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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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