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9 May 1942: 60 Spitfires Reach Malta

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OPERATION BOWERY A SUCCESS

Spitfires 601 Squadron

Commanders in Malta are in celebratory mood tonight after the second major attempt to supply the Island with a Spitfire force proved a resounding success.  Under ‘Operation Bowery’ 60 new fighters reached the Island today out of a total of 64 which took off from the aircraft carriers USS Wasp and HMS Eagle.  From the early hours of this morning Malta’s three airfields of Hal Far, Luqa and Ta Qali stood ready for the new arrivals.  The Island’s artillery loaded their guns, ready to fight off enemy attacks intent on destroying the Spitfires. 

The first arrivals came into view just before 10 am and ground crews went into action.  Each aircraft was allocated a number which matched them to a specific ground crew, before being taken to a protective pen to refuel and re-arm.  Within minutes, every new Spitfire was ready for a fresh pilot to take off to fight off enemy attacks on the next arrivals.  The new measures ensured there was no repeat of the heavy losses following the previous delivery attempt in April.

  • RAF fighter sorties: 125 by Spitfires, 9 by Hurricanes
  • RAF casualties: 2 Spitfires destroyed
  • Enemy bomber sorties: 24 JU 88s, 17 JU 87s, 10 Cant 1007s, 5 BR 20
  • Enemy casualties: destroyed 4 ME 109s, 3 Cant 1007s; probably destroyed 2 ME 109s, 3 JU 87s, 1 Macchi, 1 BR 20; damaged 7 ME 109s, 3 JU 88s, 2 JU 87s, 2 Macchi 202

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 MAY TO DAWN 10 MAY 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; no cloud – haze.

0400 hrs  Malta airfields – reveille at Ta Qali, Luqa and Hal Far.  Working parties are picked and final arrangements confirmed for the arrival of Spitfires.  Royal Artillery raise ammunition restriction to cover arrival of Spitfires.

Ready to take off from Wasp

0500 hrs  USS Wasp and HMS Eagle, Western Mediterranean: ‘Operation Bowery’ – Spitfires ready to take off for Malta at first light.

0722 hrs  One JU 88 and six ME 109s carry out reconnaissance over Malta.

0800 hrs  Zero hour – Malta’s airfields at state of readiness.

0915 hrs  Five Italian bombers approach the Island with a mass formation of 53 ME 109 fighters.  A number of ME 109s are engaged by two Ack Ack light machine guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA): hits claimed.

0924 hrs  Five Cant 1007s drop bombs on the Marsa and Floriana areas.  Bombs hit Haywharf, causing a fire in the HQ of No 1 Section 24 Fortress Company Royal Engineers and destroying searchlight equipment.  In Marsa Private Shepherd B Coy 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is injured in the leg by a cannon shell.

0940 hrs  Nine Hurricanes are airborne, six from Luqa and three from Hal Far, as escort for the arrival of Spitfires from the western Mediterranean.  Six Spitfires 242 Squadron are also scrambled from Ta Qali to give high cover.  242 Squadron are attacked by four ME 109s over Luqa.  F/Lt Sanders destroys one ME 109 and F/O Holland and P/O Mitchell between them destroy another.  One Spitfire ditches in the sea: F/Lt Buckstone is missing.

1000 hrs  Ta Qali logs the first 22 new Spitfires and their pilots to arrive over the next hour.  Each aircraft is numbered ready to be met by an allocated ground crew and taken to a protective pen to refuel, re-arm and repair as necessary, ready for a fresh pilot to take off within 20 minutes as cover for the next arrivals.

1015-1020 hrs  Ack Ack Light Machine Guns of 225 LAA  engage ME 109s at 3-600 feet: hits claimed.

1055 hrs  Ta Qali: 11 of the new Spitfires take to the air with experienced pilots of 249 Squadron and engage ME 109s.  P/O Nash destroys one and probably destroys another; F/Lt Buchanan probably destroys one.  P/O Milburn crashes near Safi and is killed.

1100 hrs  11 more new Spitfires arrive at Hal Far plus another flight at Luqa, all to be met, serviced and airborne within minutes.  Ack Ack guns defend them from attack by numerous ME 109s swarming over the airfield at 150-500 feet: hits claimed.

1145 hrs  Guns of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt at Wolseley Camp engage ME 109s heading in over Fort Ta Silch to attack Hal Far: no claims.

1200 hrs  Four Spitfires on patrol make visual contact with delivery aircraft heading in towards Malta: one new Spitfire is observed falling into the sea.  A ME 109 is spotted nearby and chased away.

1205 hrs  The last batch of new Spitfires lands.  60 have arrived out of a total of 64.

1258 hrs  Raiders passed.

1312 hrs  News of the delivery of Spitfires has reached the Luftwaffe in Sicily.  A formation of 14 JU 88s and 20 ME 109s is observed heading towards Malta.

1315 hrs  Eleven Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft.  Two JU 88s claimed as damaged.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are also airborne:  P/O Nash damages one ME 109.  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron are also up: Sgt Tweedale crashes at Luqa and is killed.

1330 hrs  Six JU 88s drop 24 high explosive bombs on Ta Qali, damaging two motor transport vehicles.  A delayed action bomb explodes near the caves, injuring A/C Oliver.  Three airmen slightly are injured in the Maintenance Quarry, Attard-Rabat Road.

1355 hrs  Nine JU 88s attack on Hal Far and Safi.  One bomb damages the runway and the aerodrome is unserviceable for an hour.  About six delayed action bombs are also scattered over the area.  One soldier is seriously injured and four others slightly injured.  Bombs are dropped on Wied Znuber: three Other Ranks 4th Bn Hampshire Reg are injured by bomb splinters.

1356-1415 hrs  Two JU 88s at 2-3000 feet engaged by guns of 225 LAA Bty.

1405 hrs  Four Spitfires from Hal Far and Luqa land at Ta Qali.  P/O Noble is shot up over Ta Qali.

1423 hrs  Raiders passed.

1531 hrs  One JU 88 carries out reconnaissance.

1550 hrs  12 Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept incoming ME 109 fighters.  F/O Holland, P/O Mitchell and F/Sgt Hurst each damage one ME 109.  One Spitfire is damaged.

1610 hrs  Messerschmitt 109s carry out a fighter sweep.

1615 hrs  14 JU87s with a 40-strong fighter escort dive-bomb the Safi and Siggiewi dispersal areas.  One Wellington already damaged is burned out. Three JU 87s break away to attack the San Pietru gun position, killing two Other Ranks and wounding five more, and drop bombs between Hompesch and St Clements Church.

1620 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron attack JU 87s over Grand Harbour.  F/Lt Lawrence damages one ME 109. Sgt Broad claims one JU 87 probably destroyed; he also damages one JU 87.  F/Lt Lawrence and P/O Wigley each claim  one JU 87 probably destroyed.

1630 hrs  One JU 87 is engaged by one gun of 225 LAA Bty: hits claimed.

1640 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron, Ta Qali, returning from a patrol over Sicily attack JU 87s who have been bombing Luqa and Grand Harbour.  P/O Nash probably destroys one.

1700 hrs  Raiders passed.

1727 hrs  11 Spitfires (4 of 601 Squadron and 7 of 126 Squadron) are scrambled from Luqa to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  Nine aircraft engage in combat; two no contact.  Claims three probable Italian BR 20s destroyed; one Macchi 202 destroyed, two Macchi 202 damaged.

1744 hrs  Five Cant 1007s and numerous fighters attack, dropping fifty 100kg bombs on Attard camp and on Ta Qali airfield.

1805 hrs  Nine Spitfires 601 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa to intercept incoming enemy aircraft.  Four have combat; five make no contact.  Claims: one ME 109 and one JU 88 damaged.

1835 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron and three Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne from Ta Qali but did not manage to intercept five Cant 1007s and seven JU 88s which go on to attack the airfield.  F/Lt Douglas destroys one ME 109; F/O Slade damages another.  F/L Douglas goes into a bomb crater on landing and damages his aircraft.

1846-1934 hrs  Seven JU 88s drop 40 high explosive bombs on Ta Qali causing craters on the aerodrome.  Three Spitfires are damaged.

0040 hrs; 0230 hrs  Two air raid alerts: a total of 12 aircraft drop bombs in the Tal Handaq area, on Tigne parade ground and in the sea.  An E boat and some aircraft appear to be minelaying in the sea north of Grand Harbour.  Some damage is caused to gas and water pipes.  One JU 88 is probably destroyed by Ack Ack.

0050-0212 hrs; 0250-0520 hrs Two Beaufighters are airborne from Luqa on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft.  One BR 20 is claimed as probably destroyed.

0414-0421 hrs  Three German schnellboote lay a triangular minefield off Sliema point to cover one possible approach of HMS Welshman which has been reported by the Luftwaffe heading for Malta.

0438 hrs  Schnellboot S-31 collides with a loose mine and sinks.  13 men are rescued including her Commanding Officer and two Italian officers; 13 are lost.

Military casualties  Sergeant Alwyn Bentley, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Flight Lieutenant John Buckstone, Royal Air Force VR, 603 Squadron; Aircraftsman I John Clarke, Royal Air Force VR; Pilot Officer Harold Milburn, Royal Air Force VR, 245 Squadron.  Corporal Frederick Few, Royal Air Force, Squadron Leader John Gorringe-Smith, Royal Air Force, Flight Sergeant Thomas Grosvenor, Royal Air Force VR, Flying Officer John Leslie, Royal Air Force VR, Flying Officer William White, Royal Canadian Air Force; all 221 Squadron.  Sergeant John Jacklin, Flight Lieutenant Raymond Sly, Pilot Officer Gordon Tweedale, all Royal Australian Air Force.  Private Leonard Harvey, Private Lindon Lever, Corporal Thomas Maloney, Private Raymond Small, all 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.  Gunner Seraphim Cauchi, 30 Bty, 3 LAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Joseph Falzon, 11th AA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Peter Portelli, 11 HAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Attard  Carmela Muscat, age 23.  Balzan  Sister Alexandra Borda, age 31.  Floriana  Mary Polidano, age 17.  Gzira  Joseph Mifsud, age 36.  Qormi  Teresa Sammut, age 20.  Zejtun  Gaetan Mifsud, age 54.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 9 MAY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Further sweep of Grand Harbour entrance channel with all available minesweeping craft.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Lodestar from Gambut.  Departures  One Lodestar to Heliopolis, three Hudsons to Gibraltar, one Beaufort, one Wellington to 108 MU.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down in combat; pilot killed.  One Spitfire shot down in the sea off Malta; pilot missing, believed killed.  One Hurricane straffed by ME 109s while landing; pilot uninjured.

LUQA  0847-1210 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance and visual reconnaissance of Messina, Palermo and Trapani harbours and south Italian aerodromes.  1525-1730 hrs  Spitfire on search to locate enemy shipping Malta to Messina.  2123 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on special search: failed to return.  S/L Gorringe-Smith, P/O Leslie, P/O White, Sgt Bently, Sgt Grosvener, Sgt Jacklin, C/L Few missing.

TA QALI  3 Officers, 14 Airmen from HQ Mediterranean, 19 from Gzira, attached for temporary duties.  1535-1640 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron patrol over Sicily.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Special party four Officers and 100 Other Ranks required for work on Luqa on stand by to fill in bomb craters from 0500-1000 hrs daily.  Working party of 12 men to fill belts for RAF.  9 and 30 cwt lorries required for work at Luqa.  Large deliveries of Spitfires expected.  Italians dropped bombs from a great height in Bn area.  Cpl Maloney, Pte Lever, Pte Harvey, Pte Small killed; Pte Schooley very badly injured, not expected to live.  Capt Roddy slightly injured.  Very unfortunate as men were caught absolutely unawares.  Ptes Harvey and Small were manning the Ack Ack light machine gun.

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

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 20; dealt with 10 (1 x 1000kg,  3 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg, two Italian anti-personnel bomb containers).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 trucks, 14 officers and 261 Other Ranks building pens and filling craters on Hal Far aerodrome.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Battalion assisting in maintaining and servicing of aerodromes: arrival of reinforcements of Spitfires.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  1430 hrs  This unit takes over Luqa working party from Durham Light Infantry.  No craters required filling today.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  This unit supplied a working party of 150 men: Spitfires arrived.

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed.  For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com.

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Posted by on May 9, 2017 in 1942, May 1942, Uncategorized

 

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13 January 1942: 14 Air Raids – 9 Hours Under Fire

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“Weather, being low heavy rain-clouds, is favourable for dive-bombing.”  War Diary, 11TH Bn The Lancashire Fusiliers

  • 45 enemy fighters and bombers use cloud cover to launch 14 air raids in 19 hours
  • Civilian and military casualties
  • Heavy bombs on Luqa and Hal Far: Hurricane destroyed – Maryland and Blenheim shot down – 2 enemy fighters destroyed
  • Hal Far and Ta Qali runways still waterlogged

RE Bomb Disposal dig for UXB at bus station (NWMA Malta)

UNEXPLODED BOMB CLOSES MAIN BUS STATION FLORIANA

At 1340 hours this afternoon attackers dropped a stick of heavy bombs between Floriana and Valletta, leaving large craters scarring the formal gardens and avenues.

Civil defence officers find evidence of a possible unexploded bomb in the middle of the road at the heart of the main bus station outside Kingsgate (Porta Reale).  All bus movements into the area are brought to a halt and an urgent message is telephoned through to Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal.

Lt T W T Blackwell, RE arrives to confirm traces of a large unexploded bomb.  The area is sealed off until further notice and excavations begin.  It takes several hours and over 12 feet of digging before the bomb is – a 500 kg – can be defused and removed. (1)

AIR RAIDS 0001 HRS TO 2359 HRS 13 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Weather: cold wind SW; bright periods, thundery showers.

0347-0510 hrs  Two aircraft approach from the north, dropping bombs in the Mellieha and St Paul’s Bay areas, in Birzebbuga and in the sea off Ghar Hassan.  Heavy Ack Ack fire three immediate barrages.

0836-0913 hrs  One unidentified bomber and six plus fighters approach from the east.  The bomber crosses the coast over Kalafrana dropping bombs between Zeitun and Zabbar while the fighters remain over the sea.  Barrages are fired from Luqa and Harbour guns.  No Hurricanes are airborne.

0959-1030 hrs  One JU88 approaches from the west, crossing the coast near Dingli and dropping bombs between Sheleili Tower and Safi Strip, killing two Other Ranks and injuring six Other Ranks of A Company, 1st Bn The Hampshire Regiment. Four more bombs fall between Marsa and Luqa.  Heavy Ack Ack fire barrages; no Hurricanes are airborne.

1113 hrs Fifteen enemy aircraft – three JU 88s plus fighters – approach the Island from the north in three formations.  Both Heavy and Light Ack Ack guns engage, firing nine barrages.

1133 hrs   Three JU88s and fighters in three formations bomb the Hal Far and Safi areas. 

1200 hrs Four JU 88s and eight ME 109s attack Hal Far.  Two bombs are dropped on the aerodrome.  One Hurricane is a write-off, and two damaged.  No casualties.

1210 hrs  [Guns] Sandwich and Shoreham of 225th Light Ack Ack Battery engage one JU 88.

1239 hrs   All guns of 225th Light Ack Ack Battery engage at intervals ME109s at heights from 200ft to 600ft and at 3,500ft.  Sandwich claims one hit on a ME 109.  Ack Ack Light Machine Guns from Battalion HQ engage two ME 109s. FAS at Harrow position is rendered useless by enemy aircraft.

1245 hrs  One Maryland aircraft returning from a shipping search engages an ME 109 in a dogfight seven miles off the Malta coastline.  The pilot, Wing Commander John Dowland, GC, succeeds in shooting down the Messerschmitt, only to be shot down himself by two enemy fighters.  The Maryland crashes 40 feet from the coastline at Tigne, killing Wing Commander Dowland and Wireless Operator PO Robert Gridley. Observer PO Arnold Potter has managed to bail out and survives.  One of the Messerschmitts is also brought down, by Light Ack Ack fire.

1315-1418 hrs  Enemy formations totalling three JU 88s plus eleven fighters approach from the north.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage, firing six barrages and shooting down one ME 109. A 500kg bomb explodes just outside HQ of the 1st Bn The Cheshire Regiment, blowing out all the windows and damaging a wall.  No casualties, apart from a few minor cuts from broken glass sustained by orderly room staff.

1340 hrs A stick of bombs fall on the main highway between Valletta and Floriana, killing two and injuring eight.  Other bombs fall in Corradino and in the sea.  No Hurricanes are airborne.

1522 hrs  One JU 88 escorted by two ME 109s approach from the north; the ME 109s cross over the south east corner of the Island and skirt the south coast while the JU 88 crosses the coast near Madliena and drops bombs near Naxxar.  The Harbour and Luqa Barrages cause the bomber to recede.

1539-1554 hrs One JU88 approaches from the west and drops bombs on the Pembroke Ranges, causing casualties among a firing party.

1615-1652 hrs  Two JU 88 and four ME 109s approach from the north.  One JU 88 crosses the Island at 15000 feet, probably on reconnaissance.  A second JU 88 dives over Grand Harbour and drops bombs near Hal Far from 7500 feet.  No Hurricanes are airborne.

1733-1800 hrs  Three ME 109s approach from the west at 8000 feet and carry out a sweep round the Island – at times down to 500 feet above sea level.  Two Hurricanes are airborne but do not engage.

1949-2012 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the south east, drops bombs in the sea off Delimara, out of range of the guns, and then recedes.

2032-2049 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north over St Georges [Bay].  Three barrages are fired.  Bombs are dropped in Kalafrana Bay.

2112-2133 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north over St Paul’s Bay, crossing over Ta Qali and receding over Gozo, dropping bombs in the sea.  Heavy Ack Ack fires six barrages.

2211-2225 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north over Ricasoli, dropping bombs near Zabbar and the Palace which do not explode.  Heavy Ack Ack fires two immediate barrages.

2238-2254 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north west over Mellieha, crosses over Ta Qali and recedes north from Spinola.  Bombs fall near Zebbug.  Heavy Ack Ack fire three immediate barrages.

2312-0017 hrs  Five aircraft approach the Island during this period.  One raid fails to locate the Island and recedes.  Other raids cross the coast between Grand Harbour and Madliena, dropping bombs west of Birkirkara and in the sea.  Heavy Ack Ack fires two jmmediate barrages.

Night  Seven air raids involving a total of 22 bombers damage houses.  Ack Ack engages several times.

Civilian casualties  Siggiewi Censu Farrugia, age 24; Wigi Schembri, age 3.

Military casualties  Wing Commander John Dowland, GC, Pilot, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron; Pilot Officer Robert Gridley, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron; Pilot Officer John Hilton, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Pilot Officer Roderick Huggins, Royal Air Force; Sergeant John Lait, Royal Air Force (VR).  Private John Brandreth, 1st Bn The Hampshire Regiment; Private Henry Chant, 1st Bn The Hampshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: TUESDAY 13 JANUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals six Blenheims, one Mosquito from Gibraltar. Five Hudsons to LG224; two Blenheims to Helwan.

LUQA 69 Squadron  Two Marylands search for shipping.  40 Squadron  Three Wellingtons on bombing mission.

TA QALI  Two fighter Blenheims carried out patrols.  P/O Huggins and two crew of one machine failed to return – presumed shot down.  Six airmen attached 242 Squadron from Luqa and Kalafrana.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3; dealt with 1 (500kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

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

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Posted by on January 13, 2017 in 1942, January 1942

 

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6 January 1942: Attacks to Neutralise Airfields To Begin Tomorrow

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TROOPS STAND READY TO DEFEND AIRFIELD POSITIONS

Infantry Brigade Operation Order 6 January 1942

British 3.7 inch (LAA) gun, London

British 3.7 inch (LAA) gun, London

Reliable information indicates that Germans may attempt neutralization of Malta aerodromes by heavy dive-bombing attacks beginning 7 Jan 42.  Necessary AA arrangements are being made which involve moving additional troops and Light Anti-aircraft guns into position to reinforce those already defending the airfields.

The intention is to provide maximum defence of aerodromes from ‘stand to’ throughout daylight on 7 Jan 42, both round the airfields themselves and in depth beyond the perimeters.  Positions have been ordered not to ‘stand down’ until further orders are received from Headquarters.

A wet and stormy night prevented enemy air raids, and the move of troops was carried out unmolested.  Malta’s troops are armed and ready.

AIR RAIDS 0001 HRS TO 2359 HRS 6 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Cold, overcast; low clouds, rain most of the day.

1053-1110 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Aircraft identified as friendly.

1210-1225 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north east above the clouds.  Heavy Ack Ack engage and aircraft drops bombs in St Thomas’ Bay area: three in the sea and one on the cliff ege.  No Hurricanes airborne.

1255-1305 hrs  Air raid alarm; raid did not materialise.

1430-1445 hrs  One aircraft approaches to within six miles of Grand Harbour, drops bombs in the sea and recedes.

1546 hrs  Air raid.  Four bombs are dropped in the waters of Marsaxlokk Bay between defence post BZ1 and Delimara.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: TUESDAY 6 JANUARY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Breconshire sailed from Malta escorted by four destroyers: Lance, Lively, Jaguar and Havock

AIR HQ  Arrivals One Beaufighter, six Blenheims from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  Night 6/7th Four Swordfish 830 Squadron sent to attack convoy of two merchant vessels and two destroyers.  One merchant vessel of 4-5000 tons definitely hit amidships.  All aircraft returned safely.  Three Albacores sent to attack two merchant vessels and two destroyers.  One of the merchant vessels was attacked and hit.  The ship stopped.  Opposition usual light and heavy Ack Ack.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland special search Gulf of Hammamet;  one Maryland SF10b patrol.  107 Squadron One Blenheim SF14 patrol.  Night 6/7th  S/D Flight one Wellington shipping search.  40 Squadron patrol.

TA QALI  Aerodrome unserviceable; no flying.  One air raid alarm.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  1030 hrs  New General Officer Commanding (Major General D M W Beak, VC, DSO, MC, visited Brigade and met officers.  Operation Order No 1 was issued in connection with strengthening anti-aircraft (Ack Ack) defences of Luqa aerodrome.

Bren Light Machine Gun

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  The Light Machine Gun (LMG) Ack Ack defence of all aerodromes and strips in the Bde area was considerably strengthened.  LMGs mounted were: Brens 133, Twin Lewis 17, Single Lewis 10.

1st BATTALION CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Orders were to man as many light machine guns and Vickers machine guns for anti-aircraft as possible.  Company commanders to recce and select positions at dawn.

1st BATTALION DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Brigade Commander ordered Reserve Company to move to area Safi strip to supplement Anti-aircraft defences and as many LMGs as possible mounted for Ack Ack by remaining companies.

1ST BATTALION HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion took precautions and ‘stood to’ all Anti-aircraft Light Machine Gun posts while the defence of Safi strip was thickened with extra Ack Ack LMG from the Battalion and from the Dorsets.

11TH BATTALION LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Operation Order No 1 from Central Infantry Brigade issued ref move of troops for intensification of anti-aircraft protection of Luqa aerodromes.

225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY  Orders received for reinforcing Hal Far anti-aircraft defence with an additional 9 guns:  59th Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA Bty) RA: 5 guns; 182nd LAA Bty RA: 2 guns; 186th LAA Bty RA: 2 guns.  Reconnaissance completed 2030 hrs.  Guns ready for action by dawn 7th inst.

8TH BATTALION MANCHESTER REGIMENT  All LMG in the Battalion are to be mounted for anti-aircraft duty.  Approximately 50 men from Aerodrome Companies at Ta Qali filled in bomb holes on runways and dispersal areas.

2ND BATTALION ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Working party cancelled at Luqa due to wet weather.  Instructions were issued that Light Anti-Aircraft batteries and certain light machine guns would move to strengthen the Ack Ack defences of Luqa.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 6.

 

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Posted by on January 6, 2017 in 1942, January 1942, Uncategorized

 

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10 November 1941: Royal Navy Sinks Axis Morale

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Upholder

Upholder sank two Axis vessels

AXIS LEADERS ‘DISMAYED’ AT DESTRUCTION OF SHIPPING

While a vital supply convoy to Malta was being unloaded in the safety of the Dockyard, the Axis were taking stock of the impact of Sunday’s Force “K” attack.  Italian leaders were dismayed at the destruction of all the merchant ships and a destroyer in their convoy, while their British attackers escaped unscathed.  Furious that essential manpower and supplies for his North Africa campaign had failed to arrive, Rommel suggested to Berlin headquarters that the entire Mediterranean supply line was in jeopardy.  It was becoming clearer that Mussolini’s forces were not able to counter the threat from Malta.     

Yet their retaliation was swift.  Six air raid alarms were sounded in Malta through Sunday night: at 1941, 2211, 2309, 0027, 0122 and 0210 hours.  A total of twenty five enemy aircraft approached the Island but they dropped the majority of their bombs in the sea, mainly thanks to excellent work of the searchlight operators.  During the first raid they illuminated a BR 20 Italian bomber, which was promptly engaged by a RAF Hurricane and damaged.  In the second raid another enemy aircraft was reported ‘probably destroyed’ by Hurricanes.  Just before the second alarm a Hurricane crashed soon after taking off, near Wardia Ridge: the pilot successfully baled out at 500 feet. 

"Thermos" bombs: often picked up by civilians with fatal consequences

“Thermos” bombs: often picked up by civilians with fatal consequences

CLUSTER BOMBS ON REFUGEES

Overnight the Regia Aeronautica showered more anti-personnel bombs on a civilian area.  This time it was Birkirkara, a town now heavily populated with refugees from the Grand Harbour area who had fled there for safety.  Yet again, hundreds of Thermos bombs lay in narrow streets and lanes: 142 them were reported as high priority and dealt with by the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Section the same day.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 11 NOVEMBER 1941

1109-1120 hrs Air raid alarm; raid does not materialise.

1700-1716 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Two enemy aircraft (probably Macchi 200’s) approach the Island from the North and carry out reconnaissance.  Ack Ack guns engage by immediate barrage as enemy aircraft cross the coast; no claims.

Military casualties   James Lawrence, 1stBattalion The Hampshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Joseph Parnis, age 26, John Parnis, age 17. Gzira  Carmelo Xuereb, age 23.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 10 NOVEMBER

ROYAL NAVY  Upholder arrived, having sunk one submarine (not confirmed) and one destroyer [in the aftermath of the Force “K” attack].  Four Albacores attacked Catania aerodrome.  One aircraft machine-gunned Ragusa.  Eight Swordfish carried out search in vicinity of Messina without result.

HAL FAR  Overnight five Albacores, 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm (FAA) despatched to attack Augusta.  Bombs dropped near Nafta tank causing small fire and others on north end of submarine base.   Weather good and all aircraft returned safely.  One Fulmar made a night intruder patrol over Cape Passero.  Weather unsuitable for locating aerodrome.  No results.  Four Albacores, 828 Squadron FAA despatched to attack Catania aerodrome.  Results unobserved owing to bad weather conditions.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  Six Blenheims 107 Squadron shipping sweep Gulf of Sirte.  Three Wellingtons 40 Squadron nuisance raid Brindisi.  Two Wellingtons 40 Squadron nuisance raid Naples.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 142; dealt with (1 x 250kg HE; 139 x Thermos; 2 x 2kg incendiary).

 

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Posted by on November 10, 2016 in 1941, November 1941

 

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12 August 1941: 44 Unmarked Unexploded Bombs Reported Across Malta

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'Molotov bread basket' incendiary bomb container

‘Molotov bread basket’ incendiary bomb container

BOMB DISPOSAL OFFICER DISMANTLES MYSTERY BOMB

A total of 44 unexploded bombs reported following last night’s air raid are of a type never encountered before by Allied forces, according to the Bomb Disposal Officer. During the raid hundreds of small incendiary bombs were dropped on land surrounding Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto, and across a path inland towards Ta Qali.  The count of unexploded bombs reported so far includes 22 at Zeitun, 9 at Marsa, 4 at Hamrun, and one or two at Birkirkara, Balzan, Lija, Sans Souci and Valletta.

The Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer, Lt G D Carroll, went to Zeitun early this morning, scene of the largest concentration of unexploded incendiaries. The bombs he found were dark grey, about 12 inches long and weighing 2kg.  But he could find no markings or numbers of any kind to suggest a fuze type or operating mechanism.  Eye-witnesses reported that flashes were seen in mid-air behind enemy planes during the raid.  The reports suggest that several bombs were loaded into one container which exploded and discharged them in mid-air – an operation similar to the Russian ‘Molotov Bread Basket’.

Leaving the area under guard, the Bomb Disposal Officer carefully removed one of the bombs and packed it in sandbags for transporting back to Lintorn Barracks in Floriana, where the bomb was dismantled to determine a method for making it safe. The incendiary, which is probably Italian, is made up of two dark grey cylinders joined end to end, one with a steel casing containing fuel oil, the other an electron casing containing thermite.  He found the actuating mechanism under a cap screwed on the end of the thermite cylinder; it was evidently armed by an arming vane which unscrews the safety pin from the cap.  He could now devise a means of dealing with the unexploded incendiaries and by the end of the day 34 had been made safe by the RE Bomb Disposal Section.

A report on the operation of the bomb has been cabled to the War Office in London for the information of other bomb disposal officers in the field.  Information gathered from attack sites suggested that each container held an estimated 40 incendiaries mixed with some 200 small high explosive bombs marked Tritolo SAV 937.  Each batch fell roughly in a line about a mile long.  The resulting fires on stone or earth lasted about 10 minutes.  It is believed that the targets were aircraft and petrol dumps.  Further investigations are in hand. 

GOZO IS ‘A PLEASANT SURPRISE SAY 8TH BN MANCHESTER REGIMENT

Troops of 8th Bn Manchester Regiment are settling in to their temporary posting on Gozo today, having arrived yesterday for intensive training.  The Battalion is the latest infantry unit to arrive on Malta’s sister Island to provide a military presence as a precaution against enemy invasion.  According to their Commanding Officer: 

“The troops soon made themselves at home. Gozo proved a pleasant surprise and will prove to be an excellent station.  The population are very well disposed towards troops and the change after our sojourn in defence posts is very welcome.  We had the opportunity of studying the topography of the Island which is very good for field training, with no wire to impede our movements. Ridges, knolls and wieds are plentiful, roads are good and the bathing is excellent.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 AUGUST TO DAWN 13 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and fresh.

1716-1739 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve enemy fighters which approach Gozo from the north east, and carry out a patrol round the Island at 24000 feet. Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders recede eastwards, turn north east and finally north.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 12 AUGUST 1941

ROYAL NAVY  All ships of the 2 August convoy have completed unloading, except for coal. Rorqual arrived from Alexandria with petrol and stores. P32 sailed for patrol east of Tripoli.

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols of Tunisian coast and western Ionian Sea.  Hurricane photoreconnaissance Catania aerodrome and port, and visual recce of Augusta. 38 Squadron 4 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli railway station area dropping bombs and incendiaries, damaging the station and railway line, buildings and vehicles. 

HAL FAR  One Fulmar machine-gunned aircraft on Catania aerodrome and dropped two bombs plus one flash bomb on both Catania and Gerbini aerodromes.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 44; dealt with 34 (2kg incendiary).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion leaves Gozo and is relieved by 8th Bn Manchester Regiment.  Bn returns to Malta: headquarters and HQ Company at Xlejli Tower, A Coy at Gudja Camp, B Coy at Pembroke Ranges, C Coy static defence at Safi landing strip, D Coy at Mqabba and Zurrieq. 

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Battalion HQ at the Citadel, Rabat, Gozo.  A Company at Gharb and Zebbug, B Coy at Nadur, C Coy Xghajra, D Coy At Rabat, E Coy Xewkija and Sannat.

 

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Posted by on August 12, 2016 in 1941, August 1941

 

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25 July 1941: Enemy Warships Heading For Grand Harbour

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ENEMY SHIPS AND E BOATS OFF GOZO AND MALTA

Malta’s defences moved to high alert last night as an enemy cruiser and destroyers were spotted heading towards Grand Harbour from the north east. The first response was to expect a coastal bombardment from the enemy warships.  As soon as they came within 15 miles, the air raid alert was sounded across Malta.

Minutes later a Royal Navy signal station on Gozo reported a flotilla of light craft, possibly E boats, off the coast off the Island’s coast. 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment were immediately ordered to ‘stand to’ ready to implement the Gozo Defence Scheme and repel an enemy landing.  The Scheme was developed as soon as the threat was identified of a possible enemy invasion of Malta via her sister Island (maltagc70, 5 July 1941).  Companies of troops are posted ready to counter enemy seaborne landings at Marsalforn, Mgarr and Cala Dueira.  

Five Swordfish of 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm were scrambled to intercept the enemy ships but just out of range of the coast defence guns, the ships turned away and headed northwards. 

Scene of Macchi fighter crash in Valletta

Scene of Macchi fighter crash in Valletta

ITALIAN FIGHTER CRASHES ON VALLETTA’S MAIN STREET

Shoppers in Malta’s capital city Valletta had a shock this morning when an Italian fighter aircraft crashed in the centre of Valletta. The Macchi 200 was one of three fighters and two bombers shot down during a reconnaissance mission.

Some 40 fighters were escorting two bombers sent to review the convoy in Grand Harbour when it was involved in a dog-fight with a Hurricane of 249 Squadron. The Macchi was badly damaged and began to lose height; the pilot baled out but too late for his parachute to open. The wife of Rev Nicholls of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral witness the fighter crash:

“It swooped screaming over the roof of the Palace over the Casino Maltese missing the top by feet, roared up Kingsway, and buried itself in Brizzi’s already ruined shop – the only blitzed building in that immediate neighbourhood. She was shopping, and finding planes overhead went into Collis and Williams chemist shop. The plane crashed five shops away, exactly 20 yards! Luckily it was not a bomber, and also there were about four walls between her and it.” (1)

As soon as the ‘Raiders Passed’ siren sounded, hundreds of Maltese emerged from shelter and rushed to the scene to celebrate the RAF victory.

TROOPS DISEMBARKED FROM ‘OPERATION SUBSTANCE’ CONVOY

  • Royal Navy 28
  • RAF 676
  • Royal Artillery 16
  • HQ 4 Heavy Ack Ack Regt 18
  • 5 Heavy Ack Ack Battery 230
  • 6 Heavy Ack Ack Battery 175
  • HQ 32 Light Ack Ack Regiment 12
  • 55 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 98 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 182 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 186 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 223 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 24 Light Wireless Section 31
  • 64 Light Wireless Section 26
  • HQ Infantry Brigade 12
  • Royal Engineers 5
  • 173 Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers 230
  • 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment 5
  • Royal Army Medical Corps 55
  • Other 83

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 JULY TO DAWN 26 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

1059-1130 hrs  Air raid alert for one SM 79 and one BR 20 bomber escorted by 40 Macchi fighters approaching the Island for reconnaissance at 22000 feet. 22 Hurricane fighters of 185 and 249 Squadrons are scrambled and engage the raiders over Grand Harbour.  Hurricanes of 249 Squadron attack the BR 20 and it begins to emit smoke.  Pilots of 185 Squadron give chase and attack, setting the port engine on fire and further damaging the fuselage.  It is last seen on fire, breaking up and descending towards the sea 20 miles north east of Malta.  Four pilots of 185 Squadron attack the SM 79.  The undercarriage falls and one parachute is seen descending from the aircraft which crashes in to the sea in flames 20 miles east of the Island. 

A pilot of 249 Squadron shoots down a Macchi; the pilot bales out but his parachute fails to open properly and he is killed. He is later identified as Sottotenente Francesco Liberti.  The Macchi crashes into the cellar of a bomb-damaged shop in Strada Reale, Valletta.  Two more Macchi 200s are shot down over the sea.  A wounded Italian airman is picked up by the sea rescue services six miles north east of Grand Harbour and taken to hospital.  The body of another is found on land, his parachute only half open.  All Hurricanes return safely.   

2235 hrs  A cruiser and destroyers are reported approaching Grand Harbour at 30 knots. 

2250 hrs  Light craft of the E boat type are reported off Gozo by the Naval Signal Station on Jurdan.  1st Bn Hampshire Regiment ‘stand to’ ready to move in opposition of any attempted landing as detailed in the Gozo Defence Scheme.

2250 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for three enemy aircraft which drop bombs in the sea, cross the coast and drop bombs on Ta Silch and the Ta Qali area.

2259 hrs  One enemy cruiser and two destroyers together with E boats are reported 14 miles off shore. A warning is sounded on Malta; all beach posts are ordered to ‘stand to’ and depth posts to ‘keep watch’.  A strike force of five Swordfish is sent out to intercept the enemy ships but the vessels apparently turn north east again.  

2325 hrs  Motor torpedo boats are reported off Madalena.

0012 hrs  Swordfish aircraft attack enemy vessels which recede.

0013 hrs  Beach posts on Malta are ordered to ‘stand by’.

0015 hrs  1st Bn Hampshire Regiment on Gozo ordered to stand down.

0035 hrs  Beach posts on Malta are ordered to ‘stand down’.

0100 hrs  St Elmo alarm sounds for surface craft approaching Grand Harbour. As they are not within firing range, normal routine is ordered.

0358 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft which drop bombs along the coast near Bahar ic Cahaq . Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.

Enemy casualties Tenente Silvio De Giorgi, pilot of Macchi200 fighter shot down and crashed into the sea, but rescued by a RAF Launch; Sottotenente Francesco Liberti, 98a Squadriglia, 7o Gruppo, 54o Stormo, pilot of Macchi 200 fighter, shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 25 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  At 2300 an enemy ship was detected and approached to within 14 miles of Malta.

AIR HQ Arrivals 6 Swordfish. 69 Squadron Marylands special patrols.  Beaufighter searched area between Malta and Sicily for Motor Torpedo Boats but found none.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Beach posts ordered to ‘stand to’ just before midnight due to a report of enemy shipping near the Island.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Unit personnel witness a Macchi fighter crashing into an already-bombed house in Valletta. No 2 Works Coy & 173 Tunnelling Coy provide a guard over the crashed machine.  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 (1 x 15kg HE, 1 x 100kg HE) .

(1) Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

 

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Posted by on July 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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14 July 1941: Malta Reconnaissance Pilot Launches Surprise Attack

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F/O Adrian Warburton

F/O Adrian Warburton

WARBURTON MISTAKEN FOR ITALIAN

A Malta reconnaissance pilot took advantage of an Italian air force ground crew mistake to carry out an audacious attack on a Sicilian aerodrome today. F/O Adrian Warburton DFC of 69 Squadron was carrying out a routine photo-reconnaissance mission over the aerodrome in Catania in Sicily.  Encountering significant cloud cover, he decided to drop down low to take oblique, rather than high-altitude, photographs. 

As he approached the target, F/O Warburton saw a green light being signalled from the airfield. He realised that aerodrome control had mistaken him for an Italian aircraft and he was being signalled to land.  Instead of turning away, the Malta reconnaissance pilot put down his wheels and approached the runway.

Johnny Spires, one of his crewmen, yelled at him: ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing? This is Catania not Luqa!’ ‘I know,’ Warby replied calmly, then began shooting at the aircraft lined up on the ground. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 JULY TO DAWN 15 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and humid.

0205-0335 hrs; 0403-0440 hrs  Air raid alerts for a total of three enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north at intervals. One aircraft drops bombs between Il Gzira and Kalafrana and on a road in open country. Bombs are also dropped on Birzebbuga destroying 15 houses but causing no casualties, on Zurrieq, Marsaxlokk and near Luqa, and in the sea.  During the first raid three Hurricanes 249 Squadron are scrambled; searchlights do not illuminate and there are no engagements.  During the second alert a single raider approaches as the aerodrome beacon is illuminated for Wellington bombers coming in to land.

0500-0507 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of a Wellington not showing appropriate identification lights.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 14 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Union sailed at 0100 for position 10 miles south of Pantelleria to intercept northbound convoy.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 5 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. Departures 1 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Taranto. 110 Squadron 3 Blenheims attacked Zuara aerodrome. 148 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked Messina causing extensive fires.   830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish left to look for convoy leaving Tripoli, but returned owing to poor visibility and low clouds.

HAL FAR  A Fulmar took off for Catania and Gerbini but returned due to a glycol leak.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion moved to Gozo for training. A small near party remained at Bn HQ.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  D Company left Gozo and returned to the unit, to be billeted in Strickland House.

(1) Story from Fortress Malta An Island Under Siege, James Holland, Phoenix 2003

 

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Posted by on July 14, 2016 in 1941, July 1941

 

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