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25-31 October 1942: Turning Point in War Over Malta

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25 October 1942:  Enemy Air Attacks Declining

JU 88 bombers have gone from Malta’s skies

The enemy’s latest attempt to neutralise Malta appears to have lost momentum.  It is now two weeks since Axis forces launched heaviest bombing raids since April.   In that time some 350 aircraft have been destroyed or damaged by the Island’s defenders – including forty bombers.  Despite the concentration of bombs aimed at the three airfields, none of the runways has been put out of action for more than 30 minutes.

Since 18 October no twin-engined aircraft have approached the Island and attacks have been limited to ‘tip and run’ raids – often at high level – by heavily escorted fighter bombers.  Their only advantage has been provided by frequent heavy cloud over the Island, which has allowed the few successful raiders to get through, and provided cover for those attempting to escape Malta’s fighters.

During today the enemy carried out fighter sweeps and four fighter bomber raids on Ta Qali, Hal Far and Luqa.  140 raiders were involved in attacks, which were launched at heights ranging from 12000 to 3000 feet.  Fighters are now adopting a new tactic of receding at sea level to escape interception by the Island’s Spitfires.  There were no night air raids.

RAIDS DAWN 25 OCTOBER TO DAWN 26 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Mainly fine: fair late evening.

0600-0720 hrs  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are airborne for a raid which does not materialise.

0721-0800 hrs  Air raid alert for 25 enemy fighters including ME 109 fighter bombers approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept but are attacked by enemy fighters out of the sun: no claims.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled and engage the raiders north of Gozo: F/Lt Smith destroys one ME 109; Sgt Hughes probably destroys another. The fighter bombers are forced to jettison their bombs in the sea.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

0815-0850 hrs  Air raid alert for 17 plus enemy fighters and fighter bombers approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: F/Lt Parkinson damages one Macchi 202.  Most of the raiders cross the coast and bombs are dropped on Luqa and Ta Qali.

As enemy fighters turn away from the airfield they machine-gun Heavy Ack Ack gun positions.  One ME 109 is destroyed by small arms fire and Light Ack Ack and crashes on the edge of the aerodrome.  One ME 109 is destroyed by Light and Heavy Ack Ack guns off Delimara by Height Control shooting at 18000 feet.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Tal Qali are also airborne and chase enemy fighters to within 20 miles of Sicily but cannot engage them.

0925-0951 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 enemy fighters and fighter bombers which cross the coast, dropping bombs on Hal Far.  Eight Spitfires are scrambled from Hal Far to intercept but were unable to do so due to the enemy’s superior speed.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1110-1200 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1238 hrs  Air raid alert as 25 enemy fighters and fighter bombers approach Malta.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept: no claims.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled and attempt to engage two Macchi 202s which turn and flee.  The Spitfires chase them to ten miles off the coast of Sicily but are unable to catch them.

1234 hrs  The remaining raiders, about half, cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa, destroying one Beaufighter and damaging a Spitfire on the ground.  Gun position XHB 7 of 4th Heavy Ack Ack Regt RA destroys one ME 109.  Two ME 109 fighter bombers are engaged at 2500 feet by two guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery.

1248 hrs  Four fighter bombers drop bombs on the Safi strip, Kirkop and Mqabba village areas.

1300 hrs  Raiders passed.

1350-1445 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol (one returns early): no sightings.

1415-1530 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron, then four 249 Squadron are on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1517 hrs  Air raid alert for the approach of 50 ME 109s and Macchi 202s with fighter bombers.  Ten Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no claims.  One Spitfire and pilot, Sgt Park, are missing.   Seven Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept and see three ME 109s but the raiders are too high and distant to intercept.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled but fail in their attempt to engage the enemy aircraft, some of which jettison their bombs in the sea.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled and attack Macchi fighters but are jumped from above by other fighters acting as cover: no claims or losses.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.  Some raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa.

1600 hrs  D Company 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt report a plane crashed in the sea on the horizon.

1620 hrs  All clear.

1715-1750 hrs  Two Spitfires 126 Squadron are airborne to search for the missing dinghy of Sgt Park but find nothing.

1825-2115 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa takes up the search for the missing dinghy: nothing is found.

1940 hrs  D Company 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt report a green verey light 4-5 miles out to sea.

2330-0100 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron is scrambled for a reported raid which does not materialise: no enemy aircraft seen.

Military casualties  Sergeant George Bushnell, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Flying Officer Richard Bendwig, Royal Canadian Air Force; Flying Officer Millard Liebeck, Royal Canadian Air Force; Pilot Officer Nigel Park, Royal New Zealand Air Force, 126 Squadron; Flying Officer Fred Wickstrom, Royal Canadian Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

Enemy casualties  Oberleutnant Richard Eckhardt, pilot of a Messerchmitt Bf109 fighter.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 25 OCTOBER 1942

P 35 HMS Umbra

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept P 35 in from patrol: the submarine returned to Malta after a four day patrol in which a heavily leaden merchant ship which had beached itself near Homs as a result of an air attack was further damaged by two torpedo hits.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Spitfires, one Hudson, one Liberator from Gibraltar; one DC 3 from LG 224.  Departures  Two Beauforts, one DC 3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire failed to return to base: pilot missing.  One Beaufort missing in transit between Malta and LG 224, believed shot down by enemy aircraft: pilot missing.

HAL FAR  One Special Swordfish and one Albacore were sent on anti-submarine patrol north of Homs: nothing seen.

LUQA  One Baltimore 69 Squadron carried out a search for enemy shipping to the east of Benghazi.  One Spitfire 69 Squadron carried out photo-reconnaissance of Cagliari.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Winter Dress came into use today.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A and B Companies beach post firing at towed target.

26 October 1942: Malta Bombers Back On The Attack

Wellington bomber

Malta bombers have carried out their first attack on an enemy convoy since last Monday night.  Reports were received from reconnaissance aircraft of a southbound convoy off the west coast of Greece and tonight three special Wellingtons of 69 Squadron were sent to attack.

One aircraft returned unserviceable after 14 minutes but the other two pressed on towards the target area.  One of the Wellingtons located the convoy of one tanker and one merchant vessel, both about 5000 tons, 18 miles to the south west of Antipaxos.  The aircraft then lost visibility and had to abandon the attack, bringing its torpedo back to base.  But the third Wellington was able to close in on the convoy and dropped two 1000 lb bombs.  Results are not yet confirmed.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 OCTOBER TO DAWN 27 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Showery.

0629-0742 hrs  One Hurricane from Hal Far searches for a dinghy 8-10 miles north west of Gozo.  A body is seen floating in an uninflated dinghy.  The Hurricane has to return to base due to an incoming air raid.

0654-0750 hrs  Air raid alert for 35 enemy fighters including fighter bombers approaching the Island.  Eight Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept and see six ME 109s but they are too distant to engage.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled: P/O McLennan destroys one ME 109.  One Spitfire is damaged in combat: pilot unhurt.  About half the raiders are intercepted by Malta fighters north of the Island and turn back.  The remainder cross the coast and bombs are dropped on Ta Qali.  Heavy Ack Ack fire.  One ME 109 is destroyed.  One Spitfire is damaged in combat: pilot unjurt.

0813-0939 hrs  The Hurricane from Hal Far returns to the area where the pilot earlier spotted the dinghy but finds nothing.  The High Speed Launch is seen in the same area.

1039-1120 hrs  Air raid alert for the approach of 35 enemy fighters and fighter bombers.  Six Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept but do not engage.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled and engage the first wave of raiders north of the Island: F/L Rolls probably destroys one ME 109.  As incoming waves of raiders attempt to cross the coast the Spitfires force them to split up: a few get through to drop bombs near Luqa airfield.  Heavy Ack Ack fire and two ME 109 fighter bombers are engaged at 3000 feet by two guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery.

1410-1535 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1515-1537 hrs  Air raid alert for the approach of 40 enemy fighters and fighter bombers, including six bomb-carrying ME 109s.  Eight Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept but sight nothing.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron are also scrambled and intercept the raiders over the Island: P/O Walton destroys one ME 109; S/L Lovell damages another.  Heavy Ack Ack fire.  Bombs are dropped near Birzebbuga, Hal Far and Ghar Dalam, where an Ack Ack ammunition dump is hit by a bomb.  60 boxes of ammunition are damaged and the dump is set on fire.  The blaze is quickly extinguished by Sgt Willis and other personnel of D Company, 1st Bn Devonshire Regt and of A Company 1st Bn Dorsetshire Reg under Captain Lovering, as well as Royal Artillery personnel.

Night  No air raids.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

HMS Hebe

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 26 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hebe swept P 212 returning from an uneventful patrol in the Cape Dukato area.

AIR HQ  Departures  One Hudson, one Liberator to Gibraltar; one Wellington to Shallufa.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron was sent on a shipping search of Pantelleria and Kerkenna.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  B Company took over coast patrol and Tal Virtu observation post.

27 October 1942: RAF Sink Rommel’s Hopes For El Alamein

“The desert was quivering with heat. The gun detachments and the platoons squatted in their pits and trenches, the sweat running in rivers down their dust-caked faces. There was a terrible stench. The flies swarmed in black clouds upon the dead bodies and excreta and tormented the wounded. The place was strewn with burning tanks and carriers, wrecked guns and vehicles, and over all drifted the smoke and the dust from bursting high explosives and from the blasts of guns.”  (1)

British troops on the move in North Africa

Axis hopes of gaining supremacy in the North African suffered a double blow today thanks to Allied forces. Torpedo bombers of 42 Squadron RAF sank an oil tanker at Tobruk, destroying Rommel’s last hope for much-needed fuel supplies.  The Axis sea convoy comprised three merchant ships with four escorting destroyers and escorting planes overhead.  Allied heavy and light bombers and torpedo planes attacked relentlessly in the face of terrific fire from the destroyers. Only one of the supply ships escaped. A large merchantman blew up and the tanker was set on fire and sank.  The sinking follows several successful attacks on tankers by Malta-based air forces.  The German Field Marshal, who arrived back in North Africa on Sunday to resume command of Axis forces, now has only three days’ fuel to supply his armies.

Meanwhile the Allies scored an important victory over enemy tanks at El Alamein.  Having battled throughout the day against two counter-offensives by Rommel’s forces, this afternoon they repulsed a determined attack by Axis Panzer divisions, destroying 22 German and 10 Italian tanks before the remainder gave up.

QRENDI STRIP DEVELOPS

Troops building aircraft pens

200 servicemen are now employed building new pens at Qrendi strip.  The pens will add to the facilities at the recently-opened air strip, significantly extend the capacity for aircraft based on Malta.  The construction work increases the already significant contribution made by the Army to air operations on the Island.  Following the recent increased enemy bombardment, 1000 soldiers are now assisting the RAF in the maintenance of aerodromes, servicing and refuelling aircraft. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 OCTOBER TO DAWN 28 OCTOBER 1942

Weather   Fine: excellent visibility early; electric storm early morning.

0703-0722 hrs  Air raid alert for 24 enemy fighters including six ME 109 fighter bombers approaching Malta.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept and engage raiders 15 miles north of the Island: S/Ldr Woods and P/O McCoy each damage one ME 109.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled: no claims.  The remaining raiders cross the coast and approach Ta Qali from the east, dropping bombs on the airfield from a height of 10000 feet.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage: no claims.

0740-0845 hrs  Eight Spitfires Hal Far are airborne on intercept patrol: no enemy aircraft seen.

1013-1104 hrs  Air raid alert as 60 ME 109s and Macchi 202s including several ME 109 fighter bombers approach the coast in several waves.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron, four Spitfires 249 Squadron and eight 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but the enemy takes strong evasive action: no claims.  One Spitfire is damaged in combat: pilot slightly injured.  High explosives including delayed action bombs are dropped on Luqa and the Safi strip from about 14000 feet.  One aircraft is destroyed on the ground and another damaged.  One ME 109 is probably destroyed by Light Ack Ack.

1457-1518 hrs  Air raid alert as 40 ME 109s and Macchi 202s including fighter bombers approach the Island at great height.  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept and successfully attack 25 fighters and fighter bombers, which they force to jettison their bombs in the sea.  F/Lt McElroy damages one Macchi 202.  The raiders turn back at speed, along with the majority of their escort.  One Spitfire is damaged: pilot slightly injured.  Eight Spitfires Hal Far are also airborne but see no enemy aircraft.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.

Night  No air raids.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 27 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  The area between Grand Harbour and St Julian’s Bay was swept on 27th October by the 3rd ML Flotilla, prior to divers working on the submarine telegraph cables. Three mines were disposed of bringing the total destroyed by this flotilla to 100.

AIR HQ  Departures  One DC 3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire damaged in enemy action crash-landed: pilot injured.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  AM GOC watched an exercise incorporating practice landings from motorized landing craft.

28 October 1942: Operation Train Brings Reinforcements

HMS Furious

The fast minelayer HMS Welshman also sailed with the convoy carrying emergency supplies for Malta.

ATTACK ON SUBMARINE BASE KILLS THREE

A dive bombing attack on Malta’s submarine base this morning killed three civilians in Sliema.  The raid was the second attempted strike at the base today – the first was beaten off by Malta fighters before the enemy aircraft reached the Island.

The air raid alert just before 9.30 am heralded a second attack by 30 raiders which approached the Island at 27000 feet.  Among them were a dozen ME 109 fighter bombers which swooped down to 12000 feet and then into a shallow dive as they crossed the coast towards their objective in Marsamxetto harbour.  Spitfires engage the raiders as they are still in their dive, causing several to jettison their bombs.  However several bombs did fall on Tigne Barracks, Sliema and Gzira, where three civilians were killed.  Civilian property was also damaged in the raid.

HMS Welshman

The Island was spared a third air raid as the enemy aircraft turned back before coming within 10 miles of the coast.

MALTA WELLINGTONS SINK ANOTHER AXIS TANKER

“The AOC sends personal congratulations to 69 Squadron on its brilliantly executed torpedo attack on the enemy convoy on the night of 28/29th October.”

A very successful attack was carried out tonight against an enemy convoy off the Greek coast.  A reconnaissance Baltimore had earlier reported a convoy of one tanker and a merchant vessel, escorted by three destroyers, off Sapienza.  Three Wellingtons 69 Squadron, one carrying bombs and one carrying torpedoes, were sent to locate and attack the vessels.  The bomb-carrying Wellington returned early with engine trouble and crash-landed, having jettisoned its bombs in the sea.

The other two Wellingtons sighted a tanker and a merchant vessel and went in for the attack.  Pilot Officer Matthews scored a direct hit on the merchant vessel with a torpedo.  Pilot Officer Donkersley arrived on the scene at 2252 hours and found no trace of the merchant vessel.  He aimed his bombs at the tanker, setting it ablaze from stem to stern.  A reconnaissance aircraft inspecting the area later found nothing but wreckage, oil streaks and a half-submerged barrage balloon.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 OCTOBER TO DAWN 29 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Fine; cloudy late evening.

0625-0735 hrs; 0635-0820 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali then eight from Hal Far on intercept patrol: no sightings.

0716-0734 hrs  Air raid alert sounds for 40 enemy fighters approaching Malta.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa and nine of 249 Squadron are scrambled and intercept the main formation to the north of the Island.  The Spitfires attempt an engagement from above but the enemy fighters disperse into the clouds and out of sight before heading back to Sicily: no claims.

0924-1001 hrs  Air raid alert as 30 enemy fighters and fighter bombers approach the Island.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept and fire short bursts at raiders as they head towards Grand Harbour, causing several to drop their bombs.  Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron and eight 249 Squadron Ta Qali are also scrambled but do not engage.  P/O Giddings 249 Squadron crashes on take-off and is admitted to hospital with a fractured arm.  The remaining raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on Sliema, Gzira and Tigne Barracks area causing damage to property and civilian casualties.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1045-1140 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1233-1247 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy fighters approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires from Hal Far are conducting a practice flight when they see two ME 109s: they turn to engage but the enemy aircraft evade action.  All the fighters recede before coming within 10 miles of the Island but then recede.

1335-1500 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are on intercept patrol: no sightings.

Military casualties  Chargeman E Wright, HM Dockyard.

Civilian casualties  Gzira  Ritz Falzon, age 19; Carmela Micallef, age 42; Vincenza Rice, age 40.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 28 OCTOBER 1942

LUQA  Spitfires 69 Squadron were despatched on photo-reconnaissance of Navarino, eastern Sicily, Messina, Palermo, Gabini and Pachino.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  1600 hrs  Regiment band playing at Birkirkara.

29 October 1942: German Pilots Sick of Fight For Malta

German aircraft losses dent morale (c) IWM CM 745

The strain of fighting for air supremacy over Malta is clearly beginning to tell on the enemy air forces. “Experienced German pilots who became prisoners of war during this month have admitted to a general distaste among the German air force for fights over Malta.  This reluctance is not surprising when it is seen that, in the course of their unsuccessful October offensive, the Axis powers lost 15 air crew for every British pilot lost.”  War Diary, Air HQ, Malta October 1942

SPITFIRES AND SUPPLIES

Twenty nine Spitfires were flown off from HMS Furious today and all landed safely at Malta.  Two others remained on board the aircraft carrier due to defects.  Enemy aircraft made some attempts to intercept the incoming aircraft but continuous cover by Spitfires deterred any serious threat.

At the same time, HMS Welshman detached from the convoy ships to make independent passage to Malta.  The fast minelayer carries some 350 tons of much-needed cargo in her holds.  Welshman’s exceptionally fast speed has brought her through several supply missions to the Island and the Dockyard is preparing for a fast unload on her arrival.  After their successful delivery, Furious and her escort ships turned and set course immediately for Gibraltar.

MALTA FLOTILLA GRABS 100TH MINE

The Vice Admiral Malta reported that the Third Motor Launch Flotilla in addition to their many other valuable services had swept up their hundredth mine in the approaches to Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 OCTOBER TO DAWN 30 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Fine; almost cloudless.

0750-0855 hrs  Eight Spitfires Hal Far patrol over the Island: no enemy aircraft sighted.

0910-1010 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are on intercept patrol:  no sightings.

0956-1120 hrs  Air raid alert.  42 enemy fighters approach the Island from the north in five formations of six and three formations of eight aircraft each.  They attempt to intercept delivery Spitfires as they come in to land.  Malta fighters are airborne but the enemy recede before engaging.  The delivery Spitfires land safely.

1020-1125 hrs  Seven Spitfires Hal Far patrol over Grand Harbour area: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1100-1230 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1232-1310 hrs  Air raid alert for a small number of enemy fighters on a high fighter sweep.  Malta fighters are airborne: no engagements.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1339-1345 hrs  Eight delivery Spitfires land at Hal Far.

1849-1910 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island at 22-25000 feet and drop bombs in the sea three miles north of the Island.  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa patrols to the north of Malta but sees nothing.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Walter Parks, Royal Australian Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Naxxar  Emanuel Grech, age 52.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 29 OCTOBER 1942

AIR HQ  Aircraft casualties  Two Spitfires crashed into construction on taking off: one pilot injured, one killed.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron was sent on photo-reconnaissance over western Sicily and Pantelleria.  One Spitfire 69 Squadron was sent on photo-reconnaissance of enemy shipping in the area Cape Ducato, Cape St Maria di Leuca and Taranto.  Two special Wellingtons 69 Squadron were sent to attack an enemy convoy sighted by a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire but did not find it.

30 October 1942: RAF Win Latest Battle For Skies Over Malta

B flight RAF 249 Squadron Malta July 42

The skies fell silent over Malta today.  The absence of air raids is an indication that the RAF has finally secured air supremacy over the Island after the failure of the latest enemy bombing campaign.  With strong fighter escort and a small number of bombers, the enemy has tried to neutralise the aerodromes in order to protect the passage of important convoys to Tripolitania and Libya.

During daylight in October the enemy flew a total of about 250 bomber and 3500 fighter and fighter-bomber sorties against Malta.  Spitfires definitely destroyed a total of 49 bombers and 78 fighters.  By night during the month Beaufighters of 89 Squadron made a total of 61 sorties including 15 intruder patrols over enemy aerodromes and harbours.  Five enemy night bombers were destroyed.  Malta’s losses were 38 aircraft destroyed, mainly Spitfires.

The policy adopted by the RAF of intercepting the enemy north of the island has proved eminently successful.  The enemy reverted to high flying tactics using cloud cover; some damage was done to the aerodromes but without any serious impact.  Finding these tactics too costly, the enemy has now left Malta well alone.

AMMUNITION USE AND FUEL RATIONING TIGHTENED

Heavy Ack Ack Brigades have issued orders restricting the firing pattern of anti-aircraft positions.   From today, only guns in certain strategic positions may engage enemy fighter aircraft, and then only by pointers.  However, all gun positions will continue to engage any enemy aircraft clearly identified as bomb-carrying.

Petrol economies are also now being strictly enforced across all Services in Malta as fuel shortages continue to concern the Island’s commanders.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 OCTOBER TO DAWN 31 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Variable becoming fine: cloudless evening.

0740-0830 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1350-1450 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

Night  No air raids.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

HMS Rorqual

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 30 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  HMS Rorqual arrived with stores from Beirut, swept in by Rye.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Liberators from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  1640-1735 hrs  Four Spitfires carried out a reconnaissance patrol over south east Sicily while four others provided cover for their return.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron was despatched on photo-reconnaissance of Tripoli.

31 October 1942: 14 Attacks On Axis Convoys

AIR RAID STATISTICS OCTOBER 1942  

  • Total number of alerts to date 3135
  • Total number of alerts this month 152
  • Number of blank days 2
  • Number of night raids 41
  • Raid free nights 19
  • Alerts for own planes 7
  • Total time from air raid alert to raiders passed 4 days, 2 hrs, 11 mins
  • Average length of alert 38.2 mins

    P 246 HMS Statesman

ROYAL NAVY SUMMARY FOR OCTOBER

Twenty seven attacks were carried out from Malta during the month, fourteen of which were successful. Three were against merchant ships already beached after air attacks. Ten merchant vessels, aggregating 23900 tons were sunk as well as one fleet destroyer, a tug, and two schooners.  The strength of the Flotilla was brought up to eleven operational submarines by the arrival of P 212 on 9th October and of P 246 on the 19th.

Four submarines continued store-carrying trips to Malta with petrol and vital supplies from Gibraltar and Beirut.  The First and Tenth Submarine Flotillas carried out many brilliant attacks on Axis convoys and shipping running to Libya. An attack on a heavily escorted southbound convoy of one tanker and three merchant ships bound for Tripoli by five submarines off Pantellaria was particularly noteworthy. Albacore and Swordfish aircraft made many attacks before the convoy ran into the submarine concentration. P 211 sank one merchant vessel, stopped after air attack, P 37 sank a destroyer and one merchant vessel in the convoy, and it possible that P 42 also damaged a merchant vessel. The latter was very accurately counterattacked and damaged, and force to return to Malta.

SITUATION REPORT WEEK ENDING OCTOBER 31

From:  Governor & C in C Malta               To:  C in C Middle East              Rptd: The War Office

1.  Enemy air activity on a much reduced scale.  16 alerts.  Total 290 Spitfire sorties against 650 enemy sorties.  No alerts after 1300 hrs 29 October.  Raids consisted of fighter bombers heavily escorted.  Many jettisoned their bombs in the sea.  A few bombs on the aerodromes.  Ack Ack dump was set on fire and extinguished by soldiers.  Spitfires destroyed three ME 109s, one Macchi 202; probably destroyed two ME 109s; damaged three ME 109s and one Macchi 202.  Ack Ack destroyed two ME 109s; probably destroyed one ME 109.  Photo reconnaissance shows a general decrease 100 enemy aircraft in Sicily but an increase on western aerodromes, particularly JU 84 (or 87)s.

2.  Eight Wellington sorties against enemy convoys.  One tanker and one merchant vessel sunk.  Two 1000 lb bombs aimed at a vessel, believed a tanker: results unobserved.

3.  Army working parties total about 600 on aerodromes and 200 men building the new Qrendi landing strip.  Minor combined operations training being carried out with MLCS.

4.  Military damage negligible.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 OCTOBER TO DAWN 1 NOVEMBER 1942

0755-0830 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no raid materialised; no sightings.

1100-1135 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept a possible approaching air raid which does not materialise.

1630 hrs  The regimental band and drums of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment Beat the Retreat at Sliema.  His Excellency the Governor and GOC Troops is in attendance.

Military casualties  Private Raymond Hurley, 2nd Battalion, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment; Lance Corporal Gerald Tarr, 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 31 OCTOBER 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One DC 3 from Middle East.  Departures  One Liberator to Gibraltar; one Liberator to LG 224.

HAL FAR  0630-0735 hrs  Four Spitfires patrolled over south east Sicily: nothing sighted.  2135-0235 hrs  One special Swordfish and two strike Albacores searched for shipping between Tripoli and Homs: no sightings.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Lance Corporal G A Tarr fell down a 30 foot well in Valletta and was killed.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  During the period 22-31 October the Battalion has found two impressed lorries, one motor-cycle and five Other Ranks for work in Hal Far aerodrome.  During daylight two twin Lewis guns have been manned in anti-aircraft defence of the Safi strip.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Private Hurley, A Company, died from multiple injuries caused by falling masonry.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 11.  Dealt with: 9 High Explosives  (3 x 250kg; 7 x 50kg); 173 anti-personnel bombs; 1 oil incendiary.

(1) Alamein, Cecil Ernest Lucas-Phillips, Little Brown & Co, Boston, 1962

 

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13-19 September 1942: Malta Celebrates the George Cross

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13 September 1942: George Cross Presentation to People of Malta

 WATCH THE PRESENTATION CEREMONY 1942                   

The daylight skies of Malta are now considered safe enough for a major event to be held in the open air.  After months of waiting, His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief Viscount Gort, VC made the formal presentation of the George Cross to the people of Malta in Palace Square this morning.  The simple and dignified ceremony began with a guard of honour of the Royal Malta Artillery who marched down Kingsway and into the Square, accompanied by the band of the King’s Own Malta Regiment.

At 9.15 am, a wooden display case holding the Cross was carried out of the Palace by Police Commissioner Joseph Axisa and handed to Viscount Gort, who addressed the assembled company:

“On my appointment as Governor of Malta, I was entrusted to carry the George Cross to this Island fortress.  By the command of the King, I now present to the People of Malta and her Dependencies the decoration which His Majesty has awarded to them in recognition of the gallant service which they have already rendered in the fight for freedom.

How you have withstood for many months the most concentrated bombing attacks in the history of the world is the admiration of all civilised peoples.  Your homes and your historic buildings have been destroyed and only their ruins remain as monuments to the hate of a barbarous foe.  The Axis Powers have tried again and again to break your spirit but your confidence in the final triumph of the United Nations remains undimmed.

Governor & C in C presents George Cross to Sir George Borg (c) IWM GM 1765

What Malta has withstood in the past, without flinching, Malta is determined to endure until the day when the second siege is raised.  Battle-scarred George Cross Malta, the sentinel of Empire in the Meditteranean, meanwhile stands firm, undaunted and undismayed, awaiting the time when she can call ‘Pass friend, all is well in the Island Fortress.”

Finishing with a reading of the original citation, Viscount Gort formally presented the George Cross to His Honour Sir George Borg Kt, who received it on behalf of the people of Malta and its Dependencies.  He then gave a brief address thanking His Majesty and the Governor for the recognition and appreciation of the people of Malta.

The ceremony was attended by the commanding officers of the Army, Navy and Air Forces in Malta, with special places reserved for the captains and officers of the valiant Santa Marija convoy.  1st Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery provided the Guard of Honour.  Squeezed between piles of neatly piled debris from bomb damaged buildings, detachments from all three armed services lined the Square, alongside the Island’s Police, Special Constabulary and Passive Defence Organisations.

(c) IWM 130942

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 14 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0800-0840 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne to intercept reported enemy raiders but they do not materialise.  In the course of practice flying Sgt Swain goes into a spin from 3000 feet and crashes in a field near Luqa.  He is killed and the aircraft destroyed.

0910-1025 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol sight two ME 109s but lose them in the cloud.  Two Macchi 202s are then seen flying at great speed.  No combats.

0156-0219 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy bombers approach but only one crosses the  coast, dropping bombs on the area of Ta Qali.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Malta’s night fighter is airborne: no engagement.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Lawrence Swain, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P34 and P42 returned from patrol and were swept in the Hythe.  P35 returned to harbour with engine defect.

AIR HQ  17 Spitfires carried out an offensive reconnaissance over Sicily.  Enemy aircraft sighted but no combat.  0245-0440 hrs  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily.  Arrivals  Two Hudsons, one Beaufort from Gibraltar; two Wellingtons from LG 224.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire stalled and crashed: pilot killed.

HAL FAR  1105-1210 hrs  Five Spitfires were airborne on a sweep over South East Sicily: no enemy aircraft sighted.

TA QALI   0720-0830 hrs  Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron (one returned early) on reconnaissance patrol over the Sicilian coast.  They encountered heavy Ack Ack fire but ¼ mile behind aircraft.  Enemy aircraft not sighted.  1845-1935 hrs  One Spitfire 249 Squadron and one of 229 Squadron on shipping search: no sightings.

1st Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  The following letter of appreciation was received:  “I am directed by the GOC to convey to you His Excellency’s congratulations on the smartness of the guard provided by the 1st Bn King’s Own Malta Regiment.  The GOC wishes to add his own congratulations and I am to request that you will make this known to the Commander, 1st Bn The King’s Own Malta Regiment and the NCOs and men who formed the guard.”

14 September 1942: Mystery Loss of Flying Boat Clare

Short S30 flying boat ‘Clare’ (c) IWM CM6525

A Short S30 Flying Boat “Clare” which used to be a regular visitor to Malta has disappeared in mysterious circumstances off the coast of West Africa, near Bathurst, with the loss of all thirteen passengers and six crew.  Questions are to be asked in the UK Parliament about the loss of the aircraft which is believed to have developed mechanical trouble and caught fire before ditching into the sea.

Crewed by members of 37 Squadron – a RAF unit well known at Luqa airfield – who were seconded to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), the flying boat was en route from Lagos to Poole, in England when she went down.

Clare made the first BOAC flight from Britain to Cairo, and Malta was a scheduled stop on the route.  In February of this year while on the Island the flying boat survived an enemy bombing raid when she was damaged by incendiaries.  In October 1941 she carried King George of Greece and Sir Stafford Cripps on a visit to Gibraltar.

Reflecting their connections with Malta, five of the casualties of 37 Squadron are to be commemorated on the Island’s memorial.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 15 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0945-1040 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1343-1416 hrs  Six Spitfires are scrambled from Hal Far: nothing sighted.

1539-1610 hrs  Air raid alert.  Nine ME 109s cross the coast but refuse combat and turn back for home.

1750-1820 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to cover the return of a Rodeo mission: no enemy aircraft sighted.

2240 hrs  2nd Bn Devonshire Regt report seeing lights 4-5 miles out to see, 120 degrees from D Company HQ.

0450-0506 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four enemy aircraft approach the Island and drop bombs in the sea 5-10 miles north of the Island.  A Malta night fighter is airborne and chase on raider but are unable to engage.

Military casualties  Radio Officer Edgar Brent, BOAC; First Officer Anthony Cundy, BOAC; Sergeant Eric Lace, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 37 Squadron, serving with BOAC; Flying Officer George Musson, Flying Officer, Royal Air Force (O), BOAC, Captain; Radio Officer J Wycherley, BOAC; all crew of the flying-boat Clare.  Pilot Officer Albert Dixon, Royal New Zealand Air Force, 37 Squadron; Sergeant James Glansfield, Royal Air Force, 37 Squadron; Flight Sergeant William Kelly, RAF VR; Flight Lieutenant James Maguire, Royal Canadian Air Force, 37 Squadron; Wing Commander Ronald Graham, RAF VR, commanding 37 Squadron; Squadron Leader John Parker, RAF VR, 37 Squadron; Warrant Officer Alick Turley, Royal Air Force, 37 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Rye swept P35 out, and Una in from patrol. Una reported one hit on 4000 ton merchant vessel which probably sank.

AIR HQ  Day  A wing sweep of eight aircraft from 185 Squadron and eight of 249 Squadron led by W/Cdr Thompson carried out an extensive sweep of south east Sicily.  Enemy aircraft were reported north of Gela but not sighted.  2350-0250 hrs  One Beaufighter carried out an intruder patrol over Sicily.

Arrivals  One DC3 from LG 224.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one DC3, one Wellington to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter ran off the runway during take-off: crew uninjured.  One Spitfire tyre burst on take-off: pilot uninjured.

HAL FAR  0915-1020 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron carried out a sweep over Sicily.  Enemy aircraft were reported over Gela but the leader of the Spitfire formation had radio trouble and did not receive the message, so no contact made.  One Spitfire from Hal Far burst a tyre on taking off for wing sweep: the undercarriage collapsed and the airscrew was damaged; pilot unhurt.

TA QALI  0635-0725 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron (one returned early) on reconnaissance patrol over Sicilian coast: no sightings.  1700-1925 hrs  Nine Spitfires 249 Squadron on Rodeo raid over Sicilian coast: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  All men working on Luqa returned this morning: no men required until next month.

15 September 1942: Admiralty in Negotiations with Italians

SAFE PASSAGE FOR HOSPITAL SHIP UNDER THREAT AFTER SINKING OF ARNO

Hospital ship Arno pre-war as HMAT Wandilla

 

Rome radio has today alleged that Italian Hospital Ship Arno was sunk last Wednesday night by aerial torpedoes fired by British aircraft.  The incident took place about 40 miles east of Ras el Tin, Alexandria, with the loss of 27 lives.  If confirmed, this is first recorded incident of Allied action against a hospital ship but not the first since the outbreak of war. A Greek hospital ship was sunk by Italian aircraft in April last year and a Russian vessel sunk by German bombers in November.

The sinking threatens to undermine delicate negotiations with the Italian high command for the safe passage of a ship to take sick and wounded from Malta’s hard-pressed hospitals to Allied territories where they can be more easily catered for.

From:  Admiralty      To:  C in C Mediterranean    Rptd:  RA Malta; GHQ Middle East

SECRET

1.  Your 1117/7 Italian Government replied in June that they would order Axis armed forces to refrain from attack upon the area where our hospital ship was anchored at Malta provided embarkation took place in daylight.

2.  At same time they intimated that they would exercise their right under the 10th Hague Convention to examine the ship on passage to Malta and that this would be facilitated if the ship called voluntarily at Syracuse.  Nothing was said about the return voyage.

3.  The difficulty remains that under article 12 of 10th [Hague] Convention the Italians would have a perfect right to stop the ship on return voyage and move all sick and wounded as prisoners of war.  We also dislike the idea of putting one of our ships in Italian hands though the ships of the Italian repatriation scheme may be sufficient security for her return.

4.  Another possibility is to propose to the Italians that a neutral Red Cross Commission should examine the ship at port of departure, travel to Malta, supervise the embarkation and return with her.  This proposal would be accompanied with a request for absolute assurances for freedom from molestation on both outward and homeward voyages.  Italians may well refuse and recent sinking of Arno reduces chances of Italian acceptances.

5.  It would help us to know the degree of urgency to be attached to the voyage of a hospital ship to Malta.

NEW ENEMY AIRFIELD UNDER DEVELOPMENT

Photo-reconnaissance pilots today reported development of a new aircraft facilities at a former aerodrome 8½ miles south of Cotrone, near Cape Rizzutto.  Although much of the surface still appears unusable, extensive levelling appears to be in progress on the north side of the field.  A dispersal area with a small hangar and nine blast shelters have also been marked on the site.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 16 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0615-0655 hrs  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

ME 109 fighters

0830-0913 hrs  Air raid alert for twenty enemy fighters of which eight are identified as ME 109s.  Heavy Ack Ack engage and nine Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept.  Two ME 109s pass Blue Section moving in the opposite direction but are lost to view.  Two ME 109s dive on Red Section out of the sun: the Spitfires turn and dive after the enemy aircraft.  As they complete the turn, Sgt Peters is straggling.  A Spitfire is reported as performing aerobatics and cannon fire is also seen.  Four ME 109s are sighted but are impossible to intercept.  Sgt Peters does not return to base and is posted as ‘missing’.

0950-1115 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron search for Sgt Peters.  They encounter four ME 109s and engage but no claims are made.

1025-1110 hrs  Air raid alert for a fighter sweep of 20 enemy aircraft.  Ten Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft but do not engage.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol see two Macchi 202s.  F/Lt Roscoe fires a one-second burst at one Macchi and sees white smoke pour from the engine as the aircraft turns diving away.  P/O Scott turns to attack but is not seen again.  Sgt Turner attacks three enemy aircraft but is attacked himself from behind; no damage.  On heading back to base Sgt Turner is attacked by an unseen aircraft and is shot up; he is forced to land at Luqa.  P/O Scott is posted as ‘missing’.

1033 hrs  A friendly sea craft bearing 101 degrees is attacked and bombed by enemy aircraft: no damage.

1610-1650 hrs  Air raid alert for fifteen enemy aircraft on a fighter sweep: half cross the Island.  Four Spitfires Hal Far are despatched to patrol over Grand Harbour as cover for minesweepers.

1745-1825 hrs  Air raid alert.  Ten Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept: they engage four enemy fighters: no claims.

2330-2354 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft which approach the Island at great height: Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Only one raider crosses the coast and drops incendiaries and anti-personnel bombs on Ta Qali, Wardia and Mellieha areas.  The other aircraft drop bombs in the sea north east of Grand Harbour and south of Gozo.  Malta night fighters are airborne but do not intercept.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Bernard Peters, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve;Pilot Officer John Scott, Royal Canadian Air Force, 229 Squadron;Private Norman Salmon, Royal Army Medical Corps.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 1942

Qawra Tower

ROYAL NAVY  3rd ML Flotilla carried out a searching sweep of NE coast between Sliema Point and Ras il Kaura at a distance of 2 ½ miles from the coast, with the object of clearing the area used by army Launches towing targets and to give freedom of action to our surface forces in the event of their being required to take action against the enemy in these waters. Owing to the large number of partings only 10% clearance was effected. Many mines were observed 3 to 4 feet below the surface.  The Flotilla anchored in St Paul’s Bay for the night.

AIR HQ  Night  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily.  Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  Two Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire crashed in the sea, believed due to enemy action: pilot missing.

HAL FAR  1310-1410 hrs  Four Spitfires carried out a sweep over south east Sicily.  No enemy aircraft seen but accurate Ack Ack encountered near Comiso.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Aerodrome working parties took over duties from 2nd Bn Queens Own Royal West Kent Regt for one week’s work.  Two shifts of one Officer and 50 Other Ranks (OR) each for crater filling and general duties; two shifts of eight OR and 12 OR respectively for refuelling aircraft; one shift of 12 OR ammunition loading, one Sergeant and 16 drivers.

16 September 1942: Lt Governor Flies Home to Recover

Former Lieutenant Governor Sir Edward Jackson left Malta today for England.  Sir Edward collapsed two weeks ago with a suspected heart attack while he was deputising for Viscount Gort during his visit to the Middle East.  In recent months he has been greatly exercised in overseeing the supply situation in Malta and ensuring the survival of the Island until further convoys can reach the Island.  Mr D C Campbell, former Colonial Secretary of Gibraltar, has been appointed as his successor.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 17 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0855-0935  Air raid alert for twenty enemy fighters which approach the Island from the north at heights of 20-30000 feet.  Nine Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept (one returns early).  They see nine enemy fighters who attack the Spitfires from the port and stern.  The Spitfires break formation and evade the attack: no claims.

1140-1210 hrs  Air raid alert for eight enemy fighters in a sweep.  Ten Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept: they see enemy aircraft but do not engage.

1700-1710 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy fighters which approach within four miles north of Gozo before receding.  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept (one returns early): no sightings.

1750-1815 hrs  Air raid alert for twenty enemy aircraft approaching on a high fighter sweep.  Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.  Nine Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept.  Red Section sight enemy aircraft but are unable to engage.  Blue Section patrolling Grand Harbour see four ME 109s below them and dive to attack.  Sgt Wynn fires a two-second burst but makes no claim.

0008-0014 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft.  One drops his bombs in the sea immediately after crossing the Sicilian coast; the other drops bombs 15 miles north of Malta.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 1942

HMS Speedy minesweeping off Malta (NWMA Malta)

ROYAL NAVY  3rd ML Flotilla carried out 90% clearance inside the bay, and then swept down to Grand Harbour without result.  Speedy carried out Oropesa search of QBB 273 and LL and SA search of Marsaxlokk.

AIR HQ  Night  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicity.  Arrivals  Two Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  185 Squadron released for the day.

TA QALI  0800-0845 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol over the Sicilian coast: no sightings.

17 September 1942: Enemy Fear Malta Spitfires

According to intelligence summaries, the enemy will not engage with Malta fighters unless absolutely compelled to do so.  Their caution proved well-founded today, as three ME 109s and four Macchi 202s were defeated in dog fights by intercepting Spitfires during the morning.

MALTA BEAUFIGHTERS DISABLE AXIS MERCHANTMAN

This morning an unescorted 2000 ton merchant vessel was seen off the Tunisian coast, heading on a southerly course.  Six Beaufighters of 227 Squadron – five carrying bombs and one to deal with a reported air escort – were despatched to attack.  They found the merchant vessel 30 miles south of Keliba and dived down to mast height to attack.  Six 500lb and two 250lb bombs were dropped on the ship.  One direct hit with a 500lb bomb and several near-misses hurled the deck cargo into the sea.  The vessel came to a halt, listing to port, emitting brown and white smoke and pouring oil.

Cant Z 506 Airone

Later reconnaissance of the scene revealed a long streak of oil and wreckage spread over half a mile, while a Cant Z 506 circled overhead.  Some 40 large packing cases and three upturned ship’s boats were drifting nearby and four more boats pulled up on the beach in front of Hammamet village.

One Beaufighter has been reported lost in action.  Pilot Officer John Moffatt was making his first operational flight when his aircraft was hit and crashed into the sea, killing all the crew.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 18 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0850-0935 hrs  Air raid alert for 22 enemy aircraft in a fighter sweep.  Ten Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept (one spare returns early).  Blue Section sights enemy fighters 20 miles off Grand Harbour, go into line astern and attack.  F/Lt Roscoe fires a 2-3 second burst at a Macchi 202 and sees pieces fall off its wing roots and fuselage: aircraft probably destroyed.  P/O Farmer fires at the enemy leader and sees strikes on the ME 109: aircraft probably destroyed.  As he returns to base Sgt Irwin sees two ME 109s and fires a 4 second burst as he closes from 300 yards.  Thick grey smoke streams from the engine of one aircraft and the leg of its undercarriage drops down: aircraft damaged.

1100-1145 hrs  Air raid alert for 27 enemy aircraft which make a sweep, crossing the coast at Delimara and St Paul’s Bay in three formations.  Ten Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept but see nothing.  Ten Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled to intercept.  Sgt Irwin attacks a ME 109 head-on, seeing strikes on its wings and fuselage: one radiator falls off and glycol streams out – aircraft probably destroyed.  Sgt Irwin also attacks a Macchi from astern, seeing strikes on the fuselage and tail plane – aircraft damaged.  P/O Farmer is shot down in the sea and picked up later by the High Speed Launch: he suffers bruises only.

1555-1630 hrs  Air raid alert for 18 enemy fighters which approach at between 26000 and 30000 feet but do not cross the coast.  Two Spitfires Hal Far patrol over minesweepers but see no enemy aircraft.  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled but see no enemy aircraft.

1700-1730 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy fighters which approach in two formations.  Six Spitfires are scrambled from Hal Far and patrol over the Island: no combat.

Night  No air raid alerts.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer John Dicker, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Pilot Officer John Moffatt, RAF VR.

Civilian casualties  Mgarr  Saviour Bugeja, age 8.  Mosta  Carmel Bezzina, age 73.

Submarine P43 HMS Unison

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept P43 from patrol and later Hebe swept Utmost to sea.

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down into the sea by enemy action: pilot rescued uninjured.  One Beaufighter missing from patrol: crew missing.

18 September 1942: A Raid-Free Day

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 19 SEPTEMBER 1942

No air raid alerts.

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

1620-1735 hrs  Five Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled on intercept patrol: nothing seen.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                              Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hebe swept P35 into harbour.  P46 proceeded on patrol.

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Beauforts to LG 224.

LUQA  Luqa won their 11th successive cricket match, beating the Convoy XI at Marsa.  Luqa 161 for 3 wickets; Convoy XI 32 all out.

19 September 1942: Malta Troops in Landing Craft Training Exercise

TROOPS ON LANDING CRAFT EXERCISES

Two Motor Landing Craft arrived in St Paul’s Bay today.  Units of 2nd Brigade will carry out practice landings from these craft.  The nature of the future operation for which they will be used has not been revealed.

WW2 landing craft (c) IWM A17955

MALTA BOMBERS ATTACK TWO CONVOYS

Four Beaufighters of 227 Squadron today carried out a low-level bombing attack on three small vessels of about 1000 tons which were crawling along the coast from Tripoli towards Benghazi.  The Beaufighters came upon the convoy 24 miles east of Tripoli, just three miles from shore, where they attacked, dropping seven 500lb bombs close to the ships.  All three were also raked with cannon fire.  One of the ships ground to a halt; its wheel house collapsed and grey smoke pouring from the stern.  The other two ships headed for shore and were later reported heading back for Tripoli under tow.

Then tonight six Wellingtons of 69 Squadron launched an attack on a southbound convoy of two 7000 ton merchant vessels with seven destroyers as escort, 75 miles south of Sapienza.  An effective enemy smoke-screen made accurate bombing impossible but the bombers managed to unleash four 1000lb and twenty 500lb bombs on the convoy.  Pilots reported near-misses on two destroyers but results cannot be confirmed due to the restricted visibility.

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT WEEK ENDING 19 SEPTEMBER 1942

From:  Governor & C in C Malta               To:  C in C Middle East              Rptd:  The War Office

1.  Enemy air – day: total 209 fighter sorties; approx 50 crossed the coast.  Two ME 109s destroyed; two ME 109s, one Macchi 202 probably destroyed; four Macchi 202s damaged.  Our losses two Spitfires missing, one Spitfire destroyed (pilot safe); one Spitfire damaged (pilot unhurt).  Night:  18 bombers approached, only 3 crossed coast.  Bombs area Ta Qali, Mellieha, St Paul’s Bay; no damage.

2.  Own air – daylight:  (A)  Total 10 Beaufighter sorties: result one merchant vessel 2-3000 tons left stationary, oil pouring from sides; one ship 1000 tons left stationary.  Strikes with cannon and machine gun on three ships 1000 tons.  One Beaufighter missing.  (B) Total approx 70 Spitfire sorties offensive reconnaissance Sicily: two flying boats destroyed, one Macchi 202 damaged.  One Spitfire missing.  Night:  (A) Total six Beaufighters intruder patrols Sicily.  (B) Nine Wellingtons attacked two merchant vessels escorted by seven destroyers: no results seen due to effective smoke screen.

3.  Approx 250 Army personnel daily assisting RAF servicing etc.  Three UXBs totalling 0.6 tons disposed of not including incendiaries and anti-personnel.

4.  Military casualties and damage – nil.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 20 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Day  No air raid alerts.

1100-1230 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled on intercept patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1715-1835 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled on intercept patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1755-1900 hrs  Five Spitfires from Hal Far are sent to search for a missing Spitfire from the Photo-Reconnaissance Unit: nothing found.

0237-0322 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy aircraft approaching the Island.  Only one crosses the coast and drops bombs in the area of St Paul’s Bay.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 19 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Talisman is 24 hours overdue.  P211 arrived from Gibraltar, not having been expected until the following day. She was swept in by Hythe.  P44 arrived and reported having sunk two small ships and damaged another off Misurata.  Ploughboy carried out trial SS and LL sweep of Grand Harbour entrance having completed 5 months of refit.

AIR HQ  Night  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire failed to return from reconnaissance mission: pilot missing.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3.  Dealt with 1 high explosive 250kg; 1 anti-personnel container; 13 anti-personnel bombs; 30 oil incendiaries.

 

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13 September 1942: George Cross Presented to People of Malta

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WATCH THE PRESENTATION CEREMONY 1942                   

The daylight skies of Malta are now considered safe enough for a major event to be held in the open air.  After months of waiting, His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief Viscount Gort, VC made the formal presentation of the George Cross to the people of Malta in Palace Square this morning.  The simple and dignified ceremony began with a guard of honour of the Royal Malta Artillery who marched down Kingsway and into the Square, accompanied by the band of the King’s Own Malta Regiment.

At 9.15 am, a wooden display case holding the Cross was carried out of the Palace by Police Commissioner Joseph Axisa and handed to Viscount Gort, who addressed the assembled company:

“On my appointment as Governor of Malta, I was entrusted to carry the George Cross to this Island fortress.  By the command of the King, I now present to the People of Malta and her Dependencies the decoration which His Majesty has awarded to them in recognition of the gallant service which they have already rendered in the fight for freedom.

How you have withstood for many months the most concentrated bombing attacks in the history of the world is the admiration of all civilised peoples.  Your homes and your historic buildings have been destroyed and only their ruins remain as monuments to the hate of a barbarous foe.  The Axis Powers have tried again and again to break your spirit but your confidence in the final triumph of the United Nations remains undimmed.

Governor & C in C presents George Cross to Sir George Borg (c) IWM GM 1765

What Malta has withstood in the past, without flinching, Malta is determined to endure until the day when the second siege is raised.  Battle-scarred George Cross Malta, the sentinel of Empire in the Meditteranean, meanwhile stands firm, undaunted and undismayed, awaiting the time when she can call ‘Pass friend, all is well in the Island Fortress.”

Finishing with a reading of the original citation, Viscount Gort formally presented the George Cross to His Honour Sir George Borg Kt, who received it on behalf of the people of Malta and its Dependencies.  He then gave a brief address thanking His Majesty and the Governor for the recognition and appreciation of the people of Malta.

The ceremony was attended by the commanding officers of the Army, Navy and Air Forces in Malta, with special places reserved for the captains and officers of the valiant Santa Marija convoy.  1st Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery provided the Guard of Honour.  Squeezed between piles of neatly piled debris from bomb damaged buildings, detachments from all three armed services lined the Square, alongside the Island’s Police, Special Constabulary and Passive Defence Organisations.

(c) IWM 130942

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 14 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0800-0840 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne to intercept reported enemy raiders but they do not materialise.  In the course of practice flying Sgt Swain goes into a spin from 3000 feet and crashes in a field near Luqa.  He is killed and the aircraft destroyed.

0910-1025 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol sight two ME 109s but lose them in the cloud.  Two Macchi 202s are then seen flying at great speed.  No combats.

0156-0219 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy bombers approach but only one crosses the  coast, dropping bombs on the area of Ta Qali.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Malta’s night fighter is airborne: no engagement.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Lawrence Swain, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P34 and P42 returned from patrol and were swept in the Hythe.  P35 returned to harbour with engine defect.

AIR HQ  17 Spitfires carried out an offensive reconnaissance over Sicily.  Enemy aircraft sighted but no combat.  0245-0440 hrs  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily.  Arrivals  Two Hudsons, one Beaufort from Gibraltar; two Wellingtons from LG 224.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire stalled and crashed: pilot killed.

HAL FAR  1105-1210 hrs  Five Spitfires were airborne on a sweep over South East Sicily: no enemy aircraft sighted.

TA QALI   0720-0830 hrs  Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron (one returned early) on reconnaissance patrol over the Sicilian coast.  They encountered heavy Ack Ack fire but ¼ mile behind aircraft.  Enemy aircraft not sighted.  1845-1935 hrs  One Spitfire 249 Squadron and one of 229 Squadron on shipping search: no sightings.

1st Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  The following letter of appreciation was received:  “I am directed by the GOC to convey to you His Excellency’s congratulations on the smartness of the guard provided by the 1st Bn King’s Own Malta Regiment.  The GOC wishes to add his own congratulations and I am to request that you will make this known to the Commander, 1st Bn The King’s Own Malta Regiment and the NCOs and men who formed the guard.”

 

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed.  For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2017 in 1942, September 1942

 

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25-31 October 1942: Turning Point in War Over Malta

Malta – World War 2. First visit to maltagc70? CLICK HERE                                                                       For a weekly update direct to your inbox – sign up to follow maltagc70 (see R)

25 October 1942:  Enemy Air Attacks Declining

JU 88 bombers have gone from Malta’s skies

The enemy’s latest attempt to neutralise Malta appears to have lost momentum.  It is now two weeks since Axis forces launched heaviest bombing raids since April.   In that time some 350 aircraft have been destroyed or damaged by the Island’s defenders – including forty bombers.  Despite the concentration of bombs aimed at the three airfields, none of the runways has been put out of action for more than 30 minutes.

Since 18 October no twin-engined aircraft have approached the Island and attacks have been limited to ‘tip and run’ raids – often at high level – by heavily escorted fighter bombers.  Their only advantage has been provided by frequent heavy cloud over the Island, which has allowed the few successful raiders to get through, and provided cover for those attempting to escape Malta’s fighters.

During today the enemy carried out fighter sweeps and four fighter bomber raids on Ta Qali, Hal Far and Luqa.  140 raiders were involved in attacks, which were launched at heights ranging from 12000 to 3000 feet.  Fighters are now adopting a new tactic of receding at sea level to escape interception by the Island’s Spitfires.  There were no night air raids.

RAIDS DAWN 25 OCTOBER TO DAWN 26 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Mainly fine: fair late evening.

0600-0720 hrs  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are airborne for a raid which does not materialise.

0721-0800 hrs  Air raid alert for 25 enemy fighters including ME 109 fighter bombers approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept but are attacked by enemy fighters out of the sun: no claims.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled and engage the raiders north of Gozo: F/Lt Smith destroys one ME 109; Sgt Hughes probably destroys another. The fighter bombers are forced to jettison their bombs in the sea.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

0815-0850 hrs  Air raid alert for 17 plus enemy fighters and fighter bombers approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: F/Lt Parkinson damages one Macchi 202.  Most of the raiders cross the coast and bombs are dropped on Luqa and Ta Qali.

As enemy fighters turn away from the airfield they machine-gun Heavy Ack Ack gun positions.  One ME 109 is destroyed by small arms fire and Light Ack Ack and crashes on the edge of the aerodrome.  One ME 109 is destroyed by Light and Heavy Ack Ack guns off Delimara by Height Control shooting at 18000 feet.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Tal Qali are also airborne and chase enemy fighters to within 20 miles of Sicily but cannot engage them.

0925-0951 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 enemy fighters and fighter bombers which cross the coast, dropping bombs on Hal Far.  Eight Spitfires are scrambled from Hal Far to intercept but were unable to do so due to the enemy’s superior speed.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1110-1200 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1238 hrs  Air raid alert as 25 enemy fighters and fighter bombers approach Malta.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept: no claims.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled and attempt to engage two Macchi 202s which turn and flee.  The Spitfires chase them to ten miles off the coast of Sicily but are unable to catch them.

1234 hrs  The remaining raiders, about half, cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa, destroying one Beaufighter and damaging a Spitfire on the ground.  Gun position XHB 7 of 4th Heavy Ack Ack Regt RA destroys one ME 109.  Two ME 109 fighter bombers are engaged at 2500 feet by two guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery.

1248 hrs  Four fighter bombers drop bombs on the Safi strip, Kirkop and Mqabba village areas.

1300 hrs  Raiders passed.

1350-1445 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol (one returns early): no sightings.

1415-1530 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron, then four 249 Squadron are on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1517 hrs  Air raid alert for the approach of 50 ME 109s and Macchi 202s with fighter bombers.  Ten Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no claims.  One Spitfire and pilot, Sgt Park, are missing.   Seven Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept and see three ME 109s but the raiders are too high and distant to intercept.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled but fail in their attempt to engage the enemy aircraft, some of which jettison their bombs in the sea.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled and attack Macchi fighters but are jumped from above by other fighters acting as cover: no claims or losses.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.  Some raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa.

1600 hrs  D Company 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt report a plane crashed in the sea on the horizon.

1620 hrs  All clear.

1715-1750 hrs  Two Spitfires 126 Squadron are airborne to search for the missing dinghy of Sgt Park but find nothing.

1825-2115 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa takes up the search for the missing dinghy: nothing is found.

1940 hrs  D Company 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt report a green verey light 4-5 miles out to sea.

2330-0100 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron is scrambled for a reported raid which does not materialise: no enemy aircraft seen.

Military casualties  Sergeant George Bushnell, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Flying Officer Richard Bendwig, Royal Canadian Air Force; Flying Officer Millard Liebeck, Royal Canadian Air Force; Pilot Officer Nigel Park, Royal New Zealand Air Force, 126 Squadron; Flying Officer Fred Wickstrom, Royal Canadian Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

Enemy casualties  Oberleutnant Richard Eckhardt, pilot of a Messerchmitt Bf109 fighter.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 25 OCTOBER 1942

P 35 HMS Umbra

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept P 35 in from patrol: the submarine returned to Malta after a four day patrol in which a heavily leaden merchant ship which had beached itself near Homs as a result of an air attack was further damaged by two torpedo hits.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Spitfires, one Hudson, one Liberator from Gibraltar; one DC 3 from LG 224.  Departures  Two Beauforts, one DC 3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire failed to return to base: pilot missing.  One Beaufort missing in transit between Malta and LG 224, believed shot down by enemy aircraft: pilot missing.

HAL FAR  One Special Swordfish and one Albacore were sent on anti-submarine patrol north of Homs: nothing seen.

LUQA  One Baltimore 69 Squadron carried out a search for enemy shipping to the east of Benghazi.  One Spitfire 69 Squadron carried out photo-reconnaissance of Cagliari.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Winter Dress came into use today.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A and B Companies beach post firing at towed target.

26 October 1942: Malta Bombers Back On The Attack

Wellington bomber

Malta bombers have carried out their first attack on an enemy convoy since last Monday night.  Reports were received from reconnaissance aircraft of a southbound convoy off the west coast of Greece and tonight three special Wellingtons of 69 Squadron were sent to attack.

One aircraft returned unserviceable after 14 minutes but the other two pressed on towards the target area.  One of the Wellingtons located the convoy of one tanker and one merchant vessel, both about 5000 tons, 18 miles to the south west of Antipaxos.  The aircraft then lost visibility and had to abandon the attack, bringing its torpedo back to base.  But the third Wellington was able to close in on the convoy and dropped two 1000 lb bombs.  Results are not yet confirmed.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 OCTOBER TO DAWN 27 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Showery.

0629-0742 hrs  One Hurricane from Hal Far searches for a dinghy 8-10 miles north west of Gozo.  A body is seen floating in an uninflated dinghy.  The Hurricane has to return to base due to an incoming air raid.

0654-0750 hrs  Air raid alert for 35 enemy fighters including fighter bombers approaching the Island.  Eight Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept and see six ME 109s but they are too distant to engage.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled: P/O McLennan destroys one ME 109.  One Spitfire is damaged in combat: pilot unhurt.  About half the raiders are intercepted by Malta fighters north of the Island and turn back.  The remainder cross the coast and bombs are dropped on Ta Qali.  Heavy Ack Ack fire.  One ME 109 is destroyed.  One Spitfire is damaged in combat: pilot unjurt.

0813-0939 hrs  The Hurricane from Hal Far returns to the area where the pilot earlier spotted the dinghy but finds nothing.  The High Speed Launch is seen in the same area.

1039-1120 hrs  Air raid alert for the approach of 35 enemy fighters and fighter bombers.  Six Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept but do not engage.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled and engage the first wave of raiders north of the Island: F/L Rolls probably destroys one ME 109.  As incoming waves of raiders attempt to cross the coast the Spitfires force them to split up: a few get through to drop bombs near Luqa airfield.  Heavy Ack Ack fire and two ME 109 fighter bombers are engaged at 3000 feet by two guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery.

1410-1535 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1515-1537 hrs  Air raid alert for the approach of 40 enemy fighters and fighter bombers, including six bomb-carrying ME 109s.  Eight Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept but sight nothing.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron are also scrambled and intercept the raiders over the Island: P/O Walton destroys one ME 109; S/L Lovell damages another.  Heavy Ack Ack fire.  Bombs are dropped near Birzebbuga, Hal Far and Ghar Dalam, where an Ack Ack ammunition dump is hit by a bomb.  60 boxes of ammunition are damaged and the dump is set on fire.  The blaze is quickly extinguished by Sgt Willis and other personnel of D Company, 1st Bn Devonshire Regt and of A Company 1st Bn Dorsetshire Reg under Captain Lovering, as well as Royal Artillery personnel.

Night  No air raids.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

HMS Hebe

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 26 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hebe swept P 212 returning from an uneventful patrol in the Cape Dukato area.

AIR HQ  Departures  One Hudson, one Liberator to Gibraltar; one Wellington to Shallufa.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron was sent on a shipping search of Pantelleria and Kerkenna.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  B Company took over coast patrol and Tal Virtu observation post.

27 October 1942: RAF Sink Rommel’s Hopes For El Alamein

“The desert was quivering with heat. The gun detachments and the platoons squatted in their pits and trenches, the sweat running in rivers down their dust-caked faces. There was a terrible stench. The flies swarmed in black clouds upon the dead bodies and excreta and tormented the wounded. The place was strewn with burning tanks and carriers, wrecked guns and vehicles, and over all drifted the smoke and the dust from bursting high explosives and from the blasts of guns.”  (1)

British troops on the move in North Africa

Axis hopes of gaining supremacy in the North African suffered a double blow today thanks to Allied forces. Torpedo bombers of 42 Squadron RAF sank an oil tanker at Tobruk, destroying Rommel’s last hope for much-needed fuel supplies.  The Axis sea convoy comprised three merchant ships with four escorting destroyers and escorting planes overhead.  Allied heavy and light bombers and torpedo planes attacked relentlessly in the face of terrific fire from the destroyers. Only one of the supply ships escaped. A large merchantman blew up and the tanker was set on fire and sank.  The sinking follows several successful attacks on tankers by Malta-based air forces.  The German Field Marshal, who arrived back in North Africa on Sunday to resume command of Axis forces, now has only three days’ fuel to supply his armies.

Meanwhile the Allies scored an important victory over enemy tanks at El Alamein.  Having battled throughout the day against two counter-offensives by Rommel’s forces, this afternoon they repulsed a determined attack by Axis Panzer divisions, destroying 22 German and 10 Italian tanks before the remainder gave up.

QRENDI STRIP DEVELOPS

Troops building aircraft pens

200 servicemen are now employed building new pens at Qrendi strip.  The pens will add to the facilities at the recently-opened air strip, significantly extend the capacity for aircraft based on Malta.  The construction work increases the already significant contribution made by the Army to air operations on the Island.  Following the recent increased enemy bombardment, 1000 soldiers are now assisting the RAF in the maintenance of aerodromes, servicing and refuelling aircraft. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 OCTOBER TO DAWN 28 OCTOBER 1942

Weather   Fine: excellent visibility early; electric storm early morning.

0703-0722 hrs  Air raid alert for 24 enemy fighters including six ME 109 fighter bombers approaching Malta.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept and engage raiders 15 miles north of the Island: S/Ldr Woods and P/O McCoy each damage one ME 109.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled: no claims.  The remaining raiders cross the coast and approach Ta Qali from the east, dropping bombs on the airfield from a height of 10000 feet.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage: no claims.

0740-0845 hrs  Eight Spitfires Hal Far are airborne on intercept patrol: no enemy aircraft seen.

1013-1104 hrs  Air raid alert as 60 ME 109s and Macchi 202s including several ME 109 fighter bombers approach the coast in several waves.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron, four Spitfires 249 Squadron and eight 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but the enemy takes strong evasive action: no claims.  One Spitfire is damaged in combat: pilot slightly injured.  High explosives including delayed action bombs are dropped on Luqa and the Safi strip from about 14000 feet.  One aircraft is destroyed on the ground and another damaged.  One ME 109 is probably destroyed by Light Ack Ack.

1457-1518 hrs  Air raid alert as 40 ME 109s and Macchi 202s including fighter bombers approach the Island at great height.  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept and successfully attack 25 fighters and fighter bombers, which they force to jettison their bombs in the sea.  F/Lt McElroy damages one Macchi 202.  The raiders turn back at speed, along with the majority of their escort.  One Spitfire is damaged: pilot slightly injured.  Eight Spitfires Hal Far are also airborne but see no enemy aircraft.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.

Night  No air raids.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 27 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  The area between Grand Harbour and St Julian’s Bay was swept on 27th October by the 3rd ML Flotilla, prior to divers working on the submarine telegraph cables. Three mines were disposed of bringing the total destroyed by this flotilla to 100.

AIR HQ  Departures  One DC 3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire damaged in enemy action crash-landed: pilot injured.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  AM GOC watched an exercise incorporating practice landings from motorized landing craft.

28 October 1942: Operation Train Brings Reinforcements

HMS Furious

The fast minelayer HMS Welshman also sailed with the convoy carrying emergency supplies for Malta.

ATTACK ON SUBMARINE BASE KILLS THREE

A dive bombing attack on Malta’s submarine base this morning killed three civilians in Sliema.  The raid was the second attempted strike at the base today – the first was beaten off by Malta fighters before the enemy aircraft reached the Island.

The air raid alert just before 9.30 am heralded a second attack by 30 raiders which approached the Island at 27000 feet.  Among them were a dozen ME 109 fighter bombers which swooped down to 12000 feet and then into a shallow dive as they crossed the coast towards their objective in Marsamxetto harbour.  Spitfires engage the raiders as they are still in their dive, causing several to jettison their bombs.  However several bombs did fall on Tigne Barracks, Sliema and Gzira, where three civilians were killed.  Civilian property was also damaged in the raid.

HMS Welshman

The Island was spared a third air raid as the enemy aircraft turned back before coming within 10 miles of the coast.

MALTA WELLINGTONS SINK ANOTHER AXIS TANKER

“The AOC sends personal congratulations to 69 Squadron on its brilliantly executed torpedo attack on the enemy convoy on the night of 28/29th October.”

A very successful attack was carried out tonight against an enemy convoy off the Greek coast.  A reconnaissance Baltimore had earlier reported a convoy of one tanker and a merchant vessel, escorted by three destroyers, off Sapienza.  Three Wellingtons 69 Squadron, one carrying bombs and one carrying torpedoes, were sent to locate and attack the vessels.  The bomb-carrying Wellington returned early with engine trouble and crash-landed, having jettisoned its bombs in the sea.

The other two Wellingtons sighted a tanker and a merchant vessel and went in for the attack.  Pilot Officer Matthews scored a direct hit on the merchant vessel with a torpedo.  Pilot Officer Donkersley arrived on the scene at 2252 hours and found no trace of the merchant vessel.  He aimed his bombs at the tanker, setting it ablaze from stem to stern.  A reconnaissance aircraft inspecting the area later found nothing but wreckage, oil streaks and a half-submerged barrage balloon.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 OCTOBER TO DAWN 29 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Fine; cloudy late evening.

0625-0735 hrs; 0635-0820 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali then eight from Hal Far on intercept patrol: no sightings.

0716-0734 hrs  Air raid alert sounds for 40 enemy fighters approaching Malta.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa and nine of 249 Squadron are scrambled and intercept the main formation to the north of the Island.  The Spitfires attempt an engagement from above but the enemy fighters disperse into the clouds and out of sight before heading back to Sicily: no claims.

0924-1001 hrs  Air raid alert as 30 enemy fighters and fighter bombers approach the Island.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept and fire short bursts at raiders as they head towards Grand Harbour, causing several to drop their bombs.  Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron and eight 249 Squadron Ta Qali are also scrambled but do not engage.  P/O Giddings 249 Squadron crashes on take-off and is admitted to hospital with a fractured arm.  The remaining raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on Sliema, Gzira and Tigne Barracks area causing damage to property and civilian casualties.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1045-1140 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1233-1247 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy fighters approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires from Hal Far are conducting a practice flight when they see two ME 109s: they turn to engage but the enemy aircraft evade action.  All the fighters recede before coming within 10 miles of the Island but then recede.

1335-1500 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are on intercept patrol: no sightings.

Military casualties  Chargeman E Wright, HM Dockyard.

Civilian casualties  Gzira  Ritz Falzon, age 19; Carmela Micallef, age 42; Vincenza Rice, age 40.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 28 OCTOBER 1942

LUQA  Spitfires 69 Squadron were despatched on photo-reconnaissance of Navarino, eastern Sicily, Messina, Palermo, Gabini and Pachino.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  1600 hrs  Regiment band playing at Birkirkara.

29 October 1942: German Pilots Sick of Fight For Malta

German aircraft losses dent morale (c) IWM CM 745

The strain of fighting for air supremacy over Malta is clearly beginning to tell on the enemy air forces. “Experienced German pilots who became prisoners of war during this month have admitted to a general distaste among the German air force for fights over Malta.  This reluctance is not surprising when it is seen that, in the course of their unsuccessful October offensive, the Axis powers lost 15 air crew for every British pilot lost.”  War Diary, Air HQ, Malta October 1942

SPITFIRES AND SUPPLIES

Twenty nine Spitfires were flown off from HMS Furious today and all landed safely at Malta.  Two others remained on board the aircraft carrier due to defects.  Enemy aircraft made some attempts to intercept the incoming aircraft but continuous cover by Spitfires deterred any serious threat.

At the same time, HMS Welshman detached from the convoy ships to make independent passage to Malta.  The fast minelayer carries some 350 tons of much-needed cargo in her holds.  Welshman’s exceptionally fast speed has brought her through several supply missions to the Island and the Dockyard is preparing for a fast unload on her arrival.  After their successful delivery, Furious and her escort ships turned and set course immediately for Gibraltar.

MALTA FLOTILLA GRABS 100TH MINE

The Vice Admiral Malta reported that the Third Motor Launch Flotilla in addition to their many other valuable services had swept up their hundredth mine in the approaches to Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 OCTOBER TO DAWN 30 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Fine; almost cloudless.

0750-0855 hrs  Eight Spitfires Hal Far patrol over the Island: no enemy aircraft sighted.

0910-1010 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are on intercept patrol:  no sightings.

0956-1120 hrs  Air raid alert.  42 enemy fighters approach the Island from the north in five formations of six and three formations of eight aircraft each.  They attempt to intercept delivery Spitfires as they come in to land.  Malta fighters are airborne but the enemy recede before engaging.  The delivery Spitfires land safely.

1020-1125 hrs  Seven Spitfires Hal Far patrol over Grand Harbour area: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1100-1230 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1232-1310 hrs  Air raid alert for a small number of enemy fighters on a high fighter sweep.  Malta fighters are airborne: no engagements.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1339-1345 hrs  Eight delivery Spitfires land at Hal Far.

1849-1910 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island at 22-25000 feet and drop bombs in the sea three miles north of the Island.  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa patrols to the north of Malta but sees nothing.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Walter Parks, Royal Australian Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Naxxar  Emanuel Grech, age 52.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 29 OCTOBER 1942

AIR HQ  Aircraft casualties  Two Spitfires crashed into construction on taking off: one pilot injured, one killed.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron was sent on photo-reconnaissance over western Sicily and Pantelleria.  One Spitfire 69 Squadron was sent on photo-reconnaissance of enemy shipping in the area Cape Ducato, Cape St Maria di Leuca and Taranto.  Two special Wellingtons 69 Squadron were sent to attack an enemy convoy sighted by a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire but did not find it.

30 October 1942: RAF Win Latest Battle For Skies Over Malta

B flight RAF 249 Squadron Malta July 42

The skies fell silent over Malta today.  The absence of air raids is an indication that the RAF has finally secured air supremacy over the Island after the failure of the latest enemy bombing campaign.  With strong fighter escort and a small number of bombers, the enemy has tried to neutralise the aerodromes in order to protect the passage of important convoys to Tripolitania and Libya.

During daylight in October the enemy flew a total of about 250 bomber and 3500 fighter and fighter-bomber sorties against Malta.  Spitfires definitely destroyed a total of 49 bombers and 78 fighters.  By night during the month Beaufighters of 89 Squadron made a total of 61 sorties including 15 intruder patrols over enemy aerodromes and harbours.  Five enemy night bombers were destroyed.  Malta’s losses were 38 aircraft destroyed, mainly Spitfires.

The policy adopted by the RAF of intercepting the enemy north of the island has proved eminently successful.  The enemy reverted to high flying tactics using cloud cover; some damage was done to the aerodromes but without any serious impact.  Finding these tactics too costly, the enemy has now left Malta well alone.

AMMUNITION USE AND FUEL RATIONING TIGHTENED

Heavy Ack Ack Brigades have issued orders restricting the firing pattern of anti-aircraft positions.   From today, only guns in certain strategic positions may engage enemy fighter aircraft, and then only by pointers.  However, all gun positions will continue to engage any enemy aircraft clearly identified as bomb-carrying.

Petrol economies are also now being strictly enforced across all Services in Malta as fuel shortages continue to concern the Island’s commanders.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 OCTOBER TO DAWN 31 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Variable becoming fine: cloudless evening.

0740-0830 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1350-1450 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

Night  No air raids.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

HMS Rorqual

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 30 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  HMS Rorqual arrived with stores from Beirut, swept in by Rye.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Liberators from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  1640-1735 hrs  Four Spitfires carried out a reconnaissance patrol over south east Sicily while four others provided cover for their return.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron was despatched on photo-reconnaissance of Tripoli.

31 October 1942: 14 Attacks On Axis Convoys

AIR RAID STATISTICS OCTOBER 1942  

  • Total number of alerts to date 3135
  • Total number of alerts this month 152
  • Number of blank days 2
  • Number of night raids 41
  • Raid free nights 19
  • Alerts for own planes 7
  • Total time from air raid alert to raiders passed 4 days, 2 hrs, 11 mins
  • Average length of alert 38.2 mins

    P 246 HMS Statesman

ROYAL NAVY SUMMARY FOR OCTOBER

Twenty seven attacks were carried out from Malta during the month, fourteen of which were successful. Three were against merchant ships already beached after air attacks. Ten merchant vessels, aggregating 23900 tons were sunk as well as one fleet destroyer, a tug, and two schooners.  The strength of the Flotilla was brought up to eleven operational submarines by the arrival of P 212 on 9th October and of P 246 on the 19th.

Four submarines continued store-carrying trips to Malta with petrol and vital supplies from Gibraltar and Beirut.  The First and Tenth Submarine Flotillas carried out many brilliant attacks on Axis convoys and shipping running to Libya. An attack on a heavily escorted southbound convoy of one tanker and three merchant ships bound for Tripoli by five submarines off Pantellaria was particularly noteworthy. Albacore and Swordfish aircraft made many attacks before the convoy ran into the submarine concentration. P 211 sank one merchant vessel, stopped after air attack, P 37 sank a destroyer and one merchant vessel in the convoy, and it possible that P 42 also damaged a merchant vessel. The latter was very accurately counterattacked and damaged, and force to return to Malta.

SITUATION REPORT WEEK ENDING OCTOBER 31

From:  Governor & C in C Malta               To:  C in C Middle East              Rptd: The War Office

1.  Enemy air activity on a much reduced scale.  16 alerts.  Total 290 Spitfire sorties against 650 enemy sorties.  No alerts after 1300 hrs 29 October.  Raids consisted of fighter bombers heavily escorted.  Many jettisoned their bombs in the sea.  A few bombs on the aerodromes.  Ack Ack dump was set on fire and extinguished by soldiers.  Spitfires destroyed three ME 109s, one Macchi 202; probably destroyed two ME 109s; damaged three ME 109s and one Macchi 202.  Ack Ack destroyed two ME 109s; probably destroyed one ME 109.  Photo reconnaissance shows a general decrease 100 enemy aircraft in Sicily but an increase on western aerodromes, particularly JU 84 (or 87)s.

2.  Eight Wellington sorties against enemy convoys.  One tanker and one merchant vessel sunk.  Two 1000 lb bombs aimed at a vessel, believed a tanker: results unobserved.

3.  Army working parties total about 600 on aerodromes and 200 men building the new Qrendi landing strip.  Minor combined operations training being carried out with MLCS.

4.  Military damage negligible.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 OCTOBER TO DAWN 1 NOVEMBER 1942

0755-0830 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no raid materialised; no sightings.

1100-1135 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept a possible approaching air raid which does not materialise.

1630 hrs  The regimental band and drums of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment Beat the Retreat at Sliema.  His Excellency the Governor and GOC Troops is in attendance.

Military casualties  Private Raymond Hurley, 2nd Battalion, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment; Lance Corporal Gerald Tarr, 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 31 OCTOBER 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One DC 3 from Middle East.  Departures  One Liberator to Gibraltar; one Liberator to LG 224.

HAL FAR  0630-0735 hrs  Four Spitfires patrolled over south east Sicily: nothing sighted.  2135-0235 hrs  One special Swordfish and two strike Albacores searched for shipping between Tripoli and Homs: no sightings.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Lance Corporal G A Tarr fell down a 30 foot well in Valletta and was killed.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  During the period 22-31 October the Battalion has found two impressed lorries, one motor-cycle and five Other Ranks for work in Hal Far aerodrome.  During daylight two twin Lewis guns have been manned in anti-aircraft defence of the Safi strip.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Private Hurley, A Company, died from multiple injuries caused by falling masonry.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 11.  Dealt with: 9 High Explosives  (3 x 250kg; 7 x 50kg); 173 anti-personnel bombs; 1 oil incendiary.

(1) Alamein, Cecil Ernest Lucas-Phillips, Little Brown & Co, Boston, 1962

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed.  For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in 1942, October 1942

 

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