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30 September 1941: Submarines Sink 49 Axis Ships in 3 Months

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RAF raid on German ammunition dump in Libyan desert August 1941

RAF raid on German ammunition dump in Libyan desert August 1941

ROYAL NAVY MONTHLY REVIEWS SEPTEMBER 1941

Between June and the end of September, submarines have sunk a total of 49 enemy ships – an overall 150,000 tons – in the Mediterranean. Added to the losses inflicted by the RAF this represented a high proportion of Axis shipping bound for Libya.

12 patrols were carried out during the month by submarines of 10th Flotilla.  In addition, Triumph proceeded to a successful patrol in the Adriatic, Perseus to an area off Kefalonia, and Otus and Osiris direct to Alexandria.

Unbeaten carried out a spirited bombardment of a tunnel which caused consternation to the local home guard, and Upright sank a destroyer of the Generale class.  The most successful operation was against a fast convoy east of Tripoli, during which Upholder scored one hit on each of Oceania and Neptunia in a night attack and after reloading returned to sink one of them with two torpedoes at dawn.  The other ship’s fate is unknown.  The Vulcania of the same convoy was intercepted by Ursula which scored one hit on the ship causing it to list slightly and reduce speed.

No bombs were reported as having fallen on the Dockyard or other Naval establishments. No unexploded bombs were dealt with by the Royal Navy during the month. 

AIR HQ REPORTS A TOTAL OF 233 TONS OF BOMBS ON TRIPOLI THIS MONTH

During the month sweeps over enemy territory by Malta fighters, some equipped to carry 40lb bombs, were added to the strategy.

Marylands and photoreconnaissance Hurricanes of 69 Squadron have covered the Italian convoy routes daily as well as making frequent reconnaissances of Sicilian and southern Calabrian ports and aerodromes, and of Tripoli. Naples has also been visited.  The excellent photographs, visual and sighting reports obtained have indirectly been responsible for the increased pressure of offensive effort from Malta during the month.

Offensive Operations:  Wellingtons of 38 Squadron carried out 26 operations during September, with an average of eight aircraft on each sortie. Over 233 tons of bombs have been dropped on Tripoli during 17 raids, causing considerable damage to harbour installations and the town. Palermo has been attacked five times, Messina twice, Benhazi and Kuriat once each.

Blenheims of 105 and 107 Squadrons carried out 31 operations, 20 of these directed against enemy shipping. Considerable damage was done to the chemical works and harbour installations at Crotone, factories at Licata, transport centres at Homs, barracks at Misurata and a power station at Porto Empedocle.  Five sweeps have been made along the Tripoli-Benghazi road during which petrol tankers and other transport vehicles have been bombed and machine-gunned.

Hurricanes (equipped with cannon) of 249 Squadron attacked the railway station at Pozallo, while those of 185 Squadron have carried out three bombing raids on Comiso aerodrome. On one of these raids a Hurricane was lost but the pilot was subsequently rescued. 

Swordfish of 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm carried out 16 operations, 13 of these against enemy shipping, and have sunk two motor vessels and one destroyer, as well as damaging others. Mines have been laid on two occasions in Tripoli Harbour and once at Palermo.  As a result of torpedo attacks two merchant ships are claimed sunk, one destroyer and three merchantmen probably sunk, seven damaged and a further five probably damaged. 

Beaufighters of 272 Squadron were attached to this command during ‘Operation Halberd’ and were used to attack Sardinian and Sicilian aerodromes. Searches were also made south of Sicily for torpedo boats.

On 14 nights Fulmars have operated over aerodromes in southern Sicily, dropping small bombs and machine-gunning aircraft on the ground. One Fulmar force-landed in the sea; the crew were rescued.

Defensive Action: 126 Squadron carried out 31 scrambles during the month, 249 Squadron 22 and 185 Squadron 66. The Malta Night Fighter Unit had 22 scrambles and shot down two enemy aircraft.  Eleven enemy aircraft were confirmed destroyed, plus one probable and five damaged, against the loss of two Hurricanes.

Enemy Activity: There have been nine day alerts and 20 night alerts during the month. None of these raids was heavy and bombs have only been dropped at night.  Damage has been negligible and confined to civilian property. 

HURRICANES ATTACKED AS THEY SEARCH FOR MISSING PILOT

Malta fighters were attacked tonight by five enemy aircraft as they helped search for one of their own Hurricane pilots reported missing after a raid. Eleven Hurricanes of 185 Squadron had earlier attacked Comiso aerodrome but as they returned to their base at Hal Far they learned that one of their pilots, P/O Donald Lintern, was missing.  Five Hurricanes took off again to escort a Fulmar which was sent to search for the missing pilot.  As they circled the area to the north of Gozo, enemy aircraft approached and attacked the Malta fighters.  In the ensuing dogfight one of the enemy fighters was shot down.  P/O Lintern was not been found and the search was eventually called off.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 1 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and fresh.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Sergeant Robert L Kitch, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 200 Squadron; Pilot Officer Donald W Lintern, RAFVR, 185 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 4 Wellington. Departures 6 Beaufighter, 4 Blenheim fighter. Fleet Air Arm One Fulmar on offensive patrol over Gerbini and Catania aerodromes dropped high explosive bombs on Gerbini dispersal area. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked a motor transport depot in Tripoli. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance eastern and southern Sicily, east Calabrian coast and Tripoli.  Patrol of east Sicilian coast and shipping search off Tripoli area. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked shipping and motor transport near Misurata and Beurat.  1 Blenheim attacked a schooner.  1 Blenheim on search for shipping north of Crotone. 

HAL FAR  185 Squadron 11 Hurricanes attacked Comiso aerodrome, 5 carrying bombs and 6 acting as fighter escort. High explosive bombs and incendiaries were dropped on buildings and a dispersal area.  The aircraft of P/O Lintern failed to return. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Mobile machine-gun company carried out an exercise to the north west of Rabat.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths 33 officers, 870 other ranks.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 21 officers, 443 other ranks.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 18 officers, 708 other ranks. Recruits joined in September: 77.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths 18 officers, 8 WO1, 214 other ranks.

 

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

 

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16 September 1941: Malta Swordfish Lost on Clandestine Mission

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Swordfish missing after raid

Swordfish missing after raid

MALTA AIRCRAFT WAS DELIVERING SECRET AGENT

A Malta-based Swordfish aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm is believed to have crashed today while undertaking a secret mission to North Africa. Pilot Lt C B Lamb, with S/Lt J E Robertson took off in the early hours of this morning.  Their passenger is believed to have been a secret agent who they were to land in the Vichy French territory of Tunisia.  A message has been received to indicate that they survived the crash but it is believed they are currently being held for interrogation.

Lt Lamb previously served as a Swordfish pilot aboard HMS Illustrious. He was among the first wave of aircraft when the successful attack was launched on the Italian fleet at Taranto in November 1940.

MALTA AIRMEN RECEIVE POSTHUMOUS MEDALS

Posthumous military awards were announced today for two Malta airmen who were killed as a result of their aircraft crashing on return from a mission over Sicily on 10 August.

London Gazette, 16 September 1941: The King has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallantry and devotion to duty displayed in flying operations against the enemy:

Distinguished Flying Medal: Sergeant Campbell Clark, 69 Squadron (deceased), Sergeant Richard Saxby Mutimer, 69 Squadron (deceased)

Sergeants Clark and Mutimer have displayed a high standard of ability throughout the 40 operational missions in which they have participated as wireless operator-air gunner and air observer respectively. Sergeant Clark showed great keenness to engage the enemy, using his guns with damaging effect, while Sergeant Mutimer always willingly co-operated with his pilot when the opportunity for offensive action occurred. They have damaged or destroyed three Italian flying boats and, in one machine gun attack on an enemy aerodrome, destroyed one enemy aircraft and damaged several.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 17 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Cool and overcast.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Aircraftsman James Bond, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Ursula, Unbeaten, Upholder and Upright proceeded for interception of a fast convoy to east of Tripoli. Triumph sailed for special service and patrol in the Adriatic.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland. 38 Squadron 7 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Crotone, Augusta, Catania and Syracuse. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish laid 6 mines in the entrance to Tripoli harbour.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Main body of the Battalion moved to Gozo for a month’s training and left a small rear party in Malta. Battalion headquarters in the Citadel, Rabat; A Company at Xewkija, B Company at Nadur, C Company at Gharb, D Company at Rabat, E Company at Xghajra.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 2 (2kg incendiary)

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  D Company and B Company take over Hal Far from 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Battalion left Gozo and returned to Malta aboard Royal Lady. A and E Companies went to Ta Qali with two mortar detachments and one section of carriers.  Bn HQ Signals and Carriers at Ta Saliba, 2 Platoon valley posts, C Coy St Paul’s Bay, B Coy Victoria Lines, D Coy Strickland House, HQ Coy less detached details Ghain Tuffieha Camp. 

 

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Posted by on September 16, 2021 in 1941, September 1941

 

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6 July 1941: Heavy Bombs on Paola & St Julians Destroy Homes and Kill 6

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BR 20 bombers

BR 20 bombers

240 HIGH EXPLOSIVE BOMBS OVER MALTA

Fifteen civilians were killed and 14 injured when heavy bombs struck the Dockyard community of Paola tonight. In a series of four air raids spread over five hours, more than 20 enemy bombers crossed the coast singly at intervals at a height of 17000 feet, dropping over 240 high explosives, many of them 100kg and 250kg.  Bad weather hampered defensive operations by Malta’s night fighters who were scrambled in pairs for each of the raids but were unable to engage the enemy bombers. 

The first four raiders approached the Island at about 1030 pm but made no significant attack, dropping bombs on rocks at Mellieha Bay and in the sea. An hour later the second wave of ten BR 20s crossed the coast north west of Grand Harbour and dropped several 250kg bombs on Paceville in St Julians, demolishing four houses and damaging ten others with no casualties.  Bombs were also dropped on Ta Braxia Cemetery and Sa Maison in Pieta.  Anti-aircraft guns opened fire but were unable to locate their targets.

Just after 1am a single bomber crossed over Grand Harbour and dropped 15kg bombs on Marsa. The heaviest raid came towards 3am when the final wave of 12 bombers approached, crossing the coast in three separate formations between Grand Harbour and Delimara.  One formation headed directly over the Harbour area and dropped several sticks of 250kg and 100kg bombs across Vittoriosa and the heart of Paola, where the civilian casualties occurred.

ROYAL MALTA ARTILLERY AT WORK

RMA Gunner recalls a summer at Ghain Tuffieha

“In July 1941 we handed over the Naxxar Silent Gun Position to 6th HAA Battery [Royal Malta Artillery] – also of our regiment – and my troop moved to Ghajn Tuffieha.  Battery HQ joined the other troop at Ta’Giorni…

We established ourselves in the wooden huts at Ghajn Tuffieha Camp, the same huts we used to go into as Boy Scouts when we were ‘camp followers’ to our older friends in the Kings Own Malta Regiment machine gun platoon in 1938. I took over four 3 inch 20 cwt guns but this time they were deployed in two Silent Gun sites – two guns in each – with no instruments to direct the fire.

It was a very busy time for us for we had to stack a very large quantity of 3 inch 20cwt ammunition in a cave situated close to one of the sites. Early every morning the whole troop, except for guards and cooks, marched uphill for nearly two miles to get to Bajda Ridge (Biddy).  Here, from time to time, a huge Matador gun tower arrived loaded with ammunition, which we had to unload and carry to a cave off the road…  Each box was made of steel with separators to take four live cartridges; one former stevedore had a lump of hard skin on his right shoulder the size of half a tennis ball.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 JULY TO DAWN 7 JULY 1941

Weather  Stormy.

2218-2252 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft approaching from the north. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but do not engage due to bad weather.  The raiders drop bombs on rocks at Mellieha and in the sea.

2313-0049 hrs  Air raid alert for ten enemy BR 20 bombers which approach the Island and drop high explosive bombs on St Julians demolishing several houses, on Pieta, and in the north of Grand Harbour. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders with two barrages; no claims.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns open fire; no claims.

0106-0206 hrs  Air raid alert for a single bomber which crosses the coast and drops bombs on Marsa. Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.

0228-0317 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy aircraft which approach the Island in three separate formations. They cross the coast singly between Grand Harbour and Delimara, and drop bombs on Paola killing several civilians. Bombs are also dropped on Vittoriosa and near St Thomas’ Bay.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.

Military casualties Private Frank Watson, 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment; Private Emmanuel Tanti, Kings Own Malta Regiment.                                              

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 6 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Mine detonated in Floating Dock. P33 arrived from Gibraltar. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 8 Swordfish bombed and laid 5 cucumbers off Tripoli. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 6 Blenheims, 1 Catalina. 82 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked shipping Palermo Harbour. 

HAL FAR  One Fulmar patrolled over Catania and attacked a large aircraft which burst into flames.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  All ranks were kept in barracks owing to ‘Exercise Asia’; organised bathing parties were allowed.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal Section busy on unexploded bombs. Exercise review concludes that all our drivers should be trained soldiers as MAC drivers have a tendency to go to ground under bombing. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4.

(1) Recollections of a Malta HAA Gunner, Maurice G Agius, Allied Publications 2008

 

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Posted by on July 6, 2021 in 1941, July 1941

 

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27 May 1941: Blenheim Bombers Lost in Attack on Convoy

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Blenheim Mk IV BBLENHEIMS EXPLODE DURING LOW-ALTITUDE BOMBING RUN

Two Blenheims of 82 Squadron were shot down today while engaging in an offensive operation in the southern Mediterranean. The Blenheims were among six sent to attack a large convoy escorted by destroyers as it headed for Tripoli in Libya.  Early this afternoon they reached the six merchant vessels with their escort of eight destroyers and launched their attack. 

The bombers flew in low over the ships to release their bombs in the midst of very heavy anti-aircraft fire. Two of the merchant ships were hit but two of the Blenheims were also destroyed as they dived down towards the vessels.  It has been suggested that the resulting explosions destroyed two of the Blenheims.  The pilots of the two bombers have been named as Flt/Lt G M Fairbairn and Sgt E B Inman.  Their crews were Sgt R J Austin, Sgt K P Collins (1), P/O P J Higgins and Sgt S W Kemp.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 MAY TO DAWN 28 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0719-0745 hrs  Air raid alert for two Italian SM79 bombers which approach the Island possibly on their way south for reconnaissance. Anti-aircraft guns open fire; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

0923-0957 hrs  Air raid alert for two SM 79 bombers escorted by 12 ME 109 fighters which cross over the Island from the north at high altitude, apparently on reconnaissance, then split formation, reform to the east of the Island and recede northwards. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

2250-0010 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which cross over Grand Harbour singly, laying mines. Anti-aircraft guns fire one short barrage; no claims.

0025-0050 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching from the north. One stick of bombs is dropped on Gozo.

0335-0402 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber which crosses the Island, dropping bombs near Qormi.

Military casualties  Sergeant Ronald Joseph Austin Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), Flight Lieutenant Garnet Mackenzie Fairbairn, RAFVR, Pilot Officer Peter John Higgins Royal Air Force VR, Sergeant Edwin Bentall Inman, RAFVR, Sergeant Stanley William Kemp, Royal Air Force all 82 Squadron; Sapper Joseph Chircop, Royal Engineers, Malta Territorial Force.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 27 MAY 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Beaufighter. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance east of Malta to Cape Stilo.   Maryland reconnaissance southern part of eastern Tunisian coast reports convoy.  Maryland sent to locate ships reported by RAF finds convoy 80 miles east of Malta, escorted by 4 SM 79s and one Cant Z501. 139 Squadron Six Blenheims (five of 82 Squadron, one of 139 Squadron) attacked a large convoy escorted by destroyers.  F/Lt Fairbairn and Sgt Inman were shot down.

LUQA  One Beaufighter 252 Squadron left for Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The unit was examined by the Petrol Commission but no means were found by which either vehicles or petrol consumption could be reduced. Motor Transport staff were commended on their fuel controls.  Command Signal Exercise held at 0430-0815 hrs involving Bn HQ and Signals.  The exercise was to test out communications.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  0430-0815 hrs Bn and Company Headquarters took part in Malta Command Exercise No 2. The Battalion celebrated Bois des Buttes anniversary with a holiday: a Fur and Feather show was held during the morning and sports, games and entertainments in the evening.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 3 (1 x 250kg; 2 x 500kg).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Two companies to Xlejli Tower to take over defence of Luqa aerodrome. Remaining two companies disposed one at Zurrieq, one at Kirkop landing strip.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Command Signal exercise involving HQs down to Companies. Very little traffic through Battalion area. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  HQ and all three companies all on bicycles to concentrate on Marsa in the Southern Infantry Brigade reserve. Warning for ‘Picnic’ force to move issued to A Company.  Night interrupted with raids all night.

(1) Sgt K P Collins was injured but survived and was taken prisoner.

 

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Posted by on May 27, 2021 in 1941, May 1941

 

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13 February 1941: New German Force Heads to North Africa via Med

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Rommel in North Africa

Rommel in North Africa

VICTOR IN FRANCE AIMS TO REPEAT SUCCESS

A major new German military force is set to cross the Mediterranean to North Africa, according to intelligence sources. Their commander, Major General Erwin Rommel is reported to have already landed in Libya.  Following his success in the invasion of France in 1940,  Rommel has been given the task by Chancellor Hitler to take on the British in North Africa, following heavy Italian defeats in the region. 

Observers and reconnaissance have recently made several reports of military forces amassing in Italy and Sicily, as well as extensive merchant and naval shipping movements through the Mediterranean to Libya. Malta bombers are expected to play a key role in impeding the successful transfer of resources to the North Africa campaign.

GERMAN BOMBERS ARMOUR-PLATED

German bombers are reinforced with armour-plating, according to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief. Reporting the discovery in a telegram to the War Office today, Lt Gen Dobbie has recommended that the Army should be issued with A/P SAA .303 ammunition.  If the issue is approved, the Island would need an initial delivery of one million rounds, rising to five million rounds in time for the forthcoming increase to the Garrison recently authorised by London.

A WEEK IN MALTA – REPORT TO THE BRITISH WAR CABINET FOR 6-12 FEBRUARY

The Island was persistently but ineffectively raided by enemy aircraft, which included German bombers and probably fighters. Forty-five bombers maintained a prolonged attack on the night of 8th/9th, during which our Hurricanes destroyed two JU 88s and damaged a third; relatively unimportant damage was sustained at Luqa and Hal Far, though civilian property suffered considerably.  On the 12th, two intercepting Hurricanes were lost, but one pilot was rescued from the sea.  ME 109s have been reported over Malta, but have not been in action.

Our aircraft reconnoitred Tunis and the coast and sea routes from Italy to Tripoli and Benghazi. On the night of 11th/12th the aerodromes at Comiso and Catania in Sicily were attacked with over five tons of bombs by Wellingtons from Malta.  At least four enemy aircraft were destroyed at Catania and large fires were started at both aerodromes. 

Enemy transport activity on a considerable scale has been maintained between Sicily, Tripoli and Sardinia.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 14 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine and clear.

1508-1522 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber accompanied by six ME 109 fighters which approach the Island from the north on reconnaissance at 22000 feet. Hurricane fighters are scrambled but on sight of them the ME 109s turn away and fly off.  Anti-aircraft guns open fire, hitting the JU 88 which is last seen losing height with smoke pouring from one engine.  No bombs are dropped on the Island.

1915-1932 hrs; 1942-2001 hrs; 2200-2235 hrs; 2331-2325 hrs; 2340-0040 hrs  Air raid alerts for a series of nuisance raids over the Island. Hurricane fighters are airborne in turn throughout.  In the first raid bombs are dropped between Mosta and Naxxar.  In the second, from Rinella to Della Grazia and one enemy bomber is damaged by a Hurricane.  In the third, raiders cross the coast over Dingli; bombs are dropped to the west of Ta Qali aerodrome; three fall on B block of Imtarfa Hospital, killing three patients, seriously wounding six and slightly wounding another six.  The third attack approaches from the south and drops bombs in the sea off Fort Leonardo.  In the fourth, bombs are dropped on the Grand Harbour area.  Searchlights pick up a single bomber heading away over the north coast.  During the raids bombs are also dropped on Pembroke and on Luqa aerodrome, seriously damaging one Wellington and slightly damaging one Whitley.

Military casualties  Private Lawrence Duckworth, 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment; Private Robert McGill, King’s Own Malta Regiment; Private James Frederick Scott, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 13 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm attacked and believed sank a merchant convoy heading for Libya.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Sunderlands. Sunderland patrolled western Ionian Sea.  69 Squadron  Maryland photoreconnaissance Comiso and Gela aerodromes: Comiso eight JU 88s of which one burned out, 11 HE 111s, one SM 79, plus 16 unidentified fighters; Gela seven bombers, nine fighters unidentified but with dark camouflage.   

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from Middle East en route for UK. One Sunderland 230 Squadron arrived from Middle East with passengers.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Gela and Comiso.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battle practices on Ghain Tuffieha ranges.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Private L Duckworth was killed by a bomb on an air raid shelter at Imtarfa Hospital.

 

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Posted by on February 13, 2021 in 1941, February 1941

 

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14 November 1940: Malta Early Warning Systems Improved

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NEW RADIO DIRECTION FINDER (RDF) EQUIPMENT IMPROVES MALTA DEFENCES (1)

RDF equipment Mark 1

RDF equipment Mark 1

The system which provides essential early warning of enemy formations approaching Malta is undergoing significant improvement. RDF equipment detects incoming aircraft from some distance, enabling the RAF to scramble the Island’s defending fighter force to catch approaching raiders unawares and attack or deter them well before they reach the coast.  The information also supports the sounding of air raid alerts across Malta, giving troops and civilians time to get to shelter before bombers arrive.

There has been a RDF system in Malta since 1939, when stations were set up on Dingli Cliff. Three more sites are now planned and a centre to filter information is being set up in the cellar of a house in Scots Street, Valletta. New equipment has now arrived which can detect shipping and low-flying aircraft, along with experienced service personnel from the Home Front to man the updated systems. RDF Stations identify the approximate number of approaching aircraft (both Allied and Axis) as well as their height.  The details are passed on by telephone to the filter room and from there to all relevant points.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 15 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Private Arthur Phillips, 2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 14 NOVEMBER 1940

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland on patrol over Ionian Sea then posted to Middle East to rejoin 230 Squadron.

TA QALI  S/Ldr Balen OC 261 Squadron posted to RAF Station Luqa.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Approx 10000 rounds ammunition issued direct from ship to Royal Artillery towards 100% reserve.

(1) Radio Direction Finder equipment became known as RADAR

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Posted by on November 14, 2020 in 1940, November 1940

 

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8 October 1940: Military Chiefs Discuss Possible Invasion of Malta

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GOVERNOR ANTICIPATES SEABORNE ATTACK

Malta Governor & Commander in Chief Lt Gen Dobbie

Malta Governor & Commander in Chief Lt Gen Dobbie

In the first of two telegrams, Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief wrote today to the Chief of Imperial General Staff at the War Office with his views on the prospects for Malta in the face of an invasion from the sea:

I cannot visualise a full dress attack on Malta unless the enemy are confident of being able to prevent the Mediterranean Fleet from intervening for a sufficient period to enable them to gain control of the Island. After consulting the Vice Admiral Malta I imagine that seven days is the maximum period the enemy could hope to have free from interference…  This limit would probably rule out a deliberate step by step attack and would necessitate a maximum effort at all possible places simultaneously, carried through with the utmost determination; German stiffening might give the necessary vigour.

The local naval forces likely to be available within the next few months are only a few submarines, and even these are uncertain. Motor Torpedo Boats would be extremely useful against sea-borne attack but cannot materialise for a long time, so I am not counting on them. It follows that the Navy here will not be able to do much to interfere with sea-borne attack. The Air Force available at present could not count on preventing the enemy from gaining air superiority if he made determined efforts to do so. The four fighter squadrons asked for, and which might have prevented such a result, cannot I understand come for some time. We must therefore face the fact that the enemy would have local air superiority, except in so far as our Ack Ack guns might interfere; this of course is a serious handicap. But the RAF reconnaissance aircraft should be able to give us warning of concentrations of shipping in Sicily, thus reducing the chance of a complete surprise.

I assume the enemy will have ample resources of men and material and that in order to gain a quick decision he will attack on a very wide front. Further, that he will use self-propelled armoured landing craft and will do the journey from Sicily at night, attacking at or before dawn. I assume also that these craft will carry some medium or light tanks and possibly flame-throwers, the latter to deal with beach posts. That the attack would be supported by fire from warships and intense air attack. From the foregoing consideration the following conclusions emerge:

  • (a) We must stop as many of the landing craft as possible from reaching the beach. To do this we need guns, since small arms fire is useless against their armour.
  • (b) In an attack of such intensity and so widely dispersed, the enemy may well get a footing at a number of points. Immediate counter-attacks will be essential and these must be assisted by the greatest possible supporting gun or mortar fire, to give them the best chance for success.
  • (c) Deliberate counter-attacks supported by strong artillery fire may be necessary in more than one area at once. These attacks must be made by forces strong enough to ensure success…

If we have to meet a full dress attack in the circumstances I have envisaged, we require the following additional troops and equipment: three battalions complete with mortars, one field battery, two anti-tank troops Royal Artillery, one or two sections of Field Company Royal Engineers or equivalent, 50 Lyon lights and 10 beach defence lights and 60 x 2” mortars, plus 100 anti-tank rifles, besides other weapons already asked for.

I suggest that these troops if sent here should be regarded as a reserve available to be sent elsewhere in the Near East should the naval situation change so that a full scale attack on Malta is deemed unlikely. But meanwhile some such force is needed if the fleet is to be freed from undue preoccupation with the safety of Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 OCTOBER TO DAWN 9 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

1935-2020 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy bombers which approach Delimara from the east at 14000 feet and drop bombs in the sea off Delimara, Wied Znuber and two miles off Grand Harbour. Two turn back before crossing the coast. The remaining two are illuminated and held by searchlights, then engaged by one Malta Hurricane fighter. One Italian bomber is brought down in flames into the sea off Delimara. Another is so badly damaged that it is unlikely to return to base; it is last seen by the Hurricane pilot and coastal observers flying at 1000 feet with one engine on fire. Two men are seen baling out towards the sea. The Hurricane lands safely. Searchlight crews are praised by the Air Officer Commanding for exceptionally good work.    

Military casualties  Private Ronald Frost, 2nd Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment

Enemy casualties  Tenente Adolfo Ferrari, 257a Squadriglia, 108o Gruppo, 36o Stormo, pilot of a Savoia SM79 bomber shot down.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 8 OCTOBER 1940

HMS Aba (1)

HMS Aba (1)

ROYAL NAVY  0655-1024 hrs  Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm despatched on patrol; nothing sighted. Hospital ship Aba arrived and departed: discharged three, embarked 52.  

AIR HQ  0345-0845 hrs  Glenn Martin 431 Flight reconnaissanace of Ionian sea, Taranto Harbour and Brindisi; nil report.

KALAFRANA  Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. 1230-1605 hrs Glenn Martin 431 Flight on reconnaissance; nothing to report. 0345-1515 hrs Sunderland 228 Squadron and 0403-1532 hrs Sunderland 230 Squadron reconnaissanace of Ionian sea, Taranto Harbour and Brindisi; nil report.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT 1200 hrs  CSM W Fry and five Other Ranks embarked as invalids on board a hospital ship at Malta for passage to UK.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT   Four discharged men left for UK.

(1)  http://hospital-ship-aba.blogspot.co.uk/

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Posted by on October 8, 2020 in 1940, October 1940

 

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21 January 1942: Army CO Tells Officers to Toughen Up

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MERCHANT SHIP’S CAPTAIN ‘VERY SHAKEN’

Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta

“…While we were there three Merchant Captains arrived, and we were glad of their company. One arrived late one night having had great difficulty in getting there. As he left his ship a stick of bombs dropped alongside in the harbour. Mrs. G. put him to bed and kept him there for two days. They had come from Alexandria and had been thoroughly bombed on the journey. He was very shaken…

HMS Aurora

While walking one day near Boschetto House I saw a raid. This is only the second that I have been able to see. Three bombers came from the direction of [Cospicua] dropped bombs on either Luqa or Hal Far (I could not be sure which) and then fled – but not as you might expect out to sea and so soon out of range of our batteries – right across the island in a circle to the northward of where we were, approaching closer to us as they flew. They were being chased by the barrage – instead of running into it – and they got away.” (1)

ARMY COMMANDER DEMANDS IMPROVED ENDURANCE

This afternoon the Island’s new Army General Officer Commanding (GOC), Major-General D M W Beak, will give the first of a series of three lectures to all Officers in the Malta Command.  The GOC, who arrived in Malta two weeks ago, will stress the importance of and need for improvement in “leadership, endurance, discipline and the offensive spirit”. He is also to announce that Physical Training and cross-country runs are to be instituted for all ranks.  The presentation will include a lecture on “War Neuroses” by Captain Johnson, RAMC.

AIR RAIDS WEDNESDAY 21 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Weather:  Wind south west.  Cold.  Bright periods.  Wet periods.

0630-0753 hrs Bombs near Salina Salt Pans.

0842-0900 hrs  Air raid alert.  Turns out to be friendly aircraft.

0935-0959 hrs  Twelve plus aircraft approach the Island from the north and are engaged by Heavy Ack Ack positions and HMS Aurora to the north of Grand Harbour.  No bombs are dropped: believed to be a reconnaissance mission.

1030-1105 hrs  Three JU 88s escorted by [twelve] ME109s drop bombs in the sea off Kalafrana and at Hal Far, near a working party of  2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment working on a 2000 yard extension to the runway.  The stick of bombs falls through the middle of the dispersed working party, killing Private F G Wingett, E Company.  Corporal Jeffery, Privates Lang and Blackman are slightly injured.  One elephant shelter a petrol dump and cycle repair shop of C Company are hit.  Three Hurricane aircraft are also damaged in the Hal Far dispersal area.  Bombs are dropped in the sea near Dingli as well as two on land near Benghaisa.  The enemy are engaged by Heavy Ack Ack gun positions.

1045 hrs  1st Battalion, Kings Own Malta Regiment find a dead body in the sea; presumed to be an Italian seaman.  Barrels in the sea off Ghajn Znuber Tower are found to be Italian and contain petrol.

1410-1507 hrs  Two JU 88 bombers come in over Delimara, are barraged and jettison their bombs in the sea.  One JU 88 flies in over Grand Harbour, descends to 10000 feet and drops bombs near Safi, and between Misrah Blandun and Bubaqra, before retiring south, and then turning north east.  Three ME109 fighters patrol eight miles off the east coast at a height of fifty feet.  Four bombs are dropped on Hal Far with no damage or casualties.  Heavy Ack Ack is fired at various heights.  Hits are claimed by fighters on four bombers and four fighters but this has not yet been confirmed.

1611-1637 hrs  One JU 88, escorted by five ME 109s, attacks out of the sun, dropping bombs on Hal Far.  Anti-aircraft guns of 225 LAA Battery engage as the aircraft recedes.

1901-2030 hrs  One enemy aircraft approaches the Island from the north east, orbits at 5000 feet south of the Island, climbs to 11000 feet and drops bombs in the sea south east of Kalafrana.  Anti-aircraft artillery does not engage.

Night  Bad weather restricts offensive operations from Malta, and only one enemy raider approaches the coast dropping its bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Private Frederick Wingett, 2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Mosta Maria Bugeja, age 9.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: WEDNESDAY 21 JANUARY 1942

AIR HQ Arrivals one Cathay from Cairo.  Departures one Wellington to LG 224.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Hurricane photo-reconnaissance (PR) Tunis and Bizerta; one Maryland SF6 patrol; one Beaufighter PR Palermo, Messina and Taranto; one Maryland SF 16 patrol.  40 Squadron  Two Wellingtons nuisance raid Sicilian aerodromes.  S/D Flight  One Wellington special search.

TA QALI  Bad patches on aerodrome.  Our fighters still only able to operate from Luqa.  Funeral of three airmen killed on 19 January.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  X Squadron, 6 Royal Tank Regiment amalgamated with Malta Tank Troop as “Malta Tanks” with effect from this date; the whole remaining under CIB for administration.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER  B Company supplies working party for unloading convoy which arrived yesterday.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 6; dealt with 1 (50kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

(1)  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

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Posted by on January 21, 2017 in 1942, January 1942

 

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12 January 1942: Round the Clock Raids Sap Morale

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“No other place of such a few square miles of land has taken such a battering as Malta in the last 5 weeks, says the British United Press correspondent on the Island.  He adds that during that time there have been 93 day and 120 night alerts, some of the night raids lasting nine hours…”  (1)

The Poor House, Luqa, Mess Hall & Barracks (NWMA Malta)

ALL NIGHT UNDER ALERT

Conditions over Malta have caused the enemy to revise their tactics.  Instead of mass raids by large formations, the Axis have embarked on a round the clock campaign of attacks by individual aircraft.  The tactic leaves the Island’s occupants under air raid alert for hours at a time.  Constant ‘nuisance raids’ during the night are forcing civilians to remain in shelters for up to eight hours at a time, and depriving the military of much-needed sleep.

RAF SQUADRON BIDS FAREWELL TO MALTA

The final detachment of Blenheims from 107 Squadron RAF leaves Malta today after five months on the Island, during which they have successfully attacked Axis targets in Italy, Sicily and North Africa.

AIR RAIDS 0001 HRS TO 2359 HRS 12 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Cold wind from the west; showers, heavy at times.  Bright periods between showers.

0230-0330 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialise.

0911-0932 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the south west, crosses the south coast and drops bombs near Luqa.  Two Hurricanes are airborne but do not intercept due to weather conditions.

1017-1039 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north.  No Hurricanes are airborne.  Heavy Ack Ack fire a barrage and the raider turns towards Luqa, dropping bombs in the Pumping Station Wied il Kebir, near the Experimental Farm at Marsa.  An unexploded bomb is also reported near the Poorhouse searchlight position.  Royal Engineers attend to deal with UXB Report No 1451 immediately: the bomb is a 250kg SC. 

1050-1106 hrs  Air raid alert.

1218-1237 hrs  One JU 88 approaches from the north west, crosses the south coast and drops bombs on Luqa, damaging one Wellington aircraft and leaving a number of craters along the runway.  Heavy Ack Ack fire barrages.  Two Hurricanes give chase but weather prevents contact.

1308-1334 hrs  One JU 88 approaches from the north west, crosses the coast over Tigne and drops bombs in the Zebbug area.  Heavy Ack Ack fire barrages; no Hurricanes airborne.

1435-1456 hrs  One unidentified aircraft crosses the south coast and drops bombs near Verdala Palace.  Heavy Ack Ack fire one barrage.

1604-1734 hrs  Three JU 88s escorted by six ME 109s carry out four raids.  One JU 88 approaches from the west and drops bombs in the sea while being chased by Hurricanes.  One JU 88 approaches from the west and drops bombs in the sea off Ghain Tuffieha: Hurricanes engage the aircraft without result.  The third JU 88 escorted by six ME 109s crosses the coast over St Paul’s Bay, presumably on reconnaissance as no bombs are reported.  The fourth raid recedes without crossing the coast.  Heavy Ack Ack fire barrages.

2102-2133 hrs  One aircraft crosses the Island from south to north, dropping bombs in the sea off Ghar Lapsi.  Guns do not engage.

2220-0318 hrs  Six aircraft approach from the north singly during this period, each aircraft remaining in the vicinity of the Island for a considerable time.  Bombs are reported in the areas of Safi Strip, Zabbar, Gozo (near Rabat), in the sea off Tigne and in Kalafrana Bay.  Heavy Ack Ack fire 13 immediate barrages.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: 12 JANUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  six Hudsons, two Blenheims from Gib. Departures  five Blenheims to Helwan; five Blenheims, one Beaufighter to 108 MU; one Clare to Cairo.

HAL FAR  Night 12/13th  Four Swordfish despatched on shipping search.  Nothing sighted.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland SF16 patrol.  40 Squadron  One Wellington attacked aerodrome at Catania; three Wellingtons despatched to attack shipping in Tripoli Harbour.

TA QALI  Two fighter Blenheims carried out operations: saw nothing.  Aerodrome unserviceable for fighters.  Army exercise cancelled. Raids during the night: no damage.  Seven airmen ceased attachment Hal Far.

2ND BN DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Private A Bennett commended for action when schooner Marie Georgette was attacked by enemy aircraft.  Malta Fortress Order No 34 of 21/1/42.

11TH BN LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  0930 hrs  Working party continues at Luqa.  Several raids in area: no casualties.

225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY  1030 hrs  Six guns engage three JU 88s at 5-6000 feet, firing a total of 30 rounds of 40mm.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 5; dealt with 3 (2 x 500kg, 1 x 250kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

(1) The Argus, Melbourne, Monday 12 January 1942

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Posted by on January 12, 2017 in 1942, January 1942, Uncategorized

 

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1 January 1942: 25 Civilians Killed in ‘Fireball’ Attack

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FLAMING MISSILES LAUNCHED ON MALTA

“The paper said we have had 99 air raids in the last twelve days. I can believe it.” (1)

At one minute before midnight tonight a fireball with a tail of flame is seen descending towards the military barracks at Floriana, just outside the walls of Valletta.  It skims the roof of a Mess building and crashes into the road 30 yards away, exploding with a massive roar.  Observers report seeing a single enemy aircraft drop from 10000 feet into a steep dive, releasing his bomb load at about 2,000 feet.

The Canteen at Corradino (NWMA Malta)

Within minutes, two more flaming missiles strike the heart of the Dockyard and explode.  One scores a direct hit on a Naval Canteen in Corradino, burying stores and injuring one Army officer.  A fourth is observed heading for Floriana again; it descends with a swishing sound, but this time it hits the ground with a thud.

The next ball of flame swoops down towards a residential area of Gzira, crashing into houses, and explodes, killing 25 civilians.  Reports soon come in of an unusual bomb with a burning tail which has exploded in Marsascala Bay.

The military authorities are baffled and concerned: this is clearly a powerful weapon, like nothing they have come across before.  However, reports of an unexploded bomb in Floriana may provide the answer.  The Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers have been called to deal with this as yet unknown UXB.  (to be continued 2 January)

AIR RAIDS 0001 HRS TO 2359 HRS 1 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Cold and showers.

0203-0300 hrs  Air raid alarm. One enemy aircraft drops bombs on Luqa.

0326-0600 hrs  Alarm three enemy aircraft patrol the Island trying to intercept returning Wellingtons. Eventually they cross the coast dropping bombs on Ta Qali.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged. Searchlights: one illumination of 30 seconds.

0935-1015 hrs  Alarm.  Reconnaissance raid by 1 JU88 with Messerschmitt escort.

1123-1215 hrs  Alarm. Three JU 88s escorted by fourteen ME 109s make a shallow dive-bombing attack on Ta Qali aerodrome and Qrendi landing strip.  No damage.  Heavy Ack Ack fire several barrages.

1442-1535 hrs  Alarm.  Four ME109s carry out a shipping sweep round the Island.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged.

1547-1635 hrs  Alarm.  Fifteen enemy fighters in two formations carry out a shipping sweep round the Island, down to 50 feet above sea level.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged.

2024-2213 hrs  Alarm. One enemy aircraft patrols south of the Island crossing the south east coast four times. High Explosive and incendiary bombs are dropped on Hal Far aerodrome and Safi landing strip.  One short illumination by searchlights.

2230 hrs  Report of E-boats off Zonkor Point and south of Filfla. Beach posts stood to.  Nothing materialises however.

2305-0117 hrs  Alarm. Royal Artillery reports a fighter up, and orders guns to engage up to 6000 feet.  Searchlights are exposed.  Twelve enemy aircraft approach from the north. The first patrols south of Island.

2346 hrs  Intruder Phase III is put into operation owing to returning Wellingtons.

2359 hrs  Phase I reinstated.  Ten aircraft approach Grand Harbour, each aircraft about five miles apart at 10-12000 feet; they dive to 2-3000 feet to release bombs on the Dockyard, with one direct hit on the Naval Canteen at Corrodino (one slight casualty), as well as Floriana, Marsascala Bay, and at Gzira, where there are civilian casualties.

0035 hrs Royal Artillery HQ orders ‘Guns Engage’.  A fighter was sent south of the Island.  Heavy Ack Ack fire four immediate barrages of 10-13000 feet, which have a marked deterrent effect on the enemy.  Bofors engage the low-flying aircraft.  Three illuminations (two for ½ minute and one for 1½ minutes).  The Hurricane does not engage the enemy.

Military casualties  Private Charles Row, 2nd Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Gzira Joseph. Abdilla, age 32; Josephine Azzopardi, age 30; George Debono, age 32; Saviour Debono, age 24; John Filletti, age 34; Mary Filletti, age 22; Stella Micallef, age 13; Violet Micallef, age 13; Albert Mifsud, age 10; Alfred Mifsud, age 2; Blanche Mifsud, age 14; Joseph Mifsud, age 13; Mary Mifsud, age 36; Tancred Mifsud, age 15; Winnie Mifsud, age 4; Giorgia Schembri, age 56; Carmela Spiteri, age 10; Benedetta Spiteri, age 15; Alfred Spiteri, age 7 months; Emanuel Spiteri, age 2; Domenic Spiteri, age 10; Domenic Spiteri, age 50; Josephine Spiteri, age 5; Mary Spiteri, age 12; Vincenza Spiteri, age 3.  Plus 14 injured.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 1 JANUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Departures  4 Hudson, 1 Wellington, 1 Beaufort.

HAL FAR    Four Hudson aircraft (Delivery Flight) left for Middle East AM.  22 Airmen attached from Luqa for Delivery Flight duties.  No operations during the day.  Night 1/2nd Three Albacores, 828 Squadron, despatched on minelaying operations outside Zuara Harbour.  One Albacore failed to return. Missing crew S/Lt Pettit (pilot) and S/Lt Capes (observer).

LUQA  69 Squadron One Maryland SF6 patrol.  18 Squadron One Blenheim SF14 patrol.  Three Blenheims Attacked shipping and motor transport Homs and Buerat.  107 Squadron One Blenheim attacked motor transport Homs-Ras el Hallab.  S/D Flight one Wellington special search; 40 Squadron: one Wellington Tripoli nuisance raid.

TA QALI  Four Hudson aircraft (Delivery Flight) left for Middle East AM.  22 Airmen attached from Luqa for Delivery Flight duties.  No operations during the day.  12 noon  Seven bombs on aerodrome near Pottery and Chateau Bertrant.  Blackout and windows damaged.  Two unexploded bombs located.  One of Kings Own Malta Regiment sustained chest injuries.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The New Year started off with more air raids; the all clear was not given until 0600 hrs. Normal work and training continued during the day.  B Coy carried on with its gas work; A and D Companies continued building posts for the MVDF.

During the night low bombing raids were carried out against the harbour.  Bombs fell very close to HQ Coy and A Coy, and a direct hit was scored on B Coy Officers’ Mess and lay stores in the dockyard.  2/Lt Gerwin was lacerated about the head and face and was taken to hospital.  Much of the officers’ private kit and the Coy stores will be lost, though a certain amount may be salvaged.

8th Bn KINGS OWN ROYAL LANCASTER REGIMENT  Five alerts during day.  During early morning six bombs were dropped 320 yards east of Tal Providence.  Slight damage to walls and civilian property.  Battalion HQ was moved to Ta Kandia quarries in furtherance of a plan to disperse the troops as much as possible.

(1) Extract from “A Flyer’s Diary”,  Joe White, WWII (from Air Shared Magazine)

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Posted by on January 1, 2017 in 1942, January 1942, Uncategorized

 

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