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29 May 1942: Wellington Destroyed by Friendly Fire – Crewmen Killed

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ROYAL MALTA ARTILLERY RESCUE SURVIVORS

A Wellington bomber of 104 Squadron returning from a successful bombing mission over Catania crashed today near Attard, killing four of the crew and injuring the other two.  It is believed that the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire, possibly due to being wrongly identified as an attacking enemy plane.

The Wellington crashed on L’Imrihel Feature, killing three of the crew on impact.  Personnel of 6th Heavy Ack Ack, Royal Malta Artillery, managed to rescue the injured pilot, Sgt R Hills, and the second pilot, Sgt E Martin who was seriously wounded.  Before they could return for the final crew member, the aircraft’s petrol tanks exploded, killing him instantly.

MS Reichenfels

MALTA RECONNAISSANCE PILOTS SPOT CONVOY TARGET

A large convoy has been seen by aerial reconnaissance loading at Naples.  Three of these ships, the 7800 ton German ‘Reichenfels’ and two 6500 ton Lenici class ships were today photographed off Pantelleria, heading towards Tripoli under protective destroyer escort.

ITALIANS PILOT STUKAS

Four enemy aircraft which dropped bombs on Mellieha and Dingli overnight are believed to be JU 87s flown by Italian pilots.  The aircraft caused some confusion among observers who were at first unable to identify them.  They reported that the shape and markings suggested JU 87s but the aircraft were not operating in the usual agressive manner of the Stuka dive-bomber.

The pilot of a Beaufighter on patrol with Malta Night Fighter Unit later confirmed that he had engaged with JU 87s at the time of the raid, damaging one.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 MAY TO DAWN 30 MAY 1942

Weather  Wind south-easterly, moderate to fresh; haze.

0510-0605 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on shipping reconnaissance but sight nothing.

0820 hrs  Air raid alert.

0822-0926 hrs  Three Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa patrol the Island: no combat.

1202 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far and four of 249 Squadron Ta Qali to intercept incoming enemy aircraft.

1235 hrs  Air raid alerts sounds as the formation approaches the Island.  There is no engagement with Malta fighters.

1305 hrs  All clear.

1458-1622 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far to patrol for enemy fighters: no interceptions.

1638-1748 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron scrambled from Luqa to intercept enemy aircraft: no engagement.

1715-1825 hrs  Enemy fighters are reported approaching the Island. Seven Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled, climbing to intercept the hostile aircraft.  They sight two but no interceptions take place.

1750 hrs  The air raid alerts sounds as the fighters near the coast.  They carry out a fighter sweep.

1825 hrs  All clear.

2310 hrs  A Wellington bomber returning from operations crashes near Tal Hlas.

0009-0244 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne from Luqa on intercept patrol.

0025 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for a small formation of enemy bombers approaching the Island.  One JU 88 and four other unidentified bombers drop bombs near Mellieha and Dingli.  The Beaufighter engages and damages one aircraft, identified as a JU 87.

0212 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialize.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant George Davis, Royal Canadian Air Force, 104 Squadron, RAF; Sergeant Andrew McColl,  Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Sergeant Elwyn Roberts, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, Royal Air Force (VR), 104 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Kenneth Ross, Air Gunner, Royal Air Force, 104 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 29 MAY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  St Angelo and Trusty Star continued minesweeping.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Lodestar from Heliopolis; one CW 20 from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  2145 hrs  Four Albacores and two Swordfish of the NAS were airborne on strike mission.  The convoy consisting of three merchant vessels and three destroyers was located off the Tunisian coast but was covered by a thick fog patch 300 feet deep, 15 miles long and 10 miles across.  No attack was possible and all the aircraft returned with their torpedoes at 0320 hrs.

LUQA  0930-1215 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance Lampedusa, Trapani and Palermo.  1505-1707 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance of Messina Harbour and St Paul’s Bay.  2117-0310 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on armed search Gulf of Gabies.  One Wellington 104 Squadron despatched from Luqa to bomb Catania aerodrome.  Bombs landed in the target area: many fires are seen.  On returning to base the aircraft crashed near Attard, killing four of the crew and injuring the pilot and second pilot.

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

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  1230 hrs  Working parties for pen-building and crater filling at Luqa finished and returned to billets.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1000 hrs  Pte Porter is buried at Imtarfa Cemetery.

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

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 5; dealt with 5 (1 x 500kg, 3 x 250kg, 1 x 50kg).

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.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued.  1230 hrs  Working party of 50 men tin-loading at Luqa.

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Posted by on May 29, 2022 in 1942, May 1942

 

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31 December 1941: Revenge Attack on HMS Abingdon

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RAID SUMMARY DECEMBER 1941

  • Number of raid alerts 169
  • Total time under alert  191 hours 7 minutes
  • Average time length of alert 68 minutes
HMS Abingdon

HMS Abingdon

MESSERSCHMITT FIGHTERS STRAFE MINESWEEPING VESSEL

Enemy fighters attacked HMS Abingdon in broad daylight today as she was engaged in minesweeping duties close to Malta’s coastline.  The vessel was machine-gunned by two ME 109 fighters as part of a raid by 34 aircraft at lunchtime.  Seven of the ship’s crew were wounded, three of them seriously.

Abingdon turned and headed immediately for harbour but she was attacked again, this time by three ME 109s.  Anti-aircraft gunners on board managed to shoot down one of the Messerchmitts.  The attack follows a similar strike yesterday by JU 88s in which Abingdon’s Ack Ack gunners managed to damage one aircraft.  Abingdon will now be restricted to minesweeping under cover of darkness.

AIR RAIDS 31 DECEMBER 1941

0330-0558 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Two enemy aircraft patrol round the Island for over an hour.  Heavy Ack Ack fire two immediate barrages.

0845-0908 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Reconnaissance by one JU 88 escorted by four fighters.

1005-1044 hrs  Six plots of Messerschmitts 109s patrol round the island.

1245-1410 hrs  Air raid alarm: 34 enemy aircraft approach from the north and drop bombs on Ta Qali and Birkirkara.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.  Two ME109s attack HMS Abingdon which shoots down one of them.  Seven men are wounded, three seriously.

1925-0100 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Nine enemy aircraft approach singly from the north and east.  Several descend below 2,000 feet and carry out patrols round the Island – suspected to be mine-laying.  Low flying aircraft machine-gun St Thomas’ searchlight position and Zonkor Point.

2305 hrs Several enemy aircraft cross the south east coast and drop High Explosive and incendiary bombs on Kalafrana, Benghaisa, and Hal Far areas.

2345 hours onwards  A series of bombing attacks concentrated on Ta Qali and Luqa, causing only slight damage.  Searchlights are illuminated; Heavy Ack Ack fires four immediate barrages; Bofors and light machine guns engage low flying aircraft; no claims.

Military casualties  Corporal Arthur Blyth, LAC William McNicol, Royal Air Force.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 31 DECEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Hudson, two Whitley, one Wellington from Gibraltar.  Departures  Four Blenheims for 108 MU.

HAL FAR  Night 30/31st  Air raid on Hal Far by at least three JU88s.  One Swordfish badly damaged, two Swordfish and one Fulmar slightly damaged.  No damage to buildings except stone pen surrounding Swordfish.  No casualties.

LUQA  69 Squadron Photo-Reconnaissance (PR)  One Maryland PR Misurata aerodrome and town; one Maryland Sicilian aerodromes.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 14 patrol.  104 Squadron  Three Wellingtons nuisance raid Tripoli.  107 Squadron  SF 14 patrol.

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Posted by on December 31, 2021 in 1941, December 1941

 

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30 December 1941: 90 Enemy Aircraft in Single Daylight Raid

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Grand Harbour

Grand Harbour

HIGH EXPLOSIVE BOMBS STRIKE DOCKYARD, AIRFIELDS AND COASTAL DEFENCES

Over 90 enemy aircraft attack Malta just before noon today, unleashing High Explosive bombs on key strategic targets across the Island.  Anti-aircraft gunners fire off barrages and Hurricanes are scrambled to drive off the attackers, damaging five bombers.  The Dockyard, Luqa and Ta Qali airfields, and coastal defences at Delimara and St Paul’s Bay are all bombed. Reports indicate that Italian Macchi fighters were among the formations of Luftwaffe aircraft.

“Out to the strip today to see if we had any planes left. Shrapnel and rocks everywhere and a crater 24 feet deep and 100 feet across near the bomb dump. Lucky it rained last night and cooled off the bombs. “Q” has about four holes in her and needs a new tail plane which is the third out here. “H’ is burned out and “P” riddled badly. The rest holed but will be OK in a few days. Five escaped. 40 Sqn had a bad time though. Seven of their planes completely wiped out and just piles of junk. Three are serviceable for tonight’s ops. Most of their squadron is wiped out tho.

As we were returning for lunch there, Ju88 jumped out of the clouds and bombed us again wiping out another 40 Sqn plane. They were only at about 3000′ and were jumped by six Hurricanes. Later heard two shot down. Plenty of dog fighting most of the afternoon high up tho as the machine gun and cannons fire was very faint. About two pm we saw two sticks of bombs over Rabat way go off. The rest of the island must have got a bashing too. Kalafrana machine-gunned by ME 109s. About 5 pm the Grand Harbour was bombed again while we were at tea. These Jerrys must have plenty of fighter escorts. They are based at Catavia but we can’t very well bomb it as they report underground hangars.” (1)

AIR RAIDS 30 DECEMBER 1941

0032-0114 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft crosses the coast and drops bombs near Hamrun.  Heavy Ack Ack engage; no claims.

0358-0430 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approaches from the north and passes over Grand Harbour.  Heavy Ack Ack fire three immediate barrages causing the enemy aircraft to change course on each occasion.  Bombs are dropped on Corrodino area, with a direct hit on a latrine, injuring dockyard workmen who had taken shelter there instead of their designated refuge.  Bombs near San Pietru Heavy Ack Ack Bofors gun position damage a billet.  Three are killed, four injured.

0947-1053 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Reconaissance raid by four JU 88s escorted by 12 ME 109s.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged.

Macchi C200

1148-1254 hrs  Air raid alarm.  90 enemy aircraft consisting of JU 88s, ME 109s and Macchi 200s approach from the north.  Bombs are dropped on the Dockyard, Luqa and [San] Rocco area, Delimara Heavy Ack Ack gun position (causing two casualties) St Paul’s Bay and Ta Qali, which is also machine gunned.

Heavy Ack Ack, Bofors and light machine guns engage low flying aircraft, probably destroying one JU 88.  Naval Ack Ack guns from HMS Abingdon also open fire, damaging one JU 88.  Hurricanes engage the enemy, destroying two JU 88s, plus one JU 88 ‘probably destroyed’ and a fourth damaged.

1332-1343 hrs  Air raid alarm: caused by return of friendly aircraft.

1453-1516 hrs  Air raid alarm for a reconnaissance raid by one JU 88 and four fighters.  Heavy Ack Ack engage; no claims.

1640-1740 hrs  Air raid alarm: three JU 88s escorted by 21 fighters approach from the north.  Two JU 88s carry out a shallow dive attack over Luqa, dropping bombs to the east of the airfield.  The third JU 88 bombs Grand Harbour.  A stick of bombs in Dockyard Creek damages buildings near Sheer Bastion and sinks the Vittoriosa ferry pontoon. A direct hit on Benghaisa Quarry causes the RAF Oxygen Plant to explode causing several casualties, including airmen coming off duty at a Wireless Transmitting Station and personnel of Kings Own Malta Regiment .

Heavy and Light Ack Ack Bofors engage the enemy, damaging one JU 88 bomber.

1748-1752 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Caused by friendly aircraft.

1821-1840 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Three JU 88s cross the coast and dropped bombs across Marsaxlokk Bay, Kalafrana and Hal Far.  Searchlights illuminate all three enemy aircraft: Heavy Ack Ack fires one barrage.  Bofors and searchlight light machine guns engage low flying aircraft in Kalafrana area.

2045-0415 hrs  Air raid alarm.  20 enemy aircraft carry out intruder tactics and patrolling south of Island.  A continual stream of attacks hit the Hal Far area, with bombs on the aerodrome and Birzebbuga.  Searchlights make one illumination and Heavy Ack Ack fires five immediate barrages.

Military casualties  Sergeant Hugh Campbell, Gunners Rowland Boyington and Herbert Gaskin, 32nd LAA Regiment, Royal Artillery; AC 1 Joseph Pirotta, Royal Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Marsascala  Lawrence Cachia, age 24.  Sannat, Gozo  Joseph Muscat, age 35.

Enemy casualties  Oberleutnant George Lust, pilot of JU 88 bomber.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 30 DECEMBER 1941

HAL FAR  Night 29/30th  Four Albacores 828 Squadron despatched on a minelaying operation outside Zuara harbour.  Opposition four light Ack Ack guns fairly accurate.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF 6 patrol.  Photo-Reconnaissance (PR)  one Maryland PR Palermo; one Maryland PR Tripoli, Psida, Zuara.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 14 patrol – P/O Wyatt failed to return; one Blenheim attacked Tripoli-Zuara road; two Blenheims attacked Homs-Tripoli road.  104 Squadron  Four Wellingtons attacked buildings Misrata.  107 Squadron One Blenheim SF 14 patrol; two Blenheims attacked motor transport Zuara-Psida; one Blenheim attacked Tripoli-Zuara road.  40 Squadron  Three Wellingtons attacked buildings in Misrata.

TA QALI  0950-1750 hrs  Six alerts; two scrambles.  Two JU88s destroyed, one probable and one damaged.  Three damaged by anti-aircraft.  No night fighters airborne.

2nd BATTALION THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT 1640-1740 hrs  About 25 to 30 small craters 200 yards from Marnisi (E Company) caused by High Explosives.  No damage or casualties.  One heavy bomb was dropped near slipway at Marsaxlokk.  1821-1840 hrs  Bombs dropped near Tank Bridge on road to Post R29 (C Company).  More bombs dropped near L37 and RAF emergency hospital, and on R Post Road.  2045-0415 hrs  Bombs near R33 and HF7 (D Company), Windsock Area (C Company) and off pier at Kalafrana near CI (B Company).  No casualties.  Some bombs also fell near Birzebuggia Church (B Company).

(1) From “A Flyer’s Diary”, Joe White, WWII (Air Shared Magazine)

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Posted by on December 30, 2021 in 1941, December 1941

 

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28 December 1941: Airfield Ack Ack Gunners Fight Back

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Searchlights scan night skies for raiders

Searchlights scan night skies for raiders

GERMAN BOMBER SHOT DOWN OVER HAL FAR

Anti-aircraft gunners shot down an attacking Luftwaffe bomber over Hal Far aerodrome in an air raid tonight. The single JU 88 bomber flying without fighter escort was spotted approaching Malta from the north early this evening.  Sources report that the pilot flew a complete circuit of the Island,  which allowed plenty of time for searchlights to pick up and track his progress.

The aircraft was seen to turn over the south coast, and dropped bombs the new landing strip at Qrendi.  The Island’s defensive Gunners were primed and ready to fire at the first sighting.  The JU88 flew into a barrage of Heavy Ack Ack and Bofors fire and fell into a steep dive, crashing in front of hangars at the edge of Hal Far aerodrome.  Members of 2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment were manning defence posts within yards of the crash site but no injuries are reported.  There were no survivors among the JU88 pilot and crew. 

AIR RAIDS 28 DECEMBER 1941

0942-1020 hrs  Air raid alarm: 19 enemy aircraft approached the Island, only one crossing the coast.  Ack Ack engaged; no claims.

1102-1116 hrs  Air raid alarm; raid does not materialise. 

1235-1315 hrs  Air raid alarm: two enemy aircraft crossed the coast and dropped bombs on the St Angelo area.

1507-1540 hrs  Air raid alarm: one JU 88 on reconnaissance escorted by 12 fighters, crossed over Grand Harbour.  Harbour guns fired a heavy Ack Ack barrage.  One Hurricane was lost.

1806-1840 hrs  Air raid alarm: six enemy aircraft crossed the coast near St Paul’s Bay and dropped bombs at Marsa and in the Mellieha area.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged; no claims. 

1940-2057 hrs  Air raid alarm: one JU 88 approached and carried out a complete circuit of  the Island before crossing the south coast and dropping bombs on Qrendi landing strip.  The raider was illuminated by searchlights for periods of two, one ,and half a minute.  Heavy Ack Ack shrapnel and Bofors engaged; the aircraft was hit and crashed west of Hal Far.

2324 hrs  Air raid alarm: two enemy aircraft approached from the north and probably laid mines south of the Island.  One aircraft machine-gunned Lapsi searchlight position – no damage or casualties.  Bofors and light machine gun engaged.  The second aircraft dropped bombs near Hal Far.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged; no claims.

Enemy casualties   Leutnant Wilfred Babinek, pilot; Gefreiter Heinrich Schwarz, wireless operator; Gefreiter Wilhelm Gutt, air gunner.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 28 DECEMBER 1941

HAL FAR  Night 27/28th  Three Albacores 828 Squadron despatched on a minelaying operation outside Tripoli Harbour.  Opposition intense but inaccurate light Ack Ack.  Rain over target area.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF 15 patrol.  Photo-Reconnaissance (PR)  One Maryland North African aerodromes, harbours of Zuara and Tripoli; one Maryland PR North African dromes.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 1 patrol; one Blenheim SF 2B patrol; two Blenheims attacked Mellaha aerodrome.  104 Squadron  Four Wellingtons attacked Tripoli Harbour.  107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 2B patrol; two Blenheims attacked Homs Road.

TA QALI  Night 27/28th  Bombs dropped on various parts of the Island.  Night fighters airborne.  P/O Winton destroyed one enemy raider.  0942-1622 hrs  Four alerts.  Three scrambles: no interceptions, one Hurricane missing.  Sgt Owen rescued from sea, multiple gunshot wounds left arm.

HQ FIXED DEFENCES   ASV [search] set installed at Harbour Fire Command post Elmo for detecting the approach of E-boats.

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Stick of bombs on Mehrla strip and north of Mehrla Church.   One unexploded bomb at 403186.

 

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Posted by on December 28, 2021 in 1941, December 1941

 

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26 December 1941: 60 Aircraft In Daylight Raid On Luqa

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AUDACIOUS DAYLIGHT RAID DESTROYS SIX AIRCRAFT

“A red letter day for the Jerries. They bombed the drome nearly all afternoon and destroyed two Wellingtons, two Blenheims, one Hurricane, and two Marylands, which wasn’t a bad bag. “X” was loaded with a 4000 [pound] bomb when hit. It blew up and now no one knows where X is altho we did find two little pieces of the engine. The rest will probably fall at the end of the week.

Luqa airfield under attack (NWMA Malta)

Plenty of bombs screeching down and yours truly hit the ditch twice once in a great pile of nettles over beside the AOC Med[iterranean]. Three of our kites went u/s. when the 4000 [pounder] went off but ops went on just the same.

Took off for Tripoli at 8.30pm in “Q” with only skeleton crew, myself, Dick, Michie and Ray. Flew there 10/10 cloud on way out and got pretty well iced up. Weather good at target and the ship in harbour stood up well.  We carried 8/500 SAP and dropped them in two sticks from 8000′. We got one hit on a large merchantman.

Weather back at Malta very bad. Ceiling zero with rain and clouds and a very bad cross wind. WT message made us circle Gozo for 1½  hrs. Finally went in and landed with visibility about 50 ft. and bad cross wind. Time 4 hrs 25 mins. Jerry dropped a few bombs during night. Two [JU]88’s and two [ME]109 Fs shot down in day.” (1)

A NEAR MISS

“We are having our third noisy raid today, so I will add a little to this [diary]. The Germans are being beaten – at least temporarily – on every front except Sevastopol, and are taking it out of us here. We have had all-night raids…during a short but very fierce raid when we heard much machine-gunning…there was a loud crack which turned out to be a small bomb, (probably an aeroplane cannon shell I am told), in our yard. We found nothing but the nose, but there was a hole in the window 3 feet from Mrs. Clements who was making pastry.” (2)

AIR RAIDS 26 DECEMBER 1941

Weather  Cold but fair, sunny.

0832-0950 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Reconnaissance by six enemy aircraft.

1042 hrs  Air raid alarm for 20 ME 109’s escorting a few JU 88’s which approached and crossed the coast.  Hurricanes were scrambled and drove off the attack; no bombs were dropped.  One Hurricane was damaged and the pilot slightly injured.

1316-1429 hrs  Air raid alarm:  60 fighters and JU 88’s approached the Island; 30 crossed coast and attacked Luqa aerodrome, destroying six aircraft on the ground and damaging another five.  Ack ack fired, claiming one JU 88 possibly destroyed.

1601-1717 hrs  Air raid alarm: 45 fighters escorting reconnaissance aircraft crossed the coast.  One Hurricane was shot down; the pilot is safe.

1815-1934 hrs  Air raid alarm: 11 enemy aircraft approached from the south east.  One JU 88 dived over Grand Harbour and dropped bombs in French Creek area – this aircraft was illuminated for one minute, Bofors engaged it and claimed hits.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged with four immediate barrages.  Bombs were also dropped on Filfla and near Island Bay searchlight position – no damage.

2014-2125 hrs  Air raid alarm: one enemy aircraft crossed coast dropping bombs on Qrendi and incendiaries in the sea.  Ack Ack engaged; no claims.

2205-2308 hrs  Air raid alarm: one enemy aircraft crossed the coast and dropped bombs Birkirkara, Safi, Salvatur, Hamrun and in the sea.

2358-0056 hrs  Air raid alar: one enemy aircraft crossed the coast and dropped bombs west of Ta Qali and in the sea.

Military casualties   Sergeant James Billett, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 18 Squadron; Sergeant William Marshall, (RAFVR), 18 Squadron; Sergeant Oswald Summers, RAFVR, 18 Squadron; Private John Attard, Kings Own Malta Regiment; Frederick Clarke, 1st Battalion The Hampshire Regiment.

Civilian casualty  Zurrieq Francis Camilleri, age 11; three civilians wounded. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 26 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY:  Olympus sailed for Gibraltar with passengers and stores.  Convoy ME8, consisting of empty merchant vessels Ajax, Sydney Star, City of Calcutta and Clan Ferguson, sailed to Alexandria escorted by all available forces from Malta: Rear-Admiral Commanding, Seventh Cruiser Squadron, in Ajax, Dido, Lance, Lively, Ghurka, Arrow, Foxhound and Nestor sailed for Alexandria at 1830.  Four Albacores laid mines off Zuara.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Eleven Blenheims, one Wellington and one Beaufighter from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  Night 25/26th  Four Albacores 828 Squadron carried out a minelaying operation outside Tripoli Harbour.  One of the aircraft provided bombing diversion.  One minelaying aircraft encountered no opposition.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF 15 patrol; one Maryland SF 16 patrol; one Maryland special photo-reconnaissance Middle East.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 14 patrol; one Blenheim SF 2B patrol – Sgt Summers failed to return.  Two Blenheims attacked shipping at Zuara.  104 Squadron  Seven Wellingtons despatched to attack shipping in Tripoli Harbour.  107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 2B patrol; one Blenheim SF14 patrol.  40 Squadron  Eight Wellingtons despatched to attack shipping in Tripoli.

TA QALI  0949-1700 hrs  Four alerts.  No 126 Squadron Sgt W E Copp slightly injured.  S/Ldr E B Mortimer Rose injured – bullet wound in left heel.  1815-0039 hrs  Four alerts.  Bombs dropped on land and incendiaries in sea.  Single Hurricanes airborne – no interceptions.  Anti-aircraft engaged. 

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  Mid-day attack by JU88s which dropped bombs on Luqa: two slight casualties among “A” Company 2nd Royal West Kent Regiment.  Also damage to transport vehicles and a/g stores of this Company.

2nd BATTALION THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT   1815 hrs  One JU88 engaged by small arms fire from Battalion HQ; no hits claimed.  Bombs dropped in Battalion sector.

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Stick of bombs near RAF billet on Qrendi strip.  Another stick of 6 bombs at Ghar Lapsi.  One bomb near “Mary House” MR 401179 Wied Maghtab.  Bomb near D Coy HQ on Qrendi strip.

(1) A Flyer’s Diary by Jim White (Air Shared Magazine, see http://pawsey.net/whiteproject/joewhitediary-part2.htm

(2) Diary of Rev Reginald M Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

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Posted by on December 26, 2021 in 1941, December 1941, Uncategorized

 

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23 December 1941: 700 Prisoners Killed

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U-BOAT ATTACK ON CONVOY KILLS AXIS POWS

SS Shuntien

A German U-boat attacked a British convoy today, sinking a freighter carrying possibly 1000 Italian and German prisoners of.  The passenger/cargo ship, SS Shuntien, was en route from from Tobruk to Alexandria as part of Convoy TA5.  Just after 7pm this evening she was hit by a torpedo fired by U-559 shadowing the convoy to the north east of Tobruk.

Most of the crew of Shuntien were rescued by another convoy ship, HMS Salvia, along with a number of prisoners.  However, Salvia was later hit by another U-boat and sunk with the loss of at least 700 men.

Maltese crewmen lost on SS Shuntien have been named as Emmanuel Azzopardi, Donkeyman; Henri Caffari, Pantryman; John Debattista, Fireman; L Galea, Fireman; Domenic Mercieca, Greaser; E Palmier, Chief Steward; John Said, Greaser; John Smith, Fireman.

AIR RAIDS 23 DECEMBER 1941

0101-0125 hrs; 0303-0357 hrs; 0437-0523 hrs  Alarm sounded for approximately eleven raiders. Bombs are dropped various places on land and in the sea.  Ack Ack fired a number of barrages; no claims.

0650-0742 hrs  Air raid alarm for three enemy aircraft which dropped bombs in sea.

1100-1155 hrs  Air raid alarm for 30 fighters escorting four JU 88’s on an attack on Grand Harbour.  Bombs were dropped on the Grand Harbour area, damaging two houses  Hurricane fighters were scrambled: one Messerschmitt ME 109 was damaged; one Hurricane was also damaged, the pilot slightly wounded.  Ack Ack fired Light and Heavy barrages; no claims.

1211 hrs  Air raid alarm. Caused by return of own aircraft.

1835-1854 hrs  Air raid alarm for two enemy aircraft which crossed the coast and dropped bombs near Zonkor Point, and in the sea.

2050-0600 hrs  Air raid alarm for nine enemy aircraft which crossed coast and dropped bombs near Kalafrana, Hal Far, Gudja and in the sea.  Searchlights illuminated enemy aircraft twice.  Hurricanes engaged without result.  Ack Ack fired five barrages.  A tenth aircraft which did not cross coast was possibly mine-laying.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant pilot Peter Wells, RAF, 69 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Henry Metcalfe and Sergeant Peter Dive, Royal Air Force (RAF); Warrant Officer Alfred Gulliver, RAF, 221 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Leslie Woolley, RAF, 221 Squadron; Sergeant Graham Humphreys, RAF, 221 Squadron; Sergeant Douglas Kingston, RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 221 Squadron; Sergeant William Reason, RAFVR, 221 Squadron; Sergeant Arnold Reid, RAFVR, 221 Squadron.  Private Ronald Yates, 1st Battalion The Cheshire Regiment.

Civilian casualty  Zejtun Carmel Attard, age 16.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 23 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Four Swordfish and five Albacores carried out shipping search without result.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Wellingtons and one Beaufighter from Gibraltar. Departures  Four Wellingtons and two Beaufighters for 108 MU.

HAL FAR  Night 22nd/23rd  Four Albacores 818 Squadron despatched to bomb Castel Benito aerodrome.  All bombs fell on target area.  One small fire in north west corner of aerodrome.  Opposition – some light and heavy Ack Ack. Weather good.

LUQA  S/D Flight  One Wellington special search Tripoli-Misrata; one Wellington special search failed to return.  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF 6 patrol; one Maryland SF 12 patrol; one Maryland special search – photos of North African boats.  Photo-Reconnaissance (PR)  One Maryland PR Catania aerodrome; one Maryland PR Sorman, Zliten, Tripoli – crashed on landing, crew killed. 18 Squadron  Three Blenheims attacked targets at Sirte; one Blenheim SF 1 patrol. 104 Squadron  Seven Wellingtons attacked Misrata; four Wellingtons nuisance raid Naples.  107 Squadron  Three Blenheims despatched to attack targets at Buerat (no attack made); one Blenheim special search Gulf of Sirte.

TA QALI  1835-0600 hrs  Two alerts.  Two attacks.  Hurricanes airborne – no interceptions.  Bombs on land and in sea.  Anti-aircraft fired five barrages.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  High explosive bombs dropped in various parts of area (especially in Dockyard area, Marsa, Luqa) during daylight attacks of considerable duration.  No military damage or casualties.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 21-23 December: 29.

 

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21 December 1941: 87 Enemy Sorties Against Malta in 24 Hours

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GERMAN BOMBERS IN HEAVY DAYLIGHT RAIDS

Italian Macchi Aircraft

The enemy launched 87 air sorties against Malta today,  including three daylight bombing raids.  Italian aircraft were seen in formation alongside Luftwaffe fighters and bombers in an audacious mid-day attack on Grand Harbour and other targets along the north coast of the Island.  On a day when the Catholic Maltese attend Mass, the many casualties include three civilians dead and twenty-five injured.

AIR RAIDS 21 DECEMBER 1941

0855-0957 hrs  Air raid alarm for one JU 88 escorted by 17 fighters which crossed the coast and dropped one bomb on the cookhouse of a searchlight position at Corrodino; no casualties.  Hurricanes engaged the raiders without results.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack guns also engaged, claiming two hits on a JU 88.

Tigne Barracks (NWMA Malta)

1123-1210 hrs  Air raid alarm for 30 enemy aircraft composed of five JU 88s, ME 109s and Macchi fighters which crossed the Island and dropped bombs on the Dockyard, Corrodino and Senglea areas, also near Mellieha searchlight position.  B Block, Tigne Barracks was hit, killing three Army personnel.  Civilian property sustained slight damage: three civilians were killed and 25 injured.

A number of anti-personnel grenades were dropped in the Manoel area.  Hurricanes engaged enemy aircraft: one Macchi was destroyed, one probably destroyed, one ME 109 damaged.  Two Hurricanes were lost, the pilot of one is safe.  Ack Ack engaged; no claims.

1305-1315 hrs  Air raid alarm for a reconnaissance raid by three enemy aircraft.

1512-1548 hrs  Air raid alarm.  27 enemy aircraft in several formations approached the Grand Harbour and Gozo areas.  Ack Ack engaged; no claims.

1706-1732 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft thought to be on reconnaissance dropped one bomb in the sea off Grand Harbour.

2040-0630 hrs  Four alerts were sounded for eight enemy aircraft, five of which crossed the coast.  Bombs and incendiaries were dropped on the Ta Qali, Rabat, Imtarfa areas, and in the sea.  Mines are reported to have been dropped six miles south east of Dingli, four miles south of Kalafrana and south of Filfla.  Ack Ack engaged during one alert; no claims.

Military casualties  Gunners Frank Anthony, Frank Coupe and William James, all 4th Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery; Flight Sergeant Brian Hayes, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Hamrun Carmel Cassar, age 8; Cospicua Saviour Cutajar, age 25; Zabbar Joseph Galea, age 20 and Anthony Psaila, age 16. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 21 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Olympus arrived with petrol and stores from Gibraltar.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 13 Beaufighters from Gibraltar.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland search for merchant vessel off C Pappos; one Maryland SF 6 patrol.  Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2  One Maryland Tauorga-Buerat; one PR Tripoli & Castel Benito; one PR Comiso, Gerbini.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 1 patrol; three Blenheims shipping search in Gulf of Sirte.  107 Squadron Three Blenheims and 104 Squadron nine Wellingtons despatched to attack Castel Benito aerodrome.  Four aircraft attacked Tripoli.  40 Squadron  Three Wellingtons attacked Castel Benito aerodrome.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  High explosive bombs dropped in various parts of area (especially in Dockyard area, Marsa, Luqa) during daylight attacks of considerable duration.  No military damage or casualties.

2nd BATTALION THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  One Hurricane crashed near Ghar Dalam (A Company HQ).  Pilot baled out uninjured was conveyed to Luqa by Captain M Holdsworth.

3rd BATTALION KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  E Company reports three bombs 400 yards east towards No 1 Dock.  One on St Clements Bastion.  A Company reports trouble with water mains.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 2 (containers of incendiaries).

 

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Posted by on December 21, 2021 in 1941, December 1941

 

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18 December 1941: Loss of HMS Neptune and Kandahar

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BRECONSHIRE GETS THROUGH

The supply ship Breconshire arrived at Malta at 1500 hrs today to deliver her much needed load of fuel oil and stores, accompanied by the ships of her protective force.

After yesterday’s encounter with the Italian Navy, the two British forces separated, as destroyers from Force B and Force K took on the task of escorting Breconshire safely to Malta.  Admiral Vian turned with his fleet towards Alexandria.  The Italian convoys also divided: three ships setting course for Tripoli and one for Benghazi.  This afternoon the Tripoli-bound vessels were located and a Malta Strike Force of three cruisers and four destroyers was assembled in pursuit. 

The official report from the Royal Navy War Diary for Malta relates what happened next…

HMS Neptune

“HM Ships Neptune (Captain R O’Connor, Senior Officer), Aurora, Penelope, Kandahar, Lance, Lively and Havock were despatched…18th December to intercept an important Italian convoy which had been sighted earlier, heading for Tripoli.  It was appreciated that if the convoy was not delayed it was likely to be at the entrance to Tripoli before our force could intercept, but it was hoped that attacks by torpedo bomber and bomber aircraft, which were arranged to take place during the night, would have the usual effect of delaying the enemy.

A special Wellington was co-operating to lead our air and surface striking forces to the enemy.  The enemy’s convoy and escorting warships were discovered and reported by the Wellington split into groups and covering many miles of water to the eastward of Tripoli.

Albacores and Swordfish aircraft were sent to attack.  Although it is believed that only one ship was damaged by them, their attack had the expected effect of disorganising and slowing up the Italian convoy.  As a result, and also probably because of mines which had been laid in the entrance to the harbour, the convoy did not enter Tripoli till late the following day.

Unfortunately, the information regarding the position of the convoy did not reach Neptune before disaster had overtaken our force.  Having proceeded at maximum speed towards a point east of Tripoli they had just eased down on reaching the 100 fathom line when Neptune struck a mine and was brought to a stop.  The remaining ships sheered off to port and starboard and then turned back to get clear of the minefield.  Whilst engaged in getting clear, Aurora and Penelope both struck mines but were able to steam.

Aurora, who was fairly badly damaged, set course for Malta at her best speed of 16 knots, escorted by Havock and Lance, whilst Penelope stood by to tow Neptune when she had drifted clear of the minefield.  Kandahar entered the minefield and attempted to close Neptune to take off personnel, but, whilst engaged in this, struck a mine and had her stern blown off.  Neptune meanwhile had drifted down onto more mines and, when the third or fourth mine exploded under her, she turned turtle and sank.

Nothing could be done to approach Kandahar through the minefield and Penelope with Lively reluctantly returned to Malta.” (1)

800 SEAMEN LOST

Only 30 members of Neptune’s crew of nearly 800 survived the sinking.  Their lifeboat was spotted five days later by an Italian torpedo boat: only one of its occupants was still alive.  Maltese casualties from HMS Neptune  were Steward Angelo Falzon, Steward Emanuel Montanaro, Malta Port Division.

AIR RAIDS 18 DECEMBER 1941

0835-0854 hrs  Air raid alarm.  No engagement.

2311-0250 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Eight enemy aircraft raided Island.  Bombs were dropped in the sea and on land near Attard, Mgarr, Birkirkara and on Luqa aerodrome hitting a Wellington; one of crew was killed, another seriously injured.  Hal Far was machine-gunned and mines were possibly laid off Grand Harbour.  Ack Ack engaged enemy aircraft.

Military casualties  Sergeant pilot Frank Sunley, Sergeant Thomas Clarke, Royal Air Force.

Enemy casualties  Sottotenente Antonio Galati, pilot, 259a Squadriglia, 109o Gruppo, 36o Stormo, S84 crashed into the sea.  Maggiore Goffredo Gastaldi, 109o Gruppo, 36o Stormo, crewman on a S84, crashed into the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: THURSDAY 18 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upright returned from patrol having sunk certainly one and probably two northbound merchant vessels in Gulf of Taranto.  Forces K and B, Decoy, Havock and Breconshire arrived.  Neptune, Aurora, Penelope, Lively, Lance, Havock and Kandahar sailed.  Six Albacores attacked a convoy of three cruisers and three merchant vessels approaching Tripoli and fired four torpedoes, hitting two merchant vessels.  One Albacore did not return.  Five Swordfish left to attack same convoy, but failed to locate target.  One Swordfish crashed on landing.  Crew hurt.

AIR HQ  Departures  Seven Beaufighters for 108 MU.

HAL FAR  Night 17th/18th  Four Swordfish 830 Squadron despatched on a shipping search, located a tanker 4-5000 tons with destroyer escort.  Two hits claimed on tanker and an explosion followed by a subsequent fire was seen.  Four Hurricanes 185 Squadron engaged three BR 20s forty miles south south west of Filfla.  One enemy aircraft observed to be hit in wings and fuselage.  One of own aircraft “K” hit in the tail.  All aircraft landed safely.

LUQA  S/D Flight one Wellington on special shipping search.  69 Squadron  Four Marylands special search.  Photo-Reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2  PR Palermo, Tripoli; one Maryland PR Tripoli Harbour and Castel Benito.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim special search Keliba-Kerkennah; six Blenheims attacked two schooners near Kuriat.  107 Squadron  One Blenheim special search Kerkennah-Kuriat; three Blenheims despatched to attack merchant vessel (no sightings made).  104 Squadron  Seven Wellingtons attacked Tripoli and mined harbour.

2nd BATTALION THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  0025 hrs  One enemy aircraft machine gunned Hal Far area but no damage was done.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; dealt with 4 (1 x 250kg HE; 1 x Thermos; 1 x incendiary; 1 x anti-personnel).

(1)  See also Neptune Association

 

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15 December 1941: Stealth Attackers are Italian

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ITALIAN HIGH EXPLOSIVE BOMBS REPORTED ALONG NORTH COAST

The four raiders who bombed the Island overnight were Italian, according to reports received this morning.  The Regia Aeronautica are evidently continuing to work alongside the Luftwaffe in the air campaign against Malta.

Bahar ic-Caghaq

The claim was supported by reports of three unexploded bombs (UXB) received in Royal Engineers Headquarters this morning.  Bomb Disposal Officer Lieutenant G D Carroll was called out to locations along the north coast at Bahar ic-Caghaq and Madliena, and further inland at  Ghargur.  The UXBs were found to be Italian High Explosive (HE) bombs, each weighing in at 130lbs – the first of the type seen in Malta for over a month.  All three bombs were defuzed on site and removed for dumping at sea.  (1)

DIVERSIONARY TACTICS

The intrusion of aircraft over Malta throughout the night with no apparent bombing target may have a simple explanation.  The Italians are providing cover for a secret German operation designed to prevent Malta-based ships from attacking Axis supply convoys.

The Kriegsmarine 3rd S-Boat Flotilla has begun laying mines around the entrance to Grand Harbour, in an effort to prevent the ships of Force K from leaving.  The TMA (torpedo mines) are fired from the normal torpedo tube.  They then float on the surface, attached to a weighted anchor.  The TMA carries an explosive charge of 215kg.

S Boat

These fast-moving motor torpedo boats, capable of up to 50 knots, can approach the coast rapidly, lay their mines and escape, often before detection.  They have already carried out one abortive mission to lay a minefield in the path of the British ships: tonight is their second attempt. 

AIR RAIDS 15 DECEMBER 1941

0641hrs; 0710 hrs  Two alerts.  One raider crossed the coast dropping bombs at Mosta causing slight damage.  One Hurricane from Ta Qali airborne but no interception.

0740-0755 hrs  One JU88 approached the coast.  One Hurricane from Ta Qali airborne – no interception.  Raider damaged by anti-aircraft fire.

0946-1002 hrs  Air raid alarm.

1640-1643 hrs  Air raid alarm.

1940-2015 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Six enemy aircraft approached from north together.  Bombs in sea north of Gozo, in Comino Channel, and Mellieha Bay.

2040 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Two enemy aircraft approached from north, only one crossed coast over Delimara.  No bombs dropped.

2234 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One JU 88 approached from north crossing coast four times.  Bombs fifty yards from Fleur de Lys gun position – no damage.  Aircraft illuminated for four minutes, engaged by Hurricane with no result.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 15 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Unique arrived from patrol off Cape Del Armi [Strait of Messina], her attack on a battleship frustrated by heavy counter attack.  Six Swordfish in shipping search to the west made no sighting.

LUQA  S/D Flight  Shipping search Kerkennah area.  69 Squadron one Maryland SF 10 patrol; two Marylands SF 9B patrol.  Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2 one PR Taranto and one PR Messina-Naples.  18 Squadron one Blenheim SF 2B patrol.  107 Squadron one Blenheim special search for convoy.  One Blenheim SF 1 patrol.  40 Squadron twelve Wellingtons attacked oil storage tanks at Taranto.  104 Squadron: nine Wellingtons attacked oil storage tanks in Taranto.

TA QALI  1940-0559 hrs  Six alerts for a total of twelve raiders.  Six crossed the coast.  Bombs dropped in the aerodrome area and in Attard and Dingli areas.  Hurricanes were airborne, and engaged one raider, but no results could be ascertained.  Two short [searchlight] illuminations.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2; dealt with 4 (3 x 100kg; 1 x Thermos).

(1) Adapted from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010 

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Posted by on December 15, 2021 in 1941, December 1941, Uncategorized

 

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14 December 1941: German U-boats Patrolling the Med

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HMS Galatea

HMS Galatea

BRITISH LIGHT CRUISER SUNK EN ROUTE TO JOIN MALTA FORCE K

A German U-boat carried out a torpedo attack on a British light cruiser today, sinking the vessel close to the Egyptian coast.  The attack is further evidence of the build-up of German U-boats in the Mediterranean as the Axis try to counter the threat from Malta on convoys heading for North Africa.  Since September 1941 twenty-three U-boats have been sent to the Mediterranean, fifteen of them within the past month.  Of the twenty still afloat, at least thirteen are believed operating east of Gibraltar.

The British vessel was part of a light cruiser force which set out from Alexandria to join with Force K from Malta, in the hunt for Axis convoys bound for Benghazi.

Eight Italian supply ships had embarked in three convoys yesterday with protective cover provided by virtually the entire Italian battle fleet.  British submarines reported the convoy departures and a two-pronged operation was immediately organized in their pursuit.

Vittorio Veneto

The planned interception was given away when British submarine Urge torpedoed and damaged the Italian battleship Vittorio Veneto in the Strait of Messina.  The ship survived but, alerted to the presence of enemy vessels, the convoys returned to port.

Some hours later, as Admiral Vian’s ships were heading back into Alexandria, the German U-boat U-557 fired torpedoes at the light cruiser Galatea.  The British vessel sank with the loss of its Commander, Capt E W B Sim, RN, and 22 officers, plus 447 ratings. 144 survivors were picked up by other ships of the British convoy.

By a strange twist of fate, U-557 was later rammed by an Italian Torpedo Boat Orione and sank with the loss of all hands.

AIR RAIDS 14 DECEMBER 1941

0331-0358 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft skirted Island and receded north over Mellieha.  Bombs in sea.  Heavy Ack Ack fired three barrages – also by GL height control.

0511-0645 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft patrolled off south coast for 1½ hours.

0738-0808 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approached from north, skirted east coast and receded.

1905-0440 hrs  Five alerts for seven enemy aircraft, four of which crossed the coast.  Bombs dropped on land and in the sea.  Hurricanes airborne; no interceptions.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER 

AIR HQ  Four Blenheims arrived from Gibraltar.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland special search Merrina, Taranto; one Maryland shadowing Italian fleet; two Marylands special search.  69 Squadron Photo-Reconnaissance  One PR Tripoli; one Maryland PR Tunis and Bizrata.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 2B patrol. 107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 2B patrol.  104 Squadron  Ten Wellingtons attacked Benghazi.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 5.

 

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Posted by on December 14, 2021 in 1941, December 1941, Uncategorized

 

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