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29 May 1942: Wellington Destroyed by Friendly Fire – Crewmen Killed

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ROYAL MALTA ARTILLERY RESCUE SURVIVORS

A Wellington bomber of 104 Squadron returning from a successful bombing mission over Catania crashed today near Attard, killing four of the crew and injuring the other two.  It is believed that the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire, possibly due to being wrongly identified as an attacking enemy plane.

The Wellington crashed on L’Imrihel Feature, killing three of the crew on impact.  Personnel of 6th Heavy Ack Ack, Royal Malta Artillery, managed to rescue the injured pilot, Sgt R Hills, and the second pilot, Sgt E Martin who was seriously wounded.  Before they could return for the final crew member, the aircraft’s petrol tanks exploded, killing him instantly.

MS Reichenfels

MALTA RECONNAISSANCE PILOTS SPOT CONVOY TARGET

A large convoy has been seen by aerial reconnaissance loading at Naples.  Three of these ships, the 7800 ton German ‘Reichenfels’ and two 6500 ton Lenici class ships were today photographed off Pantelleria, heading towards Tripoli under protective destroyer escort.

ITALIANS PILOT STUKAS

Four enemy aircraft which dropped bombs on Mellieha and Dingli overnight are believed to be JU 87s flown by Italian pilots.  The aircraft caused some confusion among observers who were at first unable to identify them.  They reported that the shape and markings suggested JU 87s but the aircraft were not operating in the usual agressive manner of the Stuka dive-bomber.

The pilot of a Beaufighter on patrol with Malta Night Fighter Unit later confirmed that he had engaged with JU 87s at the time of the raid, damaging one.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 MAY TO DAWN 30 MAY 1942

Weather  Wind south-easterly, moderate to fresh; haze.

0510-0605 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on shipping reconnaissance but sight nothing.

0820 hrs  Air raid alert.

0822-0926 hrs  Three Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa patrol the Island: no combat.

1202 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far and four of 249 Squadron Ta Qali to intercept incoming enemy aircraft.

1235 hrs  Air raid alerts sounds as the formation approaches the Island.  There is no engagement with Malta fighters.

1305 hrs  All clear.

1458-1622 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far to patrol for enemy fighters: no interceptions.

1638-1748 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron scrambled from Luqa to intercept enemy aircraft: no engagement.

1715-1825 hrs  Enemy fighters are reported approaching the Island. Seven Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled, climbing to intercept the hostile aircraft.  They sight two but no interceptions take place.

1750 hrs  The air raid alerts sounds as the fighters near the coast.  They carry out a fighter sweep.

1825 hrs  All clear.

2310 hrs  A Wellington bomber returning from operations crashes near Tal Hlas.

0009-0244 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne from Luqa on intercept patrol.

0025 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for a small formation of enemy bombers approaching the Island.  One JU 88 and four other unidentified bombers drop bombs near Mellieha and Dingli.  The Beaufighter engages and damages one aircraft, identified as a JU 87.

0212 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialize.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant George Davis, Royal Canadian Air Force, 104 Squadron, RAF; Sergeant Andrew McColl,  Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Sergeant Elwyn Roberts, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, Royal Air Force (VR), 104 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Kenneth Ross, Air Gunner, Royal Air Force, 104 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 29 MAY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  St Angelo and Trusty Star continued minesweeping.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Lodestar from Heliopolis; one CW 20 from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  2145 hrs  Four Albacores and two Swordfish of the NAS were airborne on strike mission.  The convoy consisting of three merchant vessels and three destroyers was located off the Tunisian coast but was covered by a thick fog patch 300 feet deep, 15 miles long and 10 miles across.  No attack was possible and all the aircraft returned with their torpedoes at 0320 hrs.

LUQA  0930-1215 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance Lampedusa, Trapani and Palermo.  1505-1707 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance of Messina Harbour and St Paul’s Bay.  2117-0310 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on armed search Gulf of Gabies.  One Wellington 104 Squadron despatched from Luqa to bomb Catania aerodrome.  Bombs landed in the target area: many fires are seen.  On returning to base the aircraft crashed near Attard, killing four of the crew and injuring the pilot and second pilot.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  Working parties Luqa aerodrome.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  1230 hrs  Working parties for pen-building and crater filling at Luqa finished and returned to billets.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1000 hrs  Pte Porter is buried at Imtarfa Cemetery.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continue.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 5; dealt with 5 (1 x 500kg, 3 x 250kg, 1 x 50kg).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 vehicles, 4 Officers, 130-150 Other Ranks at Safi strip widening and levelling runway.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Day working parties building pens for aircraft 6 Officers 200 Other Ranks.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued.  1230 hrs  Working party of 50 men tin-loading at Luqa.

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Posted by on May 29, 2017 in 1942, May 1942

 

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28 May 1942: Eyes of the World on Malta

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Lord Gort

LORD GORT ADDRESSES MALTA GOVERNMENT

When Lord Gort, Governor of Malta, presided for the first time over the Malta Council of Government, he declared in reply to an address of welcome that the eyes of the whole world were upon the Island.  The three services and the civilian population, he said, stand together, and the fortunes of each are inextricably bound together. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 MAY TO DAWN 29 MAY 1942

Weather  Wind south-easterly, moderate to fresh.  Fair; 90% cloud above 20000 feet.  Visibility 15 miles.

0950 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron airborne to intercept enemy fighters but are unable to catch them.

1030 hrs  The air raid warning sounds as the hostile fighters approach and carry out a fighter sweep over the Island.

1403-1454 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are airborne to intercept enemy fighters.  The air raid alarm sounds at 1415 hrs as they approach.  The Spitfires do not engage and the fighters complete a sweep over the Island.

1505-1645 hrs  Three Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft which carry out a fighter sweep with no combat.

1638 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa to intercept a formation of 24 aircraft, including fighter bombers and fighters.  F/S Schade claims one ME 109 probably destroyed.

1715 hrs  The air raid sounds as the hostile aircraft come within range of the Island.  They approach Luqa airfield and four fighter bombers drop bombs on Luqa airfield, injuring two airmen.

1750-1910 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali airborne to intercept another sweep of fighters: no interceptions.

2030-2115 hrs  One Spitfire 601 Squadron is airborne on night patrol: no comabt.

2207-2220 hrs  One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit carries out night patrol: no combat.

2232 hrs  Enemy bombers drop 100kg bombs on Luqa.  One lands between the old NAAFI buildings and airmen’s billets.

2258-0139 hrs  One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit carries out night patrols: no combat.

2306 hrs  Enemy raiders drop high explosive bombs on Ta Qali.

0327-0759 hrs  One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit carries out night patrols: no combat.

0415 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for incoming enemy aircraft.

0428 hrs  Bombs are dropped in Grand Harbour.

0440 hrs  All clear.

Military casualties  Nil.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 28 MAY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Lodestar to Heliopolis.

HAL FAR  2130 hrs  Four Albacores and two Swordfish are airborne to attack a southbound convoy in the Pantelleria area.  Three Albacores return early with engine trouble.  The remaining aircraft did not locate the convoy.

LUQA  0803-1030 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance of Messina and Catania.  2121-0427 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on armed search for a convoy east of Malta.  One unescorted merchant vessel was sighted: no strike.  2102-0110 hrs  One Wellington 104 Squadron despatched to attack a given sector of Catania aerodrome.  Bombs were seen to strike on or near main runway, among buildings and causing two small fires.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  0725 hrs  Revert to normal.  E boats believed to have been laying mines.  Working parties continue at Luqa; party for Fuel and Light finished for the time being.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1000 hrs Pte Meader is buried at Imtarfa Cemetery.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continue.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 6; dealt with 3 (1 x 1000kg;   2 x 500kg).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 vehicles, 4 Officers, 130-150 Other Ranks at Safi strip widening and levelling runway.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Aerodrome working parties continue.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Night working parties building pens for aircraft 6 Officers 200 Other Ranks.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued.  0715 hrs  Revert to normal conditions.  0725 hrs  Beach posts informed of minesweeping activity at entrance to Grand Harbour.

(1)  AAP, Valletta – The Argus, Melbourne, 28 May 1942

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Posted by on May 28, 2017 in 1942, May 1942

 

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14 October 1941: Malta Pilot Last of Three Brothers Killed on RAF Service

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Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit

Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit

PILOT LOST AFTER BALING OUT OVER THE SEA

Ace Malta pilot David Barnwell, DFC has been declared missing, presumed dead after a search failed to find him following an engagement early this morning with a Macchi fighter. P/O Barnwell was in one of five black Hurricanes of the Malta Night Fighter Unit scrambled at 0530 hours this morning to engage nine Italian Macchi fighters which launched a low-level strafing Luqa aerodrome, while 15 other fighters circled off the coast.

 The Hurricanes engaged the raiders as they turned away from their attack.  P/O Barnwell was heard on the radio reporting having shot down one a Macchi 202.  Within moments he was on the radio again, “Baling out, engine cut, am coming down in the sea.”  A search was launched immediately: Swordfish rescue aircraft continued their efforts until late today, when RAF headquarters concluded that P/O Barnwell had not survived. 

P/O Barnwell had served with 185 Squadron at Ta Qali since last June. He shot down a Macchi 200 fighter on 11 July, followed by a BR 20 bomber on 25 July.  A week later he was asked to join Malta Night Fighter Unit under Squadron Leader G Powell-Sheddon.  Overnight on 5-6 August he shot down a BR 20 bomber and damaged another, followed by two more raiders on the nights of 4-5 and 8-9 September.

His award of the DFC followed at the end of September. The citation reads: “This officer has displayed outstanding courage and determination when attacking hostile aircraft of which he has destroyed at least four by night. He has in every way set an excellent example.”

David Barnwell was the youngest of three sons of the late Captain Frank Barnwell, Chief Designer of the Bristol Aircraft Company which produced the Blenheim and Beaufort bombers. He had two brothers, both of whom were RAF pilots and who lost their lives last year.  David Barnwell was 19 years old.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 OCTOBER TO DAWN 15 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

1518-1527 hrs Three enemy aircraft are reported approaching the Island. Ten Hurricane fighters are scrambled and the raiders turn back while still 15 miles from Grand Harbour.

0312-0422 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy aircraft approaching the Island as the same time as Swordfish are heading back to base. Only four raiders – believed to be JU 87 Stukas – cross the coast, one dropping 500kg bombs on land between Rabat and Imtarfa.  The remaining aircraft drop high explosive bombs in the sea three miles north of St Paul’s Bay and east of Delimara.  Four Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit are airborne, two at a time, but there are no searchlight illuminations or interceptions. 

Military casualties  Pilot Officer David U Barnwell, DFC, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 607 Squadron.                                         

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 14 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Unbeaten, Urge, Upright sailed at short notice for operation off Cape Passero.

AIR HQ Arrivals 10 Blenheim, 1 Clare, 4 Wellington.  69 Squadron  1 Maryland patrol Ionian sea; 1 Maryland shipping search.  Photoreconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes.  1 Blenheim reconnaissance east Sicilian coast. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish sent to attack a merchant vessel being towed southwards near Kerkennah Bank; the attack was successful and the ship sank within a few minutes.  Two Swordfish and high speed launches from Kalafrana and St Paul’s Bay search for P/O Barnwell without success.

 

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Posted by on October 14, 2016 in 1941, October 1941

 

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8 September 1941: Malta Needs More Bomb Disposal Men

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Lt Carroll (l.) & men of RE Bomb Disposal, Malta (NWMA Malta)

Lt Carroll (l.) & men of current REBD Section (NWMA Malta)

MANPOWER NEEDED FOR TWO BOMB DISPOSAL SECTIONS

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office requesting additional personnel to increase the strength of Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal to two Sections. The Island currently has a single operational Army Bomb Disposal Officer to deal with all unexploded bombs across Malta and Gozo outside of RAF airfields and Navy premises.  A second Officer is on the Island but is on respite from bomb disposal duties.  The current BD Section consists of 20 other ranks who are not on permanent attachment to bomb disposal but are temporarily seconded from 24 Fortress Company RE.  Lt Gen Dobbie would prefer to have trained and experienced men from the Home Front to create a more permanent establishment for Army Bomb Disposal.  

The need for manpower to make up two Sections was first identified following the attacks on HMS Illustrious in January but the shortage of Royal Engineers personnel on the Island meant that the plan was placed on hold.  A Bomb Disposal Section normally consists of an officer and 15-20 other ranks, including those with skills in carpentry, masonry and electrics.

Having been unable to secure the required additional manpower from the Middle East, Lt Gen Dobbie’s has now put in a demand for 52 rank and file Royal Engineers to be despatched from the UK. This will bring 24 Fortress Company RE and two bomb disposal sections up to full establishment and provide some reinforcements for the Fortress Royal Engineers. (1)

In a separate telegram to the War Office, the Governor and Commander in Chief has rejected a proposal to disband 16 Fortress Company, Royal Engineers. 16 Fortress Coy have been attached to 4 Searchlight Regiment Royal Artillery and the Royal Malta Artillery.  The War Office has suggested that with the arrival of additional Royal Artillery personnel in Malta, 16 Fortress Coy will no longer have a role.  Lt Gen Dobbie disagrees, saying that 16 Fortress Coy has a much wider purpose than the Royal Artillery personnel can replace and cannot be disbanded under circumstances currently prevailing in Malta.

CLUB OPENS FOR TROOPS

Maxims Club in Valletta is to host a dance with cabaret this evening for troops. The Club, at 116 Bishops Street, Valletta will open at 1800 hrs.  A dance band will perform and there will two cabaret shows during the evening.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 9 SEPTEMBER 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

2138-2228 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly. Three drop high explosive bombs and incendiaries on various parts of the Island including Rabat, Ta Qali and Hal Far.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but there are no searchlight illuminations and no engagements.

2313-0017 hrs  Air raid alerts for 12 enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly at intervals. Only two of the raiders cross the coast, dropping high explosive bombs and incendiaries, killing one civilian and seriously injuring three more.  High explosive bombs are dropped between Mosta and Imtarfa, on Ta Qali and Luqa, and on the Bingemma area.  Incendiaries are dropped over Marsa.  Six high explosives fall close to the headquarters of 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment; there are no casualties.  Bombs also land on the road behind the Royal Army Service Corps depot at Rabat used by 4th Bn The Buffs as a billet.  Two Hurricanes of Malta Night Fighter Unit are scrambled to intercept.  Following a formation, one Hurricane spots a light three miles astern and 4000 feet above him.  Climbing at full throttle, he comes into range of the Cant 1007 just after it has passed out of searchlight range.  The Hurricane hits the Cant with several accurate bursts of machine-gun fire, setting light to its port and starboard engines.  The Cant descends quickly to the sea.  A motor launch and a Swordfish rescue aircraft find five survivors who are taken prisoner and brought ashore at dawn.

0442-0454 hrs  Air raid alert for a single approaching enemy aircraft which may have been triggered by a Wellington coming in to land..

Civilian casualties  Hamrun  Anthony Farrugia, age 18.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 8 SEPTEMBER 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Bombay, 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. Departures 1 Wellington. 69 Squadron 2 Maryland patrols of east Tunisian coast.  In the second, F/O Warburton drops bombs on Pantelleria.  2 Maryland patrols western Ionian Sea.  Two Fulmars on offensive patrols between Gerbini and Catania, dropped bombs on Gerbini and machine-gunned the aerodrome.  One Fulmar went on to Augusta and machine-gunned the aerodrome.  The second dropped incendiaries on the southern boundary of Catania. 38 Squadron 9 Wellingtons attacked shipping in Palermo Harbour, dropping 33750lb of high explosives, damaging vessels and harbour facilities.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 3 (2 x 50kg; 1 x 15kg)

(1) UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

 

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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in 1941, September 1941

 

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28 July 1941: Malta Has New Night Fighter Unit

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MNFU Hurricanes will be painted black

MNFU Hurricanes will be painted black

EIGHT BLACK HURRICANES TO OPERATE FROM TA QALI

A new RAF unit dedicated to the defence of Malta at night is ready to begin operations. Led by former Battle of Britain flight commander Group Captain George Powell-Shedden, the Malta Night Fighter Unit will be based at Ta Qali. The unit has been formed to counter the frequent night raids by the Italian air force which have become increasingly intense in recent weeks. 

The MNFU will have a special fleet of eight Hurricanes which will be painted entirely in black. As soon as an air raid is plotted approaching the Island, the fighters will be scrambled and the runway briefly illuminated to allow them to take off.  They will work in conjunction with the Island’s searchlights which will illuminate the raiders to enable the camouflaged Hurricanes to close in unseen for attack.

ITALIAN MISSION ‘A PRETTY SUICIDAL JOB’ SAYS NAVY MINE DISPOSAL OFFICER

One of the surviving motor torpedo boats used on yesterday’s raids has been salvaged by the Royal Navy and examined for intelligence purposes. Leading the operation was Rendering Mines Safe Officer Lt Edward Dutton Woolley, GM, RN, who was called out on Saturday morning soon after the raid had been defeated.  The tug Justified took him to the Italian vessel which had been captured by the RAF seven miles offshore:

One of the prisoners captured, together with an interpreter, went with me as he had been persuaded into telling me how to render the thing safe when we found it. At least that was the idea.  When later on we came to the boat he just swore he didn’t know what it was, and that he’d never seen one before, so he wasn’t much use…

After about two hours steaming we came up to the derelict boat. Viewed through the glasses it was quite a small thing, about eighteen feet long and [looking just like] a racing motor boat…It appeared in good order but I could see a large steel case in the bows with a crimson flame painted on it which didn’t look very healthy, so I secured a line to the stem and got back to the ship without much hanging about, then took it in tow and started back for home.”

Commander Woolley chose a quiet sector of Manoel Island to beach the boat for further examination. The manoeuvre was a delicate one in view of the risk of explosion.  Finally he could examine the boat:

“When we got the deck cover off a most incredible contraption of pipes, wires and gadgets was disclosed, which was obviously the firing gear, so we lit cigarettes and pondered over it for a while. For a moment I had the same feeling again that I had when I saw my first mine – that I just couldn’t tackle it – and then again, just as before, the realisation that it had to be done by someone and it may as well be me.” 

After working into the evening, Commander Woolley had determined how the mechanisms worked. He returned to the boat this morning to finish the job:

“The next morning, Sunday, saw the end of the dismantling with the detonators and primers out and the whole thing reasonably safe. There was the main charge of 600 lbs, two primers, three three-ounce charges and over forty detonators.  One of the detonators blew when I was taking it out and ripped my arm but that was the only damage.  Later investigation however showed that we had been very lucky taking the primers out, as one of them unscrewed itself as it came out.  Had the other done the same, the striker pin would have been released and the main charge would have exploded…

The main idea was that the pilot should direct the boat at a ship and then jump overboard before it hit and went up. A pretty suicidal job I should think…” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 JULY TO DAWN 29 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and humid.

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 28 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upright returned from patrol, having obtained 2 hits on a 500’ Floating Dock. HM submarine Upholder hit an Italian cruiser with two torpedoes.  Urge returned from patrol (Commanding Officer sick). 5 Swordfish left to intercept convoy, but turned back owing to high oil temperatures of engines. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish despatched to attack a southbound convoy off Pantelleria had to return due to overheated engines.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 13 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 3 Wellington. Departures 5 Blenheim, 2 Wellington.  The Commander in Chief Middle East, General Auchinleck, and the Air Commander in Chief Air Chief Marshal Tedder with their staffs left for the UK. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily, Tripoli and search patrols. 110 Squadron 3 Blenheims searched for two merchant ships, not found but bombed a converted sailing ship. 252 Squadron 8 Beaufighters attacked Catania, Syracuse, Marsala with success, 2 attacking each target.  They destroyed a large number of aircraft and damaged many more, and killed 25 ground staff.  One Beaufighter navigator Sgt T Armstrong was wounded.  Hurricanes provided cover between Sicily and Malta.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Arrangements were made to hand over the Sliema area to 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers.  C Company will receive personnel of 11th Lancs into their beach posts from tomorrow.  An area will be taken over by C Company from 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment.  Training of 40 RAF personnel in the use of rifles began; there are 200 to be trained.

TA QALI  S/Ldr G H Powell-Sheddon posted from Hal Far as OC Malta Night Flying Unit.

(1) Mines Over Malta, Frederick R Galea, Wise Owl Publicatons

 

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

 

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