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28 December 1941: Airfield Ack Ack Gunners Fight Back

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Searchlights scan night skies for raiders

Searchlights scan night skies for raiders

GERMAN BOMBER SHOT DOWN OVER HAL FAR

Anti-aircraft gunners shot down an attacking Luftwaffe bomber over Hal Far aerodrome in an air raid tonight. The single JU 88 bomber flying without fighter escort was spotted approaching Malta from the north early this evening.  Sources report that the pilot flew a complete circuit of the Island,  which allowed plenty of time for searchlights to pick up and track his progress.

The aircraft was seen to turn over the south coast, and dropped bombs the new landing strip at Qrendi.  The Island’s defensive Gunners were primed and ready to fire at the first sighting.  The JU88 flew into a barrage of Heavy Ack Ack and Bofors fire and fell into a steep dive, crashing in front of hangars at the edge of Hal Far aerodrome.  Members of 2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment were manning defence posts within yards of the crash site but no injuries are reported.  There were no survivors among the JU88 pilot and crew. 

AIR RAIDS 28 DECEMBER 1941

0942-1020 hrs  Air raid alarm: 19 enemy aircraft approached the Island, only one crossing the coast.  Ack Ack engaged; no claims.

1102-1116 hrs  Air raid alarm; raid does not materialise. 

1235-1315 hrs  Air raid alarm: two enemy aircraft crossed the coast and dropped bombs on the St Angelo area.

1507-1540 hrs  Air raid alarm: one JU 88 on reconnaissance escorted by 12 fighters, crossed over Grand Harbour.  Harbour guns fired a heavy Ack Ack barrage.  One Hurricane was lost.

1806-1840 hrs  Air raid alarm: six enemy aircraft crossed the coast near St Paul’s Bay and dropped bombs at Marsa and in the Mellieha area.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged; no claims. 

1940-2057 hrs  Air raid alarm: one JU 88 approached and carried out a complete circuit of  the Island before crossing the south coast and dropping bombs on Qrendi landing strip.  The raider was illuminated by searchlights for periods of two, one ,and half a minute.  Heavy Ack Ack shrapnel and Bofors engaged; the aircraft was hit and crashed west of Hal Far.

2324 hrs  Air raid alarm: two enemy aircraft approached from the north and probably laid mines south of the Island.  One aircraft machine-gunned Lapsi searchlight position – no damage or casualties.  Bofors and light machine gun engaged.  The second aircraft dropped bombs near Hal Far.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged; no claims.

Enemy casualties   Leutnant Wilfred Babinek, pilot; Gefreiter Heinrich Schwarz, wireless operator; Gefreiter Wilhelm Gutt, air gunner.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 28 DECEMBER 1941

HAL FAR  Night 27/28th  Three Albacores 828 Squadron despatched on a minelaying operation outside Tripoli Harbour.  Opposition intense but inaccurate light Ack Ack.  Rain over target area.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF 15 patrol.  Photo-Reconnaissance (PR)  One Maryland North African aerodromes, harbours of Zuara and Tripoli; one Maryland PR North African dromes.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 1 patrol; one Blenheim SF 2B patrol; two Blenheims attacked Mellaha aerodrome.  104 Squadron  Four Wellingtons attacked Tripoli Harbour.  107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 2B patrol; two Blenheims attacked Homs Road.

TA QALI  Night 27/28th  Bombs dropped on various parts of the Island.  Night fighters airborne.  P/O Winton destroyed one enemy raider.  0942-1622 hrs  Four alerts.  Three scrambles: no interceptions, one Hurricane missing.  Sgt Owen rescued from sea, multiple gunshot wounds left arm.

HQ FIXED DEFENCES   ASV [search] set installed at Harbour Fire Command post Elmo for detecting the approach of E-boats.

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Stick of bombs on Mehrla strip and north of Mehrla Church.   One unexploded bomb at 403186.

 

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Posted by on December 28, 2021 in 1941, December 1941

 

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27 December 1941: Malta Under Alert for 16 hours out of 24

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GHAXAQ FAMILY WIPED OUT BY ENEMY BOMBS

Hurricanes scrambled 10 times

Malta was under air raid alert for 16 hours out of 24 today as the Luftwaffe continue their post-Christmas campaign against Malta.  RAF Hurricane aircraft from Ta Qali were scrambled ten times to fight off enemy raiders.

An entire young family was wiped out early this evening when bombs hit the southern village of Ghaxaq.  The deceased have been named as John Abela, his wife Vincenza, 26, and their two children: one year old Teresa and baby Carmel, three months.  A fifth person, Michelina Busuttil, 47, was also claimed in this major blow to a small agricultural community.

ENEMY MINE-LAYERS DETECTED

Urgent orders were issued early this morning confirming the presence of enemy mine-laying vessels within reach of Grand Harbour.  The overnight watch of the Harbour Fire Command reported the sound of engines indicating the presence of surface craft just off the harbour entrance.

Despite regular searchlight sweeps, the engine noise continued.  On receiving the report, the Royal Navy suspected enemy E-boats are again engaged in laying mines while aircraft create diversions overhead.  The Harbour Fire Command was placed on high alert and continued searchlight sweeps at regular intervals throughout the night, but nothing further was spotted.

This morning’s operation instruction outlined measures to destroy the craft, which are laying mines within the range of the Harbour guns and searchlights.  The Harbour Fire Commander at Fort St Elmo is to be issued with a RDF (radio direction-finding) set by 1200 hours tomorrow, to give early warning of the presence of MTBs (motor torpedo boats).

The RDF equipment will switched on at intervals or when enemy ship movements are suspected.  Once a craft is detected, searchlights will be trained towards them but not switched on until the RDF shows the target to be within beam and gun range – to retain an element of surprise.

Meanwhile the Royal Navy is maintaining a patrol six miles off shore to intercept surface craft and prevent them from reaching Malta’s shores.  Any hostile vessels seen are to be immediately engaged, regardless of the presence of the naval patrol.  All harbour guns available will be used in such attacks, taking great care not to engage the naval patrol vessel.

AIR RAIDS 27 DECEMBER 1941

0822-0933 hrs  Air raid alarm: nine ME 109’s in two formations patrolled over the Island.  Heavy Ack Ack and Bofors engaged; no claims.

0931-1100 hrs  Air raid alarm: 14 fighter aircraft crossed the coast – no engagement.

1109-1245 hrs  Air raid alarm.  A formation of JU 88’s with large fighter escort approached the Island.  Hurricanes intercepted causing the enemy to jettison their bombs.  One JU 88 was confirmed destroyed, one ME 109 probably destroyed, one JU 88 damaged.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged.

1450-1531 hrs  Air raid alarm: 33 enemy aircraft approached the Island, nine only crossing the coast; no bombs were dropped.

1617-1644 hrs  Air raid alarm; raid does not materialise.

1757-1926 hrs  Air raid alarm: nine enemy aircraft crossed the coast and dropped bombs at Ghaxaq, in the sea and near Corrodino.

1940-0520 hrs  Air raid alarm: seven alerts were sounded for a total of ten enemy aircraft.  Bombs were dropped in sea and on land near Hal Far, on Wardia Ridge and Luqa, where they caused slight damage to officers’ quarters.  At 2010 hrs an enemy raider was illuminated and shot down in flames into the sea.  A second illumination was effected during last alert when Ack Ack engaged; no claims.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant William MacCosham, Royal Canadian Air Force, 179 Squadron; Gunner Thomas North, 4th Searchlight Regt, Royal Artillery/Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Ghaxaq John Abela, age 33; Vincenza Abela, age 26; Teresa Abela, age 1; Carmel Abela, age 3 months; Michelina Busuttil, age 47.  Sliema  Carmel Muscat, 17.

Enemy casualties German Hauptmann Eberhard Stahle, Stab II/KG 77, Pilot of a Ju.88 bomber, shot down into the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 27 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Three Albacores laid mines off Tripoli.

Whitley

AIR HQ   Arrivals  Two Wellingtons, one Beaufort, one Whitley from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  Night 26/27th  Four Albacores 828 Squadron carried out a minelaying operation outside Zuara Harbour.  Opposition spasmodic and inaccurate.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  69 Squadron One Maryland special search (friendly) north half of C/V; one Maryland special search (friendly) south half of C/V; one Maryland SF 6 patrol.  Photo-Reconnaissance One Maryland Catania, Celibria.  18 Squadron  Two Blenheims attacked rail shipping Zuara-Tripoli; one Blenheim attacked rail transport at Zuara.  107 Squadron  Two Blenheims SF 14 patrol; one Blenheim attacked road transport at Zuara.

TA QALI  Hurricanes scrambled at 0822-0909, 0932-1038, 1109, 1237, 1450, 1531, 1617, 1637, 1757, 1918.  One JU88 destroyed.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  Air alarms lasting throughout the day: High explosive bombs dropped in scattered parts.

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Posted by on December 27, 2021 in 1941, December 1941

 

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17 December 1941: First Battle of Sirte

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MALTA SHORT OF FUEL

Breconshire

The transport ship Breconshire failed to arrive at the expected time today, causing concern to the Island’s high command.  As a fast-moving supply ship, she has become a lifeline for the Island.  She is capable of carrying 5000 tons of oil as well as other essential goods.

The operations of Force K from Malta have placed a heavy demand on stocks of fuel oil.  Regular deliveries are vital to keep the ships at sea but the nearest source is a thousand miles away, through hostile waters policed by increasing numbers of German U-boats.

Breconshire is reported to have left Alexandria on Monday, escorted by three cruisers and eight destroyers under Admiral Vian.  Three vessels turned back.  Yesterday, six destroyers and two light cruisers set out from Malta to meet the supply ship and cover her final journey to Grand Harbour.

FIRST BATTLE OF SIRTE

At daylight this morning as the two forces reached the rendezvous point, British submarines reported the presence of Italian warships nearby.  The Allied convoy was crossing paths with an Axis convoy en route to Tripoli.

Admiral Vian’s force had already been spotted by an enemy reconnaissance pilot and Axis aircraft had attempted an engagement, without success.  By late afternoon the two opposing Naval forces were in sight of each other.  As a precaution, Breconshire was detached from the main convoy for protection, accompanied by two destroyers.

After a few minutes of largely defensive fire which produced only minor damage to two British destroyers, the Italian warships moved away, returning to formation to protect their convoy.  A possible sea battle had been avoided and Breconshire is reported as heading for Malta. 

But the threat to the Island’s naval forces is not yet over.   (To be continued)

GERMAN MINES EXPLODED

A German attempt to blockade the entrance to Grand Harbour has been foiled.  Mines were located today during one of the regular minesweeping operations on all approaches to the Harbour.  The TMA mines were laid by Kriegsmarine S-Boats on Monday night.  The drifter HMS Swona, adapted for minesweeping duties, exploded two of the mines.  Located in the direct path of ships leaving Grand Harbour, they could have severely damaged part of Malta’s Strike Force and possibly blocked harbour approaches with damaged or sunken vessels.

AIR RAIDS 17 DECEMBER 1941

0905-0924 hrs; 1324-1327 hrs; 1537-1550 hrs  Air raid alarms; raids do not materialise.

2252-2331 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approached from north.  Heavy Ack Ack fired three immediate barrages.   Bombs near Attard, Poorhouse and south of Marsa.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 17 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Neptune, Kandahar and Jaguar sailed at 1500 on operations.  Four Swordfish located a tanker with destroyer escort, and hit the former with two torpedoes.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Five Blenheims and eight Beaufighters from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  Night 16/17  Five Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack Catania aerodrome.  4940 lbs High Explosive and 300 lbs incendiaries dropped including thirteen delayed action bombs.  Opposition exceptionally intense and accurate at all heights.

LUQA  S/D Flight  Two Wellingtons special shipping search.  69 Squadron  Three Marylands on special search, one shadowing fleet.  Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2  One PR Taranto, one PR Sfax.  18 Squadron  Three Blenheims special search, one for merchant vessel.  Two Blenheims SF 1 patrol.  107 Squadron  Two Blenheims attacked transport between Pisida and Zuara.  Two Blenheims attacked transport between Sorman and Zuara.  P/O Keene failed to return. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 1 (German 50kg).

 

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

 

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7 December 1941: Malta Under 11 Hour Night Alert

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AIR RAIDS 7 DECEMBER TO 8 DECEMBER 1941

0127 hrs Air raid alarm sounded after bombs dropped in sea south of Ghar Lapsi.  Two further raids approached and took over intruder patrols, attempting to shoot up returning Wellingtons [from last night’s attack on the Royal Harbour at Naples]. 

Ghar Lapsi (NWMA Malta)

A low level bombing and machine gun attack was made on Ghar Lapsi searchlight station, bombs dropped one mile south of Siggiewi.  No damage or casualties.  Ack Ack barraged twice, Bofors and Light Machine Guns engaged several low flying aircraft.

Rumours are circulating that Italian Regia Aeronautica pilots are flying German aircraft on missions over Malta.

0657 hrs All-clear sounds.  The Island has been on constant alert since 1959 hrs yesterday.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 7 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Three Swordfish left to attack one merchant vessel west of Malta, but failed to locate target.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Beaufighters, two Wellingtons, one Halifax from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  Four Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack Castel Benito Aerodrome.  One dropped bombs on Mellaha.  Bombs dropped on south side of Mellaha aerodrome causing large column of black smoke.  At Castel Benito dispersal areas were attacked and eight medium and one large fire started.  Opposition intense but inaccurate.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  S/D Flight  One Wellington shipping search. 69 Squadron One Maryland on anti-submarine patrol; one Maryland special search Ionian sea; one Maryland SF 12 patrol.  Photo-Reconnaissance  One Maryland Argostoli and Navarino harbours; one Maryland Tripoli Harbour.  PR Unit 2: one over Catania and Gela; another over Tripoli Harbour and Castel Benito.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim special search Kerkanna area for merchant vessel; one Blenheim 18 Squadron SF 2B patrol.  Five Blenheims despatched to attack convoy (failed to locate).  107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 11 patrol; five Blenheims despatched to attack convoy (failed to locate).  104 Squadron  Six Wellingtons attacked Castel Benito aerodrome.  Two Wellingtons attacked Tripoli.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3.

 

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Posted by on December 7, 2021 in 1941, December 1941, Uncategorized

 

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29 November 1941: Air Crew Missing After Libya Strike

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ALBACORE FAILS TO RETURN TO HAL FAR

Albacore

Albacore

One Albacore has been reported missing after an air strike on a Libyan target last night by 828 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, based at Hal Far.  Five Albacores carried out the successful night raid on the Italian Regia Aeronautica base at Castel Benito near Tripoli.  Despite fierce enemy opposition, bombs were dropped among dispersal areas, destroying at least one aircraft and starting fires across the airfield.  The pilot of the missing Albacore has been named as S/Lt Walshe; his observer is S/Lt Lewis.

SECOND NAVY STRIKE FORCE FOR MALTA

Allied intelligence has discovered that Rommel’s fuel stocks are fast running out.  Seeing a real opportunity to cut off his supplies entirely, the Admiralty in London decides on an all out offensive against Axis convoys in the Mediterranean.  Malta is now to be at the spearhead of that attack. 

HMS Ajax

Already the base for Force “K”, Grand Harbour now sees the arrival of a second Strike Force “B” – including Ajax, Neptune, Kimberley and Kingston – carrying with them from Alexandria welcome supplies for Malta.  The Island is now equipped with four cruisers and four destroyers.

As if on cue, Axis supply ships set out from various Italian ports heading for Libya, closely observed by Malta’s reconnaissance pilots.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 30 NOVEMBER 1941

1057-1106 hrs Air raid alarm.  One recce Macchi crossed at great height.

1710-1728 hrs Air raid alarm.  Two recce Macchi’s crossed at great height.

1937-1939 hrs Air raid.

Military casualty  Sergeant George Tolcher, 1st Battalion The Hampshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 29 NOVEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Force “B” arrives, consisting of HMS Ajax flying the flag of Rear-Admiral H B T Rawlings Commanding Seventh Cruiser Squadron, with Neptune, Kingston and Kimberley.  Force “K” arrives.

AIR HQ  Two Wellesleys headed in from Heliolopolis, one crashed in the sea; the crew was saved.

LUQA  0800-1127 hrs One Maryland 69 Squadron special search.  0815-1140 hrs One Maryland 69 Squadron SF 10 patrol.  0905-1030 hrs One Maryland 69 Squadron photo-reconnaissance Tripoli.  Returned owing to bad weather.  Two Blenheims 18 Squadron SF 11 patrol.  Six Blenheims 107 Squadron attacked shipping in Navarino Harbour.  One Wellington S/D Flight special shipping search.  Ten Wellingtons 104 Squadron attacked administrative buildings at Benghazi. 

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

 

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22 November 1941: Suspect Bomb Halts Governor’s Visit

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SUSPECT BOMB HALTS GOVERNOR’S SCHOOL VISIT

At 0730 hours St Aloysius College, Birkirkara Ing. Maurice Mifsud Bonnici lines up with his classmates ready for morning mass:

“In church a rumour continued to be passed around that a bomb fell in the college ground near the entrance of the shelter.  There were boys who like me said that they had seen it.  The news got round like forest fire and when the boys got out of church, they darted towards the spot.

By Jove there was the bomb!  There on a heap of rubble by the shelter entrance.  At a safe distance the boys could see a green cylindrical object, long about two spans, with a coiled wire placed along it.  It looked ominous and nobody dared to approach it further as children were repeatedly warned by their parents and the authorities against these strange objects that exploded when touched.

The bell rang and all the boys proceeded, in an orderly manner, to their respective classes.  After a short time a policeman appeared on the scene and mounted guard on this dangerous object.  In those dismal days, half of the college building was converted into an emergency hospital accommodating some 400 beds.  By mere coincidence the Governor, Sir William Dobbie decided to pay an unofficial visit to that hospital on the very day of the incident. The Rector, Fr Joseph Delia s.j. thought it fit to inform His Excellency about the bomb…

The Officer in charge of the Unit lifted the object and discovered that the contraption was nothing more than two empty tins of meat and vegetables preserve, joined together at their open ends, painted green with the Fascist Symbol, serial number and date,”gennaio…” in silver paint on one end and a coiled wire placed along its length terminating on a radio single-pin plug fixed to the other end, making the contraption look veritably ominous.  It was a fake anti-personnel bomb which I contrived solely with the boyish hope that we would be given a day off from school while the ‘danger’ lasted!”  (1)

ROYAL ENGINEERS BOMB DISPOSAL SECTION WEEKLY REPORT SATURDAY 22 NOVEMBER 1941

Total unexploded bombs (UXB) dealt with: 101

  • 70kg incendiary: San Pawl Tat Targa 1.
  • 43lb incendiary: Ras il Dawwara 1; Tal Handaq 2.
  • Thermos: Birkirkara 21; Floriana 2; Madalena 4.
  • 2kg incendiary: Island Bay 1; Mosta 66; Qormi 1; Zeitun 2.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 23 NOVEMBER 1941

0408 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Three unidentified bombers approached Island, only one crossing coast, dropping bombs (incendiary) near Ta Qali, causing no damage at aerodrome.  High Explosive bombs dropped near Dingli.

Fiat BR20 “Cigogna” (stork)

0625 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One SM79 and one BR20 [Italian bombers] crossed coast Mellieha Bay, passed over Island, travelled down west coast and re-crossed Island Dingli area.  Searchlights illuminated enemy aircraft near Grand Harbour for period of 2¼ minutes.  Heavy Ack Ack fired two barrages.

0950 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One recce aircraft approached Island.  No engagement.

1553 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Twenty Macchi’s approached from north but did not cross coast.  Hurricanes engaged eight miles north east of Gozo, with results as follows:- two Macchi’s destroyed, three probably destroyed, five damaged.  One Hurricane sustained very slight damage.

Savoia-Marchetti SM79 “Sparviero” (sparrowhawk)

1943 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft crossed coast Delimara.  Bombs on land near Ta Silch and in sea.

2048 hrs Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approached from north, passed over Gozo and receded north.

2211 hrs  Air raid alarm.  No engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 22 NOVEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Operation “Landmark” completed. Convoy and Force “K” arrived in harbour at 0700.  Six Albacores attacked Tripoli, two with bombs and four with mines.  The mines were dropped along the coast west of Tripoli, as aircraft failed to locate correct target.

HAL FAR  Night Four Swordfish 830 Squadron and four Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack convoy off Cape Spartivento.  One cruiser definitely hit and one merchant vessel of 7000 tons probably hit.  Other results not observed owing to bad visibility and strong opposition.  One Swordfish failed to return (crew: Pilot Lt O’Brien and observer S/Lt Griffith).

LUQA  107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF11 patrol. 18 Squadron  Four Blenheims despatched to attack two M/Vs (merchant vessels) Gulf of Argostoli.  40 Squadron  Six Wellingtons attacked Berka satellite ‘drome near Benghazi.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 6; dealt with 3 (2 x Thermos; 1 x 2kg incendiary).

(1) Ing. Maurice Mifsud Bonnici, Naxxar, Malta 2007: extract from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on November 22, 2021 in 1941, November 1941

 

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10 November 1941: Royal Navy Sinks Axis Morale

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Upholder

Upholder sank two Axis vessels

AXIS LEADERS ‘DISMAYED’ AT DESTRUCTION OF SHIPPING

While a vital supply convoy to Malta was being unloaded in the safety of the Dockyard, the Axis were taking stock of the impact of Sunday’s Force “K” attack.  Italian leaders were dismayed at the destruction of all the merchant ships and a destroyer in their convoy, while their British attackers escaped unscathed.  Furious that essential manpower and supplies for his North Africa campaign had failed to arrive, Rommel suggested to Berlin headquarters that the entire Mediterranean supply line was in jeopardy.  It was becoming clearer that Mussolini’s forces were not able to counter the threat from Malta.     

Yet their retaliation was swift.  Six air raid alarms were sounded in Malta through Sunday night: at 1941, 2211, 2309, 0027, 0122 and 0210 hours.  A total of twenty five enemy aircraft approached the Island but they dropped the majority of their bombs in the sea, mainly thanks to excellent work of the searchlight operators.  During the first raid they illuminated a BR 20 Italian bomber, which was promptly engaged by a RAF Hurricane and damaged.  In the second raid another enemy aircraft was reported ‘probably destroyed’ by Hurricanes.  Just before the second alarm a Hurricane crashed soon after taking off, near Wardia Ridge: the pilot successfully baled out at 500 feet. 

"Thermos" bombs: often picked up by civilians with fatal consequences

“Thermos” bombs: often picked up by civilians with fatal consequences

CLUSTER BOMBS ON REFUGEES

Overnight the Regia Aeronautica showered more anti-personnel bombs on a civilian area.  This time it was Birkirkara, a town now heavily populated with refugees from the Grand Harbour area who had fled there for safety.  Yet again, hundreds of Thermos bombs lay in narrow streets and lanes: 142 them were reported as high priority and dealt with by the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Section the same day.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 11 NOVEMBER 1941

1109-1120 hrs Air raid alarm; raid does not materialise.

1700-1716 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Two enemy aircraft (probably Macchi 200’s) approach the Island from the North and carry out reconnaissance.  Ack Ack guns engage by immediate barrage as enemy aircraft cross the coast; no claims.

Military casualties   James Lawrence, 1stBattalion The Hampshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Joseph Parnis, age 26, John Parnis, age 17. Gzira  Carmelo Xuereb, age 23.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 10 NOVEMBER

ROYAL NAVY  Upholder arrived, having sunk one submarine (not confirmed) and one destroyer [in the aftermath of the Force “K” attack].  Four Albacores attacked Catania aerodrome.  One aircraft machine-gunned Ragusa.  Eight Swordfish carried out search in vicinity of Messina without result.

HAL FAR  Overnight five Albacores, 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm (FAA) despatched to attack Augusta.  Bombs dropped near Nafta tank causing small fire and others on north end of submarine base.   Weather good and all aircraft returned safely.  One Fulmar made a night intruder patrol over Cape Passero.  Weather unsuitable for locating aerodrome.  No results.  Four Albacores, 828 Squadron FAA despatched to attack Catania aerodrome.  Results unobserved owing to bad weather conditions.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  Six Blenheims 107 Squadron shipping sweep Gulf of Sirte.  Three Wellingtons 40 Squadron nuisance raid Brindisi.  Two Wellingtons 40 Squadron nuisance raid Naples.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 142; dealt with (1 x 250kg HE; 139 x Thermos; 2 x 2kg incendiary).

 

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

 

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9 November 1941: Malta Braced for Reprisals

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“LATELY WE HAVE BEEN BOMBING NAPLES AND NO DOUBT THERE WILL BE REPRISALS

“I am told that the BBC in a broadcast made some allusion to the base from which Naples was bombed …This was the more unwise since there was a Convoy on its way to us from Alexandria.

It arrived on November 9th; and a thrilling thing it was. Two battleships (HMS Ramillies and HMS Barham) two cruisers, a number of destroyers, and (I think) five big cargo ships. And even so we were not bombed. It is almost incredible. All these ships passed up our narrow Grand Harbour, which is but 300 yards wide though a mile long. The battleships fastened themselves to buoys, and the smaller stuff went alongside the Dockyard walls just off the main harbour. Oilers presumably came alongside the big ships for re-fuelling.

And yet we were not bombed. For the space of several hours some 16 ships were crowded into a space of about one square mile. Half a dozen resolute airmen could scarcely fail to hit something. What is the explanation? An officer in the inner circle of information said he was as mystified as myself. Either the Italians have cold feet, or they are short of materials. The Staff were saying ‘Hurry up with those oilers! Get these ships out of here’, while the Italians lay doggo.” (2)

CLUSTER BOMBS HIT HILLTOP COMMUNITY OF RABAT

Exactly a week after the first cluster bomb attack on Valletta, the hilltop community of Rabat awoke to the same terrifying sight of Thermos bombs scattered throughout the narrow streets.  Superintendent Philip Pullicino of the Special Constabulary and his men worked alongside local police and ARP volunteers in a co-ordinated operation to find and guard every single bomb, until Bomb Disposal Officer Lt George Carroll and his Section arrived to deal with them.  Working in teams of three, by the end of the day the Bomb Disposal men had dealt with over 80 Thermos bombs in the town.

A street in Rabat

One report given to Sapper Tom Meager and his mate was from an elegant private house, where they were directed upstairs to a bedroom.  According to instructions, Tom knew they should explode the bomb. Reluctant to destroy a home, he decided on a bold action: 

“I sat on the end of the bed and the chap that was with me was on the veranda, looking out…I said ‘Check down there and make sure everybody’s clear.’  The Police had been told beforehand to make sure everybody was either clear of the area or stayed indoors.  I said [to my mate]: ‘Are they clear yet?’  and he said, ‘Yes, all clear.’

So I bent down and picked this thing up like that [resting horizontally on two open hands] and carried it to the window.  Just as I put my arms out of the window to drop it, [my mate] said, ‘Hold it – a woman has just come out of the door up the road!’  and I said, ‘Well tell her to get back inside!’  He yelled at her but she wouldn’t go back in.  She went on up the road, so I hung on there, thinking ‘Come on, hurry up!’

I said, ‘I’ve got to let it go!’ and I did.  And I’m sure to this day that it went off before it hit the ground.  But the woman was safe enough.”  (2)   

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 10 NOVEMBER 1941 

1030-1035 hrs  Air raid alarm for two Macchi 200’s which carry out reconnaissance of Luqa, Hal Far and Grand harbour areas.  Ack Ack fire one barrage.

1347 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Two unidenfied enemy aircraft approach from North, reach the coast near Delimara Point and then recede North.  Ack Ack guns engage by barrage fire. 

1709 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Approx three Macchi’s carry out reconnaissance of the Island.  No engagement by Ack Ack or Hurricanes.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 9 NOVEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY:  Force “K” returned to harbour, having sunk one destroyer and damaged two destroyers, and sunk seven MVs  No casualties or damage on our side.  Five Albacores attacked Augusta with good results.

HAL FAR:  Overnight five Albacores, 828 Squadron FAA despatched to attack the submarine base at Augusta. Large fire was started amongst the oil tanks. Light Ack Ack very intense and accurate.  Two Hurricanes, 185 Squadron despatched on escort patrol. F/O Bailey failed to return to base. Three Swordfish carried out submarine patrol. Nothing was sighted.

Casualty:  Flying Officer Graham G Bailey, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve , 185 Squadron..

LUQA:  One Blenheim 107 Squadron, one Blenheim 18 Squadron on SF11 Patrol.  Six Blenheims 107 Squadron, five Blenheims 18 Squadron shipping sweep Gulf of Sirte.  Nothing sighted.  Three Wellingtons 104 Squadron nuisance raid on Naples.  Two Wellingtons 104 Squadron nuisance raid on Messina.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 80; dealt with (85 x Thermos).

(1)  Extract from diary of Rev Reginald M Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

 (2)  Adapted from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010

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Posted by on November 9, 2021 in 1941, November 1941

 

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6 November 1941: Malta Air Forces Attack Sicily

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FLEET AIR ARM ATTACK NAVAL BASES AND FACTORY

Sicily

Sicily

In the early hours of the morning five Albacores of 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm attacked the Italian naval harbour of Augusta and the main port of Licata. One stick of bombs landed on the submarine base at Augusta, and a fire was started at a munitions factory in Licata. All aircraft returned safely.  In a separate operation, Hurricanes of 185 Squadron attacked a factory east of Pozzallo in south eastern Sicily.

DISPOSAL OF THERMOS BOMBS AT RICASOLI

Ricasoli is the latest area to be cleared of Thermos bombs.  An announcement has appeared in the Times of Malta today from the Commissioner of Police warning the public that a series of small explosions will be heard in the vicinity of Ricasoli between 9am and 4pm.

1217-1235 hrs  Air raid alert caused by the return of friendly aircraft. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 6 NOVEMBER 1941

HAL FAR 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm  5 Albacores attacked naval installations at Augusta and Licata. All aircraft returned safely.  185 Squadron  2 Hurricanes carried out a patrol over the SE corner of Sicily, with four more of the Squadron’s Hurricanes acting as cover.  A factory east of Pozzallo was attacked.  No opposition encountered. 

LUQA  107 Squadron 5 Blenheims were despatched to attack Mellana aerodrome but were unable to locate target. They attacked barracks and M/T depots near Tripoli. 40 Squadron  2 Wellingtons carried out a nuisance raid on Naples; another Wellington carried out a nuisance raid on Tripoli.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 0; dealt with (10 x Thermos).

 

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

 

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31 October 1941: Enemy Attacks Over Malta Show ‘Marked Increase’

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Malta submarine base HMS Talbot

Malta submarine base HMS Talbot

AIR RAID ALERTS ‘NUMEROUS’ IN OCTOBER SAYS INFANTRY CHIEFS’ REPORT

In October enemy air activity showed a marked increase over recent months. Air raid alerts were numerous but the enemy still showed reluctance to cross the coast and come within range of the fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft defences. 

As in the previous month the enemy dropped many bombs in the sea and on remote areas of the Island but a few raiders showed more initiative. Machine-gun attacks were made on aerodromes and on 14 October enemy aircraft were engaged by machine guns manned by 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment, who claimed hits and damage to one Macchi fighter. 

The enemy had their main bombing success on 25 October when a Government fuel dump was set on fire by a lucky hit. Nevertheless in view of the number of raids damage to property and persons was remarkably small.

NEW FAA SQUADRON LACKS TRAINING SAYS ROYAL NAVY REPORT

During October fourteen patrols were carried out by submarines of the Tenth Flotilla and seven by submarines of the First Flotilla sailing from Malta. During these patrols, twelve ships were sunk and a further four damaged.  Of these, the five sunk by the Tenth Flotilla totalled approximately 12,000 tons and the two damaged 10,800 tons. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm made fifteen sorties as a result of which eight merchant ships totalling 48,000 tons are claimed as sunk and five merchant ships totalling 34,000 tons are claimed as damaged. 

828 Squadron, consisting of eleven Albacores, was sent from England to reinforce 830 Squadron. Unfortunately, owing to their lack of training in night flying and particularly night torpedo dropping, they are as yet of no value in this respect.  828 Squadron carried out two bombing raids which were in the nature of night flying training.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 OCTOBER TO DAWN 1 NOVEMBER 1941

Weather  Fair.

0132-0229 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy bombers, three of which cross the coast and drop 250kg and 500kg high explosives and hundreds of small bombs on Manoel Island, Pieta Creek and Valletta. Two Hurricanes are airborne at 14000 feet.  One raider is spotted at 11000 feet and illuminated by searchlights.  Hurricane pilot Sgt Mackie dives onto it and delivers two attacks from 50 yards’ range: one from astern, the second from astern and below.   One of the bomber’s crew bales out, possibly the rear gunner as there is no return fire.  The bomber bursts into flames.  The second Hurricane pursues the other two raiders back towards Sicily but is unable to intercept.

0304-0427 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy BR 20 bombers, one of which crosses the coast and drops hundreds of small bombs in the area of the Castille in Valletta. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but do not intercept.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 31 OCTOBER 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Catalina, 1 Cathay, 5 Wellington. S/D Flight 1 Wellington search for convoy. 18 Squadron 5 Blenheims attacked a factory at Licata.  40 Squadron  5 Wellingtons attacked Naples and Palermo. 104 Squadron 4 Wellingtons attacked a convoy.  9 Wellingtons attacked Naples and Palermo. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked a factory at Licata. 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Albacores attacked a railway junction at Canicatti and sulphur factories at Licata, starting fires in both locations.

TA QALI 15 officers and 247 airmen of 40 Squadron arrived from Luqa. Officers accommodated at Xara Palace, Rabat.  7 Marylands and 3 Hurricanes arrived with 69 Squadron.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths officers 33, other ranks 867.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 19 officers, 733 other ranks. Recruits joined during October: 31.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Companies have been issued with new types of grenades no’s 68, 69 and 73.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths 27 officers, 9 WO1, 216 other ranks.

 

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Posted by on October 31, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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