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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, 2021 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, 2021 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, 2021 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, 2021 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, 2021 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, 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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