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11 July 1941: Malta Attackers Destroy Enemy Ships, Aircraft, Railways and Harbour Facilities

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German ac damaged by Malta attacksOn 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)


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.


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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Posted by on July 11, 2021 in 1941, July 1941


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28 March 1941: Italian Ships to Attack Malta at Dawn

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Troops across Malta were placed on high alert tonight as the Island expects an attack from Italian naval forces at dawn tomorrow. The report was based on intelligence information received at Malta high command that the Italians are to bombard the Island as a reprisal for attacks on the Italian city of Genoa.  Enemy fighters have been patrolling the seas around the Island all day without crossing the coast.  Four Italian cruisers have been spotted by reconnaissance aircraft in the vicinity of Malta.  The alert was followed by a series of bombing raids across the Island.

Valiant fires her guns in the battle of Cape Matapan today

Valiant fires her guns in the battle of Cape Matapan today


While Malta is under threat of naval bombardment, the Mediterranean Fleet is engaged in a sea battle of the southern coast of Greece. The Fleet sailed yesterday into position off Cape Matapan to intercept an Italian battlefleet of one battleship, six heavy and two light cruisers plus several destroyers which were believed to be on a mission to intercept convoys through the Mediterranean to key Allied positions including Malta.

Vice-Adm Pridham-Wippell, commanding cruisers Ajax, Gloucester, Orion and the Australian Perth and destroyers engaged an Italian cruiser squadron this morning.  Admiral Cunningham who embarked from Alexandria with carrier Formidable and battleships Warspite, Barham and Valiant joined the battle and by noon the Italians had also been reinforced by the battleship Vittorio Veneto. Lieutenant-Commander John Dalyell-Stead of 829 Squadron Fleet Air Arm pilot took off from Formidable in his Swordfish and launched a brave attack on Vittorio Veneto and damaged the ship but was shot down in the return fire and perished. RAF aircraft joined the battle through the afternoon. By evening the Italian heavy cruiser Pola had been damaged, two more heavy cruisers and two destroyers sent to help her were also crippled by Royal Navy guns and finished off by the Australian Stuart. Pola was later abandoned and sunk by Navy destroyers.  The Mediterranean Fleet suffered no losses. 


A Hurricane fighter pilot was lucky to survive when his aircraft was attacked over Malta this afternoon. Sergeant Reginald Goode of 261 Squadron was one of four pilots ordered up just after 5 pm to deal with enemy aircraft which were carrying out harassing patrols around the Island’s coast.  The Hurricanes engaged a Messerschmitt 109 and a dogfight ensured.  Goode’s aircraft was hit from behind by a burst of machine-gun fire and he was hit in the back and neck by shrapnel.  He fought to regain control of the damaged plane and managed to land at Ghain Tuffieha but the Hurricane’s tail section broke off on impact.  Sergeant Goode was taken to hospital with serious injuries.


Weather  Fine.

0700 hrs  Continual patrols round the Island by enemy aircraft as yesterday; Hurricanes airborne when necessary. One Hurricane force-landed due to engine failure; the aircraft is written off but the pilot uninjured. 

1333-1345 hrs  Air raid alert for two ME 109 fighters which approach the Island and cross the coast. They are engaged by anti-aircraft guns and turn away without launching any attack.

1718 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft patrolling close to the coast. Four Hurricanes on defensive patrol have a short combat with a ME 109. 

1726 hrs  One Hurricane has to make a forced landing near Ghain Tuffieha military camp; the pilot is seriously injured.

1750 hrs  All clear.

1820-1829 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

2300 hrs  A warning is sent out by General Staff to all military units that four Italian cruisers have been seen close to Malta. Bombardment from the sea is to be expected at dawn.

0100-0148 hrs  Air raid alert for 18 enemy aircraft which fly over the Island from the north and use flares to light targets before dropping bombs in various locations, including Rabat, Imtarfa, Dingli, Hal Far, Kalafrana and Delimara. Reports indicate that some are delayed-action bombs.  Bombs in Rabat exploded in Hal Bajjada Street, College Street and the Nigret district, causing damage to buildings and killing and injuring people.  One civilian is killed and eight are wounded; several houses are demolished.  There is no moon, it is very dark and no Malta fighters are scrambled.  Anti-aircraft guns engage unseen targets with predicted barrage; no claims. 


ROYAL NAVY  HMS Utmost carried out a night attack on a convoy believed carrying German troops and stores; two transport ships believed sunk.

AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance between Malta and Tunisian coast for enemy shipping.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Greece with Mr Anthony Eden and other passengers.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (50kg).

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  9 conscript recruits joined the Battalion.


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Posted by on March 28, 2021 in 1941, March 1941


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5 March 1941: 100 Strong Blitz Puts Air Bases Out of Action

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Malta’s tiny fighter force is inadequate to counter mass enemy raids such as the blitz on the Island today, according to the Governor and Commander in Chief in a telegram to the War Office today:  

Hal Far Under Attack (NWMA Malta)

Hal Far Under Attack (NWMA Malta)

“A blitz raid of several formations totally certainly not less than 100 aircraft of which at least 60 bombers attacked Hal Far today. A few of these aircraft dropped bombs and machine-gunned Kalafrana, where damage to buildings and aircraft is slight; one Sunderland will be unserviceable for a few days.” 

The damage to Hal Far was still being assessed this evening. Preliminary reports find that one Swordfish and one Gladiator are burned out and all other aircraft rendered temporarily unserviceable.  The runway is also out of action.  All barrack blocks are now unserviceable; one has been completely demolished; hangars have also been badly damaged.  Water and power have been cut off.

Adjutant of the Special Constabulary Philo Pullicino saw the raid as it unfolded:

“I was awe-stricken as I saw the sky filled with planes overhead. In various formations they flew over us towards Hal Far and when just past us they dived into the barrage.  On my left I counted ten in triple V formation, just behind them came fifteen more in two lines, then from the right came eighteen in one single line and they all dived in a follow-my-leader fashion.  Above, fighters whirled and banked.  Our brave fighters, greatly outnumbered (there were about ten of ours up!), flew at the enemy at all heights even right inside our own barrage.  They are a brave lot!  God bless them!(1) 

Eleven Malta fighters were scrambled and destroyed two JU 88s, two JU 87s, one Dornier 215 and two ME109s confirmed, plus one JU 88 probable. One Hurricane was lost in a dog-fight; the pilot, Sgt Charles Macdougal – a veteran of the Battle of Britain – was killed.  Anti-aircraft guns destroyed nine enemy aircraft and damaged one JU 88 and three JU 87s.  There were probably more enemy aircraft too damaged to reach their base but this has yet to be confirmed.

“For this blitz every serviceable Hurricane and every available pilot was put up and they achieved results against very heavy odds,” Lt Gen Dobbie told the War Office. “The only answer to this kind of thing is obviously more fighters and those must somehow be provided if the air defence of Malta is to be maintained.”


Weather  Fine.

0713-0725 hrs  Air raid alert for an enemy HE 111 aircraft which approaches the Island from the north west at low altitude and machine-guns Sunderland flying boats in St Paul’s Bay. It heads southwards over the Island and drops bombs some distance out to sea off Delimara.  The raider is engaged by small arms and heavy anti-aircraft fire; no claims.  Malta fighters are scrambled; no results.

1710-1800 hrs Air raid alert for large formations totaling 60 enemy bombers and 40 escorting fighters approaching from the north. They fly eastwards along the north coast, turn south and cross the coast, dive-bombing Hal Far aerodrome in two waves, badly damaging hangars, Naval stores and other buildings.  Four aircraft (Swordfish, Seals and a Gladiator) are burned out and two more Gladiators and two Fulmars are damaged and temporarily unserviceable.  The runway is badly cratered and will be unserviceable for 36-48 hours.  One infantry post of 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is circled by 26 high explosive and anti-personnel bombs landing within 60 yards.  Kalafrana is also attacked, causing slight damage to buildings and one Sunderland aircraft.

Anti-aircraft guns fire a fixed-height barrage at 2500-3000 feet with marked success, destroying nine raiders and damaging at least four more. Malta fighters are scrambled.  One Hurricane flies through the anti-aircraft barrage to attack an enemy bomber over Luqa aerodrome.  The bomber is seen to lose height as it retreats towards the coast.  Three Hurricanes launch a further attack and the bomber crashes in the direction of Marsaxlokk Bay.  Fighters destroy a total of seven raiders, plus another probable, and damage three.  One Hurricane and its pilot are lost in combat.    

Military casualties  Sergeant Charles White Macdougal, Pilot, 811002, Royal Air Force (Aux), 261 Squadron.


ROYAL NAVY  As a result of air reconnaissance of the approaches to Tripoli it was decided to sail Upright and Utmost at once for offensive patrols on the Tripoli convoy routes. Truant also sailed for coastal patrol in the Gulf of Sirte.

AIR HQ 0735 hrs  Maryland photoreconnaissance of Tripoli (prior to intended operations tonight by 80 Fleet Air Arm Squadron), and Mellaha.  Sgt Morton, 228 Squadron, awarded the DFM.

LUQA 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Tripoli and Mellaha aerodrome.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 (1000kg).

(1) The Road to Rome, Philo Pullicino, mpi Publishing, 2012


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Posted by on March 5, 2021 in 1941, March 1941


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4 March 1941: Malta Defenders Have Destroyed 100 Enemy Aircraft

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Since Italy entered the War on 11 June 1940 Malta’s fighters and anti-aircraft defences have now topped the 100 mark in enemy victims. The following are the official totals:  112 enemy aircraft confirmed shot down, a further 38 probably failed to reach their bases, while 45 are known to have been damaged.


Employers (Discontinuation of Service) Emergency Regulations of 1940 were enacted to safeguard the interests of employers when constant air attacks caused them to shut down their business. Under the Regulations, any civilian not following air raid instructions faced prosecution and many have been fined by the courts.  As a result, most civilians have stopped work and headed for shelter immediately in response to the air raid alert.  However, the result has been a marked decline in productivity, according to the Government:

“Much time valuable to the war effort is at present being lost by everyone putting down their tools or shutting up their establishments immediately on the sounding of the Alert and remaining idle until the All Clear is sounded…The Alert is sounded on a number of occasions and no raid develops, or only one aeroplane on reconnaissance crosses the coast and, with the exception of splinters falling from the shells of our own guns which can with reasonable care be avoided, there is no danger whatever; on other occasions only a portion of the Island is in danger and elsewhere it is completely free of enemy bombs. Yet the whole life of the Island stops at every Alert.”

Now people have shown they can discipline themselves to take cover during raids, the Government has decided to lift the Regulations. From now on it will be left to civilians to take cover only when there is imminent danger.

“…after some months on the front line it is felt that the people must have become accustomed to raids and must themselves know when it is necessary to take cover and when they may carry on their work in safety…With regard to traffic, other than public conveyance, on the road there will be no restrictions on its continuing during an Alert. Persons who have no important public or private duties to perform should stop, but those who have such duties should proceed…on their journey, only interrupting it and taking cover when the necessity to do so appears imminent and danger immediate.”

According to the Government announcement, the individual is now free to develop an air raid sense – and very rapidly many will find that carrying on with their normal occupation is far sounder than the nervous hours of suspense in overcrowded shelters. (1)


Due to fear of night assault by parachutists military authorities want to control any movement in and out of towns and villages during the night. Curfew regulations now stipulate that “except to proceed to shelters, no persons will be allowed to move even within town or village boundaries during curfew hours of 9pm to 6.30am.” Perhaps hardest hit will be farmers who will no longer be able home for their fields while it is still dark, as they normally do.


Weather  Fine.

0912-0935 hrs  Air raid alert. Two Wellingtons returning from a mission are followed in towards Malta by two enemy ME 109 fighters.  No engagement.

1115-1130 hrs; 1400-1425 hrs  Air raid alerts; raids do not materialise.


ROYAL NAVY  Utmost returned from a special mission in the Gulf of Hammamet.

AIR HQ 1100-1430 hrs  Maryland photoreconnaissance Sicily: Palermo one cruiser, three destroyers, one merchant vessel, six small ships; Boccadifuoco one JU 52, 24 fighters, eight HE 111s or JU 88s, four other aircraft; Trapani aerodrome one JU 52, twelve JU 87s, one large and two small unidentified aircraft. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 6 at Luqa aerodrome (3 x 50kg; 3 x 500kg).

(1) When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint 1981


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Posted by on March 4, 2021 in 1941, March 1941


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31 October 1940: Air Battle For Malta Reviewed

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JU 87 dive-bombers disappeared from skies after losses

JU 87 dive-bombers disappeared from skies after losses


For the first month of the war with Italy, SM79 bombers carried out raids and reconnaissance unescorted by fighters. When successes against them by our fighters started, the tactics changed and no bomb was dropped by day on Malta for a continuous period of five weeks. During this time the Italians sent strong formations of up to twenty fighters carrying out offensive patrols in an evident attempt to neutralize Malta’s fighter effort. Their efforts met with little success and Malta’s few fighters were instructed that, unless bombers were included, action against fighters was to be avoided and only stragglers were to be attacked.

The next phase began when day bombing was resumed by large formations of 10 to 15 bombers, escorted by 20 to 25 fighters. This presented a difficult problem but Malta’s few fighters tackled the attacks courageously, with the occasional success against the enemy. The attacks were not sustained but they were followed by dive-bombing attacks by JU 87s, also heavily escorted by fighters. On the third dive bombing attack, two bombers and one fighter were shot down by Hurricanes. Since then no further dive bombing attacks have taken place. Enemy air activity was almost negligible during the first half of October.

In view of the night bombing during moonlight in the early weeks of the war, a night fighter effort has been worked up. On the first occasion it was called into action, a Hurricane carried out a determined attack on a SM79 which was last seen flying very low and apparently in great difficulty.

There were no further night attacks for several weeks.   The next attempt did not materialize: the enemy aircraft were caught in searchlights and turned back before reaching the Island. Several more weeks elapsed before another attempt was made by some four bombers working in pairs, raiding Malta by moonlight. A Hurricane shot down one bomber in flames and damaged a second so seriously that it probably did not return to base. The remaining bombers approached the Island but returned before crossing the coast.


Weather  Gusty with occasional rain.

No air raids.

HMAS Vendetta

HMAS Vendetta


ROYAL NAVY  Vendetta ready for sea on completion of refit.

AIR HQ  Departures 4 Wellingtons.

KALAFRANA Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. A working party of 60 technical NCOs and airmen were temporarily detached to Luqa to assist in special offensive operations being carried out from there, leaving only a skeleton staff of English personnel in workshops at Kalafrana.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strength 29 officers, 842 other ranks, 2 RAOC (attached).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  This month A and B Coys moved to new positions at Ta Qali and Dingli. Range practices have been held and NCOs completed a course on hand grenades. Signals have improved communications in the Ta Qali area. Progress was made in construction of rear defences at posts in the unit’s area. There has been a considerable amount of sickness throughout the unit, among the officers; jaundice has been prevalent at Ta Saliba.

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Posted by on October 31, 2020 in 1940, October 1940


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25 September 1940: Bomb Disposal Squads Clear 32 UXBs

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Bomb disposal teams from the RAF and RAOC have cleared 32 unexploded bombs (UXB) across the airfields of Hal Far and Luqa. The bombs were dropped in air raids on 15 and 17 September and have been cordoned off since then; none has exploded in that time   The RAF dealt with 13 UXBs within the aerodromes. RAOC officers Captain R L Jephson Jones and Lt W M Eastman RAOC with their staff of Royal Engineers concentrated on those outside the perimeter of the airfields.

The bombs all carried German Rheinmetal fuzes. Armed with information from Bomb Disposal Headquarters in the UK about these fuzes, the bomb disposal squads was decided that the majority of the bombs could be defuzed; the remainder were blown up. Once rendered harmless, some of the bombs were kept by the RAOC while the rest were collected by the Royal Navy and dumped at sea.


Weather  Fine.

1132-1219 hrs  Air raid alert for one formation of eight enemy Macchi 200 fighters which fly over the Island at 20000 feet. Three Hurricanes and two Gladiators are scrambled and engage the raiders in a dog fight at 22000 feet, shooting down one Macchi which crashes on land near a military defence post at Delimara, killing the pilot. The Fort reports incendiary bombs near the anti-aircraft searchlight half a mile away. Ack Ack guns also engage the enemy: one aircraft is believed damaged but is not seen to crash.  

Enemy casualties  Maresciallo Gino Lagi, 79th Squadriglia, 6th Gruppo, 1st Stormo, pilot of Macchi C200 shot down and died.

Narval Free French submarine joins Allied ops at Malta (1)

Narval Free French submarine joins Allied ops at Malta (1)


ROYAL NAVY  French submarine Narval sailed on first patrol under Free French colours. Rorqual sailed on patrol.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  CO expressed appreciation for work done by A and B Coys digging up unexploded bombs.

(1)  Expedition Scyllas

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Posted by on September 25, 2020 in 1940, September 1940


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28 August 1940: Air Force in Malta to Expand

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The Air Force based on Malta is expected to expand significantly, according to a telegram from the War Office to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief. The plans have raised concerns among military chiefs on the Island who will need further facilities to be developed to meet the needs of a greater force.

AOC Malta Air Commodore Forster Maynard (r) with Flt Lt G Burges.

AOC Malta Air Commodore Forster Maynard (r) with Flt Lt G Burges.

The Air Officer Commanding has already requested further dispersal areas for aircraft beyond the existing airfields. Such expansion would also require additional anti-aircraft protection.

Lt Gen Dobbie has written to the War Office strongly recommending that 12 Heavy and 10 Light Ack Ack guns now in transit on board fast ships be allotted to Malta, in addition to a similar number which have already been allocated and are expected to arrive imminently. He Also stressed that manning of the Heavy guns will require 27 Ack Ack Battery currently also in transit via “Operation Serenade” is posted to Malta. Light guns can be manned from local resources, if the War Office agrees to the commissioning of six additional Royal Malta Artillery officers to train immediately.

In a separate development, a secret and personal telegram from Vice Admiral Malta has confirmed that the following are expected to arrive Malta shortly by ship: 416 boxes Bofors ammunition, 16 Bofors barrels, 100 Bren guns, 10 Bofors guns, eight 3.7” Ack Ack guns, three predictors, two height finders, ten 4.5” Ack Ack barrels.


Weather  Fine.

1030-1044 hrs  Air raid warning for five enemy aircraft which approach the Island at 20000 feet to within six miles of the coastline, then turn away eastward. Four Hurricanes are scrambled but do not intercept. The raid does not materialize.

2110-2151 hrs  A searchlight co-operation exercise with Hurricane fighters is interrupted by an air raid warning for two enemy aircraft which approach to within ten miles east of the island. They circle for half an hour then turn away to the north east. The Hurricanes do not engage.


AIR HQ  One Sunderland reconnaissance westward of north African coast from Salita Island to 60 miles west of Algiers.

1st HEAVY REGIMENT, ROYAL MALTA ARTILLERY  Construction begun of mantlets for 8 inch guns at Fort Campbell. A second machine gun post is completed and a third started.


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Posted by on August 28, 2020 in 1940, August 1940


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22 July 1940: Malta’s Fighters and Gunners ‘Magnificent’

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Ack Ack gunners defending Grand Harbour (NWMA Malta)

Ack Ack gunners defending Grand Harbour (NWMA Malta)

In a report to the War Office today, Governor and C in C Lt Gen Dobbie praised the ‘magnificent work by RAF fighters and steady increasingly accurate fire by Ack Ack gunners’.  Malta’s defenders have destroyed at least eleven enemy aircraft and severely damaged at least eight others since the start of attacks on the Island six weeks ago.  The Governor emphasised that both groups deserved equal recognition for the toll on enemy raiders.  His report is in response to a request from the War Office on the state of morale in Malta.

In 66 bombing raids* since the declaration of war by Italy, several hundred incendiary and high explosive bombs have been dropped, including some of heavy calibre.  The raids, which have featured up to 25 bombers, have been directed at military targets but there has also been damage to civilian property and casualties.  However, these have been reduced since taking cover has become routine.  Low flying machine gun attacks have been made on a few occasions.  Most air raids have taken place by day but some at night.

Despite minimal resources, defensive tactics by RAF fighters have forced the enemy to send large numbers of fighters to escort small formations of bombers.  Italian pilots have also become wary of the Island’s British and Maltese gunners, and now seem compelled to remain at maximum height when flying over the Island.  These successes have helped sustain the morale of the population.

According to the report, all troops in the Malta Garrison, British and Maltese alike, are fit and in a high state of morale, continuing their duties with enthusiasm despite some heavy bombing.  The Royal Navy has maintained regular anti-submarine and local patrols – many of these manned by largely Maltese crews.  Dockyard workers have continued to turn up for work at what is one of the Island’s key targets – and have given excellent service manning their own defence battery.

However, the report sounds a word of caution: that the relatively low impact of the raids so far might cause the Italians to reconsider and intensify their activities against Malta.  And the small scale of the Island means that no area is spared from the danger of continued air attacks.

* Enemy planes have approached the Island on several other occasions triggering an air raid alert but no attack has been made.


Weather  Fine and warm. 

No air raids.

1301 hrs  Status ‘Europe’ notified to all batteries.

Military casualties  Leading Cook Vincenzo Conti, Leading Cook, St Angelo.


AIR HQ  0515 hrs  Swordfish on anti-submarine patrol: nothing to report. 

KALAFRANA  Five recruits medically examined for the RAF.

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Posted by on July 22, 2020 in 1940, July 1940


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16 July 1940: First RAF Casualty as Fighters Outnumbered 10 to 1

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Wreckage of CR42 destroyed today

Wreckage of CR42 destroyed today (1)


Malta’s already beleaguered fighter flight suffered a blow today with the loss of the Island’s first RAF pilot in combat today.  Flight Lieutenant Peter Keeble had been serving as a pilot at Hal Far airfield since March of this year.  He was piloting a Hurricane this morning which met a numerically superior force of Italian Fiat CR42’s.  He attacked a leading fighter but died when his aircraft was shot down by the fighter near Bidni.  As Keeble’s Hurricane went into a dive the Italian was hit by Ack Ack light machine gun fire from 1st Bn Dorset Regiment.  He unable to come out of his pursuit dive and crashed near Bidni, just 100 yards from the Hurricane.  The pilot was captured alive but dies soon afterwards.  No enemy bombs are dropped during raid.      


First RAF casualty in five weeks of fighting.  During the same period two and only occasionally three British fighters have met Italian formations up to 20 strong.  Yet they have destroyed 10 enemy aircraft and probably destroyed seven more. 


Lack of mails and news of dependants who may have been evacuated from their home, coupled with reports of bombing of various districts in England is seriously disturbing troops in Malta.  The Governor and Commander in Chief today urged the War Office most strongly that every effort should be made to despatch letter mail to Malta by any means possible.  He further asks whether cheap cable facilities could be made available in England to the dependants of Malta forces, so that casualty information can be sent easily to the Island.     

His plea follows a previous telegram on 10 July asking for mail to be sent as soon as possible from England to Malta.  Troops are naturally anxious to get news of their relatives and especially those who were living in the Channel Islands as in the case of some of the Dorsetshire Regiment.  Lack of such information is proving unsettling especially as civil casualty lists and names of towns attacked are not published in newspapers.  Lt Gen Dobbie has asked that the mail and other essential requirements be included in the fast convoy leaving very shortly with aircraft for Malta. 


Weather  Fine. 

0915-0930 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy bombers with six CR42 fighters which approach the Island from the North in two formations.  One Hurricane and one Gladiator are scrambled and intercept the raiders.  One Hurricane is shot down by an enemy fighter; the same fighter is then shot down nearby. 

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant Peter Keeble, Royal Air Force.                                           

Enemy casualties  Tenente Mario Benedetti, 74a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo Autonomo, pilot. 


AIR HQ  Aircraft casualties  One Hurricane.  Anti-submarine and reconnaissance patrol by one London: nothing to report.

KALAFRANA   Aircraft K5261 P/O Minchinton 202 Squadron on anti-submarine patrol.  Corporal L Wills, Nurse Orderly, attached to Luqa for medical duties.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  The air raid alert on Luqa airfield was changed to a bugle for all signals.  Corporal Adams stood by as bugler.

(1)  Gladiators Over Malta, Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, Wise Owl Publications 2008

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Posted by on July 16, 2020 in 1940, July 1940


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14 July 1940: Malta’s Three Fighters Struggle Against New Enemy Tactics

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Enemy tactics during the last two days indicate attempt to reduce Malta’s fighter effort by sending large numbers of fighters on raids, with formations approaching in two-tiers.  Hurricanes which attack bombers in the lower formation are being counter attacked by the upper tier of enemy fighters.  The manoeuvrability of these Italian aircraft is making it difficult for the Hurricanes to get away.  Although pilots have been warned of the new tactic, visibility difficulties in two recent raids have led to them being caught out on both occasions. 

Only one Hurricane and two Gladiators left

Only one Hurricane and two Gladiators remian

New tactics have also been identified during night air raids on the Island.  In recent attacks, a single bomber has approached, followed at a distance of about 15 miles by a second aircraft.  Bombers are carrying both high explosive and incendiary bombs which they are dropping from high altitude,

With Malta fighter numbers now reduced to one Hurricane and two Gladiators, RAF chiefs anticipate considerable difficulty in keeping Italian raiders at bay.  Meanwhile they stress the urgent need for further Hurricanes to attack bombers and Gladiators for tackling fighters.


Developments are underway to increase facilities at Luqa airfield.  A small Station Headquarters is being established at the meeting of the two runways.  Six hangars, barracks, offices, and a petrol store are planned for the site, which will be ringed by defensive machine-gun posts.


Weather  Fine. 

0545-0601 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy fighters which approach Grand Harbour and are attacked by guns at Tigne, San Pietru, Spinola and HMS Terror.  One Gladiator and one Hurricane are scrambled but do not engage.  The raiders circle over Grand Harbour just out of range of the Ack Ack guns, seemingly hoping to attract Malta’s fighters.  They then briefly cross the coast before heading away to the north east.  They then approaching again.      

0615-0643 hrs  Air raid alert for returning enemy raiders.  Malta fighters are still airborne over Luqa.  The enemy aircraft approach to within 15 miles before turning away to the south east.  They circle several times before heading away to the north east.    

1600 hrs  A farmer reports seeing two submarines to the south of the Island.  Initial investigations suggest that this a misidentification of wave patterns.

2110 hrs  Signalling is again reported from Dingli, identified by the RAF as the letters ‘ASK’, sent using a lamp or torch.  The source is identified as a house to the west of the village which is already under observation.  A return signal is also observed and its source noted.  Five minutes later red flashes are observed from the west of Rabat. 


ROYAL NAVY  Emily on inshore patrol unsuccessfully attacked a submarine with gunfire off south east Malta. 

AIR HQ  Anti-submarine and reconnaissance patrol by Swordfish: nothing to report.


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Posted by on July 14, 2020 in 1940, July 1940


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