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16-22 August 1942: Convoy Supplies Will Feed Malta For 3 Months

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Malta is filled with admiration for the gallant efforts made to pass the convoy to the Island.  We thank you and are most grateful.”   Lord Gort to Chief of Naval Staff, Admiralty

WHILE MALTA CELEBRATES SANTA MARIJA CONVOY, COMMANDERS FACE SHORTFALL

Fuel and cooking oil delivered via Pedestal (c) IWM GM1448

While the Island continues to celebrate the arrival of supply ships and the oil tanker Ohio, behind the scenes Malta’s commanders are weighing up the real impact, if any, the delivery will have on rations and military operations.  The fuel off-loaded from Ohio will undoubtedly enable Malta’s air and submarine forces to defend the Island while mounting renewed attacks on enemy convoys.

At the same time, the Governor faces the hard fact that the food and general supplies delivered last week are only enough to extend Malta’s survival for a further three months.  Perhaps the greatest benefit of Operation Pedestal for the Maltese and the military garrison, is improved morale, as they now feel less isolated from their allies far beyond the Mediterranean.  It is hoped that these raised spirits will carry them through the undoubted further hardships to come.

SEAMEN REMEMBER LOST COMRADES

“We were escorting the damaged Indomitable back to Gibraltar. A typical Mediterranean evening, the sea flat calm, the sun still high in a clear blue sky and the silence was sheer bliss after the deafening clangour of the previous few days. Suddenly we could feel the ship losing speed, the flag was lowered to half-mast and our attention drawn to Indomitable. From the stern of the ship we could see bundles toppling into the sea as ‘Indom’ buried her dead. There were some 50 of them – a sight that remains vivid in my memory to this day.”  L Myers, HMS Rodney, WW2 People’s War (1)

16 August: A Day Without Warning

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 AUGUST TO DAWN 17 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine: visibility 10-15 miles.

0810-0905 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron and two of 229 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.

0945-0955 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron on patrol: one had an oil leak and radio transmission was not working so they returned.

1045-1145 hrs; 1100-1210 hrs; 1105-1235 hrs; 1115-1230 hrs  Patrols by three to eight Spitfires 229 and 249 Squadrons: no sightings.

PM  Two patrols carried out by four Spitfires from Hal Far per patrol. 

1700-1810 hrs; 1800-1910 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol at a time: nothing sighted.

1820-1918 hrs  Eight Spitfires from Hal Far patrolled at 16000 feet between Grand Harbour and Gozo.

1900-2005 hrs; 1950-2030 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 then two of 249 Squadron on patrol: nothing sighted.  The second patrol returned early due to low cloud.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 16 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Three Albacores of Naval Air Squadron searched without success for a merchant vessel reported to the north west of Malta.

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; one Liberator to Fayid.

17 August: Navy Thanks RAF For Convoy Protection

The following is a précis of a message sent by the Royal Navy to RAF HQ Malta:  “The Navy are loud in their praise of the assistance given to the convoy by our fighter aircraft often operating under difficult circumstances.  They engaged and destroyed a great number of enemy aircraft and greatly contributed to reducing the scale of attack.”

NEW SPITFIRE DELIVERY

HMS Furious

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 AUGUST TO DAWN 18 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles

0815-0920 hrs; 0820-0855 hrs; 0925-1003 hrs  Four Spitfires at a time of 229 and 249 Squadrons Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.

1205-1240 hrs  Air raid alert.  Six Spitfires from Hal Far (two of Green Section) are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy fighters.  P/O Stenborg and Sgt Weaver jumps nine ME 109s.  Sgt Weaver shoots down two enemy aircraft and P/O Stenborg shoots down one, before being shot down himself by a ME 109.  He bales out and is picked up by the High Speed Launch.

Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are despatched to cover the arrival of Spitfires: no enemy action.

1300-1350 hrs; 1345-1430 hrs; 1510-1610 hrs; 1600-1710 hrs  Two Spitfires at a time of 229 and 249 Squadrons on patrol: no sightings.

PM  185 Squadron Hal Far fly 16 sorties over shipping in Grand Harbour.

1757-1810 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept reported enemy raiders: no sightings.

2000 hrs  Penn, Bramham, and Ledbury sailed for Gibraltar.

2320-2350 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which do not cross the coast; all bombs are dropped in the sea.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Eugene Connell, Royal Canadian Air Force, 204 Squadron; Sergeant William Davis Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 204 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Edward Jackman, Royal Air Force, 204 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Walter Maconnell, Royal Canadian Air Force, 204 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 17 AUGUST 1942

HMS Hebe

ROYAL NAVY  Beauforts escorted by Beaufighters attacked an escorted merchant vessel west of Linosa and obtained one torpedo hit. This ship was subsequently sunk by [submarine] P 44, the force of the explosion being so great as to necessitate the submarine returning to Malta for repairs.  [Submarine] P 42 was swept into Marsamxett by Hebe.

AIR HQ  1600 hrs  Six Beauforts 86 Squadron escorted by five Beaufighters 252 and 235 Squadrons, and four long-range Spitfires 126 Squadron, attacked a convoy of two destroyers and one 7000 ton merchant vessel, patrolled by four JU 88s and two enemy fighters, in position 280 degrees Lampedusa, 35 miles.  Two torpedo hits were scored on the merchant vessel which was left stationary, pouring white smoke and down by the stern.  Two Beaufighters dropped four 250lb [semi-armour-piercing] bombs, scoring one direct hit on the stern of the merchant vessel.  Beaufighters and Beauforts also attached the merchant vessel and other merchant craft with machine-gun and cannon fire.  During the attack, one JU 88 and one enemy fighter were probably destroyed.  Photographs confirm that the merchant vessel has been sunk.

Arrivals  One Beaufort, one Hudson from Gibraltar; 29 Spitfires from Naval operation.  Departures  17 Maryland to Abu Sueir; three Baltimores to LG 98; one Spitfire to Kilo 8; one Liberator to Fayid.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed on aerodrome: crew uninjured.  One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot rescued uninjured.  One Spitfire hit an obstruction on landing: pilot uninjured.

18 August: Malta’s Squadrons Praised For Attacks

Malta Spitfires refuelled and re-armed

“The Air Officer Commanding sends congratulations to Nos 217, 235, 126 and 1435 Squadrons for their successful attack on enemy convoy on 17 August 1942.  This was a fine example of good team-work between Beauforts, Beaufighters and Spitfires.”  Re-armed and refuelled thanks to the arrival of the recent convoy, Malta’s RAF Squadrons last night resumed their attacks on Axis convoys through the Mediterranean, with considerable success.  With the battle for control of the Middle East again reaching a critical point, Malta can resume its key role as a base for disrupting the supply of Rommel’s forces in North Africa.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 AUGUST TO DAWN 19 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Day  Spitfires from Hal Far made eight patrol sorties over Grand Harbour.

0815-0850 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  Sgt Beurling reports seeing five hostile fighters, not seen by the other pilots: no contact made.

1045-1155 hrs; 1135-1230 hrs; 1215-1315 hrs; 1300-1415 hrs; 1400-1515 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 and 249 Squadrons at a time are airborne on patrol: nothing sighted.

1525-1630 hrs; 1550-1634 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron at a time are scrambled to intercept reported enemy aircraft: no sightings.

1650-1715 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron scrambled to intercept approaching fighters see six ME 109s above them, among some flak: no combat.  F/Lt Woods’ aircraft has a malfunctioning wing flap and lands at Luqa; he is unhurt.

2230-2245 hrs; 0035-0042 hrs  Air raid alerts. One enemy aircraft which comes to within 25 miles of Gozo and drops bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 18 AUGUST 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals Four Beauforts, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Baltimore to LG 98; one Beaufighter to EDCU; four Beauforts to LG 224.

19 August: Gort Flies to Cairo to Meet PM Churchill

Winston Churchill at British Embassy Cairo August 1942 (c) OWM E15347

His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief Viscount Gort flew to Cairo today to report in person to the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, on the state of things in Malta following the arrival of the Operation Pedestal convoy.  To cover the Governor’s absence, Vice Admiral, Malta is appointed as his Deputy.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 AUGUST TO DAWN 20 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine: little or no cloud, increasing later; visibility 10-15 miles. Wind light, variable, becoming east south east, moderate.

0955-1030 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve approaching enemy fighters.  Two groups of four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept; two aircraft return early.  The others sight three ME 109s above them: no combat.

1005-1050 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali patrol over a minesweeper: nothing to report.

1100-1205 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol: no sightings.

1150-1305 hrs  Enemy aircraft are reported heading for the Islands.  Two Spitfires are scrambled to intercept  but the raid does not approach.

1749-1907 hrs  Seven Spitfires from Hal Far patrol north of St Paul’s Bay and Gozo: nothing sighted.

2315-2320 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which drop bombs in the sea north of Gozo.

Military casualties  Private William Kelly, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Gaetan Mansueto, age 40.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 19 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Rye swept Una and P 44 into harbour.

AIR HQ Arrivals Two DC3 from Bilbeis; Four Beauforts, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; two Beauforts to Shandur; six Beauforts, one DC3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort engine failed; forced to land: crew uninjured.  One Beaufort shot down into the sea while on shipping strike:crew missing.

20 August: Air Crews are Lucky Survivors

One Beaufighter of 227 Squadron and one Beaufort of 39 Squadron have been reported lost following the latest attack by Malta air forces on an enemy convoy.  They were among a formation of twelve Beauforts and ten Beaufighters 227 Squadron on a mission to bomb a tanker and merchant ship with destroyer escort off Cape Stilo.  The two aircraft were hit by flak as the enemy fired barrages to defend their vessels. 

A Beaufort of 39 Squadron at Luqa

The Beaufighter of pilot Warrant Officer Donald Brixo from New Zealand and navigator Sergeant Douglas Paterson crashed into the sea.  Flying Officer Peter Roper of Canada was also shot down in his Beaufort; he radioed that he and his observer were injured while the remaining crew were unhurt.  Nothing more was heard of them and the crews of both aircraft have been officially reported missing. (2)    

Another Beaufighter was shot down today off Kalafrana Bay, killing the Wireless Operator/Observer, Sergeant George Leslie.  The pilot, Flying Officer Eyre, survived and was rescued by the High Speed Launch.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 AUGUST TO DAWN 21 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine: wind south south-east, light to moderate; visibility 10-15 miles.

1005-1020 hrs  Air raid alert.  Nine Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali and nine of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept a fighter sweep.  Sgt Beurling sights two Me 109s but does not engage.

1115-1135 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept enemy fighters.  They sight four ME 109s at 24000 feet, ten miles north of Grand Harbour: no engagement.

1520-1535 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron and eight Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept reported enemy aircraft (two of 229 return early): no sightings.

1715-1820 hrs; 1955-2035 hrs  Four and two Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

Military casualties  Sergeant George Leslie, 227 Beaufighter Squadron; Private Walter Wade, 8th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster).

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 20 AUGUST 1942

Speedy makes a smokescreen over Grand Harbour (NWMA Malta)

ROYAL NAVY  Smoke was made for one large [enemy] formation approaching, but no attack materialized.  705 of QBB 273 searched by 17th Minesweeping Flotilla.

AIR HQ  Twelve Beauforts 39 Squadron escorted by ten Beaufighters 227 Squadron, six carrying bombs, attacked a convoy comprising five destroyers, one 8000 ton tanker and one small merchant vessel, escorted by one Cant Z501 and six single-engined fighters in position 180 degrees Cape Stilo four miles, course 040 degrees, speed 5-10 knots.  It was estimated that the tanker was fully laden and had a draft of 22-24 feet.  Torpedoes were released with a 22 ft setting but no hits were seen on the tanker.

Explosions were, however, seen some distance from the convoy to port, but these may have been caused by bombs.  It is now believed that the tanker was not fully laden at the time of the attack and had a much smaller draft than originally anticipated.  This may have been why no strikes were made, as torpedoes were seen to run well.

Four Beaufighters dropped seven 250lb [semi-armour-piercing] bombs, scoring one possible hit on the stern of a destroyer.  The tanker and other craft were also raked with machine-gun and cannon fire.  A small pilot vessel was sunk by cannon fire a quarter of a mile ahead of the convoy.  One Macchi 200 and the Cant Z501 were damaged.

Arrivals  One Beaufort from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; two Beauforts to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter crashed into the sea: pilot rescued; Wireless Operator/Observer missing, believed killed.  One Beaufort and one Beaufighter  believed hit by enemy flak while on shipping strike: Beaufighter observed crashing into the sea; both crews missing.  One Beaufort hit by enemy flak while on shipping strike: pilot and A/Observer injured; rest of crew uninjured.

21 August: Oil Tanker Disabled in RAF Attack

RAF bombers have stopped a major delivery of fuel to Rommel’s forces in North Africa.  This was the second attempt by Malta Beauforts and Beaufighters to disrupt the enemy convoy, following an unsuccessful attack yesterday.  This time the attackers scored three torpedo hits and two near-misses with bombs on the 8000 ton oil tanker, which was brought to a halt, with oil pouring from both sides.  They also destroyed at least five enemy aircraft in the attack.  The tanker was later photographed beached in shallow water on the Corfu coast.

TIMES OF MALTA LAUNCHES ‘MALTA CONVOY FUND’

Lighters full of supplies for Malta (c) IWM GM1464

Malta’s leading newspaper today announced the launch of a fund to help the dependants of those killed trying to bring vital supplies to Malta in Operation Pedestal.  Subscriptions are already coming in from those keen to express their gratitude for the sacrifice of convoy crews, airmen and gunners who lost their lives in the dangerous mission to relieve the siege.  The funds raised will be co-ordinated by the Anglo Maltese League.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 AUGUST TO DAWN 22 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fair.

1335-1500 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron and four 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept an enemy fighter sweep.  Two aircraft of 249 Squadron lose the formation and return early.  No enemy aircraft are sighted.  The wheel of F/Lt Lovell’s aircraft (229 Squadron) collapses on landing.

1814-1901 hrs  Four Spitfires from Hal Far patrol over a homecoming strike force: no interceptions.

Military casualties  None named.                                                           Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 21 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Gibraltar reported the safe arrival of Penn, Ledbury and Bramham.

AIR HQ  1800 hrs  The tanker was again attacked by nine Beauforts 39 Squadron, escorted by eight Beaufighters 248 Squadron, and five Beaufighters 229 Squadron carrying bombs.  Position 003 degrees Paxos, 12 miles, course 170 degrees, speed 6 knots.  Three torpedo hits and two near-misses with bombs were scored on the tanker and a direct hit by a bomb was made on a destroyer.  All aircraft also attacked the tanker with machine-gun and cannon fire.  The Beaufighter escort shot down two P32s, one JU 52, two BR 20s and probably destroyed a JU 88.  Photographs taken after the attack show the tanker to be stationary and oil flowing from both sides of it.  Later photos show it to be beached in three fathoms of water in Saiada Bay, Corfu.

Departures  Three Beauforts to LG 224; one Beaufort to Shandur.  Transit aircraft missing  One Beaufort en route from Malta to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter forced down into the sea by enemy action: crew missing.  One Beaufort had engine trouble and crashed into the sea: Wireless Operator/Air Gunner slightly injured; rest of crew uninjured.  One Beaufighter’s tyre burst: crew uninjured.  One Beaufort believed hit by enemy flak, force landed in the sea: crew missing.  One Beaufort hit by enemy flak while on shipping strike: Wireless Operator/Air Gunner injured; rest of crew uninjured.  One Baltimore;s engine cut on landing: Wireless Operator/Air Gunner and A/Observer injured.  One Beaufighter damaged by enemy flak crash-landed: crew injured.

22 August: Convoy 32000 Tons of Supplies but No Ration Increase

From: Governor & C in C Malta                To:  C in C Middle East              Rpt: The War Office

Military situation report for week ending [22 Aug] 1942

Convoy brought limited supplies (c) IWM GM1429

1.  Unloading convoy almost complete.  32000 tons unloaded, dispersed to and cleared from dumps mainly by army in 8 days.  This will provide approx. 3 months additional food at present reduced ration scale.  Slight increase in civilian bread ration may be possible; Army bread ration already increased one ounce to compensate shortage potatoes.  Certain variety items received will make Army rations less monotonous but no major alteration practicable.  Further economy in [motor transport] spirit necessary however.

2.  No attempt by enemy to attack convoy in harbour.  Activity confined to small fighter sweeps.  No bombers crossed coast day or night; almost constitutes a record.  3 ME 109s destroyed for loss of one Spitfire.

3.  29 torpedo-carrying Beaufort sorties escorted by bomb-carrying Beaufighters attacked enemy convoys to Libya.  One merchant vessel 7000 tons damaged – subsequently sunk by submarine P44.  One tanker hit and stopped.  Hits or near misses on two destroyers.  One Ju 52 and six other aircraft certainly destroyed and five damaged over convoys.  Three Beauforts, three Beaufighters missing.

4.  Winter accommodation in the form of a simple section hut being built by troops as civil labour used on aerodromes.  1400 Army still working on aerodromes.

5.  Military damage and casualties nil.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 AUGUST TO DAWN 23 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

1715-1810 hrs  Ten Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft: no engagement.  One Hurricane force-landed with undercarriage trouble: Pilot S/Lt Elliot unhurt.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Norman Adams, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Sergeant George Form, Royal Air Force VR, 202 Squadron; Sergeant Cecil Lee, Royal Air Force, 202 Squadron; Sergeant Alan Morgan, Royal Air Force VR, 202 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 22 AUGUST 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals One DC3 from LG 224; two Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Hurricane in accident on aerodrome: pilot uninjured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 19.  Dealt with: 3 High Explosives, all 250kg, plus 42 anti-personnel bombs.

(1)  ‘WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar’

(2)  Warrant Officer Donald Brisco and Sergeant Douglas Paterson 227 Squadron and Flying Officer Peter Roper, 39 Squadron, and his crew survived and were taken Prisoners-of-War.

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

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Posted by on August 22, 2017 in 1942, August 1942

 

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27 September 1941: Malta Convoy Attacked Repeatedly

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SS Imperial Star

SS Imperial Star

‘OPERATION HALBERD’ LARGEST SUPPLY SHIP FOUNDERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 28 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Cloudy.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 1941

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

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

TA QALI  Sergeants Mess in New Camp taken over.

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

 

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Posted by on September 27, 2016 in 1941, September 1941

 

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

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AIR AND NAVAL CHIEFS REVIEW JULY OPERATIONS FROM MALTA

Fulmars have disrupted enemy night raids

Fulmars have disrupted enemy night raids

AIR HQ

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.

VICE-ADMIRAL MALTA

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.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 JULY TO DAWN 1 AUGUST 1941

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.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 31 JULY 1941

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, 2016 in 1941, July 1941

 

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28 July 1941: Malta Has New Night Fighter Unit

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MNFU Hurricanes will be painted black

MNFU Hurricanes will be painted black

EIGHT BLACK HURRICANES TO OPERATE FROM TA QALI

A new RAF unit dedicated to the defence of Malta at night is ready to begin operations. Led by former Battle of Britain flight commander Group Captain George Powell-Shedden, the Malta Night Fighter Unit will be based at Ta Qali. The unit has been formed to counter the frequent night raids by the Italian air force which have become increasingly intense in recent weeks. 

The MNFU will have a special fleet of eight Hurricanes which will be painted entirely in black. As soon as an air raid is plotted approaching the Island, the fighters will be scrambled and the runway briefly illuminated to allow them to take off.  They will work in conjunction with the Island’s searchlights which will illuminate the raiders to enable the camouflaged Hurricanes to close in unseen for attack.

ITALIAN MISSION ‘A PRETTY SUICIDAL JOB’ SAYS NAVY MINE DISPOSAL OFFICER

One of the surviving motor torpedo boats used on yesterday’s raids has been salvaged by the Royal Navy and examined for intelligence purposes. Leading the operation was Rendering Mines Safe Officer Lt Edward Dutton Woolley, GM, RN, who was called out on Saturday morning soon after the raid had been defeated.  The tug Justified took him to the Italian vessel which had been captured by the RAF seven miles offshore:

One of the prisoners captured, together with an interpreter, went with me as he had been persuaded into telling me how to render the thing safe when we found it. At least that was the idea.  When later on we came to the boat he just swore he didn’t know what it was, and that he’d never seen one before, so he wasn’t much use…

After about two hours steaming we came up to the derelict boat. Viewed through the glasses it was quite a small thing, about eighteen feet long and [looking just like] a racing motor boat…It appeared in good order but I could see a large steel case in the bows with a crimson flame painted on it which didn’t look very healthy, so I secured a line to the stem and got back to the ship without much hanging about, then took it in tow and started back for home.”

Commander Woolley chose a quiet sector of Manoel Island to beach the boat for further examination. The manoeuvre was a delicate one in view of the risk of explosion.  Finally he could examine the boat:

“When we got the deck cover off a most incredible contraption of pipes, wires and gadgets was disclosed, which was obviously the firing gear, so we lit cigarettes and pondered over it for a while. For a moment I had the same feeling again that I had when I saw my first mine – that I just couldn’t tackle it – and then again, just as before, the realisation that it had to be done by someone and it may as well be me.” 

After working into the evening, Commander Woolley had determined how the mechanisms worked. He returned to the boat this morning to finish the job:

“The next morning, Sunday, saw the end of the dismantling with the detonators and primers out and the whole thing reasonably safe. There was the main charge of 600 lbs, two primers, three three-ounce charges and over forty detonators.  One of the detonators blew when I was taking it out and ripped my arm but that was the only damage.  Later investigation however showed that we had been very lucky taking the primers out, as one of them unscrewed itself as it came out.  Had the other done the same, the striker pin would have been released and the main charge would have exploded…

The main idea was that the pilot should direct the boat at a ship and then jump overboard before it hit and went up. A pretty suicidal job I should think…” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 JULY TO DAWN 29 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and humid.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 28 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upright returned from patrol, having obtained 2 hits on a 500’ Floating Dock. HM submarine Upholder hit an Italian cruiser with two torpedoes.  Urge returned from patrol (Commanding Officer sick). 5 Swordfish left to intercept convoy, but turned back owing to high oil temperatures of engines. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish despatched to attack a southbound convoy off Pantelleria had to return due to overheated engines.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 13 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 3 Wellington. Departures 5 Blenheim, 2 Wellington.  The Commander in Chief Middle East, General Auchinleck, and the Air Commander in Chief Air Chief Marshal Tedder with their staffs left for the UK. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily, Tripoli and search patrols. 110 Squadron 3 Blenheims searched for two merchant ships, not found but bombed a converted sailing ship. 252 Squadron 8 Beaufighters attacked Catania, Syracuse, Marsala with success, 2 attacking each target.  They destroyed a large number of aircraft and damaged many more, and killed 25 ground staff.  One Beaufighter navigator Sgt T Armstrong was wounded.  Hurricanes provided cover between Sicily and Malta.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Arrangements were made to hand over the Sliema area to 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers.  C Company will receive personnel of 11th Lancs into their beach posts from tomorrow.  An area will be taken over by C Company from 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment.  Training of 40 RAF personnel in the use of rifles began; there are 200 to be trained.

TA QALI  S/Ldr G H Powell-Sheddon posted from Hal Far as OC Malta Night Flying Unit.

(1) Mines Over Malta, Frederick R Galea, Wise Owl Publicatons

 

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Posted by on July 28, 2016 in 1941, July 1941

 

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30 May 1941: Malta Telephones & Telegrams Under Strain

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Fortress telephone exchange overloaded

Fortress telephone exchange overloaded

FORTRESS TELEPHONE EXCHANGE OVERLOADED

Troops have been informed that telephone calls must be restricted in order to reduce congestion of the Fortress Telephone Exchange. The measure has been introduced following damage to several cables in recent raids which have put communications under a severe strain. 

Troops have been told to make very effort to keep calls as short as possible; any lasting more than five minutes will be disconnected. A random listening check is also being undertaken and any calls considered unnecessary or in excess of five minutes will be brought to the attention of the General Officer Commanding.  Persistent offenders will have their telephones removed.

MALTA TELEGRAM SERVICE UNSATISFACTORY

The present system of private telegrams through Cable and Wireless to and from troops in Malta is unsatisfactory, according to the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief. In a message to the War Office today, he points out that it is now undesirable to divulge the names of units in Malta.  However, he believes that sending telegrams by cable instead of wireless telegraph will further increase the delay in transmission of messages, which is already the subject of some discontent among the Island’s troops.

Lt General Dobbie has requested that, in future, all cables should be sent by wireless telegraph. In addition, he proposes the address should include minimal information: for Other Ranks only the army number, rank and name or, for officers, the rank, name and initials, plus the single word Malta as the address.  Arrangements will be made for sorting and forwarding to the correct recipient.  Once confirmed, the instructions should be broadcast in a suitable form via the BBC in London.

EXTRA MILITARY VEHICLES ON THEIR WAY TO MALTA

14 motor cycles; 52 cars (2-seater) including 43 utility and 5 standard; 35 lorries 3-ton; 12 lorries 30 cwt; 13 ambulances; 5 vans 15 cwt; one petrol tanker; eight lorries 3 ton with seats (in lieu of eight motor coaches); two trailers; also spare parts. These now complete the establishment for Malta, with reserves. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 MAY TO DAWN 31 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine and warm. 

2143-2214 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which approach Grand Harbour from the north east but are turned away by a barrage from anti-aircraft guns, two raiders dropping their bombs in the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 30 MAY 1941

AIR HQ  Departures  8 Beaufighter. Remainder of 252 Squadron left for UK.  69 Squadron  Maryland patrol of eastern Tunisian coast; convoy not identified due to a mishap in the aircraft which went out of control over the target.  2 Marylands reconnaissance Malta to Greek coast for enemy naval movements.  Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli approaches for enemy shipping. 82 Squadron On information that Italian merchant vessel Florida previously attacked and damaged had been towed out of Sfax Harbour, three Blenheims despatched to attack and dropped 4 x 250lb bombs, scoring near-misses with delayed action bombs.      

LUQA  Eight Beaufighters left for Middle East, the other two remaining for repairs.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Advance party left for Gozo AM; platoon includes one section of A Company and one section of D Company.

 

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Posted by on May 30, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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17 May 1941: Malta Fighters Now on Constant Patrol

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hurricanes in flightSTANDING PATROLS MOUNTED DAILY TO DETER ENEMY

Malta fighters are now mounting standing patrols every morning in anticipation of visits by enemy aircraft. Daily morning reconnaissance and patrols by Luftwaffe bombers and fighters have become a regular occurrence.  The new defensive patrols are intended to deter raids and if possible launch a pre-emptive attack on approaching raiders.

HELP FOR SERVICEMEN WITH RELATIVES IN UK

Measures have been announced today to assist service personnel stationed in Malta in managing the aftermath of enemy raids on their home areas. The Welfare Department of the War Office has arranged for the Soldiers’ Sailors’ and Airmen’s Families Association to deal with enquiries from British soldiers serving overseas relating to air raid, family and personal problems. 

The new scheme is devised specially to help with problems resulting from enemy raids, such as tracing of relatives, completion of compensation claims for loss. The SSAFA will not only deal with the actual enquiry but will try to give much-needed help or advice for each particular case. 

Enquiries from servicemen will to be sent through their Adjutant who will forward them direct to the SSAFA in England. Very urgent matters will be sent by cable. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 MAY TO DAWN 18 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0716-0740 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber escorted by three ME 109 fighters which carries out reconnaissance across the Island. Malta fighters on standing patrol are in position above the approaching enemy raiders.  Wireless trouble prevents interception.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 17 MAY 1941

AIR HQ 252 Squadron Offensive operations. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands reconnaissance eastern Tunisian and Sicilian coast.  Maryland reconnaissance between Malta and Corfu reports convoy.  Dawn operation by Beaufighters 252 Squadron against aerodromes in Greece.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 12; dealt with 3 (2 x 250kg; 1 x 500kg).

 

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

 

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16 May 1941: Over 11600 Homeless; 2000 Homes Destroyed

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DESTRUCTION IN CIVILIAN AREAS TO DATE

Figures have been released today of the destruction in civilian communities across Malta. According to statistics, over 2000 houses have been destroyed but the figure masks a much greater impact, as ‘house’ includes apartment buildings occupied by many families.  Even in so-called ‘safe’ areas where refugees have sought shelter have been badly affected.  21 ‘houses’ have been destroyed in Balzan and Lija, 7 in Birkirkara and 5 in Mgarr.

  • Senglea streetHouses destroyed or severely damaged 2087
  • Rendered homeless 11679, including:
  • Cospicua 2986
  • Vittoriosa 1205
  • Senglea 1142
  • Valletta 938
  • Paola 850
  • Sliema 841
  • Zabbar 750

WAR OFFICE SAYS NO TO MORE FORCES FOR GOZO

The War Office has turned down a request from Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief for additional manpower for the defence of Gozo. The Island was recently named by intelligence sources as the prime landing point for a planned invasion of Malta.  While the importance of this is acknowledged in London, the competing demands for the defence of the Home Front, the Middle East and Malaya precludes the possibility of providing additional forces for Gozo.  Lt Gen Dobbie will have to find resources from his existing military establishment for the defence of Malta’s sister Island.

In reply Lt Gen Dobbie concedes that the naval situation in the Central Mediterranean is turning in the Island’s favour and that the need of other places may be greater than that of Malta. He considers it necessary for Gozo to be defended but can only secure a small force and even that may depend on the situation in Malta.  Any force even part-time would create uncertainty for the enemy, he believes.  Some additional manpower would be required for this.

Malta’s Commander in Chief still believes that Gozo needs anti-tank guns of any available kind, as well as carriers for 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment which has none.  In return, the War Office repeats that General Wavell in the Middle East must take priority for supplies of anti-tank weapons from the UK.  However, he suggests that Lt Gen Dobbie approaches Wavell for up to 24 Italian field guns captured in North Africa or Abyssinia, with ammunition.  According to the War Office, the Italian weapons are believed superior to Allied anti-tank guns.  The carriers for 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment will be despatched immediately. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 MAY TO DAWN 17 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0725-0750 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

0952-1056 hrs  Air raid alert for two JU 88 bombers which cross the Island singly, apparently on reconnaissance.  Five Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1124-1155 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 ME 109 fighters which circle to the east of the Island, then cross the coast near Kalafrana before splitting into several formations.  Ten 250kg high explosive bombs are dropped on Hal Far from 15000 feet, damaging three Swordfish and killing two contractors’ labourers.  Seven Hurricanes are scrambled; no engagement.  17 anti-aircraft gun positions engage the raiders with two heavy barrages; no claims.

Military casualties  Gunner Saviour Zammit, 3rd LAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties Zeitun  Carmel Attard, age 15. Zurrieq John Abdilla, age 16.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 16 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Offensive operations.

AIR HQ Arrivals 5 Blenheims 139 Squadron arrived from Gibraltar to replace 21 Squadron. 69 Squadron Maryland photo-reconnaissance Tripoli.  Maryland patrols eastern Sicilian coast AM and PM.  Maryland patrols eastern Tunisian coast AM and PM.  

LUQA Two Beaufighters 252 Squadron left for an operation from Crete attacking enemy aircraft on Hassani, Argos and Moladi.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 6 (5 x 250kg; 1 x 500kg).

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY  B20 cable Manoel cut by enemy action 15 May now repaired.

 

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Posted by on May 16, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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