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24 September 1941: Lack of Luftwaffe in Mediterranean Leaves Malta Free to Attack

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Spanish Mole, Tripoli, after a raid (AWM MED0210)

Spanish Mole, Tripoli, after a raid (AWM MED0210)

LUFTWAFFE ABSENCE LEAVES AXIS CONVOYS VULNERABLE, BRITISH WAR CABINET HEARS

The absence of German aircraft in the Mediterranean has left Axis convoys vulnerable to attacks from Malta, the British War Cabinet heard today in its latest progress review. According to the report, for three months it has not been possible for the Germans to allocate adequate aircraft for the protection of the important supply route between Tripoli and Sicily, or for attacks on Malta.  In the face of heavy commitments in other theatres such as the Eastern Front, the German Air Force is facing a shortage of suitably trained air crews.  Luftwaffe command has been forced improvise, such as using a long-range bomber reserve training unit on operational duties.

During the past week Blenheim and Swordfish aircraft from Malta have sunk or seriously damaged 45000 tons of enemy shipping between Sicily and the African coast. An enemy destroyer was also seriously damaged off Tripoli.

Reconnaissance aircraft from Malta have continued to search for enemy shipping convoys which were subsequently attacked on every possible occasion by Naval and RAF aircraft, with the following results:

  • Laden schooner, total loss
  • Laden schooner, blew up (explosion destroyed attacking Blenheim)
  • 24000 ton liner hit repeatedly by Blenheims, last reported stationary
  • Destroyer direct hits amidships, badly damaged
  • 8000 ton merchant vessel (MV) 2 hits by Blenheims, damaged
  • 3000 ton MV, sinking and on fire
  • 8000 ton MV, sunk
  • Small MV hit by torpedo, probably sunk

On five nights Wellingtons made 33 sorties against Tripoli and dropped a total of over 50 tons of bombs. These attacks were principally directed against the harbour and, in addition to a number of hits on the Spanish and Karamanli Moles, many bombs were seen to fall on shipping lying alongside.  The barracks and buildings near the wireless telegraph station also were successfully bombe.

Two Blenheims made a good daylight attack on heavy motor transport and petrol tankers on the Misurata-Sirte road, resulting in considerable confusion, and the destruction of one petrol tanker and serious damage to 30 other vehicles; one Blenheim is missing. Another attack by 11 Blenheims was made on the barracks at Homs and Misurata causing serious damage.  Hits were also made on motor transport dumps and petrol lorries, and troops were sprayed with machine-gun fire with good effect.  Two of our aircraft collided over the target and a third crashed.

Enemy bombing activity has been on an extremely small scale. The only attack on Malta was on the night of 19-20 September, when one out of six aircraft crossed over the Island and dropped some incendiaries which did no damage.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 25 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and fresh.

0005-0035 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the west. Two only cross the coast and drop high explosive bombs on the Bajda Ridge area.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no engagement.

0047-0058 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer William E Law, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Squadron Leader Theophilus J S Warren, RAF, 107 Squadron; Flying Officer John T Waterfall, RAFVR, 107 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 24 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 13 Beaufighter, 2 Blenheim, 2 Wellington. Departures 1 Catalina. 38 Squadron 2 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli.  6 Wellingtons attacked Palermo Harbour. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Marsala and Licata harbours and eastern Ionian Sea. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked transport on Misurata road.  S/Ldr Warren failed to return; a search was carried out but was unsuccessful. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish laid mines outside Tripoli Harbour and dropped bombs on a barrack block.  A diversion created by Wellington bombers was very effective.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 5; dealt with 5 (2 x 150kg; 3 x 2kg incendiary)

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  E Company began formation; HQ at 21 Ghain Dwieli Street, Paola. 

 

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Posted by on September 24, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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21 September 1941: Malta is Centre for MI6/SOE Operations in North Africa

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Heinkel seaplane

Heinkel seaplane

ISLAND’S ROLE MUST BE PROPERLY RESOURCED, SAYS COMMANDER IN CHIEF

Following the loss of a Malta-based Swordfish while transporting a secret agent to North Africa, the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office to express his concerns at the ad hoc arrangements currently in place for such missions:

Most Secret and Personal: The following is for Chiefs of Staff from the Governor of Malta:

The Defence Security Officer’s organisation covering MI6 and Special Operations Executive activities from Malta is and must continue to be largely ineffective unless and until much more satisfactory arrangements are made for the transport of agents. This applies especially at the present time to those sections concerned with Tunis and Tripoli, but it is to be emphasised that similar difficulties will arise with the infiltration of agents into the Balkans and Italy unless local arrangements are greatly improved.

At present the means of transport at the direct call of the Defence Security Officer are quite inadequate and he is largely dependent on such help as the Flag Officer in charge of Malta, or the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Mediterranean, can give. Naval help is confined at the moment to an ex-Italian MAS [armed motor torpedo boat], which has definite limitations, and to submarines.  These latter of course can only be used when on their normal patrol.  I am informed seriously of the hope to send motor torpedo boats (MTB) with special engines here when a MTB flotilla is based on Malta but the date of this is still indefinite.  The Tunis and Tripoli problem is at present mainly an air matter and as such the RAF is the primary service which can provide the necessary assistance.  This however can only be done at the expense of other operations.

Valuable aircraft have already been lost, with highly trained crews. When, for local or technical reasons, Heinkel aircraft are unsuitable – or until aircraft resources available for the Defence Security Officer are adequate – the only way to land agents in most cases will depend on RAF or Fleet Air Arm (FAA) aircraft being made available by the AOC Mediterranean (with the consent of the Flag Officer Malta for FAA aircraft).  With the very limited number of Swordfish at his disposal, the AOC Mediterranean thus has to decide the relative importance of this work as opposed to his more normal operations of attacking ships.  It is obvious that a very clear instruction is needed which will guide him in deciding their relative importance.  Such an instruction is lacking at present.

The only aircraft resources available for the Defence Security Officer in Malta at present consists of one Heinkel seaplane together with such assistance as the Services can provide. Other Heinkels are expected later, but aircraft resources for the Defence Security Officer are at present entirely inadequate and will not be sufficient for some considerable time as at present envisaged.  (It is to be emphasised too that seaplanes have their limitations and effective results will depend on the availability of land planes and seaplanes or amphibians, fast MTBs and submarines, each in their proper sphere according to weather and local requirements.)  He cannot work effectively unless these facilities are adequate.  The present state of affairs means that vitally important work of this organisation, especially in Tunis and Tripoli, will not be effectively done for some months unless either

  • RAF or FAA aircraft are used as required at the expense of their proper work; in this connection it is emphasised that highly trained and specialised crews, also aircraft, are being hazarded when the task could well be done by other highly specialised operation crews and aircraft. There are very definite limits to this in FAA as the Swordfish is the only suitable type in Malta.
  • Suitable aircraft with crews are instantly sent out here expressly for this work.

I strongly favour alternative (b) but would point out that if the work of this organisation in Africa is to be effective and to give the expected help to the contemplated operation, then aircraft must be sent out immediately (repeat immediately). I am advised that the authorities in England responsible for this work have complete details of the type of aircraft which are needed to meet the special conditions for work in these areas.

I repeat that the business at present is on an extremely unsatisfactory footing and we need a clear guidance as to policy. I hope that this, and material assistance, will be forthcoming immediately.  Failing this the effectiveness of this important service cannot fail to be gravely prejudiced.  Flag Officer Malta, AOC Mediterranean and the DSO agree with this telegram.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 22 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather   Very cool.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Lieutenant Leslie F E Aldridge, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS St Angelo.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli Harbour.  1 Maryland on search for convoy.  1 Maryland patrol of eastern Tunisian coast. 105/107 Squadrons 2 Blenheims attacked a convoy. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish attacked convoy within sight off Lampedusa.  Two torpedoes were fired in conditions of poor visibility, but the target proved to be Lampion Rock; the convoy was not located.  One Swordfish crashed on landing at Hal Far with its torpedo still on board. The missile exploded, killing the pilot Lt Aldridge and seriously injuring the wireless operator L/A Pimlott. 

TA QALI  A Blenheim force landed at the aerodrome having been damaged by enemy action. Three Swordfish landed at the aerodrome.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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Posted by on September 21, 2021 in 1941, September 1941

 

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19 September 1941: Freighter Survives Western Med to Deliver Fodder

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horse-donkey-farmEMPIRE GUILLEMOT ARRIVES UNDER ‘OPERATION PROPELLER’

The freighter Empire Guillemot docked safely at Malta today after completing the hazardous passage through the western Mediterranean.  The merchant ship was carrying essential supplies fodder to feed Malta’s horses and donkeys.  With the shortage of fuel on the Island, the animals are providing much-needed transport for civilians.  However, Malta cannot grow crops to feed them, especially now that cultivated land is given over entirely to food production for the population.

Empire Guillemot left the UK last Saturday and passed through the Straits of Gibraltar disguised as a Spanish vessel. Under ‘Operation Propeller’ she left Gibraltar, adopting a new French disguise, and headed for Bizerta before turning north towards Sicily. 

As the freighter approached Malta, she hoisted British colours and none too soon, as her night-time passage took her close to an Italian convoy which was being attacked by Swordfish aircraft. Fortunately, the Fleet Air Arm pilots had been alerted to her presence. Empire Guillemot entered Grand Harbour safely this morning.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 20 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1412-1440 hrs Air raid alert for ten enemy aircraft approaching the Island in two formations. Six Hurricanes 249 Squadron and eight 185 Squadron are scrambled.  The raiders come within a short distance of the coast but do not cross it and there are no interceptions.

0508-0545 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft approaching the Island; some bombs are dropped in the sea. One raider crosses the coast and drops incendiaries on land near Dingli causing no damage or casualties.  Two Hurricane night fighters are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 19 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Empire Guillemot arrived safely under Operation Propeller.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. Departures 1 Sunderland. 38 Squadron 7 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli Harbour. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Catania, Gerbini, Comiso.  1 Maryland special search. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims on shipping sweep.  2 Blenheims attacked shipping at Tripoli. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish carried out a sweep off Kerkenah. For an enemy convoy. Three possible hits are claimed, resulting in one merchant vessel probably and one possibly being damaged.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The CO attended a lecture at 10 Heavy A A Brigade HQ on the anti-aircraft defence of the Island and afterwards visited the Gun Operations Room.

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

 

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

 

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18 September 1941: Malta Aircraft Launch Round the Clock Offensives

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AOC Malta co-ordinating attacks on Axis convoys  (c IWM CM3068

AOC Malta overseeing attacks on Axis convoys (c IWM CM3068

SWORDFISH, BLENHEIMS AND WELLINGTONS ATTACK DAY AND NIGHT

War Cabinet Report for the Week 11-18 September

On 13 September a reinforcement of 45 aircraft for Malta was flown off HM Aircraft Carriers Furious and Ark Royal, escorted by units of the Gibraltar force.  One Hurricane crashed on taking off from Furious, the pilot was killed; two were damaged on landing.

On 11 September, naval Swordfish operating under the Air Officer Commanding Malta sighted a southbound convoy consisting of seven merchant vessels and six destroyers, 75 miles north of Kerkennah Island. Thereafter a series of night and day attacks was successfully carried out by Swordfish, Blenheims and Wellingtons with the result that three merchant vessels, total 24000 tons, were probably destroyed and all the other merchant vessels, total tonnage 26000, were hit on one or more occasions.  Three Blenheims were shot down in daylight but the crew of one was rescued by HM Submarine Utmost.

During an offensive sweep of the central Ionian Sea, three Blenheims attacked a small convoy 100 miles south-west of Cape Matapan. A 3000 ton merchant vessel was hit at least twice and seriously damaged. 

On three nights a total of 24 Wellingtons from Malta bombed Tripoli. On one night six aircraft reported hits on ships lying alongside Spanish Quay, and many other bursts were seen on or near ships in the harbour.  Swordfish and Wellingtons also laid mines in and outside the harbour and around the North Mole.

On the night 11-12 September Wellingtons dropped 16 tons of bombs on Palermo and straddled the dry dock containing a merchant vessel. On 17 September five Blenheims bombed two munition factories at Licata with very good effect; many direct hits were made on each target, and three large sheds and one other large building in the centre of the installation were demolished.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 19 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY   Upholder sank the 19,500-ton transports Neptunia and OceaniaTriumph damaged Italian steamer Ardor (8960grt off Cape Cimiti in the Adriatic. The tanker was able to proceed into Crotone Harbour.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 5 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. Departures 2 Beaufort. 38 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli. 69 Squadron Marylands special patrol and reconnaissance Tripoli.  1 Blenheim reconnaissance Crotone, Augusta and Syracuse. 107 Squadron 3 Blenheims attacked shipping at Tripoli. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 8 Swordfish attacked a northbound convoy with torpedoes and bombs, stopping one merchant vessel. 

 

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

 

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12 September 1941: Kings Own Malta Regiment Defend Luqa

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ack-ack-gunners-malta cropMALTESE BATTALION TO MAN KEY ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS

The 3rd Battalion Kings Own Malta Regiment has been asked to man anti-aircraft gun positions to help protect Luqa aerodrome from attack.  One Sergeant and 12 men will form three anti-aircraft light machine-gun posts at the aerodrome.  The four-men crews will each man an anti-aircraft Bren gun from morning ‘stand to’ to evening ‘stand down’, and during daylight air observations.   The crews will be stood down overnight.  Stone sangars will be constructed for each location and lined with sandbags to form a secure gun position. 

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT LAUNCH FUND FOR DISTRESSED FAMILIES

The Kings Own Malta Regiment have voted unanimously to establish a Regimental Distress Fund to help soldiers whose families are affected by enemy bombing. The object of the fund is to accumulate an amount from which small sums can be paid to serving soldiers who through enemy action suffer damage or loss to their household belongings.  It is intended to assist afflicted families in obtaining immediate necessaries such as beds, blankets, cooking utensils and clothing.  Each Battalion and the Static Group will make an intitial contribution of £30.  Voluntary contributions will be made on a sliding scale from 10/- per month by a Colonel/Lt Colonel down to 2d per month by a regular soldier.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 13 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

Military casualties Squadron Leader Frederick R H Charney, DFC, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 105 Squadron; Sergeant Donald R Harris, RAFVR, 105 Squadron; Sergeant Sidney Porteous, RAFVR, 105 Squadron; Sergeant Joseph E Mortimer, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Flying Officer Charles D Owen, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Sergeant Douglas J Reid, RAFVR, 107 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY Operation Status Phase II postponed. HM Submarine Utmost departed to search for the crew of a downed Blenheim.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland, 5 Wellington. Departures 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 7 Wellingtons attacked a convoy approaching Tripoli. 69 Squadron Photo reconnaissance Taranto, Messina, Palermo. 105 Squadron 1 Blenheim special patrol.  8 Blenheims attacked a convoy.  S/Ldr Charney’s Blenheim was shot down in flames, S/Ldr Sgt Brandwood and Sgt Mortimer failed to return. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a convoy setting a tanker and a merchant vessel on fire.  One Fulmar on offensive patrol over Catania and Gerbini aerodromes dropped high explosives and incendiaries on Gerbini and machine-gunned both aerodromes. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

 

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

 

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7 September 1941: Malta Troops Mark National Day of Prayer

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Barrakka Church

Barracca Church

PRAYER SERVICES HELD IN GUN POSITIONS AS WELL AS CHURCHES

Servicemen across Malta attended churches today as the Island observed a Day of National Prayer and Thanksgiving. The special day has been instigated by command of His Majesty King George VI to mark the first Sunday after two years of war. 

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief issued orders that all servicemen should have the opportunity to be included in the prayers. For troops on duty at defensive positions such as anti-aircraft guns, this meant a specially convened prayer service by their military chaplain.  Roman Catholic troops were given every possible opportunity to attend their local church, where a Catholic chaplain could not attend at their location.

FARMERS’ PROPERTY DAMAGED

Military authorities have been receiving complaints from farmers about serious damage to the rubble walls surrounding their fields, and also of wholesale theft of fruit by military personnel. Such offences are causing great annoyance to farmers who are dependent on their produce for their livelihood.  Troops have been reminded today that there is no excuse whatsoever for wanton destruction or theft. Commanders will take steps to ensure that any man found guilty of such behaviour will be severely dealt with.

Other complaints have also been received from landowners that civilians are entering fields which are occupied by the military. The civil police have no jurisdiction in the matter, other than in exceptional circumstances.  Troops have been reminded that it is their responsibility to prevent trespass by civilians.  However, it is also essential that owners and tenants be allowed free access.  Where any dispute arises, troops can arrange for the unit compensation officer to assist them in settling the matter.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 8 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Private Kenneth G Piper, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 3 Blenheim. Reconnaissance of western Ionian Sea by 1 Maryland, 1 Beaufort and 1 Hurricane. 69 Squadron   2 patrols east Tunisian coast. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked Palermo Harbour in three waves caused a series of explosions. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish attacked shipping off Augusta. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A church parade at Barracca Church: the first we have had since the Italians started bombing us in Matruh.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS A party of 24 Fortress Company 2 Section working at Cala Mistra is transferred for to reinforce sappers working on aerodrome obstacles at Luqa. The remainder of the Section is working on camouflage for aeroplanes at Cala Mistra. 

 

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Posted by on September 7, 2021 in 1941, September 1941

 

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6 September 1941: More Vital Foods Rationed and Prices Fixed

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'Call up' for men to dig shelters

‘Call up’ for men to dig shelters

MALTESE DAILY DIET FACES RESTRICTIONS

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

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

MALTA’S SKILLED CRAFTSMEN IN COMPULSORY ‘CALL UP’

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

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

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 7 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and fresh.

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

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 1941

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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3 September 1941: Malta Swordfish Blow Up Axis Ammunition Ship

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9 Swordfish attacked convoy

9 Swordfish attacked convoy

ONE AXIS SHIP SUNK, OTHERS DAMAGED IN CONVOY STRIKE

Swordfish aircraft from Malta sank a 6000 ton Italian steamer loaded with ammunition overnight, as well as badly damaging two other ships. The nine Swordfish took off late last night under cover of darkness on a search for a reported enemy convoy sailing southwards out of the port of Naples.  At just after midnight they located the 6000 ton steamers Andrea Gritti, Riallto, Vettor Pisani, Francesco Barbaro and Sabastiano Venier escorted by four destroyers to the south south east of Cape Spartivento. 

The Swordfish released eight torpedoes at the transport ships. Andrea Gritti immediately exploded and sank.  Francesco Barbaro was damaged and taken in tow by the destroyer Dardo to be nursed into the port of Messina.  At least one other of the merchant ships is believed to have been badly damaged in the attack.  All of the Swordfish returned safely to base.

PRISONERS OF WAR

From: Governor & Commander in Chief, Malta                            To: War Office

I regret to report that the following military ranks are missing, believed prisoners of war:

  • Lt Dudley R Schofield, Royal Fusiliers
  • Sgt Derek J De Nobriga, XRRC
  • L/Sgt Robert H Brown, London Scottish
  • L/Cpl John E A Ferguson, London Scottish
  • L/Cpl Frank C Morgan, Royal Fusiliers
  • L/Cpl Luke J Morris, Royal Ulster Rifles
  • L/Cpl Albert M Andrews

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 4 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1120 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve enemy aircraft which approach from the north east to within 50 miles of the Island. 20 Hurricanes fighters are scrambled but only one of the raiders continues its approach as far as 10 miles off the coast before turning back.  A single fighter then crosses the Island at 16000 feet on reconnaissance. 

2315-2336 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft approaching from the north west. No attack is made.  Two Hurricane fighters are scrambled but do not engage.

0040-0115 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which approach from the south and drop bombs on the south east of the Island. Two Hurricane fighters are scrambled but do not engage.

0154-0328 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching from the east. Bombs are dropped on Grand Harbour, Paola and the north of the Island.  Incendiary and high explosive bombs are dropped on the north east side of Ta Qali aerodrome, damaging one Hurricane by splinters and bursting a water main outside the Officers’ Mess.  Bombs are dropped in the Hal Far area, slightly wounding two gunners at a light anti-aircraft gun position; one bomb fails to explode.  Two Hurricane fighters are scrambled but do not engage.

0500-0535 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching from the north. Searchlights are active in the north of the Island.  No aircraft cross the coast.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 3 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  3 Swordfish left for Tripoli and released one torpedo and bombs at a destroyer outside harbor; one hit claimed with a torpedo and one with bombs.

AIR HQ Departures 3 Beaufighter. Blenheim carries out patrol to the north west.  69 Squadron  Photo-reconnaissances of railway east of Tripoli, and Messina-San Giovanni area.  5 Blenheims despatched to attack a convoy. 105 Squadron  5 Blenheims searched for convoy; no sighting. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 3 Swordfish destroyed tanker outside Tripoli harbour and attacked other shipping in area.  2 Fulmars on patrol over Gerbini   and Catania machine-gunned aircraft on the ground at Gerbini and dropped bombs on the aerodrome.  One Fulmar’s petrol tank was pierced by a bullet and it had to ditch in the sea north of St Paul’s Bay; the crew were rescued unhurt.  

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A new Officers Club opened this evening in Valletta.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 31.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  0800-1230 hrs Training exercise; anti-parachutist training.

 

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

 

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2 September 1941: Rationing Bites as Malta Church Leader Loses 3 Stone

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HMS Ursula returns from ops

HMS Ursula returns from patrol

A REFLECTION ON TWO YEARS OF WAR

Diary of Reverend Reginald Nicholls, Chancellor of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta: 2nd September 1941

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the declaration of war. What a time it has been. If an Armistice came tomorrow, I think that the time would seem to have been short; and, apart from our loss of our son Anthony, I should feel that I had not suffered in health in spite of having lost three stones. My wife I think, has suffered more. She has never spent a whole summer here before, to say nothing of two, with the possibility of a third…

We have had a whole week free from night raids. But the moon is now once again nearly at the full, and it has begun again. Last night there was 4 or 5 hours of it but we were out at Birkirkara and though I heard three ‘Alerts’ … I went into the garden to have a look. I heard what I thought was a plane very near and very low, I ran like a stag, dropping one slipper in the garden! It dropped a small bomb in Sliema; I heard the bang and saw the burst. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 3 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

Military casualties Leading Aircraftsman James Curtis, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 126 Squadron; Aircraftsman II John Davidson, RAFVR, 126 Squadron; Aircraftsman Martin L Preston, RAFVR; Leading Aircraftsman William A Thompson, RAFVR, 126 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 2 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Ursula returned from interception of convoy east of Tripoli.  Escort only sighted. Triumph returned from operations on north coast of Sicily.  Viaduct blown up and 6 Italian fishermen brought to Malta after their craft had been mistaken for an E boat and sunk.  One hit claimed on a cruiser at northern entrance of Messina Straits.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 2 Blenheim, 2 Beaufighter. Departures 4 Blenheim, 1 Beaufighter. 69 Squadron Photo-reconnaissance Licata shows considerable damage done by Blenheims on 30 August.  2 Fulmars offensive patrol Gerbini-Catania areas attacked aircraft, dropped bombs on aerodromes and made a low-level machine-gun attack on a dispersal area. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 9 Swordfish on shipping sweep east of Cape Spartivento attacked a convoy of 7 destroyers and 5 merchant vessels scoring several hits.  All 8 torpedoes were released; one ammunition ship blew up and disappeared; two more ships were badly damaged.

TA QALI  During a monthly inspection a mine exploded, killing three airmen; another is still missing. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  2 NCOs and 16 men of Maritime Royal Artillery Regiment from merchant ships in the Harbour were attached to the Battalion. They will remain until the ships leave Malta.  The last batch of men from ships was most helpful and it is hoped these will be the same.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Northern Infantry Brigade gave instructions for one NCO and two men to be sent every evening to each listening post to keep a lookout during the hours of darkness.  

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

 

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Posted by on September 2, 2021 in 1941, September 1941

 

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31 August 1941: Malta Submarines & Swordfish Sink 12 Axis Ships

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HM Submarine Triumph

HM Submarine Triumph

ROYAL NAVY REPORT FOR AUGUST 1941

The chief events during the month have been:

  • The increasing success of the attack on the Italy to Tripoli shipping route.
  • The successful completed of ‘Operation Style’.
  • The attempt to pass ships from the former Operation Substance convoy to the westward without escort.

Attacks on Italian Shipping

(a) Submarines  During the month, 12 patrols were carried out by the submarine flotilla (and Triumph).  During the course of these patrols, the following successes were obtained:

  • 6 ships totaling 50,000 tons (approximately) are believed to have been sunk.
  • 1 cruiser – almost certainly Bolzano – was damaged and subsequently seen to be beached near Messina.
  • 1 ship – the Aquitania (4971 tons) was damaged and reported in tow. 1 destroyer was probably hit.

In addition, two successful train wrecking operations were carried out from one of which, unfortunately, some of the landing party failed to return. The above results were not achieved without serious loss: P32 and P33 [on offensive patrols] and Cachalot on passage from Malta to Alexandria were sunk.

(b) Swordfish of 830 Squadron  16 sorties were carried out during the month.  In the course of these operations, 6 ships of estimated 43,000 tons were claimed as sunk.  One of the ships of 13,000 tons may have been a hospital ship.  In addition, a further 3 ships totaling 17,000 tons and a destroyer, were claimed as damaged.  No aircraft were lost due to enemy action.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 AUGUST TO DAWN 1 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Very strong wind and one short heavy cloudburst.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Corporal Cyril Taylor, 11th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 31 AUGUST 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Utmost returned from patrol on Calabrian coast.  Unsuccessful attack on a convoy and blew up a railway bridge.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Beaufighter, 2 Blenheim. Departures 2 Blenheim, 4 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands striking force patrol off northern Tunisian coast.  Photoreconnaissance of Comiso, Gerbini and Catania, and Tripoli harbour and railway line. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons despatched to attack shipping in Tripoli harbour in 3 waves hitting several targets.  Most bombs struck the target area, causing fires and damage to buildings. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish searched for southbound merchant vessel off Syracuse but found no trace.  One Fulmar patrolled over Gerbini and machine-gunned the aerodrome, then patrolled over Catania, returning to Gerbini to release incendiaries and machine gun aircraft on the ground, starting five good fires. 

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths 33 officers, 869 other ranks (2 RAOC attached).

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 22 officers, 421 other ranks.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Total enlistments in August 85 conscripts, 2 volunteers. Strength on 31 August 18 officers, 636 other ranks.

 

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

 

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