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29 November-5 December 1942: The Siege is Broken

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MALTA WAR DIARY  FINISHES 5 DECEMBER 1942

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29 November 1942: Starvation Rations Barely Eased Despite Convoy

Children in ruinsMalta has been holding its breath for news from the Government following the arrival of last week’s convoy.  The first one subject on everyone’s mind is food.  For many weeks, the Island’s armed forces and civilians alike have been on the verge of starvation.  The want of food has created a greater fear even than heavy bombing.  Children crying for want of food have become a common sight in the streets.  The death rate among babies and the elderly has risen, viral and infections diseases have increased.

Although they could not openly acknowledge it, the authorities knew that without the convoy supplies would have run out completely on 3 December.  Even with the latest delivery, stocks are only sufficient to feed the Island for another two weeks and there is no certainty when the next convoy will arrive.

Today’s announcement outlined the difficult choice faced by the Government: whether to raise rations in the hope of another convoy, or to be cautious until safe passage for supply ships is guaranteed.  In the event rations will be raised slightly, with an increase in the all-important bread allowance targeted at men from 16 to 60 in the first instance, starting 1 December.  For the rest of the population cheese and fats rations will be doubled and sugar restored to previous ration rates.  Any increase in other commodities will have to wait until further convoy deliveries.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 30 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Mainly fair.

0740-0825 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne to patrol Cape Scalabri as rear cover for returning bombers: no enemy aircraft seen.

1005 hrs  Spitfires from Luqa are airborne to provide cover for 185 Squadron returning from a bombing mission.

1100-1215 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to act as cover for returning Spitfires of 185 Squadron: no enemy sighted.

1425-1605 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on patrol: no sightings.

1640-1647 hrs  Air raid alert: aircraft identified as friendly.

1220-1325 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron carry out a sweep over south east Sicily: nothing sighted.

Night  Beaufighters 89 Squadron on intercept patrol over the Island and surrounding area: no enemy aircraft seen.

0230-0505 hrs  One Swordfish is despatched to search for a missing Wellington crew: an oil patch is spotted on the sea, but no dinghy.

Military casualties  Nil.

Civilian casualties  Zejtun  Emanuel Carabott, age 53.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 29 NOVEMBER 1942

P 46 HMS Unruffled

P 46 HMS Unruffled

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe swept P 46 to sea.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Beaufighter, one Hurricane from Bone; two Hudsons from Gibraltar; two Wellingtons from Benghazi.  Departures  One DC 3, one Wellington to LG 224; one DC 3 to El Adem; one Liberator to Gibraltar; one Beaufighter to Bone; one Beaufighter to Algiers via Bone.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort shot down by enemy aircraft: crew missing.

LUQA  Five sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering harbours and aerodromes in Italy.  1730-2300 hrs  Seven Wellingtons 40 and 104 Squadrons were airborne to attack the docks at Bizerta in three waves.  Bombs fell near fuel tanks and among buildings, causing one large fire visible 50 miles away.  Eight Beauforts 39 Squadron were sent to lay mines in the entrance of Palermo harbour:  one was hit by flak and ditched into the sea.  The crew pilot F/Sgt Ellis Walker and Sgts R J McCallough, G R A Duffield and G D Stevens are missing.

TA QALI  0605-1055 hrs  Two Beaufighters 227 Squadron on offensive sweep strafed motor transport and railway in Pantelleria.  0725-0920 hrs  Two Spitfires 227 Squadron on offensive sweep: no sightings.  0730-0830 hrs  Nine Spitfires, five carrying bombs, of 249 Squadron on bombing sweep:  bombs were dropped on Comiso aerodrome with good results.  Beaufighters had their most active day of the month, flying 18 sorties against shipping and aircraft in the north east area of Tunis.  1010-1330 hrs  Three Beaufighters 227 Squadron on offensive sweep: one coaster attacked and damaged.  1250-1630 hrs  Two Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive sweep: P/O Palmer destroyed one JU 52.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Convoy duties continue.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged at sub-depot.

 

30 November 1942:  Spitfire Bombers Turn Table on Axis

AIR RAID STATISTICS NOVEMBER 1942

  • Total number of alerts to date 3165
  • Total number of alerts this month 30
  • Number of blank days 11
  • Number of night raids 13
  • Raid free nights 23
  • Alerts for own planes 7
  • Total time from air raid alert to Raiders Passed 10 hrs 35 mins
  • Average length of alert 21.2 mins

MALTA’S FIGHTER BOMBERS KEEP AXIS AIRCRAFT ON THE GROUND

Spitfire Mk V fighter bomber

Spitfire Mk V fighter bomber

Having suffered for many months at the hands of Messerschmitt fighter bombers, Malta has turned the tables on the Axis with its own Spitfire Bomber force.  Brought into use for the first time at the beginning of this month, the Island’s fighter bombers have carried out many attacks on the southern Italian aerodromes, flying a total of 54 successful sorties in which they dropped 13 tons of bombs.

Main targets for the Spitfire Bombers are Comiso and Gela aerodromes.  Although many German and Italian fighters are still based in south east Sicily, they have shown a surprising reluctance to engage Malta’s fighter bombers.  On the few occasions when enemy fighters have been encountered the close escort of Spitfires has had no difficulty in driving them off.   Their busiest day so far was Wednesday 25 November, when Spitfire Bombers flew 19 sorties.

Today saw 13 sorties: the first this morning was by 185 Squadron.  Four fighter bombers with four Spitfire fighters as close escort were despatched to bomb Comiso aerodrome.  Four explosions were observed to the rear of the main buildings east of the aerodrome.  On the way out, the second pair of Spitfire bombers was attacked from below by a Macchi 200.  Strikes hit Sgt Gunstone in Red 3, who fired three bursts in return, seeing strikes along the Italian’s fuselage and can claim one Macchi 200 damaged.  17 more Spitfires, nine of which were carrying bombs, attacked Comiso in two waves: one Macchi 200 was damaged.

272 SQUADRON COMMANDING OFFICER BACK FROM THE DEAD

Two RAF officers walked into the RAF Officers’ mess today to the surprise and delight of their comrades who thought they had been lost in action.  Squadron Leader Antony (Tony) Watson, Commanding Officer of 272 Squadron, and his navigator Pilot Officer C F Cutting were reported missing on 14 November.  During an attack on El Aouina aerodrome, they were strafing a German JU 52 on the ground when their Beaufighter was hit by flak, damaging the starboard engine.  They were last seen making an emergency landing on the beach at Tunis, six miles from the airfield.

S/Ldr Watson today related how he and P/O Cutting set fire to the Beaufighter, then set off to find the Allied lines, which they managed to reach without being captured.  Eventually they were able to hitch a ride back to Malta, where they have been duly given membership of the ‘Late Arrivals Club’.

NORTH AFRICAN VENTURE CANCELLED AGAIN

The proposed Army mission to a French port in North Africa was called off again today.  The move follows the report from the RAF, following a reconnaissance flight yesterday.  The project leader Major H M Vaux, MC, also liaised with 1st Army at present in Tunisia and, having reviewed all the information, Fortress Headquarters decided to cancel the proposed operation.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 1 DECEMBER 1942

Weather   Variable; local showers.

0705 hrs  Two Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are airborne to search for a missing Beaufort: no dinghy is seen.

0755 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squaqdron Luqa are airborne to cover the return of fighter bombers: no enemy aircraft seen.

1615-1645 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1615-1700 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron  Hal Far on patrol Grand Harbour: nothing seen.

2359 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa on patrol over Pantelleria: no sightings.

0212-0214 hrs  Air raid alert: aircraft identified as friendly.

Military casualties  Sergeant William Clark, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Sergeant Kenneth Gamble, RAF VR; Flight Sergeant Laurence Helme, RAF VR; Sergeant Thomas Howarth, RAF VR; Sergeant Ronald McLean, RAF VR; Sergeant William Richards, RAF; all 39 Squadron.  Sergeant Donald Reeve, RAF VR, 242 Squadron; Flying Officer Richard Twomey, Royal Australian Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS 30 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  The move of 821 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm (twelve Albacores) from the Western Desert was completed today. No aircraft were lost during passage. Hebe swept P 35 out and P 311 and P 44 in.  P 311 joins Tenth Submarine Flotilla, reporting an uneventful passage direct from the United Kingdom.

P 44 HMS United

P 44 HMS United

HMS Una arrived from patrol in the Gulf of Tunis. On 27 November, she torpedoed and sank a 4000 ton merchant vessel, one of two escorted by a destroyer.  The merchant vessel blew up causing superficial damage to the Una at 1200 yards.  HMS P 44 returned from a patrol off Burat-el-Hsun, Tripoli and Kerkennah areas. At 1845 hrs on 21 November, P 44 entered Burat harbour and engaged a schooner with her 3″ gun, scoring twelve hits; the schooner was considered sunk.

Axis shipping losses November 1942: 19 merchant ships sunk totaling 41,450 tons; 14 merchant ships damaged totaling 29,540 tons.

AIR HQ  Beaufighters on offensive patrols damaged two JU 52s, one SM 79 and two Macchi 200s in the air; destroyed two Cant Z 506s and damaged two more as well as one JU 52 on the ground.  One schooner, motor transport and a train were also shot up.

Two Beaufighters of 227 Squadron attacked a 1500 ton merchant vessel approaching Pantelleria harbour, sighted earlier by a Baltimore.  The two Beaufighters attacked from such a low level that one of them was slightly damaged by striking the funnel of the merchant ship, with its starboard propeller.  Two ME 109s made an abortive attempt to intercept.  Two direct hits were scored, causing a terrific explosion followed by a large column of black and white smoke.  The vessel can be considered destroyed.

Departures  One Hurricane to Bone.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down over enemy territory: pilot missing.  One Spitfire failed to return from operations: pilot missing.  One Wellington crash-landed: crew uninjured.  Two Beauforts failed to return from operations: crews missing.

HAL FAR  12 delivery Albacores arrived from Middle East.  1004-1701 hrs  One Hurricane carried out a special mission: Hal Far to Bone and return.

Poor House Luqa

Poor House Luqa

LUQA  Strengths:  230 Officers, 665 NCOs, 2079 Other Ranks, 771 Army, 600 civilians.  Personnel accommodation made by fixing up Poor House with steel tubular 3-tier bunks.  Owing to inability to obtain beds from equipment sources, 1500 bunks were made.  Material was obtained from aerodrome obstructions and made entirely by RAF personnel working parties.  Three sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering the harbours of Naples, Palermo, Bizerta, Tunis and Sousse.

1425 hrs  Three Spitfire bombers with four Spitfires as close escort, all 126 Squadron, are despatched to attack Gela aerodrome: no enemy aircraft seen.  1718 hrs  Ten Wellingtons 40 Squadron were airborne to attack Bizerta: bombs were dropped on target and all aircraft returned safely.  1815 hrs  Eight Beauforts 39 Squadron were despatched to lay mines in Bizerta and Tunis harbours.  Two aircraft failed to return and missing crews were named as: F/Sgt Twomey, F/Sgt Helme, Sgts Gamble and Howarth; P/O Brown and Sgts Richards, McLean and Clark.

TA QALI  0710-0820 hrs  Ten Spitfires 249 Squadron carried out a bombing sweep of Gela aerodrome: bombs were dropped on the runway.  0715-0810 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron carry out a bombing sweep of Comiso aerodrome: all bombs dropped on and around target.  1155-1305 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron, six carrying bombs, attacked Gela aerodrome.  Bombs were dropped but results not observed.  Sgt Wendt does not return and is declared missing.   1535-1645 hrs  Nine Spitfires 229 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol: no sightings.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Green dump cleared and guard dismounted.  Other convoy duties continue.  Company strengths 29 Officers, 788 Other Ranks; 3 Officers, 9 Other Ranks attached.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  For period 11-30 November working party provided at Hal Far: four 15 cwt lorries for food delivery, servicing aircraft and as mobile repair vehicles; two impressed lorries for crater filling; two motor cycles as special despatch riders; 16 Other Ranks to man above vehicles.  For period 18-30 November the following were working at Zabbar sub-depot:  four 15 cwt lorries, five impressed lorries and 16 Other Ranks for convoy transport work.  Throughout the month two Twin Lewis guns were manned in the anti-aircraft defence of Safi Strip.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Recce by CO of new central dump at Floriana for unloading of next convoy.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged at sub-depot.

24 FORTRESS COMPANY ROYAL ENGINEERS  Strength of Company: 5 Officers and 226 Other Ranks.  During the month the CQMS store was completed except for finishing touches to roof and the messroom at camp was covered in.  Part of 2 Section billet, weakened by bomb explosions, fell down and is to be rebuilt.  Hot baths were constructed for the Company in No 3 Section billets.

 

1 December 1942: Another Convoy for Malta

A convoy of four merchant ships with a large escort of cruisers and destroyers sailed from Port Said at 1430 hours this afternoon heading for Malta.  The four merchantmen gathered at Lake Timsah by noon yesterday, when a conference was convened by the senior officer of the escort who had flown in from Alexandria for the meeting.

Glenartney

Glenartney

The merchantmen are named as British ships Glenartney and Suffolk, and the American vessels Agwimonte and Alcoa Prospector.  They are accompanied by the cruiser Orion and destroyers Belvoir, Hursley, Pakenham, Petard and Queen Olga (the Greek ship RHS Vassilissa Olga), who were sailed from Alexandria to Port Said to await the arrival of the supply ships.  Codenamed Operation Portcullis, convoy MW 14 was delayed by fog at Ismailia which has now cleared.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 DECEMBER TO DAWN 2 DECEMBER 1942

Weather   Fair.

0720-0800 hrs; 0835-0910 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali at a time on standing patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1142 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft.  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept but the raiders turned back before they are seen, and while still 20 miles north east of the Grand Harbour.

1155-1305; 1335-1425 hrs; 1425-1535 hrs  12 Spitfire sorties 185 Squadron Hal Far: nothing sighted.

1330-1350 hrs  Air raid alert for four approaching ME 109s which circle over Grand Harbour at a great height before receding north.  Pointer rounds are fired by six Ack Ack gun positions.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but the raiders are too high to engage and avoid combat.

1350 hrs  One transit Wellington from the Middle East carried out an anti-submarine patrol.

1600-1710 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne to act as cover for Spitfire bombers of 249 Squadron.  They are attacked by enemy fighters and take evasive action: P/O Mowbray is reported missing.

Military casualties  Flying Officer John Mowbray, Royal Canadian Air Force, 229 Squadron; Warrant Officer Class II (CSM) Berkley Evans, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment; Private Alfred Syddall, 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 1 DECEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Una swept in from patrol by Speedy.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Wellingtons from Benghazi; one Baltimore from LG 227; one Spitfire from Benina.  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; one Beaufighter to Heliopolis; one Hurricane to Bone.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter crash landed due to engine failure: two crew slightly injured.  One Beaufort missing from operations: crew missing.  One Spitfire believed forced down into sea by enemy action: pilot missing.  One Wellington force landed: crew uninjured.

HAL FAR  0640-0735 hrs  Four Spitfire bombers with four Spitfires as close escort, all 185 Squadron, were dispatched to bomb Comiso aerodrome.  Bomber leader suffered engine cut when still 20 miles south of Sicily so jettisoned his bombs and returned.  The remainder of the bomber formation followed suit.  The escort then set course to Noto and returned: nothing seen.  1000 hrs  Hurricane left for Bone.

Albacore pilot prepares for night raid

Albacore pilot prepares for night raid (c) IWM A161612

1827-0030 hrs  One special Albacore and three strike Albacores carried out a torpedo attack on enemy shipping off the west coast of Sicily.  1925-0040 hrs  Two special Albacores and five strike Albacores 821 Fleet Air Arm Squadron were dispatched to attack the same convoy but failed to locate the vessels.  2255 hrs  Fleet Air Arm Albacores damaged a tanker in a convoy of four merchant vessels and five destroyers when fifteen miles south of Marittimo at 2255. Sub/Lt Pratt and Sub/Lt Kendrick scored one hit on a 6-7000 ton tanker which was left ablaze.

LUQA  Personnel arrivals: 25 Other Ranks.  Three sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron on aerodromes and harbours of Naples, Taranto, Messina, Palermo and Trapani. 2215 hrs  Three Beaufighters 89 Squadron patrolled the area of Gabes-Tunis.

TA QALI  29 airmen detached from Station to 39 Squadron, Luqa.  0800-0905 hrs  Ten Spitfires 249 Squadron, including six bombers, carried out a bombing raid on Biscari aerodromes: explosions are seen on the airfield.  0905-1325 hrs  Two Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive sweep sighted two unidentified aircraft: no engagement.  1040-1145 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol: no sightings.  1155-1635 hrs  Two Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive patrol, one carrying bombs.  One crashed just after take-off: crew uninjured.  1530-1815 hrs  Two Beaufighters 227 Squadron on offensive sweep attacked a merchant vessel and set the deck cargo on fire.  1545-1655 hrs  Ten Spitfires 249 Squadron, including six bombers, carried out a bombing raid on Gela aerodrome: bombs were seen to explode in the north west dispersal area.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Working party provided for administrative and crater-filling duties at Hal Far: four 15 cwt lorries, two impressed lorries, two motor cycles, 16 Other Ranks.

2nd Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Five 1 ton, two 30 cwt, one 3 ton lorries provided for special service Zabbar.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged at sub-depot. 6 Officers, 200 Other Ranks engaged on aircraft pen construction at Qrendi.

24 FORTRESS COMPANY ROYAL ENGINEERS  Company billeted at Bahar-ic-Cahaq (less No 1 section on DEL stations with HQ at Haywharf, No 2 Section building pens at Qrendi and Maltese details working in barracks, attached to Bomb Disposal, or on convoy duties).

 

2 December 1942: Convoy Rescues RAF Crew Adrift in Dinghy

OPERATION PORTCULLIS CONVOY ASSEMBLES IN MED

HMS Orion

HMS Orion

The cruiser HMS Orion escorted by destroyers Paladin, Dulverton, Exmoor, Hurworth, Aldenham and the Greek Pindos sailed from Alexandria today to rendezvous with the convoy heading for Malta.  Late this afternoon Hurworth was found to have defects; at 1800 hrs she left the convoy to return to Alexandria.

Later this evening Petard spotted a small boat adrift on the sea.  It was identified as an RAF dinghy and its six occupants were rescued and taken aboard the destroyer.

Following a report from Vice Admiral Malta that furnace fuel was urgently required, a last-minute decision has been taken to include a tanker in the convoy.  A vessel which had been originally intended for a later convoy to Malta will now depart immediately from Benghazi.  Destroyers HMS Croome and Tetcott are on their way from Malta to Benghazi to act as escort for the tanker.

MALTA NAVAL FORCES IN COMBINED ATTACK

HMS Jervis

HMS Jervis

Royal Navy ships have wasted no time in returning to the offensive following their arrival in Malta last Friday.  Destroyers Jervis, Javelin, Kelvin and Nubian launched a joint operation with Naval Air Squadrons to attack a convoy off Kerkennah.

The ships sailed at 1400 hrs this afternoon to intercept the enemy convoy of one tanker and two merchant ships, escorted by two torpedo boats and a destroyer, as they steered for Ras Turgeuness. At 2100 hrs aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm and HM Submarine P 35 attacked the convoy south of Kerkennah and sank two merchant ships, seriously damaging another vessel.

The Force K destroyers arrived on the scene shortly after midnight and sank a torpedo boat destroyer which was engaged in picking up survivors from one of the merchant ships.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 DECEMBER TO 3 DECEMBER 1942

Weather   Fair.

No air raid alerts.

0625-0725 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far patrol over the Island: nothing sighted.

0700-0815 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron search for a missing pilot: no sighting.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant William Guy, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS St Angelo; Sub-Lieutenant Colin Taylor, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS St Angelo.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 2 DECEMBER 1942

HMS Trooper

HMS Trooper

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Wellington from LG 104; one DC 3 from El Adem.  Departures  One Hurricane to Bone.  Aircraft casualties  One Albacore lost on operations: crew missing.

HAL FAR  1500 hrs  One Hurricane RNAS which left for Bone yesterday returned: mission accomplished.  1730-2315 hrs  Three Albacores RNAS and eight 821 Squadron were despatched to attack two 5000 ton merchant vessels, one cruiser, one destroyer and one sloop in the Gulf of Gabes.  Both merchant ships were hit and left burning: fires could be seen 70 miles away on the return journey.  One Albacore landed at Luqa; another is missing, along with crew S/Lt Taylor and S/Lt Guy.

LUQA  No operations.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  All drivers report to sub-depots for convoy unloading duties.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Working party provided for administrative and crater-filling duties at Hal Far: four 15 cwt lorries, two impressed lorries, two motor cycles, 16 Other Ranks.

2nd Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Five 1 ton, two 30 cwt, one 3 ton lorries provided for special service Zabbar.  Four 1 ton lorries, one Officer, 78 men on fatigue at Ta Qali.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  COs conference on establishment of new dumps to be formed at Floriana under 2nd RWK called Pink Dump and at Attard under 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers called White Dump.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged at sub-depot. 6 Officers, 200 Other Ranks engaged on aircraft pen construction at Qrendi.

 

3 December 1942: Tanker Joins Operation Portcullis Convoy

ESCORT STRENGTHENED AS SHIPS APPROACH MALTA

HMS Tetcott

HMS Tetcott

Minelayer HMS Welshman joined the Operation Portcullis convoy at daylight today on her way to Malta, taking advantage of the escort protection.  Then at 1700 hrs this afternoon the American tanker Yorba Linda, escorted by destroyers Croome and Tetcott linked up with the main convoy north east of Benghazi.  Soon afterwards, Welshman left the remaining ships to speed on ahead to Malta.

To cover the final approach of Convoy MW 14 to the Island, Force K cruisers Cleopatra, Dido and Euryalus with destroyers Jervis, Kelvin and Nubian were sailed from Grand Harbour this evening.  They will provide protection for the convoy against possible surface attack.

US LIBERATORS ATTACK ITALIAN BATTLE FLEET

US Liberator bombers from the Middle East today attacked Italian ships in the Bay of Naples, sinking the Muzio Attendolo and damaging two other warships.  The Italian cruiser was photographed yesterday undergoing trials in the Bay of Naples, following recent repairs. 

Italian light cruiser Muzio Attendolo

Italian light cruiser Muzio Attendolo

Major units of the Italian fleet have been observed gathered in southern Italian ports from where they could threaten Allied sea movements through the Mediterranean, including convoys which might attempt the run to Malta.  As well as Attendolo, three Littorio battleships and two other cruisers are presently at Naples; five other cruisers are in port at Messina and three battleships at Taranto.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 DECEMBER TO DAWN 4 DECEMBER 1942

Weather   Mainly fine; fair.

No air raid alerts.

1030-1215 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1039-1131 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far patrol north of base at 25000 feet: nothing seen.

1440-1525 hrs; 1550-1635 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron at a time on intercept patrol: nothing sighted.

Military casualties  Sergeant Everard Aspell, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 108 Squadron; Sergeant Ronald Semley, RAF VR, 40 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 3 DECEMBER 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Hurricane from Bone; one Beaufighter from Gambut; one DC 3 from El Adem; one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One DC 3 to El Adem.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington’s bombs hung up and exploded while aircraft was taxiing: two of crew killed, rest uninjured.

Hurricanes at Hal Far

Hurricanes at Hal Far

HAL FAR  1150 hrs  One Hurricane RNAS landed from a special mission.  He was attacked 50 miles off Kerkennah by one JU 88.  The enemy aircraft overshot and the Hurricane was able to counter-attack with several short gun bursts: claims one JU 88 damaged.

1840-0010 hrs  One special Albacore and three strike Albacores 821 Squadron were sent to attack enemy shipping off the coast of Sicily.  Two 3000 ton merchant vessels were located 44 miles off Zuara moving at 8 knots.  Both ships were hit by torpedoes and blown up.  1900-2005 hrs  One special Albacore and three strike Albacores 821 Squadron were sent to attack the tanker hit last night and since reported stationary 10 miles west of Marittimo.  The tanker was not located; only two hospital ships were seen in the area.  All torpedoes were brought back.

LUQA No operations.

TA QALI  0835-1330 hrs  Six Beaufighters 227 Squadron on offensive sweep: no sightings.  0835-1145 hrs  Six Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive sweep sighted one JU 88 which is destroyed by F/Lt Rankin and F/O Coate.  0445-1000 hrs  Four Beaufighters 272 Squadron are airborne to act as convoy escort: no sightings.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Battalion provided a working party of 3 Officers and 200 Other Ranks for pen building on Qrendi aerodrome.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Working party provided for administrative and crater-filling duties at Hal Far: four 15 cwt lorries, two impressed lorries, two motor cycles, 16 Other Ranks.

2nd Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Five 1 ton, two 30 cwt, one 3 ton lorries provided for special service Zabbar.  Four 1 ton lorries, one Officer, 78 men on fatigue at Ta Qali.  Three Officers reported daily to APM for traffic duties.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  Personnel engaged on co-operational duties (maintenance, refuelling, arming etc) with RAF at Luqa aerodrome, taken over from 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.  57 drivers engaged at motor transport sub-depot.

 

4 December 1942: HMS Welshman Arrives Safely

WELSHMAN REPORTS MED QUIET FOR PASSAGE OF PORTCULLIS

HMS Welshman enters Grand Harbour

HMS Welshman enters Grand Harbour

HMS Welshman arrived in Grand Harbour today having left Convoy MW 14 yesterday evening.  The minelayer reported an incident-free passage through the Mediterranean.  Conditions appear favourable for the progress of the convoy.

Force K signalled at daylight that all vessels have joined up safely with Operation Portcullis the convoy and will remain in close escort throughout the day.  The ships are now within reach of Malta aircraft which will mount a constant escort for the remainder of their passage to Grand Harbour.  The arrival of Welshman has already attracted the attention of enemy aircraft which approached the Island on reconnaissance twice, triggering first air raid alerts in three days.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 DECEMBER TO DAWN 5 DECEMBER 1942

Weather  Fair to fine.

0740-1245 hrs  Four Beaufighters 227 Squadron are airborne to act as escort for the approaching convoy (one returned early): no sightings.

1025-1041 hrs  Air raid alert for ten ME 109s which cross the coast over the Grand Harbour area at a height of 25000 feet, apparently on reconnaissance.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne and see five unidentified aircraft making smoke trails north and south of Malta at 28000 feet.  On sighting the Spitfires below them, the enemy raiders turn northwards for home.

1100 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa searches for the friendly convoy.

1400 hrs  One Baltimore 69 Squadron searches in the Cape Bon area.

1440-1610 hrs  One Beaufighter 227 Squadron is airborne to act as escort to the convoy: nothing sighted.

1452-1507 hrs  Air raid alert for three ME 109s which approach the Island at 26000 feet and fly over Grand Harbour.  Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: they see the three ME 109s over Grand Harbour at 22000 feet.  The enemy aircraft dive away over the coast to avoid combat.

1535-1630 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1600-1730 hrs; 1630-1750 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron at a time are airborne to act as escort to the convoy: no sightings.

Night  One air raid alert: aircraft are identified as friendly.

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant Andrew Breakey, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 18 Squadron; Flying Officer Robert Curtis, RAF VR, 81 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Sidney Greene, RAF VR, 18 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Arthur Simpson, RAF VR, 18 Squadron; Sergeant Peter Turner, RAF VR, 81 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 4 DECEMBER 1942

HMS Porpoise arrives Malta (NWMA Malta)

HMS Porpoise arrives Malta (NWMA Malta)

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe swept HMS Welshman and P 35 in, and Porpoise out to head for refit in the UK via Gibraltar.  Four MTBs arrived from Bone.  Naval aircraft attacked shipping in the Zuara area. Two merchant ships were hit, one of which sank in three minutes; the other was left burning.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Wellington from LG 237; one Beaufighter from Souk El Arba; eight Hudsons, one DC 3 from El Adem; two Hudsons from Gibraltar. Departures  One DC 3 to LG 224; one Hudson to Algiers; eight Hudsons to El Adem.

LUQA  0900 hrs  Six sorties flown by photo-reconnaissance of 69 Squadron.  1930 hrs  One Beaufighter 39 Squadron patrolled over Comiso aerodrome at 32000 feet: no enemy aircraft seen.  1700-2225 hrs  Six Wellingtons 40 Squadron and four 104 Squadron bombed the docks at La Goulette, Tunis.

TA QALI  249 Squadron operating from RAF Qrendi.  Air crew remain attached to Ta Qali for accommodation and rations only.  26 airmen arrived by air from Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  HMS Welshman arrived No 5 Dock approx 0830 hrs.  Unloading commenced about 0915 hrs.  Bn provided 200 Other Ranks alongside 100 Other Ranks Dorsets.  Cargo was extremely difficult as it contained fifty 21” torpedoes among a miscellaneous cargo. The torpedoes were unloaded last so the whole operation was hampered.  The ship was not cleared until 1900 hrs.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Working party provided for administrative and crater-filling duties at Hal Far: four 15 cwt lorries, two impressed lorries, two motor cycles, 16 Other Ranks.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Floriana Pink Dump and Attard White Dump marked out for reception of convoy cargoes.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  Personnel engaged on maintenance, refuelling, arming etc with RAF at Luqa aerodrome. 63 drivers engaged at motor transport sub-depot.

 

5 December 1942: The Siege of Malta is Lifted

OPERATION PORTCULLIS CONVOY ARRIVES UNMOLESTED

Convoys now have safe passage to Malta under Allied air protection (c) IWM A13678

Convoys now have safe passage to Malta under Allied air protection (c) IWM A13678

At dawn today the four merchant ships Glenartney, Suffolk, Alcoa Prospector and Agwimonte, and the tanker Yorba Linda were safely in the shelter of Grand Harbour.  Commanders of Operation Portcullis report that, in spite of being shadowed at various times during the voyage, they encountered no enemy attacks throughout the entire passage from Alexandria. 

By 10 am the remaining ships of the convoy escort had entered Grand Harbour, bringing the number of warships and merchant vessels in the harbour to over 40. 

Two of the merchant ships are being unloaded by Army personnel and two by civil labour, who are working with great enthusiasm.  Approximately 3200 soldiers are employed on unloading and dispersing the cargoes to dumps.  A further 1800 are assisting the RAF in maintenance of aircraft and airfields to ensure the protection of Malta’s air space and offensive ops during unloading.  However, no attempt was made by the enemy to attack the ships in harbour, or even to approach the Island on reconnaissance during the day.

MALTA’S SUPPLY ROUTES SECURE

The arrival of a tanker with much-needed fuel relieves the concerns of military leaders.  More importantly, the second delivery of food and general supplies in a matter of days brings the chance of a real increase in civilian rations.  This should improve morale and help to stem the decline in the general health of the population which is giving real cause for concern.  The inclusion of a few long absent luxuries among the essentials brought a smile to many faces.

The siege is over but much of Malta lies in ruins

The siege is over but much of Malta lies in ruins

Malta’s commanders are cautiously taking the unhampered passage of Operation Portcullis as an indication that future supplies can be carried through without significant risk.  Since January 1941 two aircraft carriers, twenty warships and several submarines have been lost in attempts to supply the Island.

It has now been decided to run regular pairs of merchant ships for Malta alongside ordinary Western Desert Convoys to the Benghazi area, where surface forces from the Island will reinforce the escort for their final passage.  The supply of Malta – almost impossible a month ago – is now all but secure.  The siege is over.

SITUATION REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING 5 DECEMBER 1942

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

1.  Enemy air: four daylight alerts for enemy fighters on reconnaissance.

2.  Convoy of four merchant vessels and one tanker escorted by cruisers and destroyers arrived safely am 5 December.  Unloading is proceeding well: 3200 Army personnel employed; a further 1800 on aerodromes.

3.  Spitfire bombers successfully attacked aerodromes Comiso, Gela and Biscari.  Spitfire close escort damaged one Macchi 200.  Beaufighters on daylight offensive sweeps area Tunisia destroyed two Cant Z ‘06 and damaged two more at moorings.  One Italian bomber, one transport damaged on the ground.  One JU 88 destroyed; three transports, two fighters damaged in combat.  Coaster 1100 tons, two destroyers, goods trains and lorries effectively shot up.  Merchant vessel 1100 tons set on fire and abandoned.  Two direct hits bombs causing violent explosion merchant vessel off Pantelleria.

Wellington bombers

Wellington bombers

 

By night approx 45 Wellington sorties docks Bizerta 23 sorties docks Tunisia.  Also successful attacks Catania, Trapani, Comiso and Gerbini.  Bombs dropped areas Ragusa, Augusta, Syracuse, Gela and Castel Vetrano.  Beaufighters bombed railways Tunis and shot up trains.   Reggio di Calabria attacked by two Beaufighters.  Beauforts laid mines entrance Bizerta, Tunis and Palermo harbours.  Albacores on shipping strikes sank two merchant vessels 5000 tons, blew up merchant vessel 3000 tons and set two other merchant vessels and a tanker on fire.  Other results unobserved.  Four destroyers Force K sank one enemy TBD.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 DECEMBER TO DAWN 6 DECEMBER 1942

Weather   Cloudy.

No air raid alerts.

0620-0940 hrs  Six aircraft 126 Squadron Luqa maintain a patrol for the arrival of a convoy.

0800-0915 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on standing patrol: no sightings.

0845-1010 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far carry out shipping patrol: nothing seen.

1150-1310 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron on standing patrol over the Island: nothing seen.

1335-1510 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on standing patrol: no sightings.

1455-1550 hrs; 1630-1725 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron on standing patrols over the Island: nothing seen.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer John MacDonald, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Thomas Mincher, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 93 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 5 DECEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hebe swept P 35 to sea. P 42 was swept in from patrol by HM 135.  1600 hrs  HMS Welshman sailed for Alexandria with Paladin.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Halifax from UK; ten Hudsons from El Adem.  Departures  One DC 3 to El Adem; two Hudsons to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Baltimore overshot aerodrome and crash landed due to engine failure: crew uninjured.  One Wellington crashed into another aircraft while landing: crew uninjured.

HAL FAR  2100-0100 hrs  Two Albacores 821 Squadron were despatched to bomb and illuminate for Beaufighters at Reggio di Calabria aerodrome.  One Albacore returned early with rear cockpit trouble; the other arrived too late over the target to contact the Beaufighters but dropped its bombs on the new corner of the aerodrome.

LUQA Four sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires.  1400 hrs  Two Beaufighters 89 Squadron were despatched to attack Reggio Calabria.  One Beaufighter was slightly damaged by Ack Ack splinters: crew unhurt.  Night  One special Wellington carried out a shipping search in the Marittimo-Cavoli area: no sightings.

TA QALI  One senior NCO and four airmen arrived by air from Middle East.  0955-1130 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol: no sightings.  1140-1425 hrs  Three Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive reconnaissance: no sightings.  1345-1640 hrs  Four Beaufighters 227 Squadron (one carrying bombs) on offensive reconnaissance attacked an enemy destroyer causing a small explosion and fire near the bridge.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A convoy arrived at dawn.  1100 hrs  The Bn began unloading the Glenartney at Hamilton Wharf in 3 shifts of 84 Other Ranks.  The vessel is carrying 8000 tons of cargo.  Unloading went well during the day.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  6 Officers, 107 Other Ranks unloading M/V Alcoa Prospector.

Agwimonte

Agwimonte

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  The Bn was detailed to provide: 3 Officers, 42 Other Ranks to report at 1000 hrs for traffic control; 5 fire-fighting parties of 1 Officer, 13 Other Ranks each, to live on board the merchant ships; 42 drivers, 6 vehicles, 3 Officers, 150 Other Ranks as general reserve.  2200 hrs  Fire-fighting parties reported to allotted berths and went on board the following vessels:  Alcoa Prospector, Glenartney, Agwimonte, Suffolk, Yorba Linda.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Arrival of convoy: Bn in position on Pink Dump in two shifts of 12 hours, day and night.  Total employed 14 Officers, 200 Other Ranks on Dump plus 2 Officers, 51 Other Ranks on motor transport sub-depot.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  Personnel engaged on maintenance, refuelling, arming etc with RAF at Luqa aerodrome. 63 drivers engaged at motor transport sub-depot.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 8.  Dealt with: High Explosives 1 x 50kg; anti-personnel bombs 8.

 

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15-21 November 1942: Five Ships Bring Food and Fuel for Malta

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15 November 1942: 700 Allied PoWs Die in British Sub Attack

SS Scillin

At 2 o’clock this afternoon 27 recovered British prisoners of war and some 46 Italian prisoners were landed in Malta from HM Submarine Sahib (P 212). They are the only survivors from the torpedoed Italian merchant ship SS Scillin.

Scillin was carrying 814 Allied prisoners of war and over 200 Italian troops when she embarked from Tripoli on Friday.  Sahib was on patrol in the area, intercepting supply convoys and troop transports in support of the Axis campaign in North Africa.  Just before nine o’clock  yesterday evening  a  Malta-based reconnaissance aircraft alerted her to the presence of a merchant ship.  The submarine’s monitors soon detected the vessel off the Tunisian coast and its commander Lt John Bromage, with no knowledge of the ship’s passengers, ordered the attack.

HMS Sahib (P 212)

HMS Sahib struck the merchant ship with a single torpedo.  The missile hit the Scillin’s engine room and the ship sank in less than a minute.  It was only when the submarine’s crew heard survivors in the water speaking English that the full implications of the sinking were realised.  They responded quickly and within 35 minutes had rescued 27 Allied prisoners of war (26 British and one South African), plus 46 members of the Scillin’s Italian crew including the captain. 

An Italian warship then approached and Sahib was forced to withdraw, abandoning the rescue and leaving another ten men in the water.  According to survivors, the British prisoners were in very poor condition due to lack of food and medical treatment.  Sahib’s torpedo blew out the bottom of the hold in which the British PoWs had been penned, and they died instantly.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 16 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather  100% cloud; rain.

0740-0855 hrs  1435 Squadron Luqa carry out a reconnaissance patrol between Linosa and Lampedusa: no enemy aircraft are sighted.

0820-0845 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

0821-0835 hrs   Air raid alert: aircraft turned out to be friendly.

0935-1055 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far patrol to Lampedusa and Linosa: no enemy aircraft or anti-aircraft fire encountered.

1450-1530 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far search for missing delivery Beaufighters.  Weather conditions are very bad and they find nothing.

1510-1540 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron search for the delivery Beaufighters.  Visibility is nil, with cloud down to 500 feet, and nothing is found.  One Spitfire does not return: Sgt Roberts is missing.

1620-1640 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa is sent to search for missing delivery Beaufighters has to return due to the adverse weather.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Henry Atkinson, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 500 Squadron; Pilot Officer James Diack, RAF VR, 81 Squadron; Flying Officer Francis Jemmett, Royal Canadian Air Force, 69 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Cyril Prior, RAF VR, 500 Squadron; Sergeant John Roberts, RAF VR, 249 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 15 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hebe swept P 212 in. P 42 sailed for patrol, swept out by Speedy.

AIR HQ  Five sorties were flown by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering the harbours and aerodromes of Sicily.  Departures  Two Liberators, four Hudsons to Gibraltar; one Beaufighter to Abusuier.  Aircraft casualties  Two Spitfires on reconnaissance failed to return: pilots missing.  One Spitfire shot down in the sea: pilot missing.  Three Beaufighters missing in transit between EDCU and Malta.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  A Company took over Tal Virtu observation post and coast patrol.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  11th-15th November the Battalion has found one Officer and 50 Other Ranks as crater-filling party on Hal Far aerodrome.  Working party also at Zabbar sub-depot: four 15 cwt and four impressed lorries; 16 Other Ranks manning trucks for convoy transport work.

 

16 November 1942: Convoy Embarks For Malta

Message from AOC Malta to Admiral Cunningham:  “We are delighted to be able to assist your expedition from the west as well as the expedition from the east.”

The first convoy to Malta since Operation Pedestal (Santa Marija) in August sailed this morning.  The embarkation of a convoy from the eastern Mediterranean has been made possible by the Allied Army advance following the Battle of El Alamein.

Merchant ship Denbighshire

After a delay of 24 hours pending Allied occupation of the Gambut airfields, convoy MW 13 – codenamed Operation Stoneage – sailed from Suez and passed through the Canal to arrive at Port Said by dusk, proceeding straight to sea. The convoy is made up of four merchant ships, the 9000 ton Dutch ship Bantam, the British 8000 ton Denbighshire and two American ships: the 8000 ton Mormacmoon and 7000 ton Robin Locksley.  The cruiser Euryalus and sevendestroyers are escorting them to the approaches to Alexandria.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 17 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Much heavy rain, especially early, and low cloud; visibility nil.

Night  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa patrols north of the Island at 10000 feet: no enemy aircraft seen.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 16 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P 46 and P 212 were swept out by Rye.

AIR HQ  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  Heavy rain rendered the aerodrome unserviceable.

LUQA  No operations due to bad weather.

TA QALI  Aerodrome unserviceable: no operations.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  300 men standing by to unload HMS Welshman.  Stood down about 1000 hrs: ship due to arrive tomorrow.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1300 hrs  Party of 300 Officers and men standing by for convoy duties.  1330 hrs  Party stood down.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Bn found one Officer and 25 men as crater-filling party on Hal Far aerodrome.  Working party also at Zabbar sub-depot: four 15 cwt and four impressed lorries; 16 Other Ranks manning trucks for convoy transport work.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Heavy rainfall all day stopped air activity.

24 FORTRESS COMPANY ROYAL ENGINEERS  The following attachments from Malta Section took place leaving all British personnel at Bahar-ic-cahaq with the exception of 1 NCO and 10 sappers (Maltese). 10 Other Ranks attached to BD section.  16 Other Ranks attached to 173 Tunnelling Coy RE, 5 Other Ranks transferred.

 

17 November 1942:  Army on Standby to Unload Convoy

Message to AOC Western Desert:  “All ranks RAF Malta send heartiest congratulations to RAF Western desert and 8th Army on their brilliant victory over Axis forces.  We are most grateful for your opening of our supply line from the east.”

OPERATION STONEAGE SHIPS REACH ALEXANDRIA

HMS Euryalus

Convoy MW 13 and close escort arrived off Alexandria early today, where the accompanying Fleet destroyers were relieved by Hunt class ships of the 5th Flotilla.  Led by the cruiser Euryalus, HMS Aldenham, Beaufort, Belvoir, Croome, Dulverton, Exmoor, Hurworth, Hursley, Tetcott and the Greek Pindos departed for Malta with the four merchant ships at 15 knots at 0700 hours.

The Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron in Cleopatra, with Dido, Arethusa, Orion and the Twelfth and Fourteen Destroyer Flotillas, were sailed at 1330 hours, with the aim of reaching the convoy at daylight tomorrow.

SUBMARINE ‘CLUB RUNS’ TO END

In view of the improved situation in the Mediterranean, submarines of the 1st Flotilla are to discontinue carrying petrol and stores to Malta.

MALTA MONEY PROBLEMS

Currency in Malta is about to be ‘defaced’ to cover an acute shortage of one shilling coins on the Island.  It has been decided that one shilling notes are urgently needed but supply of the currency from England is currently impossible.  In an emergency measure, it has been decided to overprint old stocks of unused two shilling notes on both sides as ‘1 shilling’.  These were originally printed in London and held in stock in Malta but never used.

The newly amended notes have been issued today and immediately become legal tender.  They will remain in circulation until new one shilling notes can be printed in London and shipped to Malta. (1)

MALTA JOINT OPS SHOW FORCE

Malta air forces launched a joint operation this evening against an enemy tanker heading for North Africa.  The 10,000 ton tanker escorted by two destroyers was located 46 miles from Homs.  One special Wellington 69 Squadron was despatched with two Albacores of the Fleet Air Arm to attack.  They located the convoy at 2155 hours and the Weelington dropped three flares.  The Albacores then attacked from port and starboard with two torpedoes, each of which scored a hit amidships, causing terrific explosions. The tanker was set ablaze from stem to stern, the fire visible 80 miles away.  The vessel then keeled over and sank.  All the Malta aircraft returned safely to base.

TRIPOLI TARGET

Reconnaissance photographs taken today show that Tripoli has resumed its former importance as Rommel’s main port of entry for supplies to Libya, following the loss of Benghazi to the Allies.  All available quays and jetties at Tripoli are occupied by merchant vessels or F boats unloading supplies.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 18 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Thunderstorms in the morning, becoming showery to fair.

0650-0810 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali carry out a patrol from Linosa to Lampedusa: no sightings.

0700-0740 hrs  Two Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa fly 13 miles north of St Paul’s Bay on a search but have to return early due to adverse weather conditions.

1915-2035 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa patrols over Comiso aerodrome, Sicily.  Pilot F/O Kinmouth shoots down one JU 88 which crashes in flames and damages another.

2308-2327 hrs  Air raid alert: aircraft prove to be friendly.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Eric Clegg, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 18 Squadron; Sergeant Harold Goggin, Royal New Zealand Air Force, 253 Squadron; Flying Officer Charles Kaye, RAF VR, 18 Squadron; Sergeant Jack Walder, RAF VR, 18 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 17 NOVEMBER 1942

Ancient transporting troops in Malta, March 1942 (c) IWM A7331

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe swept Utmost to sea.  The tug Ancient which was damaged and sunk during the heavy air attacks in April 1942 was salvaged and taken in hand for refit.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Baltimore from LG 227; nine Beaufighters from Gambut; one Liberator, one Hudson from Gibraltar.

LUQA  69 Squadron Photo-reconnaissance: seven sorties covering harbours and aerodromes in Italy and Sicily.  2050-2150 hrs  Seven Wellingtons (two 40 Squadron, five 104 Squadron) were despatched to attack El Aouina aerodrome: a fire was started near one hangar.  0330-0425 hrs   Five Wellingtons attacked El Aouina: results not observed due to weather.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Bn found one Officer and 25 men as crater-filling party on Hal Far aerodrome: working party cancelled at the end of the day.  Working party at Zabbar sub-depot: four 15 cwt and four impressed lorries; 16 Other Ranks manning trucks for convoy transport work.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Dumps and sub-depot on four days’ readiness.

 

18 November 1942: Convoy Attacked – 159 Killed

The Operation Stoneage convoy was attacked today by German torpedo-bombers.  HMS Arethusa was hit with the loss of 159 men. (CASUALTY LIST) 

HMS Cleopatra

The first enemy attack came mid-morning, some four hours after the full convoy had assembled.  Cruisers HMS Cleopatra, Orion, Arethusa and Dido with seven Fleet destroyers joined convoy MW 13 and close escort at dawn.  Single engined fighters from Matruba and Beaufighters from Gambut were dispatched to provide fighter protection throughout the day.

At 1110 hours the convoy was attacked by six JU 88s: one aircraft was seen to crash and no damage was caused.  Five hours later 26 JU 52s escorted by two fighters were seen passing ahead of the convoy heading northeast. Four of the Allied aircraft attacked the raiders and each claimed to have damaged one.  

Once the attack had subsided the Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron and Fleet Destroyers parted company in order to cover the convoy north towards Malta.

Damage to Arethusa

Minutes later an explosion was heard and convoy command received a signal: Arethusa had been hit.  Taking advantage of the failing light, torpedo bombers had launched another attack and the cruiser had been struck amidships by an aircraft torpedo, killing 159 members of the crew.  The ship was badly damaged and turned back for Alexandria, escorted by Petard.

Two more torpedo bombers attacked the convoy during the evening.  The second is believed probably destroyed by anti-aircraft fire from the American merchantman Robin Locksley.

WELSHMAN DOCKS WITH SUPPLIES – UNLOADED IN RECORD TIME

The fast minelayer HMS Welshman arrived in Grand Harbour from Algiers at 0920 hours this morning, having been delayed in the eastern Mediterranean by the recent bad weather.  Under the codename Operation Analyst, Welshman has brought 110 tons of powdered milk, 25 tons of dried beans, 25 tons of dried peas, 110 tons of corned beef and fifteen 18″ aerial torpedoes, as well as 13 officers, 50 RAF airmen and 50 REME Other Ranks.

The food cargo was unloaded in 4 hours 5 minutes, Welshman’s fastest ever emptying in Malta, and second fastest ever.  The Governor and Commander in Chief Viscount Gort sent a personal message to 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment:  “Congratulations on good work on unloading HMS Welshman.”

HMS Welshman is to be retained at Malta to be used for an operation to land troops in the Sousse area.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 19 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Showery day; thunderstorms in the evening.

0640-0710 hrs  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron and three 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne to provide protection for friendly shipping: no enemy aircraft seen.

0925-1035 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to act as escort to friendly shipping.

0945 hrs   Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne to provide escort for HMS Welshman.

1725-1730 hrs; 2032-2050 hrs  Air raid alerts.  Aircraft turned out to be friendly.

Military casualties  Sapper Glanville Williams, 173 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 18 NOVEMBER 1942

HMS Welshman

ROYAL NAVY  Welshman arrived and was swept in by Hebe, who then swept P 44 out and returned with P 45 and P 48.  The two submarines arrived to join the Tenth Submarine Flotilla, having taken part in the early stages of Operation Torch as navigational marks off Algiers, then carrying out a patrol in the Gulf of Tunis. P 45 made three unsuccessful attacks in the area and P 48 two.  With all torpedoes expended they were ordered to return to Malta.

AIR HQ  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter collided and crashed on landing: crew uninjured. Departures  One Hudson, one Liberator to Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  1755-1830 hrs  Two Swordfish and one Albacore set out to attack an enemy convoy in the Cape Bon area.  Very bad weather conditions forced them to turn back.

LUQA  69 Squadron Photo-reconnaissance flew seven sorties.  1824-2350 hrs  Seven Wellingtons 40 and 104 Squadrons were despatched to attack Tunis aerodrome: all bombs dropped on the aerodrome and among buildings and hangars.  All aircraft returned safely.  2325 hrs  Four special Wellingtons 69 Squadron carried out separate patrols of the east of Taranto: one hospital ship sighted.  0030-0555 hrs  Six Wellingtons were despatched on a second attack on El Aouina.  Bursts are observed in the target area and one fire is seen.

ROYAL ARTILLERY  Anti-aircraft artillery deployed for defence of convoy.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Battalion is standing by with all leave cancelled for work in connection with expected convoy.  The Battalion is Brigade reserve and has been detailed for the following duties: 42 drivers to sub-depots; 4 parties of 1 Officer and 13 Other Ranks to act as fire-fighting parties on board the merchant vessels; 150 standing by at 2 hours’ notice as a reserve for all duties.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Working party at Zabbar sub-depot: four 15 cwt and four impressed lorries; 16 Other Ranks manning trucks for convoy transport work.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Dumps and sub-depot come onto two hours’ notice.

 

19 November 1942: First Raid Since 6 November

MALTA’S WAR ROLE RECOGNISED IN BRITISH PARLIAMENT

“Malta has been one of the determining factors in the struggle for the conquest of North Africa, and we are particularly proud of the great contribution that it has made.”  Mr Robert Richards, MP for Wrexham, House of Commons, 19 November 1942

Carmelo Borg Pisani

MALTESE SPY FACES DEATH SENTENCE

The death sentence was passed today on Carmelo Borg-Pisani, who was discovered at Dingli on 21 May claiming to be Italian and found to be Maltese spying for the enemy.  His crimes are listed as espionage, taking up arms against the Government and forming part of a conspiracy to overthrow the Government.  The sentence was announced in public in Malta.

THREE SPITFIRES LOST PROTECTING CONVOY

The covering force of cruisers and destroyers rejoined the Operation Stoneage convoy at daylight today to cover the next stage of the journey of four merchant ships to Malta.  Enemy aircraft were reported carrying out reconnaissance searches for the ships but did not attack.

As the convoy approached within range of Malta, the Island’s aircraft provided umbrella cover.  The ships were sighted at dawn by Malta Beaufighters, in position 122 degrees 134 miles from Delimara.  Four Beaufighters, 42 long-range and 19 short-range Spitfires carried out continuous patrols over the convoy for the last leg of its voyage.

They faced very rough weather and during the morning three Spitfires crashed ahead of the convoy.  P/O Kelley 126 Squadron was picked up by the convoy ahead; Sgt Roberts 126 Squadron was last seen in his dinghy near the convoy.  P/O Park 185 Squadron suffered engine trouble near the convoy and had to bale out.  A destroyer sped to his rescue but he was found to be already dead.  The reasons for the other two crashes are unknown.

HMS Orion

At 1400 hours Cleopatra, Dido, Orion and the six Fleet destroyers parted company with the convoy and returned to Alexandria.  Just after 4pm the convoy’s commander reported being shadowed by enemy aircraft but there was no attack.  Having patrolled continuously from dawn till dark, Malta aircraft finally escorted the convoy safely to within 30 miles of Grand Harbour.

At dusk the first raiders to cross Malta since 6 November were reported approaching the Island.  Only one came close to dropping bombs on target, attempting to impersonate a returning RAF aircraft before being deterred by anti-aircraft fire.

Tonight operations by Malta’s RAF Wellingtons were temporarily switched from Tunis to Sicily, with bombing attacks on the German bomber bases of Catania, Gerbini and Comiso to deter attacks on the convoy.  At 2240 hours the minesweeper Speedy led the ships through the mineswept channel and they entered harbour. Approximately 3200 troops and large numbers of civilians are standing by to unload the four merchant ships as soon as they dock.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 20 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Thunderstorms and showers early, becoming fair.

1010-1105 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far patrol over the Island: nothing sighted.

1210-1400 hrs; 1255-1440 hrs  Six Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali at a time on patrol over the approaching convoy: no sightings.

1440-1635 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron patrol over the friendly convoy: no enemy activity.

1515-1710 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron patrol over the friendly convoy: no enemy activity.

1824 hrs  Air raid alert for 10 enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly, in clear weather, coming to within 20 miles of the Malta convoy which is now 30 miles south of the Island.  Two Beaufighters are airborne and approach the enemy raiders which split up, most going north.  The remaining four cross over Gozo and Malta.  One raider turns and comes in over Kalafrana Bay at 5000 feet.  The searchlights illuminate the aircraft for two seconds but it is too far from the Beaufighters for them to engage.  4th Heavy Ack Ack Regt report the target as an unidentified aircraft giving friendly recognition and IFF signals.  It seems to be firing verey lights but in the wrong colours.

Mystery raider identified as possible Cant Z 1007 bis bomber

1850 hrs  B Company 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt report the enemy aircraft flying over Ta Silch.   The raider is engaged by Bofors and small arms fire over Fort St Lucien and drops bombs in the water off Delimara, before receding out to sea.  There are no reports from the RAF of friendly aircraft being engaged by Light Ack Ack.

1901 hrs  All clear.

2200 hrs  A convoy consisting of four merchantmen escorted by a cruiser and eleven destroyers enters Grand Harbour in bright moonlight.  No hostile air activity is observed in the vicinity of the Island.

0517-0535 hrs  Air raid alert: aircraft turn out to be friendly.

Military casualties  Warrant Officer Class II James Fearnside, Royal Canadian Air Force; Flight Sergeant Clifford Gray, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Sergeant William Hammond, Royal New Zealand Air Force; Sergeant Benjamin Holmes, RAF VR; Sergeant John Layton, RAF VR; Flight Lieutenant John Mercer, RAF, all 104 Squadron.

Pilot Officer Gardner Kelly, Royal Canadian Air Force, 126 Squadron; Flying Officer Robert Park, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Henry Roberts, Royal New Zealand Air Force, 126 Squadron; Sergeant Nigel Steevenson, RAF VR, 111 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 19 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  HMS P 43 returned to Malta from taking part in Operation Torch, covering the approaches to Messina and the North west corner of Sicily. On 16 November she scored a hit with torpedoes on a medium sized tanker, then surfaced and attempted to finish her off by gunfire, but the tanker retaliated and she was forced to dive. The ship was last seen heavily listed and attempting to beach herself.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  Three Spitfires crashed in the sea due to engine trouble: two pilots drowned, one missing.  One Wellington shot down by enemy action: crew missing.

104 Squadron Wellington reported missing

LUQA Message from AOC Sir Keith Park:  “You and your squadrons are certainly leaving your mark upon the Axis.  Grand work; keep it up.”  Four sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires covering the harbours of Tunis and Bizerta.  Six sorties by Baltimores of 69 Squadron on shipping search.  A total of 14 Wellington sorties: targets Catania, Gerbini and Comiso; attacks considered successful.  Five Wellingtons 104 Squadron and two 40 Squadron were sent to bomb Catania aerodrome.  Bombs hit target and explosions were seen across the runway, buildings and dispersal areas.  There was intense light and heavy flak.  One aircraft did not return: Pilot F/Lt Mercer and crew Sgts Fearnside, Gray, Hammond, Layton and Holmes are missing.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Midnight  Bn provided three shifts of 96 Other Ranks to work 12 hour shifts unloading the Mormacmoon at Hamilton Wharf.  Each shift was split into eight gangs of 12 men.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Midnight  Two parties totalling four Officers and 78 Other Ranks reported to Canteen Steps and Hamilton Wharf for duties as lighter loading parties.  Additional personnel employed at Marina Pinto.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  All drivers reported to sub-depots by 1530 hrs.  All fire-fighting parties reported at allotted berthing places at 2200 hrs and were on board ship by midnight.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Bn provided 10 Officers and 231 Other Ranks for unloading M/V Robin Locksley.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties.

 

20 November 1942: Convoy Cargo Blaze – Fuel Supplies Destroyed

OPERATION STONEAGE DELIVERS

Troops to repeat success of Operation Ceres (c) IWM GM1475

At 0130 hours this morning all ships of the convoy were reported to have arrived safely in Grand Harbour.  All four merchant ships, with Euryalus and ten Hunt class destroyers berthed safely during the night.  By 3 am 3200 troops plus civilians had begun unloading the merchant ships and dispersing the cargoes to dumps.  A further 1800 troops are employed on the aerodromes.

FUEL DUMP FIRE

A serious fire has destroyed fuel supplies which had just arrived on today’s convoy.  The fire broke out at 8.15 pm this evening at a storage dump near Hamrun, igniting quantities of kerosene and petrol which had just been delivered from Grand Harbour.  It is believed that a back-fire from a transport lorry caused the blaze, which was brought under control before a very large amount of fuel was lost.  No casualties have yet been reported.

SWORDFISH CREW MISSING AFTER OFFENSIVE OPS

‘Swordfish’ lost

The pilot of a Swordfish from Hal Far has been reported missing following a strike on enemy shipping today.  One special Swordfish, one torpedo-carrying Swordfish and one Albacore were despatched to attack a 1300 ton merchant vessel bound from Sicily to Tunisia.  They found the ship 14 miles west of Marittimo and the Albacores released one torpedo but results were not observed.  The torpedo-carrying Swordfish suffered engine trouble and turned back for Malta.  The aircraft was seen to crash into the sea as it approached the Island: a search for the crew has so far found nothing.

Four Beaufighters of 227 Squadron sent to carry out an offensive sweep found a westbound Italian merchant vessel, 32 miles east of Kuriat.  They attacked at 1206 hrs, dropping two 250 lb bombs – one scored a direct hit amidships on the starboard side – and raked the vessel with cannon and machine-gun fire.  The vessel was left stalling and the crew appeared to be preparing to abandon ship.  Three Beauforts escorted by five Beaufighters were despatched at 1625 hrs to attack the same ship, scoring a probable hit with one torpedo: she was later seen sinking and abandoned.

Two JU 88s were destroyed in offensive sweeps in the Bizerta-Sicily area and tonight four Wellingtons made two attacks on Bizerta aerodrome, scoring many hits on the target area.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 21 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather  Mainly fair except for slight morning showers.

0625-1240 hrs  Sixteen sorties by Spitfires from Luqa as protective patrols over friendly shipping.

0840 hrs  Convoy escort of one cruiser and eight destroyers leave Grand Harbour.

0950-1106 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far patrol over the Island: nothing sighted.

1324-1347 hrs  Air raid alert.  Nine enemy fighters including ME 109s approach the Island at great height, believed to be on reconnaissance.  Malta fighters are airborne and intercept the raiders north of the Island, forcing them to turn back.

1550-1650 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron patrol over the Island: no enemy activity.

2153-2203 hrs  Air raid alert: aircraft identified as friendly.

0042-0450 hrs  One Swordfish and one Albacore from Hal Far search for the crew of a missing Swordfish off the coast of Gozo: nothing seen.

Military casualties  Sergeant Leslie Drywood, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 202 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Birzebbugia  Mary Farrugia, age 44.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 20 NOVEMBER 1942

HMS Parthian

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Beaufighters from Gambut; one Beaufort, two Spitfires, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  2110-2350 hrs; 0325-0516 hrs  Two Hurricanes RNAS carried out intruder patrols over south east Sicily: no enemy air activity.

LUQA  Cinema re-opened after being damaged by fire on 25 October: film “Little Old New York”.  Four sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron over harbours and aerodromes in Italy, Sicily and Tunisia.  1255-1720 hrs  Three Beauforts 39 Squadron were despatched on an offensive sweep against enemy shipping in Misurata, Kerkenna, Pantelleria areas.  One 2000 ton motor vessel was sighted and torpedoes dropped: no definite explosion observed.

ROYAL ARTILLERY  Operation Instruction 69 orders the adjustment of aerodrome barrages to give protection to runways.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  0200 hrs  Ship docked and first food discharged by 0430 hrs.  Mormacmoon is carrying a cargo of food, petrol, bombs and ammunition.  Unloading during the day went well.

SS Robin Locksley

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  0800 hrs  Shift II: 4 Officers and 78 Other Ranks lighter duties on Mormacmoon and Robin Locksley.  2000 hrs  Shift III took over lighter duties from Shift II.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Bn found 8 Officers and 230 Other Ranks for convoy and has unloaded 1150 tons from Robin Locksley in past 24 hours.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties.  Additional six Officers and 250 Other Ranks engaged as Brigade reserve.

21 November 1942: 14000 Tons of Cargo Unloaded in 60 Hours

CONVOY ESCORT SAILS WITH AXIS POW

HMS Euryalus and most of the Fifth Destroyer Flotilla which escorted the four merchant ships to Malta have sailed for Alexandria.  Euryalus took with her 28 German and Italian prisoners of war.

SWORDFISH RESCUE

The crew of a Swordfish forced down into the sea off Gozo with engine trouble yesterday have been found alive.  Sub/Lt Russell-Jones and Sub/Lt Moon were picked up this morning by the Kalafrana High Speed Launch.

SITUATION REPORT FOR WEEK ENDING 21 NOVEMBER 1942

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

1.  Enemy air activity negligible.  Two daylight alerts for fighters probably on reconnaissance.  One night alert for 11 enemy aircraft but none crossed the coast.  Two bombs in the sea.

Gerbini aerodrome

2.  RAF offensive and reconnaissance: air activity by RAF in support of Operation Torch continues;  Beaufighters on daylight patrols area Bizerta-Sicily destroyed two JU 88s, one HE 115 shot up, two merchant vessels 2000 and 8000 tons – former hit, latter near missed by bombs.  Flak ship also shot up.  Merchant vessel 2000 tons later claimed by Beauforts.  By night Wellingtons and Fleet Air Arm aircraft scored two torpedo hits on tanker causing heavy explosions and fire.  Wellingtons bombed El Aouina, Bizerta, Catania, Gerbini and Comiso.  All attacks considered successful.  Beaufighters on night sorties shot up planes on the ground at Trapani.

3.  HMS Welshman arrived carrying stores.  Unloaded by Army personnel.  Convoy four merchant vessels escorted by cruiser and destroyers arrived safely 0030 hrs 20 November.  Cargoes being unloaded and dispersed to dumps by 3200 Army personnel and Maltese labour.  13672 tons unloaded in 60 hours.  1800 Army personnel on aerodromes.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 22 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather  Variable; showers late evening.

0715-0845 hrs; 0830-0925 hrs; 1055-1225 hrs  A total of 16 Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far patrol over friendly shipping.

1135-1315 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol over naval units: nothing sighted.

1235-1420 hrs; 1405-1520 hrs  A total of 16 Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far on patrol: nothing sighted.

1320-1440 hrs; 1515-1630 hrs  Four, then three Spitfires 229 Squadron on patrol: nothing sighted.

1529-1545 hrs  Air raid alert for a number of enemy fighters which approach the Island at great height, probably on reconnaissance.  None cross the coast.  Seven Spitfires are airborne and patrol from St Paul’s Bay to the north of Gozo but see no enemy aircraft.

1855-1910 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Martin Lundy, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 229 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 21 NOVEMBER 1942

Troop transport Piemonte in former op as Minnedosa

ROYAL NAVY  The unloading of the convoy continued without any attempted interference by enemy aircraft.  Rye swept Turbulent and P 35 in from sea.  HMS P 35 returned to Malta from Operation Torch and patrol off the western coast of Calabria. P 35 sighted three Littorio battleships escorted by twelve destroyers on the 12 November off Cape Vaticano and fired a salvo of torpedoes with no damage. On 15 November she landed a rail sabotage party in the Gulf of Eufemia but owing to considerable barded wire entanglements they were forced to withdraw. At 1416 on 17 November she probably sank the 7000 ton Italian troop ship Piemonte.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Spitfire from Algier-Bone; one Liberator, one DC3 from LG 224, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Swordfish crashed in the sea: crew saved, uninjured.  One Spitfire crash-landed near Mosta: pilot killed.  One Wellington force-landed near Bone: crew believed safe.  One Beaufighter crash-landed on the aerodrome: crew uninjured.  Departures   One Hudson to Gibraltar.

LUQA  1442-2013 hrs  Six Beauforts 39 Squadron and other aircraft were despatched on an offensive sweep in the area south of Malta to attack any southbound enemy shipping.  Nothing of importance was seen; all aircraft returned safely.  One Wellington 104 Squadron and four Beaufighters 46 Squadron were despatched to attack Trapani aerodrome which was shot up by the Beaufighters.  Aircraft on the runway were attacked with cannon fire.  Six special torpedo-carrying Wellingtons 69 Squadron were airborne to attack a southbound enemy convoy of one cruiser, four destroyers and six merchant vessels.  Bad visibility prevented the attack and all torpedoes were brought back to base.

TA QALI  1235-1600 hrs  Six Beaufighters 272 Squadron acted as escort to Beauforts 39 Squadron for strike on shipping.  1250-1715 hrs  Three Beaufighters despatched on an offensive sweep and reconnaissance in the area of Sousse, Sfax and Gabes: one HE 115 destroyed, one Flak ship shot up.  1255-1715 hrs  Three Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive sweep and reconnaissance: W/Cdr Buchanan destroys one HE 115; F/Lt Rankin and F/O Cobley damage a flak ship.  Two Beaufighters damaged by flak and crash on returning to base.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Unloading going well: cargo is fairly easy to handle.  No 5 hold is finished as far as we are concerned; the remainder of its contents is coal.  There is an occasional shortage of lighters.  Our ship has 8000 tons of cargo.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Convoy duties as for yesterday.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties.  Additional six Officers and 250 Other Ranks engaged as Brigade reserve.

(1)  Bank Notes of the Government of Malta, John E Sandrock, http://www.thecurrencycollector.com

 

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

 
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12-18 July 1942: Two Ships Bring Vital Supplies as Siege Tightens

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12 July 1942: Malta’s Resistance Celebrated Worldwide

Australian publication ‘The Age’ this week carries an appreciation of the sacrifices of an Island fortress which holds the key to the Mediterranean:

“Only a dot on the map reveals the presence of Malta, island outpost that has been, and is destined to remain one of the key points, not only of the war in the Mediterranean, but of the struggle by the Allies for undisputed mastery of the seas.

The outside world hears little of the great drama that unfolds, day by day, on those 150 square miles of rocky territory. Malta takes it quietly, and the Maltese themselves would be the last to wish that their qualities of resistance should be represented as anything else than that which was expected of them. Since the day in the early summer of 1940, when Mussolini appeared on the balcony of the Palazzo Venezia and informed the frenzied Fascists crowded in the square below him that Italy had decided to make war, Malta has borne the full brunt of a prolonged aerial attack.

An Eventful Life

Valletta 1942

…True, there are gaping wounds and scars where indiscriminate bombing has wrecked the homes and churches of the sturdy and devoutly Catholic Maltese in La Valetta and the villages and hamlets of the island, but morale has never been shaken, and the chief concern of the islanders is to hit back harder than they have been hit.

As the morning sun comes up from the sea the sirens churn out their first warning of the day. There is no panic. Mothers gather their children together and make quietly for the safety of the deep rock shelters. The men continue with their work until the gun splinters become too numerous or the bombs fall too close. At dusk, whole families find their way to the shelters for a sound sleep away from the noise and danger of bombing…

Hitting Back

…The three services co-operate in their task. Typical, perhaps, was a conversation overheard between an officer of a night fighter unit and an army officer commanding a searchlight battery. ‘You illuminate,’ said the RAF officer, ‘we eliminate’…

There are brave men in the front line at Malta…it was here that the wing commander of a shot-up reconnaissance aircraft so manoeuvred his machine that his observer was able to bale out with the photographs before he himself crashed to his death.

From time to time there is talk about a possible invasion of Malta. The Italians once tried to raid the defences of La Valetta with two-man submarines and other small craft, but it is almost certain that none of the vessels reached its base to tell the story of this dismal failure. The Germans have been raiding in strength from the air for many weeks and the have paid dearly for the very relative degree of success obtained. Malta carries on.” (1)

CLOCKS BROUGHT FORWARD

At 0200 hours this morning clocks in Malta were changed from three hours to two hours in advance of GMT.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 JULY TO DAWN 13 JULY 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; no cloud.

George Beurling notes another strike (2)

0945 hrs  A plot of eleven JU 88s with fighter escort is reported approaching the Island.  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron and seven of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept.  Twenty-five miles north of Gozo the Spitfires of 249 Squadron engage the escort of Macchis and RE 2001s.  Sgt Beurling sets one Macchi on fire.  P/O Berkeley Hilldoes not return.

1005 hrs  The air raid alert sounds as the bombers approach the Island and go on to drop bombs on Ta Qali.

1025 hrs  All clear.

1035-1110 hrs  The air raid alert sounds again as another seven JU 88 bombers approach and drop anti-personnel bombs on Ta Qali.

1140-1230 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron search for P/O Berkeley Hill’s dinghy.  Sgt Beurling encounters two Macchi fighters and destroys them both.

1405 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled on intercept patrol; nil report.

1510 hrs  Air raid alert.

1520 hrs  Twelve JU 88s attack Ta Qali, dropping bombs on the aerodrome and near the caves, cratering the runway extension and eastern dispersal, and causing a grass fire.  The western dispersal crew room is hit and several aircraft are damaged by shrapnel.

1530-1625 hrs  Two Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne to cover minesweepers.

1620 hrs  All clear.

2335-2340 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Owen Berkeley-Hill, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Lance-Corporal John Bell, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

Enemy casualties  Tenente Carlo Seganti, shot down north of Malta.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 12 JULY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  QBB 197 channel completed by [17th Minesweeping Flotilla: Ryde, Hyde, Hebe and Speedy] and Motor Launches. No mines cut.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Beaufort, two Beaufighters, two Hudsons from Gibraltar.  One Halifax en route from Gibraltar to Kasfareet landed at Malta.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot missing, believed killed.

13 July 1942: Heavy Bombing Returns – 20 Bombers in Single Raid

Poor House damaged in morning raid

Heavy bombing returned to Malta today as up to twenty bombers carried out air raids across the Island.  Large numbers of high explosive and anti-personnel bombs were used in the raids.  Main targets were Luqa and Ta Qali airfields and dispersal areas.  But a determined fight back by Spitfires forced several raiders to jettison their bombs.  As a result the communities of Gudja, Ghaxaq, Mqabba, Zeitun, Imtarfa and Rabat were also badly affected.  Supported by Heavy Ack Ack Malta’s fighters attacked destroyed or damaged 18 enemy aircraft.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 JULY TO DAWN 14 JULY 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; no cloud.

0615-0630 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialise.

0730 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy bombers with an escort of fighters, including ME 109s, RE 2001s and Macchi 202s.   Five miles east of Zonqor they spot twenty enemy bombers flying in two formations, one of eleven and one of nine.  The Spifires meet the first formation as it reaches the coast, and attack.  P/O Northcott destroys one JU 88; S/Ldr Hamilton damages two and F/Lt Douglas damages one.  The bombers are forced to jettison their bombs.

0800 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled too late to get up to the bombers but attack the fighters.  P/O McElroy destroys one ME 109; F/Sgt Rae destroys one RE 2001 and damages two others.

0805 hrs  Air raid alert.  Ten JU 88s and eight fighters attack Luqa and Gudja, damaging one Beaufighter.

0830 hrs  All clear.

1120 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept an approaching formation of nine JU 88s with an escort of eight fighters.

1125 hrs  The raiders attack Luqa, destroying one Hurricane and one Beaufighter, and damaging three Beaufighters, two Beauforts and one Wellington.  Bomb blast damages the Poor House buildings.  One airman is killed and two wounded.  The Spitfires dive onto the bombers as they are attacking the airfield.  F/Sgt Irwin destroys one JU 88; he is hit by return fire but is unhurt.  P/O Northcott damages one JU 88.

1140-1155 hrs  Air raid alert.  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled; nil report.

1400-1535 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne on intercept patrol: no engagement.

1655 hrs  Ten Spitfires 603 Squadron and seven of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept a formation of 19 JU 88s with fighter escort.

1710 hrs  Air raid alert.  603 Squadron engage the bombers out over Sliema.  F/Sgt Parkinson probably destroys one ME 109; F/Sgt Brown damages one.  F/Lt Mitchell damages two JU 88s; P/O Sherwood and F/Sgt Ballantyne each damage one.  P/O McLeod damages one Macchi 202.  He is shot up in the oil system but successfully lands his aircraft.  P/O Jones 249 Squadron is shot up by an unseen aircraft: his elevator controls are shot away but he makes a perfect landing.

1729 hrs  The remaining bombers attack Ta Qali; bombs fall on the aerodrome, causing six craters, and also near the caves.

1745 hrs  All clear.

2115-2130 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Leading Aircraftsman John Drainer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Private Kenneth Barnes, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment; Private Leonard Dicks, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment;Gunner Carmel Schembri, 3 Light Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Imtarfa  Florence Mary Hamilton, wife of Lt Col Hamilton, Officer in Charge Medical Division, 90 General Hospital Imtarfa, who was injured in the raid..  Qormi  Saviour Mifsud, age 34.  Rabat  Emanuel Darmanin, age 11; Joseph Gauci, age 60; George Zammit, age 65.  Zejtun  Saviour Desira, age 50.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 13 JULY 1942

AIR HQ  One aircraft attacked three F boats in position 195 degrees Lampedusa course southerly, scoring near misses on one of them.  Arrivals  One Wellington, five Beauforts, three Beaufighters, three Wellingtons, one Hudson from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis; one Wellington en route from Gibraltar to Kasfareet landed at Malta.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot injured.  One Spitfire force-landed after combat: pilot uninjured.  Three Beauforts failed to return from strike: crew missing.

14 July 1942: Battle of Britain Leader is New Air Commander Malta

Sir Keith Park

Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Rodney Park arrived today to take up the appointment of Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Royal Air Force Malta.  He replaces Air Vice Marshall Hugh Pughe Lloyd, who is expected to depart for the Middle East immediately after the hand-over to his successor.

Air Vice Marshal Park was posted to Malta from Egypt, where he has been Air Officer Commanding since January 1942.  His arrival is welcomed by RAF: Park has faced Luftwaffe commander Kesselring before, when he commanded RAF operations during the Battle of Britain.

As the new AOC’s aircraft approached, a radio message came through from Air HQ Malta warning that the Island was under attack and ordering the plane to divert.  Park over-ruled the message, ordering the pilot to land. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 JULY TO DAWN 15 JULY 1942

Weather  Wind westerly; moderate to fresh.  30% medium cloud.

0945-1050 hrs  One Spitfire 249 Squadron Ta Qali is sent to search for a dinghy: nothing sighted.

0945 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron and eight of 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept enemy fighters which are approaching in formation with bombers.  Heavy Ack Ack fire barrages.  249 Squadron attack: F/Sgt Williams damages one ME 109, Sgt Beurling is hit in the heels with shrapnel and P/O Hetherington crash lands at Hal Far with engine trouble.  F/Sgt Parkinson 603 Squadron destroys one ME 109; two of his colleagues’ Spitfires are slightly damaged in combat.

1010 hrs  Air raid alert.  Seven JU88 escorted by 15 fighters drop High Explosive and anti-personnel bombs from 18k feet on Luqa airfield.  A petrol bowser is burned out and an ambulance destroyed.

1044 hrs  All clear.

1237 hrs  Air raid alert.  Six ME109s patrol over the Island at 20000 feet.

2238-2310 hrs  Air raid alert.  Two enemy aircraft drop bombs in the sea north west of Gozo and off Ricasoli and anti-personnel bombs around Senglea.

2315-2335 hrs  Air raid alert.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                              Civilian casualties   Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS DAY TUESDAY 14 JULY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Naval Air Squadrons carried out search for shipping, but returned without sighting.

AIR HQ  One aircraft attacked Messina as an alternative to shipping as none was found.  The bombs fell south of the town in the vicinity of the railway, but results were unobserved.  Arrivals  One Beaufighter, one Beaufort and one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire crash-landed: pilot uninjured.  One Spitfire damaged in combat: pilot wounded.  One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot rescued injured.

15 July 1942: Operation Pinpoint Delivers Spitfires

SS Empire Shackleton arrived at Gibraltar in convoy OG 85 on 25 June carrying 32 cased Spitfires.  It was originally intended that the operation to deliver the aircraft to Malta should start on 2 July, but it was postponed for 12 days.

HMS Eagle brings 32 more Spitfires

Ahead of the mission, at 2200 hrs on 13 July St Day, escorted by Haarlem set out in advance of the convoy, to patrol in the area of Cape de Gata on the look-out for enemy vessels. At 0500 hrs next morning Eagle embarked with its precious cargo of 32 Spitfires, with six Sea Hurricanes for fighter protection of the force, and sailed with Charybdis, Cairo, Westcott, Wrestler, Ithuriel, Antelope and Vansittart.

The force was spotted by enemy aircraft at 0830 hrs and reported back to their base.  Despite two such reports, at 0613 hrs on 15 July the first flight of eight Spitfires took off from Eagle, to be followed by three more flights.  One Spitfire crashed on taking off; the pilot was saved but the plane was lost. The remaining 31 Spitfires in all landed safely at Malta and the ships arrived back at Gibraltar on the morning of 16 July.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 JULY TO DAWN 16 JULY 1942

Weather  Wind westerly; moderate.  50% medium cloud.

0940-1030 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron and eight of 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to act as fighter cover for approaching friendly aircraft: no engagement.

0955 hrs  Fifteen Spitfires arrive in Malta from the aircraft carrier Eagle.

1510 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron and eight of 603 Squadron are airborne on intercept patrol: no engagement.

1520 hrs  Air raid alert for a strong fighter sweep of 20 ME 109s, RE 2001s and Macchi 202s.  Malta’s fighters damage one ME 109.

2210-2225 hrs; 2257-2315 hrs  Air raid alerts.  A total of four Italian aircraft, two BR 20s and two Cz 1007s, approach the Island singly.  They drop bombs in the sea north of the Island, on land east of Wardia.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  One Beaufighter is airborne but does not engage.

Military casualties  Lance-Corporal George Bonello 2nd Battalion, King’s Own Malta Regiment.

Civilian casualties   Hamrun  Joseph Grech, age 8.  Naxxar  Carmel Grech, age 15.  Rabat  Felice Gauci, age 30.

OPERATIONS REPORTS DAY WEDNESDAY 15 JULY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  31 Spitfires, flown off from HMS Eagle arrived without incident.  Minesweepers operating over QBB 197 channel and approaches to Marsaxlokk. No mines swept.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Blenheim from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington caught fire on landing: crew safe.

TA QALI  Wing Commander Le May OBE arrived to take over command of RAF Station Ta Qali; vice-commander is Wing Commander Gracie DFC.  No 1435 Night Fighter Force moved to Luqa.

16 July 1942: Welshman Delivers the Goods

Just after 6 o’clock this morning HMS Welshman entered Grand Harbour bringing essential supplies and personnel.  The merchantman left Gibraltar on 14 July under the protection of Force H, the convoy covering Operation Pinpoint for yesterday’s delivery of Spitfires.

Welshman left the convoy yesterday and survived air, surface and submarine attacks, including one heavy raid by German and Italian aircraft as she struggled through.  The delivery Spitfires on their way to Malta were detailed to provide protection to Welshman en route.

Soldiers stand by to unload (c) IWM GM 1151

Berthed in number five dock, Welshman was carefully manoeuvred into a listing position, to simulate damage.  The Dockyard smoke screen was made ready, to be put up when enemy bombers were approaching, so that unloading could begin immediately.  As well as 120 service personnel, the precious cargo included powdered milk, edible oils, soap and vitamin concentrates much needed for the civilian population, as well as naval and military stores.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 JULY TO DAWN 17 JULY 1942

Weather  Wind south westerly; fresh.  30% cloud – cold.

0625-0645 hrs; 0750-0800 hrs  Air raid alerts for enemy fighter sweeps.  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to patrol: no interception.

1343-1425 hrs  Air raid alert for a fighter sweep.  Three Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne to act as cover for minesweepers.

1835 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are sent up to patrol: nil report.  Two Spitfires 603 Squadron are also airborne to act as escort for minesweepers.

2222-2319 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four unidentified enemy bombers drop bombs on Luqa and Ta Qali. Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Beaufighters are airborne: no engagement.

2345-0020 hrs  Air raid alert for several enemy aircraft approaching singly.  Heavy Ack Ack engage and Beaufighters are airborne.  All bombs are dropped in the sea.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 16 JULY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Marsaxlokk and approaches swept by Oropesa, SA and LL [acoustic and magnetic equipment].

AIR HQ  One Hudson, one Catalina, one Beaufort, one Beaufighter, two Hudsons, two Wellingtons from Gibraltar; 31 Spitfires from naval operation.

TA QALI  Warrant Officer Bowden and 31 airmen reported ex UK [via] HMS Welshman.

17 July 1942: RAF Rescue German Pilot

RAF Air Sea Rescue Launch

A German pilot shot down over Malta this afternoon and rescued by the RAF has died from his injuries.  Feldwebel [Sergeant] Heinz Sauer was piloting his Messerschmitt 109 as part of a fighter sweep over Grand Harbour when he was attacked by 603 Squadron Spitfire pilot Wally McLeod.  His aircraft destroyed, Sauer ejected and parachuted into the sea, hitting the water some eight miles off Kalafrana.

The RAF rescue launch headed to the spot and pulled the badly injured Heinz Sauer from the water.  He died from his wounds before the launch reached shore.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 JULY TO DAWN 18 JULY 1942

Weather  Wind south-westerly; no cloud.

0934 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three ME 109s carry out a fighter sweep.

1420 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept an approaching formation of four JU 88s with fighter escort.  The Spitfires engage the fighters; P/O McLeod destroys one ME 109.  F/Sgt Parkinson crash lands; he is unhurt.

1430 hrs  Five JU 88s escorted by twenty fighters attack Luqa and Safi.  The bombers execute a shallow dive from 21000 to 16000 feet, dropping anti-personnel bombs and high explosives, including several delayed-action bombs.  Two Beauforts are damaged.  One airman is seriously injured and two others slightly injured while trying to defuze a bomb.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Malta’s fighters destroy a total of four ME 109s and damage three more, without loss of any Spitfires.

1500 hrs  All clear.

1610 hrs  Three Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne to intercept approaching enemy aircraft: no interceptions.  The air raid alert sounds but there is no bombing raid.

1753-1808 hrs  Air raid alert.  One enemy aircraft carries out a search ten miles north east of Grand Harbour.

1830-1833 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialise.

2200-2245 hrs  Air raid alert for three JU 88 bombers which approach singly.  Heavy Ack and searchlights engage; Malta’s fighters are airborne and destroy one JU 88.  All bombs are dropped in the sea.

2340-0005 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching Italian bombers.  Malta’s fighters are airborne; the raiders drop all their bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

Enemy casualties  Feldwebel Heinz Sauer, pilot of a Messerschmitt 109.

OPERATIONS REPORTS DAY FRIDAY 17 JULY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Smoke screen was put up for one formation of bombers, during the day, and once after dark.

AIR HQ  Reconnaissance reports show that the number of enemy aircraft at Comiso has fallen from 43 to 11.  Arrivals  One Beaufort, two Wellingtons, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire force-landed with engine failure: pilot uninjured.

18 July 1942: Magic Carpet Brings More Supplies

HMS Parthian

Submarine HMS Parthian arrived in Malta today with a small cargo of supplies, including cartridges and shells.  The arrival is the latest of the ‘Magic Carpet’ runs designed to break the enemy siege of the Island, in which submarines act as underwater freighters and deliver essential supplies which cannot be brought by surface vessels.  The submarines stow cargo in every available space to maximize the amount carried.  With deliveries every 12 to 14 days, the Magic Carpet runs are helping to arm and fuel Malta’s defenders as well as bringing medical and other crucial stores for the Island’s inhabitants.

Parthian’s mission was the second successful delivery of supplies in two days.  Welshman sailed today for Gibraltar having unloaded her cargo without any significant enemy interference.

MALTA’S FIGHTER STRENGTH UP WHILE AXIS NUMBERS FALL

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

Military Situation Report for Week Ending 18 July 1942

1.  Daylight air attacks against aerodromes considerable on 12 and 13 July totalling 66 JU 88s; thereafter mainly fighter sweeps.  Night activity slight.  Photo reconnaissance shows decrease of 43 JU 88s on Sicilian aerodromes.  31 Spitfires reinforcement arrived.  RAF destroyed 5 bombers 12 fighters; damaged or probably destroyed 30.  Ack Ack no claims.

Soldiers unload oil drums from Welshman (c) IWM GM 1110

2.  HMS Welshman arrived with small cargo powdered milk, edible oil, after rough passage.  Not attacked in harbour.  Army assisted in rapid unloading.

3.  Slight damage to military billets and stores.  5 Other Ranks killed; 4 Officers, 17 Other Ranks wounded.  25 UXBs plus 773 anti-personnel bombs disposed of by bomb disposal section.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 JULY TO DAWN 19 JULY 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; slight.  No cloud.

0815-0850 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept an incoming fighter sweep: no combats.

1105-1210 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali and ten of 249 Squadron are airborne in response to a reported fighter sweep: nothing sighted.  249 Squadron pilots F/Sgt Brown is taken ill in the air and returns to base early; P/O Lowery taxis into a hole, damaging his aircraft; Sgt Hogarth has trouble with his undercarriage and returns early.

1405-1500 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept a reported plot of enemy aircraft, including two JU 88 bombers and fifteen Messerschmitts.  They see the enemy fighters first, and then chase one of the JU 88s, flying at sea level.  P/O McLean is shot up and bales out.  P/O Latimer is shot up and crash lands; he is slightly wounded.  The JU 88 is probably destroyed and one ME 109 damaged.

1413 hrs  Air raid alert.  The remaining JU 88 with ME 109 escort attacks Luqa, dropping anti-personnel bombs and high explosives, including several delayed action bombs.

1415-1430 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron patrol to cover the air sea rescue launch but return early due to radio trouble.  Two Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to take over and escort the rescue launch which picks up P/O McLean.

1830-1945 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are on patrol: raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 18 JULY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  HMS Welshman sailed at 1945 hrs, having sustained no damage from air attack. The only deliberate attacks on her were made at night when a few bombs were dropped in the Dockyard area.  Submarine Parthian arrived at Marsaxlokk with stores from Gibraltar.  QBB 197 swept by Speedy and Grand Harbour entrance by Swona.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Beaufort, one Wellington from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot rescued injured.  One Spitfire crashed on landing after combat: pilot uninjured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 129.  Dealt with: High Explosives 29, including 9 delayed-action (6 x 500kg; 14 x 250kg; 4 x 50kg; 2 x 35kg; 3 x AP containers); anti-personnel bombs: 777.

(1) The Age, Australia, July 1942

(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 July 18, 2017 in 1942, July 1942

 

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10 May 1942: The Battle of Malta – Fiercest Attack the World has Ever Known

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  • Enemy fighters destroyed/damaged by RAF 57
  • Enemy fighters destroyed by Ack Ack 8

    JU 87 Stuka

THE FIERCEST AERIAL ATTACK THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN

Royal Navy Commander Edward Woolley was working that morning at Hamrun with Army Bomb Disposal Officer, Lt Thomas Blackwell, where they had just dealt with an unexploded G mine:

“Just as we left a most terrific barrage started right above us. It was so sudden we didn’t even have time to take cover, and perforce had to watch what was probably the fiercest and most concentrated aerial attack the world has ever known. It so happened that during the night a single ship had run the gauntlet to Malta and was being unloaded at top speed. Jerry sent over about a hundred Stukas to get it. Only the day before we had received reinforcements of Spitfires and the Gunners were given unlimited fire and my God did they use it. The air was literally black with barrage, planes and bits of planes. The Spits got so excited they followed the Stukas right through the barrage and we lost a couple. Jerry lost about seventy the highest day’s loss by a long way. The whole affair lasted about twenty minutes and we stood in the doorway to a house the whole time, never been so frightened in my life.”  (1) 

HMS Welshman

WELSHMAN SURVIVES TO DELIVER VITAL SUPPLIES

Minelayer HMS Welshman arrived in Grand Harbour today, bringing spare parts and 105 RAF maintenance crew for Spitfires to Malta as part of Operation Bowery.  She was also loaded to the limit with 540 tons of stores including the supply for Malta of 15 tons of smoke-making compound, as well as 96 Rolls Royce Merlin aircraft engines, over 80,000 rounds of Bofors shells, plus medicines, tinned meat, powdered milk and dehydrated foodstuffs.

Welshman embarked on 7 May and, once at sea, was disguised as the French super destroyer Leopard and flying French colours to cover her passage through the Mediterranean.  The disguise fooled French and German reconnaissance aircraft and Welshman completed her passage to Malta unchallenged, entering Grand Harbour early this morning having narrowly missed two mines on her way in.

Unloading HMS Welshman (IWM GM 1377)

“The RAF personnel. were soon on their way and then task of unloading began. I was on watch in the radio room below decks and at about 1000 hours the air raid warnings began. At 1100 hours the ship was shaken by three explosions — two bombs had landed on the quay, demolishing one of the cranes, and the third had landed in the dock, all within about 20 feet of the ship. Part of one of the cranes landed on the multiple pom-pom deck, killing one of the crew and putting the gun out of action… For the first time during the siege a smoke screen was laid over the Harbour and this may well have saved the Welshman”  (2)

British Pathe News: Supplies for Malta CLICK HERE

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 MAY TO DAWN 11 MAY 1942

Weather  Wind southerly: no cloud – haze.  Very hot.

0530 hrs  HMS Welshman enters Grand Harbour.  Immediately on berthing she puts up a smoke screen completely obscuring her from view.

0550-0700 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to intercept enemy aircraft: no engagement.

0555 hrs  ME 109s carry out a patrol to the south east of the Island.

0720-0821 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are airborne from Hal Far on patrol duties over Grand Harbour.    

0750 hrs  Three Spitfires 601 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa on intercept patrol: no contact.

0752 hrs  One JU 88 and ten ME 109s carry out reconnaissance over the Island.  Sgt Boyd, 185 Squadron, fires at two ME 109s without result.

0820-0940 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne from Ta Qali on patrol: nil report.

0951 hrs  First reports of formations of enemy aircraft heading from the direction of Comiso.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa to intercept.  They engage enemy fighters: two ME 109s are probably destroyed; one damaged.

Island on full alert: Lascaris Operations Room orders Ground Observers to readiness and Anti-Aircraft guns to alert status.  19 Spitfires 601 and 126 Squadrons are scrambled from Luqa to intercept enemy aircraft.

First visual reports of incoming enemy raiders from observation posts on Gozo and Marfa Ridge.

Anti-aircraft guns open barrages on incoming aircraft.

1041 hrs  Twenty JU 87s and eight JU 88s escorted by large numbers of ME 109s head for Grand Harbour and attempt to attack shipping through the smoke screen.  They are met by an intense Ack Ack barrage over the harbour and large numbers of Spitfires attacking from above – all operating through the smoke and defensive barrage.  Observers describe enemy bombing as ‘very inaccurate’.

1048 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali to intercept enemy aircraft.  A number of JU 87s and JU 88s are attacked in the Grand Harbour area.  Sgt Boyd probably destroys one JU 88 and damages another.  Sgt Dodd destroys one JU 87.  F/Lt Lawrence probably destroys one JU 88.  SGt Broad probably destroys one JU 88 and P/O McKay probably destroys one JU 88.

Spitfires from Luqa 126 and 601 Squadrons claim two JU 87s,and one JU 88 destroyed; two JU 87s and two JU 88s probably destroyed; two JU 87s and two JU 88s damaged.

1050 hrs  Seven Spitfires 603 Squadron and five Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali and intercept fifteen JU 87s.  F/Sgt Hurst destroys one JU 87 and damages another.  F/Lt Douglas probably destroys one and damages another.  F/O Holland damages three ME 109s.  P/O Nash destroys one JU 87 and probably destroys another.  F/Lt Buchanan damages one JU 87, F/O Lee probably destroys one, Sgt Brennan destroys one and damages another.  P/O Plagis destroys one JU 87 and damages one ME 109.

One Spitfire, one JU 88 and one JU 87 are seen to crash in the Grand Harbour area.

1115 hrs  Spitfires return to Luqa: P/O Briggs fails to return to base.

1138 hrs  Raiders passed.

1200 hrs  One JU 88 and two ME 109s carry out reconnaissance.

1330 hrs  Unloading of Welshman is complete.

1358 hrs  ME 109s carry out a fighter sweep across the Island.

1430 hrs  Reports come in of a formation of 7 JU 88 bombs with an escort of 30 ME 109 fighters approaching the Island. 12 Spitfires 126 and 601 Squadrons from Luqa and eight Spitfires 249 Squadron, Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept.

1445 hrs  Approaching Grand Harbour the enemy raiders are attacked by Spitfires and Heavy Ack Ack fire.  Spitfires 126 and 601 Squadron from Luqa claim two ME 109s probably destroyed, one damaged.  Four Spitfires are damaged; pilots unhurt.

Seven JU 88s drop bombs on Grand Harbour.  The smoke screen is still in place, obscuring HMS Welshman from view and hampering visibility.  Bombs damage a gun mounting store, smithery and boiler house in the Dockyard.  Three bombs land two hundred yards north west of Hompesch.

1453 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron dive on the seven JU 88s as they turn away from releasing their bombs.  S/Ldr Grant destroys one; F/Sgt Hesselyn probably destroys one ME 109.  One JU 88 is seen to crash in the Zabbar area.

1500-1520 hrs  Numerous ME 109s at 300-1000 feet are engaged by guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA).

1555 hrs  Raiders passed.

1740 hrs  A formation of Italian bombers with fighter escort totalling 35 aircraft is reported heading for the Island.  10 Spitfires are scrambled from Luqa to intercept enemy aircraft.

Five Cant 1007bis escorted by fighters drop bombs to the east of Grand Harbour.  The smoke screen is still in place and Harbour gunners put up a very heavy anti-aircraft barrage.  Spitfires from Luqa claim two Cant 1007 and one Macchi 202 destroyed; one Cant 1007 damaged.

1810 hrs  Another large formation of enemy aircraft approaches, including 16 JU 87 Stukas and large numbers of ME 109 fighters.

1814 hrs  Seven Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far to intercept the enemy aircraft.

1835 hrs  The JU 87s attack Grand Harbour amid a smoke screen and very heavy anti-aircraft barrage.  Bombing is described as ‘very wild’.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron and ten Spitfires 603 Squadron from Ta Qali join the Spitfires of 185 Squadron and engage the JU 87s.  Ta Qali fighter F/O West damages one ME 109; P.O Watts destroys one ME 109.  P/O Hetherington probably destroys one ME 109; F/Lt Douglas and P.O Forster between them probably destroy one JU 87.  F/Lt Douglas damages another.  F/O Mitchell destroys one JU 87 and damages another, and probably destroys one ME 109.  Sgt Broad and Sgt Dodd, 185 Squadron each damage a ME 109.

1850 hrs  Eight Spitfires are scrambled from Luqa to intercept enemy aircraft.  One ME 109 is destroyed and one probably destroyed; one JU 87 is damaged.

One JU 88 carries out reconnaissance over the Island.

1905 hrs  Six guns of 225 LAA engage two ME 109s: no claims.

1920-2012 hrs  Seven Hurricanes 229 Squadron from Hal Far are scrambled to escort the air/sea rescue high speed launch.

1950 hrs  Raiders passed.  Malta fighters land.

2004 hrs  Eight enemy aircraft are reported carrying out a search to the north of the Island.

2100 hrs  Another fire breaks out in a cave at Ta Qali, destroying 7000 gallons of paraffin and a large amount of oil.  Three Maltese airmen are placed under arrest.  The Station Commander announces that a gibbet has been erected on the road leading to the caves as a warning to anyone considering sabotage.

2130 hrs  HMS Welshman leaves Grand Harbour.

Night  Two alerts for two enemy aircraft.  Bombs are dropped on Gozo and in the Marsaxlokk area.

2359-0151 hrs  One Beaufighter airborne from Luqa on patrol chases en enemy bomber but loses contact.

0205-0308 hrs  One Beaufighter airborne from Luqa to locate enemy forces observes suspected activity 10 miles north of C San Dimitri.  He sees a flashing light is seen which does not seem to be operating in any sequence to suggest a message.  Four units are located: presumed to be enemy vessels.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Arthur Lamb, HMS Welshman; Pilot Officer George Briggs, Pilot Officer, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Samuel Conlon, 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment; Joseph Brownrigg, Artificer, Malta Auxilliary Corps, attached Royal Army Service Corps; Sapper Francis Grech, Royal Engineers, Malta Territorial Force; Bombardier Albert Mengham, 7th Heavy Ack Ack (HAA) Regiment, Royal Artillery; Gunner Michael Sammut, 11 HAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Private Stephen Scholey, 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Nil

Enemy casualties  Unteroffizier, Christian Appmann, III StG 3, pilot of JU 87 Stuka; Unteroffizier Walter Kern KERN, III StG 3, gunner of JU 87; Unteroffizier Gerhard Nikolia, III StG 3, Pilot of JU 87; Unteroffizier Walter Rauer, III StG 3, wireless operator of JU 87; Unteroffizier Heinrich Schaefer, III StG 3, Gunner of a JU 87.  Unteroffizier Walter RAstinnes, III StG 3, pilot of JU 87 crashed, survived and was taken prisoner.

Primo Aviere Antonio Braschi, crewman of Cant-Z.1007; Sottotenente Salvatore de Maria, crewman of a Cant-Z.1007; Aviere Scelto Celestino Giovannini, crewman of a Cant-Z.1007; Primo Aviere Vittorio Rey, crewman of a Cant-Z.1007; Tenente Domenico Robilotta, crewman of a Cant-Z.1007; Aviere Scelto Giovanni Zancan, crewman of a Cant-Z.1007.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 10 MAY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Submarine P35 sailed.  Greek submarine Triton arrived Marsaxlokk. Considerable enemy air activity during the night, and it is suspected that a number of mines were laid off Grand Harbour.  Beryl and Trusty Star were in action with E boats which were driven off to the north east.  Beryl observed the tracks of three torpedoes.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Wellington, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire straffed by ME 109s when landing; pilot uninjured.  One Hurricane taxied into a bomb crater.  One Spitfire faield to return from operations: pilot missing.  One Spitfire is hit by Ack Ack fire; pilot uninjured.  One Spitfire is shot down over the sea off Malta; pilot safe.

LUQA  0957-1156 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes.  0950-1330 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance of the Tripoli coast.  1535-1745 hrs  One Spitfire on special search Messina.

TA QALI  0400 hrs reveille; all on the spot 0530 hrs.  New arrivals at Ta Qali: one Sergeant and 28 Others.  The organisation on Ta Qali aerodrome is excellent and military personnel on the aerodrome do good work.  One crew in pen changed delivery aircraft into operational one in 7 1/2 minutes.  Orderly Room staff manning emergency communications and erecting tents for new pilots.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  Working party of 7 Officers and 150 Other Ranks for bomb-crater filling on Ta Qali aerodrome.  Working party of 1 Officer and 20 Other Ranks for filling ammunition belts at Ta Qali aerodrome.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  50 men B Company to stand by at Corradino to keep roads open in and around the Dockyard.  Cruiser HMS Welshman brought in stores.  Same numbers as yesterday on Luqa.  B Company party standing by volunteered to help unolad the cruiser.  Unloading finished by mid-day.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1115 hrs  One JU 87 attacking Grand Harbour is engaged by HQ: no claims.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continued.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 8 (4 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  12 Officers and 205 Other Ranks building pens and filling craters on Hal Far aerodrome.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Ack Ack light machine guns 8th Bn Kings Own Royal Regt engage low-flying ME 109s.  Hits observed on one which is last seen going out to sea, smoking badly.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working parties continued.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  The unit supplied 10 trucks and drivers for Ta Qali.

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Posted by on May 10, 2017 in 1942, May 1942

 

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