Tag Archives: Upholder

3 December 1941: Malta Flying Ace Awarded DFC

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Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)


London Gazette, December 1941: Distinguished Flying Cross

“This officer has been engaged on operations almost since the war began.  He served with a fighter squadron in the Middle East theatre of war until June, 1940, when he returned to this country and took part in the Battle of Britain.  In July, 1941, Squadron Leader Powell Shedden was posted to Malta where he formed the night flying unit which has since performed sterling work in the night defence of Malta.  By his great and energetic organising ability, together with his courage and initiative in the air, Squadron Leader Powell Shedden has contributed materially to the successes obtained.  He has destroyed at least 5 enemy aircraft 3 of which were during the Battle of Britain.”

Squadron Leader Powell Shedden is to be promoted to Acting Wing Commander with effect from 4 December 1941.


2110 hrs  Air raid alarm.  One unidentified enemy aircraft, probably Italian piloted German aircraft off its course crossed the coast near Delimara.  No engagement took place as it was thought the aircraft might try and land but it receded north.


HMS Olympus takes in supplies in Manoel Creek

ROYAL NAVY  Olympus sailed for Gibraltar with stores and passengers.  Upholder returned from patrol off Colonne, having unsuccessfully attacked returning cruisers and Mantovani

HAL FAR: No enemy air activity – conditions bad.

LUQA:  All operations cancelled (owing to bad weather).

 FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with (12 x Thermos).



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Posted by on December 3, 2016 in 1941, December 1941


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20 September 1941: Submarine Raid on Axis Troopship Threatens Libya Campaign

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Neptunia and Oceania

Neptunia and Oceania

Submarines of 10th Flotilla returned to base at Manoel Island today from their most successful attack to date on Axis convoys.  Flotilla Commander George W G Simpson received information on 17 September from British intelligence that a fast convoy of transport ships was heading out of Taranto towards Tripoli, carrying troop reinforcements for the German Afrika Korps.  Submarines Ursula, Unbeaten, Upholder and Upright were ordered to put out immediately. 

Early next morning off Misurata Unbeaten located the convoy of three 20000 ton troop ships, Oceania, Neptunia and Vulcania, escorted by five Italian destroyers. Upholder fired four torpedoes: two hit Neptunia tearing large hole in her side, and one hit Oceania, destroying her propellers. The submarine then dived to evade counter-attack.  While the escorting destroyers closed in to pick up survivors, Upholder withdrew to reload.  She returned to the damaged Oceania and launched another torpedo which finally sank her.  The troopship Vulcania was attacked by the submarine Ursula but escaped and managed to reach Tripoli escorted by the destroyer Usodimare.

Meanwhile Neptunia tried to make way with a destroyer in attendance but came to a shuddering halt. Upholder closed in and launched two more torpedoes which sank the stricken troopship within minutes.

It is reported that at least 400 of the German troops were killed in the engagement. The scale of the Axis losses in the Mediterranean has caused the Italian Foreign Minister to question the possibility of sustaining the military campaign in North Africa: “the Mediterranean situation is dark, and will become even more so because of the continued loss of merchant ships. Commander Bigliardi, who is in the know and is a reliable person, says that in responsible naval circles they are seriously beginning to wonder whether we shouldn’t decide to give up Libya, rather than wait until we are forced to do so by the complete lack of freighters…”


Weather  Fine and warm.

1029-1118 hrs  Air raid alert for three Macchi 200 fighters which approach the Island from the north and cross the coast over Grand Harbour at 23000 feet while three others circle 35 miles off the coast. Hurricane fighters are scrambled but the Macchis recede rapidly over Delimara evading engagement.


ROYAL NAVY Ursula, Unbeaten, Upholder and Upright returned from convoy interception east of Tripoli.  Upholder sank one ship of the Neptunia class and damaged a second whose fate is not known.  Ursula got one hit on Vulcania.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Wellington. Departures 1 Sunderland, 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Catania, Gerbini and Comiso. 105 Squadron 1 Blenheim reconnaissance east Sicilian coast. 107 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked a merchant ship off Kerkennah Bank.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.


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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in September 1941


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18 September 1941: Malta Aircraft Launch Round the Clock Offensives

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AOC Malta co-ordinating attacks on Axis convoys  (c IWM CM3068

AOC Malta overseeing attacks on Axis convoys (c IWM CM3068


War Cabinet Report for the Week 11-18 September

On 13 September a reinforcement of 45 aircraft for Malta was flown off HM Aircraft Carriers Furious and Ark Royal, escorted by units of the Gibraltar force.  One Hurricane crashed on taking off from Furious, the pilot was killed; two were damaged on landing.

On 11 September, naval Swordfish operating under the Air Officer Commanding Malta sighted a southbound convoy consisting of seven merchant vessels and six destroyers, 75 miles north of Kerkennah Island. Thereafter a series of night and day attacks was successfully carried out by Swordfish, Blenheims and Wellingtons with the result that three merchant vessels, total 24000 tons, were probably destroyed and all the other merchant vessels, total tonnage 26000, were hit on one or more occasions.  Three Blenheims were shot down in daylight but the crew of one was rescued by HM Submarine Utmost.

During an offensive sweep of the central Ionian Sea, three Blenheims attacked a small convoy 100 miles south-west of Cape Matapan. A 3000 ton merchant vessel was hit at least twice and seriously damaged. 

On three nights a total of 24 Wellingtons from Malta bombed Tripoli. On one night six aircraft reported hits on ships lying alongside Spanish Quay, and many other bursts were seen on or near ships in the harbour.  Swordfish and Wellingtons also laid mines in and outside the harbour and around the North Mole.

On the night 11-12 September Wellingtons dropped 16 tons of bombs on Palermo and straddled the dry dock containing a merchant vessel. On 17 September five Blenheims bombed two munition factories at Licata with very good effect; many direct hits were made on each target, and three large sheds and one other large building in the centre of the installation were demolished.


Weather  Fine and warm.

No air raids.


ROYAL NAVY   Upholder sank the 19,500-ton transports Neptunia and OceaniaTriumph damaged Italian steamer Ardor (8960grt off Cape Cimiti in the Adriatic. The tanker was able to proceed into Crotone Harbour.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 5 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. Departures 2 Beaufort. 38 Squadron 8 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli. 69 Squadron Marylands special patrol and reconnaissance Tripoli.  1 Blenheim reconnaissance Crotone, Augusta and Syracuse. 107 Squadron 3 Blenheims attacked shipping at Tripoli. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 8 Swordfish attacked a northbound convoy with torpedoes and bombs, stopping one merchant vessel. 


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Posted by on September 18, 2016 in 1941, September 1941


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27 August 1941: Malta Convoy Ships Armed to Face Western Mediterranean

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Maritime Artillery Bofors gun (c) IWMA16249

Maritime Artillery Bofors gun (c) IWMA16249


Gunners from the Malta Garrison were sent aboard two merchant ships to help defend the vessels against enemy attacks in the western Mediterranean, it was revealed today. The merchantmen were returning to Gibraltar after delivering their cargoes to Malta last month under ‘Operation Substance’. 

In a telegram to the War Office in London, the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief confirmed that eight-man Bofors gun crews supplied by the Malta Garrison embarked on SS City of Durham on Saturday, and on SS Deucalion yesterday.  The Bofors crew on each sailing was joined by nine other ranks of the Maritime Anti-Aircraft Regiment and three personnel from gun crews of the Operation Substance convoy.  Each of the ships was equipped with two Bofors by Malta Command. 

According to radio reports, SS Deucalion was attacked early today by Italian torpedo aircraft.  The Bofors guns were put into action and are reported to have shot down one of the attackers.


A total of 37 unexploded bombs were reported to Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal today. Reports came from areas along a six-mile path from Zeitun, through Marsa and Hamrun to Birkirkara and Lija.  All the bombs were confirmed as 2kg incendiaries.  28 were found in Msida alone and were probably dropped in the same container.  In nearly every case the Bomb Disposal Officer found that the fuze had fired but had failed to ignite the filling.  Teams of his Section are checking each area for additional bombs before removing all the unexploded incendiaries. (1)


  • Malta Tank Troop
  • Malta Signal Company
  • HQ Fixed Defences
  • HQ Royal Artillery (RA): 4 Coast Regt RA, 17 Defence Regt RA, 12 Defence Regt RA, 1 Coast Regt Royal Malta Artillery (RMA), 26 Defence Regt, 12 GOR, 12 AADC HQ
  • 7 Light Ack Ack Brigade (LAA): 32 LAA Regt RA, 74 LAA Regt RA, 3 LAA Regt RMA, 4 Searchlight Regt RA/RMA
  • 10 Ack Ack Brigade (AA): 2 Heavy Ack Ack (HAA) Regt RMA, 4 HAA Regt RA, 7 HAA Regt RA, 10 HAA Regt RA, 11 HAA Regt RMA
  • Royal Engineers (RE): HQ Fortress RE, 24 Fortress Coy RE, Bomb Disposal Section RE, No 1 Works Coy RE (Malta Territorial Force), No 2 Works Coy RE (Malta Territorial Force), 173 Tunnelling Coy RE, Works Services
  • Northern Infantry Brigade: 4th Bn the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regt), 8th Bn Manchester Regt, 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers, 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment, 2nd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment
  • Southern Infantry Brigade: 1st Bn Hampshire Regt, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt, 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt, 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regt, 8th Bn Kings Own Royal Regt
  • Central Infantry Brigade: 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, 1st Bn Cheshire Regt, 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regt
  • Royal Army Medical Corps: 30 Coy 90 General Hospital, No 45 General Hospital, 15 Field Ambulance, 161 Field Ambulance, 57 Fd Hygiene Section, Convalescent Depot, Medical Stores
  • Royal Army Ordnance Corps: LAD Det (12 Fd Regt RA), 2 Ordnance Depots, 2 Ordnance MT Sub-Depots, 1 Ordnance Ammunition Depot and Sub-Depot, 2 Ordnance Workshops
  • Other: RA CH D (7CE, 6RC), 72 Det Royal Army Pay Corps, Army Dental Corps, QAIMNS, CMP, RTD, Kings Own Malta Regiment Static Group


Weather  Sunny and hot.

No air raids.

2305 hrs  The sound of engines is heard off Gozo.

2355 hrs  8th Bn Manchester Regiment is ordered to ‘stands to’ at Gozo beach defence posts.  Reports are received on Malta that a number of enemy motor torpedo boats are in the vicinity of the Island.  Malta beach posts are ordered to ‘Stand to’.

0145 hrs  Orders are issued to all posts firing over Grand Harbour to be ready for ‘Stand to’.

0245 hrs  Central Infantry Brigade orders coastal defence posts surrounding Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto Harbour to be manned.

0330 hrs  All posts are now manned.


ROYAL NAVY  Upholder returned from patrol off Marittimo, having sunk a ship thought to be Italian Fleet Auxiliary Tarvisio, a 2000 ton merchant vessel, and obtained an extremely doubtful hit on a cruiser.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 2 Wellington. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Marittimo-Pantelleria, shipping patrol south of Lampedusa and photoreconnaissance of Comiso, Gerbini and Catania. 105 Squadron 5 Blenheims sent on a special sweep of Ionian Sea.  

HAL FAR 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 9 Swordfish attacked a convoy 37 miles north west of Lampedusa. Due to cloud cover only one torpedo was released hitting a merchant ship.  One Swordfish crashed on take-off; crew safe.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 37.

(1) UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012


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Posted by on August 27, 2016 in 1941, August 1941


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28 July 1941: Malta Has New Night Fighter Unit

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MNFU Hurricanes will be painted black

MNFU Hurricanes will be painted black


A new RAF unit dedicated to the defence of Malta at night is ready to begin operations. Led by former Battle of Britain flight commander Group Captain George Powell-Shedden, the Malta Night Fighter Unit will be based at Ta Qali. The unit has been formed to counter the frequent night raids by the Italian air force which have become increasingly intense in recent weeks. 

The MNFU will have a special fleet of eight Hurricanes which will be painted entirely in black. As soon as an air raid is plotted approaching the Island, the fighters will be scrambled and the runway briefly illuminated to allow them to take off.  They will work in conjunction with the Island’s searchlights which will illuminate the raiders to enable the camouflaged Hurricanes to close in unseen for attack.


One of the surviving motor torpedo boats used on yesterday’s raids has been salvaged by the Royal Navy and examined for intelligence purposes. Leading the operation was Rendering Mines Safe Officer Lt Edward Dutton Woolley, GM, RN, who was called out on Saturday morning soon after the raid had been defeated.  The tug Justified took him to the Italian vessel which had been captured by the RAF seven miles offshore:

One of the prisoners captured, together with an interpreter, went with me as he had been persuaded into telling me how to render the thing safe when we found it. At least that was the idea.  When later on we came to the boat he just swore he didn’t know what it was, and that he’d never seen one before, so he wasn’t much use…

After about two hours steaming we came up to the derelict boat. Viewed through the glasses it was quite a small thing, about eighteen feet long and [looking just like] a racing motor boat…It appeared in good order but I could see a large steel case in the bows with a crimson flame painted on it which didn’t look very healthy, so I secured a line to the stem and got back to the ship without much hanging about, then took it in tow and started back for home.”

Commander Woolley chose a quiet sector of Manoel Island to beach the boat for further examination. The manoeuvre was a delicate one in view of the risk of explosion.  Finally he could examine the boat:

“When we got the deck cover off a most incredible contraption of pipes, wires and gadgets was disclosed, which was obviously the firing gear, so we lit cigarettes and pondered over it for a while. For a moment I had the same feeling again that I had when I saw my first mine – that I just couldn’t tackle it – and then again, just as before, the realisation that it had to be done by someone and it may as well be me.” 

After working into the evening, Commander Woolley had determined how the mechanisms worked. He returned to the boat this morning to finish the job:

“The next morning, Sunday, saw the end of the dismantling with the detonators and primers out and the whole thing reasonably safe. There was the main charge of 600 lbs, two primers, three three-ounce charges and over forty detonators.  One of the detonators blew when I was taking it out and ripped my arm but that was the only damage.  Later investigation however showed that we had been very lucky taking the primers out, as one of them unscrewed itself as it came out.  Had the other done the same, the striker pin would have been released and the main charge would have exploded…

The main idea was that the pilot should direct the boat at a ship and then jump overboard before it hit and went up. A pretty suicidal job I should think…” (1)


Weather  Hot and humid.

No air raids.


ROYAL NAVY  Upright returned from patrol, having obtained 2 hits on a 500’ Floating Dock. HM submarine Upholder hit an Italian cruiser with two torpedoes.  Urge returned from patrol (Commanding Officer sick). 5 Swordfish left to intercept convoy, but turned back owing to high oil temperatures of engines. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish despatched to attack a southbound convoy off Pantelleria had to return due to overheated engines.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 13 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 3 Wellington. Departures 5 Blenheim, 2 Wellington.  The Commander in Chief Middle East, General Auchinleck, and the Air Commander in Chief Air Chief Marshal Tedder with their staffs left for the UK. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily, Tripoli and search patrols. 110 Squadron 3 Blenheims searched for two merchant ships, not found but bombed a converted sailing ship. 252 Squadron 8 Beaufighters attacked Catania, Syracuse, Marsala with success, 2 attacking each target.  They destroyed a large number of aircraft and damaged many more, and killed 25 ground staff.  One Beaufighter navigator Sgt T Armstrong was wounded.  Hurricanes provided cover between Sicily and Malta.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Arrangements were made to hand over the Sliema area to 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers.  C Company will receive personnel of 11th Lancs into their beach posts from tomorrow.  An area will be taken over by C Company from 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment.  Training of 40 RAF personnel in the use of rifles began; there are 200 to be trained.

TA QALI  S/Ldr G H Powell-Sheddon posted from Hal Far as OC Malta Night Flying Unit.

(1) Mines Over Malta, Frederick R Galea, Wise Owl Publicatons


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Posted by on July 28, 2016 in 1941, July 1941


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

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From The Mercury, Hobart, Tasmania, 12 July 1941

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

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

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

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

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


Weather  Sunny and hot.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Posted by on July 12, 2016 in 1941, July 1941


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28 June 1941: Thousands on the Move Again in Malta

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159 have fled from Valletta & FlorianaThousands of Maltese are on the move again, thanks to the increase in air raid shelters in target areas on the Island. During the past month alone more than 3000 evacuees have returning to their homes either because of the new provision, or the promise of air raid shelter accommodation in their home district.  All areas around Grand Harbour have registered increases in population.  A total of 41 people have moved back to Cottonera, 397 to Paola and Tarxien; 366 to Zabbar and 669 to the Sliema area.

Meanwhile others are still leaving danger areas due to continuous sleepless nights caused by air raids. During the month 159 have fled to safety from Valletta and Floriana, both of which have recently heavily bombed recently. 1790 have left from Qormi and 402 from Balzan.  375 have found refuge in Birkirkara, 353 in Mellieha, 150 in Zurrieq and 131 in Zebbug. (1)


A new fighter squadron has been formed at Ta Qali today following the recent arrivals of new Hurricane aircraft on the Island. 126 Squadron will be led by Wing Commander Alexander C Rabagliati who arrived in Malta as part of Operation ‘Rocket’ on 6 June with other members of 46 Squadron, members of which will form the core of the new squadron.

W/Cdr Rabagliati has already been very active in fighter operations over Malta, having shared in the destruction of one SM79 and damaged two more, destroyed a CR42, destroyed one Macchi and damaged a second in just three weeks.


Weather  Hot and sunny.

No air raids.


ROYAL NAVY  All available submarines (Union, Upright, Unique, Upholder) to patrol East of Messina to intercept Vichy French vessels thought likely to proceed to support Syria.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 6 Wellington, 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron 5 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 (130lb HE).

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


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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in 1941, June 1941


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