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29 November-5 December 1942: The Siege is Broken

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MALTA WAR DIARY  FINISHES 5 DECEMBER 1942

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29 November 1942: Starvation Rations Barely Eased Despite Convoy

Children in ruinsMalta has been holding its breath for news from the Government following the arrival of last week’s convoy.  The first one subject on everyone’s mind is food.  For many weeks, the Island’s armed forces and civilians alike have been on the verge of starvation.  The want of food has created a greater fear even than heavy bombing.  Children crying for want of food have become a common sight in the streets.  The death rate among babies and the elderly has risen, viral and infections diseases have increased.

Although they could not openly acknowledge it, the authorities knew that without the convoy supplies would have run out completely on 3 December.  Even with the latest delivery, stocks are only sufficient to feed the Island for another two weeks and there is no certainty when the next convoy will arrive.

Today’s announcement outlined the difficult choice faced by the Government: whether to raise rations in the hope of another convoy, or to be cautious until safe passage for supply ships is guaranteed.  In the event rations will be raised slightly, with an increase in the all-important bread allowance targeted at men from 16 to 60 in the first instance, starting 1 December.  For the rest of the population cheese and fats rations will be doubled and sugar restored to previous ration rates.  Any increase in other commodities will have to wait until further convoy deliveries.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 30 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Mainly fair.

0740-0825 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne to patrol Cape Scalabri as rear cover for returning bombers: no enemy aircraft seen.

1005 hrs  Spitfires from Luqa are airborne to provide cover for 185 Squadron returning from a bombing mission.

1100-1215 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to act as cover for returning Spitfires of 185 Squadron: no enemy sighted.

1425-1605 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on patrol: no sightings.

1640-1647 hrs  Air raid alert: aircraft identified as friendly.

1220-1325 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron carry out a sweep over south east Sicily: nothing sighted.

Night  Beaufighters 89 Squadron on intercept patrol over the Island and surrounding area: no enemy aircraft seen.

0230-0505 hrs  One Swordfish is despatched to search for a missing Wellington crew: an oil patch is spotted on the sea, but no dinghy.

Military casualties  Nil.

Civilian casualties  Zejtun  Emanuel Carabott, age 53.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 29 NOVEMBER 1942

P 46 HMS Unruffled

P 46 HMS Unruffled

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe swept P 46 to sea.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Beaufighter, one Hurricane from Bone; two Hudsons from Gibraltar; two Wellingtons from Benghazi.  Departures  One DC 3, one Wellington to LG 224; one DC 3 to El Adem; one Liberator to Gibraltar; one Beaufighter to Bone; one Beaufighter to Algiers via Bone.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort shot down by enemy aircraft: crew missing.

LUQA  Five sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering harbours and aerodromes in Italy.  1730-2300 hrs  Seven Wellingtons 40 and 104 Squadrons were airborne to attack the docks at Bizerta in three waves.  Bombs fell near fuel tanks and among buildings, causing one large fire visible 50 miles away.  Eight Beauforts 39 Squadron were sent to lay mines in the entrance of Palermo harbour:  one was hit by flak and ditched into the sea.  The crew pilot F/Sgt Ellis Walker and Sgts R J McCallough, G R A Duffield and G D Stevens are missing.

TA QALI  0605-1055 hrs  Two Beaufighters 227 Squadron on offensive sweep strafed motor transport and railway in Pantelleria.  0725-0920 hrs  Two Spitfires 227 Squadron on offensive sweep: no sightings.  0730-0830 hrs  Nine Spitfires, five carrying bombs, of 249 Squadron on bombing sweep:  bombs were dropped on Comiso aerodrome with good results.  Beaufighters had their most active day of the month, flying 18 sorties against shipping and aircraft in the north east area of Tunis.  1010-1330 hrs  Three Beaufighters 227 Squadron on offensive sweep: one coaster attacked and damaged.  1250-1630 hrs  Two Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive sweep: P/O Palmer destroyed one JU 52.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Convoy duties continue.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged at sub-depot.

 

30 November 1942:  Spitfire Bombers Turn Table on Axis

AIR RAID STATISTICS NOVEMBER 1942

  • Total number of alerts to date 3165
  • Total number of alerts this month 30
  • Number of blank days 11
  • Number of night raids 13
  • Raid free nights 23
  • Alerts for own planes 7
  • Total time from air raid alert to Raiders Passed 10 hrs 35 mins
  • Average length of alert 21.2 mins

MALTA’S FIGHTER BOMBERS KEEP AXIS AIRCRAFT ON THE GROUND

Spitfire Mk V fighter bomber

Spitfire Mk V fighter bomber

Having suffered for many months at the hands of Messerschmitt fighter bombers, Malta has turned the tables on the Axis with its own Spitfire Bomber force.  Brought into use for the first time at the beginning of this month, the Island’s fighter bombers have carried out many attacks on the southern Italian aerodromes, flying a total of 54 successful sorties in which they dropped 13 tons of bombs.

Main targets for the Spitfire Bombers are Comiso and Gela aerodromes.  Although many German and Italian fighters are still based in south east Sicily, they have shown a surprising reluctance to engage Malta’s fighter bombers.  On the few occasions when enemy fighters have been encountered the close escort of Spitfires has had no difficulty in driving them off.   Their busiest day so far was Wednesday 25 November, when Spitfire Bombers flew 19 sorties.

Today saw 13 sorties: the first this morning was by 185 Squadron.  Four fighter bombers with four Spitfire fighters as close escort were despatched to bomb Comiso aerodrome.  Four explosions were observed to the rear of the main buildings east of the aerodrome.  On the way out, the second pair of Spitfire bombers was attacked from below by a Macchi 200.  Strikes hit Sgt Gunstone in Red 3, who fired three bursts in return, seeing strikes along the Italian’s fuselage and can claim one Macchi 200 damaged.  17 more Spitfires, nine of which were carrying bombs, attacked Comiso in two waves: one Macchi 200 was damaged.

272 SQUADRON COMMANDING OFFICER BACK FROM THE DEAD

Two RAF officers walked into the RAF Officers’ mess today to the surprise and delight of their comrades who thought they had been lost in action.  Squadron Leader Antony (Tony) Watson, Commanding Officer of 272 Squadron, and his navigator Pilot Officer C F Cutting were reported missing on 14 November.  During an attack on El Aouina aerodrome, they were strafing a German JU 52 on the ground when their Beaufighter was hit by flak, damaging the starboard engine.  They were last seen making an emergency landing on the beach at Tunis, six miles from the airfield.

S/Ldr Watson today related how he and P/O Cutting set fire to the Beaufighter, then set off to find the Allied lines, which they managed to reach without being captured.  Eventually they were able to hitch a ride back to Malta, where they have been duly given membership of the ‘Late Arrivals Club’.

NORTH AFRICAN VENTURE CANCELLED AGAIN

The proposed Army mission to a French port in North Africa was called off again today.  The move follows the report from the RAF, following a reconnaissance flight yesterday.  The project leader Major H M Vaux, MC, also liaised with 1st Army at present in Tunisia and, having reviewed all the information, Fortress Headquarters decided to cancel the proposed operation.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 1 DECEMBER 1942

Weather   Variable; local showers.

0705 hrs  Two Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are airborne to search for a missing Beaufort: no dinghy is seen.

0755 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squaqdron Luqa are airborne to cover the return of fighter bombers: no enemy aircraft seen.

1615-1645 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1615-1700 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron  Hal Far on patrol Grand Harbour: nothing seen.

2359 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa on patrol over Pantelleria: no sightings.

0212-0214 hrs  Air raid alert: aircraft identified as friendly.

Military casualties  Sergeant William Clark, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Sergeant Kenneth Gamble, RAF VR; Flight Sergeant Laurence Helme, RAF VR; Sergeant Thomas Howarth, RAF VR; Sergeant Ronald McLean, RAF VR; Sergeant William Richards, RAF; all 39 Squadron.  Sergeant Donald Reeve, RAF VR, 242 Squadron; Flying Officer Richard Twomey, Royal Australian Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS 30 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  The move of 821 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm (twelve Albacores) from the Western Desert was completed today. No aircraft were lost during passage. Hebe swept P 35 out and P 311 and P 44 in.  P 311 joins Tenth Submarine Flotilla, reporting an uneventful passage direct from the United Kingdom.

P 44 HMS United

P 44 HMS United

HMS Una arrived from patrol in the Gulf of Tunis. On 27 November, she torpedoed and sank a 4000 ton merchant vessel, one of two escorted by a destroyer.  The merchant vessel blew up causing superficial damage to the Una at 1200 yards.  HMS P 44 returned from a patrol off Burat-el-Hsun, Tripoli and Kerkennah areas. At 1845 hrs on 21 November, P 44 entered Burat harbour and engaged a schooner with her 3″ gun, scoring twelve hits; the schooner was considered sunk.

Axis shipping losses November 1942: 19 merchant ships sunk totaling 41,450 tons; 14 merchant ships damaged totaling 29,540 tons.

AIR HQ  Beaufighters on offensive patrols damaged two JU 52s, one SM 79 and two Macchi 200s in the air; destroyed two Cant Z 506s and damaged two more as well as one JU 52 on the ground.  One schooner, motor transport and a train were also shot up.

Two Beaufighters of 227 Squadron attacked a 1500 ton merchant vessel approaching Pantelleria harbour, sighted earlier by a Baltimore.  The two Beaufighters attacked from such a low level that one of them was slightly damaged by striking the funnel of the merchant ship, with its starboard propeller.  Two ME 109s made an abortive attempt to intercept.  Two direct hits were scored, causing a terrific explosion followed by a large column of black and white smoke.  The vessel can be considered destroyed.

Departures  One Hurricane to Bone.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down over enemy territory: pilot missing.  One Spitfire failed to return from operations: pilot missing.  One Wellington crash-landed: crew uninjured.  Two Beauforts failed to return from operations: crews missing.

HAL FAR  12 delivery Albacores arrived from Middle East.  1004-1701 hrs  One Hurricane carried out a special mission: Hal Far to Bone and return.

Poor House Luqa

Poor House Luqa

LUQA  Strengths:  230 Officers, 665 NCOs, 2079 Other Ranks, 771 Army, 600 civilians.  Personnel accommodation made by fixing up Poor House with steel tubular 3-tier bunks.  Owing to inability to obtain beds from equipment sources, 1500 bunks were made.  Material was obtained from aerodrome obstructions and made entirely by RAF personnel working parties.  Three sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering the harbours of Naples, Palermo, Bizerta, Tunis and Sousse.

1425 hrs  Three Spitfire bombers with four Spitfires as close escort, all 126 Squadron, are despatched to attack Gela aerodrome: no enemy aircraft seen.  1718 hrs  Ten Wellingtons 40 Squadron were airborne to attack Bizerta: bombs were dropped on target and all aircraft returned safely.  1815 hrs  Eight Beauforts 39 Squadron were despatched to lay mines in Bizerta and Tunis harbours.  Two aircraft failed to return and missing crews were named as: F/Sgt Twomey, F/Sgt Helme, Sgts Gamble and Howarth; P/O Brown and Sgts Richards, McLean and Clark.

TA QALI  0710-0820 hrs  Ten Spitfires 249 Squadron carried out a bombing sweep of Gela aerodrome: bombs were dropped on the runway.  0715-0810 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron carry out a bombing sweep of Comiso aerodrome: all bombs dropped on and around target.  1155-1305 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron, six carrying bombs, attacked Gela aerodrome.  Bombs were dropped but results not observed.  Sgt Wendt does not return and is declared missing.   1535-1645 hrs  Nine Spitfires 229 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol: no sightings.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Green dump cleared and guard dismounted.  Other convoy duties continue.  Company strengths 29 Officers, 788 Other Ranks; 3 Officers, 9 Other Ranks attached.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  For period 11-30 November working party provided at Hal Far: four 15 cwt lorries for food delivery, servicing aircraft and as mobile repair vehicles; two impressed lorries for crater filling; two motor cycles as special despatch riders; 16 Other Ranks to man above vehicles.  For period 18-30 November the following were working at Zabbar sub-depot:  four 15 cwt lorries, five impressed lorries and 16 Other Ranks for convoy transport work.  Throughout the month two Twin Lewis guns were manned in the anti-aircraft defence of Safi Strip.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Recce by CO of new central dump at Floriana for unloading of next convoy.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged at sub-depot.

24 FORTRESS COMPANY ROYAL ENGINEERS  Strength of Company: 5 Officers and 226 Other Ranks.  During the month the CQMS store was completed except for finishing touches to roof and the messroom at camp was covered in.  Part of 2 Section billet, weakened by bomb explosions, fell down and is to be rebuilt.  Hot baths were constructed for the Company in No 3 Section billets.

 

1 December 1942: Another Convoy for Malta

A convoy of four merchant ships with a large escort of cruisers and destroyers sailed from Port Said at 1430 hours this afternoon heading for Malta.  The four merchantmen gathered at Lake Timsah by noon yesterday, when a conference was convened by the senior officer of the escort who had flown in from Alexandria for the meeting.

Glenartney

Glenartney

The merchantmen are named as British ships Glenartney and Suffolk, and the American vessels Agwimonte and Alcoa Prospector.  They are accompanied by the cruiser Orion and destroyers Belvoir, Hursley, Pakenham, Petard and Queen Olga (the Greek ship RHS Vassilissa Olga), who were sailed from Alexandria to Port Said to await the arrival of the supply ships.  Codenamed Operation Portcullis, convoy MW 14 was delayed by fog at Ismailia which has now cleared.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 DECEMBER TO DAWN 2 DECEMBER 1942

Weather   Fair.

0720-0800 hrs; 0835-0910 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali at a time on standing patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1142 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft.  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept but the raiders turned back before they are seen, and while still 20 miles north east of the Grand Harbour.

1155-1305; 1335-1425 hrs; 1425-1535 hrs  12 Spitfire sorties 185 Squadron Hal Far: nothing sighted.

1330-1350 hrs  Air raid alert for four approaching ME 109s which circle over Grand Harbour at a great height before receding north.  Pointer rounds are fired by six Ack Ack gun positions.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but the raiders are too high to engage and avoid combat.

1350 hrs  One transit Wellington from the Middle East carried out an anti-submarine patrol.

1600-1710 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne to act as cover for Spitfire bombers of 249 Squadron.  They are attacked by enemy fighters and take evasive action: P/O Mowbray is reported missing.

Military casualties  Flying Officer John Mowbray, Royal Canadian Air Force, 229 Squadron; Warrant Officer Class II (CSM) Berkley Evans, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment; Private Alfred Syddall, 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 1 DECEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Una swept in from patrol by Speedy.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Wellingtons from Benghazi; one Baltimore from LG 227; one Spitfire from Benina.  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; one Beaufighter to Heliopolis; one Hurricane to Bone.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter crash landed due to engine failure: two crew slightly injured.  One Beaufort missing from operations: crew missing.  One Spitfire believed forced down into sea by enemy action: pilot missing.  One Wellington force landed: crew uninjured.

HAL FAR  0640-0735 hrs  Four Spitfire bombers with four Spitfires as close escort, all 185 Squadron, were dispatched to bomb Comiso aerodrome.  Bomber leader suffered engine cut when still 20 miles south of Sicily so jettisoned his bombs and returned.  The remainder of the bomber formation followed suit.  The escort then set course to Noto and returned: nothing seen.  1000 hrs  Hurricane left for Bone.

Albacore pilot prepares for night raid

Albacore pilot prepares for night raid (c) IWM A161612

1827-0030 hrs  One special Albacore and three strike Albacores carried out a torpedo attack on enemy shipping off the west coast of Sicily.  1925-0040 hrs  Two special Albacores and five strike Albacores 821 Fleet Air Arm Squadron were dispatched to attack the same convoy but failed to locate the vessels.  2255 hrs  Fleet Air Arm Albacores damaged a tanker in a convoy of four merchant vessels and five destroyers when fifteen miles south of Marittimo at 2255. Sub/Lt Pratt and Sub/Lt Kendrick scored one hit on a 6-7000 ton tanker which was left ablaze.

LUQA  Personnel arrivals: 25 Other Ranks.  Three sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron on aerodromes and harbours of Naples, Taranto, Messina, Palermo and Trapani. 2215 hrs  Three Beaufighters 89 Squadron patrolled the area of Gabes-Tunis.

TA QALI  29 airmen detached from Station to 39 Squadron, Luqa.  0800-0905 hrs  Ten Spitfires 249 Squadron, including six bombers, carried out a bombing raid on Biscari aerodromes: explosions are seen on the airfield.  0905-1325 hrs  Two Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive sweep sighted two unidentified aircraft: no engagement.  1040-1145 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol: no sightings.  1155-1635 hrs  Two Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive patrol, one carrying bombs.  One crashed just after take-off: crew uninjured.  1530-1815 hrs  Two Beaufighters 227 Squadron on offensive sweep attacked a merchant vessel and set the deck cargo on fire.  1545-1655 hrs  Ten Spitfires 249 Squadron, including six bombers, carried out a bombing raid on Gela aerodrome: bombs were seen to explode in the north west dispersal area.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Working party provided for administrative and crater-filling duties at Hal Far: four 15 cwt lorries, two impressed lorries, two motor cycles, 16 Other Ranks.

2nd Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Five 1 ton, two 30 cwt, one 3 ton lorries provided for special service Zabbar.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged at sub-depot. 6 Officers, 200 Other Ranks engaged on aircraft pen construction at Qrendi.

24 FORTRESS COMPANY ROYAL ENGINEERS  Company billeted at Bahar-ic-Cahaq (less No 1 section on DEL stations with HQ at Haywharf, No 2 Section building pens at Qrendi and Maltese details working in barracks, attached to Bomb Disposal, or on convoy duties).

 

2 December 1942: Convoy Rescues RAF Crew Adrift in Dinghy

OPERATION PORTCULLIS CONVOY ASSEMBLES IN MED

HMS Orion

HMS Orion

The cruiser HMS Orion escorted by destroyers Paladin, Dulverton, Exmoor, Hurworth, Aldenham and the Greek Pindos sailed from Alexandria today to rendezvous with the convoy heading for Malta.  Late this afternoon Hurworth was found to have defects; at 1800 hrs she left the convoy to return to Alexandria.

Later this evening Petard spotted a small boat adrift on the sea.  It was identified as an RAF dinghy and its six occupants were rescued and taken aboard the destroyer.

Following a report from Vice Admiral Malta that furnace fuel was urgently required, a last-minute decision has been taken to include a tanker in the convoy.  A vessel which had been originally intended for a later convoy to Malta will now depart immediately from Benghazi.  Destroyers HMS Croome and Tetcott are on their way from Malta to Benghazi to act as escort for the tanker.

MALTA NAVAL FORCES IN COMBINED ATTACK

HMS Jervis

HMS Jervis

Royal Navy ships have wasted no time in returning to the offensive following their arrival in Malta last Friday.  Destroyers Jervis, Javelin, Kelvin and Nubian launched a joint operation with Naval Air Squadrons to attack a convoy off Kerkennah.

The ships sailed at 1400 hrs this afternoon to intercept the enemy convoy of one tanker and two merchant ships, escorted by two torpedo boats and a destroyer, as they steered for Ras Turgeuness. At 2100 hrs aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm and HM Submarine P 35 attacked the convoy south of Kerkennah and sank two merchant ships, seriously damaging another vessel.

The Force K destroyers arrived on the scene shortly after midnight and sank a torpedo boat destroyer which was engaged in picking up survivors from one of the merchant ships.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 DECEMBER TO 3 DECEMBER 1942

Weather   Fair.

No air raid alerts.

0625-0725 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far patrol over the Island: nothing sighted.

0700-0815 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron search for a missing pilot: no sighting.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant William Guy, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS St Angelo; Sub-Lieutenant Colin Taylor, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS St Angelo.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 2 DECEMBER 1942

HMS Trooper

HMS Trooper

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Wellington from LG 104; one DC 3 from El Adem.  Departures  One Hurricane to Bone.  Aircraft casualties  One Albacore lost on operations: crew missing.

HAL FAR  1500 hrs  One Hurricane RNAS which left for Bone yesterday returned: mission accomplished.  1730-2315 hrs  Three Albacores RNAS and eight 821 Squadron were despatched to attack two 5000 ton merchant vessels, one cruiser, one destroyer and one sloop in the Gulf of Gabes.  Both merchant ships were hit and left burning: fires could be seen 70 miles away on the return journey.  One Albacore landed at Luqa; another is missing, along with crew S/Lt Taylor and S/Lt Guy.

LUQA  No operations.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  All drivers report to sub-depots for convoy unloading duties.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Working party provided for administrative and crater-filling duties at Hal Far: four 15 cwt lorries, two impressed lorries, two motor cycles, 16 Other Ranks.

2nd Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Five 1 ton, two 30 cwt, one 3 ton lorries provided for special service Zabbar.  Four 1 ton lorries, one Officer, 78 men on fatigue at Ta Qali.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  COs conference on establishment of new dumps to be formed at Floriana under 2nd RWK called Pink Dump and at Attard under 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers called White Dump.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged at sub-depot. 6 Officers, 200 Other Ranks engaged on aircraft pen construction at Qrendi.

 

3 December 1942: Tanker Joins Operation Portcullis Convoy

ESCORT STRENGTHENED AS SHIPS APPROACH MALTA

HMS Tetcott

HMS Tetcott

Minelayer HMS Welshman joined the Operation Portcullis convoy at daylight today on her way to Malta, taking advantage of the escort protection.  Then at 1700 hrs this afternoon the American tanker Yorba Linda, escorted by destroyers Croome and Tetcott linked up with the main convoy north east of Benghazi.  Soon afterwards, Welshman left the remaining ships to speed on ahead to Malta.

To cover the final approach of Convoy MW 14 to the Island, Force K cruisers Cleopatra, Dido and Euryalus with destroyers Jervis, Kelvin and Nubian were sailed from Grand Harbour this evening.  They will provide protection for the convoy against possible surface attack.

US LIBERATORS ATTACK ITALIAN BATTLE FLEET

US Liberator bombers from the Middle East today attacked Italian ships in the Bay of Naples, sinking the Muzio Attendolo and damaging two other warships.  The Italian cruiser was photographed yesterday undergoing trials in the Bay of Naples, following recent repairs. 

Italian light cruiser Muzio Attendolo

Italian light cruiser Muzio Attendolo

Major units of the Italian fleet have been observed gathered in southern Italian ports from where they could threaten Allied sea movements through the Mediterranean, including convoys which might attempt the run to Malta.  As well as Attendolo, three Littorio battleships and two other cruisers are presently at Naples; five other cruisers are in port at Messina and three battleships at Taranto.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 DECEMBER TO DAWN 4 DECEMBER 1942

Weather   Mainly fine; fair.

No air raid alerts.

1030-1215 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1039-1131 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far patrol north of base at 25000 feet: nothing seen.

1440-1525 hrs; 1550-1635 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron at a time on intercept patrol: nothing sighted.

Military casualties  Sergeant Everard Aspell, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 108 Squadron; Sergeant Ronald Semley, RAF VR, 40 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 3 DECEMBER 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Hurricane from Bone; one Beaufighter from Gambut; one DC 3 from El Adem; one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One DC 3 to El Adem.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington’s bombs hung up and exploded while aircraft was taxiing: two of crew killed, rest uninjured.

Hurricanes at Hal Far

Hurricanes at Hal Far

HAL FAR  1150 hrs  One Hurricane RNAS landed from a special mission.  He was attacked 50 miles off Kerkennah by one JU 88.  The enemy aircraft overshot and the Hurricane was able to counter-attack with several short gun bursts: claims one JU 88 damaged.

1840-0010 hrs  One special Albacore and three strike Albacores 821 Squadron were sent to attack enemy shipping off the coast of Sicily.  Two 3000 ton merchant vessels were located 44 miles off Zuara moving at 8 knots.  Both ships were hit by torpedoes and blown up.  1900-2005 hrs  One special Albacore and three strike Albacores 821 Squadron were sent to attack the tanker hit last night and since reported stationary 10 miles west of Marittimo.  The tanker was not located; only two hospital ships were seen in the area.  All torpedoes were brought back.

LUQA No operations.

TA QALI  0835-1330 hrs  Six Beaufighters 227 Squadron on offensive sweep: no sightings.  0835-1145 hrs  Six Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive sweep sighted one JU 88 which is destroyed by F/Lt Rankin and F/O Coate.  0445-1000 hrs  Four Beaufighters 272 Squadron are airborne to act as convoy escort: no sightings.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Battalion provided a working party of 3 Officers and 200 Other Ranks for pen building on Qrendi aerodrome.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Working party provided for administrative and crater-filling duties at Hal Far: four 15 cwt lorries, two impressed lorries, two motor cycles, 16 Other Ranks.

2nd Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Five 1 ton, two 30 cwt, one 3 ton lorries provided for special service Zabbar.  Four 1 ton lorries, one Officer, 78 men on fatigue at Ta Qali.  Three Officers reported daily to APM for traffic duties.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  Personnel engaged on co-operational duties (maintenance, refuelling, arming etc) with RAF at Luqa aerodrome, taken over from 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.  57 drivers engaged at motor transport sub-depot.

 

4 December 1942: HMS Welshman Arrives Safely

WELSHMAN REPORTS MED QUIET FOR PASSAGE OF PORTCULLIS

HMS Welshman enters Grand Harbour

HMS Welshman enters Grand Harbour

HMS Welshman arrived in Grand Harbour today having left Convoy MW 14 yesterday evening.  The minelayer reported an incident-free passage through the Mediterranean.  Conditions appear favourable for the progress of the convoy.

Force K signalled at daylight that all vessels have joined up safely with Operation Portcullis the convoy and will remain in close escort throughout the day.  The ships are now within reach of Malta aircraft which will mount a constant escort for the remainder of their passage to Grand Harbour.  The arrival of Welshman has already attracted the attention of enemy aircraft which approached the Island on reconnaissance twice, triggering first air raid alerts in three days.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 DECEMBER TO DAWN 5 DECEMBER 1942

Weather  Fair to fine.

0740-1245 hrs  Four Beaufighters 227 Squadron are airborne to act as escort for the approaching convoy (one returned early): no sightings.

1025-1041 hrs  Air raid alert for ten ME 109s which cross the coast over the Grand Harbour area at a height of 25000 feet, apparently on reconnaissance.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne and see five unidentified aircraft making smoke trails north and south of Malta at 28000 feet.  On sighting the Spitfires below them, the enemy raiders turn northwards for home.

1100 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa searches for the friendly convoy.

1400 hrs  One Baltimore 69 Squadron searches in the Cape Bon area.

1440-1610 hrs  One Beaufighter 227 Squadron is airborne to act as escort to the convoy: nothing sighted.

1452-1507 hrs  Air raid alert for three ME 109s which approach the Island at 26000 feet and fly over Grand Harbour.  Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: they see the three ME 109s over Grand Harbour at 22000 feet.  The enemy aircraft dive away over the coast to avoid combat.

1535-1630 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1600-1730 hrs; 1630-1750 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron at a time are airborne to act as escort to the convoy: no sightings.

Night  One air raid alert: aircraft are identified as friendly.

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant Andrew Breakey, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 18 Squadron; Flying Officer Robert Curtis, RAF VR, 81 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Sidney Greene, RAF VR, 18 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Arthur Simpson, RAF VR, 18 Squadron; Sergeant Peter Turner, RAF VR, 81 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 4 DECEMBER 1942

HMS Porpoise arrives Malta (NWMA Malta)

HMS Porpoise arrives Malta (NWMA Malta)

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe swept HMS Welshman and P 35 in, and Porpoise out to head for refit in the UK via Gibraltar.  Four MTBs arrived from Bone.  Naval aircraft attacked shipping in the Zuara area. Two merchant ships were hit, one of which sank in three minutes; the other was left burning.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Wellington from LG 237; one Beaufighter from Souk El Arba; eight Hudsons, one DC 3 from El Adem; two Hudsons from Gibraltar. Departures  One DC 3 to LG 224; one Hudson to Algiers; eight Hudsons to El Adem.

LUQA  0900 hrs  Six sorties flown by photo-reconnaissance of 69 Squadron.  1930 hrs  One Beaufighter 39 Squadron patrolled over Comiso aerodrome at 32000 feet: no enemy aircraft seen.  1700-2225 hrs  Six Wellingtons 40 Squadron and four 104 Squadron bombed the docks at La Goulette, Tunis.

TA QALI  249 Squadron operating from RAF Qrendi.  Air crew remain attached to Ta Qali for accommodation and rations only.  26 airmen arrived by air from Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  HMS Welshman arrived No 5 Dock approx 0830 hrs.  Unloading commenced about 0915 hrs.  Bn provided 200 Other Ranks alongside 100 Other Ranks Dorsets.  Cargo was extremely difficult as it contained fifty 21” torpedoes among a miscellaneous cargo. The torpedoes were unloaded last so the whole operation was hampered.  The ship was not cleared until 1900 hrs.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Working party provided for administrative and crater-filling duties at Hal Far: four 15 cwt lorries, two impressed lorries, two motor cycles, 16 Other Ranks.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Floriana Pink Dump and Attard White Dump marked out for reception of convoy cargoes.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  Personnel engaged on maintenance, refuelling, arming etc with RAF at Luqa aerodrome. 63 drivers engaged at motor transport sub-depot.

 

5 December 1942: The Siege of Malta is Lifted

OPERATION PORTCULLIS CONVOY ARRIVES UNMOLESTED

Convoys now have safe passage to Malta under Allied air protection (c) IWM A13678

Convoys now have safe passage to Malta under Allied air protection (c) IWM A13678

At dawn today the four merchant ships Glenartney, Suffolk, Alcoa Prospector and Agwimonte, and the tanker Yorba Linda were safely in the shelter of Grand Harbour.  Commanders of Operation Portcullis report that, in spite of being shadowed at various times during the voyage, they encountered no enemy attacks throughout the entire passage from Alexandria. 

By 10 am the remaining ships of the convoy escort had entered Grand Harbour, bringing the number of warships and merchant vessels in the harbour to over 40. 

Two of the merchant ships are being unloaded by Army personnel and two by civil labour, who are working with great enthusiasm.  Approximately 3200 soldiers are employed on unloading and dispersing the cargoes to dumps.  A further 1800 are assisting the RAF in maintenance of aircraft and airfields to ensure the protection of Malta’s air space and offensive ops during unloading.  However, no attempt was made by the enemy to attack the ships in harbour, or even to approach the Island on reconnaissance during the day.

MALTA’S SUPPLY ROUTES SECURE

The arrival of a tanker with much-needed fuel relieves the concerns of military leaders.  More importantly, the second delivery of food and general supplies in a matter of days brings the chance of a real increase in civilian rations.  This should improve morale and help to stem the decline in the general health of the population which is giving real cause for concern.  The inclusion of a few long absent luxuries among the essentials brought a smile to many faces.

The siege is over but much of Malta lies in ruins

The siege is over but much of Malta lies in ruins

Malta’s commanders are cautiously taking the unhampered passage of Operation Portcullis as an indication that future supplies can be carried through without significant risk.  Since January 1941 two aircraft carriers, twenty warships and several submarines have been lost in attempts to supply the Island.

It has now been decided to run regular pairs of merchant ships for Malta alongside ordinary Western Desert Convoys to the Benghazi area, where surface forces from the Island will reinforce the escort for their final passage.  The supply of Malta – almost impossible a month ago – is now all but secure.  The siege is over.

SITUATION REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING 5 DECEMBER 1942

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

1.  Enemy air: four daylight alerts for enemy fighters on reconnaissance.

2.  Convoy of four merchant vessels and one tanker escorted by cruisers and destroyers arrived safely am 5 December.  Unloading is proceeding well: 3200 Army personnel employed; a further 1800 on aerodromes.

3.  Spitfire bombers successfully attacked aerodromes Comiso, Gela and Biscari.  Spitfire close escort damaged one Macchi 200.  Beaufighters on daylight offensive sweeps area Tunisia destroyed two Cant Z ‘06 and damaged two more at moorings.  One Italian bomber, one transport damaged on the ground.  One JU 88 destroyed; three transports, two fighters damaged in combat.  Coaster 1100 tons, two destroyers, goods trains and lorries effectively shot up.  Merchant vessel 1100 tons set on fire and abandoned.  Two direct hits bombs causing violent explosion merchant vessel off Pantelleria.

Wellington bombers

Wellington bombers

 

By night approx 45 Wellington sorties docks Bizerta 23 sorties docks Tunisia.  Also successful attacks Catania, Trapani, Comiso and Gerbini.  Bombs dropped areas Ragusa, Augusta, Syracuse, Gela and Castel Vetrano.  Beaufighters bombed railways Tunis and shot up trains.   Reggio di Calabria attacked by two Beaufighters.  Beauforts laid mines entrance Bizerta, Tunis and Palermo harbours.  Albacores on shipping strikes sank two merchant vessels 5000 tons, blew up merchant vessel 3000 tons and set two other merchant vessels and a tanker on fire.  Other results unobserved.  Four destroyers Force K sank one enemy TBD.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 DECEMBER TO DAWN 6 DECEMBER 1942

Weather   Cloudy.

No air raid alerts.

0620-0940 hrs  Six aircraft 126 Squadron Luqa maintain a patrol for the arrival of a convoy.

0800-0915 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on standing patrol: no sightings.

0845-1010 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far carry out shipping patrol: nothing seen.

1150-1310 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron on standing patrol over the Island: nothing seen.

1335-1510 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on standing patrol: no sightings.

1455-1550 hrs; 1630-1725 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron on standing patrols over the Island: nothing seen.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer John MacDonald, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Thomas Mincher, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 93 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 5 DECEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hebe swept P 35 to sea. P 42 was swept in from patrol by HM 135.  1600 hrs  HMS Welshman sailed for Alexandria with Paladin.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Halifax from UK; ten Hudsons from El Adem.  Departures  One DC 3 to El Adem; two Hudsons to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Baltimore overshot aerodrome and crash landed due to engine failure: crew uninjured.  One Wellington crashed into another aircraft while landing: crew uninjured.

HAL FAR  2100-0100 hrs  Two Albacores 821 Squadron were despatched to bomb and illuminate for Beaufighters at Reggio di Calabria aerodrome.  One Albacore returned early with rear cockpit trouble; the other arrived too late over the target to contact the Beaufighters but dropped its bombs on the new corner of the aerodrome.

LUQA Four sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires.  1400 hrs  Two Beaufighters 89 Squadron were despatched to attack Reggio Calabria.  One Beaufighter was slightly damaged by Ack Ack splinters: crew unhurt.  Night  One special Wellington carried out a shipping search in the Marittimo-Cavoli area: no sightings.

TA QALI  One senior NCO and four airmen arrived by air from Middle East.  0955-1130 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol: no sightings.  1140-1425 hrs  Three Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive reconnaissance: no sightings.  1345-1640 hrs  Four Beaufighters 227 Squadron (one carrying bombs) on offensive reconnaissance attacked an enemy destroyer causing a small explosion and fire near the bridge.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A convoy arrived at dawn.  1100 hrs  The Bn began unloading the Glenartney at Hamilton Wharf in 3 shifts of 84 Other Ranks.  The vessel is carrying 8000 tons of cargo.  Unloading went well during the day.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  6 Officers, 107 Other Ranks unloading M/V Alcoa Prospector.

Agwimonte

Agwimonte

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  The Bn was detailed to provide: 3 Officers, 42 Other Ranks to report at 1000 hrs for traffic control; 5 fire-fighting parties of 1 Officer, 13 Other Ranks each, to live on board the merchant ships; 42 drivers, 6 vehicles, 3 Officers, 150 Other Ranks as general reserve.  2200 hrs  Fire-fighting parties reported to allotted berths and went on board the following vessels:  Alcoa Prospector, Glenartney, Agwimonte, Suffolk, Yorba Linda.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Arrival of convoy: Bn in position on Pink Dump in two shifts of 12 hours, day and night.  Total employed 14 Officers, 200 Other Ranks on Dump plus 2 Officers, 51 Other Ranks on motor transport sub-depot.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  Personnel engaged on maintenance, refuelling, arming etc with RAF at Luqa aerodrome. 63 drivers engaged at motor transport sub-depot.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 8.  Dealt with: High Explosives 1 x 50kg; anti-personnel bombs 8.

 

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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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22 May 1942: Honours for Malta’s Civil Defence Heroes

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LONDON GAZETTE ANNOUNCES AWARDS FOR CIVIL DEFENCE

Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood        St James’ Palace, SW1, 22nd May 1942

The KING has been graciously pleased to give orders for the undermentioned appointments to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire and for the following awards of the British Empire Medal to the persons named below for their brave conduct in Civil Defence in Malta:-

Air Raid Precautions Zabbar

To be An Additional Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire:-

Charles Henry Sansom, CMG, Air Raid Precautions Officer, Malta  It is mainly due to the leadership and administrative ability of Mr Sansom that his department has consistently performed magnificent work and shown itself capable of standing up to very severe tests during the enemy air raids on Malta.  His courage and energy have been an example to all.

To be Additional Members of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire:-

Louis Demajo Albanese, Superintendent of Passive Defence, Malta  For two years Superintendent Albanese has been in charge of an Air Raid Precautions Centre which has functioned rapidly and efficiently under his courageous leadership.

Anthony Attard, Telephone Engineer, Malta  Mr Attard has shown consistent skill and initiative in the expansion of the telephone service to meet war requirements.  Air raids have caused considerable damage to cables and Mr Attard has shown courage when effecting repairs which involved exposure to danger.

John Attard, Mains Engineer, Electricity Branch, Water and Electricity Department, Malta  During the intense air raids on the Island breakages in the electricity mains have occurred in many places almost every day.  Mr Attard and his gangs have worked untiringly day and night, often to have their work brought to nothing by further bombing almost as soon as it was completed.  He has shown splendid devotion to duty and his work has contributed to the Island’s resistance by ensuring that interruptions of electric power have been reduced to a minimum.

Charles Jones, Superintendent of Passive Defence, Malta  Mr Jones has shown consistent and marked leadership, resolution and efficiency while in charge of Sliema ARP Centre.  On numerous occasions he has displayed personal courage and it is due to his example that the Centre in his charge has on all occasions performed its work rapidly and efficiently.

Arthur Mortimer, Senior Engineer, Water Branch, Water and Electricity Department, Malta  In conditions of acute difficulty, Mr Mortimer has been responsible for maintaining the water supply for the Island.  Recently difficulties have greatly increased and the Water Branch has been under continuous strain.  It is largely due to Mr Mortimer’s ability and example that the Water Service has been run with such conspicuous success.

AWARDED THE BRITISH EMPIRE MEDAL (CIVIL DIVISION)

Francis Calleja, Passive Defence Reservist, Malta; Caneelo Galea, Passive Defence Reservist, Malta  A man was trapped in the basement of a house which had been demolished by a bomb.  All entrances to the basement were blocked but Calleja and Galea managed to reach him through a small ventilator.  Although there was serious danger of all three being trapped and crushed by a further fall of masonry the two Reservists succeeded in rescuing the victim.

Vivian Charles Byers Degrey, Inspector of Police, Malta  Inspector Degrey has displayed outstanding ability and calmness in periods of crisis.  He has been in charge of a squad of constables who volunteered to carry out certain defence work on aerodromes.  It is due to his courage and leadership in the face of numerous attacks by the enemy that the work has progressed satisfactorily.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 MAY TO DAWN 23 MAY 1942

Weather  Wind south-westerly.

0715-0830 hrs  The alert is raised for an incoming formation of enemy fighters.  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far: no engagement.

0808-0840 hrs  Another formation of fighters is plotted approaching the Island.  Two Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa.  They climb to 22000 feet and are then recalled.  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are also airborne but do not engage; they land at 0925 hrs.

1054-1205 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa to intercept approaching enemy aircraft: none are sighted.

1100-1200 hrs  A further alert for incoming ME 109s, including five fighter-bombers which drop bombs on Hal Far and Misrah Blandun.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne and intercept two Messerschmitts off Kalafrana.  P/O McNair destroys one.

1617 hrs  Four ME 109s make a reconnaissance flight over Hal Far.

1920-2010 hrs  A formation of 17 enemy aircraft approaches the Island.  Four aircraft drop bombs on the Kalafrana and Hal Far areas while the remaining fighters carry out a sweep.  Heavy Ack Ack engage: no claims.  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far: Sgt Dodd probably destroys one ME 109.  Six Spitfires 603 Squadron and four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are also airborne but report no interceptions.  One Spitfire 603 Squadron is slightly damaged.

2030-2310 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne on patrol from Luqa: no enemy aircraft sighted.

2045 hrs  Two single aircraft come to within 30 miles of the Island and then recede.

2310-0240 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne from Luqa on patrol: no combat.

0305-0500 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne from Luqa on patrol: destroys one BR 20 and probably destroys another.

0324 hrs  Two hostile aircraft approach from the north at 17000 feet and drop bombs in the sea and at Ta Silch.  Heavy Ack Ack fire two barrages.  A Beaufighter is airborne and destroys one Br 20 and probably destroys a second.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant Michael McCluskey, Royal Naval Volunteer Resereve, Fleet Air Arm, HMS St.Angelo.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 22 MAY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Wellington, one Hudson, one Lodestar from Gibraltar.  Departures  Three Blenheims, one Wellington to LG 222.  Aircraft casualties  One Albacore failed to return from operations: crew missing.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  0900-1700 hrs  Working party of 9 Officers and 200 Other Ranks plus 8 x 15 cwt trucks daily for reconstruction of pens for aircraft at Luqa aerodrome.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Luqa: 2 Officers and 50 men on pen-building; 2 Officers 50 men crater-filling; 1 NCO 11 men ammunition working party and 18 men driving trucks.  A Company 1 Officer 50 men for Ospizio Depot.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Reveille is put forward to 0600 hrs.  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continue.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 10; dealt with 9 (1 x 500kg, 7 x 250kg, 1 x Italian AP bomb container).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 vehicles, 4 Officers and 120-150 Other Ranks building pens on Hal Far aerodrome.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Night working parties building pens for aircraft 6 Officers 200 Other Ranks.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued – aerodrome tasks now from early morning to mid-day.  1800 hrs  Brigade Observation Post at Tal Minsia handed over to 1st Bn Cheshire Regt.

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23 February 1942: Malta’s medical Supplies Running Out

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MEDICAL STOCKS URGENTLY NEEDED

From:  Governor & C in C Malta                                                   To:  The War Office

1.  Government medical stocks are estimated generally speaking to last four (repeat four) months with the exception of certain item very urgently required which were specified in my COSUP 51631 of 26/1 to Crown Agents and for which I have requested despatch by air.  Other items of which we have less than three months supply are specified in monthly lists and should be accorded priority of shipment.  I have consulted the pharmaceutical profession regarding stocks of medical stores held by chemists and a survey of their stock position is now being undertaken.  Result of survey will form subject of a further telegram…

HMS P38

MALTA BASED SUBMARINE LOST

Having left Malta on 16 February on a mission to attack a large convoy aiming to supply Axis forces in Tripoli, HMS P38 was attempting to attack the convoy to the north of Tripoli when she herself was attacked and forced to surface.  Further gunfire and depth charges sank the submarine, with the loss of all 32 hands. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 24 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather  Mixed: rather cold; wind stronger.  Low cloud later; wind south west.

0758-0832 hrs  Two ME 109 fighters approach from the north, circle the Island, then recede.

0920-1005 hrs  18 enemy aircraft approach from the north.  One JU 88 bomber crosses over Grand Harbour, apparently on reconnaissance.  Fighter-bombers attack the Hal Far area.  Various small formations of ME 109s patrol the Island.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Bombs are dropped near Tal Papa; one explodes close to a gun position, killing two Other Ranks of the Royal Artillery, and injuring three.  The gun and predictor are put out of action.

1024-1047 hrs  Two ME 109s approach from the north, apparently on patrol.  Twelve Hurricanes are airborne; guns do not engage.

1122 hrs  Eight JU 88s, three ME 109 fighter bombers and fifteen escorting fighters approach from the north and attack Ta Qali, Kalafrana, Luqa and Safi.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage, claiming two hits and shooting down one JU 88.  The aircraft catches fire and pitches into the sea three miles out, west of Filfla: three bale out and one is rescued by 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment.

1240 hrs  Ten Hurricanes of 185 Squadron are airborne  and attack two JU 88s and six ME 109s: claiming two JU 88s damaged; and one ME 109 probably destroyed.  One Hurricane crash lands at Hal Far.

1246 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Safi landing strip, killing one Other Rank of 4th Bn The Hampshire Regiment, and injuring another two.

1339 hrs  All clear.

1409-1442 hrs  Eight ME 109s and two unidentified aircraft approach from the north.  Heavy Ack Ack engage; no fighters are airborne.

1500 hrs  Eleven Hurricanes of 242 Squadron are scrambled.

1528-1821 hrs  Twelve ME 109s approach the Island in two formations.

1540 hrs  The first formation dives on Ta Qali and drops twelve bombs, damaging the Guard Room, Billet No 15, blackouts and motor transport vehicles.  LAC Calton is injured and later dies in hospital.  The eleven Hurricanes attack four ME 109s: no claims.  Heavy Ack Ack also engage.

The second formation makes a complete circuit of the Island: four come in over Ghain Tuffieha and drop two bombs.

1700-1800 hrs  ME 109s search for their own aircraft in distress.

1800 hrs  Two JU 88s come in at 10000 feet and drop bombs in French Creek and on the Safi strip.  No barrage is fired due to the proximity of own fighters.

1907-1920 hrs  Two bombers approach the Island, drop bombs in the sea ten miles to the north and recede.

2046-2056 hrs  One aircraft comes to within 20 miles north of Grand Harbour, apparently on a search, then recedes north.

2127-0229 hrs  Eleven enemy bombers come in, crossing and re-crossing the coast at various points.  Bombs are dropped in the sea off Grand Harbour, near Ghar Lapsi, near Bubaqra observation point, near Gudja, in Kalafrana area, Ta Qali and Luqa areas, on Ta Karach Heavy Ack Ack position (causing one slight injury), near Hal Far, on the Safi strip, in the sea off Delimara and on Marfa Ridge.  Twelve barrages are fired.

0330-0400 hrs  One aircraft comes in from the north, drops eight bombs on the coast near St Georges, crosses the Island and recedes northwards over Gozo.

0421-0508 hrs  One aircraft crosses the coast three times at various points and is barraged twice.  Bombs fall in the sea east of Qawra Tower before the aircraft recedes north.

0536-0601 hrs  One aircraft comes in from the north and is barraged, causing him to drop his bombs four miles east of Torri L’Ahmar.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant Michael Holdsworth and Sub-Lieutenant Norman Clark, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (shot down overnight: 24/2/1942); LAC Douglas Calton, Royal Air Force; Private Thomas Frampton, 4th Bn The Hampshire Regiment; Gunner Sidney Atkins, 4th HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery; Lance-Bombardier Harold Glover, 74th LAA Regiment, Royal Artillery, aged 30 years.

Enemy casualties  Werner Wonde.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: MONDAY 23 FEBRUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Departures  One Flamingo to Heliopolis; three Blenheims to Mersa Matruh.

HAL FAR  Night 23/24th  Three Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack anchored ships of the coast of Tripoli.  The ships were not sighted; aircraft returned to base with torpedoes.  Weather: visibility one mile; hazy.  Three more Albacores 830 Squadron despatched to attack same ships.  S/Lt Cramp crashed soon after take-off: crew unhurt.  S/Lt Holdsworth was shot down off Tripoli.  Missing crew: S/Lt Holdsworth, pilot, S/Lt Clark – observer.  The third aircraft did not sight the ships and returned to base.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland SF2 patrol; one Maryland SF1 patrol; one Maryland photo-reconnaissance Tripoli.  S/D Flight  One Wellington special search.  37 Squadron  One Wellington despatched to attack shipping in Tripoli Harbour.  No shipping located.  Aircraft bombed main quay.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Working parties on Luqa 140 men.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Mortar platoon took over camps at Dingli and Rabat.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Bombs near C and D Companies and in Siggiewi area during the night.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Working party at Luqa.   

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 21 February-15 March 128 (average 6 per day).

(1)  Further information on the sinking of P 38

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13 October 1941: Malta Faces Harsher Rationing as Convoy Situation Worsens

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Bread essential for morale, say experts

Bread essential, experts say

ISLANDERS MAY BE DEPRIVED OF FRESH MEAT AS GOVERNMENT COMMISSION REVIEWS RATIONING IN MALTA

The supply of Malta by sea is now under severe threat: that is the conclusion now reached by the Island’s high command. Several important foodstuffs have become increasingly scarce since July, especially meat, and the Island is now facing the prospect of further shortages.  A conference of experts has been convened to discuss ways to make food stocks last longer between supply convoys. 

Their initial report reveals that the poorest in Malta rely mainly “on bread, edible oil, sugar and tinned milk. Tinned meat and tinned fish are extensively used for eating with bread.  Kerosene is universally used for cooking.” (1)

Asked to review possibilities for further rationing, or at least economies, in food consumption, they report: “The rations of coffee, tinned meat and tinned fish are very tight and could not be reduced without causing hardship.  Similarly no material reduction could be made in the rations of soap and matches.  A small reduction could be made in the ration of fats and edible oil, perhaps saving 150 tons a year.  The ration of sugar could, if necessary, be reduced, although sugar is a most important item in the diet of the Maltese, especially in the case of children…  The ration of kerosene is very strict considering that all cooking and heating is normally done with kerosene and that it is also very commonly used for lighting.

The main imported commodities which are not rationed are cheese, tinned milk, frozen meat, rice, tea, flour and bread… Butter has not been rationed because stocks are large…  Tea has not been rationed because it is only consumed by a comparatively small section of the population…  It has been found possible to control cheese and rice satisfactorily without rationing them…Issues of frozen meat have been severely limited, and with the increasing shortage of local meat, this commodity is becoming difficult to obtain… Further economies would be difficult, but the Island could of course subsist entirely on tinned meat if necessary…

Bread is much the most important article of consumption with the people of Malta. It is also a very heavy item in the import programme…  No material reduction in consumption has been attempted…  Such a reduction would not only cause hardship to the poorer classes, it would also have a bad effect on morale…  It is undesirable that any rationing of bread should be attempted…

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 OCTOBER TO DAWN 14 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Heavy rainstorm early evening.

1122-1140 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy fighters approaching the Island from the north east escorting a reconnaissance aircraft. When the raiders are still 12 miles from Malta, they split into two; six raiders recede and the remaining three cross the coast over Kalafrana to carry out reconnaissance.  Ten Hurricanes are scrambled and the reconnaissance aircraft turns away rapidly.  The Hurricanes chase the raiders back to the Sicilian coast but are unable to catch them.

1444-1500 hrs  Air raid alert for three Macchi 200 fighters which approach from the north east at great altitude and cross the coast over Grand Harbour. Seven Hurricanes are scrambled but unable to gain sufficient height to intercept. 

0535-0640 hrs  Air raid alert for 24 enemy Macchi 200 fighters approaching the Island. Nine cross the coast, split into two formations and dive down to an average height of 400 feet to launch a machine-gun attack on an area from the Cisk factory right across Luqa and the Safi dispersal area.  One bullet hits a Wellington bomber causing slight damage. 

The raiders are engaged at 11000 feet by a heavy anti-aircraft barrage and also by Bofors as well as searchlight and infantry light machine-guns. A Bofors position at Safi hits and damages one Macchi, a Bofors at Luqa hits and damages another two.  A third Bofors at Imsierah hits and damages a fourth.  A light machine-gun manned by 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment at Safi fires a long burst into another Macchi.

Five Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders as they leave their attack. P/O Barnwell of Malta Night Fighter Unit shoots one Macchi fighter down into the sea but then does not return to base.  It is thought his engine may have cut out over the sea.  A search is launched.  

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 13 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Thorn left on patrol.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron 1 Maryland patrol north Ionian Sea; 1 Maryland search for convoy; 1 Maryland special patrol. Photoreconnaissance Tripoli. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked motor transport on the Benghazi Road. 221 Squadron 1 Wellington shipping sweep. Fleet Air Arm 1 Fulmar bombed and machine-gunned eastern perimeter of Castel Vetrano aerodrome causing three explosions. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish sent to attack convoy of 2 merchant ships and 2 destroyers south of Lampedusa dropped 5 torpedoes leaving one merchant vessel low in the water and on fire.  

KALAFRANA 0025 hrs Sunderland T9050 landed safely at Kalafrana having lost an airscrew, the controls being also damaged. Captain of the aircraft was F/Lt Milligan of 230 Squadron, with 8 passengers on board.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  His Excellency the Governor & Commander in Chief visited the Battalion.

(1) When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint 1981

 

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6 October 1941: 80 per cent of Axis Supplies Sunk by Malta Attacks

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Count Ciano (r) with Hitler & Mussolini

Count Ciano (r) with Hitler & Mussolini

ENEMY STARVED OF SUPPLIES FOR NORTH AFRICA CAMPAIGN

The ongoing success of aircraft and submarine attacks launched from Malta against Axis supply convoys is starving the enemy campaign in North Africa of troops, equipment and food. According to the Italian foreign secretary Count Galeazzo Ciano: “The supplies…are becoming more and more difficult. Only twenty per cent of the material set aside for September has been shipped and delivered.” (1)

Attacks from Malta on targets in southern Italy and Sicily are also having an impact, according to Italian news bulletins:

4 October  “British aircraft attacked Catanzaro Marina in southern Italy in daylight yesterday dropping a certain number of bombs and hitting the railway station and some residential dwellings.  Two people were killed and twelve injured among the civilian population.  Some railway lines were damaged.”

6 October  “Yesterday afternoon British planes were over the town of Catania and dropped a certain number of incendiary bombs and [high] explosive bombs of small calibre.  The bombs caused some damage and killed four civilians.  An enemy bomber and a fighter were shot down by anti-aircraft guns and fighters respectively.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 OCTOBER TO DAWN 7 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

1946-1957 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but turns away before reaching the coast.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 6 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Ursula returned from patrol south of Messina.  Trento and seven destroyers passed north through the Straits out of range, but an enemy report broadcast was never received. Sokol returned having failed to locate a missing Blenheim crew.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Beaufighter, 13 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 2 Wellington. Departures 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked shipping in Tripoli Harbour. 69 Squadron 4 Maryland special patrols. 107 Squadron 1 Blenheim searched for the dinghy of Sgt Hamlyn and crew.  4 Blenheims shipping sweep over Gulf of Syria. Fleet Air Arm 2 Fulmars on offensive patrol over aerodromes in Sicily dropped high explosive bombs on hangars and a slipway at Marsala and incendiaries on Licata, plus high explosive bombs and incendiaries on Gerbini dispersal area.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  C Company carried out firing practice with Vickers guns from beach pill boxes at towed targets; results highly successful.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  ‘Stand to’ periods for static companies at 0500 hrs and 1730 hrs.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  A mine was reported onshore near a beach defence post and reported to the Royal Navy who removed it.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Two detachments gained 1st and 2nd places in an inter-battalion firing competition.

(1) Siege Malta, Ernle Bradford, Pen & Sword 2003

 

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Posted by on October 6, 2016 in 1941, October 1941

 

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5 October 1941: Malta Urgently Needs Underground Fuel Stores

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GOVERNOR & COMMANDER IN CHIEF BIDS FOR UNDERGROUND FACILITIES TO IMPROVE DEFENCE OF THE FORTRESS

From: Governor & C in C Malta                     To:  War Office, copy to C in C Mediterranean

The following for Chiefs of Staff:

A stage in the rearmament of Malta has now been reached where I believe that the Chiefs of Staff should give consideration to the major works which are necessary to complete the defences of this fortress. It has not been possible to advance this problem previously as our main work efforts have been directed for the past 15 months at protecting the population, and this has occupied the major part of our specialised labour force.  It is now possible however to review the problem generally with a view to ensuring that our labour is used for the next two or three years in such a way that the defences of the fortress will be developed in the most efficient manner.

Wied-id-Dis

Wied-id-Dis

The defence works involved are as follows:

  • (a) Shelters for the civilian population: It is hoped that by the end of November this year every civilian in Malta will have two square feet of bomb-proof shelter. From that time it will then be possible to consider further diversions of labour from this work to the service.  It will be appreciated that the provision of two square feet per person will in no sense complete the shelter scheme and much further work will be required. 
  • (b) The provision of underground workshops in HM Dockyard: These are already underway and will take from two to three years to complete.
  • (c) The construction of an underground supply depot for the Army (work on this has started already)
  • (d) The provision of a secure supply of electricity
  • (e) The provision of an underground flour mill
  • (f) The provision of adequate underground storage for white oils
  • (g) The provision of underground hangars for aircraft
  • (h) The provision of a new Army magazine at Wied-id-Dis
  • (i) The provision of bomb-proof shelters for submarines at Marsamxetto

Labour items for (a) to (f) can be made available; (g) is already underway. It is estimated that items (h) and (i) can be commenced as soon as the remainder of the Government shelter construction scheme is completed.  Items (a), (b) and (c) are already underway. The provision of (d) and (e) are essential requirements of the defence of the Fortress.  Without an underground flour mill our whole scheme to maintain supplies within the Fortress to last eight months may be largely nullified. 

Item (f), the provision of underground oil storage, is my main concern. We need to store about 7000 tons of kerosene, 3500 tons of benzine and 9000 tons of aviation spirit.  These figures cover the whole requirements of the Fortress.  It is hoped that provision will be made for the storage of kerosene by the conversion of No 20 Underground Oil Fuel Tank in HM Dockyard.  No provision yet exists for the bulk storage of benzine.  Storage for 1000 tons of aviation spirit is almost complete at Manoel Island and for 1000 tons of aviation spirit in the Ghar Dalam installation is nearly ready.  This latter installation when completed early next year will provide 2500 tons of storage.  We therefore lack storage for 3500 tons of benzine and 5500 tons of aviation spirit.  The provision of underground tanks to contain these quantities is the most imperative need in the Fortress at the present time.  The present method of importing great quantities of white oils into the Fortress in tins is most wasteful of shipping space and is inviting a major disaster.  At present we have no alternative but to accept this risk but I want to eliminate it as quickly as possible.

I therefore earnestly recommend that the Chiefs of Staff should give approval forthwith for the execution of three Defence Works mentioned in the preceding paragraph. They are our main weaknesses at present and we must overcome them at all cost.  If approval is given detailed plans for the storage of white oils will be forwarded immediately.  The expenditure involved is insignificant compared with the sums of money which have been spent and are being spent on the defences of Malta, yet each of the three works has a major effect on the security of the Fortress as a whole.

Our initial efforts to construct bomb-proof hangars have not been entirely successful owing to the nature of the rock encountered and the Air Officer Commanding therefore prefers to rely on dispersal until we can complete these hangars. They will take much longer than originally anticipated.  I agree with this view.

Items (h) and (i) are essential to complete our defences. I would welcome approval in principle for these works in order to assist our plans for allocating labour.  The lack of these defences is at present being primarily counteracted by the principle of dispersal but this can never provide such a satisfactory solution as bomb-proof cover.  With good fortune we should be able to commence them all before the end of next year. 

Finally I desire to mention the construction of a graving dock for battleships. This is a very great undertaking and at present the Vice Admiral Malta (VAM) considers that the other major defence works to which I have referred in this telegram should be completed before the dock is commenced.  With the experience gained in this war I agree with the VAM that such a dock is an essential adjunct for the maintenance of the Mediterranean Fleet. 

Summed up it is the unanimous view of the senior officers in the Fortress that in order to complete our defences approval should be given forthwith for the schemes covering electricity supply, flour milling and the storage of aviation spirit, and that approval in principle should be given for the construction of major defence works which I have described. I request that an early decision may be given in order to avoid any loss of time in commencing the necessary excavations.      

From: War Office                                 To:  Governor & C in C Malta

Your telegram was considered by Chiefs of Staff. They were of the opinion that you should proceed with the three projects (d), (e) and (f) without delay.  Please therefore forward as soon as possible detailed proposals.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 OCTOBER TO DAWN 6 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

0934-1005 hrs  Air raid alert for two formations of three enemy fighters. Only the second formation crosses the Island, passing over Grand Harbour at great altitude.  Five Hurricanes 185 Squadron and twelve 249 Squadron are scrambled but are unable to reach the necessary height for interception.  The raiders recede northwards with no engagement.

1511-1542 hrs  With no prior alert, six enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north, cross the coast at 27000 feet and immediately split up. Two Hurricanes 185 Squadron and twelve 249 Squadron are scrambled but again are unable to reach the necessary height to intercept.  Two heavy anti-aircraft guns fire pointer rounds. 

0018-0023 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of friendly aircraft.

Civilian casualties  Zurrieq  Antonia Camilleri, age 24.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 5 OCTOBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Bombay. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked shipping in Tripoli Harbour. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Sicily, reconnaissance Tripoli Harbour area and convoy. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims searched for Sgt Hamlyn and crew without success.  2 Blenheims attacked railway installations at Catania. Fleet Air Arm 2 Fulmars on offensive patrol on aerodromes in Sicily.  One attacked Trapani aerodrome and Marsala seaplane base.  The other attacked aerodromes at Gerbini and Catania, dropping high explosive bombs on the Gerbini dispersal area and both aerodromes were machine-gunned at low level.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Until further notice curfew will be from 2100 hrs to 0545 hrs.

 

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Posted by on October 5, 2016 in 1941, October 1941

 

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