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12 June 1941: Enemy Fire on Rescue Missions Kills Naval Officer

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A Cant rescue flying boat was also attacked

A Cant rescue flying boat was also attacked

JADE ATTACKED DURING SEA RESCUE

Royal Navy trawler HMS Jade was attacked by two E boats in the early hours of the morning while she was on a mission to rescue a missing RAF pilot. Jade was sent out from Malta to search for Hurricane pilot P/O R Munro, whose aircraft crashed into the sea during a dogfight with Italian Macchi 200 raiders this morning.  She was 17 miles off the Sicilian coast when she encountered the E boats which both immediately fired torpedoes which just missed the trawler. Jade’s guns opened fire and a fierce gun battle followed with the E boats at close range, during which one of Jade’s crew was killed.  The trawler returned fire, constantly raking the E boats with machine-guns and damaging both, one seriously. The missing pilot was not found.

The encounter follows an incident earlier today when Hurricanes sent to intercept an enemy formation reported as approaching Malta fired on a red cross flying boat before seeing its identification markings. Once the pilots realised the situation they withdrew but the Cant aircraft was already ablaze and ditched in the sea. 

TROOPS PREPARE PLANS TO RECAPTURE TA QALI

New plans have been put in place recapture of Ta Qali should it fall into enemy hands following an enemy invasion. Malta’s Northern Infantry Brigade is responsible for the area and has issued orders to 4th Bn the Buffs for immediate action to recapture the aerodrome, the retention of which is vital for the defeat of any incursion.

Two areas of high ground overlooking the airfield are identified as key to its. Tal Virtu is marked out as the best strategic point from which to recapture these bluffs.  In the event of an enemy take-over, 4th Bn The Buffs are instructed to assemble in positions around Tal Virtu, with one platoon in Mdina, posted on the roof of a building or buildings from which fire can be brought to bear on any parachutists descending on the town itself.  The chief entrances to Mdina will be blocked, with the exception of the main gate which will be defended by infantry personnel.

REINFORCEMENTS AND SUPPLIES ARRIVE

HM Submarine Rorqual arrived in Malta today from Alexandria with urgent reinforcements and supplies. Three officers and 21 other ranks disembarked. Also unloaded were two tons of medical stores, 62 tons of aviation fuel (enough for 3 days) and 45 tons of kerosene.  147 bags of mail were also delivered.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 JUNE TO DAWN 13 JUNE 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

0925-0956 hrs Air raid alert for an enemy aircraft on reconnaissance over Grand Harbour, escorted by Macchi 200 fighters, which passes over Luqa and Hal Far before leaving to the south west. The raiders are heavily engaged by anti-aircraft fire which splits the formation. 18 Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage and shoot down five enemy fighters into the sea.  Two Hurricanes also crash into the sea; P/O R Saunders is rescued, badly wounded.  The second, P/O R Munro, does not survive.  A third Hurricane is damaged on landing.

Noon  A formation of enemy aircraft is reported approaching the Island.  Hurricanes of 46 Squadron are scrambled and intercept.  They fire at a Cant flying boat before seeing that it is marked with red crosses, and evidently searching for casualties.  The Hurricanes immediately turn away but the flying boat catches fire and the crew bale out as it dives towards the sea.  In the ensuing dogfight four enemy fighters are confirmed destroyed.  One Hurricane crashes into the sea; the pilot Sgt N Walker is rescued. 

Evening  Another flying boat approaches the Island and is attacked and shot down by Hurricanes.

0220 hrs  While searching for the Hurricane pilot missing after this morning’s raid, HMS Jade is attacked by two E boats 17 miles south of Cape Passero, Sicily.  Both E boats fire torpedoes which miss Jade; a spirited encounter ensues at close range; one of Jade’s crew is killed by machine-gunfire. Jade returns fire, constantly raking the E boats with machine-guns and damaging both, one seriously.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Roich H McKenzie Munro, pilot, RAF, 249 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Mosta  Mary Barberi, age 74.

Enemy casualties  Sottotenente Vittorio Bertoccini, pilot of CR 42 fighter, 74a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo Autonomo.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 12 JUNE 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish despatched to attack Tripoli Harbour and quays. Two returned with engine trouble; the remaining four dropped 2000lbs of high explosive bombs and 100lbs of incendiaries over Spanish Quay and buildings, starting several fires.  

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron 4 Marylands on reconnaissance.  One Sunderland en route to Malta from the Middle East attacked an Italian submarine 240 miles off Malta; the submarine crash-dived.

HAL FAR  One Fulmar force-landed in the sea; crew picked up safely and returned to Hal Far.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Vigorous training by parachutist-fighting platoons.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (50kg).

 

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Posted by on June 12, 2021 in 1941, June 1941

 

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8 June 1941: Malta Civilians Warned to Prepare for Invasion

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MALTA BETTER PREPARED THAN CRETE, GOVERNOR TELLS CIVILIANS

Malta’s civilian population have been warned today that the Island is facing the possibility of invasion. In a broadcast on the Island’s Rediffusion service, the Governor and Commander in Chief revealed that warnings had been received of a possible attack by air and sea. 

However, aware that listeners knew the history of the fall of Crete, Lt Gen Dobbie was keen to reassure listeners that the Island stands ready. “Malta is better able to resist attack than Crete,” he said, and “circumstances justify quiet confidence.”  He also stressed that “the Government and fighting services are doing their utmost to see that Malta gives a good account of itself.”

Malta could learn from the siege of Tobruk

Malta could learn from the siege of Tobruk

MALTA ANTI-AIRCRAFT DEFENCES OF ‘PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE’

Reviewing the Island’s defences in the face of possible invasion, Lt Gen Dobbie has cabled the War Office for guidance from any lessons learned in the defence of Tobruk:

“In view of the rapid neutralisation of anti-aircraft defences by the enemy in Crete, I would greatly appreciate any information on the methods of defence of heavy and light anti-aircraft positions, particularly at Tobruk where these have encountered heavy dive-bombing attacks. The preservation of the anti-aircraft defence of Malta is of paramount importance.”

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN MINEFIELDS

One civilian was killed and another badly injured by mines in two separate incidents today. This morning 14 year old John Vella detonated two mines when he crossed a barbed wire coastal barrier in an attempt to reach the shore.  He was critically injured by shrapnel and received urgent medical treatment but died from his injuries three hours later.  Early this evening 56 year old Maria Attard also crossed a security barrier into a military zone, triggering a single mine; she suffered serious injuries to her legs. 

The mines have been laid in recent weeks as the Island implemented its anti-invasion measures. Civilians were warned not to enter zones which have been cordoned off and clearly marked.  Warnings have been issued again the light of today’s incidents.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 JUNE TO DAWN 9 JUNE 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1030 hrs  John Vella, age 14, enters a coastal area enclosed by barbed wire and sets off two mines.

1845 hrs  Maria Attard, age 56, enters a cordoned off area and triggers a mine which injures her in the legs.

2321 hrs; 0018 hrs  Air raid alerts for enemy fighter patrols which approach to within ten miles of the Island. Two Hurricane fighters at a time are scrambled and raiders recede with no engagement.

Civilian casualties  Marsaxlokk Grezzju Fenech, age 28.  Mellieha  John Vella, age 14.

Enemy casualties Primo Aviere Giovanni Bonanno, air gunner; Sergente Maggiore Gugliemo Mazzolenis, 2nd pilot; Primo Aviere Francesco Minuto, wireless operator; Primo Aviere Michele Turco, mechanic; all 99o Gruppo, 43o Stormo, crew of Fiat BR 20 shot down and died. Tenente Sergio Reggiani, pilot, survived and was taken prisoner. Primo Aviere  Lamberto Mariani, crewman; Aviere Scelto Marc N Mascellaro, crewman; Primo Aviere Umberto Micheli, crewman; Aviere Scelto Antonio Plamiere, crewman; Sottotenente Marcello Weber, pilot, all 193a Squadriglia, crew of Savoia SM 79 bomber, shot down into the sea and died.  Maresciallo Luciano Fabbri, pilot, survived and was taken prisoner.

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Swordfish dropped flame floats in an attempt to set fire to the large amount of oil floating in Tripoli Harbour, following the recent sinking of the MV Barmania.  Flame floats were dropped in large numbers without result.  Also bombing attack on ships in harbour and quays.

AIR HQ General Haining and party passed through Malta. Arrivals 2 Wellington, 2 Blenheim, 1 Maryland, 2 Beaufighter.  69 Squadron  4 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.  One Maryland chased by fighters from Pantelleria, two others chased by Macchi 200 fighters, one attacked. 82 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked three Q-boats near Pantelleria. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 8.

 

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

 

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3 June 1941: Malta to Expect 6000-Strong Invasion Within a Week

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40 motor torpedo boats ready in Sicily

40 motor torpedo boats ready in Sicily

ATTACK EXPECTED TO BEGIN 10-12 JUNE

Malta could be invaded within a week, according to the War Office. According to a telegram to the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief, a source of unknown reliability states that German and Italian troops in Sicily are undergoing intensive training for an attack on the Island.  The source also states that 6000 German and Italian parachute troops have arrived in Catania.  The attack is expected to begin between 10 and 12 June.

A second report has revealed that 1500 Italian parachutists, 1500 bicyclists and 3000 men are at Syracuse, with 120 65/17 guns, 40 torpedo-armed motor boats and light transports. There are also significant troop and aircraft concentrations at Caltanisetta.  However, the War Office gives a word of caution, stating that as yet has no firm confirmation of an intention to attack Malta.

BLENHEIM LOST IN CONVOY RAID

A Malta-based Blenheim aircraft was destroyed today during an attack on an enemy convoy this afternoon. The bomber was one of four of 139 Squadron who with another of 82 Squadron were despatched to attack Axis supply ships with an escort of destroyers.  The Blenheim piloted by S/Ldr Thompson DFC succeeded in hitting an 8000 ton merchant ship but was hit by debris from the resulting blast.  Following Blenheims reported that the aircraft exploded and crashed into the sea; there is little hope of survivors.  The other two crew members have been named as Sgt Hepworth and Sgt Turner. (1)

CLAMP DOWN ON WATER ECONOMIES

Troop company commanders are now required to submit a report every Monday to the effect that orders to economise on water are being complied with and that fresh water consumption within their respective companies does not exceed an average of 10 gallons per head per day.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 JUNE TO DAWN 4 JUNE 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1328-1340 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which carries out reconnaissance over Grand Harbour, escorted by twelve fighters. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no damage to enemy aircraft.  Hurricanes are scrambled but unable to reach height in time to engage the raiders.

PM  One Italian three-engined aircraft passing to the west of Malta is attacked by four Hurricanes of 249 Squadron and shot down in the sea.  The crew are seen on the wing.  The Gozo boat and Hurricanes conducted a search but were unable to find any survivors.

2125-2135 hrs  Air raid alert for four formations of enemy aircraft which approach the Island and circle east of Kalafrana and Grand Harbour for one and a half hours. 15kg bombs are dropped on land west of Island Bay and in the sea.  Night Hurricanes are airborne but unable to locate the raiders due to heavy cloud.

2143-2300 hrs  Air raid alert. Two enemy aircraft cross the coast near Kalafrana and drop 15kg and incendiaries near the airfield and in the sea.  Searchlights illuminate the raiders on two occasions and anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Night Hurricanes are airborne but unable to locate the raiders due to heavy cloud.

2327-0045 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island from the south west and drops bombs in the sea south west of St Thomas’ Bay. During the raid four Swordfish aircraft land at Hal Far.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders; no claims.  Night Hurricanes are airborne but unable to locate the raiders due to heavy cloud.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 3 JUNE 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Six Swordfish in two unsuccessful attempts in poor visibility to intercept southbound convoys passing to the westward of Lampedusa.   Unique successful attack on Lampedusa Harbour; 1000 ton ship destroyed.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron 5 Maryland on reconnaissance. 4 Blenheims of 139 Squadron and 1 of 82 Squadron attacked a convoy escorted by destroyers: one ship blown up and a second set on fire. The Blenheim which bombed the latter ship was hit by debris from it and exploded; it then crashed into the sea.  

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Bn has now formed mobile reserves of platoon strength in each Company area which will soon begin training in street fighting and dealing with parachutists.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 5 (1 x AA shell; 1 x 70kg incendiary; 2 x 50kg HE; 1 x 500 lb HE).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Training with Northern Infantry Brigade to practice assembly of a Composite Reserve Battalion at night, to prevent infiltration of parachutists at night and destroy them at dawn, and to test anti-parachute defences of Imtarfa Hospital.

(1) All three crew members survived

 

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Posted by on June 3, 2021 in 1941, June 1941

 

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25 May 1941: Air Chief of Faith, Hope and Charity Leaves Malta

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AOC Malta Air Commodore Forster Maynard (r)

AOC Malta Air Commodore Forster Maynard (r)

AIR OFFICER COMMANDING TO BE REPLACED

Air Vice Marshal Forster Maynard, AFC is to leave his post as Air Officer Commanding at the end of the month. The former World War I fighter ace was appointed Air Officer Commanding Mediterranean in November 1939.  When Italy declared war the following June, he was responsible for creating the only fighter forces to defend Malta when he organised the assembly of Gladiators ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Charity’ from packing cases.  Since then he has overseen the strengthening of the Island’s fighter forces in the face of heavy German air raids, as well as the introduction of offensive bomber operations against Axis convoys.  He will be replaced by Air Vice Marshal Hugh Pugh Lloyd MV DFC.

AMMUNITION USAGE FOR WEEK ENDING 25 MAY

  • 4.5” HE 191 rounds
  • 3.7” HE 1260 rounds
  • 3” HE 134 rounds
  • 40mm 40 rounds

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 MAY TO DAWN 26 MAY 1941

Weather  Very hot.

1150-1214 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 to 40 enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north and withdraw before reaching the coast.

1327-1430 hrs  Observers report the approach of three formations of enemy aircraft which have not been reported by fighter control and raise the alarm. While one plot of four ME 109s circles the Island, apparently screening aircraft in transit between Tripoli and Sicily, a second formation turns inland and is over Ta Qali moments after the alert sounds.  The ME 109s machine-gun a searchlight station on the airfield, wounding one gunner.  Two Hurricanes are burned out and three others seriously damaged on the ground (but repairable).  A Lister engine is damaged and 90 gallons of oil are lost.  One pilot and one airman are injured by shrapnel and admitted to hospital; two other airmen are slightly wounded.  Bofors, heavy and light anti-aircraft guns engage; the Bofors claims hits on two ME 109s.  One ME 109 is believed probably shot down into the sea.  No Hurricanes are scrambled owing to the apparent error in fighter control which is immediately under investigation.

1755-1820 hrs  Air raid alert for a large fighter patrol which scouts round the Island. Seven Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders do not cross the coast; no engagement.

Civilian casualties  Naxxar  Francis Mifsud, age 38.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 25 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Since it is now apparent that Lampedusa is used as a refuge for small merchant vessels on the Sicily to Tripoli route, 4 Swordfish were despatched to lay ‘cucumber’ magnetic mines. A fifth Swordfish carried flares but owing to electrical failure none were dropped.  Illuminating cartridges lit the harbour for short periods enabling two cucumbers to to be laid near the harbour entrance.  Moderate light anti-aircraft fire was encountered.  Two Swordfish returned with their cucumber mines, one with engine trouble.  All aircraft returned safely.   

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland; transatlantic flying boat Golden Horn from Gibraltar carrying Air Vice Marshal Lloyd, MC, DFC. Departures 1 Sunderland; transatlantic flying boat.  69 Squadron  Maryland southern part of eastern Tunisian coast.  Maryland reconnaissance northern part eastern Tunisian coast.  Maryland patrol east of Malta up to Cape Stilo for a convoy reported yesterday by a submarine.  Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli reports convoy.  Maryland reconnaissance eastern Sicilian coast reports enemy vessels.  

LUQA  Six Blenheims 139 and 82 Squadrons searched for troopships without success.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  C Company relieve D Company of 8 Manchester and will come under the command of 8 Manchester.

 

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Posted by on May 25, 2021 in 1941, May 1941

 

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12 May 1941: Malta Has New Fighter Squadron

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185 Squadron Hurricane fighter HQ at Hal Far

185 Squadron Hurricane fighter HQ at Hal Far

185 SQUADRON BEGINS OPS AT HAL FAR

A new fighter squadron begins operations in Malta today. 185 Fighter Squadron has been formed at Hal Far, giving the Island a second fighter force. The Squadron will be led by Flight Lieutenant P W O Mould, DFC and Bar, who is promoted to Squadron Leader on taking command.  The additional fighter unit has been made possible by the arrival of from the Hurricanes which arrived on the Island in April.  261 Squadron will continue to operate from Ta Qali; one Flight of the unit has been transferred to the new squadron.

NAZI PRISONERS OF WAR CONFIDENT OF EARLY RESCUE FROM MALTA

Four German prisoners of war captured when their JU 88 bomber was brought down on 29 April have been interrogated at Corradino Prison. The prisoners are all members of Squadron 5th Staffel, 2nd Gruppo, based at Catania.  They have been named as pilot Weldwebel Rudolf Lenzner, air gunner Unterofficizier Paul Kietzmann, observer Weldwebel Wilhelm Heller and wireless operator Helmut Hartlich.

According to the prisoners, nine aircraft of the same squadron left base on 29 April with orders to attack two cruisers and eleven destroyers in Grand Harbour. This was to be carried out in three formations, each being allotted certain targets shown from two previous reconnaissances that morning.  They were met and escorted by two squadrons of ME 109s which came from another un-named aerodrome. 

Sgt Major Heller stated that the JU 88s bomb release gear was damaged by Ack Ack fire and his bombs did not leave the plane (this cannot be confirmed). The prisoners are unanimous that Ack Ack shrapnel hit them squarely and set the aircraft on fire upon which they decided to bale out.  Two of the crew had already done so before the Malta fighters came in.  In spite of this, they all say that Malta’s Ack Ack is very poor, it has no effect on the pilot or crew; however the interrogator was with them during an air-raid when they saw an [enemy aircraft] hit by shrapnel and limp away – and he said there were no comments about our Ack Ack then.

The airmen’s morale is reported as excellent and they are well trained in security, resisting any attempt to give information which would assist the enemy. They are clean and disciplined, polite and smart.  Air Gunner Kietzmann was wearing the Iron Cross (1st Class); he refused to give the details which earned him the decoration. 

All four are 100 per cent Nazi and are confident of an early rescue and final victory of the Axis powers. On being asked how they would conquer the British Empire, they admitted they did not know but said that Adolf Hitler would accomplish this act as he had others.  Lenzner maintained that “as sure as the sun rises, so will the Jewish problem develop to a crisis in Great Britain.” They would not be drawn into commenting on their Axis partner Italy but appeared to agree with remarks disparaging Italian fighting powers.

Three of them joined the Luftwaffe in 1937 and have flown together since before the war. All admitted to having made many trips over England and at least four over Malta.  At the beginning of 1941 the Squadron was drafted to the Mediterranean where they have operated against Malta from Sicily several times.  Heller’s crew took part in the attack on Illustrious, when he admitted the Luftwaffe suffered many losses, including a German air ace named Captain Wilhelm Duerbeck, holder of the German ‘Knights Cross’. 

Asked why they had resorted to night attacks on Malta, they maintained that it was more profitable and referred to the Allied night raids over Germany. When challenged about indiscriminate bombing, they compared what is happening in Malta to what is happening in Germany – and said that the British started it first.  Parachute mines were discussed with all the prisoners, who pleaded ignorance of their existence.  They all stated that Junkers 88s invariably carry bombs.  However, it seems very unlikely that they would be unaware of the mines.

Two complaints made by all the prisoners were registered as legitimate. It was recommended that the first should certainly be put right immediately and never repeated: articles of clothing and decorations (such as an Iron Cross, badges and stripes), personal papers and photographs and other items in their pockets were removed by someone on their way to internment and have not been passed on with other effects to the proper authority.  This is considered doubly regrettable, as not only could this provoke negative propaganda in Germany, vital information has been lost.  One prisoner is very desirous to have the photograph of his mother and girlfriend returned to him.

A telegram has been sent to the Commander in Chief Middle East giving identification details of the prisoners and confirming their wellbeing.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 MAY TO DAWN 13 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1003-1025 hrs Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which carries out reconnaissance at 22000 feet escorted by six ME 109 fighters.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no interceptions.

1027-1047 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which carries out reconnaissance at over 22000 feet.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no interceptions.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1305-1400 hrs The Radio Direction Finder indicates 30 enemy aircraft approaching in three formations.  17 Hurricanes are scrambled but the enemy remains at a distance of 10 miles.

1801-1835 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 escorted by four ME 109s which approach the Island and patrol five miles off the coast at 24000 feet.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no interceptions.

2152-2320 hrs  Air raid alert for 12-15 enemy aircraft which cross the coast at various points and drop bombs on Luqa and Kalafrana, Rinella and Zabbar, Dragonara and St Georges Bay. In the Dockyard a heavy bomb collapses the roadway at Garden Reach and undermines a nearby store and wharf.  A large bomb explodes at the Bighi Royal Naval Hospital, badly damaging two houses and the mortuary. The Laboratory and Administrative Blocks are also affected by blast.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

0054-0115 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

0205-0310 hrs  Air raid alert for eight to ten enemy aircraft which cross the coast at various points and drop bombs on Luqa, between Luqa and Gudja (including Gudja camp with no casualties) and Kalafrana anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

Civilian casualties  Valletta  Gerald Camilleri, age 33.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 12 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Kelly, Kipling, Jaguar, Kashmir and Kelvin returned from Operation MD 4, having carried out a successful bombardment of Benghazi.  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 2100 hrs  Swordfish departed on offensive operations on a convoy sighted by a Maryland at 1638 hrs. 1 Flare Dropped and 4 strikes with torpedoes; one destroyer and one merchant vessel probably sunk.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron Maryland patrol off eastern Sicilian coast. Maryland patrol eastern Tunisian coast.  

HAL FAR  C Flight 261 Squadron ceased to exist. 185 Squadron was formed under the command of Squadron Leader Mould.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A lecture was given to many officers on the Island by CSO1 Colonel Bedford on “The Defence of Malta”.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 4 (1 x 50kg; 2 x 250kg; 1 x 500kg).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  2150 hrs A stick of bombs is dropped on Battalion HQ; one bomb fell inside the camp compound destroying the PRI tent, the motor transport office and store tent. Three men were buried but were extricated unhurt.  Three motorcycles were badly damaged.

 

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Posted by on May 12, 2021 in 1941, May 1941

 

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5 May 1941: Malta ‘Most Exposed’ Part of British Empire

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MALTA’S ORDEAL

The Times, London MAY 1941

Malta in the Mediterranean

Malta in the Mediterranean

The most exposed position in the British Empire is the island of Malta, which continues to suffer heavy air raids. Situated as it is at the intersection of the British route from Gibraltar to Alexandria with the enemy’s route from the Italian ports to Tripoli, its capture would be of incalculable value to the Axis for the whole of their Mediterranean strategy; and in default of capture they have reason to spare no effort to make its harbour useless as a base for British ships. 

Since Malta is only sixty miles from the airfields of Sicily, and is precluded by its small area from maintaining a defensive air force comparable in numbers to its potential assailants, the opportunities for harassing the garrison and people are enormous. Indeed the Maltese, like so many of their ancestors before them, have been living ever since last June in what is practically a state of siege, though they are invested not from the sea but from the sky.  Up to the middle of February, when the last statistics were given to the House of Commons, Malta had endured over three hundred raids – that is, considerably more than one for every day since Italy entered the war; and the latest news is a reminder that the attack has not slackened. 

The constancy of the Maltese people under this continuous ordeal – from which they have no prospect of respite while Italy remains a belligerent – is beyond all praise. The cramped circumstances in which the Island has to wage aerial war have never been allowed to impair its fighting efficiency, and again and again the attacking squadrons have been beaten off with loss.  The civil defence services have kept down casualties and maintained the spirit of the population at a high level; so far are the Maltese from self-pity that they even raised, in the midst of their own troubles, a subscription in relief of air-raid distress in London.  Large numbers of their young men are on active service with the Imperial Forces, and they are now embarking on a scheme of compulsory service, both military and civil, which in some respects goes beyond that which is in force in England.

General Dobbie is heading the defence with a tenacity worthy of the tradition of De l’Isle Adam and La Valetta; while the Maltese are holding their post of honour with a valour and endurance that come of pride in their share of the Imperial inheritance. Fascist propaganda has laboured for years to persuade them to think of themselves as Italians.  Yet neither in race nor language nor history nor institutions have they part or lot with Italy…  [They] disdain the servile institutions of their Fascist neighbours; and they are confident that their island fortress, which withstood the might of a Suleiman the Magnificent, can indefinitely defy a mere Mussolini.  

BREAD RATIONING INTRODUCED

Bread rationing begins in Malta today. The ration will be 3/8 rotolo per person (including for children and babies).  At the same time, the price of bread has also been reduced by more than 50 per cent: the ration portion of a single person will now cost half a penny.  The reduction follows a commitment by the British Government to bear the cost of keeping bread prices down in Malta while the Island is under siege. 

The rationing of bread will be managed by the local Protection Offices, which will keep detailed records of every allocation. The Offices will also issue permits to bakers to obtain their allocation of flour to meet the needs of their customers.

Wheat is being milled to the maximum extraction rate and mixed with maize and barley. The resulting bread is now much darker than the white bread the Maltese are accustomed to. 

REPORTING OF CASUALTIES

All Companies of Maltese regiments have been ordered immediately inform their Battalion Headquarters direct of all deaths due to enemy action, in order that the necessary information may be sent to the Record Office for notification of the next of kin. The measure is In line with King’s Regulations 1935.  Information from Companies must contain full particulars of next of kin, and whether the next of kin has been informed.  Casualties in respect of English troops will be reported as laid down in Fortress Orders 1941.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 MAY TO DAWN 6 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine with a fresh wind.

0828-0843 hrs  Air raid alert for a small formation of enemy fighters which approach the Island and patrol off the coast; no air raid.

2010-2030 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of a Maryland aircraft.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 5 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Swordfish overnight operations minelaying approaches to Tripoli. Information received that one Merchant Vessel blew up and one Merchant Vessel burned out while they were laying the mines.  As no bombs were dropped it is suspected that a flare from a Swordfish landed on the ship unloading petrol and ammunition

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland.  69 Squadron  Maryland on shuttle service reconnaissance from Middle East via Greek coast and Zante.  2 Marylands reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.  Marylands departed Gibraltar 1530 hrs arrived Malta safely; no shipping or aircraft seen en route.  Beaufighter patrols to 60 miles west of Malta from dawn to 1000 hrs in connection with air escort for special merchant vessel due Malta; ship not sighted.  Patrols will be repeated tomorrow at the same time.  

LUQA  Maryland B crew left; C crew arrived PM. Two flights of Beaufighters went out to escort British vessel Parracombe to Malta but did not find it.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 19 (18 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg).

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Battalion providing working parties for clearing Valletta.

 

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Posted by on May 5, 2021 in 1941, May 1941

 

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16 April 1941: Malta Destroyers Sink German Convoy

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HMS Mowahk

HMS Mowahk

HMS MOHAWK LOST IN BATTLE

Destroyers Janus, Jervis, Mohawk and Nubian sailed from Malta this evening to intercept a German Afrika Korps convoy off Kerkennah, to the east of Tunisia.  The ships were operating on the basis of information from reconnaissance by a Maryland of 69 Squadron. Two Swordfish aircraft which were sent overnight to locate and shadow the convoy which consisted of five merchant ships escorted by three Italian destroyers.

As the enemy convoy manoeuvred through the shallow waters of the Kerkennah Islands, the Royal Navy destroyers closed in to attack. Three of the Axis merchant ships were sunk and the other two grounded on the Island shore.  One Italian destroyer ran aground and a second sank in shallow waters.  While herself already sinking, the lead destroyer Luca Tarigo launched two torpedoes at HMS Mohawk.

Ordinary Seaman Leslie Gardiner, serving aboard Mohawk, recalls what happened:    

“…we went searching for a convoy bound for Tripoli. Contact was made off the North African coast.  Soon a fierce exchange took place.  The noise was deafening.  Smoke and shell-splinters filled the air.  I remember our gunners worked furiously…The whole of the stern from the superstructure aft was destroyed; she was awash as far as X mounting. The crew of the Y gun were all dead.  Meanwhile the merchantman was set ablaze by A and B guns as HMS Mohawk lay still in the water, vulnerable to attack.”

Two more torpedoes then struck the stricken destroyer, hitting the port side between no’s 2 and 3 boiler rooms. The no 3 boiler burst, scalding dozens of men as the deck ripped open. 

“…Within a minute Mohawk was listing heavily to port and soon she was on her side with no time for us to launch lifeboats… We were two hours in the water before HMS Nubian picked up those who were left.  There weren’t many of us…” (1)

43 lives were lost aboard Mohawk.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 APRIL TO DAWN 17 APRIL 1941

Weather  Thick fog at first, then cold and rough.

0941-1000 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1000 hrs  Southern Infantry Brigade sends out a message that three friendly destroyers are due.

1040-1100 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

0551-0616 hrs Air raid alert for a small formation of Messerschmitt 110 fighters which appear to the west of Malta as Wellington bombers are arriving. One Wellington is attacked by a ME 110 ten miles offshore.  Other Wellingtons counter-attack with two good bursts of machine-gun fire and is last seen diving into the dawn mist.  The attacked Wellington lands safely, with superficial damage.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 16 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Three aircraft in overnight operation against ships anchored off Tripoli with Wellington bombers of 148 Squadron but target ships swung bows on to the entrance making an attack impossible. Destroyers returned from night operation under cover of low cloud.  

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance of Tripoli Harbour. Maryland reconnaissance Palermo Harbour and aerodrome. 148 Squadron 7 Wellingtons night bombing attack on Tripoli Harbour with 830 Squadron FAA. 

HAL FAR  PM Four aircraft 830 Squadron on operational flight; one returned after 30 minutes, remainder safely after mission completed.

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Headquarters closed down at Luqa and opened at the Government Elementary School, Tarxien.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 6 (6 x 50kg).

(1) Stafford at War 1939-1945, Nick Thomas, Pen & Sword

 

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

 

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19 March 1941: Sunderland Flying Boats to Leave Malta

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Sunderland flying boat

Sunderland flying boat

228 SQUADRON TRANSFERS TO MIDDLE EAST

Sunderland aircraft of 228 Squadron RAF are to leave Malta for the Middle East, it has been announced today. Since the entry of Italy to the war on 10 June last year, the flying boats have been based at Kalafrana, launching several successful attacking missions from Malta against Axis shipping.  They have also made a vital contribution to reconnaissance of enemy convoy and fleet movements Malta alongside the Marylands of 69 Squadron.  Concerns have been raised as to whether the few remaining Marylands will be able to cover Italian and North African harbours, as well as the sea routes in between. 

In the past few weeks several Sunderland aircraft have been attacked at their moorings in Marsaxlokk and St Paul’s Bays. 228 Squadron personnel and aircraft are expected to leave Malta within a week.  The Squadron will now have its base in Alexandria, Egypt.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 MARCH TO DAWN 20 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fair.

0948-1000 hrs; 1040-1100 hrs; 1740-1806 hrs  Air raid alerts for three separate enemy patrols around the Island which do not approaching the coast. Hurricane fighters are scrambled on each occasion but the enemy does not approach near enough to make attack necessary. Bad weather interferes with carrying out interceptions away from the Island.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 19 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron fired four torpedoes in the approach to Tripoli Harbour, covered by a bombing attack. One ship was observed hit by a bomb; one aircraft force-landed in Tunisia.

AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron 1015-1300 hrs Maryland patrolled between Cape Bon and Sicily for shipping information for submarines.  

KALAFRANA One Sunderland left with part of 228 Squadron personnel on transfer to Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The CO spent the morning with the Northern Infantry Brigade, reconnoitring positions for the mobile machine-gun company.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Brigade training exercise to test anti-parachute defences of the Victoria Lines and Ta Qali.

 

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Posted by on March 19, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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18 March 1941: Aircraft Missing After Attack on Tripoli

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Swordfish believed shot down

Swordfish missing after raid

SWORDFISH MISSING AFTER RAID

Two airmen have been reported missing this morning after they failed to return from a bombing mission over Libya. Sub-Lieutenant W E Grant was pilot of one of nine Swordfish of 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm dispatched from Malta last night to attack Tripoli Harbour. Other returning pilots reported that Grant’s aircraft was shot down by the harbour’s defences.  They were unable to say whether the crew had survived.  Missing with S/Lt Grant is crew member Leading Airman W E J Thompson.

ROYAL ENGINEERS REINFORCEMENTS NEEDED

The Governor and Commander in Chief applied to the War Office today for additional officers to strengthen the command of the Royal Engineers in Malta. The current establishment of Fortress Headquarters is four officers and of 24 Company is five.  Lt Col Eaton-Matthews’ recent appointment to higher command as Chief Engineer and the departure of another senior officer to the Middle East has left the Regiment short-staffed in Malta.  The Royal Engineers are responsible for the construction and maintenance of infrastructure and transport for the war effort, as well as for bomb disposal in all areas outside of Navy and RAF premises.  Today’s request is for three officers (sub-lieutenant rank), trained in Field Company work.

In other communications today, Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie asked for additional Royal Signals personnel as well as confirmation that RAOC personnel authorised on 5 February last are already on their way to Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 MARCH TO DAWN 19 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fair.

0622-0643 hrs, 0805-0830 hrs, 1215-1233 hrs, 1511-1535 hrs, 0430-0457 hrs Air raid alerts for enemy fighters which patrol around the Island without crossing the coast. One fighter patrol from Sicily searches the area on the route south east of Malta through which Wellingtons and Hurricanes had passed coming from the Middle East 15 minutes before.  Four Hurricanes were scrambled on five occasions through daylight hours but enemy does not approach near enough to make attack necessary.  Bad weather interferes with carrying out interceptions away from the Island.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 18 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY Abingdon and Fermoy carried out a searching sweep north of the Hurd Bank to see if that area had been mined.  No mines were observed.  The opportunity was taken of sweeping out Regent and Upholder.

HAL FAR 830 Squadron  Nine aircraft carried out an operational flight against Tripoli; one machine failed to return. S/Lt Grant and N/A Thompson are missing.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The men are getting many games of football and hockey, which helps to relieve the monotonous work.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Anti-parachute posts in Bingemma Valley ceased to be manned during the night.

 

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Posted by on March 18, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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17 March 1941: Malta Needs Fighters More Than Ack Ack Guns

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More fighters needed to repel raids

More fighters needed to repel raids

ONLY AN IMPROVED FIGHTER FORCE CAN PROTECT THE AIRFIELDS

Increased ground defences will not be enough to protect the airfields without an increase in fighter strength, says Malta’s Commander in Chief. Responding to the Chief of Imperial General Staff about the effectiveness of light automatic machine guns against attacks (maltagc70, 15 March), Lt General Sir William Dobbie stressed again the need for more, and better performing, fighter aircraft as “the only satisfactory solution” to ensure the security of the aerodromes.  He also reminded the War Office that balloon barrages and RAF PAC Units (1) originally destined for Malta’s airfields had been diverted elsewhere.

Ground defences of the aerodromes and flying boat bases are currently: Hal Far Bofors 4, light automatics 20; Luqa Bofors 6, light automatics 31; Ta Qali Bofors 5, light automatics 27; Marsaxlokk (Kalafrana) Bofors 10, light automatics 29. It is believed that the effectiveness of the light automatics could be enhanced by the use armour-piercing ammunition (apparently none is currently available). 

However, Lt Gen Dobbie concludes: “after all, the only satisfactory solution is a greatly increased force of fighter aircraft with adequate performance. I have pressed for this and trust the War Office will press this claim.  Unless and until it is provided, an adequate deterrent cannot be expected, and Malta cannot play its part as a naval and air base.” 

Six Hurricanes have arrived in Malta from the Middle East to reinforce 261 Squadron but the Island’s fighter force is still only a fraction of strength of Luftwaffe attacks. Only a week ago (maltagc70, 7 March) Malta’s Air Officer Commanding, Air Vice-Marshal Maynard, stated that without an increased fighter force he cannot protect the Sunderland and Wellington bomber squadrons based in Malta.

The initial reply from the War Office made no comment on the prospect of further fighters, concentrating remarks on ground defences:

“Experience shows that the Bofors, particularly used with a predictor, is the most effective weapon against the dive-bomber. We request confirmation of this, or otherwise.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 MARCH TO DAWN 18 MARCH 1941

Weather  Cold and wet, with some bright spells.

1036-1050 hrs, 1200-1214 hrs  Air raid alerts for approaching enemy aircraft which turn away without crossing the coast. Malta fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

1800-1811 hrs; 0238-0249 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 17 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ 0730-1215 hrs 69 Squadron  Maryland photoreconnaissance Naples Harbour. Three convoys heading for harbour.  

HAL FAR 830 Squadron Operational flight against Tripoli postponed owing to bad weather.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Anti-tank screen demonstration by 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Snipers course at Pembroke Ranges.

 (1) parachute and cable

 

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

 

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