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24 September 1941: Lack of Luftwaffe in Mediterranean Leaves Malta Free to Attack

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Spanish Mole, Tripoli, after a raid (AWM MED0210)

Spanish Mole, Tripoli, after a raid (AWM MED0210)

LUFTWAFFE ABSENCE LEAVES AXIS CONVOYS VULNERABLE, BRITISH WAR CABINET HEARS

The absence of German aircraft in the Mediterranean has left Axis convoys vulnerable to attacks from Malta, the British War Cabinet heard today in its latest progress review. According to the report, for three months it has not been possible for the Germans to allocate adequate aircraft for the protection of the important supply route between Tripoli and Sicily, or for attacks on Malta.  In the face of heavy commitments in other theatres such as the Eastern Front, the German Air Force is facing a shortage of suitably trained air crews.  Luftwaffe command has been forced improvise, such as using a long-range bomber reserve training unit on operational duties.

During the past week Blenheim and Swordfish aircraft from Malta have sunk or seriously damaged 45000 tons of enemy shipping between Sicily and the African coast. An enemy destroyer was also seriously damaged off Tripoli.

Reconnaissance aircraft from Malta have continued to search for enemy shipping convoys which were subsequently attacked on every possible occasion by Naval and RAF aircraft, with the following results:

  • Laden schooner, total loss
  • Laden schooner, blew up (explosion destroyed attacking Blenheim)
  • 24000 ton liner hit repeatedly by Blenheims, last reported stationary
  • Destroyer direct hits amidships, badly damaged
  • 8000 ton merchant vessel (MV) 2 hits by Blenheims, damaged
  • 3000 ton MV, sinking and on fire
  • 8000 ton MV, sunk
  • Small MV hit by torpedo, probably sunk

On five nights Wellingtons made 33 sorties against Tripoli and dropped a total of over 50 tons of bombs. These attacks were principally directed against the harbour and, in addition to a number of hits on the Spanish and Karamanli Moles, many bombs were seen to fall on shipping lying alongside.  The barracks and buildings near the wireless telegraph station also were successfully bombe.

Two Blenheims made a good daylight attack on heavy motor transport and petrol tankers on the Misurata-Sirte road, resulting in considerable confusion, and the destruction of one petrol tanker and serious damage to 30 other vehicles; one Blenheim is missing. Another attack by 11 Blenheims was made on the barracks at Homs and Misurata causing serious damage.  Hits were also made on motor transport dumps and petrol lorries, and troops were sprayed with machine-gun fire with good effect.  Two of our aircraft collided over the target and a third crashed.

Enemy bombing activity has been on an extremely small scale. The only attack on Malta was on the night of 19-20 September, when one out of six aircraft crossed over the Island and dropped some incendiaries which did no damage.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 25 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and fresh.

0005-0035 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the west. Two only cross the coast and drop high explosive bombs on the Bajda Ridge area.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no engagement.

0047-0058 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer William E Law, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Squadron Leader Theophilus J S Warren, RAF, 107 Squadron; Flying Officer John T Waterfall, RAFVR, 107 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 13 Beaufighter, 2 Blenheim, 2 Wellington. Departures 1 Catalina. 38 Squadron 2 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli.  6 Wellingtons attacked Palermo Harbour. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Marsala and Licata harbours and eastern Ionian Sea. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked transport on Misurata road.  S/Ldr Warren failed to return; a search was carried out but was unsuccessful. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish laid mines outside Tripoli Harbour and dropped bombs on a barrack block.  A diversion created by Wellington bombers was very effective.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 5; dealt with 5 (2 x 150kg; 3 x 2kg incendiary)

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  E Company began formation; HQ at 21 Ghain Dwieli Street, Paola. 

 

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Posted by on September 24, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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22 September 1941: Malta Free French Air Crew Killed on Spy Mission

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Free French F/Sgt Georges Blaize (1)

Free French F/Sgt Georges Blaize (1)

SPECIAL OPERATIONS HEINKEL CRASHES INTO SEA

The Heinkel 115 used for clandestine operations from Malta crashed today with the loss of the crew and one passenger. The Heinkel which has been at Kalafrana since June took off just after midnight for its latest secret mission but appears to have got into difficulties and was forced to make an emergency landing on the sea, some 20 miles off the coast of the Island. 

The crew have been named as Free French pilot F/Sgt Georges Blaize and flight engineer Sgt Raoul Gatien. Also on board and acting as observer was Fleet Air Arm S/Lt Reginald Drake, who was attached to Naval air station HMS Grebe in Egypt but operating from Malta. 

Rescue aircraft and the high speed launch from Malta set out to search for the stricken aircraft. They found wreckage strewn over the sea and the bodies of S/Lt Drake and F/Sgt Blaize.  There was no trace of Sgt Gatien.

The Heinkel is the second aircraft to be lost on Special Operations from Malta; last Tuesday a Swordfish crashed while transporting a secret agent to North Africa. Only yesterday Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief referred to the Heinkel as the only aircraft based on the Island dedicated to the service of the Defence Security Officer (maltagc70.com 21 September 1941). The Heinkel, which still carried its German markings, was stored under cover at Kalafrana and used only at night.

PILOT NURSES DAMAGED AIRCRAFT THROUGH 200 MILE FLIGHT

A Blenheim pilot landed his badly damaged aircraft at Luqa airfield today after a tense 218 mile flight across the Mediterranean. Sergeant Williams’ Blenheim was one of six sent to attack German barrack blocks and fuel dumps at Homs in North Africa.  During the attack Pilot Wing Commander D W Scivier AFC made a sharp turn, coming up underneath Sgt Williams, whose aircraft propellers sliced through the fuselage of W/Cdr Scivier’s Blenheim, which plunged into a steep dive and crashed with the loss of the entire crew. 

Sgt Williams’ Blenheim was also badly damaged in the collision. He managed to keep the plane airborne and nursed it gently back to Malta.  Sgt Williams and his crew, observer Sgt R Scholefield and wireless operator/air gunner Sgt A Tuppen are being treated for shock.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 23 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Heavy rain mid-day.

0153-0214 hrs  Air raid alert for one enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but does not cross the coast. Bombs are dropped in the sea eight miles from shore.

0338-0355 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses the coast over Dingli, drops bombs on Balzan causing two slight casualties and damage to houses before turning south over Luqa and receding, dropping more bombs in the sea off Delimara.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Georges Blaize, Royal Air Force; Sub-Lieutenant Reginald G Drake, Royal Navy; Flight Sergeant Raoul Gatien, Royal Air Force; Leading Airman Kenneth Pimlott, HMS St.Angelo; Flight Sergeant Leonard Martin Barnett, observer, Royal Air Force, 105 Squadron; Sergeant Brian Gray BFM, wireless operator/air gunner, Royal Air Force, 105 Squadron; Wing Commander Donald William Scivier AFC, pilot, Royal Air Force, 105 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Spitfire, 1 Sunderland. Departures 2 Wellington. 38 Squadron 3 Wellingtons attacked a liner.  5 Wellingtons attacked motor transport depots near Tripoli.  Sgt Secomb failed to return. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland patrol east Tunisian coast.  1 Maryland photoreconnaissance Catania, Gerbini, Comiso.  1 Maryland on search for a convoy. 105 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked barrack blocks and fuel dumps at Homs. 107 Squadron 5 Blenheims attacked barrack blocks and fuel dumps at Misurata. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish attacked convoy off Kuriat, firing two torpedoes hitting one merchant ship amidships and another in the bows.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion was visited by a representative of the Times of Malta who took photographs and interviewed officers and men. He also watched various types of training going on in the Battalion.  Weapons training courses are underway: in time all ranks will have fired the rifle and also whichever automatic weapon they are most likely to use in battle.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 3 (2kg incendiary).

(1)  See also website: Les Francais Libres

 

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Posted by on September 22, 2021 in 1941, September 1941, Uncategorized

 

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1 September 1941: Malta is New Base for 10th Submarine Flotilla

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RAID SUMMARY AUGUST 1941

  • No of air raid alerts 30
  • No of raids 25 (including 18 night raids)
  • Days without air raid alerts 15
  • Total time under alert 18 hours 38 mins
  • Average length of alert 38 mins
  • Civilians killed by enemy action 5; injured 5
  • Buildings destroyed/badly
HMS Upholder

HMS Upholder

FLOTILLA COMMAND AT MANOEL ISLAND

A new 10th Submarine Flotilla has been formed with its base at Malta.  ‘U’ Class submarines have been operating from the Island for some time, carrying out successful operations against enemy convoys.  These smaller submarines, such as Unbeaten, Upholder, Upright and Ursula, have been found to be more suited to conditions in the Mediterranean.  Leading 10th Flotilla will be Commander George W G Simpson who has been appoint to the command of HMS Talbot, the submarine base at Manoel Island, Malta

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 2 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1039-1110 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve Macchi 200 fighters which approach from the north and cross the coast over St Paul’s Bay without dropping any bombs. Selected gun emplacements fire pointer rounds.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but do not engage.

2111-2206 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy bombers which approach singly from the north east and drop incendiary bombs plus a small number of high explosives across Marsa, Hamrun, Gudja, Pembroke Ranges and Island Bay, and in the sea north of St George’s. High explosive bombs are dropped on Pembroke Ranges.  One bomb falls on a tennis court at Sliema.  Four people are slightly wounded in the raid.  It is believed that they did not go into a shelter.  Three Hurricanes are scrambled; no interceptions.  P/O Robertson crashes on landing; he is unhurt. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 1 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  5 Swordfish searched area to eastward for northbound convoy without success. Upholder returned from interception of convoy east of Tripoli.  Convoy sighted and attacked without success.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 2 Beaufighter, 5 Blenheim. Departures 2 Beaufighter, 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Reconnaissance east Tunisian coast.   Special search by Blenheim.  2 Fulmars offensive patrol Gerbini-Comiso area dropped incendiaries on Gerbini and Augusta. 38 Squadron 7 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli power station dropped bombs and incendiaries causing damage and fires. 105 Squadron 7 Blenheims attacked chemical works, ship and railway in southern Calabria.  5 Hurricanes fitted with cannon despatched on a special railway patrol near Pozallo Railway Station.  They dived on a train and attacked from the rear, hitting the engine and driver’s cabin.  Coaches in the station were also hit.  Machine-gun fire retaliated from both sides of the line; Sgt Parker’s windscreen was hit by one bullet.   

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion took over 4 Bren carriers. They will undergo 2 weeks’ maintenance training under the Malta Tank Troops billeted by us, before being used in C Company sector.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 5; dealt with 3 (2kg incendiary)

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY  14 other ranks disembarked and posted to SWS Malta.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths 25 officers, 8 WO1, 189 other ranks.

 

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Posted by on September 1, 2021 in 1941, September 1941, Uncategorized

 

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29 August 1941: Maltese Overseas Could Enlist to Defend Island

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15 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli

15 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli

MALTESE LIVING IN TURKEY ELIGIBLE FOR SERVICE

Maltese citizens currently living in Turkey could be invited to enlist for military service in the defence of the Island. According to the War Office in London, reports coming out of Turkey indicate that within Maltese communities in Istanbul and Smyrna a number of individuals may be eligible for general military service. 

If he wishes to recruit personnel for the defence of Malta, Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has been invited to communicate with the British Ambassador in Istanbul or the British Consul in Smyrna. The British Colonial Office is also willing to assist, and the Foreign Office has offered to provide free passage for suitable candidates from Turkey to the nearest territory where they could be enlisted.

BATHING RESTRICTIONS IN MARSAMXETTO HARBOUR

Bathing from the quay at the Royal Malta Yacht Club is prohibited to Service personnel except those having access to the changing accommodation in the Yacht Club. Men wishing to swim in this neighbourhood will find excellent facilities and refreshments at the Services Swimming Pavilion (Rocco Baths) which is 300 yards further east along the Harbour.  The entrance is on the Great Siege Road opposite the end of the Main Ditch.  Admission is free. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 AUGUST TO DAWN 30 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

1300 hrs  Six enemy raiders are reported leaving the Sicilian coast. Malta fighters are scrambled but there is no interception.

1728-1740 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy aircraft which approach from the north. Six cross the coast over St Paul’s Bay at great height, then recede without dropping any bombs.  20 Malta fighters are scrambled but there is no combat.

Military casualties  Private Lorenzo A D Beabey, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 29 AUGUST 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upholder and Ursula brought to short notice and sailed to intercept convoy east of Tripoli.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Bombay. Departures 2 Blenheim, 1 Bombay. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Tripoli, patrols of Cape Bon and western Sicily and photoreconnaissance Sicilian coast.  Two 40lb bombs are dropped on land west of Lampedusa harbour. 38 Squadron 15 Wellingtons despatched to attack shipping and specified targets in Tripoli hitting vessels and buildings and causing damage and several fires. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 9 Swordfish sent to attack a convoy of 6 destroyers and 3 merchant vessels south of Cape Spartivento.  Owing to an effective smoke screen only one hit was scored on an 8000 ton merchant vessel.  Two Hurricanes returning from a special patrol see a small schooner a mile offshore at Pozzello and dive to attack; no damage caused.   

HAL FAR  2 Fulmars patrolled over Comiso, Gerbini and Catania, dropping two bombs on Gerbini and machine-gunning a control building.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 (2kg incendiary).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  One other rank of D Company was killed at Pembroke Ranges.

 

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Posted by on August 29, 2021 in 1941, August 1941, Uncategorized

 

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24 August 1941: Second Malta Submarine Lost in Combat

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TWO U-CLASS SUBMARINES LOST IN 6 DAYS

HMS Unique

HMS Unique

The loss of a second Malta-based submarine has now been confirmed. P33 was officially reported overdue two days ago, after she failed to return when expected from her latest patrol.  Investigations have now concluded that she was sunk, possibly in an engagement with an Italian convoy on 18 August.

Under the command of Lieutenant R.D. Whiteway-Wilkinson P33 left Malta on 6 August to patrol off Sicily and intercept an Italian convoy bound for Libya, along with her sister boat P32 and HMS Unique.  Shortly after the engagement on 18 August, P32 radioed a report of a prolonged depth-charge attack in the vicinity.  However, within hours P32 herself was sunk. 

P33 casualty list

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 AUGUST TO DAWN 25 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and fresh.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 24 AUGUST 1941

ROYAL NAVY  P32 reported overdue. Farndale completed refit and carried out sea trials.  HM Submarine Upholder attacked three 6in gun cruisers with one possible hit.

AIR HQ Departures 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols Tunisian coast and western Ionian Sea, Empedocle and Licata, eastern Sicily and the toe of Italy.  Special reconnaissance south of Sardinia AM and PM. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons sent to attack Tripoli, docks and petrol dumps drop bombs across the city causing considerable damage. 105 Squadron 4 Blenheims sent to attack shipping scored hits on vessels. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish sent to attack shipping off Augusta/Catania areas failed to locate target.      

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Mons Day: the Battalion celebrated the anniversary with a church service.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 14.

 

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Posted by on August 24, 2021 in 1941, August 1941, Uncategorized

 

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20 August 1941: Malta’s Homes and Crops at Risk From Incendiaries

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Precious crops at risk from incendiaries

Precious crops at risk from incendiaries

INCENDIARY ALERT ACROSS MALTA

An alert has been issued to householders across Malta to remove any inflammable objects or temporary fittings from roofs. (1)  The warning by the Lt Governor’s office is necessary due to the very large numbers of incendiaries being dropped during the current campaign of night air raids by the Italian Regia Aeronautica.

Since 12 August, hundreds of 2kg incendiaries at a time have been scattered across Malta. Although small, the bombs contain fuel oil and can burn fiercely for up to ten minutes.  The Island’s stone buildings are not especially at risk, but in the dry summer heat any inflammable material is vulnerable to the bombs.  Precious food crops are also in danger of destruction. 

ITALIAN RADIO CLAIMS ‘DARING ATTACKS’ ON HAL FAR

A particularly audacious action was carried out on Malta. In the early hours of yesterday an Italian fighter formation escorted by another formation of fighters flew over Malta and from a very low level machine gunned the highly equipped air base of Hal Far, while another formation crossed the sky over the Island.  The daring attacks of our fighters although met with a furious anti-aircraft fire were crowned with success.  Two large twin-engined bombers were set on fire and destroyed, while another two bombers and two single-engined planes were hit and rendered unserviceable.  Furthermore several other aircraft to the south of the airfield were hit and, judging by the flames, they sustained extensive damage.  The enemy’s anti-aircraft batteries were likewise attacked with armaments from on board our aircraft.  British fighters flying over Malta did not engage our planes, all of which returned normally to their respective bases. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 AUGUST TO DAWN 21 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 20 AUGUST 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Otus arrived with petrol and stores from Alexandria. Urge returned from patrol having sighted convoy, but was prevented from attacking by counter attacks.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Blenheim. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols Lampedusa, eastern Ionian Sea, Trapani and Tripoli harbour. 126 Squadron 6 Hurricanes attacked barrage balloons, seaplanes and petrol tanks at Augusta. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB dealt with 2 (2kg incendiary).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  His Excellency the Governor visited Gozo. A guard of honour of 3 officers and 106 ranks was provided by the Battalion. 

(1) Malta Diary of a War, Michael Galea, BDL Publishing 2015

 

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Posted by on August 20, 2021 in 1941, August 1941, Uncategorized

 

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6 August 1941: 6 Hour Warning of Italian Attack on Malta

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St Elmo breakwater damaged (NWMA Malta)

St Elmo breakwater damaged (NWMA Malta)

GOVERNOR & C IN C REVIEWS LESSONS LEARNED FROM ITALIAN SEABORNE RAID

Military chiefs in Malta have conducted a detailed review of the Italian seaborne attack on Malta and the events leading up to the assault. The Governor & Commander in Chief has released its findings to the War Office for distribution to other theatres of war:

  • Attacking craft included was two-man submarines, one-man motor boats.Warning of possible seaborne attack received July 25 about six hours before action.
  • Larger vessels turned away when about 12 miles distant whilst sounds of motor engines were heard several times until 0330 hrs on 26th.
  • Air raid lasted from 0413 to 0443 hrs when raiders passed was sounded.
  • Minutes later an object was spotted 300 yards out to sea, then the [St Elmo] bridge span was blown up and searchlights illuminated.
  • Some crafts were 200 yards, others 2000 yards.
  • Guns fired later at vessels between 1000 and 3000 yards, one craft at 200 was sunk on the third round.
  • Illuminated area very effective up to 1800 yards, fighting lights necessary beyond this range.
  • Night calm, visibility good.
  • Distribution of fire scheme could not be tested entirely as enemy vessels kept close together and not dispersed.
  • One formation of five in line ahead were broken up by the sinking of the first three; others appeared disabled but later came into action.
  • I consider the present scheme of one twin to each fixed light is suitable.
  • Craft in the last stages of their approach moved so slowly under cover of darkness and during the air raid that two, possibly three vessels reached 300 yards off shore without making any appreciable sound. They were so small that they were very hard to discover. At ranges of 3000 yards in calm sea these could not be identified easily from wreckage; crews may abandon boats which are apparently disabled and return to them later if they are still sound.
  • Manoeuvrability of the craft was better than anticipated; they were capable of executing a 180 degree turn in an incredibly short time.
  • In addition to travel corrections, number one had to forestall sinking and turning of targets.
  • The number of rounds expended during the second attack was larger than expected owing to the evasiveness of the craft.
  • Tracers proved invaluable, particularly at short ranges and given the high speed of targets.
  • No director sights are available, so the gun commander had to stand outside the shield to direct the gun layers on to proper targets, as their view from within is very limited. Electric fans inside the shields proved of great value in clearing away smoke from telescopes.
  • As there were no enemy aircraft during the attack, Bofors guns in the forts came into action during the second attack at ranges of 1500 to 2000 yards, with rapid and accurate fire. As this is not their primary role they cannot be depended on in the scheme of defence.
  • Ammunition expended: 585 rounds 6 pounder 10 cet.

 AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 AUGUST TO DAWN 7 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

0247-0325 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft approaching from the north. Two raiders turn back 40 miles before reaching Malta.  The third approaches to ten miles north of St Paul’s bay when the raider begins to lose height and dives in flames; its bombs explode as it hits the sea.  A series of distant explosions is heard from the direction of Sicily.  Three Hurricanes are scrambled but there is no opportunity to engage.

Enemy casualties  Capitano Bernardino Dalle Nagare, Commander of the 65a Squadriglia, 31o Gruppo, 43o Stormo, bomber pilot.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 6 AUGUST 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 6 Beaufort, 9 Wellington. Departures 69 Squadron  Strike force patrols by two Marylands.  Photo-reconnaissance Gela, Comiso, Licata, San Giovanni, Reggio Calabria, Catania, Messina, Comiso and Augusta. 105 Squadron 4 Blenheims sent to attack convoy of 6 merchant vessels and 6 destroyers unable to complete mission.  Fleet Air Arm  2 Fulmar patrol over Gerbini and Catania, machine-gunned bombers Gerbini aerodrome.

HAL FAR 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a convoy of 6 merchant ships and 6 destroyers. Three merchant vessels were torpedoed, leaving one submerged and another sinking fast. 

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion in Gozo.

 

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Posted by on August 6, 2021 in 1941, August 1941, Uncategorized

 

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27 July 1941: Eight Ships Destroyed in Attack on Malta Says Italian Radio

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ITALY COMPARES YESTERDAY’S MISSION TO ‘THE GREATEST NAVAL BATTLE’

Radio BItalian radio has declared yesterday’s mission to attack Malta’s harbours as a resounding success, comparable to the greatest naval battle.  The Italian version of yesterday’s attack was reported in a special communique over  the country’s national radio this evening:

“The epic exploits passed into tradition have been taken up again by the daring feat mentioned in today’s ordinary communique. This exploit finds no precedent in any naval history because of the difficulties it presented and the results obtained.  During the night of 26 March, our MA [boats] had penetrated into Suda Bay and succeeded in sinking the cruiser York and two large ships.  The success achieved on that occasion gave reasons to believe that the penetration of the Malta base was possible, notwithstanding the formidable defence and the intense vigilance; so that the exploit had been carefully prepared and studied beforehand and was put into execution on the night of 25-26 July. 

Favoured by darkness, some light [naval] units approached the harbour entrance and then launched the assault against the enemy fortress. While they were doing so a searchlight illuminated one of the units and then the others were discovered.  A hundred [weapons] opened a rapid fire on them but this could not arrest the dash of our seamen and, a few minutes after, our light units which had succeeded in getting clear of the fire let go their torpedoes inside the Malta harbour – eight explosions with high flames ensued. 

It is not possible to say what damage was inflicted on the British Navy but knowing how our seamen delivered the attack one must rest assured that at least eight more British units have been rendered unseaworthy. With this exploit which may be compared with the greatest naval battle was concluded a three-day epic, opened on 23 July by the action of one of our submarines and so successfully carried out by our aviation and MAs. 

Our aviation proceeded during yesterday to hunt enemy shipping both on the high seas as well as at Malta where some damaged ship might have sought refuge. During the previous night our aircraft carried out an offensive action against the Grand Harbour zone and the dockyard of Valletta.  The enemy made use of many searchlights and night fighters and two of our bombers had undecisive engagements with enemy aircraft. 

Yesterday planes of our offensive reconnaissance flight with fighter escorts flew over Malta and during their return trip were engaged by three enemy machines on the Sicilian Channel but these were driven away by our fighters. Over Malta one of our formations was engaged by 30 British fighters most of which were Spitfires – a fierce encounter ensued in the course of which several Spitfires were shot down while three of our aircraft failed to return.  Our fighter formations were under the command of Carlo Romagneli and Francesco Beccharia.”

No Allied vessels were destroyed or damaged in the raid.   One of the Italian attack boats damaged the St Elmo breakwater but in doing so blocked access to Grand Harbour for the others, all of which were either destroyed or captured.

MALTA HAS NEW INFANTRY BRIGADE

A new infantry brigade was inaugurated at noon today, following the arrival of troop reinforcements on the convoy of 24 July. The Central Infantry Brigade consists of the newly-arrived 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, plus 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment and 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment.  Royal Artillery formations are still to be decided.  The Brigade Commanding Officer will be Brigadier I de la Bere.  The arrival of the convoy reinforcements brings the total of Malta Garrison serving personnel to over 25000.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 JULY TO DAWN 28 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and humid.

AM  Two SM 79 bombers were intercepted 50 miles off Malta by Hurricanes of 185 Squadron. Both enemy aircraft were shot down into the sea.

2230-2314 hrs  Air raid alert for a single Italian BR 20 bomber which crosses the Island from St Paul’s Bay to Mtarfa, turns south and then north, crossing the Island again over the same course. Heavy anti-aircraft guns fire three barrages at 18000 feet; no claims.  No Hurricanes are scrambled.

2334-0021 hrs Air raid alert for two BR 20 bombers which approach the Island a mile apart. The first drops bombs in the sea north of St Paul’s Bay; the second drops 250kg high explosive bombs on St Julian’s which puts a searchlight out of action wounding three men, two seriously.  250kg bombs are also dropped on Tal Qroqq.  No Hurricanes are scrambled.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 27 JULY 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 7 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 5 Wellington. Departures 2 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Marylands special patrol Ionian Sea and search patrol.  The Commander in Chief Middle East, General Auchinleck, and the Air Commander in Chief Air Chief Marshal Tedder with their staffs arrived today en route for the UK.  They are expected to leave tomorrow.

HAL FAR  AOCinC Air Marshal A W Tedder, CB, and AOC Mediterranean visited the station.

TA QALI  AOCinC Air Marshal A W Tedder, CB visited the Station.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  Brigade begins operations at noon.

 

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Posted by on July 27, 2021 in 1941, July 1941, Uncategorized

 

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25 July 1941: Enemy Warships Heading For Grand Harbour

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ENEMY SHIPS AND E BOATS OFF GOZO AND MALTA

Malta’s defences moved to high alert last night as an enemy cruiser and destroyers were spotted heading towards Grand Harbour from the north east. The first response was to expect a coastal bombardment from the enemy warships.  As soon as they came within 15 miles, the air raid alert was sounded across Malta.

Minutes later a Royal Navy signal station on Gozo reported a flotilla of light craft, possibly E boats, off the Island’s coast. 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment were immediately ordered to ‘stand to’ ready to implement the Gozo Defence Scheme and repel an enemy landing.  The Scheme was developed as soon as the threat was identified of a possible enemy invasion of Malta via her sister Island (maltagc70, 5 July 1941).  Companies of troops are posted ready to counter enemy seaborne landings at Marsalforn, Mgarr and Qala Dwejra.  

Five Swordfish of 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm were scrambled to intercept the enemy ships but just out of range of the coast defence guns, the ships turned away and headed northwards. 

Scene of Macchi fighter crash in Valletta

Scene of Macchi fighter crash in Valletta

ITALIAN FIGHTER CRASHES ON VALLETTA’S MAIN STREET

Shoppers in Malta’s capital city Valletta had a shock this morning when an Italian fighter aircraft crashed in the centre of Valletta. The Macchi 200 was one of three fighters and two bombers shot down during a reconnaissance mission.

Some 40 fighters were escorting two bombers sent to review the convoy in Grand Harbour when it was involved in a dog-fight with a Hurricane of 249 Squadron. The Macchi was badly damaged and began to lose height; the pilot baled out but too late for his parachute to open. The wife of Rev Nicholls of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral witnessed the fighter crash:

“It swooped screaming over the roof of the Palace over the Casino Maltese missing the top by feet, roared up Kingsway, and buried itself in Brizzi’s already ruined shop – the only blitzed building in that immediate neighbourhood. She was shopping, and finding planes overhead went into Collis and Williams chemist shop. The plane crashed five shops away, exactly 20 yards! Luckily it was not a bomber, and also there were about four walls between her and it.” (1)

As soon as the ‘Raiders Passed’ siren sounded, hundreds of Maltese emerged from shelter and rushed to the scene to celebrate the RAF victory.

TROOPS DISEMBARKED FROM ‘OPERATION SUBSTANCE’ CONVOY

  • Royal Navy 28
  • RAF 676
  • Royal Artillery 16
  • HQ 4 Heavy Ack Ack Regt 18
  • 5 Heavy Ack Ack Battery 230
  • 6 Heavy Ack Ack Battery 175
  • HQ 32 Light Ack Ack Regiment 12
  • 55 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 98 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 182 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 186 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 223 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 24 Light Wireless Section 31
  • 64 Light Wireless Section 26
  • HQ Infantry Brigade 12
  • Royal Engineers 5
  • 173 Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers 230
  • 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment 5
  • Royal Army Medical Corps 55
  • Other 83

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 JULY TO DAWN 26 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

1059-1130 hrs  Air raid alert for one SM 79 and one BR 20 bomber escorted by 40 Macchi fighters approaching the Island for reconnaissance at 22000 feet. 22 Hurricane fighters of 185 and 249 Squadrons are scrambled and engage the raiders over Grand Harbour.  Hurricanes of 249 Squadron attack the BR 20 and it begins to emit smoke.  Pilots of 185 Squadron give chase and attack, setting the port engine on fire and further damaging the fuselage.  It is last seen on fire, breaking up and descending towards the sea 20 miles north east of Malta.  Four pilots of 185 Squadron attack the SM 79.  The undercarriage falls and one parachute is seen descending from the aircraft which crashes in to the sea in flames 20 miles east of the Island. 

A pilot of 249 Squadron shoots down a Macchi; the pilot bales out but his parachute fails to open properly and he is killed. He is later identified as Sottotenente Francesco Liberti.  The Macchi crashes into the cellar of a bomb-damaged shop in Strada Reale, Valletta.  Two more Macchi 200s are shot down over the sea.  A wounded Italian airman is picked up by the sea rescue services six miles north east of Grand Harbour and taken to hospital.  The body of another is found on land, his parachute only half open.  All Hurricanes return safely.   

2235 hrs  A cruiser and destroyers are reported approaching Grand Harbour at 30 knots. 

2250 hrs  Light craft of the E boat type are reported off Gozo by the Naval Signal Station on Ta’ Gordan.  1st Bn Hampshire Regiment ‘stand to’ ready to move in opposition of any attempted landing as detailed in the Gozo Defence Scheme.

2250 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for three enemy aircraft which drop bombs in the sea, cross the coast and drop bombs on Tas-Silg and the Ta’ Qali area.

2259 hrs  One enemy cruiser and two destroyers together with E boats are reported 14 miles off shore. A warning is sounded on Malta; all beach posts are ordered to ‘stand to’ and depth posts to ‘keep watch’.  A strike force of five Swordfish is sent out to intercept the enemy ships but the vessels apparently turn north east again.  

2325 hrs  Motor torpedo boats are reported off Madliena.

0012 hrs  Swordfish aircraft attack enemy vessels which recede.

0013 hrs  Beach posts on Malta are ordered to ‘stand by’.

0015 hrs  1st Bn Hampshire Regiment on Gozo ordered to stand down.

0035 hrs  Beach posts on Malta are ordered to ‘stand down’.

0100 hrs  St Elmo alarm sounds for surface craft approaching Grand Harbour. As they are not within firing range, normal routine is ordered.

0358 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft which drop bombs along the coast near Bahar ic Cahaq . Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.

Enemy casualties Tenente Silvio De Giorgi, pilot of Macchi200 fighter shot down and crashed into the sea, but rescued by a RAF Launch; Sottotenente Francesco Liberti, 98a Squadriglia, 7o Gruppo, 54o Stormo, pilot of Macchi 200 fighter, shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 25 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  At 2300 an enemy ship was detected and approached to within 14 miles of Malta.

AIR HQ Arrivals 6 Swordfish. 69 Squadron Marylands special patrols.  Beaufighter searched area between Malta and Sicily for Motor Torpedo Boats but found none.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Beach posts ordered to ‘stand to’ just before midnight due to a report of enemy shipping near the Island.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Unit personnel witness a Macchi fighter crashing into an already-bombed house in Valletta. No 2 Works Coy & 173 Tunnelling Coy provide a guard over the crashed machine.  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 (1 x 15kg HE, 1 x 100kg HE) .

(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 July 25, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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11 June 1941: One Year On Malta Defenders Destroy 215th Raider

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MALTA HAS HIT BACK

In the year since Italy has entered the war, Malta defences including fighter planes and anti-aircraft guns have brought down 155 enemy planes and 60 others badly damaged.

MAIL COULD BE DELAYED IN FAVOUR OF SUPPLIES FOR MALTA

Mail for Malta from the UK may have to be delayed if the Island is to receive urgently needed stores, the War Office warned the Governor & C in C today.  Following severe delays in mail deliveries at the end of last year, a new system has been operating by which most first class postal matter and all postcards have been despatched to Malta direct by Wellington service aircraft.  However, the recent urgent need for special supplies to the Island can only be met using the same aircraft capacity.  As a result, Lt Gen Dobbie will have to decide whether such deliveries must take precedence over the mail.  However, any decision will have to take account of the fact that the total allowed on Welllingtons from Gibraltar to Malta and the Middle East is limited to 100lbs per aircraft.

HMS Unique

HMS Unique

SUBMARINES AND SWORDFISH LAUNCH ATTACKS FROM MALTA

Report to the British War Cabinet to 8th June

On 3rd June HM Submarine Unique sank a laden 1000 ton merchant vessel in Lampedusa Harbour.  Early on the morning of 28th May a party from Upright carried out a landing four miles south-est of Punto Stilo Light, Calabria, and blew up the railway line.

On the night 7-8th June, seven Swordfish of the Feet Air Arm, operating from Malta, laid mines in Tripoli Harbour; as a diversion a bombing attack was also carried out, as a result of which several large fires were started at the west end of the harbour.  On the following night, Swordfish dropped flame floats, as it was thought the harbour might be covered with inflammable oil as a result of the sinking of MV Barmania, but no fires resulted; bombs were also dropped and a merchant vessel was fired.

Successful reconnaissances over the Ionian Sea and off the Eastern Tunisian Coast were carried out by Marylands from Malta. There are indications that the German air forces in Sicily have been drastically reduced. 

The enemy carried out a series of small night raids on Malta and some damage was caused to Luqa aerodrome; Ta Qali and Hal Far were also attacked by day. On the night 5-6th June, a HE 111 was held by searchlights and probably destroyed by a Hurricane; on another night two BR 20s were shot down into the sea.  Four Hurricanes intercepted four SM 79s fifty miles south of Malta, two of which they destroyed and badly damaged the others.  Another SM 79 with an escort of ME 109s attempted a reconnaissance of the Island and was also shot down into the sea 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 JUNE TO DAWN 12 JUNE 1941

Weather  Strong winds.

0620 hrs  Air movement monitoring picked up two enemy aircraft patrolling four miles to the south of Malta. Hurricanes are scrambled and attempt to intercept; no claims.

0845-0930 hrs Air raid alert for an Italian SM 79 bomber on reconnaissance, escorted by ten ME 109 fighters approaching the Island from the north, then turning to cross the coast over Kalafrana towards Hal Far. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage heavily, breaking up the formation.  The ME 109s sheer off northwards and take no further part in combat.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the SM 79 bomber to the east of Filfla.  In the engagement, one Hurricane and the SM 79 crash into the sea close to one another off Benghaisa.  An extensive search recovers only one body, that of the Italian airman.  Pilot F/Lt Burnett of 46 Squadron is missing.

1407-1420 hrs; 1436-1453 hrs; 1540-1612 hrs; 1623-1640 hrs  Air raid alerts triggered by a total of 22 enemy aircraft in five formations patrolling 30 miles north of the Islands. Hurricanes are scrambled on each occasion and the raiders turn back before engaging or reaching the Island.

0200-0230 hrs  Air raid alert for three unidentified enemy aircraft which approach from the north east to Zonqor Point. Two raiders cross the coast.  20 bombs are dropped off St Thomas’ Bay, in the sea two miles east of Kalafrana and also to the north west of Anchor Bay.  Nine red Very lights are seen fired from the sea east of Delimara Point.

0319-0338 hrs  Air raid alert for a single unidentified enemy aircraft which approaches from the north east and crosses the coast over St Paul’s Bay, dropping bombs between Ta Qali and Mosta, as well as eight east of Valletta.

0352-0410 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but turns back before reaching the coast.

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant Norman Whitmore Burnett, pilot, Royal Air Force, 46 Squadron; Squadron Leader Michael L Watson, Royal Air Force, 82 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 11 JUNE 1941

AIR HQ  General Haining and party passed through Malta. Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Beaufighter, 1 Sunderland, 1 Cunliffe Owen Flying Wing.  69 Squadron  4 Marylands on reconnaissance.  1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance of Gerbini aerodrome, revealing 12 ME 109s and 3 SM 79s; also Catania aerodrome, identifying 20 twin-engined aircraft and 10 Italian fighters. 82 Squadron 2 Blenheims attack convoy; 1 shot down.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A demonstration was given on the use of Italian hand grenades.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  A practical demonstration at Ghain Tuffieha of Italian grenades revealed them to be a poor weapon.   

 

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Posted by on June 11, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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