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25 May 1941: Air Chief of Faith, Hope and Charity Leaves Malta

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AOC Malta Air Commodore Forster Maynard (r)

AOC Malta Air Commodore Forster Maynard (r)

AIR OFFICER COMMANDING TO BE REPLACED

Air Vice Marshal Forster Maynard, AFC is to leave his post as Air Officer Commanding at the end of the month. The former World War I fighter ace was appointed Air Officer Commanding Mediterranean in November 1939.  When Italy declared war the following June, he was responsible for creating the only fighter forces to defend Malta when he organised the assembly of Gladiators ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Charity’ from packing cases.  Since then he has overseen the strengthening of the Island’s fighter forces in the face of heavy German air raids, as well as the introduction of offensive bomber operations against Axis convoys.  He will be replaced by Air Vice Marshal Hugh Pugh Lloyd MV DFC.

AMMUNITION USAGE FOR WEEK ENDING 25 MAY

  • 4.5” HE 191 rounds
  • 3.7” HE 1260 rounds
  • 3” HE 134 rounds
  • 40mm 40 rounds

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 MAY TO DAWN 26 MAY 1941

Weather  Very hot.

1150-1214 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 to 40 enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north and withdraw before reaching the coast.

1327-1430 hrs  Observers report the approach of three formations of enemy aircraft which have not been reported by fighter control and raise the alarm. While one plot of four ME 109s circles the Island, apparently screening aircraft in transit between Tripoli and Sicily, a second formation turns inland and is over Ta Qali moments after the alert sounds.  The ME 109s machine-gun a searchlight station on the airfield, wounding one gunner.  Two Hurricanes are burned out and three others seriously damaged on the ground (but repairable).  A Lister engine is damaged and 90 gallons of oil are lost.  One pilot and one airman are injured by shrapnel and admitted to hospital; two other airmen are slightly wounded.  Bofors, heavy and light anti-aircraft guns engage; the Bofors claims hits on two ME 109s.  One ME 109 is believed probably shot down into the sea.  No Hurricanes are scrambled owing to the apparent error in fighter control which is immediately under investigation.

1755-1820 hrs  Air raid alert for a large fighter patrol which scouts round the Island. Seven Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders do not cross the coast; no engagement.

Civilian casualties  Naxxar  Francis Mifsud, age 38.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 25 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Since it is now apparent that Lampedusa is used as a refuge for small merchant vessels on the Sicily to Tripoli route, 4 Swordfish were despatched to lay ‘cucumber’ magnetic mines. A fifth Swordfish carried flares but owing to electrical failure none were dropped.  Illuminating cartridges lit the harbour for short periods enabling two cucumbers to to be laid near the harbour entrance.  Moderate light anti-aircraft fire was encountered.  Two Swordfish returned with their cucumber mines, one with engine trouble.  All aircraft returned safely.   

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland; transatlantic flying boat Golden Horn from Gibraltar carrying Air Vice Marshal Lloyd, MC, DFC. Departures 1 Sunderland; transatlantic flying boat.  69 Squadron  Maryland southern part of eastern Tunisian coast.  Maryland reconnaissance northern part eastern Tunisian coast.  Maryland patrol east of Malta up to Cape Stilo for a convoy reported yesterday by a submarine.  Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli reports convoy.  Maryland reconnaissance eastern Sicilian coast reports enemy vessels.  

LUQA  Six Blenheims 139 and 82 Squadrons searched for troopships without success.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  C Company relieve D Company of 8 Manchester and will come under the command of 8 Manchester.

 

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Posted by on May 25, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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24 May 1941: Malta Submarine Sinks 3 Enemy Convoy Ships

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HMS Upholder

HMS Upholder

UPHOLDER TORPEDOES TROOP TRANSPORT

HM Submarine Upholder has sunk a third enemy ship in a month in an attack today off the coast of Sicily. On her 10th patrol since joining the Mediterranean Fleet, Upholder spotted three very large troop-carrying liners.  Despite the troop convoy being well-protected by a destroyer and torpedo boats from the Italian fleet, the submarine launched an attack, firing torpedoes at the largest of the liners, the 18000 ton Conte Rosso, which sank within 40 minutes, with the loss of some 1300 from the 3000 plus troops on board. Upholder escaped undamaged despite being attacked with 37 depth charges during the encounter.

Commanded by Lt Commander M D Wanklyn, RN, HMS Upholder has been in Malta since December, as part of 10th Submarine Flotilla, based at Lazaretto.  In the past month, the submarine has sunk German ships Arcturus and Leverkusen, as well as the Italian Antonietta Lauro and the Conte Rosso.  Just yesterday Upholder torpedoed and damaged a French tanker.

MILITARY COMMMUNICATIONS IN MALTA UNDER THREAT

Malta’s telephone systems are inadequate to cope with the demands of its defensive forces, according to the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief. Essential telephone communications systems have frequently been cut in recent raids, placing the entire defensive operation under threat.

The problem is due to the shallow depth of underground cables, which are no more than 18 inches below ground level, leaving them extremely vulnerable to damage in heavy bombing raids such as those in recent weeks. As the subsoil of the whole island is rock, it is not possible to bury cables deeper underground. 

As a result, Lt Gen Dobbie has concluded that military communications need to be installed independently of the telephone system. He has made an urgent request to the War Office for 45 radio sets, plus nine operators for specialist models, to be sent to Malta as a matter of urgency.  He has also asked London for an expected despatch date for the equipment, as he believes that some supplies destined for are currently being delayed in the Middle East.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 MAY TO DAWN 25 MAY 1941

Weather  Heavy rain and strong, cold wind, clearing later.

1455-1505 hrs  Air raid alert for a patrol of 12 enemy aircraft which approach to within 10 miles of the north coast of the Island before turning back to the north.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 24 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upholder sank Conte Rosso.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron PM  Maryland patrol east Sicilian coast. 2 Marylands patrols eastern Tunisian coast including Lampedusa Harbour to Zuara reported several vessels and convoy movements.  One Maryland machine-guns a Dornier 18 from 50 feet with no opposition. 139 Squadron Two Blenheims are despatched to attack merchant vessels south of Djerba and score hits with two bombs.  

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  General Alarm Exercise due to begin at 0300 hrs cancelled due to heavy rain.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Two Other Ranks are selected to act as gang-leaders for Maltese labourers.

 

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Posted by on May 24, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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23 May 1941: Malta Bomb Disposal Officers Killed

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Royal Navy Bomb & Mine Disposal team (NWMA)

Royal Navy Bomb & Mine Disposal team (NWMA)

MINE EXPLODES WHILE BEING DEFUZED

Two Royal Navy Bomb & Mine Disposal officers were killed today when a mine they were working on exploded. Electrical Lieutenant Antony Gusterson Rogers, GM and Commissoned Boatswain Lord J H Sheldon, GM were trying to disarm the mine when it detonated, killing them both instantly.  The Royal Navy team is responsible for dealing with all unexploded mines and have been under pressure in recent weeks with the large numbers dropped on land as well as in the two main harbours.

Boatswain Sheldon has been involved in bomb disposal in Malta since June 1940, when he volunteered to assist Royal Army Ordnance Corps officers following the first Italian attacks of the war. He was awarded the George Medal in September last year for his work.  Since last month Boatswain Sheldon has been in charge of Naval ratings who assist in the uncovering and removal of  parachute mines, and all unexploded bombs within Royal Navy premises.

Elect Lt Rogers was also awarded the George Medal in September last year while he was serving in mine disposal in London. Both officers have been recommended for a posthumous additional award for ‘gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty’ during their service in Malta.

MALTA LACKS VITAL STRATEGIC INFORMATION

The GCiC has written to the War Office asking for faster transmission of military news to Malta. Information is currently reaching the Island two days behind the general wireless broadcasts, leaving military chiefs starved of vital news.  In a telegram today Lt General Dobbie has asked for a regular resume giving details of enemy methods of fighting and Allied means of countering them, as well as details of any success achieved through new methods of using weapons currently deployed in Malta.

GERMAN PARACHUTE FLARES WARNING

All service personnel have been warned that German parachute flares are liable to ignite by spontaneous combustion even when thought to be safe after defusing. From today it will be considered an offence to tough one of these flares.  Any person finding a flare is required to report the matter immediately to his unit, which will then list such reports and forward them to General Staff.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 MAY TO DAWN 24 MAY 1941

Weather  Intermittent rain (heavy later) and squalls; poor visibility.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Electrical Lieutenant Antony Gusterson Rogers, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and Commissioned Boatswain Lord Joseph Herbert Sheldon, HMS St Angelo.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 23 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upholder attacked Captaine Damiani; probably sunk. 

AIR HQ  69 Squadron One Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast. Marylands reconnaissance of northern part of eastern Tunisian coast.  Blenheims could not be despatched due to very unfavourable weather conditions.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 2 (2 x 250kg).

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Warning issued for move and composition of ‘Picnic’ detail. CO examined Poor House for billet for Luqa companies.

 

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Posted by on May 23, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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22 May 1941: Claims of Corruption in Ration Distribution

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Queuing for kerosene (NWMA Malta)

Queuing for kerosene (NWMA Malta)

KEROSENE DELIVERY SYSTEM NEEDS RADICAL OVERHAUL

Allegations have emerged of families being cheated of their kerosene ration. 506 gallons – the entire ration for 800 people – failed to be delivered in one district alone.  65 families in Qormi did not receive one expected delivery.  Following the reports, the Paola Assistant District Commissioner, C Dimech, proposes radical changes to the distribution system in his area. 

Kerosene carts are supposed to deliver supplies house to house, collecting a coupon in return for the allocated ration for that household. However, Mr Dimech has submitted a report today described the deliveries in his area as disorderly, bordering on corruption:

“Householders were compelled to abandon their homes to go in search of the tank-carts. Those who did not suffer this inconvenience were chancing to remain without their ration.  Even those who were ready to accept this sacrifice were not always sure to get their kerosene after wasting two or three hours trying to push their way in to reach the tank…

The kerosene seller having disposed of his kerosene used to call at the Police Station, Tarxien, where the chit given him by the supplying depot was filled up and signed by a Police Sergeant or Constable without any reference being made to the coupons collected…These coupons which were left in the hands of the delivery men to be returned to the depot clerk were not being counted before a next supply was issued. Thus sellers…might easily sell or otherwise dispose of some of these coupons.”

Kerosene is an essential commodity for lighting and cooking; the lack of even a single delivery can cause serious difficulties for householders. Many have complained that the kerosene ration, even when they do receive, it is insufficient for their needs.  Housewives claim they cannot cook one hot meal a day on half a gallon of kerosene, let alone light the house. 

Commissioner Dimech has now taken steps to remedy the situation in Paola. He has started a new system of distribution street by street, overseen by one of his men as well as the usual police escort. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 MAY TO DAWN 23 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1126-1310 hrs  Air raid alert for six ME 109s which patrol to the east of the Island. Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no interception.

1547-1618 hrs  Air raid alert for four ME 109s which patrol to the west of the Island.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no interception.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 22 MAY 1941

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance after Blenheim attack reveals merchant vessel smoking and probably abandoned. Two Marylands patrol eastern Tunisian coast report a convoy.  A Maryland is despatched to shadow.  Four Blenheims 139 Squadron are despatched to attack and successfully bomb a tanker. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 3 (3 x 250kg).

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

 

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Posted by on May 22, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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21 May 1941: 50 Fighters & Bombers Arrive in Malta

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Blenheim Mk IV

Blenheim Mk IV

HURRICANES, FULMARS AND BLENHEIMS LAND THROUGHOUT THE DAY

The skies over Malta were busy all day today with the arrival of dozens of aircraft from the UK. 46 Hurricanes landed on the Island, along with 22 fighter pilots of 249 Squadron, RAF and Fulmars of the Fleet Air Arm. Operation ‘Splice’ began in Liverpool on 12 May with the loading of 64 Mk II Hurricanes onto the aircraft carrier HMS Furious at Liverpool. The carrier was escorted to Gibraltar, where she transferred 20 of the Hurricanes to HMS Ark Royal; 16 more will remain at Gibraltar.

The two aircraft carriers were then escorted through the western Mediterranean by the battle cruiser Renown, the cruiser Sheffield and six destroyers of the Mederranean fleet. A total of 48 fighters and four Fulmars took off from Ark Royal and Furious early today to be guided in to Malta by three Glenn Martin Maryland aircraft. En route, one Hurricane crashed off Cape Bon and a second is reported missing. After refuelling, 17 of the Hurricanes departed immediately for the Middle East.

In a separate operation, a detachment of 82 Squadron, Royal Air Force, also arrived in Malta. The Blenheim Mk IV aircraft took off from RAF Portreath in Cornwall to fly direct to the Island.  One Blenheim is reported to have crashed into the Mediterranean approximately off the north coast of Algeria; the pilot Flt/Sgt L Howard and crew Flt/Sgt C G Evans and P/O K G A Marsh are missing.  The rest of 82 Squadron is expected to follow during the next month; its role in Malta is to continue the attacks on enemy convoys and ports in the Mediterranean.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 MAY TO DAWN 22 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0916-0946 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which crosses the Island from south east to north on reconnaissance at 20000 feet while its fighter escort patrols down the east coast. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage the bomber; no claims.

1117-1156 hrs  While numerous delivery Blenheims and Hurricanes continue to come in to land at Luqa, the air raid alert sounds for 15 ME 109 fighters which cross the coast at various points and drop bombs on the aerodrome. Two Wellingtons are burned out, one Blenheim, one Hurricane and one Beaufighter damaged.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders; no claims.

1650-1820 hrs  Air raid alert for four ME 109 fighters which approach the Island and patrol off the coast at 21000 feet for 1½ hours, possibly as a screen for the convoy reported by a reconnaissance Maryland. Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no interception.

1724-1750 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses the Island and is engaged by anti-aircraft fire; no claims. No bombs are dropped.

0339-0420 hrs Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the north east and drop bombs in the sea to the north east, east and south east of Grand Harbour. Anti-aircraft guns engage and manage to turn the leading raider off course.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 21 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY A large number of Hurricanes and Fulmars arrived safely from Force H aircraft carriers (Operation Splice).  Foresight left for Gibraltar at 2000 and Fifth Destroyer Flotilla sailed for operations at Crete. Urge sank one destroyer (part of covering force).

AIR HQ Arrivals 249 Squadron from UK.  4 Fulmar; 46 Hurricane. Departures 2 Sunderland; 4 Beaufighter, 17 Hurricane. 252 Squadron four Beaufighters to UK. 139 Squadron Following receipt of information of a small convoy 5 Blenheims were despatched to attack but failed to locate.  69 Squadron  Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast reports two convoys. 

HAL FAR  Four Fulmars and 14 Hurricanes arrived at Hal Far from Gibraltar; all machines landed safely.

LUQA One Maryland escorted Hurricanes to Malta from HMS Ark Royal.  Four Beaufighters 252 Squadron left for Gibraltar; two escorted Hurricanes to Malta.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Four other ranks embarked for repatriation to the UK.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 3 (1 x 50kg; 1 x 250kg; 1 incendiary).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Northern Infantry Brigade exercise No 13: practice of formation of a composite battalion including E Company and Battalion HQ. The Lt Governor Sir Edward Jackson KC gave lectures on Malta and some particular problems of civil government to officers and some other ranks at Ta Saliba. 

 

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Posted by on May 21, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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20 May 1941: Malta Capital Valletta Faces Another Night of Destruction

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RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES HIT AS CITY ROCKED BY MORE HEAVY BOMBS AND MINES

ruinsMalta’s capital was again the scene of devastation this morning after more heavy high explosive bombs and parachute mines fell across the City overnight. In a sharp raid just after four this morning, four enemy bombers apparently targeted Valletta, dropping bombs only on the city centre. 

Two convents, one of the Franciscan Conventuals and the other of the Augustinians, received direct hits and their churches were considerably shaken. One side of La Valette Band Club collapsed, as did a number of offices in Kingsway.  The Rediffusion Offices received a direct hit and it is believed that an unexploded bomb is lying beneath the debris.  Three streets are now blocked by debris. 

It is the third time this month that the capital has been heavily bombed. This time 15 houses were demolished, bringing the total number of destroyed in Valletta to 953. Two civilians were killed in the latest raid and two others are still missing, two more were severely injured.  This morning the Governor visited the bombed areas to show his solidarity with the affected communities.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 MAY TO DAWN 21 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0805-0831 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber escorted by three ME 109s which carries out reconnaissance off the east coast of the Island at 23000 feet. Anti-aircraft guns engage and Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.

0954-1010 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of friendly aircraft.

1035-1045 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1155-1230 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of 23 ME 109 and ME 110 fighters which approach from the north and dive down from 17000 to 10000 feet to bomb Luqa aerodrome, setting a Beaufighter alight which burns out. The control tower is damaged by a near-miss; the runways are undamaged.  One civilian employee is killed.  Heavy and light anti-aircraft guns put up an intense barrage; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but do not intercept.

1728-1814 hrs Air raid alert for 12 ME 109 fighters which approach from the north west over Gozo and drop bombs on Ta Qali aerodrome from 12000 feet, damaging one Hurricane on the ground. Anti-aircraft guns put up a barrage; no claims.  Malta fighters are scrambled; one Hurricane is shot down in combat with an enemy fighter – the pilot bales out and escapes with only slight injuries.  A second Hurricane is riddled with bullet holes but lands safely. 

Civilian casualties Valletta  Joseph Gauci, age 16; Alphonse Herrera, age 80; Charles Lewis, age 17; Emanual Pantalleresco, age 70; Josephine Ullo, age 75. Zabbar John Bonnici, age 17.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 20 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Upholder attacked 4000 tanker; probably hit. Urge attacked 7000 ton tanker and 9000 ton troopship; both believed sunk. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 2 Sunderland; 4 Wellington. Departures 2 Sunderland; 1 Bombay.  69 Squadron  2 Marylands searched area north and east of Messina for convoy reported to be leaving Patras.  Maryland patrol Corfu to Zante and return.   

HAL FAR  One Hurricane crashed on landing; pilot F/Lt Hancock was unhurt.

LUQA  One Maryland escorted Hurricanes to Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion again providing unloading parties in earnest: total 2 officers, 72 other ranks.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 5; dealt with 1 (1 x 50kg).

 

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Posted by on May 20, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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19 May 1941: Dobbie Confirmed as Malta Governor & Commander in Chief

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Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

DUAL ROLE CONFIRMED ONE YEAR AFTER TEMPORARY APPOINTMENT

Lieutenant-General Sir William George Sheddon Dobbie, KCB, CMG, DSO, who has been acting as Governor and Commander in Chief (Officer Administering the Government) since 24 May 1940, has now been formally appointed to the post. In the words of British Prime Minister Churchill, General Dobbie is “a Cromwellian figure at the key point”. 

SH: the Maltese population will no doubt welcome this confirmed appointment. General Dobbie’s obvious concern for people, hit by the tragedy of war, endears him to the whole community.

KEROSENE RATIONS NOW ISSUED WEEKLY

New arrangements for kerosene rations (maltagc70 2 April 1941) are introduced from today.  Every family will hold a set of coupons indicating their entitlement.  For a family of three or less this will be ½ a gallon weekly, for four or five ¾ of a gallon, and from six to nine family members, one gallon.  The rationing scheme, which will operate on a weekly basis, will be operated by the Food Distribution Office, which oversees general rationing.  Coupons will be handed to the operators of the horse-drawn kerosene carts (operated by the Shell and Standard Companies) which make house to house deliveries.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 MAY TO DAWN 20 MAY 1941

Weather  Dull with slight rain and wind.

1702-1711 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

0405-0429 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft which approach singly from the north west, diving in to drop bombs on Valletta, demolishing a church and 15 houses, blocking three streets and damaging a water main. Two civilians are killed and two others missing, two more are severely injured.  Bombs are also dropped on St Julian’s Bay.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage with three barrages; no claims.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 19 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Unbeaten attacked a 5000 ton merchant vessel; probably scored a hit.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron 2 Marylands reconnaissance eastern Tunisian and Sicilian coast. Maryland reconnaissance Malta to Corfu to Zante.  Operations hampered by poor visibility due to mist haze.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Recreation week until 24 May: men of the Battalion visited the RAF, other units and the submarine base.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 6; dealt with 4 (2 x 50kg; 2 x 250kg).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Battalion Parade at Ghain Tuffieha.

 

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Posted by on May 19, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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