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7 June 1941: Malta ‘Master Key of the Empire’ Says Churchill

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British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER COMMITTED TO PROTECTION OF MALTA

Winston Churchill has written directly to Lt Gen Dobbie pledging full support in the protection of Malta. The British Prime Minister was responding to the Governor and Commander in Chief’s telegram of 5 June outlining the challenges facing the Island in its present role, and the measures needed to address them:

From: The Prime Minister   To: The Governor & C in C Malta

“I am entirely in agreement with your general outlook. It does not seem that an attack on Malta is likely within the next two or three weeks.  Meanwhile other events of importance will be decided, enabling or compelling a new view to be taken. 

You may be sure we regard Malta as one of the master-keys of the British Empire. We are sure you are the man to hold it and we will do everything in human power to give you the means.”

RE-ARMING TREATED AS URGENT

An immediate response to Lt Gen Dobbie’s statement has also come from the War Office:

“To enable plans to be made to meet your requirements please cable further details regarding anti-aircraft ammunition required, the role you intend for extra field or anti-tank guns and certain small stores which could be sent to Malta by air or submarine.”

Malta’s Governor & C in C replied within hours:

“Anti-aircraft ammunition requirements (4.5” x 6000 rounds; 3.7” x 40000 rounds plus 16 barrels; Bofors x 100000 rounds plus 166 barrels). Field or anti-tank guns are for direct fire onto the aerodromes, likely air landing places and beaches.  In addition, lessons from Crete indicate a further 24 Bofors for aerodrome defences in addition to the previous authorised number would be most welcome.  Also weapons and equipment sufficient for ten British battalions referred to in a previous telegram, and other specialised stores, details to follow.

46 SQUADRON DIVERTED FROM MIDDLE EAST TO DEFENCE OF MALTA

RAF fighter unit 46 Squadron has been ordered to remain in Malta. The Squadron arrived yesterday as part of ‘Operation Rocket’, landing on the Island temporarily en route for the Middle East.  The 24 Hurricanes should have departed today for Egypt along with 15 others.  However, Squadron Leader Sandy Rabagliati, DFC, has been informed that 46 is to remain in Malta to strengthen the Island’s fighter force. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 JUNE TO DAWN 8 JUNE 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

0527-0621 hrs  Air raid alert for three formations of twelve, three and four enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the south. Twelve ME109 fighters cross the coast rapidly.  While eight remain at altitude, four dive low to machine-gun Hal Far aerodrome.  Heavy and light anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Ten Hurricanes are scrambled; no interception.

0251-0429 hrs  Air raid alert for four Italian BR 20 bombers which approach from the north east and drop 15kg bombs on the Wardia, Luqa and Marsa areas, and on Manoel Island. Two Hurricane fighters are scrambled.  One BR 20 is illuminated by searchlights and engaged.  The aircraft bursts into flames, the crew bale out and it crashes between Qrendi and Hagiar Qim.  One parachute is seen descending over Marsaxlokk.  3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment posts a guard over the aircraft and take two prisoners – an Italian flying officer at the Blue Grotto and a sergeant at Wied Bassasa – who are handed over to the Detention Barracks at Corradino. A dead body is later discovered 300 yards from the aircraft and buried at St Andrews Cemetery.  A second BR 20 is illuminated and hit by a Hurricane; it is badly damaged and last seen over Hal Far heading out to sea, believed destroyed.  A third enemy aircraft is badly damaged.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant James H Adamson, Royal Air Force, 202 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant Greville V Nicholls, RAF, 202 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 7 JUNE 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 7 Swordfish in successful attack on Tripoli: ‘cucumbers’ in harbour entrance.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron  4 Marylands on reconnaissance; 1 Hurricane on photo-reconnaissance of Catania aerodrome revealed 10 JU 52s, 9 HE 111s or JU 88s, 9 unidentified fighters.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A new intake of Malta volunteers is being trained in the Three Cities with D Company, who will provide equipment for them as well as for those in the Sliema area.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Ta Xbiex and Misida mine laying commenced by 24 Company. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 3 (15kg).

 

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Posted by on June 7, 2021 in 1941, June 1941

 

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9 February 1941: Churchill Praises Malta’s Defenders

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British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

ILLUSTRIOUS DEFENCE SHOWS ALLIED POTENTIAL SAYS BRITISH PM

Winston Churchill has praised the achievements of Malta’s ground and air defenders against the blitz launched on the Illustrious in January. To date 85 enemy aircraft have been shot down over Malta plus another 24 probables and 33 damaged. In a speech today, he referred to the Island as an example of Allied resistance:

“In the Central Mediterranean, the Italian Quisling, who is called Mussolini, and the French Quisling, commonly called Laval, are both in their different ways trying to make their countries into doormats for Hitler and his new order, in the hope of being able to keep or get the Nazi Gestapo and Prussian bayonets to enforce their rule upon their fellow countrymen. I cannot tell how the matter will go, but at any rate we shall do our best to fight for the Central Mediterranean.

I dare say you will have noticed a very significant air action which was fought over Malta a fortnight ago. The Germans sent an entire Geschwader (squadron) of dive-bombers to Sicily. They seriously injured our new aircraft carrier Illustrious, and then, as this wounded ship was sheltered in Malta harbour, they concentrated upon her all their force so as to beat her to pieces.

But they were met by the batteries of Malta, which is one of the strongest defended fortresses in the world against air attack. They were met by the Fleet Air Arm and by the Royal Air Force and in two or three days they had lost, out of 150 dive-bombers, upward of ninety-fifty of which were destroyed in the air and forty on the ground. Although the Illustrious in her damaged condition was one of the great prizes of the air and naval war, the German Geschwader accepted the defeat. They would not come any more.

All the necessary repairs were made to the Illustrious in Malta harbour, and she steamed safely off to Alexandria under her own power at twenty-three knots. I dwell upon this incident not at all because I think it disposes of the danger in the Central Mediterranean but in order to show you that there, as elsewhere, we intend to give a good account of ourselves. But, after all, the fate of this war is going to be settled by what happens on the oceans, in the air and, above all, in this island.”

HELMETS TO BE WORN DURING RAIDS

Orders have been issued to troops that steel helmets must be worn by all personnel in the open during air raid alerts. In addition, any personnel who have to look up must wear eyeshields.  No such protection should be removed until 30 minutes after the ‘raiders passed’ signal.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 10 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine and clear.

0725-0740 hrs; 1032-1050 hrs  Air raid alert; raids do not materialise.

1430-1535 hrs  Air raid alert for a large number of enemy aircraft approaching the Island in two formations. Twelve Hurricanes and three Fulmars are scrambled and the raiders turn back without crossing the coast. 

1620-1650 hrs  Air raid alert for an enemy aircraft flying southwards very slowly over Delimara; raid does not materialise.

1835-1930 hrs  Air raid alert for an unidentified aircraft approaching the Island; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 9 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ Departures 2 Sunderlands. 69 Squadron  Maryland despatched for photoreconnaissance special mission (Operation Colossus) believed successful.  Sunderland patrol for enemy shipping depth of 100 miles north and south Tunisian coast.  

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Middle East with passengers and freight. One Sunderland left for Gibraltar with passengers.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland special mission successfully accomplished.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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Posted by on February 9, 2021 in 1941, February 1941

 

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23 September 1940: Danger to Malta ‘Extreme’ Says Churchill

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ISLAND VULNERABLE TO ATTACK FROM THE SEA

British Prime Minister has responded strongly to the issues raised in Gov C in C’s telegram to War Office of 19 September in which he says that the infantry garrison of Malta would be ‘dangerously weak’ if the Island were attacked from the sea.

In a note to the Chief of Imperial General Staff, Sir Winston Churchill said: “The telegram confirms my apprehensions about Malta. Beaches defended on an average battalion front of 15 miles, and no reserves for counter-attack worth speaking of, leave the Island at the mercey of a landing force. You must remember that we do not possess the command of the sea around Malta. The danger therefore appears to be extreme. I should have thought four battalions were needed….”

And to Secretary of State for War the Prime Minister wrote: “Do you realise there is no command of the sea at Malta, and it might be attacked at any time by an expeditionary force of twenty or thirty thousand men from Italy, supported by the Italian Fleet?” (1)

Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa

Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 24 SEPTEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine with scirocco.

1045 hrs Three Wellington bombers arrive at Luqa. One crashes on landing and is badly damaged. Passengers Major General Freysburg, staff officer Lt Colonel Stewart and the crew escape unhurt. The aircraft is badly damaged and cannot be repaired with materials currently available on the Island.

1725-1740 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 23 SEPTEMBER 1940

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA Two Sunderlands 228 Squadron arrived from Middle East for a prolonged stay, bringing a maintenance party of 16 and an important Naval officer en route for Gibraltar.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Platoon training began again.

(1) Gladiators Over Malta, Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, Wise Owl Publications 2008

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Posted by on September 23, 2020 in 1940, September 1940

 

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