Tag Archives: 185 Squadron

14 October 1941: Malta Pilot Last of Three Brothers Killed on RAF Service

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Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit

Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit


Ace Malta pilot David Barnwell, DFC has been declared missing, presumed dead after a search failed to find him following an engagement early this morning with a Macchi fighter. P/O Barnwell was in one of five black Hurricanes of the Malta Night Fighter Unit scrambled at 0530 hours this morning to engage nine Italian Macchi fighters which launched a low-level strafing Luqa aerodrome, while 15 other fighters circled off the coast.

 The Hurricanes engaged the raiders as they turned away from their attack.  P/O Barnwell was heard on the radio reporting having shot down one a Macchi 202.  Within moments he was on the radio again, “Baling out, engine cut, am coming down in the sea.”  A search was launched immediately: Swordfish rescue aircraft continued their efforts until late today, when RAF headquarters concluded that P/O Barnwell had not survived. 

P/O Barnwell had served with 185 Squadron at Ta Qali since last June. He shot down a Macchi 200 fighter on 11 July, followed by a BR 20 bomber on 25 July.  A week later he was asked to join Malta Night Fighter Unit under Squadron Leader G Powell-Sheddon.  Overnight on 5-6 August he shot down a BR 20 bomber and damaged another, followed by two more raiders on the nights of 4-5 and 8-9 September.

His award of the DFC followed at the end of September. The citation reads: “This officer has displayed outstanding courage and determination when attacking hostile aircraft of which he has destroyed at least four by night. He has in every way set an excellent example.”

David Barnwell was the youngest of three sons of the late Captain Frank Barnwell, Chief Designer of the Bristol Aircraft Company which produced the Blenheim and Beaufort bombers. He had two brothers, both of whom were RAF pilots and who lost their lives last year.  David Barnwell was 19 years old.


Weather  Fine and cool.

1518-1527 hrs Three enemy aircraft are reported approaching the Island. Ten Hurricane fighters are scrambled and the raiders turn back while still 15 miles from Grand Harbour.

0312-0422 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy aircraft approaching the Island as the same time as Swordfish are heading back to base. Only four raiders – believed to be JU 87 Stukas – cross the coast, one dropping 500kg bombs on land between Rabat and Imtarfa.  The remaining aircraft drop high explosive bombs in the sea three miles north of St Paul’s Bay and east of Delimara.  Four Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit are airborne, two at a time, but there are no searchlight illuminations or interceptions. 

Military casualties  Pilot Officer David U Barnwell, DFC, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 607 Squadron.                                         


ROYAL NAVY  Unbeaten, Urge, Upright sailed at short notice for operation off Cape Passero.

AIR HQ Arrivals 10 Blenheim, 1 Clare, 4 Wellington.  69 Squadron  1 Maryland patrol Ionian sea; 1 Maryland shipping search.  Photoreconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes.  1 Blenheim reconnaissance east Sicilian coast. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish sent to attack a merchant vessel being towed southwards near Kerkennah Bank; the attack was successful and the ship sank within a few minutes.  Two Swordfish and high speed launches from Kalafrana and St Paul’s Bay search for P/O Barnwell without success.


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


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5 October 1941: Malta Urgently Needs Underground Fuel Stores

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From: Governor & C in C Malta                     To:  War Office, copy to C in C Mediterranean

The following for Chiefs of Staff:

A stage in the rearmament of Malta has now been reached where I believe that the Chiefs of Staff should give consideration to the major works which are necessary to complete the defences of this fortress. It has not been possible to advance this problem previously as our main work efforts have been directed for the past 15 months at protecting the population, and this has occupied the major part of our specialised labour force.  It is now possible however to review the problem generally with a view to ensuring that our labour is used for the next two or three years in such a way that the defences of the fortress will be developed in the most efficient manner.



The defence works involved are as follows:

  • (a) Shelters for the civilian population: It is hoped that by the end of November this year every civilian in Malta will have two square feet of bomb-proof shelter. From that time it will then be possible to consider further diversions of labour from this work to the service.  It will be appreciated that the provision of two square feet per person will in no sense complete the shelter scheme and much further work will be required. 
  • (b) The provision of underground workshops in HM Dockyard: These are already underway and will take from two to three years to complete.
  • (c) The construction of an underground supply depot for the Army (work on this has started already)
  • (d) The provision of a secure supply of electricity
  • (e) The provision of an underground flour mill
  • (f) The provision of adequate underground storage for white oils
  • (g) The provision of underground hangars for aircraft
  • (h) The provision of a new Army magazine at Wied-id-Dis
  • (i) The provision of bomb-proof shelters for submarines at Marsamxetto

Labour items for (a) to (f) can be made available; (g) is already underway. It is estimated that items (h) and (i) can be commenced as soon as the remainder of the Government shelter construction scheme is completed.  Items (a), (b) and (c) are already underway. The provision of (d) and (e) are essential requirements of the defence of the Fortress.  Without an underground flour mill our whole scheme to maintain supplies within the Fortress to last eight months may be largely nullified. 

Item (f), the provision of underground oil storage, is my main concern. We need to store about 7000 tons of kerosene, 3500 tons of benzine and 9000 tons of aviation spirit.  These figures cover the whole requirements of the Fortress.  It is hoped that provision will be made for the storage of kerosene by the conversion of No 20 Underground Oil Fuel Tank in HM Dockyard.  No provision yet exists for the bulk storage of benzine.  Storage for 1000 tons of aviation spirit is almost complete at Manoel Island and for 1000 tons of aviation spirit in the Ghar Dalam installation is nearly ready.  This latter installation when completed early next year will provide 2500 tons of storage.  We therefore lack storage for 3500 tons of benzine and 5500 tons of aviation spirit.  The provision of underground tanks to contain these quantities is the most imperative need in the Fortress at the present time.  The present method of importing great quantities of white oils into the Fortress in tins is most wasteful of shipping space and is inviting a major disaster.  At present we have no alternative but to accept this risk but I want to eliminate it as quickly as possible.

I therefore earnestly recommend that the Chiefs of Staff should give approval forthwith for the execution of three Defence Works mentioned in the preceding paragraph. They are our main weaknesses at present and we must overcome them at all cost.  If approval is given detailed plans for the storage of white oils will be forwarded immediately.  The expenditure involved is insignificant compared with the sums of money which have been spent and are being spent on the defences of Malta, yet each of the three works has a major effect on the security of the Fortress as a whole.

Our initial efforts to construct bomb-proof hangars have not been entirely successful owing to the nature of the rock encountered and the Air Officer Commanding therefore prefers to rely on dispersal until we can complete these hangars. They will take much longer than originally anticipated.  I agree with this view.

Items (h) and (i) are essential to complete our defences. I would welcome approval in principle for these works in order to assist our plans for allocating labour.  The lack of these defences is at present being primarily counteracted by the principle of dispersal but this can never provide such a satisfactory solution as bomb-proof cover.  With good fortune we should be able to commence them all before the end of next year. 

Finally I desire to mention the construction of a graving dock for battleships. This is a very great undertaking and at present the Vice Admiral Malta (VAM) considers that the other major defence works to which I have referred in this telegram should be completed before the dock is commenced.  With the experience gained in this war I agree with the VAM that such a dock is an essential adjunct for the maintenance of the Mediterranean Fleet. 

Summed up it is the unanimous view of the senior officers in the Fortress that in order to complete our defences approval should be given forthwith for the schemes covering electricity supply, flour milling and the storage of aviation spirit, and that approval in principle should be given for the construction of major defence works which I have described. I request that an early decision may be given in order to avoid any loss of time in commencing the necessary excavations.      

From: War Office                                 To:  Governor & C in C Malta

Your telegram was considered by Chiefs of Staff. They were of the opinion that you should proceed with the three projects (d), (e) and (f) without delay.  Please therefore forward as soon as possible detailed proposals.


Weather  Fine and cool.

0934-1005 hrs  Air raid alert for two formations of three enemy fighters. Only the second formation crosses the Island, passing over Grand Harbour at great altitude.  Five Hurricanes 185 Squadron and twelve 249 Squadron are scrambled but are unable to reach the necessary height for interception.  The raiders recede northwards with no engagement.

1511-1542 hrs  With no prior alert, six enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north, cross the coast at 27000 feet and immediately split up. Two Hurricanes 185 Squadron and twelve 249 Squadron are scrambled but again are unable to reach the necessary height to intercept.  Two heavy anti-aircraft guns fire pointer rounds. 

0018-0023 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of friendly aircraft.

Civilian casualties  Zurrieq  Antonia Camilleri, age 24.


AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Bombay. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked shipping in Tripoli Harbour. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Sicily, reconnaissance Tripoli Harbour area and convoy. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims searched for Sgt Hamlyn and crew without success.  2 Blenheims attacked railway installations at Catania. Fleet Air Arm 2 Fulmars on offensive patrol on aerodromes in Sicily.  One attacked Trapani aerodrome and Marsala seaplane base.  The other attacked aerodromes at Gerbini and Catania, dropping high explosive bombs on the Gerbini dispersal area and both aerodromes were machine-gunned at low level.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Until further notice curfew will be from 2100 hrs to 0545 hrs.


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


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4 October 1941: Malta Urgently Needs Air Transport Links

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Regent sailed to attack convoy

Regent sailed to attack convoy


From: Governor & C in C Malta                          To:  War Office

I request the following may be taken up with the Air Ministry and Admiralty:

  • The necessity for some regular form of communication to and from Malta, either by sea or air, has been recognised for several months. It has been accepted that any regular form of sea communication is out of the question for the present. Transport by air is thus the only solution, but I have not made proposals previously as I had been informed that the types of aircraft needed for this service were all required for more important work.
  • The necessity for air transport is:
  • To provide a means of moving personnel either east or west. At the present time communication with England is most irregular and very infrequent. A very considerable number of personnel have been awaiting transport from Egypt for many months.  Their number is quite beyond the capacity of the present movements of aircraft or submarines from that country.  Many instances have occurred of officers required urgently in England and the eastern Mediterranean being held up here for six weeks or more owing to the lack of transport.
  • The offensive operations from this base frequently necessitate certain stores for operational purposes being moved here as quickly as possible. Air is the only solution. At the present time the quantity of these stores exceeds the capacity of transport available.
  • For the prompt despatch and receipt of mail. The lack of this at the present time is leading to many long and detailed cypher telegrams which have to be sent since no other sure means of transmission is available. Again, the absence of news from home caused by the very infrequent mail service has, in these difficult times, an adverse effect on the morale of the Garrison.  This is further aggravated by the impossibility for the men to send letters home in any confidence that they will arrive in a reasonable time.
  • For the sake of the efficiency of this Fortress, the need for a regular and reliable air service is very great indeed, and has a direct bearing on our ability to conduct offensive operations for the reasons I have given above. Such a service would be of immense value to use but, on the other hand, it is not possible for us to judge here whether commitments in other parts of the world are more important than our own. I feel, however, that a stage has now been reached where I must represent the great necessity for this service to responsible authorities in order that it may be considered carefully in relation to commitments elsewhere.  Heads of Services agree with this telegram.

From: War Office                                                         To: Governor & C in C Malta

Your request is under urgent consideration here. The necessity for a regular air transport service is fully appreciated but the provision of an adequate number of aircraft of a suitable type is our chief difficulty at present.


Weather  Fine, some cloud.

AM  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft heading towards Malta from the north. Eight Hurricanes 185 Squadron are scrambled and circle over the Island.  The raiders turn away without crossing the coast and there is no engagement.  One fighter of P/O Veitch crashes into the sea one mile from Benghaisa Point.  The rescue launch conducts a search and finds only wreckage.  It is thought the crash may have been caused by a failure in the oxygen supply.

1547-1610 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 enemy aircraft approaching the Island. 13 Hurricanes (two 185 Squadron and eleven 249 Squadron) are scrambled but the raiders retire towards Sicily and there is no engagement.

1613-1620 hrs  Air raid alert for the same formation which turns back towards Malta before circling away again.

1747-1758 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft approaching the Island. 13 Hurricanes (two 185 Squadron and eleven 249 Squadron) are scrambled but the raiders turn away before any interception.

0200 hrs  Summer time ends.  All clocks put back one hour. 

0310-0400 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly. One crosses over Gozo, dropping bombs in the sea.  The second crosses the coast of Malta and drops 50kg high explosive bombs between on the Safi area causing damage to civilian property and four civilian casualties.  Two Malta Night Fighters are scrambled.  One of the raiders is spotted by moonlight at 800 yards range but retreats rapidly and there is no engagement.

0512-0523 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches and drops bombs in the sea south of the Island. Searchlights illuminate the raider but it stays away from the coast and guns do not engage.

Military casualties  Leading Aircraftsman Duncan MacMillan, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Pilot Officer Peter J B Veitch, Royal Air Force, 185 Squadron.


ROYAL NAVY  Upright returned from patrol off Rasocolino, where she sank a small destroyer and sighted two U boats. Regent sailed at short notice to intercept convoy east of Tripoli. Sokol also sailed at short notice to search for the crew of a missing Blenheim.  Two Swordfish carried out an anti-submarine patrol for enemy submarines reported in vicinity of Malta, but without result. 

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Beaufighter, 4 Blenheim, 1 Maryland. 38 Squadron 11 Wellingtons attacked a convoy in the south Ionian Sea. 69 Squadron Marylands photoreconnaissance Tripoli, patrols central Ionian Sea, east Sicilian coast and special search for a convoy. 107 Squadron 8 Blenheims attacked Zuara  Sgt Hamlyn (with Sgt Latter and Sgt Williams) was attacked by Italian CR 42 fighters and ditched in the sea.  An air and sea search has been mounted. 830 Squadron Fleet air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a convoy off the coast of Tripoli leaving two merchant vessels sinking and a damaging a third.   

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Storms wash up several mines on the coast which are rendered safe.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  A mine was found floating dangerously close to a Battalion defence post; the post was evacuated but the mine disappeared during the night and the post was reoccupied.


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Posted by on October 4, 2021 in 1941, October 1941


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1 October 1941: Malta Command Reports Standard of Enemy Bomber Crews Deteriorating

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Lt Carroll (l.) & men of RE Bomb Disposal, Malta (NWMA Malta)

Lt Carroll (l.) & men of RE Bomb Disposal, Malta (NWMA Malta)


  • No of air raids to date 828
  • No of air raid alerts this month 31 (including 21 night alerts)
  • Days without air raid alerts 12
  • Total time under alert 19 hours 23 mins
  • Average length of alert 38 mins
  • Civilians killed by enemy action 4
  • Civilians injured 4


Unexploded bombs dealt with July-Sept 1941 total: 224

  • High explosives: 15g x 21; 50kg x 8; 130lb x 1; 100kg/250lb x 8; 150kg x 2; 250kg/500lb x 2; 500kg x 2
  • Incendiaries: 2kg x 174; 70kg x 2
  • Anti-personnel: 2kg x 3; 12kg x 1


The month was chiefly notable for the increase in the number of daylight raids, the majority being made by small numbers of the new Macchi 200s with in-line engines, flying, for the most part, at too great a height for interception by our own fighters. Night bombing increased presumably as a reprisal for our own heavy raids on enemy ports and aerodromes, but the standard of enemy bomber crews appears to be deteriorating.

Bombing occurred only at night. There were twelve night bombing raids, as a result of which three men and one woman were killed, and three men and three women seriously injured. Thirteen houses, one factory and one garage were demolished or badly damaged.


Weather  Fine and cool.

1155-1220 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy fighters approaching the Island in two formations. Eight Hurricane fighters 185 Squadron and six 126 Squadron are scrambled.  185 Squadron intercept the first formation five north of Gozo, damaging one enemy fighter.  The second formation which has positioned itself against the sun immediately launches a counter-attack on the Hurricanes which break off their action at once.  One Hurricane’s starboard wing is damaged in an engagement with a Macchi fighter but he returns safely.  Sgt Knight attacks another Macchi and damages its tail unit but is then attacked by three others and forced to break off the action.  The fighter of S/Ldr Mould DFC is shot down.

PM  One Swordfish 830 Squadron carries out a search for S/Ldr Mould without success.

Military casualties  Private Cyril Fletcher, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment); Squadron Leader Peter W O Mould, DFC and Bar, Royal Air Force, 185 Squadron.


ROYAL NAVY  Thrasher arrived from patrol in the Gulf of Sirte having carried out two unsuccessful attacks.  Much anti-submarine and minelaying activity off Benghazi. Polish submarine Sokol arrived from Gibraltar and from patrol supporting ‘Operation Halberd’.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 9 Wellington. Departures 1 Maryland, 2 Wellington.  69 Squadron 2 Maryland special patrols. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Battalion mounting guard on convoy ships.


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Posted by on October 1, 2021 in 1941, October 1941


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30 September 1941: Submarines Sink 49 Axis Ships in 3 Months

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RAF raid on German ammunition dump in Libyan desert August 1941

RAF raid on German ammunition dump in Libyan desert August 1941


Between June and the end of September, submarines have sunk a total of 49 enemy ships – an overall 150,000 tons – in the Mediterranean. Added to the losses inflicted by the RAF this represented a high proportion of Axis shipping bound for Libya.

12 patrols were carried out during the month by submarines of 10th Flotilla.  In addition, Triumph proceeded to a successful patrol in the Adriatic, Perseus to an area off Kefalonia, and Otus and Osiris direct to Alexandria.

Unbeaten carried out a spirited bombardment of a tunnel which caused consternation to the local home guard, and Upright sank a destroyer of the Generale class.  The most successful operation was against a fast convoy east of Tripoli, during which Upholder scored one hit on each of Oceania and Neptunia in a night attack and after reloading returned to sink one of them with two torpedoes at dawn.  The other ship’s fate is unknown.  The Vulcania of the same convoy was intercepted by Ursula which scored one hit on the ship causing it to list slightly and reduce speed.

No bombs were reported as having fallen on the Dockyard or other Naval establishments. No unexploded bombs were dealt with by the Royal Navy during the month. 


During the month sweeps over enemy territory by Malta fighters, some equipped to carry 40lb bombs, were added to the strategy.

Marylands and photoreconnaissance Hurricanes of 69 Squadron have covered the Italian convoy routes daily as well as making frequent reconnaissances of Sicilian and southern Calabrian ports and aerodromes, and of Tripoli. Naples has also been visited.  The excellent photographs, visual and sighting reports obtained have indirectly been responsible for the increased pressure of offensive effort from Malta during the month.

Offensive Operations:  Wellingtons of 38 Squadron carried out 26 operations during September, with an average of eight aircraft on each sortie. Over 233 tons of bombs have been dropped on Tripoli during 17 raids, causing considerable damage to harbour installations and the town. Palermo has been attacked five times, Messina twice, Benhazi and Kuriat once each.

Blenheims of 105 and 107 Squadrons carried out 31 operations, 20 of these directed against enemy shipping. Considerable damage was done to the chemical works and harbour installations at Crotone, factories at Licata, transport centres at Homs, barracks at Misurata and a power station at Porto Empedocle.  Five sweeps have been made along the Tripoli-Benghazi road during which petrol tankers and other transport vehicles have been bombed and machine-gunned.

Hurricanes (equipped with cannon) of 249 Squadron attacked the railway station at Pozallo, while those of 185 Squadron have carried out three bombing raids on Comiso aerodrome. On one of these raids a Hurricane was lost but the pilot was subsequently rescued. 

Swordfish of 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm carried out 16 operations, 13 of these against enemy shipping, and have sunk two motor vessels and one destroyer, as well as damaging others. Mines have been laid on two occasions in Tripoli Harbour and once at Palermo.  As a result of torpedo attacks two merchant ships are claimed sunk, one destroyer and three merchantmen probably sunk, seven damaged and a further five probably damaged. 

Beaufighters of 272 Squadron were attached to this command during ‘Operation Halberd’ and were used to attack Sardinian and Sicilian aerodromes. Searches were also made south of Sicily for torpedo boats.

On 14 nights Fulmars have operated over aerodromes in southern Sicily, dropping small bombs and machine-gunning aircraft on the ground. One Fulmar force-landed in the sea; the crew were rescued.

Defensive Action: 126 Squadron carried out 31 scrambles during the month, 249 Squadron 22 and 185 Squadron 66. The Malta Night Fighter Unit had 22 scrambles and shot down two enemy aircraft.  Eleven enemy aircraft were confirmed destroyed, plus one probable and five damaged, against the loss of two Hurricanes.

Enemy Activity: There have been nine day alerts and 20 night alerts during the month. None of these raids was heavy and bombs have only been dropped at night.  Damage has been negligible and confined to civilian property. 


Malta fighters were attacked tonight by five enemy aircraft as they helped search for one of their own Hurricane pilots reported missing after a raid. Eleven Hurricanes of 185 Squadron had earlier attacked Comiso aerodrome but as they returned to their base at Hal Far they learned that one of their pilots, P/O Donald Lintern, was missing.  Five Hurricanes took off again to escort a Fulmar which was sent to search for the missing pilot.  As they circled the area to the north of Gozo, enemy aircraft approached and attacked the Malta fighters.  In the ensuing dogfight one of the enemy fighters was shot down.  P/O Lintern was not been found and the search was eventually called off.


Weather  Fine and fresh.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Sergeant Robert L Kitch, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 200 Squadron; Pilot Officer Donald W Lintern, RAFVR, 185 Squadron.


AIR HQ Arrivals 4 Wellington. Departures 6 Beaufighter, 4 Blenheim fighter. Fleet Air Arm One Fulmar on offensive patrol over Gerbini and Catania aerodromes dropped high explosive bombs on Gerbini dispersal area. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked a motor transport depot in Tripoli. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance eastern and southern Sicily, east Calabrian coast and Tripoli.  Patrol of east Sicilian coast and shipping search off Tripoli area. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked shipping and motor transport near Misurata and Beurat.  1 Blenheim attacked a schooner.  1 Blenheim on search for shipping north of Crotone. 

HAL FAR  185 Squadron 11 Hurricanes attacked Comiso aerodrome, 5 carrying bombs and 6 acting as fighter escort. High explosive bombs and incendiaries were dropped on buildings and a dispersal area.  The aircraft of P/O Lintern failed to return. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Mobile machine-gun company carried out an exercise to the north west of Rabat.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths 33 officers, 870 other ranks.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 21 officers, 443 other ranks.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 18 officers, 708 other ranks. Recruits joined in September: 77.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths 18 officers, 8 WO1, 214 other ranks.


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


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27 September 1941: Malta Convoy Attacked Repeatedly

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SS Imperial Star

SS Imperial Star


The largest supply ship in the latest Malta convoy was left foundering tonight after she was struck by torpedoes during a raid by Italian aircraft. SS Imperial Star is only ship to have been lost while on a large scale convoy to Malta since the beginning of the year. 

Air attacks on the convoy began at 1300 hrs when a formation of 12 Italian Cant and BR 20 bombers approached from the north at low altitude. Guns from the convoy ships and Fulmars from Ark Royal managed to destroy or drive off eight of the raiders; the remaining four attempted an attack without success. 

Then at 1330 hrs a second wave of raiders attacked out of the sun.  Six BR 20 bombers approached line abreast and despite heavy gunfire from the ships three managed to press home their attack, hitting the Nelson with a torpedo and reducing her speed to 15 knots; fortunately this was the convoy speed also so that she remained with the covering force. A third wave of enemy aircraft approached but did not make any attack

Then at 1430 hrs came a radio signal from Malta: two battleships, four cruisers and 16 destroyers of the Italian fleet were just 80 miles from the convoy and closing fast. Fleet commander Admiral Somerville prepared for an attack: Prince of Wales and Rodney, with cruisers Edinburgh and Sheffield escorted by six destroyers were sent out to intercept; Ark Royal also prepared an air strike. In rapidly deteriorating weather the two fleets missed each other.  With no prospect of engagement with the Italian fleet, the ships returned to the convoy and at 1900 hrs the main force of the Mediterranean Fleet turned west to return to Gibraltar as planned. 

The Malta convoy with its close escort of five cruisers and nine destroyers continued its passage eastwards, taking the same route as the last convoy, ‘Operation Substance’, through the Skerki Channel close to the Sicilian coast. As the night skies cleared, Italian bombers relaunched their attacks, singly and in pairs.  Approaching low and fast to launch their torpedoes they were difficult to see against the dark sky. Cossack, Kenya, Oribi and the merchantman Rowallan Castle suffered near-misses.  The convoy ships took evasive action; two collided trying to dodge a torpedo, but another merchant ship was hit. 

SS Imperial Star was carrying 300 passengers as well as a large volume of supplies – was badly damaged, her engines stopped and her steering gear destroyed. HMS Heythrop took off the 300 troops and crew and HMS Oribi took Imperial Star in tow.  However, the 12000 ton merchant ship was too heavy for the destroyer and was unable to make way. Imperial Star was now low in the water and drifting towards the coast of Sicily and the decision was made to sink her.  The remainder of the crew was taken off and Oribi laid depth charges to sink her.  However, despite this and repeated shelling the merchant ship remained afloat and had to be abandoned.  There were no casualties on Imperial Star but three Fleet Air Arm pilots were killed defending the convoy.


Weather  Cloudy.

No air raids.


ROYAL NAVY  SS Port Chalmers and City of Pretoria sailed for Gibraltar at 1100 hrs.

AIR HQ 2 Blenheims on convoy escort; 1 Blenheim anti-submarine patrol. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Palermo, Cape Carbonara, Sicily, Sardinia, east Sicilian coast and special patrols and searches.  1 Blenheim on anti-submarine patrol. 105 Squadron 6 Blenheims sent to attack Porto Empedocle; 4 returned due to bad weather, the remaining two carried out the attack. 185 Squadron 6 Hurricane fighters and 6 Hurricane fighter-bombers attacked Comiso aerodrome three times, dropping 5140lbs of bombs and setting fire to several buildings and aircraft. 252 Squadron 2 Beaufighters attacked Marsala seaplane base. 272 Squadron 6 Beaufighters attacked the seaplane base at Cagliara.  2 Beaufighters attacked Borizzo aerodrome.  3 Beaufighters on patrol over Trapani against e-boats. 

TA QALI  Sergeants Mess in New Camp taken over.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Battalion route march; the column was headed by the Battalion drums.


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Posted by on September 27, 2021 in 1941, September 1941


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11 September 1941: Malta Fighters Winning Battle for the Skies

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Hurricanes dominate Malta skies

Hurricanes dominate Malta airspace


Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta: diary entry 11th September 1941

“I am writing this during a raid at 2100 hrs. Guns are firing which is very unusual. There is no moon; which may have something to do with it. Latterly, our fighters have had much the best of it. Two nights ago friends who were staying at Gozo saw one of their bombers caught in our searchlights, and our fighter chasing it (also in our searchlight) out to sea. Both were firing at one another. The Iti was brought down.

I heard of the worst case of pilfering from the convoys today. Somebody got away with 470 cases, not bottles. The size of the haul makes one give a grudging admiration, when I have lads in prison for stealing a few packets of cigarettes! With whisky at, say 15/- per bottle, this is a value of over £4000. It must have been a whole lighter full, and there must have been a number of people in the syndicate. We are told that somebody is suspect; I hope he gets caught.” (1)


A naval operation for the reinforcement of air forces in Malta was successfully carried out. It is estimated that at least 20000 tons of enemy shipping have been sunk or damaged by Allied aircraft in the Mediterranean.

On 4 September five Blenheims attacked ships in Crotone, which had taken refuge there as a result of a very successful attack made by Swordfish the previous night. One 6-8000 ton merchant vessel was hit and an explosion resulted, and two other ships were attacked (results not observed).  One Blenheim was shot down by anti-aircraft guns. 

On the night of 6-7 September seven Naval Swordfish, operating under the Air Officer Commanding Malta, intercepted a northbound convoy of three merchant vessels and three destroyers. One vessel of 6000 tons was hit three times and almost certainly sunk, and a 6000 ton tanker was hit twice with torpedoes.

A total of 34 tons of bombs was dropped on two nights by Wellingtons on Tripoli. The first attack was made on motor transport depots in conditions of excellent visibility.  The attack was pressed home from a very low level; all the bombs fell in the target area, where large fires among vehicles and buildings were reported.  The harbour was the objective of the second attack; three hits were obtained on a medium-sized merchant vessel and a number of bombs fell on the Spanish Quay.

On two successive nights Wellingtons from Malta attacked the docks at Palermo and dropped a total of 32 tons of bombs. Many hits were made on the three main quays and dry dock, and some extensive fires started.  Three large merchant vessels lying in the harbour may also have suffered damage.  These attacks were followed by two night raids by a total of 16 Wellingtons on the power station, landing stages and ferry ships at Messina; over 22 tons of bombs were dropped and many hits obtained on the targets.  A large fire was reported in the Citadel area of the town.

On 4 September a daylight raid on Malta was attempted by a force of 20 Macchi 200s, which were intercepted by Hurricanes at sea. Later in the day 12 more Macchis were employed to cover rescue operations.  In the course of these two operations nine of the enemy fighters were destroyed, two probably destroyed and five others damaged, against our loss of two Hurricanes.

Formations of from one to six aircraft have attacked Malta on most nights of the week. The few bombs dropped have caused negligible damage.  One Cant Z1007 was illuminated by searchlights and shot down in flames by Hurricanes.


Weather  Fine and warm.

1135-1145 hrs  Air raid alert for a report of nine enemy aircraft which approach to within eight miles north of Grand Harbour at 23000 feet. Ten Hurricane fighters are scrambled.  Eight of 249 Squadron are unable to attain sufficient altitude to attack.  The two Hurricanes of 185 Squadron follow the raiders to within 10-15 miles of Sicily but cannot reach them and return to base.

2047-2210 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy aircraft approaching the Island. One turns back well before reaching Malta but the remaining four cross the coast and drop bombs on land around Kalafrana and Ta Qali.  Ant-aircraft guns engage; no claims.


AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked Palermo. 69 Squadron 5 Blenheims on sweep of Ionian sea; attacked shipping. 105 Squadron 1 Blenheim special patrol. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a convoy of 6 merchant ships and 7 destroyers off the Tunisian coast.  5 torpedoes were fired, sinking one merchant ship and damaging a second. 2 Fulmar offensive patrols over Sicilian aerodromes unable to attack due to thick cloud; they dropped high explosives and incendiaries on chemical works at Licata and machine-gunned harbour installations, then dropped high explosives and incendiaries on the railway at Sciata starting a fire.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Private Clapham buried with full military honours.

(1) Courtesy of website: Malta Family History


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


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4 September 1941: Malta Defenders Destroy 12 Enemy Aircraft in 24 Hours

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Malta’s defenders shot down a total of 11 enemy aircraft today in just three engagements. Mid-morning a large formation of 20 Macchi fighters approached the Island.  21 Hurricanes in total (twelve of 126 Squadron and nine of 185 Squadron) were scrambled and intercepted the raiders when they were still some distance north of Grand Harbour. 

F/Lt Jeffries spotted a Macchi circling at 19000 feet 30 miles off the coast and led his section of 185 Squadron in the attack. The Macchi was last seen diving vertically towards the sea.  Four Macchi fighters then counter-attack but the Hurricanes manage to evade them. 

126 Squadron engaged the raiders at 20 miles off the coast. S/Ldr Rabagliati attacked two Macchis, reporting one spinning down towards the sea emitting smoke.  P/O Burke attacked two Macchis in turn, claiming hits on both; one was seen diving down towards the sea.  F/O Carpenter engaged three Macchis at high altitude, shooting one down. P/O Russell and F/Lt Lefevre attacked and shot down one Macchi apiece.  Three enemy parachutes were observed descending towards the sea; a fourth Italian also baled out but his parachute did not open. 

One Macchi only crossed the coast, flying at low altitude over Kalafrana and Hal Far. Bofors gun positions launched a fierce barrage and the Macchi was last seen losing height over Dingli Cliffs.

This afternoon it was the turn of Malta fighters to go on the offensive. Eight Hurricanes of 249 Squadron headed for Cape Passero on the southernmost point of Sicily, where a formation of twelve Macchi fighters had been reported in the air.  It became clear that the Macchis were protecting a hospital aircraft which was flying at sea level.  The Hurricanes launched an attack and a fierce dogfight ensued, during which three Macchis were destroyed, plus one probable, and two damaged.  Two Hurricanes were shot down; P/O G V Smith and Sgt J C Kimberley are missing.  The Hurricanes turned back towards Malta with the Macchis following close on their tails.  One Hurricane was hit by a bullet during the return flight but otherwise all remaining aircraft returned safely.  Speaking after the engagement, S/Ldr Barton said, “This is the toughest engagement I have experienced to date: the Macchis just stayed and fought.” 

Then in the early hours of this morning two enemy bombers took advantage of the approach of Wellington bombers to reach the Island without interception. High explosive bombs were dropped in the sea and incendiaries over Kalafrana and Marsaxlokk before two Malta night fighters can intercept.  Searchlights illuminate one of the bombers and the Hurricanes engage, shooting it down in flames into the sea, to “the cheers of half of Malta” according to one eye-witness.  Two crew members were seen to bale out of the bomber but after a thorough search only one could be found and rescued.

The bombers in tonight’s raid were later identified as Cant Z 1007s. This is the first known incident of the bomber being used in night raids over Malta.  


Weather  Fine and warm.

1043-1115 hrs  Air raid alert for 20 Macchi 200 fighters approaching the Island. 12 Hurricanes 126 Squadron are scrambled and attack the formation 20 miles north of Grand Harbour, shooting down four Macchis and damaging another.  Nine Hurricanes 185 Squadron also engage the raiders out to sea, shooting down one. One Macchi crosses the coast and flies over the Island at low altitude.  Bofors gun positions at Kalafrana and Hal Far engage, both claiming hits, and the Macchi is observed losing height over Dingli Cliffs.

1546 hrs  Eight Hurricanes of 249 Squadron engage 12 Macchi 200 fighters five miles off Cape Passero. Three Macchis are destroyed, plus one probable, and two damaged.  Two Hurricanes are shot down; P/O Smith and Sgt Kimberley are reported missing.  The Macchis follow the Hurricanes back towards Malta.  One Hurricane is struck by a bullet during the return flight. 

0443-0530 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island with incoming Wellington bombers. The raiders drop high explosive bombs in the sea at Delimara Point, and incendiaries over Kalafrana and in fields near Marsaxlokk.  Searchlights illuminate a bomber which is engaged by Hurricane fighters and shot down in flames into the sea. Two crew bale out; one wounded man is rescued and taken prisoner.  The bomber is later identified as a Cant Z1007, the first time that this type has been identified over Malta at night.

Military casualties  Sergeant John E Jones, wireless operator/air gunner, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Sergeant Lewis D Parry, observer, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Sergeant Walter H Wallace, pilot, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Sergeant James C Kimberley, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 249 Squadron; Pilot Officer George V Smith, Royal Air Force, 249 Squadron.

Enemy casualties  Pilot Sergente Luigi Contarini, 90a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo, 4o Stormo; Pilot Sottotenente Andrea Della Pasqua, 9o Gruppo, 4o Stormo; Pilot Tenente Colonello Carlo Romagnoli, Tenente Colonello, Commander of 10o Gruppo, 4o Stormo.


ROYAL NAVY  Unbeaten returned from patrol in Straits of Messina having sunk a schooner Q ship.  Vichy convoys and a hospital ship were sighted but nothing else.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Reconnaissance of Kerkennah area, western Ionian Sea and Tripoli.  Two Fulmars patrolled Catania, Gerbini and Comiso; bombs dropped on Comiso and Catania. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Three Swordfish, two with torpedoes and one with a mine, left for Tripoli to attack shipping outside harbour. No shipping was located but a mine was laid outside the harbour; torpedoes were not released.  38 Squadron 13 Wellingtons attacked motor transport depot destroying several buildings and starting fires. 105 Squadron 5 Blenheims attacked shipping and port facilities Crotone Harbour.  Enemy fire blew off the wing of Sgt Wallace’s Blenheim and the aircraft crashed, killing the crew. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion held a defence scheme exercise in conjunction with the Fortress Royal Engineers and troops of 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers.  ‘Enemy parachute troops’ attacked targets in Corrodino, the Dockyard, Floriana and Valletta.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 37 (1 x 500kg; 36 x 2kg incendiary).


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Posted by on September 4, 2021 in 1941, September 1941


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17 July 1941: Malta Bombers Attack North Africa, Sicily and Italian Mainland

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Wellington bombers

Wellington bombers


During the week Blenheim aircraft have sunk Axis shipping and damaged a number of other ships. Blenheims from Malta, co-operating with Glenn Martin reconnaissance aircraft, made highly successful attacks on enemy shipping. 

On 15 July a convoy consisting of two merchant vessels of 8000 tons and some smaller ships, escorted by four destroyers, was intercepted proceeding north from Tripoli.  As a result of an attack by three Blenheims one of the 8000 ton merchant vessels was believed totally destroyed, and the other was hit in the bows and damaged.

Two Blenheims which attacked Zuara aerodrome 65 miles west of Tripoli hit the headquarters building and machine-gunned a concentration of transport aircraft. The barracks at Misurata 120 miles west of Tripoli were also hit.

A successful attack by eight Wellingtons operating from Malta was made on Naples. Bombs were seen to hit the railway station, warehouses and fuel cisterns; fires were also started in an airframe factory.  Another similar attack was made on Messina docks, as a result of which huge fires were started at the ferry railhead.  Four lines of goods trucks were left ablaze and extensive fires observed in the engine sheds.  Direct hits were also made on a power plant and dockyard warehouses.


Weather  Sunny and hot.

1126-1145 hrs  Air raid alert for one SM 79 on reconnaissance escorted by 15 fighters which cross over the Grand Harbour area and fly over the centre of the Island from north to south at 23000 feet.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage.  19 Hurricanes are scrambled (eight of 249 Squadron, 11 of 185 Squadron) 185 see the raiders but are 4000 feet too low to engage.  249 Squadron chase the raiders out to sea, eventually engaging them at 16000 feet, 55 miles north of the Island.  Two Macchi 200 fighters are shot down into the sea and another is damaged.  One Hurricane of 249 Squadron is lost; the pilot Sgt Guest is killed.

0110-0134 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches from the north and drops bombs on the Sliema area and in the sea, including off Filfla.

0155-0355 hrs  Air raid alert for as series of four enemy aircraft which approach singly from the north at intervals, then drop bombs on the north of the Island and Ta Qali. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage with one barrage; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but there are no interceptions due to no searchlight illuminations.  One unexploded bomb is reported at Targa Gap.

0411-0442 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island at the same time as Wellingtons are returning, then drop bombs on Kalafrana and in St Thomas’ Bay.  Other sticks of small bombs fall on fields across a mile stretch of open country.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagements.

Military casualties  Sergeant Maurice Guest, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 249 Squadron.

Enemy casualties S ergente Maggiore Enrico Botti, 10o Gruppo, 4o Stormo, pilot of Macchi 200 fighter shot down and died.


ROYAL NAVY  Utmost sailed for ‘Operation Substance’.

AIR HQ  Departures 5 Hurricane. 69 Squadron Maryland search for convoy ship.

HAL FAR  Fulmar ‘intruder operation’ on Catania met with heavy ground opposition. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 3 Swordfish attacked Tripoli and successfully torpedoed a 7000 ton tanker as well as dropping bombs on Spanish Quay causing a huge explosion, despite heavy ground defences. 148 Squadron 5 Wellingtons attacked Palermo Harbour, dropping 20000lb of bombs on four cruisers and six destroyers; results not seen.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 2 (15kg HE).


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Posted by on July 17, 2021 in 1941, July 1941


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9 July 1941: Security Breach Endangers Malta Convoy

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Naples bombed tonight

Naples bombed tonight


The most important convoy to Malta of the war to date, codenamed ‘Operation Substance’, has been placed in danger after a serious breach of security measures. In view of the risks in sending a major convoy through the dangerous waters of the western Mediterranean later this month, all communications on the subject have been subject to the greatest security.  The risks are believed justified to meet the urgent and growing needs for supplies, equipment and manpower in Malta which cannot be met quickly enough by a convoy through the long sea route via the Cape.

However, according to an urgent telegram despatched today from the War Office to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief via the Admiralty, two telegrams from the NAAFI in Malta to their Headquarters in London have been sent via unofficial channels.  In doing so, the NAAFI have ignored standing instructions that all communications on such secret matters must pass through official channels. According to the War Office, NAAFI Malta “have by their gross laxity probably compromised this most important operation.”

Lt Gen Dobbie has been asked to investigate the telegrams and put in place further measures to eliminate the danger of further compromise from Malta – and to report back immediately that this has been done.

Meanwhile, to mitigate the effects of the security breach, Lt Gen Dobbie is to inform the Head of the NAAFI Malta personally and for his information only that a cable is being sent from London to help cover the indiscretions. The contents of cable HQ1131 will be untrue but it will be circulated as if true to all those staff of NAAFI Malta who have become aware of the content of the previous two telegrams.

The bogus telegram reads:  “Your telegram of 25 June and 3 July not understood. No shipment of troops or stores to Malta direct is envisaged.  Should reinforcements for Malta be necessary, stores will accompany troops on the usual route via the Cape.”


Crews of four Blenheim aircraft of 110 Squadron have been reported missing tonight after they failed to return from a mission over Tripoli. They were among a formation of seven sent to attack Tripoli harbour.  The Blenheims carried out low-level attacks, dropping several 500lb bombs on shipping and harbour facilities in the face of vigorous anti-aircraft fire.  One 500lb bomb hit the harbour Mole causing a massive explosion, two more struck a merchant ship offshore.  Several large fires were started and flames shot 400 feet into the air. 

One of the Blenheims was shot down over the harbour by anti-aircraft guns, crashing onto a torpedo boat which burst into flames. A second was blown up by an explosion.  Two Blenheims are believed to have alighted on the sea; the crew of one is believed safe but the other was some distance from the formation and the fate its crew is not known.


Weather  Hot and sunny.

AM  Four Hurricanes of 185 Squadron interrupt an enemy patrol of two seaplanes escorted by four Macchi 200 fighters ten miles off the coast of Sicily, probably a rescue party for the downed BR 20 bomber last night.  One Macchi and one seaplane are damaged.

1939-2010 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy aircraft spotted 40 miles north of Malta. 14 Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders turn back for Sicily before they can be engaged.

2350-0024 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island from the south west and drops four 100kg high explosive bombs on Hal Far. Heavy anti-aircraft guns fire two barrages; no claims.

Military casualties  Sergeant Ronald E Baird, Royal Air Force (RAF), 110 Squadron; Pilot Officer Walter H Lowe, RAF Volunteer Reserve (VR), 110 Squadron; Sergeant Harold Lummus, RAFVR, 110 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant Michael E Potier, pilot, RAF, 110 Squadron.


ROYAL NAVY  C308, St Angelo and Justified landed troops for a military exercise.

AIR HQ Arrivals 3 Blenheims, 1 Bombay, 1 Sunderland. Departures 2 Blenheim, 1 Bombay. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Tripoli, Syracuse.  F/O Warburton had a running fight with a Macchi 200 which was probably destroyed.  110 Squadron  6 Blenheims dawn attack on Tripoli; prevented by fog.  7 Blenheims made a low-flying attack on Tripoli Harbour with good results but 4 aircraft failed to return (S/Ldr Seale who landed in the sea, F/Lt Potier, P/O Lowe, Sgt Twist). 148 Squadron 9 Wellingtons night bombing raid on Naples; 3 returned owing to bad weather before reaching target.  6 bombers dropped 12000 tons of bombs and 2400 incendiaries on the Central Railway Station from 6500 feet.  Bombs were also dropped on warehouses near an aircraft factory, causing fires and explosions.   Ack Ack was slight and all aircraft returned safely.

HAL FAR  Lt Governor Sir Edward Jackson visited Hal Far with AOC Mediterranean. 185 Squadron 2 Hurricanes attacked sea planes in Syracuse at sea level and inflicted heavy damage.  4 Hurricanes attacked float planes at Syracuse, damaging 8.  A Fulmar patrolled the Catania area. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Swordfish despatched to attack Tripoli but returned without reaching objective due to low cloud and bad visibility.

2nd Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  ‘Exercise Asia’ continued throughout the day with simulations of continued bombing and parachute attacks.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 (1 x 15kg HE, 1 x 250lb HE).


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Posted by on July 9, 2021 in 1941, July 1941


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