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8 January 1942: Bomb Disposal Team Tackles 450 Anti-personnel Bombs

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COMPOSITE SUMMARY OF ARMY BOMB DISPOSAL WORK IN MALTA FOR THE PERIOD 30 JUNE TO 30 SEPTEMBER 1941

Lt G D Carroll (l) and men of RE Bomb Disposal Section, Malta

Army Bomb Disposal Establishment:  One Officer, 20 Other Ranks, Royal Engineers

  • Total unexploded bombs dealt (UXB) with during period: 584
  • Including High explosives (50-500kg) 36; Incendiary 94; Anti-personnel (Thermos)  454
  • No of excavations: 8 (max depth 18 feet; max offset 8 feet)

SUPPLIES FOR MALTA

The fast transport ship Glengyle arrives after a trouble-free run from Alexandria, carrying interim supplies of fuel, food and ammunition for Malta.

AIR RAIDS 0001 HRS TO 2359 HRS 8 JANUARY 1942

Weather cold but fair.

0250-0709 hrs  Four aircraft approach from the North East and patrol round the Island.  One aircraft crosses the coast near Hal Far at 4000 feet and drops bombs on Qrendi Landing Strip near defence posts of the Kings Own Malta Regiment.  Aircraft on patrol are within range on three occasions.  Heavy Ack Ack engages by immediate barrage.  One aircraft patrols near sea level in for 1½  hours; Bofors engage the aircraft in the Kalafrana-Hal Far areas.

0925 hrs Aircraft are scrambled from Ta Qali.

0930-1010 hrs  Two JU 88s escorted by 25 fighters approach from the north.  The fighter escort remains to the west and south east of the Island.  The JU 88 came in over Delimara and dropped bombs on Luqa.  14 houses demolished.  16 Hurricanes airborne – these remain over shipping convoy out to sea.  Heavy  Ack Ack engaged.

Civilian casualties  Luqa  Mary Camenzuli, age 78; Joseph Penza, age 71; Josephine Psaila, age 24; Teresa Sammut, age 68; Peter Vella, age 60.

1154-1207 hrs  Air raid warning.  Raid does not materialise.

1230-1239 hrs  Air raid warning.  Aircraft identified as friendly.

1357-1414 hrs  Raid does not materialise.

1809-1909 hrs  Six aircraft approach from the north but only one JU 88 crosses the coast east of Grand Harbour.  It approaches Luqa but is turned away by gunfire, dropping three unexploded bombs west of Qormi and a further stick in the sea south of Lapsi.  Heavy Ack Ack engages.  A second JU 88 approaches from the south east and drops bombs on Delimara Point, then recedes.

Night  No raids.  Believed due to bogged conditions of Sicilian aerodromes and enemy preoccupation with reinforcements for Tripoli. Local gales prevented Wellingtons operating from Luqa.

Military casualties  Sergeant Sidney Goldsmith, Royal Air Force, 59 Squadron; Sergeant Robert Jones, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR), 59 Squadron; Sergeant Thomas Stott, Royal Air Force (VR), 59 Squadron, Douglas Williams, Royal Air Force.  Gunner Alfred Goldsmith, 74th Light Ack Ack Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: THURSDAY 8 JANUARY 1942

HMS Glengyle

ROYAL NAVY  Arrivals  Glengyle and Force C: Lance, Lively, Jaguar and Havock.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Hudsons, one Wellington, one Whitney from Gib. Departures: six Blenheims, nine Hudsons to 108 MU; two Wellingtons to Mersa Matruh; one Whitley to Kabrit.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Beaufighter photo-reconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes; one Maryland SF14 patrol; one Maryland SF15 patrol; one Maryland SF6 patrol. 18 Squadron  One Blenheim special search.

TA QALI  Aerodrome [conditions] improving.  100 airmen took over billets in Mosta: Officers moved in and filled up Torri Cumbo (dispersal of troops).  Delivery Flight ceased to operate at Ta Qali: 24 airmen of Delivery Flight returned to Luqa.

1st BN CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Approximately four Ack Ack machine guns per Company were kept mounted in case of dive-bombing attacks, but nothing beyond the normal bombing was encountered.  During the morning there was one bombing raid on Luqa.  No aircraft were shot down.

1st BN DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  0800 hrs  B Company in re-occupation of Bir Miftub position.  1500 hrs  B Company withdrawn to billets.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; dealt with (1 x 70kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

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(1) UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010

 

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Posted by on January 8, 2022 in 1942, January 1942

 

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24 November 1941: Invasion Force Heads for Malta

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KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT TRAIN TO REPEL INVADERS

The Kings Own Malta Regiment are carrying out manoeuvres today as part of Command Exercise “Victoria”.

1345 hrs  An urgent ‘message’ is received from Headquarters. Malta is now on real red alert, action “ASIA”.  Fifteen enemy warships have been reported 40 miles west of Gozo, on course for Malta.  All officers and men are recalled from leave, and all the Island’s defences are fully manned.  The Regiment is now at war stations. 

1615 hrs  The order comes to earmark men for loading arms.  Sixteen Other Ranks from 3rd Battalion are deployed at Ta Kandia and ten at St Edwards College, plus others at Pawla ordered to provide loaders as above. One platoon from Pawla is ordered to report to HQ.  

1647 hrs  Italian aircraft attack Malta.  Ten minutes later nine Hurricanes sent to investigate the possible convoy return to base, having been unable to locate the warships.  Despite the lack of a confirmed sighting, the Island’s defenders remain at the ready well into the evening.

2100 hrs A report is received from a RAF speed launch engaged on rescue operations that it has sighted ten small craft, identified “E” boats [German motor torpedo boat] about five miles north east of Delimara, on bearing 040.  All headquarters are informed.  Recce aircraft are sent out but nothing further was seen of the craft.

2127 hrs  The alert level is reduced and the Regiment is ordered to stand to. 

2319 hrs  The beach defences are finally stood down.  The Island will remain in a state of readiness for another twelve hours.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 25 NOVEMBER 1941

No air raids.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Harold Batchelor, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 69 Squadron; AC1 Thomas McCann, BEM, Royal Air Force, Sergeant David McKell, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant John Hutt, RAFVR, 69 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 24 NOVEMBER 1941

LUQA  One Blenheim 18 Squadron and one Blenheim 107 Squadron SF11 patrol.  18 Squadron  Five Blenheims search for M/V (merchant vessel). No sightings made. 107 Squadron  Six Blenheims attacked MT on roads east and west of Sirte. Eight Wellingtons 104 Squadron and six Wellingtons 40 Squadron attacked Bengazi. Sgt Parker failed to return.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 5 (Thermos).

 

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Posted by on November 24, 2021 in 1941, November 1941

 

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30 September 1941: Submarines Sink 49 Axis Ships in 3 Months

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RAF raid on German ammunition dump in Libyan desert August 1941

RAF raid on German ammunition dump in Libyan desert August 1941

ROYAL NAVY MONTHLY REVIEWS SEPTEMBER 1941

Between June and the end of September, submarines have sunk a total of 49 enemy ships – an overall 150,000 tons – in the Mediterranean. Added to the losses inflicted by the RAF this represented a high proportion of Axis shipping bound for Libya.

12 patrols were carried out during the month by submarines of 10th Flotilla.  In addition, Triumph proceeded to a successful patrol in the Adriatic, Perseus to an area off Kefalonia, and Otus and Osiris direct to Alexandria.

Unbeaten carried out a spirited bombardment of a tunnel which caused consternation to the local home guard, and Upright sank a destroyer of the Generale class.  The most successful operation was against a fast convoy east of Tripoli, during which Upholder scored one hit on each of Oceania and Neptunia in a night attack and after reloading returned to sink one of them with two torpedoes at dawn.  The other ship’s fate is unknown.  The Vulcania of the same convoy was intercepted by Ursula which scored one hit on the ship causing it to list slightly and reduce speed.

No bombs were reported as having fallen on the Dockyard or other Naval establishments. No unexploded bombs were dealt with by the Royal Navy during the month. 

AIR HQ REPORTS A TOTAL OF 233 TONS OF BOMBS ON TRIPOLI THIS MONTH

During the month sweeps over enemy territory by Malta fighters, some equipped to carry 40lb bombs, were added to the strategy.

Marylands and photoreconnaissance Hurricanes of 69 Squadron have covered the Italian convoy routes daily as well as making frequent reconnaissances of Sicilian and southern Calabrian ports and aerodromes, and of Tripoli. Naples has also been visited.  The excellent photographs, visual and sighting reports obtained have indirectly been responsible for the increased pressure of offensive effort from Malta during the month.

Offensive Operations:  Wellingtons of 38 Squadron carried out 26 operations during September, with an average of eight aircraft on each sortie. Over 233 tons of bombs have been dropped on Tripoli during 17 raids, causing considerable damage to harbour installations and the town. Palermo has been attacked five times, Messina twice, Benhazi and Kuriat once each.

Blenheims of 105 and 107 Squadrons carried out 31 operations, 20 of these directed against enemy shipping. Considerable damage was done to the chemical works and harbour installations at Crotone, factories at Licata, transport centres at Homs, barracks at Misurata and a power station at Porto Empedocle.  Five sweeps have been made along the Tripoli-Benghazi road during which petrol tankers and other transport vehicles have been bombed and machine-gunned.

Hurricanes (equipped with cannon) of 249 Squadron attacked the railway station at Pozallo, while those of 185 Squadron have carried out three bombing raids on Comiso aerodrome. On one of these raids a Hurricane was lost but the pilot was subsequently rescued. 

Swordfish of 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm carried out 16 operations, 13 of these against enemy shipping, and have sunk two motor vessels and one destroyer, as well as damaging others. Mines have been laid on two occasions in Tripoli Harbour and once at Palermo.  As a result of torpedo attacks two merchant ships are claimed sunk, one destroyer and three merchantmen probably sunk, seven damaged and a further five probably damaged. 

Beaufighters of 272 Squadron were attached to this command during ‘Operation Halberd’ and were used to attack Sardinian and Sicilian aerodromes. Searches were also made south of Sicily for torpedo boats.

On 14 nights Fulmars have operated over aerodromes in southern Sicily, dropping small bombs and machine-gunning aircraft on the ground. One Fulmar force-landed in the sea; the crew were rescued.

Defensive Action: 126 Squadron carried out 31 scrambles during the month, 249 Squadron 22 and 185 Squadron 66. The Malta Night Fighter Unit had 22 scrambles and shot down two enemy aircraft.  Eleven enemy aircraft were confirmed destroyed, plus one probable and five damaged, against the loss of two Hurricanes.

Enemy Activity: There have been nine day alerts and 20 night alerts during the month. None of these raids was heavy and bombs have only been dropped at night.  Damage has been negligible and confined to civilian property. 

HURRICANES ATTACKED AS THEY SEARCH FOR MISSING PILOT

Malta fighters were attacked tonight by five enemy aircraft as they helped search for one of their own Hurricane pilots reported missing after a raid. Eleven Hurricanes of 185 Squadron had earlier attacked Comiso aerodrome but as they returned to their base at Hal Far they learned that one of their pilots, P/O Donald Lintern, was missing.  Five Hurricanes took off again to escort a Fulmar which was sent to search for the missing pilot.  As they circled the area to the north of Gozo, enemy aircraft approached and attacked the Malta fighters.  In the ensuing dogfight one of the enemy fighters was shot down.  P/O Lintern was not been found and the search was eventually called off.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 1 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and fresh.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Sergeant Robert L Kitch, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 200 Squadron; Pilot Officer Donald W Lintern, RAFVR, 185 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 4 Wellington. Departures 6 Beaufighter, 4 Blenheim fighter. Fleet Air Arm One Fulmar on offensive patrol over Gerbini and Catania aerodromes dropped high explosive bombs on Gerbini dispersal area. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked a motor transport depot in Tripoli. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance eastern and southern Sicily, east Calabrian coast and Tripoli.  Patrol of east Sicilian coast and shipping search off Tripoli area. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked shipping and motor transport near Misurata and Beurat.  1 Blenheim attacked a schooner.  1 Blenheim on search for shipping north of Crotone. 

HAL FAR  185 Squadron 11 Hurricanes attacked Comiso aerodrome, 5 carrying bombs and 6 acting as fighter escort. High explosive bombs and incendiaries were dropped on buildings and a dispersal area.  The aircraft of P/O Lintern failed to return. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Mobile machine-gun company carried out an exercise to the north west of Rabat.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths 33 officers, 870 other ranks.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 21 officers, 443 other ranks.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths 18 officers, 708 other ranks. Recruits joined in September: 77.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths 18 officers, 8 WO1, 214 other ranks.

 

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Posted by on September 30, 2021 in 1941, September 1941

 

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12 September 1941: Kings Own Malta Regiment Defend Luqa

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ack-ack-gunners-malta cropMALTESE BATTALION TO MAN KEY ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS

The 3rd Battalion Kings Own Malta Regiment has been asked to man anti-aircraft gun positions to help protect Luqa aerodrome from attack.  One Sergeant and 12 men will form three anti-aircraft light machine-gun posts at the aerodrome.  The four-men crews will each man an anti-aircraft Bren gun from morning ‘stand to’ to evening ‘stand down’, and during daylight air observations.   The crews will be stood down overnight.  Stone sangars will be constructed for each location and lined with sandbags to form a secure gun position. 

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT LAUNCH FUND FOR DISTRESSED FAMILIES

The Kings Own Malta Regiment have voted unanimously to establish a Regimental Distress Fund to help soldiers whose families are affected by enemy bombing. The object of the fund is to accumulate an amount from which small sums can be paid to serving soldiers who through enemy action suffer damage or loss to their household belongings.  It is intended to assist afflicted families in obtaining immediate necessaries such as beds, blankets, cooking utensils and clothing.  Each Battalion and the Static Group will make an intitial contribution of £30.  Voluntary contributions will be made on a sliding scale from 10/- per month by a Colonel/Lt Colonel down to 2d per month by a regular soldier.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 13 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.

Military casualties Squadron Leader Frederick R H Charney, DFC, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 105 Squadron; Sergeant Donald R Harris, RAFVR, 105 Squadron; Sergeant Sidney Porteous, RAFVR, 105 Squadron; Sergeant Joseph E Mortimer, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Flying Officer Charles D Owen, RAFVR, 107 Squadron; Sergeant Douglas J Reid, RAFVR, 107 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY Operation Status Phase II postponed. HM Submarine Utmost departed to search for the crew of a downed Blenheim.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland, 5 Wellington. Departures 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 7 Wellingtons attacked a convoy approaching Tripoli. 69 Squadron Photo reconnaissance Taranto, Messina, Palermo. 105 Squadron 1 Blenheim special patrol.  8 Blenheims attacked a convoy.  S/Ldr Charney’s Blenheim was shot down in flames, S/Ldr Sgt Brandwood and Sgt Mortimer failed to return. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a convoy setting a tanker and a merchant vessel on fire.  One Fulmar on offensive patrol over Catania and Gerbini aerodromes dropped high explosives and incendiaries on Gerbini and machine-gunned both aerodromes. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

 

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Posted by on September 12, 2021 in 1941, September 1941

 

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30 July 1941: Malta Can Survive Only 100 Days Without Better Food Security

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FLOUR MILLS AND STORAGE MUST BE MOVED UNDERGROUND

Grain to be stored and milled underground

Grain to be stored and milled underground

With the Malta Garrison now fully manned, the Governor and Commander in Chief is turning his attention to the security of supplies essential to the survival of the Island during the current siege, especially foodstuffs. The production of flour is currently under threat, as Lt Gen Dobbie explains in a telegram to London:

“It is…important to provide a means by which the milling of wheat can be carried out under all conditions. At present we need to mill about 100 tons of flour each day for the civilian population.  Mills which carry out this work are concentrated in one small area at the head of Grand Harbour, and there is very considerable danger that the great majority of the might be put out of action suddenly, particularly if the Germans resume their mine-laying activities.  If this occurred the ability of the Fortress to withstand the siege would be reduced to approximately 100 days, which is the maximum period for which large stocks of flour can be stored in this climate.

This problem was recognised by the Naval authorities some time ago, and a small underground mill to provide part of the requirements of the Services was installed with the approval of the Admiralty. This mill is quite inadequate in size for the present storage of the garrison.  The only satisfactory solution is to provide for the milling of the whole of the requirements of the Island, including the Services, under a bomb-proof shelter…

Excavation can be provided as necessary with the existing mining force as part of the shelter construction programme… Experience with the underground Naval mill has shown that in this climate air conditioning is essential for maintenance and satisfactory production throughout the year.

I should be most grateful if an urgent investigation could be carried out with the appropriate milling firms in England and a report furnished as to whether satisfactory mills could be provided. If so I will examine the local problems arising from the scheme, in particular the arrangement which would have to be made with local milling companies…

All the Services here recognise the extreme importance of this problem…the destruction of our existing mills would nullify all arrangements which have been made to enable us to resist for approximately eight months. In other words, Malta could not resist a siege for more than 100 days if the existing flour mills were destroyed.  I consider this unsatisfactory state of affairs must be [rectified] as quickly as possible.   

EXTRA MALTESE PLATOON FOR GHARGHUR

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

With reference to your telegram of 25 May authorising the formation of a Static Group of Kings Own Malta Regiment including ten platoons for Fort defence. Authority is now requested for the formation of an eleventh platoon for the defence of Gharghur radio station.  The importance of this has increased owing to the employment by the RAF of RDF sets.

HEAVY ARTILLERY INCREASE

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

I propose to arrange the manning of an additional 24 eighteen-pounders by reorganising 26 Defence Regiment in three batteries. Detailed proposals for this establishment involve only minor additions to personnel.  Please cable approval.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 JULY TO DAWN 31 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny with a cool breeze.

2332 hrs  A mine guard loop indicates the presence of a vessel. The minefield is detonated but a subsequent search reveals no wreckage.

Night  An enemy fighter patrol approached to within 25 miles of Malta then turn back.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but do not made contact as raiders retreat before engagement.

HMS Cachalot

HMS Cachalot (1)

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 30 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Parthian arrived with stores and kerosene from Alexandria. HM Submarine Cachalot was rammed and sunk by the Italian torpedo boat General Achille Papa while on passage from Malta to Alexandria.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  4 Blenheim, 5 Wellington. Departures 5 Blenheim, 4 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily.  6 Beaufighters successful ground-strafing operation Elmas aerodrome and seaplane base, southern Sardinia destroying eight aircraft and damaging many more and causing a large fire in a hangar.  One Beaufighter attacked a large transport aircraft south of Pantelleria putting two engines out of action before running out of ammunition; the enemy aircraft was last seen descending towards the sea.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  NCOs and men attached to 59th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery on Bofors guns returned to the Battalion.  

(1)  Source Wikipedia WP:NFCC#4  

 

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Posted by on July 30, 2021 in 1941, July 1941

 

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6 July 1941: Heavy Bombs on Paola & St Julians Destroy Homes and Kill 6

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BR 20 bombers

BR 20 bombers

240 HIGH EXPLOSIVE BOMBS OVER MALTA

Fifteen civilians were killed and 14 injured when heavy bombs struck the Dockyard community of Paola tonight. In a series of four air raids spread over five hours, more than 20 enemy bombers crossed the coast singly at intervals at a height of 17000 feet, dropping over 240 high explosives, many of them 100kg and 250kg.  Bad weather hampered defensive operations by Malta’s night fighters who were scrambled in pairs for each of the raids but were unable to engage the enemy bombers. 

The first four raiders approached the Island at about 1030 pm but made no significant attack, dropping bombs on rocks at Mellieha Bay and in the sea. An hour later the second wave of ten BR 20s crossed the coast north west of Grand Harbour and dropped several 250kg bombs on Paceville in St Julians, demolishing four houses and damaging ten others with no casualties.  Bombs were also dropped on Ta Braxia Cemetery and Sa Maison in Pieta.  Anti-aircraft guns opened fire but were unable to locate their targets.

Just after 1am a single bomber crossed over Grand Harbour and dropped 15kg bombs on Marsa. The heaviest raid came towards 3am when the final wave of 12 bombers approached, crossing the coast in three separate formations between Grand Harbour and Delimara.  One formation headed directly over the Harbour area and dropped several sticks of 250kg and 100kg bombs across Vittoriosa and the heart of Paola, where the civilian casualties occurred.

ROYAL MALTA ARTILLERY AT WORK

RMA Gunner recalls a summer at Ghain Tuffieha

“In July 1941 we handed over the Naxxar Silent Gun Position to 6th HAA Battery [Royal Malta Artillery] – also of our regiment – and my troop moved to Ghajn Tuffieha.  Battery HQ joined the other troop at Ta’Giorni…

We established ourselves in the wooden huts at Ghajn Tuffieha Camp, the same huts we used to go into as Boy Scouts when we were ‘camp followers’ to our older friends in the Kings Own Malta Regiment machine gun platoon in 1938. I took over four 3 inch 20 cwt guns but this time they were deployed in two Silent Gun sites – two guns in each – with no instruments to direct the fire.

It was a very busy time for us for we had to stack a very large quantity of 3 inch 20cwt ammunition in a cave situated close to one of the sites. Early every morning the whole troop, except for guards and cooks, marched uphill for nearly two miles to get to Bajda Ridge (Biddy).  Here, from time to time, a huge Matador gun tower arrived loaded with ammunition, which we had to unload and carry to a cave off the road…  Each box was made of steel with separators to take four live cartridges; one former stevedore had a lump of hard skin on his right shoulder the size of half a tennis ball.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 JULY TO DAWN 7 JULY 1941

Weather  Stormy.

2218-2252 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft approaching from the north. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but do not engage due to bad weather.  The raiders drop bombs on rocks at Mellieha and in the sea.

2313-0049 hrs  Air raid alert for ten enemy BR 20 bombers which approach the Island and drop high explosive bombs on St Julians demolishing several houses, on Pieta, and in the north of Grand Harbour. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders with two barrages; no claims.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns open fire; no claims.

0106-0206 hrs  Air raid alert for a single bomber which crosses the coast and drops bombs on Marsa. Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.

0228-0317 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy aircraft which approach the Island in three separate formations. They cross the coast singly between Grand Harbour and Delimara, and drop bombs on Paola killing several civilians. Bombs are also dropped on Vittoriosa and near St Thomas’ Bay.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.

Military casualties Private Frank Watson, 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment; Private Emmanuel Tanti, Kings Own Malta Regiment.                                              

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 6 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Mine detonated in Floating Dock. P33 arrived from Gibraltar. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 8 Swordfish bombed and laid 5 cucumbers off Tripoli. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 6 Blenheims, 1 Catalina. 82 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked shipping Palermo Harbour. 

HAL FAR  One Fulmar patrolled over Catania and attacked a large aircraft which burst into flames.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  All ranks were kept in barracks owing to ‘Exercise Asia’; organised bathing parties were allowed.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal Section busy on unexploded bombs. Exercise review concludes that all our drivers should be trained soldiers as MAC drivers have a tendency to go to ground under bombing. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4.

(1) Recollections of a Malta HAA Gunner, Maurice G Agius, Allied Publications 2008

 

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Posted by on July 6, 2021 in 1941, July 1941

 

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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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