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2 April 1941: Luftwaffe Plan to Destroy Malta Airfields

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MALTA’S AIRFIELD GUNNERS TO FEATURE ON BBC FORCES SHOW

Major General R J Collins has asked the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief for information on recent incidents in connection with the anti-aircraft defence of Malta suitable for broadcast in his ‘War Commentary’ to be aired on the BBC Forces Programme on Friday 4 April. Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie writes:

JU 87 dive bombing

JU 87s dive from 7000 feet to bomb airfields

Enemy attacks on aerodromes generally build up in intensity over a period of a fortnight. Firstly a very thorough reconnaissance is followed by a few attacks carried out by two or three high flying bombers protected by fighters.  The culminating point is an intensive combined dive-bombing and low level bombing attack carried out by up to one hundred machines.  This is carried out by a varying number of JU 87s which dive from about 7000 feet and pull out at different heights, some as low as 1000 feet over the target.

This attack is usually followed by a shallow dive bombing by JU 88s from 8-5000 feet. Dorniers and Heinkels sometimes join in and do level bombing from varying heights.  Bombers are protected by a cloud of ME 109 and ME 110s flying at all heights between 25000 and 12000 feet.  There are generally three dive bombing attacks, but the Germans now seem to rely largely on weight of numbers and come straight in, taking violent avoiding action from the moment they are engaged but straightening up for the dive.  Flights do not follow one another in but dive individually from all directions.

The barrage has proved itself to be extremely effective and the toll taken of the enemy by ground defences can be considered more than satisfactory. Our own fighters’ task is to lay off outside the barrage and attack disorganised flights and single planes as they emerge from the attack.  They have been greatly outnumbered but they have shown that individually they can more than hold their own.  These attacks have been watched by crowds of thrilled spectators.  Generally speaking the enemy have been kept from their targets, and many have been brought down by the waiting fighters of the RAF.  One light gun had six bombs fall within 40 yards of its emplacement but continued in action until the attack was driven off.  Another large bomb fell on one of the old fortifications but bouncing twice fell harmlessly into the sea.

The civilian population are standing up to these attacks well. Casualties have not been unduly heavy, though great material damage has been done to civilian property in certain areas.

Night bombing has been carried out on many occasions when a few planes cross the coast at a great height. Surprisingly little damage has been done on these occasions but the night attacks have seldom been carried out in great strength or with great determination.  It appears that they are intended to shake the morale of the people which happily they have utterly failed to do.  Much greater damage has been caused at night by parachute mines intended for the water but dropped on land in built-up districts.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 APRIL TO DAWN 3 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fair.

1547-1621 hrs Air raid alert for 16 ME 109 and six CR 42s which carry out a fighter sweep 5 miles off the coast of Malta.  14 Hurricanes are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns open fire; no claims.  An enemy Red Cross seaplane approaches to within five miles of the north coast, possibly searching for a fighter.

Military casualties  Private Joseph Azzopardi, King’s Own Malta Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 2 APRIL 1941

HAL FAR AM Ten Hurricanes fighters and two Skuas arrived from Gibraltar. One Hurricane crashed on landing; pilot uninjured.

LUQA 69 Squadron 1 Maryland photo-reconnaissance Naples at 6000 feet

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Battalion mounted guard at San Anton Palace, residence of His Excellency Governor and Commander in Chief.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Unloading of convoy ships now completed. Normal work continued on the defences and machine-gun course.  The Royal Engineers are building permanent concrete pillboxes and current sandbag emplacements are being demolished.  It is likely that in the near future we shall be providing instruction to students from the university, so that they may have some knowledge when called up.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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Posted by on April 2, 2021 in 1941, April 1941, Uncategorized

 

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5 February 1941: Three German Divisions in Italy – Invasion Imminent?

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WAR OFFICE INFORMATION SUPPORTS INVASION POSSIBILITY

German armoured divisions are gathering in Sicily

German armoured divisions are gathering in Sicily

Sources in London have confirmed the presence of German formations in southern Italy and Sicily.   However, the actual numbers of troops are unconfirmed.  After reviewing all reports, the War Office  considers there may be as many as two or three divisions, including armoured and motorised units.

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief today expressed his views to the Chief of Imperial Staff in London on the current threat facing the Island:

“I have no further information which enables me to assess the likelihood of an attempt by the enemy to capture Malta by sea or air, or both. But presumably it is a contingency which must be faced, and I cannot ignore the fact that my one battalion in Fortress reserve is very inadequate to cope with all the tasks which might be required of  it. 

I am anxious about the reactions of the civil population in face of a determined attack. They have undoubtedly been strained by the recent heavy air attacks, and may become difficult to control, and thus hamper military movements.  The police could not be relied on to control them, and the army might have to accept this further commitment, which would be a most unwelcome additional strain on our resources. 

Since Malta is of such vital importance to the Navy, I feel we cannot afford to chance our arm, and I therefore think that at least one additional battalion should be sent here. In asking for this, I realise that not only may it be inconvenient to spare one but, what is more important, it places an additional burden and hazard on the Mediterranean fleet to bring it here.  But I hope that the extra strength it will give to this garrison will in the long run lessen the commitment of the fleet towards Malta, since the stronger the garrison the greater the deterrent to attack and the less likelihood of fleet being called upon to help. 

I am most reluctant to make this request but the issues are too great to justify taking a chance if it can be avoided. The personnel could be brought here by the methods most convenient to the Navy, if need be in driblets.  Transport can be extemporised here pending arrival of own vehicles.  But they should bring bicycles with them if possible.  The above all depends on the supposition that a determined attack is not an unlikely eventuality.” The Governor and C in C has also asked for the arrival date the first reinforcements of 4th Battalion The Buffs expected in Malta.  

In response to Lt Gen Dobbie’s telegram, the War Office wrote immediately to the Commander in Chief Middle East:

“The Commander in Chief Malta has asked for urgent reinforcement by two British infantry battalions. Please arrange for despatch from Middle East as soon as practicable.  It is very desirable that bicycles and carriers should accompany troops.  However, Malta states that transport can be extemporised there pending arrival of vehicles.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 6 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Overcast, some rain.

0001-0300 hrs  Four alerts sounded but no air raid took place.

Military casualties  Gunner Frederick Meringo, 40 Battery, 13 Mobile Coast Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 5 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals Two Sunderland. 0730-1015 hrs  Maryland visual reconnaissance Tripoli.  0540-1400 hrs  Two Sunderlands and one Maryland reconnaissance of shipping routes Messina to Benghazi, Benghazi to Tripoli and Tripoli to Sicily.  

KALAFRANA Two Sunderlands No 10 RAAF arrived from the United Kingdom with passengers and freight.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli.

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Posted by on February 5, 2021 in 1941, February 1941, Uncategorized

 

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21 January 1941: Churchill Congratulates ‘Heroic’ Malta

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CHURCHILL’S MESSAGE TO MALTA

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

“I send you on behalf of the War Cabinet heartfelt congratulations upon the magnificent and ever memorable defence which your heroic garrison and citizens, assisted by the Navy and above all by the Royal Air Force, are making against the Italian and German attacks. The eyes of all Britain and indeed of the whole British Empire are watching Malta in her struggle day by day, and we are sure that success, as well as glory, will reward your efforts.”

The Prime Minister’s message came in response to an upbeat message from the Air Officer Commanding, Malta which was read out to the British War Cabinet yesterday. The AOC reported that some 37 enemy aircraft had been brought down by Malta fighters and anti-aircraft guns during the heavy attacks aimed at HMS Illustrious in Grand Harbour.  He confirmed that the carrier was never hit during the bombing raids, but near-misses caused her serious damage, putting one engine and one boiler-room out of action, as well as causing extensive damage to the Dockyard area and the surrounding communities.

GOVERNOR BROADCASTS TO THE PEOPLE OF MALTA

The Governor and Commander in Chief, Lt Gen Dobbie, issued his own broadcast to the people of Malta following the recent heavy air raids:

“We are living in stirring times and Malta, like other parts of the British Empire, is taking its share in the momentous happenings.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 JANUARY TO DAWN 22 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Overcast.

0800 hrs Nine Bren guns of C Company, 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment take up position to the east of Luqa for defence against low-flying attack.

1410-1425 hrs Air raid alert for a report of a single enemy aircraft approaching at great height. It flies over Grand Harbour, probably on reconnaissance.  Anti-aircraft guns at Tarxien open fire; no claims.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 21 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ 1242-1530 hrs A Spitfire of the Photo Reconnaissance Unit surveys the Sicilian aerodromes and ports at 23000 feet: at Comiso 5 JU 88s, 9 Macchi 200s; at Palermo 12 JU 87s, 30 Macchi 200s or CR 42s, 1 JU 52, 3 JU 86; at Trapani 2 SM 79s, one large unidentified aircraft, 57 fighters; at Catania 48 JU87s of which 14 damaged or destroyed, 4 JU 88s, 3 SM 79s, 6 BR 20s, 11 Macchi 200s of which 2 damaged, 1 S 82. However, interpretation being treated with reserve. 

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Battalion ordered to ‘stand to’ at dawn for modified Asia status.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS No 2 Company began work on four barrack rooms at Bizbizia Ack Ack Battery. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 5 (1 x 750kg, 1 x 250kg, 2 x Ack Ack shells, 1 x  Bofors fuze).

(1) Malta Diary of a War, Michael Galea, PEG Ltd, 1992

 

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Posted by on January 21, 2021 in 1941, January 1941, Uncategorized

 

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9 January 1941: First Luftwaffe Bombing Raid on Malta

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JU 87 Stuka

JU 87 Stuka

STUKA DIVE BOMBERS LAUNCH FIRST ATTACK

Luftwaffe bombers today launched their first ever air raid on Malta. Shortly before; sunset this afternoon the air raid alert heralded the approach of nine enemy aircraft from the east.  Minutes later they swooped down over Marsaxlokk and aimed bombs at shipping moored in the Bay: no hits are reported but a trawler is reported to have returned fire.  A Maryland aircraft almost ran into the receding raiders as he returned to Luqa from a reconnaissance mission; however, he managed to land safely.

Observers at Kalafrana airfield identified the aircraft as German JU 87 Stukas. This is the first attack by aircraft of Fliegerkorps X which has been stationed in Sicily since last month.

SWORDFISH REINFORCEMENTS

Five Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers took off from HMS Ark Royal in the Mediterranean to fly on to Malta.  The manoeuvre was part of Operation Excess, the latest supply convoy operation organised by the Mediterranean Fleet.  The fly off of Swordfish reinforcements followed the rendezvous in the western Mediterranean of Ark Royal and the Fleet’s ‘Force H’ which will cover the approach of four more merchant ships to Malta.

DOCKYARD DEFENCE BATTERY NOW A MILITARY UNIT

The Dockyard Defence Battery which has put up a determined effort in the fight against enemy aircraft has now been established as 30th Light Ack Ack Battery.  Officers of the Battery are now in full-time military employment.  The Governor and Commander in Chief is taking steps for suitable financial allowances to be allocated to serving personnel.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 JANUARY TO DAWN 10 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Clear and fine.

1007-1025 hrs  Air raid alert for a total of 15 Macchi 200 fighters approaching the Island in three formations. While most remain at 12-14000 feet, a formation of six dive down over Luqa and launch a machine-gun attack on the aerodrome.  Three Wellingtons are holed by bullets but none is badly damaged.  Five raiders then cross the coast and fly in a straight line from Zonqor towards Birkirkara.  

Malta fighters are scrambled and ground defences open fire. Four enemy aircraft are shot down by Hurricanes and one by anti-aircraft fire.  Three enemy aircrew are seen to bale out in different locations and one raider crashes two miles out to sea off Della Grazia.  One enemy air crewman is picked up from the sea and taken to military hospital.  One Hurricane lands at Hal Far during the raid.

1614 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of nine enemy dive-bombers approaching the Island from the east, three of them clearly identified as JU 87 Stukas. As they circle round to the south, a Maryland reconnaissance aircraft approaches Luqa from the South East but turns away.  The Stukas dive down over Marsaxlokk and target bombs on shipping moored in the bay; no damage is reported.  A trawler opens fire and reports hitting one enemy aircraft (unconfirmed).  One bomb explodes on land near a gun position with no damage or casualties.  Four Hurricanes are scrambled but do not intercept the bombers.  They spot a further formation of 12 CR 42s but these are too high to intercept.

1635 hrs  The Maryland circles Luqa again before landing safely. One of the crew is injured.

1654 hrs  All clear.

1755-1810 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island from the north east, then circles to the south. Three Hurricanes are airborne on patrol but no raid materialises.

Enemy casualties  Capitano Luigi Armanino, 88a Squadriglia, 6o Gruppo, 1o Stormo, Macchi 200 fighter pilot shot down and wounded, rescued and taken to hospital as a prisoner.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 9 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ 0600-1312 hrs Sunderland closing patrol between Sicily and Sardinia for enemy shipping movements. 0550-1400 hrs Sunderland on patrol western Ionian Sea for enemy shipping. 1038-1400 Maryland reconnaissance Taranto. 1026-1613 hrs Maryland photographic reconnaissance Messina and Naples and investigate damage done by Wellingtons 148 Squadron;   faced three attacks by seven enemy fighters at Naples; too evasive action, some shots exchanged, no damage.  1007-1414 hrs  Maryland recce Cagliari, Trapani and Castelvetrano: Trapani aerodrome one SM 79, 20-30 fighters; Castelvetrano aerodrome one SM 17, one large biplane and three CR 42s.   

ROYAL NAVY  Operation MC 4 in progress.

LUQA  431 Flight: 1 Maryland reconnaissance Messina and Naples attacked by 7 Macchi 200s.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  St Georges fire trap commenced by 24 Fortress Company.

 

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Posted by on January 9, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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22 October 1940: Malta to Prepare for Gas Attack

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AGas respirator mask in actionNTI-GAS EQUIPMENT ORDERED FROM UK

The Governor and C in C is acting to ensure that Malta is fully protected in the event of an enemy poison gas attack. Items ordered in the early months of this year have still not arrived in Malta and, with the arrival of troop reinforcements, more are already required. It is believed that an earlier shipment has reached Gibraltar but remains there awaiting onward shipment to Malta.

The Island is short of thousands of respirators, face masks and anti-gas capes as well as several items of anti-gas equipment. Malta will be ready to cope with an enemy gas attack only once all orders already placed have been fulfilled.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 OCTOBER TO DAWN 23 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Thundery with bright periods.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 22 OCTOBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY Clearance sweep continued by Oropesa, four mines were swept up and sunk in position 152 degrees Delimara 9¾ miles.

AIR HQ All patrols cancelled due to bad weather.

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Posted by on October 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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21 October 1940: Enemy Losses Over Malta Total 45

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Italian SM 79

Italian SM 79

AIRCRAFT LOSSES FIFTEEN TO ONE IN FAVOUR OF MALTA

The Information Office has released details of the number of enemy losses over Malta since the declaration of war by Italy. A total of 25 enemy aircraft have been destroyed. Another 20 have been severely damaged and therefore probably unable to reach their bases. Malta losses to date have been three fighters and two pilots. The figures follow recent propaganda announcements by Rome radio in which exaggerated and false claims have been made regarding aircraft shot down in Malta and damage on the ground.

TWO HELD ON SUSPICION OF IRA ACTIVITY IN MALTA

Two servicemen of 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers are facing discharge from the service. The two fusiliers are suspected to have engaged in IRA activities while serving in Malta. Governor and C in C has applied to the War Office for authority to apply the sanction which he sees as essential to the security of the fortress. One of the men is at present serving two years imprisonment for involuntary homicide; the other is currently interned in Malta pending discharge and repatriation.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 OCTOBER TO DAWN 22 OCTOBER 1940

Weather   Cloudy with poor visibility and thunderstorms; scirocco in the morning and fresher after an afternoon shower.

0841-0912 hrs Air raid alert for eight enemy aircraft which cross the coast over Delimara at 20000 feet heading for Hal Far. Three Hurricanes are scrambled and engage, along with Ack Ack guns: the raiders are driven off, turning south east then north. No bombs are dropped.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 21 OCTOBER 1940

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Reconnaissance of Ionian Sea for enemy surface forays by Blenheim attached 431 Flight, Swordfish 830 Squadron and Sunderland 228 Squadron; nil reports by all aircraft. Reconnaissance Glenn Martin 431 Flight; nil report.

KALAFRANA Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. Sunderland 230 Squadron reconnaissance area Malta-Tripoli-Jerba Island; nil report. One Sunderland 10 Squadron RAAF arrived from Middle East en route for UK.

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Posted by on October 21, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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20 October 1940: Malta Needs Meat

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GOVERNOR ORDERS ESSENTIAL FOOD SUPPLIES

Meat carcasesMalta needs nearly a thousand tons of meat by January according to the latest food order sent by the Governor and C in C to the War Office in London. The order was sent under new arrangements to ensure the Island is stocked with essential supplies while it remains under siege. Three months’ notice are needed so that shipment can be organised and complete the long sea route via the Cape.

As well as 545 tons of meat for the military, the order includes food requirements for the Malta Government under the central purchasing and distribution system established last month to deal with food shortages among the civilian population. The Government has ordered 300 tons of beef, 50 of mutton and 50 of pork, as well as 80 tons of New Zealand butter and 125 tons of New Zealand cheese.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 OCTOBER TO DAWN 21 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine; some cloud.

1125-1215 hrs Air raid alert for two enemy formations reported approaching the Island from the north. Six Hurricanes and two Gladiators are scrambled; air raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 20 OCTOBER 1940

AIR HQ  Reconnaissance Ionian Sea by Blenheim attached 431 Flight and Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm (FAA): nil report. Glenn Martin 431 Flight reported at 1411 hrs one cruiser and one destroyer at sea. 0741-0917 hrs Swordfish 830 Sqn FAA despatched to locate a submarine off the north west coast of the Island; did not locate enemy.

KALAFRANA Plan to reconnoitre Ionian Sea for enemy surface craft. Easterly sector not patrolled as Sunderland unable to take off due to heavy swell.

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Posted by on October 20, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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19 October 1940: Malta Troops Need News of Relatives

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LACK OF MAIL DAMAGING TROOP MORALE

The continuing lack of a regular mail service to Malta is becoming a serious threat to the morale of troops in Malta. The latest delivery of mail arrived after a delay of three months. British newspapers are also carried by the mail delivery service and are therefore failing to reach the Island before they are obsolete.  

Dunkirk evacuation: Malta servicemen await news of relatives

Dunkirk evacuation: Malta servicemen await news of relatives

The Governor and C in C has reported receiving an increasing volume of enquiries from troops stationed in Malta regarding their serving relatives, particularly those who are served the late British Expeditionary Force following the evacuation of Dunkirk, but also those in Middle East units. However, the sheer number of information requests makes it impossible to deal with each one by telegram.

Today Lt Gen Dobbie has written to the War Office asking for all service casualty lists to date to be cabled to Malta immediately, and from now on every list to be sent by telegram as soon as published.

According to Rev Reginald Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta: “The dates of posting ranged from June 8th to the last days of August! The second batch also took about three days to sort; and the dates were also June, July and August. All higgledy-piggledy. But it was news even if three months – nay – four months adrift. There were a few copies of the Times for the last days of May and a few issued early in June. In that of June 8th, (received on 2nd October) we discovered that our son Anthony had been Mentioned in Despatches. This is a great joy to us.” (1)

NO INTELLIGENCE CORPS FOR MALTA

The War Office informed the Governor and C in C by telegram today that the formation of an Intelligence Corps Section in Malta “is not considered necessary”.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 OCTOBER TO DAWN 20 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine; cloudy at times.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 19 OCTOBER 1940

AIR HQ  Blenheim attached 431 Flight and Swordfish Fleet Air Arm patrolled Ionian Sea; nil reports.

KALAFRANA  Plan to reconnoitre Ionian Sea for enemy surface craft. Easterly sector not patrolled as Sunderland unable to take off due to heavy swell.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT 19 recruits posted from depot.

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

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Posted by on October 19, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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18 October 1940: Malta Must Be Able to Defend Itself

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HMS Regent arrived for repair today after a collision in the Ionian Sea.

HMS Regent arrived for repair today after a collision in the Ionian Sea.

FORCES OUTSIDE MALTA CANNOT PROTECT THE ISLAND

Governor and C in C Lt Gen Dobbie has today rejected suggestions from London that Malta could be protected from outside, instead of implementing his full demands for reinforcements. Military high command has proposed that in the event of an Axis attack a relief force could be sent to the Island within four days (rather than seven as previously estimated), reducing the strength of forces needed in Malta. They have also suggested that the presence of light naval forces at Malta could deter such an attack.

Lt Gen Dobbie’s response to the Chief of Imperial General Staff was swift: “…light naval forces stationed at Malta will not even affect the likelihood of attack, since the Italians are well able to detach sufficient forces to deal with them without unduly weakening their main fleet. But in any case the presence of the light naval forces will not affect the strength of the sea-borne attack if the enemy decided to make it. Consequently the strength of the garrison needed at Malta cannot be reduced on these grounds.

If the [time taken to relieve the Island] were reduced to four days, this would also have no effect on the size of garrison required. It is not so much a question of holding on in certain positions, as of rapid and ruthless counter-attacks to dislodge the enemy whenever and wherever he gains a footing.  The forces which I advised were needed for seven days cannot safely be reduced for a slightly shorter period.

Further, the projected increase of air defences, ie 12 additional Hurricanes and 24 heavy and 16 light guns, though very welcome, is not in itself enough to ensure that the enemy shall not secure air superiority should he really determine to gain it. It will, however, render his task more difficult and force him to employ larger air forces for this purpose. This is likely to constitute some deterrent but cannot be counted on to be completely effective.

In fact the amount of protection from low flying attack against our ground troops which our air forces will be able to afford, if full dress attack is launched, cannot be great. Therefore I cannot advise in answer to the Secretary of State’s query that, in the circumstances he outlines, a smaller defence force is needed.

I recognise that the enemy’s difficulties are very great, especially in ensuring that the British Fleet is kept out of the way for a sufficient time. Our forces here are strong enough to ensure that his effort must be a big one. But if he succeeds in making an opportunity and seizes it with both hands and goes all out, any smaller garrison than I have suggested would be unwise, in view of the very big issues at stake. The above is the unanimous view of the defence committee here as well as my own.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 OCTOBER TO DAWN 19 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Thundery showers with fine intervals.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 18 OCTOBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Regent arrived for repairs having been in collision with a caique in the Ionian sea. She suffered extensive damage to her forward hydroplanes.

AIR HQ  Northern patrol by Glenn Martin cancelled due to bad weather. Southern and western areas patrolled by one Blenheim 431(GR) flight and two Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm; nil reports.

KALAFRANA  Easterly patrol by Sunderland aircraft not possible due to heavy swell preventing take-off.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Brigade exercise No 2.

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Posted by on October 18, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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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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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in 1942, May 1942, Uncategorized

 

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