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2 May 1941: Destroyer Hits Mine and Sinks in Grand Harbour

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HMS Jersey

HMS Jersey

35 KILLED AS HMS JERSEY EXPLODES

35 of the crew of a destroyer are believed dead today after the ship struck a mine at the entrance to Grand Harbour. HMS Jersey was returning with Force K from a mission to intercept an enemy convoy when she struck the mine – laid last night by enemy aircraft – exploded and sank next to the breakwater.  Navy boats rushed towards the stricken ship and, for the second time in two days, members of the Royal Artillery at Ricasoli Barracks dived into the sea to try and rescue survivors. 

Able Seaman Francis Hounsome, RN, on board the Dockyard boom defence vessel witnessed the events: “It was amazing the boats and small craft which came to help in no time. Some of the crew climbed down ropes from the fo’c’sle and never even got their feet wet, for many others it was very different.” (1)

Eleven casualties have so far been identified. The wreckage of Jersey is now blocking the harbour entrance.  Force K ships HMS Jackal, Kelly and Kelvin which had already entered the harbour are now stranded.  The remaining ships of Force K had to set course for Gibraltar.  It expected to be several days before the entrance to Grand Harbour can be cleared.  

MALTA COVERT SUPPLY OPERATION FAILS

The fate of the missing steamer Parracombe has been revealed when it was confirmed that she ran into a minefield near Cape Bon and sank earlier today.  The steamer was the first merchant ship to attempt a clandestine supply run to Malta in an attempt to break the siege. Parracombe was carrying 21 Hurricane fighters in packing cases, along with associated spares, as well as rocket projectors, ammunition and various other military stores.

Parracombe was specially painted to appear as an old tramp steamer and once through the Straits of Gibraltar she would hoist the Spanish ensign, assuming French colours off the Algerian coast in order to pass undetected. Her orders were to pass close to Cape Bon, and then to break for Malta under cover of darkness.  Once within 50 miles of Malta she would receive fighter cover.

Parracombe sailed from the UK on 17 April under Operation Temple, and was reported passing through the Straits of Gibraltar last Monday night. However, from then on nothing was heard from her until reports came in of today’s explosion. 18 of her crew of 47 are reported as reaching shore where they were interned by the French.

BEAUFIGHTERS ARRIVE

13 Beaufighters of 252 Squadron arrived from Gibraltar today to be used on operations locally as a screen for the Mediterranean Fleet. They will be deployed in detachments of six aircraft at a time, in support of shipping strikes against enemy convoys.

MINE EXPLODES IN VALLETTA

A mine dropped in air raids on Wednesday night exploded in Valletta today, destroying 19 houses in the City and badly damaging 45 other buildings, including a chapel. Italian Radio has today been reported as saying that “the City of Valletta has been continually hammered.  The damage done is immense.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 MAY TO DAWN 3 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0734-0745 hrs  Air raid alert for nine ME 109 fighters which patrol off the coast of the Island; no interceptions or air raid.

0819-0835 hrs Air raid alert for a JU 88 bomber which crosses the Island from Kalafrana to Tigne on reconnaissance accompanied by two ME 109s.  The bomber is engaged by heavy anti-aircraft guns and is observed to be emitting smoke from its tail as it flies away northwards.

HMS Gloucester and striking force sail from Grand Harbour.

1445-1600 hrs 13 Beaufighters land at Luqa.

1553-1611 hrs Air raid alert for a patrol by two Messerschmitt 109 fighters which do not cross the coast.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled: no interception.

Military casualties Sergeant Raymond Ottey, Royal Air Force (Volunteer Reserve), 261 Squadron; Stoker 1st Class George Arthur Coombs; Ordinary Seaman Norman William Greer; Able Seaman Noel Wesley Harmsworth; Petty Officer Walter H Harvey; Able Seaman Dennis Marshall Lennard; Wireman Lionel C Spreadbury; Ordinary Seaman Arthur Temperley; Ordinary Seaman William Temple; Sick Berth Attendant Thalberg Thornber; Boy 1st Class Donald Stanton Wallace; Stoker 1st Class Richard Williams, HMS Jersey.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 2 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY HMS Jersey sank in the entrance to Grand Harbour after striking a mine. Gloucester, Kipling and Kashmir were mined out of the harbor and sailed for Gibraltar at dusk.  Kelly remained with Jackal and Kelvin.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Sunderland. 252 Squadron 13 Beaufighters. Departures 2 Sunderland. Aircraft casualties One Hurricane crashed, killing the pilot; the cause is as yet unknown but it was not due to enemy action. 69 Squadron Two Marylands patrolled eastern Tunisian coast.  Maryland reconnaissance of Tripoli reported convoy.21 Squadron 1500-1840 hrs  Six Blenheims 21 Squadron attacked two merchant vessels and one destroyer leaving them enveloped in smoke.

HAL FAR  Hurricane, pilot Sgt Ottey, crashed from a great height on approaching the aerodrome and burst into flames; pilot killed outright. Three aircraft 830 Squadron took off on operational flight; all returned safely. 

LUQA 12 Beaufighters 252 Squadron arrived from the UK.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 10; dealt with 4 (3 x 50kg; x 500kg).

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Start of move to Qrendi.

(1) Courtesy of website Malta Family History  

 

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Posted by on May 2, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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1 May 1941: Heavy Increase in Night Raids on Malta

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RAID SUMMARY APRIL 1941

  • No of air raid alerts 90 (including 25 night raids)
  • Days without air raid alerts 4
  • Total time under alert 69 hours 51 mins
  • Average length of alert 46.5 mins
  • Civilians killed by enemy action 62
  • Civilians injured 112
  • Enemy aircraft destroyed by anti-aircraft guns
  • Day: 1 probable
  • Night: 2 confirmed, 1 probable
  • The total civilian casualties and damage from 11 June 1940 to 30 April 1941:
  • Killed 274 (145 men, 66 women, 63 children u16)
  • Seriously injured 204 (91 men, 81 women, 32 children u16)
  • Buildings wholly or partly destroyed 1901
Grand Harbour is a constant target

Grand Harbour is a constant target

MALTA HQ REVIEWS APRIL 1941

The month was notable for greatly increased air activity by German aircraft at night, partly due to the arrival in Malta of a convoy and war vessels. There was also a heavy increase in night attacks, both bombing and mine-laying, largely as a result of warships stationed in Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto.  On 21 April heavy bombing of Grand Harbour and the Dockyard area began, gradually increasing in tenacity towards the end of the month. Systematic mining of the approaches to Grand Harbour were also carried out.

Four particular enemy tactics became noticeable during night raids:

  • They were usually preceded by one aircraft on a meteorological flight;
  • The first aircraft usually crossed the whole length of the Island from west to east at a great height to force the searchlights to illuminate;
  • The increased use of flares;
  • On two or three occasions a flashing light could be seen about ten miles north of Grand Harbour at sea level. This is thought to have been a submarine giving landfall guidance to aircraft on nights with no moon. The Navy despatched a trawler after the second such appearance.

There were 42 reconnaissance or offensive patrols in the vicinity of the Island triggering the air alarm, as well as others for which the alert was not sounded. Reconnaissance was usually carried out by a single JU 88 bomber while the escort circled off the coast of the Island.  The escort rarely crossed the coast except when in superior numbers and on specific offensive patrol.  Two daylight and one night dive machine-gun attacks took place: on Luqa aerodrome and Marsaxlokk Bay during daylight and on St Paul’s Bay at night.

At the beginning of the month the policy was adopted of sending Malta fighters up on moonless nights, as well as on nights when the moon was up. The policy was not successful and was quickly discontinued. Searchlights were employed on 15 nights and obtained 47 illuminations.   The firing of predicted barrages at night has been discontinued in favour of immediate barrage procedures.  This has been employed on approximately 140 occasions and has undoubtedly had a deterrent effect on the enemy, causing them to divert from their apparent objective.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 MAY TO DAWN 2 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0728-0830 hrs  Air raid alert for six to ten ME 109s which circle round the Island. Hurricane fighters are scrambled; one is damaged and another shot down by a raider; the pilot is safe.

1023-1125 hrs  Air raid alert for nine unidentified aircraft approaching the Island. One JU 88 is fired at by anti-aircraft guns at Benghaisa.

1643-1805 hrs  Air raid alert for six bombers and twenty ME 109 fighters approaching the Island from the north at high altitude and head for Grand Harbour. Bombs are dropped in the sea outside the Harbour, believed to be aimed at an A/S trawler.  16 Hurricanes are scrambled and succeed in breaking up the formation of ME 109s which then scout around the coast of the Island in pairs.  One group of Hurricanes is caught in a surprise attack.  One of them is shot down and crashes near Ghaxaq church; the pilot P/O R A Innes is injured but bales out safely.  A second Hurricane is damaged in combat, pilot Sgt Walmsley is slightly injured.

2023-2105 hrs  Air raid alert for thirty enemy aircraft which approach Grand Harbour and lay mines as well as dropping bombs in the area. One Hurricane is scrambled but does not engage.  Anti-aircraft guns fire 16 barrages against targets exposed by searchlights.  Light anti-aircraft guns also engage and claim hits on raiders.  One enemy aircraft crashes in the sea off Salina Bay.

Civilian casualties  Marsa  Joseph Vassallo, age 39.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 1 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Truant arrived from patrol having sighted various coastal traffic off Tripolitania and sank a caique full of explosives.  Owing to danger from night minelaying, she was sailed for Gibraltar at 2000.  Gloucester and destroyers sailed to attack convoy, but weather was unfavourable and no contact was obtained. Upholder sank two merchant vessels 

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Two Marylands patrolled eastern Tunisian coast, sighted a convoy. Maryland special patrol north and south point of western Sicily for enemy shipping.  21 Squadron Six Blenheims made two sorties to attack; during the second attack one merchant vessel and one destroyer were attacked and left stationary. 

HAL FAR Hurricanes of C Flight 261 Squadron began operating today. Two casualties as a result of combat with the enemy: P/O Innes and Sgt Warmsley were injured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 33; dealt with 8 (8 x 50kg).

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths: officers 25, other ranks 122.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Evening ‘stand to’ now 2000 hrs.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Strength of Battalion: officers 27, other ranks 870. Battalion providing working party of 1 officer and 50 other ranks clearing debris in Kingsway, Valletta. 

 

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Posted by on May 1, 2016 in 1941, May 1941, Uncategorized

 

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30 April 1941: Two Nights’ Raids ‘A Nightmare to All Who Lived Through Them’

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HARDLY A PANE OF GLASS LEFT IN VALLETTA

Greek Orthodox Church destroyed

Greek Orthodox Church destroyed

Communities across Malta, both civilian and military, are left reeling after a second night of intense and heavy bombing raids. Substantial damage was done to the Dockyard (see below) but Valletta fared the worst: hardly a window is left intact across the ancient city.  St John’s Co-Cathedral has been seriously damaged; almost destroyed.  The Oratory and Vestry are heavily damaged, while the main door has been blasted and destroyed.  The Museum and precious paintings have suffered badly. The two belfry towers have been damaged.  The church of the Greek Orthodox community has also been destroyed.

The City’s Law Courts, the Exchange, St James Hotel and several banks have been demolished, three cinemas were hit and several cafes, restaurants and business premises in Kingsway were either destroyed or damaged. A total of 47 shops and 27 houses have been destroyed.  Kingsway Main Gate is now blocked by debris.

In the Dockyard, storehouses and wharfs as well as several vessels were badly damaged. The main Malta strike force had left harbour when the first raid began.

In Sliema 86 houses were demolished, another 80 and a convent seriously damaged. 20 more houses and a police station were damaged by bomb blast.  In Mosta mines destroyed several houses.

Clearing debris in Valletta

Clearing debris in Valletta

Further afield, air raid shelters in Luqa and Zebbug were hit by mines. In Luqa 45 civilians taking cover in two adjacent shelters were saved after a dangerous rescue operation by three policemen. In Zebbug both the entrance and the exit of the shelter were blocked by debris from the collapsed house above.  17 were trapped inside: 11 were rescued by the Hamrun Demolition Squad, the other six were found to be dead. (1)

First reports suggest that in total four children were killed in the raids and four other civilians buried under bomb rubble are feared dead; five civilians have been seriously injured.

It has been reported that damage to communications caused in last night’s bombing raid hampered the control of 14 Hurricanes scrambled to counter-attack the raiders and no engagements take place.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 APRIL TO DAWN 1 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0755-0810 hrs Air raid alert for two JU 88 bombers escorted by three ME 109s approaching the Island. They are assumed to be on reconnaissance but fly over Grand Harbour and drop bombs on St Angelo and nearby boats.  An explosion 200 yards offshore causes a dghajsa carrying twelve Royal Malta Artillery (RMA) personnel towards Ricasoli Barracks to capsize.  Witnessing the incident from the barracks, Lieutenant Joseph E Agius dives into the sea and with the help of two RMA recruits rescues eleven men encumbered by greatcoats. (2)

0817-0835 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 which crosses the Island on reconnaissance.

1047-1120 hrs; 1146-1226 hrs  Air raid alerts; raids do not materialise.

1200 hrs  Communications with Fortress HQ put out of action by last night’s raid are restored.

1757-1836 hrs  Air raid alert for six HE 111 bombers escorted by six ME 109s which approach the Island and drop bombs and mines on the Grand Harbour area including Valletta, where a bomb explodes on the corner of St Nicholas Street and Kingsway. The motor vehicle entrance to St Nicholas St is completely blocked by debris. One bomb lands on Maddalena Sacristy and another on the Orphanage.

In the Dockyard a stick of bombs falls along Garden Reach. A submarine store is demolished and a small fire starts.  The CO2 plant receives a direct hit.  Stores at the entrance to St Theresa Tunnel are damaged and debris blocks the road.  The road outside the East Gate is blocked by a large crater and debris from a destroyed house.  A stick of bombs lands close to the HQ of 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment.  Anti-aircraft guns engage and destroy one enemy aircraft. 

2034-2254 hrs  Air raid alert for a first wave of 35 enemy bombers including JU 87 Stukas, JU 88s and HE 111s which approach the Island in relays. The first relay of 20 comes in two waves, the first high to attract the defences.  The second wave then glides in low to lay mines in the Harbour and its approaches. Two parachute mines explode in the city, destroying the Law Courts, a church, houses and shops in Kingsway.  Another 15 bombers then approach, dropping parachute flares across Grand Harbour and Valletta followed by 150 high explosive bombs, causing extensive damage.

In the Dockyard a bomb on inflammable stores starts a large fire which is hard to bring under control. The road outside is blocked by a large crater, making it difficult for fire appliances to gain access.  A machine shop is hit, blocking the road into St Theresa Tunnel.  A large bomb on No 2 dock demolishes buildings and causes further damage to HMS Encounter.  No 3 dock caisson receives a direct hit, flooding the dock and with it the vessel Coral. Trusty Star – the only LL minesweeper currently in action – is sunk at Machinery Wharf. Fermoy in No 5 dock is further damaged and sinks. The Baulk Timber Store receives a direct hit, causing much damage to the roof.  A bomb close to Corradino Tunnel blocks a ventilation shaft. The Boat House is hit by four or five small bombs, not all of which explode. 

Some of the bombers (identified as Heinkels) are illuminated by searchlights over Grand Harbour and anti-aircraft guns put up a barrage; no claims. One Hurricane is scrambled but does not engage the raiders. 

11 more Heinkel bombers cross the coast over St Thomas’s Bay and head for Luqa aerodrome, dropping 53 high explosive bombs across the area. Two mines are dropped on the Ta Karach Ridge, one blows out the door of a gun position. A further formation of 11 HE 111s crosses the coast and attacks Ta Qali, dropping mines and 80 high explosive bombs.  A large mine falls in the garden of the Attorney General Sir Philip Pullicino family just below the bastions in Mdina and fails to explode; the family is evacuated.

Military casualties  Gunner Alfred Allison, 1 Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; 2nd Lieutenant Edgar Bartolo, 1st Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Joseph Calleja, Royal Malta Artillery; Master at Arms Leslie George Hunt, HMS St.Angelo; Bombardier Joseph Mizzi, 1st Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Marine Edward Joseph Mullard, Royal Marines; Bombardier Carmelo Pulis, 1st Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Joseph Vella, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Senglea  Irish Ashmore, age 11; Agnes Ashmore, age 9; Tommy Ashmore, age 4; Charles Zarbe, age 13; Edward Zarb, age 12; Mary Zarb, age 10. Valletta Carmela Caruana, age 71; Vincenza MacGill, age 33; Edwidge Zarb Cousin, age 5.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 30 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY HMS Abingdon is damaged by suspected acoustic mines while sweeping. Royal Navy Bomb & Mine Disposal  Total number of unexploded bombs dealt with during the month: 37.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 3 Wellington. Departures 4 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.  Three Wellingtons arrived from Gibraltar and left later with a Wellington of 148 Squadron that had been under repair.   

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  C and D Companies spent the day on the practise firing ranges.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1155 hrs One man was injured at Corradino by a bomb explosion. Strengths 36 officers, 884 other ranks, 2 RAOC (attached).  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Blitz on Valletta, severe damage to Strada Reale; RE assisted with clearance. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 29; dealt with 2 (2 x 50kg).

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battalion strength officers 36, NCOs 24, other ranks 640.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Enlisted during April 6 volunteers, 21 conscripts. Strengths officers 28, WO/Sgts 30, other ranks 669.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS    MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY  Four storemen returned from Ordnance Dump, Gozo. Strengths officers 25, WO 8, other ranks 122; Armourers other ranks 7; Artisans other ranks 4. 

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  1700 hrs L/Cpl A Watton buried at St Andrews Cemetery.

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

(2) Malta Blitzed But Not Beaten, Philip Vella, Progress Press 1985

 

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Posted by on April 30, 2016 in 1941, April 1941

 

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29 April 1941: Heaviest Bombing Yet in 6½ Hour Raid

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GRAND HARBOUR, VALLETTA, AIRFIELDS AND VILLAGES HIT

Malta experienced its heaviest bombing raid of the war so far tonight when nearly 90 enemy aircraft came over and dropped mines and bombs. The raid followed an earlier attack in which another 84 bombs were dropped on Grand Harbour. 

From just before 9 this evening the Island was under alert for 6½ hours as raiders launched their attacks in two waves, dropping over 800 high explosive bombs from 50kg to 1000kg on the Grand Harbour, Luqa and Ta Qali airfields and several inland villages. Parachute mines were laid in the harbours and approaches.

Bombing Aub Auvergne now law courtsSeveral 1000kg were among the bombs which landed on Valletta, badly damaging many buildings including St John’s Cathedral, a church, theatre and cinema, and causing a large fire. A bomb demolished the corner of Merchants Street and St Christopher Street, as well as several shops in Kingsway.  Another fire started in Floriana.  The Dockyard fire engine was sent to assist civil fire engines in tackling the blazes. Fort St Elmo was damaged, one officer and three men killed. Electricity and water supplies and telephone communications have been badly affected. 

In the Dockyard bombs hit two dock areas, forming numerous craters. Workshops and stores were completely demolished and three damaged, a nearby wharf is now blocked by debris. HMS Encounter in dry dock was damaged by bomb splinters, then a bomb penetrated the forecastle and exploded inside the ship, blowing a hole in her bottom. A bomb hit the bridge of Fermoy in No 5 dock and passed through the hull, causing her to settle by the bow.

Bighi Hospital and Fort St Angelo were hit by bombs; two marines and two dockyard personnel were wounded and one master at arms is missing. One of 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers was killed and one injured; one of Royal Malta Artillery was killed and two injured.  The guard room of HQ 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment was hit by a bomb and destroyed, along with the recreation room; rifles are written off. 

In Zabbar five houses were demolished and three damaged by four bombs; two women are injured. In Cospicua 16 bombs were dropped demolishing eight houses and badly damaging five houses and seven shops. 10 houses were demolished at Marsa, one civilian killed and one injured.

86 bombs were dropped on the Ta Qali area alone, where some 22 flares were seen floating down to illuminate the target. Several mines exploded on land, including one near Luqa where a serious fire broke out. Several sticks of bombs were dropped on the south and south west perimeters of Luqa aerodrome, severing telephone communications.  One stick of bombs landed near the entrance to a dugout of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment; there are no reported casualties.

In Zurrieq, six bombs damaged 17 houses and injured one woman; bombs also fell near the HQ of 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment.  18 bombs were dropped on the village of Zebbug and many more on the outskirts. 4 houses and a store were demolished and 106 houses damaged, many seriously; six civilians were killed.  The mine dropped near Tad-Dawl Chapel and failed to explode.

Buildings including a hangar and messes were damaged at Ta Qali; 13 unexploded bombs were reported across the aerodrome. Three Hurricanes were damaged and will be out of action for a week. 

During the raid troops across the Island were placed on full alert for a possible enemy parachute landing. The Island went into shut-down as road blocks were put in place.  The alarm was triggered by a report of parachutists who had baled out of an enemy aircraft shot down during the raid earlier this evening.  Once it was confirmed there were no more parachutists at large the precautions were relaxed but barriers remained closed as a precaution. 

A total of eight civilians were killed and 15 seriously wounded. 34 unexploded bombs were reported to Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal.  Only two JU 88 bombers were shot down in the raids, one by Bofors fire.  The second was hit by Ack Ack fire before being destroyed by Hurricane fighters.

HEAVY ACK ACK BRIGADE FOR MALTA DELAYED

The War Office has written to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief today warning that there will be a delay in the arrival of the much needed additional anti-aircraft units. Shipping will not be available to transport 68 Heavy AA Regiment to join the next planned convoy WS 7 for onward travel to Malta.  However, the telegram confirms that 199 Heavy AA Battery is expected to arrive in the Middle East on WS 7 and will be transported to Malta as soon as possible.  The date of embarkation will be notified later.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 APRIL TO DAWN 30 APRIL 1941

Weather   Fine.    

0744-0815 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1051-1115 hrs Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which approaches the Island and carries out reconnaissance. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1835-1920 hrs  Air raid alert for six JU 88s escorted by ten ME 109s which approach the Island and carry out a high level bombing attack on Grand Harbour, dropping 24 high explosive bombs of 250kg and 60 of 50kg. One private of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment is wounded.  One JU 88 is hit by anti-aircraft fire using height control and then attacked by Hurricanes; it crashes just above the Naval Ranges at Ghain Tuffieha.  The crew of four bale out: one lands on Pembroke Ranges and is captured by 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers, the other three in the sea nearby and are rescued and taken prisoner.  One ME 109 is also believed shot down by a Hurricane.  One Hurricane is damaged on landing.

2050 hrs  Air raid alert for 70 JU 88 and HE 111 bombers which cross the coast in two waves and launch a heavy raid for four hours, dropping some 700 high explosive bombs and mines on the Grand Harbour area as well as the Luqa and Ta Qali areas and several villages. Parachute mines are dropped on Grand Harbour, off the harbour entrance and in Sliema Creek. 

Searchlights are effective, illuminating raiders 13 times for 2 minutes each. Heavy Ack Ack fire 34 predicted barrages, some of which succeed in turning the enemy off course; one JU 88 is shot down by Bofors fire.  Some mines are exploded by Bofors guns. 

2232 hrs  Infantry Brigades issue an alert to all troops: “Take parachutist precautions.”

2332 hrs  All defensive barriers are closed and road blocks manned.

2340 hrs Parachutists are confirmed as eight in number and identified as having baled out from aircraft engaged in an earlier air raid. Anti-parachutist precautions are relaxed but the barriers remain closed.  

0030 hrs  All clear.

0112-0130 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but does not cross the coast.

0144-0314 hrs  Air raid alert for 17 Heinkel HE 111 bombers which approach from the north and drop mines and bombs on Grand Harbour and Valletta, as well as Ta Qali, Zebbug, Qrendi, Mosta and Balzan. 144 high explosive bombs are dropped and mines laid.  Heavy Ack Ack fire nine predicted barrages; no claims.

0313 hrs  All clear.

Military casualties  Leading Aircraftsman Herbert Cecil Hermon, Royal Air Force; Sergeant Ralph Norman Tapper, Royal Air Force; Lance-Corporal Alexander Booker Watton, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers; Gunner Joseph Zarb, 3 Battery, 1 Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Senglea  Carmel Degiorgio, age 34. Valletta  Brother Bonaventura Attard, age 21; Brother Hilarion Borg, age 22; Nazzareno Cachia, age 38; Connie Grech, age 45; Philip Grech, age 23; Brother Marcellino Pisani, age 22.  Zebbug  Rochani Tikamadas, age 48. 

Enemy casualties  Weldwebel Rudolf Lenzner, pilot; Unteroffizier Paul Kietzmann, air gunner, Weldwebel Wilhelm Heller, Observer; Helmut Hartlich, Wireless operator; crew of JU 88 bomber 5th Staffel, 2nd Gruppo, shot down and taken prisoner.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 29 APRIL 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.    

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Training exercise held in spite of a very disturbed night due to heavy air raids and a false alarm of parachutists.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland (RAAF) arrived from Gibraltar with passengers and freight.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A and D Companies on the range firing MMG. During night air raids Bn HQ guard room was hit by a bomb and destroyed, along with the recreation room.  Much kit and stores destroyed.  The Bn fire engine turned out and gave useful assistance.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 34; dealt with 0.

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY  Classification of Signallers 4th Bn The Buffs (passed 4, failed 0).

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Workshops personnel returned to Gzira from Gozo.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  1700 hrs Fusilier H E Hawkins was buried at St Andrew’s Cemetery.

 

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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in 1941, April 1941

 

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28 April 1941: Six Destroyers Join Malta Strike Fleet

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OPERATION SALIENT REINFORCES NAVY OPS AGAINST AXIS CONVOYS

HMS Kelly

HMS Kelly

Six destroyers arrived in Malta today to operate as a striking force against Axis supply lines to North Africa. The First Sea Lord reported to the War Cabinet in London today that Operation Salient has now been successfully carried out.  The destroyers Kelly, Kashmir, Kelvin, Kipling, Jersey, and Jackal left Gibraltar yesterday as Force S, making a decoy turn towards the Atlantic before doubling back eastwards and through the Mediterranean for Malta.  The light cruiser HMS Gloucester is also remaining at Malta with the strike force.

Breconshire sailed from Malta today after a rapid unloading of her cargo of supplies. The fast transport ship is escorted on her return to Alexandria by the cruiser Dido, minelayer Abdiel and destroyers Imperial, Jaguar, Jervis and Juno. Imperial has just completed repairs after being damaged by a mine last October.  Destroyer Janus is remaining at Malta for repairs.

DOCKYARD DEFENCE BATTERY DISBANDED

The Dockyard Defence Battery is to be disbanded after 1 year and 283 days of service. Members have been given the option of joining as regular soldiers the Royal Malta Artillery which has now assumed responsibility for the guns.  Three members of the Battery were recommended awards in January for their bravery under fire during the attacks on HMS Illustrious.  Lt F W Angle was awarded the Military Cross, Sgt L Apap and Bombardier G Balzan were each awarded the Military Medal.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 APRIL TO DAWN 29 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.  

0906 hrs  Six destroyers and two cruisers enter Grand Harbour.

0920-0935 hrs Air raid alert for one JU 88 which crosses the coast at Marsaxlokk at 20000 feet on reconnaissance before turning away over Spinola Bay. Three escorting ME 109 fighters are engaged by Hurricanes; one is probably destroyed.

1105-1205 hrs  Air raid alert for a JU 88 with an escort of three ME 109s which carries out reconnaissance at 20000 feet over the Island.

2050-2200 Air raid alert for approximately 30 enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly, and in twos and threes. They drop mines and bombs on the Dockyard, Grand Harbour and Valletta areas causing damage to Dockyard buildings and civilian property.  Bombs fall near a defence post manned by 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers, killing one Fusilier and seriously wounding a NCO.  Mines are also laid off Grand Harbour and Tigne.  Bombs are also dropped on the Naxxar area and Ta Qali.  Searchlights illuminate five times and anti-aircraft guns fire predicted barrages between 6000 and 12000 feet; one enemy aircraft is probably destroyed.

0107-0235 hrs  Air raid alert for eight JU 88 bombers escorted by 17 ME 109s which approach the Island from the north and drop mines off Grand Harbour and bombs on the Dockyard, Valletta, Floriana and Senglea, as well as St Julians.  Government property in Valletta is badly damaged.  Anti-aircraft guns fire 14 barrages.  One JU 88 is shot down by anti-aircraft guns; the crew are seen baling out.  One ME 109 is severely damaged.  13 unexploded bombs are reported in the Rinella area.

Military casualties  Fusilier Harry Edward Hawkins, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Civilian casualties Marsa  Joseph Dimech, age 11.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 28 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY Operation Salient was successfully carried out. Dido and Abdiel arrived and sailed after unloading certain important stores.  Destroyers of 14th Destroyer Flotilla with Imperial (which had completed repairs after being mined in October 1940) sailed with Breconshire for Alexandria.  Captain (D), 5th Destroyer Flotilla, arrived and remained with six destroyers of his flotilla and Gloucester, as the Malta Force. Janus remained for docking and repairs. 

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Wellington. Departures 2 Wellington. 69 Squadron Maryland patrol eastern Tunisian coast AM and PM.  Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli was chased out to sea by a fighter; no damage. 148 Squadron Transferred to Middle East; departed for Kabrit. 82 Squadron Arrived Malta.  Two Wellingtons from Gibraltar arrived AM and departed later for Middle East. 

HAL FAR  New draft of 25 RAF personnel arrived.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A Company spent the day on the range on shooting MMG practices.   With the limited amount of ammunition available, ranging and traversing practices were fired.  1700 hrs  Personnel from ‘Picnic’, all from B Company, returned from Gozo and went to new billets in the docks.  At 0115 hrs bombs fell on the billets; all personnel were in shelter and there were no casualties but kit and equipment were damaged.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Acting Lieutenant Colonel G R McMeekan, RE (CO of Fortress Royal Engineers) to be temporary Lieutenant Colonel.  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 1 (50kg).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  2 platoons of B Company and one section of 4 Platoon returned from Gozo.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Bombs fall near defence post R15 killing Fusilier H E Hawkins and seriously wounding L/Cpl A Watton, both of HQ Company.

 

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Posted by on April 28, 2016 in 1941, April 1941

 

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27 April 1941: Hurricanes Arrive for New Fighter Squadron

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BAD WEATHER DELAYS PUT DELIVERY FLIGHT AT RISK

The largest delivery of fighters for Malta to date arrived on the Island today under the Royal Navy co-ordinated Operation Dunlop. This second delivery of Hurricanes in a month brought greater numbers than the first.  It provides an important boost to the Island’s fighter force, which has been struggling to cope since the introduction of Messerschmitt 109 fighters to Sicily in February.  Six of the new Malta machines are the faster Mark II Hurricanes; 17 are Mk I.

The delivery operation began at 2200 hrs on Friday when ‘Force S’ (Operation Salient) including six destroyers with light cruiser Dido and the minelayer Abdiel sailed from Gibraltar and turned west as if to head for the Atlantic.  An hour later the Force H convoy left Gibraltar to head eastwards, with the Hurricanes aboard Ark Royal escorted by the flagship Renown, with HMS Sheffield and five destroyers.  Force S then turned east to head for Malta where the six destroyers are to join the strike fleet.

Meanwhile ‘Force H’ with Ark Royal progressed safely through the Mediterranean yesterday, reaching the designated point from where the Hurricanes were to fly off for Malta.  However, bad weather prevented take-off, resulting in a tense night waiting in potentially hostile waters.

Finally the first formation of eight Hurricanes was cleared to take off at 0515 hrs this morning.  Two further formations followed; all three were guided towards Malta by a Fulmar of the Fleet Air Arm.  They were met by one Sunderland and two Marylands to bring them within sight of Malta.

As the formations approached, a German JU 88 bomber flew over the Island on reconnaissance with an escort of five Messerschmitt fighters. 20 minutes later 12 more Messerschmitts appeared, circling off the coast as the delivery Hurricanes were heading towards the Island.  P/O L G M Rees managed to land his Sunderland at Kalafrana but before it could be secured two of the ME 109s dived down and strafed it with machine-gunfire, setting the flying boat on fire and causing it to sink.  The High Speed Launch from Kalafrana was also attacked but escaped undamaged.   

Despite the attacks all of the Hurricanes landed safely; by 1045 hrs the last of them was on the ground.

NEW FIGHTER SQUADRON FOR MALTA

The new Hurricanes will make it possible to form a second fighter squadron in Malta. The new unit, designated 185 will work alongside 261 Squadron which has been hard pressed to deal with the level of enemy activity over Malta since January.  185 Squadron will operate from Hal Far. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 APRIL TO DAWN 28 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

0917-0940 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which crosses the Island on reconnaissance. Anti-aircraft fire a barrage at 19000 feet; others engage at height control.  Hurricanes are scrambled and engage three ME 109s; one is probably shot down.

0945 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 which crosses the Island from south to north on reconnaissance with an escort of five ME 109s. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage the bomber; no claims.  The MEs evade attack by heading south of Delimara.  12 more ME 109s then approach the Island in two formations.  

1007 hrs The 12 Messerschmitts circle off the east coast for an hour, then Gudja and Bubaqra raise the alarm as they head back in towards the coast. Two dive down over Kalafrana and machine-gun a Sunderland which had landed only 20 minutes before in Marsaxlokk Bay, destroying the flying boat.  Orders are later issued that every available Heavy and Light anti-aircraft gun and light machine-gun to be standing to whenever a Sunderland is moored in Marsaxlokk Bay.  Reports that mail was lost aboard the Sunderland prove unfounded.  

1120 hrs  All clear.

1245-1314 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 on reconnaissance. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage at heights between 15000 and 30000 feet; no claims.

Civilian casualties  Valletta  Antonia Caruana, age 35.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 27 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Operation Dunlop bringing additional aircraft from Force H to Malta was successfully carried out. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 23 Hurricanes, 3 Fulmar, 2 Maryland, 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.  Maryland reconnaissance western Ionian sea.  

HAL FAR  15 Hurricanes and 2 Fulmars arrived; all landed safely.

KALAFRANA One Sunderland left for Middle East with a number of 228 Squadron personnel. One Sunderland attacked at moorings by ME109s set on fire and sunk.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Two storemen returned from Ordnance Dump, Gozo.  

 

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Posted by on April 27, 2016 in 1941, April 1941

 

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26 April 1941: Bombers Sent to Malta to Protect Convoys

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Bristol Blenheim

Bristol Blenheim

BLENHEIM SQUADRON TO WORK WITH ROYAL NAVY SHIPS

RAF Blenheim bombers are to be deployed to Malta to support Royal Navy operations in the Mediterranean, including the protection of convoys transporting essential supplies and personnel to the Island. The Blenheims will be supported by detachments of six Beaufighters at a time, fitted with special equipment to communicate with ships. 

Air chiefs of staff in London wanted to send the heavier Beauforts to the Island but conditions currently make it impossible to base them in Malta. A detachment of six Blenheims is expected, with a further six possibly to come. 

SPEED LIMITS VITAL FOR FUEL ECONOMY

The attention of service personnel has been drawn to the persistent disregard of the regulations governing the speed of motor transport. This violation of regulations not only renders offenders liable to disciplinary action but is an extravagant use of petrol, as the authorised speeds are the most economical.  The speed limits for all military mechanised transport in Valletta and in all towns and villages are 25 mph for motor cars and 15 mph for all other vehicles. Vehicles found exceeding this speed will be stopped and reported to Command Headquarters.  In the event of it being proved that the vehicle exceeded the approved speed, the driver (if a soldier) will forfeit his leave for two months.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 APRIL TO DAWN 27 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

0929-0940 hrs  Air raid alert for a JU 88 escorted by eight ME 109 fighters. The JU 88 carries out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour at 25000 feet while the fighters stay at higher altitude.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; two are engaged by four ME 109s at 29000 feet but sustain no damage.

1530-1604 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which carries out reconnaissance, escorted by six ME 109s. The bomber crosses the coast and is engaged by heavy anti-aircraft guns; no claims.

Military casualties Sergeant Jack Foster, 12 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery; Lt Commander John Guy Douglas Wetherfield, HMS Fermoy.

Civilian casualties  Msida  Anthony Sammut, age 33.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 26 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Regent returned from the visit to Kotor which she found in Italian hands. After being in harbour nine hours the submarine was dive-bombed, suffering severe damage to her battery.  She sailed hurriedly, leaving one officer behind and bringing an Italian Army officer as hostage.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron Maryland patrol northern part of eastern Tunisian coast. Patrol of southern part not possible; Maryland unserviceable. 

HAL FAR  A second ambulance arrived from Kalafrana for duties at Safi.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Morning ‘stand to’ is at 0500 hrs from today.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 4 ( 4 x 50kg).

 

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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in 1941, April 1941

 

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