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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, 2021 in 1941, February 1941

 

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31 December 1940: Malta and the Med After 7 Months of War

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Chateau Bertrand

Chateau Bertrand handed over to RAF Ta Qali

AFTER 7 MONTHS MUSSOLINI’S SEA POWER HAS FAILED TO DOMINATE

A total of nine Royal Navy submarines have been lost in the Mediterranean since Italy declared war in June.  This is viewed as a poor exchange for the sinking of 10 Italian merchant ships of 45,000 tons.

Most of the lost submarines were the large, older boats transferred from the Far East and unsuited to the waters of the Mediterranean. In the same period the Italians have lost 18 submarines from all causes throughout the Mediterranean and Red Sea areas.

Mussolini’s claimed domination of the Mediterranean has not materialised. In spite of the loss of French naval power, Force H and the Mediterranean Fleet have more than held the Italian Navy in check.  As 1940 draws to a close, the balance of power in the Mediterranean increasingly rests with the Allies.  (1)

As a result, Malta has been regularly supplied and reinforced.  At the same time, the Italian Regia Aeronautica has proved unable to subdue Malta through bombing raids.  Despite limited resources, RAF fighters and anti-aircraft gunners have frequently forced enemy raiders to turn back before their attack can be launched.  In recent weeks, with the arrival of Wellington bombers, the Island has been given an attacking role in the war against the Axis in Italy and Greece.

A significant Luftwaffe force has now been moved into Sicily.  As yet they have carried out no missions over Malta. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 DECEMBER 1940 TO DAWN 1 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Overcast. 

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 31 DECEMBER 1940

KALAFRANA  Sunderland aircraft of 228 Squadron operated on 10 days during the month, carrying out 11 long reconnaissances mainly to the north east of Malta, including one night naval co-operation patrol.  In addition, one search patrol for missing Swordfish was undertaken but was not successful.  Two communication flights were carried out by Sunderlands between Middle East and Gibraltar with passengers and mail.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  B Company HQ moved from Chateau Bertrand to new premises on Imtarfa Hill.  Chateau Bertrand was handed over to the RAF.  The CO addressed officers and NCOs of the unit.  During the month air raids have only been intensive during the arrival of convoys.  New defence posts have been sited at Il Kella, Ghain Tuffieha village and St Paul’s Church.  Drastic economy has been made in the use of petrol.  Bathing parties walk and all buses have been stopped except for special services.  The unit has supplied fatigue parties to Targa Battery and Fort Mosta, unloading ammunition.  A junior NCOs course is in progress at Ghain Tuffieha camp.  Subjects covered consist of weapon training, section leading, map and compass work, etc.  A long-service decoration has been awarded to several members of the unit.  There has been a certain amount of flooding of beach posts due to bad drainage requiring the removal of personnel to temporary alternative accommodation.  The RAF petrol barge in St Paul’s Bay has been driven onto the rocks by rough seas. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  1630 hrs  Company take over of Rinella Sector complete.  During the month Maltese labour was employed alongside troops in constructing anti-aircraft posts around the aerodrome.  On each air raid alert these posts were manned by one NCO and two men.  Training for the inter-platoon fitness competition and route marches were carried out when possible.      

(1)  www.naval-history.net

 

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Posted by on December 31, 2020 in 1940, December 1940

 

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2 December 1940: Enemy Raiders Retreat at Sight of Hurricanes

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'Molotov cocktail' petrol bombs may be used against tanks

‘Molotov cocktail’ petrol bombs may be used against tanks

DAY TO DAY ORDERS FOR TROOPS IN MALTA

Extract from Commanding Officer’s Conference, 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment, 2 December 1940

Saluting

Complaints have been received that the AOCs car and RAF officers are not being saluted by soldiers.  All ranks must be acquainted with badges of rank of officers in the Royal Navy and RAF.  In certain cases it is difficult to distinguish Army officers in battle dress, but the tie should serve as a good identification mark.

Motor Cycle Trailers

Higher authority has ruled that not more than two trailers will be towed behind one motorcycle and that weight in excess of one cwt for each trailer will not be carried.  The motorcycle will not take a pillion rider.  Stores such as guns, tripods and belt boxes, should be carried on the trailers, while the lighter and less cumbersome items are carried by bicycle by the gun numbers.  OCs of Companies are to try out methods of carrying ammunition belts by bicycle.

Skin Diseases

The CO wishes Company Commanders to take active steps to reduce the number of skin diseases which can be dealt with by individuals themselves, eg cuts, IAT etc.  Flavine was issued to Companies and Company OCs are to investigate the possibility of giving every post commander a small bottle of this mixture to deal with minor casualties in his command.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 DECEMBER TO DAWN 3 DECEMBER 1940

Weather  Cold and wet.

1037 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of enemy aircraft reported approaching the Island from the north east. 

1045 hrs  Friendly aircraft approach Malta from the west.  The raiders are spotted eight miles to the north east of Grand Harbour, turning to the south east, then east.

1050 hrs  Two Hurricane fighters land at Luqa.

1055 hrs  All clear sounds.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 2 DECEMBER 1940

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  COs conference at HQ.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Authority is given to issue a third blanket to troops.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  A lecture at Australia Hall on “Strategic Importance of Malta”.

MALTA SIGNAL COMPANY  Classification of Signallers of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment: 11 passed, one failed.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Molotov anti-tank bomb demonstrated. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  A party of 20 men under L/Sgt King lifted an anti-aircraft searchlight onto the roof of Ritz Mansions, Tigne.  Two sub-sections of 24 Fortress Company began building anti-tank walls and digging anti-tank trenches at Concezione.  Work commenced on two look-out posts.  No 1 Works Company began work on additional accommodation for 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt at Hompesch. 

 

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Posted by on December 2, 2020 in December 1940

 

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31 October 1940: Air Battle For Malta Reviewed

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JU 87 dive-bombers disappeared from skies after losses

JU 87 dive-bombers disappeared from skies after losses

AIR HQ MALTA REPORTS ON FIRST FOUR MONTHS AT WAR

For the first month of the war with Italy, SM79 bombers carried out raids and reconnaissance unescorted by fighters. When successes against them by our fighters started, the tactics changed and no bomb was dropped by day on Malta for a continuous period of five weeks. During this time the Italians sent strong formations of up to twenty fighters carrying out offensive patrols in an evident attempt to neutralize Malta’s fighter effort. Their efforts met with little success and Malta’s few fighters were instructed that, unless bombers were included, action against fighters was to be avoided and only stragglers were to be attacked.

The next phase began when day bombing was resumed by large formations of 10 to 15 bombers, escorted by 20 to 25 fighters. This presented a difficult problem but Malta’s few fighters tackled the attacks courageously, with the occasional success against the enemy. The attacks were not sustained but they were followed by dive-bombing attacks by JU 87s, also heavily escorted by fighters. On the third dive bombing attack, two bombers and one fighter were shot down by Hurricanes. Since then no further dive bombing attacks have taken place. Enemy air activity was almost negligible during the first half of October.

In view of the night bombing during moonlight in the early weeks of the war, a night fighter effort has been worked up. On the first occasion it was called into action, a Hurricane carried out a determined attack on a SM79 which was last seen flying very low and apparently in great difficulty.

There were no further night attacks for several weeks.   The next attempt did not materialize: the enemy aircraft were caught in searchlights and turned back before reaching the Island. Several more weeks elapsed before another attempt was made by some four bombers working in pairs, raiding Malta by moonlight. A Hurricane shot down one bomber in flames and damaged a second so seriously that it probably did not return to base. The remaining bombers approached the Island but returned before crossing the coast.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 OCTOBER TO DAWN 1 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Gusty with occasional rain.

No air raids.

HMAS Vendetta

HMAS Vendetta

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 31 OCTOBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Vendetta ready for sea on completion of refit.

AIR HQ  Departures 4 Wellingtons.

KALAFRANA Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. A working party of 60 technical NCOs and airmen were temporarily detached to Luqa to assist in special offensive operations being carried out from there, leaving only a skeleton staff of English personnel in workshops at Kalafrana.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strength 29 officers, 842 other ranks, 2 RAOC (attached).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  This month A and B Coys moved to new positions at Ta Qali and Dingli. Range practices have been held and NCOs completed a course on hand grenades. Signals have improved communications in the Ta Qali area. Progress was made in construction of rear defences at posts in the unit’s area. There has been a considerable amount of sickness throughout the unit, among the officers; jaundice has been prevalent at Ta Saliba.

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Posted by on October 31, 2020 in 1940, October 1940

 

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26 October 1940: Hoarding and Fuel Shortages Affect Life in Malta

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Buses run for only a few hours a day

Buses run for only a few hours a day

COINS AND FUEL IN SHORT SUPPLY

Rev Reginald Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta, observes the shortages emerging in Malta in his diary for October 1940:

“We are much bothered by the hoarding of silver. It is almost impossible to obtain change for half-a-crown. The Government issued an Ordinance making hoarding illegal; but it had little or no effect. Now, another Ordinance has just been issued giving authority to the Police to search houses. But I doubt whether anything will be done…It was said in the Council of Government last week that unemployment is now at its lowest for many years; but the Maltese will oppose any suggestion of Taxation – even self imposed – to the death. There is a lot of money about, and there are many rich people. There is also much real poverty…

We are apparently very short of petrol. For months petrol was not rationed then, soon after Italy came in, private cars were forbidden, but a good many exceptions allowed. Then suddenly all private cars were withdrawn from the roads including taxis and hired cars, and the buses allowed to run during only a few hours of the day. As at least half the population is now living in the country towns and villages, transport is a great problem; and further restrictions are threatened. I should have thought that during those early months the Government might have built storage tanks; but one must not judge without knowing the facts. I am inclined to attribute the sudden panic to Germany’s seizure of Romania. It is even possible that some tankers were just about to start from Galatz for Egypt and Malta and have been held up.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 OCTOBER TO DAWN 27 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine with fresh north westerly breeze.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 26 OCTOBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Skua Fleet Air Arm reconnaissance of area between Malta and Tripoli; nil report.

AIR HQ Reconnaissance of north eastern and southern Ionian Sea for enemy surface forays by Blenheim attached 431 Flight, Sunderland 228 Squadron and Glenn Martin 431 Flight; nil reports by all aircraft.

KALAFRANA  Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  2 platoons posted to form D Company. 18 recruits from depot posted to B Company.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT A mine was reported by J2 floating towards the defence post. It proved impossible to beach and the post was evacuated overnight.

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

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Posted by on October 26, 2020 in 1940, October 1940

 

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14 October 1940: Malta Defends Its Beaches

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INFANTRY TO ATTACK VESSELS ON SIGHT

Defence post 1A

Orders were issued today to infantry battalions for the operation of beach defence posts. All beach guns are now under the tactical command of commanding officers of infantry sectors in which they are positioned. According to the operating instructions, the maximum range for beach guns to open fire is 5000 yards by day and 1800 yards by night.

Infantrymen manning beach guns are instructed that, in daylight, they should open fire if ordered by their infantry command; or on their own initiative on any vessel considered hostile or on any submarine not notified as friendly or any MTB not showing the appropriate signal unless already notified as friendly. By night and in low visibility they should illuminate any vessel within 1800 years by Lyon Light and follow the procedure as above. In all cases of firing on own initiative, commanding officers will be informed immediately of such actions and reasons for them.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 OCTOBER TO DAWN 15 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 14 OCTOBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm reconnaissance of Ionian Sea bounded by Malta to Cape Clonne to Corfu. Large oil patch reported at 69 miles off Cape Passaro.   Greek merchant ship Tassia also sighted.  

AIR HQ Departures 3 Sunderlands. Glenn Martin 431 Flight reported thee destroyers ten miles east of Syracuse, then one small destroyer and two minesweepers and later two merchang vessels. 0735 hrs Glenn Martin reports a hospital ship.

KALAFRANA Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. Two Sunderlands left for Middle East, one repaired after damage sustained by enemy action on 27 July.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT 19 Platoon E Company has re-organised as the tank-hunting platoon.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Work began unloading ammunition from the convoy.

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Posted by on October 14, 2020 in 1940, October 1940

 

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1 October 1940: Malta Under Blackout

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HMS Mowhawk arrives for refit

HMS Mowahk

GOVERNMENT ISSUES ORDERS FOR IMMEDIATE BLACKOUT MEASURES

“All lights in Malta and Gozo shall be extinguished or so masked as to be invisible from the sea or from the air and so as to prevent any reflection being visible from the sea or from the air between the hours of sunrise and sunset.”

EVERY AIRCRAFT TO MALTA MUST CARRY MAIL

The lack of mail deliveries to Malta is still unresolved. The Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief fears a serious impact on troops’ morale it the situation is allowed to continue. In a telegram to the War Office today, Lt Gen Dobbie proposed measures to tackle the situation:

“In view of discontinuance of the Wellington mail service to Malta (as per Air Ministry telegram of September 27) it is most important that some bags of private mail for this garrison be put on every aircraft which comes to Malta en route for Egypt.

Malta is the most isolated of any station and it is most important for the well-being of the garrison that touch with home should be maintained in this way.”

AIR RAID REPORT FOR SEPTEMBER 1940

  • Days without raids: 13
  • Total time under alert: 12 hours 9 mins
  • Average length of raid: 29 mins

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 OCTOBER TO DAWN 2 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Cloudy.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 1 OCTOBER 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Mohawk arrived for short refit. Four moored mines were swept by C308 on the edge of the search channel. The channel was closed and a new channel opened passing close off the entrance to Marsaxlokk Bay.

KALAFRANA Operation base for Sunderlands transferred to St Paul’s Bay due to sea conditions at Kalafrana. Ops carried out by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Companies are reminded that a succession of long whistle blasts indicates enemy aircraft in sight; two long blasts repeated at intervals of five seconds indicates raiders passed.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Reinforcements from the UK: E Company was formed with Captain Bryant OC. The CO inspected new draft in the morning and officers were interviewed at Ta Saliba in the afternoon. Sunderland Flying Boats began operations from St Paul’s Bay and Ack Ack protection was arranged by posts in the vicinity.

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Posted by on October 1, 2020 in 1940, October 1940

 

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7 August 1940: Two New Infantry Brigades for Malta

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MALTA INFANTRY BRIGADE DIVIDED INTO TWO ZONES

The Malta Infantry Brigade ceased operations today at Lascaris Barracks, to be replaced by two new Brigades. Infantry will now be operated in two zones: the Northern Infantry Brigade under Brigadier W H Oxley MC with its headquarters at the Melita Hotel and the Southern Infantry Brigade under Brigadier L H Cox MC, based at Luqa. Lt Col E D Corkery MC will be Brigadier i/c Administration, Malta.

Fort Lascaris

Fort Lascaris

The Northern Brigade will include units of 2nd Battalion (Bn) Royal Irish Fusiliers, 8th Bn Manchester Regiment and 1st and 2nd Bns Kings Own Malta Regiment. The Southern Brigade will include units of 2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment, 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment, 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment and 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 AUGUST TO DAWN 8 AUGUST 1940

Weather  Fine.

1628-1652 hrs  Air raid alert for six aircraft reported approaching over St Paul’s Bay. Malta fighters are up and the raiders turn back before any interception and before reaching the coast. No bombs are dropped.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 7 AUGUST 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Pandora sailed.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Major R F B Hill to be Acting Lieutenant Colonel and assumed command of the Battalion.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Operation Order issued today giving detailed instructions for the defence of Wardia sector.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  1800 hrs  Luqa  An order was received for the removal of wire and obstacles from the landing ground; carried out. Mail received from the UK.

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Posted by on August 7, 2020 in 1940, August 1940

 

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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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