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31 January 1942: Malta’s Aircraft “Outclassed by German Planes”

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COMMANDERS REPORT ON A STORMY JANUARY

ME 109 fighter aircraft

Enemy air activity by day was further intensified in January with 263 alerts compared to 159 in December.  Bombs were dropped on land during 54 raids.  30 or more aircraft took part in 10 of the raids; the heaviest attack – by 72 aircraft – was made on a convoy.

Enemy raiders had a lot in their favour during the month; frequent cloud cover prevented Hurricanes and searchlights from operating successfully at night.  Despite innumerable barrages the Ack Ack fire has had little success in bringing down enemy planes although on many occasions it has caused bombs to be dropped in non-target areas.  Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal have handled 100 reports of unexploded bombs (UXB) in January, and dealt with 50 UXB including 11 High Explosive bombs of 250kg and 21 of 500kg.

Enemy targets were either the Dockyard or the aerodromes and dispersal areas.  There were 36 attacks on aerodromes, evidently to silence Malta’s opposition to Axis convoys of reinforcements and supplies to Libya.  To an extent they were successful, as the largest enemy convoy yet seen in the Mediterranean reached Tripoli.

At the beginning of January the main target was Luqa and at the end of the month Hal Far.  There were also raids on Ta Qali and Kalafrana.  Damage has been extensive and a considerable number of aircraft have been damaged or destroyed on the ground.

Heavy rains renderied Ta Qali and Hal Far waterlogged for days at a time often grounding Malta’s aircraft, restricting offensive operations and preventing fighter scrambles against enemy raids.  Malta’s dispersal areas have not stood up well to the bad weather and enemy bombs have taken a heavy toll of our aircraft on the ground.  However, the Army have provided 2500 men to work on the aerodromes, improving existing dispersal areas and laying additional ones, together with new taxi-ways.  Aerodromes have seldom been made unserviceable through enemy action for more than a few hours.

When Malta’s air forces could operate they proved vastly inferior in speed to the ME 109 and heavy casualties were sustained as a result:

“…our planes are obviously outclassed by the German machines.  The German JU 88 has enough speed frequently to evade our fighters and even when engaged has proved to be so heavily armoured that it is difficult to bring down.  Enemy fighter planes are superior to ours both in speed and manoeuverability.  Our planes lack cannon fire power…Despite this the enemy has by no means obtained his objective of neutralising Malta.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN SATURDAY 31 JANUARY TO DAWN 1 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather  Cold south-west wind.  Storm conditions: thundery showers and hail at mid-day.  Improving later.

0812-0834 hrs  Two aircraft approach from the north, pass to the east of the Island and recede.

0855-0927 hrs  Two JU 88s, escorted by fighters, approach from the north west and drop bombs Qrendi area and between Ghaxaq and Sheleili Tower.  Heavy Ack Ack engage by barrage fire through 100% cloud.

0929-0947 hrs  Two ME 109s break back from the receding raid, cross the coast near St Paul’s Bay, are engaged by Heavy Ack Ack barrage and recede again.

1218-1302 hrs  Three JU 88s escorted by fighters cross the coast near Rabat and drop 20 bombs from north east corner of Hal Far to the Safi strip, where one aircraft is burned.  A bomb lands near a working party of 8th Bn Kings Own Royal Regt near Kirkop.  Private Gregory is injured in the leg by a bomb splinter and removed to hospital.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.

1359-1406 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north, turns at 25 miles from the Island and recedes.

1512-1521 hrs  Raid does not materialise.

1546-1645 hrs  Three JU 88 with six ME 109 as escort approach from the north and drop bombs in the Mellieha area.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1950-2023 hrs  Four bombers come in from the north, three of which cross the coast and drop bombs between Ta Qali and Imtarfa, setting telephone wires on fire, and on the northern end of Luqa airfield.  The remainder drop bombs in the sea before receding.  Heavy Ack Ack fire four barrages.

2138-2158 hrs  One bomber comes in from the north, crosses the coast west of Kalafrana and drops bombs near Zeitun church, and near Ghar Dalam HQ of 2nd Bn The Devonshire Regt. Three more aircraft cross the coast and drop bombs in St Julian’s Bay, Bighi Creek and Msida Creek.  One coal barge is sunk and one damaged.  HMS Sunset is hit by bomb splinters, with several casualties.

2229 hrs  Three bombers approach the Island and drop bombs in the sea.  No Hurricanes are airborne; Ack Ack guns do not engage.

2324-2338 hrs  One JU 88 attacks Hal Far, dropping five bombs and causing slight blast damage to the Officers’ Mess.  No casualties.

Military casualties:  Able Seaman Anthony Bajada, of Valletta, minesweeping drifter HMS Sunset, Aircraftsman I Robert Grierson, Royal Air Force; Private Charles Holford, 2nd Battalion, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment; Lt Edwin Cafiero, 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment.

Civilian casualties  St Julians Carmel Manicolo, age 55; Zejtun Anthony Farrugia, age 6; Antonia Zahra, age 6; Mary Zammit, age 30, John Mary Zammit, age 11; Joseph Zammit, age 1.

OPERATIONS REPORTS:  SATURDAY 31 JANUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Blenheims to Gibraltar. Departures  One Catalina to Lisbon.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Beaufighter photo-reconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes; one Maryland SF14 patrol; one Maryland SF15 patrol.  21 Squadron  Four Blenheims merchant vessel off Kuriat – no attack made.  156 Squadron  Five Wellingtons Tripoli; two Wellingtons shipping at Buerat.  S/D Flight  One Wellington special search.

TA QALI  Aerodrome unserviceable.  No scrambles at Luqa.  1905 hrs  Intruder raids by 1435 Malta Night Fighter Unit at night; from Luqa.  F/O Winton attacked a JU 88 over Comiso from 600 yards: believed damaged; had to break off owing to Ack Ack.  Attacked a car later which went into a ditch.  P/O Ruthie did not reach Catania owing to bad weather but attacked stationary motor transport with cannon – probably damaged.  F/Sgt Fowler and W/Cmdr Satchell proceeded on the raid but had to return owing to bad weather.  Operations suspended 0010 hrs.

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  HQ take posession of Bubaqra Tower, to be used as advance headquarters.

1st BN DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strength  Officers 34; Other Ranks 854; RAOC (attached) 5.

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Lieut Edwin Cafiero, 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment, died after being severely wounded in the accidental explosion of a shrapnel mine on 29th January.  1200 hrs KOMR moved from Tal Virtu area into Wardia area.  Battalion HQ at 36203095.  1935 hrs Mine exploded on the beach off MA1.

8TH BN KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  A Company at Ta Chircippu; B Company at Ta Salvatur; C Company at Ta Habluk; D Company at Tal Providence; HQ Company at Ta Salvatur. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2; not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

 

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Posted by on January 31, 2017 in 1942, January 1942

 

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25 January 1942: “A Bad Day” for Ta Qali

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Hal Far Under Attack (NWMA Malta)

Hal Far Under Attack (NWMA Malta)

  • 69 enemy aircraft attack Hal Far
  • Five Hurricanes and one Swordfish destroyed
  • One pilot killed
  • Five Hurricanes and one Fulmar damaged
  • Hal Far aerodrome heavily cratered
  • No enemy losses 

GOVERNOR PRAISES MALTESE RESPONSE TO RAIDS

In his report to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief Lt General Dobbie recognises the role of the Maltese in sustaining the Island during increased enemy action:  “Civil Defence Services have operated well and Demolition Squads and Air Raid Precautions have given general satisfaction.  Public also are bearing up well, although continuous raids are naturally subjecting them to strain.”

AIR RAIDS SUNDAY 25 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Wind south south-west.  70% cloud; fine.

0817 hrs  One aircraft patrols the Island.

0827-0841 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north, skirts the Island to the north west and patrols 20 miles south, then recedes north east.

1025 hrs  Fifteen Hurricanes are scrambled from Ta Qali and Hal Far to meet an incoming plot of four JU 88 bombers escorted by twelve ME 109 fighters.  Three Hurricanes return with mechanical trouble.

1030 hrs The remaining Hurricanes are jumped by ME 109s.  F/Lt Kee shoots all his ammunition into an ME 109 and chases it 20 miles north: no claim.  Sgt Alpe of 126 Squadron and P/O M Jones are shot up and ‘belly-land’ at Ta Qali: they receive minor injuries only.  P/Os Anderson, Blackburn and Sluggett all bale out and the latter two are taken to Imtarfa Hospital with injuries.  P/O Russell (126 Squadron) is missing, believed killed.  Heavy Ack Ack engages the bombers.

1053 hrs  The four JU 88s attack Hal Far leaving twenty craters on the aerodrome.  One Swordfish is burnt out and three damaged; one Fulmar and one Hurricane slightly damaged.  Casualties nil; superficial damage to buildings.

1115 hrs  Raiders passed.

1143-1220 hrs  Five aircraft, reported to be ME 109s, patrol to the east of the Island.  Two ME 109s attack HMS Abingdon which opens fire on them.  No Hurricanes are airborne; heavy Ack Ack guns do not engage.

1413-1507 hrs  Three JU 88s with eighteen ME 109s as escort approach the Island and drop bombs on Hal Far causing another seven craters and destroying one aircraft and damaging another; no casualties.  Two ME 109s attack HMS Abingdon which suffers casualties.  Heavy Ack Ack fire a barrage.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer John Russell, Royal Air Force (Volunteer Reserve), 126 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: SUNDAY 25 JANUARY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Glengyle and Rowallan Castle departed after dark, escorted by Force K: cruiser Penelope and destroyers Lance, Lively, Legion, Maori and Zulu to rendezvous with a convoy out of Alexandria.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Blenheims from El Adem.

HAL FAR  AM Seven Hurricanes (four of 185 Squadron and three of 605 Squadron) intercepted four JU 88s and twelve ME 109s.  One JU 88 was damaged.  One Hurricane crashed (pilot F/Lt Thompson injured) and two Hurricanes were damaged.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Beaufighter photo-reconnaissance (PR) Tripoli Harbour; one Hurricane PR Sicilian aerodromes and south west Sicily; one Maryland Cairo 1 patrol; one Maryland Cairo 2 patrol.

TA QALI  Church parade held: AOC attended.  Six Sergeants attached to this station from Luqa for fighter Blenheims.  Intruder raids: two flights made – aerodrome found in darkness.  Further operations suspended.  Total casualties:  seven Hurricanes, one pilot missing, three injured. No enemy claims.  A bad day.

1st BN CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Working party at Luqa aerodrome; now one officer and 140 Other Ranks daily.  This is liable to continue until some time in March.

11TH BN LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Working party at Luqa.

225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY 1400 hrs Gunner J Dowling interred at Military Cemetery, Imtarfa.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER  The Battalion played the Lancs Fusiliers at soccer at the Empire Stadium.  The Battalion lost 5 goals to 2.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 1(50kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

 

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Posted by on January 25, 2017 in 1942, January 1942, Uncategorized

 

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11 January 1942: Church Bells Warn of Invasion

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CHURCH BELLS SILENCED PENDING GENERAL ALARM

St Publius Church

Malta’s church bells will no longer signal the ‘All Clear’ but will instead only be used to raise a ‘General Alarm’, such as for an invasion.  Since the onset of war, bells have been silenced except when required for the war effort. 

The ‘Alert’ will now be signalled by a warbling note on a siren or the firing of three petards.  The ‘Raiders Passed’ signal will be a steady note from the siren.

ARMY LABOURS THROUGH HEAVY WEATHER

Army working parties are continuing the construction of dispersal facilities at Luqa and Safi, despite appalling weather conditions.  Heavy showers and gales are making the ground heavy to work and affecting progress on these essential facilities.

AIR RAIDS 0001 HRS TO 2359 HRS 11 JANUARY 1942

Weather   Cloudy, cold and windy; heavy showers.

0901-0904 hrs  Raid does not materialise.

0914-0940 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the south and drops bombs in the sea, receding before guns can engage.  Two Hurricanes give chase but do not make contact.

1247-1302 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and crosses the coast near Kalafrana, dropping bombs at Hal Far, Gudja and San Pietru where slight damage is caused at a Heavy Ack Ack (HAA) gun position.  HAA fire barrages.

1409-1429 hrs  Three bombers approach the Island from the north east but none crosses the coast.  Bombs are dropped in the sea ten miles east of the Island.

1517-1535 hrs  One JU 88 approaches from the north, crosses the coast near Dingli at 13000 feet, descends to 9000 feet and drops bombs on Luqa – causing no damage.  Heavy Ack Ack engages but a barrage is not possible due to friendly aircraft over Luqa.

Military casualties  CSM John Busuttil, 1st Bn, King’s Own Malta Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Luqa  Rosina Vella, age 47.

1615-1654 hrs  Raid does not materialise.

2252-2353 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and carries out a patrol to the east of the Island, dropping bombs in the sea.  Heavy Ack Ack fire immediate barrages.

Night  Two nuisance raids only. Bombs dropped in the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: SUNDAY 11 JANUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals two Beaufighters, one Blenheim from Gibraltar.  Departures: four Blenheims, one Beaufighter to 108 MU; two Blenheims to El Adem; one Catalina to Cairo.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF15 patrol.  40 Squadron  Five Wellingtons attacked shipping in Tripoli Harbour.

TA QALI  Aerodrome unserviceable: no scrambles.  61 airmen posted from Luqa for maintenance of fighter Blenheims.  Army exercise for defence posts asked for and arranged for 12 January.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3; not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

 

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Posted by on January 11, 2017 in 1942, January 1942, Uncategorized

 

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8 January 1942: Bomb Disposal Team Tackles 450 Anti-personnel Bombs

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COMPOSITE SUMMARY OF ARMY BOMB DISPOSAL WORK IN MALTA FOR THE PERIOD 30 JUNE TO 30 SEPTEMBER 1941

Lt G D Carroll (l) and men of RE Bomb Disposal Section, Malta

Army Bomb Disposal Establishment:  One Officer, 20 Other Ranks, Royal Engineers

  • Total unexploded bombs dealt (UXB) with during period: 584
  • Including High explosives (50-500kg) 36; Incendiary 94; Anti-personnel (Thermos)  454
  • No of excavations: 8 (max depth 18 feet; max offset 8 feet)

SUPPLIES FOR MALTA

The fast transport ship Glengyle arrives after a trouble-free run from Alexandria, carrying interim supplies of fuel, food and ammunition for Malta.

AIR RAIDS 0001 HRS TO 2359 HRS 8 JANUARY 1942

Weather cold but fair.

0250-0709 hrs  Four aircraft approach from the North East and patrol round the Island.  One aircraft crosses the coast near Hal Far at 4000 feet and drops bombs on Qrendi Landing Strip near defence posts of the Kings Own Malta Regiment.  Aircraft on patrol are within range on three occasions.  Heavy Ack Ack engages by immediate barrage.  One aircraft patrols near sea level in for 1½  hours; Bofors engage the aircraft in the Kalafrana-Hal Far areas.

0925 hrs Aircraft are scrambled from Ta Qali.

0930-1010 hrs  Two JU 88s escorted by 25 fighters approach from the north.  The fighter escort remains to the west and south east of the Island.  The JU 88 came in over Delimara and dropped bombs on Luqa.  14 houses demolished.  16 Hurricanes airborne – these remain over shipping convoy out to sea.  Heavy  Ack Ack engaged.

Civilian casualties  Luqa  Mary Camenzuli, age 78; Joseph Penza, age 71; Josephine Psaila, age 24; Teresa Sammut, age 68; Peter Vella, age 60.

1154-1207 hrs  Air raid warning.  Raid does not materialise.

1230-1239 hrs  Air raid warning.  Aircraft identified as friendly.

1357-1414 hrs  Raid does not materialise.

1809-1909 hrs  Six aircraft approach from the north but only one JU 88 crosses the coast east of Grand Harbour.  It approaches Luqa but is turned away by gunfire, dropping three unexploded bombs west of Qormi and a further stick in the sea south of Lapsi.  Heavy Ack Ack engages.  A second JU 88 approaches from the south east and drops bombs on Delimara Point, then recedes.

Night  No raids.  Believed due to bogged conditions of Sicilian aerodromes and enemy preoccupation with reinforcements for Tripoli. Local gales prevented Wellingtons operating from Luqa.

Military casualties  Sergeant Sidney Goldsmith, Royal Air Force, 59 Squadron; Sergeant Robert Jones, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR), 59 Squadron; Sergeant Thomas Stott, Royal Air Force (VR), 59 Squadron, Douglas Williams, Royal Air Force.  Gunner Alfred Goldsmith, 74th Light Ack Ack Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: THURSDAY 8 JANUARY 1942

HMS Glengyle

ROYAL NAVY  Arrivals  Glengyle and Force C: Lance, Lively, Jaguar and Havock.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Hudsons, one Wellington, one Whitney from Gib. Departures: six Blenheims, nine Hudsons to 108 MU; two Wellingtons to Mersa Matruh; one Whitley to Kabrit.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Beaufighter photo-reconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes; one Maryland SF14 patrol; one Maryland SF15 patrol; one Maryland SF6 patrol. 18 Squadron  One Blenheim special search.

TA QALI  Aerodrome [conditions] improving.  100 airmen took over billets in Mosta: Officers moved in and filled up Torri Cumbo (dispersal of troops).  Delivery Flight ceased to operate at Ta Qali: 24 airmen of Delivery Flight returned to Luqa.

1st BN CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Approximately four Ack Ack machine guns per Company were kept mounted in case of dive-bombing attacks, but nothing beyond the normal bombing was encountered.  During the morning there was one bombing raid on Luqa.  No aircraft were shot down.

1st BN DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  0800 hrs  B Company in re-occupation of Bir Miftub position.  1500 hrs  B Company withdrawn to billets.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; dealt with (1 x 70kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

.

(1) UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010

 

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Posted by on January 8, 2017 in 1942, January 1942

 

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17 March 1941: Malta Needs Fighters More Than Ack Ack Guns

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More fighters needed to repel raids

More fighters needed to repel raids

ONLY AN IMPROVED FIGHTER FORCE CAN PROTECT THE AIRFIELDS

Increased ground defences will not be enough to protect the airfields without an increase in fighter strength, says Malta’s Commander in Chief. Responding to the Chief of Imperial General Staff about the effectiveness of light automatic machine guns against attacks (maltagc70, 15 March), Lt General Sir William Dobbie stressed again the need for more, and better performing, fighter aircraft as “the only satisfactory solution” to ensure the security of the aerodromes.  He also reminded the War Office that balloon barrages and RAF PAC Units (1) originally destined for Malta’s airfields had been diverted elsewhere.

Ground defences of the aerodromes and flying boat bases are currently: Hal Far Bofors 4, light automatics 20; Luqa Bofors 6, light automatics 31; Ta Qali Bofors 5, light automatics 27; Marsaxlokk (Kalafrana) Bofors 10, light automatics 29. It is believed that the effectiveness of the light automatics could be enhanced by the use armour-piercing ammunition (apparently none is currently available). 

However, Lt Gen Dobbie concludes: “after all, the only satisfactory solution is a greatly increased force of fighter aircraft with adequate performance. I have pressed for this and trust the War Office will press this claim.  Unless and until it is provided, an adequate deterrent cannot be expected, and Malta cannot play its part as a naval and air base.” 

Six Hurricanes have arrived in Malta from the Middle East to reinforce 261 Squadron but the Island’s fighter force is still only a fraction of strength of Luftwaffe attacks. Only a week ago (maltagc70, 7 March) Malta’s Air Officer Commanding, Air Vice-Marshal Maynard, stated that without an increased fighter force he cannot protect the Sunderland and Wellington bomber squadrons based in Malta.

The initial reply from the War Office made no comment on the prospect of further fighters, concentrating remarks on ground defences:

“Experience shows that the Bofors, particularly used with a predictor, is the most effective weapon against the dive-bomber. We request confirmation of this, or otherwise.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 MARCH TO DAWN 18 MARCH 1941

Weather  Cold and wet, with some bright spells.

1036-1050 hrs, 1200-1214 hrs  Air raid alerts for approaching enemy aircraft which turn away without crossing the coast. Malta fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

1800-1811 hrs; 0238-0249 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 17 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ 0730-1215 hrs 69 Squadron  Maryland photoreconnaissance Naples Harbour. Three convoys heading for harbour.  

HAL FAR 830 Squadron Operational flight against Tripoli postponed owing to bad weather.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Anti-tank screen demonstration by 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Snipers course at Pembroke Ranges.

 (1) parachute and cable

 

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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in 1941, March 1941

 

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