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30 August-5 September 1942: Malta Faces Malnutrition

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30 August 1942: Rations Cut Again – Meat Only Twice a Week

From:  Governor Malta                To:  Air Ministry             30 August 1942

Please pass to Secretary of State for the Colonies and Chiefs of Staff MidEast please pass to Minister of State Cairo.

1.  Unloading and dispersal of supplies from convoy is now complete except for aviation and benzene, fortress can hold out until early December.  Aviation spirit position has been reported separately to Chiefs of Staff in HQ Med Sig 0726 of 25/8.  Benzine consumption has been reduced to 15,200 gallons per week but even so stocks will only last until mid-November.  Benzine can be made to last until target date by drawing on 77 octane but this is likely to be required for blending with aviation spirit.  We have 600 tons of 77 octane available, of which 250 tons are held as fortress reserve of MT spirit and 100 tons are needed for consumption by naval and RAF craft.

2.  Target date of early December allows for following adjustments of consumption on civil side:

  • (i)  Bread ration for men between 16 and 60 will be increased by 3½ ounces per day to 14 ounces.
  • (ii)  Fat ration will be at half normal ration level during September but I hope to increase it to normal level at beginning of October.
  • (iii)  Regular issues of edible oil will be made at normal ration rates.
  • (iv)  There will be regular issues of coffee with possibly one period skipped.
  • (v)  Regular weekly issues of kerosene will be made as from 1st October but at summer rather than higher winter rate.
  • (vi)  Domestic electricity supply will be restored on 1st October.
  • (vii)  Brewing will be resumed as soon as possible.
  • (viii)  Present reduced rations of sugar and soap will be maintained, sugar being issued twice every three half-monthly periods and soap once very two periods.

3.  Victory kitchens now have 60,000 persons registered and 170 kitchens are in operation.  Further rapid expansion is possible but supply of vegetables cannot be further increased while potatoes are now almost unobtainable and meat supply is not as great as was expected and is already falling off.  In future it will be possible to provide meat on only two days a week instead of five, and this may later have to be reduced to one if registration increases as expected. 

Victory Kitchen

In this situation I have been carefully considering the future of the Victory kitchens.  Allowing for small increases in rations now being made, calorie value of rationed foods per day for a man between 16 and 60 who is member of average size family is 1300, or 200 calories below figure normally taken as minimum.  Outside rations, very little food is obtainable.  Fresh meat, fish and vegetables are all too scarce to be rationed, even if this were possible from other points of view.  Marketing of meat and vegetables is now under control of Government and no meat except poultry and rabbits and small amount only of vegetables is being sold on open market.  Victory kitchens provide only satisfactory method of distributing evenly what meat and vegetables are available and if we were now to revert to old arrangement under which kitchens provide meals only on surrender of rations allowing majority of meat and vegetable supply to return to open market, effect would be that poorer classes would get very little, while those who are prepared to pay any price would obtain what they wished.

4.  I am satisfied that in our present food situation it is essential to continue existing policy of providing one meal a day through kitchens outside rations so as to raise calorie value of diet to about 1800 calories.  This can only be done by introducing considerable quantities of imported supplies into the menus.  I have decided accordingly that all civil supplies of dried vegetables, dried eggs and cheese shall be allotted to the communal feeding department and that [pasta] shall be issued through kitchens on a substantial scale, estimated to absorb 230 tons of flour per month on an average registration of 150,000 persons.  This allotment of flour has been allowed for in calculating target date.  Menu will then consist of macaroni and cheese on two days, minestra on two days, meat and vegetables on two days and an egg dish on one day.  I anticipate that effect of new policy will be to encourage rapid increase in registration.

5.  In spite of increased issues described above, the civil food situation is still causing me considerable anxiety.  Rates of rations and general scale of diet remain low.  No signs of serious malnutrition have yet appeared but prolonged continuance of present food shortage must have its effect both on health and morale and shortage will be more seriously felt in winter.  Anything which can be done by special means at any time before another convoy is run, to supplement diet by importing concentrated foodstuffs or food of small bulk, will help greatly.  I will telegraph our immediate requirements of these types of food in the course of the next two days in case any special opportunity occurs to send such supplies.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 AUGUST TO DAWN 31 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; little or no cloud: visibility 15-20 miles.  Wind variable becoming southerly; light.

No air raid alerts.

1105-1215 hrs; 1625-1725  Ten Spitfires 249 Squadron then ten 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled on patrol: no enemy aircraft are sighted.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 30 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Clyde arrived from Gibraltar and was swept into Marsaxlokk by Hythe.  Una sailed on patrol.

AIR HQ  Day  Nine Beauforts escorted by eleven Beaufighters were despatched to attack an enemy convoy.  Night  One Beaufighter carried out an intruder patrol over Sicily.  Arrivals  Two Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Four Beauforts to LG 224.

HAL FAR  Ten Spitfires went out to area 15-30 miles south east of Correnti Island and patrolled at 20000 feet over returning Beauforts.  No enemy aircraft seen.

TA QALI  Final movement of 248 Squadron pilots to United Kingdom.

31 August 1942: Alerts Total 2225 in 25 Months

AIR RAID STATISTICS AUGUST 1942

  • Total number of alerts to date  2225
  • Total number of alerts this month 141
  • Bombing raids  day 39  night  20
  • Raid-free days  3
  • Night raids  37
  • Raid-free nights  12
  • Alerts for own planes  8
  • Total time from air raid alert to raiders passed  2 days, 56 mins
  • Average length of alert 29.1 mins
  • Killed  41 (15 men, 12 women, 14 children)
  • Seriously injured  33 (10 men, 14 women, 9 children)
  • Buildings seriously damaged  58

OPERATION PEDESTAL UPDATE

Ledbury after Operation Pedestal, NWMA Malta

A total of 568 survivors from ships sunk during Operation Pedestal were landed at Malta. 207 of whom sailed in Penn, Bramham, and Ledbury on 18th August. The remainder being evacuated by air as opportunity arises.  The bulk of the cargo was unloaded by 23rd August, about 12,000 tons of furnace fuel, 3600 tons of diesel fuel, and 32,000 tons of general cargo having been received.  The enemy made no attempt to bomb any of the ships after they had arrived in harbour, or, in fact, once they were within comfortable range of shore based fighter protection.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 AUGUST TO DAWN 1 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Weather fine, visibility 20-30 miles.  Wind south-westerly, light; varying north westerly, light to moderate.

Day  No air raid alerts.

0915-1005 hrs; 1515-1645 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron then four of 249 Squadron Ta Qali carry out patrols: no enemy aircraft sighted.

2221-2246 hrs  Air raid alert.  Two enemy bombers approached from the north but receded before crossing the coast.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Arthur Jones, Royal Navy.

Civilian casualties  Birzebbugia  Carmela Ellul, age 30.  Mqabba  Emanuel Zammit, age 7; Joseph Zammit, age 6.  Paola  Emanuel Paris.  Qormi  Spiro Saliba, age 40.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 31 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  ML carried out sweep of the area extending seaward of entrances to Grand Harbour and Marsamxett to the 40 fathom line, and swept two moored mines and one conical float.

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; one Bisley to LG 224.

INFANTRY  R Company, Lancashire Fusiliers, took over area from E Company, 2nd Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment, and vice versa.

1 September 1942: Anti-Personnel Bomb Kills Two Children

MALTA FIGHTERS’ SCORE NEARS 1000

Malta Radar stations detect raiders (NWMA Malta)

Reports released today show that 936 Axis aircraft have been destroyed over Malta or by Malta-based aircraft since Italy entered the war in June 1940.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 2 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine, visibility 10-15 miles.

1300 hrs  One anti-personnel bomb explodes on Ta Qali aerodrome, seriously injuring three Maltese children: two of them die in hospital.

1858-1907 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy fighters.  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept but the raiders turn back five miles from the Island.

Military casualties  Nil.

Civilian casualties  Rabat  Francis Sammut, age 16; Carmel Tanti, age 14.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 1 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P35 arrived and was swept into harbour, having sunk a southbound 5,000 ton merchant vessel.

AIR HQ  2150 hrs  Five Wellingtons 69 Squadron were despatched to attack a 4000 ton tanker with an escort of two destroyers near Corfu.  They dropped four 250lb and twenty 500lb bombs with several near-misses: the convoy continued on course.  One Wellington missing.  0130 hrs  One Beaufighter carried out an intruder patrol over Sicily.  No enemy sighted.

Arrivals  Four Beauforts, three Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire tyre burst on take-off, crash-landed: pilot uninjured.  One Beaufighter undercarriage collapsed on landing: crew uninjured.

HAL FAR  0930-1035 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far carried out a high level sweep over Correnti Island, Noto, Ragusa and Pozzala in Sicily.  No enemy aircraft or shipping sighted.  1315-1325 hrs  The Spitfire of Pilot Officer Cheek crash-landed on an air test: his tyre burst on take-off and he had to land ‘wheels up’.

LUQA  Luqa beat the Gun Operations Room in a cricket match: results Luqa 108 (Neale 46), GOA 97.  Camp Cinema: Captain Fury.

TA QALI  0705-0805 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron carried out a sweep over Sicily: no enemy aircraft sighted.  1200-1315 hrs  Nine Spitfires 229 Squadron and nine 249 Squadron Ta Qali on a sweep over Sicily saw ships believed to be tankers outside Licata Harbour.  The Spitfires are met with heavy, accurate anti-aircraft fire over Licata at 11000 feet but see no enemy aircraft.

Nos 242, 314, 502 and 841 AME Stations, Observer Corps Detachments at Dingli, Torri L’Ahmar and Ghargur, Officers’ and Airmen’s rest camp at St Paul’s Bay taken over by this Station for administration and rations.

INFANTRY  0545 hrs  Exercise to test the alertness of sentries and communications within 4 Brigade.  Also rapid destruction of parachutists in the Brigade area.  Exercise began with firing of three Verey lights around Marsaxlokk Bay.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  A Company are performing coast patrol duties at Il Kaus; B Company are manning Tal Virtu observation post.

2 September 1942: Malta Attacks Force Rommel’s Retreat

OFFENSIVE OPS CUT AXIS FUEL AND SUPPLIES

“We have some very grave shortages.”  Letter from Rommel to his wife, 30 August 1942

Malta-based attacks on southbound convoys in the Mediterranean have forced Field Marshal Rommel to give up his attempt to retake El Alamein.  The Island’s air and naval forces have starved the Axis of more than half of the supplies they need to continue the battle in North Africa.  Rommel originally intended to begin a major offensive against British forces on 26 August but had to postpone due to a shortage of fuel, thanks to the sinking of two tankers in the Mediterranean.

Field Marshal Rommel’s plan stopped

With a promise that another convoy would set out immediately from Italy, at 2330 hrs on Sunday Rommel launched an attack at Alam el Halfa but came up against a massive minefield and a well-equipped British force under Lt Gen Montgomery.  But nine Beauforts and eleven Beaufighters had already set off from Malta to attack the supply convoy, which had been spotted by 69 Squadron photo-reconnaissance pilots.  At the same time destroyers, bombers and naval aircraft launched heavy attacks on Axis stores and workshops close to the battlefield.

Yesterday Malta-based submarine P 35 sank a southbound 5000 ton merchant vessel and the Island’s bombers stand ready to act immediately to any further attempts to re-supply the enemy.  Attacks continued today with Wellington bombers targeting a tanker and Navy Air Service Albacores striking a merchant vessel and escort with torpedoes.

After three days of relentless allied bombing and artillery fire and faced with a precarious supply situation Rommel has been forced to call off the attack and withdraw his forces.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 3 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fair but cloudy.

0915-1020 hrs; 1015-1055 hrs  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali at a time on intercept patrol and sweep: no sightings.

1015-1045 hrs  Five Spitfires Hal Far are airborne on patrol: nothing sighted.

1303 hrs  Three enemy aircraft are reported approaching Malta.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol sight one Macchi 202.  F/Lt Hetherington, W/Cdr Donaldson and P/O Farmer each fire a burst in turn, all obtaining strikes.  The tail of the Macchi is shot off and the aircraft goes down streaming glycol.  The remaining aircraft recede without coming within 25 miles of the Island.

1930-1950 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.

Military casualties   Corporal Arthur Simpson, Royal Engineers, Malta Territorial Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 2 SEPTEMBER 1942

P34 HMS Ultimatum

ROYAL NAVY  P34 swept out but returned to Marsaxlokk with a leaky DSEA hatch.

AIR HQ  1305 hrs  An offensive reconnaissance by four Spitfires over Sicily.  One Macchi 200 is shot down.  Night  Two Wellingtons were despatched to attack the tanker targeted last night, now 10 miles south west of Antipaxos.  The drop six 500lb bombs on the tanker, scoring one hit and causing a large explosion, followed by clouds of white smoke.

Arrivals  One DC3 from Shallufa two Beauforts one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One DC3 to LG 224.    Aircraft casualties  One Hudson tyre believed burst during take-off, crashed and burned out: crew uninjured.

HAL FAR  1720-1830 hrs  Five Spitfires carried out a sweep over Sicily and encounter enemy aircraft.  2129-0235 hrs  One Swordfish with flares and two Albacores NAS located and attacked a 5000 ton merchant vessel, escorted by two destroyers and a small flak ship, 15 miles north east of Cape Spartivento heading easterly.  They located the target just off the toe of Sicily and score hits with two torpedoes, one aft of the funnel and one aft of the bridge, followed by a violent explosion.  They leave the vessel down by the stern and belching clouds of black and white smoke.  A later photo-reconnaissance report showed the merchant vessel aground close to where it had been attacked.

3 September 1942: Reconnaissance Pilots Praised for Axis Convoy Hits

“The Air Officer Commanding sends personal congratulations to 69 Squadron (Reconaissance) for successful attacks on two successive nights, when Wellingtons scored direct hits on an important tanker heading for North Africa and also near-misses on destroyers.  The loss or even the disabling of the enemy tanker should greatly assist the British fighting Rommel.”

69 Squadron crew disembark Baltimore Luqa 1942 (c) IWM GM 1042

 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 4 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fair but cloudy.

0935-1030 hrs  Five Spitfires Hal Far are airborne on patrol: nothing sighted.

1405-1510 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.

1701-1720 hrs  Air raid alert.  Five Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  Two enemy fighters fly over Comino Channel at 20,000 feet.  Spitfires chase them back to within 10 miles of the Sicilian coast but are unable to intercept.

1845-1930 hrs  Six Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 3 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P34 sailed for trials and proceeded on patrol. Clyde and P43 were also swept out to sea.

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Beauforts to LG 224.

LUQA  Camp cinema: Tarzan Finds a Son.

TA QALI  1540-1635 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron on offensive reconnaissance circled Linosa and spotted a new building – ‘apparently’ a church.  No enemy aircraft sighted.

4 September 1942: Navy Albacores Disable Axis Supply Ship

Fairey Albacore

Two Albacores Royal Naval Air Squadrons were despatched today to finish off the merchant vessel beached after their previous attack on Wednesday night.  One Albacore scored a torpedo hit on the ship’s port quarter, while the other scored a direct hit with a 250lb bomb on the destroyer alongside, and straddled the merchant vessel with two other bombs.   Photo-reconnaissance later showed that the merchant vessel had a large gap in her starboard side.

Later tonight two Wellington bombers took advantage of intense darkness to attack a small merchant vessel 30 miles east of Point Alice.  They dropped a total of eight 500lb bombs on the ship but were unable to observe results, which will await confirmation by photo-reconnaissance.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 5 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Local thunder; rain with bright periods.  Visibility 10-15 miles.

0848-0908 hrs  Air raid alert.  Two enemy fighters approach at low altitude, apparently intending a low-level machine gun attack, but turn back while still eight miles off the coast.  Malta’s fighters are airborne: no engagement.

1459-1544 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eighteen enemy fighters approach the Island; four are identified as ME 109s.  Some of the raiders skirt the Zonqor coast, while others patrol five miles north of Gozo.  Malta fighters are airborne: no engagement.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.

1700-1750 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

2230 hrs  Observers of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt report a light out to sea, 80 degrees RA 4.

2313-2321 hrs  Air raid alert.  Two enemy aircraft approach the Island but turn back when 20 miles north west of Gozo, dropping bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer William Storer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Private Ronald Rooke, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 4 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Night  Two Albacores RNAS were despatched to attack a merchant vessel beached eight miles north of Bianca.

AIR HQ  1720 hrs  Six Beauforts and six Beaufighters were despatched to attack a convoy off Cape Spartivento but failed to locate the target.  Night  Two Wellingtons attacked a small merchant vessel 30 miles east of Point Alice, dropping eight 500lb bombs on the ship.  No results are seen due to the intense darkness.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire had engine trouble, force-landed: pilot uninjured.

HAL FAR  1000-1115 hrs  Four Spitfires carried out a Rodeo raid over Sicily but encounter no enemy aircraft.  PM  Seven Spitfires were despatched on a sweep over Sicily.  The leader had a faulty radio and broke formation: owing to a misunderstanding the rest followed suit and as a result the Spitfires returned to base.

LUQA  Luqa beat the RASC at cricket by nine wickets: RASC 36, Luqa 38 for one wicket.  Camp cinema: Second Chorus.

TA QALI  0650-0750 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on Rodeo: no enemy aircraft sighted.  1320-1430 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on offensive reconnaissance sighted two unidentified aircraft but did not intercept due to a radio fault and subsequent misunderstanding.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Major General Scobie, GOC troops Malta, visited the Battalion.  This is the second time the Bn has been under his command – Tobruk October 1941 was the first.

5 September 1942: Dog Fight Over Grand Harbour

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT WEEK ENDING 5 SEPT 1942

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

1.  Enemy activity confined 48 fighter sorties by day and 6 bomber sorties by night.  One JU 88 crossed coast; good [searchlight] illumination.  Bombs on land.  One Macchi 202 destroyed, two ME 109s probably destroyed.  Own losses nil.  Recently there has been a large decrease in the numbers of bombers and fighters in Sicily, particularly German.

2.  Own air offensive continues.  150 Spitfire sorties over Sicily also 4 Beaufighters by night.  Malta based air attacks on convoys to Libya continue resulting in 1 tanker blown up, 1 tanker stationary, 2 merchant vessels hit by torpedoes, one destroyer hit by bombs; near-misses one merchant vessel, one destroyer.

3.  Military damage and casualties nil.  Intensified training being carried out.  Small parties employed on aerodromes.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 6 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fair; visibility 10-15 miles.

0735-0810 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.

0910-0958 hrs  Air raid alert.  Six Spitfires 249 Squadron and five from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  One Spitfire of 249 returns early, its hood blown off.

Grand Harbour

12 ME 109s and Macchi 202s cross the coast and circle over Grand Harbour area.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.  The Spitfires intercept some of the enemy over Grand Harbour and others 20 miles off Zonqor.  249 Squadron engage six ME 109s. P/O Williams scores strikes on one.  P/O Giddings attacks a second; he sees no strikes but a panel flies off the port wing of the enemy aircraft.  Hal Far pilot F/Lt Charney destroys one Macchi 202.

1440-1510 hrs  Air raid alert. Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy fighters.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.  The Spitfires see three ME 109s and four other fighters six miles east of Zonqor and chase them back towards Sicily: no engagement.

1725-1825 hrs  Ten Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept a reported formation of enemy aircraft: raid does not materialise.

2250-2317 hrs  Air raid alert.  Two enemy bombers approach the Island; one recedes 40 miles from the coast.  The other, a JU 88, crosses the coast and drops bombs in the area of Birkirkara.  Malta night fighters are airborne: no interceptions.  Searchlights effect one illumination and Heavy Ack Ack engage.

2230 hrs  Observers of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt report several white verey lights off the Delimara area.

Military casualties  Nil.

Civilian casualties  Tarxien  Joseph Bonnici, age 56.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 5 SEPTEMBER 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Beaufort, three Wellingtons, three Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; two Beauforts to LG 224.

HAL FAR  0640-0800 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron carried out a sweep over Sicily: no enemy aircraft encountered.

LUQA  Camp cinema: camp talent contest.

TA QALI  1145-1315 hrs  Thirteen Spitfires 249 Squadron (two returned early) and nine of 229 Squadron (one returned early) were despatched on a Rodeo raid.  Two enemy fighters are seen but not intercepted.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 26.  Dealt with: 7 High Explosives (2 x 500kg; 4 x 250kg; 1 x 50kg); 116 anti-personnel bombs, 18 oil incendiaries.

 

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23-29 August 1942: Malta Attacks to Halt Rommel’s Africa Campaign

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23 August 1942: RAF Begins ‘Circus’ Operations

Axis aircraft on Gela aerodrome

Three bomb-carrying Hurricanes (Hurri-bombers) escorted by Spitfires today carried out a ‘circus’ raid today on Gela aerodrome in southern Sicily.  Circus operations, introduced in 1941, involve sending a formation of bombers escorted by a larger number of fighters whose to act as bait and entice German fighters into combat on the RAF’s own terms.

The Hurricanes, of the Royal Naval Air Service based at Hal Far, took off at 1540 hrs this afternoon, accompanied by twelve Spitfires from Ta Qali.  Thick cloud obscured the intended target but S/Lt Pratt dropped his two 250lb bombs on military buildings north east of Gela town.  S/Lt White dropped his bombs on the town itself and S/Lt Elliot bombed Biscari Aerodrome.  In the poor visibility the enemy did not mount a counter attack and the mission returned safely to Malta at 1712 hrs.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR COLLAPSES

Malta’s Lieutenant Governor Sir Edward Jackson collapsed today.  Initial reports suggest a possible heart attack.  He has been deputising for the Governor since Wednesday, while Lord Gort is in the Middle East.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 AUGUST TO DAWN 24 AUGUST 1942

Two fighter sweeps of six and eight enemy aircraft.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

HMS Hythe

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 23 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  While sweeping Rorqual and P 34 from sea to Marsamxett, Hythe had a gyro compass failure and while turning outside the swept channel in the vicinity 3, she cut two moored mines.

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; four Beaufighters to EDCU.

24 August 1942: ‘Malta Punishes Enemy Raiders’

Valletta, Sunday

“On Friday afternoon Royal Air Force fighters destroyed five enemy aircraft over Malta.  After a raidless night, a fair-sized enemy fighter sweep approached the coast yesterday, but turned back and avoided combat when they saw British aircraft approaching.”  The Mercury, Hobart, Tasmania, 24 August 1942

RAF MOUNT RODEO ATTACKS

Malta Spitfires launched their first ‘Rodeo’ attacks over Sicily today.  These hit and run fighter sweeps are designed to be surprise attacks on selected targets, in which Spitfires swoop to very low level and strafe airfields, dockyards and road and rail transport installations.  Despite the high risk involved in such attacks, all 15 Spitfires engaged in today’s raid returned safely.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 AUGUST TO DAWN 25 AUGUST 1942

Day  Three enemy aircraft approach the Island but do not cross the coast.  Spitfires are scrambled on intercept patrols: no engagement.

Night  No air raids.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Lawrence Dewhurst, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 39 Squadron; Flying Officer Albert Turner, RAF VR, 39 Squadron; Sergeant George Leadbeater, RAF VR, 39 Squadron; Sergeant John Littlewood, RAF VR, 39 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 24 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P 43 was swept in and P 46 out to sea on patrol.  The tanker attacked on 21st August was reported ashore in Saiada Bay.

AIR HQ  Eight Beauforts of 39 Squadron and eight Beaufighters of 227 Squadron of which three carried bombs attacked a convoy of two destroyers and a 7000 ton tanker, in position 272 degrees, Antipaxos 39 miles, course 130 degrees, 11 knots.  Although no claims were made, an apparent explosion was seen on the tanker, further results were unobserved.  One Beaufort was shot down during the attack.  Beaufighters dropped three 250lb GP bombs which slightly overshot.  One JU 88 was shot down over the convoy by Beaufighters.

Night  Two Wellingtons were despatched to attack the enemy tanker which had been beached in Saiada Bay, Corfu, after the Beaufort strike on 21 August.  Thirty-five 45lb fire bombs were dropped, all falling within 400 yards of the vessel, resulting in small explosions on the water and flames lasting about six minutes, followed by black smoke for another five minutes.

Arrivals  One Catalina, four Beauforts, four Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Catalina to Aboukir.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort failed to return from shipping strike:crew missing.  One Beaufort’s tyre burst and crash landed: crew uninjured.

25 August 1942: Pedestal Commander Reports on Convoy

Vice Admiral Syfret

Vice-Admiral E N Syfret today submitted his full report on Operation Pedestal to the Admiralty.  The report gives a detailed account of the convoy, from the assembly of ships in the Clyde, their first passage to Gibraltar and the repeated enemy attacks through the Mediterranean.

READ OPERATION PEDESTAL FULL REPORT – CLICK HERE

RAF ATTACK TANKER

21 Spitfires today carried out a second Rodeo raid over Sicily and six Beaufighters escorted by six Spitfires attacked an Axis fuel tanker off Tripoli.  The raids were not without casualties:  two Spitfires ditched into the sea with the loss of their pilots.  A Baltimore sent on search patrol failed to return.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 AUGUST TO DAWN 26 AUGUST 1942

AM  His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief returns from the Middle East.

1139 hrs  30 plus enemy fighter aircraft approach the Island but only half cross the coast.  Spitfires engage.

1520 hrs  Six enemy aircraft approach the Island, believed to be on reconnaissance.  Malta Spitfires scrambled: no engagement.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Basil Butler; Royal Canadian Air Force; Flying Officer Reginald Round, Royal New Zealand Air Force; both 249 Squadron.  Sergeant Eric Cragg, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Flying Officer John Foster, RAF VR; Flight Sergeant Raymond Harvey, RAF VR; Sergeant Mervyn McCrea, RAF VR; all 69 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 25 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hebe swept Utmost to sea on patrol.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One DC3 from Bilbeis; two Beauforts, eight Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Four Hudsons to Gibraltar; two DC3s, four Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  Two Spitfires shot down in the sea: pilots missing, believed killed.  One Baltimore failed to return from search: crew missing.

LUQA  During the period 21-25 August there were no attacks on the aerodrome.  Station strength is decreasing.  Camp Cinema cleared and is running.

26 August 1942: Spitfire Pilots Shot Down in Defence of Malta

Two Spitfires pilots of 229 Squadron were lost this morning after they went to intercept a large formation of enemy aircraft approaching from Sicily:

“Ten miles north-east of the island of Comino the Squadron sighted a pair of Messerschmitts at 27,000 feet and then six more unidentified fighters at sea level. One section dived to investigate the unidentified aircraft during which Sergeant Cornish crashed into the sea, either shot down or having failed to pull out of the dive. Flying Officer Newman flying V S Spitfire EP190 reported that he was circling an aircraft in the sea; this was the last contact with him. Both pilots failed to return. It is thought that Flying Officer Newman had fallen victim to the guns of Ltn Schiess of Stab/JG53, although another pilot of Stab/JG53 also claimed a Spitfire during the same sortie, this was not confirmed.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 AUGUST TO DAWN 27 AUGUST 1942

Day  Two air raid alerts for a total of 56 enemy aircraft: only a few fighters cross the coast.  Army General Officer Commanding visited various gun sites with Commander, Royal Artillery.

JU 88 crashed at Ta Qali (NWMA Malta)

Night  Two alerts for a total of 18 aircraft: 13 cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa and Hal Far.  One JU 88 is destroyed.

0008-0110 hrs  Thirteen German and Italian aircraft drop high explosive and incendiary bombs on Luqa and the Safi strip, causing superficial damage, and on Hal Far, damaging NAS Offices.  Houses are demolished at Kirkop.

Military casualties  Sergeant Clifford Cornish, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Flying Officer Dudley Newman, RAF VR; both 229 Squadron.  Gunner Alec Balaam, 168 Battery, 74 LAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

Enemy casualties  Crew of JU 88 bomber, shot down and killed: Unteroffizier Franz Diedl, Air Gunner and Unteroffizier Franz Rohringer, Observer.  Survived and taken prisoner: Feldwebel Ernst Klaus, Pilot and Unteroffizier Kurt Klawitter, Wireless Operator.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 26 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Rye swept Rorqual to sea.

AIR HQ Two [bomb-carrying] Hurricanes RNAS, operating with a “Circus” [of Spitfires], dropped bombs on Biscari aerodromes and military buildings.  Results were unobserved.

Night  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron made a successful machine-gun and cannon attack on Marsala flying boat station.  One merchant vessel with a chance light was attacked and the light extinguished, and one De 18 was shot down in flames.

Arrivals  One DC3 from Shallufa; one Bisley, one Wellington, three Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Three Beauforts, one DC3, four Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  Two Spitfires missing on patrol; presumed enemy action: both pilots missing.

27 August 1942: Malta’s Air and Sea Forces Disrupt Rommel’s Supplies

SPITFIRE RODEO STRIKE SUCCESS

German Junkers aircraft, Comiso airfield

A bold series of Rodeo operations was mounted from Malta today on the aerodromes of Sicily.  Following recent photo-reconnaissance reports of increased numbers of Axis bombers in the area, three Spitfire Squadrons – a total of over 30 aircraft – were sent to carry out the high-risk low-level raids on Biscara, Comiso and Gela.  29 Axis aircraft were destroyed on the ground and 10 more in air combat, plus others damaged – for the loss of two Spitfires.  Wing Commander Arthur Donaldson recalled the loss of his second in command as they attacked Biscara:

“We maintained complete RT silence so as to arrive unheralded.  My Squadron was to attack Biscara.  The flak was intense.  I looked across at poor old Walter Churchill, and at that very moment he was shot down in flames, crashing in the middle of the aerodrome.  I saw a Dornier bomber about to take off and by the time he was in my sights he was airborne.  I chased him for about twenty miles.  He had smoke pouring out of him and he was losing height; and disappeared below a small hill.  I was not able to see him hit the ground, but it was obvious that he was a dead duck.” (2)

AXIS FORCES HARASSED

Meanwhile attacks by Malta-based forces on southbound Axis convoys are hitting home, as war in the Western Desert reaches a critical point.  Beauforts and Beaufighters sank a merchant vessel and damaged its escorting destroyer north of Benghazi, with the loss of one Beaufighter.  A Malta-based submarine sank a second merchant vessel in a torpedo strike.  The attacks are key to deterring a major planned offensive by German forces in North Africa, according to a US news agency:

Field Marshal Rommel in North Africa

“An attack in Egypt by Rommel is expected at any time, according to a radio dispatch from the special correspondent of the “New York Times” in the Western Desert. He says that the RAF is attacking streams of German trucks and supplies which are moving up to the front. They are causing death and havoc, but the stream continues to move up, bringing nearer “Der Tag” [The Day] which many observers believe will be an August day.

There is an air of alertness and expectancy along the El A|amein front: “It may be tonight,” said one British captain. “Our tanks are standing by in case anything happens.” It is not thought that Rommel will delay much longer, unless he has experienced greater supply difficulties than the British observers expected. The British and Dominion forces are taking the utmost precautions to keep themselves informed of Rommel’s movements. They are determined to avert a surprise attack.”  The Advertiser, Adelaide, 28 August 1942

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 AUGUST TO DAWN 28 AUGUST 1942

Day  Two air raid alerts for a total of eleven enemy aircraft which approach the Island Spitfires intercept and no aircraft cross the coast.

Night  No raids.

Military casualties  Group Captain Walter Myers Churchill, DSO, DFC, Royal Air Force (Auxiliary Force), 605 Squadron; Flying Officer Percy Johnston, Royal Canadian Air Force, 200 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Eric O’Hara, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 227 Squadron; Sergeant Kenneth Seddon, RAF VR, Navigator with 227 Squadron.

Civilian casualties (see Air Raids 26 to 27 Aug)  Mqabba  Michael Cachia, age 11; Emmanual Zammit, age 7; Joseph Zammit, age 6.  Qormi  Spiru Saliba, age 40.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 27 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P 35 reported having sunk a southbound MV in position 35-39N, 23-05E and Beaufort aircraft sank another MV in 33-59N, 20-57E.

AIR HQ  Eight Beauforts 39 Squadron and nine Beaufighters 227 Squadron, five with bombs, attacked a convoy comprising one destroyer and one 6000 ton merchant vessel, patrolled by one JU 88 and one Cant Z 1007, in position 329 degrees Cape Aamer 73 miles, course 190 degrees, speed 10 knots.  Beaufighters attacked first, dropping seven 250lb GP bombs and scoring one hit on the stern of the merchant vessel.  They also raked the merchant vessel and destroyer with machine guns and cannons from deck level.  The destroyer was left smoking from the stern.  Beauforts then attacked with torpedoes, scoring three hits on the merchant vessel which blew up and was left ablaze, and sinking with decks awash and back broken. The escorting Cant was destroyed by Beaufighters which also damaged the JU 88.

Night  Two Hurricanes made a bombing attack on Gela and Comiso aerodromes.  Results were unobserved owing to intense flak.  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron attacked the seaplane hangar at Syracuse with machine gun and cannon fire, scoring many hits.  Motor transport near Pachino was also attacked and damaged.

Arrivals  One DC3 from Shallufa; one Spitfire from Burg el Arab; two Beauforts from Gibraltar.  Departures Three Hudsons to Gibraltar; one DC3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire missing on operation due to enemy action: pilot missing, believed killed.  One Spitfire failed to return from fighter sweep; believed force-landed: pilot missing.  One Beaufighter believed hit by enemy flak while on shipping strike: crew missing.

28 August 1942: Malta Must Survive on Minimum Supplies, Warns Governor

In a radio broadcast today, the Governor and Commander in Chief warned the people of Malta of further hardships to come.  He asked their help to ensure the survival of the Island until a future convoy can reach them:

“Recently we have seen four merchant ships and an oiler reach Malta; this represents the largest number of ships which has arrived in the GrandHarbour since September of last year.  No sight could have been more welcome to us all than the arrival of the convoy after so many weeks of anxious waiting…

Ohio is towed into Grand Harbour (NWMA Malta)

When the last ship of the convoy, the US tanker Ohio, entered Grand Harbour as the sun rose on August 15, everyone in Malta was mindful of how the nine days of united prayer had been answered and was thankful.  We are also conscious that, when so many have risked so much and when so many lives have been lost to bring supplies to us from Britain, we also have a duty to perform ourselves.  These convoys are very hazardous operations and, were we to be improvident about the supplies which have reached us, we would do a real disservice not only to those who dared all to succour us, but also to ourselves.  It is our bounded duty to eke out our available stores to carry us forward as far as possible on the road to victory…

Convoys, such as this last convoy, are magnificent achievements, but they cannot be constantly repeated, and we must now steel ourselves to last out until a new target date.  We will play our part, as Malta has consistently played it in the past.  Our aim must be to keep our consumption of all foodstuffs and other commodities at the lowest possible level and so put off, for as long as we can, the date when another convoy has to reach our shores.” (3)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 AUGUST TO DAWN 29 AUGUST 1942

Day  One air raid alert for 14 enemy fighters on patrol.

Night  Three air raid alerts for a total of four Italian aircraft, two of which drop bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer George Bishop, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Flight Sergeant Donald Leitch, Royal Canadian Air Force; Flight Lieutenant Ernest Magruder, Royal Air Force, 229 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant John Wallis, Royal Air Force, 42 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 28 AUGUST 1942

AIR HQ  Rodeo attack by 16 Spitfires over south east Sicily.  Night  Three Hurricanes RNAS carried out an intruder patrol over Comiso aerodrome; bombs were dropped but no results seen.

Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire missing over the sea: pilot missing.  One Spitfire had airscrew failure and crashed on land: pilot uninjured.

29 August 1942: Electricity to Stay Off Until 1 October

CONVOY CREWS VIP WELCOME

Sir Ronald Mackenzie Scobie

The General Officer Commanding Major General Scobie performed the official opening of a boxing match at the Command Fair.  The match, also attended by the Governor, was organised in aid of the Malta Convoy Fund recently set up to assist the widows and families of those lost during Operation Pedestal.  Free seats were allocated to the Merchant Navy for the event.  During his opening speech, Major General Scobie paid tribute to the seamen and thanked them for bringing the surviving convoy ships safely into Grand Harbour.

Today’s free match tickets are part of a series of events to show Malta’s appreciation of the ordeal during the Santa Marija convoy experienced by the merchant seamen.  Welcomed by enthusiastic crowds everywhere, their itineraries have included a tour of Mdina and a visit to Mosta Rotunda, as well as a demonstration of small arms fire at the Weapon Training School at Ghajn Tuffieha Bay.  Despite their exhaustion, a Merchant Navy team managed to hold Sliema Wanderers to a 1-1 draw in a football match at the Empire Stadium in Gzira.

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT WEEK ENDING 29 AUG 42

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

1.  Enemy air: activity during daylight confined to small fighter sweeps.  Approx 148 fighters approached Island.  One HE 111, one ME 109 destroyed; three ME 109s probably destroyed; four ME 109s, one MC 202 damaged.  Four Spitfires missing, four damaged (pilots safe).  Approx 25 bombers approached at night, only 13 crossed coast.  Bombs aerodrome area.  No military damage.  One JU 88 destroyed by Beaufighter; one JU 88 destroyed, one damaged by Ack Ack.

2.  Own air:  offensive sweeps by Spitfires over Sicily destroyed six enemy aircraft, four probable, one damaged in the air, others on the ground; shot up personnel and buildings.  Two day attacks by escorted Hurribombers on Sicilian aerodromes.  Beaufighters and Hurribombers also over Sicily by night.  Nine Beauforts and eight Beaufighters sunk one merchant vessel, destroyed two JU 88s, one Cant; damaged one JU 88, for loos of two aircraft.  Other strike unsuccessful.

3.  Military damage and casualties nil.

4.  Convoy completely unloaded without incident.  Slight increase in civilian bread ration announced; kerosene ration increased; electricity to be restored from 1 October; other slight improvements.  Motor transport spirit cut further.  TOO nil.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 AUGUST TO DAWN 30 AUGUST 1942

Day  One enemy fighter sweep by 15 aircraft.

Night  One Italian bomber approached and dropped bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Dennis Pollock, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 1435 Squadron; Private Michael Debono, 3rd Battalion, King’s Own Malta Regiment; Gunner Arthur Mundy, 186 Battery, 74 LAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 29 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe sailed and anchored at Marsaxlokk for the night.

AIR HQ  Eight Beaufighters 39 Squadron and eight Beaufighters 227 Squadron, four with bombs, attacked an enemy convoy comprising one 4-5000 ton tanker and one destroyer, escorted by one flying boat, one JU 88 and seven Macchi 202s, in position 120 degrees Ugento 10 miles, course 180 degrees 8 knots.  The Beaufighters attacked first, raking the tanker and destroyer with machine-gun and cannon fire, and dropping six 250lb bombs on the tanker, scoring near misses.  Beauforts then dropped four torpedoes scoring one direct hit amidships and one probable hit.  The tanker immediately blew up and burst into flames.  Later photos show the whole tanker ablaze, emitting dense clouds of black smoke.

Arrivals  One DC3 from Shallufa.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one DC3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire overshot on landing; struck hole in aerodrome: pilot uninjured.  One Spitfire believed shot down by enemy fighters: pilot missing, believed killed.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 29.  Dealt with: 4 High Explosives (1 x 500kg; 2 x 250kg; 1 x 50kg); 55 anti-personnel bombs.

(1) From http://chippenham1939-1945; source Wiltshire Gazette, 3 Sept 1942 and Spitfires Over Malta, Brian Cull and Frederick Galea

(2) Papers of Group Arthur Donaldson from The Air Battle for Malta, James Douglas-Hamilton, Pen & Sword 2006

(3) Malta Diary of a War, Michael Galea, PEG Ltd, 1992

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed.  For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com

 
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16-22 August 1942: Convoy Supplies Will Feed Malta For 3 Months

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Malta is filled with admiration for the gallant efforts made to pass the convoy to the Island.  We thank you and are most grateful.”   Lord Gort to Chief of Naval Staff, Admiralty

WHILE MALTA CELEBRATES SANTA MARIJA CONVOY, COMMANDERS FACE SHORTFALL

Fuel and cooking oil delivered via Pedestal (c) IWM GM1448

While the Island continues to celebrate the arrival of supply ships and the oil tanker Ohio, behind the scenes Malta’s commanders are weighing up the real impact, if any, the delivery will have on rations and military operations.  The fuel off-loaded from Ohio will undoubtedly enable Malta’s air and submarine forces to defend the Island while mounting renewed attacks on enemy convoys.

At the same time, the Governor faces the hard fact that the food and general supplies delivered last week are only enough to extend Malta’s survival for a further three months.  Perhaps the greatest benefit of Operation Pedestal for the Maltese and the military garrison, is improved morale, as they now feel less isolated from their allies far beyond the Mediterranean.  It is hoped that these raised spirits will carry them through the undoubted further hardships to come.

SEAMEN REMEMBER LOST COMRADES

“We were escorting the damaged Indomitable back to Gibraltar. A typical Mediterranean evening, the sea flat calm, the sun still high in a clear blue sky and the silence was sheer bliss after the deafening clangour of the previous few days. Suddenly we could feel the ship losing speed, the flag was lowered to half-mast and our attention drawn to Indomitable. From the stern of the ship we could see bundles toppling into the sea as ‘Indom’ buried her dead. There were some 50 of them – a sight that remains vivid in my memory to this day.”  L Myers, HMS Rodney, WW2 People’s War (1)

16 August: A Day Without Warning

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 AUGUST TO DAWN 17 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine: visibility 10-15 miles.

0810-0905 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron and two of 229 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.

0945-0955 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron on patrol: one had an oil leak and radio transmission was not working so they returned.

1045-1145 hrs; 1100-1210 hrs; 1105-1235 hrs; 1115-1230 hrs  Patrols by three to eight Spitfires 229 and 249 Squadrons: no sightings.

PM  Two patrols carried out by four Spitfires from Hal Far per patrol. 

1700-1810 hrs; 1800-1910 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol at a time: nothing sighted.

1820-1918 hrs  Eight Spitfires from Hal Far patrolled at 16000 feet between Grand Harbour and Gozo.

1900-2005 hrs; 1950-2030 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 then two of 249 Squadron on patrol: nothing sighted.  The second patrol returned early due to low cloud.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 16 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Three Albacores of Naval Air Squadron searched without success for a merchant vessel reported to the north west of Malta.

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; one Liberator to Fayid.

17 August: Navy Thanks RAF For Convoy Protection

The following is a précis of a message sent by the Royal Navy to RAF HQ Malta:  “The Navy are loud in their praise of the assistance given to the convoy by our fighter aircraft often operating under difficult circumstances.  They engaged and destroyed a great number of enemy aircraft and greatly contributed to reducing the scale of attack.”

NEW SPITFIRE DELIVERY

HMS Furious

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 AUGUST TO DAWN 18 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles

0815-0920 hrs; 0820-0855 hrs; 0925-1003 hrs  Four Spitfires at a time of 229 and 249 Squadrons Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.

1205-1240 hrs  Air raid alert.  Six Spitfires from Hal Far (two of Green Section) are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy fighters.  P/O Stenborg and Sgt Weaver jumps nine ME 109s.  Sgt Weaver shoots down two enemy aircraft and P/O Stenborg shoots down one, before being shot down himself by a ME 109.  He bales out and is picked up by the High Speed Launch.

Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are despatched to cover the arrival of Spitfires: no enemy action.

1300-1350 hrs; 1345-1430 hrs; 1510-1610 hrs; 1600-1710 hrs  Two Spitfires at a time of 229 and 249 Squadrons on patrol: no sightings.

PM  185 Squadron Hal Far fly 16 sorties over shipping in Grand Harbour.

1757-1810 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept reported enemy raiders: no sightings.

2000 hrs  Penn, Bramham, and Ledbury sailed for Gibraltar.

2320-2350 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which do not cross the coast; all bombs are dropped in the sea.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Eugene Connell, Royal Canadian Air Force, 204 Squadron; Sergeant William Davis Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 204 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Edward Jackman, Royal Air Force, 204 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Walter Maconnell, Royal Canadian Air Force, 204 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 17 AUGUST 1942

HMS Hebe

ROYAL NAVY  Beauforts escorted by Beaufighters attacked an escorted merchant vessel west of Linosa and obtained one torpedo hit. This ship was subsequently sunk by [submarine] P 44, the force of the explosion being so great as to necessitate the submarine returning to Malta for repairs.  [Submarine] P 42 was swept into Marsamxett by Hebe.

AIR HQ  1600 hrs  Six Beauforts 86 Squadron escorted by five Beaufighters 252 and 235 Squadrons, and four long-range Spitfires 126 Squadron, attacked a convoy of two destroyers and one 7000 ton merchant vessel, patrolled by four JU 88s and two enemy fighters, in position 280 degrees Lampedusa, 35 miles.  Two torpedo hits were scored on the merchant vessel which was left stationary, pouring white smoke and down by the stern.  Two Beaufighters dropped four 250lb [semi-armour-piercing] bombs, scoring one direct hit on the stern of the merchant vessel.  Beaufighters and Beauforts also attached the merchant vessel and other merchant craft with machine-gun and cannon fire.  During the attack, one JU 88 and one enemy fighter were probably destroyed.  Photographs confirm that the merchant vessel has been sunk.

Arrivals  One Beaufort, one Hudson from Gibraltar; 29 Spitfires from Naval operation.  Departures  17 Maryland to Abu Sueir; three Baltimores to LG 98; one Spitfire to Kilo 8; one Liberator to Fayid.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed on aerodrome: crew uninjured.  One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot rescued uninjured.  One Spitfire hit an obstruction on landing: pilot uninjured.

18 August: Malta’s Squadrons Praised For Attacks

Malta Spitfires refuelled and re-armed

“The Air Officer Commanding sends congratulations to Nos 217, 235, 126 and 1435 Squadrons for their successful attack on enemy convoy on 17 August 1942.  This was a fine example of good team-work between Beauforts, Beaufighters and Spitfires.”  Re-armed and refuelled thanks to the arrival of the recent convoy, Malta’s RAF Squadrons last night resumed their attacks on Axis convoys through the Mediterranean, with considerable success.  With the battle for control of the Middle East again reaching a critical point, Malta can resume its key role as a base for disrupting the supply of Rommel’s forces in North Africa.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 AUGUST TO DAWN 19 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Day  Spitfires from Hal Far made eight patrol sorties over Grand Harbour.

0815-0850 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  Sgt Beurling reports seeing five hostile fighters, not seen by the other pilots: no contact made.

1045-1155 hrs; 1135-1230 hrs; 1215-1315 hrs; 1300-1415 hrs; 1400-1515 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 and 249 Squadrons at a time are airborne on patrol: nothing sighted.

1525-1630 hrs; 1550-1634 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron at a time are scrambled to intercept reported enemy aircraft: no sightings.

1650-1715 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron scrambled to intercept approaching fighters see six ME 109s above them, among some flak: no combat.  F/Lt Woods’ aircraft has a malfunctioning wing flap and lands at Luqa; he is unhurt.

2230-2245 hrs; 0035-0042 hrs  Air raid alerts. One enemy aircraft which comes to within 25 miles of Gozo and drops bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 18 AUGUST 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals Four Beauforts, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Baltimore to LG 98; one Beaufighter to EDCU; four Beauforts to LG 224.

19 August: Gort Flies to Cairo to Meet PM Churchill

Winston Churchill at British Embassy Cairo August 1942 (c) OWM E15347

His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief Viscount Gort flew to Cairo today to report in person to the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, on the state of things in Malta following the arrival of the Operation Pedestal convoy.  To cover the Governor’s absence, Vice Admiral, Malta is appointed as his Deputy.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 AUGUST TO DAWN 20 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine: little or no cloud, increasing later; visibility 10-15 miles. Wind light, variable, becoming east south east, moderate.

0955-1030 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve approaching enemy fighters.  Two groups of four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept; two aircraft return early.  The others sight three ME 109s above them: no combat.

1005-1050 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali patrol over a minesweeper: nothing to report.

1100-1205 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol: no sightings.

1150-1305 hrs  Enemy aircraft are reported heading for the Islands.  Two Spitfires are scrambled to intercept  but the raid does not approach.

1749-1907 hrs  Seven Spitfires from Hal Far patrol north of St Paul’s Bay and Gozo: nothing sighted.

2315-2320 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which drop bombs in the sea north of Gozo.

Military casualties  Private William Kelly, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Gaetan Mansueto, age 40.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 19 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Rye swept Una and P 44 into harbour.

AIR HQ Arrivals Two DC3 from Bilbeis; Four Beauforts, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; two Beauforts to Shandur; six Beauforts, one DC3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort engine failed; forced to land: crew uninjured.  One Beaufort shot down into the sea while on shipping strike:crew missing.

20 August: Air Crews are Lucky Survivors

One Beaufighter of 227 Squadron and one Beaufort of 39 Squadron have been reported lost following the latest attack by Malta air forces on an enemy convoy.  They were among a formation of twelve Beauforts and ten Beaufighters 227 Squadron on a mission to bomb a tanker and merchant ship with destroyer escort off Cape Stilo.  The two aircraft were hit by flak as the enemy fired barrages to defend their vessels. 

A Beaufort of 39 Squadron at Luqa

The Beaufighter of pilot Warrant Officer Donald Brixo from New Zealand and navigator Sergeant Douglas Paterson crashed into the sea.  Flying Officer Peter Roper of Canada was also shot down in his Beaufort; he radioed that he and his observer were injured while the remaining crew were unhurt.  Nothing more was heard of them and the crews of both aircraft have been officially reported missing. (2)    

Another Beaufighter was shot down today off Kalafrana Bay, killing the Wireless Operator/Observer, Sergeant George Leslie.  The pilot, Flying Officer Eyre, survived and was rescued by the High Speed Launch.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 AUGUST TO DAWN 21 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine: wind south south-east, light to moderate; visibility 10-15 miles.

1005-1020 hrs  Air raid alert.  Nine Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali and nine of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept a fighter sweep.  Sgt Beurling sights two Me 109s but does not engage.

1115-1135 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept enemy fighters.  They sight four ME 109s at 24000 feet, ten miles north of Grand Harbour: no engagement.

1520-1535 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron and eight Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept reported enemy aircraft (two of 229 return early): no sightings.

1715-1820 hrs; 1955-2035 hrs  Four and two Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

Military casualties  Sergeant George Leslie, 227 Beaufighter Squadron; Private Walter Wade, 8th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster).

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 20 AUGUST 1942

Speedy makes a smokescreen over Grand Harbour (NWMA Malta)

ROYAL NAVY  Smoke was made for one large [enemy] formation approaching, but no attack materialized.  705 of QBB 273 searched by 17th Minesweeping Flotilla.

AIR HQ  Twelve Beauforts 39 Squadron escorted by ten Beaufighters 227 Squadron, six carrying bombs, attacked a convoy comprising five destroyers, one 8000 ton tanker and one small merchant vessel, escorted by one Cant Z501 and six single-engined fighters in position 180 degrees Cape Stilo four miles, course 040 degrees, speed 5-10 knots.  It was estimated that the tanker was fully laden and had a draft of 22-24 feet.  Torpedoes were released with a 22 ft setting but no hits were seen on the tanker.

Explosions were, however, seen some distance from the convoy to port, but these may have been caused by bombs.  It is now believed that the tanker was not fully laden at the time of the attack and had a much smaller draft than originally anticipated.  This may have been why no strikes were made, as torpedoes were seen to run well.

Four Beaufighters dropped seven 250lb [semi-armour-piercing] bombs, scoring one possible hit on the stern of a destroyer.  The tanker and other craft were also raked with machine-gun and cannon fire.  A small pilot vessel was sunk by cannon fire a quarter of a mile ahead of the convoy.  One Macchi 200 and the Cant Z501 were damaged.

Arrivals  One Beaufort from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; two Beauforts to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter crashed into the sea: pilot rescued; Wireless Operator/Observer missing, believed killed.  One Beaufort and one Beaufighter  believed hit by enemy flak while on shipping strike: Beaufighter observed crashing into the sea; both crews missing.  One Beaufort hit by enemy flak while on shipping strike: pilot and A/Observer injured; rest of crew uninjured.

21 August: Oil Tanker Disabled in RAF Attack

RAF bombers have stopped a major delivery of fuel to Rommel’s forces in North Africa.  This was the second attempt by Malta Beauforts and Beaufighters to disrupt the enemy convoy, following an unsuccessful attack yesterday.  This time the attackers scored three torpedo hits and two near-misses with bombs on the 8000 ton oil tanker, which was brought to a halt, with oil pouring from both sides.  They also destroyed at least five enemy aircraft in the attack.  The tanker was later photographed beached in shallow water on the Corfu coast.

TIMES OF MALTA LAUNCHES ‘MALTA CONVOY FUND’

Lighters full of supplies for Malta (c) IWM GM1464

Malta’s leading newspaper today announced the launch of a fund to help the dependants of those killed trying to bring vital supplies to Malta in Operation Pedestal.  Subscriptions are already coming in from those keen to express their gratitude for the sacrifice of convoy crews, airmen and gunners who lost their lives in the dangerous mission to relieve the siege.  The funds raised will be co-ordinated by the Anglo Maltese League.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 AUGUST TO DAWN 22 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fair.

1335-1500 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron and four 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept an enemy fighter sweep.  Two aircraft of 249 Squadron lose the formation and return early.  No enemy aircraft are sighted.  The wheel of F/Lt Lovell’s aircraft (229 Squadron) collapses on landing.

1814-1901 hrs  Four Spitfires from Hal Far patrol over a homecoming strike force: no interceptions.

Military casualties  None named.                                                           Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 21 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Gibraltar reported the safe arrival of Penn, Ledbury and Bramham.

AIR HQ  1800 hrs  The tanker was again attacked by nine Beauforts 39 Squadron, escorted by eight Beaufighters 248 Squadron, and five Beaufighters 229 Squadron carrying bombs.  Position 003 degrees Paxos, 12 miles, course 170 degrees, speed 6 knots.  Three torpedo hits and two near-misses with bombs were scored on the tanker and a direct hit by a bomb was made on a destroyer.  All aircraft also attacked the tanker with machine-gun and cannon fire.  The Beaufighter escort shot down two P32s, one JU 52, two BR 20s and probably destroyed a JU 88.  Photographs taken after the attack show the tanker to be stationary and oil flowing from both sides of it.  Later photos show it to be beached in three fathoms of water in Saiada Bay, Corfu.

Departures  Three Beauforts to LG 224; one Beaufort to Shandur.  Transit aircraft missing  One Beaufort en route from Malta to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter forced down into the sea by enemy action: crew missing.  One Beaufort had engine trouble and crashed into the sea: Wireless Operator/Air Gunner slightly injured; rest of crew uninjured.  One Beaufighter’s tyre burst: crew uninjured.  One Beaufort believed hit by enemy flak, force landed in the sea: crew missing.  One Beaufort hit by enemy flak while on shipping strike: Wireless Operator/Air Gunner injured; rest of crew uninjured.  One Baltimore;s engine cut on landing: Wireless Operator/Air Gunner and A/Observer injured.  One Beaufighter damaged by enemy flak crash-landed: crew injured.

22 August: Convoy 32000 Tons of Supplies but No Ration Increase

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

Military situation report for week ending [22 Aug] 1942

Convoy brought limited supplies (c) IWM GM1429

1.  Unloading convoy almost complete.  32000 tons unloaded, dispersed to and cleared from dumps mainly by army in 8 days.  This will provide approx. 3 months additional food at present reduced ration scale.  Slight increase in civilian bread ration may be possible; Army bread ration already increased one ounce to compensate shortage potatoes.  Certain variety items received will make Army rations less monotonous but no major alteration practicable.  Further economy in [motor transport] spirit necessary however.

2.  No attempt by enemy to attack convoy in harbour.  Activity confined to small fighter sweeps.  No bombers crossed coast day or night; almost constitutes a record.  3 ME 109s destroyed for loss of one Spitfire.

3.  29 torpedo-carrying Beaufort sorties escorted by bomb-carrying Beaufighters attacked enemy convoys to Libya.  One merchant vessel 7000 tons damaged – subsequently sunk by submarine P44.  One tanker hit and stopped.  Hits or near misses on two destroyers.  One Ju 52 and six other aircraft certainly destroyed and five damaged over convoys.  Three Beauforts, three Beaufighters missing.

4.  Winter accommodation in the form of a simple section hut being built by troops as civil labour used on aerodromes.  1400 Army still working on aerodromes.

5.  Military damage and casualties nil.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 AUGUST TO DAWN 23 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

1715-1810 hrs  Ten Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft: no engagement.  One Hurricane force-landed with undercarriage trouble: Pilot S/Lt Elliot unhurt.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Norman Adams, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Sergeant George Form, Royal Air Force VR, 202 Squadron; Sergeant Cecil Lee, Royal Air Force, 202 Squadron; Sergeant Alan Morgan, Royal Air Force VR, 202 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 22 AUGUST 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals One DC3 from LG 224; two Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Hurricane in accident on aerodrome: pilot uninjured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 19.  Dealt with: 3 High Explosives, all 250kg, plus 42 anti-personnel bombs.

(1)  ‘WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar’

(2)  Warrant Officer Donald Brisco and Sergeant Douglas Paterson 227 Squadron and Flying Officer Peter Roper, 39 Squadron, and his crew survived and were taken Prisoners-of-War.

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15 August 1942: Santa Marija – Convoy Survivor Ohio Arrives on Feast Day

MALTA WAR DIARY: OPERATION PEDESTAL – SANTA MARIJA – FINAL DAY                                

Maltagc70 returns 22 August with weekly diary.  For updates direct to your computer sign up to follow (see R)

 

“I think I am speaking for all in saying that we are disappointed at not doing better but we should like to try again.”  E N Syfret, Vice-Admiral, Flag Officer Commanding, Operation Pedestal

Ohio inched into Grand Harbour (NWMA Malta)

OHIO COMES IN – WITH HER CARGO OF FUEL

Early this morning the tanker Ohio was cradled into Grand Harbour to a rapturous welcome.  Maltese and military crowded every available space to cheer the battered ship as she passed through the arms of the harbour entrance and into shelter.

Her decks barely above the water line, the tanker was carefully inched into her place in history, and berth at Parlatorio Wharf in French Creek – where Illustrious had also survived an enemy bent on her destruction.  After a traumatic twenty four hours, Ohio was berthed in shallow water and settled on the bottom.

Of the merchant ships now in harbour, Port Chalmers is undamaged and Melbourne Star only superficially. The Rochester Castle has been hit by a torpedo and water entered Nos 1 and 2 holds.  The Brisbane Star has also received a torpedo hit forward and No 2 hold was slightly flooded.  The Ohio‘s engine room was partly flooded due to a hit by a heavy bomb, and the port side of the pump room had been holed by either a mine or a torpedo.  However, the majority of her fuel cargo is intact and available.

Survivors disembark Ledbury, NWMA Malta

“That these five ships did make their goal is a magnificent tribute to the resolution shown by all concerned, and a special word of praise is due to the gallant Master of the Ohio (Captain D W Mason), to Penn (Lieutenant-Commander J H Swain, RN), Ledbury (Lieutenant-commander R P Hill, RN) and Bramham (Lieutenant E F Baines, RN), to the Malta local forces, and to the Royal Air Force based on Malta. (1)

“WE WERE A SITTING TARGET” – OHIO GUNNERS DESCRIBE LAST HOURS OF TANKER’S JOURNEY

Seven planes appeared above and we shouted to the bridge who thought they were Spitfires and told us so. The ‘Spitfires’ banked and screamed down narrowly missing us with bombs but one hit the Ohio square on the stern. We really thought the whole damn lot of us were going to blow up, but our luck held. Thank God! The attack was so sudden that B gun only fired eight rounds. It was getting dusk and the planes were able to get gloriously close to us without being seen. We saw one going away which appeared to be badly damaged…

Darkness came as a godsend and then we really got to work…we decided that the Bramham should go alongside the tanker on her starboard side and that we should tow her between us…at last we were secured to the skipper’s satisfaction and although we were a lovely target for any lurking submarine we remained still until the following morning. Then we started the last stage of the hellish trip to Malta at seven knots!

All that day we were left alone, this being due to the fighter escort from Malta.  We sighted the Island at 1930 and hoped we would make it that night. But we were informed that we would not arrive till next morning. So it was at 0800 the next day we steamed through the breakwater into the Grand Harbour at Malta. Two ships, small destroyers, of only 1600 tons, with an oil tanker between them had safely brought the last ship of the convoy safely to its destination. The people of Valletta lined the harbour to cheer us, and the military band played ‘Hearts of Oak’ as we entered, making us feel very fed up because we did not ask for praise. We had only done what we set out to do.”  W R Cheetham and D Burke, WW2 People’s War (2)

CONVOY SURVIVOR REMEMBERS

“The attacks were terrifying; I cannot think of another word.  The worst for me were the Stukas; their sirens made the most appalling noise.  The sky was absolutely mottled with flak from the ships…nothing had ever been seen like it.  The destroyers too were simply remarkable.  To me, the worst sight of all was seeing Eagle go down, because you could see both planes and men sliding into the sea; you could actually hear the screams and yells…It was extremely frightening; no it was not frightening, it was terror, absolute terror.“  Survivor Frederick Treves, Junior Apprentice on Waimarama (3)

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING 15 AUGUST 1942

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

Food for Malta unloaded from convoy c IWM GM 1478

1.  Four merchant vessels and one tanker arrived ex convoy from UK out of original 14 ships.  Only one of these unscathed.  Approx gross tonnage 47000 mixed cargoes essential foodstuffs, ammunition, black and white oils.  Supply situation will be considerably easier.  General relief at arrival though cost fully realised.  Two M/Vs and two D/Rs slipped away from here under cover of operation taking with them 44 German and 15 Italian from P of W cage.  Arrived Gibraltar safely.

2.  Army carrying out bulk of unloading operations as few naval personnel to assist.  Total 3000 men working in three shifts day and night with civilian assistance are unloading 5000 tons per day and dispersing to field dumps and near consignees.  Further 1500 men being provided assistance to RAF servicing, refuelling aircraft and ensuring maintenance aerodromes.  All available transport in use.  150 Royal Artillery personnel working smoke screen.  Operation proceeding satisfactorily.

3.  Other than attacks on convoy enemy air activity over Island has consisted of fighter sweeps only and slight night bombing.  Total of 32 night bombers, few of which crossed coast.  Total RAF claims 23 destroyed, three probables, ten damaged, including three destroyed by night fighters.  Ack Ack no claims and few engagements.  RAF offensive against Sardinian and Sicilian aerodromes to protect convoy also providing permanent umbrella.  Further reinforcement of Spitfires arrived.

4.  Military casualties nil except six Other Ranks wounded on convoy.  Reinforcement 31 all ranks details arrived on convoy, also 90 carrier pigeons.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 AUGUST TO DAWN 16 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10 to 15 miles.

Day  Spitfires keep up a standing patrol over Grand Harbour.

0530-0655 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol over convoy ships: no sightings.

0555-0700 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol over convoy ships: no sightings.

0620-0730 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept possible enemy raiders: no sightings.  Sgt Ballantine runs into a stationary Spitfire on landing: both aircraft are damaged but he is unhurt.

0623-0725 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron on convoy patrol: no sightings.

0643-0816 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far patrol over the incoming tanker until it arrives in Grand Harbour.

Ohio discharges her cargo (NWMA Malta)

0755 hrs After an epic struggle by her gallant Master and escorts, SS Ohio in tow of Penn and Bramham enters Grand Harbour followed by Ledbury. The sweepers and motor launches enter Marsamxett.

0905-0920 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron are airborne to intercept enemy aircraft.  Capt Swales and Sgt Tarbuck together destroy one ME 109.  Sgt Tarbuck’s Spitfire has airscrew trouble and he is forced to bale out but is picked up unhurt by the High Speed Launch.

0955-1025 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialise.

1100-1205 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron on patrol: no sightings.

PM  Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far carry out three patrols over shipping in Grand harbour.

1445-1545 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept possible enemy raiders; four return early.  Lt Hetherington sees one ME 109 streaming glycol but does not make contact.

1535-1540 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron on intercept patrol see two enemy aircraft but cannot make contact.

1800 hrs  Force X and Force Z arrive at GibraltarThe damaged ships of Force Z, sent home earlier in the operation, also all reached Gibraltar safely except the destroyer Foresight which had to be sunk by Tartar who had tried to tow her in.

1910-2015 hrs  Four JU 88s are reported nearby, escorting an enemy ship.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but visibility is poor and they do not locate the enemy.

1935-2020 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron on patrol: no sightings.

2230-2235 hrs  Air raid alert for one enemy aircraft which drops bombs in the sea before receding.

Military casualties  Gunner Carmel Grech, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Frederick Hornsey, 12 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Zurrieq  Pauline Grech, age 46.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 15 AUGUST 1942

HMS Utmost

ROYAL NAVY  A smoke screen was developed over the Dockyard on two occasions for large formations of aircraft, but no bombs were dropped.  Utmost and P 46 arrived from Gibraltar to join Tenth Submarine Flotilla, the former having obtained one torpedo hit on an Italian AMC off Marittimo.  After dark the presence of E Boats was suspected and fire was opened by shore batteries on one occasion, but no results observed.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Hudsons from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Spitfire to LG 224; two DC3 to Bilbeis.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot rescued uninjured.

HAL FAR  One special Swordfish and two Albacores from Hal Far are despatched on a shipping strike off the west coast of Sicily.  Weather conditions are very bad and they sight nothing.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2.  Dealt with: nil.  BD Sections manpower on convoy and transport duties except for party standing by to deal with unexploded bombs Grand Harbour.  Also dealt with week ending 15 August: 62 anti-personnel bombs.

(1) E N Syfret, Vice-Admiral, Flag Officer Commanding, Operation Pedestal

(2)  ‘WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar’  INSERT LINK!!!!!

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

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed.  For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com

 
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14 August 1942: 3000 Men Unload Convoy

MALTA WAR DIARY: OPERATION PEDESTAL – SANTA MARIJA – DAY BY DAY

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OPERATION CERES UNDERWAY

Operation Ceres underway c IWM GM1475

3000 army personnel are now working night and day to unload the supplies delivered by the newly-arrived convoy.  All possible vehicles are engaged in the task, code-named ‘Operation Ceres’.  In addition, 1500 army personnel are still working on the aerodromes for servicing and refuelling aircraft, and repairing runways as required to keep Malta’s fighters in the air and protect the precious cargoes.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 AUGUST TO DAWN 15 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Dawn  Having spent the night in futile attempts to tow Ohio, Bramham, Penn and Rye are joined by Ledbury.  Further attempts to tow the sinking tanker are more successful, albeit very slow.  The ‘cortege’ is joined later by Speedy and two Motor Launches from Malta.

AM Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled on five occasions to patrol over the incoming shipping.  No enemy activity encountered.

0545-0650 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on convoy patrol fly near to Linosa and see a tanker which opens fire on them: no damage.

0625-0750 hrs  Three Spitfires 229 Squadron on convoy patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

0630 hrs  ML 168 arrives in Malta with 68 convoy survivors on board.

0700-0825 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on shipping patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

0740-0845 hrs; 0805-0940 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron at a time on shipping patrol: nothing to report.

Ohio inched towards Malta

0830 hrs  Commander minesweepers reports sweepers in company with Bramham and Penn, with tanker Ohio in tow, very deep in the water and almost unmanageable.

0850-0905 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialise.

0912-1300 hrs  A long series of almost constant air attacks on Force X by dive bombers, high level bombers, torpedo bombers and dropping of mines or circling torpedoes by low-flying aircraft.  JU 88s bombers near-miss HMS Kenya, causing a small fire in a boiler room.

0925-1100 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne: four to act as cover for the oil tanker Ohio and escort, the remainder as cover for a merchant vessel; nothing to report.

1000-1125 hrs  Spitfires from Ta Qali patrol over the convoy.  F/Lt Swannick sights a JU 87 diving on the ships.  He fires a 2-3 second burst from 100 yards and sees hits on the starboard wing: claims damaged.

1120-1250 hrs; 1145-1320 hrs; 1210-1340 hrs  Four Spitfires 229/249 Squadrons airborne at a time on convoy patrol: nothing to report.

PM  Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled on four occasions to patrol over the incoming tanker and naval escort: no enemy activity.

1225-1345 hrs; 1340-1440 hrs  Four Spitfires 229/249 Squadrons airborne at a time to provide cover to a merchant vessel: nothing to report.

Damaged Brisbane Star in Grand Harbour

1415 hrs   MV Brisbane Star arrives in Grand Harbour, holed in her bows.

1450-1625 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne to act as escort covering the approach of the tanker Ohio.  One float plane and two fighters attack suspected raiders: no strikes are seen but target aircraft were later identified as friendly.  No warning had been issued by Fighter Control and the attacked aircraft did not give any warning that they were friendly until after they had been fired on.

1455-1610 hrs  Three Spitfires 249 Squadron escorting Ohio are diverted to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  F/Sgt Parks sees one unidentified aircraft which he describes as twin-engined with a white upper surface and presumes is friendly.

1530-1550 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft.  Twelve Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no sightings.

1550-1705 hrs;1725-1905 hrs; 1750-1925 hrs  Four Spitfires 229/249 Squadron at a time patrol over the tanker: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1800 hrs  Force X escapes the attacks unscathed joins Force Z: together they head for Gibraltar.

1820-1910 hrs  Air raid alert.  Twelve Spitfires are scrambled to intercept and sight six fighters but do not intercept.  Five minutes later three ME 109s appear and dive on Spitfires.  Sgt Hogarth is attacked from behind and bales out: he lands in the sea three miles off Zonqor and is rescued by HSL 128.  F/Sgt Hiskins scores cannon strikes on one ME 109 at 100 yards.  The Messerschmitt is last seen diving towards Grand Harbour, streaming black smoke.

1830-2035 hrs  One Albacore from Hal Far carries out an anti-submarine patrol over the incoming tanker.

Ohio supported by Penn and Ledbury

1840 hrs  Ohio and the ships assisting her are within sight of Dingli.  In spite of frequent air attacks, during one of which the tow was parted by a bomb, and the great difficulty experienced in towing, slow but steady progress is bringing the tanker closer to Grand Harbour.

1915-2015 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron patrol over the tanker but are diverted several times to intercept enemy aircraft. Two aircraft return early.

2030-0040 hrs  One Swordfish from Hal FAr carries out an anti-submarine patrol over the incoming tanker.

2035-2110 hrs; 2205-2325 hrs  Air raid alert.

Night  After dark the presence of E-Boats was suspected and fire was opened by shore batteries on one occasion, but no results observed.

A total of seven enemy aircraft approach the coast.  Only two cross the coast, both of which are shot down by Malta night fighters: no bombs are dropped on land.  Bingemma Fort fires four rounds at a shipping plot 1000 yards west of Bingemma Battery.  Forts Madalena and Leonardo engage a shipping plot 12000 yards north east of St Elmo.  Four rounds are fired.  Searchlights expose but nothing is seen.

Military casualties  Nil.

Operation Pedestal casualties  CLICK HERE

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 14 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  On reports of surface plots Coast Artillery Searchlight sweeps were carried out and star shell fired, but no enemy craft were sighted.

Brisbane Star entered Grand Harbour at 1430 hrs and Hythe and Hebe rejoined Commander M/S.  Continuous cover was given by fighter aircraft during the day, and together with the anti-aircraft protection afforded by the sweepers, succeeded in preventing the enemy from accomplishing his task of sinking Ohio and Brisbane Star.

Robust

Tug Robust was escorted to Marsaxlokk by Beryl and Swona to stand by to assist with towing and was reported later to be towing ahead of Ohio. She proved, however, to be unsuitable for such a heavy tow and after bumping Penn and damaging her, she was not employed any more.  Flag Officer Commanding North Atlantic reported safe arrival of Force “Y”.  Fire was opened twice during the night on the information of RDF plots and it is considered that on each of these occasions E boats were driven off. The sound of engines was also heard and searchlights were switched on, but no targets were illuminated.

Since 0900 on 12th August, nine enemy aircraft were shot down by ships’ fire with eight probably and three possibly destroyed. The merchant vessels’ own anti-aircraft guns accounted for four of those definitely destroyed.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Beaufort from Gibraltar.  Departures  Three Hudsons to Gibraltar; two Wellingtons, one Spitfire to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down: pilot baled out uninjured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3.  Dealt with: 2 High Explosives (1 x 250kg; 1 x 50kg).

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13 August 1942: RAF Fly 179 Sorties to Protect Pedestal

MALTA WAR DIARY: OPERATION PEDESTAL – SANTA MARIJA – DAILY DIARY                         

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“CHEERIO, GOOD LUCK, BALING OUT – PORT ENGINE ON FIRE

These were the last words of Beaufighter pilot David Jay to his crewman Sergeant McFarlane this morning, before their aircraft plunged into the Mediterranean.  Pilot Officer Jay, a New Yorker who volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force, was flying one of five RAF Beaufighters of 248 Squadron which took off frm Malta this morning to provide vital air cover for the approaching convoy.

Beaufighter takes off from Luqa

They ran into a fierce battle as the Stuka bombers and fighters attacked, countered by heavy anti-aircraft fire from the convoy ships.  Several ME 109s turned from the convoy to chase the Beaufighters.  Moments later, Pilot Officer Jay was overheard by another aircraft saying his farewell to Sgt McFarlane, who was heard to answer him before their radio fell silent.  Both were reported missing.

Wellington bombers were also engaged in bombing missions today over enemy aerodromes used as bases for attacks on the convoy.   One Wellington making its second attack on Comiso was damaged by flak.  The aircraft made it back to Malta but crashed near Luqa, killing the Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Sergeant Harry Fox.  Pilot P/O Shepherd and three other crew members (Sgt Langley, Sgt Maslin, and Sgt Thompson) were injured in the crash but survived.

Beaufighters and Spitfires flew 179 sorties and 46 patrols today, providing constant cover for the convoy.  14 enemy aircraft were destroyed, with three probables and nine damaged, for the loss of one Beaufighter and four Spitfires from Malta.  Two of the Spitfire pilots are confirmed safe.

Rear-Admiral Commanding, 10th Cruiser Squadron reported that, especially given they had no direction aid from Force X, he considered the fighters performed “a magnificent job of work throughout the day”.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 AUGUST TO DAWN 14 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

SS Waimarama explodes

Dawn  The convoy is some 50 miles behind schedule but is now close enough to come under the protection of Malta’s Beaufighters and long-range Spitfires.  HMS Ashanti, flagship of Rear-Admiral Burrough, Commander, 10th Cruiser Squadron is leading the protective force of HM Ships Kenya, Charybdis, Intrepid, Icarus, Fury, Eskimo and Somali, covering the merchant ships Melbourne Star, Clan Ferguson and Rochester Castle.  HMS Ledbury is five miles astern escorting the damaged SS OhioSS Dorset is afloat and underway but is detached from the convoy and unescorted.  SS Port Chalmers, escorted by HMS Pathfinder and HMS Bramham is ten miles off with HMS Penn beyond standing by SS Waimarama, which is on fire. SS Brisbane Star has spent the night close to the Tunisian coast.  The ship is boarded by the French authorities who are persuaded to treat the crew fairly.

0505-0910 hrs  One Beaufighter 248 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol to cover the convoy sights one JU 88 and several ME 109s; no combat.

0527-0835 hrs  Four Beaufighters 248 Squadron are dispatched on convoy patrol; one does not get airborne and is damaged.  W/Cdr Pike attempts to intercept a JU 88 but is counter-attacked by several ME 109s.  One bullet hits his Beaufighter in the stern; the crew is uninjured.  W/Cdr Pike does not return fire.

0639-0726 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far on patrol over Malta: no sightings.

0712 hrs  Rear-Admiral Burrough orders HM Ships Eskimo and Somali to return and stand by HMS Manchester.  On their way to do so they picked up survivors of SS Almeria Lykes and Wairangi.

0730 hrs  Five Beaufighters 248 Squadron are dispatched on protective patrol over the convoy.

0810-0900 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on intercept patrol over Malta: no sightings.

Ohio deck after collision with JU 87 c IWM GM1469

0810 hrs  JU 88s carry out a dive-bombing attack on the convoy, concentrating on SS Clan Ferguson, which receives a direct hit and blows up.  HMS Charybdis reports seeing two aircraft dive on the merchantman and only one coming, the other is presumed destroyed in the explosion.  Ledbury rescues 45 of her crew.

0925 hrs  Ju 87 dive-bombers attack, while Italian aircraft lay parachute mines ahead around the convoy.  The Stukas target Ohio which has rejoined the convoy.  The tanker suffers several near-misses: her steering gear is disabled but her guns shoot down one JU 87 which collides with the ship.  Port Chalmers is set on fire but continues underway.

The Beaufighters of 248 Squadron approach the convoy as enemy bombers and fighters attack, countered by heavy anti-aircraft fire from the ships.  Several ME 109s over the convoy chase the Beaufighters.  Pilot P/O Jay his crew Sgt McFarlane are reported missing.

Dorset under air attack c IWM GMA11173

 

0941 hrs  HMS Kenya is attacked by dive-bombers and suffers near-misses.

1017 hrs; 1050 hrs  Two more dive-bombing and minelaying attacks bring more near-misses for Ohio and for SS Dorset.  HM Ships Penn, Ledbury and Bramham stand by as protection for the two ships.

1020-1135 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are dispatched to patrol over the convoy.  They sight two Junkers bombers: the first has not dropped its bombs and is chased away by a Spitfire.  The second has dropped its bombs when F/Lt Northcott attacks, firing from 400 yards down to point-blank range: he observes masses of strikes.  F/Lt McRuder fires at the same aircraft and also observes many strikes: the aircraft is ‘probably destroyed’.  P/O Barbour fires but does not see the results due to oil on his windscreen.  The Spitfire pilots note that the JU 88 had unusual bottle-green camouflage and no crosses could be seen.

1120 hrs  Italian torpedo bombers attack the convoy, dropping torpedoes too wide of the ships to cause damage.  Ships’ companies observe Malta Beaufighters and Spitfires engaging the enemy and shooting down at least four enemy aircraft.  The convoy has now reached the range of Malta’s main Spitfire forces and the enemy stays clear.

1130-1230 hrs; 1145-1245 hrs; 1200-1315 hrs; 1230-1340 hrs; 1245-1304 hrs; 1335-1450 hrs  Groups of four Spitfires 229 and 249 Squadrons Ta Qali patrol over the convoy: no enemy aircraft sighted.  Through the afternoon Spitfires of 185 Squadron are also scrambled in sections of four on fifteen occasions to provide cover for the incoming convoy.  No enemy aircraft are encountered.  One Spitfire crashes on take-off, writing off the aircraft and badly injuring the pilot, Sgt Chewley.

1350-1515 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol over the convoy.  F/Lt Watts gets in a three-second burst on an enemy bomber and sees strikes on the port wing (claims damaged).

1400-1510 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on convoy duties.  F/Sgt Parkes’ engine blows up; he bales out and is picked up, unhurt, by the naval launch.

1420-1520 hrs; 1440-1610 hrs; 1500-1605 hrs  Groups of four Spitfires 229 and 249 Squadrons patrol over the convoy: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1500 hrs  17th Minesweeping Flotilla and 3rd Motor Launch Flotilla sail from Malta and carry out a sweep of searched channel, with orders to rendezvous with the convoy Force X and take over the escort of merchant vessels.

1550-1710 hrs  Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron patrol over the Island: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1600 hrs  Dingli monitors sight three merchant ships escorted by two minesweepers.

1600 hrs  Force X makes rendezvous with the Malta minesweeping forces.  SS Port Chalmers, Melbourne Star and Rochester Castle are turned over to the local escort, under the Senior Officer, Minesweepers, aboard HMS Speedy.  HM Ships Penn, Bramham and Ledbury remain with the damaged SS Ohio and Dorset while the remainder of Force X withdraws to the west.

Rochester Castle enters Grand Harbour c IWM GM1430

1630-1750 hrs; 1810-1920 hrs  Groups of four Spitfires 229 and 249 Squadrons patrol over the convoy: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1740-1910 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol sight one JU 88.  P/O Jones fires and is sure his aim is accurate but cannot see strikes due to dazzle from the enemy cockpit.  Sgt Wynn fires twice, seeing strikes both times.  Sgt Beurling fires; the starboard engine catches fire and pieces fly off.  The bomber dives into the sea (destroyed).

1810-1935 hrs; 1815-1935 hrs  Four and then eight Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol see no enemy aircraft.

1815 hrs  Rochester Castle enters Grand Harbour, followed by Melbourne Star and Port Chalmers.  Two Motor Launches land the wounded at Sliema and then proceeded with 17th Minesweeping Flotilla to assist Dorset and Ohio.

1945-1950 hrs; 2225-2235 hrs; 2345-2355 hrs  Air raid alerts for a total of 6 enemy aircraft of which only 3 cross the coast: all bombs are dropped in the sea.

2014 hrs  Ohio and Dorset are attacked again.  Dorset is set on fire and she sinks.

2030 hrs  Force X departs for Gibraltar leaving orders for Bramham, Ledbury and Penn to rendezvous later.

Crowds cheer the arrival of SS Port Chalmers c IWM GM1426

2100 hrs  Rye reports that she is assisting Penn to tow Ohio with 2 Motor Launches as A/S screen.  A vessel south of Lampedusa is considered to be the Brisbane Star.  Hythe, Hebe, and 2 Motor Launches are despatched to rendezvous with her at 0800 hrs on 14th.

0130 hrs  Force X is attacked by E-Boats off Cape Bon.  The ships engage and one is blown up.

0450 hrs  A U-boat attacks Force X off Fratelli Rock, just missing HMS Ashanti.  HMS Kenya attempts to ram the submarine without success.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Robert Buntine, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Harry Fox, Royal Australian Air Force; Pilot Officer David Jay, Royal Canadian Air Force; Flight Sergeant John Tanner, Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Operation Pedestal casualties  CLICK HERE

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 13 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  See above.

AIR HQ Arrivals  One Hudson, one Spitfire, four Beaufighters from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis, two Baltimores from LG 98.  Departures  Two Liberators to Fayid; one Hudson to Gibraltar; one DC3 to Bilbeis; two Spitfires to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington overshot the aerodrome and crashed: Wireless Operator/Air Gunner killed; rest of crew injured.  One Beaufighter failed to return from patrol: crew missing.  One Spitfire crashed on the aerodrome: pilot injured.  One Spitfire crashed in the sea through enemy action: pilot injured.  Two Spitfires believed shot down by enemy action: pilots missing.

LUQA  Intensive activity surrounding inbound convoy.  Station strength has gone up to 2783.  All entertainment is stopped; the cinema is used for accommodation which is very cramped – not enough beds, airmen sleeping with only two blankets.

TA QALI  Extensive operations: 32 Spitfires and 16 Beaufighters attacked enemy aerodromes and provided cover to the convoy.  1200 gallons of petrol were used in one day.  All ranks worked from dawn to dusk and through the night, servicing aircraft to enable the operation to proceed.

W/Cdr Wyatt was observing a Beaufighter taking off from his car when the aircraft failed to lift and turned to make another attempt.  In the dark, the pilot did not see W/Cdr Wyatt’s car and the aircraft swung into the side of the vehicle, the Beaufighter’s propeller ripping open the side of the car.  W/Cdr Wyatt escaped with slight injuries but was admitted to hospital.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 6.  Dealt with: 5 High Explosives, including 1 delayed-action (3 x 250kg; 2 x 50kg).

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11 August 1942: Axis Air Forces Massing in the Med

MALTA WAR DIARY: OPERATION PEDESTAL – SANTA MARIJA – DAILY EVENTS ON MALTAGC70  

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Heinkel HE 111

TORPEDO BOMBERS JOIN ENEMY FIGHTING FORCE 

Malta photo-reconnaissance pilots are reporting large concentrations of torpedo-carrying aircraft at Cagliari, Decimomannu and Pantelleria, accompanied by a corresponding number of fighters.  An unusual number of E Boats and MAS have also appeared in Trapani and Pantelleria.  They also report a significant increase in German aircraft, including 30 JU 88s, 20 Heinkel IIIs and their transports, JU 52s, a Gotha 242 and three DFS 230 gliders.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 AUGUST TO DAWN 12 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

     0620 hrs  An enemy aircraft reports sighting of the Malta convoy.

     0645 hrs  Ashanti, Ledbury, Zetland, Wilton, Bramham, Bicester, Foresight and Derwent commence fuelling off Gibraltar.

     0732 hrs  Vice-Admiral Commanding, North Atlantic warns convoy commander Vice Admiral Syfret that German reconnaissance aircraft are active in the Western Mediterranean.

Convoy aircraft carriers

 

0800 hrs  Coltsfoot, one of the corvettes screening the refuelling operation, reports that two torpedoes have been observed position 37 degrees 56 mins north, 1 degree 40 mins east.

0815 hrs  Radar contact alerts the convoy to the presence of enemy reconnaissance aircraft.  Two sections of four fighters from the convoy take to the air and patrol in turn throughout the day. Enemy JU 88s are flying at 20,000 feet or more, making it difficult to intercept.

0839 hrs  German submarine Uarsciek which has been shadowing the convoy overnight surfaces sends a radio signal to Rome.

1015-1105 hrs  Air raid alert for 21 enemy fighters approaching Malta.  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far and eight Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled: they sight enemy fighters but make no contact.

        1055 hrs  A message informs Syfret that a report of the convoy has been broadcast by Rome to “all units and stations”.

        1128 hrs  Nelson and Charybdis report probable torpedo discharges, at about 3 miles.

        1218 hrs  Aircraft carrier Furious, screened by Lightning and Lookout moves out to the port quarter of the convoy for Operation ‘Bellows’  –       the delivery of Spitfires to Malta.

        1229 hrs  Two flights of eight Spitfires are flown off the carrier.

Eagle is hit

 

1315 hrs  Eagle is hit on the port side by four torpedoes, fired from German submarine U 73, all within an interval of about 10 seconds.  Her engine rooms are damaged and boiler rooms flooded.  Operation Bellows is suspended while Lookout and Laforey are ordered to stand by Eagle.  Tug Jaunty also proceeds immediately towards the stricken carrier.

1323 hrs  Eagle heels rapidly over to port and sinks.  Laforey, Lookout and Jaunty pick up 927 survivors of a crew of 1160.

1350-1410 hrs  Operation Bellows resumes and the rest of the 38 Spitfires are flown off Furious.  One has a defect and lands on Indomitable.

1410-1500 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on intercept patrol: nothing sighted.

1420-1430 hrs  Enemy aircraft approach from the starboard beam and pass directly over the convoy at a great height but do not attack – believed to be photo-reconnaissance.  Eagle’s survivors are transferred to Keppel, Venomous and Malcolm.

1634 hrs  Syfret receives a message warning that the enemy will probably make a JU 88 attack at dusk.  The convoy is made ready to put up a screen of anti-aircraft fire.

1410-1500 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on intercept patrol: nothing sighted.

1515-1600 hrs  Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to cover the arrival of Spitfires at Malta: no enemy aircraft are sighted.

1710-1805 hrs; 1746-1800 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are on patrol: nothing to report.  Seven delivery Spitfires arrive at Hal Far: one is slightly damaged on landing.  The air raid alert sounds, probably for friendly aircraft.

1810 hrs  36 Spitfires are reported to have landed safely in Malta.

1825-2350 hrs  Nine Beaufighters of 248 Squadron take off from Ta Qali, their mission to shoot up Elmas and Decimomannu aerodromes in Sardinia.  They carry out a low-flying attack; most of the aircraft exhaust their ammunition on widely dispersed aircraft.  At Elmas, one hangar and two multi-engined aircraft are set on fire and planes badly damaged.  At Decimomannu, two Liberators and two Wellingtons co-operate in the attack.  All bombs are seen to burst on the aerodrome.  Five multi-engined aircraft are set on fire, of which two explode, and several others are seriously damaged.  Fires could be seen from up to 20 miles away.  Some of the Beaufighters are hit by splinters but are still serviceable.

1700-2045 hrs  The convoy is continuously snooped by three or more enemy aircraft, closely monitored by the fleet’s own fighters.

1830 hrs  Transfer of survivors to Keppel, Venomous and Malcolm is achieved.  Operation Bellows completed, five destroyers form a screen for Furious to depart for Gibraltar.

1854 hrs  Syfret orders the Senior Officer of destroyers to station Hunt class destroyers close to the flanks of the convoy by sunset.  In the event of an attack, the screen is to increase distance from the convoy to 6000 yards.

2030 hrs  Syfret receives confirmation that Cairo and 24 destroyers have been refuelled.  Radar reports show that the air raid is approaching.

HMS Victorious

 

2056 hrs  15 minutes after sunset, 30 JU 88s and six Heinkel 111 torpedo-bombers attack.  Destroyers on the port bow begin firing, followed almost immediately by the cruisers and battleships, and deter the Heinkels.  The JU 88s dive from 8000 feet to 2-300 feet.  Two aim for Victorious dropping two bombs close to her stern but cause no damage; the carrier’s own guns shoot both down.  One JU 88 drops two bombs near the refuelling vessels, one of which falls between the oilers and the escort, another dives on Jaunty but she counter-attacks, damaging the bomber with Oerlikon fire.  The convoy barrage is very effective; at least three enemy aircraft are shot down by ships’ gunfire.  No damage was done to any ships.  During the raid, radar picks up evidence of some submarine activity and three depth charge attacks are made by Quentin.

The convoy’s fighters are airborne to intercept the attackers but are unable to engage them due to poor light.  Some friendly fighters attempting to return to their carriers are fired on by their own ships.

2300-2340 hrs; 0005-0045 hrs; 0155-0210 hrs  Air raid alerts for eight aircraft which approach Malta singly. Bombs are dropped on the Zabbar area.

Military casualties  Leading Air Fitter Peter Jones, HMS St.Angelo.

Operation Pedestal casualties CLICK HERE

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 11 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe escorted P31 and P34 from Marsamxett to end of searched channel. Submarines then proceeded on patrol and Hythe anchored at Marsaxlokk.  A Baltimore on reconnaissance sighted Force Y 30 miles 090 degrees from Kuriat.The disposition of Italian Naval Units as ascertained by reconnaissance aircraft during the day was as follows: Taranto one Littorio and three Cavour battleships; Messina, two cruisers; Naples, one cruiser.  Otus sailed and proceeded to Gibraltar.

HMS Matchless

 

For Operation Pedestal Force Y, consisting of M/Vs Troilus and Orari escorted by Matchless and Badsworth sailed at 2030 hrs. Two Motor Launches escorted this force to a point one hour’s steaming from the end of the swept channel and then returned to Marsaxlokk where they anchored for the night.  Enemy warships were reported as having sailed from Cagliari at 2345 hrs, and to be steaming E at 25 knots.

AIR HQ  One Wellington attacked an enemy naval force consisting of two cruisers and two destroyers in position 295 degrees Cape San Vito, Sicily, 60 miles course 90 degrees, speed 20 knots.  Four 500lb bombs were dropped, straddling one cruiser.

Arrivals  Three Liberators, two Wellingtons from Shallufa; two Spitfires from Middle East; one Beaufort, two Marylands from LG 226; 37 Spitfires from Navy operation.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter suffers engine failure and crashes into the sea; crew uninjured.  One Spitfire pilot misjudges the runway; pilot uninjured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4.  Dealt with: 1 High Explosives, delayed-action (500kg).

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10 August 1942: Horses & Goats Slaughtered to Feed Malta

MALTA WAR DIARY: OPERATION PEDESTAL/SANTA MARIJA – DAILY EVENTS ON MALTAGC70                                                                                                                                    

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FARM ANIMALS CAN FEED ISLAND FOR 5-10 DAYS

”the absolute last issue from Island reserves occurs in five days, on 15 August.  After that we are down to the slaughter of horses and goats, once considered adequate for six months…the present census of animals on the Island is estimated to last from five to ten days.”  Mr Trench, manager of food distribution in Malta (1)

TROOPS REHEARSE FOR CONVOY

Army working parties on the airfields were ordered to down tools today in order to complete rehearsals for a ‘forthcoming convoy’ operation.  Thousands of men took part in the exercises, leaving only 500 at Luqa and 145 at Ta Qali to continue essential repairs and refuelling.  Transport was dispatched to sub-depots, ready for the collection and transfer of supplies from Grand Harbour into a network of storage facilities.  Tonight Malta command declared preparations complete: the Island’s forces are poised in anticipation that relief may be coming soon.

14 MERCHANT SHIPS READY FOR MALTA

This morning the Masters of fourteen merchant ships were each reading the contents of an envelope marked “Not to be opened until 0800/10th August”.  The message inside was from the First Lord of the Admiralty.  It read:  “God Speed”.

Overnight the merchant transports navigated through dense fog to pass through the Straits of Gibraltar.  With their warship escort, they form the largest convoy yet assembled in an all-out attempt to supply Malta, code-named ‘Operation Pedestal’.  Ahead of them lie the most heavily-patrolled waters of the Mediterranean and an enemy determined to stop them.

The supply ships Almeria Lykes, Brisbane Star, Clan Ferguson, Deucalion, Dorset, Empire Hope, Glenorchy, Melbourne Star, Port Chalmers, Rochester Castle, Santa Elisa, Waimarama and Wairangi, plus oil tanker Ohio left the Clyde on 2nd August escorted by a protective fleet including cruisers Kenya and Nigeria and up to 16 destroyers.  En route, Masters and crews of the merchant ships have been extensively trained in communication and manoeuvring skills they will need in the face of the expected enemy attacks.

Vice Admiral Syfret

Commander of the convoy is Vice-Admiral E N Syfret, CB, whose flagship Nelson also sailed from Scapa Flow last Sunday.  By 1600 hrs today the convoy and escort forces were complete:

FORCE Z battleships Nelson and Rodney, cruisers Charybdis, Phoebeand Sirius, destroyers Antelope, Eskimo, Ithuriel, Laforey, Lightning, Lookout, Quentin, Somali, Tartar, Vansittart, Westcott, Wilton, Wishart, Wrestler (later replaced by Amazon) and Zetland and three aircraft carriers: Eagle, Indomitable and Victorious, plus a fourth, Furious carrying a delivery of Spitfires for Malta.

FORCE X cruisers Cairo, Kenya, Manchester and Nigeria and destroyers Ashanti, Bicester, Bramham, Derwent, Foresight, Fury, Icarus, Intrepid, Ledbury, Pathfinder, Penn and Wilton.

FORCE R refuelling vessels, including fleet oil tankers RAF Brown Ranger and Dingledale, HM Tugs  Jaunty and Salvonia, plus escorting corvettes Jonquil, Geranium, Spirea and Coltsfoot.

Two decoy convoys escorted by cruisers and destroyers are due to set sail from the eastern Mediterranean as a tactic to divert the attention of the enemy from the main convoy in the west.  One sailed from Port Said at dusk, the other from Haifa at 0400 hrs. They are due to rendezvous at 0800 hrs tomorrow morning and then to turn back when darkness falls.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 AUGUST TO DAWN 11 AUGUST 1942

Weather   Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

1120-1218 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept an approaching formation of enemy aircraft.

1130-1240 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled to intercept.  Two return early.

1145 hrs  Air raid alert.  Sgt Mahar 185 Squadron is shot up and crash lands at Luqa: he is unhurt.  229 Squadron red section leader F/Lt Swannick breaks away at 7000 feet with his undercarriage down and does not pick up again.  A parachutist is seen going down in the sea and later picked up.  Sgt Sidney returned to base with his engine cutting out.  P/O Foster and another Spitfire see enemy fighters at 24-26000 feet.  They turn to attack but are jumped by two other fighters.  Spitfire pilots see bombs explode on Ta Qali but lose sight of the enemy aircraft.  They then receive a report of enemy aircraft heading north, change course to give chase but see nothing.

1155 hrs  Two JU 88s drop anti-personnel bombs on Ta Qali aerodrome, killing Nursing Orderly LAC Holt and wounding Nursing Orderly Sgt Harris, who is likely to be in hospital for seven weeks).  Five Beaufighters and two Spitfires are damaged; one ambulance is destroyed.

1224 hrs  All clear.

1635-1810 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron search for the missing Spitfire pilot: no sighting.

1915-1923 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are airborne to search for unidentified aircraft which prove to be friendly.

1940-2030 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron patrol off the coast of Sicily for E-Boats: none sighted.  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron also search for enemy shipping, flying at an average height of 5-10000 feet.  The sight no vessels but see an unidentified aircraft, thought to be a Spitfire.

2003-2230 hrs  One Albacore of the Navy Air Service searches for enemy submarines but finds nothing.  Pilot S/L White and Observer Lt Lashmore crash-land on return to base, damaging the aircraft; they are unhurt.

2144-0022 hrs  Air raid alert.  Five enemy Italian Cz 1007s with an escort of seven fighters drop thirty 100kg bombs on Luqa aerodrome and the Sliema area.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Jerrold Smith, Royal Canadian Air Force; Leading Aircraftsman George Holt, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

Enemy casualties  Messerschmitt pilot Schmidt shot down into the sea: picked up by RAF rescue launch and taken prisoner.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 10 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Otus sailed and proceeded to Gibraltar.  Day One for Operation PEDESTAL of which a separate report has been made.  Force Y, consisting of M/Vs Troilus and Orari escorted by Matchless and Badsworth sailed at 2030. Two Motor Launches escorted this force to a point one hour’s steaming from the end of the swept channel and then returned to Marsaxlokk where they anchored for the night.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two DC3 from Bilbeis; four Beaufighters from Gibraltar; one Baltimore from Burg Arab.  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; two DC3 to Bilbeis.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire damaged in combat, crash-landed; pilot uninjured.  One Spitfire shot down into the sea; pilot baled out – missing.  One Spitfire in taxiing accident; pilot uninjured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 11.  Dealt with: 2 high explosives, including 1 delayed-action (1 x 500kg; 1 x 250kg).

(1)  Source:  navalhistory.net.  The Supply of Malta 1940-42

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9 August 1942: Is a Convoy on the Way to Malta?

MALTA WAR DIARY: OPERATION PEDESTAL/SANTA MARIJA EVENTS ON MALTAGC70 UPDATED DAILY – STARTS TODAY                                                                                                                      

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Communications between Italian commanders in Rome and Cagliari suggest that a large fleet of Allied warships and merchant transports is approaching the straits of Gibraltar.  According to Enigma decoders in England, Axis wires are alive with warnings to all Mediterranean headquarters that a convoy is gathering to supply Malta.

GOVERNOR & COMMANDER IN CHIEF: SITUATION REPORT MALTA TO 31ST JULY 1942

Morale in Malta ‘high’ despite hardships

Casualties (civilians only)

  • Killed 1308 (men 619, women 382, children 307)
  • Seriously injured 1399 (men 688, women 449, children 262)
  • These figures to not include 28 civilians, men killed in SS Moor in Grand Harbour.

Figures of casualties since 20th April clearly indicate lessening in severity of raids.  This followed on the departure of considerable part of German Air Force from Sicily shortly before the end of that month. Nevertheless substantial German Air Force remains in Sicily, and casualties and damage…are considerably higher than for the corresponding period of last year.  Morale remains high despite restricted food and shocks of the Libyan campaign which local opinion watches eagerly.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 AUGUST TO DAWN 10 AUGUST 1942

1010-1102 hrs  Air raid alert.

0950-1105 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  They sight three ME 109s.  Red section makes for the attack but two of the enemy aircraft swing round and make off.  P/O Sherwood makes for the leading Messerschmitt, putting the Spitfire’s nose down to almost vertical and making a beam attack from 250 yards.  He fires a two-second burst and sees strikes slightly forward of the cockpit: pieces fall off.  The Messerschmitt is last seen streaming glycol and losing height.  Several other pilots confirm.  Pilots report excessive radio interference by whistling.  Three Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are also scrambled to intercept but are recalled.

1210-1240 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne on patrol: nothing to report.

1425-1455 hrs  Three Spitfires 249 Squadron carry out a patrol to protect minesweepers off Kalafrana Bay.

1430-1455 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but sight nothing.  One Spitfire is knocked sideways on landing, causing one undercarriage leg to collapse: the pilot Sgt Budd is unhurt.

2300-2315 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which drop bombs near Ghain Tuffieha and in the sea.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                              Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 9 AUGUST 1942

HMS Hythe

 

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe swept P44 and Una to end of swept harbour whence they proceeded on patrol.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Six Beaufighters from EDCU; one Baltimore from Burg Arab; two Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire crashed in the sea; pilot injured.

HAL FAR  185 Squadron stood down for the day.

LUQA  A concert is held at the camp cinema.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 6. 

 

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2-8 August 1942: Without a Convoy Malta Will Fall

MALTA WAR DIARY: OPERATION PEDESTAL – SANTA MARIJA – EVENTS ON MALTAGC70 UPDATED DAILY.  STARTS 9 AUGUST                                                                                                                

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SUPPLY SITUATION NOW CRITICAL

“I was a waitress at Xara Villa, where the pilots of Ta Qali lived.  I was 15.  We used to lick the plates we collected after the meal, before we sent them down to wash.  When they realised, the pilots even left us a little on the plate.”  Maria Parsons (nee Spiteri), GeorgeCross Island Association

Malta command is facing a crisis.  Unless another convoy reaches the Island by Friday of this week, supplies of food and fuel will run out within days.  The minimal stores delivered over recent weeks by submarine and by fast minelayers Manxman and Welshman have been barely enough to meet a few days’ needs.  Without immediate help, Malta could fall into enemy hands.

2 August 1942: Cluster Bomb Kills 13 Year Old

Butterfly bomb

A 13 year old boy was killed yesterday in Birkirkara by a German anti-personnel bomb. The village is now the most densely populated in Malta thanks to the many refugees from Grand Harbour who have taken shelter there.  In an air raid centred on Ta Qali late on Sunday evening, Birkirkara was showered with butterfly bombs – cluster bombs which are released from canisters holding up to 100 each.

The Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Sections were drafted in to clear the dozens of unexploded small bombs reported across the area.  At least one remained undetected.  Yesterday afternoon a group of boys were playing hide and seek behind rubble walls surrounding the fields outside the village.  13 year old Joe Galea jumped over a wall and landed on one of the bombs which exploded, killing him instantly.  Adapted from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 AUGUST TO DAWN 3 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Aerodrome working parties and transport:  500 men each at Ta Qali and Hal Far, 1000 at Luqa.

0915-0954 hrs  Air raid alert.  Six JU 88s with an escort of 20 plus fighters including ME 109s drop 2800 kg of bombs on the area of Safi strip.

1310 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft; two return early.  The remainder intercept the enemy: red section is attacked by two MEs with no outcome.  Blue section sight six Messerschmitts, dive past but lose them on tearning.  F/Lt Watts fires on one ME but sees no strike.

1350 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are also scrambled to intercept enemy fighters. Sgt Weaver probably destroys one ME 109. P/O Guthrie crashes in a field on the outskirts of Zebbieh and is killed.  Sgt McLeod is reported missing: Spitfires search for him until dusk without success.

1445 hrs  All clear.

1657-1715 hrs  Air raid alert for an enemy fighter sweep which does not cross the coast.

2250-2325 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which does not cross the coast.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer James Guthrie Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Sergeant McLeod, Royal New Zealand Air Force.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 2 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P43 and Una arrived and were swept into Marsamxett Harbour by Rye.

AIR HQ Arrivals  Two Hudsons, one Liberator, two Beauforts from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis.  Departures  One Hudson, one Catalina to Gibraltar; two DC3 to Bilbeis; one Hudson to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down by enemy aircraft: pilot killed.  One Spitfire in formation jumped by enemy aircraft: pilot presumed shot down; missing.

3 August 1942: Radio Interference Hampers RAF Fighter Ops 

RADIO CONTACT CUT DURING DOG FIGHT

RAF Spitfire pilots are reporting interference with their radio signals over Malta.  Signals were interrupted at a crucial moment during an air battle with Messerschmitt fighters this morning.  Early reports suggest the problem only occurs over land: interference clears once aircraft fly out to sea.  The radio signal interruptions could threaten the effectiveness of defensive fighter operations over the Island.

TROOPS GO HUNGRY

…there was less and less food. Our ration went down to 1,000 to 1,400 calories a day. We had one tin of bully beef for eight men, and one slice of bread each (when I went to Malta I weighed 10.9 stone, when I came back it was 8.6 stone) . Our uniforms and boots were wearing out. We put bits of cardboard in the boots to protect our feet. All supplies had to come in by sea, and there were enemy submarines that could be seen in the clear water. From the Garrison Fort we heard that it was feared we could no longer hold the island.  Jimmie Ferguson, Royal Irish Fusiliers (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 AUGUST TO DAWN 4 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine.

0615-0700 hrs  Air raid alert.  Enemy aircraft do not cross the coast.

0810-0900 hrs  Three Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: nothing to report.

0933-0955 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled: nothing sighted.

1105-1200 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne to act as escort to minesweepers: nothing to report.

1115-1135 hrs  Air raid alert.  Seven Spitfires Hal Far and eight of 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: two of 229 return early.  The remainder sight six Messerschmitts overhead and try to gain height but are bounced by the MEs and have to break away without firing a shot.  All pilots report marked VHF radio interference.

1233-1305 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: two return early.  The others sight nothing.

1455-1515 hrs  Air raid alert.  Enemy aircraft do not cross the coast.

1610-1625 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy fighters.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron scrambled to intercept sight four ME 109s which turn and make for home very fast: no contact.

1755-1820 hrs  Air raid alert.  Enemy fighters are reported approaching the Island.  Seven Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept: nothing sighted.

1855-1945 hrs  Three Spitfires 229 Squadron carry out a patrol but sight nothing.  The weather is hazy, visibility two miles.

2200-2235 hrs; 2230-2345 hrs; 2359-0025 hrs  Air raid alerts, each for single enemy aircraft, none cross the coast.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 3 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy, Rye, Hythe, and Swona carried out sweep of five cable strip inshore of QBB 273. 4 moored mines were swept.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Beaufighters, five Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Liberator to LG 224 or Fayid.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down into sea: pilot rescued, injured.  One Wellington overshot on landing: pilot and crew uninjured.  Transit aircraft missing  One Wellington en route from Gibraltar to Malta.

LUQA  The Secretary of State visits Luqa aerodrome.

TA QALI  Wing Commander Douglas Hamilton ceased to be attached from Headquarters, RAF Mediterranean.  Wing Comannder Pike, DFC, arrived on move of 249 Squadron to Ta Qali.  All pilots of 603 Squadron posted to 229 Squadron on formation at Ta Qali.

4 August 1942: Spitfire Pilot Wins Close Dog-fight

Spitfires over Malta (2)

Malta Spitfire pilot Lt Swales was flying one of four Spitfires of 229 Squadron this morning when they encountered two Italian Macchi fighters.  Lt Swales attacked, firing a short burst, followed by S/Ldr Douglas who fired all his ammunition but could not get closer than 400 yards.  No strikes were seen but Lt Swales had not finished.  He turned on the other Macchi and fired a 5 second burst at 200 yards into the starboard wing and fuselage of the enemy aircraft, which started to smoke.  The Italian swooped into a steep dive and Lt Swales followed him down, firing until all his ammunition was spent.  The Macchi was last seen at water level, smoking badly.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 AUGUST TO DAWN 5 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Luqa working parties are reduced by the withdrawal of 450 men of 1 Brigade.  Total still employed on all aerodromes approximately 1500 all ranks.

0725-0900 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali search for a missing Wellington.  They see a large oil patch and circle at deck level but find no wreckage.  Enemy fighters are reported but not seen.

0830-0845 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  They sight two Macchi 202 fighters which are attacked by S/Ldr Douglas and Lt Swales.  One Macchi is probably destroyed by Lt Swales.  A Dornier flying boat escorted by fighters later picks up the pilot.

0915-0945 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept: nothing to report.

1445-1530 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft and climb to attack three ME 109s but are unable to catch them.  Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled and sight three enemy aircraft but are ordered on another course and see no others.  All Spitfires report marked radio interference over the Island which is not as bad at sea.

1625-1710 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft but sight nothing.

1735-1750 hrs  Air raid alert for 20 enemy aircraft carrying out a fighter sweep.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft but are unable to make contact.  Spitfires from Hal Far are also airborne: one Re 2001 is probably destroyed.

2220-2340 hrs  Air raid alerts for two enemy aircraft which approach separately and drop bombs on Mellieha Ridge and on Gozo.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                                     Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 4 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  WD Vessel Snipe carried out night run with Coast Artillery Searchlights.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Hudsons, two Wellingtons, three Beaufighters from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down in combat: pilot baled out, uninjured.

HAL FAR  185 Squadron is stood down.

1ST BN CHESHIRE REGIMENT Night firing exercises on Pembroke ranges.

5 August 1942:  Malta’s Children ‘Ghostly Pale’

Food shortages had become desperate. It had reached the point where bread, an important staple for most people, had become rationed with hardly enough for the average family and its quality greatly reduced by the addition of potatoes and other ingredients. I still remember my mother, with three growing hungry youngsters, bartering a gold ring on the Black Market in exchange for a badly needed loaf of bread – just to put something into our empty stomachs.  My mother, like most mothers, often kept herself short just to give us a little extra to eat.…

As the siege tightened we begin to notice the lean and haggard faces of the men, women and children around us, the young and the old.  You begin to notice the start of sunken cheeks and dark shadows under the eyes. You begin to see the thinness of the arms and legs of chidren. You feel general body weakness where the minimum effort saps one’s strength. You see the faces of people of fair complexion beginning to turn a ghostly pale or ashen gray and those of darker complexion into a ghastly greenish hue.

The pangs of hunger had become so acute that chewing the end tip of my leather belt became a common practice, as with most others.  The taste sometimes still lingers. For a while water consumption, when not cut off, helped fill the voids in our stomachs, but you can’t fool the body all the time.  Waistlines now had shrunk to the point where, with continued belt tightening the tip of one’s belt was now reaching the small of one’s back…

It was during a heavy air attack at Marsa Creek, an inlet a short distance from my home, where a freighter was hit sending some of its cargo of flour in great clouds high into the air. Just  as soon as the dust had settled, crowds of kids, including my nine years old brother Francis, descended on the scene widely scooping up from the ground, in empty tins and cans, grit, dust and all, as much flour as possible to take home.  At this unexpected bounty, little as it was, my mother, completely surprised and overjoyed, quickly added water kneading it into a kind of dough and cooked it. We could not wait until it was ready and when it was, we literally wolfed it down, crunching the dust and grit between our teeth and offering deep thanks to God for his loving beneficence…

The ravages of the siege with its acute food shortages, continuous bombing and sleepless nights left its mark in the form of early deaths, weakened constitutions, miscarriages and stillborn babies. With weakened immune systems they fell prey to infections and diseases which in normal times would have been easily overcome but became fatal for people so weakened. There were outbreaks of typhoid and of polio, a disease then practically unknown in Malta. Their death certificates may show statements such as ”death from natural causes ” or “death from this disease or that” but really they were war casualties.  Joseph V Stephens, May 17, 2012

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 AUGUST TO DAWN 6 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Pen-building on aerodromes continues on the same scale as yesterday.  Extensive beach and aerodrome patrols are carried out by 1 Brigade.  Major General R MacK Scobie CBE MC arrived by air from ME to take over as GOC Troops, Malta.

0850-0935 hrs  Air raid alert.

0930-1015 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali search for an enemy pilot in the sea but find nothing.

1030-1200 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept an enemy fighter sweep; two return early.  The other two see eight ME 109s and attack one apiece, each firing a three-second burst but seeing no strike.  The Spitfires swing round to make a second attack but the Messerschmitts get away.

1045-1155 hrs  Air raid alert.

1207-1239 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are airborne on intercept patrol: nothing sighted.

1745-1810 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled and sight 15 enemy fighters.  One Re 2001 attacks Sgt Irwin but overshoots.  Sgt Irwin closes in and counter-attacks with a three-second burst at 250 yards, hitting the root of the port wing and forward of the fuselage.  The Italian fighter streams glycol and dives away: probably destroyed.  Sgt Irwin is then attacked by another Re 2001 and hit by an explosive shell.  His Spitfire goes into a downward spin but Sgt Irwin is unhurt.  Four of the Spitfires report marked radio interference.

2330-2350 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which drop bombs on Mellieha Ridge and on Gozo, causing civilian casualties.

Military casualties  Nil.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Gaetana Abela, age 20; Samuel Zammit, age 63.  Gozo (Gharb)  Kalang Mizzi, age 60.  Gozo (San Lawrenz)  Nazzerna Attard, age 28; Josephine Farrugia, age 66; Carmela Farrugia, age 35; Mary Farrugia, age 35.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 5 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P44 returned from patrol off Kuriat, having scored 2 hits with 3 inch guns on a 2000 ton [merchant vessel] off Linosa and was swept in by Hythe.  M/S Flotilla swept 19 mines in Northern rectangle of QBB 273.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Catalina, one Spitfire, one Beaufighter, two Hudsons from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis.  Departures  Three Hudsons, one Catalina to Gibraltar; one Wellington to LG 224; one DC3 to Bilbeis.

6 August 1942: Shoes Made From Old Tyres

The shortage was not just in food. It was in everything. Clothes and shoes, for example, were completely unobtainable. Shoes, which wore out quicker than clothes, were substituted by scrapped vehicle and aircraft tyres for soles and with pieces of string to hold them [on] the foot.”  Joseph Zahra, 2011

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 AUGUST TO DAWN 7 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0645-0750 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol; two return early.  No enemy aircraft are sighted.

0900-0930 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled on intercept patrol; one returns early: no sightings.

1010-1030 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: nothing to report.

1150-1220 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1420-1445 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  They sight enemy fighters and climb to three thousand feet.  The enemy aircraft change course and are lost in the haze.

1700-1730 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but find nothing.

1940-2030 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron search for enemy shipping but sight no craft.

2226-2243 hrs  Air raid alert.  A single enemy aircraft drops bombs three miles north east of Grand Harbour.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                              Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 6 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy carried out Oropesa, SA and LL sweep of Marsaxlokk approaches and anchored there for the night. One moored mine was swept in inshore strip and this strip is now considered clear.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One DC3 from Bilbeis.  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; one DC3 to Bilbeis.

LUQA  A further decrease in the working party strength brings the figure for the aerodrome down to just over 800 all ranks.

7 August 1942: No Deliveries to Relieve Malta

HMS Speedy minesweeping off Malta (NWMA Malta)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 AUGUST TO DAWN 8 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Slight increase in strength of working parties provided by 4 Brigade brings the total for all aerodromes up to approx 1400 all ranks.

0830-0915 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: nothing to report.

1315 hrs  Two Beaufighters Mark VI of 248 Squadron arrive at Ta Qali.

1405-1435 hrs  Air raid alert for six ME 109s which cross the Island at very high altitude.

1630-1650 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol: nothing to report.

1830-1945 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are airborne: nothing sighted.

1945-2025 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron search for enemy shipping: no craft sighted.

2325-2335 hrs  Air raid alert.  Only two of the five enemy aircraft which approach the Island cross the coast, dropping bombs near Torri L’Ahmar, Il Maqhtab and in the sea off St Andrews

Military casualties  Nil.                                                              Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 7 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept Otus into Marsaxlokk and then swept centre line of QBB 273 while returning to Marsamxett.  Otus remained bottomed off Delimara Light until dark, when she surfaced and proceeded alongside Shell Pier to unload cargo.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Beaufighters, four Hudsons, one Wellington from Gibraltar; three Beauforts from LG 224; three Beauforts from LG 226; two Baltimores from Burg Arab.

LUQA  The camp cinema is now running.

8 August 1942: Enemy Tactics Aim to Use Up Malta’s Fighter Fuel

Sir Ronald Mackenzie Scobie in Athens

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING 8 AUGUST 1942

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

  1. Quietest week in many months for bombing.  Enemy air effort limited to attempts to wear down fighter strength and waste our aviation petrol by fighter sweeps and tip and run tactics.  Average 30 fighter sorties daily against Island.  Total 10 bombers by day, 17 by night.  Bombs widespread.  Enemy fighter casualties four destroyed, two probable, one damaged by RAF.
  2. 2.  RAF and Infantry working parties totalling 2000 men and 150 vehicles completed building of 30 pens for RAF in record time.
  3. 3.  Military damage and casualties nil.
  4. 4.  Major General R Mack Scobie arrived 6 August to take over GOC.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 AUGUST TO DAWN 9 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0930-1015 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept 30 approaching enemy fighters including ME 109s and Re 2001s.  Two Spitfires return early.  The remainder sight eight Macchi fighters.  Then two ME 109s are seen diving on three Spitfires as another six pass overhead.  Eight more Messerschmitts join the fight and the Spitfires spiral down towards the MEs.  P/O Jones fires a burst at 50 yards at a ME 109 which is chasing a Spitfire: the Messerschmitt turns into the sun and is seen spinning downwards, streaming glycol.  Sgt Beurling fires at a ME 109 which streams glycol and dives into the sea from 20000 feet.  Sgt Beurling is shot up and crash lands at Luqa; he is unhurt.  Sgt Budd attacks a ME 109, opening fire at 100 yards and hitting the starboard wing.  Sgt Budd is himself shot up and slightly wounded in the shoulder.  Three ME 109s are destroyed and another damaged.

1030-1115 hrs  Air raid alert.  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron patrol off Grand Harbour: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1215-1235 hrs  Air raid alert.

1626-1706 hrs  Two Spitfires Hal Far carry out a search.

1936-2027 hrs  Two Spitfires Hal Far patrol off the coast of Sicily in search of E boats: nothing sighted.

2145-2205 hrs  Air raid alert for a single aircraft which drops bombs in the sea north of Gozo.

Military casualties  Sergeant Clarence Kelly, Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 8 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Otus proceeded to bottoming berth at 0600, having discharged all cargo except five torpedoes. Minesweepers cut two mines while clearing special area. After dark, Otus completed unloading.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Catalina, two Beaufighters from Gibraltar; one DC3 from BilbeisDepartures  Four Hudsons, one Catalina to Gibraltar; one DC3 to Bilbeis; one Wellington to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire damaged in enemy action: pilot uninjured.  One Spitfire failed to return to base:pilot missing.

TA QALI  One ME 109 destroyed by P/O Jones, one by Sgt Beurling.  One ME 109 damaged by Sgt Budd.  Two Spitfires damaged.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 47.  Dealt with: 16 High Explosives, including 2 delayed-action (1 x 1800kg; 2 x 500kg; 6 x 250kg; 3 x 50kg; 3 x 35kg; 1 x 12kg); 127 anti-personnel bombs plus a few oil incendiaries.

(1)  An Irish Fusilier in Malta, BBC WW2 People’s War, contributed by IpswichMuseum.  WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar.

(2) Canadian Air Aces and Heroes, WWI, WWII and Korea

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed.  For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2017 in 1942, August 1942

 

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