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25 October 1941: Heavy Daylight Raid on Grand Harbour

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Cant Z 1007 bomber

Cant Z 1007 bomber

DOCKYARD RAID HAS ECHOES OF ILLUSTRIOUS BLITZ

Italian aircraft launched a heavy air raid in broad daylight this morning on Grand Harbour, now the base of Force K of the Mediterranean Fleet, in an attack reminiscent of the Illustrious blitz in January. The alert sounded just before mid-day, when four Cant 1007 bombers were reported approaching the Island with an escort of 16 fighters. 

The fighters remained off the coast while the bombers, flying in ‘Vic’ formation, headed directly for Grand Harbour. Seven Hurricanes attacked the bomber formation as it approached, damaging one of the Cants.  The now experienced Harbour gunners put up a massive barrage.  However, they could not prevent bombers from crossing the Harbour and dropping sixteen 250kg high explosives across the area. 

Four of the bombs hit a fuel depot at Vittoriosa, starting a massive fire from which thick smoke billowed thousands of feet into the air. All available fire engines of the Dockyard Police, Army and Civil Police were called to the scene and were still fighting the blaze tonight.  A large quantity of precious kerosene has already been destroyed.

Seven houses were damaged and three civilians injured in the raid. Hurricanes shot down at least one Macchi fighter and damaged one bomber.  One Hurricane failed to return and a sea search has been mounted for the missing pilot.

38 SQUADRON RETURNS TO EGYPT

38 Squadron left Malta today after completing its tour of duty on the Island. The Squadron has been here since 6 August, when seven aircraft were detached to the Island from Shallufa, Egypt for operations over the Mediterranean and Italy. The Wellington bombers have carried out many successful raids on Axis convoys, as well as targets in southern Italy and Libya.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 OCTOBER TO DAWN 26 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine.

0941-0957 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy fighters approaching the Island at 27000 feet and cross the Island, probably on reconnaissance. Four Hurricanes are airborne but there is no engagement.

1152-1245 hrs  Raid 909  Air raid alert for four enemy Cant 1007 bombers escorted by 16 fighters approaching the Island from the north. Only the bombers cross the coast and drop sixteen 250kg bombs on Grand Harbour, including in Kalkara Creek and French Creek.  Seven houses are damaged and three civilians injured.  A stick of four bombs hits the fuel depot at Fort San Salvatore, causing an intense fire.

A terrific barrage is put up over Grand Harbour. Seven Hurricanes are scrambled and reach 17000 feet to the north east of Grand Harbour where they spot the bombing formation slightly ahead and below.  The bombers turn to port and the Hurricanes attack the bomber on the right flank from the stern, damaging it badly and stopping its port engine.  One Hurricane engages a Macchi 200 fighter, leaving it with smoke pouring out.  The wreckage of one Macchi is later found in the sea.  The Hurricane of Sgt E Knight fails to return; a search is in progress.

Military casualties  Sergeant Ernest G Knight, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Enemy casualties  Pilot Tenente Colonello Eugenio Leotta, Commander of 4o Stormo

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 25 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Thunderbolt arrived from patrol for docking. Clan Ferguson was recalled owing to her being attacked by enemy aircraft sixty miles west of Malta.  She re-entered harbour at 0900 hrs but no serious damage was sustained. Force K sailed to intercept three enemy destroyers.  

AIR HQ  Arrivals 3 Blenheim. Departures 1 Clare, 1 Sunderland, 10 Wellington. S/D Flight 1 Wellington special search. 18 Squadron 5 Blenheims attacked barracks at Misurata.  69 Squadron  3 Marylands special patrols.  1 Blenheim patrol east Sicilian coast.  Photoreconnaissance south western Sicily. 104 Squadron 3 Wellingtons on nuisance raid of Arab quarters in Tripoli. 107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked targets on the Zuara-Benghazi road. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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Posted by on October 25, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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23 October 1941: Malta Reinforced With More Aircraft

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WAR CABINET REVIEWS WEEK OF 16 TO 23 OCTOBER IN MALTA

HMS Penelope

HMS Penelope

HM Cruisers Aurora and Penelope have arrived at Malta from home waters.  An operation to reinforce Malta with aircraft has been successfully completed.  13 aircraft were flown off from an aircraft carrier, twelve of which arrived safely.  On 14th HM Submarine Unique torpedoed and probably sank the Italian Armed merchant cruiser Citta di Genova (5413 tons) south of Naples, and on 18th HM Submarine Ursula attacked a convoy to the west of Lampedusa and probably sank two ships.  On 17th SS Clan Macdonald, on passage to Gibraltar from Malta, was attacked by Italian torpedo bombers to the south of Sardinia but successful avoiding action was taken and a second attack was driven off by gunfire.

Our aircraft from Malta made several attacks during the week on shipping in the Mediterranean and on land targets in Italy, Sicily and Tripoli. Naples was attacked on three nights by a total of 41 Wellingtons which dropped more than 55 tons of high explosive bombs and many incendiaries in the target area.  Hits were obtained on the Royal Arsenal, the Alfa Romeo automobile works, the railway station and on the torpedo factory, which it is estimated was completely destroyed.  Extensive fires were also started, one of which covered a wide area.  A factory at Cotrone, in southern Italy, was twic attacked by a total of 11 Blenheims.

In Sicily, attacks were made on a munition factory and a power station at Licata, on which three tons of bombs were dropped, and on a factory and railway sidings near Catania. The aerodrome at Trapani and the seaplane base at Syracuse were also successfully attacked.  Four Wellingtons, in co-operation with a Naval force, bombed the aerodrome at Elmas in Sardinia, and scored many hits on runways and buildings.

21 Wellingtons dropped 25 tons of bombs on Tripoli harbour. Hits were obtained on the Custom House, the seaplane base and on a warehouse, which was destroyed.  A ship of 3000 tons was set on fire.  Homs was bombed by six Blenheims which dropped two tons of bombs on buildings in the town.  Other Blenheims bombed and machine-gunned motor transport on the road between Sirte and Zuara and an aerodrome between Zuara and Tripoli, where the barracks were hit and an enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground.

Reconnaissance aircraft made searches for shipping over wide areas. A convoy consisting of five merchant vessels, each of about 6000 tons, escorted by four destroyers, was sighted off Marittimo Island proceeding south.  Swordfish made successful torpedo attacks on the convoy on two successive nights.  Three hits brought the largest vessel to a standstill and set it on fire, and two, possibly three, other vessels were hit.

A 1500 ton merchant vessel and a 600 ton schooner were bombed off Cape Bon by six Blenheims. The schooner blew up and the merchant vessel was set on fire.  Another merchant vessel of 2000 tons was attacked off the coast of Tunis by four Blenheims.  A direct hit was scored near the funnel and the vessel is claimed as seriously damaged.

Several small formations of enemy aircraft and bombers operated over Malta during the week. A few casualties were caused; the material damage was slight.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 OCTOBER TO DAWN 24 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine.

2236-2344 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy bombers approaching the Island. The first drops bombs in the sea without crossing the coast.  The second crosses the coast near Grand Harbour, circles round and drops incendiary bombs on the Valletta and Sliema areas before turning out to sea and dropping high explosive bombs in the sea five miles off the coast.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.

0422-0525 hrs  Raid no 905  Air raid alert for the approach of four enemy bombers which drop high explosive bombs in the sea 15-30 miles north of the Island. Two bombs are also dropped on Gozo.  One raider crosses the coast and drops 250kg high explosive bombs on Senglea and Marino Pinto, damaging the Royal Engineers yard, demolishing the roof of a store and starting a fire which is quickly extinguished.  One bomb is dropped close to St Nicola Ack Ack position.   The electricity supply in the Marsa area is cut off.  Bombs dropped during the raid are reported as being heavier than usual.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 23 OCTOBER 1941

AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland, 2 Wellington. 18 Squadron 5 Blenheims attack a chemical works at Cotrone. 38 Squadron 3 Wellingtons carried out a nuisance raid on Naples.  3 Wellingtons carried out a nuisance raid on Tripoli. 69 Squadron 3 Marylands on special patrols; 1 Maryland on patrol and special search of Tunisian coast. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked a merchant ship. 221 Squadron 1 Wellington on shipping search.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4.

 

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Posted by on October 23, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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21 October 1941: Malta New Base for Mediterranean Fleet Force K

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Capt Agnew's flagship HMS Aurora

Capt Agnew’s flagship HMS Aurora

ROYAL NAVY SHIPS JOIN ANTI-CONVOY STRIKE FORCE

A special force of the Mediterranean Fleet begins operations from its new base in Malta today. Force K, under the command of Captain W G Agnew, has been deployed to the Island as a strike force to intensify attacks on Axis convoys to supply their forces in Libya. 

The ships for the new Force, cruisers Aurora and Penelope, destroyers Lance and Lively, sailed into harbour from the west this morning, after an uneventful passage through the Mediterranean.  It is believed that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is behind the establishment of the strike force. As well as their role in attacking enemy convoys, it is believed that the presence of Force K will act as an additional deterrent for convoy traffic to Tripoli which has notably declined in recent days.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 OCTOBER TO DAWN 22 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine.

0822-0847 hrs; 1023-1040 hrs; 1328-1342 hrs  Air raid alerts: two for single enemy aircraft which pass close to the coast. On the third alert two enemy fighters cross the Island at 30000 feet.  

Ten Hurricanes are scrambled at a time but there are no interceptions.

1835-1901 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy bombers approaching from the north singly. Only two cross the coast and 500kg drop bombs in the Mosta-Naxxar-Gharghur area and in the sea.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no interceptions.

Military casualties  Aircraftsman David B Long, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 21 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Unique returned from patrol off Naples having sunk a Citta AMS. Aurora, Penelope, Lance and Lively of Force K arrived.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 4 Wellington. Departures 3 Beaufort. 38 Squadron 11 Wellingtons attacked a storage depot at Naples. 69 Squadron Marylands special patrols; Maryland special search.  1 Blenheim patrol east Sicilian coast. 104 Squadron 13 Wellingtons attacked a storage depot at Naples.   107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked two merchant vessels north east of Ras Maamoura.  

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  No 4 (carrier) Platoon and details proceeded to Gozo.

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

 

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Posted by on October 21, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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19 October 1941: Enemy Convoys to Tripoli Cease Due to Attacks

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HMS Ursula to reload and strike again

HMS Ursula to reload and strike again

EASTERN MED TOO DANGEROUS FOR AXIS SHIPPING

Enemy convoy traffic to Tripoli has ceased completely, according to intelligence reports. The latest convoy to leave Naples has been attacked twice in the past two days by Swordfish from 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm. 

On Friday seven Swordfish attacked the four merchant ships with their four strong destroyer escort, scoring significant hits on two merchantmen and leaving them seriously damaged. Six more Swordfish returned to repeat the attack yesterday, hitting at least one more merchant ship.  The returning pilots reported that fires from the convoy were visible for ten miles.  Today Malta-based submarine Ursula returned to reload, having hit one merchant ship and sunk another in the convoy.

Attacks on Axis bases in Libya have also been stepped up. 17 Wellingtons of 38 & 104 Squadrons attacked targets in Tripoli today, and six Blenheims attacked a factory and power station at Licata.  

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 OCTOBER TO DAWN 20 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Cloudy.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 19 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Ursula returned to reload, having hit one merchant ship and sunk another in convoy.

AIR HQ Arrivals 3 Beaufort, 1 Sunderland, 7 Wellington. Departures 2 Sunderland, 2 Wellington. 18 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked a factory and power station at Licata. 38 Squadron 11 Wellingtons attacked targets in Tripoli. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland patrol Kiniat-Kerkennah; 1 Maryland special search for shipping.  Photoreconnaissances Sicily, Taranto, Tripoli Harbour. 104 Squadron 6 Wellingtons attacked targets in Tripoli.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Advance party left Gozo for Malta.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Advance party proceeded to Gozo.

 

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Posted by on October 19, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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17 October 1941: Malta Fighters Hampered by Fuel Shortages

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HMS Porpoise arrives Malta (NWMA Malta)

HMS Porpoise arrives Malta (NWMA Malta)

NEW TACTIC BY ITALIAN FIGHTERS EXPOSES LACK OF FUEL FOR HURRICANES

Fuel shortages prevented Malta fighters from fully defending the Island today when enemy raiders attempted a daylight attack. Eleven Hurricanes were scrambled in response to an alert just after 1530 hrs this afternoon, when early warning systems had spotted seven enemy aircraft approaching from the north.  The raiders, identified as Macchi fighters, suspended their approach while still 30 miles from Malta and began to circle, forcing the Hurricanes to fly out to them.  Two of the Macchis managed to evade the Hurricanes and crossed the coast near Grand Harbour.  Several Hurricanes turned back to attempt an engagement but ran out of fuel and had to land. 

COAL IN SHORT SUPPLY

Fossil fuels are also in very short supply and military authorities are seeking ways to economise. In a bid to conserve supplies, troops have been given new instructions on an economical means of providing fuel using coal dust. 

  • Mix eight parts coal dust to one part sand and two parts clay, or two parts coal dust, one part sawdust and one part clay.
  • Moisten as necessary, mould into balls and allow to dry.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 OCTOBER TO DAWN 18 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fair.

1047-1103 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which approach from the north and carry out reconnaissance. Hurricane fighters are flying into and out of Malta on escort duties so it is not possible for them nor anti-aircraft guns to engage.

1534-1555 hrs  Air raid alert for a total of seven enemy aircraft which approach the Island in three formations but circle 30 miles to the north. The first two formations remain at a distance, while two Macchi 200 fighters approach Grand Harbour from the north east and cross the coast.  Eleven Hurricanes are scrambled at the first alert but, owing to fuel shortages, they are unable to engage the two raiders.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage with one barrage; no claims.

0012-0019 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of Swordfish aircraft.

0403-0523 hrs  Air raid alert for seven enemy bombers which approach the Island singly from several directions. None cross the coast; all bombs are dropped in the sea, including one container of incendiaries eight miles offshore to the north east.  Four Hurricane fighters are airborne, two at a time, but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 17 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY Porpoise arrived from Gibraltar and United Kingdom. Ursula, P34 and Rorqual sailed for operations off Kuriat, but Rorqual returned with defects.

AIR HQ Arrivals 3 Wellington. Departures 3 Wellington. 18 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked a factory at Syracuse. 38 Squadron 3 Wellingtons attacked Trapani aerodrome.  4 Wellingtons attacked Elmas aerodrome. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols Syracuse, east Sicilian coast and special patrol.  Photoreconnaissances Cagliari, Sicilian aerodromes and Messina Harbour. 107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked motor transport at Zuara and Sirte. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish sent to attack a convoy of 4 merchant ships and 4 destroyers.  Two merchant vessels were hit and seriously damaged.  Despite intense, accurate fire from all ships all aircraft returned safely.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Officers from Battalion HQ and departmental clerks visited the Fortress Telephone Exchange. The amount of call traffic going through was a revelation.  A most interesting lecture was arranged at the Naval Canteen on ‘The Progress of the War’.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4.

 

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

 

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16 October 1941: Malta Attacks Deter Axis Troop Sailings in Med

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  • A special whistle was instituted in the Dockyard today to give warning to “Take Cover” during daylight raids. 
  • 16 Malta-based Wellingtons attacked selected targets in Naples.
Castel Vetrano aerodrome

Castel Vetrano aerodrome

AXIS MILITARY PERSONNEL FORCED TO CROSS MED BY AIR

Malta attacks are delaying Axis troop transport across the Mediterranean, according to the British War Cabinet. According to their weekly report on the state of the war in Malta, there has been a marked increase in air transport activity between Sicily and Tripoli.  It has been suggested that these Italian transport aircraft are carrying military personnel deterred from making the crossing by sea owing to the dangers in the Mediterranean presented by attacks on shipping by Malta-based aircraft and submarines.

The War Cabinet review also reported that Malta reconnaissance aircraft located a number of enemy ships and numerous offensive sorties were carried out. A southbound convoy of three merchant vessels, two of 6000 and one of 8000 tons, and one tanker, escorted by five destroyers and four aircraft, was located 46 miles off Kuriate Island.  Two waves, each consisting of seven Swordfish, attacked this convoy, a further attack being made by six Wellingtons.   As a result of these attacks, two merchant vessels are considered sunk and one, possibly two, damaged.  A 4000 ton merchant vessel and a 1200 ton cargo boat were attacked by six Blenheims 58 miles from Sirte and both ships were probably sunk.  Seven Swordfish obtained two hits on a 6000 ton merchant vessel 75 miles south of Lampedusa; a destroyer was seen picking up survivors.  Other attacks were made on shipping but results could not be observed.

On two successive nights Tripoli was attacked and a total of about 22 tons of bombs dropped. Three large ships in the centre of the harbour were heavily attacked but results could not be observed.  Hits or near misses were obtained on the Spanish Mole and quay, the seaplane base, barracks east of Fort Hamidie, the Spanish Fort and the Arab quarter.

A convoy of 14 lorries was attacked by four Blenheims 15 miles east of the Gulf of Sidra. Three large covered lorries were destroyed and others damaged; one bomb burst in a cluster of drivers and passengers; the convoy and troops were also heavily machine-gunned.

Four Hurricanes carrying bombs attacked the aerodrome at Comiso, Sicily, but results were unobserved. A Fulmar bombed the aerodrome at Castel Vetrano causing a large explosion.

At Malta enemy aircraft crossed the coast on only a few occasions. On one night nine fighters machine-gunned Luqa doing only slight damage; one Macchi was destroyed by Hurricanes, anti-aircraft guns probably destroyed another and damaged five.  One Hurricane is missing.  On another night four bombers dropped bombs but caused no damage.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 OCTOBER TO DAWN 17 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Storms.

0407-0428 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy Cant 1007 bombers which approach the Island as Wellington bombers arrive from the UK. At least one bomber crosses the coast before the alert sounds, dropping 500kg and 250kg bombs near Mgarr.  Other raiders drop high explosive bombs in the sea off Ghain Tuffieha.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Samuel McAllister, Pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 107 Squadron; Sergeant Edward H Brenton, Royal Australian Air Force.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 16 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Truant arrived from the USA via Gibraltar. Clan Macdonald and Empire Guillemot sailed independently for Gibraltar at 1000 hrs.  Empire Guillemot returned later with engine trouble and remained off Filfla for the night. Unbeaten, Urge, Upright returned from Cape Passero, having sighted nothing but a hospital ship.  Three Swordfish on anti-submarine patrol sighted nothing.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 9 Wellington. Departures 1 Catalina, 1 Clare. 38 Squadron 16 Wellingtons attacked selected targets in Naples. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands on special patrols.  1 Blenheim patrol east Sicilian coast.  221 Squadron  1 Wellington on shipping sweep. 

 

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

 

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10 October 1941: Malta Bomb Disposal Officer Killed

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Lt E E C Talbot, GC, RE

Lt E E C Talbot, GC, RE

BOMB DISPOSAL OFFICER WAS ABOARD MISSING BOMBER

Malta’s first Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer has been reported missing, presumed killed. According to reports, he was aboard one of two Blenheim aircraft which failed to return from an attack on enemy shipping off the south coast of Italy last night. 

The missing Blenheim pilots have been named as Wing Commander C F A Harte and Flying Officer Whitford-Walders, both of 107 Squadron. Two other Blenheims involved in the mission returned safely to Luqa.  Early today, the RAF in Malta picked up Italian radio reports stating that two aircraft collided over the coast near Cape Spartivento with no survivors.

Lt Edward Talbot GC, MBE arrived last November to assume command of the Island’s Bomb Disposal Section. He has been on respite leave from bomb disposal duties since early May.  According to the current serving RE Bomb Disposal Officer, Lt George Carroll, his friend Lt Talbot had for some weeks been working with the RAF, collecting the reports from pilots on their return from operational missions. (1)

BRITISH PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN

The following communications have been approved today by the British Underground Propaganda Committee for transmission via rumour networks, in a bid to undermine morale among Axis troops and civilians:

Italy for general Mediterranean distribution

  • A ship with 500 Italian soldiers on board sailed into Malta and surrendered. They have mutinied and killed their officers.
  • During the last ten days seven [Axis] supply ships have put into Malta and surrendered. The British show special signal lights for deserters, who are given the choice of going to India or England. (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 OCTOBER TO DAWN 11 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Cooler with some rain.

1033-1052 hrs  Air raid alert for two formations of six enemy fighters which cross the Island. 13 Hurricane fighters are scrambled but there are no engagements.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 2 Blenheim. 38 Squadron 6 Wellingtons attacked convoy. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands on special patrol.  1 Maryland on convoy search.  Photoreconnaissance of Tripoli. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims searched for missing Blenheim crews. 221 Squadron 2 Wellingtons searched for convoy. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish carried out two attacks on a convoy of 3 merchant ships, 1 tanker and 5 destroyers.  The first lasted from 2208 to 2230 hrs during which the 3 merchant vessels were damaged, 2 seriously.  The Swordfish returned to base and refuelled, then attacked the convoy again at 0440 hrs, at the end of which two merchant ships were sunk.

ARMY HQ  Air Officer Commanding Vice Marshal Lloyd gave a lecture at the Marsa Club on the activities of the RAF in Malta, attended by officers and NCOs.

(1) UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

(2) Whispers of War: Underground Propaganda Rumour-Mongering in the Second World War, Lee Richards, 2010

 

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Posted by on October 10, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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7 October 1941: Italian Forces Attempt E-boat Raid on Malta

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Italian Motoscafo Turismo (E-boat)

Italian Motoscafo Turismo (E-boat)

ATTACK DETERRED BY COASTAL DEFENCES

Italian air and naval forces attempted a repeat of July’s E-boat attack on Grand Harbour tonight but were deterred by efficient measures to defend Malta’s coastline. The first sign of the attack came at just before 2100 hrs when enemy aircraft closed in for a bombing raid.  In an attempt to distract the coastal guns, the six raiders all approached from different directions, dropping bombs in various locations around the coast.

While the raid was in progress, coastal monitors detected a flotilla of E-boats approaching the north coast of the Island, which then split into two formations. Aware that the tactic of a diversionary air raid was used in July, military chiefs raised the alert of another possible seaborne raid on Grand Harbour.  Coastal searchlights went into action, illuminating their offshore zones every 15 minutes.  The Central Infantry Brigade ordered troops to man all infantry beach and harbour posts in the Grand Harbour area immediately.  Naval vessels went on the offensive, dropping 60 depth charges throughout the night. 

At 2200 hrs a third formation of seaborne craft was reported off the coast but an hour later monitors reported that all enemy craft had left the area. No further incidents were reported but the extra precautions remained in place until dawn, when enemy aircraft carried out reconnaissance over the area where surface craft had been seen.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 OCTOBER TO DAWN 8 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine.

1050-1200 hrs  Air raid alert for some nine enemy aircraft in two formations which cross the coast. 16 Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no interceptions.  It is thought the enemy is trying decoy tactics again.

2051-2135 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft which approach the Island from various directions and drop bombs in the sea without crossing the coast. Two Malta Night Fighters are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and interception is not possible.

2100 hrs  Surface craft are detected 30000 yards off the coast of Malta and the alert is raised for a possible E-boat attack on Grand Harbour. Coastal searchlights are exposed every 15 minutes and the Royal Navy drop depth charges.  Central Infantry Brigade immediately mans all infantry beach and harbour posts in the Grand Harbour area in preparation for an attack.  Double sentries are posted on positions. No further incidents take place.    

2200 hrs  A third formation of seaborne craft is reported.

2300 hrs  All seaborne craft have left the area. Double sentries are maintained at beach posts throughout the night.  Troops are ordered to sleep at their posts.

0500 hrs  Beach and harbour posts stand down; status returns to normal.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 7 OCTOBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Catalina, 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 1 Wellington on shipping search.  7 Wellingtons attacked shipping at Tripoli. 69 Squadron Marylands patrol east Sicilian coast and east Tunisian coast; 2 Marylands on special patrols; photoreconnaissance of Tripoli. 107 Squadron 1 Blenheim searched for the dinghy of Sgt Hamlyn and crew; nothing found.  1 Blenheim attacked a merchant ship off Zuara. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish attacked a merchant vessel off Lampedusa and also Lampedusa Harbour.  One Fulmar despatched to attack Comiso and Gerbini aerodromes; the aircraft failed to return to base.  Pilot A/PO Arthur Jopling and observer Lt Manning are missing.  One Fulmar carried out a search to within four miles of the Sicilian coast without success.

 

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Posted by on October 7, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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6 October 1941: 80 per cent of Axis Supplies Sunk by Malta Attacks

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Count Ciano (r) with Hitler & Mussolini

Count Ciano (r) with Hitler & Mussolini

ENEMY STARVED OF SUPPLIES FOR NORTH AFRICA CAMPAIGN

The ongoing success of aircraft and submarine attacks launched from Malta against Axis supply convoys is starving the enemy campaign in North Africa of troops, equipment and food. According to the Italian foreign secretary Count Galeazzo Ciano: “The supplies…are becoming more and more difficult. Only twenty per cent of the material set aside for September has been shipped and delivered.” (1)

Attacks from Malta on targets in southern Italy and Sicily are also having an impact, according to Italian news bulletins:

4 October  “British aircraft attacked Catanzaro Marina in southern Italy in daylight yesterday dropping a certain number of bombs and hitting the railway station and some residential dwellings.  Two people were killed and twelve injured among the civilian population.  Some railway lines were damaged.”

6 October  “Yesterday afternoon British planes were over the town of Catania and dropped a certain number of incendiary bombs and [high] explosive bombs of small calibre.  The bombs caused some damage and killed four civilians.  An enemy bomber and a fighter were shot down by anti-aircraft guns and fighters respectively.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 OCTOBER TO DAWN 7 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

1946-1957 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but turns away before reaching the coast.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 6 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Ursula returned from patrol south of Messina.  Trento and seven destroyers passed north through the Straits out of range, but an enemy report broadcast was never received. Sokol returned having failed to locate a missing Blenheim crew.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Beaufighter, 13 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 2 Wellington. Departures 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked shipping in Tripoli Harbour. 69 Squadron 4 Maryland special patrols. 107 Squadron 1 Blenheim searched for the dinghy of Sgt Hamlyn and crew.  4 Blenheims shipping sweep over Gulf of Syria. Fleet Air Arm 2 Fulmars on offensive patrol over aerodromes in Sicily dropped high explosive bombs on hangars and a slipway at Marsala and incendiaries on Licata, plus high explosive bombs and incendiaries on Gerbini dispersal area.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  C Company carried out firing practice with Vickers guns from beach pill boxes at towed targets; results highly successful.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  ‘Stand to’ periods for static companies at 0500 hrs and 1730 hrs.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  A mine was reported onshore near a beach defence post and reported to the Royal Navy who removed it.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Two detachments gained 1st and 2nd places in an inter-battalion firing competition.

(1) Siege Malta, Ernle Bradford, Pen & Sword 2003

 

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

 

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5 October 1941: Malta Urgently Needs Underground Fuel Stores

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GOVERNOR & COMMANDER IN CHIEF BIDS FOR UNDERGROUND FACILITIES TO IMPROVE DEFENCE OF THE FORTRESS

From: Governor & C in C Malta                     To:  War Office, copy to C in C Mediterranean

The following for Chiefs of Staff:

A stage in the rearmament of Malta has now been reached where I believe that the Chiefs of Staff should give consideration to the major works which are necessary to complete the defences of this fortress. It has not been possible to advance this problem previously as our main work efforts have been directed for the past 15 months at protecting the population, and this has occupied the major part of our specialised labour force.  It is now possible however to review the problem generally with a view to ensuring that our labour is used for the next two or three years in such a way that the defences of the fortress will be developed in the most efficient manner.

Wied-id-Dis

Wied-id-Dis

The defence works involved are as follows:

  • (a) Shelters for the civilian population: It is hoped that by the end of November this year every civilian in Malta will have two square feet of bomb-proof shelter. From that time it will then be possible to consider further diversions of labour from this work to the service.  It will be appreciated that the provision of two square feet per person will in no sense complete the shelter scheme and much further work will be required. 
  • (b) The provision of underground workshops in HM Dockyard: These are already underway and will take from two to three years to complete.
  • (c) The construction of an underground supply depot for the Army (work on this has started already)
  • (d) The provision of a secure supply of electricity
  • (e) The provision of an underground flour mill
  • (f) The provision of adequate underground storage for white oils
  • (g) The provision of underground hangars for aircraft
  • (h) The provision of a new Army magazine at Wied-id-Dis
  • (i) The provision of bomb-proof shelters for submarines at Marsamxetto

Labour items for (a) to (f) can be made available; (g) is already underway. It is estimated that items (h) and (i) can be commenced as soon as the remainder of the Government shelter construction scheme is completed.  Items (a), (b) and (c) are already underway. The provision of (d) and (e) are essential requirements of the defence of the Fortress.  Without an underground flour mill our whole scheme to maintain supplies within the Fortress to last eight months may be largely nullified. 

Item (f), the provision of underground oil storage, is my main concern. We need to store about 7000 tons of kerosene, 3500 tons of benzine and 9000 tons of aviation spirit.  These figures cover the whole requirements of the Fortress.  It is hoped that provision will be made for the storage of kerosene by the conversion of No 20 Underground Oil Fuel Tank in HM Dockyard.  No provision yet exists for the bulk storage of benzine.  Storage for 1000 tons of aviation spirit is almost complete at Manoel Island and for 1000 tons of aviation spirit in the Ghar Dalam installation is nearly ready.  This latter installation when completed early next year will provide 2500 tons of storage.  We therefore lack storage for 3500 tons of benzine and 5500 tons of aviation spirit.  The provision of underground tanks to contain these quantities is the most imperative need in the Fortress at the present time.  The present method of importing great quantities of white oils into the Fortress in tins is most wasteful of shipping space and is inviting a major disaster.  At present we have no alternative but to accept this risk but I want to eliminate it as quickly as possible.

I therefore earnestly recommend that the Chiefs of Staff should give approval forthwith for the execution of three Defence Works mentioned in the preceding paragraph. They are our main weaknesses at present and we must overcome them at all cost.  If approval is given detailed plans for the storage of white oils will be forwarded immediately.  The expenditure involved is insignificant compared with the sums of money which have been spent and are being spent on the defences of Malta, yet each of the three works has a major effect on the security of the Fortress as a whole.

Our initial efforts to construct bomb-proof hangars have not been entirely successful owing to the nature of the rock encountered and the Air Officer Commanding therefore prefers to rely on dispersal until we can complete these hangars. They will take much longer than originally anticipated.  I agree with this view.

Items (h) and (i) are essential to complete our defences. I would welcome approval in principle for these works in order to assist our plans for allocating labour.  The lack of these defences is at present being primarily counteracted by the principle of dispersal but this can never provide such a satisfactory solution as bomb-proof cover.  With good fortune we should be able to commence them all before the end of next year. 

Finally I desire to mention the construction of a graving dock for battleships. This is a very great undertaking and at present the Vice Admiral Malta (VAM) considers that the other major defence works to which I have referred in this telegram should be completed before the dock is commenced.  With the experience gained in this war I agree with the VAM that such a dock is an essential adjunct for the maintenance of the Mediterranean Fleet. 

Summed up it is the unanimous view of the senior officers in the Fortress that in order to complete our defences approval should be given forthwith for the schemes covering electricity supply, flour milling and the storage of aviation spirit, and that approval in principle should be given for the construction of major defence works which I have described. I request that an early decision may be given in order to avoid any loss of time in commencing the necessary excavations.      

From: War Office                                 To:  Governor & C in C Malta

Your telegram was considered by Chiefs of Staff. They were of the opinion that you should proceed with the three projects (d), (e) and (f) without delay.  Please therefore forward as soon as possible detailed proposals.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 OCTOBER TO DAWN 6 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

0934-1005 hrs  Air raid alert for two formations of three enemy fighters. Only the second formation crosses the Island, passing over Grand Harbour at great altitude.  Five Hurricanes 185 Squadron and twelve 249 Squadron are scrambled but are unable to reach the necessary height for interception.  The raiders recede northwards with no engagement.

1511-1542 hrs  With no prior alert, six enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north, cross the coast at 27000 feet and immediately split up. Two Hurricanes 185 Squadron and twelve 249 Squadron are scrambled but again are unable to reach the necessary height to intercept.  Two heavy anti-aircraft guns fire pointer rounds. 

0018-0023 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of friendly aircraft.

Civilian casualties  Zurrieq  Antonia Camilleri, age 24.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 5 OCTOBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Bombay. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked shipping in Tripoli Harbour. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Sicily, reconnaissance Tripoli Harbour area and convoy. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims searched for Sgt Hamlyn and crew without success.  2 Blenheims attacked railway installations at Catania. Fleet Air Arm 2 Fulmars on offensive patrol on aerodromes in Sicily.  One attacked Trapani aerodrome and Marsala seaplane base.  The other attacked aerodromes at Gerbini and Catania, dropping high explosive bombs on the Gerbini dispersal area and both aerodromes were machine-gunned at low level.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Until further notice curfew will be from 2100 hrs to 0545 hrs.

 

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Posted by on October 5, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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