Tag Archives: HMS Union

20 July 1941: Malta Submarine Sunk During Attack on Axis Ship

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A Malta submarine has been reported sunk while on operations in the Mediterranean. HMS Union sailed from Malta at 1 am on 14 July with orders to intercept a convoy north of Tripoli the following day.  The submarine was attacking the German merchant ship Menes 25 miles south west of the Island of Pantelleria when she was struck by depth charges from the Italian torpedo boat Circe. Union was under the command of Lt R M Galloway and was on her fourth patrol in the Mediterranean when the attack occurred.  There are believed to be no survivors.

HMS Union Casualty List


The Sliema Branch of Malta Union Club has now been taken over from the Army and the Committee propose to re-open it as the attendance of members demands. Light luncheons, teas and suppers can be obtained on application to the Head Waiter but it is requested that as much notice as possible be given.  The Committee propose to hold dances on Saturdays from 8.30pm to 11.30pm.  The admission charge will be one shilling per person.


Owing to the exceptional demand for hatching eggs earlier in the season, the poultry section of the Government Farm, Ghammieri, has decided to continue the supply of hatching eggs during July. The eggs available are from pure bred Rhode Island Reds, White Leghorns and Maltese Blacks.  The price will be 3/6d per dozen; payment by cash on collection at Ghammieri.


Weather  Fine and sunny.

0118—0233 hrs; 0250-0320 hrs Air raid alerts for three enemy bombers which approach at intervals among returning Wellingtons. The first aircraft drops bombs on fields near Luqa, the other two drop bombs in the sea off Grand Harbour.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

0245-0355 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island and is illuminated off Grand Harbour and attacked with a barrage from heavy anti-aircraft guns. Bombs are dropped in the sea.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

Military casualties  Flight-Sergeant John D McCracken, pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 249 Squadron.


ROYAL NAVY Otus arrived from Gibraltar and discharged petrol and RAF Stores at Marsaxlokk. Upright and Unique sailed for Operation Substance.

AIR HQ Arrivals 6 Beaufighter, 1 Maryland, 1 Sunderland, 3 Wellington. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli and eastwards. 148 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked railway sidings near the harbour at Naples causing large fires and explosions. 


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Posted by on July 20, 2021 in 1941, July 1941


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14 July 1941: Malta Reconnaissance Pilot Launches Surprise Attack

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F/O Adrian Warburton

F/O Adrian Warburton


A Malta reconnaissance pilot took advantage of an Italian air force ground crew mistake to carry out an audacious attack on a Sicilian aerodrome today. F/O Adrian Warburton DFC of 69 Squadron was carrying out a routine photo-reconnaissance mission over the aerodrome in Catania in Sicily.  Encountering significant cloud cover, he decided to drop down low to take oblique, rather than high-altitude, photographs. 

As he approached the target, F/O Warburton saw a green light being signalled from the airfield. He realised that aerodrome control had mistaken him for an Italian aircraft and he was being signalled to land.  Instead of turning away, the Malta reconnaissance pilot put down his wheels and approached the runway.

Johnny Spires, one of his crewmen, yelled at him: ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing? This is Catania not Luqa!’ ‘I know,’ Warby replied calmly, then began shooting at the aircraft lined up on the ground. (1)


Weather  Hot and humid.

0205-0335 hrs; 0403-0440 hrs  Air raid alerts for a total of three enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north at intervals. One aircraft drops bombs between Il Gzira and Kalafrana and on a road in open country. Bombs are also dropped on Birzebbuga destroying 15 houses but causing no casualties, on Zurrieq, Marsaxlokk and near Luqa, and in the sea.  During the first raid three Hurricanes 249 Squadron are scrambled; searchlights do not illuminate and there are no engagements.  During the second alert a single raider approaches as the aerodrome beacon is illuminated for Wellington bombers coming in to land.

0500-0507 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of a Wellington not showing appropriate identification lights.


ROYAL NAVY  Union sailed at 0100 for position 10 miles south of Pantelleria to intercept northbound convoy.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 5 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. Departures 1 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Taranto. 110 Squadron 3 Blenheims attacked Zuara aerodrome. 148 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked Messina causing extensive fires.   830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 6 Swordfish left to look for convoy leaving Tripoli, but returned owing to poor visibility and low clouds.

HAL FAR  A Fulmar took off for Catania and Gerbini but returned due to a glycol leak.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion moved to Gozo for training. A small near party remained at Bn HQ.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  D Company left Gozo and returned to the unit, to be billeted in Strickland House.

(1) Story from Fortress Malta An Island Under Siege, James Holland, Phoenix 2003


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Posted by on July 14, 2021 in 1941, July 1941


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22 June 1941: RAF Observer Flies Stricken Blenheim Back to Malta

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According to the BBC. In a pre-dawn offensive, German troops pushed into the USSR today from the south and west, with a third force making their way from the north towards Leningrad.

Bristol Blenheim

Bristol Blenheim


RAF Observer Sergeant J S Sargent has been praised today for taking the controls of the Blenheim aircraft of which he was crew member and flying the aircraft back to Malta. The Blenheim was one of six of 82 Squadron was on their first mission since arriving on the Island two days ago.  Their task was to attack an enemy convoy of three merchant ships with destroyer escort heading for Tripoli.

The Blenheims caught up with the convoy off the island of Lampedusa and dived in turn to release their bombs over the ships from a low level. The escort destroyers launched a heavy burst of defensive fire badly wounding the pilot F/Lt T J Watkins in both legs.

As the Blenheim’s Air Gunner Sgt Eric Chandler recalled: “Black puffs of smoke could be observed and after an interval, which seemed like ages, the sea both ahead and to each side of us started to erupt, as heavy shells hit the water…

“A sharp jolt to our machine not only indicated that we had also been hit but threw me violently against the side of my turret. An unbelievable pain paralysed my right arm.  I ducked down to check the arm, quite expecting to find it had been blown off!.  As I did so, a snaking line of Bofors tracer played across the aircraft, passing through the Perspex cover of my turret.  This brought me to life with a vengeance and a determination to fight back.” (1)  An Italian CR 42 had attacked the Blenheim; Chandler opened fire and shot the fighter down into the sea.

Seriously injured and losing a lot of blood, the pilot F/Lt Watkins began to lose consciousness. Sgt Sargent volunteered to take the controls of the Blenheim and managed to fly the aircraft back to Malta.  As they approached the Island, F/Lt Watkins was helped back into the pilot’s seat and landed the aircraft safely.   

All six Blenheims released their 250lb bombs in the raid and one merchant ship is believed damaged. Two other Blenheims were hit during the raid.  Squadron Leader J Harrison-Broadley and his crew have been reported missing after their Blenheim was hit, caught fire and ditched into the sea.  A rubber dinghy was seen leaving the aircraft and it is hoped that the crew survived.  Another Blenheim was attacked hit by a CR 42 fighter; the pilot was injured but returned safely. (2)


Weather  Hot and sunny.

1118-1135 hrs Air raid alert for four separate formations of two or more aircraft approaching from the north. One formation turns at 35 miles and recedes.  A second circles at about 45 miles from Malta.  Two Macchi 200s approach to within eight miles of Gozo.  27 Hurricanes are scrambled, of which six intercept and attack, shooting down one Macchi 200 fighter into the sea.  A search finds no survivors.  A second escapes by executing a spinning dive almost to sea level before pulling out.  The remaining enemy fighters in the area turn away on the approach of the Hurricanes.

2015 hrs  A submarine is reported surfacing three miles north of Marsalforn Bay, Gozo.


ROYAL NAVY  Union successful attack, sank 2800 ton ship.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 4 Blenheim. Departures 69 Squadron  5 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance. 82 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked convoy; one failed to return.

KALAFRANA  A Swordfish floatplane manned by personnel of Fleet Air Arm was allocated permanently to Kalafrana to augment existing facilities for rescue work.

(1) Fortress Island Malta: Defence & Re-supply During the Siege, Peter Jacobs, Casemate Publishers 2016

(2) F/Lt T J Watkins was subsequently awarded the DSO, and Sergeants Chandler and Sargent the DFM


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Posted by on June 22, 2021 in 1941, June 1941


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