off from the aircraft carriers USS Wasp and HMS Eagle.  From the early hours of this morning Malta’s three airfields of Hal Far, Luqa and Ta Qali stood ready for the new arrivals.  The Island’s artillery loaded their guns, ready to fight off enemy attacks intent on destroying the Spitfires. 

The first arrivals came into view just before 10 am and ground crews went into action.  Each aircraft was allocated a number which matched them to a specific ground crew, before being taken to a protective pen to refuel and re-arm.  Within minutes, every new Spitfire was ready for a fresh pilot to take off to fight off enemy attacks on the next arrivals.  The new measures ensured there was no repeat of the heavy losses following the previous delivery attempt in April.

  • RAF fighter sorties: 125 by Spitfires, 9 by Hurricanes
  • RAF casualties: 2 Spitfires destroyed
  • Enemy bomber sorties: 24 JU 88s, 17 JU 87s, 10 Cant 1007s, 5 BR 20
  • Enemy casualties: destroyed 4 ME 109s, 3 Cant 1007s; probably destroyed 2 ME 109s, 3 JU 87s, 1 Macchi, 1 BR 20; damaged 7 ME 109s, 3 JU 88s, 2 JU 87s, 2 Macchi 202

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 MAY TO DAWN 10 MAY 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; no cloud – haze.

0400 hrs  Malta airfields – reveille at Ta Qali, Luqa and Hal Far.  Working parties are picked and final arrangements confirmed for the arrival of Spitfires.  Royal Artillery raise ammunition restriction to cover arrival of Spitfires.

Ready to take off from Wasp

0500 hrs  USS Wasp and HMS Eagle, Western Mediterranean: ‘Operation Bowery’ – Spitfires ready to take off for Malta at first light.

0722 hrs  One JU 88 and six ME 109s carry out reconnaissance over Malta.

0800 hrs  Zero hour – Malta’s airfields at state of readiness.

0915 hrs  Five Italian bombers approach the Island with a mass formation of 53 ME 109 fighters.  A number of ME 109s are engaged by two Ack Ack light machine guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA): hits claimed.

0924 hrs  Five Cant 1007s drop bombs on the Marsa and Floriana areas.  Bombs hit Haywharf, causing a fire in the HQ of No 1 Section 24 Fortress Company Royal Engineers and destroying searchlight equipment.  In Marsa Private Shepherd B Coy 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is injured in the leg by a cannon shell.

0940 hrs  Nine Hurricanes are airborne, six from Luqa and three from Hal Far, as escort for the arrival of Spitfires from the western Mediterranean.  Six Spitfires 242 Squadron are also scrambled from Ta Qali to give high cover.  242 Squadron are attacked by four ME 109s over Luqa.  F/Lt Sanders destroys one ME 109 and F/O Holland and P/O Mitchell between them destroy another.  One Spitfire ditches in the sea: F/Lt Buckstone is missing.

1000 hrs  Ta Qali logs the first 22 new Spitfires and their pilots to arrive over the next hour.  Each aircraft is numbered ready to be met by an allocated ground crew and taken to a protective pen to refuel, re-arm and repair as necessary, ready for a fresh pilot to take off within 20 minutes as cover for the next arrivals.

1015-1020 hrs  Ack Ack Light Machine Guns of 225 LAA  engage ME 109s at 3-600 feet: hits claimed.

1055 hrs  Ta Qali: 11 of the new Spitfires take to the air with experienced pilots of 249 Squadron and engage ME 109s.  P/O Nash destroys one and probably destroys another; F/Lt Buchanan probably destroys one.  P/O Milburn crashes near Safi and is killed.

1100 hrs  11 more new Spitfires arrive at Hal Far plus another flight at Luqa, all to be met, serviced and airborne within minutes.  Ack Ack guns defend them from attack by numerous ME 109s swarming over the airfield at 150-500 feet: hits claimed.

1145 hrs  Guns of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt at Wolseley Camp engage ME 109s heading in over Fort Ta Silch to attack Hal Far: no claims.

1200 hrs  Four Spitfires on patrol make visual contact with delivery aircraft heading in towards Malta: one new Spitfire is observed falling into the sea.  A ME 109 is spotted nearby and chased away.

1205 hrs  The last batch of new Spitfires lands.  60 have arrived out of a total of 64.

1258 hrs  Raiders passed.

1312 hrs  News of the delivery of Spitfires has reached the Luftwaffe in Sicily.  A formation of 14 JU 88s and 20 ME 109s is observed heading towards Malta.

1315 hrs  Eleven Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft.  Two JU 88s claimed as damaged.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are also airborne:  P/O Nash damages one ME 109.  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron are also up: Sgt Tweedale crashes at Luqa and is killed.

1330 hrs  Six JU 88s drop 24 high explosive bombs on Ta Qali, damaging two motor transport vehicles.  A delayed action bomb explodes near the caves, injuring A/C Oliver.  Three airmen slightly are injured in the Maintenance Quarry, Attard-Rabat Road.

1355 hrs  Nine JU 88s attack on Hal Far and Safi.  One bomb damages the runway and the aerodrome is unserviceable for an hour.  About six delayed action bombs are also scattered over the area.  One soldier is seriously injured and four others slightly injured.  Bombs are dropped on Wied Znuber: three Other Ranks 4th Bn Hampshire Reg are injured by bomb splinters.

1356-1415 hrs  Two JU 88s at 2-3000 feet engaged by guns of 225 LAA Bty.

1405 hrs  Four Spitfires from Hal Far and Luqa land at Ta Qali.  P/O Noble is shot up over Ta Qali.

1423 hrs  Raiders passed.

1531 hrs  One JU 88 carries out reconnaissance.

1550 hrs  12 Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept incoming ME 109 fighters.  F/O Holland, P/O Mitchell and F/Sgt Hurst each damage one ME 109.  One Spitfire is damaged.

1610 hrs  Messerschmitt 109s carry out a fighter sweep.

1615 hrs  14 JU87s with a 40-strong fighter escort dive-bomb the Safi and Siggiewi dispersal areas.  One Wellington already damaged is burned out. Three JU 87s break away to attack the San Pietru gun position, killing two Other Ranks and wounding five more, and drop bombs between Hompesch and St Clements Church.

1620 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron attack JU 87s over Grand Harbour.  F/Lt Lawrence damages one ME 109. Sgt Broad claims one JU 87 probably destroyed; he also damages one JU 87.  F/Lt Lawrence and P/O Wigley each claim  one JU 87 probably destroyed.

1630 hrs  One JU 87 is engaged by one gun of 225 LAA Bty: hits claimed.

1640 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron, Ta Qali, returning from a patrol over Sicily attack JU 87s who have been bombing Luqa and Grand Harbour.  P/O Nash probably destroys one.

1700 hrs  Raiders passed.

1727 hrs  11 Spitfires (4 of 601 Squadron and 7 of 126 Squadron) are scrambled from Luqa to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  Nine aircraft engage in combat; two no contact.  Claims three probable Italian BR 20s destroyed; one Macchi 202 destroyed, two Macchi 202 damaged.

1744 hrs  Five Cant 1007s and numerous fighters attack, dropping fifty 100kg bombs on Attard camp and on Ta Qali airfield.

1805 hrs  Nine Spitfires 601 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa to intercept incoming enemy aircraft.  Four have combat; five make no contact.  Claims: one ME 109 and one JU 88 damaged.

1835 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron and three Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne from Ta Qali but did not manage to intercept five Cant 1007s and seven JU 88s which go on to attack the airfield.  F/Lt Douglas destroys one ME 109; F/O Slade damages another.  F/L Douglas goes into a bomb crater on landing and damages his aircraft.

1846-1934 hrs  Seven JU 88s drop 40 high explosive bombs on Ta Qali causing craters on the aerodrome.  Three Spitfires are damaged.

0040 hrs; 0230 hrs  Two air raid alerts: a total of 12 aircraft drop bombs in the Tal Handaq area, on Tigne parade ground and in the sea.  An E boat and some aircraft appear to be minelaying in the sea north of Grand Harbour.  Some damage is caused to gas and water pipes.  One JU 88 is probably destroyed by Ack Ack.

0050-0212 hrs; 0250-0520 hrs Two Beaufighters are airborne from Luqa on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft.  One BR 20 is claimed as probably destroyed.

0414-0421 hrs  Three German schnellboote lay a triangular minefield off Sliema point to cover one possible approach of HMS Welshman which has been reported by the Luftwaffe heading for Malta.

0438 hrs  Schnellboot S-31 collides with a loose mine and sinks.  13 men are rescued including her Commanding Officer and two Italian officers; 13 are lost.

Military casualties  Sergeant Alwyn Bentley, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Flight Lieutenant John Buckstone, Royal Air Force VR, 603 Squadron; Aircraftsman I John Clarke, Royal Air Force VR; Pilot Officer Harold Milburn, Royal Air Force VR, 245 Squadron.  Corporal Frederick Few, Royal Air Force, Squadron Leader John Gorringe-Smith, Royal Air Force, Flight Sergeant Thomas Grosvenor, Royal Air Force VR, Flying Officer John Leslie, Royal Air Force VR, Flying Officer William White, Royal Canadian Air Force; all 221 Squadron.  Sergeant John Jacklin, Flight Lieutenant Raymond Sly, Pilot Officer Gordon Tweedale, all Royal Australian Air Force.  Private Leonard Harvey, Private Lindon Lever, Corporal Thomas Maloney, Private Raymond Small, all 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.  Gunner Seraphim Cauchi, 30 Bty, 3 LAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Joseph Falzon, 11th AA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Peter Portelli, 11 HAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Attard  Carmela Muscat, age 23.  Balzan  Sister Alexandra Borda, age 31.  Floriana  Mary Polidano, age 17.  Gzira  Joseph Mifsud, age 36.  Qormi  Teresa Sammut, age 20.  Zejtun  Gaetan Mifsud, age 54.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 9 MAY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Further sweep of Grand Harbour entrance channel with all available minesweeping craft.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Lodestar from Gambut.  Departures  One Lodestar to Heliopolis, three Hudsons to Gibraltar, one Beaufort, one Wellington to 108 MU.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down in combat; pilot killed.  One Spitfire shot down in the sea off Malta; pilot missing, believed killed.  One Hurricane straffed by ME 109s while landing; pilot uninjured.

LUQA  0847-1210 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance and visual reconnaissance of Messina, Palermo and Trapani harbours and south Italian aerodromes.  1525-1730 hrs  Spitfire on search to locate enemy shipping Malta to Messina.  2123 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on special search: failed to return.  S/L Gorringe-Smith, P/O Leslie, P/O White, Sgt Bently, Sgt Grosvener, Sgt Jacklin, C/L Few missing.

TA QALI  3 Officers, 14 Airmen from HQ Mediterranean, 19 from Gzira, attached for temporary duties.  1535-1640 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron patrol over Sicily.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Special party four Officers and 100 Other Ranks required for work on Luqa on stand by to fill in bomb craters from 0500-1000 hrs daily.  Working party of 12 men to fill belts for RAF.  9 and 30 cwt lorries required for work at Luqa.  Large deliveries of Spitfires expected.  Italians dropped bombs from a great height in Bn area.  Cpl Maloney, Pte Lever, Pte Harvey, Pte Small killed; Pte Schooley very badly injured, not expected to live.  Capt Roddy slightly injured.  Very unfortunate as men were caught absolutely unawares.  Ptes Harvey and Small were manning the Ack Ack light machine gun.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continued.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 20; dealt with 10 (1 x 1000kg,  3 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg, two Italian anti-personnel bomb containers).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 trucks, 14 officers and 261 Other Ranks building pens and filling craters on Hal Far aerodrome.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Battalion assisting in maintaining and servicing of aerodromes: arrival of reinforcements of Spitfires.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  1430 hrs  This unit takes over Luqa working party from Durham Light Infantry.  No craters required filling today.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  This unit supplied a working party of 150 men: Spitfires arrived.

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Posted by on May 9, 2017 in 1942, May 1942, Uncategorized

 

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