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21 April 1941: Royal Artillery Reinforcements Land at Malta

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BRECONSHIRE BRINGS 380 TROOPS AND FUEL SUPPLIES

Malta's new Bomb Disposal Officer Lt G D Carroll

Malta’s new Bomb Disposal Officer Lt G D Carroll

The fast transport ship Breconshire docked safely today after the Mediterranean Fleet engineered her safe passage to Malta.  380 troops disembarked after a three day journey from Alexandria during which the only enemy action had been from individual aircraft shadowing the convoy.  Having detached from Breconshire and her escort destroyer Encounter at dusk yesterday, the Fleet steered southwards to launch a bombardment of Tripoli at 0500 hrs this morning in an attack designed to divert enemy attention from the vital Malta supply convoy.

Breconshire was unable to enter Grand Harbour, which is currently closed due to the large number of mines; Marsamxett Harbour remains open. As well as troops Breconshire was carrying essential supplies of aviation spirit, oil fuel and general stores.

Reinforcements disembarked: 

  • Royal Artillery officers 6 other ranks 360
  • 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers other ranks 3
  • Royal Engineers officers 1 other ranks 6
  • 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment officers 2
  • 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment officers 2
  • Total: officers 11 other ranks 369

MALTA HAS A NEW BOMB DISPOSAL OFFICER

A new Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer arrived today aboard Breconshire.  Lt G D Carroll is to take over as RE Bomb Disposal Officer Malta from Lt E E C Talbot, RE, who is entitled to respite leave after six months’ continuous service.  The Bomb Disposal Officer is responsible for all unexploded bombs across the Island outside of Royal Navy or RAF premises.

Before being posted to Malta, Lt Carroll served in the London Blitz where he dealt with high explosive bombs up to 1800kg including a large number of delayed action fuzes. He arrived with Sgt Holland who is also experienced in bomb disposal.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 APRIL TO DAWN 22 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

0746-0801 hrs; 1038-1120 hrs  Air raid alert; raids do not materialise.

1813-1848 hrs  Air raid alert for six ME 109s escorting one JU 88 bomber approaching from the north. The JU 88 crosses Grand Harbour at 21000 feet.   Eight Hurricanes are scrambled and engage the raiders, destroying one ME 109 and another probable.  Anti-aircraft guns also engage; no claims.

2356-0122 hrs  Air raid alert for 20 enemy aircraft which approach singly from the north and use flares to carry out widespread bombing; the main target is Grand Harbour. Bombs are dropped from varying heights from 1000 to 10000 feet over the Dockyard and surroundings.  Two aircraft lay mines off the south of Grand Harbour from a height of 2000 feet.  One Hurricane night fighter is scrambled but searchlights provide no illumination of the raiders; no engagement.  Anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders with eleven predicted barrages; no claims.

0505-0527 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft which approach Grand Harbour from the north and drop bombs on the Dockyard area. Raiders also drop bombs in the water before crossing the coast over Benghaisa.  Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders with predicted barrage once at 10000 feet; no claims.

Civilian casualties Zeitun  Anna Spiteri, age 21.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 21 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Breconshire loaded with aviation spirit, oil fuel and general supplies, arrived with Encounter under cover of the Fleet movement to bombard Tripoli.  Many mines in Grand Harbour which was closed but Marsamxett Harbour remained open.  Submarine Undaunted arrived at Malta from Gibraltar to join the 1st Submarine Flotilla.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland photo-reconnaissance Tripoli Harbour: one merchant vessel capsized and the small mole have been damaged in yesterday’s raid. Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast. 148 Squadron 8 Wellington bombers night bombing attack on Tripoli harbour as a precursor to naval bombardment.      

HAL FAR  A civilian labourer fell from a hangar roof and sustained heavy injuries.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Work on many defences is complete. A programme of training on machine guns and other small arms, including grenades and Molotov cocktails, is now underway.  5 more NCOs attended a bomb reconnaissance course. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS The RE (Malta Section) is now increased in strength. Major H D Tanner assumes Company Command, 24 Fortress Company, replacing W De Piro-Cowley. Lt G D Carroll, RE and Sgt Holland arrived and posted to Bomb Disposal Section. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 17 (14 near Rabat).

 

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Posted by on April 21, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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19 April 1941: Malta Submarine in Dramatic Rescue Attempt

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HM Submarine Regent

HM Submarine Regent

REGENT COMES UNDER FIRE ON YUGOSLAV COAST

A Malta-based submarine has been engaged in a dramatic mission to rescue British dignitaries and civilians from German-occupied Yugoslavia. The Balkan state has been under Axis occupation for several days following invasion by German and Italian troops.  As the enemy advanced rapidly, the British Ambassador Sir Ronald Campbell and his staff found themselves potentially stranded in a hostile country.  The Ambassador is understood to have cabled a message out to London and left immediately for the Yugoslav coast with the other British civilians. 

HM Submarine Regent was ordered to leave Malta on Thursday 17 April for the naval port of Kotor (1) in the hope of rescuing the stranded group.  However, within hours of her sailing, the Yugoslav government had signed an armistice with the Axis powers, due to come into effect at noon yesterday.  The submarine had to negotiate two minefields in her approach to Kotor. As Regent neared the harbour entrance, Lt Edward Stanley was sent up on deck to fly a white flag to signify a peaceful mission.  However, two German aircraft swooped down and dive-bombed the submarine, scoring a near-miss with a bomb which injured Lt Stanley in the chest. 

The white flag in place, the decision was taken to proceed with the mission and Lt D Lambert was sent ashore to meet the British Ambassador; he was immediately taken prisoner. The submarine’s commanding officer, Lt Cdr H C Browne, and a rating were also seriously wounded by machine gun fire from the shore.  Lt Cdr Browne was forced to depart without Ambassador Campbell, who it is believed has been taken prisoner.  

CONVOY ME 7 DEPARTS MALTA

Four merchant ships left Malta at dusk today, having delivered their supplies safely to the Island. British steamers City of Lincoln, Clan Ferguson, City of Manchester and Perthshire formed the supply convoy which was bombed within an hour of arriving in Grand Harbour on 23 March.  Both Lincoln and Perthshire were hit in the raids but are now fully seaworthy. 

The merchantmen were escorted on their departure today by four destroyers Jervis, Janus, Nubian and Diamond, the latter having completed refit at Malta.  They expect to rendezvous with other ships of the Mediterranean Fleet tomorrow for the steamers to be escorted back to Alexandria.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 APRIL TO DAWN 20 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

1214 hrs  Air raid alert for two ME 109 fighters which circle the Island and are engaged by Tigne anti-aircraft guns; no claims.

1511-1530 hrs; 1606 hrs  Air raid alert; raids do not materialise.

2018-2043 hrs Air raid alert for two JU 88 bombers which cross the coast singly and drop bombs in isolated localities causing no damage or casualties. Searchlights illuminate the raiders on two occasions and anti-aircraft guns engage heavily, causing the raiders to withdraw; no claims.

Military casualties  2nd Lieutenant Harry Leslie Deacon, Royal Army Service Corps.

Civilian casualties Msida  Nicolo Cassar, age 40; Michael Sammut, age 40; Jane Zammit, age 60; John Zammit, age 50; Joseph Zammit, age 65.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 19 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY Convoy ME7 – City of Lincoln, Clan Ferguson, City of Manchester and Perthshire – sailed for Alexandria escorted by Jervis, Janus, Nubian and Diamond, the latter having completed refit at Malta. 

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance Taranto; chased by three Macchi 200 fighters; no damage. Maryland reconnaissance western Ionian Sea. 148 Squadron 8 Wellington bombers night bombing attack on Tripoli Harbour.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 2 (1 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg).

(1) Now in Montenegro 

 

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Posted by on April 19, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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18 April 1941: Convoy Embarks With Vital Reinforcements

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ENEMY MUST BE DISTRACTED FROM ATTACKING SHIPS

Escort cruiser HMAS Perth

Escort cruiser HMAS Perth

The Mediterranean Fleet departed Alexandria at this morning to bring the supply ship Breconshire carrying essential reinforcements to Malta. Under Operation MD 2, the Fleet will also escort empty ships out of Malta.  Operation MD 3 will operate simultaneously, with bombardment of Tripoli designed to divert Axis attention from the convoy and allow its journey to be completed safely.

Three battleships, eight destroyers, two cruisers including ant-aircraft ship Calcutta and aircraft carrier Formidable sailed from Alexandria at 0700 hrs for Suda Bay to fuel.  At 1900 hrs Breconshire left Alexandria, escorted by the cruiser Perth and destroyer Hotspur.  The supply convoy is expected to rendezvous with the main fleet tomorrow.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 APRIL TO DAWN 19 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

0818-0930 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which approaches the Island with a fighter escort. While the JU 88 carries out reconnaissance over land, the escorting aircraft remain out to sea.  Anti-aircraft guns engage the bomber without result.

1047-1115 hrs; 1622-1654 hrs  Air raid alerts; raids do not materialise.

0306-0555 hrs Air raid alert for 25 enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly from the north. Bombs are dropped on Salina Bay, St George’s, Hal Far and Marsaxlokk, and the Dockyard, where naval buildings, lighters and tugs are damaged.  One tug and the Panamanian ship Margit are sunk in Kalkara Creek.   Minor blast damaged is caused at War Headquarters. The Old Fish Market is destroyed and civilian property considerably damaged.  Four civilians are killed and 15 wounded.  One searchlight is hit and put out of action.  One Hurricane night fighter is airborne for the first hours; no interception.  Anti-aircraft guns also engage three times with predicted barrage deflecting many aircraft from their course.  One JU 88 bomber is destroyed by a direct hit from a Bofors guns over Grand Harbour and crashes into the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 18 APRIL 1941

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance of Tripoli Harbour. Maryland reconnaissance Tunisian coast for enemy shipping.  Maryland reconnaissance eastern Ionian Sea. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 6; dealt with 1 (43lb incendiary).

 

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Posted by on April 18, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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17 April 1941: No Rifles for Malta Conscripts

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recruits with sticks 12000 CONSCRIPTS MAY BE WITHOUT ARMS

Malta does not have enough rifles to arm its new conscript troops. The number of new recruits now enrolled in the Island’s military forces will soon reach 2000, after conscription began on 3 March.   Between July and September last year the Governor and Commander in Chief put in five orders for 3830 rifles but none has yet received War Office authorisation. 

With the rise in infantry strengths since conscription the Island’s stocks of rifles are now considered very low and insufficient for tactical requirements. Stressing the urgency of the situation, Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie as asked that if the required weapons are not at present available in the UK, the Commander in Chief Middle East be instructed to supply a proportion immediately, with the balance despatched from India. 

SEA INVASION THREAT LOWERED; PARACHUTE THREAT REMAINS HIGH

Military chiefs in Malta have now decided that an attempted landing by night from the sea is unlikely. The Island was placed on high alert on 28 March following intelligence reports of Italian vessels patrolling in the vicinity of Malta.  The threat level for sea attack has now been lowered.  However precautions against parachute landings are still in place as the threat is still considered high.

SANDFLIES

The attention of all ranks has drawn to the great importance of surveying the localities occupied by their units and detachments, in order to discover the likely breeding places of flies, sandflies and mosquitoes, and to deal with these effectively. Such measures are believed effective when taken at this time of year, on account of the prodigious fertility of these insects, and their rapid rate of multiplication. 

All regimental officers have been asked that, in the interest of their men and of themselves, they possess a working knowledge of such preventative measures. Advice can be obtained from medical officers or from the Field Hygiene section.

MALTA NEEDS A REST CAMP

The Governor and Commander in Chief proposes to establish permanent rest camp in Malta. The facility is believed necessary as the strength of the British Garrison on the Island now numbers nearly 12000.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 APRIL TO DAWN 18 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

1535-1630 hrs   Air raid alert for six Italian CR 42 fighters which patrol off the coast of Malta at 19000 feet. Ten Hurricanes are scrambled but do not engage as the CR 42s turn back when still two miles offshore.  The Hurricanes have landed to refuel when a single JU 88 crosses the Island at 26000 feet.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Four of the Hurricanes take off again but the bomber recedes before they intercept. 

2047-2210 hrs  Air raid alert for 15 enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the south west. Five raiders cross the coast and drop bombs on the St Paul’s Bay area.  Searchlights illuminate two targets and intense fire from the anti-aircraft guns drives the raiders out to sea.

0330-0405 hrs  Air raid alert caused by the return of two Wellington bombers.

0416-0530 hrs  Air raid alert for one twin-engined enemy bomber which approaches from the north and drops bombs on the St Paul’s Bay area. One farmhouse is damaged; three sheep, two goats and a donkey are killed.  Searchlights illuminate the raider for a short period; no anti-aircraft gun claims.  One Hurricane night fighter is airborne but the searchlight illumination is too brief for an attack.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 17 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY Regent sailed for Kotor to attempt to bring off Mr Campbell, British Minister to Yugoslavia.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland patrol of the eastern Tunisian coast.  

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  5 more NCOs attended a bomb reconnaissance course.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (500kg).

 

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Posted by on April 17, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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16 April 1941: Malta Destroyers Sink German Convoy

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HMS Mowahk

HMS Mowahk

HMS MOHAWK LOST IN BATTLE

Destroyers Janus, Jervis, Mohawk and Nubian sailed from Malta this evening to intercept a German Afrika Korps convoy off Kerkennah, to the east of Tunisia.  The ships were operating on the basis of information from reconnaissance by a Maryland of 69 Squadron. Two Swordfish aircraft which were sent overnight to locate and shadow the convoy which consisted of five merchant ships escorted by three Italian destroyers.

As the enemy convoy manoeuvred through the shallow waters of the Kerkennah Islands, the Royal Navy destroyers closed in to attack. Three of the Axis merchant ships were sunk and the other two grounded on the Island shore.  One Italian destroyer ran aground and a second sank in shallow waters.  While herself already sinking, the lead destroyer Luca Tarigo launched two torpedoes at HMS Mohawk.

Ordinary Seaman Leslie Gardiner, serving aboard Mohawk, recalls what happened:    

“…we went searching for a convoy bound for Tripoli. Contact was made off the North African coast.  Soon a fierce exchange took place.  The noise was deafening.  Smoke and shell-splinters filled the air.  I remember our gunners worked furiously…The whole of the stern from the superstructure aft was destroyed; she was awash as far as X mounting. The crew of the Y gun were all dead.  Meanwhile the merchantman was set ablaze by A and B guns as HMS Mohawk lay still in the water, vulnerable to attack.”

Two more torpedoes then struck the stricken destroyer, hitting the port side between no’s 2 and 3 boiler rooms. The no 3 boiler burst, scalding dozens of men as the deck ripped open. 

“…Within a minute Mohawk was listing heavily to port and soon she was on her side with no time for us to launch lifeboats… We were two hours in the water before HMS Nubian picked up those who were left.  There weren’t many of us…” (1)

43 lives were lost aboard Mohawk.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 APRIL TO DAWN 17 APRIL 1941

Weather  Thick fog at first, then cold and rough.

0941-1000 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1000 hrs  Southern Infantry Brigade sends out a message that three friendly destroyers are due.

1040-1100 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

0551-0616 hrs Air raid alert for a small formation of Messerschmitt 110 fighters which appear to the west of Malta as Wellington bombers are arriving. One Wellington is attacked by a ME 110 ten miles offshore.  Other Wellingtons counter-attack with two good bursts of machine-gun fire and is last seen diving into the dawn mist.  The attacked Wellington lands safely, with superficial damage.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 16 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Three aircraft in overnight operation against ships anchored off Tripoli with Wellington bombers of 148 Squadron but target ships swung bows on to the entrance making an attack impossible. Destroyers returned from night operation under cover of low cloud.  

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance of Tripoli Harbour. Maryland reconnaissance Palermo Harbour and aerodrome. 148 Squadron 7 Wellingtons night bombing attack on Tripoli Harbour with 830 Squadron FAA. 

HAL FAR  PM Four aircraft 830 Squadron on operational flight; one returned after 30 minutes, remainder safely after mission completed.

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Headquarters closed down at Luqa and opened at the Government Elementary School, Tarxien.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 6 (6 x 50kg).

(1) Stafford at War 1939-1945, Nick Thomas, Pen & Sword

 

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Posted by on April 16, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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15 April 1941: Malta Faces Labour Shortages

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Labour is in demand for digging of shelters

Labour is in demand for digging of shelters

YOUNG MEN AND PENSIONERS TO BE RECRUITED

Malta is facing a severe labour shortage and urgent action is required, according to the Governor and Commander in Chief. The shortage has been caused by the introduction of compulsory military service, as well as the high demand for additional labour services from the military and civil government.  To make up the shortfall, Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie proposes to recruit casual labourers under 21 years of age and to pay them at the current adult rate of pay.  He will also arrange for the re-employment of skilled tradesmen over 60 years of age.

MALTESE TO JOIN ARMY MEDICAL CORPS

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief plans to enlist volunteers and conscripts in order to fully man the newly-formed Royal Army Medical Corps Malta section. Personnel will be signed up for the duration of the war and service in Malta only.  A few specially selected men will also be enrolled in the non-Malta RAMC, also for the duration.

MALTA MEDICAL DEPARTMENT AT WAR

Heads of Branches and Institutions and District Medical Officers were requested to ask their medical staff and officers to ring the Fortress War Headquarters in case it was necessary for a person to proceed outside a town or village during curfew hours (when there was no air-raid on) and should movement be necessary during curfew hours (between the sounding of an air-raid warning and the “All Clear” signal).

SAPPER ZAMMIT RECEIVES MBE FOR RESCUE (1)

LONDON GAZETTE 15 APRIL 1941  “The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the publication of the names of the undermentioned as having been commended for brave conduct: Corps of Royal Engineers (Malta Section) No 576 Sapper Spiru Zammit.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 APRIL TO DAWN 16 APRIL 1941

Weather  Very cold and blustery; wet overnight.

2010-2055 hrs  Air raid alert for suspected enemy aircraft. A Wellington bomber approaches from the north and is attacked by small arms fire from the ground.  The pilot flashes the correct recognition signal before coming in to land safely and without damage.

0010-0223 hrs  Air raid alert for three, then 12, then 14 enemy aircraft which approach from the north in close succession and drop bombs on Ta Qali, Rabat, Imtarfa, Mosta Fort, Madliena, Siggiewi, Dingli, Targa, Naxxar, Attard, Ricasoli, Grand Harbour, St Clements, Luqa aerodrome and Siggiewi. Bombing seems indiscriminate with no apparent definite objective apart from the Mental Hospital at Attard, which is singled out by several aircraft and straddled by 20 bombs; one patient is killed and nine injured.  A large number of bombs fail to explode.  A Malta night fighter is scrambled but searchlights illuminate targets on only two occasions and there are no interceptions.  Anti-aircraft guns engage raiders heavily five times; no claims.  

0237-0405 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which circle the Island separately on ‘nuisance’ raids’. One anti-aircraft battery engages; no claim.

Military casualties  Private James Boorman, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regt).

Civilian casualties  Mosta  Carmela Cassar, age 29.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 15 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 2 Swordfish despatched overnight to locate and shadow a convoy of 5 merchant vessels and 3 destroyers reported by Maryland. Convoy located off Kerkenah when British destroyers had begun action.  Aircraft located another southbound convoy at 1357 hrs.   A later sighting gave the convoy speed as 8 knots.  14th Destroyer Flotilla, destroyers Jervis, Janus, Mohawk and Nubian sailed at 1800 hrs under cover of rain and low cloud for a shipping sweep off Kerkennah Bank.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast for enemy shipping; convoy of five merchant vessels and three destroyers. Second Maryland despatched to shadow convoy for destroyer striking force.  Maryland reconnaissance Palermo unsuccessful due to low cloud and rain.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  We have taken over a number of Lewis guns for use in the defences. A short refresher course is being held today and tomorrow.  B Company moved to their Dockyard position at the Naval Canteen.  One platoon of C Company took over their old HQ at Notre Dame Ravelin.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 32.

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY Classification of Signallers of 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment (passed 5, failed 5).

(1) maltagc70.com 18 January 1941

 

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Posted by on April 15, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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14 April 1941: Malta Must Be Filled With Fighter Aircraft Says Air Chief

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Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal KG GCB OM DSO MCREINFORCEMENTS ESSENTIAL FOR ISLAND TO SURVIVE

The Chief of the Air Staff has told the War Cabinet in London that Malta must be filled with fighter aircraft in order to maintain itself against its unfavourable geographical position so close to Sicily, where a large bomber force could be assembled. If our fighter aircraft flew away from Malta [to attack convoys] he said, they left the Island liable to enemy attack. 

The radius round Malta over which fighter aircraft can operate does not extend far enough to enable them to intercept enemy transport aircraft carrying personnel or stores to Cyrenaica. The main conclusion of the discussion was that the War Cabinet cannot currently be certain of interrupting the enemy supply line to Tripoli.

FRIENDLY FIRE INCIDENT

Flying Officer Adrian Warburton of 69 Squadron had a lucky escape today when his Maryland was attacked by a Hurricane fighter over Malta. F/O Warburton took off from Luqa this morning for a test flight prior to a reconnaissance mission planned for later in the day. 

Meanwhile Hurricane fighters were scrambled to intercept an incoming formation of a JU 88 bomber escorted by ME 109s. The Maryland was mistaken for an enemy raider and Hurricane pilot F/O I Westmacott attacked.  His starboard engine and undercarriage damaged, F/O Warburton was forced to crash-land at Luqa.  He was unhurt.  

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 APRIL TO DAWN 15 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

0942-1020 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber escorted by ten ME 109 fighters as it carries out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 25000 feet. Malta fighters are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns engage heavily; no claims.

2124-2202 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches from the north and is engaged by anti-aircraft guns, whereupon it retreats north over St Paul’s Bay. Minutes later the aircraft returns to attack St Paul’s Bay where it is illuminated by searchlights and heavily engaged by anti-aircraft guns; no claims.  One flare is dropped in the sea.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 14 APRIL 1941

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli noted 8 merchant vessels; engine trouble necessitated immediate return. Maryland patrolled area between Cape Bon and Trapani; no ships seen. 148 Squadron Four Wellingtons night bombing raid on Tripoli harbour.  Average height of bombing 6-7000 feet: anti-aircraft fire less accurate at this height. 

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  24 unexploded bombs found in B Company area from previous air raid, reported to bomb disposal squad.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  5 WOs/NCOs attended a four hour bomb reconnaissance course.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  0030 hrs One man was injured in Valletta by bomb splinters.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 7; dealt with 1 (50kg).

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Two conscripts joined the Battalion. Three bombs are dropped near a defence posts which do not exploded; one is found and identified as 250kg with a fuze marked 50, reported to bomb disposal squad.

 

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Posted by on April 14, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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13 April 1941: Easter Sunday – 300 Bomb Strike on Civilian Areas

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Mdina

The ‘silent city’ of Mdina

MDINA HIT FOR A SECOND TIME AS INDISCRIMINATE BOMBING MARS MALTA’S MAIN RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL

Tonight “will long be remembered in Malta for the widespread indiscriminate night bombing which took place. It will be remembered as a miraculous night for the narrow misses of bombs that were rained down with intermittent intensity over a period of an hour and a half…”

The main attack took place just after midnight and involved 25 enemy raiders which crossed the north coast in a series of waves. One formation dropped bombs on Imtarfa, Mdina and Rabat, where at least 70 craters have been reported.  Other waves attacked Luqa, and coastal points at St Julians and St Elmo.

A large shelter opposite the Lower Barracca suffered a direct hit by two mines, compromising the structures of buildings above the place where a hundred people were huddled for safety. Tons of masonry crashed down but the shelter held out and there were no casualties. (1)

MALTA ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS WORN OUT BY CONSTANT HEAVY FIRE

The continuous fire needed to fight off heavy bombing attacks is causing Malta anti-aircraft guns to wear at a rate 20 per cent greater than average. With supplies so difficult to deliver to the Island, The additional wear and tear potentially has serious implications for its defences.  The Governor and C in C Malta has written to military and naval commanders in the Middle East to ask for spare parts to be delivered as soon as possible.

The lack of specialist anti-aircraft personnel in Malta continues to cause concern. Eight heavy anti-aircraft guns are already being manned by non-specialist troops from infantry battalions and continuing manpower shortages mean that four more will soon have to be operated in this way.  The situation is expected to continue for some months.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 APRIL TO DAWN 14 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

1006-1116 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 ME 109 fighters which approach along the north coast then break formation over the Island. Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders, claiming one ME 109 is probably shot down.  Some minutes later one or two JU 88s cross the coast at Kalafrana and drop bombs on the Luqa area.  Anti-aircraft guns engage and ten Hurricanes are scrambled.  One JU 88 dives steeply in flames and makes a sharp turn out over Grand Harbour.  One ME 109 is destroyed off Wolsey Battery by F/O E M Mason DFC, whose Hurricane which is then itself shot down in the sea by another enemy fighter.  F/O Mason, who is Flight Commander of 261 Squadron at Ta Qali, manages to level out just above the sea, but the engine cuts out. He is rescued the high speed launch and taken to Imtarfa Hospital, where he was found to have bullet wounds in his right arm and left elbow and metal splinters were in his left leg and skull, as well as facial injuries.

1200-1205 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

2040-2055 hrs Air raid alert for one unidentified enemy aircraft which approaches the Island from the south west, turns in over Gozo and drop bombs at Salina Bay. Anti-aircraft guns engage using predicted barrage; no claims.

2158-2258 hrs Air raid alert for a single unidentified aircraft which approaches the Island from the north and drops bombs on St Elmo Bastion causing some damage and bursting a sewage main. A second raider approaches from the east, crosses the coast near San Pietru and drops bombs in the sea between Kalafrana and fort St Lucian.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

0001-0115 hrs Air raid alert for 25 enemy aircraft which approach the Island in a series of waves from the north and cross the coast at various points, dropping bombs on Rabat and Mdina, Imtarfa, Ta Qali, Attard, St Elmo, St Julians and Luqa. Eight civilian houses are demolished. 70 craters are counted in the Rabat area alone.  Signal wire routes at Ta Qali and Imtarfa are damaged, where one office, garages and a barrack block are also damaged.  One Bofors gun emplacement at Ta Qali is damaged but not put out of action.  A landmine falls on the aerodrome, breaking windows, bursting open doors and damaging ceilings of the Station’s HQ and breaking windows in the Pottery.

A bomb falls on the barracks of 4th Bn The Buffs killing one soldier and injuring another.  During the raid two Wellingtons come in to land.  One JU 88 is illuminated by searchlights and engaged by anti-aircraft guns.  Other raiders are also engaged by Ack Ack, using predicted barrage.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.  Three unexploded bombs are reported on Luqa aerodrome.

0556-0715 hrs  Air raid alert for four CR 42 and three ME 109 fighters approaching from the north. They cross the coast at St Thomas’ Bay.   The CR 42s machine-gun Luqa aerodrome, where the Bofors guns engage the raiders.  Hurricanes are also scrambled and a Glen Martin heading in to land during the raid is almost caught in the dog-fight.  The enemy aircraft recede north west; searchlights illuminate several targets and are engaged by anti-aircraft guns; no claims.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 13 APRIL 1941

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance of Tripoli Harbour: 8 destroyers, 13 merchant vessels plus several convoys at sea. Maryland despatched at 1350 hrs to shadow a southbound convoy.  Maryland on patrol of area between Cape Bon and Trapani for enemy shipping sighted two e-boats. 148 Squadron 3 Wellington bombers night bombing of Tripoli Harbour. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A holiday for all those not required for security; church service at 1115 hrs.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  15 unexploded bombs located, all identified as German, fuze marked 15; reported to bomb disposal unit.

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

 

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Posted by on April 13, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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12 April 1941: Malta Swordfish and Destroyers Pursue Axis Convoy

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HMS Mowahk

HMS Mowahk

TWO SWORDFISH SHOT DOWN

Malta-based Fleet Air Arm Swordfish and destroyers launched a dual attack on an enemy convoy today off the Gulf of Hammamet, Tunisia. Maryland reconnaissance aircraft of 69 Squadron located  the southbound convoy which was proceeding southbound at 15 knots.  In view of the speed, Swordfish of Malta’s 830 Squadron were sent to intercept the convoy at dusk; one was deployed to shadow the vessels.  Meanwhile destroyers Jervis, Janus, Mohawk and Nubian left Malta heading to intercept the convoy. 

About 90 minutes after dark the convoy realised it was being shadowed by aircraft and turned north at high speed. At 2040 hrs the Swordfish attacked, one launching six 250lb bombs from 3000 feet which straddled the convoy, one scoring a hit or near miss on a merchant ship. The remaining Swordfish attacked with torpedoes but no other damage was reported.  The convoy ships launched a heavy counter-attack with medium and light anti-aircraft fire.  Two torpedo Swordfish were hit and forced to crash land near Hammamet.

The destroyer flotilla was unable to locate the convoy as it had changed course but at about 0230 hrs the enemy ships were spotted to the west of Pantelleria by the submarine Upholder who turned it back by firing star shell.  However, by the time the flotilla Captain received Upholder’s report that the convoy was turning back, his ships were on their way back to Malta. 

The Swordfish crews have been named as of A/Sub Lt A P Dawson with L/A A Todd, and P/O Airman C H Wines with L/A L M Edwards. They were all taken prisoner by the French authorities in Tunisia.

Petty Officer Charles Wines described the events in his logbook for the 12 April 1941:

Swordfish B L7689; passenger L/A Edwards: “Attacked [merchant] ship in northbound convoy in Gulf of Hammamet. Observed hit with torp[edo] under bridge.  Whilst taking evasive action [aircraft] was hit repeatedly in tanks and fuselage with ‘pom pom’ and small calibre gunfire from Italian destroyer escort and from [merchant] ships.  Made crash landing after engine had seized on beach at Hammamet, Tunisia…Interned in Tunisia..” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 APRIL TO DAWN 13 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

0707-0738 hrs Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which carry out a patrol to the north of the Island.

1935 hrs  Four destroyers leave Grand Harbour.

2307 hrs Air raid alert for nine enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly from the north and the south east. One raider machine-guns the Sergeants’ Mess at Kalafrana.  Bombs are dropped on St Paul’s Bay.  Anti-aircraft guns engage the enemy south east of St Paul’s Bay using predicted barrage.  One Hurricane is scrambled; no claims.

0030 hrs  Air raid alert as another single enemy aircraft crosses the coast and drops bombs on the Ta Qali area, breaking windows in the Station headquarters and the Pottery, as well as near Naxxar and by the salt pans at Salina Bay.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  An unexploded bomb is reported at Naxxar.

0134 hrs  All clear.

0217-0355 hrs Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft which approach and patrol round the Island; no bombs are dropped. Anti-aircraft guns engage using predicted barrage and one Hurricane is scrambled; no claims.

0443-0615 hrs Air raid alert for several enemy aircraft (believed to be JU 88 bombers) which cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa, Hal Far and Ta Qali airfields. Three bombs causing craters on the edge of Ta Qali aerodrome are found to be filled with concrete.  A large number of bombs falls in the area of B Company and headquarters 4th Bn The Buffs, causing severe damage to property and two casualties, one very serious.  24 unexploded bombs are later found in the area.  The bombers also attack four destroyers returning from enemy convoy patrol.  Anti-aircraft guns engage using visual and predicted barrages; no claims.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 12 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Submarine Olympus arrived at Malta to reinforce the Mediterranean submarines.

830 Squadron strike force attacked a fast enemy convoy located by reconnaissance aircraft off the entrance to the Gulf of Hammamet; no hits were scored and two aircraft were lost. The convoy turned north and retired at high speed, passing to the west of Pantelleria at 0230 hrs. Destroyers sent to attack were unable to locate the convoy. Upholder located, engaged and diverted the convoy but 14 Flotilla was already on the way back to Malta. 

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance between Cape Bon and Trapani for enemy shipping: convoy located and a second Maryland sent to shadow it for a Swordfish operation at night.

HAL FAR P/O Sugden crashed on landing after an early morning flight; he was unhurt. PM Operational flight by 830 Squadron against Tripoli; two aircraft failed to return (pilots S/Lt Dawson and P O Wines).

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  One conscript joined the Battalion.

(1) The flying log book of Petty Officer Charles Wines

 

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11 April 1941: Malta Becomes Base for Navy Attack Flotilla

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HMS Jervis

HMS Jervis

FOUR DESTROYERS WILL ATTACK AXIS CONVOYS  

Malta is to become a base for Royal Navy attacks on enemy convoys to North Africa. Four destroyers of 14th Flotilla – Jervis, Janus, Mohawk and Nubian – arrived in Grand Harbour early this morning to prepare for attacking operations against essential Italian supply lines.

The four destroyers were refuelled on arrival and embarked immediately to intercept a southbound convoy located by Malta reconnaissance aircraft. However, their first mission was unsuccessful when they were unable to locate the enemy convoy due to a miscalculation of their speed.

Reporting the arrival of the attack force to the War Cabinet in London, the Chief of Naval Staff explained that enemy convoys usually assemble at Palermo, pass round the western end of Sicily and down the Tunisian coast, making Malta an ideal base from which to interrupt the Tripoli supply lines. Three additional submarines have also been sent to work in the area and eight more are expected, making this a very strong strike force. 

The possibility of further operations against Tripoli itself is also being investigated. The primary objective of the Navy is to prevent the enemy from building up a large force in Tripoli.  Beaufort aircraft are also being sent out to attack convoys and Wellingtons will be used to bomb Tripoli Harbour.

MDINA ATTACKED ON GOOD FRIDAY

Enemy bombing over the ‘silent city’ of Mdina tonight has caused angry reactions among the Maltese population. The ancient walled city has no military installations to justify it being a legitimate target. Nevertheless it was struck during a raid by nine Stuka dive-bombers just after 10 this evening.  Some have suggested the bombs had been intended for Ta Qali but authorities consider that Mdina is some distance from Ta Qali and visually distinctive enough not to be hit in error.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 APRIL TO DAWN 12 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.  

0648-0720 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

0935-1020 hrs  Air raid alert for seven Italian CR 42 fighters, followed by a second plot of six, which carry out reconnaissance. Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders north of Malta.  Two CR 42s are probably shot down.   

1125-1155 hrs Air raid alert for twelve Messerschmitt fighters and one JU 88 which carry out an offensive patrol over the Island.  Heavy and Light anti-aircraft guns engage and eight Hurricanes are scrambled.  One ME 109 and one ME 110 are confirmed shot down, the JU 88 is probably shot down.  Hurricanes flown by F/O P Kennett and Sgt P Waghorn are shot down into the sea by enemy raiders.  P/O Kennett is spotted offshore and the rescue launch heads for the spot but he is found dead.  Sgt Waghorn’s plane is seen to go down near St Paul’s Bay; he does not survive.  Both pilots arrived in Malta just eight days ago with Operation Winch.

Sgt A H Deacon’s Hurricane is badly damaged in a dogfight with a ME 109; he heads for Ta Qali but cannot land as anti-aircraft guns are still in action against enemy aircraft. Deacon flies on to Hal Far and is able to land but his undercarriage collapses and he is slightly injured.  P/O Mortimer’s Hurricane is also badly damaged in combat; he also has to divert to Hal Far where his aircraft lands awkwardly, causing him some injuries.

2156-2247 hrs Air raid alert for nine JU 87 Stuka bombers which approach the Island at 4-6000 feet singly and in pairs, and carry out a bombing raid on Mgarr, Siggiewi, Mdina and Ta Qali aerodrome. Several civilian houses are damaged at Siggiewi.  At Mgarr three houses are destroyed in St Peter’s Street and 15 badly damaged in Fisher Street.  Five civilians are killed and seven injured – three seriously.  No damage is caused on the airfield.  Some of the raiders are illuminated by searchlights and Malta fighters are scrambled.  One JU 87 is shot down near Il Maghtab church by ground defences: 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers are believed to have shot it down with small arms fire.  One JU 87 is probably shot down by fighters.  

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Peter Kennett, Royal Air Force (VR), 261 Squadron. Sergeant Peter Harry Waghorn, Pilot, Royal Air Force (VR), 261 Squadron.

Civilian casualties Gharghur  Rosaria Mifsud, age 8. Mgarr  Josephine Borg, age 44; Mary Vella, age 36; Saviour Vella, age 60. Siggiewi Michael Sammut, age 46.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 11 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY Jervis, Janus, Mohawk and Nubian arrived for operations against the Tripoli convoy route.  After fuelling, the destroyers sailed to intercept a southbound convoy located by aircraft between Lampion and Kerkennah Bank, and reported as steaming at 15 knots.  The destroyers failed to intercept and from a subsequent signal from Unique, which failed to get through by wireless telegraph, it was apparent that the convoy’s speed had not exceeded 9 knots.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Swordfish engage in night attack.  Maryland photo-reconnaissance Tripoli.  2 Maryland on sea patrol.  

HAL FAR Two Hurricanes from Ta Qali crash-landed after air battle; one of 2 pilots slightly hurt.

KALAFRANA One Sunderland arrived from Gibraltar with freight.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3.

 

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Posted by on April 11, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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