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9 May 1941: Malta Convoy Ship Sunk – 18 Killed

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SS Empire Song

SS Empire Song

EMPIRE SONG LOST AS LARGEST CONVOY YET REACHES MALTA

A convoy of four merchant vessels with 30000 tons of stores arrived in Grand Harbour today, along with Breconshire (carrying military and Naval stores) and two Black Sea oil tankers.  The seven ships form the largest and most valuable convoy which has come to Malta since the start of the siege. 

The ships formed part of Operation Tiger, an urgent supply convoy from the UK to Malta and Alexandria. Five merchant ships, Clan Campbell, Clan Chattan, Clan Lamont, Empire Song and New Zealand Star sailed from the Clyde on 28 April and were escorted from Gibraltar by the Mediterranean Fleet.  At the same time, fast supply transport Breconshire from Alexandria, escorted by Havock, Hotspur and Imperial was also destined for Malta.

At midnight last night as the supply convoy neared Malta, New Zealand Star caught and exploded a mine in her protective snares (paravanes).  Three minutes later 9200 ton cargo steamer Empire Song caught two more mines in her paravanes which exploded, causing a fire in a hold containing ammunition stocks.  Destroyers Foresight and Fortune immediately turned about and began to rescue the crew.  As a volunteer party from Foresight set off by boat to save the steamer, Empire Song blew up along with her cargo of 57 tanks, 10 aircraft and several trucks, sinking the small boat with the loss of one volunteer.  18 of the crew of Empire Song are missing. 

Ordinary Seaman Albert Howarth RN was thrown into the water. Seeing a Stoker nearby who was struggling, he held him up for ten minutes until a life belt could be thrown, which he put round the Stoker, making sure he was hauled to safety.  It was only half an hour later when Howarth was himself rescued, that it was realised his own right foot had been blown off in the explosion. (1)  

Lance Corporal G R Myers was on board Empire Song: “The seven of us [Royal Tank Regiment] personnel were asleep in the paint store in the bow at deck level. I was blown out through the open door and sent headlong on my stomach to finish up at the bottom of the steps leading to the bridge, here I received a head wound of which I was unaware of at the time. Then the second explosion came, this also on the port side. By now the ship had taken on a slight list to port, the first officer came from the bridge and partly removed one of the forward covers to discover the hold was on fire….

We were loaded with Tanks, Lorries and Ammunition, so we had a problem. The ship slowed down and was still making headway but the list was increasing…The Captain had given orders to ‘abandon ship’ but called for volunteers to stay aboard to keep the ship afloat and make for Malta…seven of us stayed aboard and took up fire drill duties.

Two hours after the second explosion conditions on board were getting worse, smoke was pouring out from the hold ventilators and the pitch in the decking planks were starting to melt. The list had increased and the order ‘Abandon Ship’ was given. The list was so great that we didn’t have to jump but we just slipped into the sea with our Life Jackets on of course and we switched on our little red lights so that we could be located for pick up. Our main objective was to swim as far away from the ship as possible, this we did and luckily for us we had done so for in a huge explosion the SS Empire Song blew apart and went down in flame and steam… (2)

Foresight then headed directly for Malta with 130 survivors. Military survivors from Empire Song are named as Trooper J Allen, ULC N Audus, ULC A Cattrall, Trooper J Clifford, Trooper D Crow, A/P/Cpl E Gordon, L/Bdr D T Harker, Pte J R Howitt (RAMC), A/P/Cpl F Kelly, Gnr G Lister, Lt C F N Lowe, Bdr J Miller, AL/Cpl G Myers, Trooper A Peters, ALC I Roberts, Trooper L Trimby, AL/Cpl W White, L/Cpl R Whitehead.

Empire Song casualties named so far are: 4th Officer Barree Sanderson Evendon; Cook Francis Gomes; Topass Gulfan; Trimmer Abdul Jabar; Oiler Hasan Mian; Fireman Kurshid Mian; Fireman Muhammad Mian; Trimmer Sikandar Mian; General Servant Siva; Trimmer Sofath Ali; Trimmer Suzat Ali.

HMS Forester (c) IWM FL 9830

HMS Forester (c) IWM FL 9830

Both convoys arrived by noon today, heavy cloud and mist over Malta having helped ensure their safe arrival. A brief attack by enemy bombers off the coast caused no damage and one raider was shot down.  Gloxinia and Swona arrived to clear the entrance to Grand Harbour of mines before the convoys entered.  Some ships including the destroyer Forester disembarked military personnel at Kalafrana.  Troops from Alexandria included reinforcements for 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment, 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment, Royal Artillery and No 4 Mobile Laundry. 

The destroyers fuelled and sailed immediately. Since the ships’ arrival a few bombs have been dropped in Grand Harbour with little effect but so far there has been no determined attack. Unloading is proceeding rapidly. 

WOMEN TO REPLACE MEN IN WORKFORCE

To tackle current shortages of manpower, Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has issued a proposal to replace soldiers in certain roles with female employees. He plans to employ up to 100 women age 16 and over, with 25 to be recruited immediately, for the following roles and rates of pay:

  • Storewoman, messenger, cleaner, officers mess servant, officers servant, assistant cook 18/- a week
  • Dining hall servant, cookhouse fatigue, orderly 16/-
  • Officers’ and mens’ cooks 21/-
  • Head cooks 23/-
  • Plus increased rates as follows:
  • Laundress, washerwoman, seamstress to 18/-
  • Charwoman 16/-

Subject to War Office approval the above rates will include a 6/- bonus. The working hours of all grades to be 48 per week, except for cooks which will be 56 hours. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 MAY TO DAWN 10 MAY 1941

Weather  Overcast with extremely poor visibility; some rain.

0935-1035 hrs  Air raid alert for four JU 87 dive-bombers escorted by 16 fighters approaching the Island.  Despite the poor visibility the raiders launch an attack on a convoy approaching Grand Harbour; the attack is unsuccessful.  Two Swordfish, two Fulmars, five Hurricanes and five Beaufighters are scrambled to attack the raiders.  One Beaufighter shoots down a JU 87, another is probably shot down by fighters.

1100-1145 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach from the north east heading for shipping outside Grand Harbour.  HM ships engage with anti-aircraft fire; no bombs are dropped.  A convoy of seven ships arrives safely.

1532-1550 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 9 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Marsaxlokk is used as an oiling base by 8 destroyers and Breconshire.  All available anti-aircraft guns are mounted around the Bay.  Convoys MW 7A and 7B, consisting of Breconshire, four merchant vessels, and two tankers arrived safely. 

AIR HQ  0715-1530 hrs 5 Beaufighters standing patrol for a convoy passing southwards.

HAL FAR Three Fulmar aircraft arrived from the aircraft carrier Formidable.

KALAFRANA  Army and RAF drafts from UK disembarked at Kalafrana from Breconshire.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  HQ Company spent the day on the range firing automatics and rifles. Machine gun instructors course finished.  A draft arrived from Egypt consisting of 5 officers and 95 other ranks. 

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Disembarked at Malta ex Alexandria: officers 3, other ranks 57.

ROYAL ARTILLERY  Disembarked at Malta ex Alexandria: officers 1, other ranks 9.

(1) Ordinary Seaman Albert Howarth RN was awarded the Albert Medal for his action

(2) Lance Corporal G R Myers, 8th Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment, courtesy of Malta Family History  

 

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Posted by on May 9, 2021 in 1941, May 1941

 

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8 May 1941: Bombing Drives Malta War HQ Underground

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Ban on newspapers leaving Malta introduced

Ban on newspapers leaving Malta introduced

MINERS NEEDED TO EXCAVATE NEW FACILITIES

In the face of recent heavy bombing, Malta’s high command has decided to relocate essential facilities underground. The Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office with a proposal to create a new combined War Headquarters, a main supply depot, ammunition and military cold stores, all of which are currently above ground in a target bombing area, by tunnelling into the Island’s rock.  The plan also includes an underground emergency operating theatre for the General Hospital – which has already had 40 bombs within its perimeter.

However, all the excavations will require rock mining and Malta lacks the necessary manpower to create the new facilities. Labour shortages arising from conscription, and the civil government’s use of miners in the digging of shelters for the civilian population, have seriously reduced the number available for war department work.  In an unusual move, Lt General Dobbie has turned to Gibraltar for assistance.  He has written to the Governor of the Rock asking if a company of Canadian miners currently based there, as well as any surplus power tools, could be spared for Malta.  If so, he hopes they might be shipped by the next supply run through the western Mediterranean. 

BLANKET BAN ON NEWSPAPER DISTRIBUTION

The Government has issued a new Order banning the dissemination of printed material. The order applies to all military Services and ranks.  Under the ban, no person attempt to send or convey from Malta to any destination outside Malta any local newspaper (including the Government Gazette) or other printed matter containing news, intelligence, reports of events, any remarks or observations, or advertisements.  Any item to which the order relates may be detained and destroyed by the Censor or any authorised officer.

TROOP WELFARE CENTRE OPENS IN VALLETTA

A new welfare facility for troops of all three Services has been opened in Valletta. The Command Welfare Hostel is located at 205 Old Bakery Street, at the corner of Britannia Street; its entrance marked ‘St Andrews Hall’.  The centre is sleeping accommodation for 39 men, and offers breakfasts and light suppers.  Charges for the accommodation and food are the same as an existing facility at the Vernon Club.  The new hostel also has a good-sized recreation room with a ping-pong table, dart-boards and a piano.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 MAY TO DAWN 9 MAY 1941

Weather  Overcast, wet and misty; poor visibility.

1650-2000 hrs  Air raid alert for about 10 enemy aircraft which cross the coast and drop five bombs in the area of Della Grazia. Night Hurricanes are scrambled but two searchlight illuminations are too brief for them to intercept the raiders.  Anti-aircraft guns fire one barrage.  Many bombs are dropped in the sea and a few on land.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 8 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm One Swordfish search for Fulmar failing to arrive from Formidable.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 2 Sunderland; 4 Wellington. 69 Squadron Maryland patrol between Skerki Bank and Cape Carbonara; visibility bad. 

LUQA  Four Wellingtons arrived from Gibraltar.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Exercise for the Mobile Company cancelled due to the weather: it was feared that damage to crops would be too great.

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

 

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Posted by on May 8, 2021 in 1941, May 1941

 

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7 May 1941: Churchill Determined to Fight for Malta

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Maryland reconnaissance aircraft missing

Maryland reconnaissance aircraft missing

LOSS OF MALTA WOULD BE AMONG THE HEAVIEST BLOWS TO ALLIES, SAYS PM

Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill has made clear the importance of the Island of Malta to the war effort. In a keynote speech to the House of Commons today as part of a two-day debate on the war situation, Mr Churchill said he has noted a tendency in some quarters, especially abroad, to talk about the Middle East as if the Allies could afford to lose their position there and yet carry on the war to victory on the oceans and in the air. 

On the contrary, he said, no-one must under-rate the gravity of the issue being fought in the Nile Valley. “The loss of the Nile Valley and the Suez Canal, the loss of our position in the Mediterranean and of Malta, would be among the heaviest blows we could sustain,” said Mr Churchill.  “We are determined to fight for them with all the resources of the British Empire, and we have every reason to believe that we shall be successful.”

ROYAL MALTA ARTILLERY FACES SHORTAGES AS CONSCRIPT NUMBERS LOWER THAN ESTIMATED

In a cable to the War Office today the Governor and Commander in Chief revealed that the intake of conscripted men into the armed services in Malta has been much smaller than estimated. The shortfall has resulted in shortages of manpower for essential tasks, especially in the Royal Malta Artillery.  Further postings of personnel to the Island will be essential if adequate defences are to be maintained.

RECONNAISSANCE MARYLAND MISSING

A Glenn Martin Maryland aircraft of 69 Squadron has been reported missing this evening, after failing to return from a reconnaissance mission. Piloted by Flying Officer John Boys-Stones, the aircraft was despatched from Luqa to reconnoitre a convoy after an attack by Beaufighters earlier today.  The Observer of the missing Maryland has been named as Sergeant J M Alexander and the Wireless Operator/Gunner Sergeant Jack Levy.

CHANNEL ISLANDS SERVICEMEN WORRIED FOR FAMILIES

Personnel from the Channel Islands now serving in Malta are becoming increasingly anxious about the welfare of their families at home. Cables and letters have been sent to the Islands through the International Red Cross but no replies have been received for at least six months, if at all. The Channel Islands have been under German occupation since 30 June last year.  Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office today asking for assistance in restoring better communications with civilians on the Islands.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 MAY TO DAWN 8 MAY 1941

Weather  Overcast with low cloud.

0904-0925 hrs; 1019-1048 hrs  Air raid alerts for a formation of ME 109 fighters which carry out patrols round the Island  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagements.

1319-1340 hrs  Air raid alert; for eight ME 109s spotted heading towards the south east coast. Guns at Delimara and Benghaisa forts open fire and the raiders retreat without crossing the coast

1548-1620 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 which approaches the Island escorted by six ME 109 fighters. The JU 88 crosses the Island on reconnaissance and is engaged by heavy anti-aircraft guns; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled. The weaver of the formation collides with another aircraft; both crash and are written off.  Pilot Sergeant H H Jennings died when his aircraft hit the ground near Gharghur. The other pilot Sergeant Walker, managed to bale out before his aircraft plunged into the sea

2032-2141 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the north. Low cloud makes it difficult to locate targets and some raiders turn away without dropping any bombs.  Others drop bombs on Luqa aerodrome and in the sea off Tigne.  Four bombs hit a military post near Ghar Dalam, destroying a store and damaging an accommodation hut.  Three men are slightly wounded.  Searchlights illuminate raiders twice and anti-aircraft guns fire an immediate barrage; no claims.  A Hurricane night fighter is scrambled but does not engage.

Military casualties Flight Sergeant William James Griffiths, Royal Air Force; Flight Sergeant Ralph Hepple, Royal Air Force; Sergeant Henry Horace Jennings, Pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR), 261 Squadron; Flight Sergeant John Richards, Royal Air Force VR, 200 Squadron. Sergeant J M Alexander, Observer, Flying Officer John Boys-Stones, pilot and Sergeant Jack Levy, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, of Glenn Martin Maryland, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Luqa  Carmel Gatt, age 51. Mosta Saviour Galea, age 82.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 7 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron operations against small a convoy inside Lampedusa which already been attacked by Blenheims.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Bombay. Departures 1 Bombay. 69 Squadron Maryland despatched reconnaissance Naples returned to report a convoy: 5 Blenheims 21 Squadron and 3 Beaufighters 252 Squadron despatched to attack; two ships received direct hits and a Beaufighter shot down an Italian transport plane.  A second Maryland sent to reconnoitre the convoy after the attack has not yet returned.  Maryland photo-reconnaissance Taranto.  Planned reconnaissance of Naples delayed 24 hours.     

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  C and D Companies spent the day on the range firing rifle practices.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 14; dealt with 5 (5 x 50kg).

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY 15 pdr cable from Fortress to Lintorn and 10 pdr cable miniature range to Lintorn broken by enemy action 2 March now repaired.

 

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Posted by on May 7, 2021 in 1941, May 1941

 

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6 May 1941: New Anti-Aircraft Strategy a Great Success

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Searchlights vital in co-ordinated attack

Searchlights vital in co-ordinated attack

MALTA DEFENDERS LAUNCH CO-ORDINATED COUNTER-ATTACK

A new anti-aircraft gun policy put into force tonight has proved a great success. Under the new strategy, the enemy was engaged alternately by fighters and gunfire at varying periods.  The fighters closing in on any intersection of searchlights, ready to deal with an illuminated bomber.

The new tactic was employed for the first time during an air raid at 2020 hrs this evening, when 36 enemy aircraft came over in three waves to attack Grand Harbour and Luqa aerodrome. Two Hurricanes were scrambled during an initial period, while anti-aircraft fire was suspended.  They shot down one raider confirmed, plus one probable and one damaged.  The Hurricanes then withdrew while anti-aircraft guns fired predicted barrages. 

Two JU 88s were shot down by Bofors guns; one on land, one on the coast. Two more Hurricanes were then scrambled and engaged the raiders again.  Searchlights proved very effective throughout the combat, achieving a number of illuminations which enabled the fighters and gunners to find their targets.

Watching from their defence posts around Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto, 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment personnel commented in their War Diary: “…this was a most enjoyable and cheering raid.  Low-lying clouds forced the enemy lower than they normally lie to come, and the searchlights picked them up one after another while they were dealt with.  One enemy raider was hit almost over our Battalion HQ and at one moment it was thought it would land on us, but it actually came down ½ a mile away…A most satisfactory night.”

UXB exampleSAFETY MEASURES FOR UNEXPLODED BOMBS TIGHTENED

132 unexploded bombs (UXB) have been reported to Malta’s Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Section in the first 5 days of this month. However, following concerns regarding the safety procedures surrounding UXB sites, new orders have today been issued to troops and civil defence across Malta for dealing with unexploded bombs.

From today unexploded bombs must only be approached by personnel of Bomb Disposal Section Royal Engineers, or personnel of other units who have attended bomb disposal reconnaissance courses – and any such approach will be for the purpose of identifying and reporting unexploded bombs only.

Under the new safety measures personnel from other units are expressly ordered never to dig for or touch the unexploded bombs. Digging will only be undertaken by members of other military units on request of the Royal Engineers, and will be under RE supervision.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 MAY TO DAWN 7 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

1154-1250 hrs  Air raid alert for six HE 111 bombers approaching the Island escorted by 30 ME 109 fighters.  They carry out a high level bombing raid on Luqa, dropping 15 high explosive bombs on the  aerodrome.  One Beaufighter is written off, two badly damaged and six slightly damaged.  A shelter of 2nd Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment is hit but no personnel are inside.  11 Hurricane fighters are scrambled and attack the bombers, one of which is last seen with its engine on fire and unlikely to reach base.  Hurricanes are shot down by raiders – the pilots bale out: Sgt R A Branson suffers burns to his right leg and P/O C K Gray is wounded in the left thigh.  A third Hurricane crash lands and is written off.  P/O A Dredge’s Hurricane crashes in flames on the airfield; he suffers severe burns. Pilot Officer P D Thompson’s Hurricane is damaged but he manages to land, despite suffering from a splinter wound in his leg.  One ME 109 is damaged by anti-aircraft fire.

1755-1830 hrs  Air raid alert for five JU 88 bombers, with an escort of 20 ME 109s.  The bombers carry out a second high level attack on Luqa.  A bomb hits tar barrels north of the aerodrome, starting a large fire.  Hurricanes are scrambled and shoot down one JU 88.

2020-2330 hrs  Air raid alert for 36 enemy aircraft which come over in three waves, including JU 87s, JU 88s and HE 111s.  Bombs are dropped on Luqa aerodrome; bombs and mines on the Grand Harbour area.  The Northern Petroleum tank at Marsa is destroyed, causing a large fire.  14 houses are destroyed in Casa Paola and Cospicua; one civilian is killed.  Luqa runway is damaged with craters and another shelter of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment is damaged.  Three Marylands are damaged and unserviceable but repairable.  In the Dockyard several workshops are extensively damaged, stores and sheds destroyed.  Parachute mines laid in and outside Marsamxetto and Grand Harbour.

A new defensive policy for anti-aircraft guns is put into operation, while searchlights achieve a good number of illuminations. Two Hurricanes are scrambled to 10000 and 15000 feet in the first part of the raid, with no Ack Ack fire.  They shoot down one raider confirmed, plus one probable and one damaged.  Ack Ack then engages with a barrage, followed by the scramble of further Hurricanes.  Heavy Ack Ack fire eight barrages.  Bofors guns fire at parachute mines and at all aircraft below 3000 feet, destroying two: one lands on the Ordnance Repair Shops at the Ospizio.

Air raid alert triggered by An enemy search party then circles the island 15 miles off the coast for 45 minutes.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Joseph Calleja, age 40; Gudja Spiro Brincat, age 60. Tarxien Vincent Falzon, age 56.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 6 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Usk is 72 hours overdue and is given up as lost.  6 mines were exploded off Grand Harbour. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Operations against Tripoli. Lieutenant N K Cambell‘s aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and ditched just off the Libyan coast.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron 2 Marylands patrolled eastern Tunisian coast. A Maryland carried out the shuttle service from the Middle East via Crete and Zante.  Two Marylands patrolled the Greek coast.  4 Beaufighters patrolled to 85 west of Malta.  The Hurricane of the photo-reconnaissance unit photographed Catania aerodrome at 30000 feet; visual reports give 20 twin-engined aircraft on the aerodrome.     

HAL FAR  Four Hurricane casualties from Hal Far as a result of enemy action. P/O Dredge crashed on the aerodrome in flames; he was seriously injured.  P/O Thompson sustained a small splinter wound in the leg.  P/O Gray baled out and was hurt in the left thigh.  Sgt Branson baled out, sustaining a burn to the right leg. 

LUQA  Maryland A crew left for Middle East but returned due to compass trouble after reaching Crete. D crew arrived PM; C crew took a machine on reconnaissance of the Ionian Sea and returned. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A Company fired their rifle practises on the range.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (1 x 50kg).

 

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Posted by on May 6, 2021 in 1941, May 1941

 

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5 May 1941: Malta ‘Most Exposed’ Part of British Empire

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MALTA’S ORDEAL

The Times, London MAY 1941

Malta in the Mediterranean

Malta in the Mediterranean

The most exposed position in the British Empire is the island of Malta, which continues to suffer heavy air raids. Situated as it is at the intersection of the British route from Gibraltar to Alexandria with the enemy’s route from the Italian ports to Tripoli, its capture would be of incalculable value to the Axis for the whole of their Mediterranean strategy; and in default of capture they have reason to spare no effort to make its harbour useless as a base for British ships. 

Since Malta is only sixty miles from the airfields of Sicily, and is precluded by its small area from maintaining a defensive air force comparable in numbers to its potential assailants, the opportunities for harassing the garrison and people are enormous. Indeed the Maltese, like so many of their ancestors before them, have been living ever since last June in what is practically a state of siege, though they are invested not from the sea but from the sky.  Up to the middle of February, when the last statistics were given to the House of Commons, Malta had endured over three hundred raids – that is, considerably more than one for every day since Italy entered the war; and the latest news is a reminder that the attack has not slackened. 

The constancy of the Maltese people under this continuous ordeal – from which they have no prospect of respite while Italy remains a belligerent – is beyond all praise. The cramped circumstances in which the Island has to wage aerial war have never been allowed to impair its fighting efficiency, and again and again the attacking squadrons have been beaten off with loss.  The civil defence services have kept down casualties and maintained the spirit of the population at a high level; so far are the Maltese from self-pity that they even raised, in the midst of their own troubles, a subscription in relief of air-raid distress in London.  Large numbers of their young men are on active service with the Imperial Forces, and they are now embarking on a scheme of compulsory service, both military and civil, which in some respects goes beyond that which is in force in England.

General Dobbie is heading the defence with a tenacity worthy of the tradition of De l’Isle Adam and La Valetta; while the Maltese are holding their post of honour with a valour and endurance that come of pride in their share of the Imperial inheritance. Fascist propaganda has laboured for years to persuade them to think of themselves as Italians.  Yet neither in race nor language nor history nor institutions have they part or lot with Italy…  [They] disdain the servile institutions of their Fascist neighbours; and they are confident that their island fortress, which withstood the might of a Suleiman the Magnificent, can indefinitely defy a mere Mussolini.  

BREAD RATIONING INTRODUCED

Bread rationing begins in Malta today. The ration will be 3/8 rotolo per person (including for children and babies).  At the same time, the price of bread has also been reduced by more than 50 per cent: the ration portion of a single person will now cost half a penny.  The reduction follows a commitment by the British Government to bear the cost of keeping bread prices down in Malta while the Island is under siege. 

The rationing of bread will be managed by the local Protection Offices, which will keep detailed records of every allocation. The Offices will also issue permits to bakers to obtain their allocation of flour to meet the needs of their customers.

Wheat is being milled to the maximum extraction rate and mixed with maize and barley. The resulting bread is now much darker than the white bread the Maltese are accustomed to. 

REPORTING OF CASUALTIES

All Companies of Maltese regiments have been ordered immediately inform their Battalion Headquarters direct of all deaths due to enemy action, in order that the necessary information may be sent to the Record Office for notification of the next of kin. The measure is In line with King’s Regulations 1935.  Information from Companies must contain full particulars of next of kin, and whether the next of kin has been informed.  Casualties in respect of English troops will be reported as laid down in Fortress Orders 1941.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 MAY TO DAWN 6 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine with a fresh wind.

0828-0843 hrs  Air raid alert for a small formation of enemy fighters which approach the Island and patrol off the coast; no air raid.

2010-2030 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of a Maryland aircraft.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 5 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Swordfish overnight operations minelaying approaches to Tripoli. Information received that one Merchant Vessel blew up and one Merchant Vessel burned out while they were laying the mines.  As no bombs were dropped it is suspected that a flare from a Swordfish landed on the ship unloading petrol and ammunition

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland.  69 Squadron  Maryland on shuttle service reconnaissance from Middle East via Greek coast and Zante.  2 Marylands reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.  Marylands departed Gibraltar 1530 hrs arrived Malta safely; no shipping or aircraft seen en route.  Beaufighter patrols to 60 miles west of Malta from dawn to 1000 hrs in connection with air escort for special merchant vessel due Malta; ship not sighted.  Patrols will be repeated tomorrow at the same time.  

LUQA  Maryland B crew left; C crew arrived PM. Two flights of Beaufighters went out to escort British vessel Parracombe to Malta but did not find it.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 19 (18 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg).

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Battalion providing working parties for clearing Valletta.

 

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Posted by on May 5, 2021 in 1941, May 1941

 

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4 May 1941: Malta Capital Valletta ‘Now a Sorry Sight’

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GOVERNOR’S REPORT ON 15 DAY BLITZ 16 MARCH TO 30 APRIL 1941

From: Governor & C in C                       To: Secretary of State for the Colonies

Savoy, Valletta

Savoy, Valletta

“Valletta is now a sorry sight. The main street is completely blocked with debris and not one cinema out of five is working.” 

During the period 16 March to 30 April there were 15 bombing raids by day and 23 bombing raids by night. These raids resulted in heavy damage to civilian property.  714 houses were demolished or badly damaged.  The first part of this period was comparatively quiet but determined enemy activity was resumed on Good Friday and continued thereafter.  On the night of 30 April alone 309 houses were wholly or partly destroyed.

During the period 50 civilians were killed and 53 seriously injured in air raids. 28 civilian dockyard employees out of a crew of 29 were lost when the Admiralty Mooring vessel was blown up by mine in Grand Harbour on 8 April. 

Important buildings damaged in the Valletta area include St Johns Co Cathedral, Law Courts, the three Malta banks and Floriana Central Hospital, where 100 patients were removed without mishap. There was also much damage to other commercial and residential property in Valletta – especially from the blast of parachute mines – in Sliema and in other widely scattered areas, some of them far from any military objective.

There has been little additional movement of population during this period. About 55000 people were already living away from their former homes and it is hoped that circumstances will not compel any further extensive migration.  Safe shelters provide the best anchor.  The night population of Valletta has been reduced from about 24000 to under 13000 and that of the Three Cities and Kalkara from about 30000 to about 5000.  In the latter area there is sleeping accommodation for the whole of the night population in bomb-proof shelters dug in the rock. 

In Valletta and Floriana over 10000 people sleep regularly in shelters and there is ample shelter space but not yet sleeping accommodation for the rest of the night population. The largest single shelter is the old railway tunnel about 1000 yards long running in the rock from Valletta to Floriana.  Other tunnels forming part of the old fortification of the Knights are also used and many of the small tunnels have and are being dug by private individuals for themselves and their families in many of the rock faces available.  We have made and given out hundreds of picks.

All passive defences are now functioning well and with effective co-operation and there have been expressions of public satisfaction on this score. The main problem now, apart from the completion of the shelter programme, is the clearance of streets and buildings and recovering property from debris.  The establishment of two new demolition gangs has already been authorised but further expansion of the service is necessary and will be applied for.  The heavy stone construction of older buildings makes this work particularly difficult.

The problem of fire has recently presented itself for the first time. Construction of Malta’s buildings makes them almost immune but stores of timber and contents of shops have been set alight in a few instances in recent weeks, particularly by the explosion of mines.  The fire-fighting equipment and organisation is being reviewed.  Malta has a large stock of oil dispersed about the Island and bomb-proof protection is not available except for an inconsiderable part of the quantity we need.  The problem is therefore an important one.

From the 20 and 21 age groups 833 men have been enlisted under compulsory military service. The calling up of 22 and 23 age groups is now proceeding and four more age groups up to 27 will follow.  The willingness and understanding with which compulsory military service, never before known in Malta, has been accepted by the general population is very greatly to their credit.  Improvements in pay and family allowances granted by the War Office have greatly helped in this.

The convoy on 23 March of four ships carrying about 30000 tons of stores arrived and was successfully unloaded. On 21 April Breconshire arrived with military cargo.  Appearance of these convoys is enthusiastically received by the whole of the population, and large crowds are to be seen on arrival on points overlooking Grand Harbour. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 MAY TO DAWN 5 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0735-0750 hrs  Air raid alert for a small formation of enemy fighters approaching the Island. Anti-aircraft guns engage at long range one ME 109 which does not cross the coast.  Hurricanes do not intercept. 

0804-0835 hrs Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which approaches the Island with two ME 109s and carries out reconnaissance from south to north over the Island.  Anti-aircraft guns engage the bomber; no claims.  Three Hurricanes are scrambled and engage the JU 88; it falls into the sea 20 miles north.  One Hurricane is forced is blinded by oil from the JU 88 and has to break off combat.  The ME 109s counter-attack the Hurricanes, damaging one and slightly wounding the pilot.  

0825-0930 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy search planes which circles north of the Island looking for the JU 88 and then recede.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 4 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Union arrived to join Malta Submarine Force; a mine (probably acoustic) exploded with 1½ cables of her, causing no damage.  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Swordfish overnight operations minelaying approaches to Tripoli.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Beaufighter; 69 Squadron 2 Maryland. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland patrolled eastern Tunisian coast.  One Hurricane attempted reconnaissance of Comiso but clouds prevented visibility.  

HAL FAR One Hurricane damaged in combat with the enemy; pilot P/O Hall sustained a splinter wound in the left arm.

LUQA One Maryland A crew arrived in Maryland; B crew took it on reconnaissance of Ionian Sea and returned.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT 1825 hrs One man was wounded by an exploding bomb.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 34; dealt with 9 (8 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg).

 

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Posted by on May 4, 2021 in 1941, May 1941

 

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3 May 1941: Parachute Mines on Barracks Kill Royal Engineers

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FIRST RAID ON FLORIANA “A MOST TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE”

Nine servicemen of the Royal Engineers and one civilian employee were killed and many more RE personnel wounded, along with three members of Royal Malta Artillery and two of 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment when two parachute mines landed on Floriana during an air raid this evening.  In a two hour attack by 30 Luftwaffe bombers which started just before 9pm, dozens of mines and bombs were dropped across the Dockyard area.  This is the first time Floriana has been badly hit in an air raid.

Blondie Webber, back row 2nd L beside Jack Lockett

Blondie Webber, back row 2nd L beside Jack Lockett (1)

Lance Sergeant Jack Lockett was standing on the bastions at the edge of Lintorn Barracks with his friend ‘Blondie’ Webber watching the raid in progress: “The searchlights were weaving about the sky, and one of the beams crossed an object falling beneath its chute and obviously into the barracks. We thought this to be a parachute flare, many of which were dropping to illuminate the harbour. This one, however, had not ignited, and the parachute would be a valuable find. They were of a high quality of material, very fine… One could get some nice shirts made by bartering part of the material, and they were much prized.

Blondie was faster than I to realize what was happening, and was five yards ahead of me when he rounded the corner of the cookhouse. Sad to relate, the parachute supported not a flare, but a sea mine, which exploded on contact with the ground. The blast of the explosion was deflected from me by the corner of the building, and I was able to pull up unhurt. Blondie, however was already round the corner, and caught the full blast. We found nothing of him but his left hand, identifiable by a signet ring he wore.” (1)

The blast wave from the exploding mine smashed the doors of St Publius Church and reached as far back as the Church sanctuary, sweeping everything in its wake and tearing to shreds a painting of St Publius. The church clock was stopped by the blast, its iron hands pointing at 9.40.

St Publius church with RE parade ground to R

St Publius church with RE parade ground to R

Emmanuel Tonna was in the Air Raid Precautions shelter nearby which was shaken by the blast. All ARP personnel rushed across the Granaries to the scene of the explosion:  “they all started collecting lumps of flesh – the remains of [three] servicemen who were mutilated by the explosion. Captain G Clerk, RE, was found trapped in the basement of the Pavilion (Montgomery House) and was brought to the ARP Centre and treated for shock.” (2)

Meanwhile a second mine had landed between Casemate Barracks and the Central Hospital and exploded. 18 year old Carmelo Calafato, RAOC, was in the Barracks: “…window and doors were blown in and all the contents of the barrack room in which I was billeted – iron bedsteads, lockers, rifle racks – were twisted and battered beyond repair.

Sharing the barrack room with us were some sappers from the Royal Engineers, of whom five were killed and several injured. Luck was with me on that night.  A cloud of thick dust filled the barrack room and I felt as if I was choking.  I staggered to the guard room, picking my way through the rubble, twisted iron and shattered furniture and when I got there I suddenly realised that I could not hear a thing.  My ear-drums had almost burst and it was a full week before I could hear properly again.” (3)

Reports soon reached the Floriana ARP Centre that the Central Civil Hospital had been hit: several wards and offices had been demolished. Every available ARP warden set off to help.  Operations had already started to rescue the Hospital’s 100 patients, with the assistance of 17 Sappers stationed at Lintorn Barracks.  Walking cases from the Hospital were taken to the Old Railway tunnel, suffering from shock and other ailments.  Bedridden cases were evacuated by ambulance to St Aloysious College emergency hospital in Birkirkara and Cini Hospital, Hamrun. (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 MAY TO DAWN 4 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0715-0750 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy fighters which approach the Island and carry out a patrol off the coast; no air raid.

1438-1515 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which carries out reconnaissance with an escort of ME 109s.  The JU 88 is engaged by heavy anti-aircraft guns; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are also scrambled.  During the raid a Beaufighter takes off for a local test despite signals from the aerodrome trying to stop it.  The Beaufighter flies towards a Sunderland moored at Kalafrana at high speed, raising the suspicions of the Hurricanes which turn and attack with long-range fire, before recognising the friendly aircraft.  The Beaufighter’s undercarriage is damaged and the pilot Flt/Lt William Riley has to make a forced landing on the aerodrome; the crew are all safe.

2045-2245 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 HE 111 and JU 88 bombers which approach from the north and carry out a heavy mine-laying and bombing raid on the Dockyard, Valletta, Floriana and Luqa, causing considerable damage to civilian property, chiefly in Valletta which is hit by mines and bombs.  A bank, a church and the main civil hospital are hit; over 100 houses are demolished, gas and water mains are damaged; 4 civilians are killed and 5 wounded. 

Casemate Barracks is hit by a mine and another lands close to Floriana Pavilion; both buildings are severely damaged. Eight Royal Engineers (RE) and one civilian employee of Royal Army Service Corps are killed, five RE seriously injured and several more slightly injured.  Three members of Royal Malta Artillery and two of 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment are wounded. 

Anti-aircraft guns launch 13 barrages. One raider is confirmed destroyed plus another possible by Bofors guns.  A Malta night fighter is scrambled but does not engage as searchlights illuminate raiders only briefly.

0145-0323 hrs Air raid alert for 15-20 enemy aircraft which approach from the north and drop bombs in the areas of Luqa, Hal Far, Grand Harbour, Floriana and Zabbar. In the Dockyard workshops and stores are damaged, a large crater is blown in Oil Wharf which partially collapses. HMS Fermoy in No 5 dock is hit again, this time amidships; she floods and sinks.  Parachute mines are laid inside and outside Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour.  Night Hurricane up but illuminations too brief for interception.  Bombs create several craters on Luqa aerodrome and damage equipment.  Anti-aircraft guns fire 12 barrages; no claims.  A night fighter is scrambled; no engagement.

Military casualties  Sergeant Raymond Ottey, RAF, 261 Squadron; Sergeant John Harrington, Royal Engineers, Lance Corporal Arthur Edward Garnham, Sapper Bernard Hart, Corporal William Paul O’Grady, Sapper Charles Albert Taylor, Sapper John Henry Wadsworth, all 16 Fortress Company, Royal Engineers. Lance Sergeant William Moore, Albert Bodiam and Lance Corporal Peter Webber, all 24 Fortress Company, Royal Engineers.

Civilian casualties  J Fearnley.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 3 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Heavy minelaying and bombing raids on Grand Harbour: Fermoy sunk in dock; Jade near-missed.  Operations started to clear the wreck of Jersey from Grand Harbour entrance. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Swordfish overnight operations minelaying approaches to Tripoli.

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland with passenger Sir Arthur Longmore en route to UK. Departures 1 Sunderland.  69 Squadron  Two Maryland reconnaissance Tunisian coast. 21 Squadron 4 Blenheims despatched on a sweep of Tripoli and Benghazi for enemy supply ships; nil report.  

HAL FAR Three aircraft 830 Squadron took off on operational flight; all returned safely.

LUQA One Maryland B crew arrived from Middle East by Sunderland.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  All medium machine guns have now been fired with the exception of beach posts. Some light machine guns have also been fired.  Major General Percival who commanded the 2nd Bn in Malta 1932-34 paid us a flying visit on his way to Singapore.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 52; dealt with 24 (22 x 50kg; 1 x 250kg; 1 x 500kg).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  60 x 250kg bombs fell in the Battalion area.

(1) Diary of Corporal Jack Lockett © IWM

(2) Floriana in Wartime, Emmanuel S Tonna, Malta 1969

(3) The People’s War, Malta:1940-43, Laurence Mizzi, Progress Press 1998

 

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Posted by on May 3, 2021 in 1941, May 1941

 

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

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HMS Jersey

HMS Jersey

35 KILLED AS HMS JERSEY EXPLODES

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

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

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

MALTA COVERT SUPPLY OPERATION FAILS

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

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

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

BEAUFIGHTERS ARRIVE

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

MINE EXPLODES IN VALLETTA

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 MAY TO DAWN 3 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

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

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

HMS Gloucester and striking force sail from Grand Harbour.

1445-1600 hrs 13 Beaufighters land at Luqa.

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

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

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 2 MAY 1941

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

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

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

LUQA 12 Beaufighters 252 Squadron arrived from the UK.

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

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

(1) Courtesy of website Malta Family History  

 

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Posted by on May 2, 2021 in 1941, May 1941

 

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1 May 1941: Heavy Increase in Night Raids on Malta

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RAID SUMMARY APRIL 1941

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

Grand Harbour is a constant target

MALTA HQ REVIEWS APRIL 1941

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

Four particular enemy tactics became noticeable during night raids:

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

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

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 MAY TO DAWN 2 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

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

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

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

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

Civilian casualties  Marsa  Joseph Vassallo, age 39.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 1 MAY 1941

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Posted by on May 1, 2021 in 1941, May 1941, Uncategorized

 

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

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HARDLY A PANE OF GLASS LEFT IN VALLETTA

Greek Orthodox Church destroyed

Greek Orthodox Church destroyed

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

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

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

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

Clearing debris in Valletta

Clearing debris in Valletta

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

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

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

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 APRIL TO DAWN 1 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 30 APRIL 1941

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

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

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

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

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Blitz on Valletta, severe damage to Strada Reale; RE assisted with clearance. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 29; dealt with 2 (2 x 50kg).  Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 190; dealt with 50.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Posted by on April 30, 2021 in 1941, April 1941

 

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