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14 January 1941: Artillery and Ambulance Troops Arrive Malta

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VICE ADMIRAL ARRIVES WITH TROOPS

HMS Orion enters Grand Harbour

HMS Orion enters Grand Harbour

Vice Admiral, Light Forces, Mediterranean, Sir H D Pridham-Wippell KCB CVO, arrived in Malta today with the light cruisers HMS Orion and HMAS Perth carrying military personnel.  The two light cruisers were part of ME6, a convoy of Operation Excess, from which they detached on Saturday to head for Malta. En route Orion was called into action following the bombing of HMS Southampton and was one of two cruisers ordered to sink the abandoned vessel with torpedoes.

On arrival at Malta, Orion and Perth disembarked reinforcements for the Island’s garrison, including 190 Heavy Ack Ack Battery Royal Artillery (RA) officers 3, other ranks 129; 484 Searchlight Battery RA officers 1, other ranks 43; RAOC officers 9; 161 Field Ambulance RAMC officers 9, other ranks 154; RASC officers 3 other ranks 37.

After a rapid unloading, Orion sailed at dusk with light cruiser Bonaventure and destroyer Jaguar sailed to rejoin the Mediterranean Fleet.  HMAS Perth remained in dock for repairs to her boilers.  After dark, Rover arrived from patrol with a defective battery.

VITAL SEARCHLIGHTS STILL AWAITED

From: Governor & Commander in Chief   To:  War Office

Your recent telegram confirms approval of third searchlights at Rocco and Sliema. No further information has been received.  The provision of these lights is still necessary.  Please say when they may be expected.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 JANUARY TO DAWN 15 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Thick cloud at 2500 feet.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Sergeant Geoffrey Charles Hall, Pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 148 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 14 JANUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Orion and Perth arrived with military personnel ex convoy Excess. Orion, Bonaventure and Jaguar sailed at dusk to join the Mediterranean Fleet, leaving Perth to repair her boilers.  After dark, HMS Submarine Rover arrived from patrol with a defective battery. 

AIR HQ  0620-1503 hrs Sunderland patrolled western Ionian Sea. 1609-1936 hrs Sunderland effected anti-convoy patrol between Malta and Tunis sighted Italian merchant vessels in French territorial waters.  They fired ineffectively at the Sunderland which was recalled due to a rising swell in Malta. 0651-1150 hrs Maryland photo-reconnaissance Palermo Harbour and aerodrome and Catania aerodrome; latter prevented by bad weather.  Intense Ack Ack fire from Palermo port – Maryland holded in tail plane by near burst.  At Palermo aerodrome one large camouflaged aircraft, three SM79s, 15 medium bombers (single-engined), 17 CR 42s, three Macchi fighters. 0745-1055 hrs Maryland reconnaissance Naples harbour and to take photographs as per secret telegram: bad weather prevented mission completion.  

KALAFRANA One Sunderland left for Middle East with passengers and mail.

LUQA 69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland reconnaissance Palermo and Catania – weather bad; 1 Maryland special reconnaissance Naples unsuccessful.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Four passed Classification of Signallers course.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS No 2 Works Company began work at Znuber on three gun positions including a building 1/2 mile off the road.

 

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Posted by on January 14, 2021 in 1941, January 1941

 

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13 January 1941: Malta Needs More Anti-Aircraft Gunners

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Ack Ack gunners

Ack Ack gunners under strain

CONTINUOUS MANNING IS PROVING A STRAIN

From: Governor & Commander in Chief                     To:  War Office

Prolonged continuous manning with small artillery establishments and deficiencies is proving a very severe strain. 13 MCD Regiment and 4th Heavy Ack Ack Regiment are both 25 per cent below strength and efficiency is impaired.  I must press for reinforcements in the following priority:  first, 259 Ack Ack 100 Coast Defence 50 field; second, 250 Ack Ack 50 coast defence, 50 field. Numbers include Ack Ack specialists already asked for.  We can accept the remainder with any degree of training.

EXTRA ARTIFICERS REQUIRED

From: Governor & Commander in Chief                                    To: War Office

Present total strength in Malta of artificers and fitters in Malta 79 and of electricians and electrical fitters 15. Artillery are therefore short of 25 artificers and fitters, and ten electricians and electrical fitters.  I do not consider any artificers Royal Artillery can be spared for other duties until these deficiencies are made up with fully qualified tradesmen. 

FIND RESOURCES LOCALLY, SAYS WAR OFFICE

From: War Office                                                                      To: Governor & Commander in Chief

Demands for arms and equipment for police, local forces and other civil authorities should be met as far as possible form local military reserves and included in future demands by you. Any outstanding indents made by police, local forces, etc on Crown Agents for the Colonies should be considered cancelled except those for items which are not standard Army equipment or clothing.  Demands for such items will continue to be placed at present.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 JANUARY TO DAWN 14 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Clear.

0932-1002 hrs  Air raid alert for six JU88 aircraft which approach from the north, circle to the east and carry out reconnaissance over Grand Harbour.  Six Hurricanes, three Fulmars, three Swordfish and one Glen Martin Maryland are airborne; no claims. 

1120-1130 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft flying very high across the Island from the south west to the north. Six Hurricanes and three Fulmars are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns open fire; no claims.

Military casualties  Sergeant James Reardon, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 148 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 13 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ 0629-1224 hrs Maryland mission to reconnoitre Naples with instructions to execute if possible additional recce requested in secret signal. Reaching Gulf of Salerno observed heavy cloud which rendered special objective impossible.  Enemy fleet sighted over Naples and on receiving signal to the effect another Maryland was despatched. 1315-1512 hrs Maryland reconnaissance to discover enemy and return immediately after sending sighting report: nil report despite excellent visibility. 1040-1338 hrs Maryland reconnaissance Catania to examine damage by Wellington operations; cloud prevented recce. 0535-1510 hrs Sunderland patrol western Ionian Sea.    

LUQA 69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland reconnaissance Naples and special mission (unsuccessful); 1 Maryland reconnaissance unsuccessful attempt to locate convoy; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Catania unsuccessful due to clouds.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  B Company post at Dingli taken over by 2nd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment.   

 

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Posted by on January 13, 2021 in 1941, January 1941

 

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12 January 1941: Illustrious Attack Marks Dramatic Development of War

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MEMORIAL AND THANKSGIVING SERVICE PLANNED FOR ILLUSTRIOUS

By Rev Reginald Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral:

“A fortnight ago Goering or Goebbels announced a dramatic development of the war in the Mediterranean. This has happened. A Gibraltar Convoy passed from East to West and that part destined for Malta, very precious ammunition, and among other things seed potatoes for us, arrived [today]. The rest passed onto Greece. The whole Mediterranean Fleet seems to have been out from Gibraltar to Alexandria spread over a vast front. The Convoy got through safely. But times have changed.

HMS Southampton under attack

HMS Southampton under attack

Germany has at last decided to come to the help of Italy, which is said to be full of German troops and aeroplanes. The escort was fiercely attacked on Friday 10th as it passed Pantelleria by German dive-bombers. The Aircraft carrier Illustrious was hit 6 times, and her after deck was a mass of flame. But the fire was put out and the ship reached Malta under her own steam… The Southampton was also hit and set on fire. Blazing from stem to stern she had to be sunk by one of our own ships. Gallant hit a mine and the whole of her bows were neatly cut off at the bridge. She was towed to Malta stern-foremost, she had about 70 killed… The Ark Royal was also engaged, but we think arrived unhurt at Gib.

The Chaplain and First Lieutenant of HMS Illustrious who came to arrange a Memorial and Thanksgiving Service told me that the attacks were magnificent; superb low-diving and marvellously accurate bombing. But the planes eventually left her, and she came to Malta under her own steam, arriving [on Friday] night.” (1)

431 FLIGHT TO BECOME 69 SQUADRON

Malta’s successful RAF reconnaissance operation, 431 Flight, has been strengthened and renamed 69 Squadron. Formed last August and equipped with the American Maryland Maryland aircraft, 431 carries out patrols of the Central Mediterranean on the hunt for potential enemy shipping targets.  Their greatest success to date is the photographic reconnaissance of Taranto Harbour prior to the Fleet Air Arm attack on 10 November last.  The flight is to be expanded along with its designation as a full Squadron. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 JANUARY TO DAWN 13 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Clear

0826-0840 hrs  Air raid alert for six JU88 aircraft reported which fly over Grand Harbour from the north east, apparently on reconnaissance, then turn south over Luqa airfield before departing.  Four Hurricanes are scrambled. Three Fulmars are also airborne at the time and are engaged by anti-aircraft fire, whereupon they fire the recognition signal.  Fortunately there are no hits before the friendly aircraft are identified and they and land at Hal Far without damage .

0140-0150 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Joseph Arthur Pritchard, HMS Gallant; Sergeant G C Hall, Royal Air Force, 148 Squadron; Flying Officer G K Noble, Royal Air Force, 148 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 12 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ 0557-1532 hrs Sunderland on patrol western Ionian Sea for enemy shipping movements. 0720-1230 hrs Maryland special photo-reconnaissance as ordered but mission not fulfilled due to bad weather in target area; further attempt will be made. 0937-1644 hrs Maryland heading for reconnaissance Taranto when 40 miles north east of Malta was attacked by Macchi 200; intercommunication gear unserviceable so decided to abandon mission. 1045-1325 hrs Maryland recce Augusta and Catania; aerodrome photographed – 16 fighters and 18 bombers seen dispersed, probably more. 2100-0700 hrs Sunderland effected anti-convoy patrol between Malta and Tunisia; nil report.  2100-0050 hrs Sunderland special mission successfully accomplished.

ROYAL NAVY  Triumph and Upholder arrived to join First Submarine Flotilla. 

LUQA 69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland special reconnaissance unsuccessful owing to bad weather.  1 Maryland reconnaissance Taranto prevented by Macchi 200; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Augusta and Catania.  148 Squadron: 10 Wellingtons bombing raid on Catania – one aircraft force-landed, crew saved; another was shot down – crew missing.  Two Wellingtons conducted two trips each.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  No1 Works Company began work on accommodation and magazines at Birzebuggia.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  One Section of Bren Carriers stationed at Ta Qali.

(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 January 12, 2021 in 1941, January 1941

 

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11 January 1941: Maltese Help Stricken Illustrious

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HMS Southampton sunk in dive-bombing attack

HMS Southampton sunk in enemy raid

CROWDS RUSH TO AID OF CARRIER

The moment Illustrious berthed last night, hordes of people rushed to her side: firemen with hoses to put out the still burning fires, doctors and ambulance men to attend to the wounded, stretcher bearers to carry them, seamen from other ships,, surveyors to see to the first needs of an impossible task of making the ship seaworthy, and others who in one way or another had a job to do. All of them worked their way in a forest of twisted, torn and blackened steel.  At first light this morning the Maltese dockyard workers took over.  Their specific orders were not to deal with the smashed deck and twisted alleyways, or anything else above the waterline, but to attend only to the bare essentials that would make it possible for the ship to go to sea and quickly.  Divers went down to examine the bottom, the fitters invaded the engine room, and the welders began to weld holes…  The dockyard workers worked like ants until late and only left when others came to take their place. (1)

OPERATION EXCESS MAIN FLEET SUFFERS FURTHER ATTACK

HMS Gallant damaged by a mine

HMS Gallant damaged by a mine

The Operation Excess convoy today endured further determined attacks from Luftwaffe aircraft.  With the departure of HMS Illustrious and its Fulmar squadron, the remainder of the convoy was left without defensive air cover.  12 JU 87 Stukas launched a further dive bombing attack on the convoy’s cruiser force. HMS Gloucester was hit by a bomb which failed to explode but Southampton suffered three major hits which started large fires. The crew fought in vain to control the blazes but late this evening the captain issued the order to abandon ship. Southampton was then sunk by torpedoes from Gloucester and Orion.  Casualties from Southampton totalled 80 dead and 87 wounded; Gloucester lost nine dead and 14 wounded.

CASUALTY LIST GLOUCESTER

CASUALTY LIST SOUTHAMPTON

As the convoy and escort passed through to Malta, the destroyer Gallant was mined, lost her bows, and had to be towed in to harbour with Bonaventure, Griffin and Mohawk.  Disembarked Bonaventure: 404 Searchlight Battery Royal Artillery officers 1, other ranks 57.

CASUALTY LIST GALLANT

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 JANUARY TO DAWN 12 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Wind slight; high cloud.

0745-0848 hrs Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft reported approaching the Island. One SM 79 flies over the Island at 33000 feet on reconnaissance.  One Maryland is airborne with the task of shadowing any identified German aircraft, especially dive bombers, in order to track them back to their base.  Six Hurricanes are scrambled; one sees the raiders but they are too far away to intercept.  One Hurricane crashes in flames at Ta Qali, killing the pilot; the cause is unknown.

0837 hrs  A defence post of 2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment reports seeing a cruiser heading towards the Island with a damaged destroyer in tow.  

0838 hrs  Southern Infantry Brigade warns 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment to expect 90 prisoners of war shortly, for which they are to provide a guard.  Only three prisoners were disembarked.

0933-0942 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Leading Aircraftsman Leonard Amos Lewis, Royal Air Force, 819 Squadron; Sergeant William John Timms, Pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Flight Sergeant Rene Duvauchelle, pilot Free French; Sergeant Jacques Mehouas, wireless operator/observer Free French, 230 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 11 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ  0445-1457 hrs Sunderland sweep ahead of eastbound convoy. 0530-1515 hrs Sunderland patrol western Ionian Sea.  0600 hrs  Maryland despatched to reconnoitre Taranto for shipping and Catania and Comiso aerodromes.  Pilot signalled at 0900 hrs information of ships at Brindisi, though not instructed to recce there.  The aircraft has so far failed to return.   

ROYAL NAVY  Bonaventure and Griffin arrived escorting Mohawk towing Gallant, the bows of the latter having been blown off.  Griffin sailed pm, leaving Bonaventure and Jaguar.  The last two were to have returned to the westward but were retained at Malta pending developments. 

LUQA  431 Flight: 1 Maryland reconnaissance Taranto – aircraft brought down by fighters, possibly near Catania, all crew missing.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  24 Fortress Company began building a light machine gun post at Lintorn Barracks. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 (Ack Ack shell case).

(1) The Battle of Malta, Joseph Attard, Hamlyn Paperbacks 1980

 

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

 

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10 January 1941: Luftwaffe Swoops on Convoy – Illustrious an Inferno

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“ONE OF THE SEVEREST POUNDINGS EVER DELIVERED AGAINST A SINGLE SHIP” (1)

Fulmars on deck 2The convoy of four merchant ships plus escort which has been heading for Malta through the western Mediterranean suffered a series of heavy air attacks today. The supply convoy and escort were within 100 miles of Malta just after 11 this morning when a series of single Italian aircraft attempted to approach the ships.  At first they were driven off by five Fulmars from HMS Illustrious.  Then as the Fulmars returned to the deck to refuel, two Italian torpedo bombers swooped low over the Carrier, forcing her to make an emergency turn but causing no damage. 

At 1230 hrs, just as the Fulmars were declared ready, the Carrier’s radar detected a large group of enemy aircraft approaching from the north. In the time it took for the Fulmars to take off, the raiders reached her.  43 JU 87 dive bombers and 18 HE 111 bombers in four formations, escorted by ten Messerschmitt fighters launched a determined and highly skilled attack on the convoy. 

In a series of strikes by 30 Stuka dive bombers, six direct hits from 500kg armour-piercing bombs and three near misses disabled Illustrious.  The first bomb struck the Carrier at 1238 hrs, passing through the ship’s side before exploding in the water, peppering the hull with shrapnel.  Seconds later another bomb penetrated the flight deck and exploded in the paint store.  Then a 250kg anti-personnel bomb burst on the starboard pom-pom gun, killing its crew and four others from a nearby gun. 

One hit and one near miss on Illustrious (c) IWM A4161

One hit and one near miss on Illustrious (c) IWM A4161

At 1240 hrs a 500kg bomb struck a lift midway between the hangar and the flight deck, wiping out a Fulmar and its pilot, destroying gun turrets and setting fire to nine Swordfish and four other Fulmars. Fire crews leapt into action and managed to bring the blaze under control.  Meanwhile at 1242 hrs a 500kg bomb struck the same area, skidded into the hangar and exploded at the very heart of Illustrious, setting off ammunition stores and fuel tanks.  Ten seconds later another 500kg bomb burst open the Carrier’s bow and the fires became an inferno.

“I came off watch from the boiler-room at noon…within minutes, we were hit in the after-lift well.  Shortly after, a 500kg bomb pierced the 4″ armoured flight deck, through the hangar-deck and partially into the wardroom flat and ammunition conveyor, approximately 6 feet from where we were assembled.  I was fortunate to be blown through the bulkhead door, landing about 30 feet away…”  Ronald Lucking, Stoker, HMS Illustrious (2)

As the fourth and final enemy formation approached Illustrious, the Fulmars went on the attack, flying straight for the Stukas as they dived, in a desperate attempt to turn them away.  Five JU 87s were shot down in the counter attack and four others were unable to reach target.  The tenth got through and dropped its 500kg bomb on the centre of the flight deck which collapsed.  The bomb ripped through the hangar and exploded on the deck below.  100 men were trapped by fallen debris.  Within seven minutes of the start of the attack, Illustrious was almost sinking.

Admiral Cunningham later wrote: “There was no doubt we were watching complete experts. We could not but admire the skill and precision of it all. The attacks were pressed home to point-blank range, and as they pulled out of their dives, some of them were seen to fly along the flight deck of Illustrious below the level of her funnel.” Remarkably, the Carrier’s engines were barely damaged. Her Commanding Officer, Captain Denis Boyd, decided to head for Malta.  Within half an hour of the attack, with fires still raging throughout the ship and steering only through engine power, Illustrious was underway, screened by destroyers Hasty and Jaguar heading for Grand Harbour 85 miles away at a steady 18-21 knots.  Working in infernal conditions, her boiler-room crew managed to keep the ship stoked, while fire parties toiled for hours trying to keep the fires under control.

Another near miss (c) IWM A4162

Another near miss (c) IWM A4162

By 1600 hrs Illustrious was within 40 miles of Malta when the Luftwaffe struck again.  15 Stukas and five Messerchmitts dived on the vulnerable Carrier in three waves, only to be met again by determined Fulmar pilots, who despite being outnumbered four to one managed to shoot five Stukas down into the sea.  Only one dive-bomber got through, but he struck with a 500kg bomb which fell near the Carrier’s stern, where a temporary sick bay had been set up.  Between 20 and 30 of the ship’s company died instantly and fires were re-ignited.

Despite heroic efforts to control the blaze, by late afternoon the fires aft of the ship were dangerously out of control. Then the sheer weight of water poured onto the flames caused the ship to list heavily.  As the sun set, Illustrious was within 15 miles of Malta.  A radio message came through from Malta: enemy torpedo planes had been spotted heading for the Carrier.  Six Italian aircraft reached her five miles off the Island but were driven off by heavy anti-aircraft fire from the Carrier and her destroyer escort.  Finally, Illustrious limped into Grand Harbour, mooring at Parlatorio Wharf at 1015 hrs to the sound of cheers and rousing songs from the dockyard.  It took another five hours for her fires to be finally extinguished.  She had lost 126 dead and 91 wounded. (3)

HMS ILLUSTRIOUS CASUALTY LIST

CONVOY MW 5½ ARRIVES SAFELY

The supply convoy which left Alexandria three days ago arrived safely in Grand Harbour this morning after an uneventful passage through the eastern Mediterranean. The fast transport ship Breconshire and freighter Clan Macaulay docked at 0800hrs, having been escorted on their passage by anti-aircraft cruiser Calcutta and two destroyers, Defender and Diamond.

Once the supply ships had docked, Convoy ME 5½ made up of two empty freighters, Lanarkshire and Waiwera were escorted out of Malta by Calcutta and Diamond to join Operation Excess for onward passage to Alexandria.  A third convoy ME 6 comprising freighters Devis, Hoegh Hood, Rodi, Trocas and Volo, and the tankers Plumleaf and Pontfield also sailed from Malta today, escorted by three corvettes.

Late this evening the Malta freighter Essex arrived escorted by the destroyer Hero.  The freighter’s cargo included 4000 tons of ammunition, 12 cased Hurricane fighters and 3000 tons of seed potatoes for the island.  Also disembarked: 190 Heavy Ack Ack Battery RA officers 53, other ranks 3; Special Service Battalion officers 4, other ranks 59; RAOC officers 3 other ranks 75; 161 Field Ambulance RAMC officers 2 other ranks 19.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 JANUARY TO DAWN 11 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Cold.

0845-0855 hrs  Air raid alert for one Italian Breda 20 aircraft which approaches from the north, circles to the west, then flies over Valletta at 25000 feet, probably on reconnaissance. Six Hurricanes are scrambled; no raid materialises.

1145-1210 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of enemy aircraft which approaches the Island from the north east but withdrew without making an attack. Six Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.  As the Hurricanes head back to base some guns on the ground open fire before the aircraft are identified; no damage is done.    

1438-1445 hrs  Air raid alert for an approaching formation of six JU 87 dive bombers with fighter escort.   Six Hurricanes are scrambled; one engages the enemy but no result is observed.  The raiders turn north without making an attack.

1620 hrs  Heavy guns are heard firing out to sea to the west of the Island. One aircraft carrier and destroyers are engaging enemy aircraft to the south west.

1815-1825 hrs  Air raid alert for an approaching enemy formation spotted 17 miles west of Malta. One Hurricane is airborne and machine guns open fire from Zonqor Point.  Flashes are reported in the direction of Marsascala bay; four vessels are observed three miles to the east.

1900-1020 hrs  Air raid alert. Three Swordfish land at Hal Far.  No enemy aircraft are seen near the Island.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 10 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ  0745-1200 hrs Glen Martin photoreconnaissance Palermo prior to evening attack by 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm. On return journey sighted two JU 87s east of Pantelleria. 0835-1325 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Naples and Messina. Considerable interference by enemy fighters; chased by Macchi fighter over Naples and took evasive action. 0845-1350 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Taranto and Syracuse.  0550-1320 hrs  Sunderland recce western part of Ionian patrol.

ROYAL NAVY  The fleet was attacked by German dive-bombers and Illustrious suffered damage. Illustrious arrived at Malta after dark with the steering gear out of action, and was towed into berth at Parlatorio Wharf. HT Essex and convoy MW 5½ (comprising HT Clan Macaulay and HMS Breconshire) arrived safely.  Operations overnight by Swordfish of 830 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm against Palermo.

LUQA  431 Flight: 1 Maryland reconnaissance Palermo; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Naples and Messina encountered enemy fighters; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Taranto and Syracuse. 148 Squadron: 7 Wellingtons bombing raid on Messina.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS No1 Works Coy completed additional accommodation for 1st Bn Dorset Regt at Hompesch. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 (Ack Ack shell case).

(1) Massey Anderson, Reuter’s Correspondent aboard Illustrious, from Malta Diary of a War, Michael Galea, PEG Ltd, 1992

(2) Malta: Blitzed but not Beaten, Philip Vella, Progress Press 1985

(3) Red Duster, White Ensign, Ian Cameron, First Future Publications 1975

 

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

 

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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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8 January 1941: Malta Strengthens Anti-Aircraft Defences

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ACK ACK AND SEARCHLIGHT PERSONNEL DISEMBARK

HMS Gloucester enters Malta (1)

HMS Gloucester enters Malta (1)

Cruisers HMS Gloucester and Southampton, entered Grand Harbour today carrying reinforcements for Malta. The cruisers embarked from Alexandria on Monday in the company of two destroyers.  They bring much-needed additions to the Island’s anti-aircraft defences, including Royal Artillery and Searchlight personnel. The ships were quickly unloaded and sailed immediately to rejoin the Mediterranean Fleet.

WAR OFFICE TAKES OVER SUPPLY OF MALTA CIVILIANS

The War Office has decided to assume responsibility for the entire supply of key perishable foods for Malta, under new measures agreed today. The Island’s civilian supplies have until now been organised by the Colonial Office.  From today, all orders for beef, mutton, pork, butter, margarine and grated cheese will be placed with Middle East war command, copy to the War Office.  Civilian and military supply needs will be shown separately in cabled orders.

However, the Middle East has no cold storage space available for perishable foodstuffs. Shipments from Australia will be timed to enable immediate onward shipment from Port Said to Malta. To facilitate this, the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief has been asked to submit to the War Office, copy to the Middle East, estimated civilian requirements for the next six months for each of the named food items.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 JANUARY TO DAWN 9 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Cloudy.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 8 JANUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Gloucester and Southampton arrived with military draft from the Middle East, disembarked personnel and sailed to join Senior Officer Force H for operation MC4.  Janus remained for quick docking.  

AIR HQ 0628-1050 hrs Maryland reconnaissance Cagliari: two destroyers, seven merchant vessels 1500-4000 tons, eight unidentified seaplanes; Trapani four destroyers, seven merchant vessels 2000 tons. Slight heavy and medium Ack Ack very inaccurate; visibility poor. 0616-1117 hrs Maryland reconnaissance Naples: one Littorio battleship, two Cavour battleships, two auxiliaries and large number of merchant vessels.  Mission disrupted by two Macchi 200 fighters which chased at 12000 feet but failed to intercept.  Messina: three cruisers, five destroyers, one merchant vessel 5000 tons heading north. 0647-1142 hrs Maryland reconnaissance Taranto for shipping: outer harbour one damaged Cavour battleship, nine merchant vessels 1500-4000 tons; inner harbour four cruisers, two destroyers, two torpedo boats, plus entering harbour two 3000 ton merchant vessels.  One Macchi 200 fighter approached at 5000 feet and followed the Maryland to the Gulf of Taranto; no combat.  As a result of reconnaissance ten Wellington bombers despatched to attack Naples tonight.  228 Squadron left for reconnaissance western Ionian Sea returned 0616 hrs with engine trouble.  

LUQA 431 Flight: 1 Maryland reconnaissance Cagliari and Trapani; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Taranto; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Messina and Naples chased out by Macchi 200s.  148 Squadron 10 Wellingtons bombing raid on Naples.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Northern Infantry Brigade exercise No 11: counter attack in the Wardia Sector by 4th Bn The buffs, supported by three I tanks.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT   Brigade Commander toured Rinella Sector.

 

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

 

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7 January 1941: Convoy Operation Second Wave Embarks

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ILLUSTRIOUS AND CONVOY MW 5½ HEADING FOR MALTA

Breconshire

Breconshire

The main Mediterranean Fleet sailed from Alexandria before dawn today. The aircraft carrier Illustrious plus two battleships and seven destroyers are heading for Souda Bay to refuel before heading for a rendezvous with eastern convoys heading for Malta.

This afternoon a second convoy consisting of the fast transport ship Breconshire and the freighter Clan Macauley sailed from Alexandria with supplies for Malta, escorted by the anti-aircraft cruiser Calcutta and destroyers Defender and Diamond.

DECOY MAIL TO MISLEAD ENEMY

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has suggested a way to mislead enemy intelligence by setting up correspondence to fictitious military units on the Island. The Governor has been informed that on several occasions telegrams addressed to units by name in Malta have been sent in clear by wireless telegraph, including one addressed to: “1 Independent Tank Unit”. 

As the enemy may have intercepted these and learned of the arrival of new units, he has suggested to the War Office that a serious of bogus telegrams addressed to units not in Malta be despatched periodically in order to mislead them and possibly convey the impression that the garrison is larger than it actually is.

TROOPS NEED TO KNOW MAIL ARRIVES SAFELY IN UK

Troops in Malta have expressed concern through their commanding officers about the safe transmission of their letters home. Currently bags of mail despatched from Malta by the Army authorities are numbered and addressed to the General Post Office, London.  However, no confirmation of receipt arrives in Malta, leaving troops uncertain as to its safe arrival.  The War Office has been asked to arrange for notification of the receipt of mail to be sent by cable from the receiving postal authority. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 JANUARY TO DAWN 8 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Cold and fine.

1455-1500 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching the Island. Delimara Signal Station reports aircraft approaching at 8 miles east but they turn away before crossing the coast.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 7 JANUARY 1941

LUQA 431 Flight: 2 Marylands reconnaissance Catania and Tripoli prevented by bad weather.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  A Bren Carrier course started at Ghain Tuffieha camp.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A and D Companies Lyon light training.

 

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

 

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6 January 1941: New Convoy Bringing Reinforcements for Malta

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OPERATION ‘EXCESS’ GETS UNDERWAY WITH STEALTH MANOEUVRE

HMS Bonaventure

HMS Bonaventure

Allied Naval Commanders are adopting new tactics to bring the latest convoy safely through the western Mediterranean to Malta. In a carefully planned move, four merchant ships escorted by cruiser Bonaventure and four destroyers left Gibraltar before dark this evening and sailed westward from Gibraltar, clearly heading towards the Atlantic.

Then under cover of darkness the four merchantmen reversed course and passed back through the Straits of Gibraltar, where Force H, including battlecruiser Renown, battleship Malaya, carrier Ark Royal, cruiser Sheffield and eight destroyers lay ready to escort them towards Malta.

In a companion move, cruisers Gloucester and Southampton loaded with Army and RAF personnel for Malta sailed from Alexandria today with destroyers Ilex and Janus.  Personnel embarked include: 12 Ack Ack Defence HQ officers 2, other ranks 7; 12 Ack Ack gun operation room officers 7, other ranks 12; 484 Searchlight Battery Royal Artillery officer 9, other ranks 322; RAPC officers 3; RAMC officer 1; Ad Corps officers 2, other ranks 1. 

ROME RADIO FALSE CLAIMS

Rome radio today reported that Malta was attacked last night. Yet no enemy aircraft have approached the Island during the past 24 hours. 

ALLIES DROP PROPOGANDA LEAFLET

Allied aircraft today dropped leaflets onto areas where Italian soldiers are stationed giving details of recent RAF operations in Libya, with the intention of terrorising them into ceasing to fight. Allied propaganda leaflets also emphasise the ideological purpose of British soldiers who are guided by the love of freedom and the right of the oppressed peoples.

MALTA SIGNAL COMPANY OPERATIONAL

The Governor and Commander in Chief today reported that the officer establishment of the Malta Signal Company is now up to basic strength. Communications are now operational with 50 lines of multi-phone for Ack Ack searchlights and gunlayer sets.  However, the unit requires three more NCOs and two other ranks to reach full potential.  He has asked the War Office for clearance to enlist British ex-servicemen or Maltese to fill the posts.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 JANUARY TO DAWN 7 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Rain and strong winds.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 6 JANUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Unique arrived to join First Submarine Flotilla.

AIR HQ 0615-1055 hrs Glenn Martin photo reconnaissance for enemy shipping. Naples from 6000 ft: two battleships, one cruiser in dry dock; three destroyers, two merchant vessels 12000 tons, 18 merchant vessels to 8000 tons, 20 merchant vessels 2-4500 tons.  Intense but inaccurate Ack Ack; no aircraft.  Palermo: two 6in cruisers, two destroyers, four merchant vessels 5000 tons, five of 2000 tons.  Light inaccurate Ack ack; no aircraft. 0614-1059 hrs Glenn Martin photo reconnaissance Tripoli harbour: five possibly six destroyers, four of which lying alongside large merchant vessels north and centre of harbour; two auxiliaries, four merchant vessels 10000 tons, four of 6000 tons, 14 small merchant vessels, 20 barges, three seaplanes.  Intense, fairly accurate Ack Ack.  9000 pamphlets of Churchill’s speech dropped over Tripoli.  Pantelleria not photographed owing to heavy low cloud over the Island.  Operations by Wellingtons: 148 Squadron against Tripoli.  

LUQA 431 Flight: 1 Maryland reconnaissance Palermo and Naples; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli – pamphlets dropped. 148 Squadron: 6 Wellingtons bombing raid on Tripoli.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  A raft, possibly from Hyperion, was found near a coastal defence post.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  General Donovan, US Army, toured posts. Billets taken over at Rinella for Nos 16 and 18 Platoons. 

 

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

 

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5 January 1941: Medals for Malta Bomb Disposal

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Captain R L Jephson Jones & Lt W M Eastman

Captain R L Jephson Jones & Lt W M Eastman

GEORGE CROSS PRESS ANNOUNCEMENT MUST NOT MENTION TIME BOMBS

Malta’s first two bomb disposal officers have both been awarded the George Cross. The London Gazette made the official announcement of the awards to Captain R L Jephson Jones and Lieutenant W M Eastman, RAOC, which were made in recognition of their ‘most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out very hazardous work’.  According to the recommendation, the two officers:  “worked under dangerous and trying conditions and performed acts of considerable gallantry in dealing with large numbers of various unexploded bombs, some of which were in a highly dangerous state and of the German delay type.

On one occasion, these officers showed particular gallantry in dealing with an 1100lb (500kg) German bomb. Two attempts were made to explode this bomb but it failed to detonate; at the third attempt when it was in a most dangerous state, they succeeded in detonating it.  On a second occasion, these officers, assisted by a Master Rigger of H M Dockyard, succeeded in removing a 400lb high explosive Italian unexploded bomb which had been under water for a week in a 20ft deep well inside a house…”

Captain Jephson Jones and Lt Eastman with their Royal Engineers team tackled some 85 unexploded bombs and over 150 Ack Ack shells in the six months to November last year. With no formal training or specialist equipment available in Malta, they often had to improvise to get the job done. 

In a further development today, the War Office issued a caution to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief to place a press embargo on any mention of the two officers dealing with time bombs in coverage of their awards. (1)

AMMUNITION USE

The following Ack Ack ammunition was used during the period 31 December 1940 to 5 January 1941 inclusive, all services: 4.5” shells 33; 3.7” shells 194; 3” high explosive 66.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 JANUARY TO DAWN 6 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Rain and strong winds.

No air raids.

Military casualties WO2 Clarence Walter Tucker, 12 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 5 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals One Sunderland. Reconnaissance carried out of main aerodromes in Sicily. 0755-1000 hrs Glenn Martin reconnaissance Catania including harbour and Noto.  Nothing in Catania harbour.  28 aircraft believed SM 79 and nine single-engined aircraft dispersed around the aerodrome. 0610-1200 hrs Glenn Martin reconnaissance Palermo; snowstorm encountered two 6in cruisers, ten merchant vessels in harbour. 0815-1010 hrs Comiso observed from 3000 feet: 13 CR 42 fighters and three transport aircraft, probably SM 75s.  Two fighters took off but the Glenn Martin withdrew without encounter.  Gela aerodrome and landing ground: no aircraft seen.  Trapani: 10 Macchi 200s and five three-engined aircraft – Ack Ack encountered from two gun positions.  All the aerodromes appeared to be waterlogged and in several cases aircraft seemed bogged down.

0810-1210 hrs  Glenn Martin photo-reconnaissance of Tripoli harbour from 10000 feet: three seaplanes near hangars; six destroyers, one merchant vessel 10000 tons, five of 8000 tons, seven of 6000 tons and eleven smaller.  Moderate to heavy Ack Ack encountered: fairly accurate.  Reconnaissance of Pantelleria: photos not taken due to 100 per cent cloud at 2300 feet over the island. 1429 hrs Sunderland from Gibraltar landed safely with nothing to report.      

KALAFRANA One Sunderland arrived from Gibraltar with passengers including Group Captain G H Livock, DFC, AFC, new Commanding Officer for Kalafrana.

LUQA 431 Flight: 2 Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli and Pantelleria; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Catania; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Trapani, Comiso and Gela; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Palermo. 148 Squadron: 6 Wellingtons bombing raid on Tripoli.

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

 

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

 

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