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23 July 1941: Malta Convoy Ship Sunk by Bombers, Another Disabled

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HMS Fearless

HMS Fearless

ITALIAN BOMBERS STALK ‘OPERATION SUBSTANCE’

Enemy aircraft launched a fierce attack on Malta’s vital supply convoy today as it passed through the western Mediterranean. Italian SM 79 bombers were reported shadowing the convoy early this morning and Fulmars took off from Ark Royal to drive off the raiders.  While they were away from the convoy, a second group of SM 79 torpedo bombers dived down over the convoy from out of the sun and launched their torpedoes.  The cruiser Manchester was hit in the engine room; with three of her four engines disabled she was forced to turn back for Gibraltar.  The destroyer Fearless was badly hit and burst into flames; she then capsized and sank.

There were two further attacks this afternoon but neither caused any damage and the convoy proceeded as planned. With over 200 Italian bombers still operative in the Mediterranean, the decision was taken to steer the convoy through an unexpected route.  Instead of hugging the coast of North Africa, the ships turned north east towards Sicily, navigating the Italians’ own mine-free channel en route to Malta.

Helping Manchester's wounded (c) IWM A4890

Helping Manchester’s wounded

Beaufighters sent out on a defensive patrol over the convoy attacked and sank an E boat east of Pantelleria; they also damaged a SM 79 bomber. One Beaufighter failed to return from the mission.  The pilot has been named as Sgt W M Deakin of 272 Squadron.

Meanwhile, six supply ships sailed from Malta today in convoy MG 1A, also part of ‘Operation Substance’. The merchant ships Settler, Thermopylae, Amerika, Talabot, and Hoegh Hood, along with the supply ship Breconshire headed westwards through the Mediterranean, escorted by destroyer Encounter.  A seventh merchant ship, Svenor, had a collision on leaving harbour and had to return to dock.  They are expected to rendezvous with Force H of the Mediterranean Fleet, currently escorting a new supply convoy towards Malta, which will then cover the passage of MG 1A to Gibraltar.

HMS Fearless casualty list

HMS Manchester casualty list

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 JULY TO DAWN 24 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

No air raids.

Military casualties Pilot Officer Noel A C Cathles, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 110 Squadron; Sergeant William M Deakin, RAFVR, 272 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 23 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Convoy MG 1 escorted by Encounter and Gloxinia sailed at 0500.  SS Svenor fouled the boom and rammed the breakwater.  She returned to harbour and docked with damage to bow.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Maryland. Departures 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Taranto, Palermo, Trapani, Messina and Catania.  6 Marylands closing patrol Marittimo Island to Carbonara from dawn to dusk. 110 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked merchant shipping in Trapani Harbour hitting two ships and bombing a nearby aerodrome. Sgt Cathles’ aircraft was damaged as he approached the target and crashed into a hillside in Sicily; the crew are believed killed.  11 Beaufighters escorted a convoy from near Bizerta towards Malta; Sgt Deakin failed to return.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  News is received of a large convoy of warships and merchant transport arriving tomorrow with reinforcements, stores and petrol. The Bn has to provide 3 platoons for working parties to unload the petrol.  This will last at least one week.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 (1 x 100kg HE, 1 x 250kg HE).

 

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Posted by on July 23, 2021 in 1941, July 1941

 

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21 July 1941: Malta Supply Ships’ Captains Told ‘Convoy Must Go Through’

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‘OPERATION SUBSTANCE’ MAKES READY TO FACE A HOSTILE MEDITTERANEAN

The largest convoy ever mounted to carry supplies assembled at Gibraltar yesterday ready to begin its journey to Malta. The merchant ships City of Pretoria, Deucalion, Durham, Melbourne Star, Port Chalmers, Sydney Star and the small personnel ship Leinster were made ready, loaded and guided into the Mediterranean under the strictest security measures.

Admiral Sir James Somerville aboard Renown (c) IWM A3741

Admiral Sir James Somerville aboard Renown (c) IWM A3741

As they approached Gibraltar at noon yesterday, accompanying destroyers fired a rocket onto each merchant ships with a line attached. At the end was a message addressed personally to the Masters of each merchantman from the commander of Force H, Admiral Sir James Somerville, KCB DSO, which revealed their secret destination:

“For over twelve months Malta has resisted all attacks of the enemy. The gallantry displayed by the garrison and people of Malta has aroused admiration throughout the world.  To enable their defence to be continued, it is essential that your ships, with their valuable cargoes, should arrive safely in Grand Harbour. 

The Royal Navy will escort and assist you in this great mission; you on your part can assist the Royal Navy by giving strict attention to the following points:

  • Don’t make smoke. Don’t show any lights at night. Keep good station.  Don’t straggle.  If your ship is damaged, keep her going at the best possible speed.

Provided every officer and man realises that it is up to him to do his duty to the very best of his ability, I feel sure we shall succeed.

Remember that the watchword is THE CONVOY MUST GO THROUGH.”

The realisation of the importance of their voyage gave the Masters a feeling of determination but also warned them of the possible dangers to come.  The operation today began with the departure of the oiler Brown Ranger escorted by the destroyer HMS Beverley to provide refuelling within the Mediterranean for the destroyers escorting the convoy.  Unfortunately on sailing Leinster ran aground and was forced to leave the Operation.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 JULY TO DAWN 22 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

1010-1045 hrs  Air raid alert for one a single enemy aircraft crossing the Island on reconnaissance at 23000 feet with an escort of 20 fighters. The fighters split up into three formations.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but do not engage as they do not gain sufficient height.

2130-2220 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the direction of Catania. Two cross the coast and drop bombs on Marsa and between Luqa and Safi.  Searchlights do not illuminate the raiders and Hurricanes do not intercept.  

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 21 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish left at 1910 to attack convoy but failed to intercept.

AIR HQ Arrivals 8 Beaufighter, 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland, 5 Wellington 148 Squadron. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily and Gulf of Taranto; shadowing of convoy. 

KALAFRANA  The Inspector General of the Royal Air Force, Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, visited the Station.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2; dealt with 2 (1 x 100kg HE, 1 x 500kg HE).

 

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

 

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18 July 1941: Malta Main Fuel Tanks Damaged by Enemy Bombs

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petroleum tanks

(c) ASP

AVIATION FUEL TANK HOLED BY SHRAPNEL

Fuel storage tanks in Malta have been damaged by enemy bombs. In a report to his head office in London, the head of Malta’s leading petroleum company has described the effects of bombing on a key fuel depot.

The roof of one main tank was pierced by bombs damaging the centre ventilation shaft and depressing a large area of the roofing to three feet in depth. A second bomb exploded internally, blowing off 30 feet square of roof covering.  A third bomb exploded about eight feet from the tank, which was penetrated by shrapnel 18 inches above ground level.  The contents had to be transferred to another tank. 

A bomb also penetrated the roof of a tank of aviation fuel, exploding against the bottom and making a nine inch hole, as well as damaging the roof and pipe work. The first level of the tank was badly riddled by shrapnel, causing 42 punctures and partial fractures in many places.

In all the loss of fuel was only approximately ten tons. The Dockyard authorities are currently reviewing the damage but first indications are that they can effect repairs using electrical welding apparatus.

BLENHEIM SHOT DOWN DURING RAID ON TRIPOLI

The crew of a Blenheim bomber of 110 Squadron are missing presumed killed tonight after their aircraft was shot down during a raid on North Africa. The Blenheim was one of two sent to attack a power station in Tripoli.  The bomber was observed making direct hits on the target, causing significant explosions.  It was then attacked by Italian CR 42 fighters and was seen crashing into the sea.  The crew of the second Blenheim reported that it was unlikely there were any survivors.  The missing crew have been named as pilot Wing Commander T M Hunt, DFC, wireless operator/air gunner Sergeant F Thripp and observer K C Tucker.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 JULY TO DAWN 19 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

0927-0950 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy Macchi fighters five miles off the south of the Island.

0945 hrs  An unexploded bomb at Targa Gap is removed by the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Section.

0222-0340 hrs; 0400-0435 hrs  Air raid alerts for a total of nine enemy aircraft which cross the Island at intervals, dropping small calibre bombs on Zabbar damaging a water main near the Poor House, on isolated areas near Luqa, Naxxar and Gudja, and in the sea off the north coast near Dragonara and Valletta. Rinella wireless station is slightly damaged.  Two Hurricanes and one Fulmar are airborne throughout the raids but searchlights do not illuminate any raiders and there are no interceptions.

Military casualties  Wing Commander Theodore M Hunt, DFC, pilot, Royal Air Force (RAF), 110 Squadron; Sergeant Frederick Thripp, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, RAF, 110 Squadron; Sergeant Kenneth C Tucker, Observer, RAF, 110 Squadron.                                           

Civilian casualties  Attard  Jane Fenech, age 50.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 18 JULY 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Overnight (17/18) the Inspector General, Air Chief Marshal Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, and staff arrived by Sunderland from Gibraltar. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance Catania, Augusta, Syracuse recorded 8 JU 52, 15 BR 20, 11 other unidentified bombers and 42 fighters. 148 Squadron 5 Wellingtons night bombing raid on Palermo Harbour. 110 Squadron 2 Blenheims attacked Tripoli power station achieving direct hits and causing explosions.  1 Blenheim of W/C Hunt was shot down by enemy fighters near Tripoli; probably no survivors.

HAL FAR  Fulmars on ‘intruder operations’ over Catania and Gerbini dropped bombs on Gerbini and Augusta.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 7 (15kg HE).

 

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Posted by on July 18, 2021 in 1941, July 1941

 

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17 July 1941: Malta Bombers Attack North Africa, Sicily and Italian Mainland

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Wellington bombers

Wellington bombers

BRITISH WAR CABINET REVIEWS LATEST ATTACKS FROM MALTA

During the week Blenheim aircraft have sunk Axis shipping and damaged a number of other ships. Blenheims from Malta, co-operating with Glenn Martin reconnaissance aircraft, made highly successful attacks on enemy shipping. 

On 15 July a convoy consisting of two merchant vessels of 8000 tons and some smaller ships, escorted by four destroyers, was intercepted proceeding north from Tripoli.  As a result of an attack by three Blenheims one of the 8000 ton merchant vessels was believed totally destroyed, and the other was hit in the bows and damaged.

Two Blenheims which attacked Zuara aerodrome 65 miles west of Tripoli hit the headquarters building and machine-gunned a concentration of transport aircraft. The barracks at Misurata 120 miles west of Tripoli were also hit.

A successful attack by eight Wellingtons operating from Malta was made on Naples. Bombs were seen to hit the railway station, warehouses and fuel cisterns; fires were also started in an airframe factory.  Another similar attack was made on Messina docks, as a result of which huge fires were started at the ferry railhead.  Four lines of goods trucks were left ablaze and extensive fires observed in the engine sheds.  Direct hits were also made on a power plant and dockyard warehouses.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 JULY TO DAWN 18 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

1126-1145 hrs  Air raid alert for one SM 79 on reconnaissance escorted by 15 fighters which cross over the Grand Harbour area and fly over the centre of the Island from north to south at 23000 feet.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage.  19 Hurricanes are scrambled (eight of 249 Squadron, 11 of 185 Squadron) 185 see the raiders but are 4000 feet too low to engage.  249 Squadron chase the raiders out to sea, eventually engaging them at 16000 feet, 55 miles north of the Island.  Two Macchi 200 fighters are shot down into the sea and another is damaged.  One Hurricane of 249 Squadron is lost; the pilot Sgt Guest is killed.

0110-0134 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches from the north and drops bombs on the Sliema area and in the sea, including off Filfla.

0155-0355 hrs  Air raid alert for as series of four enemy aircraft which approach singly from the north at intervals, then drop bombs on the north of the Island and Ta Qali. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage with one barrage; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but there are no interceptions due to no searchlight illuminations.  One unexploded bomb is reported at Targa Gap.

0411-0442 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach the Island at the same time as Wellingtons are returning, then drop bombs on Kalafrana and in St Thomas’ Bay.  Other sticks of small bombs fall on fields across a mile stretch of open country.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagements.

Military casualties  Sergeant Maurice Guest, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 249 Squadron.

Enemy casualties S ergente Maggiore Enrico Botti, 10o Gruppo, 4o Stormo, pilot of Macchi 200 fighter shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 17 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Utmost sailed for ‘Operation Substance’.

AIR HQ  Departures 5 Hurricane. 69 Squadron Maryland search for convoy ship.

HAL FAR  Fulmar ‘intruder operation’ on Catania met with heavy ground opposition. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 3 Swordfish attacked Tripoli and successfully torpedoed a 7000 ton tanker as well as dropping bombs on Spanish Quay causing a huge explosion, despite heavy ground defences. 148 Squadron 5 Wellingtons attacked Palermo Harbour, dropping 20000lb of bombs on four cruisers and six destroyers; results not seen.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 2 (15kg HE).

 

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Posted by on July 17, 2021 in 1941, July 1941

 

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16 July 1941: Malta Submarine Solo Battle With Axis Convoy

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Barbarigo 2P33 SINKS 5000 TON MERCHANT SHIP

Malta-based submarine P33 ended her first war patrol today, arriving on schedule despite being damaged in action.  Commanded by Lt R D Whiteway-Wilkinson, DSC, RN, the submarine was alerted yesterday afternoon that an enemy convoy which had left Tripoli the day before was proceeding northwards to Naples. The five merchant ships were escorted by four destroyers and six torpedo boats with additional aircraft cover.

P33 closed on the convoy and when at 2500 yards off released four torpedoes aimed at the Italian merchant ship Barbarigo, registering two hits on target.  The merchant vessel immediately began to sink.  However, the torpedo tracks had been spotted by a destroyer which immediately dropped depth charges, and other destroyers followed suit.  While one torpedo boat stopped to pick up survivors from Barbarigo, two others detached from the convoy to hunt the submarine, while the Cant aircraft searched from above. 

In a counter-attack lasting over an hour, some 116 depth charges were dropped towards the submarine but only one set came close to her, damaging some lights. P33 dived but control of the submarine was temporarily lost and was 300 feet down before it could be righted.  She suffered some damage as a result of the steep dive and was forced to return to Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 JULY TO DAWN 17 JULY 1941

Weather  Very hot and humid.

0950-1004 hrs  Air raid alert for 20 enemy aircraft which head towards the Island but split up while still 40-50 miles north. While the remainder turn back, ten raiders approach to 20 miles from Malta.  Hurricanes are scrambled and the enemy aircraft retreat.

0416-0445 hrs Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which cross over Grand Harbour and drop bombs on Fort St Angelo. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but are forced to land due to weather closing in.  Searchlights illuminate the raiders but anti-aircraft guns cannot open fire while Hurricanes are approaching.

Enemy casualties  Tenente Mario Massini, 10o Stormo, pilot of SM 79 bomber shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 16 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  P33 arrived on time at 1230, having suffered hull damage during counter attack of 116 depth charges, and being forced deep after obtaining two hits on northbound convoy. HM submarine Cachalot arrived from Alexandria with stores for Malta.  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish attacked Tripoli, hitting one tanker with torpedo and causing explosion on Spanish Quay.

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Palermo, Messina, Catania, Augusta, Syracuse, Trapani, Catania and Reggio, and Tripoli. 148 Squadron 4 Wellingtons bombing attack on Tripoli Harbour by moonlight, dropping 12250lbs of bombs, achieving many hits and causing a large explosion on Spanish Quay plus damage to a merchant ship alongside.

HAL FAR  Two Fulmars on ‘intruder operations’ patrolled Catania and released four 20lb bombs which started a fire.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 8; dealt with 4 (15kg HE).

 

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

 

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12 July 1941: Malta Air Raid Victims Get Help From Down Under

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bomb damage Jan41ISLE OF TASMANIA LAUNCHES FUNDRAISING APPEAL

From The Mercury, Hobart, Tasmania, 12 July 1941

An appeal for funds to assist air raid victims in Malta has been commended by the Governor of Tasmania. His Excellency states:

“As you know I have received from the Australian Commissioner for Malta an appeal that Tasmania should assist a relief fund started in Australia to aid the air raid victims in Malta, where more than 750 air raids have been made and tremendous damage done. There have been heavy casualties of men, women and children, and at least 30000 persons are homeless.  Though the Island has an area of only 123 sq miles, there are 270000 persons there, leading the life of a beleaguered city and bravely fighting the battle of the Empire.

The appeal for funds has already received a grant of £2500 in Sydney and it is hoped that at least £10000 will be subscribed in that city. In Melbourne a first grant of £3275 has been made from the British Bombing Victims Fund.  I feel certain that the people of Tasmania who have so generously aided the various patriotic appeals will give their aid to a stricken people whose terrible fate might easily have been our own had the war happened to be fought in another area.

I venture to suggest that we in this island should aim at the sum of at least £1000, feeling confident that those whose hearts are already touched by the sufferings of their fellow British citizens will increase their donations to your fund, and that those who have not already realised what it means to be wounded or rendered homeless may be induced to help.”

It has been decided to widen the constitution of the Air Raid Relief Fund in Tasmania to allow contributions from it to be made for the relief of sufferers outside Britain. The change will take effect from August 1.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 JULY TO DAWN 13 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

1125-1135 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy aircraft which approach to within 10 miles of Grand Harbour. 19 Hurricanes are scrambled; the raiders turn back to the north and there is no engagement.

Night   Three short air raid alerts due to the approach of single aircraft but none came closer than 15 miles from Malta.

Military casualties Able Seaman Reginald Allan James, RNVR, HM Submarine Upholder; Sergeant Ralph W Askin, Royal New Zealand Air Force; Sergeant Lionel F Clay, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR); Wireless Operator/Air Gunner William J Q Ramsay, RAFVR; Sergeant Desmond D P Thomas, pilot, RAFVR; Sergeant Eugene O Townsend, pilot, RAFVR; Sergeant Arthur J Worsfield, RAFVR; 2/Lt Peter E H Dale, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment.                                

Civilian casualties  Floriana  Giovanni Debattista, age 61; Antonia Debattista, age 26. Marsa Joseph Spiteri, age 15; Albert Woodward, age 37. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 12 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Ursula returned to harbour with defective generators. Triumph arrived from patrol off Benghazi for damage repairs. Rorqual sailed at 1900 for Alexandria with stores and passengers.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 3 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands patrols to locate convoy. 110 Squadron 6 Blenheims search for convoy but return due to poor visibility. 

LUQA  1 Wellington crashed after take-off for Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  HQ considers that an attack on the Island is unlikely to take place before the end of August and certain precautions are relaxed. The carrying of rifles off duty is no longer deemed necessary.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  2nd Lt P E H Dale was killed when the aeroplane in which he was a passenger en route to the Middle East crashed at Safi landing strip. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2; dealt with 2 (15kg HE).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion advance party moved to Gozo. 2230 hrs A Wellington bomber taking off from Luqa crashed in the St Nicola platoon area.  All eight occupants were killed.

 

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Posted by on July 12, 2021 in 1941, July 1941

 

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

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BRITISH WAR CABINET REVIEWS A WEEK’S AIR ATTACKS FROM MALTA

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.

BATHING/MINES

Gaps have opened in the barbed wire entanglements along the shores at the following places for the convenience of bathers: Armier, St Paul’s Bay, Bahar ic-Caghaq, St George’s Bay, St Julian’s Bay, Fond Ghadir, Sliema, Marsascala, Marsaxlokk, Birzebbuga, Wied iz-Zurrieq and Ghar Lapsi.

The public have been warned to use only these gaps to gain access to or from the water and are reminded that certain sections of the entanglements contain booby traps and explosives which are highly dangerous. Any attempt to go through the barbed wire except at the gaps indicated by the noticeboards stating ‘Bathing is allowed here’ may have very serious consequences. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 JULY TO DAWN 12 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

0730 hrs  ‘Exercise Asia’ cease fire is given. Military commanders review the Exercise, with many lessons learned in the past five days.

1321-1347 hrs  Air raid alert for 40-50 Macchi 200 fighters approaching the Island from the north in three formations at 15000, 10000 and 500 feet. They are believed to come from Catania aerodrome.  15 cross the coast near St Paul’s Bay.  Six Macchis dive down over Luqa, machine-gunning the airfield.  They destroy one Wellington and damage four more, two Marylands are also damaged and will be grounded for up to 6 days.  The raiders are engaged by 12 Hurricanes of 185 Squadron who break up all three formations.  Heavy and light anti-aircraft fire and light machine-guns also engage.  The Hurricanes pursue the raiders in a running fight up to 15 miles north east of Grand Harbour.  They destroy three Macchis which crash into the sea, severely damage four and damage another four.  Five or six others are hit by light Ack Ack fire at Luqa and Safi, one hit is claimed by infantry firing machine guns.  

0235-0253 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses the coast south of Grand Harbour and drops 15kg high explosive bombs near Zeitun. Two Hurricanes 46 Squadron are scrambled but do not reach sufficient altitude to engage.

0402-0431 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which cross the coast over Grand Harbour and drop 15kg high explosive bombs across four streets of Hamrun including the main street, demolishing four houses and damaging seven more. Eight civilians are killed and seven seriously injured; eleven are treated for minor injuries.  One unexploded bomb is reported.  Two Hurricanes 46 Squadron are scrambled; no engagement.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 11 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Ursula and P33 sailed at 1700 to intercept convoy west of Lampedusa.

AIR HQ  Departures 4 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Marylands patrols to locate convoy north of Sicily; reconnaissance Catania and Syracuse.   

HAL FAR  A Fulmar patrols Catania and drops four 20lb bombs over Augusta on the return.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  After the end of ‘Exercise Asia’ Battalion personnel are left with a large sleep deficit. The day was spent drawing in guns, stores, rations and equipment from defence posts and carrying out complete checks.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 4 (2 x 50kg HE, 2 x 250lb HE).

(1) Malta Diary of a War, Michael Galea, BDL Publishing 2016

 

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

 

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9 July 1941: Security Breach Endangers Malta Convoy

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Naples bombed tonight

Naples bombed tonight

COMMUNICATIONS LEAK PLACES VITAL CONVOY UNDER THREAT

The most important convoy to Malta of the war to date, codenamed ‘Operation Substance’, has been placed in danger after a serious breach of security measures. In view of the risks in sending a major convoy through the dangerous waters of the western Mediterranean later this month, all communications on the subject have been subject to the greatest security.  The risks are believed justified to meet the urgent and growing needs for supplies, equipment and manpower in Malta which cannot be met quickly enough by a convoy through the long sea route via the Cape.

However, according to an urgent telegram despatched today from the War Office to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief via the Admiralty, two telegrams from the NAAFI in Malta to their Headquarters in London have been sent via unofficial channels.  In doing so, the NAAFI have ignored standing instructions that all communications on such secret matters must pass through official channels. According to the War Office, NAAFI Malta “have by their gross laxity probably compromised this most important operation.”

Lt Gen Dobbie has been asked to investigate the telegrams and put in place further measures to eliminate the danger of further compromise from Malta – and to report back immediately that this has been done.

Meanwhile, to mitigate the effects of the security breach, Lt Gen Dobbie is to inform the Head of the NAAFI Malta personally and for his information only that a cable is being sent from London to help cover the indiscretions. The contents of cable HQ1131 will be untrue but it will be circulated as if true to all those staff of NAAFI Malta who have become aware of the content of the previous two telegrams.

The bogus telegram reads:  “Your telegram of 25 June and 3 July not understood. No shipment of troops or stores to Malta direct is envisaged.  Should reinforcements for Malta be necessary, stores will accompany troops on the usual route via the Cape.”

FOUR MALTA BLENHEIMS MISSING AFTER ATTACK ON TRIPOLI

Crews of four Blenheim aircraft of 110 Squadron have been reported missing tonight after they failed to return from a mission over Tripoli. They were among a formation of seven sent to attack Tripoli harbour.  The Blenheims carried out low-level attacks, dropping several 500lb bombs on shipping and harbour facilities in the face of vigorous anti-aircraft fire.  One 500lb bomb hit the harbour Mole causing a massive explosion, two more struck a merchant ship offshore.  Several large fires were started and flames shot 400 feet into the air. 

One of the Blenheims was shot down over the harbour by anti-aircraft guns, crashing onto a torpedo boat which burst into flames. A second was blown up by an explosion.  Two Blenheims are believed to have alighted on the sea; the crew of one is believed safe but the other was some distance from the formation and the fate its crew is not known.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 JULY TO DAWN 10 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

AM  Four Hurricanes of 185 Squadron interrupt an enemy patrol of two seaplanes escorted by four Macchi 200 fighters ten miles off the coast of Sicily, probably a rescue party for the downed BR 20 bomber last night.  One Macchi and one seaplane are damaged.

1939-2010 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy aircraft spotted 40 miles north of Malta. 14 Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders turn back for Sicily before they can be engaged.

2350-0024 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island from the south west and drops four 100kg high explosive bombs on Hal Far. Heavy anti-aircraft guns fire two barrages; no claims.

Military casualties  Sergeant Ronald E Baird, Royal Air Force (RAF), 110 Squadron; Pilot Officer Walter H Lowe, RAF Volunteer Reserve (VR), 110 Squadron; Sergeant Harold Lummus, RAFVR, 110 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant Michael E Potier, pilot, RAF, 110 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 9 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  C308, St Angelo and Justified landed troops for a military exercise.

AIR HQ Arrivals 3 Blenheims, 1 Bombay, 1 Sunderland. Departures 2 Blenheim, 1 Bombay. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Tripoli, Syracuse.  F/O Warburton had a running fight with a Macchi 200 which was probably destroyed.  110 Squadron  6 Blenheims dawn attack on Tripoli; prevented by fog.  7 Blenheims made a low-flying attack on Tripoli Harbour with good results but 4 aircraft failed to return (S/Ldr Seale who landed in the sea, F/Lt Potier, P/O Lowe, Sgt Twist). 148 Squadron 9 Wellingtons night bombing raid on Naples; 3 returned owing to bad weather before reaching target.  6 bombers dropped 12000 tons of bombs and 2400 incendiaries on the Central Railway Station from 6500 feet.  Bombs were also dropped on warehouses near an aircraft factory, causing fires and explosions.   Ack Ack was slight and all aircraft returned safely.

HAL FAR  Lt Governor Sir Edward Jackson visited Hal Far with AOC Mediterranean. 185 Squadron 2 Hurricanes attacked sea planes in Syracuse at sea level and inflicted heavy damage.  4 Hurricanes attacked float planes at Syracuse, damaging 8.  A Fulmar patrolled the Catania area. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Swordfish despatched to attack Tripoli but returned without reaching objective due to low cloud and bad visibility.

2nd Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  ‘Exercise Asia’ continued throughout the day with simulations of continued bombing and parachute attacks.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 (1 x 15kg HE, 1 x 250lb HE).

 

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Posted by on July 9, 2021 in 1941, July 1941

 

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8 July 1941: Malta Attacks of ‘Supreme Importance in Defence of Egypt’

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HMS Upholder

HMS Upholder returns from sinking Axis merchant ship

SUBMARINE AND AIR CREWS PRAISED FOR ‘ENTERPRISE AND GALLANTRY’

The War Office in London has written to the Commander in Chief Middle East and the Governor & C in C Malta praising the achievements of Royal Navy and RAF attacks from the Island. Stressing the strategic importance of the offensive campaign, today’s telegram read: 

“Chiefs of Staff appreciate the enterprise and gallantry with which submarines and aircraft have operated against the enemy line of communication to Africa resulting in a heavy toll of ships during the last two months. They hope that all ranks and ratings in the Naval and Air Forces engaged are aware of the supreme importance of these operations in the defence of Egypt and are confident that they will spare no effort to make their attacks even more effective.”

MALTA NEEDS MINES

Malta needs more mines to maintain its defences against enemy invasion from the sea. The Governor & C in C has written to the War Office asking for an urgent despatch of thousands of components for anti-tank mines.  The mines have been laid in all areas around the Island’s coastline considered vulnerable to attack.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 JULY TO DAWN 9 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

1101-1130 hrs  Air raid alert for a SM 79 which crosses the Island on reconnaissance escorted by 13 Macchi fighters.

2214-0025 hrs  Air raid alert for a single SM 79 bomber which approaches from the north and drops bombs in the sea off Bubaqra. Searchlights illuminate one BR20 and the raider is engaged by a Hurricane fighter.  Pilot F/O Cassidy follows the bomber and engages at very close range at 15000 feet, shooting it down in flames in the sea south of the Island.  Further aircraft then cross the coast and drops bombs near the Blue Sisters’ Hospital, near Tal Qroqq, on Qormi, Hamrun, Birkirkara and St Julians, and off Tigne fort. 

0059-0202 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly, crossing the coast north of Grand Harbour, and drop 100kg high explosive bombs on Marsa and on Luqa, where a Wellington is hit and burned out.

0324-0416 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches form the north, crosses the coast and drops 100kg high explosive bombs on Kalafrana, causing slight damage to buildings and injuring two NAAFI employees.

During the three raids Hurricanes are airborne 11 times, with several engagements. Two enemy aircraft are believed damaged. 

Civilian casualties Zeitun  Antonia Spiteri, age 24.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 8 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Upholder returned from patrol south of Messina, having sunk a fully laden westbound merchant vessel of 6000 tons. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 8 Swordfish bombed and laid 5 cucumbers at Tripoli. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 2 Blenheims 110 Squadron, 1 Bombay. Departures 1 Bombay, 7 Hurricane, 1 Maryland. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Augusta, Syracuse, Catania, Tripoli, Quara, Taranto, Naples and special patrols.  

HAL FAR  A Fulmar patrolled over Catania but returned due to deterioration in the weather.

TA QALI  8 Hurricanes took off for Middle East; two returned after a collision in mid-air.

2nd BN CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Under ‘Exercise Asia’ a general alarm was sounded this afternoon and all anti-parachute posts were manned. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 1 (15kg HE).

 

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Posted by on July 8, 2021 in 1941, July 1941

 

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7 July 1941: Malta Bus Services Under Threat

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buses porte des bombesUNNECESSARY TRAVEL CAUSING SEVERE OVERCROWDING

Malta’s weekend bus services are becoming so overcrowded that the Government has issued a warning to passengers not to make unnecessary journeys. Since the weekday service between 1130am and 2pm was suspended due to fuel shortages Saturday services have become extremely busy.  Describing certain routes as “severely overcrowded”, the Government notice warns against non-essential travel, saying that it “cannot guarantee there will be sufficient buses on Saturdays to carry all passengers.” 

An enterprising horse-owner, realising that people still have travel from one place to another whatever the restrictions, has started his own ‘omnibus service’ – a coach drawn by two horses – offering transport between Castile Place, Valletta, and Mannarino Road, Birkirkara. The service operates hourly from each terminus between 9.15 am and 4.15 pm. Traditional Karozzin are also appearing on the roads again but cab drivers are said to be demanding very high fares for their trips. (1)

TROOPS WARNED AGAINST USING DAMAGED FRUIT & VEG

A notice has been issued to troops in Malta warning against the use or consumption of damaged fresh produce. According to the advice, no bruised or over-ripe fruit should be used and all fruit and vegetables should as far as possible be cooked.  Uncooked vegetables and fruit such as tomatoes, lettuce, grapes etc. should be disinfected by standing in a good red solution of potassium permanganate for one hour, or by plunging into water for 15 seconds.  The use of boiling water may spoil the appearance of the fruit or vegetable but does not alter the flavour.  It is thought the safeguards could help to reduce incidents of stomach upsets among troops serving in Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 JULY TO DAWN 8 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

2321-0023 hrs   Air raid alert for five enemy BR 20 bombers which approach the Island singly from the north east and drop 100kg and 250kg high explosive bombs in various locations. One bomber flies past the Island and turns to approach from the south west, crossing the coast near Zurrieq to drop four bombs on the Hal Far dispersal area; no serious damage is caused.  Bombs are also dropped near Naxxar in the sea off San Pietru, to the north of Sliema and off St Paul’s Bay.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns fire a barrage at 18000 feet; no claims.  Fighters are not scrambled due to the raider’s unusual direction of approach.

2354-0027 hrs  Air raid alert for a single bomber which approaches from the south west, crosses the coast and drops five bombs on Hal Far. No fighters are scrambled.  Searchlights illuminate the raider briefly and anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

Civilian casualties Paola  Carmela Attard, age 22; Charles Borg, age 55; Eliza Borg, age 28, Anthony Cappello; Joseph Cappello; Salvatore Cappello; Publio Cini, age 52; Anthony Coleiro, age 30; Saviour Galea, age 42; Mary Grima, age 3; Saviour Tanti, age 70; Victor Tanti, age 2; Joseph Zerafa, age 33; Paul Zerafa, age 22; Mary Zerafa, age 15.  

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 7 JULY 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 6 Wellington. Departures 1 Catalina. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Palermo, Taranto, Augusta and Syracuse, and special patrols.  One Maryland to Middle East escorting Hurricanes. 148 Squadron 6 Wellingtons night bombing raids on railway goods yards at Tripoli starting several fires. 

HAL FAR  One Fulmar on protective patrol over Catania; no engagement.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  All ranks still confined to barracks under ‘Exercise Asia’.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal Section busy on unexploded bombs. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 5; dealt with 3 (1 x 15kg HE, 2 x 250lb HE).

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

 

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

 

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