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23-29 August 1942: Malta Attacks to Halt Rommel’s Africa Campaign

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23 August 1942: RAF Begins ‘Circus’ Operations

Axis aircraft on Gela aerodrome

Three bomb-carrying Hurricanes (Hurri-bombers) escorted by Spitfires today carried out a ‘circus’ raid today on Gela aerodrome in southern Sicily.  Circus operations, introduced in 1941, involve sending a formation of bombers escorted by a larger number of fighters whose to act as bait and entice German fighters into combat on the RAF’s own terms.

The Hurricanes, of the Royal Naval Air Service based at Hal Far, took off at 1540 hrs this afternoon, accompanied by twelve Spitfires from Ta Qali.  Thick cloud obscured the intended target but S/Lt Pratt dropped his two 250lb bombs on military buildings north east of Gela town.  S/Lt White dropped his bombs on the town itself and S/Lt Elliot bombed Biscari Aerodrome.  In the poor visibility the enemy did not mount a counter attack and the mission returned safely to Malta at 1712 hrs.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR COLLAPSES

Malta’s Lieutenant Governor Sir Edward Jackson collapsed today.  Initial reports suggest a possible heart attack.  He has been deputising for the Governor since Wednesday, while Lord Gort is in the Middle East.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 AUGUST TO DAWN 24 AUGUST 1942

Two fighter sweeps of six and eight enemy aircraft.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

HMS Hythe

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 23 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  While sweeping Rorqual and P 34 from sea to Marsamxett, Hythe had a gyro compass failure and while turning outside the swept channel in the vicinity 3, she cut two moored mines.

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; four Beaufighters to EDCU.

24 August 1942: ‘Malta Punishes Enemy Raiders’

Valletta, Sunday

“On Friday afternoon Royal Air Force fighters destroyed five enemy aircraft over Malta.  After a raidless night, a fair-sized enemy fighter sweep approached the coast yesterday, but turned back and avoided combat when they saw British aircraft approaching.”  The Mercury, Hobart, Tasmania, 24 August 1942

RAF MOUNT RODEO ATTACKS

Malta Spitfires launched their first ‘Rodeo’ attacks over Sicily today.  These hit and run fighter sweeps are designed to be surprise attacks on selected targets, in which Spitfires swoop to very low level and strafe airfields, dockyards and road and rail transport installations.  Despite the high risk involved in such attacks, all 15 Spitfires engaged in today’s raid returned safely.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 AUGUST TO DAWN 25 AUGUST 1942

Day  Three enemy aircraft approach the Island but do not cross the coast.  Spitfires are scrambled on intercept patrols: no engagement.

Night  No air raids.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Lawrence Dewhurst, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 39 Squadron; Flying Officer Albert Turner, RAF VR, 39 Squadron; Sergeant George Leadbeater, RAF VR, 39 Squadron; Sergeant John Littlewood, RAF VR, 39 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 24 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P 43 was swept in and P 46 out to sea on patrol.  The tanker attacked on 21st August was reported ashore in Saiada Bay.

AIR HQ  Eight Beauforts of 39 Squadron and eight Beaufighters of 227 Squadron of which three carried bombs attacked a convoy of two destroyers and a 7000 ton tanker, in position 272 degrees, Antipaxos 39 miles, course 130 degrees, 11 knots.  Although no claims were made, an apparent explosion was seen on the tanker, further results were unobserved.  One Beaufort was shot down during the attack.  Beaufighters dropped three 250lb GP bombs which slightly overshot.  One JU 88 was shot down over the convoy by Beaufighters.

Night  Two Wellingtons were despatched to attack the enemy tanker which had been beached in Saiada Bay, Corfu, after the Beaufort strike on 21 August.  Thirty-five 45lb fire bombs were dropped, all falling within 400 yards of the vessel, resulting in small explosions on the water and flames lasting about six minutes, followed by black smoke for another five minutes.

Arrivals  One Catalina, four Beauforts, four Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Catalina to Aboukir.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort failed to return from shipping strike:crew missing.  One Beaufort’s tyre burst and crash landed: crew uninjured.

25 August 1942: Pedestal Commander Reports on Convoy

Vice Admiral Syfret

Vice-Admiral E N Syfret today submitted his full report on Operation Pedestal to the Admiralty.  The report gives a detailed account of the convoy, from the assembly of ships in the Clyde, their first passage to Gibraltar and the repeated enemy attacks through the Mediterranean.

READ OPERATION PEDESTAL FULL REPORT – CLICK HERE

RAF ATTACK TANKER

21 Spitfires today carried out a second Rodeo raid over Sicily and six Beaufighters escorted by six Spitfires attacked an Axis fuel tanker off Tripoli.  The raids were not without casualties:  two Spitfires ditched into the sea with the loss of their pilots.  A Baltimore sent on search patrol failed to return.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 AUGUST TO DAWN 26 AUGUST 1942

AM  His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief returns from the Middle East.

1139 hrs  30 plus enemy fighter aircraft approach the Island but only half cross the coast.  Spitfires engage.

1520 hrs  Six enemy aircraft approach the Island, believed to be on reconnaissance.  Malta Spitfires scrambled: no engagement.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Basil Butler; Royal Canadian Air Force; Flying Officer Reginald Round, Royal New Zealand Air Force; both 249 Squadron.  Sergeant Eric Cragg, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Flying Officer John Foster, RAF VR; Flight Sergeant Raymond Harvey, RAF VR; Sergeant Mervyn McCrea, RAF VR; all 69 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 25 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hebe swept Utmost to sea on patrol.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One DC3 from Bilbeis; two Beauforts, eight Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Four Hudsons to Gibraltar; two DC3s, four Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  Two Spitfires shot down in the sea: pilots missing, believed killed.  One Baltimore failed to return from search: crew missing.

LUQA  During the period 21-25 August there were no attacks on the aerodrome.  Station strength is decreasing.  Camp Cinema cleared and is running.

26 August 1942: Spitfire Pilots Shot Down in Defence of Malta

Two Spitfires pilots of 229 Squadron were lost this morning after they went to intercept a large formation of enemy aircraft approaching from Sicily:

“Ten miles north-east of the island of Comino the Squadron sighted a pair of Messerschmitts at 27,000 feet and then six more unidentified fighters at sea level. One section dived to investigate the unidentified aircraft during which Sergeant Cornish crashed into the sea, either shot down or having failed to pull out of the dive. Flying Officer Newman flying V S Spitfire EP190 reported that he was circling an aircraft in the sea; this was the last contact with him. Both pilots failed to return. It is thought that Flying Officer Newman had fallen victim to the guns of Ltn Schiess of Stab/JG53, although another pilot of Stab/JG53 also claimed a Spitfire during the same sortie, this was not confirmed.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 AUGUST TO DAWN 27 AUGUST 1942

Day  Two air raid alerts for a total of 56 enemy aircraft: only a few fighters cross the coast.  Army General Officer Commanding visited various gun sites with Commander, Royal Artillery.

JU 88 crashed at Ta Qali (NWMA Malta)

Night  Two alerts for a total of 18 aircraft: 13 cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa and Hal Far.  One JU 88 is destroyed.

0008-0110 hrs  Thirteen German and Italian aircraft drop high explosive and incendiary bombs on Luqa and the Safi strip, causing superficial damage, and on Hal Far, damaging NAS Offices.  Houses are demolished at Kirkop.

Military casualties  Sergeant Clifford Cornish, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Flying Officer Dudley Newman, RAF VR; both 229 Squadron.  Gunner Alec Balaam, 168 Battery, 74 LAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

Enemy casualties  Crew of JU 88 bomber, shot down and killed: Unteroffizier Franz Diedl, Air Gunner and Unteroffizier Franz Rohringer, Observer.  Survived and taken prisoner: Feldwebel Ernst Klaus, Pilot and Unteroffizier Kurt Klawitter, Wireless Operator.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 26 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Rye swept Rorqual to sea.

AIR HQ Two [bomb-carrying] Hurricanes RNAS, operating with a “Circus” [of Spitfires], dropped bombs on Biscari aerodromes and military buildings.  Results were unobserved.

Night  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron made a successful machine-gun and cannon attack on Marsala flying boat station.  One merchant vessel with a chance light was attacked and the light extinguished, and one De 18 was shot down in flames.

Arrivals  One DC3 from Shallufa; one Bisley, one Wellington, three Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Three Beauforts, one DC3, four Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  Two Spitfires missing on patrol; presumed enemy action: both pilots missing.

27 August 1942: Malta’s Air and Sea Forces Disrupt Rommel’s Supplies

SPITFIRE RODEO STRIKE SUCCESS

German Junkers aircraft, Comiso airfield

A bold series of Rodeo operations was mounted from Malta today on the aerodromes of Sicily.  Following recent photo-reconnaissance reports of increased numbers of Axis bombers in the area, three Spitfire Squadrons – a total of over 30 aircraft – were sent to carry out the high-risk low-level raids on Biscara, Comiso and Gela.  29 Axis aircraft were destroyed on the ground and 10 more in air combat, plus others damaged – for the loss of two Spitfires.  Wing Commander Arthur Donaldson recalled the loss of his second in command as they attacked Biscara:

“We maintained complete RT silence so as to arrive unheralded.  My Squadron was to attack Biscara.  The flak was intense.  I looked across at poor old Walter Churchill, and at that very moment he was shot down in flames, crashing in the middle of the aerodrome.  I saw a Dornier bomber about to take off and by the time he was in my sights he was airborne.  I chased him for about twenty miles.  He had smoke pouring out of him and he was losing height; and disappeared below a small hill.  I was not able to see him hit the ground, but it was obvious that he was a dead duck.” (2)

AXIS FORCES HARASSED

Meanwhile attacks by Malta-based forces on southbound Axis convoys are hitting home, as war in the Western Desert reaches a critical point.  Beauforts and Beaufighters sank a merchant vessel and damaged its escorting destroyer north of Benghazi, with the loss of one Beaufighter.  A Malta-based submarine sank a second merchant vessel in a torpedo strike.  The attacks are key to deterring a major planned offensive by German forces in North Africa, according to a US news agency:

Field Marshal Rommel in North Africa

“An attack in Egypt by Rommel is expected at any time, according to a radio dispatch from the special correspondent of the “New York Times” in the Western Desert. He says that the RAF is attacking streams of German trucks and supplies which are moving up to the front. They are causing death and havoc, but the stream continues to move up, bringing nearer “Der Tag” [The Day] which many observers believe will be an August day.

There is an air of alertness and expectancy along the El A|amein front: “It may be tonight,” said one British captain. “Our tanks are standing by in case anything happens.” It is not thought that Rommel will delay much longer, unless he has experienced greater supply difficulties than the British observers expected. The British and Dominion forces are taking the utmost precautions to keep themselves informed of Rommel’s movements. They are determined to avert a surprise attack.”  The Advertiser, Adelaide, 28 August 1942

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 AUGUST TO DAWN 28 AUGUST 1942

Day  Two air raid alerts for a total of eleven enemy aircraft which approach the Island Spitfires intercept and no aircraft cross the coast.

Night  No raids.

Military casualties  Group Captain Walter Myers Churchill, DSO, DFC, Royal Air Force (Auxiliary Force), 605 Squadron; Flying Officer Percy Johnston, Royal Canadian Air Force, 200 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Eric O’Hara, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 227 Squadron; Sergeant Kenneth Seddon, RAF VR, Navigator with 227 Squadron.

Civilian casualties (see Air Raids 26 to 27 Aug)  Mqabba  Michael Cachia, age 11; Emmanual Zammit, age 7; Joseph Zammit, age 6.  Qormi  Spiru Saliba, age 40.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 27 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P 35 reported having sunk a southbound MV in position 35-39N, 23-05E and Beaufort aircraft sank another MV in 33-59N, 20-57E.

AIR HQ  Eight Beauforts 39 Squadron and nine Beaufighters 227 Squadron, five with bombs, attacked a convoy comprising one destroyer and one 6000 ton merchant vessel, patrolled by one JU 88 and one Cant Z 1007, in position 329 degrees Cape Aamer 73 miles, course 190 degrees, speed 10 knots.  Beaufighters attacked first, dropping seven 250lb GP bombs and scoring one hit on the stern of the merchant vessel.  They also raked the merchant vessel and destroyer with machine guns and cannons from deck level.  The destroyer was left smoking from the stern.  Beauforts then attacked with torpedoes, scoring three hits on the merchant vessel which blew up and was left ablaze, and sinking with decks awash and back broken. The escorting Cant was destroyed by Beaufighters which also damaged the JU 88.

Night  Two Hurricanes made a bombing attack on Gela and Comiso aerodromes.  Results were unobserved owing to intense flak.  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron attacked the seaplane hangar at Syracuse with machine gun and cannon fire, scoring many hits.  Motor transport near Pachino was also attacked and damaged.

Arrivals  One DC3 from Shallufa; one Spitfire from Burg el Arab; two Beauforts from Gibraltar.  Departures Three Hudsons to Gibraltar; one DC3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire missing on operation due to enemy action: pilot missing, believed killed.  One Spitfire failed to return from fighter sweep; believed force-landed: pilot missing.  One Beaufighter believed hit by enemy flak while on shipping strike: crew missing.

28 August 1942: Malta Must Survive on Minimum Supplies, Warns Governor

In a radio broadcast today, the Governor and Commander in Chief warned the people of Malta of further hardships to come.  He asked their help to ensure the survival of the Island until a future convoy can reach them:

“Recently we have seen four merchant ships and an oiler reach Malta; this represents the largest number of ships which has arrived in the GrandHarbour since September of last year.  No sight could have been more welcome to us all than the arrival of the convoy after so many weeks of anxious waiting…

Ohio is towed into Grand Harbour (NWMA Malta)

When the last ship of the convoy, the US tanker Ohio, entered Grand Harbour as the sun rose on August 15, everyone in Malta was mindful of how the nine days of united prayer had been answered and was thankful.  We are also conscious that, when so many have risked so much and when so many lives have been lost to bring supplies to us from Britain, we also have a duty to perform ourselves.  These convoys are very hazardous operations and, were we to be improvident about the supplies which have reached us, we would do a real disservice not only to those who dared all to succour us, but also to ourselves.  It is our bounded duty to eke out our available stores to carry us forward as far as possible on the road to victory…

Convoys, such as this last convoy, are magnificent achievements, but they cannot be constantly repeated, and we must now steel ourselves to last out until a new target date.  We will play our part, as Malta has consistently played it in the past.  Our aim must be to keep our consumption of all foodstuffs and other commodities at the lowest possible level and so put off, for as long as we can, the date when another convoy has to reach our shores.” (3)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 AUGUST TO DAWN 29 AUGUST 1942

Day  One air raid alert for 14 enemy fighters on patrol.

Night  Three air raid alerts for a total of four Italian aircraft, two of which drop bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer George Bishop, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Flight Sergeant Donald Leitch, Royal Canadian Air Force; Flight Lieutenant Ernest Magruder, Royal Air Force, 229 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant John Wallis, Royal Air Force, 42 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 28 AUGUST 1942

AIR HQ  Rodeo attack by 16 Spitfires over south east Sicily.  Night  Three Hurricanes RNAS carried out an intruder patrol over Comiso aerodrome; bombs were dropped but no results seen.

Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire missing over the sea: pilot missing.  One Spitfire had airscrew failure and crashed on land: pilot uninjured.

29 August 1942: Electricity to Stay Off Until 1 October

CONVOY CREWS VIP WELCOME

Sir Ronald Mackenzie Scobie

The General Officer Commanding Major General Scobie performed the official opening of a boxing match at the Command Fair.  The match, also attended by the Governor, was organised in aid of the Malta Convoy Fund recently set up to assist the widows and families of those lost during Operation Pedestal.  Free seats were allocated to the Merchant Navy for the event.  During his opening speech, Major General Scobie paid tribute to the seamen and thanked them for bringing the surviving convoy ships safely into Grand Harbour.

Today’s free match tickets are part of a series of events to show Malta’s appreciation of the ordeal during the Santa Marija convoy experienced by the merchant seamen.  Welcomed by enthusiastic crowds everywhere, their itineraries have included a tour of Mdina and a visit to Mosta Rotunda, as well as a demonstration of small arms fire at the Weapon Training School at Ghajn Tuffieha Bay.  Despite their exhaustion, a Merchant Navy team managed to hold Sliema Wanderers to a 1-1 draw in a football match at the Empire Stadium in Gzira.

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT WEEK ENDING 29 AUG 42

From: Governor & C in C Malta                To:  C in C Middle East              Rpt: The War Office

1.  Enemy air: activity during daylight confined to small fighter sweeps.  Approx 148 fighters approached Island.  One HE 111, one ME 109 destroyed; three ME 109s probably destroyed; four ME 109s, one MC 202 damaged.  Four Spitfires missing, four damaged (pilots safe).  Approx 25 bombers approached at night, only 13 crossed coast.  Bombs aerodrome area.  No military damage.  One JU 88 destroyed by Beaufighter; one JU 88 destroyed, one damaged by Ack Ack.

2.  Own air:  offensive sweeps by Spitfires over Sicily destroyed six enemy aircraft, four probable, one damaged in the air, others on the ground; shot up personnel and buildings.  Two day attacks by escorted Hurribombers on Sicilian aerodromes.  Beaufighters and Hurribombers also over Sicily by night.  Nine Beauforts and eight Beaufighters sunk one merchant vessel, destroyed two JU 88s, one Cant; damaged one JU 88, for loos of two aircraft.  Other strike unsuccessful.

3.  Military damage and casualties nil.

4.  Convoy completely unloaded without incident.  Slight increase in civilian bread ration announced; kerosene ration increased; electricity to be restored from 1 October; other slight improvements.  Motor transport spirit cut further.  TOO nil.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 AUGUST TO DAWN 30 AUGUST 1942

Day  One enemy fighter sweep by 15 aircraft.

Night  One Italian bomber approached and dropped bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Dennis Pollock, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 1435 Squadron; Private Michael Debono, 3rd Battalion, King’s Own Malta Regiment; Gunner Arthur Mundy, 186 Battery, 74 LAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 29 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe sailed and anchored at Marsaxlokk for the night.

AIR HQ  Eight Beaufighters 39 Squadron and eight Beaufighters 227 Squadron, four with bombs, attacked an enemy convoy comprising one 4-5000 ton tanker and one destroyer, escorted by one flying boat, one JU 88 and seven Macchi 202s, in position 120 degrees Ugento 10 miles, course 180 degrees 8 knots.  The Beaufighters attacked first, raking the tanker and destroyer with machine-gun and cannon fire, and dropping six 250lb bombs on the tanker, scoring near misses.  Beauforts then dropped four torpedoes scoring one direct hit amidships and one probable hit.  The tanker immediately blew up and burst into flames.  Later photos show the whole tanker ablaze, emitting dense clouds of black smoke.

Arrivals  One DC3 from Shallufa.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one DC3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire overshot on landing; struck hole in aerodrome: pilot uninjured.  One Spitfire believed shot down by enemy fighters: pilot missing, believed killed.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 29.  Dealt with: 4 High Explosives (1 x 500kg; 2 x 250kg; 1 x 50kg); 55 anti-personnel bombs.

(1) From http://chippenham1939-1945; source Wiltshire Gazette, 3 Sept 1942 and Spitfires Over Malta, Brian Cull and Frederick Galea

(2) Papers of Group Arthur Donaldson from The Air Battle for Malta, James Douglas-Hamilton, Pen & Sword 2006

(3) Malta Diary of a War, Michael Galea, PEG Ltd, 1992

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed.  For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com

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2-8 August 1942: Without a Convoy Malta Will Fall

MALTA WAR DIARY: OPERATION PEDESTAL – SANTA MARIJA – EVENTS ON MALTAGC70 UPDATED DAILY.  STARTS 9 AUGUST                                                                                                                

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SUPPLY SITUATION NOW CRITICAL

“I was a waitress at Xara Villa, where the pilots of Ta Qali lived.  I was 15.  We used to lick the plates we collected after the meal, before we sent them down to wash.  When they realised, the pilots even left us a little on the plate.”  Maria Parsons (nee Spiteri), GeorgeCross Island Association

Malta command is facing a crisis.  Unless another convoy reaches the Island by Friday of this week, supplies of food and fuel will run out within days.  The minimal stores delivered over recent weeks by submarine and by fast minelayers Manxman and Welshman have been barely enough to meet a few days’ needs.  Without immediate help, Malta could fall into enemy hands.

2 August 1942: Cluster Bomb Kills 13 Year Old

Butterfly bomb

A 13 year old boy was killed yesterday in Birkirkara by a German anti-personnel bomb. The village is now the most densely populated in Malta thanks to the many refugees from Grand Harbour who have taken shelter there.  In an air raid centred on Ta Qali late on Sunday evening, Birkirkara was showered with butterfly bombs – cluster bombs which are released from canisters holding up to 100 each.

The Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Sections were drafted in to clear the dozens of unexploded small bombs reported across the area.  At least one remained undetected.  Yesterday afternoon a group of boys were playing hide and seek behind rubble walls surrounding the fields outside the village.  13 year old Joe Galea jumped over a wall and landed on one of the bombs which exploded, killing him instantly.  Adapted from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 AUGUST TO DAWN 3 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Aerodrome working parties and transport:  500 men each at Ta Qali and Hal Far, 1000 at Luqa.

0915-0954 hrs  Air raid alert.  Six JU 88s with an escort of 20 plus fighters including ME 109s drop 2800 kg of bombs on the area of Safi strip.

1310 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft; two return early.  The remainder intercept the enemy: red section is attacked by two MEs with no outcome.  Blue section sight six Messerschmitts, dive past but lose them on tearning.  F/Lt Watts fires on one ME but sees no strike.

1350 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are also scrambled to intercept enemy fighters. Sgt Weaver probably destroys one ME 109. P/O Guthrie crashes in a field on the outskirts of Zebbieh and is killed.  Sgt McLeod is reported missing: Spitfires search for him until dusk without success.

1445 hrs  All clear.

1657-1715 hrs  Air raid alert for an enemy fighter sweep which does not cross the coast.

2250-2325 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which does not cross the coast.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer James Guthrie Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Sergeant McLeod, Royal New Zealand Air Force.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 2 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P43 and Una arrived and were swept into Marsamxett Harbour by Rye.

AIR HQ Arrivals  Two Hudsons, one Liberator, two Beauforts from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis.  Departures  One Hudson, one Catalina to Gibraltar; two DC3 to Bilbeis; one Hudson to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down by enemy aircraft: pilot killed.  One Spitfire in formation jumped by enemy aircraft: pilot presumed shot down; missing.

3 August 1942: Radio Interference Hampers RAF Fighter Ops 

RADIO CONTACT CUT DURING DOG FIGHT

RAF Spitfire pilots are reporting interference with their radio signals over Malta.  Signals were interrupted at a crucial moment during an air battle with Messerschmitt fighters this morning.  Early reports suggest the problem only occurs over land: interference clears once aircraft fly out to sea.  The radio signal interruptions could threaten the effectiveness of defensive fighter operations over the Island.

TROOPS GO HUNGRY

…there was less and less food. Our ration went down to 1,000 to 1,400 calories a day. We had one tin of bully beef for eight men, and one slice of bread each (when I went to Malta I weighed 10.9 stone, when I came back it was 8.6 stone) . Our uniforms and boots were wearing out. We put bits of cardboard in the boots to protect our feet. All supplies had to come in by sea, and there were enemy submarines that could be seen in the clear water. From the Garrison Fort we heard that it was feared we could no longer hold the island.  Jimmie Ferguson, Royal Irish Fusiliers (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 AUGUST TO DAWN 4 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine.

0615-0700 hrs  Air raid alert.  Enemy aircraft do not cross the coast.

0810-0900 hrs  Three Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: nothing to report.

0933-0955 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled: nothing sighted.

1105-1200 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne to act as escort to minesweepers: nothing to report.

1115-1135 hrs  Air raid alert.  Seven Spitfires Hal Far and eight of 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: two of 229 return early.  The remainder sight six Messerschmitts overhead and try to gain height but are bounced by the MEs and have to break away without firing a shot.  All pilots report marked VHF radio interference.

1233-1305 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: two return early.  The others sight nothing.

1455-1515 hrs  Air raid alert.  Enemy aircraft do not cross the coast.

1610-1625 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy fighters.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron scrambled to intercept sight four ME 109s which turn and make for home very fast: no contact.

1755-1820 hrs  Air raid alert.  Enemy fighters are reported approaching the Island.  Seven Spitfires from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept: nothing sighted.

1855-1945 hrs  Three Spitfires 229 Squadron carry out a patrol but sight nothing.  The weather is hazy, visibility two miles.

2200-2235 hrs; 2230-2345 hrs; 2359-0025 hrs  Air raid alerts, each for single enemy aircraft, none cross the coast.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 3 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy, Rye, Hythe, and Swona carried out sweep of five cable strip inshore of QBB 273. 4 moored mines were swept.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Beaufighters, five Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Liberator to LG 224 or Fayid.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down into sea: pilot rescued, injured.  One Wellington overshot on landing: pilot and crew uninjured.  Transit aircraft missing  One Wellington en route from Gibraltar to Malta.

LUQA  The Secretary of State visits Luqa aerodrome.

TA QALI  Wing Commander Douglas Hamilton ceased to be attached from Headquarters, RAF Mediterranean.  Wing Comannder Pike, DFC, arrived on move of 249 Squadron to Ta Qali.  All pilots of 603 Squadron posted to 229 Squadron on formation at Ta Qali.

4 August 1942: Spitfire Pilot Wins Close Dog-fight

Spitfires over Malta (2)

Malta Spitfire pilot Lt Swales was flying one of four Spitfires of 229 Squadron this morning when they encountered two Italian Macchi fighters.  Lt Swales attacked, firing a short burst, followed by S/Ldr Douglas who fired all his ammunition but could not get closer than 400 yards.  No strikes were seen but Lt Swales had not finished.  He turned on the other Macchi and fired a 5 second burst at 200 yards into the starboard wing and fuselage of the enemy aircraft, which started to smoke.  The Italian swooped into a steep dive and Lt Swales followed him down, firing until all his ammunition was spent.  The Macchi was last seen at water level, smoking badly.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 AUGUST TO DAWN 5 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Luqa working parties are reduced by the withdrawal of 450 men of 1 Brigade.  Total still employed on all aerodromes approximately 1500 all ranks.

0725-0900 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali search for a missing Wellington.  They see a large oil patch and circle at deck level but find no wreckage.  Enemy fighters are reported but not seen.

0830-0845 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  They sight two Macchi 202 fighters which are attacked by S/Ldr Douglas and Lt Swales.  One Macchi is probably destroyed by Lt Swales.  A Dornier flying boat escorted by fighters later picks up the pilot.

0915-0945 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept: nothing to report.

1445-1530 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft and climb to attack three ME 109s but are unable to catch them.  Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled and sight three enemy aircraft but are ordered on another course and see no others.  All Spitfires report marked radio interference over the Island which is not as bad at sea.

1625-1710 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft but sight nothing.

1735-1750 hrs  Air raid alert for 20 enemy aircraft carrying out a fighter sweep.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft but are unable to make contact.  Spitfires from Hal Far are also airborne: one Re 2001 is probably destroyed.

2220-2340 hrs  Air raid alerts for two enemy aircraft which approach separately and drop bombs on Mellieha Ridge and on Gozo.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                                     Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 4 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  WD Vessel Snipe carried out night run with Coast Artillery Searchlights.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Hudsons, two Wellingtons, three Beaufighters from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down in combat: pilot baled out, uninjured.

HAL FAR  185 Squadron is stood down.

1ST BN CHESHIRE REGIMENT Night firing exercises on Pembroke ranges.

5 August 1942:  Malta’s Children ‘Ghostly Pale’

Food shortages had become desperate. It had reached the point where bread, an important staple for most people, had become rationed with hardly enough for the average family and its quality greatly reduced by the addition of potatoes and other ingredients. I still remember my mother, with three growing hungry youngsters, bartering a gold ring on the Black Market in exchange for a badly needed loaf of bread – just to put something into our empty stomachs.  My mother, like most mothers, often kept herself short just to give us a little extra to eat.…

As the siege tightened we begin to notice the lean and haggard faces of the men, women and children around us, the young and the old.  You begin to notice the start of sunken cheeks and dark shadows under the eyes. You begin to see the thinness of the arms and legs of chidren. You feel general body weakness where the minimum effort saps one’s strength. You see the faces of people of fair complexion beginning to turn a ghostly pale or ashen gray and those of darker complexion into a ghastly greenish hue.

The pangs of hunger had become so acute that chewing the end tip of my leather belt became a common practice, as with most others.  The taste sometimes still lingers. For a while water consumption, when not cut off, helped fill the voids in our stomachs, but you can’t fool the body all the time.  Waistlines now had shrunk to the point where, with continued belt tightening the tip of one’s belt was now reaching the small of one’s back…

It was during a heavy air attack at Marsa Creek, an inlet a short distance from my home, where a freighter was hit sending some of its cargo of flour in great clouds high into the air. Just  as soon as the dust had settled, crowds of kids, including my nine years old brother Francis, descended on the scene widely scooping up from the ground, in empty tins and cans, grit, dust and all, as much flour as possible to take home.  At this unexpected bounty, little as it was, my mother, completely surprised and overjoyed, quickly added water kneading it into a kind of dough and cooked it. We could not wait until it was ready and when it was, we literally wolfed it down, crunching the dust and grit between our teeth and offering deep thanks to God for his loving beneficence…

The ravages of the siege with its acute food shortages, continuous bombing and sleepless nights left its mark in the form of early deaths, weakened constitutions, miscarriages and stillborn babies. With weakened immune systems they fell prey to infections and diseases which in normal times would have been easily overcome but became fatal for people so weakened. There were outbreaks of typhoid and of polio, a disease then practically unknown in Malta. Their death certificates may show statements such as ”death from natural causes ” or “death from this disease or that” but really they were war casualties.  Joseph V Stephens, May 17, 2012

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 AUGUST TO DAWN 6 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Pen-building on aerodromes continues on the same scale as yesterday.  Extensive beach and aerodrome patrols are carried out by 1 Brigade.  Major General R MacK Scobie CBE MC arrived by air from ME to take over as GOC Troops, Malta.

0850-0935 hrs  Air raid alert.

0930-1015 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali search for an enemy pilot in the sea but find nothing.

1030-1200 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept an enemy fighter sweep; two return early.  The other two see eight ME 109s and attack one apiece, each firing a three-second burst but seeing no strike.  The Spitfires swing round to make a second attack but the Messerschmitts get away.

1045-1155 hrs  Air raid alert.

1207-1239 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are airborne on intercept patrol: nothing sighted.

1745-1810 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled and sight 15 enemy fighters.  One Re 2001 attacks Sgt Irwin but overshoots.  Sgt Irwin closes in and counter-attacks with a three-second burst at 250 yards, hitting the root of the port wing and forward of the fuselage.  The Italian fighter streams glycol and dives away: probably destroyed.  Sgt Irwin is then attacked by another Re 2001 and hit by an explosive shell.  His Spitfire goes into a downward spin but Sgt Irwin is unhurt.  Four of the Spitfires report marked radio interference.

2330-2350 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which drop bombs on Mellieha Ridge and on Gozo, causing civilian casualties.

Military casualties  Nil.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Gaetana Abela, age 20; Samuel Zammit, age 63.  Gozo (Gharb)  Kalang Mizzi, age 60.  Gozo (San Lawrenz)  Nazzerna Attard, age 28; Josephine Farrugia, age 66; Carmela Farrugia, age 35; Mary Farrugia, age 35.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 5 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P44 returned from patrol off Kuriat, having scored 2 hits with 3 inch guns on a 2000 ton [merchant vessel] off Linosa and was swept in by Hythe.  M/S Flotilla swept 19 mines in Northern rectangle of QBB 273.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Catalina, one Spitfire, one Beaufighter, two Hudsons from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis.  Departures  Three Hudsons, one Catalina to Gibraltar; one Wellington to LG 224; one DC3 to Bilbeis.

6 August 1942: Shoes Made From Old Tyres

The shortage was not just in food. It was in everything. Clothes and shoes, for example, were completely unobtainable. Shoes, which wore out quicker than clothes, were substituted by scrapped vehicle and aircraft tyres for soles and with pieces of string to hold them [on] the foot.”  Joseph Zahra, 2011

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 AUGUST TO DAWN 7 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0645-0750 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on patrol; two return early.  No enemy aircraft are sighted.

0900-0930 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled on intercept patrol; one returns early: no sightings.

1010-1030 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: nothing to report.

1150-1220 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1420-1445 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft.  They sight enemy fighters and climb to three thousand feet.  The enemy aircraft change course and are lost in the haze.

1700-1730 hrs  Air raid alert.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but find nothing.

1940-2030 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron search for enemy shipping but sight no craft.

2226-2243 hrs  Air raid alert.  A single enemy aircraft drops bombs three miles north east of Grand Harbour.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                              Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 6 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy carried out Oropesa, SA and LL sweep of Marsaxlokk approaches and anchored there for the night. One moored mine was swept in inshore strip and this strip is now considered clear.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One DC3 from Bilbeis.  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; one DC3 to Bilbeis.

LUQA  A further decrease in the working party strength brings the figure for the aerodrome down to just over 800 all ranks.

7 August 1942: No Deliveries to Relieve Malta

HMS Speedy minesweeping off Malta (NWMA Malta)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 AUGUST TO DAWN 8 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Slight increase in strength of working parties provided by 4 Brigade brings the total for all aerodromes up to approx 1400 all ranks.

0830-0915 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: nothing to report.

1315 hrs  Two Beaufighters Mark VI of 248 Squadron arrive at Ta Qali.

1405-1435 hrs  Air raid alert for six ME 109s which cross the Island at very high altitude.

1630-1650 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on patrol: nothing to report.

1830-1945 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are airborne: nothing sighted.

1945-2025 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron search for enemy shipping: no craft sighted.

2325-2335 hrs  Air raid alert.  Only two of the five enemy aircraft which approach the Island cross the coast, dropping bombs near Torri L’Ahmar, Il Maqhtab and in the sea off St Andrews

Military casualties  Nil.                                                              Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 7 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept Otus into Marsaxlokk and then swept centre line of QBB 273 while returning to Marsamxett.  Otus remained bottomed off Delimara Light until dark, when she surfaced and proceeded alongside Shell Pier to unload cargo.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Beaufighters, four Hudsons, one Wellington from Gibraltar; three Beauforts from LG 224; three Beauforts from LG 226; two Baltimores from Burg Arab.

LUQA  The camp cinema is now running.

8 August 1942: Enemy Tactics Aim to Use Up Malta’s Fighter Fuel

Sir Ronald Mackenzie Scobie in Athens

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING 8 AUGUST 1942

From:  Governor & C in C Malta               To:  C in C Middle East              Rptd:  The War Office

  1. Quietest week in many months for bombing.  Enemy air effort limited to attempts to wear down fighter strength and waste our aviation petrol by fighter sweeps and tip and run tactics.  Average 30 fighter sorties daily against Island.  Total 10 bombers by day, 17 by night.  Bombs widespread.  Enemy fighter casualties four destroyed, two probable, one damaged by RAF.
  2. 2.  RAF and Infantry working parties totalling 2000 men and 150 vehicles completed building of 30 pens for RAF in record time.
  3. 3.  Military damage and casualties nil.
  4. 4.  Major General R Mack Scobie arrived 6 August to take over GOC.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 AUGUST TO DAWN 9 AUGUST 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0930-1015 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept 30 approaching enemy fighters including ME 109s and Re 2001s.  Two Spitfires return early.  The remainder sight eight Macchi fighters.  Then two ME 109s are seen diving on three Spitfires as another six pass overhead.  Eight more Messerschmitts join the fight and the Spitfires spiral down towards the MEs.  P/O Jones fires a burst at 50 yards at a ME 109 which is chasing a Spitfire: the Messerschmitt turns into the sun and is seen spinning downwards, streaming glycol.  Sgt Beurling fires at a ME 109 which streams glycol and dives into the sea from 20000 feet.  Sgt Beurling is shot up and crash lands at Luqa; he is unhurt.  Sgt Budd attacks a ME 109, opening fire at 100 yards and hitting the starboard wing.  Sgt Budd is himself shot up and slightly wounded in the shoulder.  Three ME 109s are destroyed and another damaged.

1030-1115 hrs  Air raid alert.  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron patrol off Grand Harbour: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1215-1235 hrs  Air raid alert.

1626-1706 hrs  Two Spitfires Hal Far carry out a search.

1936-2027 hrs  Two Spitfires Hal Far patrol off the coast of Sicily in search of E boats: nothing sighted.

2145-2205 hrs  Air raid alert for a single aircraft which drops bombs in the sea north of Gozo.

Military casualties  Sergeant Clarence Kelly, Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 8 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Otus proceeded to bottoming berth at 0600, having discharged all cargo except five torpedoes. Minesweepers cut two mines while clearing special area. After dark, Otus completed unloading.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Catalina, two Beaufighters from Gibraltar; one DC3 from BilbeisDepartures  Four Hudsons, one Catalina to Gibraltar; one DC3 to Bilbeis; one Wellington to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire damaged in enemy action: pilot uninjured.  One Spitfire failed to return to base:pilot missing.

TA QALI  One ME 109 destroyed by P/O Jones, one by Sgt Beurling.  One ME 109 damaged by Sgt Budd.  Two Spitfires damaged.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 47.  Dealt with: 16 High Explosives, including 2 delayed-action (1 x 1800kg; 2 x 500kg; 6 x 250kg; 3 x 50kg; 3 x 35kg; 1 x 12kg); 127 anti-personnel bombs plus a few oil incendiaries.

(1)  An Irish Fusilier in Malta, BBC WW2 People’s War, contributed by IpswichMuseum.  WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar.

(2) Canadian Air Aces and Heroes, WWI, WWII and Korea

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed.  For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2017 in 1942, August 1942

 

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