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31 July 1941: Malta’s 800th Air Raid Alert Today

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AIR AND NAVAL CHIEFS REVIEW JULY OPERATIONS FROM MALTA

Fulmars have disrupted enemy night raids

Fulmars have disrupted enemy night raids

AIR HQ

The continued policy of the Command has been to intercept convoys en route between Italy and North Africa by day with the Blenheim detachments and by night with the shore-based Fleet Air Arm Swordfish. In addition, Wellingtons have concentrated on Tripoli port, causing considerable damage to the port facilities. 

82 Squadron carried out three attacks on military transport and barracks, and one attack on shipping. They were relieved by 110 Squadron on 4 July, and carried out successful attacks on shipping, harbours and key roads with the loss of six aircraft.  148 Squadron carried out 13 successful sorties during the month, chiefly on Tripoli.  Hurricanes of 46 and 185 Squadrons have made two successful attacks on seaplane moorings at Syracuse, at least three aircraft being burned out.

Beaufighters of 143, 252 and 272 Squadrons arrived towards the end of the month to cover a Naval operation. During their attachment they carried out two highly successful sorties against aerodromes in Sicily and Sardinia, destroying at least 38 aircraft and damaging many more.

Throughout the month Fulmars have patrolled over Catania by night and on one occasion shot down a bomber off Syracuse. Bombs were also dropped on aerodromes and towns.  The activities of these lone Fulmars has done much to harass the nocturnal operations of the Italians and on many nights prevented enemy bombers from operating.

The whole offensive has been possible through the reconnaissances of 69 (Maryland) Squadron, which was reinforced by three aircraft from Egypt. The Squadron aircraft have been equipped with bomb racks and although not employed on offensive work during the month they have released bombs over their objectives during reconnaissance.  They have also made two low-flying machine-gun attacks and at least two enemy aircraft were shot down during patrols.

249 Squadron carried out 29 day scrambles and 19 night scrambles. 46 Squadron, which was renamed 126 Squadron on 22 July, carried out 31 scrambles by day and 18 by night.  185 Squadron carried out 71 scrambles by day.

VICE-ADMIRAL MALTA

Malta submarines have carried out 13 patrols during the month. Four ships of approximate total of 16200 tons were claimed as sunk.  A further two ships of approximately 7500 total tonnage were probably sunk.  In addition, two hits each were obtained on a Condottieri “D” class cruiser and on a 500 foot floating dock.

830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm carried out three torpedo attacks on shipping. One hit was made on a tanker off Tripoli.  Two hits were made on a tanker off Lampedusa.  The total tonnage of these two ships is estimated at 10,000 tons.  One or both may have been sunk but of this there is no definite evidence.  In the third attack, a hit was obtained on the stern of a destroyer and a heavy explosion was observed in a ship of about 6000 tons.  This ship may have been sunk but the evidence is inconclusive.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 JULY TO DAWN 1 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

Day  Nine enemy aircraft come to within 25 miles of Grand Harbour and then turned back.  23 Hurricanes are scrambled but make no contact with the enemy.  S/Ldr Barton’s Hurricane’s engine fails and he has to make a forced landing but sustains no injuries. 

2200-2248 hrs  Air raid alert for a three enemy BR 20 bombers which approach singly from the north east and attack Grand Harbour, dropping 250kg bombs near the floating dock and on the Parade Ground of St Angelo destroying three mess rooms and injuring three people. Bombs are also dropped in the sea.  Hurricanes of 126 Squadron are scrambled. Searchlights illuminate raiders three times but the Hurricanes are unable to make contact.  P/O Stone chases a raider 30 miles out to sea but is unable to see it beyond the searchlights. 

2350-0017 hrs  Air raid alert for a single BR 20 which approaches from the north and drops 250kg bombs in the Grand Harbour area, as well as in the sea north east of Ricasoli. Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 31 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  P32 arrived from United Kingdom. Upholder arrived from patrol off Marittimo, having sunk a 6000 ton laden merchant vessel, and obtained 2 hits on a Condottiere D class cruiser.  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish left to intercept a southbound convoy of 4 merchant ships and 5 destroyers 20 miles west of Lampion.  Owing to poor visibility, convoy was located by ASV (radar).  2 torpedoes were fired and 1 hit obtained (unconfirmed).

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Wellington. Departures 3 Wellington, 4 Blenheim (leader had engine failure and all returned). 69 Squadron Marylands made 8 reconnaissance flights including Sicily, Elmas and Monserrato.  Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli strafed enemy aircraft on the ground at Zuara.  Marylands on special patrol. 105 Squadron 6 Blenheims sent to attack convoy but were intercepted by enemy fighters and returned without dropping bombs.

KALAFRANA  During July Sunderland and Catalina flying boats made considerable use of the station for flights between the Middle East and UK, with 28 arrivals and departures of aircraft during the month. Passengers included Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, Inspector General of the Royal Air Force, and Rt Hon Captain Lyttleton, AOC, Middle East.  The rescue Swordfish carried out 8 patrols and marine craft 6.  Numbers rescued during the month were 3 Italians by marine craft, 1 British and 1 Italian by floatplanes.  Total rescues since 11 June 1940 are 42 by marine craft (including 7 dead) and 3 by floatplane.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Regimental Dance Band is being reformed in the Battalion. Auditions were held and instruments have been begged, borrowed and bought.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths officers 31, other ranks 876, RAOC (attached) 2.  

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battalion strength 22 officers, 393 other ranks.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battalion strengths 17 officers, 554 other ranks.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths 27 officers, 8 WOs, 181 other ranks.

 

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Posted by on July 31, 2016 in 1941, July 1941

 

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30 June 1941: Six Hurricanes & Pilots Lost From Malta Convoy

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HMS Furious

HMS Furious

HURRICANE CRASH DURING OPERATION ‘RAILWAY’ PHASE 2

After successfully delivering 21 Hurricanes to Malta on Friday the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal returned to Gibraltar where another 26 aircraft were transferred from HMS Furious.  With 16 Hurricanes still on board, Furious sailed with Ark Royal yesterday escorted by cruisers Renown and Hermione with seven destroyers. 

This morning both carriers reached the rendezvous this morning and the Hurricanes began to take off in groups, each led by six Blenheims which would guide them to Malta. However, the tenth aircraft to take off from Furious had collided with the bridge of the carrier, starting a fire which killed three Fleet Air Arm officers, damaged five other Hurricanes and injured their pilots.  Accompanied by Ark Royal and escort the carrier turned back immediately for Gibraltar.

FURTHER ANTI-INVASION MEASURES IN PLACE

Anti-aircraft guns have been put in position to prevent the landing of enemy troop-carrying aircraft. Obstacles have also been erected around the coast with the same object.  Anti-shrapnel mines have been laid along ditches beside the Victoria Lines and also in the Ta Qali areas in the north.

ROYAL MALTA ARTILLERY SHORT OF OFFICERS

The Royal Malta Artillery has 20 fewer officers than it needs. The Governor and Commander in Chief has submitted an application to the War Office for approval to grant five immediate commissions.  Eleven cadets are currently under training at the local Artillery School. 

Approximately eight of a draft of 27 officers now believed to be in Egypt were originally asked for to cover RMA vacancies which it was anticipated could not be done from local resources. Lt Gen Dobbie is keen for additional officers to be provided from this source to make up the numbers to full strength.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 JUNE TO DAWN 1 JULY 1941

Weather  Very windy.

1200-1219 hrs  Air raid alert for 11 Macchi 200s which approach to within 25 miles north east of Malta in two formations.  Hurricanes 46 Squadron are scrambled and intercept just below cloud at 17000 feet, shooting down two Macchis.  A third is chased by a Hurricane to within 15-20 miles of Sicily, attacked and damaged. 

Enemy casualties  Tenente Armando Cibin, pilot of Macchi 200 fighter, 7o Gruppo, 54o Stormo, shot down and crashed into the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 30 JUNE 1941

GENERAL STAFF  Improvement in mail deliveries and weekly broadcasts are much appreciated by all ranks.

ROYAL NAVY  Good progress was made in the month in clearing the corners of the harbours and the dangerous area of the North East Coast of enemy mines.

AIR HQ Arrivals 35 Hurricane, 6 Blenheim. Departures 3 Blenheim. 69 Squadron 6 Marylands sorties on reconnaissance. 82 Squadron 6 Blenheims made a low level attack on ships in Tripoli Harbour.  Six direct hits were made on a merchant vessel, probably the Erperia  and two on the Oceania or Neptunia.  Seaplanes on the water and disembarked troops were machine-gunned. 

KALAFRANA  June saw a considerable increase in the use of Kalafrana by flying boats on communication flights between the UK, Gibraltar and Middle East. There were 31 arrivals and departures during the month.  The increase in operations from the Island increased demand for services of the Marine Craft Section for search and rescue work.  15 patrols rescued 8 British personnel (1 dead) and 2 Italian (1 dead).  3 patrols by Swordfish resulted in the rescue of one Italian pilot.

TA QALI  46 Squadron arrived from Hal Far. 9 Hurricanes arrived ex HMS Furious, 12 ex Ark Royal.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal  Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 45; dealt with 36.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Strengths officers 27, other ranks 864.

 

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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in 1941, June 1941

 

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28 June 1941: Thousands on the Move Again in Malta

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EVACUEES RETURN TO THREE CITIES WHILE OTHERS FLEE VALLETTA AND FLORIANA

159 have fled from Valletta & FlorianaThousands of Maltese are on the move again, thanks to the increase in air raid shelters in target areas on the Island. During the past month alone more than 3000 evacuees have returning to their homes either because of the new provision, or the promise of air raid shelter accommodation in their home district.  All areas around Grand Harbour have registered increases in population.  A total of 41 people have moved back to Cottonera, 397 to Paola and Tarxien; 366 to Zabbar and 669 to the Sliema area.

Meanwhile others are still leaving danger areas due to continuous sleepless nights caused by air raids. During the month 159 have fled to safety from Valletta and Floriana, both of which have recently heavily bombed recently. 1790 have left from Qormi and 402 from Balzan.  375 have found refuge in Birkirkara, 353 in Mellieha, 150 in Zurrieq and 131 in Zebbug. (1)

NEW FIGHTER SQUADRON FOR MALTA

A new fighter squadron has been formed at Ta Qali today following the recent arrivals of new Hurricane aircraft on the Island. 126 Squadron will be led by Wing Commander Alexander C Rabagliati who arrived in Malta as part of Operation ‘Rocket’ on 6 June with other members of 46 Squadron, members of which will form the core of the new squadron.

W/Cdr Rabagliati has already been very active in fighter operations over Malta, having shared in the destruction of one SM79 and damaged two more, destroyed a CR42, destroyed one Macchi and damaged a second in just three weeks.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 JUNE TO DAWN 29 JUNE 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 28 JUNE 1941

ROYAL NAVY  All available submarines (Union, Upright, Unique, Upholder) to patrol East of Messina to intercept Vichy French vessels thought likely to proceed to support Syria.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 6 Wellington, 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron 5 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 (130lb HE).

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

 

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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in 1941, June 1941

 

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7 June 1941: Malta ‘Master Key of the Empire’ Says Churchill

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British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER COMMITTED TO PROTECTION OF MALTA

Winston Churchill has written directly to Lt Gen Dobbie pledging full support in the protection of Malta. The British Prime Minister was responding to the Governor and Commander in Chief’s telegram of 5 June outlining the challenges facing the Island in its present role, and the measures needed to address them:

From: The Prime Minister   To: The Governor & C in C Malta

“I am entirely in agreement with your general outlook. It does not seem that an attack on Malta is likely within the next two or three weeks.  Meanwhile other events of importance will be decided, enabling or compelling a new view to be taken. 

You may be sure we regard Malta as one of the master-keys of the British Empire. We are sure you are the man to hold it and we will do everything in human power to give you the means.”

RE-ARMING TREATED AS URGENT

An immediate response to Lt Gen Dobbie’s statement has also come from the War Office:

“To enable plans to be made to meet your requirements please cable further details regarding anti-aircraft ammunition required, the role you intend for extra field or anti-tank guns and certain small stores which could be sent to Malta by air or submarine.”

Malta’s Governor & C in C replied within hours:

“Anti-aircraft ammunition requirements (4.5” x 6000 rounds; 3.7” x 40000 rounds plus 16 barrels; Bofors x 100000 rounds plus 166 barrels). Field or anti-tank guns are for direct fire onto the aerodromes, likely air landing places and beaches.  In addition, lessons from Crete indicate a further 24 Bofors for aerodrome defences in addition to the previous authorised number would be most welcome.  Also weapons and equipment sufficient for ten British battalions referred to in a previous telegram, and other specialised stores, details to follow.

46 SQUADRON DIVERTED FROM MIDDLE EAST TO DEFENCE OF MALTA

RAF fighter unit 46 Squadron has been ordered to remain in Malta. The Squadron arrived yesterday as part of ‘Operation Rocket’, landing on the Island temporarily en route for the Middle East.  The 24 Hurricanes should have departed today for Egypt along with 15 others.  However, Squadron Leader Sandy Rabagliati, DFC, has been informed that 46 is to remain in Malta to strengthen the Island’s fighter force. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 JUNE TO DAWN 8 JUNE 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

0527-0621 hrs  Air raid alert for three formations of twelve, three and four enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the south. Twelve ME109 fighters cross the coast rapidly.  While eight remain at altitude, four dive low to machine-gun Hal Far aerodrome.  Heavy and light anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Ten Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.

0251-0429 hrs  Air raid alert for four Italian BR 20 bombers which approach from the north east and drop 15kg bombs on the Wardia, Luqa and Marsa areas, and on Manoel Island. Two Hurricane fighters are scrambled.  One BR 20 is illuminated by searchlights and engaged.  The aircraft bursts into flames, the crew bale out and it crashes between Qrendi and Hagiar Qim.  One parachute is seen descending over Marsaxlokk.  3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment posts a guard over the aircraft and take two prisoners – an Italian flying officer at the Blue Grotto and a sergeant at Wied Bassasa – who are handed over to the Detention Barracks at Corradino. A dead body is later discovered 300 yards from the aircraft and buried at St Andrews Cemetery.  A second BR 20 is illuminated and hit by a Hurricane; it is badly damaged and last seen over Hal Far heading out to sea, believed destroyed.  A third enemy aircraft is badly damaged.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant James H Adamson, Royal Air Force, 202 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant Greville V Nicholls, RAF, 202 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 7 JUNE 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish in successful attack on Tripoli: ‘cucumbers’ in harbour entrance.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron  4 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance of Catania aerodrome revealed 10 JU 52s, 9 HE 111s or JU 88s, 9 unidentified fighters.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A new intake of Malta volunteers is being trained in the Three Cities with D Company, who will provide equipment for them as well as for those in the Sliema area.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Ta Xbiex and Misida mine laying commenced by 24 Company. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 3 (15kg).

 

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Posted by on June 7, 2016 in 1941, June 1941

 

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