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17 January 1942: Malta Needs More Troops

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Lt Gen Dobbie

ENEMY ATTACKS AND INCREASED OPS FROM AIRFIELDS CREATE MANPOWER SHORTAGES

From:  Governor & C in C Malta                        To:  C in C Middle East, copy: War Office

IMMEDIATE: Following are absolute minimum (repeat minimum) essential.

First:  Infantry 54 Officers [Off] 600 Other Ranks [OR].  As far as possible would like by regiments as follows but this is not essential.

Buffs 8 Off and 50 OR.  King’s Own 4 Off and 90 OR.  Lancs Fus.  4 Off. And 80 OR.  Cheshire 2 Off and 60 OR.  Hamps 8 Off and 120 OR.  Dorset 2 Off and 30 OR.  Royal W Kent 4 Off and 50 OR.  Manch 4 Off and 60 OR.  Royal Irish Fus 10 Off and 60 OR.  Devon 8 Off and nil OR.

Second: RASC 1 Supply Officer, 1 MT Officer, 84 Drivers.

Third:  RAOC 3 Officers and 47 Other Ranks made up as follows.  Officers 1 OO (Sub), 1 OME 2nd Class, 1 OME 4th Class.  Clerks 1 WO Class II, 1 S/Sjt, 1 Cpl and 1 L/Cpl.  Storemen 3 Sjts (1 trained in GL and two in Amn.), 1 Cpl, 2 Ptes (trained in GL), non-tradesmen 2 Sjts, 1 L/Cpl Amn. Examiners, 2 Cpls, 1 Pte Armament Artificers, 1 Radio 1 Wireless, 2 Inst AA, 1 Inst Field (All S/Sjts).  Fitters (MV) 4 Ptes.  Electricians 8 Ptes.  Inst. Mechanics 5 Ptes.  Radio Mechanics 5 Ptes.  Welders 3 Ptes.  Wireless Mechanics 1 Pte.

AIR RAIDS 0001 HRS TO 2359 HRS 17 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Wind south west.  80% low cloud.  Bright periods.

0001-0015; 0025-0040; 0214-0232 hrs  Air raid alerts.  Raids do not materialise.

0430-0800 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialise.

0920 hrs Two Hurricanes are scrambled from Ta Qali.  P/O Russell attacks a JU 88 near Kalafrana – gets in a two-second burst but no hits observed.  Enemy aircraft dive into cloud and contact is lost.  Both Hurricanes return safely.

0942-1050 hrs  Three JU88s approach from the north east, drop bombs in the sea and then recede without crossing the coast.

1105-1112; 1140-1202 hrs  Air raid alerts.  Raids do not materialise.

1314-1345 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the east and recedes without crossing the coast.  Four Hurricanes give chase without result.

1314-1345 hrs  One aircraft approaches and recedes without crossing the coast.  Four Hurricanes give chase without result.

1543-1613 hrs  Two ME 109 fighters attempt to intercept a returning Beaufighter but recede when a few miles off the coast.

1615-1630 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialise.

1659-1702 hrs  One JU 88 is reported over the Island.  Hurricanes are up and engage; enemy aircraft believed damaged.  Guns do not engage.

2220; 2250; 2322 hrs  Air raid alerts.  Raids do not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: SATURDAY 17 JANUARY 1942

Vice Admiral Leatham, January 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Admiral Leatham with his secretary Commander Clay arrived in Malta to take over from Admiral Ford as Vice Admiral Malta.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Champion GAFCT, two Hudsons, seven Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  one Champion to Cairo; one Blenheim to Helwan; one Beaufighter to 108 MU; three Wellingtons to LG 224.

HAL FAR  Night 17/18th Five Swordfish 830 Squadron despatched to attack convoy consisting of Italian tanker Giulio Giordani, 7000 tons, and two destroyers, Da Recco and Usodimare.  The tanker was hit by one torpedo and one of the escorting destroyers also believed to have been hit.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Beaufighter photo-reconnaissance (PR) Sicilian and south Italian aerodromes, then Palermo, Messina and Reggio; one Maryland Cairo 2 search; one Maryland Cairo 1a search. 21 Squadron  One Blenheim Cairo 1B search.

TA QALI  Aerodrome serviceable.  Seven air raid alarms.  Hurricane No 1 long range tanks landed at Hal Far with wheels up.  One airman attached for Blenheim Fighter Flight.

225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY  Distribution of ammunition from Benghaisa to Safi area (1296 rounds) and Hal Far (624 rounds) 40mm to make total holdings per gun to 2500 rounds.

8TH BN MANCHESTER REGIMENT  E Company took over A Company’s posts at Ta Qali.  A Company becomes a mobile Company responsible for the defence of the Imtarfa Hospital area. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 7; dealt with 6 (3 x 500kg, 2 x 50kg, 1 x 15kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

 

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Posted by on January 17, 2022 in 1942, January 1942

 

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15 January 1942: RAF to Train as Infantry to Defend Airfields

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RAF PERSONNEL UNDERGO RIFLE TRAINING

RAF personnel are to be armed with rifles and trained to use them in defence of Malta’s airfields, in the event of a possible enemy invasion.  A special army officer has been appointed to each airfield as Aerodrome Defence Commander.  On attack he assumes command of all military personnel on the aerodrome, including RAF as soon as they are no longer able to fulfil their normal duties.  Training of RAF personnel is now underway at each of the Island’s aerodromes.  However, the Army is unable to supply sufficient rifles from already overstretched resources.  The Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office recommending that the RAF should be issued with their own supply of weapons.

Focke-Wulf 200 Condor

GERMAN FOCKE WULF REPORTED OVER MALTA

A German Focke Wulf Condor is spotted taking part in an air raid over Malta this morning.  The aircraft was seen dropping bombs in the sea to the west of the Island.  Built as an airliner, the Condor is normally used in combat as a long-range reconnaissance and anti-shipping bomber.  Reports are as yet unconfirmed.

ENEMY USING HEAVIER BOMBS

All but one of the unexploded bomb (UXB) reports handled since yesterday morning by Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal have been for German High Explosive bombs of 500kg.  They include three Priority reports for UXBs requiring immediate disposal: two at Ghar Hassan searchlight station and one near Hal Far airfield.  Bomb Disposal squads are also at work on excavations for buried bombs at Rinella and near Gudia, all identified as 500kg.

AIR RAIDS 0001 HRS TO 2359 HRS 15 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Low clouds, sky overcast; SE wind reaching gale force at times; cold.

0156-0311 hrs  Three aircraft approach from the north and drop bombs (and possibly mines) in the sea off Mellieha Bay and Qawra Tower, before receding.

0354-0417 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north, crossing over Gozo, dropping bombs in the sea before receding north.

0649-0803 hrs  One aircraft passes west of Gozo and crosses the south coast, dropping bombs near Ta Qali, including incendiaries near Imtarfa.  Guns do not engage.

0831-0850 hrs  Air raid alarm: raid does not materialise.

0937-1016 hrs  Two JU 88s and one aircraft identified as a Focke Wolfe Condor approach the Island.  The JU 88s cross the coast and drops bombs near Luqa.  Heavy Ack Ack at Luqa fire a barrage.  The Focke Wolfe Condor crosses over Salina Bay and drops bombs in the sea west of Bingemma.  Two Hurricanes are airborne but do not engage.

1301-1320 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs in the sea five miles off Qawra Tower.  Two Hurricanes are airborne but enemy aircraft are not engaged.

1354-1410 hrs  One JU 88 crosses Gozo, machine-guns Jordan Lighthouse on the Island’s north west coast and drops bombs nearby.  Two Hurricanes are airborne but do not engage.

1438-1457 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north west, dropping bombs in the sea seven miles off Torri L’Ahmar before receding.  Enemy plane dropped objects (suspected mines) two miles out to sea from Tigne.  Two Hurricanes are airborne but do not engage.

1539-1554 hrs  One JU 88 from the west approaches Grand Harbour via the south west coast, dropping bombs on the Pembroke Ranges and killing three members of a firing party of B Company, Royal Malta Artillery.  Heavy Ack Ack engages.  Two Hurricanes are airborne but do not engage.

1628-1712 hrs  Two bombers escorted by three ME 109s approach from the north.  One raid drops bombs on Gozo and in the sea.  One ME 109 intercepts a returning Maryland, causing it to crash land.

1722-1727 hrs  Aircraft identified as friendly.

1748-1800 hrs  Raid does not materialise.

Night  No enemy raids.  Wellingtons from Luqa and Swordfish from Hal Far carry out attacks on enemy shipping, thought to have been successful.

Military casualties  AC1 John Hoare, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron; AC2 Ronald Lamble, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant Edward Williams, DFC, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron; Gunner Thomas Gravina, 1st Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Anthony Storace, 1st Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Philip Sammut, Royal Malta Artillery (died 20 January 1942).

Civilian casualties  Siggiewi  Ganna Micallef, age 17.  Zurrieq  Louis Farrugia, age 22.  Nadur, Gozo  Francis Cutajar, age 48; Rita Galea, age 15; Joseph Muscat, age 9.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: THURSDAY 15 JANUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Blenheims to Helwan.

HAL FAR  Night 15/16th Five Swordfish 830 Squadron despatched to attack one merchant vessel and one destroyer.  Two possible hits claimed on the merchant vessel.  Smoke screen by destroyer very effective.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland special search Kerkennah- Cape Bon; one Maryland SF6 patrol; one Maryland SF15 patrol.  21 Squadron  Three Blenheims search one destroyer and one merchant vessel: not located.  40 Squadron  One Wellington nuisance raid Tripoli.  S/D Flight  One Wellington T/B and S/M depot ship.

TA QALI  Restricted flying owing to bad weather.   

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; dealt with 13 (4 x 500kg, 1 x 250kg, 1 x 15kg, 7 x 1kg).

 

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Posted by on January 15, 2022 in 1942, January 1942, Uncategorized

 

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25 December 1941: Christmas Under Siege

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SIREN SOUNDS AS MALTESE PRAY FOR PEACE 

German bombs marked "Iron Greetings for Malta" (NWMA Malta)

German bombs marked “Iron Greetings for Malta” (NWMA Malta)

After a night disturbed by enemy bombing and reconnaissance raids, people in Malta awoke today to the prospect of Christmas under fire.  Extra prayers for peace were added to the traditional nativity services. 

The alarm sounded again mid-morning, and the Maltese readied themselves to spend Christmas Day in underground shelters.  The choir of St Pauls Anglican Cathedral, normally full for the annual carol service, sang to a nearly empty church as people listened via Rediffusion in the safety of their homes. Thankfully no bombs fell and the enemy stayed away for the rest of the day, despite several clear spells between the chilly showers.

The question facing every household in recent days has been how to mark this important religious and family festival under increasingly strict rationing.  Mothers have faced a challenge to produce anything like the usual festive food, with shortages of key ingredients such as flour, eggs and potatoes.  Determined not to disappoint, they have improvised with powdered egg and any fruit, dried or otherwise, they could find to provide something special.

Military traditions were also upheld, as officers turned waiter and served Christmas dinner to the Other Ranks.  Servicemen were delighted to receive special parcels containing a few home comforts, made up by schoolchildren back in the UK.

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief, accompanied by Chiefs of Staff, made a tour of the airfields and military bases.  Former Governor Sir Charles Bonham Carter, now Commandant of the Kings Own Malta Regiment, sent a seasonal greeting: “Wishing all ranks a quiet Christmas and after victory return in peace to their homes in 1942.”

Otherwise for Malta’s armed forces, it has been a day like any other.  The Island’s defenders stood ready round the clock to deter raiders and the unlucky members of the Island’s air forces embarked on the usual round of attacks on enemy convoys and land targets.  Those who were spared took the opportunity to celebrate:

“Christmas day was spoiled for us as most of us were to operate. Crews were chosen by lot but we weren’t picked. We had planned a big dinner and drink but of course that went west. However they were all scrubbed before take off so we all went to the mess and had a do. I met Charlie Pouriville from Sherbrook and took him along. He is on his way to Cairo. It was a very drunk up in the mess. Red Murray and I bought two bottles of Scotch. The W/C and some of the officers were up there. Broke up pretty late. Red rode a bicycle down the slope and didn’t get killed. We built a bonfire on the floor and went to bed. No air raids today.” (1)

CHRISTMAS DINNER UNDERGROUND

The Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta reflects on Christmas under siege:

“The first alert was just as I was communicating the last five people at the Sung Eucharist; so we came down to the Crypt and finished the service there – a thing we have not had to do for several months.

After a light lunch, I lit our first fire and watched it start for some time, luxuriating in the play of its flames. We shall try to do without one except on the most special occasions. The evening broadcast of carols went very well; the dimmed lights of the Chapel, the rich crimson colour of the altar curtains blazing red from the glow of eight candles which stand upon it, and two standards at the sides make a glorious picture, and the voices of the choir echoing round the pillars of the church must be very moving. Not many come to the cathedral, but one hopes that many listen to the reproduction.

…We had invited five men to dinner, one of whom did not turn up, Captain Hussey of HMS Lively; we suppose he was suddenly sent to sea. The others were Flight-Lieutenant Waterfield, a very intelligent man who knows Italy well and was in charge of the British Institute at Palermo, Smith a W/T officer in the Breconshire; Caesar a 2nd Lieutenant in the Hampshires who was in Libya; and Lieutenant Rimmer our choirmaster…

We had taken the precaution to have a spare table ready in the Crypt; and it was well that we did so, for an alert was sounded at 19.30 just as we were wondering where Hussey was, and whether to start. So we came downstairs and the guests quickly transferred plates and glasses to the whitewashed funk-hole. There was not much gunfire and we were able to eat in quiet…It was the first time in my life that we did not have a pudding made from my mother’s recipe – but materials were unobtainable…

It was a very happy evening as happiness goes in these bitter days…” (2)

RATIONS TIGHTENED

Governor’s Report to the Secretary of State for the Colonies for December 1941

The following measures of food control have been undertaken:-

  • (a)  All bread sellers have been registered, and regulations have been made under which every household has to register with a single bread seller.  This registration is now practically complete and will enable closer check to be kept on issues of flour.
  • (b)  Regulations are being issued to enable closer control to be kept on supplies of meat to institutions, restaurants, hospitals, etc.
  • (c)  Arrangements have been made to control all supplies of eggs coming from Gozo, which constitutes a very large part of the total egg production.  Requirements of civil and military hospitals and other institutions are being met from this supply and the rest is distributed through the usual channels.
  • (d)  Tomato paste has been added to the list of rationed commodities.

In order to tighten control over bus services, and make it easier to effect further economies on petrol consumption if necessary, regulations have been issued under which as from 1st January, route managers and dispatchers of buses will be Government employees and not employees of the bus owners.  Scheme is being financed by levy on bus owners and increase in licence fees.

Over 500 tons of seed potatoes from Cyprus have been received and arrangements are being made for free distribution by the Department of Agriculture.

Merry Christmas from Malta.

AIR RAIDS 25 DECEMBER 1941

0114-0440 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Two enemy aircraft approached singly from  the north and carried out intruder tactics round the Island.  Bombs were dropped near Rabat searchlight station, on Ta Qali flare path, near Qawra Tower searchlight and Ghar Lapsi.  Heavy Ack Ack fired two barrages; no claims.

1123-1132 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Three enemy aircraft on reconnaissance approached from the north and receded when still 20 miles from Island.  Seven Hurricanes from Ta Qali were scrambled; no interceptions.

Night  Four alerts were sounded during the night for a small number of enemy aircraft.  Bombs were dropped on land at Gzira and in the sea off Delimara.  Ack Ack engaged during three alerts, destroying one enemy bomber.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 25 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Three Albacores and four Swordfish laid mines off Tripoli.

HAL FAR  Night 24/25th  Three Albacores 828 Squadron carried out a minelaying operation outside Tripoli Harbour.  All aircraft returned safely.  Four Swordfish 830 Squadron carried out a minelaying operation outside Tripoli Harbour.  Opposition intense but wild.  Weather 1/10 – 3/10.  Cloud at 8000 feet.  Visibility good.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF 15 patrol; one Maryland SF 16 patrol.  Photo-reconnaissance Unit 2 Gerbini, Catania.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 14 patrol; one Blenheim SF 2B patrol; two Blenheims attacked schooner and minesweeper.  107 Squadron  One Blenheim SF 14 patrol; one Blenheim SF 2B patrol.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 2 (1 x 70kg; 1 x Thermos). 

(1) Extract from A Flyer’s Diary by Jim White (Air Shared Magazine, see http://pawsey.net/whiteproject/joewhitediary-part2.htm

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

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

 

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18 December 1941: Loss of HMS Neptune and Kandahar

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BRECONSHIRE GETS THROUGH

The supply ship Breconshire arrived at Malta at 1500 hrs today to deliver her much needed load of fuel oil and stores, accompanied by the ships of her protective force.

After yesterday’s encounter with the Italian Navy, the two British forces separated, as destroyers from Force B and Force K took on the task of escorting Breconshire safely to Malta.  Admiral Vian turned with his fleet towards Alexandria.  The Italian convoys also divided: three ships setting course for Tripoli and one for Benghazi.  This afternoon the Tripoli-bound vessels were located and a Malta Strike Force of three cruisers and four destroyers was assembled in pursuit. 

The official report from the Royal Navy War Diary for Malta relates what happened next…

HMS Neptune

“HM Ships Neptune (Captain R O’Connor, Senior Officer), Aurora, Penelope, Kandahar, Lance, Lively and Havock were despatched…18th December to intercept an important Italian convoy which had been sighted earlier, heading for Tripoli.  It was appreciated that if the convoy was not delayed it was likely to be at the entrance to Tripoli before our force could intercept, but it was hoped that attacks by torpedo bomber and bomber aircraft, which were arranged to take place during the night, would have the usual effect of delaying the enemy.

A special Wellington was co-operating to lead our air and surface striking forces to the enemy.  The enemy’s convoy and escorting warships were discovered and reported by the Wellington split into groups and covering many miles of water to the eastward of Tripoli.

Albacores and Swordfish aircraft were sent to attack.  Although it is believed that only one ship was damaged by them, their attack had the expected effect of disorganising and slowing up the Italian convoy.  As a result, and also probably because of mines which had been laid in the entrance to the harbour, the convoy did not enter Tripoli till late the following day.

Unfortunately, the information regarding the position of the convoy did not reach Neptune before disaster had overtaken our force.  Having proceeded at maximum speed towards a point east of Tripoli they had just eased down on reaching the 100 fathom line when Neptune struck a mine and was brought to a stop.  The remaining ships sheered off to port and starboard and then turned back to get clear of the minefield.  Whilst engaged in getting clear, Aurora and Penelope both struck mines but were able to steam.

Aurora, who was fairly badly damaged, set course for Malta at her best speed of 16 knots, escorted by Havock and Lance, whilst Penelope stood by to tow Neptune when she had drifted clear of the minefield.  Kandahar entered the minefield and attempted to close Neptune to take off personnel, but, whilst engaged in this, struck a mine and had her stern blown off.  Neptune meanwhile had drifted down onto more mines and, when the third or fourth mine exploded under her, she turned turtle and sank.

Nothing could be done to approach Kandahar through the minefield and Penelope with Lively reluctantly returned to Malta.” (1)

800 SEAMEN LOST

Only 30 members of Neptune’s crew of nearly 800 survived the sinking.  Their lifeboat was spotted five days later by an Italian torpedo boat: only one of its occupants was still alive.  Maltese casualties from HMS Neptune  were Steward Angelo Falzon, Steward Emanuel Montanaro, Malta Port Division.

AIR RAIDS 18 DECEMBER 1941

0835-0854 hrs  Air raid alarm.  No engagement.

2311-0250 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Eight enemy aircraft raided Island.  Bombs were dropped in the sea and on land near Attard, Mgarr, Birkirkara and on Luqa aerodrome hitting a Wellington; one of crew was killed, another seriously injured.  Hal Far was machine-gunned and mines were possibly laid off Grand Harbour.  Ack Ack engaged enemy aircraft.

Military casualties  Sergeant pilot Frank Sunley, Sergeant Thomas Clarke, Royal Air Force.

Enemy casualties  Sottotenente Antonio Galati, pilot, 259a Squadriglia, 109o Gruppo, 36o Stormo, S84 crashed into the sea.  Maggiore Goffredo Gastaldi, 109o Gruppo, 36o Stormo, crewman on a S84, crashed into the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: THURSDAY 18 DECEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upright returned from patrol having sunk certainly one and probably two northbound merchant vessels in Gulf of Taranto.  Forces K and B, Decoy, Havock and Breconshire arrived.  Neptune, Aurora, Penelope, Lively, Lance, Havock and Kandahar sailed.  Six Albacores attacked a convoy of three cruisers and three merchant vessels approaching Tripoli and fired four torpedoes, hitting two merchant vessels.  One Albacore did not return.  Five Swordfish left to attack same convoy, but failed to locate target.  One Swordfish crashed on landing.  Crew hurt.

AIR HQ  Departures  Seven Beaufighters for 108 MU.

HAL FAR  Night 17th/18th  Four Swordfish 830 Squadron despatched on a shipping search, located a tanker 4-5000 tons with destroyer escort.  Two hits claimed on tanker and an explosion followed by a subsequent fire was seen.  Four Hurricanes 185 Squadron engaged three BR 20s forty miles south south west of Filfla.  One enemy aircraft observed to be hit in wings and fuselage.  One of own aircraft “K” hit in the tail.  All aircraft landed safely.

LUQA  S/D Flight one Wellington on special shipping search.  69 Squadron  Four Marylands special search.  Photo-Reconnaissance (PR) Unit 2  PR Palermo, Tripoli; one Maryland PR Tripoli Harbour and Castel Benito.  18 Squadron  One Blenheim special search Keliba-Kerkennah; six Blenheims attacked two schooners near Kuriat.  107 Squadron  One Blenheim special search Kerkennah-Kuriat; three Blenheims despatched to attack merchant vessel (no sightings made).  104 Squadron  Seven Wellingtons attacked Tripoli and mined harbour.

2nd BATTALION THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  0025 hrs  One enemy aircraft machine gunned Hal Far area but no damage was done.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; dealt with 4 (1 x 250kg HE; 1 x Thermos; 1 x incendiary; 1 x anti-personnel).

(1)  See also Neptune Association

 

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

 

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22 November 1941: Suspect Bomb Halts Governor’s Visit

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SUSPECT BOMB HALTS GOVERNOR’S SCHOOL VISIT

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

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

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

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

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

ROYAL ENGINEERS BOMB DISPOSAL SECTION WEEKLY REPORT SATURDAY 22 NOVEMBER 1941

Total unexploded bombs (UXB) dealt with: 101

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 23 NOVEMBER 1941

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

Fiat BR20 “Cigogna” (stork)

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

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

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

Savoia-Marchetti SM79 “Sparviero” (sparrowhawk)

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

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

2211 hrs  Air raid alarm.  No engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 22 NOVEMBER 1941

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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12 November 1941: Air War Losses and Gains

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HMS Ark Royal with Swordfish overhead

HMS Ark Royal with Swordfish overhead

ARK ROYAL SUNK

Overnight, seven Swordfish from 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm at Hal Far were despatched to attack a convoy consisting of two merchant vessels west of Pantelleria.  Three aircraft returned to base owing to engine trouble; the remaining four failed to return to base.  The missing crews are Lt Cmdr Hunt, Lt Osborn, Lt Wigram, S/Lt Campbell, S/Lt Taylor, S/Lt Robinson, Sgt Parke, L A Fallon and L A Griffiths. 

In the early morning RAF Blenheims from Malta set out on a special mission, to guide in a new delivery of Hurricane aircraft flying off the aircraft carriers Argus and Ark Royal as part of Operation Perpetual.  A total of 37 Hurricanes set off for Malta that morning; 34 aircraft arrived safely.

Their mission successfully completed, the aircraft carriers turned westwards along with the rest of the convoy, Force “H”.  Next afternoon Ark Royal was hit by an enemy torpedo.  With the valiant efforts of the accompanying destroyers, the carrier was brought within sight of Gibraltar before she finally sank on the morning of 15 November.

HMS Ark Royal sinks off Gibraltar

HMS Ark Royal sinks off Gibraltar

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 13 NOVEMBER 1941

0034-0129 hrs  Air raid alarm caused by approach of friendly aircraft.

0210 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft approaches from the north, drops bombs fifteen miles east of Delimara and recedes. 

0624-0650 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One enemy aircraft drops six bombs in the sea 1½ miles off the Island.

Military casualties  Leading Airman Kenneth D Griffiths, Royal Navy; Lieutenant Frederic A Wigram, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, both HMS St Angelo; Pilot Officer John Bebington, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR); Sergeant Cedric Greenhill, RAFVR; Sergeant James Henderson, Royal Canadian Air Force; all 40 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS  WEDNESDAY 12 NOVEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Porpoise sailed for Alexandria with passengers and stores.

HAL FAR  One Fulmar made a night intruder patrol over Gerbini and Catania aerodromes.  Bombs dropped on Gerbini revolving beacon but the light did not go out.

LUQA 107 Squadron  Five Blenheims attacked Mellaha aerodrome. Three Blenheims special search for dinghy.  One Blenheim SF 11 patrol.  18 Squadron  Three Blenheims special search for dinghies Malta-Maritimo. One Blenheim shipping search Pantelleria.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2; dealt with 5 (1 x 50kg; 4 x Thermos).

 

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

 

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20 October 1941: Fleet Air Arm Squadron Halts 17 Axis Ships in 2 Weeks

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Swordfish

Swordfish

830 SQUADRON PRAISED FOR SUCCESSES

830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm have been praised today for their role in recent offensive operations from Malta on Axis convoys in the Mediterranean. In just two weeks from 4 to 18 October the Squadron, which is operating under the command of the AOC Malta, has been active almost nightly, undertaking 10 missions totalling 67 sorties, launching nine attacks on convoys and one on a single merchant ship. 

On two occasions, a formation of Swordfish launched two strikes on a convoy in a single night, attacking first in the late evening, then returning to base to refuel before setting out to launch their second attack before dawn, causing further damage to merchant shipping. On another occasion the Swordfish leader who lost contact with his torpedo aircraft went ahead alone and launched a solo attack on the target convoy.

In total over the period the Squadron has damaged and stopped 17 enemy merchant ships, including six sunk, for the loss of one Swordfish. In the previous seven months from March to September 830 Squadron damaged 38 ships including 15 sunk, from a total of 67 vessels attacked.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 OCTOBER TO DAWN 21 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine.

1101-1137 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which fly down the east coast 15 miles off shore; a fourth aircraft follows on but turns back while still 50 miles away. Five Hurricane fighters are airborne; no interceptions.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 20 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  P31 arrived from Gibraltar and United Kingdom. Porpoise sailed for Alexandria with stores and personnel.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Clare, 1 Flamingo. Departures 2 Blenheim, 1 Wellington. 18 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked selected target at Acireale. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols Marittimo, Sardinia and Sicily.  1 Blenheim reconnaissance east Sicilian coast.  Photoreconnaissance Sardinia and Sicily. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish on shipping search of Kerkennah without result.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion returns from Gozo.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion deployed to Gozo training camp.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Anti-parachute exercise.

 

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Posted by on October 20, 2021 in 1941, October 1941

 

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19 October 1941: Enemy Convoys to Tripoli Cease Due to Attacks

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HMS Ursula to reload and strike again

HMS Ursula to reload and strike again

EASTERN MED TOO DANGEROUS FOR AXIS SHIPPING

Enemy convoy traffic to Tripoli has ceased completely, according to intelligence reports. The latest convoy to leave Naples has been attacked twice in the past two days by Swordfish from 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm. 

On Friday seven Swordfish attacked the four merchant ships with their four strong destroyer escort, scoring significant hits on two merchantmen and leaving them seriously damaged. Six more Swordfish returned to repeat the attack yesterday, hitting at least one more merchant ship.  The returning pilots reported that fires from the convoy were visible for ten miles.  Today Malta-based submarine Ursula returned to reload, having hit one merchant ship and sunk another in the convoy.

Attacks on Axis bases in Libya have also been stepped up. 17 Wellingtons of 38 & 104 Squadrons attacked targets in Tripoli today, and six Blenheims attacked a factory and power station at Licata.  

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 OCTOBER TO DAWN 20 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Cloudy.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 19 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Ursula returned to reload, having hit one merchant ship and sunk another in convoy.

AIR HQ Arrivals 3 Beaufort, 1 Sunderland, 7 Wellington. Departures 2 Sunderland, 2 Wellington. 18 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked a factory and power station at Licata. 38 Squadron 11 Wellingtons attacked targets in Tripoli. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland patrol Kiniat-Kerkennah; 1 Maryland special search for shipping.  Photoreconnaissances Sicily, Taranto, Tripoli Harbour. 104 Squadron 6 Wellingtons attacked targets in Tripoli.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Advance party left Gozo for Malta.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Advance party proceeded to Gozo.

 

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

 

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18 October 1941: Nine Air Raid Alerts in 17 hrs – Five Killed

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Albacores over Malta

Albacores over Malta

ISLAND UNDER ALERT THROUGH THE NIGHT – HEAVIEST BOMBING FOR WEEKS

Malta suffered its heaviest night of bombing for many weeks tonight. Seven air raids sounded throughout the night in a bombing campaign which seemed to intend an air raid on the Island every hour.  Italian Cant and BR 20 bombers approached from different directions and dropped a large number of large and small high explosive and anti-personnel bombs across the Island.

In the first attack, a large bomb destroyed a house in Bur Marrad, St Paul’s Bay. Five civilians were killed and three people wounded, including two servicemen.  According to military authorities, the traumatised villagers refused to accept help from the Army, saying they preferred to wait for the arrival of the demolition squad. 

An hour after the all-clear the alert sounded for a single bomber approached the south-east coast but dropped bombs in the sea off Zonqor Point. Almost exactly an hour later, two more bombers approached and separated, one turning to approach from the north-west and dropping high explosive bombs near Mgarr, severing telephone lines. The second approached from the north-east then turned in towards St Thomas’ Bay, dropping high explosive bombs in the sea.  

Shortly after 1am another bomber approached from the north west and dropped 2kg anti-personnel bombs near searchlight positions on Bajda Ridge. The alert sounded again an hour later, followed by a sixth but in both cases the raiders turned back before reaching the Island.  The final alert came just before 5am when a single bomber approached Dingli from the west but dropped all bombs in the sea.  The final all-clear sounded just 15 minutes later.

828 SQUADRON ARRIVES IN MALTA

A new Squadron arrived today to joined the Fleet Air Arm force at Hal Far. 828 Squadron, with 11 Albacores and one Swordfish will strengthen the torpedo bomber force in Malta, which has carried out many successful operations against Axis convoys in the Mediterranean.

The reinforcements left the UK under ‘Operation Call Boy’ on 1 October for Gibraltar, where they were transferred to the carrier HMS Ark Royal for shipment towards Malta.  The Carrier sailed under escort two days ago through the western Mediterranean and reached a point early this morning from where the aircraft could take off for Malta.  A second Swordfish destined for Hal Far which took off from Ark Royal did not arrive and is presumed lost.  The pilot Sub Lt D Muller RNVR, and observer Sub Lt A Denby RNVR are missing.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 OCTOBER TO DAWN 19 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine.

1125-1137 hrs  Air raid alert for three Macchi 200 fighters which cross the Island on reconnaissance. Six Hurricanes are scrambled but unable to intercept due to height of raiders.  No engagement by Ack Ack guns.

1522-1553 hrs  Air raid alert for two Macchi 200s which cross the coast to the west of Delimara at great altitude, on reconnaissance. They fly northwards over Ta Qali, turn about over Gozo and fly down the east coast of Malta, then turn over Luqa to Delimara, eventually receding northwards.  Anti-aircraft guns fire pointer rounds.  Nine Hurricanes are airborne but unable to intercept.

Night   Seven air raid alerts sound through the night. Two Hurricanes at a time are airborne but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions.

2046-2120 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy bombers which approach the Island separately from the west and north. Large high explosive bombs are dropped in the sea near Filfla and in the St Paul’s Bay area.  A house is demolished at Bur Marrad.  Five civilians are killed and one seriously wounded.  One soldier of 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment is seriously injured in the ankle and another slightly.  According to military authorities, villagers refused help from the Army, saying they preferred to wait for the arrival of the demolition squad.

2219-2244 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which drops high explosive bombs in the sea east of Zonqor Point.

2321-2351 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy bombers approaching separately from the north west and north east. The first drops 12kg bombs on land near Mgarr, severing telephone lines, and in the sea off Ghain Tuffieha.  The second drops bombs in the sea six miles east of St Thomas’ Bay.

0117-0137 hrs  Air raid alert for an enemy aircraft which approaches from the north west and drops 25 x 2kg bombs near Bajda Ridge searchlight positions; no damage or casualties.

0215-0225 hrs; 0338-0348 hrs  Air raid alert; raids do not materialise.

0455-0510 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches from the west to within eight miles of Dingli and drops high explosive bombs in the sea before receding westward.

Civilian casualties  St Paul’s Bay (Bur Marrad)  Francis Bonnici, age 50; Carmela Bonnici, age 44; Joseph Bonnici, age 16; Frances Bonnici, age 6; Emanuel Bonnici, age 4.  

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 18 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Truant proceeded on patrol in Adriatic. Rorqual left for minelaying, and thence to Gibraltar.  828 Squadron of eleven Albacores arrived, ex operation Call Boy.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland, 2 Wellington. Departures 1 Wellington. 18 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked a factory north of Crotone. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols south eastern Tunisian coast and special patrol.  Photoreconnaissances Palermo, Trapani, Taranto and Naples. 221 Squadron 1 Wellington on convoy search. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish were sent to attack a convoy of 4 merchant ships and 4 destroyers.  At least one merchant ship was hit, with fires visible for 10 miles.

HAL FAR  Eleven Albacore aircraft No 828 Squadron arrived at Hal Far under the command of Lt/Cdr Langmore.

TA QALI  New airmen’s barrack block taken over.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (500kg).

 

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

 

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17 October 1941: Malta Fighters Hampered by Fuel Shortages

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HMS Porpoise arrives Malta (NWMA Malta)

HMS Porpoise arrives Malta (NWMA Malta)

NEW TACTIC BY ITALIAN FIGHTERS EXPOSES LACK OF FUEL FOR HURRICANES

Fuel shortages prevented Malta fighters from fully defending the Island today when enemy raiders attempted a daylight attack. Eleven Hurricanes were scrambled in response to an alert just after 1530 hrs this afternoon, when early warning systems had spotted seven enemy aircraft approaching from the north.  The raiders, identified as Macchi fighters, suspended their approach while still 30 miles from Malta and began to circle, forcing the Hurricanes to fly out to them.  Two of the Macchis managed to evade the Hurricanes and crossed the coast near Grand Harbour.  Several Hurricanes turned back to attempt an engagement but ran out of fuel and had to land. 

COAL IN SHORT SUPPLY

Fossil fuels are also in very short supply and military authorities are seeking ways to economise. In a bid to conserve supplies, troops have been given new instructions on an economical means of providing fuel using coal dust. 

  • Mix eight parts coal dust to one part sand and two parts clay, or two parts coal dust, one part sawdust and one part clay.
  • Moisten as necessary, mould into balls and allow to dry.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 OCTOBER TO DAWN 18 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fair.

1047-1103 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which approach from the north and carry out reconnaissance. Hurricane fighters are flying into and out of Malta on escort duties so it is not possible for them nor anti-aircraft guns to engage.

1534-1555 hrs  Air raid alert for a total of seven enemy aircraft which approach the Island in three formations but circle 30 miles to the north. The first two formations remain at a distance, while two Macchi 200 fighters approach Grand Harbour from the north east and cross the coast.  Eleven Hurricanes are scrambled at the first alert but, owing to fuel shortages, they are unable to engage the two raiders.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage with one barrage; no claims.

0012-0019 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of Swordfish aircraft.

0403-0523 hrs  Air raid alert for seven enemy bombers which approach the Island singly from several directions. None cross the coast; all bombs are dropped in the sea, including one container of incendiaries eight miles offshore to the north east.  Four Hurricane fighters are airborne, two at a time, but there are no searchlight illuminations and no interceptions.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 17 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY Porpoise arrived from Gibraltar and United Kingdom. Ursula, P34 and Rorqual sailed for operations off Kuriat, but Rorqual returned with defects.

AIR HQ Arrivals 3 Wellington. Departures 3 Wellington. 18 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked a factory at Syracuse. 38 Squadron 3 Wellingtons attacked Trapani aerodrome.  4 Wellingtons attacked Elmas aerodrome. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols Syracuse, east Sicilian coast and special patrol.  Photoreconnaissances Cagliari, Sicilian aerodromes and Messina Harbour. 107 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked motor transport at Zuara and Sirte. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish sent to attack a convoy of 4 merchant ships and 4 destroyers.  Two merchant vessels were hit and seriously damaged.  Despite intense, accurate fire from all ships all aircraft returned safely.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Officers from Battalion HQ and departmental clerks visited the Fortress Telephone Exchange. The amount of call traffic going through was a revelation.  A most interesting lecture was arranged at the Naval Canteen on ‘The Progress of the War’.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4.

 

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

 

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