Tag Archives: Unbeaten Upholder

25 June 1941: Malta Attacks to Stop Axis Convoy ‘At All Costs’

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  • Today seven enemy fighters were shot down by Hurricanes and one Italian bomber badly damaged
  • HM Submarine Osiris departed Gibraltar with 70 tons of fuel for Malta


Malta’s Royal Navy and RAF commanders received urgent orders today to stop an enemy convoy ‘at all costs’. Intelligence reports had been received in London of a fast German troop convoy consisting of four large liners as well as merchant ships heading out of Naples for North Africa.  In a combined sea and air operation HM Submarines Urge, Unbeaten and Upholder were immediately sent to intercept while  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm were also ordered in to the attack, followed by RAF Blenheim low-level torpedo bombers. 

Neptunia SS Italian

SS Neptunia

In view of recent Blenheim losses, 69 Squadron was also asked to assist in the attack. The Maryland reconnaissance squadron was given the task of dive-bombing the convoy to cause a distraction and enable the main attack to be pressed home.  Four Marylands spent this morning practising over Filfla; the aircraft of Flt/Lt Warburton was damaged in the exercise.

A group of Marylands took off from Malta this afternoon to shadow the convoy. The 13 Swordfish of 830 Squadron FAA followed at 6pm and used the Marylands to locate their target.  A second flight of four Marylands took off ahead of the Blenheims to launch the main night attack on the convoy. 

At dusk four Marylands launched their bombs on the liners Esperia, Marco Polo, Oceania, and Neptunia south of Messina.  Seven of the Swordfish followed in with torpedoes, scoring two hits on a merchant ship.  Escorting Axis ships launched a fierce barrage: one Swordfish and one Maryland are reported missing.  The submarines surfaced nearby in earshot of the engagement but visibility prevented them from closing for an attack.  One merchant vessel was seen burning amidships and the convoy turned away towards Taranto.


Weather  Hot and sunny.

0856-0927 hrs  Air raid alert for an Italian SM 79 bomber escorted by 15 Macchi 200 fighters which crosses the Island, apparently on reconnaissance, at 21000 feet.  Nine Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders at great height, 20 miles south of Delimara.  The bomber is hit and damaged, its undercarriage drops and a stream of oil is seen from the aircraft.  Three Macchi 200s are shot down. The rest of the raiders are chased out almost to Cape Passero.  An SOS is picked up, stating “Macchi 200 fallen into the sea 11 miles south of Cape Religione; go immediately.”  Wreckage is seen in the sea 20 miles north-east of St Paul’s Bay.  One heavy anti-aircraft gun fires a pointer round; no claims.

1345-1349 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft which approach to within 3 miles of Grand Harbour before turning away to the north.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled but unable to intercept because the leader cannot reach the altitude of the enemy in his aircraft.

2210-2310 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island from the north, unobserved by early warning systems. Bombs are dropped on San Pietru and in the sea north east of St Paul’s Bay. The air raid alert then sounds.  During the raid several Malta aircraft depart on offensive operations, their navigation lights on and landing lights on the aerodrome exposed.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raider; no claims.

2321-2338 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which drops bombs in the sea off St Thomas’ Bay before receding northwards.

0141-0158 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses the coast to the south east of Grand Harbour and drops 500lb high explosive bombs on Zeitun.

0238-0349 hrs Air raid alert for five enemy aircraft which approach singly from the north, on the same course as Wellington bombers of 148 Squadron flying in from the Middle East, two hours ahead of schedule.   100lb and 500lb high explosive bombs are dropped between Safi, on the road between Zurrieq and Qrendi, on Zabbar, and the sea 15 miles east of Grand Harbour, off Filfla and in St Thomas’ Bay.  The night Hurricanes are scrambled and engage on two occuasions; no claims.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant D A R Holmes, pilot, 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm, HMS St Angelo; Leading Airman J R Smith, 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm, HMS St Angelo; Bombardier James T Skinner, 4th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery.


NAVY  Important transport convoy of four large liners departed Naples; sighted south of Messina and attacked at dusk by 4 Maryland aircraft with bombs and 2 Swordfish of 830 Squadron with torpedoes.  2 hits claimed; one merchant vessel was seen burning amidships, and the convoy turned towards Taranto. 1 Swordfish (crew S/Lt Holmes and L/A Smith) and 1 Maryland failed to return.

AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron 3 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance.  Photos of Castel Benito show 45 bombers, 22 fighters and 8 transport aircraft; at Mallaha 6 fighters and 2 bombers; at Palermo 14 fighters, 2 transport aircraft; at Trapani 18 fighters. 

TA QALI  Hurricane caught fire during refuelling (fire extinguished); cause so far unknown.


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Posted by on June 25, 2021 in 1941, June 1941


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