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BRITISH WAR CABINET REVIEWS A WEEK’S AIR ATTACKS FROM MALTA
On 3 July, an attack was made on shipping outside Tripoli harbour. Three ships, two of 5000 tons, were set on fire. Other daylight attacks by Blenheims were made on the aerodromes at Tamet, Sorman and Zuara; at least 10 grounded aircraft were destroyed, while others were seriously damaged and personnel machine-gunned. At Homs the coastal road was bombed, a lorry was destroyed and a reservoir hit.
On 4 July, six Blenheims attacked a troop convoy of about 130 vehicles west of Sirte, destroying a number of them by bombs and others by machine-gun fire and inflicting heavy casualties on troops. One of the blenheims attacked and hit the barracks at Tamet.
On the 6 July, six Blenheims from Malta carried out a most successful surprise attack on shipping in Palermo harbour. A ship of 10000 tons was hit twice, her back apparently breaking; three hits on another ship of the same tonnage caused a fire, explosions and dense columns of smoke; two bombs hit a ship of 8000 tons, and two other ships of 5000 and 2000 tons were also hit. Our aircraft machine-gunned cruisers and destroyers, divisional headquarters, warehouses, dry dock buildings and the power station. An explosion, probably caused by incendiaries, was observed near the dry dock.
On 9 July, six hits were made on four merchant vessels ranging from 7000 to 12000 tons in Tripoli harbour, one of which was set well alight. Hits were also registered on the Mole, and two great fires, followed by a terrific explosion, were the result of an attack on a warehouse. One Blenheim was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and crashed on a torpedo-boat, setting it on fire; three other Blenheims were missing as a result of enemy fighter action.
On the same day, four Blenheims attacked a convoy outside the harbour; a vessel of 7000 tons, believed to be a tanker, was set on fire and claimed as a total loss, a three-masted schooner blew up and a merchant vessel of 1500 tons was hit and left burning fiercely.
On the night of 9/10 July six Wellingtons dropped six tons of bombs on Naples. The Central Railway Station and marshalling yards were hit many times, in addition to warehouses and an aircraft factory.
On three nights, a force of six Wellingtons bombed the harbour, engine sheds and sidings at Tripoli, causing many fires and explosions. Swordfish also bombed the Spanish Mole and laid mines outside the harbour. Hurricanes made a low-flying attack on the seaplane base at Syracuse, destroying three aircraft and damaging five others, and causing casualties among the crews on the slipway. Reconnaissance aircraft have maintained a close watch on enemy shipping off the Tunisian coast and in the Ionian Sea, and have photographed Taranto and the Sicilian ports.
Gaps have opened in the barbed wire entanglements along the shores at the following places for the convenience of bathers: Armier, St Paul’s Bay, Bahar ic-Caghaq, St George’s Bay, St Julian’s Bay, Fond Ghadir, Sliema, Marsascala, Marsaxlokk, Birzebbuga, Wied iz-Zurrieq and Ghar Lapsi.
The public have been warned to use only these gaps to gain access to or from the water and are reminded that certain sections of the entanglements contain booby traps and explosives which are highly dangerous. Any attempt to go through the barbed wire except at the gaps indicated by the noticeboards stating ‘Bathing is allowed here’ may have very serious consequences. (1)
AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 JULY TO DAWN 12 JULY 1941
Weather Hot and sunny.
0730 hrs ‘Exercise Asia’ cease fire is given. Military commanders review the Exercise, with many lessons learned in the past five days.
1321-1347 hrs Air raid alert for 40-50 Macchi 200 fighters approaching the Island from the north in three formations at 15000, 10000 and 500 feet. They are believed to come from Catania aerodrome. 15 cross the coast near St Paul’s Bay. Six Macchis dive down over Luqa, machine-gunning the airfield. They destroy one Wellington and damage four more, two Marylands are also damaged and will be grounded for up to 6 days. The raiders are engaged by 12 Hurricanes of 185 Squadron who break up all three formations. Heavy and light anti-aircraft fire and light machine-guns also engage. The Hurricanes pursue the raiders in a running fight up to 15 miles north east of Grand Harbour. They destroy three Macchis which crash into the sea, severely damage four and damage another four. Five or six others are hit by light Ack Ack fire at Luqa and Safi, one hit is claimed by infantry firing machine guns.
0235-0253 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses the coast south of Grand Harbour and drops 15kg high explosive bombs near Zeitun. Two Hurricanes 46 Squadron are scrambled but do not reach sufficient altitude to engage.
0402-0431 hrs Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which cross the coast over Grand Harbour and drop 15kg high explosive bombs across four streets of Hamrun including the main street, demolishing four houses and damaging seven more. Eight civilians are killed and seven seriously injured; eleven are treated for minor injuries. One unexploded bomb is reported. Two Hurricanes 46 Squadron are scrambled; no engagement.
OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 11 JULY 1941
ROYAL NAVY Ursula and P33 sailed at 1700 to intercept convoy west of Lampedusa.
AIR HQ Departures 4 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Marylands patrols to locate convoy north of Sicily; reconnaissance Catania and Syracuse.
HAL FAR A Fulmar patrols Catania and drops four 20lb bombs over Augusta on the return.
1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT After the end of ‘Exercise Asia’ Battalion personnel are left with a large sleep deficit. The day was spent drawing in guns, stores, rations and equipment from defence posts and carrying out complete checks.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 4 (2 x 50kg HE, 2 x 250lb HE).
(1) Malta Diary of a War, Michael Galea, BDL Publishing 2016
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