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7 February 1941: Secret Strike Mission Launched From Malta

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Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bomber

Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bomber

EIGHT BOMBERS ARRIVE FOR ‘OPERATION COLUSSUS’

Eight Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bombers landed at Malta this evening in preparation for a top secret mission to be launched from the Island.  The Whitleys left UK early today and flew partly over occupied France to reach the Malta.  On board were 38 paratroopers who will carry out the special mission codenamed ‘Operation Colossus’.  The troops are expected to spend some time in Malta in preparation for their mission, the date and location of which remains a carefully guarded secret. 

AIR RAID ALERT SIREN DAMAGE

A Fortress Order was issued today notifying troops that “damage has occurred to both the internal and the stands of general alarm sirens”. New instructions have been issued to ensure the proper use of sirens to avoid further damage:

when started from rest, the handle will be turned slowly and gradually brought up to full speed;

the siren will not be forcibly stopped but allowed to run down without being checked by hand

the sirens are top-heavy and if knocked over the stands are broken. To avoid this, companies must mount their sirens on a wooden base at least three feet square, securing the legs by metal clips.

DAMAGE TO CROPS

It has been reported to Fortress HQ that various crops have been removed by troops from private lands. In order to safeguard troops [from such accusations], it is essential that, should any serviceman see an unauthorised person entering private property and helping themselves to the crops, they should report the matter immediately to the authorities. 

Meanwhile troops are reminded that the removal of private crops is a very serious offence and is liable to cause ill-feeling between farmers and military personnel. Strong action will therefore be taken against any troops caught taking crops from private land, unless they have express permission from the farmer.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 8 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Unsettled; strong wind from the north west and heavy swells.

1725-1741 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1841-1900 hrs  Air raid alert for one enemy aircraft which passes briefly over the north coast and then retreats over St George’s. No bombs are dropped.

2115-2250 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which approach over Marsaxlokk and drop bombs between Marnisi Palace and Luqa aerodrome. Soon afterwards the raider returns and drops bombs between Tarxien and Tal Handaq before retreating over Qrendi.

2306-0115 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft. Three heavy high explosive bombs are dropped near Verdala Palace causing slight damage to the Palace and military property, and killing one child.  Bombs are also dropped on the areas of Luqa and Hal Far.  Raiders also machine gun Luqa, Hal Far and San Pietru.  Four bombs are dropped in a field near post R12 and fail to explode.

Civilian casualties  Zabbar  Carmela Vella, age 14.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 7 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 8 Whitley for special operation. Sunderland patrol off Tunisian coast for shipping. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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Posted by on February 7, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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6 February 1941: Orders Issued to Prepare for Invasion

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INFANTRY BRIGADES WILL BE READY

In the light of recent evidence that the enemy has assembled parachutist troops and troop carrying planes, orders are being issued to troops to prepare for possible invasion. The infantry defences of the Island are divided into two brigade sectors: Northern and Southern Infantry Brigades.  The dividing line runs from Pieta through Attard and Siggiewi to the coast. 

In the event of an enemy landing, the use of light tanks, flame throwers, armoured cars, gas and dive bombing aircraft is believed highly probable. Troops are being issued with defensive equipment and trained in relevant procedures.

Flag signals over the Castile, Valletta

Flag signals over the Castile to call troops back from leave

A system of emergency recall for troops on leave or otherwise away from duty has now been introduced. On the relevant signal, those on the standard three days’ leave in the Valletta-Floriana area will report immediately to the commandant of the rest camp at Msida, who will organise such personnel into fighting bodies ready for orders.  The signals, to be shown from the Castille Tower only, are: by day two black balls vertically plus a flag; by night one red and one white light horizontally. 

GOVERNOR CONCERNED ABOUT FOOD SUPPLIES

Lt Gen Dobbie is concerned that the carefully planned system of rolling supplies, designed to ensure sufficient stocks in Malta, is at risk. He has written to the War Office, copy to the Commander in Chief Middle East, the Rear Admiral in charge of Alexandria and the Secretary of State for Colonies

“I request an immediate decision in regard to the source of supplies for Malta. The success of the current scheme is dependent on efficient co-ordination by staff for all the Island’s requirements.  Supplies of refrigerated products must be made by the specified dates if the stocks in Malta are to be maintained at the required level.  If this is not done, the rolling programme of convoys set up to keep the Island supplied will break down.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 7 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Wet with strong north westerly wind; low cloud and poor visibility.

1801-1845 hrs  Air raid alert for three approaching enemy aircraft which cross the Island once or twice but drop no bombs.

1945-2045 hrs Air raid alert for three approaching enemy aircraft which fly over the Island in very bad weather. They drop bombs in countryside near Tarxien and in the sea off Kalafrana and Delimara causing no damage or casualties.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 6 FEBRUARY 1941

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland sea patrol between Tripoli and Benghazi.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal  UXB dealt with 2 (3.7” Ack Ack shells).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Two defence posts evacuated for wire to be thickened and shrapnel mines laid in the area.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Defence of Harbour order issued to all concerned.   

 

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Posted by on February 6, 2016 in 1941, February 1941

 

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5 February 1941: Three German Divisions in Italy – Invasion Imminent?

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WAR OFFICE INFORMATION SUPPORTS INVASION POSSIBILITY

German armoured divisions are gathering in Sicily

German armoured divisions are gathering in Sicily

Sources in London have confirmed the presence of German formations in southern Italy and Sicily.   However, the actual numbers of troops are unconfirmed.  After reviewing all reports, the War Office  considers there may be as many as two or three divisions, including armoured and motorised units.

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief today expressed his views to the Chief of Imperial Staff in London on the current threat facing the Island:

“I have no further information which enables me to assess the likelihood of an attempt by the enemy to capture Malta by sea or air, or both. But presumably it is a contingency which must be faced, and I cannot ignore the fact that my one battalion in Fortress reserve is very inadequate to cope with all the tasks which might be required of  it. 

I am anxious about the reactions of the civil population in face of a determined attack. They have undoubtedly been strained by the recent heavy air attacks, and may become difficult to control, and thus hamper military movements.  The police could not be relied on to control them, and the army might have to accept this further commitment, which would be a most unwelcome additional strain on our resources. 

Since Malta is of such vital importance to the Navy, I feel we cannot afford to chance our arm, and I therefore think that at least one additional battalion should be sent here. In asking for this, I realise that not only may it be inconvenient to spare one but, what is more important, it places an additional burden and hazard on the Mediterranean fleet to bring it here.  But I hope that the extra strength it will give to this garrison will in the long run lessen the commitment of the fleet towards Malta, since the stronger the garrison the greater the deterrent to attack and the less likelihood of fleet being called upon to help. 

I am most reluctant to make this request but the issues are too great to justify taking a chance if it can be avoided. The personnel could be brought here by the methods most convenient to the Navy, if need be in driblets.  Transport can be extemporised here pending arrival of own vehicles.  But they should bring bicycles with them if possible.  The above all depends on the supposition that a determined attack is not an unlikely eventuality.” The Governor and C in C has also asked for the arrival date the first reinforcements of 4th Battalion The Buffs expected in Malta.  

In response to Lt Gen Dobbie’s telegram, the War Office wrote immediately to the Commander in Chief Middle East:

“The Commander in Chief Malta has asked for urgent reinforcement by two British infantry battalions. Please arrange for despatch from Middle East as soon as practicable.  It is very desirable that bicycles and carriers should accompany troops.  However, Malta states that transport can be extemporised there pending arrival of vehicles.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 6 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Overcast, some rain.

0001-0300 hrs  Four alerts sounded but no air raid took place.

Military casualties  Gunner Frederick Meringo, 40 Battery, 13 Mobile Coast Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 5 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals Two Sunderland. 0730-1015 hrs  Maryland visual reconnaissance Tripoli.  0540-1400 hrs  Two Sunderlands and one Maryland reconnaissance of shipping routes Messina to Benghazi, Benghazi to Tripoli and Tripoli to Sicily.  

KALAFRANA Two Sunderlands No 10 RAAF arrived from the United Kingdom with passengers and freight.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli.

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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in 1941, February 1941, Uncategorized

 

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3 February 1941: New Bomb Disposal Officer Embarks for Malta

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REINFORCEMENTS BRING LATEST BOMB DISPOSAL INFORMATION & EQUIPMENT

Chapter 4 bomb on trolleyMalta is to have a second Army bomb disposal officer, it was confirmed today by telegram from the War Office in London:  

“Lt G D Carroll and Sgt Holland who are trained and experienced in bomb disposal have sailed via the long sea route. Date of arrival Malta not known.  It is intended that they should strengthen your bomb disposal organisation.  Lt Carroll is in possession of all the latest information in respect of bomb disposal up to the time of embarkation.”

Since November, a single Royal Engineers officer, Lt E E C Talbot, GC, has been responsible for all unexploded bombs across the Island, outside of Royal Navy or RAF premises. The increased intensity of bombing raids since the arrival of the Luftwaffe in Sicily has resulted in more unexploded bombs. Should the current BD officer be out of action for any period, the Island’s communities would be left vulnerable.

At the same time, a large quantity of bomb disposal equipment was loaded, along with other stores for Malta, aboard SS Waimarama:

Ammunition:

  • 75000 HE 25 pdr; 5000 18 pdr smoke; 5000 18 pdr shrapnel; 40000 18 pdr HE; 3500 3.7” Howitzer; 10000 mines shrapnel; 10000 detonators; 10000 cartridges; 516000 0.45” auto Colt; green signal rockets 575; general ordnance 492 tons.

Stores:

  • 28 ambulances, 25 motor cycles, 19 lorries, 10 cars, three water trailers and 17 other vehicles, plus 31 tons of motor transport stores
  • 525 tons of general Royal Engineers stores, 380 tons of timber and 3½ tons of bomb disposal equipment;
  • 917 tons of general military supplies and stores, 248 tons of NAAFI and victualling stores, 17 tons of medical stores and 121 tons of other ammunition and explosives

Meanwhile, spare parts for 60 mortars which should have been sent to the Island last June have not arrived. The Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office asking for the supplies to be traced, as they are now urgently needed.  However, according to the War Office, the spares were definitely loaded on a convoy some months ago and may have been misdirected on arrival in Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 4 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Cold and unsettled.

1142-1152 hrs Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which approaches from the south east and flies over the Island at 12000 feet on reconnaissance. Two Hurricanes are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns opened fire: no claims.

Military casualties  Gunner Bert Coote, 40 Battery, 13 Mobile Coast Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 3 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ 0812-1055 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli Harbour sighted four destroyers and twenty merchant vessels with another heading for harbour. Anti-aircraft opened fire: intense and accurate.  The Maryland was attacked by an Italian G50 fighter and returned fire: no damage observed.

Rome radio announced that the Spitfire overdue from yesterday’s reconnaissance mission came down yesterday near Viareggio and the pilot was taken prisoner.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli attacked by a G 50.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

 

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

 

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2 February 1941: Rationing to be Introduced in Malta

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Shopping will soon depend on a ration card.

Shopping will soon depend on a ration card.

FOOD DISTRIBUTION OFFICE TO BE SET UP

The Government has decided to start a ration scheme on a national basis for the more efficient distribution and conservation of food. A new department, the Food Distribution Office, will be set up, under the direction of Marquis Barbaro of St George, who has already run an effective rationing system in his home district.

All heads of families will be required to register at the local Protection Office and state the number and ages of members of their household. They must also state the name of the retailer from whom they propose to buy rations.  From this information, calculations of supplies of commodities to retailers will be allocated.  Ration cards will be issued to householders in due course.  Sugar, condensed milk and laundry soap are among the first products expected to be rationed.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 3 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine, cold.

1047-1057 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft reported nine miles from the Island; raid does not materialise.

2350-0005 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 2 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Under cover of a cruiser force engaged on another operation, Decoy sailed on completion of damage repairs, and Defender arrived for refit. 

AIR HQ 148 Squadron Wellingtons attacked Castel Benito aerodrome. 0545-1000 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Taranto. 0735-1100 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli: Castel Benito approx. 50 aircraft mostly light camouflaged bombers; signs of fortifications five miles east of aerodrome. 0751-1307 hrs Sunderland patrol sighted hospital ships flying Italian flag. 0945-1428 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Naples and special task area; latter not approached due to cloud.  Factories near Pozzuoli show signs of considerable activity. 1045 hrs Spitfire photoreconnaissance Genoa, Leghorn, Spezia reported considerably overdue; no further information available.      

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Taranto; one Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli, Castel Benito, Zuara; one Maryland photoreconnaissance Naples not completed due to weather. 148 Squadron  Seven Wellingtons bombing attack on Castel Benito.

TA QALI  F/Lt Corbishley DFC on photoreconnaissance Spitfire is missing, believed taken prisoner.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  60 per cent morning ‘stand to’ system in operation.

 

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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in February 1941

 

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1 February 1941: Three Cities Locked Down in Case of Sabotage

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MALTA GARRISON 1 FEBRUARY 1941 – click here

Zabbar Gate

Zabbar Gate

MEASURES TO STEP UP DOCKYARD SECURITY

Measures have been announced today to close the area of the Three Cities during the hours of curfew. The three adjacent communities of Cospicua, Senglea and Vittoriosa surround the Dockyard.  The move is intended to secure the Dockyard area against any attempt by saboteurs to create a diversion during a major attack on the Island.

A ring of bastions already surrounds the area. Whenever code ‘Asia’ is in force, placing the Island on full war status all entrances to the three Cities will be closed. Salvatore Gate, Zabbar Gate and Polverista Gate will be locked by the Police.  St Lawrence Deni Bastion will be blocked with barbed wire.  The small footbridge connecting the Naval tanks with Corradino will be guarded by personnel of the local Bofors gun position.  The Ghain Dwieli tunnel entrance will be guarded from one hour before darkness until full daylight. 

Extra security has also been introduced for the Ghain Dwieli tunnel during air raids. In future the tunnel will also be guarded with a temporary road block from the air raid alert until the all clear, during which time nobody will be allowed to pass in or out of Cospicua, unless they can prove they are on official duty.

AIR RAID SUMMARY FOR JANUARY 1941

  • Raids 58 (including 6 night raids)
  • Total time from warning to all clear: 31 hrs 35 minutes
  • Average length of raid: 32.7 minutes
  • Civilians killed: 63

MALTA FIGHTER STRENGTH

  • 261 Squadron 28 Hurricanes (8 unserviceable)
  • 806 Squadron 3 Fulmars (1 unserviceable; 4 Gladiators (1 unserviceable)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 2 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0944-1010 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which flies over the Island, apparently on reconnaissance.   No bombs are dropped.  Malta fighters are scrambled; no interception.

1140-1220 hrs  Air raid alert for one SM 79 escorted by 12 CR 42 fighters which fly over the Island at 20000 feet. Hurricane fighters are scrambled and shoot down one CR42 is shot down on land at St Andrews Barracks in the Pembroke area, and another in the sea north of Malta.  Both pilots are confirmed killed.

1342-1352 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft reported five miles north east of Grand Harbour. Four Malta fighters are scrambled; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Sapper Jack Abela, Royal Engineers, Malta Territorial Force.

Enemy casualties  Sergente Maggiore Andrea Baudone, 156th Gruppo Autonomo, pilot of Fiat CR 42 shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 1 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ 148 Squadron Wellington aircraft attacked Tripoli.   0550-1231 hrs Sunderland anti-convoy patrol of Eastern Tunisian coast with a striking force standing by. 1013-1300 hrs Spitfire despatched on special photoreconnaissance task: not completed due to cloud.  0945-1159 hrs  Maryland reconnaissance of Syracuse, Augusta, Catania and Messina for ships in harbour. 0955-1530 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance of Taranto.  Slight inaccurate heavy Ack Ack. 0955 hrs one merchant vessel is spotted with two Cant flying boats patrolling nearby. 1451 hrs A Sunderland took off to intercept and attack an Italian ship leaving Tunis; striking force also standing by.  Unable to locate ships; returned 2145 hrs.  

Photoreconnaissance results (to treat interpretation with reserve): Taranto one battleship, four cruisers, seven destroyers, four torpedo boats, three merchant ships, 27 Cant flying boats; Catania port three merchant vessels, aerodrome three SM 79 bombers, 42 JU 87 bombers, 12 JU 88 bombers, two JU 52 transport aircraft, 14 Macchi 200 fighters, one CR 42 fighter plus other aircraft; Augusta three submarines, 18 Cant flying boats; Syracuse no ships, seaplane base not shown.  

LUQA 69 Squadron One Maryland photoreconnaissance Syracuse, Augusta, Catania, Messina; one Maryland photoreconnaissance Taranto.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Defence posts manned from 1800 hrs to 0700 hrs each night. Ghain Tuffieha camp evacuated due to artillery practice.   

 

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Posted by on February 1, 2016 in February 1941

 

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31 January 1941: Malta Must Have Underground Shelters

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CIVILIANS DESPERATE FOR ROCK SHELTERS START DIGGING

Malta needs shelters

Malta needs shelters

“A hard month has come to an end at last! Fifty-three raids – and what raids!  The night offensives have resulted in a clamour for rock shelters…Volunteers start digging.  Posters appear everywhere to dig, dig, dig.  ‘Wanted: – picks and shovels’ ‘Work one hour a day and be safe’ ‘Dig for victory’.” (1)

Civilians shocked by the severity of recent air raids have begun calling for many more underground shelters to ensure their safety. Many believe that only shelters hewn from Malta’s rock can protect them against the determined dive bombers seen in this month’s attacks. 

DOCKYARD NEEDS BARRAGE BALLOONS

Malta urgently needs balloon barrages for the defence of the Dockyard, in addition to other air defences, according to the Island’s Governor and C in C. The need was identified in a review of defences during the raids on HMS Illustrious in Grand Harbour.

Lt Gen Dobbie has already applied to the C in C Middle East for supplies but the 25 available there are not considered sufficient to maintain an effective barrage. He has now written to the War Office in London asking for another 25 or so plus accessory equipment to be sent out immediately by flying boat, stressing that the additional protection is really important.

AIR OPERATIONS MONTHLY REPORT JANUARY 1941

  • 69 Squadron (431 Flight) and 228 Squadron carried out reconnaissance on most days during the month.
  • 148 Squadron carried out 10 air raids, most of which were highly successful. The losses were one aircraft missing and one force-landed in the sea.  The latter crew were rescued by a British trawler but one died of wounds on admission to hospital. 
  • 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm carried out several patrols and attacked shipping with reasonable results.
  • There were 46 air raid alerts. Bombs were dropped in 11 air raids. 
  • 80 enemy aircraft were confirmed destroyed, 23 unconfirmed and 13 damaged.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 JANUARY TO DAWN 1 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Clear.

1050-1128 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft approaching the Island in two pairs from different directions. Six Hurricanes, one Wellington, one Fulmar and one Gladiator are scrambled.  Four Swordfish and one Glen Martin approach the Island and land safely.  No air raid materialises.

2320-0020 hrs  Air raid alert for two aircraft approaching the Island. They cross the coast and are picked up by searchlights as they circle over the Island.  One is identified as a JU 88 bomber.  Anti-aircraft guns open fire: no claims.  The raiders turn away, dropping bombs four bombs on open land near Grand Harbour and others in the sea off Rinella.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 31 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ 0445-0906 hrs Sunderland patrolling eastern Tunisian coast for enemy shipping signalled two merchant vessels. Four Swordfish patrolling same area with torpedoes informed.  They sighted the vessels but did not attack as they were in Tunisian territorial waters. 0907-1147 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli area confirmed munitions depot; photos to be forwarded to Middle East.  Tripoli Harbour five destroyers, 15 merchant vessels (one damaged), two fleet auxiliary plus small craft.  Mellaha 30-40 aircraft. 0719-1032 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Catania, Comiso and Gela aerodromes.  Catania approximately 100 aircraft; Gela and Catania no visual contact. 0705-1054 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance Syracuse, Augusta, Catania, Messina ports.  Syracuse six seaplanes, four merchant vessels, three cruisers plus two destroyers and one merchantman in the Straits.  Reggio Calabria aerodrome 25-30 dark bombers.   

KALAFRANA 23 long patrols were undertaken by Sunderlands of 228 Squadron on 18 days during the month, mainly to observe enemy naval and merchant shipping movements.

LUQA 69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland reconnaissance Catania, Comiso and Gela; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli area; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Catania, Messina, Augusta and Syracuse. 148 Squadron: 6 Wellingtons bomb Tripoli.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths: officers 28, other ranks 237, RAOC (attached) 2.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  21-31 January reported 9.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  During the month anti-tank mines have been laid on beaches at St Paul’s bay. Beach wire in the Bay was repaired following storm damage.  The Battalion has been called upon to provide blood donors: the number of volunteers greatly exceeded the number required. 

(1) The Road to Rome, Philo Pullicino, MPI Publishing 2012

 

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Posted by on January 31, 2016 in 1941, January 1941

 

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