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12 April 1942: Grand Harbour – “Nothing Left to Bomb”

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  • Talabot and Essex ablaze
  • 90% of convoy supplies destroyed
  • Enemy fighters aim to wipe out defences
  • German airman talks

DOCKYARD DEVASTATION

The War Diary of the Mediterranean Fleet today reported that there are no primary targets left in Grand Harbour for the enemy to bomb. In the Dockyard only underground workshops can operate normally.  All the docks have been damaged, electricity supplies and telephone lines are largely out of action.

Talabot hit

Two ships in Grand Harbour were hit by enemy bombs and set on fire today: cruiser HMS Essex and SS Talabot, one of the last two survivors of the recent convoy.  The merchant ship had already been scuttled after being bombed on 26 March and her crew taken off.

The final results of the recent convoy are very disappointing: despite round the clock efforts by Army labour as well as Dockyard stevedores, only 1800 tons of supplies have been saved from destruction – representing ten per cent of the total embarked for Malta two weeks ago. Nevertheless the ships have still managed to deliver some of their cargo of bombs.  They will soon be carried by RAF bombers to unleash over the German air base at Trapani. (1)

VIEW FROM THE ENEMY

Having failed to destroy Talabot and Pampas before they reached Grand Harbour, Luftwaffe pilots have been told they “must to be sunk, no matter what the cost” – a stark reference to the recent losses of German air crews and aircraft to Malta’s fighters and heavy defensive fire.

Heinrich Hübner was Observer on a JU 88 bomber, among the massed formations, hundreds of aircraft, now attacking Malta daily. He remembers little details with remarkable clarity: a man on a bicycle on the open area in front of the Governor’s Palace, dashing into a narrow ally; clusters of people looking up at the aircraft, the flashes from the guns on a British cruiser and the illuminated faces of the Gunners whose courage and accuracy he admired.

ENEMY FIGHTERS’ AIM: WIPE OUT DEFENCES

A new and dangerous pattern has emerged for enemy air raids on Malta.  As reported on Friday (maltagc70.com 10 April), yellow-nosed Messerschmitt fighters had been reported machine-gunning defensive gun positions some time before raids on Grand Harbour and Ta Qali.  Observers report the tactic has now been extended, with significant numbers of fighters approaching airfield defences to clear a path for their bombers to attack.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 APRIL TO DAWN 13 APRIL 1942

Weather  Wind north west; 50% medium cloud.

1215 hrs  43 JU 88s and 10 JU 87s with fighter escort approach Malta in several formations, dividing to attack Grand Harbour, Ta Qali, Luqa and Hal Far.  Heavy Ack Ack destroy one JU 87 and damage two JU 88s.  Several high explosive bombs are dropped on Floriana: five in Gunlayer Square, one on New St, one in First St, one in St Publius St.

1216-1330 hrs  35 JU 88s dive-bomb Luqa runways and dispersal areas.  Two Wellingtons are burned out.

1226 hrs  Four ME 109s attack Hal Far.  One Hurricane is burned out.  Ten JU 88s with fighter escort dive-bomb Hal Far, severely damaging Officers’ quarters and other buildings.  One bus, two lorries and a car are badly damaged.  One fire pump is destroyed and a fire tender badly damaged.

1230-1245 hrs  Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage one JU 88 and two ME 109s.  A/Sgt Evans is injured by the nose cap from a Heavy Ack Ack shell and is taken to hospital.  One gun is damaged by an exploding bomb.  Nine JU 88s and one ME 109 are engaged, with seven hits on five enemy aircraft.  2nd Bn Devonshire Regt fire 144 Bren magazines and 70 Lewis magazines at enemy aircraft.  B Company claims a hit on the cockpit of one ME 109, which crashes a mile out to sea.

1230 hrs  A number of ME 109s machine-gun Ta Qali: one starter trolley is burned out and one Spitfire slightly damaged.

1235-1250 hrs  Twenty JU 88s repeatedly bomb Safi strip and Bir Miftuh Church area.

1245 hrs  Guns of HQ Company 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment hit two JU 88s, parts fall from the wings of one aircraft and it is observed crashing into the sea.  The engine of the other JU 88 was seen to be smoking. D Company also claim hits on a JU 88.  Bombs are dropped between HQ Company and Zurrieq.

1425 hrs  All clear.

1744 hrs   ME 109s machine-gun the Luqa area and gun positions at Benghaisa, Hagiar Qim and Salina.  Total casualties:  four Other Ranks seriously wounded; 10 Other Ranks slightly wounded.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack and small arms engage: two JU 88s and three JU 87s are destroyed.  One JU 88 is seen crashing into the sea.

60 JU 88s approach the Island in formations of 12 each.  Two formations of ten JU 88s attack Luqa, cratering the runway and destroying one Wellington under repair.  The other three attack Ta Qali, Hal Far and Grand Harbour.  Twenty JU 87s follow in and also attack Grand Harbour.

1746 hrs  Attack on Grand Harbour: SS Talabot is hit and set on fire.  Buildings of 4 Platoon, 1 Bn Cheshire Regt at Rinella are badly damaged.  B Company considers move of two platoons to Polverista Gate.  The Naval Canteen in the Dockyard is damaged by bombs.

1800 hrs  Nine JU 88s drop 35 bombs on Ta Qali aerodrome, causing craters on the runway.  The aerodrome is still serviceable with care.

1807 hrs  11 JU 88s drop bombs on Kirkop, Safi and Mqabba areas.  Bombs on Ta Liebru area kill one Other Rank of 1st Bn Hampshire Regt and wound another.  One stick of bombs does not explode.

1849 hrs  All clear.

2059-2155 hrs  Three enemy bombers operating singly drop bombs near Kalafrana and on land and in the sea near Delimara.  One aircraft drops bombs in the sea north of Gozo.

Night  2 raids only by Italian BR 20 aircraft: night fighters cause them to jettison bombs.

2200-2225 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne on patrol: no engagement.

0024-0048 hrs  One enemy aircraft approaches but is driven away by Heavy Ack Ack.  It returns later and drops bombs on the Marsa area.

0048-0330 hrs  One Beaufighter on interceptions: no engagement.

Military casualties  Sergeant Robert Chinnock, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Msida  Emmanuel Agius, age 7.  Qormi  Joseph Scicluna, age 53.  Zejtun  Vincent Ellul, age 67.  Gozo (Xaghra)  Carmelo Azzopardi, age 17.

Enemy casualties  Waldemar Kremin.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 12 APRIL 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Una returned from patrol off Spartivento having sunk one 8000 ship.  Talabot again hit by a bomb.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Spitfires PRU from Gibraltar.  Departures  Four Wellingtons, three Hudsons to 108 MU.

TA QALI  Aerodrome still serviceable but extensive repairs proceeding.  No night operations.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Sunday and a holiday.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1500 hrs  Corporal Evans is buried at Imtarfa Cemetery.  1505 hrs  Two UXBs are reported area 525183.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Work on aerodromes continued.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 8 (3  x 500kg,3 x 250kg, 2 x 50kg).

1st BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT One Other Rank killed and one wounded by bombs on Ta Liebru.

2nd BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Bombs in Battalion area.

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  2100 hrs  A Company, 3rd Bn report an unexploded bomb at MR 439176.

11th BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Day  Fairly heavy raid; bombs in this area, Hamrun: houses damaged.

2nd BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Near miss on LQ 10 renders the post unusable: weapons are moved to an alternative position.

 (1)  Adapted from ‘Menn uten Medaljer’, A H Rasmussen, by www.warsailors.com.

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

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Posted by on April 12, 2017 in 1942, April 1942

 

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26 March 1942: Malta’s Most Intense Raid to Date – Floriana a Furnace

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“Never during the War years was I overtaken by fear more than on the night of the 26th March 1942” (1)

  • Massed air raids on shipping in Grand Harbour
  • Plumleaf, Talabot, Pampas hit as well as Sliema Ferry
  • Breconshire hit again – on fire amidships
  • Targets outside harbour badly damaged – Marsa HAA gun position hit
  • Four JU 88s and three JU 87s destroyed; many more damaged
Talabot is hit (NWMA Malta)

Talabot is hit (NWMA Malta)

LUFTWAFFE PINPOINT BOMBING DESTROYS SHIPS IN GRAND HARBOUR

For nearly six hours today, 120 enemy bombers accompanied by massed fighters attacked in wave after wave, dropping over 350 high explosive (HE) bombs of 250kg and 500kg on ships, docks and gun positions in Grand Harbour and 40 more on Breconshire in Marsaxlokk Bay.

“Unfortunately on this day the German Air Force achieved a degree of accuracy with their bombing which they had never attained either before or since.  Talabot, Pampas and Plumleaf were all hit in a single raid and in the evening Breconshire too was hit and set on fire.

By the evening with Legion sunk, Penelope badly damaged and a large part of the small craft in the harbour sunk or out of action from near misses it was felt that there was little further injury that the enemy could do…Talabot which caught fire and blazed furiously as a result of her hit, had to be scuttled to avoid her cargo of ammunition exploding.  All her holds were flooded and the ship was aground with her gunwale just above water…” (2)

FLORIANA IS A FURNACE

“The odds were that the Talabot with considerable ammunition in its holds would, at any time, explode and damage would have been terrific.  The tragic situation was communicated to us in Floriana with strict instructions to evacuate all in Floriana residing in …the part overlooking the Grand Harbour where the Talabot was anchored.

At sunset Floriana became immersed in a reddish glow, deepening into an inferno-like colour as night set in.  All the surrounding areas in the Grand Harbour assumed a reddish incandescence: the skies were red, the sea was red; red prevailed everywhere – such a scene was never witnessed before.  In the meantime flames were still belching from the Talabot, uncontrolled, and presaging doom.  Floriana looked like a furnace!

As soon as orders for evacuation reached us we [advised] the people to leave their houses and their shelters, move to the northern area and use what shelter space was available.  Many obeyed; others did not as they preferred to watch the flaming scene from vantage points without realising the danger they were exposing themselves to, should the ship explode and blow up vast areas in Valletta, Floriana, Marsa and the three cities.” (1)

“Pampas” ablaze (NWMA Malta)

Desperate attempts to unload the two merchant ships, Talabot and Pampas, were hampered by conditions in the harbour and the constant heavy bombing of ships, docks and salvage equipment.  By the end of today, of the convoy escort which accompanied the supply ships to Malta, HM Ships Legion and Southwold were sunk, Kingston further damaged by bombs and Penelope has serious structural damage from near misses.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 MARCH TO DAWN 27 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south; 100% low cloud.

0700 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north east but recedes before crossing the coast.

1022-1610 hrs  68 enemy aircraft – JU 87s, JU 88s and ME 109s – attack Grand Harbour.  Fighters destroy two JU 87s and two JU 88s, and damage one JU 87 and three JU 88.  One JU 88 is shot down in south Comino Channel and four German prisoners are captured in Gozo.  Ack Ack destroy one JU 88.

1210 hrs  S/L Gracie leading six Spitfires from Luqa attacks a JU 88 and sees strikes.  He himself is them jumped and his aircraft is damaged.  P/O Ormerod in a Hurricane chases a JU 88 through the barrage; his aircraft is damaged and he returns to Luqa.

1230 hrs  Talabot is hit by a 500kg bomb which explodes in the engine room, which starts to fill with oil; a large fire breaks out.  Firefighters and crew of other ships join the efforts to control the blaze while enemy bombs continue to fall close to the ship.  Both pumps in No 2 fire float and one in No 1 float are put out of action by the near miss.

Plumleaf at Parlatorio receives a direct hit and is sunk.  Tug West Cocker at Boiler Wharf is damaged and starts taking water. Front walls and doors in B and C Yards, Marsa are demolished with some damage to lighters.

High explosive bombs hit dockyard buildings and wharves.  The verandah and structure of 10-14 Stores on Stores Wharf and No 2 Caisson are damaged; the south end of No 8 Store demolished.  The north end of Hamilton Wharf is badly shaken. No 3 Boiler Shop entrance doors and offices are smashed by blast. Crane No 623 and  2/3 Dock Pumping Station are damaged. Explosions cause a large crater in front of No 1 Boiler Shop and others on Canteen Wharf and the Scrap Ground.

1335 hrs  Four Spitfires are scrambled from Luqa.  Sgt Brennan damages a JU 88.

1400 hrs  A stick of bombs falls close to PampasLuqa Spitfire P/O McNair gets on its tail and despatches it.  F/L Johnston damages two JU 87s – both probably destroyed.  F/L Connell severely damages a JU 87 and a JU 88.  P/O McNair destroys a JU 88.

1430 hrs  A 500kg bomb falls down the funnel of Pampas and explodes, flooding the engine room and starting a fire amidships.

1550 hrs  The drowned body of German pilot Winkler is discovered by 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment, washed ashore near Wied Zurrieq.  They also find some naval garments washed ashore at Wied Zurrieq and Ghar Lapsi.

Six Hurricanes from Hal Far are airborne to intercept a formation of JU 88s and JU 87s.  Hurricanes attack the bombers over Kalafrana and later over Grand Harbour.  Sgt Steele (cannon) accounts for one JU 88.  Sgt Broad hits two JU 88s.  F/Sgt Fletcher scores hits on two JU 88s, one ME 109 and one JU 87.

1632 hrs  A raid in three waves:  50 JU 88s drop bombs on Grand Harbour: Penelope is near missed and flooded forward; tug Ancient is hit and beached; submarine P39’s back is broken;  Sokol is near missed; Legion sunk; Avonvale hit (damage not very serious).

10 JU 88s attack Breconshire in Marsaxlokk Bay.  The ship is hit, causing a fire on board.  Fighters and Ack Ack engage.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack destroy one JU 87 and two JU 88s, and damage others.

1725 hrs  F/L Connell (Ta Qali) damages a JU 88.  Sgt Brennan damages a JU 88.

1730 hrs  225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage two JU 88s: one hit claimed.  Post SA4 of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt engages two JU 88s, expending two magazines.

1740 hrs  225 LAA engage three JU 88s: one gun claims four hits.  One gun and personnel transfers to the Nigret area.

1750 hrs  P/O McNair (Ta Qali) damages two JU 88s.

1808 hrs  Bombs land near Fort Ta Silch.

1815 hrs  Bombs are dropped near Hamria.

1915-1930 hrs  An enemy flying boat carries out rescue work to the north of the Island.

2230 hrs  Enemy boats are reported 12 miles south east of the Island.  Beach Companies are warned to keep a strict look-out.

Night 26/27th  No enemy aircraft activity although E Boats are plotted off E coast of the Island. The fire on Talabot is contained but the blaze on Breconshire is getting out of control.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Alfred Keylock, Mentioned in Despatches, HMS Avonvale; Able Seaman Albert Bowman, HMS Avondale; Able Seaman James Warwick, HMS Legion; Able Seaman Ernest Lynch, HMS Avonvale.

Civilian casualties  Balzan  Valent Sammut, age 33.  Mosta  Alfred St John, age 2.  Sliema  Carmel Coppola, age 50; Doris Coppola, age 17; Herman Mifsud, age 42.  St Paul’s Bay  Rita Vella, age 6.

Enemy casualties  Paul Winkler.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 26 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Upholder  returned from patrol, having sunk a U boat and trawler off Brindisi and missed a battleship off Taranto owing to very heavy weather and zig-zag on firing.

AIR HQ  Departures  Five Beaufighters, two Blenheims, eight Wellingtons to 108 MU; one Wellington to Shalufa.

HAL FAR  828 and 830 Squadrons amalgamated as Naval Air Squadron, Malta on instructions from Vice Admiral Malta, pending Admiralty confirmation.  PM  One Albacore on shipping search.  Nothing sighted.

LUQA  0753-1545 hrs  One Maryland 69 Squadron special search.

TA QALI  No night operations. 

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  A Company proceeds from Boschetto Gardens to camp at the Pumping Station between Rabat and Dingli.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  CO attends funeral of SSO1.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Working party at Ta Qali aerodrome.

2ND BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A and B Companies changed over: A Company to Marsa, B Company to Luqa.  Private Ryan wounded at Luqa by enemy action.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 22.

(1) Floriana in Wartime, Emanuel S Tonna, Malta 1969

(2)  War Diary, Vice Admiral Malta, March 1942

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

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2017 in 1942, March 1942, Uncategorized

 

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23 March 1942: Malta Convoy Under 9 Hour Attack – Only 2 Ships Reach Harbour

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CONVOY FIGHTS ITS WAY INTO GRAND HARBOUR

SS Talabot (Times of Malta)

Having changed course frequently in an attempt to avoid detection by the enemy, Convoy MW 10 was unable to reach Grand Harbour under cover of darkness this morning as planned.  Approaching the Island in broad daylight, the convoy of four freighters – Breconshire, Clan Campbell, Pampas and Talabot – and their protective force headed for Malta.  From dawn onwards they were under constant air attack by a determined Luftwaffe.  Malta’s fighters put up a strong resistance against a total enemy force of 62 JU 88 bombers and 25 ME 109 fighters.

Only Pampas and Talabot made it safely into Grand Harbour; Clan Campbell was sunk and Breconshire disabled by Luftwaffe attacks.  Chiefs of Staff have reluctantly concluded that until Malta’s air space is safe no further convoys can be planned.  Without essential supplies, the Island will be unable to feed or defend itself.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 MARCH TO DAWN 24 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south and squally; 100% low cloud – visibility poor.

0514-1423 hrs  62 JU 88s with an escort of 25 ME 109s attack the convoy as it approaches Malta and within Grand Harbour.

Hurricanes and Spitfires are airborne almost continuously from dawn until dusk, carrying out 42 sorties.  F/Lt Lawrence and Sgt Broad 185 Squadron destroy a Heinkel He111.  Sgt Horricks and Sgt Eastman 185 Squadron probably destroy a JU 88.  S/Ldr Mortimer-Rose, Sgt Eastman, P/O Wigley, F/Sgt Fletcher 185 Squadron and two pilots of 249 Squadron damage four JU 88s.  Sgt Ellis, P/O Noble and P/O Beckett score hits on two other JU 88s.  Many others are hit and forced to jettison their bombs.  Two JU 88s are damaged by Anti-Aircraft fire and others by HM ships.

PM  There is continuous Ack Ack fire out to sea but owing to bad visibility enemy planes are not visible.

0815 hrs  Talabot comes within sight of land, welcomed by two Hurricane fighters sent out to meet her.  Within half a mile of harbour she is attacked by a ME 109 but undamaged.

0915 hrs  Talabot enters Grand Harbour followed by Pampas, surviving another Messerschmitt attack in which four gunners are wounded.  Word has spread of the convoy’s arrival and cheering Maltese crowd the bastions to welcome the two freighters, with destroyers Kingston and Havock – both damaged yesterday en route to Malta – as they cruise into harbour.

HMS Breconshire

0920 hrs   Breconshire is in sight of Delimara Point when she is attacked by ME 109s with bombs and machine-gunfire.

0936 hrs  A JU 88 aims a bomb at Breconshire which explodes under the ship, stopping her engines.

1000 hrs  Another JU 88 aims bombs at Breconshire, causing further damage.  In the heavy swell, the ship begins to drift.

1020 hrs  Still 20 miles from Malta, the slower merchant vessel Clan Campbell is severely damaged by a dive-bombing attack.

1100 hrs  Clan Campbell sinks with the loss of her Captain and five hands.  The destroyer Legion is badly damaged.

1200 hrs  Efforts to bring Breconshire into port have to be abandoned: the weather is too rough for towing or disembarkation.  The ship, passengers and crew have to sit at anchor off Zonkor Point awaiting a tow.  One gun and crew of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery is transferred to Zonkor Point to provide protective cover.

Night 23/24th  Weather and visibility bad: no enemy action.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant Basil Rivers, Mentioned in Despatches, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS St.Angelo; Ordinary Seaman Norman McLeod, HMS Beaufort; Petty Officer John Blue, HMS Carlisle; Able Seaman J Hulme, HMS Havock; Able Seaman Arthur Adaway, HMS Kingston; Sub-Lieutenant John Carter, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS Kingston; Able Seaman John Jordan, HMS Kingston; Leading Stoker Joseph Strange, HMS Kingston; Able Seaman George Querstret, HMS Kingston.  Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Cherry, Royal Artillery, attached to Malta Territorial Force; Gunner William Griffiths, 4th Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties   Kalkara  Agostino Mintoff, age 16.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 23 MARCH 1942

HAL FAR  Eight Hurricanes 185 Squadron from Hal Far are airborne on convoy patrol.  Fifteen pilots patrol in pairs from dawn to dusk.  PM  One Albacore despatched on shipping search: nothing sighted.  Owing to bad weather the aircraft landed in the sea.  Pilot Lt Head is saved but two others, S/L Rivers and L/A Tuttle are lost.

LUQA  No operations.

TA QALI  Orderly room established in St Edward’s College with accounts and Guard Room.  No operations: runway only is serviceable.  Salvage work proceeding.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  Convoy arrives from Mid East bringing reinforcements:  11th  Lancs Fusiliers one Officer; 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regt, five Officers; 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry eight Officers, 92 Other Ranks.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Convoy brings Officer reinforcements for Brigade as follows:  4 Buffs eight; 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers ten; 8th Bn Manchester Regt five.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT 1000 hrs  Gas masks worn for one hour.  1400 hrs  All Companies did weekly cross country run.  Heavy cloud during the day.

2ND BN THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Seven Officers joint the Battalion from the convoy.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  0400 hrs  Duty Officer warned that ‘A’ Company was arriving by convoy early in the morning.  By 1200 hrs two Officers and 40 Other Ranks had joined the Battalion in camp.  The remainder of the Company were on board Breconshire which had stopped ten miles out to sea owing to engine trouble.  The seven Other Ranks killed in the air raid on 21st March were buried in the Imtarfa Hospital Cemetery.

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Seven Officers arrived in Malta and were taken on strength.

225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY  One gun and personnel are transferred to Zonkor Point to protect shipping.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 23.

 

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Posted by on March 23, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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