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27 July 1941: Eight Ships Destroyed in Attack on Malta Says Italian Radio

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ITALY COMPARES YESTERDAY’S MISSION TO ‘THE GREATEST NAVAL BATTLE’

Radio BItalian radio has declared yesterday’s mission to attack Malta’s harbours as a resounding success, comparable to the greatest naval battle.  The Italian version of yesterday’s attack was reported in a special communique over  the country’s national radio this evening:

“The epic exploits passed into tradition have been taken up again by the daring feat mentioned in today’s ordinary communique. This exploit finds no precedent in any naval history because of the difficulties it presented and the results obtained.  During the night of 26 March, our MA [boats] had penetrated into Suda Bay and succeeded in sinking the cruiser York and two large ships.  The success achieved on that occasion gave reasons to believe that the penetration of the Malta base was possible, notwithstanding the formidable defence and the intense vigilance; so that the exploit had been carefully prepared and studied beforehand and was put into execution on the night of 25-26 July. 

Favoured by darkness, some light [naval] units approached the harbour entrance and then launched the assault against the enemy fortress. While they were doing so a searchlight illuminated one of the units and then the others were discovered.  A hundred [weapons] opened a rapid fire on them but this could not arrest the dash of our seamen and, a few minutes after, our light units which had succeeded in getting clear of the fire let go their torpedoes inside the Malta harbour – eight explosions with high flames ensued. 

It is not possible to say what damage was inflicted on the British Navy but knowing how our seamen delivered the attack one must rest assured that at least eight more British units have been rendered unseaworthy. With this exploit which may be compared with the greatest naval battle was concluded a three-day epic, opened on 23 July by the action of one of our submarines and so successfully carried out by our aviation and MAs. 

Our aviation proceeded during yesterday to hunt enemy shipping both on the high seas as well as at Malta where some damaged ship might have sought refuge. During the previous night our aircraft carried out an offensive action against the Grand Harbour zone and the dockyard of Valletta.  The enemy made use of many searchlights and night fighters and two of our bombers had undecisive engagements with enemy aircraft. 

Yesterday planes of our offensive reconnaissance flight with fighter escorts flew over Malta and during their return trip were engaged by three enemy machines on the Sicilian Channel but these were driven away by our fighters. Over Malta one of our formations was engaged by 30 British fighters most of which were Spitfires – a fierce encounter ensued in the course of which several Spitfires were shot down while three of our aircraft failed to return.  Our fighter formations were under the command of Carlo Romagneli and Francesco Beccharia.”

No Allied vessels were destroyed or damaged in the raid.   One of the Italian attack boats damaged the St Elmo breakwater but in doing so blocked access to Grand Harbour for the others, all of which were either destroyed or captured.

MALTA HAS NEW INFANTRY BRIGADE

A new infantry brigade was inaugurated at noon today, following the arrival of troop reinforcements on the convoy of 24 July. The Central Infantry Brigade consists of the newly-arrived 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, plus 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment and 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment.  Royal Artillery formations are still to be decided.  The Brigade Commanding Officer will be Brigadier I de la Bere.  The arrival of the convoy reinforcements brings the total of Malta Garrison serving personnel to over 25000.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 JULY TO DAWN 28 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and humid.

AM  Two SM 79 bombers were intercepted 50 miles off Malta by Hurricanes of 185 Squadron. Both enemy aircraft were shot down into the sea.

2230-2314 hrs  Air raid alert for a single Italian BR 20 bomber which crosses the Island from St Paul’s Bay to Mtarfa, turns south and then north, crossing the Island again over the same course. Heavy anti-aircraft guns fire three barrages at 18000 feet; no claims.  No Hurricanes are scrambled.

2334-0021 hrs Air raid alert for two BR 20 bombers which approach the Island a mile apart. The first drops bombs in the sea north of St Paul’s Bay; the second drops 250kg high explosive bombs on St Julian’s which puts a searchlight out of action wounding three men, two seriously.  250kg bombs are also dropped on Tal Qroqq.  No Hurricanes are scrambled.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 27 JULY 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 7 Blenheim, 1 Sunderland, 5 Wellington. Departures 2 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Marylands special patrol Ionian Sea and search patrol.  The Commander in Chief Middle East, General Auchinleck, and the Air Commander in Chief Air Chief Marshal Tedder with their staffs arrived today en route for the UK.  They are expected to leave tomorrow.

HAL FAR  AOCinC Air Marshal A W Tedder, CB, and AOC Mediterranean visited the station.

TA QALI  AOCinC Air Marshal A W Tedder, CB visited the Station.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  Brigade begins operations at noon.

 

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Posted by on July 27, 2016 in 1941, July 1941, Uncategorized

 

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26 July 1941: Italian Torpedo Boats Attack Malta Harbours

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Italian plan of attack

Italian plan of attack

RAIDING BOATS WIPED OUT IN MINUTES BY HARBOUR GUNNERS

A flotilla of Italian boats launched a daring attack at dawn this morning on Malta’s main harbours. It is believed the attack was aimed at the convoy ships in Grand Harbour and the submarine base at Manoel Island. But within a matter of minutes all the enemy vessels had been destroyed or disabled by Harbour defences. 

The Harbour gunners had been at their posts since before midnight last night, when enemy shipping was detected off the north coast of the Island. In anticipation of a naval bombardment, all coastal defence posts were ordered to ‘stand to’ and Swordfish aircraft were sent out to attack but the vessels were reported to have turned away.  However, the incident placed the Harbour Fire Command on high alert; gunners were not sent to barracks but ordered to sleep at their gun positions.

Just before dawn this morning the air raid alert sounded for a small group of enemy fighters approaching the Island. No attack was made but as All Clear siren died down, the sound of motor boat engines was heard off Grand Harbour. 

A minute later came the first intimation of the attack on the Harbour, with a heavy explosion under the St Elmo Viaduct. The order was given for all searchlights to be switched on and the sea outside Grand Harbour was lit up across a wide area, exposing the flotilla of enemy E-boats close to the shore. The gunners at St Elmo and Ricasoli and along the coastline opened fire.  The first enemy boat was blown up within 10 seconds, followed at short intervals by several others. 

Already woken by the air raid alert, many civilians watched: “the resulting fireworks display, as [the tracer bullets] ricocheted off the surface of the sea and formed interweaving patterns of dark red, green and light red, was a sight witnessed by the crowds, which surprisingly enough for the hour of the morning had gathered along Valletta bastions and Sliema front…” (1)

As it became lighter more E-boats were sighted and engaged with great success by the twin 6 pounders of the Harbour Fire Command, the Bofors positions at Dragut Point, Fort St Elmo and Ricasoli, and also from a coastal defence post.

Corporal L G Ferris of 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment was manning a gun at the defence post: 

Italian MTB

Italian MTB

I heard loud explosions in the mouth of the Grand Harbour. I went outside and saw two Motor Torpedo Boats.  I watched them for approximately ten minutes and decided that they were hostile craft, and so I engaged them with a Vickers Machine Gun… We continued to fire until both boats were sunk and all firing ceased at approximately 0530 hrs.  Daylight showed the wreckage of two boats with survivors clinging to them, and these survivors were picked up by a naval boat…” 

At about 0550 hrs we saw three other craft on the horizon and this was reported to Company Headquarters.”

Meanwhile the RAF reported enemy aircraft approaching the Island. Hurricanes fighters were sent to intercept and engaged the raiders.  While most concentrated on the Macchi fighters, two Hurricanes dived on enemy motor boats and opened fire, damaging at least two.

P/O Winton was surprised by a Macchi fighter: “and received such damage to his machine that his fan stopped. Using his speed to gain height, he was able to reach 700 feet and then baled out, both his parachute and dinghy doing all the things that a kind-hearted MO likes them to do… then he spotted a stationary torpedo boat.  He paddled the dinghy with his hands and, finding progress slow, towed it and swam towards the boat.  By climbing up the side he was able to peer into it and was confronted by eight very much dead Italians.

Taking possession of the boat was thus quite easy and as he couldn’t start it he waited, flying the flag at half-mast, since he didn’t know which side would rescue him. An Army rescue boat did a circuit round him – almost six hours after he had baled out on an empty stomach – and thinking he was an Italian, also that there was a machine-gun on the boat, left him to cool his heels for a time.  Before they could return a Swordfish with floats dropped in to pay him a visit and gave him a lift home…” (2)

The attacking force is believed to have consisted of one fast tender vessel carrying the strike flotilla, one two-man and nine one-man motor torpedo boats, one motor boat carrying two two-man submarines and two large rescue boats. The rescue boats and carrier apparently escorted the MTBs and submarines to within a couple of miles of Grand Harbour before turning out to sea.  Six MTBs, one two-man motor torpedo boat and a large motor boat were destroyed by coastal defences, three MTBs and two rescue launches were destroyed by the RAF. 

One two-man submarine exploded on attacking the St Elmo breakwater; the second, probably intended for an attack on Marsamxetto Harbour, ran aground and was abandoned by its crew. The outer span of the breakwater was brought down, effectively blocking access to Grand Harbour for the following attack vessels.  No other damage was caused.

Malta rescue boats and aircraft searched throughout the day for survivors. The enemy also carried out air searches and an Italian hospital ship remained 12 miles offshore for most of the day; the RAF did not mount any attacks.  In all, 15 dead bodies were recovered; 18 Italians were rescued alive and taken prisoner.  One MTB was recovered and brought in to Grand Harbour.  A one-man MTB was also recovered intact, and it is hoped to salvage other craft.  

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 JULY TO DAWN 27 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

0415 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft approaching the Island. They turn away without dropping any bombs.

0445 hrs  Five motor torpedo boats (MTB) are reported off Grand Harbour.

0446 hrs  A large explosion is heard from the direction of Grand Harbour.

0450 hrs  MTBs, one-man motor boats and two-man submarines are reported off Grand Harbour. The St Elmo alarm sounds again and sentries take up positions on all beach posts.

0500 hrs  The vessels are engaged by the twin six-pounders of the Harbour Fire Command at a range between 3000 and 500 yards. Bofors gun positions at Dragut Point, Fort St Elmo and Ricasoli also engage. Defence posts of 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment engage the boats with machine-gunfire.

Hurricane fighters join in the attack on the Italian MTBs.

Two MTBs are sunk and two disabled, along with the entire force of one-man speed boats and two-man submarines. One Bofors claims six hits on a MTB.  1st Bn Cheshire Regiment reports hitting one MTB with machine-gunfire at 1450 yards; the vessel then explodes.  

Eight two-man submarines attempt to break through the boom defences of Marsamxetto and Grand Harbour. Seven are either sunk or destroyed before reaching their target; one reaches the viaduct of Elmo breakwater and explodes, blowing it up.  Gas and water mains are broken by the impact; supplies are shut off by Royal Engineers personnel. 

0525 hrs  Air raid alert for a large formation of enemy aircraft approaching the Island 15 Hurricanes fighters are scrambled.  Nine of the Hurricanes sight two enemy rescue boats 15 miles from Malta on a north-easterly course.  Two fighters dive towards the boats and open fire from 500 yards, five of the remaining Hurricanes follow in to attack while one remains on lookout.  One of the boats is halted and appears to be sinking, the other is pursued for five miles before bursting into flames. Hurricanes also attack MTBs off the coast of Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto.

A Macchi fighter approaches and attacks one of the Hurricanes. Another Hurricane launches a counter-attack on the Macchi and shoots it down into the sea.  Hurricanes engage 15 Macchi fighters apparently on their way back to Sicily; two Macchis are shot down.

One Hurricane is shot down in the engagement and P/O Winston is reported missing. Another pilot reports having seen him in the sea 25-30 miles north east of Grand Harbour. 

0622 hrs  Raiders passed signal is sounded. Heavy machine-gun fire is heard out to sea.

St Elmo Viaduct has been damaged but the Harbour defences have not been penetrated. Reports claim a mixture of ten vessels including MTBs and one-man submarines sunk by shore gun batteries and Hurricane fighters; numbers are difficult to confirm due to the half-light.  However, excellent work by the twin six-pounders of the Harbour Fire Command undoubtedly accounted for the majority of the craft destroyed.

DAY  Swordfish aircraft and rescue boats from Kalafrana carry out patrols to search for survivors, totalling five and a half hours. P/O Winston is picked up unhurt.  Eighteen Italians are rescued alive and taken prisoner.  One disabled MTB is brought into Grand Harbour.  A one-man speed boat is also recovered intact and it is hoped to salvage other craft. 

The enemy also carry out searches for the missing MTBs, small submarines and Macchi pilots throughout the day. Hurricanes make no further contact with enemy aircraft. 

2152-2218 hrs; 2231-2348 hrs  Air raid alerts for six Italian BR 20 bombers which approach the Island singly. Although there is little moon, the raiders manage more hits on the Island than usual.  Bombs are dropped on fields between Mosta and St Paul’s Bay, where they cause a fire among crops which acts as a beacon for a second raider to drop more bombs.  250kg high explosive bombs are also dropped between Naxxar and Mosta, on Zonqor Point and Maddalena, on Zabbar and near Marsascala, on fields behind Sliema, and in the sea.  Hurricanes 249 Squadron are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns fire one barrage; no claims. 

An enemy hospital ship searches through the night for survivors of this morning’s engagement.

Military casualties  Lance-Sergeant Artificer Frederick G Morris, 4th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Enemy casualties  Sergente Maggiore Ruggero Gallina, 76a Squadriglia, 7o Gruppo, 54o Stormo, Macchi 200 pilot shot down and died. 

Italian attack on Grand Harbour casualty list

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 26 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Dawn attack on Grand Harbour and Marsamxett by enemy E and smaller M boats.  Attack decisively defeated, believed a total of 15 boats sunk by harbour defences and RAF.  18 prisoners collected.  St Elmo Viaduct torpedoed – our only casualty. Cachalot sailed for Alexandria with stores and personnel.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Sunderland. Departures 1 Blenheim. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily, Tripoli, Castel Benito and special patrols. 110 Squadron 3 Blenheims sent to attack ship reported by patrol but failed to locate it.

HAL FAR  Wing Commander R H Harris took over command of Station.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  A and C Companies now at Buschetto Gardens and D Company at Zebbug.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A machine-gun of a D Company defence post sank an Italian small vessel.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1. 0500 hrs Stand to for action on Harbour defences and action on damage to breakwater. 0530hrs Stand down. First action other than air attacks in this war in which men of FRE unit have taken part.  Results highly successful.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  A private was killed when handling an unexploded 25 pound shell which he had collected as a souvenir. Three Other Ranks were injured in the explosion.

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

(2) Air Battle for Malta, HMSO

 

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

 

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25 July 1941: Enemy Warships Heading For Grand Harbour

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ENEMY SHIPS AND E BOATS OFF GOZO AND MALTA

Malta’s defences moved to high alert last night as an enemy cruiser and destroyers were spotted heading towards Grand Harbour from the north east. The first response was to expect a coastal bombardment from the enemy warships.  As soon as they came within 15 miles, the air raid alert was sounded across Malta.

Minutes later a Royal Navy signal station on Gozo reported a flotilla of light craft, possibly E boats, off the coast off the Island’s coast. 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment were immediately ordered to ‘stand to’ ready to implement the Gozo Defence Scheme and repel an enemy landing.  The Scheme was developed as soon as the threat was identified of a possible enemy invasion of Malta via her sister Island (maltagc70, 5 July 1941).  Companies of troops are posted ready to counter enemy seaborne landings at Marsalforn, Mgarr and Cala Dueira.  

Five Swordfish of 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm were scrambled to intercept the enemy ships but just out of range of the coast defence guns, the ships turned away and headed northwards. 

Scene of Macchi fighter crash in Valletta

Scene of Macchi fighter crash in Valletta

ITALIAN FIGHTER CRASHES ON VALLETTA’S MAIN STREET

Shoppers in Malta’s capital city Valletta had a shock this morning when an Italian fighter aircraft crashed in the centre of Valletta. The Macchi 200 was one of three fighters and two bombers shot down during a reconnaissance mission.

Some 40 fighters were escorting two bombers sent to review the convoy in Grand Harbour when it was involved in a dog-fight with a Hurricane of 249 Squadron. The Macchi was badly damaged and began to lose height; the pilot baled out but too late for his parachute to open. The wife of Rev Nicholls of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral witness the fighter crash:

“It swooped screaming over the roof of the Palace over the Casino Maltese missing the top by feet, roared up Kingsway, and buried itself in Brizzi’s already ruined shop – the only blitzed building in that immediate neighbourhood. She was shopping, and finding planes overhead went into Collis and Williams chemist shop. The plane crashed five shops away, exactly 20 yards! Luckily it was not a bomber, and also there were about four walls between her and it.” (1)

As soon as the ‘Raiders Passed’ siren sounded, hundreds of Maltese emerged from shelter and rushed to the scene to celebrate the RAF victory.

TROOPS DISEMBARKED FROM ‘OPERATION SUBSTANCE’ CONVOY

  • Royal Navy 28
  • RAF 676
  • Royal Artillery 16
  • HQ 4 Heavy Ack Ack Regt 18
  • 5 Heavy Ack Ack Battery 230
  • 6 Heavy Ack Ack Battery 175
  • HQ 32 Light Ack Ack Regiment 12
  • 55 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 98 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 182 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 186 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 223 Light Ack Ack Battery 205
  • 24 Light Wireless Section 31
  • 64 Light Wireless Section 26
  • HQ Infantry Brigade 12
  • Royal Engineers 5
  • 173 Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers 230
  • 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment 5
  • Royal Army Medical Corps 55
  • Other 83

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 JULY TO DAWN 26 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

1059-1130 hrs  Air raid alert for one SM 79 and one BR 20 bomber escorted by 40 Macchi fighters approaching the Island for reconnaissance at 22000 feet. 22 Hurricane fighters of 185 and 249 Squadrons are scrambled and engage the raiders over Grand Harbour.  Hurricanes of 249 Squadron attack the BR 20 and it begins to emit smoke.  Pilots of 185 Squadron give chase and attack, setting the port engine on fire and further damaging the fuselage.  It is last seen on fire, breaking up and descending towards the sea 20 miles north east of Malta.  Four pilots of 185 Squadron attack the SM 79.  The undercarriage falls and one parachute is seen descending from the aircraft which crashes in to the sea in flames 20 miles east of the Island. 

A pilot of 249 Squadron shoots down a Macchi; the pilot bales out but his parachute fails to open properly and he is killed. He is later identified as Sottotenente Francesco Liberti.  The Macchi crashes into the cellar of a bomb-damaged shop in Strada Reale, Valletta.  Two more Macchi 200s are shot down over the sea.  A wounded Italian airman is picked up by the sea rescue services six miles north east of Grand Harbour and taken to hospital.  The body of another is found on land, his parachute only half open.  All Hurricanes return safely.   

2235 hrs  A cruiser and destroyers are reported approaching Grand Harbour at 30 knots. 

2250 hrs  Light craft of the E boat type are reported off Gozo by the Naval Signal Station on Jurdan.  1st Bn Hampshire Regiment ‘stand to’ ready to move in opposition of any attempted landing as detailed in the Gozo Defence Scheme.

2250 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for three enemy aircraft which drop bombs in the sea, cross the coast and drop bombs on Ta Silch and the Ta Qali area.

2259 hrs  One enemy cruiser and two destroyers together with E boats are reported 14 miles off shore. A warning is sounded on Malta; all beach posts are ordered to ‘stand to’ and depth posts to ‘keep watch’.  A strike force of five Swordfish is sent out to intercept the enemy ships but the vessels apparently turn north east again.  

2325 hrs  Motor torpedo boats are reported off Madalena.

0012 hrs  Swordfish aircraft attack enemy vessels which recede.

0013 hrs  Beach posts on Malta are ordered to ‘stand by’.

0015 hrs  1st Bn Hampshire Regiment on Gozo ordered to stand down.

0035 hrs  Beach posts on Malta are ordered to ‘stand down’.

0100 hrs  St Elmo alarm sounds for surface craft approaching Grand Harbour. As they are not within firing range, normal routine is ordered.

0358 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft which drop bombs along the coast near Bahar ic Cahaq . Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.

Enemy casualties Tenente Silvio De Giorgi, pilot of Macchi200 fighter shot down and crashed into the sea, but rescued by a RAF Launch; Sottotenente Francesco Liberti, 98a Squadriglia, 7o Gruppo, 54o Stormo, pilot of Macchi 200 fighter, shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 25 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  At 2300 an enemy ship was detected and approached to within 14 miles of Malta.

AIR HQ Arrivals 6 Swordfish. 69 Squadron Marylands special patrols.  Beaufighter searched area between Malta and Sicily for Motor Torpedo Boats but found none.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Beach posts ordered to ‘stand to’ just before midnight due to a report of enemy shipping near the Island.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Unit personnel witness a Macchi fighter crashing into an already-bombed house in Valletta. No 2 Works Coy & 173 Tunnelling Coy provide a guard over the crashed machine.  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 (1 x 15kg HE, 1 x 100kg HE) .

(1) Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History

 

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Posted by on July 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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24 July 1941: Malta Convoy Enters Grand Harbour to Loud Cheers

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CONVOY GETS THROUGH DESPITE DETERMINED ENEMY ATTACKS

MV Sydney Star (1)

MV Sydney Star (1)

Civilians and servicemen lined the bastions of Grand Harbour this afternoon to welcome the ships of Malta’s largest supply convoy of the war to date. Melbourne Star, Sydney Star, City of Pretoria, Deucalion, Durham and Port Chalmers arrived with their escorting warships after an eventful night in the Mediterranean.

Having survived an air attack which sank one destroyer of their escort and damaged a second, the convoy ships progressed undisturbed until they were 150 miles from Malta. In the early hours of this morning monitors detected the sound of engines: the convoy had run into an eight-strong Italian E-boat patrol.  The convoy ships attacked the E-boats which immediately took evasive action.  In the confusion that followed, three E-boats were damaged but several convoy ships were also hit by friendly fire. Sydney Star was hit by a torpedo and was soon listing badly.

As the merchant ship slowed, the Master gave the order to abandon ship and 484 troops of 32nd Light Ack Ack Regiment went to the lifeboats. While the destroyer Nestor stood by to pick up survivors, the Sydney Star’s Master, Captain Horn, decided to stay on board with a skeleton crew to nurse the stricken ship slowly towards Malta. 

At daybreak she was spotted by two Italian SM 79 bombers which approached and circled the merchantman and Nestor.  With no trained gunners on board, Captain Horn asked for volunteers to man the Bofors guns.  Their erratic fire and the evasive action of both vessels was enough to deter the attackers who turned away. 

An hour later another air attack was driven off by fire from the destroyer Nestor.  However, the alert had been raised; fighters from Malta were scrambled to defend the ships and the battle cruiser Hermione also arrived to assist.  But by then the Regia Aeronautica was ready for a co-ordinated attack: five SM 79s and three dive bombers launched a determined attack. Hermione and Nestor’s guns put up an effective barrage while two Beaufighters from Malta attacked the dive-bombers.

By 10.00am Sydney Star was within sight of Malta when a formation of SM 79 torpedo bombers swooped down on the Navy ships while another formation bombed the merchantman.  They were followed by a third formation, of JU 87 Stuka dive-bombers.  While Beaufighters again counter-attacked and her crew fired round after round at the attackers, torpedo and bomb near-misses and shrapnel caused more damage to Sydney Star.  Captain Horn had to get into Malta quickly but his ship might capsize in the attempt.  He took a calculated risk and two hours later they were entering Grand Harbour.  He later received a message:  “The Royal Navy offer you their congratulations on a very fine piece of seamanship.” (2)

ITALIAN AIR COMMANDER KILLED IN ATTACK ON CONVOY

During the attacks on the convoy, 12 enemy aircraft were destroyed, two more were probably destroyed and two were damaged. Malta losses were six aircraft, of which four crews were rescued. 

According to military intelligence, one of the pilots shot down by Hurricanes today was Italian Air General Fedrighi. He was flying in one of six JU 87 Stuka dive-bombers which attacked the convoy just after ten this morning.  His aircraft was chased towards Sicily and shot down by Beaufighters patrolling over the convoy.  General Fedrighi was in command of the Italian Mediterranean airfields.

Among the Axis vessels which attacked the convoy, one enemy E-boat was sunk and another probably damaged, and a U-boat whose torpedoes narrowly missed Renown was attacked and possibly sunk by the destroyer Nestor.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 JULY TO DAWN 25 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

1015 hrs  Six JU 87 Stuka bombers attack a British convoy approaching Malta. Beaufighters are on patrol over the convoy; one chases the raiders half way to Sicily and shoots down one JU 87 in flames and another which crashes into the sea.

1400 hrs  A convoy enters Grand Harbour.

1739-1754 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft heading towards Malta; they turn back before reaching the Island.

2154-2230 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly. The first heads towards Gozo and circles south west of the Island before dropping bombs in the sea west of Mellieha.  The second crosses the coast near St Julians and drops bombs near Luqa.  The third crosses over St Paul’s Bay and recedes south east of Ghain Tuffieha, passes to the south of Filfla, turns and crosses the coast again and drops bombs near Nigret.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled.  Searchlights illuminate one raider but the Hurricanes are unable to close in time.

0015-0050 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft approaching the coast. Searchlights illuminate the raider and a Hurricane engages the raider, firing short machine-gun bursts; no results are seen.  The raider drops bombs in the sea and turns away. 

Military casualties  Fusilier John Millar, 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 24 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Operation Substance arrived safely, less Leinster, who had run ashore at Gibraltar.  Sydney Star torpedoed, but arrived safely, drawing 40 feet forward.  Farndale remained behind with condenser trouble.  Captain Wright, Royal Navy, sailed for United Kingdom.  830 Squadron maintained continuous anti-submarine patrol over Operation Substance from daylight.  1 of 4 Swordfish on anti-submarine patrol force landed in the sea due to engine failure and was lost; the crew were rescued.  HM Submarine Upright attacked a floating dock which was proceeding in tow around Cape Spartivent to the westward.

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Wellington. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance Taranto, Trapani, Palermo, Messina.  2 Fulmars patrolling Pantelleria to Sicily covering the convoy.  6 Marylands patrol Marittimo Island to Cape Carbonara from dawn to 1630 hrs covering convoy.  9 Beaufighters escorting British convoy from the west to Malta.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Central Infantry Brigade formed out of 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment, 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment and 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  30 Maltese recruits posted to Battalion for training.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion provided reception duties for HQ and 2 Companies of 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers.  They were moved into their billets by 1700 hrs. 

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  60 other ranks arrived as reinforcements from UK.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  No 173 Tunnelling Coy (7 officers, 223 O.Rs) arrived and attached to Fortress Royal Engineers; billeted in Msida Bastion quarters.

11th Bn LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  5 officers, 160 other rans billeted at Gharghur Schools in the sector of 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY  62 other ranks disembarked ex UK.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  61 other ranks disembarked ex UK.

(1) www.bluestarline.org

(2)  Red Duster, White Ensign, Ian Cameron, Futura Publications 1975

 

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

 

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23 July 1941: Malta Convoy Ship Sunk by Bombers, Another Disabled

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HMS Fearless

HMS Fearless

ITALIAN BOMBERS STALK ‘OPERATION SUBSTANCE’

Enemy aircraft launched a fierce attack on Malta’s vital supply convoy today as it passed through the western Mediterranean. Italian SM 79 bombers were reported shadowing the convoy early this morning and Fulmars took off from Ark Royal to drive off the raiders.  While they were away from the convoy, a second group of SM 79 torpedo bombers dived down over the convoy from out of the sun and launched their torpedoes.  The cruiser Manchester was hit in the engine room; with three of her four engines disabled she was forced to turn back for Gibraltar.  The destroyer Fearless was badly hit and burst into flames; she then capsized and sank.

There were two further attacks this afternoon but neither caused any damage and the convoy proceeded as planned. With over 200 Italian bombers still operative in the Mediterranean, the decision was taken to steer the convoy through an unexpected route.  Instead of hugging the coast of North Africa, the ships turned north east towards Sicily, navigating the Italians’ own mine-free channel en route to Malta.

Helping Manchester's wounded (c) IWM A4890

Helping Manchester’s wounded

Beaufighters sent out on a defensive patrol over the convoy attacked and sank an E boat east of Pantelleria; they also damaged a SM 79 bomber. One Beaufighter failed to return from the mission.  The pilot has been named as Sgt W M Deakin of 272 Squadron.

Meanwhile, six supply ships sailed from Malta today in convoy MG 1A, also part of ‘Operation Substance’. The merchant ships Settler, Thermopylae, Amerika, Talabot, and Hoegh Hood, along with the supply ship Breconshire headed westwards through the Mediterranean, escorted by destroyer Encounter.  A seventh merchant ship, Svenor, had a collision on leaving harbour and had to return to dock.  They are expected to rendezvous with Force H of the Mediterranean Fleet, currently escorting a new supply convoy towards Malta, which will then cover the passage of MG 1A to Gibraltar.

HMS Fearless casualty list

HMS Manchester casualty list

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 JULY TO DAWN 24 JULY 1941

Weather  Sunny and hot.

No air raids.

Military casualties Pilot Officer Noel A C Cathles, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR), 110 Squadron; Sergeant William M Deakin, RAFVR, 272 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 23 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Convoy MG 1 escorted by Encounter and Gloxinia sailed at 0500.  SS Svenor fouled the boom and rammed the breakwater.  She returned to harbour and docked with damage to bow.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Maryland. Departures 1 Sunderland, 1 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Taranto, Palermo, Trapani, Messina and Catania.  6 Marylands closing patrol Marittimo Island to Carbonara from dawn to dusk. 110 Squadron 4 Blenheims attacked merchant shipping in Trapani Harbour hitting two ships and bombing a nearby aerodrome. Sgt Cathles’ aircraft was damaged as he approached the target and crashed into a hillside in Sicily; the crew are believed killed.  11 Beaufighters escorted a convoy from near Bizerta towards Malta; Sgt Deakin failed to return.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  News is received of a large convoy of warships and merchant transport arriving tomorrow with reinforcements, stores and petrol. The Bn has to provide 3 platoons for working parties to unload the petrol.  This will last at least one week.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 (1 x 100kg HE, 1 x 250kg HE).

 

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

 

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22 July 1941: Malta Convoy Attacked by Italian Submarine

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HMS Renown

HMS Renown

TORPEDOES AIMED AT ADMIRAL’S FLAGSHIP

The flagship of Force H Commander Vice Admiral Somerville, HMS Renown, narrowly escaped damage today when torpedoes were aimed at the battlecruiser by an Italian submarine. Renown was attacked in the western Mediterranean while leading the escort for the Malta convoy under ‘Operation Substance’. 

Measures had been taken to divert the attention of the Italian navy from the convoy. Since yesterday, ships of the Mediterranean Fleet operating out of Alexandria have been exchanging radio messages to suggest a major operation in the eastern Mediterranean.  However, the submarine Diaspro on patrol in the western sector spotted the convoy and launched her torpedoes which just missed Renown. 

The Malta convoy continued its progress eastwards without further disturbance today. Ten of the escorting Royal Navy ships were refueled successfully by RFA Brown Ranger which sailed yesterday from Gibraltar in advance of the main Malta convoy. Brown Ranger is now on her way back to port under the escort of the destroyer HMS Beverley.

RFA Brown Ranger

RFA Brown Ranger

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 JULY TO DAWN 23 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

1105-1130 hrs  A formation of enemy aircraft is reported of Cape Passero, heading south. Hurricane aircraft are scrambled but the formation turns away.  As the Hurricanes head back towards Malta, a second formation of 25 enemy aircraft is reported heading for Malta.  Another flight of Hurricanes is scrambled.  The raiders approach to within 15 miles of Grand Harbour, then turn back northwards.  The Hurricanes set off in pursuit bur are unable to catch the enemy.

2117-2342 hrs Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach from the north east individually, crossing the coast east of Salina Bay and Grand Harbour respectively. Bombs are dropped in the Marsa area.

Military casualties  Flight-Sergeant William H Sargent, pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 110 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 22 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish left to attack convoy of 1 tanker 7000 tons, 1 destroyer, and 1 small merchant vessel intercepted south west of Lampion.  They hit the tanker with 2 torpedoes and claimed sunk, one hit with a torpedo on the stern of the destroyer was also secured.  All aircraft returned.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Beaufighter. Departures 1 Sunderland, 4 Wellington 148 Squadron. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Taranto shot down a Cant seaplane on return.  Reconnaissance Naples, Messina, Palermo, Trapani; search patrol and night shadowing of convoy. 110 Squadron  4 Blenheim attacked a convoy and sank two ships; the Observer of one Blenheim was killed.  After inspecting the Command the Inspector General, Air Chief Marshal Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, and staff proceeded to the Middle East.  

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  240 first line reinforcements arrived for the Battalion: 5 officers, 100 men of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, 100 men of the Green Howard Regiment, 40 men of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

 

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

 

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21 July 1941: Malta Supply Ships’ Captains Told ‘Convoy Must Go Through’

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‘OPERATION SUBSTANCE’ MAKES READY TO FACE A HOSTILE MEDITTERANEAN

The largest convoy ever mounted to carry supplies assembled at Gibraltar yesterday ready to begin its journey to Malta. The merchant ships City of Pretoria, Deucalion, Durham, Melbourne Star, Port Chalmers, Sydney Star and the small personnel ship Leinster were made ready, loaded and guided into the Mediterranean under the strictest security measures.

Admiral Sir James Somerville aboard Renown (c) IWM A3741

Admiral Sir James Somerville aboard Renown (c) IWM A3741

As they approached Gibraltar at noon yesterday, accompanying destroyers fired a rocket onto each merchant ships with a line attached. At the end was a message addressed personally to the Masters of each merchantman from the commander of Force H, Admiral Sir James Somerville, KCB DSO, which revealed their secret destination:

“For over twelve months Malta has resisted all attacks of the enemy. The gallantry displayed by the garrison and people of Malta has aroused admiration throughout the world.  To enable their defence to be continued, it is essential that your ships, with their valuable cargoes, should arrive safely in Grand Harbour. 

The Royal Navy will escort and assist you in this great mission; you on your part can assist the Royal Navy by giving strict attention to the following points:

  • Don’t make smoke. Don’t show any lights at night. Keep good station.  Don’t straggle.  If your ship is damaged, keep her going at the best possible speed.

Provided every officer and man realises that it is up to him to do his duty to the very best of his ability, I feel sure we shall succeed.

Remember that the watchword is THE CONVOY MUST GO THROUGH.”

The realisation of the importance of their voyage gave the Masters a feeling of determination but also warned them of the possible dangers to come.  The operation today began with the departure of the oiler Brown Ranger escorted by the destroyer HMS Beverley to provide refuelling within the Mediterranean for the destroyers escorting the convoy.  Unfortunately on sailing Leinster ran aground and was forced to leave the Operation.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 JULY TO DAWN 22 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

1010-1045 hrs  Air raid alert for one a single enemy aircraft crossing the Island on reconnaissance at 23000 feet with an escort of 20 fighters. The fighters split up into three formations.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled but do not engage as they do not gain sufficient height.

2130-2220 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft which approach the Island from the direction of Catania. Two cross the coast and drop bombs on Marsa and between Luqa and Safi.  Searchlights do not illuminate the raiders and Hurricanes do not intercept.  

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 21 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 4 Swordfish left at 1910 to attack convoy but failed to intercept.

AIR HQ Arrivals 8 Beaufighter, 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland, 5 Wellington 148 Squadron. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Sicily and Gulf of Taranto; shadowing of convoy. 

KALAFRANA  The Inspector General of the Royal Air Force, Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, visited the Station.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2; dealt with 2 (1 x 100kg HE, 1 x 500kg HE).

 

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

 

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