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2 October 1941: Raids on Italian Aerodromes Ground 50 Enemy Aircraft

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Elmas aerodrome

Elmas aerodrome

AXIS AIRFIELDS, PORTS, MILITARY TRANSPORTS AND CONVOYS BOMBED

British War Cabinet Report for Malta: week ending 2 October

An important convoy carrying personnel and stores from the United Kingdom passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and arrived at Malta on 28th. Strong naval forces provided escort and cover.  In the course of several attacks by enemy torpedo-bombers south of Sardinia on 27th, HMS Nelson was hit by a torpedo which reduced her speed but caused no casualties.  Later in the day one ship of the convoy, SS Imperial Star (12427 tons) was torpedoed in the Sicilian Channel and subsequently sunk by our ships after her passengers and crew had been taken off. 

On the morning of 28th, as a diversion, the island of Pantellaria was successfully bombarded and while these operations were in progress units of the Mediterranean Fleet carried out a sweep from Alexandria.  An enemy force of battleships, cruisers and destroyers was reported at sea operating between Sardinia and Sicily on 27th and 28th but retired to the north before our forces could bring it to action.  An air striking force flown off from HMS Ark Royal was unable to make contact owing to low visibility.  Several important merchant ships taking advantage of the cover of HM ships left Malta and arrived safely at Gibraltar.  A total of 14 enemy aircraft was destroyed by our Naval fighters and ships’ gunfire during the operations.  Our losses were three fighters; the crews of two were rescued.

Fighters and bombers from Malta carried out many offensive operations in Sicily and Libya and, together with reconnaissance aircraft, assisted materially in the successful Naval operations above. On 27th September, 37 Italian aircraft were severely damaged on the ground or at their moorings by cannon fire from Beaufighters during attacks on aerodromes and seaplane bases at Marsala and Borizzo (Sicily) and at Elmas (Sardinia).  Two bombers and a seaplane were attacked while landing and probably destroyed.  On 28th Hurricanes made three attacks totalling 54 sorties on Comiso aerodrome, dropping a total of two tons of bombs.  On 29th Beaufighters severely damaged nine more aircraft at Palermo and on the following day five Hurricanes again bombed Comiso.

On four days a force of Blenheims made sweeps over the Gulf of Sirte and over the Tripoli-Sirte road, and destroyed or damaged many vehicles containing troops, supplies or petrol. Store sheds were set on fire and a wireless station hit.  A merchant ship of 1000 tons was sunk, another of 3000 tons left on fire and others were damaged by hits or near misses.  A successful attack was made by eight Blenheims on industrial plants and on a power station at Porto Empedocle, 60 miles south-east of Marsala.  Seven bombs fell on the power station, and a silo, brickworks and a road bridge were also hit.  Two Blenheim fighters machine-gunned one of two E-boats off Pantellaria, killing or wounding all the crew.  A merchant ship of 3000 tons in the Gulf of Taranto was hit by three bombs and set on fire, and was last seen almost submerged.

A total of 18 Wellingtons made two night attacks on Palermo harbour; bombs fell on the power station and in the shipyard and dock area, where two ships were probably hit. On another night Swordfish mined the harbour, while a Wellington created a diversion by bombing the aerodrome.  Three successful night attacks were also made on motor transport parks at Tripoli and over 37 tons of high explosive bombs and incendiaries were dropped.  Many fires broke out and, during one of the attacks, ‘merged into one vast conflagration’.  Swordfish and Wellingtons also mined the harbour. 

Italian aircraft approached Malta during four nights of the week but dropped their bombs in the sea. Fighters twice approached the Island during the day but did not cross the coast.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 OCTOBER TO DAWN 3 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Heavy thunderstorm overnight, with torrential rain.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 2 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Trusty and Upholder returned from patrol off Cape Vito and Naples: enemy battle fleet was not sighted.

AIR HQ  Departures 2 Beaufighter. 69 Squadron Maryland patrol east Sicilian coast.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Demonstration of fire power of mortars in the area of Sannat.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 6.

 

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Posted by on October 2, 2016 in 1941, October 1941

 

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28 September 1941: Malta Convoy Arrival a ‘Marvellous Sight’

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Troops ready to disembark in Grand Harbour today (c) IWM A5771

Troops ready to disembark in Grand Harbour today (c) IWM A5771

IMMENSE CROWDS OUT TO WELCOME SHIPS

The remaining eight merchant ships of the convoy under ‘Operation Halberd’ entered Grand Harbour today bringing supplies and military reinforcements to Malta. SS City of Calcutta, Ajax, Rowallan Castle, Clan Ferguson, Clan Macdonald, Dunedin Star, City of Lincoln and HMS Breconshire docked this afternoon, the third major supply convoy to reach the Island this year.  Nearly 40 merchant ships have successfully landed their supplies; only one has been lost, the SS Imperial Star which was torpedoed yesterday.  The cost to the Royal Navy has been one cruiser and a destroyer sunk, and a battleship, carrier and two cruisers damaged.

After the enemy air attacks overnight, security measures on the convoy escort ships were on high alert. The cruiser Hermione launched an attack on Pantellaria to give the impression that the convoy was passing the island while it was well to the north.

No further enemy attacks on the convoy were launched and at dawn today fighters from Malta commenced continuous air cover. At 0830 hrs four ships of the Naval escort moved ahead of the convoy, arriving at Malta three hours later to a rousing welcome. Guards and bands paraded, to cheers from immense crowds ashore.  Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta, noted the events in his diary:

“There were vague rumours of it; lightermen were summoned on the local Broadcast; a churchwarden rang up to say he would be unable to read the lessons on Sunday, and two faithful choirmen sent word that they would be detained in the Dockyard.  After Mattins we had our first Carol practice, and in the middle Clement called out from his seat in the loggia “Convoy!” We rushed out of the drawing room and there on the horizon, a marvellous sight. The biggest Convoy since the war. We counted about 15 ships…

They were twice attacked off Sicily, once by day – easily beaten off – and once by night, bombers again. Nelson was slightly damaged and lost some speed. One merchantman, Imperial Star, was hit on the propellers and steering gear, but in no danger of sinking. She was too big to tow, especially as she would not steer; and the necessary escort could not be spared. So we sank her by gunfire. But what a pity!

These ‘Star’ ships are all pretty new – only about 4 years – and they cost a million to build (for the Australian chilled meat trade). I wonder what her cargo was worth. A million at least, I should imagine…

One wonders whether they brought some of the things which we are so short of. Here are some of them (NB. NAAFI has monopoly, but we may not buy there.): torches, nails, wood, toilet paper – but even as I write I realise that we are short of practically everything. The chemists have practically nothing and one realises how much one relies upon them for one’s needs – aspirin, throat lozenges, and a dozen other things, including some of the patent foods such as Sanatogen which would be so useful at this time. Ordinary food is also difficult to get. A vast cargo of beef went down on the Imperial Star – some say as much as 3000 tons. This will be greatly missed.

The Army has vast stores – enough for six months, and they live very well. It is a different proposition for the poor civilian. Indeed the wives, whether rich or poor have a hard task at their daily marketing, poor dears. And most of them can talk of little else. Those who are connected to the NAAFI are better off, as that maligned institution has many things which the private shops do not possess. Some folk are not too particular about dealing there when legally they have no such right; and I fancy the Manager has extended the privilege to a few. But I would not wish to ask favours, though as a retired officer I should have a higher moral claim than some who are allowed to use it.” (1)

Total military reinforcements brought by the convoy include a 600 bed hospital, 36 officers, 507 other ranks. The supplies included 8093 tons of kerosene and 1131 tons of motor transport fuel.  Having disembarked their troops and stores, the Naval vessels sailed again at 1830 hrs.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 29 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1230 hrs  A convoy of eight merchant ships plus escort arrives at Malta.

1530-1555 hrs  Air raid alert for two Macchi 200 fighters which approach to within half a mile of the coast, follow the coast line southwards and turn south east at Grand Harbour. Two heavy anti-aircraft guns fire pointer rounds; no claims.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no interceptions.

2221-2340 hrs  Air raid alert for five unidentified enemy bombers approaching the Island separately. Only two cross the coast at Kalafrana and Grand Harbour.  Searchlights illuminate one aircraft which  is barraged by heavy anti-aircraft guns.  The raiders drop bombs in the sea off Grand Harbour and off Tigne and retreat. 

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Harry Crossley, Royal Air Force (RAF), 113 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Albert E Smith, RAF, 113 Squadron; Flight Sergeant John Swan, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 113 Squadron; Able Seaman James H Phillips, Merchant Navy, MV Dunedin Star.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Operation Halberd successfully completed, with the exception of the loss of Imperial Star in the Skerki Channel; no casualties.

AIR HQ Departures 1 Wellington. 38 Squadron 12 Wellingtons attacked Palermo. 69 Squadron 1 Maryland on patrol, 1 Maryland photoreconnaissance Taranto.  Marylands reconnaissance Pantelleria and westwards, Messina, Naples; Marylands shadowing enemy fleet; one Maryland on patrol. 107 Squadron 1 Blenheim patrol eastern Sicily.  2 Blenheims search for damaged merchant ship.  1 Blenheim patrol Cape Passero.    113 Squadron  2 Blenheims at a time on two anti-submarine patrols.  2 Blenheims on anti e-boat patrol off Pantelleria; Sgt Crossley failed to return.  2 Blenheims anti e-boat patrol Trapani. 272 Squadron 2 Beaufighters attack 2 e-boats.  10 Beaufighters attacked a convoy escort. 

TA QALI  344 airmen arrived from home establishment by convoy. Palazzo Parisio, Naxxar, taken over and 15 airmen housed there.  50 airmen are housed in the Manchester Regiment barrack block at Imtarfa.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  140 other ranks and one officer billeted at the Poor House.

(1) Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

 

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Posted by on September 28, 2016 in 1941, September 1941

 

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27 September 1941: Malta Convoy Attacked Repeatedly

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SS Imperial Star

SS Imperial Star

‘OPERATION HALBERD’ LARGEST SUPPLY SHIP FOUNDERS

The largest supply ship in the latest Malta convoy was left foundering tonight after she was struck by torpedoes during a raid by Italian aircraft. SS Imperial Star is only ship to have been lost while on a large scale convoy to Malta since the beginning of the year. 

Air attacks on the convoy began at 1300 hrs when a formation of 12 Italian Cant and BR 20 bombers approached from the north at low altitude. Guns from the convoy ships and Fulmars from Ark Royal managed to destroy or drive off eight of the raiders; the remaining four attempted an attack without success. 

Then at 1330 hrs a second wave of raiders attacked out of the sun.  Six BR 20 bombers approached line abreast and despite heavy gunfire from the ships three managed to press home their attack, hitting the Nelson with a torpedo and reducing her speed to 15 knots; fortunately this was the convoy speed also so that she remained with the covering force. A third wave of enemy aircraft approached but did not make any attack

Then at 1430 hrs came a radio signal from Malta: two battleships, four cruisers and 16 destroyers of the Italian fleet were just 80 miles from the convoy and closing fast. Fleet commander Admiral Somerville prepared for an attack: Prince of Wales and Rodney, with cruisers Edinburgh and Sheffield escorted by six destroyers were sent out to intercept; Ark Royal also prepared an air strike. In rapidly deteriorating weather the two fleets missed each other.  With no prospect of engagement with the Italian fleet, the ships returned to the convoy and at 1900 hrs the main force of the Mediterranean Fleet turned west to return to Gibraltar as planned. 

The Malta convoy with its close escort of five cruisers and nine destroyers continued its passage eastwards, taking the same route as the last convoy, ‘Operation Substance’, through the Skerki Channel close to the Sicilian coast. As the night skies cleared, Italian bombers relaunched their attacks, singly and in pairs.  Approaching low and fast to launch their torpedoes they were difficult to see against the dark sky. Cossack, Kenya, Oribi and the merchantman Rowallan Castle suffered near-misses.  The convoy ships took evasive action; two collided trying to dodge a torpedo, but another merchant ship was hit. 

SS Imperial Star was carrying 300 passengers as well as a large volume of supplies – was badly damaged, her engines stopped and her steering gear destroyed. HMS Heythrop took off the 300 troops and crew and HMS Oribi took Imperial Star in tow.  However, the 12000 ton merchant ship was too heavy for the destroyer and was unable to make way. Imperial Star was now low in the water and drifting towards the coast of Sicily and the decision was made to sink her.  The remainder of the crew was taken off and Oribi laid depth charges to sink her.  However, despite this and repeated shelling the merchant ship remained afloat and had to be abandoned.  There were no casualties on Imperial Star but three Fleet Air Arm pilots were killed defending the convoy.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 28 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Cloudy.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  SS Port Chalmers and City of Pretoria sailed for Gibraltar at 1100 hrs.

AIR HQ 2 Blenheims on convoy escort; 1 Blenheim anti-submarine patrol. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Palermo, Cape Carbonara, Sicily, Sardinia, east Sicilian coast and special patrols and searches.  1 Blenheim on anti-submarine patrol. 105 Squadron 6 Blenheims sent to attack Porto Empedocle; 4 returned due to bad weather, the remaining two carried out the attack. 185 Squadron 6 Hurricane fighters and 6 Hurricane fighter-bombers attacked Comiso aerodrome three times, dropping 5140lbs of bombs and setting fire to several buildings and aircraft. 252 Squadron 2 Beaufighters attacked Marsala seaplane base. 272 Squadron 6 Beaufighters attacked the seaplane base at Cagliara.  2 Beaufighters attacked Borizzo aerodrome.  3 Beaufighters on patrol over Trapani against e-boats. 

TA QALI  Sergeants Mess in New Camp taken over.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Battalion route march; the column was headed by the Battalion drums.

 

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Posted by on September 27, 2016 in 1941, September 1941

 

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25 September 1941: Largest Supply Convoy Yet Embarks for Malta

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A photo-reconnaissance Spitfire flew the route to Malta

A PR Spitfire flew the route to Malta

NINE MERCHANT SHIPS PLUS 27 STRONG ESCORT FOR ‘OPERATION HALBERD’

The largest supply convoy yet for Malta began its journey today through the western Mediterranean. Under ‘Operation Halberd’ nine merchant ships: Ajax, Breconshire, City of Calcutta, City of Lincoln, Clan Ferguson, Clan Macdonald, Dunedin Star, Imperial Star and Rowallan Castle are carrying over 80000 tons of supplies and hundreds of troops for the Island.

The ships for Malta, and their escort from the Navy’s Home Fleet sailed on 17 September from the Clyde for Gibraltar, where the convoy assembled yesterday. The merchant ships will be protected in the Mediterranean by the most powerful force assembled for a convoy to date, including three battleships, five cruisers, 18 destroyers and aircraft carrier Ark Royal carrying aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm to provide air cover.

Nothing has been left to chance. A photo-reconnaissance Spitfire flew the entire route from the UK to Malta to provide a detailed report on the position of the entire Italian navy before the convoy left Gibraltar.  The Spitfire landed safely in Malta on Monday.

In order to mislead the Italian fleet, the escorting vessels have divided into two groups; the supply ships taking the usual southern route within sight of the Algerian coast, with the normal Naval escort. However the remainder of the escort, a powerful fleet, is heading northwards, close to the Balearic Islands, hopefully undetected.  The aim is to lure Italian warships into battle unaware of the full strength of the escort fleet, and leaving sufficient Naval ships free to escort the merchantmen safely onward to Malta.  Also at sea are nine submarines, including six of Malta’s 10th Flotilla positioned along the convoy route ready to intercept any Italian warships.

The first convoy ships sailed westwards out of Gibraltar yesterday. Under cover of darkness they reversed course and passed through the Straits at 0130 hrs this morning.  Just after 0900 hrs the two groups of warships divided and the supply convoy began its journey eastwards through the Mediterranean towards Malta. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 26 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine.

2356-0015 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island and drop high explosive and incendiary bombs eight miles off the west coast before receding to the west.

0032-0055 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches to within eight miles of the Island, drops bombs in the sea off Dingli and recedes to the south west. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 25 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Maryland, 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron  1 Blenheim patrol eastern Sicilian coast and Crotone. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked motor transport yards and barracks in Tripoli. 105 Squadron 5 Blenheims attacked lorry convoys east of Sirte. 107 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked transport near Beurat.  1 Blenheim attacked a convoy. 

TA QALI  4 sergeant pilots proceeded by Hurricane to the Middle East.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Demonstration by one platoon of A Company of attack showing the use of all weapons including small arms fire and live mortar bombs.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  A Company detached one Sergeant and 12 men to form three anti-aircraft light machine-gun posts at Luqa aerodrome.

(1) Red Duster White Ensign, Ian Cameron, Futura 1975

 

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Posted by on September 25, 2016 in 1941, September 1941

 

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24 July 1941: Malta Convoy Enters Grand Harbour to Loud Cheers

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CONVOY GETS THROUGH DESPITE DETERMINED ENEMY ATTACKS

MV Sydney Star (1)

MV Sydney Star (1)

Civilians and servicemen lined the bastions of Grand Harbour this afternoon to welcome the ships of Malta’s largest supply convoy of the war to date. Melbourne Star, Sydney Star, City of Pretoria, Deucalion, Durham and Port Chalmers arrived with their escorting warships after an eventful night in the Mediterranean.

Having survived an air attack which sank one destroyer of their escort and damaged a second, the convoy ships progressed undisturbed until they were 150 miles from Malta. In the early hours of this morning monitors detected the sound of engines: the convoy had run into an eight-strong Italian E-boat patrol.  The convoy ships attacked the E-boats which immediately took evasive action.  In the confusion that followed, three E-boats were damaged but several convoy ships were also hit by friendly fire. Sydney Star was hit by a torpedo and was soon listing badly.

As the merchant ship slowed, the Master gave the order to abandon ship and 484 troops of 32nd Light Ack Ack Regiment went to the lifeboats. While the destroyer Nestor stood by to pick up survivors, the Sydney Star’s Master, Captain Horn, decided to stay on board with a skeleton crew to nurse the stricken ship slowly towards Malta. 

At daybreak she was spotted by two Italian SM 79 bombers which approached and circled the merchantman and Nestor.  With no trained gunners on board, Captain Horn asked for volunteers to man the Bofors guns.  Their erratic fire and the evasive action of both vessels was enough to deter the attackers who turned away. 

An hour later another air attack was driven off by fire from the destroyer Nestor.  However, the alert had been raised; fighters from Malta were scrambled to defend the ships and the battle cruiser Hermione also arrived to assist.  But by then the Regia Aeronautica was ready for a co-ordinated attack: five SM 79s and three dive bombers launched a determined attack. Hermione and Nestor’s guns put up an effective barrage while two Beaufighters from Malta attacked the dive-bombers.

By 10.00am Sydney Star was within sight of Malta when a formation of SM 79 torpedo bombers swooped down on the Navy ships while another formation bombed the merchantman.  They were followed by a third formation, of JU 87 Stuka dive-bombers.  While Beaufighters again counter-attacked and her crew fired round after round at the attackers, torpedo and bomb near-misses and shrapnel caused more damage to Sydney Star.  Captain Horn had to get into Malta quickly but his ship might capsize in the attempt.  He took a calculated risk and two hours later they were entering Grand Harbour.  He later received a message:  “The Royal Navy offer you their congratulations on a very fine piece of seamanship.” (2)

ITALIAN AIR COMMANDER KILLED IN ATTACK ON CONVOY

During the attacks on the convoy, 12 enemy aircraft were destroyed, two more were probably destroyed and two were damaged. Malta losses were six aircraft, of which four crews were rescued. 

According to military intelligence, one of the pilots shot down by Hurricanes today was Italian Air General Fedrighi. He was flying in one of six JU 87 Stuka dive-bombers which attacked the convoy just after ten this morning.  His aircraft was chased towards Sicily and shot down by Beaufighters patrolling over the convoy.  General Fedrighi was in command of the Italian Mediterranean airfields.

Among the Axis vessels which attacked the convoy, one enemy E-boat was sunk and another probably damaged, and a U-boat whose torpedoes narrowly missed Renown was attacked and possibly sunk by the destroyer Nestor.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 JULY TO DAWN 25 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

1015 hrs  Six JU 87 Stuka bombers attack a British convoy approaching Malta. Beaufighters are on patrol over the convoy; one chases the raiders half way to Sicily and shoots down one JU 87 in flames and another which crashes into the sea.

1400 hrs  A convoy enters Grand Harbour.

1739-1754 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft heading towards Malta; they turn back before reaching the Island.

2154-2230 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly. The first heads towards Gozo and circles south west of the Island before dropping bombs in the sea west of Mellieha.  The second crosses the coast near St Julians and drops bombs near Luqa.  The third crosses over St Paul’s Bay and recedes south east of Ghain Tuffieha, passes to the south of Filfla, turns and crosses the coast again and drops bombs near Nigret.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled.  Searchlights illuminate one raider but the Hurricanes are unable to close in time.

0015-0050 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft approaching the coast. Searchlights illuminate the raider and a Hurricane engages the raider, firing short machine-gun bursts; no results are seen.  The raider drops bombs in the sea and turns away. 

Military casualties  Fusilier John Millar, 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 24 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Operation Substance arrived safely, less Leinster, who had run ashore at Gibraltar.  Sydney Star torpedoed, but arrived safely, drawing 40 feet forward.  Farndale remained behind with condenser trouble.  Captain Wright, Royal Navy, sailed for United Kingdom.  830 Squadron maintained continuous anti-submarine patrol over Operation Substance from daylight.  1 of 4 Swordfish on anti-submarine patrol force landed in the sea due to engine failure and was lost; the crew were rescued.  HM Submarine Upright attacked a floating dock which was proceeding in tow around Cape Spartivent to the westward.

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Wellington. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance Taranto, Trapani, Palermo, Messina.  2 Fulmars patrolling Pantelleria to Sicily covering the convoy.  6 Marylands patrol Marittimo Island to Cape Carbonara from dawn to 1630 hrs covering convoy.  9 Beaufighters escorting British convoy from the west to Malta.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Central Infantry Brigade formed out of 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment, 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment and 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  30 Maltese recruits posted to Battalion for training.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion provided reception duties for HQ and 2 Companies of 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers.  They were moved into their billets by 1700 hrs. 

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  60 other ranks arrived as reinforcements from UK.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  No 173 Tunnelling Coy (7 officers, 223 O.Rs) arrived and attached to Fortress Royal Engineers; billeted in Msida Bastion quarters.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  5 officers, 160 other rans billeted at Gharghur Schools in the sector of 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY  62 other ranks disembarked ex UK.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  61 other ranks disembarked ex UK.

(1) www.bluestarline.org

(2)  Red Duster, White Ensign, Ian Cameron, Futura Publications 1975

 

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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in 1941, July 1941

 

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23 July 1941: Malta Convoy Ship Sunk by Bombers, Another Disabled

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HMS Fearless

HMS Fearless

ITALIAN BOMBERS STALK ‘OPERATION SUBSTANCE’

Enemy aircraft launched a fierce attack on Malta’s vital supply convoy today as it passed through the western Mediterranean. Italian SM 79 bombers were reported shadowing the convoy early this morning and Fulmars took off from Ark Royal to drive off the raiders.  While they were away from the convoy, a second group of SM 79 torpedo bombers dived down over the convoy from out of the sun and launched their torpedoes.  The cruiser Manchester was hit in the engine room; with three of her four engines disabled she was forced to turn back for Gibraltar.  The destroyer Fearless was badly hit and burst into flames; she then capsized and sank.

There were two further attacks this afternoon but neither caused any damage and the convoy proceeded as planned. With over 200 Italian bombers still operative in the Mediterranean, the decision was taken to steer the convoy through an unexpected route.  Instead of hugging the coast of North Africa, the ships turned north east towards Sicily, navigating the Italians’ own mine-free channel en route to Malta.

Helping Manchester's wounded (c) IWM A4890

Helping Manchester’s wounded

Beaufighters sent out on a defensive patrol over the convoy attacked and sank an E boat east of Pantelleria; they also damaged a SM 79 bomber. One Beaufighter failed to return from the mission.  The pilot has been named as Sgt W M Deakin of 272 Squadron.

Meanwhile, six supply ships sailed from Malta today in convoy MG 1A, also part of ‘Operation Substance’. The merchant ships Settler, Thermopylae, Amerika, Talabot, and Hoegh Hood, along with the supply ship Breconshire headed westwards through the Mediterranean, escorted by destroyer Encounter.  A seventh merchant ship, Svenor, had a collision on leaving harbour and had to return to dock.  They are expected to rendezvous with Force H of the Mediterranean Fleet, currently escorting a new supply convoy towards Malta, which will then cover the passage of MG 1A to Gibraltar.

HMS Fearless casualty list

HMS Manchester casualty list

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 JULY TO DAWN 24 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

No air raids.

Military casualties Pilot Officer Noel A C Cathles, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 110 Squadron; Sergeant William M Deakin, RAFVR, 272 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 23 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Convoy MG 1 escorted by Encounter and Gloxinia sailed at 0500.  SS Svenor fouled the boom and rammed the breakwater.  She returned to harbour and docked with damage to bow.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Maryland. Departures 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Taranto, Palermo, Trapani, Messina and Catania.  6 Marylands closing patrol Marittimo Island to Carbonara from dawn to dusk. 110 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked merchant shipping in Trapani Harbour hitting two ships and bombing a nearby aerodrome. Sgt Cathles’ aircraft was damaged as he approached the target and crashed into a hillside in Sicily; the crew are believed killed.  11 Beaufighters escorted a convoy from near Bizerta towards Malta; Sgt Deakin failed to return.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  News is received of a large convoy of warships and merchant transport arriving tomorrow with reinforcements, stores and petrol. The Bn has to provide 3 platoons for working parties to unload the petrol.  This will last at least one week.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 (1 x 100kg HE, 1 x 250kg HE).

 

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Posted by on July 23, 2016 in 1941, July 1941

 

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22 July 1941: Malta Convoy Attacked by Italian Submarine

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HMS Renown

HMS Renown

TORPEDOES AIMED AT ADMIRAL’S FLAGSHIP

The flagship of Force H Commander Vice Admiral Somerville, HMS Renown, narrowly escaped damage today when torpedoes were aimed at the battlecruiser by an Italian submarine. Renown was attacked in the western Mediterranean while leading the escort for the Malta convoy under ‘Operation Substance’. 

Measures had been taken to divert the attention of the Italian navy from the convoy. Since yesterday, ships of the Mediterranean Fleet operating out of Alexandria have been exchanging radio messages to suggest a major operation in the eastern Mediterranean.  However, the submarine Diaspro on patrol in the western sector spotted the convoy and launched her torpedoes which just missed Renown. 

The Malta convoy continued its progress eastwards without further disturbance today. Ten of the escorting Royal Navy ships were refueled successfully by RFA Brown Ranger which sailed yesterday from Gibraltar in advance of the main Malta convoy. Brown Ranger is now on her way back to port under the escort of the destroyer HMS Beverley.

RFA Brown Ranger

RFA Brown Ranger

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 JULY TO DAWN 23 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

1105-1130 hrs  A formation of enemy aircraft is reported of Cape Passero, heading south. Hurricane aircraft are scrambled but the formation turns away.  As the Hurricanes head back towards Malta, a second formation of 25 enemy aircraft is reported heading for Malta.  Another flight of Hurricanes is scrambled.  The raiders approach to within 15 miles of Grand Harbour, then turn back northwards.  The Hurricanes set off in pursuit bur are unable to catch the enemy.

2117-2342 hrs Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach from the north east individually, crossing the coast east of Salina Bay and Grand Harbour respectively. Bombs are dropped in the Marsa area.

Military casualties  Flight-Sergeant William H Sargent, pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 110 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 22 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish left to attack convoy of 1 tanker 7000 tons, 1 destroyer, and 1 small merchant vessel intercepted south west of Lampion.  They hit the tanker with 2 torpedoes and claimed sunk, one hit with a torpedo on the stern of the destroyer was also secured.  All aircraft returned.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Beaufighter. Departures 1 Sunderland, 4 Wellington 148 Squadron. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Taranto shot down a Cant seaplane on return.  Reconnaissance Naples, Messina, Palermo, Trapani; search patrol and night shadowing of convoy. 110 Squadron  4 Blenheim attacked a convoy and sank two ships; the Observer of one Blenheim was killed.  After inspecting the Command the Inspector General, Air Chief Marshal Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, and staff proceeded to the Middle East.  

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  240 first line reinforcements arrived for the Battalion: 5 officers, 100 men of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, 100 men of the Green Howard Regiment, 40 men of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

 

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Posted by on July 22, 2016 in 1941, July 1941

 

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21 July 1941: Malta Supply Ships’ Captains Told ‘Convoy Must Go Through’

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‘OPERATION SUBSTANCE’ MAKES READY TO FACE A HOSTILE MEDITTERANEAN

The largest convoy ever mounted to carry supplies assembled at Gibraltar yesterday ready to begin its journey to Malta. The merchant ships City of Pretoria, Deucalion, Durham, Melbourne Star, Port Chalmers, Sydney Star and the small personnel ship Leinster were made ready, loaded and guided into the Mediterranean under the strictest security measures.

Admiral Sir James Somerville aboard Renown (c) IWM A3741

Admiral Sir James Somerville aboard Renown (c) IWM A3741

As they approached Gibraltar at noon yesterday, accompanying destroyers fired a rocket onto each merchant ships with a line attached. At the end was a message addressed personally to the Masters of each merchantman from the commander of Force H, Admiral Sir James Somerville, KCB DSO, which revealed their secret destination:

“For over twelve months Malta has resisted all attacks of the enemy. The gallantry displayed by the garrison and people of Malta has aroused admiration throughout the world.  To enable their defence to be continued, it is essential that your ships, with their valuable cargoes, should arrive safely in Grand Harbour. 

The Royal Navy will escort and assist you in this great mission; you on your part can assist the Royal Navy by giving strict attention to the following points:

  • Don’t make smoke. Don’t show any lights at night. Keep good station.  Don’t straggle.  If your ship is damaged, keep her going at the best possible speed.

Provided every officer and man realises that it is up to him to do his duty to the very best of his ability, I feel sure we shall succeed.

Remember that the watchword is THE CONVOY MUST GO THROUGH.”

The realisation of the importance of their voyage gave the Masters a feeling of determination but also warned them of the possible dangers to come.  The operation today began with the departure of the oiler Brown Ranger escorted by the destroyer HMS Beverley to provide refuelling within the Mediterranean for the destroyers escorting the convoy.  Unfortunately on sailing Leinster ran aground and was forced to leave the Operation.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 JULY TO DAWN 22 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

1010-1045 hrs  Air raid alert for one a single enemy aircraft crossing the Island on reconnaissance at 23000 feet with an escort of 20 fighters. The fighters split up into three formations.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but do not engage as they do not gain sufficient height.

2130-2220 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the direction of Catania. Two cross the coast and drop bombs on Marsa and between Luqa and Safi.  Searchlights do not illuminate the raiders and Hurricanes do not intercept.  

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 21 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish left at 1910 to attack convoy but failed to intercept.

AIR HQ Arrivals 8 Beaufighter, 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland, 5 Wellington 148 Squadron. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily and Gulf of Taranto; shadowing of convoy. 

KALAFRANA  The Inspector General of the Royal Air Force, Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, visited the Station.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2; dealt with 2 (1 x 100kg HE, 1 x 500kg HE).

 

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Posted by on July 21, 2016 in 1941, July 1941

 

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23 March 1941: Newly Arrived Convoy Bombed in Grand Harbour

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SS Perthshire was set on fire

SS Perthshire was set on fire

SUPPLY SHIPS DAMAGED

Four freighters of convoy MW6 arrived safely at Malta today guided through the eastern Mediterranean under the Royal Navy operation MC 9. Three merchant ships City of Manchester, Clan Ferguson and Perthshire sailed from Haifa on Wednesday last escorted by destroyers Griffin and Hotspur. City of Lincoln also embarked from Alexandria escorted by the destroyer Greyhound. The ships made a successful rendezvous north of Alexandria and sailed close to western Crete which provided fighter cover.

The convoy was covered by the main Mediterranean Fleet, including battleships Barham, Valiant and Warspite, the carrier Formidable and nine destroyers sailed from Alexandria to cover the convoy which they came upon at noon on Friday, just as enemy aircraft were approaching for attack; no damage was caused.

By 1600 hrs six more cruisers and three more destroyers joined the escort, followed by three more cruisers and a destroyer later that evening. With this heavy protection the convoy approached Malta, which then detached last night under cover of darkness to complete the final leg of its journey to Grand Harbour with a small detachment as protection.  Having negotiated the approach to harbor through a channel cleared of mines, all vessels docked safely just after 0700 hrs this morning.

Within an hour an enemy JU 88 bomber with fighter protection flew over Grand Harbour on reconnaissance. The ships’ presence was reported back to enemy HQ and later this morning a 30 strong attack was launched on the convoy.  Malta’s gunners were ready and a heavy barrage, along with a 12 strong Hurricane fighter force, drove the raiders off before they could press home their attack.  Later this afternoon the raiders were back – their strength increased to 45 – and they launched a fierce dive-bombing attack on the warships and merchant vessels.  One bomb hit the bridge of City of Lincoln; SS Perthshire was hit by an incendiary bomb and set on fire. The cruiser Bonaventure and the destroyer Griffin were both damaged by bomb splinters.

Fourteen Hurricanes were scrambled and destroyed or damaged twelve JU 87s. Hurricane pilot Sgt Frederick Robertson, DFM, had a lucky escape when his aircraft was attacked by a JU 87; the fuel tank was hit, setting his plane on fire but he managed to bale out and landed safely. His aircraft crashed near Rabat.

FOOTBALL MATCH GOES AHEAD DURING AIR RAID

The Army Cup Final was in progress this afternoon when the air raid alert sounded.  The match between the Royal Engineers and 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment was well underway as enemy raiders approached the Island and the decision was taken to continue the game, unless the raid developed directly overhead.  Players struggled to concentrate as the bombers roared over Grand Harbour but the game carried on.  The Royal Engineers won the match by 3 goals to nil.

TROOPS MOVING TO GOZO

Infantry troops are in the process of moving to Gozo to provide defence for the Island in the light of the anticipated enemy invasion. The troop movements have been organised under the guise of a major exercise.  The code name ‘Picnic’ will be used to refer to troops in Gozo.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 MARCH TO DAWN 24 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0700 hrs  A convoy of four merchant vessels with escort arrives in Malta.

0750-0825 hrs Air raid alert for a formation of enemy fighters accompanying one JU 88 bomber which flies over Grand Harbour at 24000 feet, evidently on reconnaissance. Ten Hurricanes are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1150-1220 hrs Air raid alert for a formation of 15 ME 109 fighters escorting 15 JU 87 Stukas which dive-bomb the newly-arrived convoy in Grand Harbour. The harbour barrage is put up: some JU 87s dive through the barrage but others release their bombs from above it.  One bomber is observed having difficulty coming out of its dive; it flies out over the coast and is later reported crashing out to sea.  12 Hurricanes are scrambled and take to the air in two formations.  One formation engages the JU 87s and are then attacked by ME 109s.  The bombing raid is not fully pressed home and the JU 87s turn away to sea immediately, with the ME 109s in close attendance.  Most of the bombs fall on land in the area of Corradino Civil Prison and to the east of the target; several people are reported injured.  The shelter of Rear HQ 1st Bn Dorset Regiment is hit by a heavy bomb; no casualties.  No ships are hit.  Ack Ack guns claim one enemy raider destroyed and two damaged.

1540-1620 hrs  Air raid alert for a force of 25 JU 87 Stukas and 20 ME 109 fighters which approach the Island and carry out a dive-bombing attack, dropping 500kg and 1000kg bombs on warships and merchant ships in Grand Harbour. Several land on the Dockyard area, damaging buildings.  One bomb in the grounds of Bighi Hospital causes a camouflet crater, another explodes on a boundary wall; a third fails to explode and is recovered from an officer’s garden.  There is some damage to merchant ships: the bridge of City of Lincoln is demolished by a direct hit.  One incendiary bomb lands in the hold of SS Perthshire; the fire is put out by a scratch firefighting crew collected by Captain K J Body, Staff Captain ‘Q’ and Commander Price, RN.  Some of the cargo is destroyed.  No warships are hit; there is some splinter damage to Bonaventure and Griffin A sergeant of 4th Bn The Buffs who was manning a Bofors gun position is killed, apparently by a delayed action bomb.  Thirteen enemy aircraft are shot down. 

Fourteen Hurricanes are scrambled in two formations, destroying nine JU 87s plus one probable and two damaged. One Hurricane is shot down; the pilot bales out and is rescued.  Anti-aircraft guns destroy four JU 87s and damage four.

Military casualties  Marine James Beazley, Royal Marines, HMS St.Angelo; Stoker 2nd Class Victor Campbell, HMS Bonaventure.

Civilian casualties Dingli  Joseph Zahra, age 27.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 23 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY Convoy MW6 and escort arrived at dawn using the searched channel north of Hurd Bank. The escort left at dusk to proceed to Alexandria.  The convoy was apparently not sighted at sea, but enemy reconnaissance aircraft which came over the Island as they were berthing did locate them.  Severe dive-bombing attacks on Grand Harbour followed which damaged City of Lincoln and Perthshire and caused slight splinter damage to Bonaventure and Griffin.  

AIR HQ Departures 2 Sunderlands. Sunderland patrol of Ionian Sea.  Maryland reconnaissance northern Ionian Sea. 69 Squadron Sea patrol east to Corfu.  

KALAFRANA Two Sunderlands left for the Middle East with passengers and freight.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE Troops continue move to Gozo for an exercise.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Royal Engineers won Army Cup Final defeating 1st Bn Dorset Regt by 3 goals to nil – the sappers are only team to win 3 seasons running. The game continued during a spectacular dive bombing attack on Grand Harbour. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 5; dealt with 1 (50kg).

 

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Posted by on March 23, 2016 in 1941, March 1941

 

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7 January 1941: Convoy Operation Second Wave Embarks

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ILLUSTRIOUS AND CONVOY MW 5½ HEADING FOR MALTA

Breconshire

Breconshire

The main Mediterranean Fleet sailed from Alexandria before dawn today. The aircraft carrier Illustrious plus two battleships and seven destroyers are heading for Souda Bay to refuel before heading for a rendezvous with eastern convoys heading for Malta.

This afternoon a second convoy consisting of the fast transport ship Breconshire and the freighter Clan Macauley sailed from Alexandria with supplies for Malta, escorted by the anti-aircraft cruiser Calcutta and destroyers Defender and Diamond.

DECOY MAIL TO MISLEAD ENEMY

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has suggested a way to mislead enemy intelligence by setting up correspondence to fictitious military units on the Island. The Governor has been informed that on several occasions telegrams addressed to units by name in Malta have been sent in clear by wireless telegraph, including one addressed to: “1 Independent Tank Unit”. 

As the enemy may have intercepted these and learned of the arrival of new units, he has suggested to the War Office that a serious of bogus telegrams addressed to units not in Malta be despatched periodically in order to mislead them and possibly convey the impression that the garrison is larger than it actually is.

TROOPS NEED TO KNOW MAIL ARRIVES SAFELY IN UK

Troops in Malta have expressed concern through their commanding officers about the safe transmission of their letters home. Currently bags of mail despatched from Malta by the Army authorities are numbered and addressed to the General Post Office, London.  However, no confirmation of receipt arrives in Malta, leaving troops uncertain as to its safe arrival.  The War Office has been asked to arrange for notification of the receipt of mail to be sent by cable from the receiving postal authority. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 JANUARY TO DAWN 8 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Cold and fine.

1455-1500 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching the Island. Delimara Signal Station reports aircraft approaching at 8 miles east but they turn away before crossing the coast.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 7 JANUARY 1941

LUQA 431 Flight: 2 Marylands reconnaissance Catania and Tripoli prevented by bad weather.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  A Bren Carrier course started at Ghain Tuffieha camp.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A and D Companies Lyon light training.

 

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Posted by on January 7, 2016 in 1941, January 1941

 

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