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ROYAL NAVY OFFICER TAKES ON MINE DISPOSAL CHALLENGE
Enemy mines now encircling the coastal waters of Malta are presenting a serious threat to local boats as well as Royal Navy ships and approaching convoys. Lieutenant Edward D Woolley RN arrived in Malta on 13 June to take on the duties of Royal Navy Rendering Mines Safe and Minesweeping Maintenance Officer. Today he received a call to deal with a mine off Malta’s north coast.
“I was taken to St Paul’s Bay where a fisherman had reported an object lying on the sea bed. We found the fisherman and he took me out a distance of some two or three miles in his small rowing boat. As far as I was concerned there was just a lot of water and we were about a mile offshore, as he didn’t appear to have laid a marker buoy I didn’t see how the devil he was going to find the right place…he rowed on and on and then stopped, looked all round him and signified we had arrived. I put the waterglass over the side and damn my eyes we were sitting slap on top of a very fine magnetic mine. The water here was ninety feet deep but it was so clear through the waterglass that I could read the figures on the case which are less than two inches high…
We went out with one of the minesweepers but although we played about for hours we just couldn’t sweep it… later I prepared a charge and went out once more in a rowing boat and lowered it down to the mine. It all sounds very simple like that but it wasn’t. It was a bit rought that day and the boat was bobbing up and down like a cork and on the move all the time. I was leaning over the side with my stomach very uncomfortably bearing on the gunwhale, a very hot sun on my back, a waterglass in one hand with the weighted charge on in the other and trying to give instruction to my assistant which way to pull… The first attempt to countermine was not successful…all I had done had been to blow it about thirty yards along the sea bed, so I had all the performance again of laying another charge. This time, although to my disappointment the mine did not detonate, it was split in two and looked like a half-peeled banana so it was, to all intents and purposes, destroyed.” (1)
AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 JULY TO DAWN 11 JULY 1941
0009-0112 hrs; 0136-0221 hrs Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft in total which approach the Island singly. Three cross the coast from the south and south west. Bombs are dropped on near Bardia Ridge, near Dingli and on Ghain Tuffieha camp. One falls on the Ghain Tuffieha searchlight and fails to explode. The site is evacuated. Bombs are also dropped on Wardia Ridge and in the sea west of the Island. Two Hurricanes are scrambled with each approach. Searchlights illuminate raiders but there are no engagements. Wellington aircraft come in to land during the raid, causing confusion among the Island’s defenders.
OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 10 JULY 1941
ROYAL NAVY Rorqual proceeded on patrol, but returned at 2200 hrs with engine defects. 4 Swordfish left to attack Tripoli, but returned as weather unsuitable.
AIR HQ Arrivals 4 Blenheim (3 of 114 Squadron, 1 of 82 Squadron), 1 Sunderland. Departures 3 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Tripoli and convoy search. 148 Squadron 9 Wellingtons night bombing attack on railway marshalling yards at Naples causing damage and fires plus a large explosion in an airframe factory. 1 Wellington was struck by lightning but returned safely.
HAL FAR A Fulmar patrolled the Catania area but returned due to bad weather.
KALAFRANA Overnight 20 small 15kg bombs were dropped on the south slipway and barrack areas. Two small store buildings received direct hits and the flying boat hangar; the Heinkel float-plane housed within received superficial damage from bomb splinters. Two Army personnel were injured by bomb splinters.
1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT Under ‘Exercise Asia’ the Mobile Machine-gun Company was ordered out which proved a difficult procedure as many of the personnel were already employed in the anti-parachute platoons, wearing different dress and equipment.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 1 (100kg HE).
(1) Mines Over Malta, Frederick R Galea, Wise Owl Publications
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