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15 October 1941: Malta Attacks Limit Axis Forces in Libya

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ATTACK ON TOBRUK NOT RULED OUT BY WAR CABINET

Tobruk

Tobruk

Attacks by Malta submarines and aircraft on Axis supply convoys in the Mediterranean have limited supplies to the Afrika Korps in Libya enough to prevent a large-scale offensive. However, some German and Italian reinforcements have continued to land there in recent days, according to reports to the British War Cabinet.  As a result, military leaders in London consider that an attack on Tobruk by Axis forces remains a real possibility.

69 SQUADRON PHOTO-RECONNAISSANCE REPORT

Malta’s Maryland photoreconnaissance unit has reported the following from today’s surveys of Sicilian aerodromes:

  • Palermo: No substantial changes since 6 September. 5 large aircraft, 6 medium, 11 small.
  • Catania: 29 aircraft including 7 BR 20, 1 SM 52, 7 Cant 135, 2 Cant 310, 11 small aircraft.
  • Gerbini: 23 aircraft including 1 SM 82, 15 Cant 135, 3 Cant 110, 4 unidentified.
  • The other airfields were not covered due to cloud.

LORRIES DAMAGE RAF TAXI STRIPS

It has been reported that heavy Army lorries including Scammells have been using RAF taxi strips as a route across aerodromes. As a result significant damage has been caused to the surfaces when wet.  Troops have been ordered to cease the practice forthwith.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 OCTOBER TO DAWN 16 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

0853-0911 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which cross the Island at very high altitude, probably on reconnaissance. Anti-aircraft guns fire a number of pointer rounds.  Ten Hurricanes are scrambled but and unable to intercept. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 15 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  HM Submarine Unique torpedoed and probably sank the Italian armed merchant cruiser Citta di Genova (5314 tons) to the south of Naples.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Catalina. 69 Squadron  1 Maryland special patrol; 1 Maryland search for convoy.  1 Blenheim patrol Sicilian coast.  Photoreconnaissance Palermo, Gerbini and Catania. 221 Squadron 1 Wellington patrol Messina and Naples. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish carried out a search for Hurricane pilot P/O Barnwell of Malta Night Fighter Unit; search unsuccessful.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 4 (2kg incendiary).

 

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Posted by on October 15, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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

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RAF raid on German ammunition dump in Libyan desert August 1941

RAF raid on German ammunition dump in Libyan desert August 1941

ROYAL NAVY MONTHLY REVIEWS SEPTEMBER 1941

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HURRICANES ATTACKED AS THEY SEARCH FOR MISSING PILOT

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 1 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and fresh.

No air raids.

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

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 1941

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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29 September 1941: Malta Centre for Allied Propaganda Radio

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SOE propaganda broadcaster Sefton Delmer speaks to Germany

SOE propaganda broadcaster Sefton Delmer speaks to Germany

TRANSMITTER READY FOR BROADCAST TO AXIS HELD TERRITORIES

A radio transmitter for the Ministry of Information has been set up in Malta to broadcast to Axis held territories including Italy and North Africa. The branch of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) on the Island has notified the War Office today that the transmitter is ready.  It can cover an area between longitude 10 and longitude 18 east, latitude 27 and latitude 44 north and has a directional aerial that can target specific zones for propaganda messages. 

Propaganda broadcasts to Germany are already established on the Home Front.  The plan is for broadcasts from Malta to be made in French, Italian and Arabic. Italian-speaking personnel are already available in Malta but French and Arabic speakers are still required before the broadcasts can begin.

MALTA CONVOY SHIPS ATTACKED ON RETURN VOYAGE

Two merchant ships which delivered vital supplies to Malta have been attacked on their return voyage through the western Mediterranean. SS City of Pretoria and Port Chalmers were part of the ‘Operation Substance’ convoy in July and sailed from Grand Harbour on Saturday as part of the current ‘Operation Halberd’ shipping movements.  On the first night Port Chalmers drove off an attack by Italian motor torpedo boats. 

The ships then and separated to avoid enemy detection, heading along the North African coast under the disguise of French colours. However, City of Pretoria was attacked by three torpedo bombers and stalked by enemy submarines on the last leg of her crossing towards Gibraltar. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 30 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 29 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 7 Beaufighter. Fleet Air Arm One Fulmar Fleet Air Arm offensive patrol over Catania, Gerbini and Comiso made a machine-gun attack and dropped bombs on Gerbini aerodrome, causing a violent explosion and fire. 38 Squadron 10 Wellingtons attacked a motor transport park in Tripoli. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance/patrols Catania, Comiso, Augusta, Cagliari, Palermo Harbour, Naples and Messina Harbours. 107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked targets at Buerat. 272 Squadron 4 Beaufighters attacked Elmas aerodrome and seaplane base. 

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Controlled minefields were laid at St Paul’s Bay and Salina Bay.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  75 men per Company of all ranks attended a lecture on censorship given by the Chief Censor for Malta.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (15kg)

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  All ranks except three distributed from Poor House.

 

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Posted by on September 29, 2021 in 1941, September 1941

 

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26 September 1941: Malta’s Offensive Role Known – ‘Heavy Retaliation Must Be Expected’

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Attacks by Malta bombers and submarines now public

Malta’s role as base for air and submarine attacks publicised

GOVERNOR & C IN C CALLS FOR MAXIMUM OFFENSIVE ROLE WITH MINIMUM PUBLICITY

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has expressed serious misgivings about the amount an detail of media coverage which is now being given to the Island’s role as a base for offensive operations against Axis convoys in the Mediterranean. In a telegram to the War Office in London today, he wrote:

“I should be grateful if the services at home would give me a clear indication of the policy which it is desired should be followed in releasing information about the Fortress. Until April of this year a policy had been accepted which implied that publicity should not be given to any offensive operations carried out from Malta in order that we should avoid attracting attention from the enemy and so be given time to improve our defences.

Recently however statements have been made which have disclosed the actual types of aircraft operating from the Island and there appears to have been a definite policy to publicise the successful results of operations carried out by aircraft of the RAF and Fleet Air Arm, and by HM submarines. The Air Ministry have recently sent an official press representative here with a view to increasing publicity about RAF activities.  The Admiralty have indicated that an official photographer is going to be sent and this would imply that further publicity is to be given.  An American press representative is here at the present time.  No service received any warning that it was desired to send him here.  Recently the Admiralty have indicated their Lordships’ desire to give more publicity to the work of submarines operating from this base, but this latter proposal is not entirely supported by the Commander in Chief Mediterranean.

The decision to release or restrict information about Malta is obviously one which cannot be made locally but it is clear that the present policy of emphasising our offensive operations must now be making our activities well known to the enemy and sooner or later heavy retaliation must be expected. We are more prepared and ready to receive this retaliation but I should be grateful for an assurance that this result would be in accordance with the policy desired by the Services at home.

Service commanders are prepared to recognise the need for some publicity because of its effect on the civil populations throughout the Empire and particularly here. If this is essential we believe that it could be done without releasing to the enemy information which must be of definite value to him, eg types of aircraft, names of submarines.

From our point of view we would like to carry out the maximum amount of offensive activity from Malta with the minimum of publicity. Services here agree with this telegram.  The War Office is requested to pass copies to the Admiralty and Air Ministry, and the Middle East is requested to pass copies to the Commander in Chief Mediterranean and the Air Officer Commanding, Middle East. Commanders in Chief in the Middle East are requested to comment on this telegram if they so desire.”

The Air Officer Commanding endorsed Lt Gen Dobbie’s views in a separate telegram to the War Office today: “I heartily endorse the Governor of Malta’s views. I can really see nothing to be gained and much to be lost by publicising the base from which these operations are taking place, or giving any details regarding the types of aircraft.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 27 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1126-1139 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but does not cross the coast. Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no interceptions.

2143-2153 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches from the west, drops bombs 25 miles out to sea and turns back. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions.

2311-2330 hrs  Air raid alert caused by the return of friendly aircraft.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 26 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Operation Substance ships departing: SS Melbourne Star sailed for Gibraltar at 1130 hrs. Port Chalmers and City of Pretoria to sail in two days’ time with HMS Gloxinia as escort.

AIR HQ Arrivals 7 Beaufighter. Departures  4 Hurricane, 3 Wellington. 38 Squadron 1 Wellington attacked Palermo. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Marsala, Trapani and Palermo.  1 Blenheim patrol eastern Sicilian coast.  1 Maryland reconnaissance Cagliari.  107 Squadron 3 Blenheims on shipping sweep near Zuara. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish laid mines outside Palermo Harbour in a semi-circle covering the south east approach.  Wellington bombers created a very successful diversion. 

HAL FAR  Hurricanes 185 Squadron, one Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm and two Fulmars performed special escort duty for a convoy of one merchant vessel.

 

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Posted by on September 26, 2021 in 1941, September 1941

 

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23 September 1941: Work on Air Raid Shelters Weeks Behind Schedule

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shelters diggingPROGRESS ‘DISAPPOINTING’, SAYS GOVERNOR & COMMANDER IN CHIEF

Work on providing adequate air raid shelters for Malta’s population is weeks behind schedule. In a telegram today to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief outlines the present level of shelter provision and the challenges preventing their rapid completion:

“The estimated date by which each person in Malta would be provided with two square feet of rock shelter [can now] only be tentative. The position now is that only 1516 out of 76599 persons in the Public Works area are not covered by Government rock shelters, while the whole population of that area is already covered, if Government concrete and private rock and concrete shelters are taken into account.  In the area under the Supervisor of Shelter Construction, 54631 persons still require accommodation in Government rock shelters, but only 11571 persons have no cover, taking into account all forms of shelters.  The population of this area is 167366.

It is now essential that two square feet per person for the whole population in the Public Works Department area will be attained by the end of September and in the Supervisor of Shelter Construction’s area by the end of November.

Failure to obtain this result in June and August as previously estimated is due partly to exceptionally hard rock being encountered in certain areas and partly to the transfer of miners to services mentioned in my telegram of 30 August. Moreover, experience in actual raids showed the necessity for at least three entrances cum exits to each shelter, owing to the danger of such entrances and exits being blocked by direct hits or debris.  It was therefore considered advisable to provide additional exits and entrances simultaneously with the work of constructing shelters, and not to wait until each shelter was finished.

Progress made is rather disappointing but the whole system of control of the labour force is now under review and I will report results later. The revised estimate of the dates of completion of the two square foot programme does not affect previous financial estimates of expenditure to the end of December.

Work in Gozo is proceeding satisfactorily. 107 shelters are already in hand out of the total of 140 which will be required.” 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 24 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Rain mid-day.

0123-0130 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber which approaches the Island and drops bombs in the sea off Delimara Point. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions. 

Military casualties  Sergeant Peter F Bold, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) 38 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Walter F P Brown, RAF, 38 Squadron; Sergeant William J Poole RAFVR, 38 Squadron; Sergeant James C Sheridan, Royal Canadian Air Force; Flight Sergeant Robert H Toshack, Royal Canadian Air Force, 38 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 5 Blenheim, 1 Catalina, 5 Maryland. 38 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli.  One Wellington failed to return. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands reconnaissance Kerkennah, Kelibia and special mission. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked transport on Misurata road.  S/Ldr Warren failed to return.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A Training Exercise Without Troops for officers and warrant officers was held in the Rabat area on the subject of ‘Reconnaissance and taking up of machine-gun positions in defence’.

 

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

 

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16 September 1941: Malta Swordfish Lost on Clandestine Mission

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Swordfish missing after raid

Swordfish missing after raid

MALTA AIRCRAFT WAS DELIVERING SECRET AGENT

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

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

MALTA AIRMEN RECEIVE POSTHUMOUS MEDALS

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

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

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

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 17 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Cool and overcast.

No air raids.

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

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 1941

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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11 September 1941: Malta Fighters Winning Battle for the Skies

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Hurricanes dominate Malta skies

Hurricanes dominate Malta airspace

DEFEAT OF RAIDERS LIFTS MORALE

Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta: diary entry 11th September 1941

“I am writing this during a raid at 2100 hrs. Guns are firing which is very unusual. There is no moon; which may have something to do with it. Latterly, our fighters have had much the best of it. Two nights ago friends who were staying at Gozo saw one of their bombers caught in our searchlights, and our fighter chasing it (also in our searchlight) out to sea. Both were firing at one another. The Iti was brought down.

I heard of the worst case of pilfering from the convoys today. Somebody got away with 470 cases, not bottles. The size of the haul makes one give a grudging admiration, when I have lads in prison for stealing a few packets of cigarettes! With whisky at, say 15/- per bottle, this is a value of over £4000. It must have been a whole lighter full, and there must have been a number of people in the syndicate. We are told that somebody is suspect; I hope he gets caught.” (1)

WAR CABINET REPORT FOR WEEK 4-11 SEPTEMBER

A naval operation for the reinforcement of air forces in Malta was successfully carried out. It is estimated that at least 20000 tons of enemy shipping have been sunk or damaged by Allied aircraft in the Mediterranean.

On 4 September five Blenheims attacked ships in Crotone, which had taken refuge there as a result of a very successful attack made by Swordfish the previous night. One 6-8000 ton merchant vessel was hit and an explosion resulted, and two other ships were attacked (results not observed).  One Blenheim was shot down by anti-aircraft guns. 

On the night of 6-7 September seven Naval Swordfish, operating under the Air Officer Commanding Malta, intercepted a northbound convoy of three merchant vessels and three destroyers. One vessel of 6000 tons was hit three times and almost certainly sunk, and a 6000 ton tanker was hit twice with torpedoes.

A total of 34 tons of bombs was dropped on two nights by Wellingtons on Tripoli. The first attack was made on motor transport depots in conditions of excellent visibility.  The attack was pressed home from a very low level; all the bombs fell in the target area, where large fires among vehicles and buildings were reported.  The harbour was the objective of the second attack; three hits were obtained on a medium-sized merchant vessel and a number of bombs fell on the Spanish Quay.

On two successive nights Wellingtons from Malta attacked the docks at Palermo and dropped a total of 32 tons of bombs. Many hits were made on the three main quays and dry dock, and some extensive fires started.  Three large merchant vessels lying in the harbour may also have suffered damage.  These attacks were followed by two night raids by a total of 16 Wellingtons on the power station, landing stages and ferry ships at Messina; over 22 tons of bombs were dropped and many hits obtained on the targets.  A large fire was reported in the Citadel area of the town.

On 4 September a daylight raid on Malta was attempted by a force of 20 Macchi 200s, which were intercepted by Hurricanes at sea. Later in the day 12 more Macchis were employed to cover rescue operations.  In the course of these two operations nine of the enemy fighters were destroyed, two probably destroyed and five others damaged, against our loss of two Hurricanes.

Formations of from one to six aircraft have attacked Malta on most nights of the week. The few bombs dropped have caused negligible damage.  One Cant Z1007 was illuminated by searchlights and shot down in flames by Hurricanes.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 12 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1135-1145 hrs  Air raid alert for a report of nine enemy aircraft which approach to within eight miles north of Grand Harbour at 23000 feet. Ten Hurricane fighters are scrambled.  Eight of 249 Squadron are unable to attain sufficient altitude to attack.  The two Hurricanes of 185 Squadron follow the raiders to within 10-15 miles of Sicily but cannot reach them and return to base.

2047-2210 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy aircraft approaching the Island. One turns back well before reaching Malta but the remaining four cross the coast and drop bombs on land around Kalafrana and Ta Qali.  Ant-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked Palermo. 69 Squadron 5 Blenheims on sweep of Ionian sea; attacked shipping. 105 Squadron 1 Blenheim special patrol. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a convoy of 6 merchant ships and 7 destroyers off the Tunisian coast.  5 torpedoes were fired, sinking one merchant ship and damaging a second. 2 Fulmar offensive patrols over Sicilian aerodromes unable to attack due to thick cloud; they dropped high explosives and incendiaries on chemical works at Licata and machine-gunned harbour installations, then dropped high explosives and incendiaries on the railway at Sciata starting a fire.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Private Clapham buried with full military honours.

(1) Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

 

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Posted by on September 11, 2021 in 1941, September 1941

 

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10 September 1941: Malta Pilots Receive Military Honours

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PILOTS’ AWARDS ANNOUNCED IN LONDON

Awards have been announced today for three pilots for their service while based in Malta.  F/O Warburton has been given a second military honour in recognition of his service as a reconnaissance pilot. The official announcement came today of a Bar to add to the Distinguished Flying Cross he was awarded in January.

London Gazette, 9 September 1941: The King has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:

F/O Adrian Warburton

F/O Adrian Warburton

Flying Officer Adrian Warburton DFC, No 69 Squadron

“This officer is a most determined and skilful pilot and has carried out 125 operational missions. Flying Officer Warburton has never failed to complete the missions he has undertaken and, in the actions fought, he has destroyed at least three hostile aircraft in combat and another three on the ground.”

Flying Officer Roger Drew, No 69 Squadron

“In July 1941, this officer carried out an attack on the aerodrome at Zuara. Aircraft on the ground were machine-gunned, one being destroyed and others damaged.  Flying Officer Drew has also been responsible for the destruction of three Italian flying boats.  He has completed 120 operational flights, including a number of reconnaissances, and throughout he has displayed skill and enthusiasm.”

Pilot Officer Jack Buckley, 105 Squadron

“In August 1941, this officer attacked a 9000 ton merchant ship off Lampedusa. Destroyers, torpedo boats and a large number of lighters were removing a cargo of motor transport at the time but Pilot Officer Buckley attacked through a curtain of fire and, although wounded during the run-in, scored hits setting the ship on fire.  Subsequent reconnaissance revealed that a 700 ton sloop was also sunk as a result of the attack.”

DANGEROUS UXBS AT DINGLI

A new type of Italian high explosive bomb has come to light in Malta. Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer Lt G Carroll first encountered the bomb when he was called out to Dingli by one of his NCOs. 

“His squad had revealed the first of two small bombs, six feet under the narrow strip of fertile farmland overlooking the sea, below the Island’s radar station. The NCO did not recognise the bomb. Lt Carroll climbed down the ladder to take a look: from its size he estimated it at 50kg, but from its markings it was Italian – and certainly not one he had seen before.  The NCO had reported that the bomb’s base fuze was broken – so with any luck it might be harmless.  But if the central part of the fuze was still in place, it could be in a highly-sensitive condition.  Lt Carroll’s worst fears were confirmed: any attempt to take out this fuze could detonate the bomb.  Better to set a charge himself and have a controlled explosion.  He looked up: no luck.  They were too close to the radar station, especially if the second bomb went up as well.  What if that one could be got out of the way first?

Lt Carroll walked across to take a look: the lads were making good progress and the bomb was already exposed. He climbed six feet down the ladder into the shaft and squatted down beside the bomb: another damaged fuze.  Now he had two bombs that were too unstable to move.  Nor could they be exploded this close to the radar station.  He had just one more option – but it meant putting himself at risk.  The entire base plate would have to be unscrewed from each bomb.  It was possible, but it had to be done without disturbing the broken fuze.  And twice. 

He gave the order for the men to retreat. This was a job for the Bomb Disposal Officer alone.  As soon as his Sergeant signalled that they were out of range, Lt Carroll began to unscrew the base plate of the first bomb, taking care to avoid touching the vulnerable fuze. Grasping it firmly, he gently eased it away from the carcass and climbed the ladder with his prize.  Soon the second base plate was off and Lt Carroll could afford to relax.  However, there was the matter of yet another unknown bomb to consider.  He ordered the parts of both bombs to be carried back to Lintorn Barracks.  He had a report to write.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 11 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

Civilian casualties  Rabat  Emmanuel Bartoli, age 55; Carmel Borg, age 61.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  38 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked power station, train and ferries at Messina. 69 Squadron Reconnaissance Tripoli, plus special search and patrol.  

TA QALI  4 officers and 9 sergeants left for Luqa by Hurricane to proceed to the Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  1900-0730 hrs Brigade Exercise: an ‘attack’ was made on the Battalion sector. Carriers and mobile platoons did excellent work and the whole area was well covered by fie from our static posts.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 3 (2 x 50kg; 1 x 12kg anti-personnel)

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  The Battalion participated in a Brigade exercise, attacking the defended positions on the Cottonera Lines held by 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment.

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

 

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

 

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8 September 1941: Malta Needs More Bomb Disposal Men

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Lt Carroll (l.) & men of RE Bomb Disposal, Malta (NWMA Malta)

Lt Carroll (l.) & men of current REBD Section (NWMA Malta)

MANPOWER NEEDED FOR TWO BOMB DISPOSAL SECTIONS

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office requesting additional personnel to increase the strength of Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal to two Sections. The Island currently has a single operational Army Bomb Disposal Officer to deal with all unexploded bombs across Malta and Gozo outside of RAF airfields and Navy premises.  A second Officer is on the Island but is on respite from bomb disposal duties.  The current BD Section consists of 20 other ranks who are not on permanent attachment to bomb disposal but are temporarily seconded from 24 Fortress Company RE.  Lt Gen Dobbie would prefer to have trained and experienced men from the Home Front to create a more permanent establishment for Army Bomb Disposal.  

The need for manpower to make up two Sections was first identified following the attacks on HMS Illustrious in January but the shortage of Royal Engineers personnel on the Island meant that the plan was placed on hold.  A Bomb Disposal Section normally consists of an officer and 15-20 other ranks, including those with skills in carpentry, masonry and electrics.

Having been unable to secure the required additional manpower from the Middle East, Lt Gen Dobbie’s has now put in a demand for 52 rank and file Royal Engineers to be despatched from the UK. This will bring 24 Fortress Company RE and two bomb disposal sections up to full establishment and provide some reinforcements for the Fortress Royal Engineers. (1)

In a separate telegram to the War Office, the Governor and Commander in Chief has rejected a proposal to disband 16 Fortress Company, Royal Engineers. 16 Fortress Coy have been attached to 4 Searchlight Regiment Royal Artillery and the Royal Malta Artillery.  The War Office has suggested that with the arrival of additional Royal Artillery personnel in Malta, 16 Fortress Coy will no longer have a role.  Lt Gen Dobbie disagrees, saying that 16 Fortress Coy has a much wider purpose than the Royal Artillery personnel can replace and cannot be disbanded under circumstances currently prevailing in Malta.

CLUB OPENS FOR TROOPS

Maxims Club in Valletta is to host a dance with cabaret this evening for troops. The Club, at 116 Bishops Street, Valletta will open at 1800 hrs.  A dance band will perform and there will two cabaret shows during the evening.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 9 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

2138-2228 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly. Three drop high explosive bombs and incendiaries on various parts of the Island including Rabat, Ta Qali and Hal Far.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no engagements.

2313-0017 hrs  Air raid alerts for 12 enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly at intervals. Only two of the raiders cross the coast, dropping high explosive bombs and incendiaries, killing one civilian and seriously injuring three more.  High explosive bombs are dropped between Mosta and Imtarfa, on Ta Qali and Luqa, and on the Bingemma area.  Incendiaries are dropped over Marsa.  Six high explosives fall close to the headquarters of 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment; there are no casualties.  Bombs also land on the road behind the Royal Army Service Corps depot at Rabat used by 4th Bn The Buffs as a billet.  Two Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit are scrambled to intercept.  Following a formation, one Hurricane spots a light three miles astern and 4000 feet above him.  Climbing at full throttle, he comes into range of the Cant 1007 just after it has passed out of searchlight range.  The Hurricane hits the Cant with several accurate bursts of machine-gun fire, setting light to its port and starboard engines.  The Cant descends quickly to the sea.  A motor launch and a Swordfish rescue aircraft find five survivors who are taken prisoner and brought ashore at dawn.

0442-0454 hrs  Air raid alert for a single approaching enemy aircraft which may have been triggered by a Wellington coming in to land..

Civilian casualties  Hamrun  Anthony Farrugia, age 18.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 8 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Bombay, 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. Departures 1 Wellington. 69 Squadron 2 Maryland patrols of east Tunisian coast.  In the second, F/O Warburton drops bombs on Pantelleria.  2 Maryland patrols western Ionian Sea.  Two Fulmars on offensive patrols between Gerbini and Catania, dropped bombs on Gerbini and machine-gunned the aerodrome.  One Fulmar went on to Augusta and machine-gunned the aerodrome.  The second dropped incendiaries on the southern boundary of Catania. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked shipping in Palermo Harbour, dropping 33750lb of high explosives, damaging vessels and harbour facilities.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 3 (2 x 50kg; 1 x 15kg)

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

 

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Posted by on September 8, 2021 in 1941, September 1941

 

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6 September 1941: More Vital Foods Rationed and Prices Fixed

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'Call up' for men to dig shelters

‘Call up’ for men to dig shelters

MALTESE DAILY DIET FACES RESTRICTIONS

Malta’s population faces a hungry winter as more essential foodstuffs are added to the list of strictly rationed items. Rationing of edible oil, margarine and lard has already come into force.  Plans are now being made for the rationing of tinned fish and tinned meat, which will be put into effect later this month.

At the same time, the Maltese Government has decided to set up a Central Prices Board is being set up to fix the prices of local produce as well as goods imported by traders, in order to avoid the exploitation of shortages and ensure fair pricing across the Islands. The Board will also hear complaints by traders and the public with regard to prices.  Local committees are being set up all over the Island to oversee pricing in their areas and act as a point of contact for any concerns about excessive charges.

MALTA’S SKILLED CRAFTSMEN IN COMPULSORY ‘CALL UP’

Skilled workers such as miners, masons and stone cutters throughout Malta and Gozo are to be ‘called up’ to help with essential defensive works across the Islands. The measure is designed to speed up the construction of air raid shelters and other essential defence projects for the Malta Garrison. 

In a first step towards instituting compulsory service for skilled manpower to help in the defence of Malta, every suitably skilled man between the ages of 16 and 60 will be required to register with the Director of Compulsory Service. First to register will be all employees of the Government and military services.

The Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief has been concerned about the rate of construction, particularly of shelters for the civilian population. Having unsuccessfully bid for a skilled workforce to be sent to Malta from elsewhere, he is keen to ensure the maximum use of locally available tradesmen in completing the necessary works.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 7 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and fresh.

0010-0050 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches from the north at 14000 feet and drops bombs in the sea six miles off the coast before turning away. Two Hurricanes were scrambled but as searchlights could not illuminate the raiders at such distance there was no engagement.  

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Wellington. Departures 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington.  Striking force patrols Ionian Sea and east Tunisian coast by two Marylands, one Blenheim and one Beaufort. 69 Squadron Maryland patrol east Sicilian and east Calabrian coasts.  2 Fulmar sent to patrol Catania and Gerbini developed engine trouble so went to Comiso and dropped incendiaries.  The crew returned to Malta, change aircraft and took off again at 0001 hrs for Catania where they dived and machine-gunned the airfield, damaging three aircraft.  At 0115 hrs they dived on Gerbini airfield, dropping incendiaries and machine-gunning three more aircraft on the ground. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a northbound convoy of three merchant ships and three destroyers south of Pantelleria.  One merchant ship was claimed as sunk, and one damaged.  5 torpedoes were released.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2; dealt with 2 (70kg incendiary)

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  The CO commented on the narrow escape of personnel during last nigh’s raid and emphasised the importance of maintaining a rigid blackout.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  One NCO and 14 men attached to RAF Luqa as mechanics.

 

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

 

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