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13 October 1941: Malta Faces Harsher Rationing as Convoy Situation Worsens

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Bread essential for morale, say experts

Bread essential, experts say


The supply of Malta by sea is now under severe threat: that is the conclusion now reached by the Island’s high command. Several important foodstuffs have become increasingly scarce since July, especially meat, and the Island is now facing the prospect of further shortages.  A conference of experts has been convened to discuss ways to make food stocks last longer between supply convoys. 

Their initial report reveals that the poorest in Malta rely mainly “on bread, edible oil, sugar and tinned milk. Tinned meat and tinned fish are extensively used for eating with bread.  Kerosene is universally used for cooking.” (1)

Asked to review possibilities for further rationing, or at least economies, in food consumption, they report: “The rations of coffee, tinned meat and tinned fish are very tight and could not be reduced without causing hardship.  Similarly no material reduction could be made in the rations of soap and matches.  A small reduction could be made in the ration of fats and edible oil, perhaps saving 150 tons a year.  The ration of sugar could, if necessary, be reduced, although sugar is a most important item in the diet of the Maltese, especially in the case of children…  The ration of kerosene is very strict considering that all cooking and heating is normally done with kerosene and that it is also very commonly used for lighting.

The main imported commodities which are not rationed are cheese, tinned milk, frozen meat, rice, tea, flour and bread… Butter has not been rationed because stocks are large…  Tea has not been rationed because it is only consumed by a comparatively small section of the population…  It has been found possible to control cheese and rice satisfactorily without rationing them…Issues of frozen meat have been severely limited, and with the increasing shortage of local meat, this commodity is becoming difficult to obtain… Further economies would be difficult, but the Island could of course subsist entirely on tinned meat if necessary…

Bread is much the most important article of consumption with the people of Malta. It is also a very heavy item in the import programme…  No material reduction in consumption has been attempted…  Such a reduction would not only cause hardship to the poorer classes, it would also have a bad effect on morale…  It is undesirable that any rationing of bread should be attempted…


Weather  Heavy rainstorm early evening.

1122-1140 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy fighters approaching the Island from the north east escorting a reconnaissance aircraft. When the raiders are still 12 miles from Malta, they split into two; six raiders recede and the remaining three cross the coast over Kalafrana to carry out reconnaissance.  Ten Hurricanes are scrambled and the reconnaissance aircraft turns away rapidly.  The Hurricanes chase the raiders back to the Sicilian coast but are unable to catch them.

1444-1500 hrs  Air raid alert for three Macchi 200 fighters which approach from the north east at great altitude and cross the coast over Grand Harbour. Seven Hurricanes are scrambled but unable to gain sufficient height to intercept. 

0535-0640 hrs  Air raid alert for 24 enemy Macchi 200 fighters approaching the Island. Nine cross the coast, split into two formations and dive down to an average height of 400 feet to launch a machine-gun attack on an area from the Cisk factory right across Luqa and the Safi dispersal area.  One bullet hits a Wellington bomber causing slight damage. 

The raiders are engaged at 11000 feet by a heavy anti-aircraft barrage and also by Bofors as well as searchlight and infantry light machine-guns. A Bofors position at Safi hits and damages one Macchi, a Bofors at Luqa hits and damages another two.  A third Bofors at Imsierah hits and damages a fourth.  A light machine-gun manned by 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment at Safi fires a long burst into another Macchi.

Five Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders as they leave their attack. P/O Barnwell of Malta Night Fighter Unit shoots one Macchi fighter down into the sea but then does not return to base.  It is thought his engine may have cut out over the sea.  A search is launched.  


ROYAL NAVY  Thorn left on patrol.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron 1 Maryland patrol north Ionian Sea; 1 Maryland search for convoy; 1 Maryland special patrol. Photoreconnaissance Tripoli. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked motor transport on the Benghazi Road. 221 Squadron 1 Wellington shipping sweep. Fleet Air Arm 1 Fulmar bombed and machine-gunned eastern perimeter of Castel Vetrano aerodrome causing three explosions. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish sent to attack convoy of 2 merchant ships and 2 destroyers south of Lampedusa dropped 5 torpedoes leaving one merchant vessel low in the water and on fire.  

KALAFRANA 0025 hrs Sunderland T9050 landed safely at Kalafrana having lost an airscrew, the controls being also damaged. Captain of the aircraft was F/Lt Milligan of 230 Squadron, with 8 passengers on board.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  His Excellency the Governor & Commander in Chief visited the Battalion.

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


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Posted by on October 13, 2021 in 1941, October 1941


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6 September 1941: More Vital Foods Rationed and Prices Fixed

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'Call up' for men to dig shelters

‘Call up’ for men to dig shelters


Malta’s population faces a hungry winter as more essential foodstuffs are added to the list of strictly rationed items. Rationing of edible oil, margarine and lard has already come into force.  Plans are now being made for the rationing of tinned fish and tinned meat, which will be put into effect later this month.

At the same time, the Maltese Government has decided to set up a Central Prices Board is being set up to fix the prices of local produce as well as goods imported by traders, in order to avoid the exploitation of shortages and ensure fair pricing across the Islands. The Board will also hear complaints by traders and the public with regard to prices.  Local committees are being set up all over the Island to oversee pricing in their areas and act as a point of contact for any concerns about excessive charges.


Skilled workers such as miners, masons and stone cutters throughout Malta and Gozo are to be ‘called up’ to help with essential defensive works across the Islands. The measure is designed to speed up the construction of air raid shelters and other essential defence projects for the Malta Garrison. 

In a first step towards instituting compulsory service for skilled manpower to help in the defence of Malta, every suitably skilled man between the ages of 16 and 60 will be required to register with the Director of Compulsory Service. First to register will be all employees of the Government and military services.

The Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief has been concerned about the rate of construction, particularly of shelters for the civilian population. Having unsuccessfully bid for a skilled workforce to be sent to Malta from elsewhere, he is keen to ensure the maximum use of locally available tradesmen in completing the necessary works.


Weather  Fine and fresh.

0010-0050 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches from the north at 14000 feet and drops bombs in the sea six miles off the coast before turning away. Two Hurricanes were scrambled but as searchlights could not illuminate the raiders at such distance there was no engagement.  


AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Wellington. Departures 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington.  Striking force patrols Ionian Sea and east Tunisian coast by two Marylands, one Blenheim and one Beaufort. 69 Squadron Maryland patrol east Sicilian and east Calabrian coasts.  2 Fulmar sent to patrol Catania and Gerbini developed engine trouble so went to Comiso and dropped incendiaries.  The crew returned to Malta, change aircraft and took off again at 0001 hrs for Catania where they dived and machine-gunned the airfield, damaging three aircraft.  At 0115 hrs they dived on Gerbini airfield, dropping incendiaries and machine-gunning three more aircraft on the ground. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish attacked a northbound convoy of three merchant ships and three destroyers south of Pantelleria.  One merchant ship was claimed as sunk, and one damaged.  5 torpedoes were released.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2; dealt with 2 (70kg incendiary)

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  The CO commented on the narrow escape of personnel during last nigh’s raid and emphasised the importance of maintaining a rigid blackout.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  One NCO and 14 men attached to RAF Luqa as mechanics.


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Posted by on September 6, 2021 in 1941, September 1941


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4 August 1941: Rationing Extended Despite Convoy Supplies

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Unexploded shell: handle with care

Unexploded shells must be handled with care


Malta is facing another belt-tightening round of cuts to food rations. The move follows the recent controversial measure to introduce 20-30% of potato into the contents of bread – the mainstay of the Maltese diet.  The change has radically altered the much-loved crunchy and wholesome character of the Maltese loaf.

It has now been announced that olive oil – the other key element of the Maltese diet – is to be rationed, along with margarine and lard. The new restrictions are expected to come into force by the middle of August, along with rationing of the essential domestic fuel, kerosene.

The bread situation is unlikely to improve: this year’s harvest has been brought in but the grain is rapidly being used up. Future harvests are now under serious threat from the damage by incendiaries and high explosive bombs.

With over 25000 troops now on the Island demand for food and fuel has significantly increased. Supplies delivered by the convoy of 24 July are enough to sustain the Island for three months.  However, transportable supplies such as tinned food are no substitute for the Maltese staple diet of bread and olive oil.


Aeroplanes fire small shells and explosive bullets; these are dangerous if they miss their target and fall to earth without exploding. They must be handled with great care.  They will usually be found singly and should be removed to a suitable place and reported in the same way as for unexploded bombs.  The procedure for moving is as follows:

  • Pick up by hand by the middle
  • Carry in a horizontal position
  • Place in a bucket or box on 3in sand or earth and cover with 3in sand
  • Place in a hole in the ground 3in x 1ft x 1ft or a suitable place below ground level and cover gently with sandbags

Don’ts to be remembered:

  • Don’t put more than two shells or bullets in one receptacle to carry, and separate them by cotton wool or sand
  • Don’t jolt them or change direction suddenly
  • Don’t repeat don’t drop them.


Weather  Sunny and hot.

No air raids.

1205-1235 hrs  Air raid alert for three Macchi 200 fighters which approach to within a few miles of Grand Harbour at 25000 feet. Hurricanes are scrambled and the raiders retire before they can be engaged.


ROYAL NAVY  Unique arrived from patrol south of Messina, having wrecked two trains.

AIR HQ  Departures 2 Beaufighter, 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Four strike force patrols by Marylands.  Photo-reconnaissance Comiso aerodrome, Tripoi and Misurata.  105 Squadron  2 Blenheims sent to attack a merchant ship north of Misurata attacked a schooner leaving the vessel damaged.  

HAL FAR  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 3 Swordfish special westerly search for an enemy submarine seen earlier by a Maryland.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The second batch of RAF personnel reported for training in rifle use.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion in Gozo.


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


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1 August 1941: 80 Houses Destroyed, 39 Killed in July

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  • No of air raid alerts 72 (including 53 night raids)
  • Days without air raid alerts 7
  • Total time under alert 52 hours 18 mins
  • Average length of alert 53.5 mins
  • Enemy aircraft casualties: destroyed 21; probably destroyed 5; damaged 9
  • Malta aircraft losses 3 (including two pilots)
  • Civilians killed by enemy action to date 316
  • Civilians seriously injured to date 265


The Governor & C in C reports on conditions for civilians in Malta to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London:

During July there were 38 raids, two of them by day. 39 persons were killed (21 men, eight women and ten children) and 20 injured (eight men, eight women and four children).  80 houses were destroyed or seriously damaged.

By far the most important event in July was the arrival of the convoy; the successful unloading of which is now nearing completion. The effect of seeing so many ships in the harbour on the spirits of the population has of course been admirable.

Loaves now include 20-30% potato

Loaves now include 20-30% potato

During July a scheme for mixing up to 20%, but not more than 30%, of potatoes in bread was brought into effect, the object being to save imported wheat and to ensure a satisfactory market to farmers, thereby encouraging them to plant potatoes in future. The scheme was made compulsory as from 1st August.  Considerable difficulty was experienced in persuading the more conservative bakers to come into line, but they have all now done so.

Plans have been completed for rationing edible oil, margarine and lard and this will be done as from the middle of August. Butter will not be rationed, as our stocks are very satisfactory and it is eaten only by a very small proportion of the population.  Consumption is extremely low.

Shelter work has now been started in Gozo and 75 shelters are now being constructed there. No miners from the regiment are employed as it has been possible to obtain the whole force needed of 174 miners in Gozo.


A Blenheim aircraft of 82 Squadron has been reported missing tonight after it was shot down during a raid tonight on enemy shipping in the southern Mediterranean. F/Lt A B Broadley’s Blenheim was the lead aircraft of three sent to attack Axis ships off the island of Lampedusa.  The Blenheims scored direct hits on the ships but faced heavy defensive fire, during which F/Lt Broadley’s bomber was hit and forced to land in the sea half a mile offshore.  The air gunner of a second Blenheim was injured.

The other two members of the missing Blenheim crew have been named as Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Sgt V Marsh and Observer Pilot Officer A S Ramsay. All three arrived in Malta less than a month ago.


Weather  Sunny and hot.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Alistair S Ramsay, Observer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 105 Squadron.                        


AIR HQ Departures 1 Blenheim. 69 Squadron Five reconnaissance flights, including one by five Marylands, covering Sicily, Tripoli, Lampedusa, Marittimo and Cape Carbonara.  One Swordfish Fleet Air Arm patrolled Ionian Sea. 105 Squadron 6 Blenheims sent to attack convoy failed to locate after a search. 82 Squadron 3 Blenheim successful attack on shipping in Lampedusa.  One Blenheim was hit by anti-aircraft fire and force-landed in the sea ½ mile from shore. The air gunner of another is was injured.      

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion in Gozo.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strength of detachment 27 officers, 189 other ranks.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Battalion hands over defence posts in St Julians Bay, St Andrews Barracks area and Pembroke Ranges to 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers.


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Posted by on August 1, 2021 in August 1941


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5 May 1941: Malta ‘Most Exposed’ Part of British Empire

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The Times, London MAY 1941

Malta in the Mediterranean

Malta in the Mediterranean

The most exposed position in the British Empire is the island of Malta, which continues to suffer heavy air raids. Situated as it is at the intersection of the British route from Gibraltar to Alexandria with the enemy’s route from the Italian ports to Tripoli, its capture would be of incalculable value to the Axis for the whole of their Mediterranean strategy; and in default of capture they have reason to spare no effort to make its harbour useless as a base for British ships. 

Since Malta is only sixty miles from the airfields of Sicily, and is precluded by its small area from maintaining a defensive air force comparable in numbers to its potential assailants, the opportunities for harassing the garrison and people are enormous. Indeed the Maltese, like so many of their ancestors before them, have been living ever since last June in what is practically a state of siege, though they are invested not from the sea but from the sky.  Up to the middle of February, when the last statistics were given to the House of Commons, Malta had endured over three hundred raids – that is, considerably more than one for every day since Italy entered the war; and the latest news is a reminder that the attack has not slackened. 

The constancy of the Maltese people under this continuous ordeal – from which they have no prospect of respite while Italy remains a belligerent – is beyond all praise. The cramped circumstances in which the Island has to wage aerial war have never been allowed to impair its fighting efficiency, and again and again the attacking squadrons have been beaten off with loss.  The civil defence services have kept down casualties and maintained the spirit of the population at a high level; so far are the Maltese from self-pity that they even raised, in the midst of their own troubles, a subscription in relief of air-raid distress in London.  Large numbers of their young men are on active service with the Imperial Forces, and they are now embarking on a scheme of compulsory service, both military and civil, which in some respects goes beyond that which is in force in England.

General Dobbie is heading the defence with a tenacity worthy of the tradition of De l’Isle Adam and La Valetta; while the Maltese are holding their post of honour with a valour and endurance that come of pride in their share of the Imperial inheritance. Fascist propaganda has laboured for years to persuade them to think of themselves as Italians.  Yet neither in race nor language nor history nor institutions have they part or lot with Italy…  [They] disdain the servile institutions of their Fascist neighbours; and they are confident that their island fortress, which withstood the might of a Suleiman the Magnificent, can indefinitely defy a mere Mussolini.  


Bread rationing begins in Malta today. The ration will be 3/8 rotolo per person (including for children and babies).  At the same time, the price of bread has also been reduced by more than 50 per cent: the ration portion of a single person will now cost half a penny.  The reduction follows a commitment by the British Government to bear the cost of keeping bread prices down in Malta while the Island is under siege. 

The rationing of bread will be managed by the local Protection Offices, which will keep detailed records of every allocation. The Offices will also issue permits to bakers to obtain their allocation of flour to meet the needs of their customers.

Wheat is being milled to the maximum extraction rate and mixed with maize and barley. The resulting bread is now much darker than the white bread the Maltese are accustomed to. 


All Companies of Maltese regiments have been ordered immediately inform their Battalion Headquarters direct of all deaths due to enemy action, in order that the necessary information may be sent to the Record Office for notification of the next of kin. The measure is In line with King’s Regulations 1935.  Information from Companies must contain full particulars of next of kin, and whether the next of kin has been informed.  Casualties in respect of English troops will be reported as laid down in Fortress Orders 1941.


Weather  Fine with a fresh wind.

0828-0843 hrs  Air raid alert for a small formation of enemy fighters which approach the Island and patrol off the coast; no air raid.

2010-2030 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of a Maryland aircraft.


ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Swordfish overnight operations minelaying approaches to Tripoli. Information received that one Merchant Vessel blew up and one Merchant Vessel burned out while they were laying the mines.  As no bombs were dropped it is suspected that a flare from a Swordfish landed on the ship unloading petrol and ammunition

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland.  69 Squadron  Maryland on shuttle service reconnaissance from Middle East via Greek coast and Zante.  2 Marylands reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.  Marylands departed Gibraltar 1530 hrs arrived Malta safely; no shipping or aircraft seen en route.  Beaufighter patrols to 60 miles west of Malta from dawn to 1000 hrs in connection with air escort for special merchant vessel due Malta; ship not sighted.  Patrols will be repeated tomorrow at the same time.  

LUQA  Maryland B crew left; C crew arrived PM. Two flights of Beaufighters went out to escort British vessel Parracombe to Malta but did not find it.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 19 (18 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg).

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Battalion providing working parties for clearing Valletta.


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


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7 April 1941: Luftwaffe Have 320 Aircraft Ready to Attack Malta

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Report to the War Cabinet today from Commander in Chief Middle East:

ME 109 airfield SicilyThe Italian air threat to Cyrenaica is at present almost negligible. On the other hand the Germans are already well established in the central Mediterranean and have now available for operations against Malta, sea communications, Cyrenaica, and for defence of their convoys and Tripolitania approximately 170 bombers, 90 dive-bombers, 60 fighters, 18 reconnaissance aircraft and 180 transport aircraft.  These strengths can and are likely to be increased.  From bases in both Tripolitania and Sicily heavy scale air attacks are being carried out on the Allies in Cyrenaica and mine-laying on ports, especially Tobruk, is a particular menace.  In view of other commitments our own air forces are not likely to exceed one fighter squadron, one medium bomber squadron and one army co-operation squadron, although bombing effort will be augmented periodically by heavy bombers working from Malta and Cycrenaica.


Malta’s new rationing scheme comes into operation today. Ration cards have been distributed to families and commodity issue dates will be 6th and 21st of each month.  Sugar, coffee, soap and matches are now strictly rationed.  More items will be gradually added to the list of rationed goods.

The sugar is one rotolo per person. Allowances for the other three products will be allotted households on a tapering scale as it is considered that “large households need less of these commodities in proportion to the number of persons, than small houses”.  The allowances will be as follows:

  • Matches (box): family up to five 4, family of six plus 6.
  • Soap (bar): single person 1; family up to four 2, family of five plus 3.
  • Coffee: family up to four ¼ rotolo; family of four to five ½ rotolo; family of five plus ¾ rotolo. (1)


Weather  Fine at first; very wet evening and night.

1304-1317 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 which passes over the Island towards Hal Far but drops no bombs. Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.


AIR HQ Arrivals 7 Wellington; 4 Bombay.  69 Squadron  Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast for enemy shipping; nil report on account of bad weather.  Maryland despatched for photo-reconnaissance of Tripoli is unable to reach its objective on account of bad weather and fighter patrol; reported on merchant convoys at sea.  Maryland reconnaissance for shipping to the east of Sicily.   

KALAFRANA  Sunderland arrived from Greece with distinguished passengers.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  28 conscripts joined the Battalion.

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY  Funeral of L/Cpl E W Page at Military Cemetry, Imtarfa.

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


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Posted by on April 7, 2021 in 1941, April 1941


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