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24 August 1940: Air Battle Heard Across the Island

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SEABORNE RAIDING COMPANY MUST BE RAISED IN MALTA

Proposals by the War Office in London to send a new seaborne raiding company to operate from Malta have been scrapped. A telegram to the Governor and C in C gave the reasons as “urgent demands elsewhere and lack of suitable opportunities for the employment of such a small force from Malta”.

However, the War Office has given garrison commanders such as Lt Gen Dobbie the option to raise their own independent companies from local recruitment. Additional manpower would be allocated to make up the shortfall and instructors could be sent out from UK to assist with training.

Lt Gen Dobbie has already stated in previous correspondence that, to be effective against the enemy in Sicily and Tripoli, any seaborne force would have to be considerable and would have to co-ordinate its operations with the Mediterranean Fleet. He will now consider the new War Office proposals.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 AUGUST TO DAWN 25 AUGUST 1940

Weather  Fine; windy.

Fiat CR42

Fiat CR42

1211-1240 hrs Air raid warning for six enemy bombers escorted by sixteen fighters which cross the Island from the east and drop bombs on Hal Far and Kalafrana, causing slight damage to RAF buildings and serious damage to one Swordfish aircraft. Four Hurricanes are scrambled and engage the raiders, as do Ack Ack guns. The air battle can be heard across the Island. One enemy CR42 bomber is reported brought down into the sea; a parachutist is spotted bailing out, is rescued and taken prisoner. Other enemy bombers are believed damage; one is thought to have been brought down near Hal Far, where rifle fire is heard. One Hurricane is hit in the main spar by an explosive bullet. Another crash lands at Luqa due to a punctured tyre but is not seriously damaged.

Enemy casualties  Sergente Maggiore Renzo Bocconi, 75a Squadriglia, fighter pilot of Fiat CR42 baled out from his damaged aircraft, landed in the sea, was rescued and taken prisoner.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 24 AUGUST 1940

ROYAL NAVY  Osiris arrived.

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Posted by on August 24, 2020 in 1940, August 1940

 

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21 August 1940: Governor Considers Malta’s Strategic Role in War

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LETTER REVEALS GOVERNOR & C IN C’S CONCERNS

In a personal letter today to his friend ‘Dillo’ – Sir John Greer Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, head of the British Army – Lt General Dobbie revealed his innermost thoughts on the prospects for Malta in the present conflict:

The Palace, Malta

Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

“…We are all well here and are going on increasing the protection of vital things and of the civil population. Of course many months are still required to complete these…It seems that it is possible that things may boil up in near and Mid East. I am anxious that in any case Malta should pull its weight to the best advantage – but I am finding it difficult to know what to advise. There are two alternative policies: (a) it should be a centre of offensive activity; (b) it should be strictly defensive.

For (a) one can say that all one’s instincts clamour for striking all the blows one can, when and where one can, and Malta’s proximity to Italy makes it a suitable starting point, and therefore could not be ignored by Italy. For (b) it can be said that the defection of France has thrown upon Malta greatly increased responsibilities. The Naval Base and Dockyard facilities are more than ever needed, and the integrity of its aerodromes and refueling facilities for aircraft are really vital, since it is the one remaining link between England and Egypt for land planes and between Gibraltar and Egypt for sea planes.

It may be argued that offensive action from here will produce serious retaliation and that any advantage we may get from making diversions in order to help operations elsewhere, will be greatly more than counterbalanced if these vital naval and air facilities are made ineffective.

One has to remember that the air force we have here cannot exceed a certain force, since our aerodrome accommodation is so limited. A determined attack on our aerodromes is difficult to counter entirely, and loss of aircraft here cannot be so easily replaced as at home. Yesterday we had an attack on two of our three aerodromes and considerable damage was done to some Blenheims passing through en route to Egypt.

It is not that I am anxious about the safety of Malta. Please God we can and will hold it against anything the Italians do – but I want to ensure that its usefulness to Imperial defence will not be impaired. It is a dangerous argument to assume that if we don’t hit the other fellow, he won’t hit us. But it is probably true that if we do hit him and become a nuisance he will try and abate the nuisance by hitting us.

There are still some things which are vital but are not yet properly protected, eg [electricity] generation station in the Dockyard. In a few months that will be able to snap its fingers at bombs – but in any case ships refitting are vulnerable, and air defences, however good, cannot give anything like complete protection.

The civil population are in good heart and I am not anxious about their morale – but it will have to be watched. I am consulting Cunningham and others about this – but what I have written gives the picture as I see it at present…

W G S Dobbie

NEW COMBINED OPS ROOM NOW IN USE

A new Combined Operations Room in Valletta has opened for use. Housed in a secret location deep underground, the facility is now the main operational headquarters of the war effort in Malta. Each of the three armed services will co-ordinate their activities from here, all linked to a central point of command. Facilities include the most up to date communications systems to ensure effective liaison across the Island.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 AUGUST TO DAWN 22 AUGUST 1940

Weather  Fine and warm.

1520-1537 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy fighters which cross the Island at high altitude.   Malta fighters are scrambled and Ack Ack guns attack the raiders, one of which is seen to dive away to the north. No bombs are dropped.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 21 AUGUST 1940

Nothing to report.

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Posted by on August 21, 2020 in 1940, August 1940

 

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8 October 1940: Military Chiefs Discuss Possible Invasion of Malta

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GOVERNOR ANTICIPATES SEABORNE ATTACK

Malta Governor & Commander in Chief Lt Gen Dobbie

Malta Governor & Commander in Chief Lt Gen Dobbie

In the first of two telegrams, Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief wrote today to the Chief of Imperial General Staff at the War Office with his views on the prospects for Malta in the face of an invasion from the sea:

I cannot visualise a full dress attack on Malta unless the enemy are confident of being able to prevent the Mediterranean Fleet from intervening for a sufficient period to enable them to gain control of the Island. After consulting the Vice Admiral Malta I imagine that seven days is the maximum period the enemy could hope to have free from interference…  This limit would probably rule out a deliberate step by step attack and would necessitate a maximum effort at all possible places simultaneously, carried through with the utmost determination; German stiffening might give the necessary vigour.

The local naval forces likely to be available within the next few months are only a few submarines, and even these are uncertain. Motor Torpedo Boats would be extremely useful against sea-borne attack but cannot materialise for a long time, so I am not counting on them. It follows that the Navy here will not be able to do much to interfere with sea-borne attack. The Air Force available at present could not count on preventing the enemy from gaining air superiority if he made determined efforts to do so. The four fighter squadrons asked for, and which might have prevented such a result, cannot I understand come for some time. We must therefore face the fact that the enemy would have local air superiority, except in so far as our Ack Ack guns might interfere; this of course is a serious handicap. But the RAF reconnaissance aircraft should be able to give us warning of concentrations of shipping in Sicily, thus reducing the chance of a complete surprise.

I assume the enemy will have ample resources of men and material and that in order to gain a quick decision he will attack on a very wide front. Further, that he will use self-propelled armoured landing craft and will do the journey from Sicily at night, attacking at or before dawn. I assume also that these craft will carry some medium or light tanks and possibly flame-throwers, the latter to deal with beach posts. That the attack would be supported by fire from warships and intense air attack. From the foregoing consideration the following conclusions emerge:

  • (a) We must stop as many of the landing craft as possible from reaching the beach. To do this we need guns, since small arms fire is useless against their armour.
  • (b) In an attack of such intensity and so widely dispersed, the enemy may well get a footing at a number of points. Immediate counter-attacks will be essential and these must be assisted by the greatest possible supporting gun or mortar fire, to give them the best chance for success.
  • (c) Deliberate counter-attacks supported by strong artillery fire may be necessary in more than one area at once. These attacks must be made by forces strong enough to ensure success…

If we have to meet a full dress attack in the circumstances I have envisaged, we require the following additional troops and equipment: three battalions complete with mortars, one field battery, two anti-tank troops Royal Artillery, one or two sections of Field Company Royal Engineers or equivalent, 50 Lyon lights and 10 beach defence lights and 60 x 2” mortars, plus 100 anti-tank rifles, besides other weapons already asked for.

I suggest that these troops if sent here should be regarded as a reserve available to be sent elsewhere in the Near East should the naval situation change so that a full scale attack on Malta is deemed unlikely. But meanwhile some such force is needed if the fleet is to be freed from undue preoccupation with the safety of Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 OCTOBER TO DAWN 9 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

1935-2020 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy bombers which approach Delimara from the east at 14000 feet and drop bombs in the sea off Delimara, Wied Znuber and two miles off Grand Harbour. Two turn back before crossing the coast. The remaining two are illuminated and held by searchlights, then engaged by one Malta Hurricane fighter. One Italian bomber is brought down in flames into the sea off Delimara. Another is so badly damaged that it is unlikely to return to base; it is last seen by the Hurricane pilot and coastal observers flying at 1000 feet with one engine on fire. Two men are seen baling out towards the sea. The Hurricane lands safely. Searchlight crews are praised by the Air Officer Commanding for exceptionally good work.    

Military casualties  Private Ronald Frost, 2nd Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment

Enemy casualties  Tenente Adolfo Ferrari, 257a Squadriglia, 108o Gruppo, 36o Stormo, pilot of a Savoia SM79 bomber shot down.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 8 OCTOBER 1940

HMS Aba (1)

HMS Aba (1)

ROYAL NAVY  0655-1024 hrs  Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm despatched on patrol; nothing sighted. Hospital ship Aba arrived and departed: discharged three, embarked 52.  

AIR HQ  0345-0845 hrs  Glenn Martin 431 Flight reconnaissanace of Ionian sea, Taranto Harbour and Brindisi; nil report.

KALAFRANA  Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. 1230-1605 hrs Glenn Martin 431 Flight on reconnaissance; nothing to report. 0345-1515 hrs Sunderland 228 Squadron and 0403-1532 hrs Sunderland 230 Squadron reconnaissanace of Ionian sea, Taranto Harbour and Brindisi; nil report.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT 1200 hrs  CSM W Fry and five Other Ranks embarked as invalids on board a hospital ship at Malta for passage to UK.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT   Four discharged men left for UK.

(1)  http://hospital-ship-aba.blogspot.co.uk/

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Posted by on October 8, 2015 in 1940, October 1940

 

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