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24 January 1941: Massive Unexploded Bomb in Ruins of Three Cities

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ROYAL ENGINEERS BOMB DISPOSAL TACKLE UXB UNDER COLLAPSING BUILDING

Demolition squads and military forces are facing an additional threat as they work to repair the damage from last week’s raids: unexploded bombs. Over 30 have been reported in the past week, 14 of which have been for high explosives from 250kg to 1000kg. Three have been uncovered by men working to clear the rubble of damaged buildings in the Three Cities.

RE Bomb Disposal, January 1941

RE Bomb Disposal, January 1941

On Sunday a foreman called his working party to an immediate halt and ordered them to withdraw after traces of an unexploded bomb were spotted among the debris beneath a large building. He reported the bomb to the local ARP warden who put in an urgent call to Royal Engineers HQ.  Bomb Disposal Officer Lt Edward E Talbot, with L/Sgt Reginald Parker and his squad of Sappers had to clamber over piles of rubble to reach the scene. They were faced with a building steadily crumbling into ruins.  As L/Sgt Parker recalled later:

“It had been several storeys high and was originally attached to similar buildings on either side. The adjacent buildings were now also in a very shaky state.  It was obvious that we either had something very large in the form of a bomb, or that something large had crashed into it…In this early stage we were hampered by herds of wild cats.  These were the poor animals left behind by the inhabitants.  They were herded together in fear and were starving.  They stubbornly barred our way and were very vicious and in the end we had to shoot some of them. “

With no mechanical equipment available to them in this location, the Sappers faced a mammoth task working with only picks and shovels to remove the remains of the collapsed upper floors of the building layer by layer in their search for the bomb. It was painstaking work: any sudden movement could collapse the building – and could detonate the UXB.

Cospicua nun wdc2151It was several days before they found any trace of the bomb, and several more before they had removed enough debris to expose the bomb itself. L/Sgt Parker was concerned; this was nothing like any bomb he had worked on before: “We found it to be the largest we had seen to date, and of such shape that we had not before encountered. As the bomb lay we could not see any fuzes…”  

Lt Talbot returned to examine the bomb, declaring it was an armour-piercing type designed to penetrate the armoured decks of capital ships. But in order to make it safe he needed to get at the fuze.  Carefully, the Sappers rolled the bomb over, conscious all the while that any disturbance could cause it to explode.  At last the fuze was exposed and, thankfully, it was not fitted with a clock which could be set to detonate at any time.  However, it was so damaged that removal proved impossible. 

Lt Talbot and his men were left with two options: to explode the bomb where it lay, or to remove it with its fuze in place. He rejected an explosion – a bomb of this size would cause devastation over a massive area in this already crippled City. Nevertheless to move the bomb still fuzed would be dangerous, apart from getting it out of the tricky location of cellars, crumbling funnel shaped excavation and the street of steps to get it away. There was the problem of moving it out of the densely built up area of the Three Cities.  But also this was a new type of bomb; if possible Lt Talbot should examine it thoroughly and report full details to the War Office in London.

L/Sgt Parker received his orders: “We were told [we had] to recover it fuzed or not. But take every precaution possible.  To get this unusual shape (slim egg shaped with pointed nose…) weighing…(over a ton) out of the cellars, up the crumbling funnel shape, and out on to the street of steps, still with the fuze in it was a worrying problem.  By means of blocks and tackles, the rigging of steel girders across the excavation to adjacent shaky buildings, and using brute force where all else failed, we managed at last to get the ‘beast’ on to the street of steps…” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 JANUARY TO DAWN 25 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Fair.

1045-1110 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy aircraft approaching from the north in two formations. Six Hurricanes, two Fulmars and one Gladiator are scrambled; no interception.  At ten miles off Grand Harbour the raiders retreat without crossing the coast.

Enemy casualties  Obergefreiter Eugen Lehmann, crewman; Unteroffizier Karl-Heinz Pollzien, crewman; Gefreiter Heinrich Steffen, crewman; Unteroffizier Gustav Ullrich, pilot; 4/LG 1 all of JU 88 bomber.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 24 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ 0510-1320 hrs Sunderland despatched to cover track of Illustrious proceeding to Alexandria.  Did not sight Illustrious which is presumed to have made greater speed than anticipated but visibility poor with surface haze.  1 Cant Z506 seen on return journey but not engaged. 0550-1545 hrs Sunderland patrolled western Ionian Sea for enemy shipping.  0920-1317 hrs  Maryland photoreconnaissance Gela, Sciacca, Castel Vetrano and Syracuse.  Castel Vetrano 3 SM 79s, 8 dark twin-engined aircraft.  Gela 4 unidentified single-engined aircraft.  Other sites not seen. 0105-1348 hrs Swordfish patrolled eastern Tunisian coast for enemy shipping.      

LUQA 69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland photo reconnaissance Gela, Sciacca, Castel-Vetrano, Syracuse aerodromes.  Photos unsuccessful due to freezing temperatures.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  An 18 pounder gun manned by personnel of HQ Company was mounted on hill feature 443.  

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  0945 hrs Bren guns C Company return to Marsa from anti-aircraft positions at Luqa. One platoon posted to Senglea for guard duty. 

(1) For this achievement L/Sgt Parker was awarded the George Medal; Lt E E Talbot was specially commended, as were Sprs James Lee Leonard, Lawrence Miller and Daniel McCarthy.

(2) UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

 

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Posted by on January 24, 2021 in 1941, January 1941

 

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23 January 1941: HMS Illustrious Leaves Malta

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“HMS ILLUSTRIOUS SAILED, MUCH TO EVERYBODY’S RELIEF”

War Diary, General Staff Malta, 23 January 1941

HMS Illustrious (c) IWM A20659

HMS Illustrious (c) IWM A20659

HMS Illustrious left Malta at 1846 hrs this evening, escorted by destroyers Greyhound, Janus, Jervis and Juno which have been deployed from Souda Bay for the task. The ships steered immediately south, to move as quickly as possible away from Luftwaffe air bases in Sicily as concerns remain about the potential speed of Illustrious.

Dockyard workers have worked round the clock and through atrocious weather since Friday 10 January to complete sufficient repairs to render the carrier seaworthy, pausing only while the ship was under direct enemy attack. Although Illustrious was never hit during the raids on Grand Harbour, progress on repairs was set back several times when near-misses caused further damage and flooding under the waterline. 

Admiral Cunningham, Commander in Chief Mediterranean Fleet, has especially praised the Malta’s dockyard workers and the anti-aircraft barrage for their contribution to the survival of the vital aircraft carrier. Naval and military chiefs have monitored the repair work closely, anxious that Illustrious should leave Malta as soon as possible.  Fingers were firmly crossed that there would be no air raid today, to undo all that had been achieved. 

Passing the Dockyard late this afternoon, Rev Reginald Nicholls looked down at the carrier: “Illustrious was obviously raising steam. On and off after that I was praying for darkness to fall before any reconnaissance plane came over. Later, I noticed that the two destroyers in Sliema Harbour had cast off their cables from the buoy, and were held only by a wire. It has been dark now for two hours and I pray that the ships have got out.” (1)

Illustrious is believed to be heading for Alexandria where she will receive further attention before embarking for the United States for major repairs.

MALTA BOMBERS SUCCESS OVER SICILY

Naval and Air Chiefs today reported to the War Cabinet in London on the effectiveness of air raids on Sicily by Malta-based Wellington bombers. According to their report, successful bombing of Catania aerodrome a week ago has been followed by three further determined attacks on the nights of 15-16, 20-21 and 22-23 January, when nearly 35 tons of bombs were dropped.  Two hangars were hit and set alight, and a fire which was caused in the Administrative building was visible many miles distant.  Bombs fell among aircraft on the ground and a number of these burst into flames.  Single aircraft also attacked aerodromes at Comiso and Augusta, and targets at Syracuse.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 JANUARY TO DAWN 24 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Gunner Edward William Jones, 10 Battery, 7 HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 23 JANUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Illustrious repairs completed sufficiently to make her seaworthy, thanks to a lack of air raids since 19 January. She sailed to the eastward escorted by Jervis, Juno, Janus and Greyhound.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 3 (1 x 1000kg – weight uncertain; 1 x 750kg).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  No 1 Works Company commenced work on an Ack Ack position at Ta Karach. Naxxar crusher and quarry was taken over by No 1 Works Company.

(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 January 23, 2021 in 1941, January 1941

 

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22 January 1941: Malta Braced for Seaborne Invasion

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INTELLIGENCE SUGGESTS INVASION MAY BE IMMINENT

German troops and equipment are massing in Sicily, possibly in preparation for an assault on Malta, according to rumours circulating in Rome. The information was passed to the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief in response to his enquiry about any enemy troop movements in Sicily or en route, which might suggest an imminent seaborne attack on the Island. Malta Garrison was placed on full war routine at dawn today with the issue of the command code ‘Asia’ to all units.

German paratroopers are already in Sicily

From: Chief of General Staff, War Office                       To: Governor & C in C

We have had many reports of the presence of German troops in Sicily, including parachutists. But the volume of these reports is greater than their reliability which we cannot check and we have received no identification of German formations.  As you know air reconnaissance on 14 January showed no unusual quantity of shipping in Sicilian ports but the possibility of an operation starting from the Italian mainland cannot be excluded, though reports of German troops in Italy are unconfirmed.  At present therefore we have no grounds for believing attack on Malta immediate though possibility exists.  Would be glad to know how you feel as regards garrison to meet attack.

Following most secret report probably comes from MA Ankara dated 20 Jan addressed C in C Middle East: Reports circulating in Rome state that there are 30,000 (repeat 30,000) German troops in Sicily.  These include parachutists and two armoured or motorised divisions with a maximum of 1000 (repeat 1000) tanks and 350 aircraft.  These forces are reported to be destined for landing operations in Malta or in the rear of the British Army in Libya.  We have nothing to confirm or refute this information.

From: Governor & C in C                       To: Chief of General Staff, War Office

I cannot help thinking that reports are being circulated as bluff. Having consulted the naval authorities here who are satisfied that a suggested landing behind our lines in Libya is out of the question for a force of the nature indicated.  As for its being intended for an attack on Malta, I would point out that armoured or motorised divisions are not suited for such an operation…

Although I would naturally like the full garrison ie three more battalions, yet I am confident that in the existing situation the present garrison should suffice to do the trick. It is big enough to ensure that any attempt contemplated must be a really big one and so may be a deterrent.  What would help us more than anything is the immediate and substantial increase in the number of fighter aircraft with the necessary maintenance personnel – also some additional reconnaissance aircraft of which we are very short at the moment.  We want to avoid surprise and also to resist the heavy air attack which will undoubtedly precede and accompany any other attack.  We would also really like some more gunner personnel of which we are very short of establishment.

TROOPS ON HIGH ALERT

Meanwhile, Malta troops remain on high alert with anti-aircraft defence their primary task; extra guns have been issued for the purpose. Anti-parachute look-out posts are also manned from one hour before dawn and throughout moonlit nights.  Additional anti-tank mines have been issued in readiness pending further orders. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 JANUARY TO DAWN 23 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

2109-2215 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft heading for the Island. One Wellington approaches from the south west, gives the correct recognition signal for friendly aircraft, then heads towards Hal Far showing navigation lights.  An unidentified aircraft approaches from the north west.  The Wellington turns off its navigation lights and circles before retreating due south as the enemy approaches.  An enemy aircraft crosses the coast and drops two bombs on land at Zabbar, in the Luqa area and in the sea at St Thomas’ Bay before retreating.  After the all-clear the Wellington lands safely at Luqa.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 22 JANUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Jervis, Juno, Janus and Greyhound arrived to act as escort for Illustrious.

AIR HQ 0540-1030 hrs Swordfish on anti-ship patrol between Malta and the Tunisian coast. 1103-1250 hrs Spitfire on photoreconnaissance of Tripoli Harbour and Castel Benito; photographs show at Castel Benito 14 SM 79s, 1 S 62 and 4 BR20s and at Tripoli merchant ships, destroyers and flying boas. 

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Work began laying anti-tank mines and wires.

LUQA 148 Squadron bombing attack on Catania and Comiso.

TA QALI  No 157 Eucharistic Congress Street, Mosta, taken over as sleeping accommodation for officers as overflow from Torri Combo which is now too small.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  A working party is sent to assist with demolition of dangerous buildings in Senglea.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Demonstration of anti-tank obstacles prepared by 24 Fortress Company at Lintorn Barracks. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (1 x 500kg).

 

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Posted by on January 22, 2021 in 1941, January 1941

 

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21 January 1941: Churchill Congratulates ‘Heroic’ Malta

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CHURCHILL’S MESSAGE TO MALTA

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

“I send you on behalf of the War Cabinet heartfelt congratulations upon the magnificent and ever memorable defence which your heroic garrison and citizens, assisted by the Navy and above all by the Royal Air Force, are making against the Italian and German attacks. The eyes of all Britain and indeed of the whole British Empire are watching Malta in her struggle day by day, and we are sure that success, as well as glory, will reward your efforts.”

The Prime Minister’s message came in response to an upbeat message from the Air Officer Commanding, Malta which was read out to the British War Cabinet yesterday. The AOC reported that some 37 enemy aircraft had been brought down by Malta fighters and anti-aircraft guns during the heavy attacks aimed at HMS Illustrious in Grand Harbour.  He confirmed that the carrier was never hit during the bombing raids, but near-misses caused her serious damage, putting one engine and one boiler-room out of action, as well as causing extensive damage to the Dockyard area and the surrounding communities.

GOVERNOR BROADCASTS TO THE PEOPLE OF MALTA

The Governor and Commander in Chief, Lt Gen Dobbie, issued his own broadcast to the people of Malta following the recent heavy air raids:

“We are living in stirring times and Malta, like other parts of the British Empire, is taking its share in the momentous happenings.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 JANUARY TO DAWN 22 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Overcast.

0800 hrs Nine Bren guns of C Company, 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment take up position to the east of Luqa for defence against low-flying attack.

1410-1425 hrs Air raid alert for a report of a single enemy aircraft approaching at great height. It flies over Grand Harbour, probably on reconnaissance.  Anti-aircraft guns at Tarxien open fire; no claims.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 21 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ 1242-1530 hrs A Spitfire of the Photo Reconnaissance Unit surveys the Sicilian aerodromes and ports at 23000 feet: at Comiso 5 JU 88s, 9 Macchi 200s; at Palermo 12 JU 87s, 30 Macchi 200s or CR 42s, 1 JU 52, 3 JU 86; at Trapani 2 SM 79s, one large unidentified aircraft, 57 fighters; at Catania 48 JU87s of which 14 damaged or destroyed, 4 JU 88s, 3 SM 79s, 6 BR 20s, 11 Macchi 200s of which 2 damaged, 1 S 82. However, interpretation being treated with reserve. 

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Battalion ordered to ‘stand to’ at dawn for modified Asia status.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS No 2 Company began work on four barrack rooms at Bizbizia Ack Ack Battery. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 5 (1 x 750kg, 1 x 250kg, 2 x Ack Ack shells, 1 x  Bofors fuze).

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

 

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Posted by on January 21, 2021 in 1941, January 1941, Uncategorized

 

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20 January 1941: 9000 Refugees on the Move in Malta

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BUSLOAD AFTER BUSLOAD FLEE THREE CITIES

Floriana refugeesThe mass evacuation of the Three Cities since Saturday is once more putting pressure on Malta’s outlying communities. In an operation co-ordinated by the military it is anticipated that some 9000 people are again on the move away from the Dockyard communities, which now once again resemble a ghost town. 

Adjutant of the Special Constabulary Philo Pullicino is co-ordinating refugee operations at Rabat: “Endless streams of refugee and evacuees carrying bags and bundles, on carts, asses, cars cabs and buses. Big job to find accommodation for them.  Most of them scared, and without clothing, bedding or furniture.  A distressing sight on all roads, especially when a big family with young and aged are seen walking, and seen madly seeking shelter when the alarm sounds…

I was at Rabat receiving busload after busload of refugees from the Three Cities. They were being sent out with all possible haste.  As they came they reported to me…and I posted them to schools, churches, garages – anywhere under a roof.  Few had brought clothing or even bedding, most of them had lost everything!…The plight of refugees at Rabat made me think of other villages and I therefore made a tour of the chief evacuee centres, where I found conditions pitiable…” (1)

Mattresses and bedding have been distributed by the Malta Relief Fund and communal feeding centres have been set up in refugee reception areas. The Help the Homeless Committee has appealed for contributions to help the stricken refugees: “demands have been increasing rapidly in this cold weather. There are many, including tiny children, who are shivering with cold through lack of clothing and blankets.”  Collection and distribution depots have been opened in Valletta, Mdina, Rabat, Birkirkara, Dingli and Siggiewi, where sewing parties are also active making and mending clothes of all sorts. (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 JANUARY TO DAWN 21 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0836-0845 hrs  Air raid alert for three enemy aircraft reported 10 miles south east of Delimara; raid does not materialise.

1206-1220 hrs  Air raid alert. One JU 88 aircraft carries out reconnaissance over Grand Harbour.

1755 hrs  A single unidentified aircraft is observed nearing Grand Harbour, then retreating northwards without crossing the coast.

2015 hrs  Modified ‘Asia’ commenced.

0145-0430 hrs Air raid alert for a series of solo attacks by up to ten enemy aircraft. The raiders cross over the coast at intervals, dropping bombs indiscriminately in seven different areas.  The target appears to be Luqa but is not accurately located.  Four houses are demolished and 34 damaged; one civilian is seriously injured.  Searchlights are illuminated but unable to locate the raiders, who remain at very high altitude.  One Hurricane is scrambled but does not engage.

0515 hrs  Asia: troops ordered to ‘stand to’. ‘Stand down’ ordered at 0645 hrs.

Civilian casualties Zabbar  Joseph Attard, age 33.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 20 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. 0530-1540 hrs Sunderland reconnaissance Ionian Sea.  A Sunderland returning from the Middle East was shadowed by a JU 88 for 10 minutes on its approach to Malta; no attack. 

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland returned from Middle East.

LUQA 148 Squadron: 8 Wellingtons bombing attack on Catania.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  A working party is sent to unload Essex following damage in an air raid.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Rescue work was handed over to 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment as people still entombed under bombed buildings are all now believed dead. Altogether about 30 corpses were brought out of the ruins and six people were rescued alive after being entombed 48 hours. No 1 Company completed Bofors position at Marina and commenced work on accommodation at Wolsley Battery, and a hut at Leonardo.  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 6 (2 x 200kg, 3 x 250kg, 1 x Ack Ack shell).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Working parties assisting with unloading of munitions from HMS Essex.  Partial ‘Asia’ in place: anti-parachutist posts are manned on morning and evening Stand To.  Ta Saliba and Ghain Tuffieha anti-tank bridges are raised 2100 hrs to morning stand down. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Orders in place for new anti-aircraft defences. Tank Hunting Platoon moved from Marsa to Zabbar.

(1) The Road to Rome, Philo Pullicino, MPI Publishing 2012

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

 

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Posted by on January 20, 2021 in 1941, January 1941

 

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19 January 1941: All Hell Let Loose in Second Blitz on Illustrious

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“Malta appears likely to face the fiercest attacks of its stormy career within the next few weeks.”  Air Correspondent, Sunday Times, London.

ANOTHER FIERCE ATTEMPT TO WIPE OUT CARRIER

Our Lady of Victory, Senglea (NWMA)

Our Lady of Victory, Senglea (NWMA)

All hell let loose over Grand Harbour today as the Luftwaffe made yet one more desperate attempt to destroy HMS Illustrious.  Over 80 enemy aircraft dive-bombed the harbour in two separate raids.  In the first attack after breakfast the carrier was damaged by a near miss and is now sitting down at the stern.  There was also extensive damage across the Dockyard.  Heavier bombs were deployed in both raids – many 1000kg high explosives were used, increasing the damage caused in each strike.

What had survived of the church of Our Lady of Victory at Senglea suffered a direct hit and has now been reduced to a mass of wreckage by another direct hit. Another direct hit destroyed the priory of the Dominican Fathers at Vittoriosa.  Fr Rik Attard was in the refectory finishing lunch when the air raid alert sounded.  “We ran out of the building to seek shelter near the police station. Bombs were falling around us with ear-splitting and earth-shaking explosions.  On going back to the priory we saw that all the buildings with the exception of the church were in ruins; a few days later the church collapsed too.  We lost all our possessions in that one raid…That same evening we made our way to the Rabat priory.” (1)

“WE CAN TAKE IT” SAYS MALTA’S GOVERNOR & C IN C

Military commanders have commented that enemy dive bombing was “appreciably less determined” during air raids today. As Luftwaffe commanders send increasing numbers of bombers each day to attack, Malta the Island’s defences are proving equally determined, destroying over 30 enemy planes in the first two days of raids by the newly-arrived German Fliegerkorps X. 

“We can take it and enemy morale is visibly affected,” wrote Governor and Commander in Chief Lt Gen Dobbie in his daily report to the War Office. Again today the harbour barrage and Malta fighters launched fierce counter-attacks.  At least 22 more Luftwaffe losses were added by the end of the day, bringing the total to over 50, compared to just five losses from Malta’s fighter defence forces.

Having claimed his fifth success against the enemy today, Hurricane pilot Flt Lt Jay MacLachan noted in his journal: “The Squadron’s total score for the day was eleven confirmed and two possibles. A Gladiator from Kalafrana [sic] got one and the AA boys got five, making a grand total of seventeen.  Altogether a most exciting and enjoyable day.” (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 JANUARY TO DAWN 20 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Clear.

HMS Imperial (c) IWM FL 14057

HMS Imperial (c) IWM FL 14057

0930-1010 hrs Air raid alert for forty JU 87 and JU 88s which approach the Island and dive-bomb Grand Harbour. 500kg and 1000kg bombs are dropped, severely damaging civilian property in Senglea, causing heavy casualties, and badly damaging buildings.  Bombs on Bakery Wharf and near the electricity sub-station damage many buildings and put power cranes, electricity supplies and telephone communications out of action.  No 3 Dock suffers a direct hit; Imperial escapes without damage but bombs damage nearby buildings and a pumping station.  A large bomb explodes in No 2 dock, causing a small crater.  The minesweeper Beryl is damaged by a near miss. Illustrious is damaged again by a near-miss close to the engine room.  One raider crashes in the sea in flames off Delimara, two are brought down over Grand Harbour and another in the sea off Della Grazia.  

1024-1045 hrs  An enemy flying boat with red cross marking, accompanied by a CR 42, circles north east of the Island.

1208-1225 hrs  Air raid alert for an Italian Cant aircraft spotted eight miles north of Grand Harbour, evidently searching for missing aircraft. Four Hurricane fighters are scrambled and the aircraft turns away.  Meanwhile the flying boat continues circling 22 miles off the coast.  No raid occurs.

1242 hrs  Air raid alert for two approaching formations ten miles off, heading for the Island. Two Hurricanes are scrambled.  Three more formations are then spotted between 24 and 40 miles away, heading for Malta.  Raiders total forty aircraft.

1302 hrs  30 dive-bombers launch a fierce attack on Grand Harbour, damaging civilian and Naval property and starting a fire between Corradino and the civilian prison.  500kg and 1000kg bombs damage buildings across Senglea and the Dockyard, and cause damage to Carbine and Crossbow.  All electric, water and telephone lines are severed.  A 500kg armour-piercing bomb lands on Hamilton Wharf but fails to explode.  Two further unexploded bombs are rendered safe at Corradino.  Two bombs are dropped on Luqa aerodrome, causing slight damage.  Malta fighters are scrambled and engage the enemy: six Hurricanes, one Fulmar and one Gladiator are airborne at any one time.

The harbour defences send up a terrific barrage. Many enemy aircraft are hit; several are observed losing height.  Four JU 88s, five JU 87s, one CR 42 and one Cant are confirmed destroyed by Malta fighters; one JU 87, one JU 88 and one CR42 unconfirmed; two JU 88s, one JU 87 and one CR42 damaged.  In addition, Ack Ack claim at least three JU 87s and three JU 88s destroyed.  One raider is brought down near Luqa, another crashes near Paola and a third off Delimara.  A third is spotted heading out to sea over St Thomas’ Tower, emitting smoke.  A raider is reported in flames over Bir id Deheb.  One raider is reported baling out near Tarxien and another near St Thomas’ Tower.  Two bodies are seen floating in the sea; the high speed launch sets out from Kalafrana.

1320 hrs  Raiders passed. 

1454-1500 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1800 hrs  It is reported that 17 enemy aircraft were brought down during air raids today; one fighter was lost.

Civilian casualties  Three Cities  Five females and two males unidentified.

Military casualties Sergeant Eric Norman Kelsey, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 261 Squadron; Lance Bombardier John Rowley, 10 Battery, 7 HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Enemy casualties  Franz Buczek, 2/StG 1, gunner of JU 87 Stuka; Hauptmann Wilhelm Durbeck, pilot of JU 88; Sergente Maggiore Ezio Iaconne, 70a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo Autonomo, the Pilot of a CR.42 fighter, baled out; Obergefreiter Hans Kusters, II/StG 2, pilot of JU 87 Stuka; Unteroffizier Rudolf Vater, 1/StG 1, pilot of JU 87 Stuka; Franz Walburg; Oberfeldwebel 2/StG 1, pilot of JU 87 Stuka; pilot Fritz Nakosky; pilot Richard Zehetmanir.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 19 JANUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Departure of Illustrious departure delayed by damage. Naval and military working parties used to unload Essex as Maltese dockyard workers in shelter. 

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Spitfire. A photo-reconnaissance Spitfire from RAF Benson in England landed at Ta Qali after a mission to photograph Genoa; he had insufficient fuel to return to base.  The aircraft will be employed locally.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Heavy rescue work at Senglea and Vittoriosa continues. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 19; dealt with 1 (250kg).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Part of the crew of HMS Illustrious were moved into accommodation at Ghain Tuffieha camp. 

(1) The People’s War, Malta: 1940-43, Laurence Mizzi, Progress Press 2002

(2) Gladiators Over Malta, Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, Wise Owl Publications 2008

 

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

 

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18 January 1941: Luftwaffe Blitz Malta Airfields

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JU 87 dive bombing

JU 87 dive-bombing attack

80 ENEMY RAIDERS IN SERIES OF DIVE-BOMBING ATTACKS

German Fliegerkorps 10 launched another series of heavy bombing raids on Malta today; this time the target was the airfields. For over 90 minutes this afternoon, Luftwaffe dive-bombers pummelled Hal Far and Luqa in turn, dropping over a hundred high explosive bombs, most of them 500kg.  Hangars, accommodation and aircraft were badly hit, and power and communication lines cut on both airfields.  Runways were badly cratered: Luqa was put out of action; only one landing strip at Hal Far is still serviceable.  Malta fighters and ground defences fought back bravely: five enemy aircraft are confirmed destroyed and at least another ten damaged, for the loss of two Fulmars.

DRAMATIC SOLO RESCUE

One of the Fulmars was destroyed in a dogfight with an enemy raider. The pilot ditched the aircraft in the sea close about 40 yards from the shore at Kalafrana.  Ignoring the rough weather, Sapper Spiro Zammit of the Royal Engineers immediately dived into the water and swam out to the aircraft.  He managed to reach the Fulmar’s struggling crewman and held him up until the high-speed launch arrived to rescue them.    

Sapper Zammit has been warmly praised by military commanders for his actions in saving the life of the Naval airman, who has been named as A S Rush. (1)

GOVERNMENT EVACUATES THE THREE CITIES AND CALLS IN MILITARY HELP

The Governor, the Archbishop and the Lieutenant Governor separately visited Senglea and Vittoriosa today to see for themselves the damage resulting from Thursday’s raids and to review progress on the rescue operations. Faced with the sheer scale of the devastation, Lt Gen Dobbie decided to evacuate the Three Cities with immediate effect. 

The Governor also called immediately on Military commanders for assistance with the recovery efforts. Since Thursday, volunteers in their hundreds have been working day and night, clawing at the wreckage in a desperate attempt to find survivors.  The Royal Engineers, Royal Malta Artillery and King’s Own Malta Regiment will work alongside members of the Public Works Department and the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) personnel in round the clock shifts to clear the debris from the bomb battered areas.

Senglea streetTWELVE RESCUED FROM RUBBLE AFTER 48 HOURS

Twelve people were rescued from a family air raid shelter today, almost 48 hours after masses of fallen masonry entombed them underground. The Costa and Mizzi families took to the shelter under 91 Two Gates Street, Senglea, after the alert which heralded the heavy raid on Illustrious on Thursday afternoon. A relative of the family, Joseph Savona, discovered their plight and raised the alarm later that day but it was not until Friday morning that rescue work began.  Concerned at the lack of progress, Savona paid for additional help at his own expense and at 10 o’clock this morning rescue workers made contact with the trapped families.  At 1.30pm five members of the Costa family, four of the Mizzi family and three Gozitan miners who had been digging the shelter walked out alive.  Only William Mizzi needed hospital treatment for shock.  He later recalled:

“For two days we were huddled on top of each other in complete darkness and, as time passed, we suffered from suffocation, and water and food shortage.  There was no panic; we just stood there exchanging an occasional word unaware that we were buried under forty feet of rubble.  When we had almost given up hope, we felt some gravel filtering into the shelter and shortly afterwards we could see a speck of light through the mound of masonry.  The hole was enlarged and we were asked if we were all well.” (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 JANUARY TO DAWN 19 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Stormy in the morning; finer later.

0940-1000 hrs Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses the Island at a great height on reconnaissance. Light anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims. 

1415 hrs Air raid alert for eighty enemy raiders spotted 18 miles off and heading for the Island. Three Fulmars and five Hurricane fighters are scrambled.  A large formation of dive bombers crosses the coast and attacks Hal Far, dropping 40 high explosive 500kg bombs, destroying one hangar and writing off a Hurricane inside, and setting two other hangars on fire.  The officers’ mess is destroyed, telephone communications are cut and water mains hit.  There are several craters on the runways but the north-west to south-east strip is still serviceable.

1458 hrs  Another large formation of enemy raiders is spotted heading inland over Delimara.  The raiders dive-bomb Luqa, dropping 40 more 500kg bombs, destroying two hangars and badly damaging two more.  The Signal Section, a barrack block and a decontamination centre are destroyed; other offices and the NAAFI are damaged.  Several bombs cause craters on the runway and the aerodrome is rendered unserviceable.  Electric power, telephone communications and water supplies are cut off.  One Wellington is burned out, one Hurricane destroyed and one Maryland badly damaged.  All remaining aircraft on the ground are slightly damaged by shrapnel.

1527 hrs  Another formation of eight enemy aircraft crosses over St Thomas Bay and attacks Hal Far, damaging the aerodrome and buildings. Three Swordfish aircraft are burned out, another is a total loss; several more receive minor damage.  An object is reported floating down over Marsa, possibly a mine. 

The raiders are engaged by the aerodromes’ ground defences; several hits are claimed. One enemy aircraft is reported in flames near Tarxien. Three Hurricanes and three Fulmars are airborne.  One Fulmar is lost over Grand Harbour with no survivors. Another claims an enemy loss but the aircraft is hit in the dog fight and ditches in the sea off Kalafrana; one of the crew is saved. 

Minutes later five more enemy aircraft cross the coast at great height and fly over the Island. Anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders; no bombs are dropped.

In total Malta fighters claim five enemy losses confirmed. One enemy aircraft is reported crashing into the sea off Wied Zurrieq; ten more are believed damaged.  An unexploded bomb is reported in a building at Marsaxlokk.

1610 hrs  All clear.

1630-1645 hrs Air raid alert for a formation of three enemy aircraft reported 18 miles off the coast. Three Hurricanes are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns open fire; no raid materialises.

Military casualties  Aircraftsman Trevor David Backes, Royal Air Force, 148 Squadron; Aircraftsman Edward Shirley Barlow, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Gunner Norman Brady Goatley, 7 HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.                                          

Enemy casualties  Leutnant Horst Dunkel, 7/LG1, pilot of JU 88; Unteroffizier Arthur Haner, 7/LG1, JU 88 crew member; Gefreiter Heinrich Mueller, I/StG 1, gunner of JU 87 Stuka; Unteroffizier Heinrich Schurmann, 7/LG1, JU 88 crew member; Unteroffizier Richard Zehetmair, I/StG1, pilot of JU 87 Stuka.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 18 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ  No reconnaissance due to heavy swell and aircraft unserviceability.

KALAFRANA The high speed launch picked up the two-man crew of a Fulmar which has crashed near Delimara.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS The civil authorities requested assistance from the Royal Engineers in Heavy Rescue work at Senglea and Vittoriosa. This carried out by sections of 24 Fortress Company and Nos 1 & 2 Works Companies working shifts day and night. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

MALTA SIGNAL COMPANY  Cables damaged by enemy action at main route Hal Far-Kalafrana and at Luqa.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  The Brigadier and all officers attended a lecture on German methods of warfare and means of defeating them. E Company removed to Ghain Tuffieha camp. 

(1) Sapper Spiro Zammit No 576, Royal Engineers (T) was later awarded the British Empire Medal for bravery for the rescue.

(2) Malta: Blitzed but not Beaten, Philip Vella, Progress Press 1985) 

 

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

 

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17 January 1941: Malta in Shock but Enemy Counts Heavy Losses

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JU 87 Stuka crash20 PER CENT OF ENEMY RAIDERS SHOT DOWN

Enemy aircraft stayed clear of Malta’s coastline today as they as well as the Island counted the cost of yesterday’s heavy attack on Grand Harbour. A total of 16 enemy aircraft were destroyed or damaged during the raid – some twenty per cent of the total raiders involved in the attack.  Fighters are confirmed to have destroyed five enemy bombers and damaged another three; anti-aircraft guns also destroyed five, possibly six bombers and damaged a further two.

RESCUERS BATTLE ON AMID FALLING MASONRY

In communities surrounding Grand Harbour, rescue parties are working in perilous conditions while all round them dazed people are coming to terms with the loss of life and property. In many places, precarious masonry threatens to collapse on rescuers as they work, making the job especially difficult and hazardous.  Dozens are believed still trapped in cellars and shelters, under tons of debris of smashed buildings. 

Cospicua ruinsEdward Zammit and his family survived in their shelter which was rocked by the repeated explosions. They were too terrified to leave the shelter until this morning, when they emerged to find a scene of devastation:  “everywhere buildings lay in ruins, mounds of rubble lay all around and the streets were blocked. My mother, rather fearful in nature, had by now become a bundle of verves, almost paralysed by terror.  There and then my father went to our house, collected a few things, lifted my mother up to take her through the fallen masonry and informed us we would be going to Gozo immediately.” (1)

Some criticism has been levelled at rescue workers who downed tools overnight.   However, the Director of the Public Works Department defended his Demolition gangs: “The number of men available was insufficient to cope with the occasion…When the men worked long and strenuously during daytime (and stone-heaving is a job that saps one’s energies) they could not reasonably be expected to protect their neighbours into the night.” Yet some gangs did continue, especially where they detected signs of life.  Civil defence authorities also called for a massive input of organised help this morning to relieve their exhausted men.  Squads from ARP Centres outside the Three Cities have now been drafted in. (2)

Rescue parties worked desperately for hours to free young priest Rev Canon John Theuma, professor at the University of Malta, who with his sisters and nieces was buried in the cellar under their ruined house in Victory Street, Senglea. After part of the priest’s cassock was found, followed by a woman’s shoe diggers worked frantically, only to discover that the family had all perished.  Rev Theuma and his sisters were originally evacuated to Attard last June but had moved back to Senglea out of affection for their home and with the hope of finding good shelters.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 JANUARY TO DAWN 18 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Stormy.

No air raids.

1414-1423 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft spotted 21 miles north of the Island. They attempt reconnaissance in very bad weather. 

2020-2035 hrs Air raid alert for enemy aircraft reported off the coast. Flashes are seen in the direction of San Pietro.  The aircraft do not cross the coast and no raid materialises.

Civilian casualties  Qormi Carmel Sammut, age 42; Tarxien John Callega, age 32.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 17 JANUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Usk arrived to join First Submarine Flotilla.

AIR HQ  Bad weather prevented any reconnaissance today.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 2 (Bofors shells).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Some officers attended a demonstration of tanks in support of infantry attack. Part of the roof of Strickland House (accommodation of E Company) collapsed, with one serious casualty: CQSM Lawrence’s thigh was broken. 

(1) The People’s War, Malta: 1940/43, Laurence Mizzi, Progress Press 2002

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

 

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

 

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16 January 1941: Ferocious Luftwaffe Blitz Illustrious at Malta

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ILLUSTRIOUS BLITZ – THE PEOPLE REMEMBER CLICK HERE

“ON THAT DAY I LEARNED WHAT HELL IS LIKE” (1)

The Luftwaffe today launched their first concentrated and ferocious attack of the war in the Mediterranean.  Early this afternoon the sun burned away the morning cloud to leave a clear bright sky.  Suddenly out of the blue a formation of Stuka dive-bombers screamed across the skies over Grand Harbour and HMS Illustrious, berthed at Parlatorio Wharf.  Wave after wave of Luftwaffe aircraft followed in their wake – more than seventy of them, raining bombs on the Dockyard and surrounding areas.

Bombing of Illustrious strikes Three Cities (NWMA Malta)

Bombing of Illustrious strikes Three Cities (NWMA Malta)

“Hordes and hordes of dive-bombers came over in big waves for over an hour and dived from all angles in a suicidal manner to within a hundred feet of the harbour, where they let go their enormous bombs.

The anti-aircraft barrage was as terrific as it was awe-inspiring. Bofors guns banged and crashed at a determined height, above them burst pom-pom shells and the heavier shells, below them spluttered the rifle and machine gun bullets, till the whole sky was one mass of boiling bubbling explosions completely blotting out the blue canopy above.  The prolonged din merged with the continuous echo to produce an eerie mumble which rose and fell but never slackened(2)

Forty dockyard workers huddling in communal prayer in a shelter hewn from rock under heavy bastions could feel the impact of the bombing:  “The whole shelter seemed to be trembling and shuddering as if we were in the middle of a gigantic earthquake. Sometimes it felt as if express trains with a strange kind of echo were running at full speed under our feet.  Occasionally the sharp blasts of heavy gunfire would penetrate the shelter but would quickly be drowned out by the surrounding din.” (3)

Barely able to prepare for the onslaught, Malta’s few defending Hurricane and Fulmar aircraft took to the air to try and repel the raiders.  The valiant response succeeded in preventing all but one bomb from falling on Illustrious. The merchant ship Essex was hit by a heavy bomb, killing fifteen crew and seven Maltese dockyard workers.

“The show never seemed to end, but when the last plane had gone, and the thunder of guns changed into an echo and then, too, disappeared, a pall of white smoke covered the whole harbour area.” (2)

CITIES REDUCED TO RUBBLE – THOUSANDS HOMELESS

Dozens of bombs intended for Illustrious rained down on the surrounding ‘Three Cities’ of Senglea, Vittoriosa and Cospicua.  Malta’s oldest urban communities established and fortified in the 16th century by the Knights of Malta, are now reduced to rubble. It is estimated some 200 houses have been destroyed and another 500 damaged.  Casualties are reported to be high: with reported dead – men, women and children; most survivors have lost their homes and everything they own; hundreds are still believed trapped under collapsed buildings. The sacristy of the parish church of St Lawrence, Vittoriosa, suffered a direct hit, entombing 35 people who were sheltering in the crypt. 

The effect on the population has been devastating.  The majority had fled their homes to take refuge inland during the early raids of June 1940 but through the quieter autumn many have drifted back home to rejoin Dockyard workers who had stayed behind. 

Adjutant of the Special Constabulary, Philo Pullicino, hurried to Senglea after the raid:

Senglea after the raid

Senglea after the raid

“Pale people of all ages, carrying bundles of clothing; the dismal banging of doors and windows forced open by blast; the frequent shattering of glass and the continuous stream of dust and stones from demolished houses; all this greeted me and made me pause as I entered Senglea…

Approaching the top of the long broad stretch that was Victory Street with its gentle inviting slope, I beheld little else but stones, dust and debris blocking the entire roadway at different places.  As I walked down the street, climbing over high piles of shattered masonry littered with broken furniture, I glanced down the side streets and noticed with sullen anger and amazement that these too were blocked to a height of one storey…and all the while the sickly smell of gas touched my nostrils…  At the Wharf the scene was still bad. Great voids in blocks of houses marked the trail of the bombs.  The promenade was littered with balconies, broken dghajsas, shop signs and goods…” (2)

Valletta, too, was badly hit, sending its citizens scurrying for shelter.  “The noise in our Crypt was just terrible. There were about 250 people there huddled together, many of them crying, but many were very brave. The roar was like the loudest thunder one has ever heard, but absolutely continuous, and it was not possible really to distinguish the guns from the bombs, except when one fell close to us – about 70 yards. That brought down a block of flats and 5 people were killed. We sat, holding hands and praying aloud.” (4)

Bombs had struck five buildings in Old Mint Street, Valletta, including a six-storey block of flats. Men rushed to the rescue, saving three children and over a dozen adults from the ruins, but five lost their lives.

The call has gone out for demolition squads and volunteers who are urgently needed for rescue work across Valletta and the Three Cities. (5)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 JANUARY TO DAWN 17 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Heavy morning cloud; clear afternoon.

1047-1053 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft reported approaching Grand Harbour. Six Swordfish patrol across the Island in formation from north east to south west; three Fulmars are also airborne.  The raiders do not cross the coast.

1355-1530 hrs  Air raid alert for formations of German bombers approaching the Island. 15 JU 88s approach from the north over Tigne at 8-12000 feet, wheel east and dive-bomb Grand Harbour before turning away over Ricasoli and Zonqor. The raiders are met by an extremely heavy barrage from all the heavy and light guns of the Dockyard, Luqa and Birzebbuga.  Malta fighters are scrambled.

The first attack is followed in by several more large formations of JU 87 Stuka dive-bombers, totalling some 50 aircraft, which swoop down singly from 14000 feet to a very low altitude to launch their bombs. Again the guns respond with a massive barrage and Malta fighters engage in dogfights with enemy aircraft.

Bombs dropped from as little as a few hundred feet severely damage much civilian property and buildings across the Dockyard. No 2 boiler shop is badly damaged and part of No 2 dock destroyed.  A large crater is blown in Sawmills Wharf; flying debris and splinters damage surround windows.  MV Essex is hit in the engine room by a large bomb, killing 14 or 15 men and wounding another 15.  Her vital cargo of guns, ammunition, torpedoes and other service stores is undamaged. HMS Illustrious is hit in the quarterdeck by one bomb. HMS Perth suffers a near-miss and is damaged underwater. 

Several unexploded bombs are reported in the Dockyard and creeks.  Eleven raiders are confirmed shot down and another six damaged, some by fighter aircraft and the remainder by anti-aircraft fire.

1605-1640 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft. One JU88 approaches from the east and is later seen flying away from the coast to the south west, pursued by Malta fighters; the raider is believed damaged.  No bombs are dropped.

Military casualties  Stoker 1st Class Harry Hague, HMS Triumph.

Civilian casualties Floriana  Robert Grech (21); Hamrun  Pawlu Gauci (25); Marsa  Dominic Vassallo (15); Senglea  Elicio Briccio (70), Nicola Buhagiar (70), Emanuel Caruana (50), Giovanna Cassar (20), Rita Cassar (18) and Tessie Cassar (8), Antonia Farrell (27) and William Farrell (38), Mary Farrugia (8), Jane Gatt (64), Vincenza Grima (50), Angelina Kamm (50), Michael Mallia (65), Rosina Remigio (35), Rev Canon Profs John Theuma (28), Carmela Theuma (30) and Bice Theuma (5), Emily Teuma (21), Evelyn Vella (17); Valletta Vincent Cachia (40), Mary Healey (66), Carmela Mamo (44), Teresa Mamo (80), Assunta Rapinett (43), Mary Rapinett (6), Emanuel Spiteri (48);  Vittoriosa  Mary Cardona, Erminia D’Agostino (12), Joseph D’Agostino (11), Josephine D’Agostino (41), Lawrence D’Agostino, Sosa Darmanin (50), Alfonso Degabriele (67), Joseph Degabriele (21), Lawrence Degabriele (56), Francis Falzon (16), Anna Galea (9), Carmela Gatt, Cettina Gatt, Dolores Gatt (24), Laurence Gatt,  Mary Gatt (23), Lorenza German (11), Anthony Hili, Emanuel Mallia, Francis Mallia, Laurence Mallia (55), Lora Mallia, Albert Mizzi, Anthony Mizzi, Francis Mizzi (32), Lorenza Pisani (32), Vincent Pisani, Lorenzo Zarb (44); Zeitun  Albert Brignoli (51); plus 6 unidentified females and 9 unidentified males. 

Enemy casualties  Oberleutnant LG1 Kurt Pickler, Pilot, JU 88 bomber.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 16 JANUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Perth sailed after dark to the eastward.

LUQA  69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland reconnaissance Taranto intercepted by two Macchi 200s.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2; dealt with 2 (Ack Ack shell and petrol tank).

MALTA SIGNAL COMPANY  Cables damaged by enemy action at Rocco, Ricasoli and Lascaris-Ghain Dwielli.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Some officers attended a demonstration of 25lb gun-hows and 6in Howitzers.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Battalion commanders reconnaissance of new positions for machine gun posts at Tal Handaq and Luqa.

(1) Joseph Attard of Cospicua, son of a Dockyard worker, The Battle of Malta, Joseph Attard, Hamlyn Paperbacks 1980

(2) The Road to Rome, Philo Pullicino, MPI Publishing 2012

(3) Illustrious Blitz: Joseph Stephens Remembers

(4) Diary of Rev Reginald Nicholls, Chancellor of St Pauls Anglican Cathedral, courtesy of website: Malta Family History

(5) Main text from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

 

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

 

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15 January 1941: Malta Endures Longest Air Raid

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searchlights resizeISLAND UNDER ALERT FOR HOURS

Tonight the people of Malta endured their longest uninterrupted air raid of the war so far.   The alert sounded at twenty minutes to nine this evening as the first enemy aircraft approached the Island.  They were followed by more, in ones and twos, stretched over a period of more than two and a half hours. 

Searchlight operators were frustrated in their efforts to illuminate the raiders by low cloud, which prevented anti-aircraft guns from launching a counter-attack. The poor visibility also hampered the raiders who were seemingly unable to locate their targets, circling several times before dropping bombs on random locations across the Island, and in the sea. 

The raid was the second approach by enemy aircraft this evening. Two hours earlier raiders circled over the Island for half an hour in low cloud but left without dropping any bombs.  

ENEMY EXPLOIT RED CROSS TO EVADE ATTACK

This morning an enemy aircraft appeared over the east of Malta bearing a red cross in a white circle.   Flying at high altitude, the aircraft was clearly carrying out reconnaissance under the protection of a marking which normally gives immunity from attack.  However, this deception by the Luftwaffe is well known in the UK, where such planes are now fired on by RAF fighters and anti-aircraft batteries.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 JANUARY TO DAWN 16 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Hazy skies.

1107-1115 hrs  Air raid alert for one enemy aircraft reported already over the Island, circling over Grand Harbour; identified as a Heinkel 111 or Junkers 88. No Malta fighters can be scrambled in time.  A Glen Martin heads in for landing at Luqa and is followed in by an enemy aircraft marked with a Red Cross.  A few anti-aircraft guns open fire on the Maryland before recognition but cause no damage.  No bombs are dropped.

1940-2050 hrs  Air raid alert. Searchlights illuminated over Grand Harbour detect three enemy aircraft to the north.  Searchlights at Sliema, St Thomas Bay and Hal Far are illuminated and one Hurricane fighter is scrambled.  Due to low cloud, aircraft are heard but not seen circling over Luqa, Hal Far and Grand Harbour apparently searching for their target – presumed to be the Harbour.  They leave without launching an attack.

2139-0015 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which approach singly and in pairs. Low cloud prevents searchlights from illuminating the aircraft.  The raiders circle targets before dropping bombs in the sea off Grand Harbour, one between Hompesch and Zabbar one near Latnia crossroads, two near Bofors gun positions at Pretty Bay and one near a gun position at Pembroke. One Wellington lands at Luqa during the raid. 

0115-0130 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 15 JANUARY 1941

AIR HQ Maryland standing by to shadow Junkers if they appeared. 0500-1000 hrs Maryland reconnaissance Maddelena but abandoned when near target due to bad weather.  Sunderland recce of western Ionian Sea abandoned as impossible to take off during heavy swell. 0837-1114 hrs Maryland recce Taranto Harbour (abandoned due to bad weather) and Catania aerodrome: about 100 aircraft, of which 25 Junkers 87 and 88, seven Fiat BR 20, 20 Macchi 200, four SM 79 and 30-40 aircraft burned out or severely damaged – damage from raid of 13 January.  West side hangar a total wreck and another badly damaged, others partly damaged.  Damage on central administrative buildings and many bomb craters on the aerodrome.  Two Macchis patrolling; one attacked the Maryland from very close range scoring with explosive bullets in the main spars of both wings and one tyre.  Maryland’s rear gunners first pan jammed and the Macchi was too far away by the time the second pan adjusted.  No further damage done on landing but aircraft temporarily unserviceable.  Crew unwounded.

LUQA 69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland reconnaissance Catania aerodrome hit by Macchi 200; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Palermo and Catania, weather bad; 1 Maryland special reconnaissance Naples unsuccessful; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Maddalena abandoned due to bad weather. 148 Squadron: 9 Wellingtons bombing raid on Catania aerodrome.  

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

 

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

 

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