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25-31 October 1942: Turning Point in War Over Malta

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25 October 1942:  Enemy Air Attacks Declining

JU 88 bombers have gone from Malta’s skies

The enemy’s latest attempt to neutralise Malta appears to have lost momentum.  It is now two weeks since Axis forces launched heaviest bombing raids since April.   In that time some 350 aircraft have been destroyed or damaged by the Island’s defenders – including forty bombers.  Despite the concentration of bombs aimed at the three airfields, none of the runways has been put out of action for more than 30 minutes.

Since 18 October no twin-engined aircraft have approached the Island and attacks have been limited to ‘tip and run’ raids – often at high level – by heavily escorted fighter bombers.  Their only advantage has been provided by frequent heavy cloud over the Island, which has allowed the few successful raiders to get through, and provided cover for those attempting to escape Malta’s fighters.

During today the enemy carried out fighter sweeps and four fighter bomber raids on Ta Qali, Hal Far and Luqa.  140 raiders were involved in attacks, which were launched at heights ranging from 12000 to 3000 feet.  Fighters are now adopting a new tactic of receding at sea level to escape interception by the Island’s Spitfires.  There were no night air raids.

RAIDS DAWN 25 OCTOBER TO DAWN 26 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Mainly fine: fair late evening.

0600-0720 hrs  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are airborne for a raid which does not materialise.

0721-0800 hrs  Air raid alert for 25 enemy fighters including ME 109 fighter bombers approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept but are attacked by enemy fighters out of the sun: no claims.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled and engage the raiders north of Gozo: F/Lt Smith destroys one ME 109; Sgt Hughes probably destroys another. The fighter bombers are forced to jettison their bombs in the sea.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

0815-0850 hrs  Air raid alert for 17 plus enemy fighters and fighter bombers approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: F/Lt Parkinson damages one Macchi 202.  Most of the raiders cross the coast and bombs are dropped on Luqa and Ta Qali.

As enemy fighters turn away from the airfield they machine-gun Heavy Ack Ack gun positions.  One ME 109 is destroyed by small arms fire and Light Ack Ack and crashes on the edge of the aerodrome.  One ME 109 is destroyed by Light and Heavy Ack Ack guns off Delimara by Height Control shooting at 18000 feet.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Tal Qali are also airborne and chase enemy fighters to within 20 miles of Sicily but cannot engage them.

0925-0951 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 enemy fighters and fighter bombers which cross the coast, dropping bombs on Hal Far.  Eight Spitfires are scrambled from Hal Far to intercept but were unable to do so due to the enemy’s superior speed.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1110-1200 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1238 hrs  Air raid alert as 25 enemy fighters and fighter bombers approach Malta.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept: no claims.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled and attempt to engage two Macchi 202s which turn and flee.  The Spitfires chase them to ten miles off the coast of Sicily but are unable to catch them.

1234 hrs  The remaining raiders, about half, cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa, destroying one Beaufighter and damaging a Spitfire on the ground.  Gun position XHB 7 of 4th Heavy Ack Ack Regt RA destroys one ME 109.  Two ME 109 fighter bombers are engaged at 2500 feet by two guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery.

1248 hrs  Four fighter bombers drop bombs on the Safi strip, Kirkop and Mqabba village areas.

1300 hrs  Raiders passed.

1350-1445 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol (one returns early): no sightings.

1415-1530 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron, then four 249 Squadron are on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1517 hrs  Air raid alert for the approach of 50 ME 109s and Macchi 202s with fighter bombers.  Ten Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no claims.  One Spitfire and pilot, Sgt Park, are missing.   Seven Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept and see three ME 109s but the raiders are too high and distant to intercept.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled but fail in their attempt to engage the enemy aircraft, some of which jettison their bombs in the sea.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled and attack Macchi fighters but are jumped from above by other fighters acting as cover: no claims or losses.  Heavy Ack Ack fire: no claims.  Some raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa.

1600 hrs  D Company 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt report a plane crashed in the sea on the horizon.

1620 hrs  All clear.

1715-1750 hrs  Two Spitfires 126 Squadron are airborne to search for the missing dinghy of Sgt Park but find nothing.

1825-2115 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa takes up the search for the missing dinghy: nothing is found.

1940 hrs  D Company 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt report a green verey light 4-5 miles out to sea.

2330-0100 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron is scrambled for a reported raid which does not materialise: no enemy aircraft seen.

Military casualties  Sergeant George Bushnell, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Flying Officer Richard Bendwig, Royal Canadian Air Force; Flying Officer Millard Liebeck, Royal Canadian Air Force; Pilot Officer Nigel Park, Royal New Zealand Air Force, 126 Squadron; Flying Officer Fred Wickstrom, Royal Canadian Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

Enemy casualties  Oberleutnant Richard Eckhardt, pilot of a Messerchmitt Bf109 fighter.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 25 OCTOBER 1942

P 35 HMS Umbra

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept P 35 in from patrol: the submarine returned to Malta after a four day patrol in which a heavily leaden merchant ship which had beached itself near Homs as a result of an air attack was further damaged by two torpedo hits.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Spitfires, one Hudson, one Liberator from Gibraltar; one DC 3 from LG 224.  Departures  Two Beauforts, one DC 3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire failed to return to base: pilot missing.  One Beaufort missing in transit between Malta and LG 224, believed shot down by enemy aircraft: pilot missing.

HAL FAR  One Special Swordfish and one Albacore were sent on anti-submarine patrol north of Homs: nothing seen.

LUQA  One Baltimore 69 Squadron carried out a search for enemy shipping to the east of Benghazi.  One Spitfire 69 Squadron carried out photo-reconnaissance of Cagliari.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Winter Dress came into use today.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A and B Companies beach post firing at towed target.

26 October 1942: Malta Bombers Back On The Attack

Wellington bomber

Malta bombers have carried out their first attack on an enemy convoy since last Monday night.  Reports were received from reconnaissance aircraft of a southbound convoy off the west coast of Greece and tonight three special Wellingtons of 69 Squadron were sent to attack.

One aircraft returned unserviceable after 14 minutes but the other two pressed on towards the target area.  One of the Wellingtons located the convoy of one tanker and one merchant vessel, both about 5000 tons, 18 miles to the south west of Antipaxos.  The aircraft then lost visibility and had to abandon the attack, bringing its torpedo back to base.  But the third Wellington was able to close in on the convoy and dropped two 1000 lb bombs.  Results are not yet confirmed.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 OCTOBER TO DAWN 27 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Showery.

0629-0742 hrs  One Hurricane from Hal Far searches for a dinghy 8-10 miles north west of Gozo.  A body is seen floating in an uninflated dinghy.  The Hurricane has to return to base due to an incoming air raid.

0654-0750 hrs  Air raid alert for 35 enemy fighters including fighter bombers approaching the Island.  Eight Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept and see six ME 109s but they are too distant to engage.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled: P/O McLennan destroys one ME 109.  One Spitfire is damaged in combat: pilot unhurt.  About half the raiders are intercepted by Malta fighters north of the Island and turn back.  The remainder cross the coast and bombs are dropped on Ta Qali.  Heavy Ack Ack fire.  One ME 109 is destroyed.  One Spitfire is damaged in combat: pilot unjurt.

0813-0939 hrs  The Hurricane from Hal Far returns to the area where the pilot earlier spotted the dinghy but finds nothing.  The High Speed Launch is seen in the same area.

1039-1120 hrs  Air raid alert for the approach of 35 enemy fighters and fighter bombers.  Six Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept but do not engage.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled and engage the first wave of raiders north of the Island: F/L Rolls probably destroys one ME 109.  As incoming waves of raiders attempt to cross the coast the Spitfires force them to split up: a few get through to drop bombs near Luqa airfield.  Heavy Ack Ack fire and two ME 109 fighter bombers are engaged at 3000 feet by two guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery.

1410-1535 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1515-1537 hrs  Air raid alert for the approach of 40 enemy fighters and fighter bombers, including six bomb-carrying ME 109s.  Eight Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept but sight nothing.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron are also scrambled and intercept the raiders over the Island: P/O Walton destroys one ME 109; S/L Lovell damages another.  Heavy Ack Ack fire.  Bombs are dropped near Birzebbuga, Hal Far and Ghar Dalam, where an Ack Ack ammunition dump is hit by a bomb.  60 boxes of ammunition are damaged and the dump is set on fire.  The blaze is quickly extinguished by Sgt Willis and other personnel of D Company, 1st Bn Devonshire Regt and of A Company 1st Bn Dorsetshire Reg under Captain Lovering, as well as Royal Artillery personnel.

Night  No air raids.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

HMS Hebe

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 26 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hebe swept P 212 returning from an uneventful patrol in the Cape Dukato area.

AIR HQ  Departures  One Hudson, one Liberator to Gibraltar; one Wellington to Shallufa.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron was sent on a shipping search of Pantelleria and Kerkenna.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  B Company took over coast patrol and Tal Virtu observation post.

27 October 1942: RAF Sink Rommel’s Hopes For El Alamein

“The desert was quivering with heat. The gun detachments and the platoons squatted in their pits and trenches, the sweat running in rivers down their dust-caked faces. There was a terrible stench. The flies swarmed in black clouds upon the dead bodies and excreta and tormented the wounded. The place was strewn with burning tanks and carriers, wrecked guns and vehicles, and over all drifted the smoke and the dust from bursting high explosives and from the blasts of guns.”  (1)

British troops on the move in North Africa

Axis hopes of gaining supremacy in the North African suffered a double blow today thanks to Allied forces. Torpedo bombers of 42 Squadron RAF sank an oil tanker at Tobruk, destroying Rommel’s last hope for much-needed fuel supplies.  The Axis sea convoy comprised three merchant ships with four escorting destroyers and escorting planes overhead.  Allied heavy and light bombers and torpedo planes attacked relentlessly in the face of terrific fire from the destroyers. Only one of the supply ships escaped. A large merchantman blew up and the tanker was set on fire and sank.  The sinking follows several successful attacks on tankers by Malta-based air forces.  The German Field Marshal, who arrived back in North Africa on Sunday to resume command of Axis forces, now has only three days’ fuel to supply his armies.

Meanwhile the Allies scored an important victory over enemy tanks at El Alamein.  Having battled throughout the day against two counter-offensives by Rommel’s forces, this afternoon they repulsed a determined attack by Axis Panzer divisions, destroying 22 German and 10 Italian tanks before the remainder gave up.

QRENDI STRIP DEVELOPS

Troops building aircraft pens

200 servicemen are now employed building new pens at Qrendi strip.  The pens will add to the facilities at the recently-opened air strip, significantly extend the capacity for aircraft based on Malta.  The construction work increases the already significant contribution made by the Army to air operations on the Island.  Following the recent increased enemy bombardment, 1000 soldiers are now assisting the RAF in the maintenance of aerodromes, servicing and refuelling aircraft. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 OCTOBER TO DAWN 28 OCTOBER 1942

Weather   Fine: excellent visibility early; electric storm early morning.

0703-0722 hrs  Air raid alert for 24 enemy fighters including six ME 109 fighter bombers approaching Malta.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept and engage raiders 15 miles north of the Island: S/Ldr Woods and P/O McCoy each damage one ME 109.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are also scrambled: no claims.  The remaining raiders cross the coast and approach Ta Qali from the east, dropping bombs on the airfield from a height of 10000 feet.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage: no claims.

0740-0845 hrs  Eight Spitfires Hal Far are airborne on intercept patrol: no enemy aircraft seen.

1013-1104 hrs  Air raid alert as 60 ME 109s and Macchi 202s including several ME 109 fighter bombers approach the coast in several waves.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron, four Spitfires 249 Squadron and eight 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but the enemy takes strong evasive action: no claims.  One Spitfire is damaged in combat: pilot slightly injured.  High explosives including delayed action bombs are dropped on Luqa and the Safi strip from about 14000 feet.  One aircraft is destroyed on the ground and another damaged.  One ME 109 is probably destroyed by Light Ack Ack.

1457-1518 hrs  Air raid alert as 40 ME 109s and Macchi 202s including fighter bombers approach the Island at great height.  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept and successfully attack 25 fighters and fighter bombers, which they force to jettison their bombs in the sea.  F/Lt McElroy damages one Macchi 202.  The raiders turn back at speed, along with the majority of their escort.  One Spitfire is damaged: pilot slightly injured.  Eight Spitfires Hal Far are also airborne but see no enemy aircraft.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.

Night  No air raids.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 27 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  The area between Grand Harbour and St Julian’s Bay was swept on 27th October by the 3rd ML Flotilla, prior to divers working on the submarine telegraph cables. Three mines were disposed of bringing the total destroyed by this flotilla to 100.

AIR HQ  Departures  One DC 3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire damaged in enemy action crash-landed: pilot injured.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  AM GOC watched an exercise incorporating practice landings from motorized landing craft.

28 October 1942: Operation Train Brings Reinforcements

HMS Furious

The fast minelayer HMS Welshman also sailed with the convoy carrying emergency supplies for Malta.

ATTACK ON SUBMARINE BASE KILLS THREE

A dive bombing attack on Malta’s submarine base this morning killed three civilians in Sliema.  The raid was the second attempted strike at the base today – the first was beaten off by Malta fighters before the enemy aircraft reached the Island.

The air raid alert just before 9.30 am heralded a second attack by 30 raiders which approached the Island at 27000 feet.  Among them were a dozen ME 109 fighter bombers which swooped down to 12000 feet and then into a shallow dive as they crossed the coast towards their objective in Marsamxetto harbour.  Spitfires engage the raiders as they are still in their dive, causing several to jettison their bombs.  However several bombs did fall on Tigne Barracks, Sliema and Gzira, where three civilians were killed.  Civilian property was also damaged in the raid.

HMS Welshman

The Island was spared a third air raid as the enemy aircraft turned back before coming within 10 miles of the coast.

MALTA WELLINGTONS SINK ANOTHER AXIS TANKER

“The AOC sends personal congratulations to 69 Squadron on its brilliantly executed torpedo attack on the enemy convoy on the night of 28/29th October.”

A very successful attack was carried out tonight against an enemy convoy off the Greek coast.  A reconnaissance Baltimore had earlier reported a convoy of one tanker and a merchant vessel, escorted by three destroyers, off Sapienza.  Three Wellingtons 69 Squadron, one carrying bombs and one carrying torpedoes, were sent to locate and attack the vessels.  The bomb-carrying Wellington returned early with engine trouble and crash-landed, having jettisoned its bombs in the sea.

The other two Wellingtons sighted a tanker and a merchant vessel and went in for the attack.  Pilot Officer Matthews scored a direct hit on the merchant vessel with a torpedo.  Pilot Officer Donkersley arrived on the scene at 2252 hours and found no trace of the merchant vessel.  He aimed his bombs at the tanker, setting it ablaze from stem to stern.  A reconnaissance aircraft inspecting the area later found nothing but wreckage, oil streaks and a half-submerged barrage balloon.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 OCTOBER TO DAWN 29 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Fine; cloudy late evening.

0625-0735 hrs; 0635-0820 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali then eight from Hal Far on intercept patrol: no sightings.

0716-0734 hrs  Air raid alert sounds for 40 enemy fighters approaching Malta.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa and nine of 249 Squadron are scrambled and intercept the main formation to the north of the Island.  The Spitfires attempt an engagement from above but the enemy fighters disperse into the clouds and out of sight before heading back to Sicily: no claims.

0924-1001 hrs  Air raid alert as 30 enemy fighters and fighter bombers approach the Island.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept and fire short bursts at raiders as they head towards Grand Harbour, causing several to drop their bombs.  Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron and eight 249 Squadron Ta Qali are also scrambled but do not engage.  P/O Giddings 249 Squadron crashes on take-off and is admitted to hospital with a fractured arm.  The remaining raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on Sliema, Gzira and Tigne Barracks area causing damage to property and civilian casualties.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1045-1140 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1233-1247 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy fighters approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires from Hal Far are conducting a practice flight when they see two ME 109s: they turn to engage but the enemy aircraft evade action.  All the fighters recede before coming within 10 miles of the Island but then recede.

1335-1500 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are on intercept patrol: no sightings.

Military casualties  Chargeman E Wright, HM Dockyard.

Civilian casualties  Gzira  Ritz Falzon, age 19; Carmela Micallef, age 42; Vincenza Rice, age 40.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 28 OCTOBER 1942

LUQA  Spitfires 69 Squadron were despatched on photo-reconnaissance of Navarino, eastern Sicily, Messina, Palermo, Gabini and Pachino.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  1600 hrs  Regiment band playing at Birkirkara.

29 October 1942: German Pilots Sick of Fight For Malta

German aircraft losses dent morale (c) IWM CM 745

The strain of fighting for air supremacy over Malta is clearly beginning to tell on the enemy air forces. “Experienced German pilots who became prisoners of war during this month have admitted to a general distaste among the German air force for fights over Malta.  This reluctance is not surprising when it is seen that, in the course of their unsuccessful October offensive, the Axis powers lost 15 air crew for every British pilot lost.”  War Diary, Air HQ, Malta October 1942

SPITFIRES AND SUPPLIES

Twenty nine Spitfires were flown off from HMS Furious today and all landed safely at Malta.  Two others remained on board the aircraft carrier due to defects.  Enemy aircraft made some attempts to intercept the incoming aircraft but continuous cover by Spitfires deterred any serious threat.

At the same time, HMS Welshman detached from the convoy ships to make independent passage to Malta.  The fast minelayer carries some 350 tons of much-needed cargo in her holds.  Welshman’s exceptionally fast speed has brought her through several supply missions to the Island and the Dockyard is preparing for a fast unload on her arrival.  After their successful delivery, Furious and her escort ships turned and set course immediately for Gibraltar.

MALTA FLOTILLA GRABS 100TH MINE

The Vice Admiral Malta reported that the Third Motor Launch Flotilla in addition to their many other valuable services had swept up their hundredth mine in the approaches to Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 OCTOBER TO DAWN 30 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Fine; almost cloudless.

0750-0855 hrs  Eight Spitfires Hal Far patrol over the Island: no enemy aircraft sighted.

0910-1010 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are on intercept patrol:  no sightings.

0956-1120 hrs  Air raid alert.  42 enemy fighters approach the Island from the north in five formations of six and three formations of eight aircraft each.  They attempt to intercept delivery Spitfires as they come in to land.  Malta fighters are airborne but the enemy recede before engaging.  The delivery Spitfires land safely.

1020-1125 hrs  Seven Spitfires Hal Far patrol over Grand Harbour area: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1100-1230 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1232-1310 hrs  Air raid alert for a small number of enemy fighters on a high fighter sweep.  Malta fighters are airborne: no engagements.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1339-1345 hrs  Eight delivery Spitfires land at Hal Far.

1849-1910 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island at 22-25000 feet and drop bombs in the sea three miles north of the Island.  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa patrols to the north of Malta but sees nothing.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Walter Parks, Royal Australian Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Naxxar  Emanuel Grech, age 52.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 29 OCTOBER 1942

AIR HQ  Aircraft casualties  Two Spitfires crashed into construction on taking off: one pilot injured, one killed.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron was sent on photo-reconnaissance over western Sicily and Pantelleria.  One Spitfire 69 Squadron was sent on photo-reconnaissance of enemy shipping in the area Cape Ducato, Cape St Maria di Leuca and Taranto.  Two special Wellingtons 69 Squadron were sent to attack an enemy convoy sighted by a photo-reconnaissance Spitfire but did not find it.

30 October 1942: RAF Win Latest Battle For Skies Over Malta

B flight RAF 249 Squadron Malta July 42

The skies fell silent over Malta today.  The absence of air raids is an indication that the RAF has finally secured air supremacy over the Island after the failure of the latest enemy bombing campaign.  With strong fighter escort and a small number of bombers, the enemy has tried to neutralise the aerodromes in order to protect the passage of important convoys to Tripolitania and Libya.

During daylight in October the enemy flew a total of about 250 bomber and 3500 fighter and fighter-bomber sorties against Malta.  Spitfires definitely destroyed a total of 49 bombers and 78 fighters.  By night during the month Beaufighters of 89 Squadron made a total of 61 sorties including 15 intruder patrols over enemy aerodromes and harbours.  Five enemy night bombers were destroyed.  Malta’s losses were 38 aircraft destroyed, mainly Spitfires.

The policy adopted by the RAF of intercepting the enemy north of the island has proved eminently successful.  The enemy reverted to high flying tactics using cloud cover; some damage was done to the aerodromes but without any serious impact.  Finding these tactics too costly, the enemy has now left Malta well alone.

AMMUNITION USE AND FUEL RATIONING TIGHTENED

Heavy Ack Ack Brigades have issued orders restricting the firing pattern of anti-aircraft positions.   From today, only guns in certain strategic positions may engage enemy fighter aircraft, and then only by pointers.  However, all gun positions will continue to engage any enemy aircraft clearly identified as bomb-carrying.

Petrol economies are also now being strictly enforced across all Services in Malta as fuel shortages continue to concern the Island’s commanders.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 OCTOBER TO DAWN 31 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Variable becoming fine: cloudless evening.

0740-0830 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1350-1450 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

Night  No air raids.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

HMS Rorqual

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 30 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  HMS Rorqual arrived with stores from Beirut, swept in by Rye.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Liberators from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  1640-1735 hrs  Four Spitfires carried out a reconnaissance patrol over south east Sicily while four others provided cover for their return.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron was despatched on photo-reconnaissance of Tripoli.

31 October 1942: 14 Attacks On Axis Convoys

AIR RAID STATISTICS OCTOBER 1942  

  • Total number of alerts to date 3135
  • Total number of alerts this month 152
  • Number of blank days 2
  • Number of night raids 41
  • Raid free nights 19
  • Alerts for own planes 7
  • Total time from air raid alert to raiders passed 4 days, 2 hrs, 11 mins
  • Average length of alert 38.2 mins

    P 246 HMS Statesman

ROYAL NAVY SUMMARY FOR OCTOBER

Twenty seven attacks were carried out from Malta during the month, fourteen of which were successful. Three were against merchant ships already beached after air attacks. Ten merchant vessels, aggregating 23900 tons were sunk as well as one fleet destroyer, a tug, and two schooners.  The strength of the Flotilla was brought up to eleven operational submarines by the arrival of P 212 on 9th October and of P 246 on the 19th.

Four submarines continued store-carrying trips to Malta with petrol and vital supplies from Gibraltar and Beirut.  The First and Tenth Submarine Flotillas carried out many brilliant attacks on Axis convoys and shipping running to Libya. An attack on a heavily escorted southbound convoy of one tanker and three merchant ships bound for Tripoli by five submarines off Pantellaria was particularly noteworthy. Albacore and Swordfish aircraft made many attacks before the convoy ran into the submarine concentration. P 211 sank one merchant vessel, stopped after air attack, P 37 sank a destroyer and one merchant vessel in the convoy, and it possible that P 42 also damaged a merchant vessel. The latter was very accurately counterattacked and damaged, and force to return to Malta.

SITUATION REPORT WEEK ENDING OCTOBER 31

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

1.  Enemy air activity on a much reduced scale.  16 alerts.  Total 290 Spitfire sorties against 650 enemy sorties.  No alerts after 1300 hrs 29 October.  Raids consisted of fighter bombers heavily escorted.  Many jettisoned their bombs in the sea.  A few bombs on the aerodromes.  Ack Ack dump was set on fire and extinguished by soldiers.  Spitfires destroyed three ME 109s, one Macchi 202; probably destroyed two ME 109s; damaged three ME 109s and one Macchi 202.  Ack Ack destroyed two ME 109s; probably destroyed one ME 109.  Photo reconnaissance shows a general decrease 100 enemy aircraft in Sicily but an increase on western aerodromes, particularly JU 84 (or 87)s.

2.  Eight Wellington sorties against enemy convoys.  One tanker and one merchant vessel sunk.  Two 1000 lb bombs aimed at a vessel, believed a tanker: results unobserved.

3.  Army working parties total about 600 on aerodromes and 200 men building the new Qrendi landing strip.  Minor combined operations training being carried out with MLCS.

4.  Military damage negligible.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 OCTOBER TO DAWN 1 NOVEMBER 1942

0755-0830 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no raid materialised; no sightings.

1100-1135 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept a possible approaching air raid which does not materialise.

1630 hrs  The regimental band and drums of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment Beat the Retreat at Sliema.  His Excellency the Governor and GOC Troops is in attendance.

Military casualties  Private Raymond Hurley, 2nd Battalion, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment; Lance Corporal Gerald Tarr, 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 31 OCTOBER 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One DC 3 from Middle East.  Departures  One Liberator to Gibraltar; one Liberator to LG 224.

HAL FAR  0630-0735 hrs  Four Spitfires patrolled over south east Sicily: nothing sighted.  2135-0235 hrs  One special Swordfish and two strike Albacores searched for shipping between Tripoli and Homs: no sightings.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Lance Corporal G A Tarr fell down a 30 foot well in Valletta and was killed.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  During the period 22-31 October the Battalion has found two impressed lorries, one motor-cycle and five Other Ranks for work in Hal Far aerodrome.  During daylight two twin Lewis guns have been manned in anti-aircraft defence of the Safi strip.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Private Hurley, A Company, died from multiple injuries caused by falling masonry.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 11.  Dealt with: 9 High Explosives  (3 x 250kg; 7 x 50kg); 173 anti-personnel bombs; 1 oil incendiary.

(1) Alamein, Cecil Ernest Lucas-Phillips, Little Brown & Co, Boston, 1962

 

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14-20 June 1942: Malta Convoy in Fierce Air & Sea Battles

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14 June 1942

MALTA FIGHTERS TO PROTECT CONVOYS

At 2000 hrs this evening the Air Officer Commanding called all Malta’s pilots together to announce that two convoys have been assembled in a concerted attempt to relieve the critical supply situation.  The recent reinforcements of Spitfires, Beaufighters and Beauforts are here to help protect the ships from enemy attacks, he revealed.  In a desperate bid to get a sufficient number of ships through to the Island, it has been decided to mount a dual convoy, approaching from the eastern and western Mediterranean, in the hope of dividing the efforts of Axis forces.

HMS Centurion 1918

OPERATION VIGOROUS

Operation Vigorous, the ‘eastern’ convoy of eleven merchant ships with escort, met yesterday with Force A off Tobruk, bringing the total protective force to eight cruisers and 26 destroyers, plus corvettes and minesweepers, and the veteran battleship Centurion. The convoy came under immediate air attack: one merchantman was damaged and another limping into port with engine trouble was sunk by enemy aircraft.

A Malta-based reconnaissance pilot reported today that two Littorio battleships have left Taranto harbour in the company of four cruisers and ten destroyers and at the same time two cruisers moved from Cagliari to Palermo with their escorting destroyers.  The heavily armed Italian naval force is on course to intercept the convoy heading from Tobruk.  Reconnaissance has also revealed that despite reductions in enemy bombing activity over Malta, German and Italian air forces remain in significant numbers on Sicilian aerodromes.  They are believed to be in a state of readiness to attack the two convoys.

Four Wellingtons were despatched tonight to strike enemy vessels reported 60 miles from Cape Geroghambo 60 degrees.  Only one Wellington was able to release its two torpedoes.  The enemy force put up a heavy smoke screen, and although results were not observed, one of the torpedoes was seen to run well.  Smoke screen prevented the other three Wellingtons from attacking.  A shadowing Wellington saw glow on the water after the attack.

OPERATION HARPOON

Meanwhile Operation Harpoon, consisting of six merchant ships carrying 39000 tons of cargo and oil, and the American tanker Kentucky with 14100 tons of fuel and kerosene, left Gibraltar on Friday.  They are escorted by an anti-aircraft cruiser, HMS Cairo, nine destroyers, the fast minelayer HMS Welshman and a number of smaller ships.  Further cover is being provided by HMS Malaya, carriers Argus and Eagle carrying operational aircraft, three cruisers and eight destroyers.

MV Tanimbar

The ‘western’ convoy was also attacked today, by the Italian Regia Aeronautica: torpedoes sank the freighter Tanimbar and damaged the cruiser Liverpool which has been taken in tow by AntelopeArgus and Eagle were also hit, with the loss of some crew.  Under orders not to enter Malta in order to save fuel, the protective escort returned to Gibraltar leaving the remaining merchantmen with less cover.  HMS Welshman has left the convoy and is heading alone at speed for Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 JUNE TO DAWN 15 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind south-westerly. 100% cloud; Slight rain.

0630-0709 hrs  Three Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are airborne to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to provide top cover for 601 Squadron.

0810 hrs  Eight ME 109s patrol over the Island at 20000 feet.  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept: they sight four ME 109s but the enemy fighters immediately dive away.

0817-0850 hrs  Five Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.

PM  Four aircraft 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled three times without sighting the enemy.  One aircraft of NAS out on patrol: no sightings.

1330-1335 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept a single approaching aircraft which is later identified as friendly.

1345-1410 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol: nil report.

2155-2315 hrs  One Beaufighter on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: claims one JU 88 destroyed.

2213 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy aircraft drop bombs anti-personnel bombs on Safi, Hal Far and in the sea.

2215-2345 hrs  One Beaufighter is on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.

0140 hrs; 0350 hrs  Air raid alerts.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 14 JUNE 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Sweeping continued and Munscair Rock buoyed.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar; one Hudson en route from Gibraltar to Matruh landed at Malta.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Wellington to Shallufa.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed on take-off: crew safe.  One Baltimore crashed on landing from operations: crew safe.

LUQA  AM  One Baltimore 69 Squadron cross-over patrol western Sicily, south Sardinia base.  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance (PR) Messina and Augusta.  One Spitfire (PR) Taranto Harbour.  One Baltimore 69 Squadron cross-over patrol Malta, western Sicily, south Sardinia base.  PM  One Spitfire PR Messina and Straits.  One Spitfire PR Palermo Harbour and western aerodromes.  One Baltimore 69 Squadron special search western Sicily, toe of Italy and Gulf of Taranto.  One Spitfire PR Palermo Harbour.  One Spitfire PR Taranto.

1905-0050 hrs  Four Beaufighters 235 Squadron on shipping protection Allied forces: S/L Cook destroyed one JU 88.

2219-0515 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on A patrol, to drop flares if requested: no ships sighted; no flares dropped.  One Wellington S/D Flight on D patrol, to drop flares if requested: two separate aircraft sighted – lights on.  One Wellington S/D Flight on reconnaissance for enemy fleet in the Ionian Sea: sighted one small destroyer.

2311-0655 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight despatched to locate and illuminate Italian fleet.  Sighted five ships: shadowed until requested to illuminate.  Flares dropped to illuminate for Wellington strike.

2335-0635 hrs  Four Wellingtons 38 Squadron despatched to attack Italian fleet.  One aircraft attacked; smoke screen made results difficult to observe.

0350-0920 hrs  Nine Beauforts 217 Squadron despatched to attack Italian fleet.  One torpedo hit one battleship or heavy cruiser, causing a column of water followed by thick smoke.  One torpedo hit on battleship or heavy cruiser causing flames and dense black smoke.  One torpedo hit on destroyer amidships, causing a column of smoke: destroyer seen listing to port.

0450-0920 hrs   Five Beaufighters 235 Squadron on patrol over [Malta] convoy.  F/Sgt Farquhar and Sgt Briffat attacked one Macchi 202 and also observed a JU 88 hit in the windscreen.  Sgt Hall and Sgt Burnside claimed one JU 88 damaged.

TA QALI  2000 hrs  The Air Officer Commanding met aircrew personnel at the Officers Mess.    2110-2200 hrs  Two Spitfires 603 Squadron are despatched to carry out a dusk patrol of the Sicilian coast.  They sight a stationary destroyer half a mile from shore.

15 June 1942

“The air over and around Malta rapidly became thick with aircraft, and this continued until sunset.  Sorties were continually being made by Spitfires, Beaufighters, torpedo-carrying and reconnaissance aircraft.” (1)

SPITFIRES TAKE AIR WAR TO SEA

From dawn today 170 sorties were made by Malta-based Spitfires and another 12 by Beaufighters to cover the transit of the two convoys through the Mediterranean.  They intercepted and destroyed three JU 88s, three JU 87s, three ME 109s, two BR 20s and two float planes, probably destroyed two JU 88s, one ME 109 and one Macchi 200, and damaged five JU 88s, one JU 87, three ME 109s, one BR 20 and one unidentified bomber.  Malta lost three Spitfires and one Beaufighter.

SS Kentucky has been hit

WESTERN CONVOY UNDER FIRE

Reports are coming in that the western convoy Operation Harpoon came under attack early this morning near Pantelleria, from Axis aircraft and the Italian navy.  Despite setting up a smokescreen, two Allied destroyers and three of the merchant ships were hit and disabled.  The damaged Kentucky, with its essential cargo of fuel for Malta’s fighters, was taken in tow but after further enemy action the convoy commander made the reluctant decision to sink her in order to save the remaining ships.  The rest of the convoy including two other damaged vessels went on its way slowly towards Malta.

Several fighter missions were flown from Malta in an attempt to protect the beleaguered convoy.  In a counter-attack by the Island’s air forces, four Albacores released torpedoes at a cruiser, scoring two hits: smoke and steam were seen to pour from the vessel.  Another torpedo was dropped at a large destroyer, scoring a probable hit.  Later three more Albacores attacked and probable hits were obtained by two torpedoes on a cruiser.  Two Beauforts also attacked the enemy naval force striking the leading cruiser.  Other aircraft arriving on the scene reported the whole ship ablaze.

WELSHMAN ARRIVES

After a fast passage from Pantelleria without further incident, HMS Welshman entered Grand Harbour at 0730 hrs today.  The ship was unloaded, oiled and re-ammunitioned, and sailed at 1400 hrs this afternoon to reinforce Force X.

Stricken HMS Bedouin

EASTERN CONVOY ABANDONED

Enemy naval forces were also in hot pursuit of the eastern convoy, which had to undertake a series of direction changes in an attempt to ward off her attackers.  In a fierce sea battle early this morning the destroyer Hasty was disabled by a torpedo, killing twelve men, and had to be sunk.  HMS Bedouin was badly hit and came to a standstill.  She was taken under tow but this afternoon an Italian aircraft scored a direct hit with a torpedo and she sank.  This afternoon the destroyer Airedale was hit several times and disabled; she was later sunk.

Meanwhile, Malta-based air forces launched a series of raids on the Italian fleet, disabling the heavy cruiser Trento.  However, the Luftwaffe continued relentless attacks on the Allied convoy and by 1800 hrs today only six merchant ships remained from the original eleven.

By this evening the eastern convoy ships were facing a serious shortage of fuel and ammunition due to enemy attacks and diversionary tactics.  With a strong Italian fleet still in pursuit, the decision was taken to abandon the eastern convoy operation.  The remaining ships returned to Alexandria: none of the merchantmen reached Malta.

MALTA COUNTER ATTACKS

Tonight five Wellingtons were despatched to attack the enemy force as it returned to Taranto.  One aircraft scored a hit with a torpedo on the port side of the leading battleship, the flash from the explosion being clearly seen.  Despite repeated efforts, a heavy smoke screen prevented the other aircraft from taking aim.

Nine Beauforts attacked two enemy naval forces in position 090 degrees Malta 210 miles.  One force consisted of two battleships, one cruiser and seven destroyers; the other, two cruisers and seven destroyers.  The Beauforts dropped nine torpedoes: one hit a battleship or heavy cruiser, throwing up a column of water 50 feet high, followed by thick smoke and flames visible 35 miles away.  Another torpedo hit was claimed on a battleship or heavy cruiser causing dense black smoke.  A destroyer was hit amidships and left listing to port.

Later 12 Beauforts of 39 Squadron ex Middle East were despatched to strike at enemy shipping.  En route to the target the aircraft were intercepted by ME 109s and two were shot down into the sea, while five returned to the Middle East.  The remaining Beauforts hit a Littorio battleship with at least one torpedo.  A destroyer was also hit amidships and a possible hit was scored on a battleship before the Beauforts returned to Malta.

Photographic reconnaissance later reported that the Italian fleet had returned to Taranto after its attempt to intercept the convoy – but the cruiser Trento was a conspicuous absentee.  A large Italian destroyer was also photographed in tow off south west Sicily.

AIR ACTIVITY DAWN 15 JUNE TO DAWN 16 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; 50% medium cloud.

0610-0955 hrs; 1030-1445 hrs  Eleven Beaufighters 235 Squadron are on patrol over the Malta-bound convoy.  S/L Wigmore and P/O Crow destroy one Ro 43; P/O Cohen and Sgt Nacott chase two JU 88s but their guns will not fire. Sgt Armitage and Sgt Hector fail to return.

0615 hrs; 0715 hrs  Air raid alerts.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to intercept reported ME 109s: no sightings.

0720-0955 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are despatched on a series of offensive convoy patrols.  Convoy observed to be under fire from two forces; no enemy aircraft seen.

0840-1100 hrs  The convoy is not sighted in the given area: eight unidentified warships are seen.

0841-1135 hrs  One Baltimore 69 Squadron despatched to patrol Pantelleria sights two destroyers, then two cruisers with two destroyers and a seaplane 25 miles to the south.

0900-1120 hrs; 0930-1145 hrs  Two Beauforts 217 Squadron are despatched to attack two enemy cruisers and escorting destroyers.  They claim one possible torpedo hit on a cruiser.

0912-1155 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are airborne on offensive convoy patrol.  F/Lt Winfield destroys one BR 20.  P/O Goldsmith destroys one Cant 506 and one BR 20 with F/S Evans.  F/S Farquhason damages one BR 20.  Four enemy ships are sighted: two cruisers and two destroyers.  One destroyer is reported to be smoking from the stern.

Spitfires over Malta

0925-1045 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to escort Albacores on a strike mission against Italian cruisers.  They make no contact with the Albacores but they sight the cruisers towards Pantelleria.

0945-1145 hrs  Two Italian cruisers are seen heading for Pantelleria.  A large patch of oil is observed 30 miles east of Linosa.

0955-1110 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali carry out a patrol: nothing sighted.  S/Ldr Hamilton’s undercarriage collapses on landing; pilot unhurt.

1115-1415 hrs  Eight Spitfires 601 Squadron are airborne on offensive convoy patrol.  P/O Ingram and Sgt Rowlandson destroy one JU 87.  W/O Belcher claims one ME 109 destroyed.  Sgt Rowlandson runs out of petrol and has to bale out: he is safe.  P/O Smith claims one JU 87 probably destroyed and one ME 109 damaged.  2/Lt Bartleman destroys one JU 87 and damages another.

1125-1230 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to cover the return of Albacores.

1210-1320 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron on convoy patrol see black smoke 300 degrees Ta Qali.

1302-1332 hrs  Four aircraft 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne on convoy patrol: no engagement.

1303-1610 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron and two 126 Squadron on convoy patrol.  P/O Scollan probably destroys one JU 87.  Sgt McConnell, 601 Squadron, fails to return.

1330-1345 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron take to the air on convoy patrol but return with engine trouble.

1350-1400 hrs  Three Spitfires 603 Squadron on convoy patrol: nothing sighted.

1405-1450 hrs  Four Spitfires  603 Squadron are scrambled to escort the rescue launch: they observe a pilot being picked up.

1409-1640 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron on convoy patrol.  F/Sgt Schade destroys one ME 109.

1455-1730 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron on patrol destroy one unidentified float plane.

1505-1640 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to escort Albacores on a strike mission.  They see a large column of smoke and a cruiser burning 45 miles south of Pantelleria.  Another vessel – possibly a submarine or cruiser – is lying on its side.

1525-1625 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron on convoy patrol: nothing sighted.

1525-1645 hrs; 1540-1700 hrs; 1600-1655 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali at a time are airborne on convoy patrol: nothing sighted.

1612-1706 hrs  Four aircraft 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne on convoy patrol: no engagement.

1640-1820 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron on patrol locate the Malta-bound convoy 20 miles east of Linosa.

1700-1755 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron on patrol see the Malta-bound convoy 15 miles east of Lampedusa and report 20 vessels, including at least two large merchant vessels.  They observe HMS Welshman steaming towards the convoy.

1706-1810 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are on patrol: no engagement.

1730-1940 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are on patrol.  F/O Horne damages one JU 87.  P/O Smith fails to return but is later picked up by the convoy.

1800-1920 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali intercept three Cant 1007s and ME 109s attacking the approaching convoy 30 miles south west of Gozo.  F/Sgt Williams damages one ME 109; F/O Smith damages one Cant 1007.

1802-2010 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron on patrol: no combat.

1805-1925 hrs; 1915-2000 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali at a time are airborne on convoy patrol.

1810-1950 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron patrol the convoy approaching from the west.  F/Lt West destroys one ME 109 and probably destroys one JU 88.  F/Sgt Sim destroys one JU 88 and P/O Sternberg damages one JU 88.  One Spitfire is damaged.

1825-1930 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are on patrol: no interceptions.

1840 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far patrol the western convoy.  P/O Broad destroys one ME 109.  P/O Barol is shot down in the sea but is picked up uninjured.

1920-2055 hrs;1950-2120 hrs; 2030-2155 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali at a time are airborne on convoy patrol.

1924-0120 hrs  Nine Beauforts 217 Squadron Luqa are despatched to launch a torpedo attack on enemy shipping forces but do not locate the fleet.

2020-2200 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are despatched on convoy patrol.  One crash-lands five minutes later with engine trouble: the aircraft is damaged but the pilot is unhurt.

2025-0039 hrs  Five Wellingtons 38 Squadron are despatched to attack enemy shipping forces.  Only F/O Hawes attacks, seeing a flash of explosives.

2105-2145 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne on convoy patrol.

2125-2212 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron are on patrol: no combat.

2140 hrs  The Spitfires intercept ten JU 88s twelve miles west of Gozo.  P/O Jones destroys one, F/O Lucas and P/O Watts jointly destroy one.  P/O Linton damages one and P/O Lucas another.

2145-0045 hrs  One Beaufighter is on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: no combats.

2221-2310 hrs  Air raid alert sounds for eight enemy aircraft approaching the Island.  JU 88s drop high explosive bombs on the Hal Far, Siggiewi and Ta Qali areas.  Light Ack Ack damage one JU 88.

0245 hrs; 0400 hrs  Air raid alerts.  Italian anti-personnel bombs are dropped on Kalafrana and in the sea off Grand Harbour.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant Cyril Casey, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Fleet Air Arm, HMS St.Angelo; Lieutenant William Paton DSC, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Fleet Air Arm, HMS St.Angelo; Flight Sergeant Allen Harris, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Charles Hector, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Pilot Officer Patrick Hedley, Royal Air Force VR; Sergeant Jack McConnell, Royal New Zealand Air Force; Flight Sergeant Alick Greaves, Royal Australian Air Force; Gunner Loreto Cachia, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Naxxar  Paul Vella, age 11.  Siggiewi  Nicholas Farrugia, age 43.  Tarxien  Louis Pulis, age 14.

OTHER OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 15 JUNE 1942

Beaufighter

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Beaufighter from Gibraltar; five Beauforts from Middle East strike.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort damaged by enemy aircraft crashed on landing: wireless operatior injured; remainder safe.  One Beaufort crashed on landing: crew safe.  One Spitfire damaged in combat crashed in the sea: pilot safe.  One Baltimore failed to return from operations: crew missing.  One Spitfire reported missing from patrol: pilot missing.  One Beaufort crash-landed: crew safe.  One Beaufighter missing from operations: crew missing.  One Spitfire shot down in combat: pilot safe.  One Spitfire crash landed with glycol leak: pilot safe.  One Spitfire shot down in combat: pilot safe.  One Spitfire crash landed: pilot safe.

HAL FAR  AM  Four aircraft 185 Squadron are scrambled on two occasions without sighting the enemy.      0845-1150 hrs  Four Albacores of the NAS were airborne on strike.  Two scored strikes on a cruiser and another a probable strike on the same cruiser.  The fourth scored a hit on a large destroyer. 1508-1843 hrs  Three Albacores of the NAS are despatched on strike, claiming two probable hits on an enemy cruiser.  One Albacore failed to return: Pilot S/Lt Casey, Observer Lt Paton.

LUQA  Ration strength is 2002, the highest in the history of Luqa Station.  0620-0845 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance (PR) of western [Malta] convoy sighted two forces – one to the north and another to the south, 225 degrees Pantelleria 25 miles.  Both forces were observed to be firing.  One Spitfire PR Taranto Harbour; crashed on landing on return, possibly due to a burst tyre on take-off – pilot safe.  0650 hrs  One Baltimore 69 Squadron on shipping search.  P/O Patrick and F/Sgt Harris fail to return.  0934-1403 hrs  One Baltimore 69 Squadron on search for Italian naval units.  1245 hrs  One Baltimore 69 Squadron on patrol; Sgt Baum, F/S Greaves, Sgt Firboy, Sgt Perslow failed to return.  1300-1600 hrs  One Spitfire PR Taranto.  1820-2120 hrs  One Spitfire PR Taranto.  2015-0410 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on patrol, sights a convoy and drops flares.  2210-2240 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on patrol: recalled after 30 minutes.

TA QALI  Constant patrols by Spitfires and escorting single aircraft attacking the Italian navy.  Hits were scored on three battleships, two cruisers and two destroyers.  One vessel arrived.  0820-1125 hrs  Four Beaufighters 1435 Flight saw convoy at 1030 hrs, observing one large ship and three small, and two formations of four destroyers, six motor torpedo boats, four merchant vessels and one tanker in tow by a naval auxiliary, two other auxiliaries, two smoke generators and a large fire on the water surrounded by flotsam.

16 June 1942

FIRST TWO MERCHANT SHIPS GET THROUGH

Troilus

Supply ships Troilus and Orari entered Grand Harbour in the early hours of this morning to a warm welcome, after surviving a concerted air and sea attack on their convoy off Pantelleria yesterday.  The two merchantmen were escorted by Cairo, Welshman, six destroyers, four fleet minesweepers, and six motor launches.

Only two merchant ships of the original six which set out from Gibraltar on Friday under Operation Harpoon have so far reached Malta. The remains of the fragmented convoy had almost made it to Grand Harbour last night when they ran into a minefield.  Orari and Matchless were damaged and the Polish destroyer Kujawiak was sunk.  Badsworth was damaged off Zonkor Point and Hebe by a near miss from a bomb.  While returning to harbour after having acted as a navigational mark, Justified struck a mine and sank with the loss of three Maltese ratings.

Unloading was started as soon as the two ships were berthed, Maltese stevedores working on Troilus and Army personnel on Orari.  They will work continuously day and night, unless large formations of bombers cause the red flag to be raised over the Dockyard area.  Working parties are then sent to shelters ashore, lorries near the ships dispersed, and a smoke screen put up over the harbour.

There was only one air raid during the day, which caused no damage. Cairo and four destroyers sailed for Gibraltar at 1930 hrs this evening.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 JUNE TO DAWN 17 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind westerly, no cloud.

0520 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for approaching enemy fighters.  Three Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept.  P/O Goldsmith destroys one ME 109.

0555 hrs  Air raid alert: four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled: no engagement.

0645 hrs  Air raid alert for sixteen ME 109s and four JU 88s which approach Grand Harbour .  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to intercept.  The Harbour barrage fires and a smoke screen is sent up.  Spitfires of 603 Squadron see the JU 88s turn north east, away from the harbour barrage.  They attack destroyers off Grand Harbour.

0649 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are also scrambled to intercept.  S/L Lawrence fires a short burst at extreme range at a ME 109 which is believed destroyed.

0700 hrs  Unloading of the convoy ships begins.

0800-0920 hrs; 0910-1005 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa at a time are airborne on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.

0928-1020 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron carry out a defensive patrol over Grand Harbour: no interceptions.

1000-1055 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne on patrol: no combat.

1025 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for approaching formations of JU 88s and ME 109s.  Eight Spitfires from 185 Squadron are scrambled to intercept.  The Spitfires are jumped by twelve ME 109s.  F/Sgt Vineyard and F/Sgt McNamara are shot down and bale out in the sea.

1027-1135 hrs  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron on intercept patrol sight two men in the sea.

1055-1245 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far search for their two pilots.  They are spotted by four Spitfires 603 Squadron, who guide two Air/Sea Rescue launches towards the spot.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa join the escort until their rescue is complete; they are unhurt.

1112-1200 hrs  Four more Spitfires 603 Squadron patrol over Grand Harbour during the rescue.  Sgt Urwin lands without undercarriage; he is unhurt.

1650-1745 hrs  Enemy fighters are reported heading towards Malta.  Eight Spitfires 601 Squadron are scrambled to intercept. Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron join the patrol.

1700 hrs  Air raid alert: nine ME 109s patrol the Island. Only two cross the coast but all nine aircraft soon retreat and there is no engagement.

2155-2255 hrs; 2200-2320 hrs  Single Beaufighters of Malta Night Fighter Unit carry out intercept patrols: no combat.

Night  Three alerts for single aircraft.  Bombs are dropped on Mellieha, Gudja, Safi and Kalafrana.  Heavy Ack Ack destroys one BR 20 and damages one JU 88.

2215 hrs  Air raid alert.

0130-0300 hrs; 0330-0515 hrs  Single Beaufighters of Malta Night Fighter Unit carry out intercept patrols: no combat.

0210 hrs  Air raid alert.

Military casualties  Stoker 1st Class Joseph Baxter, HMS Badsworth; Petty Officer Vincent Caruana, HMS Justified; Able Seaman Henry Gatt, HMS Justified; Stoker 1c Joseph Medina, HMS Justified.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 16 JUNE 1942

AIR HQ  Departures  One Hudson to Mersa Matruh; one Hudson to Gibraltar; two Beauforts to LG 05; one Lodestar to Heliopolis.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire in aerial combat crashed in the sea: pilot safe.  One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot safe.  One Spitfire landed with undercarriage up: pilot safe.

LUQA   1400-1600 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance (PR) of Catania, Gerbini, Gela, Biscaria, Comiso, Pachino aerodromes.  1800-2020 hrs  One Spitfire on PR of Palermo sights a convoy.  He reports one cruiser in two and one unidentified ship with an escort of two destroyers.  1815-2125 hrs  One Spitfire PR of Taranto also photographs two merchant vessels escorted by three destroyers at sea.

TA QALI  Convoy arrived from Gibraltar and 70 airmen accommodated at Boschetto Gardens in marquees, then posted to this and other stations next day. 

17 June 1942

15 REMAINING SUPPLY SHIPS NOT COMING

Just 15000 tons of supplies arrived with the two ships, Troilus and Orari, extending the supplies available in Malta by only eight weeks.  The failure of two massive convoys to bring more than a token delivery of essential supplies is a massive blow to the besieged Island.  The population is already on starvation rations; access to water and domestic fuel is severely limited.  Aviation fuel and ammunition supplies are extremely low.

Lord Gort

The Times of Malta this morning published a broadcast made by The Governor, Lord Gort, last night outlining the implications to the people of Malta:  “Some days ago, two convoys set out, one from the West and one from the East to bring supplies which we need to restore our situation.  The Western convoy had to endure severe and prolonged attacks, and only two merchant ships survived the ordeal.  They are now in the Grand Harbour…These cargoes are essential for our future and well being.  The Eastern convoy, after suffering from prolonged and intense attacks by the Luftwaffe, was ordered to turn back…

I must break to you what the arrival of only two ships means to us.  For some time past we have been short of supplies and further privations lie ahead of us…Every effort will be made to replenish our stocks when a favourable opportunity presents itself.  Meanwhile we must stand on our own resources and every one of us must do everything in his or her power to conserve our stocks and to ensure that best use is made of all the available resources that remain to us.  We must make all possible savings in every commodity and stock…”

Having lost supremacy in the skies over Malta, the Axis have proved themselves to be in control of the seas.  The Island is now isolated and the plan is clear: to starve Malta into submission.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 JUNE TO DAWN 18 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; no cloud – haze.

0800 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa and seven of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept approaching aircraft.  They are airborne too late to intercept one JU 88 and five ME 109s which fly over the Island at 20000 feet.

0900-0940 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron patrol near the Sicilian coast but make no interceptions.

1045-1120 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol: nil report.

1141-1229 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are on intercept patrol: nothing sighted.

1405-1455 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne on patrol: nil report.

1545-1705 hrs  Eleven Spitfires 601 Squadron are airborne on patrol: no combat.

1735-1830 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy fighters which carry out a patrol: P/O Goldsmith claims one ME 109 damaged.

1803-1838 hrs  Eight Spitfires 601 Squadron are on patrol: no combat.

1930 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept an approaching small formation of enemy fighters which trigger the air raid alert: no engagement.

2337-2352 hrs  One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit airborne on patrol: destroys one JU 88.  bombs are jettisoned in the sea north of Mellieha.

0100 hrs  Air raid alert.

Military casualties  WOI Frederick White, Corps of Military Police.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 17 JUNE 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Two magnetic mines were detonated by Swona in Grand Harbour entrance channels.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Lodestar from Heliopolis.  Departures  One Beaufort to LG 05; one Lodestar to Heliopolis.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed due to engine failure: pilot safe, rest of crew injured.

LUQA  0730-0945 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance (PR) Tripoli.  1410-1815 hrs  One Spitfire PR Lecca, Reggio, Bari and Foggia.   

18 June 1942

CHURCHILL MESSAGE OF SUPPORT 

“It is a great comfort to me to feel that you are in full control of this vital island fortress.  You may be sure we will do everything to help you.”  Winston Churchill to Lord Gort, 18/6/42 (1)

Spitfires 601 Squadron

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 JUNE TO DAWN 19 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind easterly; strong.  80% cloud.

1035 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept three approaching enemy aircraft which trigger the alert, then carry out a patrol: no engagement.

1040-1205 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are on patrol: no combat.

1145-1215 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne on intercept patrol: no combat.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                   Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 18 JUNE 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Three mines detonated in Marsamxett and Grand Harbour entrance channel.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Hudsons from Gibraltar; one Lodestar from Heliopolis.  Departures  Three Hudsons to Gibraltar. 

19 June 1942

A Fairey Albacore of the Fleet Air Arm crashed at 1030 hrs this morning shortly after take off from Hal Far on a test flight.  Four soldiers of 2nd Battalion the Devonshire Regiment, Lance Corporals Williams and Winsor, and Privates Sutton and Downs, hurried to the rescue and managed to help the injured pilot, Sub-Lieutenant Jordan, to safety.  The observer, Sub-Lieutenant Todd, was killed in the crash and the soldiers carefully rcovered his dead body from the wreckage.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 JUNE TO DAWN 20 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind south-easterly; 100% medium cloud.

0630 hrs  Air raid alert.

0640-0730 hrs  Seven Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept and attack one ME 109: no claims.  Two ME 109s carry out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 15000 feet.

0730 hrs  Air raid alert.  Six ME 109s are reported approaching the Island.  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne to intercept: no combat.  Four patrol while two carry out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 18000 feet.

1015-1100 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol: nil report.

1210-1320 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali and nine Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne on patrol: no interceptions.

1410-1450 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are on intercept patrol: nil report.

1535-1620 hrs  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are on intercept patrol: no combat.

1729 hrs  Three enemy fighters carry out a patrol. Seven Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no engagement.

1800 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1904-1930 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron are on patrol: no combat.

2000-2030 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are on patrol: no sightings or combat.

2145 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching hostile aircraft.  One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit to intercept: no combat.  The Beaufighter remains on patrol until 2308 hrs.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant Richard Todd, Observer, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 19 JUNE 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Beauforts, twelve Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Lodestar to Heliopolis; nine Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed on take-off: crew safe.

20 June 1942

MALTA ON SIEGE RATIONS – BELOW SURVIVAL LEVEL

Queue for milk

Lt Governor Sir Edward Jackson today announced further cuts in rations to the Maltese population, saying they were “a far greater hardship…than any you have had to bear hitherto.”  He explained the measures were necessary in order for the Island to survive until an undisclosed ‘Target Date’ when further supplies might be expected.

Sir Edward revealed that the rations previous weekly rations would now be issued only every two weeks.  A family of five will now receive monthly: 2000 grams sugar, 1300 ml oil, 400 grams cheese, 200 grams tea, 800 grams fats, 400 grams coffee, 3 bars soap, 4 tins corned beef, 4 tins fish, 4 matches.  The average per capita intake is lowered to 1500 calories per day, which the Ministry of Food in London acknowledges is insufficient.

GOVERNOR REPORTS CONVOY RESULTS TO LONDON

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

Military Situation Report for Week Ending 20 June 1942

1.  Enemy air activity against convoy has been very slight consisting of a few fighters on [reconnaissance] and some night raiders only 12 of which dropped bombs.

2.  Details of convoy operation presumably already known to you.  Only two merchant ships arrived night 15/16 June bringing 15000 tons stores sufficient for approx one month’s supplies.  Separate resume of supply position and other severe cuts now being made has been sent to Mideast defence committee and chiefs of staff.

Large organisation for unloading ships consisting of 2300 men and 240 vehicles from Army daily working in shifts as unloaders, lighter parties, dockside labour, tally clerks, messengers, telephonists and parties for dispersal dumps.  [Motor transport] sub-depots, traffic control, smoke screen party, first aid parties and so on, adapted to situation of only two ships and these unloaded cargoes dispersed in 108 hours working night and day.  No attempts made by enemy to interfere.  Parties on convoy unloading were in addition to 1700 men and 100 vehicles provided for aerodrome ground staffs.

3.  During night raids Ack Ack destroyed one BR 20 and damaged two JU 88s.  RAF over Island and protecting convoy destroyed seven JU 88s, three JU 87s, two BR 20, four ME 109s, two float planes.  Probably destroyed or damaged 12 bombers, 7 fighters.  Attacks on Italian fleet made by Malta based Beauforts and Wellingtons – results known to you.

4.  Following is total of work on improvement of aerodromes carried out by Army for RAF in last three months.  27 miles dispersal track, 10 Wellington pens, 168 fighter pens, 37 light bomber pens, 21 Fleet Air Arm pens.  This in addition to crater filling, improvement of runways etc.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 JUNE TO DAWN 21 JUNE 1942

Weather  Wind westerly, moderate to strong.  100% cloud.

0725 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled and chase six Messerschmitts from five miles north of St Paul’s Bay back to Sicily.

0805 hrs  Air raid alert for a patrol of enemy fighters.  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no engagement.

0910-1010 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far on patrol: nothing sighted.

1029-1150 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne on patrol.

1120 hrs  Air raid alert for a small formation of hostile fighters which patrol the Island: no combat.

1140-1200 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali patrol: nil report.

1221-1312 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron on patrol: nothing sighted.

1510-1610 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol.

1600 hrs  Air raid alert for a reported formation of enemy bombers.  The Spitfires see six Messerchmitts but ignore them and fly on in search of the reported bombers.  Two of the Spitfires 603 Squadron see two ME 109s north of Grand Harbour and give chase but do not engage.

1606-2107 hrs  Eight Beaufighters 235 Squadron Luqa are despatched to act as escort for Beauforts: no combat.  They sight one liner of 10-12000 tons with two destroyers.

1715-1800 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron on patrol: nil report.

1817-1946 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far on patrol: nothing sighted.

1900 hrs  Convoy unloading is complete.

1915 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy aircraft carry out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 28000 feet.

1919-2020 hrs; 2026-2140 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa at a time are airborne on intercept patrol: no combat.

2155-2355 hrs  One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit is airborne on intercept patrol.

2250 hrs  Air raid alert for three approaching enemy aircraft.  Bombs are dropped south of Hal Far and in the sea.  The Beaufighter destroys one JU 88.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                 Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 20 JUNE 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Swona sweeping Grand Harbour and Marsamxett entrances. Unloading of Troilus and Orari completed.  After four days and nights of constant labour, by this afternoon 12000 tons deadweight of cargo had been transferred to storage facilities. Naval and Military working parties were released and the remainder of the unloading was then completed under normal conditions by Maltese stevedores.  Less than four hours were lost from disruption due to smoke screens during the work.  Although more than ten hours were spent under alert, no bombs were dropped on the harbour area.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Hudsons, ten Blenheims, one Wellington from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; two Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Hudson crashed on landing: observer killed; remainder of crew injured.  One Beaufort attacked by enemy aircraft during a strike: crew missing.

HAL FAR  2327-0448 hrs  Three Albacores NAS took off on strike mission: nothing sighted.

LUQA  1015-1150 hrs  Two Baltimores 69 Squadron despatched on search for enemy shipping were recalled to base.  1131-1430 hrs  Two Baltimores 69 Squadron despatched to continue search.  One sights an enemy convoy of five vessels.  1608-2113 hrs  Twelve Beauforts 217 Squadron despatched to attack enemy shipping. The convoy was not sighted and one aircraft failed to return.  1800-1950 hrs  One Spitfire on photo-reconnaissance photographed enemy convoy.  2201-0404 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight searched Cape Bon area in co-operation with Fleet Air Arm: no sightings.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal for week-ending 20 June: UXB  Reported (50kg or over) 22; dealt with 11(3 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg, 1 x 15kg anti-personnel, 2 x AP containers) plus 153 x 2kg Butterfly bombs.  Work retarted by having to keep a party standing by for priority bombs on Docks area.

(1) The Air Battle for Malta, James Douglas-Hamilton, Pen & Sword Aviation, 2006

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

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2017 in 1942, June 1942

 

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