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13 October 1941: Malta Faces Harsher Rationing as Convoy Situation Worsens

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Bread essential for morale, say experts

Bread essential, experts say

ISLANDERS MAY BE DEPRIVED OF FRESH MEAT AS GOVERNMENT COMMISSION REVIEWS RATIONING IN MALTA

The supply of Malta by sea is now under severe threat: that is the conclusion now reached by the Island’s high command. Several important foodstuffs have become increasingly scarce since July, especially meat, and the Island is now facing the prospect of further shortages.  A conference of experts has been convened to discuss ways to make food stocks last longer between supply convoys. 

Their initial report reveals that the poorest in Malta rely mainly “on bread, edible oil, sugar and tinned milk. Tinned meat and tinned fish are extensively used for eating with bread.  Kerosene is universally used for cooking.” (1)

Asked to review possibilities for further rationing, or at least economies, in food consumption, they report: “The rations of coffee, tinned meat and tinned fish are very tight and could not be reduced without causing hardship.  Similarly no material reduction could be made in the rations of soap and matches.  A small reduction could be made in the ration of fats and edible oil, perhaps saving 150 tons a year.  The ration of sugar could, if necessary, be reduced, although sugar is a most important item in the diet of the Maltese, especially in the case of children…  The ration of kerosene is very strict considering that all cooking and heating is normally done with kerosene and that it is also very commonly used for lighting.

The main imported commodities which are not rationed are cheese, tinned milk, frozen meat, rice, tea, flour and bread… Butter has not been rationed because stocks are large…  Tea has not been rationed because it is only consumed by a comparatively small section of the population…  It has been found possible to control cheese and rice satisfactorily without rationing them…Issues of frozen meat have been severely limited, and with the increasing shortage of local meat, this commodity is becoming difficult to obtain… Further economies would be difficult, but the Island could of course subsist entirely on tinned meat if necessary…

Bread is much the most important article of consumption with the people of Malta. It is also a very heavy item in the import programme…  No material reduction in consumption has been attempted…  Such a reduction would not only cause hardship to the poorer classes, it would also have a bad effect on morale…  It is undesirable that any rationing of bread should be attempted…

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 OCTOBER TO DAWN 14 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Heavy rainstorm early evening.

1122-1140 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy fighters approaching the Island from the north east escorting a reconnaissance aircraft. When the raiders are still 12 miles from Malta, they split into two; six raiders recede and the remaining three cross the coast over Kalafrana to carry out reconnaissance.  Ten Hurricanes are scrambled and the reconnaissance aircraft turns away rapidly.  The Hurricanes chase the raiders back to the Sicilian coast but are unable to catch them.

1444-1500 hrs  Air raid alert for three Macchi 200 fighters which approach from the north east at great altitude and cross the coast over Grand Harbour. Seven Hurricanes are scrambled but unable to gain sufficient height to intercept. 

0535-0640 hrs  Air raid alert for 24 enemy Macchi 200 fighters approaching the Island. Nine cross the coast, split into two formations and dive down to an average height of 400 feet to launch a machine-gun attack on an area from the Cisk factory right across Luqa and the Safi dispersal area.  One bullet hits a Wellington bomber causing slight damage. 

The raiders are engaged at 11000 feet by a heavy anti-aircraft barrage and also by Bofors as well as searchlight and infantry light machine-guns. A Bofors position at Safi hits and damages one Macchi, a Bofors at Luqa hits and damages another two.  A third Bofors at Imsierah hits and damages a fourth.  A light machine-gun manned by 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment at Safi fires a long burst into another Macchi.

Five Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders as they leave their attack. P/O Barnwell of Malta Night Fighter Unit shoots one Macchi fighter down into the sea but then does not return to base.  It is thought his engine may have cut out over the sea.  A search is launched.  

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 13 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Thorn left on patrol.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron 1 Maryland patrol north Ionian Sea; 1 Maryland search for convoy; 1 Maryland special patrol. Photoreconnaissance Tripoli. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked motor transport on the Benghazi Road. 221 Squadron 1 Wellington shipping sweep. Fleet Air Arm 1 Fulmar bombed and machine-gunned eastern perimeter of Castel Vetrano aerodrome causing three explosions. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish sent to attack convoy of 2 merchant ships and 2 destroyers south of Lampedusa dropped 5 torpedoes leaving one merchant vessel low in the water and on fire.  

KALAFRANA 0025 hrs Sunderland T9050 landed safely at Kalafrana having lost an airscrew, the controls being also damaged. Captain of the aircraft was F/Lt Milligan of 230 Squadron, with 8 passengers on board.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  His Excellency the Governor & Commander in Chief visited the Battalion.

(1) When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint 1981

 

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Posted by on October 13, 2016 in 1941, October 1941

 

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30 October 1940: Ta Qali To Become Fighter Station

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Ta Qali

Ta Qali

TA QALI TO BE HOME TO NEW SQUADRON

The former Malta airport at Ta Qali is to be re-opened as a RAF fighter aerodrome. Air Headquarters Mediterranean issued instructions for Wing Commander J R O’Sullivan to proceed to Ta Qali airport with a small headquarters staff for the purpose of forming a temporary one squadron fighter station with immediate effect.  At 0900 hrs today, W/Cdr O’Sullivan left RAF Station Hal Far for Ta Qali with 14 airmen, including three senior NCOs, accompanied by a detachment of 17 men of the King’s Own Malta Regiment for guard duties.

By tomorrow, a maintenance party of 261 Squadron consisting of 24 airmen including three senior NCOs will arrive from RAF Station Luqa for the purpose of maintaining Hurricane aircraft operating from Ta Qali as a temporary measure. The majority of these personnel will continue to be accommodated at Luqa and will proceed daily to Ta Qali for duty. Several buildings at Ta Qali will be taken over for temporary accommodation: Torri Combo will operate as the Officers Mess, the Pottery as Barrack Rooms and Institute. Senior NCOs will be accommodated by 8th Bn Manchester Regiment in Chateau Bertrand until further notice. It is planned that Ta Qali airport buildings will be converted to offices, sick quarters and an armoury.

Ta Qali has not yet been iused for RAF operations. Teenager Charles Grech who lives near the airfield described what he saw: “It was obstructed with old buses, wrecked cars, lorries and hundreds of 50 gallon oil drums filled with earth. They were dispersed all over the airfield in order to prevent gliders or transport aircraft from landing there, in case of an airborne invasion…we once noticed there was a biplane looking very much like a Gladiator parked on the grass on one side of the airfield…this was a dummy made of wood and sack-cloth and it was set up as a decoy to give the enemy the impression that the airfield was operational in order to divert attacks from other targets, thereby giving Luqa and Hal Far airfields a respite.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 OCTOBER TO DAWN 31 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 30 OCTOBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Clearance sweep completed by Oropesa. Otus returned to harbour with defects.

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. One Sunderland left for Middle East with important passengers.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT 0515 hrs  Bn took part in Southern Infantry Brigade training exercise. Bn HQ and No 6 Platoon under war conditions and standing to until 0830 hrs.

(1)  Raiders Passed, Charles B Grech, trans Joseph Galea de Bono, Midsea Books 2002

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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in 1940, October 1940

 

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29 October 1940: Malta Fighter Relief Fund Closes

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Fighter plane fund enough for two Spitfires for Malta

Fighter plane fund enough for two Spitfires for Malta

FUNDING FOR TWO FIGHTERS RAISED IN 3 MONTHS

Malta Fighter Plane Fund was declared a resounding success as it closed to donations today. The fund was launched on 30 July as an expression of gratitude to the RAF for their defence of Malta. The intention was to raise enough money to fund the building of a new fighter aircraft but that £6000 target was reached in less than three weeks.

It was decided to keep the fund open to pay for a second aircraft. Collection boxes across the Island and fundraising events such as concerts and football matches have brought the total to £12900 within three months. The Anglo-Maltese league have been congratulated on the success of their initiative. The funds will now be forwarded to the Minister for Aircraft Production, Rt Hon Lord Beaverbrook, in London.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 OCTOBER TO DAWN 30 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Gale and slight rain.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 29 OCTOBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Clearance sweep continued by Oropesa; no result.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. French Latecoere on 5½ hours patrol. One Sunderland RAAF arrived from Gibraltar with Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham and other officers en route for Middle East.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Practice ‘Man Marsa’ out to various stations.

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Posted by on October 29, 2015 in 1940, October 1940

 

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28 October 1940: Malta on Alert as Italy Attacks Greece

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ITALY ATTACKS GREECE

Mussolini issued ultimatum then attacked

Mussolini issued ultimatum then attacked

News has reached Malta that Italy has attacked Greece. It is reported that at 3am yesterday the Italian Government presented the Greek Government with an ultimatum which expired at 6am today but by then Italian troops in Albania had already attacked Greek frontier forces. Sea and air attacks have also been reported. Athens has suffered at least one air raid and the Italian navy has attacked the Island of Corfu.

Mussolini’s ultimatum claimed that Greece had assisted the British forces against Italy. It also demanded permission for Italian armed forces to occupy selected strategic points in Greek territory for the duration of the war against Britain, and for the free passage of troops to occupy these points.  

Rejecting the ultimatum, Greece ordered a general troop mobilisation and appealed to Britain for assistance in line with promises made last year to give all possible help in the event of such enemy action.  This move by Mussolini is entirely unexpected even, it is said, by Axis leaders including Hitler. The move is considered to place Malta at heightened risk of attack by Italian forces in the near future.  

Malta could become base for raids on Italy

The British War Cabinet was called to an emergency meeting at 5pm today to discuss the situation and their impact on the war in the Mediterranean. Greece had been proposed as a base for Allied air attacks on Italy. In view of the new developments, attention is now turning to Malta as a possible base for such raids. This possibility had already been considered but the scheme was delayed as it was considered dangerous attract undue attention to the Island until air defences could be strengthened. A squadron of Wellingtons destined for the Middle East could be detained in Malta temporarily in order to attack the Italian Government in Rome.  

Malta-bound troops diverted to Crete

A battalion which was about to set sail for Malta will now be sent instead to Crete. The War Cabinet has agreed that in the circumstances the Island will have to manage without these reinforcements. The Mediterranean Fleet has also been diverted to focus on the prevention of Italian troop landings on Crete.  

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 OCTOBER TO DAWN 29 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 28 OCTOBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Otus began trials after a long refit.

KALAFRANA  Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. French Latecoere on 6 hours patrol.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Enemy mine recovered in Gnejna Bay.

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Posted by on October 28, 2015 in 1940, October 1940

 

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27 October 1940: Extra Malta Fighters Drive Off Italian Raiders

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Hurricanes fly in to MaltaEXTRA NUMBERS IN THE AIR GAIN THE UPPER HAND

A greater fighter force in the air over Malta is succeeding in driving off Italian raiders. For the second time in a week, eight fighters were scrambled to meet the enemy. At the first warning of an approaching attack this morning the six Hurricanes and two Gladiators took to the air. As four of the eight Italian Macchi 200 fighters turned over the coast near Ghar Dalam to head for the airfields, they were intercepted by four Hurricanes and engaged in a fierce dog fight, severely damaging an enemy aircraft. No bombs were dropped or damage done on the Island during the raid. Last Sunday the same number of Malta fighters intercepted an approaching formations with the result that the raiders turned back for Sicily without making any attack.

Rev Reginald Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta, wrote in his diary:

“the Italian air attacks, which started off in great style, and for the first month were most distinctly unpleasant, have almost died away. About every five days we have a warning, and we go to our shelter in the Crypt, or wherever we may happen to be. We hear planes, but no guns; and after half an hour or so the ‘All Clear’ is sounded, and we hear that enemy planes approached but were driven off. Last Sunday the siren sounded just as Mattins ended, and we were not released for over an hour. But I was told afterwards that it was an exercise! However, I am not certain.

Today (Sunday), we had a warning at 10 o’clock, which lasted 25 minutes; and we had a happy service after. We were told that an enemy plane had been brought down, but shall not know for certain till tomorrow. I often wonder when they will strike at Malta; and whether it will be made by Germans; or whether they may try a tip-and-run bombardment from the sea.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 OCTOBER TO DAWN 28 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

0958-1025 hrs Air raid alert for eight Italian Macchi 200 aircraft which fly from the north to the south of the Island at 18-20000 feet before crossing the coast. Six Hurricanes and two Gladiators are scrambled. The Hurricanes engage four of the raiders over Ghar Dalam. One enemy aircraft is believed brought down but not confirmed. One Hurricane’s tail is damaged but it lands safely. The raiders turn away with no bombs dropped.

1100 hrs A enemy formation of three enemy aircraft approaches from the north to within 30 miles of the Island then turns away, possibly searching for one of the aircraft force-landed during the previous raid.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 27 OCTOBER 1940

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland, 2 Blenheims. Departures 2 Sunderland. Reconnaissance of Ionian Sea for enemy surface forays by Blenheim attached 431 Flight, Swordfish 830 Squadron FAA and Glenn Martin 431 Flight; nil reports by all aircraft. French Latecoere seaplane reconnaissance Malta to 20 miles north of Lampedusa to 40 miles west of Tripoli to 40 miles west of Lampedusa to Malta; nil report.

KALAFRANA Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. Sunderland 230 Squadron reconnaissance Alexandria to Doro Channel to Kea to Kithera to Malta; reported a convoy of three merchant vessels, two destroyers and one cruiser identified as British. One Sunderland left for Middle East and one arrived from Middle East. One Sunderland RAAF left for UK with 3 passengers and mail. French Latecoere on 5 hours patrol.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT Mail and parcels arrived.

(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 October 27, 2015 in 1940, October 1940

 

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26 October 1940: Hoarding and Fuel Shortages Affect Life in Malta

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Buses run for only a few hours a day

Buses run for only a few hours a day

COINS AND FUEL IN SHORT SUPPLY

Rev Reginald Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta, observes the shortages emerging in Malta in his diary for October 1940:

“We are much bothered by the hoarding of silver. It is almost impossible to obtain change for half-a-crown. The Government issued an Ordinance making hoarding illegal; but it had little or no effect. Now, another Ordinance has just been issued giving authority to the Police to search houses. But I doubt whether anything will be done…It was said in the Council of Government last week that unemployment is now at its lowest for many years; but the Maltese will oppose any suggestion of Taxation – even self imposed – to the death. There is a lot of money about, and there are many rich people. There is also much real poverty…

We are apparently very short of petrol. For months petrol was not rationed then, soon after Italy came in, private cars were forbidden, but a good many exceptions allowed. Then suddenly all private cars were withdrawn from the roads including taxis and hired cars, and the buses allowed to run during only a few hours of the day. As at least half the population is now living in the country towns and villages, transport is a great problem; and further restrictions are threatened. I should have thought that during those early months the Government might have built storage tanks; but one must not judge without knowing the facts. I am inclined to attribute the sudden panic to Germany’s seizure of Romania. It is even possible that some tankers were just about to start from Galatz for Egypt and Malta and have been held up.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 OCTOBER TO DAWN 27 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine with fresh north westerly breeze.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 26 OCTOBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Skua Fleet Air Arm reconnaissance of area between Malta and Tripoli; nil report.

AIR HQ Reconnaissance of north eastern and southern Ionian Sea for enemy surface forays by Blenheim attached 431 Flight, Sunderland 228 Squadron and Glenn Martin 431 Flight; nil reports by all aircraft.

KALAFRANA  Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  2 platoons posted to form D Company. 18 recruits from depot posted to B Company.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT A mine was reported by J2 floating towards the defence post. It proved impossible to beach and the post was evacuated overnight.

(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 October 26, 2015 in 1940, October 1940

 

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25 October 1940: Cemetery Under Bomber Path Closed to Public

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Addolorata Cemetery

Addolorata Cemetery

ADDOLORATA CEMETERY OUT OF BOUNDS

Addolorata Cemetery has been closed to the public as a safety measure. Only priests and persons who are part of a funeral cortege will be permitted access for the foreseeable future.

The cemetery lies on a direct line between Grand Harbour and Luqa, placing it under the bombing path for enemy air raids. As the area has been repeatedly attacked from the air it is considered unsafe for the general public. The measure comes as a blow to the morale of the Maltese who regularly visit and tend the graves of their dead – practice which has increased since the onset of war.  

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 OCTOBER TO DAWN 26 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Cold, wet and very windy.

No air raids.

0900-1730 hrs Submarine sanctuary conditions are in force.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 25 OCTOBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY French submarine Narval left for her second patrol between Kerkenah and Lampedusa. Skua FAA reconnaissance Malta to Tripoli but returned due to bad weather.

AIR HQ Reconnaissance of Ionian Sea for enemy surface forays by Blenheim attached 431 Flight, Swordfish 830 Squadron FAA and Sunderland 230 Squadron; nil reports by all aircraft.

KALAFRANA Operations resumed at Kalafrana by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Bomb Disposal Bomb disposal course completed.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT Strength 28 officers; 891 other ranks.

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Posted by on October 25, 2015 in 1940, October 1940

 

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