Tag Archives: 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment

8 October 1941: London Press Heralds Malta Attacks on Axis Convoys

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Fleet Air Arm Swordfish


London, 8 October 1941 – from a press correspondent in Malta

“Another heavy success against enemy shipping in the Mediterranean – this time by planes of the Fleet Air Arm – was revealed in a dispatch from Malta last night. The story of the new blow followed hard on the Admiralty announcement yesterday morning that British submarines operating in the Mediterranean had hit with torpedoes and sunk or seriously damaged 11 enemy vessels. 

‘The Fleet Air Arm on Sunday night launched a sudden, savage attack against an Italian convoy steaming south in the Ionian Sea,” says the Malta message. “The convoy, which was first sighted before daylight, comprised four merchantmen of from 8000 to 10000 tons, two between 4000 and 6000 tons, and five destroyers.

A Fleet Air Arm formation attacked in bright moonlight. The first two planes swept in, attacking the rearmost vessels from starboard and from port respectively.  Before the Italians opened fire they were beyond range, leaving the largest merchantman listing heavily and belching black smoke, and a 6000 ton ship with its stern under water and also listing heavily.  The crews were seen taking to the boats and pulling towards a destroyer.  The destroyers frantically opened fire and laid a smoke screen which, however, a strong wind dispersed. 

The remainder of the formation then attacked the convoy. The leading plane straddled a large vessel with a stick of bombs, probably damaging its bows.  Another attacked a ship on the starboard column.  It swung out of line and stopped.  All the planes returned safely.’”


Weather  Heavy rain in the afternoon.

Dawn  Enemy aircraft carry out air reconnaissance in the area where surface vessels were detected overnight.

Civilian casualties  Balzan  Susanna Galea, age 41.


ROYAL NAVY  Perseus arrived from patrol off Benghazi for docking and repairs.  Two small supply ships sunk. P34 arrived from the United Kingdom via Gibraltar.  

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Beaufighter, 8 Blenheim. 69 Squadron  Maryland patrols east Tunisian coast and 3 special patrols. 107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked transport on the Misurata-Sirte road. 221 Squadron 2 Wellingtons on special patrols. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish attacked a northbound enemy convoy of one merchant ship, a schooner and two trawlers.  Two torpedoes were dropped hitting a merchant ship which sank.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  An exercise with ‘attack’ by mobile infantry platoons and three tanks of Malta Tank Troop on Royal Artillery harbour gun positions and forts of San Pietru, Rocco, Rinella and Ricasoli.


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Posted by on October 8, 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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13 September 1941: 45 New Hurricanes for Malta

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HMS Furious

HMS Furious


45 Hurricanes flew in to Malta today, the second reinforcement of fighters to arrive on the Island in a week. Their arrival completes Operation Status which was intended to deliver some 60 Hurricanes in total.  However, the first phase last Tuesday was only partially completed, when guide Blenheims did not arrive to escort fighters from their aircraft carrier to the Island.

Ark Royal returned to Gibraltar on Wednesday and, following a rapid turn-round, embarked with 26 Hurricanes. A second carrier Furious departed with a separate protective force carrying another 20.  They were due to rendezvous yesterday for the Hurricanes to fly off to Malta but the event had to be postponed. 

Early this morning seven Blenheims from Malta reached the rearranged rendezvous ready to guide the Hurricanes to their destination. All but one of the 46 fighters took off successfully and completed a safe transit to the Island.  The remaining Hurricane crashed on take-off.


New curfew regulations have been introduced for 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment.  From today no serviceman may be away from his billet after 1930 hours except those on 24 hours or 3 days’ leave.  In addition, only 25 per cent of men may be away on leave at one time.  The regulations are designed to ensure that posts can be quickly manned against surprise attack.

However, the Battalion commanders recognise that the new requirement to stay in at night make it imperative that the men have more NAAFI accommodation and a recreation room. The Battalion is trying to find a suitable place for an HQ Officers Mess so that the present Mess may be given over to the men.


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

We are still short of the following infantry officers in Malta: 4th Bn The Buffs 4, Kings Own Malta Regiment 5, Devonshire 9, 1st Bn Cheshire Regt 4, 1st Bn Hampshire Regt 8, 1st Bn Dorset Regt 7, 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regt 7, 8th Bn Manchester Regt 4, 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers 8: total 56.  The Middle East reports that officer material is drying up.  A small class of NCOs sent to their officer training unit will not be ready until next year.  I request the early despatch of as many as possible to meet the deficiency.


Weather  Fine and warm.

1117-1130 hrs Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft approaching the Island. Ten Hurricanes 249 Squadron and nine 195 Squadron are scrambled.  The raiders turn away before reaching Malta and there are no interceptions.


AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 7 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli Harbour. 69 Squadron 1 Blenheim special patrol; photo-reconnaissance east Sicilian coast. 105 Squadron 3 Blenheims searched for missing Blenheim crews.  3 Blenheims search and sweep for shipping, central Ionian Sea. Fleet Air Arm One Fulmar offensive patrol over Gerbini and Catania dropped high explosive bombs south east of Gerbini and incendiaries near Moto.

TA QALI  8 officers and 6 sergeant pilots arrived by Hurricane from HMS Ark Royal. 6 officers and 5 sergeant pilots arrived by Hurricane from HMS Furious.  8 officers and 7 sergeant pilots left by air for the Middle East. 


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


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10 September 1941: Malta Pilots Receive Military Honours

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Awards have been announced today for three pilots for their service while based in Malta.  F/O Warburton has been given a second military honour in recognition of his service as a reconnaissance pilot. The official announcement came today of a Bar to add to the Distinguished Flying Cross he was awarded in January.

London Gazette, 9 September 1941: The King has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:

F/O Adrian Warburton

F/O Adrian Warburton

Flying Officer Adrian Warburton DFC, No 69 Squadron

“This officer is a most determined and skilful pilot and has carried out 125 operational missions. Flying Officer Warburton has never failed to complete the missions he has undertaken and, in the actions fought, he has destroyed at least three hostile aircraft in combat and another three on the ground.”

Flying Officer Roger Drew, No 69 Squadron

“In July 1941, this officer carried out an attack on the aerodrome at Zuara. Aircraft on the ground were machine-gunned, one being destroyed and others damaged.  Flying Officer Drew has also been responsible for the destruction of three Italian flying boats.  He has completed 120 operational flights, including a number of reconnaissances, and throughout he has displayed skill and enthusiasm.”

Pilot Officer Jack Buckley, 105 Squadron

“In August 1941, this officer attacked a 9000 ton merchant ship off Lampedusa. Destroyers, torpedo boats and a large number of lighters were removing a cargo of motor transport at the time but Pilot Officer Buckley attacked through a curtain of fire and, although wounded during the run-in, scored hits setting the ship on fire.  Subsequent reconnaissance revealed that a 700 ton sloop was also sunk as a result of the attack.”


A new type of Italian high explosive bomb has come to light in Malta. Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer Lt G Carroll first encountered the bomb when he was called out to Dingli by one of his NCOs. 

“His squad had revealed the first of two small bombs, six feet under the narrow strip of fertile farmland overlooking the sea, below the Island’s radar station. The NCO did not recognise the bomb. Lt Carroll climbed down the ladder to take a look: from its size he estimated it at 50kg, but from its markings it was Italian – and certainly not one he had seen before.  The NCO had reported that the bomb’s base fuze was broken – so with any luck it might be harmless.  But if the central part of the fuze was still in place, it could be in a highly-sensitive condition.  Lt Carroll’s worst fears were confirmed: any attempt to take out this fuze could detonate the bomb.  Better to set a charge himself and have a controlled explosion.  He looked up: no luck.  They were too close to the radar station, especially if the second bomb went up as well.  What if that one could be got out of the way first?

Lt Carroll walked across to take a look: the lads were making good progress and the bomb was already exposed. He climbed six feet down the ladder into the shaft and squatted down beside the bomb: another damaged fuze.  Now he had two bombs that were too unstable to move.  Nor could they be exploded this close to the radar station.  He had just one more option – but it meant putting himself at risk.  The entire base plate would have to be unscrewed from each bomb.  It was possible, but it had to be done without disturbing the broken fuze.  And twice. 

He gave the order for the men to retreat. This was a job for the Bomb Disposal Officer alone.  As soon as his Sergeant signalled that they were out of range, Lt Carroll began to unscrew the base plate of the first bomb, taking care to avoid touching the vulnerable fuze. Grasping it firmly, he gently eased it away from the carcass and climbed the ladder with his prize.  Soon the second base plate was off and Lt Carroll could afford to relax.  However, there was the matter of yet another unknown bomb to consider.  He ordered the parts of both bombs to be carried back to Lintorn Barracks.  He had a report to write.” (1)


Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

Civilian casualties  Rabat  Emmanuel Bartoli, age 55; Carmel Borg, age 61.


AIR HQ  38 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked power station, train and ferries at Messina. 69 Squadron Reconnaissance Tripoli, plus special search and patrol.  

TA QALI  4 officers and 9 sergeants left for Luqa by Hurricane to proceed to the Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  1900-0730 hrs Brigade Exercise: an ‘attack’ was made on the Battalion sector. Carriers and mobile platoons did excellent work and the whole area was well covered by fie from our static posts.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 3 (2 x 50kg; 1 x 12kg anti-personnel)

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  The Battalion participated in a Brigade exercise, attacking the defended positions on the Cottonera Lines held by 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment.

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


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


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5 August 1941: Captured Italian Orders Reveal Plan of Attack on Malta

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Captured Italian orders have revealed for the first time the plan of attack for last month’s seaborne raid on Grand Harbour. The War Office in London has written to military commanders across the Empire giving details of the raid and its successful defeat by Malta’s gunners to use as an example for future similar engagements.

To: C in Cs Gibraltar, India, Middle East, West Africa, Palestine & Transjordan, Iceland, Malaya, Hong Kong, Burma, East Africa, Faroes, Aden, St Helena, Ceylon, Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Trinidad, Jamaica, Bermuda and Mauritius

Italian MTB (NWMA Malta)

Italian MTB (NWMA Malta)

Notes on Seaborne Attack Malta Harbour 26 July 1941 – for information

The attacking force consisted of:

  • One two-man motor torpedo boat (MTS – carrying the leader)
  • Nine one-man motor torpedo boats (MTB)
  • Two two-man submarines (SLCs) with detachable explosive bow
  • One motor boat to carry two SLCs (crew of about 6)
  • Two MAS large motor boats to rescue the crews of the MTBs

In addition a large fast torpedo-boat carrier transported the MTBs from Augusta in Sicily to about 7 miles from Malta Harbour. The carrier then retired.

Plan of attack (based on captured Italian operation orders)

A submarine (SLC) having affected a breach in the viaduct of St Elmo Breakwater, MTBs were to pass through and attack vessels in harbour, the targets having been previously arranged as a result of photographic reconnaissance.

Extracts from orders to motor boat pilots:

  • “If ships are seen entering or leaving harbour, MTBs are to enter by the gate which will then be open.
  • If the group is heard, seen or illuminated and fired upon, they will turn back at full speed and wait till dawn. It is important to maintain contact. If, however, MTNs are caught in the beam of the searchlights but not fired on they are to reduce speed to a minimum.
  • At dawn the attack will take place in the same way as at night except that when fired upon by the enemy the MTBs will proceed at full speed to attack.”

Actual attack

  • At 2055 hrs on 25 July, RDF detected a surface plot south of Sicily approaching Malta.
  • By 2300 hrs the plot had approached within 14 miles of Malta. All guns were manned and the air raid was sounded.
  • Thereafter the sounds of motor engines were heard at various points along the north east coast of Malta but too far out to sea to warrant exposure of coastal searchlights, except at 0130 hrs when a motor boat was heard closing on Grand Harbour. The coastal searchlights were illuminated but exposed nothing, yet the boat withdrew.
  • An air raid lasted from 0413 hrs to 0446 hrs when the All Clear was sounded. One minute later an explosion broke up the breakwater viaduct at St Elmo. 
  • Searchlights were exposed and guns opened fire on [two] vessels at ranges from 1000 to 3000 yards. Within a few minutes both were sunk and exploded under water.
  • By this time Hurricane fighters were in the air gunning the retreating boats. It seems reasonable to believe that not a single boat escaped back to Sicily.
  • During the later stages Bofors guns were used with good effect. It is understood that machine-guns were also employed.


  • One submarine exploded in attacking the viaduct.
  • One submarine ran aground.
  • Six MTBs, the MTS and the MTL destroyed by shore defences.
  • Three MTBs and two rescue launches destroyed by the RAF.


  1. Although the night was calm and visibility good, craft in the last stages of their approach moved so slowly that possibly three vessels reached 300 yards offshore without making an appreciable sound.
  2. The illuminated area was very effective up to 1800 yards but fighting lights are necessary beyond this range.
  3. The distribution of fire scheme at Malta allots one twin equipment to each fixed light. While the scheme could not be tested entirely as enemy vessels kept close together, it is considered by local authorities that the present scheme is fit for purpose.
  4. One formation of five boats in ‘line ahead’ were broken up by sinking the first three; the others appeared disabled but later came into action.
  5. The MTBs were very hard to discover as they were not easily distinguished from the wreckage. Crews may abandon boats which are apparently disabled and then return to them later if they are sound.
  6. Manoeuvrability of the craft was better than anticipated; 180 degree turns were executed in an incredibly short time. This increased the difficulties of No’s 1 in correcting their fire.
  7. Tracer ammunition proved invaluable at short ranges.
  8. Electric fans inside the [gun turret] shield proved of great value in clearing smoke from telescopes.
  9. No director sights being available, the gun commander had to stand outside the shield to direct the gun layers onto the proper targets, owing to the very limited view from within.
  10. Eight six-pounder twins fired a total of 585 rounds.


Weather  Sunny and hot.

2138-2315 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy bombers which approach from the north east and drop bombs on Ricasoli, Tigne, Valletta, Marsa, Paola, Tarxien, Zonqor and Latnia. At Rinella a bomb puts a Bofors gun out of action; the crew is badly shaken.  Two bombs on Cospicua damage houses.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled and searchlights illuminate so that they can engage.  P/O Barnwell shoots down one BR 20 and another unidentified bomber in flames.  F/O Cassidy spots a raider on the edge of the formation and closes in.  The raider opens fire first and after several volleys at each other parts of the enemy aircraft are seen to fly off and it rapidly loses height.  Catania HQ is later heard signalling to Syracuse rescue station to report the loss of a pilot.

2346-0055 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft approaching in succession. The first crosses the south-east coast of the Island and drops bombs on Zonqor point, receding to the north east where it is engaged by a Hurricane.  The second raider crosses the coast in the Grand Harbour and drops bombs four miles from Luqa and in the sea off Dingli.  The third aircraft recedes without crossing the coast.

Enemy casualties  Tenente Colonello Nello Brambilla, 99o Gruppo, 43o Stormo, Sottotenente Antonio Romeo, 99o Gruppo, 43o Stormo, pilot of BR 20.


ROYAL NAVY  6 Swordfish attacked Augusta with bombs.  All returned.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 2 Blenheim. Departures 2 Blenheim. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols of Tunisian coast, western Ionian Sea, Pantellaria-Marittimo-Empedocle.  Photo-reconnaissance Catania, Augusta, Syracuse. San Giovanni and Messina. 105 Squadron 4 Blenheims sent to attack merchant ships failed to locate but attacked coastal vessels.  2 Blenheims sent to attack shipping in Gulf of Sirte but not sighted; bombed barracks in Misurata. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 2 Fulmar patrolled Catania and Gerbini aerodromes dropped bombs on Gerbini. 

HAL FAR  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Six Swordfish successfully attacked the submarine base at Augusta, causing several large fires. 2 Fulmars patrolled over Catania and Gerbini aerodromes, dropping bombs on the flarepath of Gerbini.  One Fulmar later gunned a searchlight position at Augusta.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  For the last week the Battalion has provided large working parties for unloading of convoy ships. A high explosive bomb landed near part of D Company billets rendering them unsafe for habitation. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion in Gozo.


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


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31 July 1941: Malta’s 800th Air Raid Alert Today

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Fulmars have disrupted enemy night raids

Fulmars have disrupted enemy night raids


The continued policy of the Command has been to intercept convoys en route between Italy and North Africa by day with the Blenheim detachments and by night with the shore-based Fleet Air Arm Swordfish. In addition, Wellingtons have concentrated on Tripoli port, causing considerable damage to the port facilities. 

82 Squadron carried out three attacks on military transport and barracks, and one attack on shipping. They were relieved by 110 Squadron on 4 July, and carried out successful attacks on shipping, harbours and key roads with the loss of six aircraft.  148 Squadron carried out 13 successful sorties during the month, chiefly on Tripoli.  Hurricanes of 46 and 185 Squadrons have made two successful attacks on seaplane moorings at Syracuse, at least three aircraft being burned out.

Beaufighters of 143, 252 and 272 Squadrons arrived towards the end of the month to cover a Naval operation. During their attachment they carried out two highly successful sorties against aerodromes in Sicily and Sardinia, destroying at least 38 aircraft and damaging many more.

Throughout the month Fulmars have patrolled over Catania by night and on one occasion shot down a bomber off Syracuse. Bombs were also dropped on aerodromes and towns.  The activities of these lone Fulmars has done much to harass the nocturnal operations of the Italians and on many nights prevented enemy bombers from operating.

The whole offensive has been possible through the reconnaissances of 69 (Maryland) Squadron, which was reinforced by three aircraft from Egypt. The Squadron aircraft have been equipped with bomb racks and although not employed on offensive work during the month they have released bombs over their objectives during reconnaissance.  They have also made two low-flying machine-gun attacks and at least two enemy aircraft were shot down during patrols.

249 Squadron carried out 29 day scrambles and 19 night scrambles. 46 Squadron, which was renamed 126 Squadron on 22 July, carried out 31 scrambles by day and 18 by night.  185 Squadron carried out 71 scrambles by day.


Malta submarines have carried out 13 patrols during the month. Four ships of approximate total of 16200 tons were claimed as sunk.  A further two ships of approximately 7500 total tonnage were probably sunk.  In addition, two hits each were obtained on a Condottieri “D” class cruiser and on a 500 foot floating dock.

830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm carried out three torpedo attacks on shipping. One hit was made on a tanker off Tripoli.  Two hits were made on a tanker off Lampedusa.  The total tonnage of these two ships is estimated at 10,000 tons.  One or both may have been sunk but of this there is no definite evidence.  In the third attack, a hit was obtained on the stern of a destroyer and a heavy explosion was observed in a ship of about 6000 tons.  This ship may have been sunk but the evidence is inconclusive.


Weather  Sunny and hot.

Day  Nine enemy aircraft come to within 25 miles of Grand Harbour and then turned back.  23 Hurricanes are scrambled but make no contact with the enemy.  S/Ldr Barton’s Hurricane’s engine fails and he has to make a forced landing but sustains no injuries. 

2200-2248 hrs  Air raid alert for a three enemy BR 20 bombers which approach singly from the north east and attack Grand Harbour, dropping 250kg bombs near the floating dock and on the Parade Ground of St Angelo destroying three mess rooms and injuring three people. Bombs are also dropped in the sea.  Hurricanes of 126 Squadron are scrambled. Searchlights illuminate raiders three times but the Hurricanes are unable to make contact.  P/O Stone chases a raider 30 miles out to sea but is unable to see it beyond the searchlights. 

2350-0017 hrs  Air raid alert for a single BR 20 which approaches from the north and drops 250kg bombs in the Grand Harbour area, as well as in the sea north east of Ricasoli. Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.


ROYAL NAVY  P32 arrived from United Kingdom. Upholder arrived from patrol off Marittimo, having sunk a 6000 ton laden merchant vessel, and obtained 2 hits on a Condottiere D class cruiser.  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish left to intercept a southbound convoy of 4 merchant ships and 5 destroyers 20 miles west of Lampion.  Owing to poor visibility, convoy was located by ASV (radar).  2 torpedoes were fired and 1 hit obtained (unconfirmed).

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Wellington. Departures 3 Wellington, 4 Blenheim (leader had engine failure and all returned). 69 Squadron Marylands made 8 reconnaissance flights including Sicily, Elmas and Monserrato.  Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli strafed enemy aircraft on the ground at Zuara.  Marylands on special patrol. 105 Squadron 6 Blenheims sent to attack convoy but were intercepted by enemy fighters and returned without dropping bombs.

KALAFRANA  During July Sunderland and Catalina flying boats made considerable use of the station for flights between the Middle East and UK, with 28 arrivals and departures of aircraft during the month. Passengers included Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, Inspector General of the Royal Air Force, and Rt Hon Captain Lyttleton, AOC, Middle East.  The rescue Swordfish carried out 8 patrols and marine craft 6.  Numbers rescued during the month were 3 Italians by marine craft, 1 British and 1 Italian by floatplanes.  Total rescues since 11 June 1940 are 42 by marine craft (including 7 dead) and 3 by floatplane.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Regimental Dance Band is being reformed in the Battalion. Auditions were held and instruments have been begged, borrowed and bought.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths officers 31, other ranks 876, RAOC (attached) 2.  

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battalion strength 22 officers, 393 other ranks.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battalion strengths 17 officers, 554 other ranks.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths 27 officers, 8 WOs, 181 other ranks.


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


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26 July 1941: Italian E-Boats Attack Malta Harbours

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Italian plan of attack

Italian plan of attack


A flotilla of Italian boats launched a daring attack at dawn this morning on Malta’s main harbours. It is believed the attack was aimed at the convoy ships in Grand Harbour and the submarine base at Manoel Island. But within a matter of minutes all the enemy vessels had been destroyed or disabled by Harbour defences. 

The Harbour gunners had been at their posts since before midnight last night, when enemy shipping was detected off the north coast of the Island. In anticipation of a naval bombardment, all coastal defence posts were ordered to ‘stand to’ and Swordfish aircraft were sent out to attack but the enemy vessels were reported to have turned away.  However, the incident placed the Harbour Fire Command on high alert; gunners were not sent to barracks but ordered to sleep at their gun positions.

Just before dawn this morning the air raid alert sounded for a small group of enemy fighters approaching the Island. No attack was made but as All Clear siren died down, the sound of motor boat engines was heard off Grand Harbour. 

A minute later came the first intimation of the attack on the Harbour, with a heavy explosion under the St Elmo Viaduct. The order was given for all searchlights to be switched on and the sea outside Grand Harbour was lit up across a wide area, exposing several enemy E-boats close to the shore. The gunners at St Elmo and Ricasoli and along the coastline opened fire.  The first enemy boat was blown up within 10 seconds, followed at short intervals by several others.     

Already woken by the air raid alert, many civilians watched: “the resulting fireworks display, as [the tracer bullets] ricocheted off the surface of the sea and formed interweaving patterns of dark red, green and light red, was a sight witnessed by the crowds, which surprisingly enough for the hour of the morning had gathered along Valletta bastions and Sliema front…” (1)

As it became lighter more E-boats were sighted and engaged with great success by the twin 6 pounders of the Harbour Fire Command, the Bofors positions at Dragut Point, Fort St Elmo and Ricasoli, and also from a coastal defence post.

Corporal L G Ferris of 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment was manning a gun at the defence post: 

Italian MTB

Italian E-boat or ‘barchino’

I heard loud explosions in the mouth of the Grand Harbour. I went outside and saw two Motor Torpedo Boats.  I watched them for approximately ten minutes and decided that they were hostile craft, and so I engaged them with a Vickers Machine Gun… We continued to fire until both boats were sunk and all firing ceased at approximately 0530 hrs.  Daylight showed the wreckage of two boats with survivors clinging to them, and these survivors were picked up by a naval boat…” 

At about 0550 hrs we saw three other craft on the horizon and this was reported to Company Headquarters.”

Meanwhile the RAF reported enemy aircraft approaching the Island. Hurricanes fighters were sent to intercept and engaged the raiders.  While most concentrated on the Macchi fighters, two Hurricanes dived on enemy motor boats and opened fire, damaging at least two.

P/O Winton was surprised by a Macchi fighter: “and received such damage to his machine that his fan stopped. Using his speed to gain height, he was able to reach 700 feet and then baled out, both his parachute and dinghy doing all the things that a kind-hearted MO likes them to do… then he spotted a stationary torpedo boat.  He paddled the dinghy with his hands and, finding progress slow, towed it and swam towards the boat.  By climbing up the side he was able to peer into it and was confronted by eight very much dead Italians.

Taking possession of the boat was thus quite easy and as he couldn’t start it he waited, flying the flag at half-mast, since he didn’t know which side would rescue him. An Army rescue boat did a circuit round him – almost six hours after he had baled out on an empty stomach – and thinking he was an Italian, also that there was a machine-gun on the boat, left him to cool his heels for a time.  Before they could return a Swordfish with floats dropped in to pay him a visit and gave him a lift home…” (2)

The attacking force is believed to have consisted of one fast tender vessel carrying the strike flotilla, two large motor torpedo-boats (MTBs), one torpedo-carrying flotilla leader, two baby submarines and one baby submarine carrier, and nine E-boats.  The attack vessels were apparently escorted to within a couple of miles of Grand Harbour before the escorting boats turned out to sea, to stand ready for any rescue operations.  Six E-boats, one two-man motor torpedo boat and a large motor boat were destroyed by coastal defences, three MTBs and two rescue launches were destroyed by the RAF. 

One two-man torpedo boat exploded on attacking the St Elmo breakwater; the outer span of the breakwater was brought down, effectively blocking access to Grand Harbour for the following attack vessels.  No other damage was caused.

Malta rescue boats and aircraft searched throughout the day for survivors. The enemy also carried out air searches and an Italian hospital ship remained 12 miles offshore for most of the day; the RAF did not mount any attacks.  In all, 15 dead bodies were recovered; 18 Italians were rescued alive and taken prisoner.  One MTB was recovered and brought in to Grand Harbour.  A one-man boat was also recovered intact, and it is hoped to salvage other craft.  


Weather  Sunny and hot.

0415 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft approaching the Island. They turn away without dropping any bombs.

0445 hrs  Five motor torpedo boats (MTB) are reported off Grand Harbour.

0446 hrs  A large explosion is heard from the direction of Grand Harbour.

0450 hrs  MTBs, one-man motor boats and two-person manned torpedoes are reported off Grand Harbour. The St Elmo alarm sounds again and sentries take up positions on all beach posts.

0500 hrs  The vessels are engaged by the twin six-pounders of the Harbour Fire Command at a range between 3000 and 500 yards. Bofors gun positions at Dragut Point, Fort St Elmo and Ricasoli also engage. Defence posts of 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment engage the boats with machine-gunfire.

Eight boats attempt to break through the boom defences of Marsamxetto and Grand Harbour. Seven are either sunk or destroyed before reaching their target; one reaches the viaduct of Elmo breakwater and explodes, bringing down the viaduct.  Gas and water mains are broken by the impact; supplies are shut off by Royal Engineers personnel. 

Hurricane fighters join in the attack on the Italian E-boats.  Two are sunk and two disabled, along with the entire force of speed boats and manned torpedoes. One Bofors claims six hits on an E-boat.  1st Bn Cheshire Regiment reports hitting one E-boat with machine-gunfire at 1450 yards; the vessel then explodes.  

0525 hrs  Air raid alert for a large formation of enemy aircraft approaching the Island 15 Hurricanes fighters are scrambled.  Nine of the Hurricanes sight two enemy rescue boats 15 miles from Malta on a north-easterly course.  Two fighters dive towards the boats and open fire from 500 yards, five of the remaining Hurricanes follow in to attack while one remains on lookout.  One of the boats is halted and appears to be sinking, the other is pursued for five miles before bursting into flames. Hurricanes also attack E-boats off the coast of Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto.

A Macchi fighter approaches and attacks one of the Hurricanes. Another Hurricane launches a counter-attack on the Macchi and shoots it down into the sea.  Hurricanes engage 15 Macchi fighters apparently on their way back to Sicily; two Macchis are shot down.

One Hurricane is shot down in the engagement and P/O Winston is reported missing. Another pilot reports having seen him in the sea 25-30 miles north east of Grand Harbour. 

0622 hrs  Raiders passed signal is sounded. Heavy machine-gun fire is heard out to sea.

St Elmo Viaduct has been damaged but the Harbour defences have not been penetrated. Reports claim a mixture of ten vessels including E-boats and one-man torpedoes sunk by shore gun batteries and Hurricane fighters; numbers are difficult to confirm due to the half-light.  However, excellent work by the twin six-pounders of the Harbour Fire Command undoubtedly accounted for the majority of the craft destroyed.

DAY  Swordfish aircraft and rescue boats from Kalafrana carry out patrols to search for survivors, totalling five and a half hours. P/O Winston is picked up unhurt.  Eighteen Italians are rescued alive and taken prisoner.  One disabled E-boat is brought into Grand Harbour.  A one-man speed boat is also recovered intact and it is hoped to salvage other craft. 

The enemy also carry out searches for the missing Italian boats and Macchi pilots throughout the day. Hurricanes make no further contact with enemy aircraft. 

2152-2218 hrs; 2231-2348 hrs  Air raid alerts for six Italian BR 20 bombers which approach the Island singly. Although there is little moon, the raiders manage more hits on the Island than usual.  Bombs are dropped on fields between Mosta and St Paul’s Bay, where they cause a fire among crops which acts as a beacon for a second raider to drop more bombs.  250kg high explosive bombs are also dropped between Naxxar and Mosta, on Zonqor Point and Maddalena, on Zabbar and near Marsascala, on fields behind Sliema, and in the sea.  Hurricanes 249 Squadron are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns fire one barrage; no claims. 

An enemy hospital ship searches through the night for survivors of this morning’s engagement.

Military casualties  Lance-Sergeant Artificer Frederick G Morris, 4th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Enemy casualties  Sergente Maggiore Ruggero Gallina, 76a Squadriglia, 7o Gruppo, 54o Stormo, Macchi 200 pilot shot down and died. 

Italian attack on Grand Harbour casualty list


ROYAL NAVY  Dawn attack on Grand Harbour and Marsamxett by enemy E and smaller M boats.  Attack decisively defeated, believed a total of 15 boats sunk by harbour defences and RAF.  18 prisoners collected.  St Elmo Viaduct torpedoed – our only casualty. Cachalot sailed for Alexandria with stores and personnel.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Sunderland. Departures 1 Blenheim. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily, Tripoli, Castel Benito and special patrols. 110 Squadron 3 Blenheims sent to attack ship reported by patrol but failed to locate it.

HAL FAR  Wing Commander R H Harris took over command of Station.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  A and C Companies now at Buschetto Gardens and D Company at Zebbug.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A machine-gun of a D Company defence post sank an Italian small vessel.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1. 0500 hrs Stand to for action on Harbour defences and action on damage to breakwater. 0530hrs Stand down. First action other than air attacks in this war in which men of FRE unit have taken part.  Results highly successful.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  A private was killed when handling an unexploded 25 pound shell which he had collected as a souvenir. Three Other Ranks were injured in the explosion.

(1) Malta Blitzed But Not Beaten, Philip Vella, Progress Press 1985)

(2) Air Battle for Malta, HMSO

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Posted by on July 26, 2021 in 1941, July 1941


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21 June 1941: Malta Acts to Prevent Tank Invasion

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Scaffold barriers in positionMalta’s military chiefs today conducted further tests to protect the Island’s key areas against an enemy invasion. Mines have already been laid at strategic points and last Saturday booby-traps were tested on the airfields to prevent the landing of enemy aircraft and parachutists.  Although most of the Island coastline is too rocky for the landing of military vehicles, some areas have been identified as vulnerable. 

Having reviewed the measures taken in 1940 against an expected seaborne invasion of England’s coast, Military commanders decided to try out ‘beach scaffolding’ structures to prevent the landing of tanks on Malta’s shores. The structures are normally erected on sandy beaches, half submerged in water so that tanks are stopped in their tracks and unable to gain traction to force their way forward due to the wet sand.

A specimen set of 50 scaffold poles and clips has been delivered to Malta to test the effectiveness of the system for the Island. Following last week’s trial of booby-traps at Luqa, the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer Lt G D Carroll – an engineering graduate – was asked to manage the construction of the barrier, assisted by men of 24 Fortress Company, RE.  The venue chosen was the Polo Ground at Marsa.  However, Lt Carroll was not impressed with the conduct of the test:  

Scaffolding diagramIf you’re going to build a fence to stop something, you don’t make it slope towards you – you slope it the other way: bracing, it’s called. So we duly erected this – it was about forty or fifty feet long and about 12 feet deep.  We had two tanks in Malta, one was an I-tank I think which was big, but not very, and one was called a light tank.

When we had got it all set up, the Colonel (the Chief Engineer) said we should use the light tank first, which was sensible. We got the light tank out on the correct side of the barrier and the driver stood off about five or six feet, revved the engine and then tore at the fence.  The tank went into the fence a yard or so – so sensibly the driver backed off and went in again, and the tank stopped; it wouldn’t move.  They examined it and one of the scaffolding poles had bent and gone in through the track of the tank and it couldn’t move. 

But then the Colonel said: ‘Right. Try it the other way.’  And the tank was sent round to the other side, where now the fence is sloping the wrong way.  The light tank tore into the back of the fence and went in about 12 feet or more and then it stopped.  And the Colonel’s words were: ‘That’s the way we’ll use it!’  Because on the correct side it had been stopped after eight feet and it had travelled 12 feet the other way!

I had to just sit and watch; I couldn’t say anything. I was flabbergasted: he was supposed to be the expert, he was the Chief Engineer.”


Weather  Hot and sunny.

No air raids.

0217-0245 hrs Air raid alert for four unidentified enemy aircraft which approach singly from the north east, crossing the coast at various points. Bombs are dropped near Della Grazia searchlight and in the sea off Delimara and Rinella.  Ten heavy anti-aircraft gun positions fire three barrages; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no engagements.

0256-0317 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft approaching the Island. They turn away before reaching the coast.


AIR HQ  Arrivals 6 Blenheim. Departures 3 Blenheim. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  0400 hrs An exercise was held to test the defences of Valletta, the Dockyard and Three Cities. Parachute troops were allowed in and appeared at various places and times.  The defences were successful and the majority of the ‘enemy’ were rounded up.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  24 Company commenced erecting tripods to obstruct likely landing grounds. Malta Command Exercise No 4 at 0400hrs to test defence of Valletta and Three Cities against parachute landings.  Standing patrol is Bomb Disposal Section. Officers to report in on 23 June at Marsa Club. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (15kg).

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Troops on parachutist exercise: defence of Three Cities.


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


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31 May 1941: Valletta Law Courts Collapse into Main Street

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Passers-by in Valletta were lucky to escape injury this afternoon when a large building collapsed into the City’s main street. The ruins of the building which housed the former Courts of Justice, already badly damaged by the blast of an enemy mine, caved in without warning leaving large blocks of masonry blocking Kingsway.  The collapse of the building, formerly the Auberge d’Auvergne, was apparently caused by shock waves from an explosion in the Tigne area. (1)


The month of May has been noticeable for a gradual but marked decrease in German air activity. During the first few days the heavy night raids on the Dockyard continued with bombing and minelaying.  The cruiser Gloucester and part of the Naval light striking force finally left Malta on 2 May, and the Germans turned their attention to the aerodromes.  After a few days these too ceased.  Reconnaissance by JU 88s continued and about the middle of the month a squadron of ME 109 fighter bombers was operating from Sicily by day.  Towards the end of the month these left and it was apparent from the tactics that the Italians had once more taken over the night raiding of Malta.


Weather  Fine.

1030-1040 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of a Glenn Martin Maryland.

No enemy air raids.


ROYAL NAVY During the month three or four submarines were continuously on patrol. 830 Squadron had only five flying crews through the month.  Blenheims of anti-ship bomber squadrons reported successful attacks on twelve merchant vessels and two destroyers.  The Bomb Safety Officer dealt with 14 unexploded 50kg bombs and one 500kg. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 2 Sunderland. Departures 2 Sunderland; 1 Beaufighter.  69 Squadron  2 Marylands patrol eastern Tunisian coast AM and PM.  2 Marylands patrol PM Ionian Sea to Greek coast. 82 Squadron Three Blenheim bombers attacked Florida II off Sfax; direct hits were scored, causing explosions and volumes of black smoke. 

LUQA  One Beaufighter left for the Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  As a result of General Alarm Exercise at beginning of week personnel are to be withdrawn from selected posts to form a mobile reserve. One platoon of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt will also come under this unit for operations.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal  Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 251; dealt with 109.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths: officers 30; other ranks 684

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  69 conscripts enlisted during May.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths: officers 25, other ranks 123.

(1) Malta Blitzed But Not Beaten, Philip Vella, Progress Press 1985


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


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29 May 1941: New Anti-invasion Force for Malta

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Cheshire machine guns cropA mobile machine-gun company is being set up ready to tackle enemy troops invading the Island. Their task will be to put a ‘stop’ in the event of the enemy gaining a footing on the Island, or to support a counter attack to drive the enemy into the sea.

1st Bn Cheshire Regiment have been detailed to provide manpower for the company, in addition to their existing role in the defence of the harbour and close-down of Valletta.  The machine-gun company will be part of the new anti-invasion Fortress Reserve and will be mobilised on receipt of orders from Fortress HQ.  On receipt of the code word ‘Libya’, personnel and equipment will be despatched by motor transport to the machine-gun company rendezvous as quickly as possible.

The Fortress Reserve also includes one troop of two ‘I’ tanks and one light tank at Marsa and the same at Birkirkara. They also form part of the defences of Luqa, Ta Qali and Hal Far aerodromes, and Kirkop landing strip, and work alongside Reserve Battalions from the Northern and Southern Infantry Brigades. 


Long grass and thistles close to military sites across Malta are to be cut back. The measure is to reduce the risk of fire spreading and causing damage to key facilities. 


Weather  Fine.

1032-1055 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber escorted by 20 ME 109s which carries out reconnaissance at high altitude over the Island, passing over Luqa and Naxxar. Anti-aircraft guns engage and destroy the JU 88.

0259-0436 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy aircraft which approach the Island individually from the north east. Four turn drop bombs in the sea to the north then turn back before reaching the coast.  One crosses the coast and drops bombs on fields the Grand Harbour area.  No anti-aircraft guns engage and no Hurricane fighters are scrambled.


AIR HQ  Arrivals 10 Beaufighter. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance southern part of eastern Tunisian coast.  2 Marylands reconnaissance Greek coast report enemy ship movements.  Maryland reconnaissance of shipping route to east of Malta. 

LUQA  Ten Beaufighters arrived from Gibraltar.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Mobile Company on reconnaissance. A party is to be sent to Gozo again including one platoon of unit. 

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

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  D Company embarked to “Gozo Training Camp”.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  The pipers played “Retreat” at Church Square, Mellieha.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A Company embarks for ‘Gozo Training Camp’. E Company takes over mobile company duties at Luqa.  


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Posted by on May 29, 2021 in 1941, May 1941


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