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30 January 1942: RAF Fight On Through Fire and Storm

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  • Enemy use cloud cover to attack Hal Far five times in four hours.
  • Ta Qali and Hal Far waterlogged: operations restricted to Luqa aerodrome.
  • Successful Wellington attacks on shipping at sea.

MALTA AIR FORCES OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS REPORT JANUARY 1942

Castel Vetrano aerodrome 1942

Squadrons covered the Italian convoy routes almost daily through January.  PRU Hurricanes and Beaufighters of 69 Squadron carried out frequent photographic reconnaissance of Sicily and North Africa.  Marylands destroyed one ME 109 and probably one ME 110.  Our losses were one Maryland and one PRU Hurricane.

Wellingtons of 40 Squadron carried out 26 operations, dropping 152 tons of bombs.  Tripoli was attacked fifteen times causing large fires, destroying buildings and damaging ships in harbour, as well as one 13000 ton liner, three merchant vessels, and possibly a cruiser.  There were four attacks on Catania and one each on Castel Vetrano (14 aircraft destroyed and 3 damaged), on Comiso and on Naples, damaging the railway station and an airframe factory.

Blenheims of 18, 21 and 107 Squadrons carried out seven operations against shipping, hitting one merchant vessel, and on transport and buildings around Homs, Zeiten and Misrata.  Blenheims also played a prominent part in the successful raid on Castel Vetrano.  During these operations four Blenheims were lost.  One ME 109 was probably destroyed.

Swordfish of 830 Squadron carried out 12 operations against shipping, 54 aircraft taking part.  One merchant vessel of 12000 tons was sunk, one destroyer, one 8000 ton tanker and four merchant vessels [of 2000-8000 tons] were hit.  From these operations one Swordfish is missing.

Twenty three Albacores took part in mine-laying operations as well as attacking shipping.  One merchant vessel 5000 tons was hit amidships; another of 4000 tons was left stationary and listing to port.  Three aircraft are missing.

Hurricanes of the Malta Night Fighter Unit began intruder raids over Sicilian aerodromes, with 17 sorties so far.  Two JU 88s were destroyed and a third damaged at Comiso, where a twin-engined bi-plane was also shot down in flames.  Four Hurricanes carried out a daylight raid on Comiso aerodrome, starting two good fires.

AIR RAIDS DAWN FRIDAY 30 TO DAWN SATURDAY 31 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Wind south west, strong and very cold.  50% cloud.  Bright periods; heavy showers.

0911-0934 hrs  One JU 88 bomber approaches the Island via Gozo and drops bombs in Kalafrana Bay and Ghaxaq areas.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  During the raid a number of ME 109 fighters patrol north and south of the Island.

1112-1135 hrs  Two JU 88s approach the Island: one crosses the coast over Hal Far and recedes without dropping bombs.  The other JU 88 is joined by another bomber which approaches from the north.  Both cross the coast, dropping bombs in the Hal Far area from a height of 15000 feet.  Ten Hurricanes are airborne: no engagement with the enemy.  Heavy Ack Ack did not engage.

1143 hrs  One JU 88 from the previous raid approaches again, dropping bombs on the shore near Leonardo before receding north.  Eight Hurricanes are airborne but do not engage; Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.

1219-1229 hrs  Two JU 88s attack Hal Far, dropping four bombs just off the aerodrome.  Windows are blown out in Officers’ Mess.  No casualties.

1304-1340 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and crosses the Island from Mellieha to Ghain Tuffieha.  It then goes away to the south and re-approaches, crossing the Island from Dingli to Grand Harbour, dropping bombs on Qrendi Strip.  Heavy Ack Ack fire six barrages.  Six Hurricanes are airborne but are called in due to bad weather.

1428-1515 hrs  Two enemy aircraft follow a returning Maryland to within 25 miles of the coast and then recede.

1542-1743 hrs  Two JU 88s escorted by eight fighters patrol around the Island.  One JU 88 crosses the coast and drops bombs in the Dockyard area.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.

1923-2007 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north, crosses the coast near Kalafrana and is met by a Heavy Ack Ack barrage.  The aircraft drops bombs in the Benghaisa area.

2305-0010 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north east, drops bombs on the Kalafrana Bay and Hal Far areas, then continues a nuisance patrol at 5000 feet.

0043-0216 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs in the south of the Island, between Kalafrana and Hal Far.

0238-0314 hrs  One aircraft approaches the Island from the north east, passes the Island 18 miles to the east, turns and recedes north.

0348-0410 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north east and attacks the Harbour, dropping bombs in the Dockyard and Zabbar areas.  Heavy Ack Ack fire a barrage.

0528-0622 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north, drops bombs in the Marsa area, recedes and makes three more attempts to cross the coast but each time is turned away by Heavy Ack Ack barrage.

Civilian casualties  Qrendi  Joseph Aquilina, age 38; Mary Rose Aquilina, age 34.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: FRIDAY 30 JANUARY 1942

AIR HQ Arrivals  Five Blenheims from Gibraltar; one Catalina from Cairo; one Wellington from Burg el Arab. Departures  one Blenheim to LG 224; one Hurricane to Mersa Matruh.

HAL FAR  Night 30/31st Four Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack one merchant vessel of 8000 tons and one destroyer.  Three torpedoes released at merchant vessel which stopped and appeared to be listing to port when last aircraft left. All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF14 patrol; one Maryland special search.  156 Squadron  Two Wellingtons shipping sweep Tripoli-Sirte-Misrata; five Wellingtons attacked motor transport park Benito Gate, Tripoli.  S/D Flight  One Wellington special search.

TA QALI  Aerodrome unserviceable later in the day: no intruder operations..  Two Sections of 249 Squadron attached to Luqa for operations.  Concert at Mosta: Raffians “Babes in the Wood”.

1st BN DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Bombs between RA7 and RA6.  No military damage or casualties.

8TH BN KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT MALTA  Bombs in D Company’s area during early morning.  Slight damage to civilian property.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2; dealt with 2 (1 x 250kg, 1 x 50kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

 

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Posted by on January 30, 2017 in 1942, January 1942

 

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23 January 1942: 8 Hours of Night Bombing

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  • Italian troop-carrying liner sinks
  • Kings Own Malta Regiment to defend beaches
  • Two Gunners killed in action

Fairey ‘Swordfish’ with torpedo

SWORDFISH SINK ENEMY TROOP SHIP

Late last night nine aircraft from Hal Far were despatched to attack a large Italian convoy en route from Taranto to Tripoli.  Engine trouble and navigational problems forced the raiders to turn back before reaching the target.  One Albacore is reported missing, along with its crew, Pilot S/Lt Laidlaw and Observer S/Lt Roberts.

Aware that four previous convoys have made it through with reinforcements to Axis forces in Tripoli in the past ten days, Royal Navy command scrambled another force of six Swordfish to take up the chase.  Two returned with engine trouble but the rest made contact with the convoy of three merchant ships and a passenger liner, with an escort of twenty vessels.  Despite air cover numbering twelve JU 88 bombers, two of the Swordfish managed to launch torpedoes at the liner before making their escape.  All six aircraft returned safely to Hal Far.

Reports are coming in that a ship identified as the Italian 13000 ton fast passenger liner Victoria, has sunk with the loss of a third of the 1400 Italian and German troops who were on board.

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT TO DEFEND BEACHES

The Kings Own Malta Regiment (KOMR) have been allocated increased responsibility for beach defences, to release British units for other duties.  The 2nd Battalion KOMR will now cover St Paul’s Bay and Ghain Tuffieha areas in the north west of the Island.

AIR RAIDS 23 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Wind south.  50% cloud; warmer.  Aerodrome serviceable.

0619-0655 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the east and drops bombs in the sea south east of Delimara.  Heavy Ack Ack fire one barrage.  A second aircraft appears from the north, then turns east ten miles north east of Grand Harbour, circles north of the Island and then, when on a south-westerly course, drops bombs in the sea ten miles from Palace Look-out.

0729-0737 hrs  Air raid alarm. Raid does not materialise.

0819-0837 hrs  Air raid alarm. Raid does not materialise.

0846-0958 hrs  Two ME 109s approach from the north and patrol round the Island, machine-gunning a submarine, which crash-dived.  Fourteen plus aircraft then come in from the north, dropping bombs in the sea before patrolling to the east of the Island.  No aircraft cross the coast.

1040-1108 hrs  Four ME 109s patrol to the east and south of the Island, where the plot fades.

1140-1156 hrs  Four ME 109s approach from the north and carry out a patrol to the south of the Island.  A report of bombs in the sea south of Hal Far is unconfirmed.  Guns engage.

1211-1310 hrs  Eleven plus aircraft carry out fighter patrols, attacking minesweeper HMS Abingdon with grenades and machine-guns.  They also attack a Maryland which lands safely.  Two Hurricanes are sent up but do not engage.  Heavy Ack Ack engages.

1325-1328 hrs  Air raid warning. Aircraft identified as friendly.

1425 hrs  Twelve aircraft from 242, 126 and 249 Squadrons, Ta Qali, are scrambled and engage five JU 88s and several ME 109s.  Sgt Etchells attacks a JU 88 and gets in a five second burst: claiming ‘damaged’.  F/O Kay attacks a ME 109 and gets in two bursts from astern: claims ‘damaged’.  All Malta aircraft return safely.

1446-1555 hrs  Seven JU 88s, escorted by twenty fighters, approach from the north.  ME 109s machine-gun HMS Abingdon, WD [dredger] Lord Plumer and other small craft off Grand Harbour.  Private F Smith, acting as Ack Ack Light Machine Gunner on the vessel is killed.

Bombs are dropped on Gozo and on the north side of Hal Far dispersal area, damaging eight Hurricanes.  Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery engage two JU 88s and one Macchi 200.  They claim one hit on the Macchi, which recedes losing height.  Gunner J Dowling sustains a head injury from bomb splinters and suffers from blast, when a bomb drops near Harrow [gun] position.  He is rushed to hospital at Imtarfa, but dies soon after admission.

Military casualties  Gunner John Dowling, 74th Light Ack Ack Regiment; Private Francis Smith, 1st Bn The Dorsetshire Regiment.

1637-1649 hrs  One JU 88 comes in from the north at 22000 feet, passes the island and approaches the coast from the south east, is engaged by heavy Ack Ack, turns away and recedes north.

1845-1912 hrs  Four aircraft approach from the north and drop bombs in Grand Harbour and on land.  Heavy Ack Ack fires three barrages.

2210-2245 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs on the Safi strip, on Tal Papa/Hal Far crossroads and between Tarxien searchlight and Zeitun..  The aircraft is engaged by Heavy Ack Ack barrage and searchlights.  Tarxien searchlight is machine-gunned.

2311-2352 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs in St Paul’s Bay area and near Ta Qali.

0011-0054 hrs  Two aircraft approach from the north west and drop several bombs in the Latnia and Mqabba areas.  Heavy Ack Ack fire two barrages.

0150-0248 hrs  Two aircraft approach from the north west and drop bombs in Gudja area and in the sea.

0310-0329 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north west and drops bombs in the Rabat area, in Siggiewi, and on a searchlight position at Zebbug, with a direct hit on a generator.  Heavy Ack Ack fire one barrage.

0349-0411 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north west and drops bombs in the Mgarr area.

0427-0438 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north west and drops bombs in Targa and St Paul’s Bay areas.  Heavy Ack Ack fires two barrages.

0456-0545 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north west and drops bombs in the Bingemma area.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: FRIDAY 23 JANUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Departures  One Cathay to Lisbon.

HAL FAR  Seven Swordfish 830 Squadron and two Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack convoy of one battleship, four cruisers, fifteen destroyers, one liner and three merchant vessels.  All seven Swordfish returned early, either with engine trouble or because they failed to formate.  One of the Albacores failed to locate the convoy and the second Albacore failed to return to base.  Missing crew S/Lt Laidlaw, pilot, and S/Lt Roberts, observer (1).

Second striking force of six Swordfish despatched to attack above convoy.  Two aircraft attacked returned with engine trouble.  Two aircraft attacked one of the largest merchant vessels (12000 tons), torpedoes ran well in the direction of the ship and possible hits were scored although no results were observed.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland Cairo 1 patrol; one Maryland Cairo 2 patrol; one Beaufighter Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Taranto Harbour; one Beaufighter PR Messina, Palermo.  S/D Flight  One Wellington special search.

TA QALI  1000 hrs  Funeral of Sgt Neale at Bighi.  Four airmen returned to Luqa and ceased attachment.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Inspection and check of War Accommodation Stores at Mosta and St Edwards.  Funeral of the late S/Cdr Newman RAOC at St Andrews Cemetery.

1st BN CHESHIRE REGIMENT  45 officers and Other Ranks attended a lecture at the Marsa Club given on “The Anti-Aircraft Problem”.

11TH BN LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Gozo boat again machine-gunned: no damage.  Lecture at Marsa on “The Anti Aircraft Problem”.  Working party of stevedores from this unit ceased [unloading convoy] as from tonight.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 1 (500kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

(1)  The crew were taken prisoner by Italian troops who also captured their Albacore aircraft (www.fleetairarmarchive.net)

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Posted by on January 23, 2017 in 1942, January 1942

 

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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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 in 1941, November 1941

 

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