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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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22-28 November 1942: Convoy Brings Only 3 Week Supply as Polio Strikes Malta

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22 November 1942: Malta Troops Stealth Mission to North Africa

ORDERS TO SAIL FOR ‘FRENCH PORT’

HMS Welshman

1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry received orders today to make ready to move tomorrow.  Carrying only fighting-scale equipment, the Battalion are to embark with Royal Engineers and seven detachments of Breda 49mm guns by Welshman and Manxman and one destroyer.  Their destination is top secret, referred to only as ‘a certain port’.

The port in question – believed to be in North Africa – has a population of French, Italian and Maltese, and military planners hope that the British troops will receive a friendly reception.  The plan is to land them from the destroyers’ lifeboats and skiffs instead of the usual military landing craft.  The troops will then aim to persuade the French forces in the port to support the allies, and with their help hold the town until the Battalion could be joined by larger Allied forces advancing on land towards the area.

At 1015 hrs this morning the Commanding Officer of 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry joined a conference at Fortress HQ with captains of the naval ships, Brigade command and Admiral i/c Malta, after which the Battalion’s Platoon Commanders were fully briefed.  Early this evening the CO confirmed that the Battalion was to move in motor transport to the docks at 1230 hrs tomorrow.  Parties were already at the docks and Ordnance Depots, loading up rations, stores and ammunition.

But at 2015 hrs a message was received from the HQ of 4 Brigade cancelling the entire operation.  The reason is as yet unknown.

SUBMARINE DELIVERS THE GOODS

HMS Thrasher

HMS Thrasher arrived in Malta today from Beirut, carrying a cargo of aviation fuel [avgas] as well as stores and passengers.  The submarine’s tanks had been modified to enable her to carry the maximum amount of avgas.  HM Submarine Traveller, which has been similarly adapted and loaded, left Beirut the same day and is expected at Malta tomorrow. The deliveries will help reduce the shortage of the fuel on the Island and keep its air forces operational until a tanker can get through.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 23 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Showery.

No air raid alerts.

0610-0700 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far carry out an anti E-boat patrol off the coast of south east Sicily: nothing sighted.  One Spitfire is hit by machine gunfire from a ME 109 and seen to dive into the sea five miles south west of Pachino, leaving no trace.  F/O Maynard is killed.

0625-1715 hrs  Twenty Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are airborne with other squadrons to provide a standing patrol over Malta: no enemy aircraft seen.

0625-0740 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.

0720-0825 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron patrol over Malta: nothing sighted.

0815-0930 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol: no sightings.

1100-1220 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on patrol: no sightings.

1200-1325 hrs; 1345-1450 hrs; 1440-1540 hrs  Twelve sorties of Spitfires 185 Squadron: nothing sighted.

1500-1620 hrs  Twelve Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne to act as cover for Spitfire bombers but did not make contact.

1515-1615 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne to act as cover for Spitfires and Beaufighters returning from operations: no sightings.

Military casualties  Lance Corporal James Humphreys, 226 Provost Company, Corps of Military Police; Flying Officer Anthony Maynard, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Vincent Sciberras, age 44.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 22 NOVEMBER 1942

HMS Turbulent (L)

ROYAL NAVY  Thrasher was swept in by Hebe, who then swept Turbulent to sea.  Euryalus and ten Hunts sailed for Port Said.

AIR HQ  A message from the Navy:  “Thank you very much for your signal and for the support your fighters gave us.  To have helped Malta in her gallant battle is a great honour.”

Arrivals  Two Beauforts from Gambut; one Hudson from Gibraltar; four Wellingtons from LG 104.  Departures  One Liberator to LG 224; one Hudson to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire crashed in enemy territory: pilot killed.  One Beaufighter crash-landed on aerodrome: crew injured.  One Beaufighter shot down by anti-aircraft fire: crew seen in dinghy.

LUQA  1200-1315 hrs  Three Spitfire bombers 126 Squadron Luqa, escorted by eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron were dispatched to attack Comiso aerodrome: bombs were observed hitting the runway.  No enemy aircraft were seen: all aircraft returned safely.  A total of 10 Beaufighter sorties on reconnaissance patrols:  one Cant Z 506B, two JU 88s and three SM 82s destroyed; one JU 90, one SM 82 damaged; one Beaufighter missing.

Night  Eight Wellington sorties targeted Bizerta docks.  Attacks were successful but hampered by rain and low cloud.  Five special Wellingtons 69 Squadron carrying torpedoes were sent to attack a 5000 ton motor vessel.  F/Lt Dokersley scored a direct hit amidships.  Four Beaufighters were despatched on a low-flying attack on Palermo: one small fire was started.  One Beaufighter is missing, two damaged.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Convoy unloading progressing well: all cargo should be discharged by Wednesday evening.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Bn continues unloading convoy.  One Officer employed at Red Dump.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Convoy unloading proceeding satisfactorily.  Relief party commences work at Pink Dump to give personnel 24 hours leave.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties with additional 6 Officers, 250 Other Ranks as Brigade reserve.

10th Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Working parties at Pink Dump: A and HQ Coys.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS BOMB DISPOSAL UXB reported 29 October-22 November 172. 

 

23 November 1942: Operation Breastplate

The secret mission which was planned for today involving units from Durham Light Infantry and the Royal Engineers has been revealed as codename ‘Operation Breastplate’.  The project is the brainchild of American military leaders who have requested help from Malta in securing the north-south coastal corridor in Tunisia as part of Operation Torch.  The target port has been named as Sousse.

Lord Gort

Today Welshman was ordered to disembark the army guns, stores, and extra boats which had been loaded for the operation which was called off last night. It is believed that Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief, Lord Gort, has come out against the plan, doubting its potential to succeed.  He is understood to be concerned at the risk to the Malta-based forces, armed with minimum equipment and weakened by months of severely reduced rations.  Lord Gort has counselled deferral, at least until a full convoy arrives and is unloaded safely in Malta, to strengthen the Island’s forces and replace resources taken up by Breastplate.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 24 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Cloudy; slight rain afternoon and evening.

No air raid alerts.

0625-0720 hrs; 0715-0820 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron, then four 249 Squadron Ta Qali on standing patrol over the Island: no sightings.  Thick cloud at 6000 feet.

0900-1030 hrs  Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa and four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne for reported incoming raiders which do not approach Malta.

1100-1150 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne to act as cover for returning Spitfires.

1110-1150 hrs  Eight sorties by Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far: nothing sighted.

1230-1335 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne on intercept patrol: no sightings.  One Spitfire develops engine trouble at 6-7000 feet: pilot Sgt Wallace is heard over the radio saying he is bailing out.

1425-1355 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1445-1730 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron search for missing pilot: no sightings.

Military casualties  Sergeant Thomas Catchpole, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 114 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant Carl Johnson, RAF VR, 227 Squadron; Flying Officer John Mathias, RAF VR, 114 Squadron; Flying Officer Douglas Truscott, RAF VR, 114 Squadron; Sergeant Thomas Wallace, RAF VR, 229 Squadron; Sergeant Ralph Webb, RAF, 227 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 23 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept Traveller in from sea.

AIR HQ  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one DC 3, three Beauforts to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  Four Beaufighters missing from operations: crews missing.  One Beaufighter shot down by enemy: crew missing.  One Swordfish crashed in sea due to engine failure: crew saved.  One Spitfire crashed in sea: pilot missing.

LUQA  Message received from AOC RAF Malta:  “I am very grateful for the kind message of congratulations and thank all ranks Luqa for their loyal and enthusiastic support during the past five months.” 

Heinkel HE 115

0701-1115 hrs  Two sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering Messina, and harbours and aerodromes in Tunisia.  Two sorties by Baltimores 69 Squadron for weather reconnaissance Tripoli.  0805-1230 hrs  Four Beaufighters carried out a sweep in the Sousse-Sfax area: one HE 115, one Cant 506 destroyed; one schooner shot up.  1026-1200 hrs  Three Beauforts 39 Squadron escorted by two Beaufighters were dispatched on practice bombing of Lampedusa: results not observed Light Ack Ack was encountered but all aircraft returned safely.

0100-0531 hrs  Three special Wellingtons 69 Squadron on separate shipping search in Cape Bon-Bizerta area.  A special torpedo-carrying Wellington on offensive reconnaissance for shipping in the waters between western Sicily and southern Sardinia found a small merchant vessel, leading two 5000 ton merchant vessels, 88 miles east of Capo Carbonara heading west.  The Wellington made a successful torpedo attack on the leading vessel, scoring a hit amidships.  The merchant vessel was later sunk by gunfire from one of Malta’s submarines.

TA QALI  0805-1230 hrs  Four Beaufighters 272 Squadron on offensive sweep: Sgt Tucknell destroys one HE 115; F/O Coate destroys one Cant.  Visibility poor over the sea with showers; clear over the Island.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The night shift did extremely well, discharging well over 700 tons.  Total cargo discharged to date (1700 hrs today): 4674 tons.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Convoy duties continue.

1ST Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Re-organisation and re-issue of kit stored [in readiness for aborted mission].  Night  Three Officers and 140 Other Ranks were detailed for a 12 hour shift and worked throughout the night unloading flour from lighters at the docks.  One Sgt and six L/Cpls are reporting daily to the APM Valletta to assist the CMPs Valletta.  One Officer and 50 Other Ranks standing by for crater filling at Qrendi.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Bn provided 8 Officers, 230 Other Ranks unloading M/V Robin Locksley.  One Other Rank attached to 1st Bn Cheshire Regt as extra Tally Clerk.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Convoy work confined to unloading and storing of air force and motor transport petrol. 

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties with additional 6 Officers, 250 Other Ranks as Brigade reserve.

10th ACK ACK BRIGADE  Operation Instruction issued modifying aerodrome barrages for Heavy Ack Ack gun lay-out and to keep runways free from shell splinters while still protecting them.

10th Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Working parties at Pink Dump: A and HQ Coys.

 

24 November 1942: Malta Submarines ‘Torch’ Attacks Leave Axis Ships Ablaze

HMS Porpoise

Three submarines returned to Malta today after successful operations in support of Operation Torch.  HMS Porpoise has just completed a short patrol in the Khoms–Misurata area. Five days ago she she torpedoed and sank a tanker which had been stopped by an aerial torpedo attack the previous day.  At 1016 yesterday, off the Kerkennah Bank, Porpoise launched a gunfire attack on the 730 ton Italian naval auxiliary Giacomo.  The vessel, which was carrying benzene, quickly caught fire and was abandoned. Enemy aircraft interrupted the operation before Porpoise could pick up more than two prisoners.

HMS P 211 (Safari) under Commander B Bryant, DSC returned to Malta from a very successful patrol off the East Tunisian coast in the Gulf of Sirte during which the submarine steamed a total of 2800 miles.  At 1431 hrs on 13 November she gunned and sank the Italian auxiliary brigantine Bice five miles off Sousse. Only the Captain of the Bice was taken prisoner; he was found to be carrying secret papers, including the week’s recognition signals for Italian aircraft and minor war vessels.  The brigantine’s remaining ten survivors were left in their boat and are said to have given P 211 an enthusiastic send off on her departure.

P 211 HMS Safari

Three days later P 211 torpedoed a 2500 ton merchant vessel at Ras el Ali anchorage.  The merchantman blew up in a sheet of flame and was still burning twenty four hours later causing the anchorage to be shut down.  At dawn next morning, P 211 fired a torpedo at a concentration of small vessels near the pier. The torpedo exploded at the landing place and an ammunition lighter blew up.  The same evening the submarine torpedoed and sank a schooner in the south western corner of Marsa el Brega.

In the early morning of 18 November a small light vessel with no crew was sunk by gunfire from the submarine, 10 miles from Ras el Ali. Later that morning, P 211 gunned an enemy tank landing craft (LCT), silencing one of its guns and causing ammunition to explode.  Then two days ago, at 1156 on 22 November, P 211 gunned another LCT two miles south of Ras el Sultan, scoring two hits. After ten minutes, the action was broken off, all ammunition having been expended.

P 247

HMS P 247 (Saracen) was also guided into Malta today, having followed Operation Torch with a patrol of the approaches to Tunis and Bizerta. At 1644 on the 5 November she torpedoed and sank an Italian Cobalto Class U boat at a range of 800 yards. Despite passing through much oil and wreckage; the submarine could find no survivors.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 25 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Showery; thunderstorms at night.

0645-0740 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa renewed the search for Sgt Wallace who bailed out yesterday.  Nothing was seen of a dinghy or pilot.

0735-0845 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne on a standing patrol to protect shipping in Grand Harbour: no enemy aircraft seen.

0735-1640 hrs  Spitfires of 126 Squadron and other squadrons are airborne on a standing patrol over Grand Harbour: no enemy aircraft seen.

0745-0845 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron search for Sgt Wallace: no sightings.

0825-0930 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on standing patrol: no sightings.

1115-1140 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 ME 109s approaching the Island at a great height: a few cross the coast on a fighter sweep.  Ack Ack fire pointer rounds: no claims.  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: they dive to attack a ME 109 but it gets away.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are also scrambled and turn to chase ME 109s but are jumped by Macchi 202s: no combats.  The remaining enemy raiders are driven off by Spitfires.

1300-1350 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on standing patrol: no sightings.

1335-1440 hrs  Four sorties of Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far: nothing sighted.

1440-1545 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne to act as cover for returning Spitfires: no enemy aircraft sighted.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 24 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P 211, P 247 and Porpoise were swept in by Hythe.

AIR HQ  A total of 18 Wellington sorties: target Bizerta docks.  Due to poor visibility, not all aircraft dropped bombs.  Some bombs were seen to burst in the target area.  Five torpedo-carrying Wellingtons on enemy shipping search: one merchant vessel was hit and seen to be down by the stern.  Arrivals  Two Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Beaufighter, two Hudsons to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter failed to return from operations: crew missing.

HAL FAR  0910-1020 hrs; 0920-1045 hrs; 1145-1305 hrs  12 sorties of Spitfires 185 Squadron, including an intruder raid over Lampedusa and a fighter sweep of Comiso area: nothing seen.

Malta bombers attack Sicilian airfield (c) IWM MH8054

LUQA  0700-1635 hrs  Four sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering harbours at Naples, Messina, Palermo and Cagliari.  Night  One special Wellington 69 Squadron despatched on shipping search in Cavoli-Marittimo area: nothing of importance to report.

TA QALI  0750-1155 hrs  Four Beaufighters 272 Squadron carried out offensive reconnaissance of the Gulf of Tripoli: W/Cdr Buchanan destroyed one JU 52 and at least ten khaki-clad figures were seen in the water.  1300-1605 hrs  Three Beaufighters 272 Squadron carried out an offensive sweep: F/O Coate destroyed one BV 222 and damaged one DO 24.  1420-1525 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali carried out a bombing sweep of Gela aerodrome.  Bad weather prevents all but one of the Spitfires from releasing bombs on target.  Explosions are not seen due to heavy cloud at 5000 feet.

Night  Five Beaufighters carrying bombs attacked docks at Palermo.  Only one aircraft located the target due to bad weather: no results observed.  One aircraft is missing.  Four Beauforts made two sorties and laid mines in enemy waters.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Great difficulty is being experienced unloading the 100 Octane petrol.  The fumes are very bad and men can only work for a short time in the hold.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Convoy duties continue.

1ST Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  42 drivers reported to sub-depots for convoy duties.  A detail of 40 men were sent to Brown Dump for a 12 hour shift and afterwards 20 were maintained there by D Company as unloading party till 1200 hrs on 26th.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  10 Officers, 232 Other Ranks unloading M/V Robin Locksley.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  All dumps still reduced in activity as priority given to unloading of petrol from convoy.  Commodities from dumps being removed to RASC and civilian stores.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties with additional 6 Officers, 250 Other Ranks as Brigade reserve.

10th Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Working parties at Pink Dump: A and HQ Coys.

 

25 November 1942: British and US Military Chiefs Meet in Malta

Air Chief Marshal A W Tedder, KCB, two American Generals P W Timberlake and L H Brereton of the US Army Middle East Air Force, and the DMI Middle East Brigadier Airey arrived in Malta today en route for Algiers.  Air Officer Commanding Malta, Air Vice-Marshal Park, will be leaving with them early tomorrow morning for a one-day conference.

HMS Utmost

At noon today the Italian Press claimed the destruction of a British submarine. It is believed Utmost was spotted in moonlight while still on the surface by patrolling Italian shipping.  Her sinking has been claimed by the Italian torpedo boat Groppo, which located the submarine below the surface early this morning heading  towards Malta, and launched depth charges.  There were no survivors.

Lieutenant Coombe had only recently taken command of Utmost, which destroyed almost 70000 tons of shipping under its previous Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander R D Cayley, DSO, DSC, RN.

Utmost crew celebrate former success (c) IWM

WAR OFFICE CHECKS STATE OF MALTA RATIONS AFTER STONEAGE CONVOY

From:  The War Office                To:  Commander Malta

Cable firstly daily ration scales civil and military immediately prior arrival Stoneage.  Secondly amendments proposed as a result of increased stocks.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 26 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Mainly fair; showers in the evening.

0625-0700 hrs  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are airborne for protection of an incoming convoy: no enemy aircraft seen.

0700-0815 hrs  Six Spitfires 229 Squadron on standing patrol: no sightings.

0800-1650 hrs  22 Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa and other squadrons are airborne to maintain a standing patrol over Malta: no enemy aircraft seen.

1055-1113 hrs  Air raid alert for a number of enemy fighters approaching the Island.  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron are scrambled to intercept and see about 15 raiders.  One of the Spitfires does not return: F/Lt Burgess is reported missing.  Four Spitfires of 229 and 249 Squadrons are also scrambled.  Spitfires of 249 Squadron dive from 29000 feet and damage one ME 109.  None of the enemy aircraft cross the coast.

1405-1520 hrs  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron carry out a diversionary sweep: they see five Macchi 202 fighters but cannot engage.

1500-1600 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron on standing patrol over the Island.  One crash landed with undercarriage trouble: pilot unhurt.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 25 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  The Vice Admiral, Malta, reported that the unloading of the four merchant ships of Stoneage had been completed.  MLC 511 carried out exercises with the Army in Comino Channel.  Rye swept P 212 in from the sea.  Hythe swept Thrasher out: she sailed for Gibraltar and thence for refit in the UK.  Manxman sailed for Algiers, for minelaying operations under the orders of the Naval Commander, Expeditionary Force.

Fortress B17E

AIR HQ  17 Spitfires (9 carrying bombs) attacked Gela aerodrome: explosions were seen in dispersal areas and among buildings.  Arrivals  One Fortress from Heliopolis; fifteen Beaufighters from Gambut; eleven Wellingtons from Shallufa via Gambut.  Departures  Five Beauforts to ECDU.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire failed to return from operations: pilot missing.

HAL FAR  1035-1140 hrs  Eight sorties of Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far for attack on Gela aerodrome – four with bombs and four to act as close escort: one hit recorded.

LUQA  Four sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron.  0055-0259 hrs  Eight Wellingtons made an attack on Tunis docks.   Flares and bombs were dropped and a large fire started which was reported to be burning furiously.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Only five gangs required to work today.  The job should be finished by the night shif.  The difficulty unloading 100 Octane petrol is slowing up proceedings.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  0800 hrs   Working party unloading SS Robin Locksley completed duties.  Other convoy duties continue.

1ST Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  One Sergeant and 27 Other Ranks detailed to brown dump for guard duties.

SS Robin Locksley

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Bn provided 10 Officers, 232 Other Ranks unloading M/V Robin Locksley1600 hrs  Unloading completed: 7351 tons unloaded in 127 hours.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties with additional 6 Officers, 250 Other Ranks as Brigade reserve.

10th Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Working parties at Pink Dump: A and HQ Coys.

26 November 1942: Convoy Supplies Enough For Three Weeks

MALTA STILL UNDER SIEGE

The unloading of last Friday’s convoy MW 12 and distribution of stores to safe keeping was completed today, bringing some relief to the besieged Island of Malta.  The first priority was to supply sufficient aviation spirit for aircraft to continue defensive and offensive operations, and that has been achieved.

HMS Clyde

Fuel stocks are now greatly improved compared to the beginning of November when supplies were at a very low ebb.  Interim deliveries of aviation fuel by submarines Clyde, Parthian, Traveller and Thrasher from Beirut provided just enough for Malta’s fighters to stay airborne and protect the Allied convoy from the east.

The next urgent requirement for Malta is food. The Island’s siege rations are currently expected to be exhausted by the middle of December. Manxman’s delivery of 300 tons of concentrated foodstuffs helped to relieve a critical situation before the convoy arrived.  But even with the safe stockpiling of cargoes from Robin Locksley, Denbighshire, Mormacmoon and Bantam, only a small increase in rations is possible.  Further significant supplies will be needed before Malta’s population can be properly fed.

Operation Stoneage has proved that passage to Malta through the Mediterranean is still not without risk.  Enemy aircraft managed to launch attacks, one causing serious damage the cruiser Arethusa, with the loss of 159 men.  Malta’s air forces are now better placed to keep the Mediterranean open for future convoys.  But until safe passage can be secured, Malta remains under siege.

Merchant ship Denbighshire

CARGO SHIP BLAZE

A fire broke out at 1.45 this afternoon on board Denbighshire in Grand Harbour. The blaze is believed to have started when petrol fumes ignited in the empty No 2 Hold.  All available ship’s fire-fighting equipment was immediately brought into use, assisted by shore appliances.  The fire was brought under control by 4.30 pm but not before it had caused extensive damage.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 27 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Heavy rain mid-morning, becoming fair.

0655-1515 hrs  12 Spitfires 126 Squadron and 1435 Squadron Luqa patrol the Island protecting shipping in Grand Harbour.

1000-1020 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept approaching unidentified aircraft: plot proves to be friendly.

1125-1205 hrs  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron are scrambled to intercept a reported enemy raid which does not approach Malta.

2310-2320 hrs  Air raid alert: aircraft identified as friendly.

0326-0624 hrs  One Albacore searches for the crew of a missing Wellington: nothing sighted.

0510 hrs  Three Baltimores were despatched to try and locate friendly naval units and to search for the Wellington’s dinghy.

Military casualties  Flying Officer Kenneth Cope, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 104 Squadron; Flying Officer Royston Giles, RAF VR, 225 Squadron; Pilot Officer William Goulding, RAF VR, 242 Squadron; Sergeant Joseph Watling, RAF VR, 242 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Mary Tonna, age 60.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 26 NOVEMBER 1942

P 45 enters Grand Harbour

ROYAL NAVY  P 45 and P 48 sailed, swept out by Speedy.

AIR HQ  0757-1305 hrs  Six Beaufighters carried out offensive sweeps in the Gulf of Tripoli: one JU 52 destroyed and a schooner shot up.  One Beaufighter was damaged.  Night  Considerable enemy shipping was again active between Sicily and Tunisia.  Two Wellingtons and five Beauforts were out but the weather was very unfavourable and although three torpedoes were dropped no hits were observed.  Bad weather prevented operations over Tunisi; Gerbini was targeted instead.  A total of 12 Wellingtons attacked Gerbini aerodrome: many hits on the target area causing one fire.  Photographs show many craters on the landing area, including one made by a 4000 lb bomb on the edge of the runway.

Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar; two Wellingtons from LG 104.  Departures  One Fortress, six Beaufighters to Algiers; one Wellington to LG 104.  Aircraft casualties  One Baltimore struck a vehicle on landing: crew uninjured.  One Wellington failed to return from operations: crew missing.

LUQA  Five sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering harbours in Italy and Sicily.  1945-2328 hrs  Five Wellingtons 104 Squadron were despatched to attack Gerbini aerodrome.  Bombs were dropped and fires started in the north west corner of the aerodrome.  All aircraft returned safely.  2110-2230 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron on patrol over Sicily arbited to the south of Catania observing fires on Gerbini aerodrome at 2130 hrs and a large explosion in the centre of the airfield.  Accurate heavy Ack Ack was encountered. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Unloading finished by 0800 hrs this morning.  30 men clearing up the ships, which took all day.

Mormacmoon in New York

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1745 hrs  Party employed unloading SS Mormacmoon completed duties.  Other convoy duties continue.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Activity at dumps slackening.  Foodstuffs being cleared from dump to RASC stores.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties with additional 6 Officers, 250 Other Ranks as Brigade reserve.

10th Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Working parties at Pink Dump: A and HQ Coys.

24 FORTRESS COMPANY ROYAL ENGINEERS  Lt Johnson and 35 Other Ranks proceeded to Qrendi for work on fighter pens.

 

27 November 1942: Polio Outbreak in Malta

Army medical services have reported an outbreak of poliomyelitis in Malta.  The highly infectious virus was diagnosed today in a serviceman in one of the Island’s military hospitals.   The diagnosis confirms suspicions of at least two other cases since 15 November, including one on Gozo.  Malta has just one iron lung, the apparatus used to assist patients with the severe respiratory difficulties caused by the disease.

Polio has been identified in Malta before but the number of cases has never reached epidemic proportions.  However, there are particular concerns with the present outbreak, with the increased risk of spread between civilians crowded into air raid shelters and temporary accommodation.

FORCE K ARRIVES

HMS Cleopatra

Force K steamed into Grand Harbour this afternoon, under the protection of Malta Spitfires.  Under Rear Admiral Commanding, Fifteenth Cruiser Squadron – three cruisers Cleopatra, Dido and Euryalus, with Fleet destroyers Jervis, Javelin, Kelvin and Nubian – experienced no air attacks during their passage from Alexandria to Malta.  Grand Harbour is now full of ships – a sight the Islanders have not witnessed for many months.

In view of Force K’s safe passage it has been decided to send Motor Torpedo Boats to Malta as soon as the weather allows.  They will be moved to Benghazi as soon as possible, to be ready at short notice to make the crossing.  In the meantime, two MTBs will remain at Ras el Hillal to act as a striking force against any enemy shipping attempting to reach Tripoli by the Eastern Route.

Motor Torpedo Boats at Manoel (c) IWM A14545

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 28 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Slight showers morning, otherwise fair.

0615-1010 hrs  Four Beaufighters 227 Squadron Ta Qali airborne to act as escort to naval units: visibility good – no sightings.

0634-0810 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far continue search for crew of missing Wellington: nothing found.

0750-0905 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on search: nothing sighted.

1030-1150 hrs; 1115-1225 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron, then four Spitfires 185 Squadron are airborne to act as escort for HM ships.

1145-1240 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron on escort patrol, followed by standing patrol over the harbour.

1355-1455 hrs  Spitfires 1435 Squadron and 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne with four of 229 Squadron to act as escort to an outgoing naval unit: no enemy aircraft seen.

1355-1500 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are airborne to act as escort to a minelayer: nothing sighted.

1430 hrs  Three cruisers and four destroyers arrive in Grand Harbour as Force K, under the command of Rear Admiral Power.  Four Spitfires, ten long-range Spitfires and twenty-five short-range Spitfires provided continuous protection for the convoy for the last 75 miles of its voyage to Malta.

1435-1550 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on standing patrol: no sightings.

1520-1705 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne to act as escort to naval units: no sightings.

1632-1657 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which approach to within 10 miles north west of Gozo.  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled to intercept and patrol between 2500 and 10000 feet: the raiders turn back before reaching Malta.

1652-1657 hrs  Air raid alert for several enemy aircraft which approach to within ten miles north east of Gozo.

2051-2012 hrs  Air raid alert: aircraft identified as friendly.

Military casualties  Flying Officer William Guilfoyle, RAF VR, 93 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 27 NOVEMBER 1942

HMS Upholder

ROYAL NAVY  P 37 sailed, swept out by Speedy.  Manxman sailed for Alexandria en route to Haifa.  HMS Welshman was sailed for Alexandria and Haifa to collect submarine torpedoes which are urgently required.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Beaufighters from LG 104; one Hudson from Gibraltar; one Wellington from LG 109; one Wellington from LG 224.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.

LUQA  14 Officers, 25 Senior NCOs and 134 Other Ranks 227 Squadron arrived for operations.  0600-1700 hrs  Five sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering harbours of Italy and Sicily.  1916-2358 hrs  Six Beauforts 39 Squadron were despatched to lay mines in the approaches to Bizerta harbour: all returned safely.  14 Wellingtons 40 and 104 Squadrons were despatched to attack the docks at Bizerta.  Bombs were dropped from 4000-6000 feet and a good-sized fire started in the area of the iron ore wharf.  Night  One Beaufort found a convoy of three merchant vessels and one destroyer, 37 miles west of Marittimo.  A torpedo was aimed at one merchant vessel but a heavy sea mist made it impossible to see the results.

TA QALI  0950-1435 hrs  Four Beaufighters 272 Squadron carried out an offensive sweep between Zarzis and Cape Bon: W/Cdr Buchanan destroyed one JU 88 and damaged one ME 110.  Visibility good.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Broken Case Store Party completed duties.  Other unloading duties continue.

4th Bn THE BUFFS  77 motor transport drivers, six 15 cwt and one 3 ton truck engaged on convoy duties with additional 6 Officers, 250 Other Ranks as Brigade reserve.

 

28 November 1942: Breastplate Back On

40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun and crew Malta 12 May 1942 (IWM)

The special mission by Malta troops to Sousse in French North Africa was reinstated today, as units were ordered to prepare for embarkation.  All guards and working parties of 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry have been on 8 hours’ notice of departure since yesterday and are busy packing the minimum kit allowed for the journey.

The embarkation force will now include one troop of Field Gunners, one of Bofors Gunners, one detachment each of Royal Engineers and Royal Army Service Corps, another of the Royal Army Pay Corps, and Commandos. The mission plans have also been amended to include several transport vehicles.  All stores, vehicles and kit bags are to be loaded onto the M/V Melbourne Star by 0300 hrs, leaving only the Army personnel, ammunition and seven days’ rations to be added immediately before departure.

TOP SECRET TELEGRAM

From:  Governor (Gen Viscount Gort)                   To:  Secretary of State for the Colonies

1.  During the month ended 20th November there were 59 alerts: 45 by day and 14 by night.  33 bombing raids: 28 by day and 5 by night.  33 people were killed (12 men, 11 women, 10 children).  16 were seriously injured (7 men, 2 women, 7 children).  29 buildings were seriously damaged.

2.  The breaking up by the RAF of what threatened to be a serious aerial bombardment in the last 10 days of October, the news from North Africa, and the arrival of a convoy of four ships including two United States vessels and one Netherlands on the last day of the period under review, added buoyancy to an already high morale.  The public is proud that Malta is hitting back and bearing a part in the stirring events of this new phase of the war.

3.  His Majesty’s Government’s gift of £10,000,000 [to Malta] is widely appreciated and acclaimed.

MALTA SPY HANGED

Carmelo Borg Pisani, convicted of crimes against the Government and sentenced on 19 November, was hanged early this morning at Corradino Civil Prison.  He had appealed unsuccessfully for clemency.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 29 NOVEMBER 1942

Weather   Slight showers morning, becoming fair to cloudy.

0730-0820 hrs  Four Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are airborne to fly south of Comiso, searching for signs of the Spitfire of F/Lt Burgess, missing since 25 November: no wreckage is seen.

1305 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are airborne to cover the return of 185 Squadron from attacking Gela aerodrome.

1415-1500 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron search for a missing Spitfire: nothing seen.

1430 hrs  An anti-personnel mine explodes near Dock 3 badly injuring a Maltese civilian, whose leg is blown off. 

Night  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron is airborne on intercept patrol over the Island: no enemy aircraft seen.

Military casualties  Warrant Officer Class II George Edwards, Royal Canadian Air Force, 249 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 28 NOVEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  HMS Thunderbolt arrived at Malta to join the Tenth Submarine Flotilla for Special Operations. She had sailed from the United Kingdom direct to Malta, making the passage in eighteen days.  Thunderbolt was swept in by Rye, who subsequently swept P 43 and Traveller to sea.

Axis aircraft on Gela aerodrome

AIR HQ  A total of 22 Spitfires including eight carrying bombs attacked Gela and Comiso aerodromes: bombs were dropped on the dispersal areas.  The escorting fighters damaged two JU 52s.  Two Beaufighters on a sweep along the Tunisian coast from Sousse to Zuara destroyed one CR 42.  Other Beaufighters on various patrols destroyed two SM 79s.  One JU 52 was destroyed on the ground and various targets shot up.  Two Wellingtons bombed the docks at Tunis as a diversion during a mining operation carried out by Beauforts.

Arrivals  Two DC 3 from El Adem; one Liberator from LG 224.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; two Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire crashed in the sea: pilot missing.  One Beaufighter failed to return from operations: crew missing.

HAL FAR  1105-1230 hrs  12 Spitfires 185 Squadron, four carrying bombs, attacked Gela aerodrome.  Explosions were seen in the south eastern dispersal area.  Sgt Houlton sighted a formation of nine JU 52s just off the coast of Sicily and damaged two of them.  1800-2235 hrs  One Swordfish and three Albacores RNAS searched for shipping in the Straits of Messina: mission abortive.

LUQA  0630-1640 hrs  Five sorties by photo-reconnaissance Spitfires 69 Squadron covering harbours and aerodromes in Sicily and Italy.  Three Baltimores 69 Squadron carried out weather reconnaissance.  2145 hrs  Eight Beauforts 39 Squadron were despatched to lay mines in the entrance of Tunis harbour: all aircraft returned safely.  Eleven Wellingtons 104 and 40 Squadrons were despatched to attack Bizerta docks in two waves: bombs were seen to burst well within the target area.

Baltimore serviced at Luqa (c) IWM GM1027

Night  A photo-reconnaissance Spitfire having sighted a convoy consisting of one 4-5000 ton tanker and one 4-5000 ton merchant vessel rounding Cape Spartivento westwards, two torpedo-carrying Wellingtons were despatched to attack.  One Wellington found and attacked the convoy five miles north of Capo Orlando, in a heavy rainstorm, but the torpedo appeared to run astern of the target.

TA QALI  0635-1050 hrs  Two Beaufighters 227 Squadron despatched on operation to bomb shipping in the Sicilian channel: F/Lt Schmidt destroyed one CR 42.  1005-1415 hrs; 1400-1630 hrs  Two Beaufighters 227 Squadron at a time on offensive sweep: nothing sighted.  1300-1650 hrs  Two Beaufighters 272 Squadron on bombing mission and offensive sweep: F/Lt Rankin damages one SM 79.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Working party 1 Officer, 25 Other Ranks C Coy and 25 A Coy required to clear part of Floriana Parade Ground to make a dump for goods from the convoy.  Task will last about 5 days.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Convoy duties continue.  1 NCO, 4 men with mobile Breda gun attached to 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Breda gun and crew from GP6 report to 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry at Cammerata Barracks.  Dumps given order to close down as soon as clear of all goods (completed 1715 hrs): personnel return to Coy lines.  Motor-transport sub-depot Gzira party remain in position.  Guard remaining on Brown Dump (petrol).

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

 

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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

 

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27 September-3 October 1942: Disease Now a Greater Threat Than Bombs

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27 September 1942: Beaufighter Shot Down by Friendly Fire

A RAF pilot has died and his observer is in a critical condition after friendly fire struck their aircraft over Malta.  The Beaufighter of 89 Squadron was one of two which had to return early from a patrol to intercept enemy raiders.  As they approached, the Island’s anti-aircraft positions were on ‘Guns Tight’, orders to shoot only at aircraft once they had been identified.  However, the guns covering the approach to Luqa airfield were still on ‘Guns Free’ – ready to fire at any aircraft.

Beaufighter 39 Squadron at Luqa

Spotting an unidentified aircraft headed for Luqa, the gunners opened fire.  The Beaufighter pilot took evasive action, turning away from the airfield and looping back to make another attempt at landing.  But the aircraft had lost too much height and he was forced to crash land.  The Beaufighter burst into flames.  The pilot escaped from the top hatch as Royal Artillery personnel rushed to the scene, managing to rescue the observer, Pilot Officer Alfred Cumbers, who was badly burned.  Despite suffering relatively minor burns the pilot, Flight Lieutenant John Waddingham, died later in hospital from shock.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 28 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Good; visibility good.

No air raid warnings.

0735-0820 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled on intercept patrol: nothing sighted.

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant John Waddingham, Royal Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 1942

P 35 HMS Umbra

ROYAL NAVY  P 35 attacked a large escorted merchant vessel but, as the first torpedo failed to sink her, she later followed up and attacked by moonlight, and obtained a further hit.  ML 459 and Swona carried out sweeping operations in St. Paul’s Bay and approaches. No mines were swept.  Beauforts unsuccessfully attacked an enemy convoy with torpedoes.

AIR HQ  Night  Three Beauforts of 39 Squadron were despatched to attack a southbound enemy convoy in the Ionian Sea.  Only one aircraft found the convoy which comprised four destroyers and a 5000 ton merchant vessel 120 miles south west of Cape Matapan proceeding on a sourtherly course at 12 knots.  One torpedo was dropped but owing to poor visibility the results were not observed.  Arrivals  One Liberator from LG 224; one Beaufort, one Wellington, one Hudson from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  1100-1205 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron made a reconnaissance patrol over Sicily: no enemy activity.

TA QALI  No operations by 229 or 249 Squadrons.

28 September 1942: Navy Air Squadron in Convoy Attacks

Two night attacks were carried out tonight against shipping near Cape Spartivento, one by a Wellington of 69 Squadron and another by two Swordfish and two Albacores of the Royal Naval Air Service squadron based at Hal Far.

The Wellington left Malta this evening on the tail of a convoy of one 4000 ton merchant vessel and three destroyers which he located five miles north east of Spartivento, heading westwards.  The bomber launched a stick of four 500lb bombs at the merchantman and one burst very close to the stern.  Photographs taken later showed a merchant vessel, believed to be the one attacked, beached off Locri.

Albacore

Two hours later the four RNAS aircraft took off with orders to search for an enemy merchant vessel but found only a single Navigator Class destroyer about 20 miles off the toe of Italy.  They released two torpedoes, forcing the destroyer to take violent evasive action.  They reported a hit amidships followed by a large flash.  One Swordfish experienced intense and accurate light Ack Ack fire and was slightly damaged but returned safely to Hal Far.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 29 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

1705-1735 hrs  Air raid alert.  14 enemy fighters approach; only three cross the coast while the remainder patrolled to the north of the Island.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept: no engagement.

1815-1900 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron on anti-E boat patrol: nothing sighted.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Sweep of St Paul’s Bay completed and area now considered clear.  Rye swept P 44 out for patrol.

AIR HQ  Spitfires carried out two offensive reconnaissances over Sicily: no enemy aircraft sighted.  Arrivals  Two Marylands from ADU 201 Group; three Beauforts, two Hudsons from Gibraltar. Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Liberator to LG 224; one Cant 506 to Aboukir.

TA QALI  229 Squadron stood down.  1325-1425 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol (one spare returned early): no sightings.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  1130-1300 hrs  100 Men of B Company and 100 of C Company stood by in the Dockyard in case of rioting.  Trouble was expected as the ASM was seeing a delegation of workmen who advocated more pay etc.  No incidents of any kind occurred: everything was quite normal.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Three day scheme began to test mobile role of Battalion.

29 September 1942: Enemy Fighter Strength Up

AOC MED CONGRATULATES RAF LUQA

Two messages have been received at RAF Luqa from Air Officer Commanding, RAF Mediterranean:

Sir Arthur Tedder, AOC RAF Middle East 1942

“Well done 69 Squadron.  Your good reconnaissance made possible torpedo attack on a fat enemy merchant vessel.  Keep it up.”

“Well done 39 Squadron.  Lieutenant Tilley put up a first rate show in his determination to attack in most unpleasant weather conditions.  A good job well carried out.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 30 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility good.

0930-1020 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far on patrol: nothing sighted.

1112-1205 hrs  Air raid alert.  30 ME 109s approach the Island in four or five waves.  Ten Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but do not engage.  Only 15 enemy fighters cross the coast.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1610-1635 hrs  Air raid alert.  Six ME 109s cross the coast and then patrol south of Filfla.  Heavy Ack Ack fire.

1600-1720 hrs  Nine Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft (one spare returned early).  Enemy fighters are sighted but turn ‘up sun’ and get away.  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron are also scrambled: nothing sighted.

1815-1905 hrs  Two Spitfires Ta Qali on anti-shipping patrol: no sightings.

2100-2110 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber: bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Nil.

Civilian casualties  Mgarr  Santo Abela, age 14.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 29 SEPTEMBER 1942

Minesweeper HMS Speedy

AIR HQ  23 Spitfire sorties over Sicily during the day: no combats.  Arrivals  One DC3 from LG 224; three Hudsons, two Beauforts from Gibraltar.  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; one Spitfire to Heliopolis.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort missing in transit between Gibraltar and Malta.

HAL FAR  1345-1545 hrs  Five Spitfires carried out a sweep over south east Sicily.  Enemy aircraft were sighted taking off from Comiso aerodrome and two E boats seen two miles off the coast: no combats.

TA QALI  0915-1010 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol over Sicily.  Enemy fighters were sighted but no combat took place.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  1130-1300 hrs  B and C Companies stood by again in the Dockyard in case of trouble.

30 September 1942: Meat and Fish Only Once a Week

The Government has announced a new menu for the Victory Kitchens, reducing the service of meat and fish to only once a week each (1):

  • Monday  Balbuljata (i) with peas
  • Tuesday  Macaroni with tomatoes
  • Wednesday  Minestra (ii)
  • Thursday Tinned fish, beans and tomatoes
  • Friday  Macaroni with tomatoes
  • Saturday  Minestra
  • Sunday  Meat with tomatoes and tinned beans

AIR RAID STATISTICS SEPTEMBER 1942

  • Total number of alerts to date  2927
  • Total number of alerts this month  57 
  • Air raid alerts night  17
  • Number of Blank Days 6
  • Number of Night raids 17
  • Raid Free Nights 13
  • Alerts for Own Planes 7
  • Total time from air raid alert to raiders passed  1 day, 2 hrs, 5 mins
  • Average length of alert 27.5 mins

Throughout the month the Army provided 200-250 men daily to assist the RAF in servicing aircraft, maintenance of aerodromes, etc.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 1 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility good.

0815-0830 hrs  Air raid alert.  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept: no sightings.  Alert believed to be triggered by returning friendly aircraft.

0845-0850 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept: no sightings.  Alert also believed due to friendly aircraft.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                              Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 1942

AIR HQ  1540-1630 hrs  Offensive reconnaissance by four Spitfires over Sicily: no enemy aircraft sighted.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; four Beauforts to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort missing in transit between Malta and LG 224.

HAL FAR  185 Squadron released.

TA QALI  1540-1630 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol: no sightings.  1755-1850 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol crossed over Biscari and Comiso aerodromes: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Strength of Battalion: 30 Officers, 614 Other Ranks.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Personnel engaged on co-operational duties at Luqa aerodrome: 1 Officer, 62 Other Ranks night; 1 Officer, 108 Other Ranks day.

1st BN HAMPSHIRE REGT  Throughout September two twin Lewis guns were manned during daylight on Safi strips for anti-aircraft defence.  No rounds were fired at hostile aircraft.  Throughout the month working parties at Hal Far aerodrome were: two impressed lorries, four Other Ranks manning the lorries; one Other Rank with motor-cycle on special police duties.

4th HEAVY ACK ACK REGIMENT  During the month the Regiment has only fired 90 rounds ARBT.  A new form of night barrage has been evolved in which each RCR as before works out the datas for its own gun positions.  Plots are obtained from the GL at very 10th second immediately following the buzz made in the circuit from RCR; the buzzes are also made in the guns circuit.  The FCO [Fire Control Orders] orders ‘Immediate – height’ on the next buzz guns start a stop watch on each position.  The FCO now works out the co-ordinates of the barrage point, based on a time from the executive buzz of 55 seconds and orders the co-ordinates.  Guns work out the date and apply it; gun positions subtract the time of flight (say 17 seconds) from 55 and fire when their stop watch shows 38 seconds.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  The coast in the Battalion sector was vigilantly patrolled each night in September and a mobile platoon is also performing intensive patrolling on the Island of Gozo.

1 October 1942: Diseases Pose Greater Threat Than Bombs

EPIDEMIC CLAIMS MALTA MEDIC

Major Douglas Armstrong of the Royal Army Medical Corps whose death was announced last Thursday [24 September], lost his life due to a disease from which he had saved countless others.  Still in his twenties Major Armstrong, who had commanded Malta’s Field Hygiene Section since January 1941, struggled through the intense blitz of Malta while every other senior medical officer was lost to the service.  Fighting an epidemic which was proving an even greater threat to the Island’s population than enemy bombing, the Glasgow born doctor himself finally succumbed to the infection.

Conditions in shelters increase infection risk

A typhoid outbreak among civilians was first identified some months ago, with a concentration of cases around the Luqa area.  The disease was believed to be carried by flies rather than water-borne.

SCABIES ‘RAMPANT’

A significant percentage of Malta’s civilian population has been affected by scabies.  A figure of 20 per cent quoted in June is now believed to have at least doubled.  Causes include hygiene problems due to the scarcity of water and soap, and the crowded conditions in the Island’s shelters and emergency housing which make washing difficult and aid the spread of this highly contagious disease.  Troops have also been affected, at about half the rate of the population at large.  “It was the general belief then that scabies is caused by a combination of under nourishment and lack of hygiene…Scabies was rampant in 1942. There might have been cases earlier. I was stricken by scabies in 1943, at a time when it was supposed to have been relieving. Large red boils covered my feet, hands and my bottom. They itched a lot and made me scratch frantically…” J A Zahra, 2011

MALTA DOG

A debilitating condition now threatens to undermine the effectiveness of the Island’s fighting forces.  An unpleasant form of dysentery known to the troops as ‘Malta Dog’ attacks suddenly and weakens the constitution of servicemen already significantly underweight due to reduced rations.  Sufferers can be confined to bed for several days, unable to return to duties until their condition stabilises.

For about a fortnight I was really off colour with symptoms I will not mention, beyond saying that all food tasted like fat, and was difficult to swallow. In addition I had a prolonged attack of [‘Malta Dog’] a form of dysentry, painful and exhausting, but that seemed to be always with us.” (2)

JAUNDICE

“One morning I woke with a splitting headache and high temperature which persisted all day. This with long hours of duty with little leisure at last forced me to go to see the Naval Surgeon. As I walked in he greeted me with ‘Hello Mr. Austin!, got Jaundice?’  So that was it.

‘I am sorry to say that you can’t go to Hospital, Imtarfa and Bighi are full and St Patricks has over 500 cases of Jaundice. It is caused by rat contaminated butter’. He continued. ‘Beyond Epsom salts I have nothing else to prescribe. What you need is plenty of green salads, which are not available. You must go to bed, eat only dry toast and potatoes boiled in their jackets, tea without sugar and milk, and nothing else whatsoever’.  (2)

SHORTAGE OF MEDICAL SUPPLIES

The lack of regular supplies to Malta creates worrying shortages of medical supplies to tackle and prevent disease as well as to treat wounds.  The severely reduced rations, as well as threatening to cause malnutrition, weakens the immune system and aids the spread of infection.  Without the emergency ‘magic carpet’ deliveries of essential items by submarine, the Island will face possible multiple epidemics.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 OCTOBER TO DAWN 2 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Cloudy, then fair to fine.

0634-1310 hrs; 1517-1940 hrs  Four Baltimores 69 Squadron Luqa carry out a search to the south east of Malta for a missing Beaufort dinghy – not found.

1005-1010 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three plus fighters approach to within 15 miles of St Paul’s Bay.  Nine Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept but see nothing.  The raiders do not cross the Island.

2112-2136 hrs  Air raid alert for three approaching enemy aircraft.  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa is airborne to intercept but sees nothing.  Bombs are dropped in the sea 30 miles north of the Island.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Joseph Menard, Royal Canadian Air Force.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 1 OCTOBER 1942

P 46 HMS Unruffled

ROYAL NAVY  P 35 swept in by Hythe, and P 46 to sea. P 35 reported having sunk on escorted merchant vessel south west of Stravothi.  A flash and the sound of an explosion were reported by the military at about 2000 hrs, 8 miles west of El Blate. As P 46 was estimated to be in this position at the time, she was ordered to report, which she did at 2020.

AIR HQ  Spitfires carried out offensive reconnaissance over Sicily.  2130 hrs  Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily.  Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  Eight Beauforts to Shallufa.

HAL FAR  Owing to a severe crosswind 185 Squadron were not scrambled all day.

LUQA  0825 hrs  One Spitfire 69 Squadron photographs one 6-7000 ton merchant vessel with an escort of two destroyers off Cape Armi.  0920-1035 hrs  Two Spitfires 1435 Squadron carried out reconnaissance patrol.  Two RE 2001s were sighted: S/Ldr Lovell damaged one.  1510 hrs  One Spitfire 69 Squadron sighted two destroyers and two motor torpedo boats off Cape San Taranto.

TA QALI  1725-1820 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol: nothing sighted.

2 October 1942: Axis Troops Sick From Lack of Food

Axis troops lack food and water

A lack of food and water is causing significant sickness among Axis troops as Allied attacks disrupt supply runs through the Mediterranean.  Rommel’s Afrika Korps is now getting just a quarter of the supplies they need, thanks to combined air and sea offensives from Malta.

The German Field Marshal had informed Berlin that he needed 50,000 tons of supplies if his forces were to continue effective operations in North Africa.  During September alone, Allied Air and Naval forces in the Mediterranean have sunk 34000 tons of shipping at sea.  Daily attacks on enemy convoys by Malta’s bombers and submarines have disrupted convoys, crippling Axis tankers and merchant vessels.  Any supplies which did get through had to be landed at Tripoli and transported many miles to the battle front.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 OCTOBER TO DAWN 3 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Fair to cloudy at first; fair in the evening.

0746-0914 hrs  Eight Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled.  Blue Section patrols over Grand Harbour while Black Section carry out a sweep over south east Sicily: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1010-1130 hrs  Eight Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled for reported raiders which do not approach close to Malta: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1420-1550 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1615-1645 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron are airborne to provide cover for friendly aircraft: no enemy seen.

1800-1915 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on anti-E boat patrol: no sightings.

2140-2205 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy bombers approach close to the north east of Malta between 24000 and 28000 feet.  Two of the aircraft drop bombs in the sea, one five to ten miles east of Ta Silch and the other five miles north of Gharghur.  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron Luqa is scrambled to intercept but does not encounter the aircraft.

2200-0030 hrs  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron airborne on patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 2 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Rorqual swept into Grand Harbour by Rye having arrived from Beirut with stores.

de Havilland Mosquito

AIR HQ  2200 hrs  Beaufighter on intruder patrol Sicily.  Arrivals  One Liberator from LG 224; one Spitfire from LG 28; one Mosquito from Benson.  Departures  Three Hudsons to Gibraltar; one Wellington, one Liberator to LG 224; six Beauforts to Shallufa; one Wellington to LG 208.

LUQA  0650-0750 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron were airborne on reconnaissance patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

TA QALI  0740-0850 hrs  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron (one spare returned early) on reconnaissance patrol over Sicily: no sightings.  0915-1035 hrs  Nine Spitfires 249 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol sighted two Macchi 202s and four ME 109s.  F/Sgt De Lara damaged one Macchi.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Thirty one Other Ranks were admitted to hospital suffering from suspected food poisoning.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  17 Platoon relieved 18 Platoon in Gozo.

3 October 1942: Enemy Bomber Force in Sicily Increased

Reports are coming in from Malta’s photo-reconnaissance pilots that enemy bomber numbers in Sicily are increasing.  After careful analysis of photographs covering Sicilian airfields at the end of September has produced estimates of 403 aircraft of all types.  Of these 83 are German bombers and 145 Italian bombers; 172 are Italian and German fighters.

PR SPITFIRE SPOTS CONVOY TARGET

This afternoon a Malta reconnaissance pilot reported an enemy convoy consisting of a 5000 ton merchant vessel escorted by three destroyers crawling south from Taranto.  Four Wellingtons – two carrying bombs and flares and two carrying torpedoes – were despatched to make a night attack on the convoy.  They found the ships 33 miles south east of Cape Santa Maria di Leuca.  Only one torpedo was launched and this scored a hit amidships on the merchant vessel, producing a red glow.  Four 1000 lb bombs were also dropped but the results could not be seen.  All aircraft returned safely to base.

FOOD POISONING HITS BATTALION

A possible outbreak of food poisoning has been reported by 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry.  31 Other Ranks were admitted to hospital yesterday, followed by another 11 today, bringing the total number of cases to 42 out of a total of 614 men.

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT WEEK ENDING 3 OCTOBER 1942

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

1.  Enemy air – daylight:  six alerts for fighter sweeps totalling 92 aircraft.  No combats.  Night:  six aircraft approached – bombs in the sea.

2.  Own air – daylight:  Over 70 sorties of Spitfires over Sicily.  One RE 2001 damaged.  No losses.  Night: Total five Wellingtons sorties to attack convoys: near-misses bombs on two merchant vessels, probably torpedo hit merchant vessel.  Two Swordfish, two Albacore sorties to attack convoy: one torpedo hit amidships on destroyer.  No losses.

3.  Military damage and casualties: nil.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 OCTOBER TO DAWN 4 OCTOBER 1942

Weather  Fair to fine.  Lightning late evening.

0645-0810 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on anti-E boat patrol.

Caproni Re 2001 Falco

0905-0941 hrs  Air raid alert.  21 ME 109s and RE 2001s carry out a fighter sweep: about half cross the coast at 28-32000 feet.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.  Eight Spitfires 1435 Squadron Luqa are scrambled with fighters of other Squadrons to intercept.  Enemy aircraft are sighted but no combat takes place.

0920-1000 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne to cover the minesweepers off Grand Harbour.

1019-1032 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy aircraft approaching the Island.   Sixteen Spitfires are scrambled to intercept but the raiders recede when 25 miles off St Paul’s Bay.

1115-1155 hrs  Air raid alert: aircraft are identified as friendly.

1515-1630 hrs  Seven Spitfires 1435 Squadron are scrambled to intercept reported enemy raiders but they do not approach Malta – no aircraft are sighted.

2258-2309 hrs  Air raid alert: are identified as friendly.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Harold Sansome, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 3 OCTOBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe swept Utmost out on patrol and then Parthian in with cargo from Gibraltar, followed by P 43 returning from patrol.

AIR HQ  12 Spitfire sorties on offensive reconnaissance over Sicily.  Arrivals  One DC3 from LG 224; two Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One DC3 to LG 224.

LUQA  One Spitfire 69 Squadron carried out photo-reconnaissance from Taranto to Cape Maria Leuca.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Total number of personnel in hospital suffering from suspected food poisoning is forty-two.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1.  Dealt with: High Explosives nil; anti-personnel bombs 17; oil incendiaries 11.

(i)  normally eggs scrambled with tomatoes and onions – in this case powdered eggs were used

(ii) soup with vegetables and pasta

(1) Adapted from Malta Diary of a War, Michael Galea, PEG Ltd 1992

(2)  Extract from Autobiography of Leonard (Len) Austin, Foreman of Malta Dockyard, August 1939 – March 1943

 

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

 
 

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13-19 September 1942: Malta Celebrates the George Cross

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13 September 1942: George Cross Presentation to People of Malta

 WATCH THE PRESENTATION CEREMONY 1942                   

The daylight skies of Malta are now considered safe enough for a major event to be held in the open air.  After months of waiting, His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief Viscount Gort, VC made the formal presentation of the George Cross to the people of Malta in Palace Square this morning.  The simple and dignified ceremony began with a guard of honour of the Royal Malta Artillery who marched down Kingsway and into the Square, accompanied by the band of the King’s Own Malta Regiment.

At 9.15 am, a wooden display case holding the Cross was carried out of the Palace by Police Commissioner Joseph Axisa and handed to Viscount Gort, who addressed the assembled company:

“On my appointment as Governor of Malta, I was entrusted to carry the George Cross to this Island fortress.  By the command of the King, I now present to the People of Malta and her Dependencies the decoration which His Majesty has awarded to them in recognition of the gallant service which they have already rendered in the fight for freedom.

How you have withstood for many months the most concentrated bombing attacks in the history of the world is the admiration of all civilised peoples.  Your homes and your historic buildings have been destroyed and only their ruins remain as monuments to the hate of a barbarous foe.  The Axis Powers have tried again and again to break your spirit but your confidence in the final triumph of the United Nations remains undimmed.

Governor & C in C presents George Cross to Sir George Borg (c) IWM GM 1765

What Malta has withstood in the past, without flinching, Malta is determined to endure until the day when the second siege is raised.  Battle-scarred George Cross Malta, the sentinel of Empire in the Meditteranean, meanwhile stands firm, undaunted and undismayed, awaiting the time when she can call ‘Pass friend, all is well in the Island Fortress.”

Finishing with a reading of the original citation, Viscount Gort formally presented the George Cross to His Honour Sir George Borg Kt, who received it on behalf of the people of Malta and its Dependencies.  He then gave a brief address thanking His Majesty and the Governor for the recognition and appreciation of the people of Malta.

The ceremony was attended by the commanding officers of the Army, Navy and Air Forces in Malta, with special places reserved for the captains and officers of the valiant Santa Marija convoy.  1st Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery provided the Guard of Honour.  Squeezed between piles of neatly piled debris from bomb damaged buildings, detachments from all three armed services lined the Square, alongside the Island’s Police, Special Constabulary and Passive Defence Organisations.

(c) IWM 130942

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 14 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0800-0840 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne to intercept reported enemy raiders but they do not materialise.  In the course of practice flying Sgt Swain goes into a spin from 3000 feet and crashes in a field near Luqa.  He is killed and the aircraft destroyed.

0910-1025 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol sight two ME 109s but lose them in the cloud.  Two Macchi 202s are then seen flying at great speed.  No combats.

0156-0219 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy bombers approach but only one crosses the  coast, dropping bombs on the area of Ta Qali.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Malta’s night fighter is airborne: no engagement.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Lawrence Swain, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P34 and P42 returned from patrol and were swept in the Hythe.  P35 returned to harbour with engine defect.

AIR HQ  17 Spitfires carried out an offensive reconnaissance over Sicily.  Enemy aircraft sighted but no combat.  0245-0440 hrs  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily.  Arrivals  Two Hudsons, one Beaufort from Gibraltar; two Wellingtons from LG 224.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire stalled and crashed: pilot killed.

HAL FAR  1105-1210 hrs  Five Spitfires were airborne on a sweep over South East Sicily: no enemy aircraft sighted.

TA QALI   0720-0830 hrs  Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron (one returned early) on reconnaissance patrol over the Sicilian coast.  They encountered heavy Ack Ack fire but ¼ mile behind aircraft.  Enemy aircraft not sighted.  1845-1935 hrs  One Spitfire 249 Squadron and one of 229 Squadron on shipping search: no sightings.

1st Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  The following letter of appreciation was received:  “I am directed by the GOC to convey to you His Excellency’s congratulations on the smartness of the guard provided by the 1st Bn King’s Own Malta Regiment.  The GOC wishes to add his own congratulations and I am to request that you will make this known to the Commander, 1st Bn The King’s Own Malta Regiment and the NCOs and men who formed the guard.”

14 September 1942: Mystery Loss of Flying Boat Clare

Short S30 flying boat ‘Clare’ (c) IWM CM6525

A Short S30 Flying Boat “Clare” which used to be a regular visitor to Malta has disappeared in mysterious circumstances off the coast of West Africa, near Bathurst, with the loss of all thirteen passengers and six crew.  Questions are to be asked in the UK Parliament about the loss of the aircraft which is believed to have developed mechanical trouble and caught fire before ditching into the sea.

Crewed by members of 37 Squadron – a RAF unit well known at Luqa airfield – who were seconded to British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), the flying boat was en route from Lagos to Poole, in England when she went down.

Clare made the first BOAC flight from Britain to Cairo, and Malta was a scheduled stop on the route.  In February of this year while on the Island the flying boat survived an enemy bombing raid when she was damaged by incendiaries.  In October 1941 she carried King George of Greece and Sir Stafford Cripps on a visit to Gibraltar.

Reflecting their connections with Malta, five of the casualties of 37 Squadron are to be commemorated on the Island’s memorial.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 15 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0945-1040 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1343-1416 hrs  Six Spitfires are scrambled from Hal Far: nothing sighted.

1539-1610 hrs  Air raid alert.  Nine ME 109s cross the coast but refuse combat and turn back for home.

1750-1820 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to cover the return of a Rodeo mission: no enemy aircraft sighted.

2240 hrs  2nd Bn Devonshire Regt report seeing lights 4-5 miles out to see, 120 degrees from D Company HQ.

0450-0506 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four enemy aircraft approach the Island and drop bombs in the sea 5-10 miles north of the Island.  A Malta night fighter is airborne and chase on raider but are unable to engage.

Military casualties  Radio Officer Edgar Brent, BOAC; First Officer Anthony Cundy, BOAC; Sergeant Eric Lace, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 37 Squadron, serving with BOAC; Flying Officer George Musson, Flying Officer, Royal Air Force (O), BOAC, Captain; Radio Officer J Wycherley, BOAC; all crew of the flying-boat Clare.  Pilot Officer Albert Dixon, Royal New Zealand Air Force, 37 Squadron; Sergeant James Glansfield, Royal Air Force, 37 Squadron; Flight Sergeant William Kelly, RAF VR; Flight Lieutenant James Maguire, Royal Canadian Air Force, 37 Squadron; Wing Commander Ronald Graham, RAF VR, commanding 37 Squadron; Squadron Leader John Parker, RAF VR, 37 Squadron; Warrant Officer Alick Turley, Royal Air Force, 37 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Rye swept P35 out, and Una in from patrol. Una reported one hit on 4000 ton merchant vessel which probably sank.

AIR HQ  Day  A wing sweep of eight aircraft from 185 Squadron and eight of 249 Squadron led by W/Cdr Thompson carried out an extensive sweep of south east Sicily.  Enemy aircraft were reported north of Gela but not sighted.  2350-0250 hrs  One Beaufighter carried out an intruder patrol over Sicily.

Arrivals  One DC3 from LG 224.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one DC3, one Wellington to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter ran off the runway during take-off: crew uninjured.  One Spitfire tyre burst on take-off: pilot uninjured.

HAL FAR  0915-1020 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron carried out a sweep over Sicily.  Enemy aircraft were reported over Gela but the leader of the Spitfire formation had radio trouble and did not receive the message, so no contact made.  One Spitfire from Hal Far burst a tyre on taking off for wing sweep: the undercarriage collapsed and the airscrew was damaged; pilot unhurt.

TA QALI  0635-0725 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron (one returned early) on reconnaissance patrol over Sicilian coast: no sightings.  1700-1925 hrs  Nine Spitfires 249 Squadron on Rodeo raid over Sicilian coast: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  All men working on Luqa returned this morning: no men required until next month.

15 September 1942: Admiralty in Negotiations with Italians

SAFE PASSAGE FOR HOSPITAL SHIP UNDER THREAT AFTER SINKING OF ARNO

Hospital ship Arno pre-war as HMAT Wandilla

 

Rome radio has today alleged that Italian Hospital Ship Arno was sunk last Wednesday night by aerial torpedoes fired by British aircraft.  The incident took place about 40 miles east of Ras el Tin, Alexandria, with the loss of 27 lives.  If confirmed, this is first recorded incident of Allied action against a hospital ship but not the first since the outbreak of war. A Greek hospital ship was sunk by Italian aircraft in April last year and a Russian vessel sunk by German bombers in November.

The sinking threatens to undermine delicate negotiations with the Italian high command for the safe passage of a ship to take sick and wounded from Malta’s hard-pressed hospitals to Allied territories where they can be more easily catered for.

From:  Admiralty      To:  C in C Mediterranean    Rptd:  RA Malta; GHQ Middle East

SECRET

1.  Your 1117/7 Italian Government replied in June that they would order Axis armed forces to refrain from attack upon the area where our hospital ship was anchored at Malta provided embarkation took place in daylight.

2.  At same time they intimated that they would exercise their right under the 10th Hague Convention to examine the ship on passage to Malta and that this would be facilitated if the ship called voluntarily at Syracuse.  Nothing was said about the return voyage.

3.  The difficulty remains that under article 12 of 10th [Hague] Convention the Italians would have a perfect right to stop the ship on return voyage and move all sick and wounded as prisoners of war.  We also dislike the idea of putting one of our ships in Italian hands though the ships of the Italian repatriation scheme may be sufficient security for her return.

4.  Another possibility is to propose to the Italians that a neutral Red Cross Commission should examine the ship at port of departure, travel to Malta, supervise the embarkation and return with her.  This proposal would be accompanied with a request for absolute assurances for freedom from molestation on both outward and homeward voyages.  Italians may well refuse and recent sinking of Arno reduces chances of Italian acceptances.

5.  It would help us to know the degree of urgency to be attached to the voyage of a hospital ship to Malta.

NEW ENEMY AIRFIELD UNDER DEVELOPMENT

Photo-reconnaissance pilots today reported development of a new aircraft facilities at a former aerodrome 8½ miles south of Cotrone, near Cape Rizzutto.  Although much of the surface still appears unusable, extensive levelling appears to be in progress on the north side of the field.  A dispersal area with a small hangar and nine blast shelters have also been marked on the site.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 16 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0615-0655 hrs  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on intercept patrol: no sightings.

ME 109 fighters

0830-0913 hrs  Air raid alert for twenty enemy fighters of which eight are identified as ME 109s.  Heavy Ack Ack engage and nine Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept.  Two ME 109s pass Blue Section moving in the opposite direction but are lost to view.  Two ME 109s dive on Red Section out of the sun: the Spitfires turn and dive after the enemy aircraft.  As they complete the turn, Sgt Peters is straggling.  A Spitfire is reported as performing aerobatics and cannon fire is also seen.  Four ME 109s are sighted but are impossible to intercept.  Sgt Peters does not return to base and is posted as ‘missing’.

0950-1115 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron search for Sgt Peters.  They encounter four ME 109s and engage but no claims are made.

1025-1110 hrs  Air raid alert for a fighter sweep of 20 enemy aircraft.  Ten Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy aircraft but do not engage.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol see two Macchi 202s.  F/Lt Roscoe fires a one-second burst at one Macchi and sees white smoke pour from the engine as the aircraft turns diving away.  P/O Scott turns to attack but is not seen again.  Sgt Turner attacks three enemy aircraft but is attacked himself from behind; no damage.  On heading back to base Sgt Turner is attacked by an unseen aircraft and is shot up; he is forced to land at Luqa.  P/O Scott is posted as ‘missing’.

1033 hrs  A friendly sea craft bearing 101 degrees is attacked and bombed by enemy aircraft: no damage.

1610-1650 hrs  Air raid alert for fifteen enemy aircraft on a fighter sweep: half cross the Island.  Four Spitfires Hal Far are despatched to patrol over Grand Harbour as cover for minesweepers.

1745-1825 hrs  Air raid alert.  Ten Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept: they engage four enemy fighters: no claims.

2330-2354 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft which approach the Island at great height: Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Only one raider crosses the coast and drops incendiaries and anti-personnel bombs on Ta Qali, Wardia and Mellieha areas.  The other aircraft drop bombs in the sea north east of Grand Harbour and south of Gozo.  Malta night fighters are airborne but do not intercept.

Military casualties  Flight Sergeant Bernard Peters, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve;Pilot Officer John Scott, Royal Canadian Air Force, 229 Squadron;Private Norman Salmon, Royal Army Medical Corps.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 1942

Qawra Tower

ROYAL NAVY  3rd ML Flotilla carried out a searching sweep of NE coast between Sliema Point and Ras il Kaura at a distance of 2 ½ miles from the coast, with the object of clearing the area used by army Launches towing targets and to give freedom of action to our surface forces in the event of their being required to take action against the enemy in these waters. Owing to the large number of partings only 10% clearance was effected. Many mines were observed 3 to 4 feet below the surface.  The Flotilla anchored in St Paul’s Bay for the night.

AIR HQ  Night  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily.  Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  Two Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire crashed in the sea, believed due to enemy action: pilot missing.

HAL FAR  1310-1410 hrs  Four Spitfires carried out a sweep over south east Sicily.  No enemy aircraft seen but accurate Ack Ack encountered near Comiso.

1st Bn DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Aerodrome working parties took over duties from 2nd Bn Queens Own Royal West Kent Regt for one week’s work.  Two shifts of one Officer and 50 Other Ranks (OR) each for crater filling and general duties; two shifts of eight OR and 12 OR respectively for refuelling aircraft; one shift of 12 OR ammunition loading, one Sergeant and 16 drivers.

16 September 1942: Lt Governor Flies Home to Recover

Former Lieutenant Governor Sir Edward Jackson left Malta today for England.  Sir Edward collapsed two weeks ago with a suspected heart attack while he was deputising for Viscount Gort during his visit to the Middle East.  In recent months he has been greatly exercised in overseeing the supply situation in Malta and ensuring the survival of the Island until further convoys can reach the Island.  Mr D C Campbell, former Colonial Secretary of Gibraltar, has been appointed as his successor.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 17 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0855-0935  Air raid alert for twenty enemy fighters which approach the Island from the north at heights of 20-30000 feet.  Nine Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept (one returns early).  They see nine enemy fighters who attack the Spitfires from the port and stern.  The Spitfires break formation and evade the attack: no claims.

1140-1210 hrs  Air raid alert for eight enemy fighters in a sweep.  Ten Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept: they see enemy aircraft but do not engage.

1700-1710 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy fighters which approach within four miles north of Gozo before receding.  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled to intercept (one returns early): no sightings.

1750-1815 hrs  Air raid alert for twenty enemy aircraft approaching on a high fighter sweep.  Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.  Nine Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept.  Red Section sight enemy aircraft but are unable to engage.  Blue Section patrolling Grand Harbour see four ME 109s below them and dive to attack.  Sgt Wynn fires a two-second burst but makes no claim.

0008-0014 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft.  One drops his bombs in the sea immediately after crossing the Sicilian coast; the other drops bombs 15 miles north of Malta.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 1942

HMS Speedy minesweeping off Malta (NWMA Malta)

ROYAL NAVY  3rd ML Flotilla carried out 90% clearance inside the bay, and then swept down to Grand Harbour without result.  Speedy carried out Oropesa search of QBB 273 and LL and SA search of Marsaxlokk.

AIR HQ  Night  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicity.  Arrivals  Two Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  185 Squadron released for the day.

TA QALI  0800-0845 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol over the Sicilian coast: no sightings.

17 September 1942: Enemy Fear Malta Spitfires

According to intelligence summaries, the enemy will not engage with Malta fighters unless absolutely compelled to do so.  Their caution proved well-founded today, as three ME 109s and four Macchi 202s were defeated in dog fights by intercepting Spitfires during the morning.

MALTA BEAUFIGHTERS DISABLE AXIS MERCHANTMAN

This morning an unescorted 2000 ton merchant vessel was seen off the Tunisian coast, heading on a southerly course.  Six Beaufighters of 227 Squadron – five carrying bombs and one to deal with a reported air escort – were despatched to attack.  They found the merchant vessel 30 miles south of Keliba and dived down to mast height to attack.  Six 500lb and two 250lb bombs were dropped on the ship.  One direct hit with a 500lb bomb and several near-misses hurled the deck cargo into the sea.  The vessel came to a halt, listing to port, emitting brown and white smoke and pouring oil.

Cant Z 506 Airone

Later reconnaissance of the scene revealed a long streak of oil and wreckage spread over half a mile, while a Cant Z 506 circled overhead.  Some 40 large packing cases and three upturned ship’s boats were drifting nearby and four more boats pulled up on the beach in front of Hammamet village.

One Beaufighter has been reported lost in action.  Pilot Officer John Moffatt was making his first operational flight when his aircraft was hit and crashed into the sea, killing all the crew.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 18 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0850-0935 hrs  Air raid alert for 22 enemy aircraft in a fighter sweep.  Ten Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept (one spare returns early).  Blue Section sights enemy fighters 20 miles off Grand Harbour, go into line astern and attack.  F/Lt Roscoe fires a 2-3 second burst at a Macchi 202 and sees pieces fall off its wing roots and fuselage: aircraft probably destroyed.  P/O Farmer fires at the enemy leader and sees strikes on the ME 109: aircraft probably destroyed.  As he returns to base Sgt Irwin sees two ME 109s and fires a 4 second burst as he closes from 300 yards.  Thick grey smoke streams from the engine of one aircraft and the leg of its undercarriage drops down: aircraft damaged.

1100-1145 hrs  Air raid alert for 27 enemy aircraft which make a sweep, crossing the coast at Delimara and St Paul’s Bay in three formations.  Ten Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept but see nothing.  Ten Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled to intercept.  Sgt Irwin attacks a ME 109 head-on, seeing strikes on its wings and fuselage: one radiator falls off and glycol streams out – aircraft probably destroyed.  Sgt Irwin also attacks a Macchi from astern, seeing strikes on the fuselage and tail plane – aircraft damaged.  P/O Farmer is shot down in the sea and picked up later by the High Speed Launch: he suffers bruises only.

1555-1630 hrs  Air raid alert for 18 enemy fighters which approach at between 26000 and 30000 feet but do not cross the coast.  Two Spitfires Hal Far patrol over minesweepers but see no enemy aircraft.  Eight Spitfires 229 Squadron are also scrambled but see no enemy aircraft.

1700-1730 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy fighters which approach in two formations.  Six Spitfires are scrambled from Hal Far and patrol over the Island: no combat.

Night  No air raid alerts.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer John Dicker, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Pilot Officer John Moffatt, RAF VR.

Civilian casualties  Mgarr  Saviour Bugeja, age 8.  Mosta  Carmel Bezzina, age 73.

Submarine P43 HMS Unison

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept P43 from patrol and later Hebe swept Utmost to sea.

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire shot down into the sea by enemy action: pilot rescued uninjured.  One Beaufighter missing from patrol: crew missing.

18 September 1942: A Raid-Free Day

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 19 SEPTEMBER 1942

No air raid alerts.

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

1620-1735 hrs  Five Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled on intercept patrol: nothing seen.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                              Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hebe swept P35 into harbour.  P46 proceeded on patrol.

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Beauforts to LG 224.

LUQA  Luqa won their 11th successive cricket match, beating the Convoy XI at Marsa.  Luqa 161 for 3 wickets; Convoy XI 32 all out.

19 September 1942: Malta Troops in Landing Craft Training Exercise

TROOPS ON LANDING CRAFT EXERCISES

Two Motor Landing Craft arrived in St Paul’s Bay today.  Units of 2nd Brigade will carry out practice landings from these craft.  The nature of the future operation for which they will be used has not been revealed.

WW2 landing craft (c) IWM A17955

MALTA BOMBERS ATTACK TWO CONVOYS

Four Beaufighters of 227 Squadron today carried out a low-level bombing attack on three small vessels of about 1000 tons which were crawling along the coast from Tripoli towards Benghazi.  The Beaufighters came upon the convoy 24 miles east of Tripoli, just three miles from shore, where they attacked, dropping seven 500lb bombs close to the ships.  All three were also raked with cannon fire.  One of the ships ground to a halt; its wheel house collapsed and grey smoke pouring from the stern.  The other two ships headed for shore and were later reported heading back for Tripoli under tow.

Then tonight six Wellingtons of 69 Squadron launched an attack on a southbound convoy of two 7000 ton merchant vessels with seven destroyers as escort, 75 miles south of Sapienza.  An effective enemy smoke-screen made accurate bombing impossible but the bombers managed to unleash four 1000lb and twenty 500lb bombs on the convoy.  Pilots reported near-misses on two destroyers but results cannot be confirmed due to the restricted visibility.

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT WEEK ENDING 19 SEPTEMBER 1942

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

1.  Enemy air – day: total 209 fighter sorties; approx 50 crossed the coast.  Two ME 109s destroyed; two ME 109s, one Macchi 202 probably destroyed; four Macchi 202s damaged.  Our losses two Spitfires missing, one Spitfire destroyed (pilot safe); one Spitfire damaged (pilot unhurt).  Night:  18 bombers approached, only 3 crossed coast.  Bombs area Ta Qali, Mellieha, St Paul’s Bay; no damage.

2.  Own air – daylight:  (A)  Total 10 Beaufighter sorties: result one merchant vessel 2-3000 tons left stationary, oil pouring from sides; one ship 1000 tons left stationary.  Strikes with cannon and machine gun on three ships 1000 tons.  One Beaufighter missing.  (B) Total approx 70 Spitfire sorties offensive reconnaissance Sicily: two flying boats destroyed, one Macchi 202 damaged.  One Spitfire missing.  Night:  (A) Total six Beaufighters intruder patrols Sicily.  (B) Nine Wellingtons attacked two merchant vessels escorted by seven destroyers: no results seen due to effective smoke screen.

3.  Approx 250 Army personnel daily assisting RAF servicing etc.  Three UXBs totalling 0.6 tons disposed of not including incendiaries and anti-personnel.

4.  Military casualties and damage – nil.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 20 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

Day  No air raid alerts.

1100-1230 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled on intercept patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1715-1835 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled on intercept patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

1755-1900 hrs  Five Spitfires from Hal Far are sent to search for a missing Spitfire from the Photo-Reconnaissance Unit: nothing found.

0237-0322 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy aircraft approaching the Island.  Only one crosses the coast and drops bombs in the area of St Paul’s Bay.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 19 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Talisman is 24 hours overdue.  P211 arrived from Gibraltar, not having been expected until the following day. She was swept in by Hythe.  P44 arrived and reported having sunk two small ships and damaged another off Misurata.  Ploughboy carried out trial SS and LL sweep of Grand Harbour entrance having completed 5 months of refit.

AIR HQ  Night  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire failed to return from reconnaissance mission: pilot missing.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3.  Dealt with 1 high explosive 250kg; 1 anti-personnel container; 13 anti-personnel bombs; 30 oil incendiaries.

 

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6-12 September 1942: Malta Prays as Children Cry for Bread

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DON’T MISS NEXT WEEK – 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF GEORGE CROSS PRESENTATION TO MALTA ON 13 SEPTEMBER 1942

 

“We were very close to starvation…I remember one particularly moving scene when a five year old boy with tears streaming down his face kept asking his mother for a slice of bread and the mother, weeping, saying, I haven’t got any, my son’… none of us there had any food to give him.”  Carmen Sapiano (1)

6 September 1942: Malta Unites to Pray for Deliverance

Barracca Chapel, Valletta

The population of Malta, military and civilian alike, attended churches across the Island today to mark a National Day of Prayer.  At 10 o’clock this morning the Army’s General Officer Commanding joined troops at the Barracca Church for a special service, followed by a parade outside the church and march back to barracks.  This evening the GOC inspected the Home Guard at Qormi, Birkirkara, Sliema and St Julian’s.

ATTACK ON AXIS CONVOY COSTS THIRTEEN AIRMEN

This morning two 7000 ton merchant vessels from Taranto were seen to join up with 4800 ton SS Ankara and another 7-8000 tons merchantman from Brindisi.  The convoy then proceeded south eastwards towards the Greek coast, escorted by eleven destroyers and patrolled by six Macchi fighters and six JU 88s.

Receiving details of the convoy, Air HQ Malta ordered nine Beauforts of 39 Squadron into the air, with eleven Beaufighters of 89 and 227 Squadrons.  At 1330 hrs this afternoon, the attacking force caught up with the convoy 30 miles south of Cape Santa Maria di Leuca and attacked.  Five of the Beaufighters drew the fire of the enemy air escort, destroying one JU 88, probably destroying a Macchi 200 and damaging one JU 88, one Macchi 200 and a flying boat.

Meanwhile the remaining six Beaufighters swooped in to divert defensive flak from the convoy, raking the destroyers and merchant ships with machine-gun and cannon fire, and dropping twelve 250 lb bombs, scoring several near-misses.  Cleared to reach their target, the Beauforts released eight torpedoes, scoring at least one hit and another possible on a merchant vessel, which began to belch smoke.  The Beauforts also destroyed one Macchi 200 and damaged two others as well as one JU 88.

Six Beauforts and two Beaufighters were damaged by enemy fighters or anti-aircraft flak during the raid.  One Beauforts and three Beaufighters failed to return from the raid: thirteen Air Force personnel have been reported missing, presumed killed.  The crew of the Beaufort piloted by Flight Sergeant Watlington had a lucky escape when their aircraft was hit and damaged by enemy fighters.  Wireless Operator, Sergeant Hugh McIllaney and Air Gunner, Sergeant Leslie Tester, were both wounded by shrapnel.  The Navigator Sergeant Charles Grant, rushed help, administering first aid to stop the bleeding.  Sgt Grant then took over the Vickers gun to ward off further enemy attackers.  Despite damage to The Beaufort’s hydraulics, flaps, tail assembly and turret, Flt Sgt Watlington managed to fly it back to Luqa and make a safe landing.

Later reconnaissance missions report that only three merchant ships and ten destroyers remained in the convoy: one merchantman was reported beached near Corfu.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 7 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility good.

1405-1414 hrs  Air raid alert.  Two enemy aircraft come to within 20 miles of the coast and then recede.

1720-1830 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to cover a returning fighter sweep: no sightings.

1910-1935 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron search for missing aircraft.

Maqluba Church

2038 hrs  HQ Coy, 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment report a ‘golden rain’ rocket over west Zurrieq, moving towards Maqluba Church.  C Company patrol but report seeing nothing.  Rocket believed to have been used by villagers.

Military casualties  Sergeant Arthur Calvert, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Flight Sergeant James Cunningham, RAF VR, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner; Sergeant Edward Cox, RAF VR; Sergeant Kevin Duncan, RAF VR; Lieutenant R Clifford Evans, South African Air Force, pilot; Flight Sergeant Roy Gibbons, RAF VR; Flight Lieutenant Donald Sharman, RAF, pilot; Sergeant Michael Wadham, RAF VR; Pilot Officer Robert Watson, RAF VR, all 39 [Beaufort] Squadron.

Sergeant Albert Cusworth, RAF VR, Navigator; Lieutenant Frederick Noome, South African Air Force, pilot; Flying Officer Dennis Partridge, Royal Australian Air Force, pilot; Sergeant Anthony Vivian, RAF VR, navigator; all 227 [Beaufighter] Squadron.

Gunner Carmel Buttigieg, 3 LAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept P44 to sea and then anchored at Marsaxlokk.  An enemy merchant vessel was attacked when in convoy off Cape Ducato, by Beaufighters and Beauforts, and was hit and probably sunk.

AIR HQ  Night  Four Wellingtons were despatched to attack enemy shipping: no sightings.  Arrivals  One DC3 from LG 224; five Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Three Hudsons to Gibraltar; one DC3, two Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington ran off the runway during take-off and crashed into a Beaufighter: crew uninjured. One Beaufort crashed on landing with hydraulic and turret trouble: crew uninjured.  Six Beauforts and two Beaufighters were damaged by enemy fighters or flak while on shipping strike: one Beaufighter was seen crashing into the sea, two others and one Beaufort failed to return to base: all four crews are missing.  One Beaufort’s Wireless Operator/Air Gunner was killed but the rest of its crew returned uninjured.  Two Wireless Operators/Air Gunners were injured on board another Beaufort; the rest of the crew were unhurt and all returned to base.  The crews of the remaining two Beauforts escaped injury and returned to base.

LUQA  0730 hrs  Holy Communion in Poor House Cinema.  2030 hrs  Community hymn singing.

TA QALI  0700-0815 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron were despatched on offensive reconnaissance.  S/Ldr Woods attacked one of two 25 ton grey motor-driven two-masted craft, obtaining strikes on the hull and cabin with a four-second burst of cannon and machine-guns.  The other Spitfires did not fire, in some doubt as to the identity of the craft.  1110-1220 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on offensive reconnaissance: no sightings.

7 September 1942: Wellingtons Attack Surviving Axis Ships

RAF armourers prepare 500lb bombs for convoy attacks

The surviving vessels of the Axis convoy attacked by Malta air forces yesterday were today reported continuing on their course south eastwards.  Today three Wellingtons of 69 Squadron were sent to carry out a further attack.  Fifty miles north of Cape Aamer the Wellingtons came upon two merchant vessels with three destroyers as escort.  The bombers released twelve 500lb bombs which they reported landing within 10 yards of the larger merchant ship.  No damage report has yet been received.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 8 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0645-0745 hrs  Two Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali search for a missing Beaufort crew: no sightings.

1210-1256 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled and orbit the Island at 12000 feet: nothing seen.

0103-0118 hrs  Air raid alert: one enemy aircraft drops bombs in the sea five miles north east of Grand Harbour.  A Malta night fighter is airborne and chases the unidentified raider but is unable to intercept.

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant Wallis Brown, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 1942

P46 HMS Unruffled returns to Malta after patrol

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy swept P46 and Utmost in from sea.  While towing targets in St Paul’s Bay area, WD vessel Clive swept two mines with her towing wire.

AIR HQ 1928-2300 hrs  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily.  Arrivals  One Wellington, four Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Two Beauforts, three Wellingtons to LG 224.

HAL FAR  0748-0850 hrs  Seven Spitfires (one spare) flew over south east Sicily on Rodeo: nothing sighted.

LUQA  Camp cinema: Tarzan Finds a Son.

TA QALI   1130-1240 hrs  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron on offensive reconnaissance (two returned early): no enemy aircraft sighted.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  B Coy fired light machine guns on Pembroke Range.  Other Coys on intensified training.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Brigade ordered special vigilance for mine-watching posts.

Tuesday 8 September 1942: Maltese Go Hungry As Rations Prove Inedible

Thousands who were served at Victory Kitchens today with a new rationed version of Balbuljata (2), using powdered eggs with minced vegetables, threw the food away in protest.  This is the second time a dish has been rejected as unpalatable: a week ago liver stew was found to be too bitter to stomach.

As well as claiming the Balbuljata was inedible, people expressed fury at the small portion on offer: no more than two tablespoonfuls, with another two of peas.  The Government decided that due to shortages the dish must remain on the Victory Kitchen menu but subscribers will be allowed to opt out of the meal by paying for six meals instead of seven weekly.  So far, very few have taken up the offer as they have no alternative way to feed themselves.  (3)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 9 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

RAF Air Sea Rescue Launch

1008-1032 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four ME 109s cross the Island at great height.  Heavy Ack Ack fire pointer rounds.  Malta fighters are scrambled to intercept: one Spitfire is shot down into the sea off Bubaqra Battery.  The pilot bales out and is later picked up uninjured by the Rescue Launch.

1050-1125 hrs  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1550-1700 hrs  Ten Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled to intercept three unidentified enemy aircraft: no engagement.

1855-1920 hrs  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron are scrambled on intercept patrol: no sightings.

0001-0010 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy aircraft approach to within 15 miles of the Island.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                                         Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 8 SEPTEMBER 1942

AIR HQ   2240 hrs  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily.  Departures  Three Hudsons to Gibraltar; one Wellington to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire was shot up by enemy fighters: pilot baled out, landed in the sea and was rescued uninjured.

HAL FAR  1127-1251 hrs  Ten Spitfires (two spare, which returned early) flew over Lampedusa: nothing seen.  1824-1932 hrs  Five Spitfires flew over south east Sicily as far as Comiso on Rodeo: no enemy aircraft seen.

LUQA  Camp cinema:  Rhythm on the River

TA QALI  0750-0845 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on offensive reconnaissance (two return early): no enemy aircraft sighted.  1500-1600 hrs  Ten Spitfires 229 Squadron and twelve of 249 Squadron on Rodeo (four of 229 return early).  Four enemy aircraft were sighted but no interception possible.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A Coy commenced firing on Pembroke Range.  B Coy commenced changeover of billets Polverista to Dockyard.  C Coy normal training.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Lighter down in the sea 214 degrees Ta Silch Observation Post, two miles out.

9 September 1942: Black Marketeers Face Jail

32 days prison for stealing a tin of corned beef

…we could no longer get enough bread to satisfy our hunger on the grounds that supplies of flour are just about enough to meet the needs of the registered families.  At that stage my family began to really feel the hunger brought on by the shortages…Protection Officers, with their staff, had the job of organizing the distribution and control of food to the families in their district. Each family was issued with a Ration Card. On it was written the number of men, women and children and the total weight of bread the family is allowed per day. Besides the allowance of bread, on the card was written the quantities of other foodstuff allowed per fortnight… At the back of the card there used be a number of squares printed with a number in each square [to] represent the day of the month.

Black market was rampant in towns and villages. The suppliers were normally the farmers who insisted on gold rather than paper money for payment…In view of the very grievous situation Malta was in at the time, the authorities took an extremely serious view of any stealing of goods which was costing so many lives and ships to bring in to the starving population and the garrison. Just one typical example: caught stealing one tin of corned beef off an unloading operation in the ports was punishable with thirty two days imprisonment.”  J A Zahra, 2011

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 10 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0925-0935 hrs; 1010-1040 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron at a time scrambled on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1330-1342 hrs  Air raid alert.  15 enemy fighters approach but none cross the coast.

1313-1409 hrs  Ten Spitfires are scrambled from Hal Far and patrol over St Paul’s Bay and the Island: nothing seen.

2236-2308 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy aircraft approach to within five miles of Dingli, dropping bombs in the sea.  Malta night fighters are airborne: no engagement.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                              Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 9 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Speedy, Hebe, Rye and 4 motor launches carried out a clearance sweep from position 210 miles to the northward. No mines were swept. The sweepers were reported as a convoy by German fighters.  The two mines cut by Clive‘s towing wire the previous day were sunk by gunfire.

De Havilland Flamingo

AIR HQ   Twelve Spitfire sorties on offensive reconnaissance over Sicily.  One Macchi 202 and one ME 109 destroyed for the loss of one Spitfire.  2250 hrs  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily.  Arrivals  One Wellington, one Flamingo, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire failed to return from a fighter sweep over enemy territory; believed force-landed: pilot missing.

HAL FAR  0930-1045 hrs  Seven Spitfires flew over Sicily on Rodeo and attacked 3-4 enemy aircraft over Biscara.  Captain Kuhlmann shot down a Macchi 202.  Sgt Weaver, DFM crash-landed in Sicily and was taken prisoner.  1730-1840 hrs  Five Spitfires flew over Sicily on Rodeo: nil report.

LUQA  Camp cinema concert: Fly Gang in a new show.

TA QALI  0650-0745 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron on offensive reconnaissance: no enemy sighted.  1400-1500 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron on offensive reconnaissance (one spare returned early).  A few bursts of light flak 45 miles north east of Gela.  No enemy aircraft sighted.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT A Coy fired rifles on Pembroke Range.  B Coy continued move and D Coy moved from St Clements to Polverista.  Remainder on training.

10 September 1942: Victory Kitchens Need Urgent Review, Says Strickland

Colonel R Strickland today moved a motion in the Council of Government to appoint a Select Committee to report on the running of the Victory Kitchens and make recommendations for improvements.  The food distribution system is now struggling under the sheer weight of demand: since 1st August, the number of subscribers has trebled to 60,000.  Many have felt forced to join since the Communal Feeding Department is now commandeering all available produce, leaving those outside the scheme unable to obtain meat or vegetables.  Introducing his proposal, Col Strickland highlighted the people’s complaints:

“Extreme dissatisfaction prevails regarding the running of the Victory Kitchens, and the lot of the housewife has become well nigh impossible…The personnel employed in the Victory Kitchens is not suitable…[lacking] adequate knowledge of local customs and of Maltese habits and tastes…The Department is buying supplies at prices above the established controlled price…Cooks maintain that too much food is given to them, they do not cook it, by next morning it disappears…The cooking is bad…Another serious thing [is the] unequal portions being meted out…” (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 11 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather   Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0735-0815 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled on intercept patrol: no sightings.

0835-0930 hrs  Four  Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne to cover 1435 Squadron returning from a fighter sweep.

1003-1111 hrs  Five Spitfires Hal Far area scrambled on intercept patrol: nothing seen.

2000 hrs  Observers report three shipping plots three miles north east of the island.

2020 hrs  C and D Coys, 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt report small craft in DELs, 30 degrees RA3. 

2030 hrs  Dorsetshire Regt report more craft in DELs: guns fire.

0005-0036 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four enemy aircraft approach to within 10-15 miles of Gozo and drop bombs in the sea.  Malta night fighters are airborne: no engagement.

Military casualties  Sergeant Roland Ainsworth, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR);  Sergeant Thomas Kirkham, RAF VR; Sergeant William Law, RAF VR; Flight Sergeant James Pilling, RAF VR; Pilot Officer John Pope, RAF VR; Flight Sergeant Ruskin Rice, Royal Canadian Air Force; Sergeant Joseph Sloan, RAF VR; all 202 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  2130 hrs  Three MTBs were reported from the plot one mile from the coast between Madliena and St. Paul’s Bay. Nothing was sighted.

AIR HQ  0010-0240 hrs  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily: no enemy aircraft seen.  Arrivals  One Beaufort from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  0636-0756 hrs  Five Spitfires flew over south east Sicily on Rodeo: nothing seen.

LUQA  Luqa beat the Merchant Navy in a cricket match at Marsa:  Luqa 107 for 6 declared; Merchant Navy 104.  Camp cinema:  Lady of the Tropics.

TA QALI  1000-1105 hrs  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron (one spare returned early) on offensive reconnaissance.  Enemy aircraft were reported but none sighted.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A Coy fired rifles on Pembroke Range.  One Officer and one NCO attended bomb recce course under Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal.  B, C and D Coys held weekly night exercise.

11 September 1942: Malta Commanders Gather in Secret

Bomb damage in Palace Square, Valletta

Malta dignitaries, military and civil defence personnel gathered in Valletta today in conditions of the utmost secrecy to rehearse for the formal presentation of the George Cross to the Island which takes place on Sunday next.  With the recent reduction in air attacks and the evident superiority of the RAF in the skies over Malta, the Governor and Commander in Chief has decided it is now safe for the important ceremony to take place.  However, for security reasons it has been decided not to announce details of Sunday’s event beyond Malta’s shores.

The George Cross will be officially handed over by Lord Gort to Sir George Borg, Chief Justice of Malta at 9.15 am in Palace Square, which has been cleared of debris for the occasion.  The Royal Malta Artillery have been chosen to provide the guard of honour and the band of the King’s Own Malta Regiment will play for the ceremony.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 12 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

1024-1038 hrs  Air raid alert.  One enemy fighter approaches the Island at 6000 feet to within eight miles of Grand Harbour, then recedes.

1200-1250 hrs  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron (one spare returned early) on patrol: no enemy aircraft sighted.

2330-0042 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy bombers approach the Island.  One comes within five miles north of St Paul’s Bay and another 15 miles west of Dingli: both drop bombs in the sea.  The third crosses the coast and drops bombs on the northern end of Ta Qali.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Malta night fighters are airborne: no engagement.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 11 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P35 was swept out by Hebe and proceeded on patrol.

AIR HQ  Two Wellingtons were despatched to locate and destroy a submarine in the Benghazi area: no sighting.  Arrivals  One Hudson, two Wellingtons from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Shallufa.  Departures  One Flamingo, one DC3 to LG 224; one Hudson to Gibraltar.

LUQA  Camp cinema: At the Circus.

TA QALI  0725-0820 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol over Sicilian coast: no enemy aircraft sighted.  1125-1300 hrs  Five Spitfires 229 Squadron (one spare returned early) on reconnaissance patrol over Sicilian coast: no enemy aircraft sighted.  1830-1940 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron on shipping patrol: no sightings.

10th Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Dress rehearsal for presentation of George Cross to Malta.

12 September 1942: Malta Air Forces 40 Attacks in 7 Days

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT WEEK ENDING 12 SEPTEMBER 1942

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

Ta Qali

 

1.  Enemy air activity slight.  22 fighter sorties by day, 18 bomber sorties by night.  One bomber crossed the coast: bombs on Ta Qali.

2.  Beauforts and Beaufighters attacked a convoy of four merchant vessels and eleven destroyers.  One merchant vessel hit, one probably hit.  Two enemy aircraft escorting destroyed, one probable, six damaged.

3.  Military damage and casualties [in Malta] nil.  Training continues.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 13 SEPTEMBER 1942

Weather  Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.

0925-1025 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled on intercept patrol: no sightings.

1122-1226 hrs  Five Spitfires Hal Far are scrambled and patrol the Island between Comino and Zonqor at 14000 feet: nothing seen.

1216-1308 hrs  Four Spitfires Hal Far are airborne as cover for returning Spitfires, patrolling ato 14000 feet, 30-40 miles north of Grand Harbour: nothing seen.

2143-2203 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four enemy aircraft approach the Island at 23-26000 feet but drop all bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Nil.

Civilian casualties  Qrendi  Grezzju Dalli, age 52.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe carried out search of QBB 273.

AIR HQ  Twelve Spitfires carried out an offensive reconnaissance over Sicily.  Four Beaufighters were despatched on shipping strike: no sightings.  Night  One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily.  Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one Wellington to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufighter swung off the runway during take-off: crew uninjured.

HAL FAR  1530-1626 hrs  Four Spitfires were despatched on Rodeo to south east Sicily: nil report.

LUQA  Camp cinema concert.

TA QALI  1135-1235 hrs  Four Spitfires 229 Squadron on reconnaissance patrol over Sicilian coast encountered heavy Ack Ack at 16000 feet, accurate at height being only 250-500 yards behind Spitfires.  No enemy aircraft sighted.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 18.  Dealt with: 10 High Explosives inc 2 delayed action (1 x 1000kg; 1 x 500kg; 4 x 250kg; 3 x 50kg; 1 x 12kg AP); 18 anti-personnel bombs.

(1) The People’s War, Malta 1940/43, Laurence Mizzi, Progress Press, Malta 1998

(2)  Normally made with scrambled eggs, tomatoes and onion

(3)  Adapted from When Malta Stood Alone (1940-1943), Joseph Micallef, Interprint Malta, 1981

 

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

 
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23-29 August 1942: Malta Attacks to Halt Rommel’s Africa Campaign

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23 August 1942: RAF Begins ‘Circus’ Operations

Axis aircraft on Gela aerodrome

Three bomb-carrying Hurricanes (Hurri-bombers) escorted by Spitfires today carried out a ‘circus’ raid today on Gela aerodrome in southern Sicily.  Circus operations, introduced in 1941, involve sending a formation of bombers escorted by a larger number of fighters whose to act as bait and entice German fighters into combat on the RAF’s own terms.

The Hurricanes, of the Royal Naval Air Service based at Hal Far, took off at 1540 hrs this afternoon, accompanied by twelve Spitfires from Ta Qali.  Thick cloud obscured the intended target but S/Lt Pratt dropped his two 250lb bombs on military buildings north east of Gela town.  S/Lt White dropped his bombs on the town itself and S/Lt Elliot bombed Biscari Aerodrome.  In the poor visibility the enemy did not mount a counter attack and the mission returned safely to Malta at 1712 hrs.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR COLLAPSES

Malta’s Lieutenant Governor Sir Edward Jackson collapsed today.  Initial reports suggest a possible heart attack.  He has been deputising for the Governor since Wednesday, while Lord Gort is in the Middle East.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 AUGUST TO DAWN 24 AUGUST 1942

Two fighter sweeps of six and eight enemy aircraft.

Military casualties  Nil.                                                                          Civilian casualties  Nil.

HMS Hythe

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 23 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  While sweeping Rorqual and P 34 from sea to Marsamxett, Hythe had a gyro compass failure and while turning outside the swept channel in the vicinity 3, she cut two moored mines.

AIR HQ  Departures  Two Hudsons to Gibraltar; four Beaufighters to EDCU.

24 August 1942: ‘Malta Punishes Enemy Raiders’

Valletta, Sunday

“On Friday afternoon Royal Air Force fighters destroyed five enemy aircraft over Malta.  After a raidless night, a fair-sized enemy fighter sweep approached the coast yesterday, but turned back and avoided combat when they saw British aircraft approaching.”  The Mercury, Hobart, Tasmania, 24 August 1942

RAF MOUNT RODEO ATTACKS

Malta Spitfires launched their first ‘Rodeo’ attacks over Sicily today.  These hit and run fighter sweeps are designed to be surprise attacks on selected targets, in which Spitfires swoop to very low level and strafe airfields, dockyards and road and rail transport installations.  Despite the high risk involved in such attacks, all 15 Spitfires engaged in today’s raid returned safely.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 AUGUST TO DAWN 25 AUGUST 1942

Day  Three enemy aircraft approach the Island but do not cross the coast.  Spitfires are scrambled on intercept patrols: no engagement.

Night  No air raids.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Lawrence Dewhurst, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 39 Squadron; Flying Officer Albert Turner, RAF VR, 39 Squadron; Sergeant George Leadbeater, RAF VR, 39 Squadron; Sergeant John Littlewood, RAF VR, 39 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 24 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P 43 was swept in and P 46 out to sea on patrol.  The tanker attacked on 21st August was reported ashore in Saiada Bay.

AIR HQ  Eight Beauforts of 39 Squadron and eight Beaufighters of 227 Squadron of which three carried bombs attacked a convoy of two destroyers and a 7000 ton tanker, in position 272 degrees, Antipaxos 39 miles, course 130 degrees, 11 knots.  Although no claims were made, an apparent explosion was seen on the tanker, further results were unobserved.  One Beaufort was shot down during the attack.  Beaufighters dropped three 250lb GP bombs which slightly overshot.  One JU 88 was shot down over the convoy by Beaufighters.

Night  Two Wellingtons were despatched to attack the enemy tanker which had been beached in Saiada Bay, Corfu, after the Beaufort strike on 21 August.  Thirty-five 45lb fire bombs were dropped, all falling within 400 yards of the vessel, resulting in small explosions on the water and flames lasting about six minutes, followed by black smoke for another five minutes.

Arrivals  One Catalina, four Beauforts, four Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Catalina to Aboukir.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort failed to return from shipping strike:crew missing.  One Beaufort’s tyre burst and crash landed: crew uninjured.

25 August 1942: Pedestal Commander Reports on Convoy

Vice Admiral Syfret

Vice-Admiral E N Syfret today submitted his full report on Operation Pedestal to the Admiralty.  The report gives a detailed account of the convoy, from the assembly of ships in the Clyde, their first passage to Gibraltar and the repeated enemy attacks through the Mediterranean.

READ OPERATION PEDESTAL FULL REPORT – CLICK HERE

RAF ATTACK TANKER

21 Spitfires today carried out a second Rodeo raid over Sicily and six Beaufighters escorted by six Spitfires attacked an Axis fuel tanker off Tripoli.  The raids were not without casualties:  two Spitfires ditched into the sea with the loss of their pilots.  A Baltimore sent on search patrol failed to return.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 AUGUST TO DAWN 26 AUGUST 1942

AM  His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief returns from the Middle East.

1139 hrs  30 plus enemy fighter aircraft approach the Island but only half cross the coast.  Spitfires engage.

1520 hrs  Six enemy aircraft approach the Island, believed to be on reconnaissance.  Malta Spitfires scrambled: no engagement.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Basil Butler; Royal Canadian Air Force; Flying Officer Reginald Round, Royal New Zealand Air Force; both 249 Squadron.  Sergeant Eric Cragg, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Flying Officer John Foster, RAF VR; Flight Sergeant Raymond Harvey, RAF VR; Sergeant Mervyn McCrea, RAF VR; all 69 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 25 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hebe swept Utmost to sea on patrol.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One DC3 from Bilbeis; two Beauforts, eight Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Four Hudsons to Gibraltar; two DC3s, four Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  Two Spitfires shot down in the sea: pilots missing, believed killed.  One Baltimore failed to return from search: crew missing.

LUQA  During the period 21-25 August there were no attacks on the aerodrome.  Station strength is decreasing.  Camp Cinema cleared and is running.

26 August 1942: Spitfire Pilots Shot Down in Defence of Malta

Two Spitfires pilots of 229 Squadron were lost this morning after they went to intercept a large formation of enemy aircraft approaching from Sicily:

“Ten miles north-east of the island of Comino the Squadron sighted a pair of Messerschmitts at 27,000 feet and then six more unidentified fighters at sea level. One section dived to investigate the unidentified aircraft during which Sergeant Cornish crashed into the sea, either shot down or having failed to pull out of the dive. Flying Officer Newman flying V S Spitfire EP190 reported that he was circling an aircraft in the sea; this was the last contact with him. Both pilots failed to return. It is thought that Flying Officer Newman had fallen victim to the guns of Ltn Schiess of Stab/JG53, although another pilot of Stab/JG53 also claimed a Spitfire during the same sortie, this was not confirmed.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 AUGUST TO DAWN 27 AUGUST 1942

Day  Two air raid alerts for a total of 56 enemy aircraft: only a few fighters cross the coast.  Army General Officer Commanding visited various gun sites with Commander, Royal Artillery.

JU 88 crashed at Ta Qali (NWMA Malta)

Night  Two alerts for a total of 18 aircraft: 13 cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa and Hal Far.  One JU 88 is destroyed.

0008-0110 hrs  Thirteen German and Italian aircraft drop high explosive and incendiary bombs on Luqa and the Safi strip, causing superficial damage, and on Hal Far, damaging NAS Offices.  Houses are demolished at Kirkop.

Military casualties  Sergeant Clifford Cornish, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR); Flying Officer Dudley Newman, RAF VR; both 229 Squadron.  Gunner Alec Balaam, 168 Battery, 74 LAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

Enemy casualties  Crew of JU 88 bomber, shot down and killed: Unteroffizier Franz Diedl, Air Gunner and Unteroffizier Franz Rohringer, Observer.  Survived and taken prisoner: Feldwebel Ernst Klaus, Pilot and Unteroffizier Kurt Klawitter, Wireless Operator.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 26 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Rye swept Rorqual to sea.

AIR HQ Two [bomb-carrying] Hurricanes RNAS, operating with a “Circus” [of Spitfires], dropped bombs on Biscari aerodromes and military buildings.  Results were unobserved.

Night  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron made a successful machine-gun and cannon attack on Marsala flying boat station.  One merchant vessel with a chance light was attacked and the light extinguished, and one De 18 was shot down in flames.

Arrivals  One DC3 from Shallufa; one Bisley, one Wellington, three Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Three Beauforts, one DC3, four Wellingtons to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  Two Spitfires missing on patrol; presumed enemy action: both pilots missing.

27 August 1942: Malta’s Air and Sea Forces Disrupt Rommel’s Supplies

SPITFIRE RODEO STRIKE SUCCESS

German Junkers aircraft, Comiso airfield

A bold series of Rodeo operations was mounted from Malta today on the aerodromes of Sicily.  Following recent photo-reconnaissance reports of increased numbers of Axis bombers in the area, three Spitfire Squadrons – a total of over 30 aircraft – were sent to carry out the high-risk low-level raids on Biscara, Comiso and Gela.  29 Axis aircraft were destroyed on the ground and 10 more in air combat, plus others damaged – for the loss of two Spitfires.  Wing Commander Arthur Donaldson recalled the loss of his second in command as they attacked Biscara:

“We maintained complete RT silence so as to arrive unheralded.  My Squadron was to attack Biscara.  The flak was intense.  I looked across at poor old Walter Churchill, and at that very moment he was shot down in flames, crashing in the middle of the aerodrome.  I saw a Dornier bomber about to take off and by the time he was in my sights he was airborne.  I chased him for about twenty miles.  He had smoke pouring out of him and he was losing height; and disappeared below a small hill.  I was not able to see him hit the ground, but it was obvious that he was a dead duck.” (2)

AXIS FORCES HARASSED

Meanwhile attacks by Malta-based forces on southbound Axis convoys are hitting home, as war in the Western Desert reaches a critical point.  Beauforts and Beaufighters sank a merchant vessel and damaged its escorting destroyer north of Benghazi, with the loss of one Beaufighter.  A Malta-based submarine sank a second merchant vessel in a torpedo strike.  The attacks are key to deterring a major planned offensive by German forces in North Africa, according to a US news agency:

Field Marshal Rommel in North Africa

“An attack in Egypt by Rommel is expected at any time, according to a radio dispatch from the special correspondent of the “New York Times” in the Western Desert. He says that the RAF is attacking streams of German trucks and supplies which are moving up to the front. They are causing death and havoc, but the stream continues to move up, bringing nearer “Der Tag” [The Day] which many observers believe will be an August day.

There is an air of alertness and expectancy along the El A|amein front: “It may be tonight,” said one British captain. “Our tanks are standing by in case anything happens.” It is not thought that Rommel will delay much longer, unless he has experienced greater supply difficulties than the British observers expected. The British and Dominion forces are taking the utmost precautions to keep themselves informed of Rommel’s movements. They are determined to avert a surprise attack.”  The Advertiser, Adelaide, 28 August 1942

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 AUGUST TO DAWN 28 AUGUST 1942

Day  Two air raid alerts for a total of eleven enemy aircraft which approach the Island Spitfires intercept and no aircraft cross the coast.

Night  No raids.

Military casualties  Group Captain Walter Myers Churchill, DSO, DFC, Royal Air Force (Auxiliary Force), 605 Squadron; Flying Officer Percy Johnston, Royal Canadian Air Force, 200 Squadron; Flight Sergeant Eric O’Hara, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), 227 Squadron; Sergeant Kenneth Seddon, RAF VR, Navigator with 227 Squadron.

Civilian casualties (see Air Raids 26 to 27 Aug)  Mqabba  Michael Cachia, age 11; Emmanual Zammit, age 7; Joseph Zammit, age 6.  Qormi  Spiru Saliba, age 40.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 27 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P 35 reported having sunk a southbound MV in position 35-39N, 23-05E and Beaufort aircraft sank another MV in 33-59N, 20-57E.

AIR HQ  Eight Beauforts 39 Squadron and nine Beaufighters 227 Squadron, five with bombs, attacked a convoy comprising one destroyer and one 6000 ton merchant vessel, patrolled by one JU 88 and one Cant Z 1007, in position 329 degrees Cape Aamer 73 miles, course 190 degrees, speed 10 knots.  Beaufighters attacked first, dropping seven 250lb GP bombs and scoring one hit on the stern of the merchant vessel.  They also raked the merchant vessel and destroyer with machine guns and cannons from deck level.  The destroyer was left smoking from the stern.  Beauforts then attacked with torpedoes, scoring three hits on the merchant vessel which blew up and was left ablaze, and sinking with decks awash and back broken. The escorting Cant was destroyed by Beaufighters which also damaged the JU 88.

Night  Two Hurricanes made a bombing attack on Gela and Comiso aerodromes.  Results were unobserved owing to intense flak.  One Beaufighter 89 Squadron attacked the seaplane hangar at Syracuse with machine gun and cannon fire, scoring many hits.  Motor transport near Pachino was also attacked and damaged.

Arrivals  One DC3 from Shallufa; one Spitfire from Burg el Arab; two Beauforts from Gibraltar.  Departures Three Hudsons to Gibraltar; one DC3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire missing on operation due to enemy action: pilot missing, believed killed.  One Spitfire failed to return from fighter sweep; believed force-landed: pilot missing.  One Beaufighter believed hit by enemy flak while on shipping strike: crew missing.

28 August 1942: Malta Must Survive on Minimum Supplies, Warns Governor

In a radio broadcast today, the Governor and Commander in Chief warned the people of Malta of further hardships to come.  He asked their help to ensure the survival of the Island until a future convoy can reach them:

“Recently we have seen four merchant ships and an oiler reach Malta; this represents the largest number of ships which has arrived in the GrandHarbour since September of last year.  No sight could have been more welcome to us all than the arrival of the convoy after so many weeks of anxious waiting…

Ohio is towed into Grand Harbour (NWMA Malta)

When the last ship of the convoy, the US tanker Ohio, entered Grand Harbour as the sun rose on August 15, everyone in Malta was mindful of how the nine days of united prayer had been answered and was thankful.  We are also conscious that, when so many have risked so much and when so many lives have been lost to bring supplies to us from Britain, we also have a duty to perform ourselves.  These convoys are very hazardous operations and, were we to be improvident about the supplies which have reached us, we would do a real disservice not only to those who dared all to succour us, but also to ourselves.  It is our bounded duty to eke out our available stores to carry us forward as far as possible on the road to victory…

Convoys, such as this last convoy, are magnificent achievements, but they cannot be constantly repeated, and we must now steel ourselves to last out until a new target date.  We will play our part, as Malta has consistently played it in the past.  Our aim must be to keep our consumption of all foodstuffs and other commodities at the lowest possible level and so put off, for as long as we can, the date when another convoy has to reach our shores.” (3)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 AUGUST TO DAWN 29 AUGUST 1942

Day  One air raid alert for 14 enemy fighters on patrol.

Night  Three air raid alerts for a total of four Italian aircraft, two of which drop bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer George Bishop, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Flight Sergeant Donald Leitch, Royal Canadian Air Force; Flight Lieutenant Ernest Magruder, Royal Air Force, 229 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant John Wallis, Royal Air Force, 42 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 28 AUGUST 1942

AIR HQ  Rodeo attack by 16 Spitfires over south east Sicily.  Night  Three Hurricanes RNAS carried out an intruder patrol over Comiso aerodrome; bombs were dropped but no results seen.

Arrivals  One Hudson from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire missing over the sea: pilot missing.  One Spitfire had airscrew failure and crashed on land: pilot uninjured.

29 August 1942: Electricity to Stay Off Until 1 October

CONVOY CREWS VIP WELCOME

Sir Ronald Mackenzie Scobie

The General Officer Commanding Major General Scobie performed the official opening of a boxing match at the Command Fair.  The match, also attended by the Governor, was organised in aid of the Malta Convoy Fund recently set up to assist the widows and families of those lost during Operation Pedestal.  Free seats were allocated to the Merchant Navy for the event.  During his opening speech, Major General Scobie paid tribute to the seamen and thanked them for bringing the surviving convoy ships safely into Grand Harbour.

Today’s free match tickets are part of a series of events to show Malta’s appreciation of the ordeal during the Santa Marija convoy experienced by the merchant seamen.  Welcomed by enthusiastic crowds everywhere, their itineraries have included a tour of Mdina and a visit to Mosta Rotunda, as well as a demonstration of small arms fire at the Weapon Training School at Ghajn Tuffieha Bay.  Despite their exhaustion, a Merchant Navy team managed to hold Sliema Wanderers to a 1-1 draw in a football match at the Empire Stadium in Gzira.

MILITARY SITUATION REPORT WEEK ENDING 29 AUG 42

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

1.  Enemy air: activity during daylight confined to small fighter sweeps.  Approx 148 fighters approached Island.  One HE 111, one ME 109 destroyed; three ME 109s probably destroyed; four ME 109s, one MC 202 damaged.  Four Spitfires missing, four damaged (pilots safe).  Approx 25 bombers approached at night, only 13 crossed coast.  Bombs aerodrome area.  No military damage.  One JU 88 destroyed by Beaufighter; one JU 88 destroyed, one damaged by Ack Ack.

2.  Own air:  offensive sweeps by Spitfires over Sicily destroyed six enemy aircraft, four probable, one damaged in the air, others on the ground; shot up personnel and buildings.  Two day attacks by escorted Hurribombers on Sicilian aerodromes.  Beaufighters and Hurribombers also over Sicily by night.  Nine Beauforts and eight Beaufighters sunk one merchant vessel, destroyed two JU 88s, one Cant; damaged one JU 88, for loos of two aircraft.  Other strike unsuccessful.

3.  Military damage and casualties nil.

4.  Convoy completely unloaded without incident.  Slight increase in civilian bread ration announced; kerosene ration increased; electricity to be restored from 1 October; other slight improvements.  Motor transport spirit cut further.  TOO nil.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 AUGUST TO DAWN 30 AUGUST 1942

Day  One enemy fighter sweep by 15 aircraft.

Night  One Italian bomber approached and dropped bombs in the sea.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Dennis Pollock, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 1435 Squadron; Private Michael Debono, 3rd Battalion, King’s Own Malta Regiment; Gunner Arthur Mundy, 186 Battery, 74 LAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Nil.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 29 AUGUST 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Hythe sailed and anchored at Marsaxlokk for the night.

AIR HQ  Eight Beaufighters 39 Squadron and eight Beaufighters 227 Squadron, four with bombs, attacked an enemy convoy comprising one 4-5000 ton tanker and one destroyer, escorted by one flying boat, one JU 88 and seven Macchi 202s, in position 120 degrees Ugento 10 miles, course 180 degrees 8 knots.  The Beaufighters attacked first, raking the tanker and destroyer with machine-gun and cannon fire, and dropping six 250lb bombs on the tanker, scoring near misses.  Beauforts then dropped four torpedoes scoring one direct hit amidships and one probable hit.  The tanker immediately blew up and burst into flames.  Later photos show the whole tanker ablaze, emitting dense clouds of black smoke.

Arrivals  One DC3 from Shallufa.  Departures  One Hudson to Gibraltar; one DC3 to LG 224.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire overshot on landing; struck hole in aerodrome: pilot uninjured.  One Spitfire believed shot down by enemy fighters: pilot missing, believed killed.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 29.  Dealt with: 4 High Explosives (1 x 500kg; 2 x 250kg; 1 x 50kg); 55 anti-personnel bombs.

(1) From http://chippenham1939-1945; source Wiltshire Gazette, 3 Sept 1942 and Spitfires Over Malta, Brian Cull and Frederick Galea

(2) Papers of Group Arthur Donaldson from The Air Battle for Malta, James Douglas-Hamilton, Pen & Sword 2006

(3) Malta Diary of a War, Michael Galea, PEG Ltd, 1992

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

 
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