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29 May 1941: New Anti-invasion Force for Malta

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CHESHIRES TO PROVIDE MOBILE MACHINE-GUN COMPANY

Cheshire machine guns cropA mobile machine-gun company is being set up ready to tackle enemy troops invading the Island. Their task will be to put a ‘stop’ in the event of the enemy gaining a footing on the Island, or to support a counter attack to drive the enemy into the sea.

1st Bn Cheshire Regiment have been detailed to provide manpower for the company, in addition to their existing role in the defence of the harbour and close-down of Valletta.  The machine-gun company will be part of the new anti-invasion Fortress Reserve and will be mobilised on receipt of orders from Fortress HQ.  On receipt of the code word ‘Libya’, personnel and equipment will be despatched by motor transport to the machine-gun company rendezvous as quickly as possible.

The Fortress Reserve also includes one troop of two ‘I’ tanks and one light tank at Marsa and the same at Birkirkara. They also form part of the defences of Luqa, Ta Qali and Hal Far aerodromes, and Kirkop landing strip, and work alongside Reserve Battalions from the Northern and Southern Infantry Brigades. 

LONG GRASS AND THISTLES TO BE CUT

Long grass and thistles close to military sites across Malta are to be cut back. The measure is to reduce the risk of fire spreading and causing damage to key facilities. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 MAY TO DAWN 30 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1032-1055 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber escorted by 20 ME 109s which carries out reconnaissance at high altitude over the Island, passing over Luqa and Naxxar. Anti-aircraft guns engage and destroy the JU 88.

0259-0436 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy aircraft which approach the Island individually from the north east. Four turn drop bombs in the sea to the north then turn back before reaching the coast.  One crosses the coast and drops bombs on fields the Grand Harbour area.  No anti-aircraft guns engage and no Hurricane fighters are scrambled.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 29 MAY 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 10 Beaufighter. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance southern part of eastern Tunisian coast.  2 Marylands reconnaissance Greek coast report enemy ship movements.  Maryland reconnaissance of shipping route to east of Malta. 

LUQA  Ten Beaufighters arrived from Gibraltar.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Mobile Company on reconnaissance. A party is to be sent to Gozo again including one platoon of unit. 

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

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  D Company embarked to “Gozo Training Camp”.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  The pipers played “Retreat” at Church Square, Mellieha.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A Company embarks for ‘Gozo Training Camp’. E Company takes over mobile company duties at Luqa.  

 

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Posted by on May 29, 2016 in 1941, May 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, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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1 May 1941: Heavy Increase in Night Raids on Malta

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RAID SUMMARY APRIL 1941

  • No of air raid alerts 90 (including 25 night raids)
  • Days without air raid alerts 4
  • Total time under alert 69 hours 51 mins
  • Average length of alert 46.5 mins
  • Civilians killed by enemy action 62
  • Civilians injured 112
  • Enemy aircraft destroyed by anti-aircraft guns
  • Day: 1 probable
  • Night: 2 confirmed, 1 probable
  • The total civilian casualties and damage from 11 June 1940 to 30 April 1941:
  • Killed 274 (145 men, 66 women, 63 children u16)
  • Seriously injured 204 (91 men, 81 women, 32 children u16)
  • Buildings wholly or partly destroyed 1901
Grand Harbour is a constant target

Grand Harbour is a constant target

MALTA HQ REVIEWS APRIL 1941

The month was notable for greatly increased air activity by German aircraft at night, partly due to the arrival in Malta of a convoy and war vessels. There was also a heavy increase in night attacks, both bombing and mine-laying, largely as a result of warships stationed in Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto.  On 21 April heavy bombing of Grand Harbour and the Dockyard area began, gradually increasing in tenacity towards the end of the month. Systematic mining of the approaches to Grand Harbour were also carried out.

Four particular enemy tactics became noticeable during night raids:

  • They were usually preceded by one aircraft on a meteorological flight;
  • The first aircraft usually crossed the whole length of the Island from west to east at a great height to force the searchlights to illuminate;
  • The increased use of flares;
  • On two or three occasions a flashing light could be seen about ten miles north of Grand Harbour at sea level. This is thought to have been a submarine giving landfall guidance to aircraft on nights with no moon. The Navy despatched a trawler after the second such appearance.

There were 42 reconnaissance or offensive patrols in the vicinity of the Island triggering the air alarm, as well as others for which the alert was not sounded. Reconnaissance was usually carried out by a single JU 88 bomber while the escort circled off the coast of the Island.  The escort rarely crossed the coast except when in superior numbers and on specific offensive patrol.  Two daylight and one night dive machine-gun attacks took place: on Luqa aerodrome and Marsaxlokk Bay during daylight and on St Paul’s Bay at night.

At the beginning of the month the policy was adopted of sending Malta fighters up on moonless nights, as well as on nights when the moon was up. The policy was not successful and was quickly discontinued. Searchlights were employed on 15 nights and obtained 47 illuminations.   The firing of predicted barrages at night has been discontinued in favour of immediate barrage procedures.  This has been employed on approximately 140 occasions and has undoubtedly had a deterrent effect on the enemy, causing them to divert from their apparent objective.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 MAY TO DAWN 2 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0728-0830 hrs  Air raid alert for six to ten ME 109s which circle round the Island. Hurricane fighters are scrambled; one is damaged and another shot down by a raider; the pilot is safe.

1023-1125 hrs  Air raid alert for nine unidentified aircraft approaching the Island. One JU 88 is fired at by anti-aircraft guns at Benghaisa.

1643-1805 hrs  Air raid alert for six bombers and twenty ME 109 fighters approaching the Island from the north at high altitude and head for Grand Harbour. Bombs are dropped in the sea outside the Harbour, believed to be aimed at an A/S trawler.  16 Hurricanes are scrambled and succeed in breaking up the formation of ME 109s which then scout around the coast of the Island in pairs.  One group of Hurricanes is caught in a surprise attack.  One of them is shot down and crashes near Ghaxaq church; the pilot P/O R A Innes is injured but bales out safely.  A second Hurricane is damaged in combat, pilot Sgt Walmsley is slightly injured.

2023-2105 hrs  Air raid alert for thirty enemy aircraft which approach Grand Harbour and lay mines as well as dropping bombs in the area. One Hurricane is scrambled but does not engage.  Anti-aircraft guns fire 16 barrages against targets exposed by searchlights.  Light anti-aircraft guns also engage and claim hits on raiders.  One enemy aircraft crashes in the sea off Salina Bay.

Civilian casualties  Marsa  Joseph Vassallo, age 39.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 1 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Truant arrived from patrol having sighted various coastal traffic off Tripolitania and sank a caique full of explosives.  Owing to danger from night minelaying, she was sailed for Gibraltar at 2000.  Gloucester and destroyers sailed to attack convoy, but weather was unfavourable and no contact was obtained. Upholder sank two merchant vessels 

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Two Marylands patrolled eastern Tunisian coast, sighted a convoy. Maryland special patrol north and south point of western Sicily for enemy shipping.  21 Squadron Six Blenheims made two sorties to attack; during the second attack one merchant vessel and one destroyer were attacked and left stationary. 

HAL FAR Hurricanes of C Flight 261 Squadron began operating today. Two casualties as a result of combat with the enemy: P/O Innes and Sgt Warmsley were injured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 33; dealt with 8 (8 x 50kg).

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths: officers 25, other ranks 122.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Evening ‘stand to’ now 2000 hrs.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Strength of Battalion: officers 27, other ranks 870. Battalion providing working party of 1 officer and 50 other ranks clearing debris in Kingsway, Valletta. 

 

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Posted by on May 1, 2016 in 1941, May 1941, Uncategorized

 

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31 December 1940: Malta and the Med After 7 Months of War

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Chateau Bertrand

Chateau Bertrand handed over to RAF Ta Qali

AFTER 7 MONTHS MUSSOLINI’S SEA POWER HAS FAILED TO DOMINATE

A total of nine Royal Navy submarines have been lost in the Mediterranean since Italy declared war in June.  This is viewed as a poor exchange for the sinking of 10 Italian merchant ships of 45,000 tons.

Most of the lost submarines were the large, older boats transferred from the Far East and unsuited to the waters of the Mediterranean. In the same period the Italians have lost 18 submarines from all causes throughout the Mediterranean and Red Sea areas.

Mussolini’s claimed domination of the Mediterranean has not materialised. In spite of the loss of French naval power, Force H and the Mediterranean Fleet have more than held the Italian Navy in check.  As 1940 draws to a close, the balance of power in the Mediterranean increasingly rests with the Allies.  (1)

As a result, Malta has been regularly supplied and reinforced.  At the same time, the Italian Regia Aeronautica has proved unable to subdue Malta through bombing raids.  Despite limited resources, RAF fighters and anti-aircraft gunners have frequently forced enemy raiders to turn back before their attack can be launched.  In recent weeks, with the arrival of Wellington bombers, the Island has been given an attacking role in the war against the Axis in Italy and Greece.

A significant Luftwaffe force has now been moved into Sicily.  As yet they have carried out no missions over Malta. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 DECEMBER 1940 TO DAWN 1 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Overcast. 

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 31 DECEMBER 1940

KALAFRANA  Sunderland aircraft of 228 Squadron operated on 10 days during the month, carrying out 11 long reconnaissances mainly to the north east of Malta, including one night naval co-operation patrol.  In addition, one search patrol for missing Swordfish was undertaken but was not successful.  Two communication flights were carried out by Sunderlands between Middle East and Gibraltar with passengers and mail.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  B Company HQ moved from Chateau Bertrand to new premises on Imtarfa Hill.  Chateau Bertrand was handed over to the RAF.  The CO addressed officers and NCOs of the unit.  During the month air raids have only been intensive during the arrival of convoys.  New defence posts have been sited at Il Kella, Ghain Tuffieha village and St Paul’s Church.  Drastic economy has been made in the use of petrol.  Bathing parties walk and all buses have been stopped except for special services.  The unit has supplied fatigue parties to Targa Battery and Fort Mosta, unloading ammunition.  A junior NCOs course is in progress at Ghain Tuffieha camp.  Subjects covered consist of weapon training, section leading, map and compass work, etc.  A long-service decoration has been awarded to several members of the unit.  There has been a certain amount of flooding of beach posts due to bad drainage requiring the removal of personnel to temporary alternative accommodation.  The RAF petrol barge in St Paul’s Bay has been driven onto the rocks by rough seas. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  1630 hrs  Company take over of Rinella Sector complete.  During the month Maltese labour was employed alongside troops in constructing anti-aircraft posts around the aerodrome.  On each air raid alert these posts were manned by one NCO and two men.  Training for the inter-platoon fitness competition and route marches were carried out when possible.      

(1)  www.naval-history.net

 

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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in 1940, December 1940

 

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2 December 1940: Enemy Raiders Retreat at Sight of Hurricanes

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'Molotov cocktail' petrol bombs may be used against tanks

‘Molotov cocktail’ petrol bombs may be used against tanks

DAY TO DAY ORDERS FOR TROOPS IN MALTA

Extract from Commanding Officer’s Conference, 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment, 2 December 1940

Saluting

Complaints have been received that the AOCs car and RAF officers are not being saluted by soldiers.  All ranks must be acquainted with badges of rank of officers in the Royal Navy and RAF.  In certain cases it is difficult to distinguish Army officers in battle dress, but the tie should serve as a good identification mark.

Motor Cycle Trailers

Higher authority has ruled that not more than two trailers will be towed behind one motorcycle and that weight in excess of one cwt for each trailer will not be carried.  The motorcycle will not take a pillion rider.  Stores such as guns, tripods and belt boxes, should be carried on the trailers, while the lighter and less cumbersome items are carried by bicycle by the gun numbers.  OCs of Companies are to try out methods of carrying ammunition belts by bicycle.

Skin Diseases

The CO wishes Company Commanders to take active steps to reduce the number of skin diseases which can be dealt with by individuals themselves, eg cuts, IAT etc.  Flavine was issued to Companies and Company OCs are to investigate the possibility of giving every post commander a small bottle of this mixture to deal with minor casualties in his command.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 DECEMBER TO DAWN 3 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Cold and wet.

1037 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of enemy aircraft reported approaching the Island from the north east. 

1045 hrs  Friendly aircraft approach Malta from the west.  The raiders are spotted eight miles to the north east of Grand Harbour, turning to the south east, then east.

1050 hrs  Two Hurricane fighters land at Luqa.

1055 hrs  All clear sounds.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 2 DECEMBER 1940

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  COs conference at HQ.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Authority is given to issue a third blanket to troops.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  A lecture at Australia Hall on “Strategic Importance of Malta”.

MALTA SIGNAL COMPANY  Classification of Signallers of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment: 11 passed, one failed.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Molotov anti-tank bomb demonstrated. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  A party of 20 men under L/Sgt King lifted an anti-aircraft searchlight onto the roof of Ritz Mansions, Tigne.  Two sub-sections of 24 Fortress Company began building anti-tank walls and digging anti-tank trenches at Concezione.  Work commenced on two look-out posts.  No 1 Works Company began work on additional accommodation for 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt at Hompesch. 

 

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Posted by on December 2, 2015 in December 1940

 

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15 October 1940: Escape to Malta – French Aircrew Defect

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PILOT HAD NEVER FLOWN AIRCRAFT BEFORE

Loire 130 (1)

Loire 130 (1)

A French Loire aircraft with a crew of three arrived at Kalfrana today from Bizerta seeking to serve with the Royal Air Force. The Catapult seaplane left base at 0430 hrs this morning along with a second Loire 130. The two aircraft had been destined to join the French battleship Richelieu at Dakar. The second plane has so far failed to arrive at Malta. Swordfish were sent out morning and afternoon to search but no trace of it has been found.

The French air crew have been named as 2nd Maitre Serjeant George Blaize, pilot, 2nd Maitre Serjeant Raoul Gatien, mechanic and 2nd Maitre Serjeant Henri Romanetti, naval airman. Under interrogation the crew stated that they do not belong to the same squadron. They had meant to come to Malta on 18th September in two Glenn Martins with a crew of five in each but engine trouble prevented them from starting.

Both the Loire 130 they came in and the missing aircraft belong to the battleship Richelieu. The planes were among a flight made ready this morning to fly to Morocco to join the ship. However, having long ago agreed to come over to the Axis, the crew took this opportunity to take over the aircraft and make their escape.

French battleship Richelieu

French battleship Richelieu

Romanetti was ground crew on duty guarding the aircraft but instead of sounding the alarm at their actions, he went aboard with the flight crew. They believe their departure was undetected by ground crew as the flying boats were due to set off this morning anyway. However the crews who had been due to fly these aircraft may have thought differently.

This is the first time Maitre Serjeant Blaize has flown a Loire 130. Despite this they had a very good flight, although his landing was described as ‘a bit shaky’. However, Gatien is the normal mechanic for this machine. They ran into thick cloud near Pantelleria and lost sight of the other Loire 130; they suspect it missed Malta and may have landed in the sea. The other pilot had also not flown a Loire before – though he did have a proper wireless operator with him.

Under interrogation the crew gave information on the other aircraft currently at Bizerta, Karouba and Sidi Hammet. They expressed the opinion that Algiers and Tunis are both awaiting a lead from Morocco before they move to join De Gaulle.

The three appeared very fit and cheerful and were quite willing to set out straight away to look for their missing comrades. All three want to join the RAF at once and fight using their Loire 130 aircraft, which is a reconnaissance type with a safe endurance of about five hours, or possibly six. It is in perfect condition, having done only 35 hours since new; and it is fully armed. Maitre Serjeant Romanetti was carrying with him one of the pamphlets dropped on Bizerta by the Latecoere serving at Malta. Maitre Serjeant Blaize has asked for news of his brother Pierre, who flew a Morane 406 to Gibraltar on July 1st , also with the aim of joining the RAF.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 OCTOBER TO DAWN 16 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

0640 hrs  An aircraft is reported approaching Malta from the west. Three Hurricanes are scrambled and shadow the plane until it lands down at Kalafrana. The aircraft is identified as a French Loire 130.

Enemy casualties  Sergente Maggiore Giuseppe Granzoto, 257a Squadriglia, 108o Gruppo, 36o Stormo: his body was washed ashore and buried in Pembroke Military Cemetery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 15 OCTOBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY 0715 hrs Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm (FAA) reported a large flying boat circling round a hospital ship. On his return he saw a clear track 20-30 miles east of Malta and dropped one bomb where the track ended, seven miles east of the Island; no results seen. A second Swordfish 830 Squadron FAA sighted the hospital ship and a packing case and drum.   A Sunderland 230 Squadron en route to Alexandria reported having led an Italian hospital ship to some floats.

0822-1020 hrs; 1109-1250 hrs; 1421-1620 hrs Three Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm searching for missing Loire 130 aircraft; no trace.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 French Loire. Departures 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. 1000 hrs One Sunderland 228 Squadron already out on reconnaissance was requested to locate and shadow submarine Regent which was possibly proceeding on the surface and unable to dive; submarine not located. One French Loire arrived from Bizerta for service with RAF.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT Company commanders are to impress on their men the great value the Germans attach to the undermining of morale. This is carried out by ‘frightfulness’ which, more often than not, means concentrated noise caused by such ingenious devices as whistling bombs, etc.

(1) http://www.aviastar.org/air/france/loire_130.php

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Posted by on October 15, 2015 in 1940, October 1940

 

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