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18 June 1941: Malta Submarine Stealth Missions in Med

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HMS Unbeaten

HMS Unbeaten

HMS UNBEATEN HAS NARROW ESCAPE

Submarine HMS Unbeaten has narrowly escaped destruction on her current patrol on the hunt for enemy convoys as part of Malta’s submarine flotilla. Unbeaten’s second war mission since arriving in the Mediterranean began a week ago, when she was despatched to patrol south of the Straits of Messina and the east coast of Sicily. 

Early on Monday morning Unbeaten sighted a significant Axis convoy including three merchant ships and a large liner acting as troop transport at the southern entrance to the Straits.  The submarine quickly closed on the convoy and her commander Lt E A Woodward ordered the attack.  Four torpedoes were fired at the transport ship, two were reported as on target. 

Seeing the torpedo tracks, an escorting Italian Cant aircraft dropped two bombs which just missed the submarine. Nine depth charges were then dropped towards Unbeaten and she dived rapidly to evade impact, remaining deep underwater for over two hours to avoid further attacks.  

Having continued her patrol, this morning Unbeaten received orders to intercept and attack a Vichy French destroyer heading south through the Straits of Messina towards Beirut.

MINES

Since 1st March (besides those previously reported) ten magnetic and thirteen acoustic mines have been detonated off Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 JUNE TO DAWN 19 JUNE 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

0915-0929 hrs; 0959-1013 hrs  Air raid alert for fifteen enemy aircraft which approach to within 25 miles north of St Paul’s Bay. Nine Hurricanes are scrambled and the raiders recede north.  The all-clear sounds but the raiders turn south again and repeat their tactics but are driven off again.

1634-1706 hrs  Air raid alert for two formations of six and three Italian Macchi 200 fighters which approach the Island in the St Paul’s Bay area. Hurricane fighters are scrambled and intercept the second formation 20 miles north of Grand Harbour, shooting down one Macchi 200 and a second probable.  One Hurricane catches fire due to a Glycol leak and has to make a forced landing in the Mosta area.  The pilot Sgt Livingston bales out but too low for his parachute to open fully and he is killed.

2002 hrs  Six Blenheim bombers arrive.

2035 hrs  Four Blenheim bombers arrive.

0457-0502 hrs  Air raid alert caused by the approach of Wellingtons returning to base.

Military casualties  Sergeant Alexander Livingston, pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 261 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 18 JUNE 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 10 Blenheim. Departures 2 Bombay. 69 Squadron 5 Marylands on reconnaissance.  F/Lt Warburton special operation in Beaufighter crashed on take-off; aircraft destroyed but crew unhurt.  82 Squadron Arrived Malta. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Senior Royal Artillery officers visited the Battalion to establish where Bofors and Light Anti-Aircraft guns might provide ground assistance.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

 

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Posted by on June 18, 2016 in 1941, June 1941

 

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13 May 1941: Disabled Refugees and Children Saved by ‘Miracle’ Bell

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Bell oldUNEXPLAINED TOLLING SENDS EVACUEES TO SHELTER

A home for elderly and disabled people at Qormi escaped destruction this afternoon in an event which its Spiritual Director has described as ‘miraculous’. The home was evacuated from the Three Cities to Qormi last year. 

The home’s alarm bell sounded at around 2pm, as enemy bombers were crossing the east coast heading for Luqa aerodrome. As residents of the home and pupils of the village school headed for an underground shelter, the home’s caretaker rushed towards the Spiritual Director saying he had not rung the bell as he had not received the customary call from the Police.  At that moment, a terrific explosion rocked the building, shrouding it in a thick cloud of dust.  It was only then that the air raid alert sounded over the village.

The question of how the bell was rung remains a mystery, which the Spiritual Director has described as a “truly miraculous deliverance, which could have resulted in one of the worst tragedies to befall Malta through the war”. He added that five days ago, on “the feast of Our Lady of Pompeii, I conducted a Service in the chapel; as if having a premonition of an impending disaster, I urged everyone to pray devoutly”.   Today he believes those prayers were answered. (1)

TROOPS WARNED OF DANGERS OF SEA BATHING

Troops have been warned today that, owing to the presence of mines all round the coast and at many places inside the harbours, bathing is dangerous. Bathing may be allowed at the bather’s own risk everywhere it is possible, except in the special danger area near the entrances to the Grand and Marsamxetto Harbours, ie from Ras il Gebel to Sliema Point.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 MAY TO DAWN 14 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0735-0753 hrs  Air raid alert for a JU 88 bomber which carries out reconnaissance escorted by three ME 109 fighters.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1342-1421 hrs  Air raid alert for a small formation of bombers escorted by 25 ME 109s approaching the Island from the east.  Bombs are dropped on the Luqa aerodrome damaging one Wellington bomber, and on Tal Handaq, Marsa Creek and Ta Qali, Qormi and Hamrun, where 10 houses are destroyed, one civilian is killed and 12 injured, five seriously.  Qormi New Chapel and Government School are destroyed.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; ME 109s swoop down from 20000 to 10000 feet to attack them.  Two Hurricanes are shot down; pilot P/O P J A Thompson is killed, the other pilot bales out and is slightly injured.

0001-0402 hrs Air raid alert for 18 enemy aircraft approaching from the north east.  They head directly for Luqa, dropping 12 high explosive bombs on the airfield.  Three Maryland aircraft are damaged – two will be unserviceable for at least 12 days; one is lorry destroyed, two barrack blocks and the NAAFI are damaged.  Bombs are also dropped on Imtarfa Hospital, destroying the Royal Engineers office and one lorry.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled, one of which engages and damages one Heinkel HE 111 bomber which is illuminated by searchlights.  Anti-aircraft guns fire several barrages.  Two Beaufighters are scrambled and pursue the raiders back to their base in Sicily where they attempt to attack them during landing; no claims.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Peter John Alfred Thompson, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 261 Squadron; Rev Albert Edward Farrugia Bugeja, Royal Army Chaplains’ Department att. Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Hamrun  Adorata Scicluna, age 60.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 13 MAY 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli reported two convoys.  Maryland eastern Tunisian coast. 

HAL FAR  F/Lt Westmacott injured in aerial combat.

LUQA  Two Beaufighters 252 Squadron patrolled Sicilian coast to intercept enemy raiders returning from Malta; no interceptions.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion is responsible for the defence of the area of Grand and Marsxamxett Harbours. D Company had an early morning exercise “General Alarm” with Southern Infantry Brigade.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 22; dealt with 0.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Two companies are responsible for the defence of the Qrendi and Safi landing strips; the remainder are in reserve.

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY  28 pdr cable Camerata to St Elmo and 28 pdr St James to St Elmo cut by enemy action now repaired.

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

 

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

 

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12 May 1941: Malta Has New Fighter Squadron

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185 Squadron Hurricane fighter HQ at Hal Far

185 Squadron Hurricane fighter HQ at Hal Far

185 SQUADRON BEGINS OPS AT HAL FAR

A new fighter squadron begins operations in Malta today. 185 Fighter Squadron has been formed at Hal Far, giving the Island a second fighter force. The Squadron will be led by Flight Lieutenant P W O Mould, DFC and Bar, who is promoted to Squadron Leader on taking command.  The additional fighter unit has been made possible by the arrival of from the Hurricanes which arrived on the Island in April.  261 Squadron will continue to operate from Ta Qali; one Flight of the unit has been transferred to the new squadron.

NAZI PRISONERS OF WAR CONFIDENT OF EARLY RESCUE FROM MALTA

Four German prisoners of war captured when their JU 88 bomber was brought down on 29 April have been interrogated at Corradino Prison. The prisoners are all members of Squadron 5th Staffel, 2nd Gruppo, based at Catania.  They have been named as pilot Weldwebel Rudolf Lenzner, air gunner Unterofficizier Paul Kietzmann, observer Weldwebel Wilhelm Heller and wireless operator Helmut Hartlich.

According to the prisoners, nine aircraft of the same squadron left base on 29 April with orders to attack two cruisers and eleven destroyers in Grand Harbour. This was to be carried out in three formations, each being allotted certain targets shown from two previous reconnaissances that morning.  They were met and escorted by two squadrons of ME 109s which came from another un-named aerodrome. 

Sgt Major Heller stated that the JU 88s bomb release gear was damaged by Ack Ack fire and his bombs did not leave the plane (this cannot be confirmed). The prisoners are unanimous that Ack Ack shrapnel hit them squarely and set the aircraft on fire upon which they decided to bale out.  Two of the crew had already done so before the Malta fighters came in.  In spite of this, they all say that Malta’s Ack Ack is very poor, it has no effect on the pilot or crew; however the interrogator was with them during an air-raid when they saw an [enemy aircraft] hit by shrapnel and limp away – and he said there were no comments about our Ack Ack then.

The airmen’s morale is reported as excellent and they are well trained in security, resisting any attempt to give information which would assist the enemy. They are clean and disciplined, polite and smart.  Air Gunner Kietzmann was wearing the Iron Cross (1st Class); he refused to give the details which earned him the decoration. 

All four are 100 per cent Nazi and are confident of an early rescue and final victory of the Axis powers. On being asked how they would conquer the British Empire, they admitted they did not know but said that Adolf Hitler would accomplish this act as he had others.  Lenzner maintained that “as sure as the sun rises, so will the Jewish problem develop to a crisis in Great Britain.” They would not be drawn into commenting on their Axis partner Italy but appeared to agree with remarks disparaging Italian fighting powers.

Three of them joined the Luftwaffe in 1937 and have flown together since before the war. All admitted to having made many trips over England and at least four over Malta.  At the beginning of 1941 the Squadron was drafted to the Mediterranean where they have operated against Malta from Sicily several times.  Heller’s crew took part in the attack on Illustrious, when he admitted the Luftwaffe suffered many losses, including a German air ace named Captain Wilhelm Duerbeck, holder of the German ‘Knights Cross’. 

Asked why they had resorted to night attacks on Malta, they maintained that it was more profitable and referred to the Allied night raids over Germany. When challenged about indiscriminate bombing, they compared what is happening in Malta to what is happening in Germany – and said that the British started it first.  Parachute mines were discussed with all the prisoners, who pleaded ignorance of their existence.  They all stated that Junkers 88s invariably carry bombs.  However, it seems very unlikely that they would be unaware of the mines.

Two complaints made by all the prisoners were registered as legitimate. It was recommended that the first should certainly be put right immediately and never repeated: articles of clothing and decorations (such as an Iron Cross, badges and stripes), personal papers and photographs and other items in their pockets were removed by someone on their way to internment and have not been passed on with other effects to the proper authority.  This is considered doubly regrettable, as not only could this provoke negative propaganda in Germany, vital information has been lost.  One prisoner is very desirous to have the photograph of his mother and girlfriend returned to him.

A telegram has been sent to the Commander in Chief Middle East giving identification details of the prisoners and confirming their wellbeing.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 MAY TO DAWN 13 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1003-1025 hrs Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which carries out reconnaissance at 22000 feet escorted by six ME 109 fighters.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no interceptions.

1027-1047 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which carries out reconnaissance at over 22000 feet.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no interceptions.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1305-1400 hrs The Radio Direction Finder indicates 30 enemy aircraft approaching in three formations.  17 Hurricanes are scrambled but the enemy remains at a distance of 10 miles.

1801-1835 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 escorted by four ME 109s which approach the Island and patrol five miles off the coast at 24000 feet.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no interceptions.

2152-2320 hrs  Air raid alert for 12-15 enemy aircraft which cross the coast at various points and drop bombs on Luqa and Kalafrana, Rinella and Zabbar, Dragonara and St Georges Bay. In the Dockyard a heavy bomb collapses the roadway at Garden Reach and undermines a nearby store and wharf.  A large bomb explodes at the Bighi Royal Naval Hospital, badly damaging two houses and the mortuary. The Laboratory and Administrative Blocks are also affected by blast.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

0054-0115 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

0205-0310 hrs  Air raid alert for eight to ten enemy aircraft which cross the coast at various points and drop bombs on Luqa, between Luqa and Gudja (including Gudja camp with no casualties) and Kalafrana anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

Civilian casualties  Valletta  Gerald Camilleri, age 33.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 12 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Kelly, Kipling, Jaguar, Kashmir and Kelvin returned from Operation MD 4, having carried out a successful bombardment of Benghazi.  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 2100 hrs  Swordfish departed on offensive operations on a convoy sighted by a Maryland at 1638 hrs. 1 Flare Dropped and 4 strikes with torpedoes; one destroyer and one merchant vessel probably sunk.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron Maryland patrol off eastern Sicilian coast. Maryland patrol eastern Tunisian coast.  

HAL FAR  C Flight 261 Squadron ceased to exist. 185 Squadron was formed under the command of Squadron Leader Mould.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A lecture was given to many officers on the Island by CSO1 Colonel Bedford on “The Defence of Malta”.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 4 (1 x 50kg; 2 x 250kg; 1 x 500kg).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  2150 hrs A stick of bombs is dropped on Battalion HQ; one bomb fell inside the camp compound destroying the PRI tent, the motor transport office and store tent. Three men were buried but were extricated unhurt.  Three motorcycles were badly damaged.

 

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

 

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27 April 1941: Hurricanes Arrive for New Fighter Squadron

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BAD WEATHER DELAYS PUT DELIVERY FLIGHT AT RISK

The largest delivery of fighters for Malta to date arrived on the Island today under the Royal Navy co-ordinated Operation Dunlop. This second delivery of Hurricanes in a month brought greater numbers than the first.  It provides an important boost to the Island’s fighter force, which has been struggling to cope since the introduction of Messerschmitt 109 fighters to Sicily in February.  Six of the new Malta machines are the faster Mark II Hurricanes; 17 are Mk I.

The delivery operation began at 2200 hrs on Friday when ‘Force S’ (Operation Salient) including six destroyers with light cruiser Dido and the minelayer Abdiel sailed from Gibraltar and turned west as if to head for the Atlantic.  An hour later the Force H convoy left Gibraltar to head eastwards, with the Hurricanes aboard Ark Royal escorted by the flagship Renown, with HMS Sheffield and five destroyers.  Force S then turned east to head for Malta where the six destroyers are to join the strike fleet.

Meanwhile ‘Force H’ with Ark Royal progressed safely through the Mediterranean yesterday, reaching the designated point from where the Hurricanes were to fly off for Malta.  However, bad weather prevented take-off, resulting in a tense night waiting in potentially hostile waters.

Finally the first formation of eight Hurricanes was cleared to take off at 0515 hrs this morning.  Two further formations followed; all three were guided towards Malta by a Fulmar of the Fleet Air Arm.  They were met by one Sunderland and two Marylands to bring them within sight of Malta.

As the formations approached, a German JU 88 bomber flew over the Island on reconnaissance with an escort of five Messerschmitt fighters. 20 minutes later 12 more Messerschmitts appeared, circling off the coast as the delivery Hurricanes were heading towards the Island.  P/O L G M Rees managed to land his Sunderland at Kalafrana but before it could be secured two of the ME 109s dived down and strafed it with machine-gunfire, setting the flying boat on fire and causing it to sink.  The High Speed Launch from Kalafrana was also attacked but escaped undamaged.   

Despite the attacks all of the Hurricanes landed safely; by 1045 hrs the last of them was on the ground.

NEW FIGHTER SQUADRON FOR MALTA

The new Hurricanes will make it possible to form a second fighter squadron in Malta. The new unit, designated 185 will work alongside 261 Squadron which has been hard pressed to deal with the level of enemy activity over Malta since January.  185 Squadron will operate from Hal Far. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 APRIL TO DAWN 28 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

0917-0940 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which crosses the Island on reconnaissance. Anti-aircraft fire a barrage at 19000 feet; others engage at height control.  Hurricanes are scrambled and engage three ME 109s; one is probably shot down.

0945 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 which crosses the Island from south to north on reconnaissance with an escort of five ME 109s. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage the bomber; no claims.  The MEs evade attack by heading south of Delimara.  12 more ME 109s then approach the Island in two formations.  

1007 hrs The 12 Messerschmitts circle off the east coast for an hour, then Gudja and Bubaqra raise the alarm as they head back in towards the coast. Two dive down over Kalafrana and machine-gun a Sunderland which had landed only 20 minutes before in Marsaxlokk Bay, destroying the flying boat.  Orders are later issued that every available Heavy and Light anti-aircraft gun and light machine-gun to be standing to whenever a Sunderland is moored in Marsaxlokk Bay.  Reports that mail was lost aboard the Sunderland prove unfounded.  

1120 hrs  All clear.

1245-1314 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 on reconnaissance. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage at heights between 15000 and 30000 feet; no claims.

Civilian casualties  Valletta  Antonia Caruana, age 35.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 27 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Operation Dunlop bringing additional aircraft from Force H to Malta was successfully carried out. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 23 Hurricanes, 3 Fulmar, 2 Maryland, 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.  Maryland reconnaissance western Ionian sea.  

HAL FAR  15 Hurricanes and 2 Fulmars arrived; all landed safely.

KALAFRANA One Sunderland left for Middle East with a number of 228 Squadron personnel. One Sunderland attacked at moorings by ME109s set on fire and sunk.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Two storemen returned from Ordnance Dump, Gozo.  

 

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

 

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23 April 1941: Malta Pilots’ Nerves Now ‘Frayed’

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“Valletta and Floriana are showing their battle scars today. Roads, avenues and houses have been hit, and water mains punctured.”  War Diary, 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment

COULD PILOT’S DEATH HAVE BEEN AVOIDED?

The morale of Malta’s fighter pilots took another hit today as one more of their number was lost following an air battle with Luftwaffe fighters. Canadian Flying Officer Henri F Auger was pilot of one of six Hurricanes of 261 Squadron scrambled to intercept five enemy fighters and a JU 88 on a reconnaissance mission over Malta early this evening. 

Auger’s Hurricane was hit and badly damaged in a dogfight and crashed into the sea off Delimara. Auger managed to bale out safely in the sea between Filfla and the mainland, where he was spotted by another aircraft, signaling his whereabouts.  However, the rescue launch was not sent out immediately as enemy aircraft were still in the vicinity.  When the launch did arrive at the scene some time later, there was no trace of F/O Auger. (1)

F/O C D Whittingham expressed the frustration of his fellow pilots in his diary for today: “Auger ran into a bunch of 109s. Saw his parachute coming down, south of the Island. But he was never picked up. The pilots in the squadron were all very indignant because they felt that control should have sent some searchers up. Things being as they are … people’s nerves somewhat frayed, what with the stream of so many casualties, bombing at night and bad news in Greece and Libya. There was a general moan, and Ginger got some pretty outspoken abuse from various members of the Squadron.” (2)

Italian auxiliary cruiser Egeo sunk today

Italian auxiliary cruiser Egeo sunk

MALTA DESTROYERS HEAD OUT TO ATTACK CONVOY

Malta-based destroyers Jervis, Jaguar, Janus and Juno set out today to attack a major German convoy in the Mediterranean.  Three merchant ships – to be carrying essential supplies to German military forces in North Africa – were spotted by reconnaissance steaming out of Naples with an escort of four destroyers.  Two more Axis destroyers and two light cruisers had also been seen nearby.

As they approached the point of interception with the convoy the Malta destroyers encountered an Italian armed motor ship steaming unprotected out of Benghasi towards Tripoli. The destroyers attacked and sank the Italian ship but the convoy managed to escape damage.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 APRIL TO DAWN 24 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

0840-0935 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber escorted by six fighters. The JU 88 crosses the Island on reconnaissance from the south east to Grand Harbour.  Hurricanes and anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

0943-0950 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1217-1250 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft which patrol 15 miles off the east coast of Malta. Six Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders do not cross the coast.

1741-1855 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 which crosses the Island on reconnaissance escorted by five ME 109s. Six Hurricanes and anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  One Hurricane crashes; the pilot bales out.  A search is launched but the pilot is not located.

0032-0103 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which crosses the coast on reconnaissance at high altitude. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Henri Ferdinand Auger, Royal Air Force, 261 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 23 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY Destroyers sailed to intercept a southbound convoy covered by a force of two cruisers with destroyers. On the way out a northbound transport of 4000 tons was sunk but the convoy was possibly warned by this action and took evasive action, so not located.   

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland patrol area between Cape Bon and Trapanix. Maryland patrols eastern Tunisian coast AM and PM. 148 Squadron 2 Wellington bombers night raid on Tripoli Harbour facilities. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  PM  The PAD Platoon were called out with their fire engine to assist with putting out a fire in Valletta.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 0.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Six storemen proceeded to Ordnance Dump, Gozo, for duty.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  One secton of carriers returned from Gozo.

(1) From website Battle of Britain London Monument 

(2) Diary of Flying Officer C D Whittingham, from Malta – the Hurricane Years, Christopher Shores, Brian Cull, Nicola Malizia, Grub Street 1987

 

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Posted by on April 23, 2016 in 1941, April 1941

 

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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, 2016 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, 2016 in 1941, March 1941

 

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