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24 December 1941: 16 Killed in Christmas Eve Raids

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AUDACIOUS DAYLIGHT ATTACK TAKES MALTA BY SURPRISE

An audacious air raid on Malta’s Grand Harbour was launched this morning by four German JU88 bombers accompanied by a protective force of 36 fighter aircraft.  They carried out a dive-bombing attack on the Harbour area, demolishing a number of houses.  Three civilians and two military personnel were killed, with another four people injured.

DOG FIGHT

Anti-aircraft Guns Grand Harbour (NWMA Malta)

The Ack Ack guns of the Harbour defences opened fire on the incoming planes, damaging two JU88s.  Seventeen Hurricanes took off from Ta Qali to engage the enemy.  They succeeded in destroying the same two JU88s, which dropped into the sea, as well as ‘probably destroying’ a third.

The Luftwaffe returned in similar formation just after 1pm for another attack on Grand Harbour in which two civilians were injured.  Ack Ack gunners destroyed another JU88.  One Hurricane was also shot down by enemy fighters; the pilot was declared missing after the raid.  He has been named as 25 year old Flight Sergeant Francis Emery of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

TANKS FOR MALTA

From:  Gov & C in C Malta                  To: The War Office

Have discussed this question with Myrtel, passing through and he concurs a squadron of American or Valentine Tanks should be suitable here.  If provided request present equipment Malta Tank Troop of four “I” Tanks and two light tanks be turned over to Infantry for use on aerodromes.  Do not consider obsolete light tanks offered to Bedford would be of sufficient value to justify shipping space involved.

AIR RAIDS 24 DECEMBER 1941

0946-1031 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Four JU 88s escorted by 36 fighters crossed the coast and dive-bombed Grand Harbour.

1301-1358 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Four JU 88s escorted by 30 fighters attacked Grand Harbour.

1553-1625 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One JU 88 escorted by five ME 109s crossed the Island on reconnaissance.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged by height control.

2001 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approached from the north and circled the Island; bombs were dropped in the sea. 

2304-0011 hrs  Air raid alarm; raid does not materialise. 

Civilian casualties  Gzira Anthony Abdilla, age 28; Rabat Carmel Borg, age 39; Qormi Vincent Cachia, age 65, Hamrun Samuel Cauchi, age 55, Valletta Antonia Frendo, age 19; Victoria, Gozo Carmela Borg, age 23.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Isaac Paul, Royal Air Force; Sergeant Kenneth Hewson, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 107 Squadron; Gunner John Vaughan, 7th HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery; Private Samuel Ginies, Royal Army Medical Corps; Signalman Albert Ward, Royal Corps of Signals.

Enemy casualties  Obergefreiter Walter Kersken; Obergefreiter Hermann Kunz; Unteroffizier Werner Lessner, JU 88 bomber pilot; Leutnant Siegfried Tack, JU 88 bomber pilot; Feldwebel Nikolaus Wand. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 24 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Group II arrived from Gibraltar.  Minefield off Grand Harbour being swept by all sweepers available.  Headquarters Lascaris near-missed by two heavy bombs.

AIR HQ  Departures  Four Wellingtons and one Beaufighter for 108 MU.

HAL FAR  Night 23/24th  Four Swordfish 830 Squadron and five Albacores 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm despatched to locate and attack shipping off Tripolitana.  Nothing was sighted.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  69 Squadron One Maryland special search; one Maryland special search for convoy.  Photo-Reconnaissance (PR) One Maryland special PR Tripolitania; one PR Unit 2 North African aerodromes.  18 Squadron One Blenheim special search Gulf of Sirte; one Blenheim SF 1 patrol; one Blenheim SF 2B patrol.  107 Squadron Three Blenheims attacked schooners in Zuara Harbour.  Aircraft E Sgt Crossley crashed.  P/O Paul of aircraft C was killed by a cannon shell.  40 Squadron Nine Wellingtons attacked shipping in Tripoli Harbour.  One Wellington nuisance raid Tripoli.

TA QALI  0946-1624 hrs  Three alerts.  Seventeen Hurricanes airborne.  Two enemy aircraft destroyed and one probable.  Hurricanes airborne.  One failed to return.  F/Sgt F R Emery missing.  2001-0435 hrs  Four alerts.  Three raiders crossed the coast.  Bombs dropped around the aerodrome.  Hurricanes airborne.  No interceptions.  Anti-aircaft fired during last alert.

HQ FIXED DEFENCES  0945 hrs  Enemy aircraft dropped bombs very close to HQ.  No casualties; slight damage.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  High explosive bombs dropped in various parts of area (especially in Dockyard area, Marsa, Luqa) during daylight attacks of considerable duration.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; dealt with 1 (500kg).

 

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Posted by on December 24, 2016 in 1941, December 1941

 

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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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Posted by on December 23, 2016 in 1941, December 1941

 

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22 December 1941: Malta’s Coast a Minefield

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A naval mine explodes

A naval mine explodes

BOMBS AT SEA’ MAY BE EXPLODING MINES

The German Kriegsmarine 3rd S-Boat Flotilla returned to Malta’s shores overnight in another stealth mission to lay mines on the approaches to Grand Harbour (maltagc70, 15 December 1941).  After three days of heavy seas in which they had to abort an operation against the Breconshire and her convoy, the flotilla returned to their task of blockading Malta’s Strike Forces in port.  The aim is to create a complete barrier of mines outside the Harbour entrance.  Tonight the flotilla succeeded in connecting one section of the barrier.

The tactics of last Monday night were repeated as a series of intruder flights triggered the alarm and remained in Malta’s airspace for up to three hours at a time.  It has been suggested that explosions identified as bombs dropped at sea may turn out to be the accidental detonation of enemy mines laid during the operation.

AIR-DROPPED MINES

Confirmed reports have been received of enemy aircraft dropping mines in the sea.  Mined areas have been identified six miles south east of Dingli, four miles south of Kalafrana and to the south of Filfla.  As exact locations of the mines are difficult to pinpoint, a warning has been issued for wide areas to be avoided until Malta’s minesweepers can deal with them.

AIR RAIDS 22 DECEMBER 1941

0057-0144 hrs; 0225-0519 hrs; 0527-0635 hrs  Air raid alarms.

0845 hrs  Air raid alarm: reconnaissance raid by two aircraft escorted by 15 enemy fighters.

1029 hrs  Air raid alarm: reconnaissance raid by four enemy aircraft.

1429 hrs  Air raid alarm: 33 enemy fighters crossed the Island.  Ack Ack fired a number of barrages; no claims.

1937-2114 hrs; 2128-2231 hrs; 2326-0008 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Bombs dropped various places and in sea.  Ack Ack fired a number of barrages.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 22 DECEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 9 Wellingtons, 2 Beauforts and 1 Blenheim from Gibraltar.  Departures 11 Beaufighters for 108 MU.

ROYAL NAVY  Four Albacores bombed Castel Benito aerodrome.

LUQA  69 Squadron Photo-Reconnaissance (PR): one Maryland PR North African aerodromes; one Maryland special PR Middle East; one Maryland PR Tripoli Harbour, Castel Benito and Zuara.  18 Squadron  Five Blenheims attacked targets on the road west of Sirte.  107 Squadron Six Blenheims attacked targets on the road west of Sirte.  40 Squadron  Five Wellingtons attacked Castel Benito aerodrome.

Military casualty  Flag Officer pilot Robert Matthews, Royal Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Marsa Carmel Briffa, age 13. Gzira Lina Griscti, age 8.

Enemy casualties  Feldwebe Ernst Ziebarth, pilot of Junkers JU 88 bomber.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 4 (50kg).

 

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Posted by on December 22, 2016 in 1941, December 1941, Uncategorized

 

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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, 2016 in 1941, December 1941

 

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20 December 1941: Battle for Malta Has Begun

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AXIS LAUNCH DAYLIGHT STRIKES ON MALTA

After weeks of domination in the Mediterranean, suddenly the fortunes of war have turned against the British fleet.  In a matter of days Malta’s Strike Forces have been significantly depleted, and in Alexandria the battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant severely damaged in an attack by Italian manned torpedoes within the harbour.   The Italian Navy has secured dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Axis can now concentrate their air forces on the task of neutralizing the stronghold of the Allied position in the Mediterranean: Malta.

Dockyard School

AIR RAIDS 20 DECEMBER 1941

0916-1037 hrs  Air raid alarm for forty enemy aircraft comprising fighters and bombers which approached and attacked the Island.  Bombs were dropped on Zabbar, Marsascala, Sliema, Grand Harbour, Valletta and also in the sea.  Several houses were demolished, others damaged.  One civilian was killed, five seriously injured and thirty slightly injured in scattered localities.

Hurricanes engaged destroying one JU 88 and damaging three JU 88’s, 2 Macchi 202’s probably destroyed.  2 Hurricanes missing.  Enemy aircraft engaged by heavy Ack Ack and Bofors, one JU 88 damaged by Bofors fire.

All unexploded bombs reported are German, including incendiaries and High Explosives (HE).  One at the Dockyard School is found to be a 500kg HE.

1703-1731 hrs  Air raid alarm.  12 enemy aircraft crossed coast and dropped bombs in Senglea.  Heavy Ack Ack and Bofors engaged enemy aircraft over Grand Harbour.

2004-2020 hrs  Air raid alarm.  No engagement.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Brian Cavan, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 249 Squadron; Sergeant Howard Moren, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 249 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Zabbar  Anthony Lija, age 76.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 20 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY Jaguar arrived with Kandahar’s survivors.  Urge returned from patrol in Straits of Messina.  Battleship hit, did NOT pass to eastward, after attack.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland special search for damaged destroyer; one Maryland SF 6 patrol. Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2  Tripoli & Castel Benito; one Maryland PR Argostoli, Patra and C Pappos.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 1 patrol; two Blenheims despatched to attack merchant vessel (no attack made); four Blenheims attacked Zuara and district.  107 Squadron One Blenheim SF 1 patrol; five Blenheims despatched to attack Mellaha.  Target not located so attacked various targets in the vicinity.

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 0916 hrs Attack on Grand Harbour area.  Two planes were observed in difficulties but not definitely seen to crash.  All clear 1045.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 69.

 

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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in 1941, December 1941

 

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19 December 1941: Loss of Navy Ships “Due to Rashness”

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NAVY COMMANDER’S TACTICS QUESTIONED

A source close to the Governor today disclosed that questions have been raised over the tactics of the Commander of HMS Neptune, appointed to lead yesterday’s operation on the approaches to Tripoli:

HMS Kandahar

“…the Governor and I lunched on board. The Admiral told me that HMS Ajax has a gamé leg – in other words a damaged shaft which cannot be mended here. The thing must come out from England, which means 4 or 5 months out of action. I said, ‘Will they not transfer you to Neptune?’ To which he replied softly, ‘There is no Neptune.’

Three nights before, the whole force bar Ajax had gone out and run on to a minefield. HMS Neptune sank with almost all hands, HMS Kandahar also (…150 saved). HMS Aurora was damaged, and HMS Penelope (though I do not know how badly).

Such are the vicissitudes of Naval war: one day a powerful force capable of making it extremely hot for enemy shipping; next day a very different thing. When we see ships go out, we always wonder whether they will come back.

The Captain of Upholder has been given the VC. His boat has done marvellously. Since writing this I have been told what I had heard whispered earlier, that the loss of those ships was due to rashness. K Force were very happy in their work with complete confidence in their Senior Officer, Captain Nicoll. They then found themselves under Rory O’Connor of Neptune.

A convoy was being searched for, and it was felt that they had missed it, and should turn back. The SO insisted on pushing on at a terrific speed, so much so the Engineer-Commander of one ship refused to do the speed (it being more than his horse-power) unless his Captain gave him orders in writing. Some ship signalled: ‘Could we not do one knot less?’. Then they found themselves in the minefield. This is only Force K’s view of course.” (1)

BRAVE RESCUE BID

From the War Diary of Vice-Admiral Malta:

“Today signals were received from Kandahar stating that she was still afloat, and she was also sighted by reconnaissance aircraft.  At nightfall Jaguar was despatched to endeavour to rescue survivors and, if conditions were favourable, tow Kandahar back to Malta.  In spite of the assistance of a special Wellington it was not until 0400hrs that Jaguar found and went alongside Kandahar, bow to bow.

By this time the sea had become very rough and after a very few moments it was apparent that this method of rescuing survivors must be abandoned.  Jaguar then lay off from Kandahar and the crew of the latter swam across.  Kandahar was then sunk by torpedo and Jaguar returned to Malta with eight officers and 157 ratings of her ship’s company including the Captain, Commander W G A Robson, DSO.” 

Maltese casualties from HMS Kandahar were L/Ck (O) Joseph Azzopardi, PO Std Joseph Bertuello, L/Std Andrew Schembri, Malta Port Division.

AIR RAIDS 19 DECEMBER 1941

0259-0432 hrs  Air raid alarm. Enemy aircraft on intruder patrols.

0837-1717 hrs  Five air raid alarms were sounded for 22 enemy aircraft approaching the Island.  No bombs were dropped.  Hurricanes intercepted on two occasions, damaging two enemy aircraft.  One Hurricane was lost.  Ack Ack engaged raiders during one alert.

2150 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Two enemy aircraft approached from north and patrolled south of Island before crossing coast.  Incendiary bombs dropped north west of Kalafrana and in Mqabba.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged by immediate and height control barrage.

Military casualties  Sergeant Cedric Tyson Brown, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Alfred McLevy, Royal Auxiliary Air Force, 203 Squadron; Pilot Officer Edward Elmer Steele,  Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Flying Officer Arthur Thomas Read, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 203 Squadron.

Enemy casualties  Leutnant Wilhelm Brauns, pilot of JU 88 bomber, shot down and taken prisoner; Obergefreiter Erwin Hesse, Air Gunner of JU 88 bomber, shot down and taken prisoner; Gefreiter Johannes Matuschka, Wireless Operator of JU 88 bomber, shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 19 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Utmost returned from patrol in Gulf of Taranto, having obtained a hit on a Garibaldi class merchant vessel.  Aurora, Penelope, Havock, Lance, Lively arrived.  Penelope and Aurora both damaged by mines.  Neptune sunk 30′ off Tripoli and Kandahar sinking.  Jaguar sailed to rescue survivors.

HAL FAR  Night 18/19th  828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Six Albacores despatched to attack convoy of six destroyers and three merchant vessels approaching Tripoli harbour.  Two hits claimed on 2000 ton merchant vessel.  One Albacore failed to return: the missing crew Lt Greenwood, pilot, and Lt Commander Langmore, observer.  830 Squadron  Five Swordfish despatched to continue attack on the convoy previously attacked by the Albacores.  The convoy was not sighted.  One Swordfish crashed on landing.  Crew unhurt.

LUQA  69 Squadron  Three Marylands special search.  Photo-reconnaissance unit 2 Tripoli.  18 Squadron  Two Blenheims special search; three Blenheims despatched to attack convoy off Tripoli.  107 Squadron  One Blenheim special search; three Blenheims despatched to attack convoy off Tripoli.  S/D Flight   One Wellington search to locate Kandahar.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  High Explosive bombs dropped on Luqa and Safi during raid lasting throughout the night.  Some damage to Signals installations.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 1 (50kg).

(1) Extract from 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 19, 2016 in 1941, December 1941, Uncategorized

 

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17 December 1941: First Battle of Sirte

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MALTA SHORT OF FUEL

Breconshire

The transport ship Breconshire failed to arrive at the expected time today, causing concern to the Island’s high command.  As a fast-moving supply ship, she has become a lifeline for the Island.  She is capable of carrying 5000 tons of oil as well as other essential goods.

The operations of Force K from Malta have placed a heavy demand on stocks of fuel oil.  Regular deliveries are vital to keep the ships at sea but the nearest source is a thousand miles away, through hostile waters policed by increasing numbers of German U-boats.

Breconshire is reported to have left Alexandria on Monday, escorted by three cruisers and eight destroyers under Admiral Vian.  Three vessels turned back.  Yesterday, six destroyers and two light cruisers set out from Malta to meet the supply ship and cover her final journey to Grand Harbour.

FIRST BATTLE OF SIRTE

At daylight this morning as the two forces reached the rendezvous point, British submarines reported the presence of Italian warships nearby.  The Allied convoy was crossing paths with an Axis convoy en route to Tripoli.

Admiral Vian’s force had already been spotted by an enemy reconnaissance pilot and Axis aircraft had attempted an engagement, without success.  By late afternoon the two opposing Naval forces were in sight of each other.  As a precaution, Breconshire was detached from the main convoy for protection, accompanied by two destroyers.

After a few minutes of largely defensive fire which produced only minor damage to two British destroyers, the Italian warships moved away, returning to formation to protect their convoy.  A possible sea battle had been avoided and Breconshire is reported as heading for Malta. 

But the threat to the Island’s naval forces is not yet over.   (To be continued)

GERMAN MINES EXPLODED

A German attempt to blockade the entrance to Grand Harbour has been foiled.  Mines were located today during one of the regular minesweeping operations on all approaches to the Harbour.  The TMA mines were laid by Kriegsmarine S-Boats on Monday night.  The drifter HMS Swona, adapted for minesweeping duties, exploded two of the mines.  Located in the direct path of ships leaving Grand Harbour, they could have severely damaged part of Malta’s Strike Force and possibly blocked harbour approaches with damaged or sunken vessels.

AIR RAIDS 17 DECEMBER 1941

0905-0924 hrs; 1324-1327 hrs; 1537-1550 hrs  Air raid alarms; raids do not materialise.

2252-2331 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approached from north.  Heavy Ack Ack fired three immediate barrages.   Bombs near Attard, Poorhouse and south of Marsa.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 17 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Neptune, Kandahar and Jaguar sailed at 1500 on operations.  Four Swordfish located a tanker with destroyer escort, and hit the former with two torpedoes.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Five Blenheims and eight Beaufighters from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  Night 16/17  Five Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack Catania aerodrome.  4940 lbs High Explosive and 300 lbs incendiaries dropped including thirteen delayed action bombs.  Opposition exceptionally intense and accurate at all heights.

LUQA  S/D Flight  Two Wellingtons special shipping search.  69 Squadron  Three Marylands on special search, one shadowing fleet.  Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2  One PR Taranto, one PR Sfax.  18 Squadron  Three Blenheims special search, one for merchant vessel.  Two Blenheims SF 1 patrol.  107 Squadron  Two Blenheims attacked transport between Pisida and Zuara.  Two Blenheims attacked transport between Sorman and Zuara.  P/O Keene failed to return. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 1 (German 50kg).

 

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Posted by on December 17, 2016 in 1941, December 1941

 

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