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5 June 1941: Malta Needs Major Reinforcements to Survive

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GOVERNOR & COMMANDER IN CHIEF PRESENTS CASE FOR DEFENCE OF MALTA

From: Gov & C IN C             To: War Office, Admiralty, Air Ministry      Copy: C in C Mediterranean; C in C Middle East

The recent operations in Crete and elsewhere have again changed the defence situation of Malta. When my original appreciation was made it was considered certain that the fleet would intervene at Malta within a few days.  It seems possible now that Malta might have to stand the full weight of a German airborne attack, probably supported by a subsidiary seaborne attack for a much longer period. 

Enemy could attack by air or sea

Enemy could attack by air or sea

Previously the loss of local air superiority has been reluctantly accepted but the seriousness of such a situation has now been brought home to us, though Malta is in a much better position to stand up to it than was Crete. These changes make a review of the situation and of previous conclusions very necessary, and the following considerations emerge:

1. Malta is more than ever important for the defence of Egypt, which seems to be the enemy’s objective, since it is the only base from which the enemy’s communications from Libya can be, and are being, effectively attacked. It is also the only quick means of reinforcing the Middle East by air. Its neutralisation may therefore become vital to the enemy and we must be prepared for him to attempt it.

2. Until recently it looked as if our naval control in the Mediterranean would increase and a seaborne attack was unlikely. Consequently certain readjustments by withdrawing troops from less likely beaches were made in order to meet airborne attacks. Now, however, heavy airborne attack will probably be supported from the sea and the rapid intervention of our fleet cannot be counted upon.  Therefore, beach defences as well as defence against air landings, must be ensured. 

3. I feel the outstanding lessons for Malta to learn from Crete are:

  • (a) the necessity of maintaining fighter aircraft in operation;
  • (b) the necessity of dealing with parachutists instantly before they can establish centres of resistance and others arrive;
  • (c) the necessity of preventing any aerodrome or landing ground falling into enemy hands
  • (d) the necessity to be certain of repelling seaborne attack which will probably synchronise with airborne attack.

4. (a) To maintain fighter aircraft we must start with adequate numbers and sufficient reserves on the spot to replace casualties.

(b) To deal with parachutists instantly entails an unwelcome dispersion of force and a large number of troops must be disposed primarily for this purpose. There must also be reserves with which to strike quickly.

(c) The defence of our aerodromes also requires many men and weapons. These will be subjected to heavy attacks from the air and casualties will undoubtedly be suffered.  Artillery sited specially to bring fire onto these aerodromes is essential.

(d) Beach defences will be subjected to heavy sea and air bombardment and must have adequate depth and sufficient local reserves to deal quickly with any penetration.  Artillery is also necessary to support them.  The struggle will be protracted and our reserves must be adequate for a very persistent effort on the part of the enemy.

5.These considerations point to the fact that the infantry garrison I said was necessary last October, ie ten battalions, is not only not excessive but is now actually less than is needed. Counting in 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment (the other two KOMR battalions are only forming) I now have nine battalions. I consider that two more are really needed if we are likely to be subjected to really determined attack.  More artillery is also required as what we have is inadequate to defend the aerodromes and the beaches simultaneously.  In view of the scale of attack on Malta now envisaged I can spare nothing, even if reinforced as above, for Gozo which is completely undefended, in spite of the serious military and civil disadvantages to Malta if this Island should fall into enemy hands.

6. The anti-aircraft defences, though considerable, are not yet complete and the weapons we have are gravely undermanned, so that existing personnel would be hard put to maintain a sustained effort over a long period and there is no margin for casualties. Anti-aircraft ammunition is also required to complete reserves. There are many gunners (approximately 1000) waiting in Egypt to come here, and also other badly-needed reinforcements, both Army and RAF.  The total is 2577 all ranks.  These must be got here somehow.  If the Commander in Chief Mediterranean cannot send these personnel by warship at an early date I earnestly request that special efforts be made to bring them here by air.  This would also provide a method of removing from the Fortress some of the families and [unnecessary mouths to feed].

7. In order to minimise air attacks on Malta, enemy bases must be attacked in Sicily. It is not advisable to keep large forces of bombers here indefinitely but as soon as concentrations are noticed in Sicily these must be violently attacked by aircraft. A fighter squadron should be earmarked to proceed here via Gibraltar at very short notice.

8. In addition to ensuring the defeat of an initial attack it seems to me most necessary that preparations should be made in advance for the quick reinforcement of the Fortress before the enemy could re-attack it after his initial effort had failed. It would be necessary to have at least a squadron of fighters ready to be brought here immediately we could receive them. With the prevailing winds it would be essential for these aircraft to be held in reserve in Gibraltar.  In addition it is clear that certain specialised stores and supplies would be required here with the least possible delay after the initial attack had been frustrated.  It is recommended that plans should be drawn up which would ensure vital supplies being readily available at Alexandria for quick shipment to Malta at the same time as the fleet was able to intervene.  If this view is accepted, detailed proposals can be made.

9. To sum up: the following are needed at once by the three Services for the defence of Malta:

  • (a) (i) A total of three squadrons of fighters, ie one more than at present contemplated, to be maintained to strength with reserves on the spot;
  • (ii) Army and RAF personnel currently in Egypt;   
  • (iii) certain small stores which can come by submarine or air.
  • (b) Additional requirements, though I realise commitments elsewhere and difficulties of sending them may not make their despatch possible:
  • (i) Two infantry battalions with carriers and motorcycles and bicycles for all other personnel, but without motor transport;
  • (ii) Additional field or anti-tank guns up to 30 with manning personnel. Egypt has been asked to provide Italian field guns.

10. So much for defence against attack. It is also essential that Malta does not fall through lack of supplies. With the exception of aviation spirit and fodder, generally-speaking our supplies with great care can last until the beginning of 1942.  My following telegram deals with this problem in more detail. 

Heads of all services here agree with my recommendations.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 JUNE TO DAWN 6 JUNE 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1449-1505 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

2207-2245  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which approach and cross the Island from different directions. One Sunderland approaching at the time is warned to keep clear.  17 high explosive bombs of 15kg fall are dropped between Kalafrana and Marsaxlokk and in the sea south of Hal Far. One 15kg bomb hits the roof of Loreto Church causing slight damage. 

0102-0220 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north east at 16000 feet, then cross the coast at Kalafrana. 15kg bombs are dropped on Ta Qali, the Dockyard, Tarxien, in the sea off Kalafrana, on Birzebbuga, Hal Far and Island Bay areas.  Searchlights illuminate three times.  A Hurricane night fighter of 185 Squadron piloted by F/Lt P Hancock engages a Heinkel 111, attacking from such close range that the two aircraft nearly collide; the Heinkel is severely damaged and the raider is suspected to have crashed in the sea. 

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Peter Lane, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 148 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 5 JUNE 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Utmost returned after carrying out successfully another special mission in the Gulf of Hammamet.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron 4 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.  139 Squadron  Squadron returned to UK.  Underground operations room now in use. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2; dealt with 2 (15kg).

 

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Posted by on June 5, 2021 in 1941, June 1941

 

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25 April 1941: Honour for Maltese Officer

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MBE wiki editMBE FOR JOSEPH BUTTIGIEG

A Special Supplement to Fortress Order 1/25 today announces the following award to an officer of 1st Battalion Kings Own Malta Regiment:

The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the undermentioned honours and awards recommended by His Excellency, the Acting Governor and Commander in Chief:  MBE Lieutenant now Captain (Quartermaster) Joseph Buttigieg, Kings Own Malta Regiment.

TROOPS WARNED NOT TO DAMAGE CROPS

A notice has been issued to all troops in Malta today reminding them that valuable crops such as peas and beans as well as fruit are now coming into season and that any damage caused to them results in expensive claims for compensation from farmers. Troops are also warned not to interfere with crops and fruits either within or outside barbed wire areas, unless they know that such places are actually hired by the War Department. 

The plucking of fruit from farmers’ trees without permission is a criminal offence and heavily punishable. The notice points out that farmers are usually very willing to sell fruit for a few pence.  Disciplinary action will be taken against any individual found stealing or causing damage.

LOOTING FROM BOMBED HOUSES STRICTLY PROHIBITED

Concerns have been raised that stone and building material from demolished houses has been removed without permission. A notice has been issued today to all troops warning that in no circumstances are such material to be taken from buildings without express orders from their Headquarters.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 APRIL TO DAWN 26 APRIL 1941

Weather  Rough.

0757-0820 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which crosses the Island at 20000 feet on reconnaissance from Tigne to Zurrieq and Luqa, turning away over Grand Harbour. Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

0924-0940 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber on reconnaissance escorted by four ME 109 fighters. Anti-aircraft guns engage the bomber while Malta fighters engage the ME 109s; no claims.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 25 APRIL 1941

AIR HQ  Hurricane photo-reconnaissance Comiso, Gela, Syracuse. Photos of Comiso reveal a new runway built on south east part of aerodrome; 48 aircraft of which 17 twin-engined and 12 fighters. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance northern sector Tunisian coast.    

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  A surprise exercise to test anti-tank defences: at 0445 hrs tanks were reported to have landed at Msida and operated in the Pembroke and Ta Qali areas; full precautions for local protection were taken at Brigade HQ.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 7 (7 x 50kg).

 

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Posted by on April 25, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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7 April 1941: Luftwaffe Have 320 Aircraft Ready to Attack Malta

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GERMAN AIR FORCES IN MEDITERRANEAN 518 STRONG

Report to the War Cabinet today from Commander in Chief Middle East:

ME 109 airfield SicilyThe Italian air threat to Cyrenaica is at present almost negligible. On the other hand the Germans are already well established in the central Mediterranean and have now available for operations against Malta, sea communications, Cyrenaica, and for defence of their convoys and Tripolitania approximately 170 bombers, 90 dive-bombers, 60 fighters, 18 reconnaissance aircraft and 180 transport aircraft.  These strengths can and are likely to be increased.  From bases in both Tripolitania and Sicily heavy scale air attacks are being carried out on the Allies in Cyrenaica and mine-laying on ports, especially Tobruk, is a particular menace.  In view of other commitments our own air forces are not likely to exceed one fighter squadron, one medium bomber squadron and one army co-operation squadron, although bombing effort will be augmented periodically by heavy bombers working from Malta and Cycrenaica.

MALTA RATIONING SCHEME BEGINS WITH SUGAR, COFFEE, SOAP AND MATCHES

Malta’s new rationing scheme comes into operation today. Ration cards have been distributed to families and commodity issue dates will be 6th and 21st of each month.  Sugar, coffee, soap and matches are now strictly rationed.  More items will be gradually added to the list of rationed goods.

The sugar is one rotolo per person. Allowances for the other three products will be allotted households on a tapering scale as it is considered that “large households need less of these commodities in proportion to the number of persons, than small houses”.  The allowances will be as follows:

  • Matches (box): family up to five 4, family of six plus 6.
  • Soap (bar): single person 1; family up to four 2, family of five plus 3.
  • Coffee: family up to four ¼ rotolo; family of four to five ½ rotolo; family of five plus ¾ rotolo. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 APRIL TO DAWN 8 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine at first; very wet evening and night.

1304-1317 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 which passes over the Island towards Hal Far but drops no bombs. Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 7 APRIL 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 7 Wellington; 4 Bombay.  69 Squadron  Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast for enemy shipping; nil report on account of bad weather.  Maryland despatched for photo-reconnaissance of Tripoli is unable to reach its objective on account of bad weather and fighter patrol; reported on merchant convoys at sea.  Maryland reconnaissance for shipping to the east of Sicily.   

KALAFRANA  Sunderland arrived from Greece with distinguished passengers.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  28 conscripts joined the Battalion.

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY  Funeral of L/Cpl E W Page at Military Cemetry, Imtarfa.

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

 

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Posted by on April 7, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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31 March 1941: Threat of Invasion by Paratroops now High

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URGENT REVIEW OF ANTI-INVASION MEASURES

parachute troops 2Anti-parachutist measures in Malta need a complete and immediate overhaul, according to the Island’s General Officer Commanding (GOC) military forces. The GOC was responding to the latest military intelligence which states that there is an airborne division in Sicily ready to be deployed against Malta. The new information follows several reports in the past three months of enemy parachutists in Sicily.  Sources now confirm that there are at least 3850 parachutists in Catania and seven companies of paratroops in Palermo.

At an urgent conference yesterday of all three services, the GOC made it clear that anti-invasion measures must be stepped up with immediate effect. Following the conference orders were issued to all troop commanders to put in place the enhanced precautions against invading troops, such as blocking key roads and closing access to strategic areas.

ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY TO BE RE-ORGANISED

The Governor and Commander in Chief has decided that the organisation of 30 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery is unsuitable on its present factory basis, in the light of continuous enemy activity day and night. Manpower is not engaged permanently in Ack Ack defences; officers especially are available part-time only and the situation is proving difficult to administer. 

Lt Dobbie has recommended to the War Office that the present Battery should become a local Territorial unit manning 12 guns. Recruiting would be from the Dockyard and it is expected that the majority of present personnel will transfer to the new unit.  The Battery is also manning two multiple pom-pom guns on loan from the Navy and will need addition of personnel to man these: two Lance-Sergeants, four Bombardiers, four Lance-Bombardiers and 38 Gunners.  It is hoped that in making these changes the Battery can retain its esprit de corps and efficiency, which is very good within its present limitations.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 MARCH TO DAWN 1 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.

0500-0900 hrs Several enemy reconnaissance flights are carried out to either side of Malta. No attacks or engagements.

1137-1143 hrs Air raid alert for a small enemy formation carrying out reconnaissance around the Island without crossing the coast. Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 31 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Rorqual sank an Italian U-boat in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

KALAFRANA Only three operational patrols were carried out by Sunderland aircraft of 228 Squadron during the month.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  CO visited the detachment in Gozo. The troops are very split up and on bare and empty ground.  They have little to do and are not in the best of spirits.  Games and books will be sent out.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths 34 Officers, 225 other ranks, 2 RAOC (attached).

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 2 (1 x 3.7” Ack Ack; 1 x 50kg). Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 111; dealt with 60.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Total 99 conscript recruits and 16 volunteers joined the Battalion in March. Strengths: officers 28, British PSI 4, other ranks 612.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Total 90 conscript recruits and 12 volunteers joined the Battalion during March. Strengths: officers 25, other ranks 676. 2100 hrs Company commanders conference at Camerata re possible attack.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Parachute posts manned during ‘stand to’ periods. During the month, anti-tank screens were erected and tallymen supplied to assist with the unloading of a convoy. 

 

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Posted by on March 31, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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25 March 1941: Churchill’s Top War Team In Malta

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Anthony Eden & Sir John Dill

Anthony Eden & General Sir John Dill

ANTHONY EDEN AND GENERAL SIR JOHN DILL ARRIVE FROM ATHENS

Rev Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, meets distinguished guests at San Anton Palace:

On Lady Day, when I reached the Palace about 6 o’clock after my day’s work, I was told that some distinguished guests were expected about midnight. I met them all next day at dinner. Anthony Eden, with his Principal Private Secretary (named Stevenson) and another Secretary called Dickson, also General Sir John Dill the [Chief of Imperial General Staff] and Brigadier Mallaby [Deputy Director of Military Operations, War Office].

They had flown in a Sunderland flying boat from Athens by night, and the weather being rough the boat could not take off again, so perforce they must wait here till the sea became calmer. They were all in good temper though very disappointed at being delayed. After dinner some played billiards, while Lady and Sybil Dobbie and I talked about Malta, etc., to Sir John Dill in front of the fire.

MORE FIELD SECURITY POLICE NEEDED…

From: Governor & Commander in Chief                         To:  War Office

The considerable increase in the strength of the Malta Garrison necessitates the strengthening of the Field Security Police. Owing to the peculiar conditions in Malta, the normal establishment of a Field Security section would not be suitable for our purposes and it is suggested that a modified establishment should be approved.  This would require a further Warrant Officer, four sergeants and three Field Security Policeman be despatched from the UK. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 MARCH TO DAWN 26 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0615-1640 hrs, 0735-0835 hrs  Air raid alerts for enemy aircraft which approach and carry out reconnaissance over the Island.

Military casualties  Private Herbert Gunns, Royal Army Service Corps.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 25 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance between Malta and Tunisian coast for enemy shipping.  228 Squadron was transferred to the Middle East Command today leaving a detachment of 25 men at Kalafrana, including maintenance personnel.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from Middle East with Mr Anthony Eden and other distinguished passengers.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion is splitting up more and more, and once again a large number are leaving our command. Today we have had to provide 5 officers, 4 NCOs and 54 privates to work on unloading the ships of the convoy.  The hours of work are to be 1730 to approximately 2300 hrs.  The duty is liable to last for about 15 days.  We also sent off today 3 NCOs and 18 men to the 71 Mobile Coast Battery for training as anti-aircraft gunners.  On 31 March we are to send 2 officers and 45 other ranks to the anti-aircraft training school at Lija for training on Bofors and in mid-April we are to send a further 1 officer and 42 other ranks for Ack Ack training.  All these will be lost to us until more anti-aircraft gunners arrive on the Island, sufficient to man all weapons.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  7 conscript recruits joined the Battalion.

(1)  Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

 

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Posted by on March 25, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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22 March 1941: Five Hurricanes Shot Down – Pilots Killed

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Sgt Richard Spyer (2)

Sgt Richard Spyer

“WE THOUGHT WE HAD THE EDGE” SAYS PILOT

Five RAF fighter pilots lost their lives today in the defence of Malta. The five fighters were among eight Hurricanes of 261 Squadron scrambled this afternoon to engage a large force of enemy raiders on a bombing raid across the east of the Island and Grand Harbour.  As the ten bombers turned back for Sicily, the fighters set off in pursuit, intercepting their target some 35 miles to the north of the Island.  14 Messerschmitt 109 fighters escorting the bombers then turned on the Hurricanes.  One pilot whose Hurricane was badly damaged in an engagement managed to return fire on the attacking ME 109 and destroy it.  Four other Hurricanes are missing.  

Pilot Officer John Pain was one of the survivors. “This was one day when we thought we had the edge. It was the first time we had managed to get eight aircraft into the air in one formation in the two months I had been on the Island.”  P/O Pain joined the search for survivors but found only the marks of crashed aircraft. (1)

The missing Hurricane pilots have now been named. Flying Officer James Foxton served as a reconnaissance pilot with 431 Flight in Malta from September until January, when he transferred to 261 Squadron to fly Hurricanes.  Pilot Officer Thomas Garland, Pilot Officer Dennis Knight and Flying Officer John Southwell arrived in Malta just five days ago to join the Squadron.  Sergeant Richard Spyer had a lucky escape on his way to Malta when the Hurricane he flew off HMS Argus ran out of fuel 40 miles short of the Island and fell into the sea; he baled out and was rescued.  Sadly today despite an extensive search no trace of the missing pilots could be found.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 MARCH TO DAWN 23 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0758-0835 hrs Air raid alert for an enemy JU 88 bomber which crosses the Island on reconnaissance, escorted by two ME 109 fighters. Three Hurricanes engage; one of them attacks a raider from close range but without visible results.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1605-1625 hrs Air raid alert for three enemy formations totalling ten JU 88s and 14 ME 109 fighters approaching the Island from the north and north east. The ten bombers cross the Island at 22000 feet and drop bombs in a line from St Thomas Bay to Grand Harbour, the first in the neighbourhood of Bidni and the last on Senglea.  Houses and Dockyard buildings are damaged; part of Verdala Barracks is hit.  A sergeant of 4th Bn The Buffs is killed, apparently by a delayed action bomb.  One civilian is killed and three injured.  Hurricanes are scrambled and engage the raiders; one ME 109 is shot down.  The tail fins of an enemy aircraft are picked up near Luqa aerodrome. 

Eight Hurricanes follow the enemy bombers as they head back towards Sicily and engage them 35 miles north of Malta. The ME 109s arrive to join the air battle: one Hurricane is shot down by a ME 109 which he then in turn shoots down.  Both aircraft hit the sea.  Four more Hurricanes fail to return.  It is not known whether they lost their bearings in the cloudy conditions or were shot down as they were out of radio range.  The RAF launch heads out to the north east to search for survivors of crashed aircraft.

1820-1850 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the north east. They split up north east of the Island and only six approach, proceeding along the north coast.  One crosses the coast, passing over Rinella towards Grand Harbour and then out to sea.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no engagement reported.

2230-2246 hrs  Air raid alert for some three or four bombers which approach singly, passing over the Island. There is a slight mist and no moon.  No searchlights are exposed, nor Malta fighters airborne.  The enemy pilots seem unsure of their location and unable to find target.  They drop bombs in isolated areas between Siggiewi and Gudja, on Hal Far and to the west of Luqa aerodrome, on the Marsa area and in the sea off St George’s.  Bombs are also dropped on the Dingli area. One farmhouse is hit, injuring the farmer and his son; two other civilians are hurt.

Military casualties Sergeant Martin M Boland, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment); Flying Officer James H T Foxton; Pilot Officer Thomas B Garland; Pilot Officer Dennis F Knight; Flying Officer John S Southwell; Sergeant Richard A Spyer, pilots, Royal Air Force, 261 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Zabbar  Francis Cassar, age 14.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 22 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY Rorqual arrived to embark mines for operations north west of Sicily.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Sunderland Suda Bay carried out patrol western Ionian Sea then alighted in Malta.  69 Squadron 1212-1600 hrs  Maryland closing patrol northern Ionian Sea for enemy shipping; nil report. 

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from the Middle East.

TA QALI  No 122 Eucharistic Congress Street, Mosta, taken over for overflow sleeping accommodation for officers.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE Troops move to Gozo for an exercise.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT) Sgt Boland, B Company, Bofors Troop was killed; The Buffs’ first fatal casualty in Malta. A Company gave a demonstation of a company in attack in the area Tal Wied Rini to Gen Scobell GOC who afterwards congratulated them on a fine show.  

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  1800 hrs A small force was despatched to Gozo, consisting of one platoon and one section, both reduced in numbers.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Lt Runacres posted to the temporary garrison on Gozo.  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 1 (50kg).

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  1000 hrs  His Excellency Sir William Dobbie awards the Military Medal to Sergeant A Kitney of C Company. Representatives from all Companies attend on the Parade Ground at Battalion HQ.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  One platoon travelled to Gozo for an exercise.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  E Company established in Gozo with HQ in the Citadel, Victoria.

(1) Hurricanes Over Malta, Brian Cull with Frederick Galea, Grub Street 2002

(2)  Battle of Britain London Monument

 

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

 

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15 March 1941: Recent Heavy Raids May Be Prelude to Invasion

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3 Wellington bombers arrived today

3 Wellington bombers arrived today

ANTI-AIRCRAFT DEFENCES MAY NOT BE ENOUGH SAYS WAR OFFICE

Recent heavy bombing attacks on Malta have raised concerns in London. The War Office sent a telegram to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief today, saying: “Persistent attacks on your aerodromes might be a forerunner of invasion.  Therefore in view of recent German low-flying attacks, we would welcome your opinion whether you consider adequate the scale of weapons now allocated to aerodrome defence.  We would further be glad to know if you think light automatic fire can still be regarded as an effective deterrent against these types of attack.”

MALTA AIRFIELD SECURITY MUST BE UPGRADED

MOST URGENT From: Air Ministry                     To:  War Office             Copy:  Governor & C in C Malta

An increase in the establishment of the Kings Own Malta Regiment is urgently required for the anti-sabotage protection of the RAF aerodromes in Malta. The existing strength consisting of one company is inadequate in view of increasing RAF liabilities.  War Office approval is now requested for the raising of a second company locally consisting of six officers, six WO1/Sergeants, 12 corporals and 144 privates.  Also to increase the first company to a total of 24 junior NCOs.  Experience in the employment of these troops on anti-sabotage as opposed to anti-aircraft duties indicates the necessity of additional junior NCOs to supervise the greater number of posts into which troops must be organised.

A policy has been agreed between the Officer in Charge RAF and the General Officer Commanding Malta, endorsed by the Air Ministry, that these Kings Own Malta Regiment companies should remain under the Royal Air Force for anti-sabotage duties only.”

A note covering the telegram was added to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief:  “Is this [new Rifles] company covered by the expansion authorised in our War Office telegram of 8 March? If not, do you agree its necessity and can you raise the personnel in addition to the existing expansion programme?”  Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie replied immediately: “The policy of the employment of Kings Own Malta Regiment for anti-sabotage protection on RAF aerodromes is under consideration. I request no action on the Air Ministry recommendation pending further recommendations from us.”

GOZO FISHING BOAT TRAGEDY

A fishing boat from Gozo was destroyed today when it struck a mine in Grand Harbour. Four civilians were killed, three seriously injured and three slightly injured in the explosion.  The magnetic mine was lying off Marina Pinto in Grand Harbour.  Early investigations into the tragedy have suggested that the boat was taking an irregular short cut when it struck the mine.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 MARCH TO DAWN 16 MARCH 1941

Weather  Storms until evening.

0705-0750 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve approaching enemy fighters which attempt to intercept Wellington bombers arriving from the UK. The pilot of one of the Wellingtons signals from north west of Gozo “Am being attacked”.  He does not reach Malta and it is later confirmed that he has been shot down.  Four Hurricanes are scrambled and chase off the raiders.  In a dog fight one Hurricane sustains slight damage.

0950-0956 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft on weather reconnaissance. Hurricane fighters are airborne but bad weather hinders interception.

1213-1236 hrs Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which dive-bombs Hal Far dropping four bombs across the aerodrome from 4000 feet, causing no serious damage or casualties. It also attempts a machine-gun attack but is driven off.  Two of the bombs do not explode.

1445-1459 hrs; 1625-1629 hrs Air raid alerts for enemy aircraft on weather reconnaissance. Hurricane fighters are airborne but bad weather hinders interception.

0140-0225 hrs  Air raid alert for ten enemy aircraft which cross the coast individually and carry out attacks. Low cloud makes it difficult for the raiders to locate targets.  Some bombs are dropped near Iz-Zebbieh causing slight damage to civilian property but most fall in the sea.  Poor visibility also prevents Malta night fighters from taking to the air. 

Civilian casualties  Gozo  Emanual Borg, age 46; Carmel Costa, age 35; Saviour Grech, age 50; Saviour Rapa, age 74.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 15 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 3 Wellingtons, 1 Maryland from the UK. 0750 hrs Maryland approaching from UK reports seeing an enemy convoy midway between Pantelleria and Cape Bon. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance Trapani.  Maryland patrolled area between Cape Bon and Sicily for shipping to pass information to submarines.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (3.7” Ack Ack).

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  17 conscript recruits joined the Battalion.

 

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Posted by on March 15, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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14 March 1941: Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief Knighted

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Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

LONDON GAZETTE ANNOUNCEMENT TODAY

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief, Lieutenant General Dobbie has been knighted. The announcement appeared today in the London Gazette.  Following a successful military career including the First World War, Lt Gen Dobbie was appointed Governor and C in C last year.  Today’s announcement reads:

CENTRAL CHANCERY OF THE ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD St James’s Palace, SW1, 14th March, 1941

The King has been graciously pleased to give orders for the following promotion in the Most Honourable Order of the Bath: –

To be an Additional Member of the Military Division of the Second Class, or Knights Commanders, of the said Most Honourable Order: –

Major-General (acting Lieutenant-General) William George Sheldon Dobbie, CB, CMG, DSO, Colonel Commandant, Royal Engineers, Acting Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Malta.

TROOPS HAVE HAD NO NEWS FROM HOME FOR MONTHS

From: Governor & C in C                                  To:  War Office

I am much concerned at the almost total non-receipt of mails from the UK by the Forces. Many men have had no letters since middle November.  Though a number of aircraft have recently reached Malta from the UK, practically no mail has been brought in them, in spite of assurances given in your telegram of 20 November. 

This is naturally causing much uneasiness and some unrest. I earnestly hope this may be put right without delay.  In view of the paramount importance of this, I suggest it would be justifiable to detail a Sunderland or Wellington for this purpose once a week or fortnight.   The matter is really urgent.  Please pass a copy of this to the Air Ministry.

From: War Office                                             To:  Governor & C in C

The following mails were despatched by aircraft: 4 February (152lbs by three aircraft, one lost); 21 February (206lbs by four aircraft); 23 February (52lbs by one aircraft); 3 March via Gibraltar (188lbs by Sunderland); 10 March (50 lbs by one aircraft). 

These mails included official and unofficial Royal Navy, RAF and Army communications. Every opportunity is taken to include [servicemen’s] mails but occasionally the notice is too short or bad weather prevents the carrying of full loads.  The suggestion in the last paragraph of your cable is being considered by the Air Ministry.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 MARCH TO DAWN 15 MARCH 1941

Weather  Storm clouds; less windy but considerable swell on the sea.

1243-1305 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 14 MARCH 1941

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  13 conscript recruits joined the Battalion.

 

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

 

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28 February 1941: Mines on Valletta – 200 Homeless

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CIVILIAN THROWN FROM 3RD FLOOR BY BLAST SURVIVES

Communities in Valletta emerged from their shelters this morning to a scene of devastation following last night’s widespread dropping of parachute mines by enemy aircraft. 200 have now been made homeless across the city; most have been given temporary shelter at St Francis Convent in Kingsway. 

Parachute Mine (1)

Parachute Mine (1)

The damage from parachute mines is especially severe due to their operation. Although the bombs themselves are heavy, the parachute slows their descent so that they explode on or near the surface, causing maximum blast effect over a wide area.  One mine near the church of Our Lady of Pilar blew a crater 25 feet across, damaging the church and the adjacent convent.  The Auberge d’Aragon suffered the full force of mine blast which severely damaged its roof.  A nearby school was also structurally undermined.   

Arriving to marshal his men in the rescue operations, Adjutant of the Special Constabulary surveyed the destruction: “Glass was smashed all over the capital and houses wrecked over a wide area. Casualties were four dead and twenty injured – without our good shelters I hate to think of the figure which might have been reached. 

Two men were dug out of a cellar while I was there; one was in a pretty bad mess and did not survive. Another person was blown out of his bath into the street when the front of his house was sucked out by the blast.  He flew from a third storey but was not hurt.

Someone informed me that an unexploded mine had just been seen on a nearby roof, and would I please go to see whether it was dangerous! I sent an [Royal Engineers bomb disposal] chap and followed gingerly behind with my heart all a-throb, but it was only a cover-part of the exploded mine – to which was attached a piece of parachute…200 families are homeless in Valletta.” (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 1 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

Military casualties Lance-Corporal Francis Gilmore, Corps of Military Police; Sergeant Lewis John Frederick Godwin, Royal Air Force; Lance Corporal John Charles Kelly, Army Dental Corps, attached Royal Army Medical Corps; Pilot Officer Hubert Scadeng, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Civilian casualties Valletta  Anthony Farrugia, age 19; Anthony Zammit, age 19.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 28 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY   At first light enemy aircraft laid mines at the entrance to the harbours and some in Grand Harbour. The Harbours are temporarily closed while the positions of mines is fixed. 

AIR HQ  Maryland photoreconnaissance Reci Maddelena, Cagliari, Elmas and Alghero at the special request of SO Forces N.  

KALAFRANA During the month Sunderlands of 228 Squadron carried out 12 patrols over a wide area in search of enemy shipping. Five communication flights were made by aircraft of 228 Squadron with important passengers and freight between Middle East and Gibraltar.  Several Sunderlands 10 Squadron RAAF and 230 Squadron arrived and departed conveying passengers between Middle East and UK.

LUQA  69 Squadron One Maryland photoreconnaissance Maddelena, Cagliari, Elmas and Alghero.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths: 24 officers, WOs 6, 132 other ranks.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths: 27 officers, 509 other ranks.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal  Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 46; dealt with 23.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Strengths: 27 officers, 879 other ranks plus two permanently attached.

(1)  Bomb Fuze Collectors Net http://www.bombfuzecollectorsnet.com/

(2) The Road to Rome, Philo Pullicino, MPI Publishing 2012

 

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Posted by on February 28, 2021 in 1941, February 1941

 

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13 February 1941: New German Force Heads to North Africa via Med

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Rommel in North Africa

Rommel in North Africa

VICTOR IN FRANCE AIMS TO REPEAT SUCCESS

A major new German military force is set to cross the Mediterranean to North Africa, according to intelligence sources. Their commander, Major General Erwin Rommel is reported to have already landed in Libya.  Following his success in the invasion of France in 1940,  Rommel has been given the task by Chancellor Hitler to take on the British in North Africa, following heavy Italian defeats in the region. 

Observers and reconnaissance have recently made several reports of military forces amassing in Italy and Sicily, as well as extensive merchant and naval shipping movements through the Mediterranean to Libya. Malta bombers are expected to play a key role in impeding the successful transfer of resources to the North Africa campaign.

GERMAN BOMBERS ARMOUR-PLATED

German bombers are reinforced with armour-plating, according to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief. Reporting the discovery in a telegram to the War Office today, Lt Gen Dobbie has recommended that the Army should be issued with A/P SAA .303 ammunition.  If the issue is approved, the Island would need an initial delivery of one million rounds, rising to five million rounds in time for the forthcoming increase to the Garrison recently authorised by London.

A WEEK IN MALTA – REPORT TO THE BRITISH WAR CABINET FOR 6-12 FEBRUARY

The Island was persistently but ineffectively raided by enemy aircraft, which included German bombers and probably fighters. Forty-five bombers maintained a prolonged attack on the night of 8th/9th, during which our Hurricanes destroyed two JU 88s and damaged a third; relatively unimportant damage was sustained at Luqa and Hal Far, though civilian property suffered considerably.  On the 12th, two intercepting Hurricanes were lost, but one pilot was rescued from the sea.  ME 109s have been reported over Malta, but have not been in action.

Our aircraft reconnoitred Tunis and the coast and sea routes from Italy to Tripoli and Benghazi. On the night of 11th/12th the aerodromes at Comiso and Catania in Sicily were attacked with over five tons of bombs by Wellingtons from Malta.  At least four enemy aircraft were destroyed at Catania and large fires were started at both aerodromes. 

Enemy transport activity on a considerable scale has been maintained between Sicily, Tripoli and Sardinia.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 14 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine and clear.

1508-1522 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber accompanied by six ME 109 fighters which approach the Island from the north on reconnaissance at 22000 feet. Hurricane fighters are scrambled but on sight of them the ME 109s turn away and fly off.  Anti-aircraft guns open fire, hitting the JU 88 which is last seen losing height with smoke pouring from one engine.  No bombs are dropped on the Island.

1915-1932 hrs; 1942-2001 hrs; 2200-2235 hrs; 2331-2325 hrs; 2340-0040 hrs  Air raid alerts for a series of nuisance raids over the Island. Hurricane fighters are airborne in turn throughout.  In the first raid bombs are dropped between Mosta and Naxxar.  In the second, from Rinella to Della Grazia and one enemy bomber is damaged by a Hurricane.  In the third, raiders cross the coast over Dingli; bombs are dropped to the west of Ta Qali aerodrome; three fall on B block of Imtarfa Hospital, killing three patients, seriously wounding six and slightly wounding another six.  The third attack approaches from the south and drops bombs in the sea off Fort Leonardo.  In the fourth, bombs are dropped on the Grand Harbour area.  Searchlights pick up a single bomber heading away over the north coast.  During the raids bombs are also dropped on Pembroke and on Luqa aerodrome, seriously damaging one Wellington and slightly damaging one Whitley.

Military casualties  Private Lawrence Duckworth, 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment; Private Robert McGill, King’s Own Malta Regiment; Private James Frederick Scott, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 13 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm attacked and believed sank a merchant convoy heading for Libya.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Sunderlands. Sunderland patrolled western Ionian Sea.  69 Squadron  Maryland photoreconnaissance Comiso and Gela aerodromes: Comiso eight JU 88s of which one burned out, 11 HE 111s, one SM 79, plus 16 unidentified fighters; Gela seven bombers, nine fighters unidentified but with dark camouflage.   

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from Middle East en route for UK. One Sunderland 230 Squadron arrived from Middle East with passengers.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Gela and Comiso.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battle practices on Ghain Tuffieha ranges.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Private L Duckworth was killed by a bomb on an air raid shelter at Imtarfa Hospital.

 

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Posted by on February 13, 2021 in 1941, February 1941

 

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