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21 April 1941: Royal Artillery Reinforcements Land at Malta

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BRECONSHIRE BRINGS 380 TROOPS AND FUEL SUPPLIES

Malta's new Bomb Disposal Officer Lt G D Carroll

Malta’s new Bomb Disposal Officer Lt G D Carroll

The fast transport ship Breconshire docked safely today after the Mediterranean Fleet engineered her safe passage to Malta.  380 troops disembarked after a three day journey from Alexandria during which the only enemy action had been from individual aircraft shadowing the convoy.  Having detached from Breconshire and her escort destroyer Encounter at dusk yesterday, the Fleet steered southwards to launch a bombardment of Tripoli at 0500 hrs this morning in an attack designed to divert enemy attention from the vital Malta supply convoy.

Breconshire was unable to enter Grand Harbour, which is currently closed due to the large number of mines; Marsamxett Harbour remains open. As well as troops Breconshire was carrying essential supplies of aviation spirit, oil fuel and general stores.

Reinforcements disembarked: 

  • Royal Artillery officers 6 other ranks 360
  • 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers other ranks 3
  • Royal Engineers officers 1 other ranks 6
  • 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment officers 2
  • 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment officers 2
  • Total: officers 11 other ranks 369

MALTA HAS A NEW BOMB DISPOSAL OFFICER

A new Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer arrived today aboard Breconshire.  Lt G D Carroll is to take over as RE Bomb Disposal Officer Malta from Lt E E C Talbot, RE, who is entitled to respite leave after six months’ continuous service.  The Bomb Disposal Officer is responsible for all unexploded bombs across the Island outside of Royal Navy or RAF premises.

Before being posted to Malta, Lt Carroll served in the London Blitz where he dealt with high explosive bombs up to 1800kg including a large number of delayed action fuzes. He arrived with Sgt Holland who is also experienced in bomb disposal.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 APRIL TO DAWN 22 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

0746-0801 hrs; 1038-1120 hrs  Air raid alert; raids do not materialise.

1813-1848 hrs  Air raid alert for six ME 109s escorting one JU 88 bomber approaching from the north. The JU 88 crosses Grand Harbour at 21000 feet.   Eight Hurricanes are scrambled and engage the raiders, destroying one ME 109 and another probable.  Anti-aircraft guns also engage; no claims.

2356-0122 hrs  Air raid alert for 20 enemy aircraft which approach singly from the north and use flares to carry out widespread bombing; the main target is Grand Harbour. Bombs are dropped from varying heights from 1000 to 10000 feet over the Dockyard and surroundings.  Two aircraft lay mines off the south of Grand Harbour from a height of 2000 feet.  One Hurricane night fighter is scrambled but searchlights provide no illumination of the raiders; no engagement.  Anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders with eleven predicted barrages; no claims.

0505-0527 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft which approach Grand Harbour from the north and drop bombs on the Dockyard area. Raiders also drop bombs in the water before crossing the coast over Benghaisa.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders with predicted barrage once at 10000 feet; no claims.

Civilian casualties Zeitun  Anna Spiteri, age 21.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 21 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Breconshire loaded with aviation spirit, oil fuel and general supplies, arrived with Encounter under cover of the Fleet movement to bombard Tripoli.  Many mines in Grand Harbour which was closed but Marsamxett Harbour remained open.  Submarine Undaunted arrived at Malta from Gibraltar to join the 1st Submarine Flotilla.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland photo-reconnaissance Tripoli Harbour: one merchant vessel capsized and the small mole have been damaged in yesterday’s raid. Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast. 148 Squadron 8 Wellington bombers night bombing attack on Tripoli harbour as a precursor to naval bombardment.      

HAL FAR  A civilian labourer fell from a hangar roof and sustained heavy injuries.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Work on many defences is complete. A programme of training on machine guns and other small arms, including grenades and Molotov cocktails, is now underway.  5 more NCOs attended a bomb reconnaissance course. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS The RE (Malta Section) is now increased in strength. Major H D Tanner assumes Company Command, 24 Fortress Company, replacing W De Piro-Cowley. Lt G D Carroll, RE and Sgt Holland arrived and posted to Bomb Disposal Section. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 17 (14 near Rabat).

 

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Posted by on April 21, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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19 April 1941: Malta Submarine in Dramatic Rescue Attempt

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HM Submarine Regent

HM Submarine Regent

REGENT COMES UNDER FIRE ON YUGOSLAV COAST

A Malta-based submarine has been engaged in a dramatic mission to rescue British dignitaries and civilians from German-occupied Yugoslavia. The Balkan state has been under Axis occupation for several days following invasion by German and Italian troops.  As the enemy advanced rapidly, the British Ambassador Sir Ronald Campbell and his staff found themselves potentially stranded in a hostile country.  The Ambassador is understood to have cabled a message out to London and left immediately for the Yugoslav coast with the other British civilians. 

HM Submarine Regent was ordered to leave Malta on Thursday 17 April for the naval port of Kotor (1) in the hope of rescuing the stranded group.  However, within hours of her sailing, the Yugoslav government had signed an armistice with the Axis powers, due to come into effect at noon yesterday.  The submarine had to negotiate two minefields in her approach to Kotor. As Regent neared the harbour entrance, Lt Edward Stanley was sent up on deck to fly a white flag to signify a peaceful mission.  However, two German aircraft swooped down and dive-bombed the submarine, scoring a near-miss with a bomb which injured Lt Stanley in the chest. 

The white flag in place, the decision was taken to proceed with the mission and Lt D Lambert was sent ashore to meet the British Ambassador; he was immediately taken prisoner. The submarine’s commanding officer, Lt Cdr H C Browne, and a rating were also seriously wounded by machine gun fire from the shore.  Lt Cdr Browne was forced to depart without Ambassador Campbell, who it is believed has been taken prisoner.  

CONVOY ME 7 DEPARTS MALTA

Four merchant ships left Malta at dusk today, having delivered their supplies safely to the Island. British steamers City of Lincoln, Clan Ferguson, City of Manchester and Perthshire formed the supply convoy which was bombed within an hour of arriving in Grand Harbour on 23 March.  Both Lincoln and Perthshire were hit in the raids but are now fully seaworthy. 

The merchantmen were escorted on their departure today by four destroyers Jervis, Janus, Nubian and Diamond, the latter having completed refit at Malta.  They expect to rendezvous with other ships of the Mediterranean Fleet tomorrow for the steamers to be escorted back to Alexandria.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 APRIL TO DAWN 20 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

1214 hrs  Air raid alert for two ME 109 fighters which circle the Island and are engaged by Tigne anti-aircraft guns; no claims.

1511-1530 hrs; 1606 hrs  Air raid alert; raids do not materialise.

2018-2043 hrs Air raid alert for two JU 88 bombers which cross the coast singly and drop bombs in isolated localities causing no damage or casualties. Searchlights illuminate the raiders on two occasions and anti-aircraft guns engage heavily, causing the raiders to withdraw; no claims.

Military casualties  2nd Lieutenant Harry Leslie Deacon, Royal Army Service Corps.

Civilian casualties Msida  Nicolo Cassar, age 40; Michael Sammut, age 40; Jane Zammit, age 60; John Zammit, age 50; Joseph Zammit, age 65.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 19 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY Convoy ME7 – City of Lincoln, Clan Ferguson, City of Manchester and Perthshire – sailed for Alexandria escorted by Jervis, Janus, Nubian and Diamond, the latter having completed refit at Malta. 

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance Taranto; chased by three Macchi 200 fighters; no damage. Maryland reconnaissance western Ionian Sea. 148 Squadron 8 Wellington bombers night bombing attack on Tripoli Harbour.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 2 (1 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg).

(1) Now in Montenegro 

 

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Posted by on April 19, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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16 April 1941: Malta Destroyers Sink German Convoy

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HMS Mowahk

HMS Mowahk

HMS MOHAWK LOST IN BATTLE

Destroyers Janus, Jervis, Mohawk and Nubian sailed from Malta this evening to intercept a German Afrika Korps convoy off Kerkennah, to the east of Tunisia.  The ships were operating on the basis of information from reconnaissance by a Maryland of 69 Squadron. Two Swordfish aircraft which were sent overnight to locate and shadow the convoy which consisted of five merchant ships escorted by three Italian destroyers.

As the enemy convoy manoeuvred through the shallow waters of the Kerkennah Islands, the Royal Navy destroyers closed in to attack. Three of the Axis merchant ships were sunk and the other two grounded on the Island shore.  One Italian destroyer ran aground and a second sank in shallow waters.  While herself already sinking, the lead destroyer Luca Tarigo launched two torpedoes at HMS Mohawk.

Ordinary Seaman Leslie Gardiner, serving aboard Mohawk, recalls what happened:    

“…we went searching for a convoy bound for Tripoli. Contact was made off the North African coast.  Soon a fierce exchange took place.  The noise was deafening.  Smoke and shell-splinters filled the air.  I remember our gunners worked furiously…The whole of the stern from the superstructure aft was destroyed; she was awash as far as X mounting. The crew of the Y gun were all dead.  Meanwhile the merchantman was set ablaze by A and B guns as HMS Mohawk lay still in the water, vulnerable to attack.”

Two more torpedoes then struck the stricken destroyer, hitting the port side between no’s 2 and 3 boiler rooms. The no 3 boiler burst, scalding dozens of men as the deck ripped open. 

“…Within a minute Mohawk was listing heavily to port and soon she was on her side with no time for us to launch lifeboats… We were two hours in the water before HMS Nubian picked up those who were left.  There weren’t many of us…” (1)

43 lives were lost aboard Mohawk.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 APRIL TO DAWN 17 APRIL 1941

Weather  Thick fog at first, then cold and rough.

0941-1000 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1000 hrs  Southern Infantry Brigade sends out a message that three friendly destroyers are due.

1040-1100 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

0551-0616 hrs Air raid alert for a small formation of Messerschmitt 110 fighters which appear to the west of Malta as Wellington bombers are arriving. One Wellington is attacked by a ME 110 ten miles offshore.  Other Wellingtons counter-attack with two good bursts of machine-gun fire and is last seen diving into the dawn mist.  The attacked Wellington lands safely, with superficial damage.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 16 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Three aircraft in overnight operation against ships anchored off Tripoli with Wellington bombers of 148 Squadron but target ships swung bows on to the entrance making an attack impossible. Destroyers returned from night operation under cover of low cloud.  

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance of Tripoli Harbour. Maryland reconnaissance Palermo Harbour and aerodrome. 148 Squadron 7 Wellingtons night bombing attack on Tripoli Harbour with 830 Squadron FAA. 

HAL FAR  PM Four aircraft 830 Squadron on operational flight; one returned after 30 minutes, remainder safely after mission completed.

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Headquarters closed down at Luqa and opened at the Government Elementary School, Tarxien.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 6 (6 x 50kg).

(1) Stafford at War 1939-1945, Nick Thomas, Pen & Sword

 

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Posted by on April 16, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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15 April 1941: Malta Faces Labour Shortages

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Labour is in demand for digging of shelters

Labour is in demand for digging of shelters

YOUNG MEN AND PENSIONERS TO BE RECRUITED

Malta is facing a severe labour shortage and urgent action is required, according to the Governor and Commander in Chief. The shortage has been caused by the introduction of compulsory military service, as well as the high demand for additional labour services from the military and civil government.  To make up the shortfall, Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie proposes to recruit casual labourers under 21 years of age and to pay them at the current adult rate of pay.  He will also arrange for the re-employment of skilled tradesmen over 60 years of age.

MALTESE TO JOIN ARMY MEDICAL CORPS

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief plans to enlist volunteers and conscripts in order to fully man the newly-formed Royal Army Medical Corps Malta section. Personnel will be signed up for the duration of the war and service in Malta only.  A few specially selected men will also be enrolled in the non-Malta RAMC, also for the duration.

MALTA MEDICAL DEPARTMENT AT WAR

Heads of Branches and Institutions and District Medical Officers were requested to ask their medical staff and officers to ring the Fortress War Headquarters in case it was necessary for a person to proceed outside a town or village during curfew hours (when there was no air-raid on) and should movement be necessary during curfew hours (between the sounding of an air-raid warning and the “All Clear” signal).

SAPPER ZAMMIT RECEIVES MBE FOR RESCUE (1)

LONDON GAZETTE 15 APRIL 1941  “The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the publication of the names of the undermentioned as having been commended for brave conduct: Corps of Royal Engineers (Malta Section) No 576 Sapper Spiru Zammit.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 APRIL TO DAWN 16 APRIL 1941

Weather  Very cold and blustery; wet overnight.

2010-2055 hrs  Air raid alert for suspected enemy aircraft. A Wellington bomber approaches from the north and is attacked by small arms fire from the ground.  The pilot flashes the correct recognition signal before coming in to land safely and without damage.

0010-0223 hrs  Air raid alert for three, then 12, then 14 enemy aircraft which approach from the north in close succession and drop bombs on Ta Qali, Rabat, Imtarfa, Mosta Fort, Madliena, Siggiewi, Dingli, Targa, Naxxar, Attard, Ricasoli, Grand Harbour, St Clements, Luqa aerodrome and Siggiewi. Bombing seems indiscriminate with no apparent definite objective apart from the Mental Hospital at Attard, which is singled out by several aircraft and straddled by 20 bombs; one patient is killed and nine injured.  A large number of bombs fail to explode.  A Malta night fighter is scrambled but searchlights illuminate targets on only two occasions and there are no interceptions.  Anti-aircraft guns engage raiders heavily five times; no claims.  

0237-0405 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which circle the Island separately on ‘nuisance’ raids’. One anti-aircraft battery engages; no claim.

Military casualties  Private James Boorman, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regt).

Civilian casualties  Mosta  Carmela Cassar, age 29.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 15 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 2 Swordfish despatched overnight to locate and shadow a convoy of 5 merchant vessels and 3 destroyers reported by Maryland. Convoy located off Kerkenah when British destroyers had begun action.  Aircraft located another southbound convoy at 1357 hrs.   A later sighting gave the convoy speed as 8 knots.  14th Destroyer Flotilla, destroyers Jervis, Janus, Mohawk and Nubian sailed at 1800 hrs under cover of rain and low cloud for a shipping sweep off Kerkennah Bank.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast for enemy shipping; convoy of five merchant vessels and three destroyers. Second Maryland despatched to shadow convoy for destroyer striking force.  Maryland reconnaissance Palermo unsuccessful due to low cloud and rain.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  We have taken over a number of Lewis guns for use in the defences. A short refresher course is being held today and tomorrow.  B Company moved to their Dockyard position at the Naval Canteen.  One platoon of C Company took over their old HQ at Notre Dame Ravelin.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 32.

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY Classification of Signallers of 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment (passed 5, failed 5).

(1) maltagc70.com 18 January 1941

 

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Posted by on April 15, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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14 April 1941: Malta Must Be Filled With Fighter Aircraft Says Air Chief

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Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal KG GCB OM DSO MCREINFORCEMENTS ESSENTIAL FOR ISLAND TO SURVIVE

The Chief of the Air Staff has told the War Cabinet in London that Malta must be filled with fighter aircraft in order to maintain itself against its unfavourable geographical position so close to Sicily, where a large bomber force could be assembled. If our fighter aircraft flew away from Malta [to attack convoys] he said, they left the Island liable to enemy attack. 

The radius round Malta over which fighter aircraft can operate does not extend far enough to enable them to intercept enemy transport aircraft carrying personnel or stores to Cyrenaica. The main conclusion of the discussion was that the War Cabinet cannot currently be certain of interrupting the enemy supply line to Tripoli.

FRIENDLY FIRE INCIDENT

Flying Officer Adrian Warburton of 69 Squadron had a lucky escape today when his Maryland was attacked by a Hurricane fighter over Malta. F/O Warburton took off from Luqa this morning for a test flight prior to a reconnaissance mission planned for later in the day. 

Meanwhile Hurricane fighters were scrambled to intercept an incoming formation of a JU 88 bomber escorted by ME 109s. The Maryland was mistaken for an enemy raider and Hurricane pilot F/O I Westmacott attacked.  His starboard engine and undercarriage damaged, F/O Warburton was forced to crash-land at Luqa.  He was unhurt.  

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 APRIL TO DAWN 15 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

0942-1020 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber escorted by ten ME 109 fighters as it carries out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 25000 feet. Malta fighters are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns engage heavily; no claims.

2124-2202 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches from the north and is engaged by anti-aircraft guns, whereupon it retreats north over St Paul’s Bay. Minutes later the aircraft returns to attack St Paul’s Bay where it is illuminated by searchlights and heavily engaged by anti-aircraft guns; no claims.  One flare is dropped in the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 14 APRIL 1941

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli noted 8 merchant vessels; engine trouble necessitated immediate return. Maryland patrolled area between Cape Bon and Trapani; no ships seen. 148 Squadron Four Wellingtons night bombing raid on Tripoli harbour.  Average height of bombing 6-7000 feet: anti-aircraft fire less accurate at this height. 

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  24 unexploded bombs found in B Company area from previous air raid, reported to bomb disposal squad.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  5 WOs/NCOs attended a four hour bomb reconnaissance course.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  0030 hrs One man was injured in Valletta by bomb splinters.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 7; dealt with 1 (50kg).

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Two conscripts joined the Battalion. Three bombs are dropped near a defence posts which do not exploded; one is found and identified as 250kg with a fuze marked 50, reported to bomb disposal squad.

 

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Posted by on April 14, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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1 April 1941: Cities Shut Down as Malta Put on Red Alert

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RAID SUMMARY MARCH 1941

  • No of air raid alerts 109 (including 22 night raids)
  • No of bombing raids 30
  • Days without air raid alerts 0
  • Total time under alert 55 hours 33 mins
  • Average length of alert 31.7 mins
  • Enemy aircraft shot down 35; unconfirmed 4; damaged 21
Porta Reale Valletta crop

City gates will be shut at night

POISON GAS MEASURES IN PLACE; VILLAGES BUILD DEFENCES

Acting on information that there are about 5000 parachute troops in Sicily, new anti-invasion measures decided at yesterday’s conference of military leaders were issued today to all troops in Malta.

With immediate effect, all gates around Valletta and the Three Cities are to be shut at night from 2100 hrs. In addition, they will all be manned round the clock, as will anti-parachute positions.  The hours between 0530 and 0630 hrs have been designated a period of special vigilance, especially during moonlight.  Troops have been warned that the enemy may make use of British uniforms.  Army officers are to visit Malta Defence Volunteers, to give advice and assistance in the construction of posts in villages, beginning with the main strategic approaches.  

Strict curfew regulations will also be enforced: all movement between 2100 hrs and 0630 hrs is now forbidden. Leave for key troop companies involved in the Island’s invasion defences and for headquarters personnel is now restricted to daylight hours only. 

The enemy is known to be moving gas, believed to be Phosgene, into southern Italy. Gas capes have not yet been issued to individuals but company commanders are ready to issue these at very short notice. 

In the event of large numbers (50 or more) of enemy planes being reported designated troops will rejoin their companies under arrangements made by each Adjutant. Red rockets will be prepared for immediate firing.  Motor transport will be made ready to move immediately on order to any part of the relevant brigade area.  Meanwhile, distributor arms of all vehicles not under guard will be removed at night until further notice. 

Officers will see that at ‘Lights Out’ each night everything is in order for a rapid ‘Stand To’. All communications will be tested daily at 0530 hrs and at intervals during the night.  The evening ‘Stand To’ will be 1930-1945 hrs but may be varied at the discretion of officers. 

Reports tonight revealed that city gates were not closed at 2100 hrs as planned, due to problems caused by the lack of sufficient notice through civilian communication channels. Information has now been disseminated across all affected communities and the closures will be implemented at 2100 hrs tomorrow.

LOST PISTOL

“A pistol .38 No 2 Mk1 reg no 3892 was lost at the Monico Bar, South Street, on the evening of 29 March 1941. Will the finder please communicate with the OC, 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 APRIL TO DAWN 2 APRIL 1941

Weather  Clear and fresh.

1407-1453 hrs Air raid alert for two ME 109s one mile south of Filfla approaching the Island at 24000 feet, followed at 1447 hrs by one JU 88 at 18000 feet which passes over Grand Harbour heading north east, evidently on reconnaissance. Anti-aircraft guns engage and damage the JU 88.  Seven Hurricanes are scrambled: no interception.

Military casualties  Lance-Corporal Michael Whelan, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 1 APRIL 1941

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion stood-to: airborne attack expected. Until further notice the Bn will stand to mornings at 0530 hrs until full light and evenings at 1900 hrs until dark.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Floriana area now allotted to the Sappers to defend in the event of an invasion.  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 2 (1 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg). Unexploded bombs dealt with Dec 1940-Mar 1941 Total 116: High Explosive (HE) 60; other (Ack Ack shells, anti-personnel) 56.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths officers 26, WOs 8, other ranks 123; Armourers other ranks 7; Artisans other ranks 4.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  L/Cpl M Whelan died from gunshot wounds in the proximity of gun position KM4.

 

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Posted by on April 1, 2021 in April 1941

 

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31 March 1941: Threat of Invasion by Paratroops now High

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URGENT REVIEW OF ANTI-INVASION MEASURES

parachute troops 2Anti-parachutist measures in Malta need a complete and immediate overhaul, according to the Island’s General Officer Commanding (GOC) military forces. The GOC was responding to the latest military intelligence which states that there is an airborne division in Sicily ready to be deployed against Malta. The new information follows several reports in the past three months of enemy parachutists in Sicily.  Sources now confirm that there are at least 3850 parachutists in Catania and seven companies of paratroops in Palermo.

At an urgent conference yesterday of all three services, the GOC made it clear that anti-invasion measures must be stepped up with immediate effect. Following the conference orders were issued to all troop commanders to put in place the enhanced precautions against invading troops, such as blocking key roads and closing access to strategic areas.

ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY TO BE RE-ORGANISED

The Governor and Commander in Chief has decided that the organisation of 30 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery is unsuitable on its present factory basis, in the light of continuous enemy activity day and night. Manpower is not engaged permanently in Ack Ack defences; officers especially are available part-time only and the situation is proving difficult to administer. 

Lt Dobbie has recommended to the War Office that the present Battery should become a local Territorial unit manning 12 guns. Recruiting would be from the Dockyard and it is expected that the majority of present personnel will transfer to the new unit.  The Battery is also manning two multiple pom-pom guns on loan from the Navy and will need addition of personnel to man these: two Lance-Sergeants, four Bombardiers, four Lance-Bombardiers and 38 Gunners.  It is hoped that in making these changes the Battery can retain its esprit de corps and efficiency, which is very good within its present limitations.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 MARCH TO DAWN 1 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.

0500-0900 hrs Several enemy reconnaissance flights are carried out to either side of Malta. No attacks or engagements.

1137-1143 hrs Air raid alert for a small enemy formation carrying out reconnaissance around the Island without crossing the coast. Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 31 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Rorqual sank an Italian U-boat in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

KALAFRANA Only three operational patrols were carried out by Sunderland aircraft of 228 Squadron during the month.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  CO visited the detachment in Gozo. The troops are very split up and on bare and empty ground.  They have little to do and are not in the best of spirits.  Games and books will be sent out.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths 34 Officers, 225 other ranks, 2 RAOC (attached).

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 2 (1 x 3.7” Ack Ack; 1 x 50kg). Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 111; dealt with 60.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Total 99 conscript recruits and 16 volunteers joined the Battalion in March. Strengths: officers 28, British PSI 4, other ranks 612.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Total 90 conscript recruits and 12 volunteers joined the Battalion during March. Strengths: officers 25, other ranks 676. 2100 hrs Company commanders conference at Camerata re possible attack.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Parachute posts manned during ‘stand to’ periods. During the month, anti-tank screens were erected and tallymen supplied to assist with the unloading of a convoy. 

 

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Posted by on March 31, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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30 March 1941: Malta Troops Think Postal Service is Fraud

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SERVICEMEN FEEL CHEATED AS MAIL ARRIVES MONTHS LATE

Air mail card 1 cropService personnel are becoming increasingly frustrated with the poor mail service between the United Kingdom and Malta. Many letters dated between 28 December 1940 and 18 January 1941 were among the mail delivered via the recent convoy.  However, among them were a large number carrying air mail stamps dated 1 March, for which the senders have paid a premium so that they would be carried quickly to Malta.

As there has been no air mail service to the Island for the last twelve months, this measure is regarded by troops as a simple fraud on the part of the General Post Office (GPO). As troops’ relatives often struggle to afford these additional costs, much unrest has been caused among service personnel. 

The Governor and Commander in Chief wrote urgently to the War Office today, urging them to clear up the muddle and simplify the despatch of private letters to Malta. In response, the War Office pointed out that the suspension of the air mail service to Malta was publicly announced in the press by the GPO on 11 June 1940 and that enquiries at any Post Office should have confirmed this. However, if any letters were marked with the [air mail] stamp on 1 March, it points out that they could only be sent by the normal route via the Middle East, hence the delay in arrival at Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 MARCH TO DAWN 31 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0610-0640 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island and drop bombs near Imgarr and on the Hal Far and Birzebbuga areas.

1000-1010 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft on reconnaissance at 24000 feet. Four Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1645-1725 hrs Air raid alert. A formation of 20 ME 109 and CR 42 fighters patrols five miles off Grand Harbour at 16000 feet to draw Malta Hurricanes while four JU 88 bombers, escorted by another four ME 109s come over the Island at 17000 feet and bomb Ta Qali aerodrome.  Most bombs miss the target; only two fall on the aerodrome, including one at the east end which fails to explode.  One Hurricane on the ground is slightly damaged.  Twelve Hurricanes are airborne but the raiders evade contact. 

Military casualties  Stoker 1st Class, Carmelo Fenech, Royal Navy, HMS St.Angelo; Gunner Frank Raffety, 7 HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 30 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Rorqual sank Italian tanker Laura Corrado in Tyrrhenian Sea. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Engineer works by 24 Fortress Company were stopped to give priority to Grand Harbour Defences. A parachute Mine on the Military Police Barracks, Valletta, caused widespread damage. Royal Engineers again employed on clearance and demolition of unsafe structures.

 

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Posted by on March 30, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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29 March 1941: Secret Ops Battalion Deployed to Gozo

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A Glenn Martin Maryland was lost today

A Glenn Martin Maryland is lost today

COVERT OPERATIONS TROOPS SENT TO GOZO FOR ‘PICNIC’

The Independent Company, Special Service Battalion* has been sent to Gozo as part of operation ‘Picnic’.  The codename refers to the military detachment posted to defend Malta’s sister Island, thought to be the destination for an imminent Axis invasion.  The Battalion is specially trained in covert sea to land operations.  They arrived in Malta in January to take part in February’s Operation Colossus, the attempt to destroy a viaduct near Naples.  The Specials’ role was to help transfer the paratroops to a submarine for transport back to Malta. The Company is normally based at HMS Talbot, the submarine base on Manoel Island.

RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT LOST ON MISSION OVER CAPE MATAPAN

A Glenn Martin Maryland reconnaissance aircraft of 69 Squadron has been reported lost today. The pilot, Flying Officer Frederick R Ainley, was sent out to survey Cape Matapan following yesterday’s sea battle in the area. Information from Greece has confirmed that the Maryland crashed into the sea off the island of Zante, killing the pilot.  One crew member  was seriously injured and the other slightly hurt.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 MARCH TO DAWN 30 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

2025-2028 hrs, 2115-2217 hrs, 0037-0352 hrs, 0315-0330 hrs A series of air raid alerts sounds during the night for eight aircraft which come in singly at long intervals. They drop bombs on various localities, including Tarxien, between Rocco and Pietru, on open country near Mgarr and an anti-aircraft position at Tigne causing slight damage and no casualties.  Tactics employed in the last two raids resemble the ‘tip and run’ tactics of Italian air forces.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Frederick R Ainley, pilot, 69 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

Civilian casualties Rabat  Anthony Grech, age 51.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 29 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ 69 Squadron 0900 hrs  Maryland despatched on reconnaissance for enemy shipping east of Malta at the request of the Commander in Chief did not return. A communication is received from BAF Greece that the Maryland force-landed at Zante; the pilot F/O Ainley was killed, one crew member seriously injured and the other slightly hurt. 1230-1507 hrs Maryland reconnaissance between Malta and Tunisian coast for enemy shipping. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 4 (1 flare; 1 x 4.5” Ack Ack; 2 x 50kg). A number of unexploded bombs reported as large bombs inspected this week were found to be small bombs.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  GOC Malta inspected Battalion conscripts at St Elmo during training.

*forerunner of the Special Boat Service

 

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26 March 1941: Raids on Malta ‘a Continuous Roar’

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Lady Sybil Dobbie

Lady Sybil Dobbie

LADY DOBBIE HEARS WHAT IT’S LIKE TO EXPERIENCE A RAID OVERHEAD

Rev Nicholls describes his time in the shelter during Sunday’s raids – on Malta’s National Day of Prayer:

“At noon and in the afternoon, the attacks came. They were very severe indeed. There were four people with us in our funk-hole. One dockyard man held his fingers in his ears, with his head between his knees; another a temporary NO who has a most dangerous job of detonating unexploded mines was white as a sheet. I stood among them reciting psalms, and as the barrage and the bombing increased in intensity I had to raise my voice louder and louder, until I was actually shouting the words. In the afternoon it was, if anything, rather worse – a continuous roar like the loudest thunder, and the expectation of hearing one drop very close or actually on top of us…

On Monday [24 March], my wife tried to explain to Lady Dobbie what it is like during a big show in Valletta. She admitted that she had never had a bomb near her, nor had sat under a big barrage. On that evening there was a smallish, but thorough, booming raid by about seven machines with – almost certainly – a big pack of fighters lying near. This we watched from the roof of the Palace.

It was a remarkable sight to one who has never seen the like before. There were 20 of our fighters flying over our heads, but they took no part, probably because the presence of a trap was known. The bombers were surrounded by bursting shells, which looked like twinkling diamonds as they burst. The raiders were in a great cloud of smoke and another hung over Valletta. I saw them persist till over their target, but then they broke formation, and one dropped suddenly some distance with smoke from its tail. This one was, later, recorded as brought down. I am glad to have seen one attack from a distance, even if it was not a very spectacular example.” (1)

MALTA ANXIOUSLY AWAITS ROYAL ARTILLERY REINFORCEMENTS

From: Governor & Commander in Chief                          To: War Office

Please confirmed the Royal Artillery reinforcements detailed on 8 February have arrived in Egypt and will be sent on at the first opportunity. They are very urgently required.  We would appreciate if small parties could be sent by air if the opportunity occurs.

COASTAL DEFENCES RENAMED

Malta’s regiments for coastal defence are to be renamed HQ Fixed Defences, Malta. The new title brings the Island’s formation into line with those in other theatres of war.  The organisation includes 1 Coast Regiment Royal Malta Artillery, 4 Coast Regiment Royal Artillery and 17 Defence Regiment Royal Artillery.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 MARCH TO DAWN 27 MARCH 1941

Weather  Pleasantly warm.

0800-0818 hrs Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which carries out reconnaissance over the Island at 24000 feet. Four Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

0915-0929 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches to 20 miles from the coast before returning. Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 26 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ 69 Squadron 1040-1405 hrs  Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli Harbour: hospital ship, 6 destroyers, 2 torpedo boats, 1 fleet auxiliary, 10 merchant vessels, 30 barges, 8 seaplanes.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 5 (1 flare; 3 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg).

(1)  Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

 

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Posted by on March 26, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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