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29 January 1942: Bomb Kills Teacher’s Family While He Prays

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“Practically continuous bombardment all day long.  Alert at 7pm and no all-clear until past 10.”  War Diary, General Staff, Malta

FAMILY TRAGEDY IN GOZO

Ghajnsielem, Gozo

A bomb killed the wife and four children of a village schoolteacher early today, while he was attending morning Mass at the local church.  The bomb smashed into the house of Wenzu Grech in Hamri Street in Ghajnsielem, Gozo at just after seven this morning, killing Carmela Grech, age 49 and children Emilia, 17, Ines, 16, John, 14 and Angela, aged just 7 years.

SECURITY MEASURES

A system of Military Identity Cards is instituted for all Officers in the Malta Command today with a view to tightening up security.

MALTA’S AIR FORCES ON THE ATTACK

Hurricanes and Wellingtons carry out successful night operations against Sicilian aerodromes and shipping out of Tripoli.

AIR RAIDS THURSDAY 29 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Wind west south-west; strong and cold.  Little cloud at times; some rain later.

0643-0745 hrs  Two aircraft approach from the north and drop bombs on Gozo and east of Torri l’Abjad.

0908-0935 hrs  Two ME 109 fighters approach from the north at 12500 feet, turn east of the Island and drop to sea level before receding.  Malta’s fighters are up but there is no engagement.

1023-1045 hrs  One JU 88 bomber and fighter escort approach from the north.  The JU 88 crosses the coast at Kalafrana and recedes over St George’s Bay.  Heavy Ack Ack engages and no bombs are dropped.

1230 hrs A mine explodes accidentally in the area of 1st Battalion, Kings Own Malta Regiment, fatally wounding C S M Bussuttil.

1259-1357 hrs  Five JU 88s escorted by fighters approach from the north.  Only two JU 88s cross the coast and are immediately engaged by Heavy Ack Ack, causing them to jettison their bombs on Qrendi Strip.  One stick of bombs falls near the headquarters of 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment.

1510 hrs  Three aircraft are scrambled from Ta Qali: no contact with the enemy.

1654-1727 hrs  Two JU 88s escorted by fighters approach from the north west and attack Hal Far, dropping four bombs and 25 incendiaries on the aerodrome, and damaging one Hurricane.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage; 225 Light Ack Ack Battery claims one JU 88 damaged with a hit on the port engine.

1743-1838 hrs  Enemy fighters approach the Island at 4000 feet and are engaged by Heavy and Light Ack Ack.

1952-2236 hrs  Six aircraft approach the Island from the north and drop bombs in scattered areas.  Four bombs are dropped on Ta Qali eastern dispersal area: one Hurricane is slightly damaged.  Heavy Ack Ack strongly engage the enemy with barrage.

Night  Fourteen raiders in four raids attack Luqa causing slight damage, destroying one Mosquito and damaging another. In one raid, three aircraft come in from the north and drop bombs near Torri l’Ahmar on the north coast, to the west of Rabat, Qrendi village and near Siggiewi, killing two civilians and partly demolishing two houses.  Heavy Ack Ack fire a barrage.

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant Edwin Fox, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Civilian casualties  Ghajnsielem, Gozo  Carmela Grech, age 49, Emilia Grech, age 17, Ines Grech, age 16, John Grech, age 14, Angela Grech, age 7.  Siggiewi  Leonard Attard, age 57; Qrendi  Joseph Aquilina, age 38, Mary Rose Aquilina, age 24.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: THURSDAY 29 JANUARY 1942

HAL FAR  Night 29/30th Four Swordfish 830 Squadron despatched to attack one merchant vessel and one destroyer.  The merchant vessel was hit by one torpedo and the destroyer was also attacked but results not observed.  One aircraft failed to return: missing crew pilot Sub Lieutenant J F Wilson and observer Lieutenant J R O Stephenson, both 830 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF14 patrol.  21 Squadron  Four Blenheims dispatched to attack German headquarters at Ez Zauia – F/Lt Fox failed to return.  156 Squadron  Eight Wellingtons attacked motor transport on Tripoli-Buerat el Haun road.  S/D Flight  Two Wellingtons special searches.

TA QALI  2005 hrs  Intruder raids by 1435 flight.  F/Lt over Comiso attacked lorry and damaged it; encountered severe electric storms on return flight.  P/O Thompson over Catania: attacked two lorries, a machine gun on one silenced.  One lorry overturned while the other ran into a tree.  A car on the road was set on fire.  F/Lt Palmer – Comiso – attacked a train: no results observed.  Operations cancelled.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Funeral of the late Private T Hall, RAOC at St Andrews Cemetery.

1st BN CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A B & D Companies sent on the march and run route march.  All Coys did about seven miles but most found it a bit of a strain the first time.

1ST BN DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  D Company moved out to camp at Jebel Ciantar and the Inquisitor’s Palace.

8TH BN KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT MALTA  Bombs in Siggiewi area: battalion defence post KO10 damaged by blast.  Roads also damaged but quickly repaired.

11TH BN LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS TEWT [Training Exercise Without Troops] on how to prepare a training scheme.  Area L’Imrihel and neighbourhood.

 

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Posted by on January 29, 2017 in 1942, January 1942

 

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23 January 1942: 8 Hours of Night Bombing

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

Fairey ‘Swordfish’ with torpedo

SWORDFISH SINK ENEMY TROOP SHIP

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

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

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

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT TO DEFEND BEACHES

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

AIR RAIDS 23 JANUARY 1942

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPERATIONS REPORTS: FRIDAY 23 JANUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Departures  One Cathay to Lisbon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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, 2017 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, 2017 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, 2016 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, 2016 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, 2016 in 1941, November 1941

 

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