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11 April 1941: Malta Becomes Base for Navy Attack Flotilla

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HMS Jervis

HMS Jervis

FOUR DESTROYERS WILL ATTACK AXIS CONVOYS  

Malta is to become a base for Royal Navy attacks on enemy convoys to North Africa. Four destroyers of 14th Flotilla – Jervis, Janus, Mohawk and Nubian – arrived in Grand Harbour early this morning to prepare for attacking operations against essential Italian supply lines.

The four destroyers were refuelled on arrival and embarked immediately to intercept a southbound convoy located by Malta reconnaissance aircraft. However, their first mission was unsuccessful when they were unable to locate the enemy convoy due to a miscalculation of their speed.

Reporting the arrival of the attack force to the War Cabinet in London, the Chief of Naval Staff explained that enemy convoys usually assemble at Palermo, pass round the western end of Sicily and down the Tunisian coast, making Malta an ideal base from which to interrupt the Tripoli supply lines. Three additional submarines have also been sent to work in the area and eight more are expected, making this a very strong strike force. 

The possibility of further operations against Tripoli itself is also being investigated. The primary objective of the Navy is to prevent the enemy from building up a large force in Tripoli.  Beaufort aircraft are also being sent out to attack convoys and Wellingtons will be used to bomb Tripoli Harbour.

MDINA ATTACKED ON GOOD FRIDAY

Enemy bombing over the ‘silent city’ of Mdina tonight has caused angry reactions among the Maltese population. The ancient walled city has no military installations to justify it being a legitimate target. Nevertheless it was struck during a raid by nine Stuka dive-bombers just after 10 this evening.  Some have suggested the bombs had been intended for Ta Qali but authorities consider that Mdina is some distance from Ta Qali and visually distinctive enough not to be hit in error.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 APRIL TO DAWN 12 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.  

0648-0720 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

0935-1020 hrs  Air raid alert for seven Italian CR 42 fighters, followed by a second plot of six, which carry out reconnaissance. Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders north of Malta.  Two CR 42s are probably shot down.   

1125-1155 hrs Air raid alert for twelve Messerschmitt fighters and one JU 88 which carry out an offensive patrol over the Island.  Heavy and Light anti-aircraft guns engage and eight Hurricanes are scrambled.  One ME 109 and one ME 110 are confirmed shot down, the JU 88 is probably shot down.  Hurricanes flown by F/O P Kennett and Sgt P Waghorn are shot down into the sea by enemy raiders.  P/O Kennett is spotted offshore and the rescue launch heads for the spot but he is found dead.  Sgt Waghorn’s plane is seen to go down near St Paul’s Bay; he does not survive.  Both pilots arrived in Malta just eight days ago with Operation Winch.

Sgt A H Deacon’s Hurricane is badly damaged in a dogfight with a ME 109; he heads for Ta Qali but cannot land as anti-aircraft guns are still in action against enemy aircraft. Deacon flies on to Hal Far and is able to land but his undercarriage collapses and he is slightly injured.  P/O Mortimer’s Hurricane is also badly damaged in combat; he also has to divert to Hal Far where his aircraft lands awkwardly, causing him some injuries.

2156-2247 hrs Air raid alert for nine JU 87 Stuka bombers which approach the Island at 4-6000 feet singly and in pairs, and carry out a bombing raid on Mgarr, Siggiewi, Mdina and Ta Qali aerodrome. Several civilian houses are damaged at Siggiewi.  At Mgarr three houses are destroyed in St Peter’s Street and 15 badly damaged in Fisher Street.  Five civilians are killed and seven injured – three seriously.  No damage is caused on the airfield.  Some of the raiders are illuminated by searchlights and Malta fighters are scrambled.  One JU 87 is shot down near Il Maghtab church by ground defences: 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers are believed to have shot it down with small arms fire.  One JU 87 is probably shot down by fighters.  

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Peter Kennett, Royal Air Force (VR), 261 Squadron. Sergeant Peter Harry Waghorn, Pilot, Royal Air Force (VR), 261 Squadron.

Civilian casualties Gharghur  Rosaria Mifsud, age 8. Mgarr  Josephine Borg, age 44; Mary Vella, age 36; Saviour Vella, age 60. Siggiewi Michael Sammut, age 46.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 11 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY Jervis, Janus, Mohawk and Nubian arrived for operations against the Tripoli convoy route.  After fuelling, the destroyers sailed to intercept a southbound convoy located by aircraft between Lampion and Kerkennah Bank, and reported as steaming at 15 knots.  The destroyers failed to intercept and from a subsequent signal from Unique, which failed to get through by wireless telegraph, it was apparent that the convoy’s speed had not exceeded 9 knots.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Swordfish engage in night attack.  Maryland photo-reconnaissance Tripoli.  2 Maryland on sea patrol.  

HAL FAR Two Hurricanes from Ta Qali crash-landed after air battle; one of 2 pilots slightly hurt.

KALAFRANA One Sunderland arrived from Gibraltar with freight.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3.

 

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

 

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22 March 1941: Five Hurricanes Shot Down – Pilots Killed

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Sgt Richard Spyer (2)

Sgt Richard Spyer

“WE THOUGHT WE HAD THE EDGE” SAYS PILOT

Five RAF fighter pilots lost their lives today in the defence of Malta. The five fighters were among eight Hurricanes of 261 Squadron scrambled this afternoon to engage a large force of enemy raiders on a bombing raid across the east of the Island and Grand Harbour.  As the ten bombers turned back for Sicily, the fighters set off in pursuit, intercepting their target some 35 miles to the north of the Island.  14 Messerschmitt 109 fighters escorting the bombers then turned on the Hurricanes.  One pilot whose Hurricane was badly damaged in an engagement managed to return fire on the attacking ME 109 and destroy it.  Four other Hurricanes are missing.  

Pilot Officer John Pain was one of the survivors. “This was one day when we thought we had the edge. It was the first time we had managed to get eight aircraft into the air in one formation in the two months I had been on the Island.”  P/O Pain joined the search for survivors but found only the marks of crashed aircraft. (1)

The missing Hurricane pilots have now been named. Flying Officer James Foxton served as a reconnaissance pilot with 431 Flight in Malta from September until January, when he transferred to 261 Squadron to fly Hurricanes.  Pilot Officer Thomas Garland, Pilot Officer Dennis Knight and Flying Officer John Southwell arrived in Malta just five days ago to join the Squadron.  Sergeant Richard Spyer had a lucky escape on his way to Malta when the Hurricane he flew off HMS Argus ran out of fuel 40 miles short of the Island and fell into the sea; he baled out and was rescued.  Sadly today despite an extensive search no trace of the missing pilots could be found.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 MARCH TO DAWN 23 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0758-0835 hrs Air raid alert for an enemy JU 88 bomber which crosses the Island on reconnaissance, escorted by two ME 109 fighters. Three Hurricanes engage; one of them attacks a raider from close range but without visible results.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1605-1625 hrs Air raid alert for three enemy formations totalling ten JU 88s and 14 ME 109 fighters approaching the Island from the north and north east. The ten bombers cross the Island at 22000 feet and drop bombs in a line from St Thomas Bay to Grand Harbour, the first in the neighbourhood of Bidni and the last on Senglea.  Houses and Dockyard buildings are damaged; part of Verdala Barracks is hit.  A sergeant of 4th Bn The Buffs is killed, apparently by a delayed action bomb.  One civilian is killed and three injured.  Hurricanes are scrambled and engage the raiders; one ME 109 is shot down.  The tail fins of an enemy aircraft are picked up near Luqa aerodrome. 

Eight Hurricanes follow the enemy bombers as they head back towards Sicily and engage them 35 miles north of Malta. The ME 109s arrive to join the air battle: one Hurricane is shot down by a ME 109 which he then in turn shoots down.  Both aircraft hit the sea.  Four more Hurricanes fail to return.  It is not known whether they lost their bearings in the cloudy conditions or were shot down as they were out of radio range.  The RAF launch heads out to the north east to search for survivors of crashed aircraft.

1820-1850 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the north east. They split up north east of the Island and only six approach, proceeding along the north coast.  One crosses the coast, passing over Rinella towards Grand Harbour and then out to sea.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no engagement reported.

2230-2246 hrs  Air raid alert for some three or four bombers which approach singly, passing over the Island. There is a slight mist and no moon.  No searchlights are exposed, nor Malta fighters airborne.  The enemy pilots seem unsure of their location and unable to find target.  They drop bombs in isolated areas between Siggiewi and Gudja, on Hal Far and to the west of Luqa aerodrome, on the Marsa area and in the sea off St George’s.  Bombs are also dropped on the Dingli area. One farmhouse is hit, injuring the farmer and his son; two other civilians are hurt.

Military casualties Sergeant Martin M Boland, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment); Flying Officer James H T Foxton; Pilot Officer Thomas B Garland; Pilot Officer Dennis F Knight; Flying Officer John S Southwell; Sergeant Richard A Spyer, pilots, Royal Air Force, 261 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Zabbar  Francis Cassar, age 14.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 22 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY Rorqual arrived to embark mines for operations north west of Sicily.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Sunderland Suda Bay carried out patrol western Ionian Sea then alighted in Malta.  69 Squadron 1212-1600 hrs  Maryland closing patrol northern Ionian Sea for enemy shipping; nil report. 

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from the Middle East.

TA QALI  No 122 Eucharistic Congress Street, Mosta, taken over for overflow sleeping accommodation for officers.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE Troops move to Gozo for an exercise.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT) Sgt Boland, B Company, Bofors Troop was killed; The Buffs’ first fatal casualty in Malta. A Company gave a demonstation of a company in attack in the area Tal Wied Rini to Gen Scobell GOC who afterwards congratulated them on a fine show.  

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  1800 hrs A small force was despatched to Gozo, consisting of one platoon and one section, both reduced in numbers.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Lt Runacres posted to the temporary garrison on Gozo.  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 1 (50kg).

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  1000 hrs  His Excellency Sir William Dobbie awards the Military Medal to Sergeant A Kitney of C Company. Representatives from all Companies attend on the Parade Ground at Battalion HQ.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  One platoon travelled to Gozo for an exercise.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  E Company established in Gozo with HQ in the Citadel, Victoria.

(1) Hurricanes Over Malta, Brian Cull with Frederick Galea, Grub Street 2002

(2)  Battle of Britain London Monument

 

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Posted by on March 22, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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17 March 1941: Malta Needs Fighters More Than Ack Ack Guns

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More fighters needed to repel raids

More fighters needed to repel raids

ONLY AN IMPROVED FIGHTER FORCE CAN PROTECT THE AIRFIELDS

Increased ground defences will not be enough to protect the airfields without an increase in fighter strength, says Malta’s Commander in Chief. Responding to the Chief of Imperial General Staff about the effectiveness of light automatic machine guns against attacks (maltagc70, 15 March), Lt General Sir William Dobbie stressed again the need for more, and better performing, fighter aircraft as “the only satisfactory solution” to ensure the security of the aerodromes.  He also reminded the War Office that balloon barrages and RAF PAC Units (1) originally destined for Malta’s airfields had been diverted elsewhere.

Ground defences of the aerodromes and flying boat bases are currently: Hal Far Bofors 4, light automatics 20; Luqa Bofors 6, light automatics 31; Ta Qali Bofors 5, light automatics 27; Marsaxlokk (Kalafrana) Bofors 10, light automatics 29. It is believed that the effectiveness of the light automatics could be enhanced by the use armour-piercing ammunition (apparently none is currently available). 

However, Lt Gen Dobbie concludes: “after all, the only satisfactory solution is a greatly increased force of fighter aircraft with adequate performance. I have pressed for this and trust the War Office will press this claim.  Unless and until it is provided, an adequate deterrent cannot be expected, and Malta cannot play its part as a naval and air base.” 

Six Hurricanes have arrived in Malta from the Middle East to reinforce 261 Squadron but the Island’s fighter force is still only a fraction of strength of Luftwaffe attacks. Only a week ago (maltagc70, 7 March) Malta’s Air Officer Commanding, Air Vice-Marshal Maynard, stated that without an increased fighter force he cannot protect the Sunderland and Wellington bomber squadrons based in Malta.

The initial reply from the War Office made no comment on the prospect of further fighters, concentrating remarks on ground defences:

“Experience shows that the Bofors, particularly used with a predictor, is the most effective weapon against the dive-bomber. We request confirmation of this, or otherwise.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 MARCH TO DAWN 18 MARCH 1941

Weather  Cold and wet, with some bright spells.

1036-1050 hrs, 1200-1214 hrs  Air raid alerts for approaching enemy aircraft which turn away without crossing the coast. Malta fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

1800-1811 hrs; 0238-0249 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 17 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ 0730-1215 hrs 69 Squadron  Maryland photoreconnaissance Naples Harbour. Three convoys heading for harbour.  

HAL FAR 830 Squadron Operational flight against Tripoli postponed owing to bad weather.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Anti-tank screen demonstration by 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Snipers course at Pembroke Ranges.

 (1) parachute and cable

 

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

 

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26 February 1941: 100 Strong Attack on Luqa Equals Illustrious Blitz

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MASSIVE DAYLIGHT RAID ON LUQA DESTROYS AIRCRAFT, BUILDINGS AND HOMES

Luqa airfield under attack (NWMA Malta)

Luqa airfield under attack (NWMA Malta)

Some 100 aircraft launched a massive bombing attack on Luqa airfield today, destroying or grounding the aircraft of Malta’s bomber squadron, damaging military buildings across the airfield and injuring six military personnel. Bombs also smashed into the nearby village of Luqa, destroying homes, injuring 14 civilians:

“The bombs just rained down all over and about the place. The village square hardly has a house standing… The Church of St Andrew escaped a direct hit, but bears the scars of battle all over.  Some people who remained in their homes had miraculous escapes…There were several soldiers in the square who just managed to reach the cover of an ordinary cellar shelter propped up with wood support. The house they were in a moment before crashed on the top of the cellar, but it did not give way to the weight of the masonry.” (1)

The third raid alert of the day sounded at 1245 pm, as over forty bombers and thirty fighters headed towards the Island’s north coast and on to Luqa. “Dive-bombers approach and attack in heavy waves. After what appears to be a preliminary skirmish with our fighters, the Malta barrage opens fire.  The first wave appears to dive the lowest.  They approach at a high altitude, then break up and dive singly.  The barrage concentrates over the enemy’s objective.  To reach it with any chance of getting close hits, the bombers, diving almost vertically, have to dash at high speed right into a veritable fire of bursting shells.  They seem to release four bombs at a time.  Clouds of smoke rise from the bursting bombs and from those enemy aircraft which dive straight to earth.  Just as one wave of attackers appears to have been dealt with, another follows in quick succession, mostly from the same direction as the first wave.” (2) 150 bombs were dropped on the airfield alone during the raid, eleven failed to explode – seven remain on the runway which is currently closed.  

Malta’s fighters launched a determined counter-attack, with eight Hurricanes of 261 Squadron led by Flying Officer F F ‘Eric’ Taylor DFC destroying three Junkers bombers and probably destroying seven. One JU 87 attacked by anti-aircraft fire drops its bombs on Gudja village before crashing nearby, killing a civilian.  However, in the fierce dogfight four Hurricanes were destroyed, including that of F/O Taylor who was one of the first Hurricane pilots to join the defence of Malta.  Two other pilots, P/O P Kearsey and P/O C E Langdon, were also killed.

Anti-aircraft guns launched a heavy barrage over Luqa, destroying five bombers confirmed and four probable, and damaging several more. “I saw one Junkers 87 still burning on Luqa hill. It was the first to dive and never got out of the dive.  The pilots were sitting in the burning plane, a mass of smouldering, charred bones.  A ghastly sight.”

DEVASTATION IN LUQA – 75 PER CENT OF HOMES DAMAGED OR DESTROYED

Damage in LuqaThe village of Luqa has been all but destroyed in the air raid today – which is Ash Wednesday, one of the holiest days in the Malta calendar. A reporter from the Times of Malta who visited the village after the raid writes:

“There is hardly a street without a demolished house or one seriously damaged or shaken. The debris is still piled up on the streets…The villagers told me that tons of bombs have fallen in or about the village.  There were signs of destruction everywhere.  77 houses have been completely demolished, 25 others seriously damaged and uninhabitable, and it is reckoned that only about 25 per cent of the homes there have so far escaped completely unscathed.

So many bombs – some of them the biggest ever dropped – have fallen all around the village…that almost all houses and farms on the outskirts facing the fields bear marks of the shrapnel, which bit holes into the walls. But Luqa’s remarkable record is that although so many of its homes have been levelled, it has had only one casualty…” (1)

Despite the destruction, reports have praised the behaviour of Luqa’s villagers. “They would not hear of leaving the village, and accommodated themselves without fuss in their neighbours’ houses where they were given food and drink. By the evening, notwithstanding the battered state of the village, business went on as usual.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 27 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0730-0755 hrs Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber escorted by six ME 109 fighters which approach the Island. Four of them attack a Gladiator over Hal Far, causing no damage.  Anti aircraft guns engage and the raiders turn away without launching an attack.

1030-1055 hrs Air raid alert for a large formation of enemy fighters which approach the Island and split up as they cross the coast.   One Messerschmitt attacks a meteorological Gladiator without success.  Eight Hurricane fighters are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims

1245-1345 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 JU 87 and12 JU 88 bombers, escorted by 30 mixed ME 109 and BR 42 fighters which approach the Island and carry out a heavy raid on Luqa aerodrome, dropping some 150 bombs. Six Wellingtons are burned out on the ground and seven others badly damaged, of which four will be out of action for 2-3 months.  Seven others will be unserviceable for up to a month.  One Glenn Martin Maryland is a probable write-off, three others will be unserviceable for at least a week, another is slightly damaged.  One Miles Magister is slightly damaged.

Bombs also damage buildings, including two hangars, an officers’ mess, the airmen’s cookhouse, the NAAFI, three barrack blocks and a ration store room, and the HQ of 12 Field Regiment Luqa. One 200 gallon fuel tank is burned out, one lorry written off and several others damaged.  The aerodrome surface is badly cratered and likely to be unserviceable for 48 hours.  Four men of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment and two of the Royal Artillery are wounded.  Four unexploded bombs lie within the camp and seven others on the aerodrome, mostly on the runways.  Damage to civilian property in Luqa village is considerable.  One JU 87 attacked by anti-aircraft fire drops its bombs on Gudja village before crashing nearby.   

Towards the end of the attack 10 Dornier 215 and 10 Heinkel 111 bombers approach the Island but drop no bombs. Malta fighters are scrambled and engage the enemy, destroying three Junkers bombers and probably destroying seven.  Anti-aircraft guns engage, launching a heavy barrage over Luqa, destroying five Junkers confirmed and four probable, and damaging several more. They also damage one Dornier 215.  Three Malta fighters do not return after the raid.  One civilian is killed and 14 injured. 

1345-1409 hrs  Air raid alert for two JU 88 bombers which fly over the Island at high altitude but drop no bombs. Three Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders evade engagement.

1558-1700 hrs  Air raid alert for one enemy Red Cross seaplane accompanied by an escort of twenty fighters on a mission to pick up casualties. They search the seas around the northern part of the Island for an hour.  Eight Malta fighters are scrambled and engage the escorting Messerschmitts from time to time, along with anti-aircraft guns.  One ME 109 is severely damaged.  

Two German prisoners whose JU 87 crashed in the sea during this morning’s raid are rescued by the High Speed Launch, brought ashore and interrogated at Kalafrana.

1742-50 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy formations approaching the Island. Five Hurricanes are scrambled and with enemy withdraw without crossing the coast.

0625-0730 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Philip James Kearsey; Pilot Officer Charles Edwaard Langdon; Flying Officer Frederic Frank Taylor, Royal Air Force, 261 Squadron.

Civilian casualties Gudja  Angelo Caruana, age 84.  

Enemy casualties Feldwebel Johannes Braun, 4/StG 1, pilot of Junkers JU 87 Stuka shot down; Unteroffizier Heinz Langreder, 4/StG 1, pilot of JU 87 Stuka shot down and died; Oberleutnant Kurt Reumann, commander of the 6/StG 1, pilot of a JU 87 Stuka, shot down; Gefreiter Erwin Suckow, crewman of JU 87 Stuka, shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 26 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ 0830-1136 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance of Tripoli Harbour, Mellaha and the Gulf of Gabez.    

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli harbour and search for Sorman aerodrome; his aircraft was chased out by ME 109s.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  1245-1345 hrs  Air raid.  Luqa aerodrome is about two miles from Battalian HQ which, being high up, made an excellent grandstand.  Never has this unit seen such an exhibition.  The Ack Ack barrage was terrific but the Germans dived straight into it to loose their bombs.”  Posts SJ2, 3 and 4 handed over to the Regt by 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 17; dealt with 6 (4 x 50kg, 2 x 500kg German).

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

(2) Malta Diary of A War, Michael Galea, Peg 1992

 

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

 

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1 February 1941: Three Cities Locked Down in Case of Sabotage

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MALTA GARRISON 1 FEBRUARY 1941 – click here

Zabbar Gate

Zabbar Gate

MEASURES TO STEP UP DOCKYARD SECURITY

Measures have been announced today to close the area of the Three Cities during the hours of curfew. The three adjacent communities of Cospicua, Senglea and Vittoriosa surround the Dockyard.  The move is intended to secure the Dockyard area against any attempt by saboteurs to create a diversion during a major attack on the Island.

A ring of bastions already surrounds the area. Whenever code ‘Asia’ is in force, placing the Island on full war status all entrances to the three Cities will be closed. Salvatore Gate, Zabbar Gate and Polverista Gate will be locked by the Police.  St Lawrence Deni Bastion will be blocked with barbed wire.  The small footbridge connecting the Naval tanks with Corradino will be guarded by personnel of the local Bofors gun position.  The Ghain Dwieli tunnel entrance will be guarded from one hour before darkness until full daylight. 

Extra security has also been introduced for the Ghain Dwieli tunnel during air raids. In future the tunnel will also be guarded with a temporary road block from the air raid alert until the all clear, during which time nobody will be allowed to pass in or out of Cospicua, unless they can prove they are on official duty.

AIR RAID SUMMARY FOR JANUARY 1941

  • Raids 58 (including 6 night raids)
  • Total time from warning to all clear: 31 hrs 35 minutes
  • Average length of raid: 32.7 minutes
  • Civilians killed: 63

MALTA FIGHTER STRENGTH

  • 261 Squadron 28 Hurricanes (8 unserviceable)
  • 806 Squadron 3 Fulmars (1 unserviceable; 4 Gladiators (1 unserviceable)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 2 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0944-1010 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which flies over the Island, apparently on reconnaissance.   No bombs are dropped.  Malta fighters are scrambled; no interception.

1140-1220 hrs  Air raid alert for one SM 79 escorted by 12 CR 42 fighters which fly over the Island at 20000 feet. Hurricane fighters are scrambled and shoot down one CR42 is shot down on land at St Andrews Barracks in the Pembroke area, and another in the sea north of Malta.  Both pilots are confirmed killed.

1342-1352 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft reported five miles north east of Grand Harbour. Four Malta fighters are scrambled; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Sapper Jack Abela, Royal Engineers, Malta Territorial Force.

Enemy casualties  Sergente Maggiore Andrea Baudone, 156th Gruppo Autonomo, pilot of Fiat CR 42 shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 1 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ 148 Squadron Wellington aircraft attacked Tripoli.   0550-1231 hrs Sunderland anti-convoy patrol of Eastern Tunisian coast with a striking force standing by. 1013-1300 hrs Spitfire despatched on special photoreconnaissance task: not completed due to cloud.  0945-1159 hrs  Maryland reconnaissance of Syracuse, Augusta, Catania and Messina for ships in harbour. 0955-1530 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance of Taranto.  Slight inaccurate heavy Ack Ack. 0955 hrs one merchant vessel is spotted with two Cant flying boats patrolling nearby. 1451 hrs A Sunderland took off to intercept and attack an Italian ship leaving Tunis; striking force also standing by.  Unable to locate ships; returned 2145 hrs.  

Photoreconnaissance results (to treat interpretation with reserve): Taranto one battleship, four cruisers, seven destroyers, four torpedo boats, three merchant ships, 27 Cant flying boats; Catania port three merchant vessels, aerodrome three SM 79 bombers, 42 JU 87 bombers, 12 JU 88 bombers, two JU 52 transport aircraft, 14 Macchi 200 fighters, one CR 42 fighter plus other aircraft; Augusta three submarines, 18 Cant flying boats; Syracuse no ships, seaplane base not shown.  

LUQA 69 Squadron One Maryland photoreconnaissance Syracuse, Augusta, Catania, Messina; one Maryland photoreconnaissance Taranto.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Defence posts manned from 1800 hrs to 0700 hrs each night. Ghain Tuffieha camp evacuated due to artillery practice.   

 

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Posted by on February 1, 2021 in February 1941

 

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30 January 1941: Germans Plan Airborne Invasion of Malta

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parachute troops 2GERMAN PARATROOPERS COULD INVADE FROM SICILY

German forces based in Sicily will attempt to take Malta by landing troops from the air, according to the War Office in London. A top secret telegram to the Governor and Commander in Chief today confirmed that reports of such plans coming recently from Rome are believed to be authentic. 

At the same time, the telegram confirms that there is absolutely no evidence as yet of preparations for an invasion operation, and that air forces in Sicily currently constitute the only major German aid to Italy. The same intelligence source reports that the Germans believe significant action is necessary to prevent British and US forces from using Mediterranean and African bases for future operations against the Axis war effort. 

MALTA TO TEST BURNING PETROLEUM FOR DEFENCE OF BEACHES

Military chiefs in Malta have been asked by the War Office to test the burning of a petroleum mixture to create a smoke screen as a means of defending the beaches. However, tests have been delayed by a shortage of benzene. 

Meanwhile the Garrison’s commanders remain unconvinced of the value of the method. They believe that naval ground mines and scaffolding are much more suitable for the purpose.  However, a supply of these already ordered from the UK have still not arrived and are new viewed as urgently needed.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 JANUARY TO DAWN 31 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Overcast.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Ian Riach Currie, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 261 Squadron; 2nd Lieutenant Guy Roger Edmund Follett, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 30 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 6 Hurricanes from Middle East. 1 Sunderland. 0730-0900 hrs  Maryland reconnaissance Pantelleria.  Visual report one merchant vessel in harbour with fleet auxiliary patrolling outside.  No aircraft seen on aerodrome. 0435-1307 hrs  Sunderland anti-convoy patrol east Tunisian coast; only two small French merchant ships.  

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Further mines laid on the beaches at Mellieha Bay, St Pauls Bay, Cala Mistra, Ghain Znuber Tower, Ghain Tuffieha Bay, Armier Bay, Sunshine Bay and to the east end of the Victoria Lines.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland returned from Middle East with passengers.

LUQA 69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland reconnaissance Pantelleria.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  B Company moved into Valletta to defend the town against invasion during the night.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  One Company remains in Senglea in support of civil authorities.

 

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

 

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20 November 1940: New Mail Service for Troops

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Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa today

Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa today

TELEGRAM SERVICE INTENDED TO MAKE UP FOR MAIL DELAYS

In view of what have been described as ‘abnormal delays’ in the mail service, a new scheme has been agreed with the Air Ministry to provide cheap means of communication for all ranks. It will come into effect immediately.

All ranks may send one private telegram per month to the United Kingdom according to the following conditions:

  1. Only applies to addresses in the United Kingdom
  2. Messages must relate to urgent private affairs.
  3. Text should not exceed twelve words.
  4. Addresses must be as short as possible.
  5. Charge for text will be one penny per word.
  6. Charge for address will be one penny per word.  If the address exceeds five words the excess words over five will not be charged for.
  7. Telegrams are to be written on ordinary service message forms to be obtained from Battalion HQ.
  8. The message will be censored and approved by an officer for transmission in plain language.  Careful censoring is essential as it must be borne in mind that it will almost certainly be intercepted by the enemy.
  9. Records are to be maintained by Companies showing the names of senders and payments made.
  10. Companies will pay into the Command Cashier at the end of each month the total cash received in respect of messages sent.  A statement will accompany the remittance showing the number of messages sent and the Fortress Headquarters authority for the service.

The success of the scheme depends on the careful control of the number of messages transmitted. Contents of messages must relate to essential business of an urgent nature and must not contain terms of endearment, congratulations or greetings.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 21 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Cold and damp.

No air raids.

0930 hrs  Six Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 1940

AIR HQ Arrivals 6 Wellingtons. Departures 1 Sunderland. 

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Middle East with passengers.

TA QALI 261 Squadron moved from RAF Station Luqa: 13 officers and 165 airmen being posted to this station for rations, accommodation, displine and duty.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Unloading of second convoy completed.

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Posted by on November 20, 2020 in 1940, November 1940

 

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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, 2020 in 1940, October 1940

 

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15 August 1940: Daylight Bombing Returns With Heavy Raid

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AIRFIELDS HEAVILY BOMBED

Daylight bombing returned to Malta today with the first daytime raid since 12 July. Early this afternoon a large formation of bombers and fighters approached the Island and attacked Hal Far, Kirkop and Safi with heavy high explosives. One Swordfish aircraft was destroyed and storage hangars badly damaged. Four Hurricane fighters were scrambled to intercept the raiders. One was attacked by enemy fighters and shot down; the pilot was killed.

Wembley Ice Cream Factory Gzira

Wembley Ice Cream Factory Gzira

ICE CREAM BANNED

Sales of ice cream have been banned with effect from today. The ban is the latest in a series of measures designed to conserve precious resources as the Island faces a prolonged siege. To mark the occasion, the Wembley Ice-Cream Factory donated all proceeds from their ice cream sales today to the Malta Relief Fund, the charity established to help those who have suffered from enemy action.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 AUGUST TO DAWN 16 AUGUST 1940

Weather  Fine; cooler with some cloud.

1344-1410 hrs Air raid alert for ten enemy bombers in two formations escorted by 25 fighters which approach the Island at between eight and twenty thousand feet. Three bombers drop 24 high explosive bombs and eight incendiaries on the Hal Far area causing some damage to RAF premises and severely injuring one civilian. One Swordfish armed with bombs is hit on the ground and destroyed by fire. Two high explosive bombs fall on the main Fleet Air Arm storage hangar blowing out side panels and damaging the roof. Other bombs are dropped on Kirkop and Safi. Ack Ack engage the enemy. Four of Malta’s Hurricane fighters are scrambled; to engage enemy fighters with no claims. One Hurricane is attacked; thick smoke is seen and the aircraft comes down in the sea near Benghaisa. The pilot, Sgt R O’Donnell, is reported lost, presumed killed.

Military casualties  Sergeant Roy O’Donnell, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 261 Squadron.    

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 15 AUGUST 1940

ROYAL NAVY  A mine floated close to the shore at Sliema and was towed clear and destroyed.   Bombs on the Fleet Air Arm hangar damaged stores; it is hoped that at least 90% can be salvaged.  

(1) www.talhandaqnostalgia.org

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Posted by on August 15, 2020 in 1940, August 1940

 

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6 August 1940: New Air Squadron for Malta

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Gladiators to join new Squadron (NWMA)

Gladiators to join new Squadron (NWMA)

FIGHTERS JOIN FORCES

The two air forces engaged in the defence of Malta are to be amalgamated. 418 Flight and Fighter Flight will combine to form 261 Squadron. Included in the Squadron will be the surviving Gladiator aircraft which have defended the Island since the first air attacks in June.

MALTA TO BE A BASE FOR SEABORNE RAIDERS?

The War Office has written to military chiefs in Malta asking whether the Island could operate as a base for sea-borne attacks on enemy coasts. The message proposes the deployment of a self-contained company trained in coastal raiding tactics.

In his reply, the Governor and Commander in Chief welcomed the proposal, subject to certain provisos:

“Am strongly in favour of suggestion and consider that such offensive raids against Sicily or even Tripoli would have real value. But in order to make them feasible the necessary naval and air forces and equipment would have to be made available from outside sources. Vice Admiral Malta informs me that there are no suitable craft capable of transporting troops at necessary speed here – all these requirements would have to be brought in from outside. Similarly a much stronger force of reconnaissance aircraft would have to be provided. Further we have very little detailed information about suitable objectives…Any enterprise against Sicily or Tripoli will, of course, have to be carried out in conjunction with operations of the Mediterranean Fleet.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 AUGUST TO DAWN 7 AUGUST 1940

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 6 AUGUST 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Pandora arrived with RAF stores.  

AIR HQ  1530 to 1730 hrs  Fleet Air Arm Skua reconnaissance of Messina, Catania, Augusta and Syracuse.   

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Posted by on August 6, 2020 in 1940, August 1940

 

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