Tag Archives: 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm

22 November 1941: Suspect Bomb Halts Governor’s Visit

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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)


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.


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.


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 sank two Axis vessels


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


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.


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.


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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“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)


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)   


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.


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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6 November 1941: Malta Air Forces Attack Sicily

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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.


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. 


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, 2016 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


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.


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.


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.


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, 2016 in 1941, October 1941


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30 October 1941: No Axis Convoys Seen in Mediterranean For a Week

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British War Cabinet Report for week 23-30 October

HMS Urge

HMS Urge

The British SS City of Lincoln and SS Dunedin Star have arrived at Gibraltar from Malta after having been unsuccessfully attacked on three occasions by enemy aircraft, two of which were probably damaged.  Air reconnaissance has failed to locate the SS Empire Guillemot; she may have been sunk off the Algerian coast.   HM Submarine Urge has reported that she torpedoed two ships off Kuriat Island on the coast of Tunis.

Blenheims from Malta made a number of daylight attacks on objectives in Italy, Sicily and Tripoli. Although reconnaissance and sweeps were flown in search of shipping, no convoys were located and there were no reports of the successful attacks which have been a feature of our operations in the central Mediterranean in the past.  Night attacks were made on Naples and Tripoli. 

On two days a total of 16 Blenheims, after an unsuccessful search for shipping in the Gulf of Taranto, attacked targets in southern Italy. A goods train at Cotrone was destroyed, and hits were seen on the railway line and several bridges.  At Cantanzaro factory buildings, sidings and a pumping station were hit, resulting in a large fire accompanied by dense clouds of black smoke, probably from burning oil.  Bombs also fell on factories at Locari and Siderno, where the gas works were hit and a large fire broke out.  Five Blenheims bombed Licta, Sicily, and all bombs were seen to burst in the target area.  Six Hurricanes also attacked a factory and railway sidings at Ragusa.  Two night attacks were made on Naples by a small force of Wellingtons but weather was bad and no results were observed.

Twenty Blenheim sorties were flown over the African coast. The principal objectives were Misurata, the coast road and an enemy camp.  Accurate observation of results was generally impossible, but a building at Buerat was seen to be demolished and two fighters were damaged on the ground at Zuara.

Tripoli was attacked on five nights of the week by a total of 36 Wellingtons. Several sustained attacks were made, lasting on one occasion for five hours and on another for eight.  Hits were seen on the moles, seaplane station and on the railway yards, where there was a large explosion and fires broke out. 

Government and civilian property in Malta was slightly damaged during a night attack by four Italian aircraft. A daylight raid by four bombers, preceded by 27 fighters, resulted in a fuel dump being set on fire and other minor damage.  One enemy fighter was destroyed and a bomber and a fighter severely damaged; one Hurricane was lost.


Weather  Cloudy and overcast.

No air raids.


AIR HQ Arrivals 3 Blenheim, 1 Catalina, 5 Wellington. 69 Squadron 3 Marylands special patrols; 1 Maryland special search.  Photoreconnaissance Reggio Calabria aerodrome and Tripoli. 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 3 Albacores attacked the railway junction at Conicalli, with bombs.  One failed to locate the target and dropped a bomb on main road east of Palermo.  4 Albacores dropped bombs on the sulphur factory at Licata with good results.

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


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28 October 1941: Malta University Opens Lectures to Servicemen

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  • Four Flying Fortresses land in Malta
  • Submarine Ursula ‘spirited’ attack on the Calabrian coast
  • Submarine Urge sinks one Axis ship, breaks back of second
Flying Fortress

Flying Fortress


The Rector of the University of Malta has intimated that he will be only too pleased to grant permission to Army personnel to attend any lectures which, on the examination of the candidate’s qualifications, will be considered to be of use to them. Subjects offered include Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Engineering, Architecture, Medicine and Law. 

Fees will be £3 3s 0d per subject for one year’s attendance, including registration up to £9 9s 0d for attendance at all subjects on a course. The Governor may remit or reduce all or any of the fees in case of hardship.  Applications can be made via the candidate’s commanding officer via the Command Education Officer at the Castille.


The submarine Tetrarch has been reported missing after delivering stores and Kerosene to Malta.  She left the submarine base on Sunday heading for Gibraltar where she was expected to put in on her way to refit in the UK. Tetrarch was last heard of yesterday, when she made contact with the submarine P34 while both vessels were in the Strait of Sicily.  Submarine commanders suspect she struck one of the many Italian mines in the area. 


An Italian News Bulletin refers to the attack by Malta bombers tonight, when the Albacore aircraft of Midshipman P Brown and S/Lt J Scott failed to return from a raid on Comiso aerodrome:

“During the British night attack on Comiso, our fighters, which took to the air when they received the alarm sighted enemy bombers flying in the direction of Sicily and pursued them towards Malta. Our fighters over took the enemy and succeeded in giving a few machine-gun bursts to one of the RAF bombers which was hit and dodged into the clouds to evade our fighters.  However it cannot be excluded that it crashed into the sea.”


Weather  Much colder.

0856-0932 hrs  Air raid alert for two Macchi 200 fighters which approach from the north. One crosses the coast, flies over Valletta at 23000 feet and is engaged by three Navy anti-aircraft guns firing on ‘height control’, without result.  The second comes within six miles of Grand Harbour then circles, eventually flying over Mellieha Bay.  Four Hurricanes are scrambled and the lead fighter sees a Macchi ahead but too far away to intercept. 

2103-2110 hrs; 2130-2150 hrs  Air raid alerts for four and then two enemy aircraft which turn away before reaching the Island.

Military casualties Midshipman Peter A Brown, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR); Sub-Lieutenant James T Scott, RNVR; both 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm.


ROYAL NAVY  Urge returned from patrol off Kuriat having sunk one merchant ship and broken the back of another anchored off Kuriat. Ursula returned from patrol off Calabrian coast.  No ships were sighted, but a spirited bombardment of a railway bridge was carried out in the face of opposition from two machine guns and two riflemen.  The appearance of an armoured car from the local garage, a flying boat and the fact that the gun jammed caused Ursula to withdraw.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 4 Fortress, 1 Maryland. Departures 3 Fortress, 1 Maryland, 1 Sunderland, 4 Wellington. S/D Flight Special patrol. 18 Squadron 5 Blenheims attacked Buerat el Esun. 40 Squadron 6 Wellingtons carried out a nuisance raid on Sicily. 69 Squadron 2 Marylands special patrol.  Photoreconnaissances Tripoli, Catania-Avola and Sicily. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked Buerat el Esun. 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Albacores sent to carry out a bombing raid on Comiso aerodrome scored hits on hangars and the officers’ mess causing fires visible 20 miles away.  Very intense fire light anti-aircraft fire from all directions of the aerodrome; one Albacore failed to return (crew Midshipman Brown and S/Lt Scott).

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Malta Volunteer Defence Force personnel attended a lecture on the use of grenades. The MVDF were most keen and the lecture room was crowded.  The MVDF will be armed with Italian hand grenades and they will need to feel confident in their use.


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


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