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31 May 1942: RAF Wins in the Skies but Belts Tight on the Ground

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“Rations have during the month been considerably reduced, and it is now a case of tightening belts until the next convoy comes in.”  (1)

Kingsway, May 1942 (NWMA Malta)

MAY 1942: THE ARMY VIEW

At the beginning of this month it became obvious that the enemy were not maintaining as many aircraft on the Sicilian aerodromes.  The attacks on this Island were on a reduced scale.  On 9th the Island received large reinforcements of Spitfires.  On 10th a minelaying cruiser brought supplies of Bofors ammunition to the Island and this ship was heavily bombed by JU 88s and JU 87s during its stay in the Dockyard.

The enemy was surprised to find over 60 Spitfires in the air waiting for him and also the heaviest Ack Ack barrage that has been seen over Malta for some months.  The result was – on that day the enemy lost 63 aircraft destroyed or damaged.

Since that time we have had air superiority over the Island.  Since this heavy defeat the enemy used mainly Italian aircraft and crews in his attacks and, although the raids have been on a much smaller scale, the percentage of enemy aircraft damaged or destroyed has been very high.  Towards the end of the month bombing raids against Italian targets were resumed from this Island.

A feature of the month has been the increase of enemy E Boat activity around the Island.  Undoubtedly some of these boats have been engaged in mine laying but this is probably not the only explanation of their activities.  On 17th some of these E Boats were engaged by our coast defences and one was left abandoned.  Rather than let this boat fall into our hands and reveal its secrets it was bombed and sunk by enemy aircraft.  On 18th an Italian came ashore at post T4 and, from information given by this prisoner, it appeared that the enemy may possibly be testing our coast defences with a view to making a ‘Commando’ raid against the Island.

During the month nearly all the troops… who are not manning key positions have been engaged in construction work on aerodromes, and salvage work clearing up the damage caused by the heavy bombing in the previous month.  The work on aerodromes has consisted of building pens to protect our aircraft and standing by to fill in craters and thus keep the aerodromes serviceable.

AIR COMMAND REPORTS ON STATE OF AIRFIELDS

By the beginning of May 236 pens had been completed in the aerodromes.  This work had to be given priority over slit trenches, because of the delay in the dispersal programmes.  The allowance of petrol to the RAF was 3000 gallons a week and was not to be exceeded.  All airmen living within four miles of the aerodromes had to march to work.  This limitation of petrol was a serious handicap to aerodrome work.

There was a grave shortage of miners owing to the shelter construction programme, and so any possibility of putting workshops underground had to be shelved, and we had to rely more upon dispersal than on underground workshops.  Stores were distributed to 27 houses throughout the Island and 60 per cent of the work at Kalafrana in engine and airframes repairs was moved to Gzira, including instrument, armament, airscrew, coppersmith and petrol tank repairs.

As regards work on the aerodromes there was a very serious shortage of rollers.  Rollers had to be used and manned during the whole of daylight hours with relief crews.  Often during the whole 24 hours when bombing was heavy and aerodromes had to be made usable.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 MAY TO DAWN 1 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; clear.

0922 hrs  Air raid alert: raid does not materialize.

1221-1259 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: no engagement.

1340 hrs  Seven Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept an incoming formation of Italian and German fighters.

1345 hrs  The air raid alert sounds as the fighters approach the coast.  603 Squadron Spitfires engage the Re 2001s and ME 109s as they attempt a sweep over the Island.  The Spitfires attack but no strikes are seen.  One Spitfire falls into a bomb-hole while taxiing and breaks its back: the pilot is unhurt.

1508-1610 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are despatched to search a position east north east of Grand Harbour.  They sight debris: an overturned float and a raft.

1804-1843 hrs  Three Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are despatched to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.

1945 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for incoming enemy fighters.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron and four of 601 Squadron Luqa are despatched to intercept enemy aircraft.  They chase the ME 109s but do not engage.

2235 hrs; 2350 hrs  Air raid alerts: raids do not materialise.

Military casualties  Gunner William Chandler, 74th Light Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Artillery; Private Domenico Vella, 1st Battalion, King’s Own Malta Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS 31 MAY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Trusty Star, Beryl, and ML 126 sent to Marsaxlokk to sweep the approaches to that Harbour.  HM 235 sweeping off Grand Harbour.  17 tons of oil fuel recovered from Breconshire.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Lodestar from Heliopolis; four Hudsons, two Spitfires, five Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Five Wellingtons, three Hudson to LG 222; one Blenheim, one Hurricane to Sidi Barrani; one Lodestar to Heliopolis.

LUQA  2055-0106 hrs  Six Wellingtons 104 Squadron Luqa were despatched to attack the train ferry terminus at Messina.  The raid was very successful: large fires are seen, believed to be commercial oil storage tanks.  Explosions were seen on the jetty and railway lines.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  Working parties Luqa aerodrome.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  15 Malta Volunteer Defence Force fired on Pembroke Ranges.  Shooting quite good.  GOC present.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1300 hrs  One unexploded anti-personnel grenade is reported at 526186.  Strengths:  Officers 36; Other Ranks 833; RAOC (attached) 5; RAMC 1.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continue.  Strength of battalion: 33 Officers, 654 Other Ranks.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Spr Briffa, No 2 Works Company RE, was involved in a motor-car accident and admitted to hospital.  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported nil; dealt with 8 (Italian Thermos).  Strengths  HQ Fortress RE 4 Officers, 18 Other Ranks; 24 Fortress Coy RE 5 Officers, 219 Other Ranks; 173 Tunnelling Company RE 6 Officers 204 Other Ranks; No 1 Works Company RE 5 Officers 225 Other Ranks; No 2 Works Company RE 6 Officers 229 Other Ranks; 127 Bomb Disposal Section 1 Officer 20 Other Ranks; 128 Bomb Disposal Section 1 Officer 16 Other Ranks.

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 vehicles, 4 Officers, 130-150 Other Ranks at Safi strip widening and levelling runway.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Day working parties building pens for aircraft 6 Officers 200 Other Ranks.  A Company Jebel Ciantar 4 Officers 131 Other Ranks; B Coy Ta Karceppu 5 Officers 122 Other Ranks; C Coy Inquisitors Palace 5 Officers 133 Other Ranks; D Coy Villa Azzopardi, Zebbug 5 Officers 125 Other Ranks; HQ Coy Ta Salvator 15 Officers 261 Other Ranks.  Chaplain and Medical Officer attached.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  The unit has supplied several working parties during the month for Ta Qali aerodrome and the work has consisted of constructing aircraft pens, repairing runways, filling in bomb craters and salvage.  Owing to the very heavy raids during the month this has been very arduous work.

(1) War Diary, 8th Bn The Manchester Regiment, May 1942

 

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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in 1942, May 1942, Uncategorized

 

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26 January 1942: Hospital Patients Armed Ready for Invasion

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IMTARFA INMATES TO HELP DEFEND TA QALI

Hospital patients and RAF personnel will be called to action in the event of an invasion of Malta, as Ta Qali gets its own armed Garrison.  The extra manpower is to help the Army defend the aerodrome and occupy high ground at Imtarfa and Mdina overlooking the airfield. 

18 pounder gun

18 pounder gun

On declaration of a “General Alarm”,  the Garrison troops will come under the command of 8th Bn The Manchester Regiment (8th Manch), and include one platoon 4th Buffs; two companies 8th Manch and one platoon Static Group.  200 RAF personnel from Ta Qali aerodrome will be called on as soon as the airfield is declared unable to operate.  Up to 200 patients will man the defence posts currently being built for 90thGeneral Hospital at Imtarfa.

Ta Qali Garrison will be armed with heavy artillery – three 18 pounders – and a varying number of Ack Ack guns.  Two 18 pounders will be dug into the Imtarfa spur, and one at pt 369268, to direct fire on to the aerodrome landing grounds.  At least one automatic weapon will be issued per defence post as well as Ack Ack light machine guns.

RAF personnel are currently undergoing training in infantry skills for their new defensive role.

AIR RAIDS MONDAY 26 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Wind south south-west.  70% cloud; bright periods.

0838-0901 hrs  Two ME 109s approach from the north, patrol south and south east of the Island at a low height and then recede north.

0945-1009 hrs  Aircraft identified as friendly.

1027-1055 hrs  One JU 88 escorted by two ME 109s approach from the north, cross the Island from south to north at 26000 feet.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1210-1338 hrs  Four ME 109s approach from the north, circle the Island and patrol to the south.  The raid recedes at sea level.

1240 hrs  One mine explodes on Marfa West Coast.

1517-1609 hrs  Six plus aircraft approach from the north, circle the Island and recede north.

1636-1709 hrs  A small number of aircraft approach the Island from the north and south.  One aircraft comes within three miles of Grand Harbour then recedes north; others come no closer than ten miles.

2045-2211 hrs  Thirteen enemy bombers approach the Island from the north.  Only four come within range of Heavy Ack Ack and only one crosses the coast.  Heavy Ack Ack fire four barrages.  All bombs are dropped in the sea.

2225-2247 hrs  One bomber approaches from the south, crosses the coast near Kalafrana and drops bombs in the Hal Far area.  Heavy Ack Ack fire one barrage.

2340-0110 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north, crosses the coast near Zonkor Point and drops bombs between San Nicola and Ta Silch.

Night  Out of 21 raiders in six raids only four cross the coast but remainder are thought to be mine-laying, aware that a convoy is on its way to Malta.

0246-0319 hrs  One bomber approaches from the north, crosses the coast south of Zonkor Point, taking evasive action by jinking, which makes engagement by Heavy Ack Ack difficult.  One barrage is fired and bombs are dropped in the sea.

Military casualties  Sergeant Victor Morris, RAF; L/Cpl Gregory Spiteri.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: MONDAY 26 JANUARY 1942

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Hurricane photo-reconnaissance (PR) Sicilian aerodromes; one Hurricane PR Italian aerodromes; one Beaufighter PR Medinena-Ben Guardia; one Maryland Cairo 1 patrol; two Marylands Cairo 2 patrol; one Maryland Cairo 1a patrol.  21 Squadron  One Blenheim Cairo 1b patrol; two Blenheims barges off north African coast and motor transport on roads.  156 Squadron  Five Wellingtons attacked Catania aerodrome; three Wellingtons attacked Comiso aerodrome.

TA QALI  Station Defence Training scheme started; Captain Hynes and five sergeant instructors Royal Irish Fusiliers attached this station for the scheme.  Five wireless operators ceased attachment and returned to Luqa.  Intruder raids by Malta Night Fighter Unit operations cancelled.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  New Brigade HQ Defence Platoon formed from 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers and 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment and took over duty. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; dealt with 2 (1 x 500kg, 1 x 250kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

 

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Posted by on January 26, 2017 in 1942, January 1942

 

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10 January 1942: Churchill Helps Malta’s Troops Write Home

 

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  • RAF Blenheim

    RAF Blenheim

    Fighter Blenheims to begin operations at Ta Qali

  • Bad weather prevents enemy raids and offensive operations from Luqa for a second night
  • Funeral of Anti-Aircraft Gunner at Pembroke Military Cemetery

RANDOLPH CHURCHILL TO HELP GOVERNOR IMPROVE TROOP POSTAL SERVICE

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

Any scheme to improve unsatisfactory postal arrangements will be welcomed.  Doubtful whether 55 kilogrammes will suffice to take one card per man per week.  Estimate 70 kilogrammes required if all personnel take advantage of scheme.

In this connection please note that Mideast Air priorities committee have only guaranteed minimum of 50 kilogrammes per machine to include official mail as well as private.  This is quite inadequate.

Suggest that carriage of air letter cards should not be limited to BOAC machines but that advantage should be taken of space in any type of aircraft passing through so that real priority for letter cards can be ensured.  Scheme can not be put into operation until supply of letter cards has arrived.  Estimated weekly expenditure is twenty five thousand.  Please send initial supply by air as soon as possible.  As space is limiting factor installation of airgraph machinery here is again strongly advocated.  Major Randolph Churchill is bringing further details by hand shortly.  This telegram has been agreed by three services.

AIR RAIDS 0001 HRS TO 2359 HRS 10 JANUARY 1942

Weather Thundery showers, heavy at times; driving wind, cold.

0852-0900 hrs  Air raid warning; raid does not materialise.

1205-1207 hrs  One JU 88 approaches from the south east and recedes without crossing the coast, dropping bombs in the sea.  Heavy Ack Ack fires one barrage.

1412-1438 hrs  One JU 88 approaches from the south east under cloud cover at 14,500 feet, dives to 7000 feet and drops bombs on Luqa before climbing away to the east.  One barrack block near the Officers’ Mess is slightly damaged but there are no casualties.  Heavy Ack Ack fires a barrage and Hurricanes are airborne but fail to intercept.

1500-1515 hrs  Air raid warning.  Raid does not materialise.

1605-1631 hrs  Two JU 88 approach the south coast, one from the west and one from the south east.  They drop bombs on Hal Far, Tal Papa and near Gudja searchlight station.  Heavy Ack Ack fire a barrage and four Hurricanes are airborne but do not engage.

1630-1709 hrs  Air raid warning; raid does not materialise.

1700-1713 hrs  Air raid warning; raid does not materialise.

2252-2333 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north, dropping bombs in the sea off Leonardo.  Heavy Ack Ack fire three immediate barrages.

NIGHT  One raid only by a single aircraft which drops bombs in the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS 10 JANUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Five Wellingtons, eight Blenheims from Gib. Departures  Six Blenheims, three Wellingtons to 108 MU.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland Tunisian coast patrol, one Maryland SF14 patrol, one Hurricane photo-reconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes.  21 Squadron  Three Blenheims despatched to attack merchant vessel off Kuriat.  Vessel not located.

TA QALI  Six air raid alarms during the day; gunfire; no bombs on camp.  Two fighter Blenheims arrived and Pilot Officer and Sergeants 242 Squadron at readiness for the first time.  No scrambles.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Units of the Brigade found large working parties for work on dispersal areas for aircraft and improvement of runways at Ta Qali and Luqa.  This is to last some weeks.  Average number of men 400.

1st BN CHESHIRE REGIMENT  50 Other Ranks (OR) to Luqa aerodrome, to prepare dispersal areas for aircraft and improve runways. Our party of 12 men attached to Luqa for assisting in preparing aircraft returned today and another 12 were sent.

11TH BN LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Working party two Officers and 100 Other Ranks to Luqa to work on dispersal area edge of Safi Strip.

225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY  1400 hrs  Gunner Goldsmith A G interred at Pembroke Military Cemetery, St Andrews, Malta.

8TH BN MANCHESTER REGIMENT About 100 men formed a fatigue party for moving clay from Ta Qali aerodrome.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

 

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Posted by on January 10, 2017 in 1942, January 1942, Uncategorized

 

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6 January 1942: Attacks to Neutralise Airfields To Begin Tomorrow

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TROOPS STAND READY TO DEFEND AIRFIELD POSITIONS

Infantry Brigade Operation Order 6 January 1942

British 3.7 inch (LAA) gun, London

British 3.7 inch (LAA) gun, London

Reliable information indicates that Germans may attempt neutralization of Malta aerodromes by heavy dive-bombing attacks beginning 7 Jan 42.  Necessary AA arrangements are being made which involve moving additional troops and Light Anti-aircraft guns into position to reinforce those already defending the airfields.

The intention is to provide maximum defence of aerodromes from ‘stand to’ throughout daylight on 7 Jan 42, both round the airfields themselves and in depth beyond the perimeters.  Positions have been ordered not to ‘stand down’ until further orders are received from Headquarters.

A wet and stormy night prevented enemy air raids, and the move of troops was carried out unmolested.  Malta’s troops are armed and ready.

AIR RAIDS 0001 HRS TO 2359 HRS 6 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Cold, overcast; low clouds, rain most of the day.

1053-1110 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Aircraft identified as friendly.

1210-1225 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north east above the clouds.  Heavy Ack Ack engage and aircraft drops bombs in St Thomas’ Bay area: three in the sea and one on the cliff ege.  No Hurricanes airborne.

1255-1305 hrs  Air raid alarm; raid did not materialise.

1430-1445 hrs  One aircraft approaches to within six miles of Grand Harbour, drops bombs in the sea and recedes.

1546 hrs  Air raid.  Four bombs are dropped in the waters of Marsaxlokk Bay between defence post BZ1 and Delimara.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: TUESDAY 6 JANUARY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Breconshire sailed from Malta escorted by four destroyers: Lance, Lively, Jaguar and Havock

AIR HQ  Arrivals One Beaufighter, six Blenheims from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  Night 6/7th Four Swordfish 830 Squadron sent to attack convoy of two merchant vessels and two destroyers.  One merchant vessel of 4-5000 tons definitely hit amidships.  All aircraft returned safely.  Three Albacores sent to attack two merchant vessels and two destroyers.  One of the merchant vessels was attacked and hit.  The ship stopped.  Opposition usual light and heavy Ack Ack.  All aircraft returned safely.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland special search Gulf of Hammamet;  one Maryland SF10b patrol.  107 Squadron One Blenheim SF14 patrol.  Night 6/7th  S/D Flight one Wellington shipping search.  40 Squadron patrol.

TA QALI  Aerodrome unserviceable; no flying.  One air raid alarm.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  1030 hrs  New General Officer Commanding (Major General D M W Beak, VC, DSO, MC, visited Brigade and met officers.  Operation Order No 1 was issued in connection with strengthening anti-aircraft (Ack Ack) defences of Luqa aerodrome.

Bren Light Machine Gun

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  The Light Machine Gun (LMG) Ack Ack defence of all aerodromes and strips in the Bde area was considerably strengthened.  LMGs mounted were: Brens 133, Twin Lewis 17, Single Lewis 10.

1st BATTALION CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Orders were to man as many light machine guns and Vickers machine guns for anti-aircraft as possible.  Company commanders to recce and select positions at dawn.

1st BATTALION DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Brigade Commander ordered Reserve Company to move to area Safi strip to supplement Anti-aircraft defences and as many LMGs as possible mounted for Ack Ack by remaining companies.

1ST BATTALION HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion took precautions and ‘stood to’ all Anti-aircraft Light Machine Gun posts while the defence of Safi strip was thickened with extra Ack Ack LMG from the Battalion and from the Dorsets.

11TH BATTALION LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Operation Order No 1 from Central Infantry Brigade issued ref move of troops for intensification of anti-aircraft protection of Luqa aerodromes.

225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY  Orders received for reinforcing Hal Far anti-aircraft defence with an additional 9 guns:  59th Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA Bty) RA: 5 guns; 182nd LAA Bty RA: 2 guns; 186th LAA Bty RA: 2 guns.  Reconnaissance completed 2030 hrs.  Guns ready for action by dawn 7th inst.

8TH BATTALION MANCHESTER REGIMENT  All LMG in the Battalion are to be mounted for anti-aircraft duty.  Approximately 50 men from Aerodrome Companies at Ta Qali filled in bomb holes on runways and dispersal areas.

2ND BATTALION ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Working party cancelled at Luqa due to wet weather.  Instructions were issued that Light Anti-Aircraft batteries and certain light machine guns would move to strengthen the Ack Ack defences of Luqa.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 6.

 

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Posted by on January 6, 2017 in 1942, January 1942, Uncategorized

 

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16 September 1941: Malta Swordfish Lost on Clandestine Mission

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Swordfish missing after raid

Swordfish missing after raid

MALTA AIRCRAFT WAS DELIVERING SECRET AGENT

A Malta-based Swordfish aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm is believed to have crashed today while undertaking a secret mission to North Africa. Pilot Lt C B Lamb, with S/Lt J E Robertson took off in the early hours of this morning.  Their passenger is believed to have been a secret agent who they were to land in the Vichy French territory of Tunisia.  A message has been received to indicate that they survived the crash but it is believed they are currently being held for interrogation.

Lt Lamb previously served as a Swordfish pilot aboard HMS Illustrious. He was among the first wave of aircraft when the successful attack was launched on the Italian fleet at Taranto in November 1940.

MALTA AIRMEN RECEIVE POSTHUMOUS MEDALS

Posthumous military awards were announced today for two Malta airmen who were killed as a result of their aircraft crashing on return from a mission over Sicily on 10 August.

London Gazette, 16 September 1941: The King has been graciously pleased to approve the following awards in recognition of gallantry and devotion to duty displayed in flying operations against the enemy:

Distinguished Flying Medal: Sergeant Campbell Clark, 69 Squadron (deceased), Sergeant Richard Saxby Mutimer, 69 Squadron (deceased)

Sergeants Clark and Mutimer have displayed a high standard of ability throughout the 40 operational missions in which they have participated as wireless operator-air gunner and air observer respectively. Sergeant Clark showed great keenness to engage the enemy, using his guns with damaging effect, while Sergeant Mutimer always willingly co-operated with his pilot when the opportunity for offensive action occurred. They have damaged or destroyed three Italian flying boats and, in one machine gun attack on an enemy aerodrome, destroyed one enemy aircraft and damaged several.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 17 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Cool and overcast.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Aircraftsman James Bond, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Ursula, Unbeaten, Upholder and Upright proceeded for interception of a fast convoy to east of Tripoli. Triumph sailed for special service and patrol in the Adriatic.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland. 38 Squadron 7 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Crotone, Augusta, Catania and Syracuse. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish laid 6 mines in the entrance to Tripoli harbour.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Main body of the Battalion moved to Gozo for a month’s training and left a small rear party in Malta. Battalion headquarters in the Citadel, Rabat; A Company at Xewkija, B Company at Nadur, C Company at Gharb, D Company at Rabat, E Company at Xghajra.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 2 (2kg incendiary)

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  D Company and B Company take over Hal Far from 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Battalion left Gozo and returned to Malta aboard Royal Lady. A and E Companies went to Ta Qali with two mortar detachments and one section of carriers.  Bn HQ Signals and Carriers at Ta Saliba, 2 Platoon valley posts, C Coy St Paul’s Bay, B Coy Victoria Lines, D Coy Strickland House, HQ Coy less detached details Ghain Tuffieha Camp. 

 

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Posted by on September 16, 2016 in 1941, September 1941

 

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12 August 1941: 44 Unmarked Unexploded Bombs Reported Across Malta

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'Molotov bread basket' incendiary bomb container

‘Molotov bread basket’ incendiary bomb container

BOMB DISPOSAL OFFICER DISMANTLES MYSTERY BOMB

A total of 44 unexploded bombs reported following last night’s air raid are of a type never encountered before by Allied forces, according to the Bomb Disposal Officer. During the raid hundreds of small incendiary bombs were dropped on land surrounding Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto, and across a path inland towards Ta Qali.  The count of unexploded bombs reported so far includes 22 at Zeitun, 9 at Marsa, 4 at Hamrun, and one or two at Birkirkara, Balzan, Lija, Sans Souci and Valletta.

The Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer, Lt G D Carroll, went to Zeitun early this morning, scene of the largest concentration of unexploded incendiaries. The bombs he found were dark grey, about 12 inches long and weighing 2kg.  But he could find no markings or numbers of any kind to suggest a fuze type or operating mechanism.  Eye-witnesses reported that flashes were seen in mid-air behind enemy planes during the raid.  The reports suggest that several bombs were loaded into one container which exploded and discharged them in mid-air – an operation similar to the Russian ‘Molotov Bread Basket’.

Leaving the area under guard, the Bomb Disposal Officer carefully removed one of the bombs and packed it in sandbags for transporting back to Lintorn Barracks in Floriana, where the bomb was dismantled to determine a method for making it safe. The incendiary, which is probably Italian, is made up of two dark grey cylinders joined end to end, one with a steel casing containing fuel oil, the other an electron casing containing thermite.  He found the actuating mechanism under a cap screwed on the end of the thermite cylinder; it was evidently armed by an arming vane which unscrews the safety pin from the cap.  He could now devise a means of dealing with the unexploded incendiaries and by the end of the day 34 had been made safe by the RE Bomb Disposal Section.

A report on the operation of the bomb has been cabled to the War Office in London for the information of other bomb disposal officers in the field.  Information gathered from attack sites suggested that each container held an estimated 40 incendiaries mixed with some 200 small high explosive bombs marked Tritolo SAV 937.  Each batch fell roughly in a line about a mile long.  The resulting fires on stone or earth lasted about 10 minutes.  It is believed that the targets were aircraft and petrol dumps.  Further investigations are in hand. 

GOZO IS ‘A PLEASANT SURPRISE SAY 8TH BN MANCHESTER REGIMENT

Troops of 8th Bn Manchester Regiment are settling in to their temporary posting on Gozo today, having arrived yesterday for intensive training.  The Battalion is the latest infantry unit to arrive on Malta’s sister Island to provide a military presence as a precaution against enemy invasion.  According to their Commanding Officer: 

“The troops soon made themselves at home. Gozo proved a pleasant surprise and will prove to be an excellent station.  The population are very well disposed towards troops and the change after our sojourn in defence posts is very welcome.  We had the opportunity of studying the topography of the Island which is very good for field training, with no wire to impede our movements. Ridges, knolls and wieds are plentiful, roads are good and the bathing is excellent.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 AUGUST TO DAWN 13 AUGUST 1941

Weather  Sunny and fresh.

1716-1739 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve enemy fighters which approach Gozo from the north east, and carry out a patrol round the Island at 24000 feet. Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders recede eastwards, turn north east and finally north.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 12 AUGUST 1941

ROYAL NAVY  All ships of the 2 August convoy have completed unloading, except for coal. Rorqual arrived from Alexandria with petrol and stores. P32 sailed for patrol east of Tripoli.

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols of Tunisian coast and western Ionian Sea.  Hurricane photoreconnaissance Catania aerodrome and port, and visual recce of Augusta. 38 Squadron 4 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli railway station area dropping bombs and incendiaries, damaging the station and railway line, buildings and vehicles. 

HAL FAR  One Fulmar machine-gunned aircraft on Catania aerodrome and dropped two bombs plus one flash bomb on both Catania and Gerbini aerodromes.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 44; dealt with 34 (2kg incendiary).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion leaves Gozo and is relieved by 8th Bn Manchester Regiment.  Bn returns to Malta: headquarters and HQ Company at Xlejli Tower, A Coy at Gudja Camp, B Coy at Pembroke Ranges, C Coy static defence at Safi landing strip, D Coy at Mqabba and Zurrieq. 

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Battalion HQ at the Citadel, Rabat, Gozo.  A Company at Gharb and Zebbug, B Coy at Nadur, C Coy Xghajra, D Coy At Rabat, E Coy Xewkija and Sannat.

 

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Posted by on August 12, 2016 in 1941, August 1941

 

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14 July 1941: Malta Reconnaissance Pilot Launches Surprise Attack

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F/O Adrian Warburton

F/O Adrian Warburton

WARBURTON MISTAKEN FOR ITALIAN

A Malta reconnaissance pilot took advantage of an Italian air force ground crew mistake to carry out an audacious attack on a Sicilian aerodrome today. F/O Adrian Warburton DFC of 69 Squadron was carrying out a routine photo-reconnaissance mission over the aerodrome in Catania in Sicily.  Encountering significant cloud cover, he decided to drop down low to take oblique, rather than high-altitude, photographs. 

As he approached the target, F/O Warburton saw a green light being signalled from the airfield. He realised that aerodrome control had mistaken him for an Italian aircraft and he was being signalled to land.  Instead of turning away, the Malta reconnaissance pilot put down his wheels and approached the runway.

Johnny Spires, one of his crewmen, yelled at him: ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing? This is Catania not Luqa!’ ‘I know,’ Warby replied calmly, then began shooting at the aircraft lined up on the ground. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 JULY TO DAWN 15 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and humid.

0205-0335 hrs; 0403-0440 hrs  Air raid alerts for a total of three enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north at intervals. One aircraft drops bombs between Il Gzira and Kalafrana and on a road in open country. Bombs are also dropped on Birzebbuga destroying 15 houses but causing no casualties, on Zurrieq, Marsaxlokk and near Luqa, and in the sea.  During the first raid three Hurricanes 249 Squadron are scrambled; searchlights do not illuminate and there are no engagements.  During the second alert a single raider approaches as the aerodrome beacon is illuminated for Wellington bombers coming in to land.

0500-0507 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of a Wellington not showing appropriate identification lights.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 14 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Union sailed at 0100 for position 10 miles south of Pantelleria to intercept northbound convoy.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 5 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. Departures 1 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Taranto. 110 Squadron 3 Blenheims attacked Zuara aerodrome. 148 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked Messina causing extensive fires.   830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish left to look for convoy leaving Tripoli, but returned owing to poor visibility and low clouds.

HAL FAR  A Fulmar took off for Catania and Gerbini but returned due to a glycol leak.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion moved to Gozo for training. A small near party remained at Bn HQ.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  D Company left Gozo and returned to the unit, to be billeted in Strickland House.

(1) Story from Fortress Malta An Island Under Siege, James Holland, Phoenix 2003

 

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Posted by on July 14, 2016 in 1941, July 1941

 

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31 May 1941: Valletta Law Courts Collapse into Main Street

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Bombing Aub Auvergne now law courtsEXPLOSION IN TIGNE CAUSES LAW COURTS TO COLLAPSE

Passers-by in Valletta were lucky to escape injury this afternoon when a large building collapsed into the City’s main street. The ruins of the building which housed the former Courts of Justice, already badly damaged by the blast of an enemy mine, caved in without warning leaving large blocks of masonry blocking Kingsway.  The collapse of the building, formerly the Auberge d’Auvergne, was apparently caused by shock waves from an explosion in the Tigne area. (1)

GENERAL STAFF REVIEW OF THE MONTH

The month of May has been noticeable for a gradual but marked decrease in German air activity. During the first few days the heavy night raids on the Dockyard continued with bombing and minelaying.  The cruiser Gloucester and part of the Naval light striking force finally left Malta on 2 May, and the Germans turned their attention to the aerodromes.  After a few days these too ceased.  Reconnaissance by JU 88s continued and about the middle of the month a squadron of ME 109 fighter bombers was operating from Sicily by day.  Towards the end of the month these left and it was apparent from the tactics that the Italians had once more taken over the night raiding of Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 MAY TO DAWN 1 JUNE 1941

Weather  Fine.

1030-1040 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of a Glenn Martin Maryland.

No enemy air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 31 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY During the month three or four submarines were continuously on patrol. 830 Squadron had only five flying crews through the month.  Blenheims of anti-ship bomber squadrons reported successful attacks on twelve merchant vessels and two destroyers.  The Bomb Safety Officer dealt with 14 unexploded 50kg bombs and one 500kg. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 2 Sunderland. Departures 2 Sunderland; 1 Beaufighter.  69 Squadron  2 Marylands patrol eastern Tunisian coast AM and PM.  2 Marylands patrol PM Ionian Sea to Greek coast. 82 Squadron Three Blenheim bombers attacked Florida II off Sfax; direct hits were scored, causing explosions and volumes of black smoke. 

LUQA  One Beaufighter left for the Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  As a result of General Alarm Exercise at beginning of week personnel are to be withdrawn from selected posts to form a mobile reserve. One platoon of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt will also come under this unit for operations.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal  Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 251; dealt with 109.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths: officers 30; other ranks 684

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  69 conscripts enlisted during May.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths: officers 25, other ranks 123.

(1) Malta Blitzed But Not Beaten, Philip Vella, Progress Press 1985

 

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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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29 May 1941: New Anti-invasion Force for Malta

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CHESHIRES TO PROVIDE MOBILE MACHINE-GUN COMPANY

Cheshire machine guns cropA mobile machine-gun company is being set up ready to tackle enemy troops invading the Island. Their task will be to put a ‘stop’ in the event of the enemy gaining a footing on the Island, or to support a counter attack to drive the enemy into the sea.

1st Bn Cheshire Regiment have been detailed to provide manpower for the company, in addition to their existing role in the defence of the harbour and close-down of Valletta.  The machine-gun company will be part of the new anti-invasion Fortress Reserve and will be mobilised on receipt of orders from Fortress HQ.  On receipt of the code word ‘Libya’, personnel and equipment will be despatched by motor transport to the machine-gun company rendezvous as quickly as possible.

The Fortress Reserve also includes one troop of two ‘I’ tanks and one light tank at Marsa and the same at Birkirkara. They also form part of the defences of Luqa, Ta Qali and Hal Far aerodromes, and Kirkop landing strip, and work alongside Reserve Battalions from the Northern and Southern Infantry Brigades. 

LONG GRASS AND THISTLES TO BE CUT

Long grass and thistles close to military sites across Malta are to be cut back. The measure is to reduce the risk of fire spreading and causing damage to key facilities. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 MAY TO DAWN 30 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1032-1055 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber escorted by 20 ME 109s which carries out reconnaissance at high altitude over the Island, passing over Luqa and Naxxar. Anti-aircraft guns engage and destroy the JU 88.

0259-0436 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy aircraft which approach the Island individually from the north east. Four turn drop bombs in the sea to the north then turn back before reaching the coast.  One crosses the coast and drops bombs on fields the Grand Harbour area.  No anti-aircraft guns engage and no Hurricane fighters are scrambled.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 29 MAY 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 10 Beaufighter. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance southern part of eastern Tunisian coast.  2 Marylands reconnaissance Greek coast report enemy ship movements.  Maryland reconnaissance of shipping route to east of Malta. 

LUQA  Ten Beaufighters arrived from Gibraltar.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Mobile Company on reconnaissance. A party is to be sent to Gozo again including one platoon of unit. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 2 (2 x incendiary).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  D Company embarked to “Gozo Training Camp”.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  The pipers played “Retreat” at Church Square, Mellieha.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A Company embarks for ‘Gozo Training Camp’. E Company takes over mobile company duties at Luqa.  

 

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Posted by on May 29, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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13 February 1941: New German Force Heads to North Africa via Med

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Rommel in North Africa

Rommel in North Africa

VICTOR IN FRANCE AIMS TO REPEAT SUCCESS

A major new German military force is set to cross the Mediterranean to North Africa, according to intelligence sources. Their commander, Major General Erwin Rommel is reported to have already landed in Libya.  Following his success in the invasion of France in 1940,  Rommel has been given the task by Chancellor Hitler to take on the British in North Africa, following heavy Italian defeats in the region. 

Observers and reconnaissance have recently made several reports of military forces amassing in Italy and Sicily, as well as extensive merchant and naval shipping movements through the Mediterranean to Libya. Malta bombers are expected to play a key role in impeding the successful transfer of resources to the North Africa campaign.

GERMAN BOMBERS ARMOUR-PLATED

German bombers are reinforced with armour-plating, according to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief. Reporting the discovery in a telegram to the War Office today, Lt Gen Dobbie has recommended that the Army should be issued with A/P SAA .303 ammunition.  If the issue is approved, the Island would need an initial delivery of one million rounds, rising to five million rounds in time for the forthcoming increase to the Garrison recently authorised by London.

A WEEK IN MALTA – REPORT TO THE BRITISH WAR CABINET FOR 6-12 FEBRUARY

The Island was persistently but ineffectively raided by enemy aircraft, which included German bombers and probably fighters. Forty-five bombers maintained a prolonged attack on the night of 8th/9th, during which our Hurricanes destroyed two JU 88s and damaged a third; relatively unimportant damage was sustained at Luqa and Hal Far, though civilian property suffered considerably.  On the 12th, two intercepting Hurricanes were lost, but one pilot was rescued from the sea.  ME 109s have been reported over Malta, but have not been in action.

Our aircraft reconnoitred Tunis and the coast and sea routes from Italy to Tripoli and Benghazi. On the night of 11th/12th the aerodromes at Comiso and Catania in Sicily were attacked with over five tons of bombs by Wellingtons from Malta.  At least four enemy aircraft were destroyed at Catania and large fires were started at both aerodromes. 

Enemy transport activity on a considerable scale has been maintained between Sicily, Tripoli and Sardinia.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 14 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine and clear.

1508-1522 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber accompanied by six ME 109 fighters which approach the Island from the north on reconnaissance at 22000 feet. Hurricane fighters are scrambled but on sight of them the ME 109s turn away and fly off.  Anti-aircraft guns open fire, hitting the JU 88 which is last seen losing height with smoke pouring from one engine.  No bombs are dropped on the Island.

1915-1932 hrs; 1942-2001 hrs; 2200-2235 hrs; 2331-2325 hrs; 2340-0040 hrs  Air raid alerts for a series of nuisance raids over the Island. Hurricane fighters are airborne in turn throughout.  In the first raid bombs are dropped between Mosta and Naxxar.  In the second, from Rinella to Della Grazia and one enemy bomber is damaged by a Hurricane.  In the third, raiders cross the coast over Dingli; bombs are dropped to the west of Ta Qali aerodrome; three fall on B block of Imtarfa Hospital, killing three patients, seriously wounding six and slightly wounding another six.  The third attack approaches from the south and drops bombs in the sea off Fort Leonardo.  In the fourth, bombs are dropped on the Grand Harbour area.  Searchlights pick up a single bomber heading away over the north coast.  During the raids bombs are also dropped on Pembroke and on Luqa aerodrome, seriously damaging one Wellington and slightly damaging one Whitley.

Military casualties  Private Lawrence Duckworth, 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment; Private Robert McGill, King’s Own Malta Regiment; Private James Frederick Scott, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 13 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm attacked and believed sank a merchant convoy heading for Libya.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Sunderlands. Sunderland patrolled western Ionian Sea.  69 Squadron  Maryland photoreconnaissance Comiso and Gela aerodromes: Comiso eight JU 88s of which one burned out, 11 HE 111s, one SM 79, plus 16 unidentified fighters; Gela seven bombers, nine fighters unidentified but with dark camouflage.   

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from Middle East en route for UK. One Sunderland 230 Squadron arrived from Middle East with passengers.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Gela and Comiso.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battle practices on Ghain Tuffieha ranges.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Private L Duckworth was killed by a bomb on an air raid shelter at Imtarfa Hospital.

 

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Posted by on February 13, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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