Malta – World War Two: to mark the 70th anniversary of the Island’s award of the George Cross on 15 April 1942, we recall events on this day 70 years ago, as a small island becomes the most bombed place on earth. (Map of Malta)
- Five hour raid; nine killed
- Heavy bombing on Ta Qali: buildings and runway damaged, Headquarters evacuated
- Three Hurricanes missing
- Wellingtons attack motor transport south of Tripoli
- Blenheims attack Palermo: direct hit on train
RED FLAG UP NEARLY ALL DAY
“For weeks now we have had them prowling round all night and nearly all day. The day raids cease at dusk, and there is a half an hour’s interval; then Wailing Willie goes again. Sometimes he announces ‘Raider Past’ once or twice in the night; but within a short time the enemy comes again. He appears to go round and round the island, just out of reach of the guns, dropping a bomb here and there; occasionally diving on some post through the clouds – for the very cloudy weather lately has helped him. When he approaches our end of the island our own particular barrage bursts out for a moment or two, and then ceases. We doze through it!
Nature cannot go on keeping on the alert. Sometime something drops fairly near; but we have been lucky. At the moment he definitely has command of the air, for the Messerschmitt which he uses here is definitely faster than our Hurricanes. Even his Junkers when they have discharged their load are only very slightly slower, and cannot be caught if they get any start.
It is very difficult to get anything done in the day. We now have a system by which a large red flag is hoisted when bombers are about. The shops and market immediately shut, and people keep one eye on the nearest shelter, go and sit in the Club, or stand at the door of a shelter till the guns open. This flag is up nearly all day! Many brave or rash people ignore it; some because they must. But many have paid the penalty with their lives.”
Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta. Courtesy of website: Malta Family History.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 5 FEBRUARY 1942
Weather Bright periods; 80% cover, low thundery clouds.
0920-0937 hrs Two plus aircraft approach from the north, pass the Island to the east, turn and recede north without crossing the coast.
1131-1634 hrs For the first three hours of the raid, single aircraft patrol to the south east and south of the Island. One bomber drops bombs in the Salina area.
1225 hrs Six aircraft of 249 and 126 Squadrons, Ta Qali are airborne: intercept JU 88 bombers south of Kalafrana. F/Lt Davis scores strikes on both engines of a bomber, closing to 50 yards, silencing the rear gunner. P/O Tedford gets in good bursts at 250 yards from astern. S/Ldr Beazley attacks from above and astern. The JU 88 is claimed as damaged. All aircraft return safely to Ta Qali.
1350 hrs Six Hurricanes of 249, 242 and 126 Squadrons, Ta Qali, intercept JU 88s over Kalafrana. F/Lt Carpenter fires all his ammunition from 200 yards: no return fire.
1500 hours A raid consisting of three plots of six aircraft and three plots of three aircraft approaches from the north. Bombs are dropped in the Ta Qali area, and near San Biagio church. The enemy attack Ta Qali camp with large bombs, presumed to be mines. Headquarters and Billet of Section, Equipment and Parachute Section, Malta Night Fighter Unit, 242 Squadron Offices and A/Cs offices are badly damaged and rendered unusable. Evacuation of HQ and other buildings is ordered. The aerodrome surface is badly cratered and made partly unserviceable. Casualties.
ME 109 fighters then patrol south of the Island, engage Malta’s fighters and machine-gun a high-speed launch. Heavy Ack Ack engage.
1806-1817 hrs Five ME 109s approach from the north, complete a circuit of the Island and then recede north. They do not come within range of the guns.
1820 hrs Eleven Hurricanes of 249, 126 and 242 Squadrons, Ta Qali, are airborne to engage the enemy. Three pilots are reported missing: P/O Hulbert and Sgt MacDowell of 249 Squadron and P/O Main of 126 Squadron. Searches are made without result: they are presumed shot by enemy aircraft.
2020-2114 hrs Four aircraft approach from the north. Heavy Ack Ack engage and bombs are dropped in the sea.
2200 hrs One aircraft approaches and drops bombs in the sea south of the Island.
2214-2229 hrs One aircraft approaches from the north, turns at 15 miles from the Island and recedes north.
2255-0011 hrs One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs in the Bingemma area. Heavy Ack Ack engage.
0135-0510 hrs Four aircraft approach from the north. Heavy Ack Ack engage and bombs are dropped in the sea.
Military casualties Pilot Officer John Hulbert, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Leading Aircraftsman Thomas Griffith, Royal Air Force (VR); Aircraftsman Gerald King, Royal Air Force (VR), Corporal Theodore Nielsen, Royal Air Force. Lance Bombardier Albert Beard, 225 Battery, 74th Light Anti Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery.
Civilian casualties Mosta Joseph Buhagiar, age 50, Francis Chetcuti, age 29, Elian Tonna, age 51, Joseph Tonna, age 31; Naxxar Bartholomew Buhagiar, age 80; St Paul’s Bay Grazio Galea, age 42.
OPERATIONS REPORTS: WEDNESDAY 4 FEBRUARY 1942
HAL FAR Night 3/4th Three Albacores 828 Squadron despatched on search for single merchant vessel off Kuriat. Nothing was sighted and all aircraft returned safely.
LUQA 69 Squadron One Beaufighter photo-reconnaissance Messina Harbour; one Maryland SF14 patrol; one Maryland SF6 patrol (modified); one Maryland special search Sfax.
21 Squadron Six Blenheims sent to attack Palermo Harbour; [scored a direct hit on a train identified by daytime photo-reconnaissance mission]. Wing Commander William Selkirk, RAF, P/O Workman and Sgt Ibbetson failed to return.
40 Squadron 2341-0324 hrs Wellingtons attacked motor transport at Tripoli.
S/D Flight One Wellington special search.
TA QALI Headquarters evacuated [following air raid today] and all equipment salvaged. Lessons to be learned. Had bomb been a little closer almost entire HQ equipment and personnel would have been wiped out. HQ should be underground to save equipment, and above all dislocation of communications and organisatio,n and if possible should be right off the target area. Shortage of equipment renders it essential that all adequate safeguards be taken. Typewriters and office machinery were saved from damage through being placed under tables when air raid took place. Casualties.
1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT ’A’ Company held [training exercise] at Tal Balal.
2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS Unexploded bomb C Company area.
11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS Luqa working party 120 strong.
225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY Gunner A H Beard died in hospital.
8TH BN THE MANCHESTER Heavy raid on Ta Qali. Private Jones was injured when the truck in which he was sitting was very badly damaged by a bomb.