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7 March 1941: Without More Fighters Malta Cannot Continue

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ME 109LUFTWAFFE HAS AIR SUPERIORITY OVER THE ISLAND

Malta’s commanders are becoming increasingly concerned about the defence of the Island against the Luftwaffe. Following heavy air raids on Hal Far on Wednesday and Luqa a week before, Malta’s Air Officer Commanding, Air Vice-Marshal Maynard, concluded that without an increased fighter force he cannot protect the Sunderland and Wellington bomber squadrons based in Malta.  In the attack on Luqa on Wednesday 26 February, the entire Malta bomber squadron on the base was destroyed or grounded; a similar destruction resulted from this week’s raid on Hal Far.

The War Diary of Malta General Staff notes: Air superiority rests with the enemy at the moment very definitely, owing to the small fighter force in Malta. It is very noticeable however that, except for dawn or night attacks and a few other rare exceptions, the enemy stays at great height, due to the strong reaction of the Island’s anti-aircraft defences.”

In a message today, Lt Gen Dobbie warned the Chief of Air Staff in London that without suitable aircraft to defend Malta, the Island will be unable to continue as a useful naval and air base for the Allies in the Mediterranean. In addition, the prolonged enemy campaign of persistent round the clock nuisance raids interspersed with mass bombing attacks is taking its toll on the fighter squadrons as well as the civilian population.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal confirmed in his response that he places a high priority on the defence of Malta but that other demands, as well as transport difficulties in the Mediterranean, were making the provision of reinforcements difficult. He confirmed that more Hurricanes will be sent to Malta as soon as is practicable.

POWS IN MALTA

The War Office has requested details of prisoners of war taken in Malta since 3 February. They have expressed particular interest in German POWs.  The Island’s Garrison has reported the subsequent capture of two Germans: Cadet Officer Roman heil Oberfagnich (station and squadron unknown) and Wireless Telegraph Operator Heinrich Stamm Gefreiter, Unit 7(31) Geschwader, station Catania.  Both airmen are reported well.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 MARCH TO DAWN 8 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

1158-1247 hrs Air raid alert for four JU 88 bombers and ten ME 109 fighters approaching the Island. The JU 88s drop bombs near Chateau Bertrand at Ta Qali.  Over St Paul’s Bay two of the fighters dive down to 150 feet and machine-gun a moored Sunderland, killing one of the crew. Fighters also attack two Hurricanes detailed to protect a Glenn Martin Maryland which is returning from a reconnaissance mission.  One of the Hurricanes is forced to land in the sea; the pilot is rescued.  They shoot down the Maryland over Wied Tal Kleigha, killing the pilot and one of the crew.  A sergeant bails out of the burning aircraft and is fired on by ground troops as he lands; he survives.  Anti-aircraft guns engage and claim two raiders probably destroyed. 

1702-1741 hrs  Air raid alert for some 20 enemy aircraft circling 20 miles to the north of the Island; raid does not materialise.

2042-2330 hrs  Air raid alert for between 30 and 40 enemy aircraft including bombers which attack the Island in groups, dropping bombs on various areas including Luqa, Grand Harbour, Pembroke, Ta Silch and Zonqor. Many bombs are dropped in the sea and several raiders miss the Island altogether.  Anti-aircraft guns raise a heavy barrage; one raider believed damaged.

Military casualties   Flying Officer John Boys Stones, Pilot, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron; Sergeant Allen S Jones, Royal Air Force, 228 Squadron; Sergeant Jack Levy, Wireless Operator, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 7 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ 0512-1212 hrs Sunderland reconnaissance western Ionian Sea. 0930 hrs 69 Squadron  Maryland photoreconnaissance Taranto.  Maryland reconnaissance Taormina, on return pilot and one of crew shot down over Malta. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 at Hal Far aerodrome (500kg).

 

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

 

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6 March 1941: Airfield Attacks Expose Weak Ground Defences

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RE Bomb Disposal squad

RE Bomb Disposal squad

WAR OFFICE REVIEWS ANTI-AIRCRAFT CAPABILITY

Following recent air attacks on Malta’s aerodromes, the War Office is concerned about the level of ground defences to protect these vital facilities. They have written to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief asking for his views on the methods used by the Luftwaffe to attack the aerodromes.  The telegram also asks for his conclusions as to the best means by which anti-aircraft defence may deal with those attacks.

Meanwhile, the War Office has informed Malta that 225 Battery 25 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment is now ready for despatched to the Island, once shipping is available. One Battery of 68 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment will be despatched as soon as possible after the arrival of the next convoy WS 6.  Both Batteries are established to meet the requirements specified in the Governor and Commander in Chief’s telegram of 17 February.

In addition, a new battery of 74 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment was formed in Malta on 15 February comprising 59 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, with 10, 22 and 30 Light Anti-Aircraft Batteries, Royal Malta Artillery attached under its command. Lt Gen Dobbie now proposes to form 3 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery as soon as the additional Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillery arrives for 74 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment.

BOMB DISPOSAL SQUAD CLEAR 19 UXBS FROM HAL FAR

The Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Squad were called on by RAF commanders today to help clear unexploded bombs from Hal Far. The aerodrome was put out of action by yesterday’s mass air raid by 60 enemy bombers.  Apart from the damage done by exploding bombs, a large number of unexploded bombs across the airfield are hampering the clear-up as well as operations.

“Lt Talbot took on 19 of the unexploded bombs warranting immediate attention, all within reach of the runway. While he concentrated on those on the surface, his Sappers began hacking away at the ground for the remaining eleven. Fortunately the hard limestone had prevented the bombs from penetrating too far.  By early afternoon one 500kg AP and ten 500kg SAP bombs were exposed – all of them with extension caps.  In several cases the cap was jammed in position and the bomb had to be carted from the runway still fuzed…Each one was driven steadily to the nearby cliffs, to be rolled over the edge.  Work continued late into the day, by which time another two 200kg GP and seven 50kg GP bombs had been defuzed and dropped into the sea.” (1)

WAR CABINET HEARS REPORT OF YESTERDAY’S RAID

The Chief of the Air Staff today told the War Cabinet that particulars had just been received of a very heavy air attack on Malta [yesterday] by a force of over 100 German and Italian aircraft. Eleven Malta fighters had taken the air against this force.  The total losses inflicted on the enemy by our fighters and anti-aircraft guns had been 16 aircraft destroyed, one probably destroyed and eight damaged, for the loss of one Hurricane and one pilot.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 MARCH TO DAWN 7 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0659-0714 hrs; 0904-0927 hrs; 1129-1146 hrs Air raid alerts for a single JU 88 bomber approaching the Island each time. Hurricanes are scrambled; the bomber returns without attacking.

1657-1711 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy JU 88 bombers escorted by two ME 110 fighters which cross the Island at 16000 feet. Hurricanes are scrambled and the raiders are engaged by anti-aircraft guns; they withdraw without dropping any bombs.

2006-2155 hrs Air raid alert for eight to ten enemy aircraft which approach the Island and drop bombs along the north coast including Grand Harbour, Valletta, Pembroke and Balluta Bay in St Julian’s, as well as Hal Far and Delimara. One ARP Centre in Valletta is demolished, the Jesuits College and six other houses damaged.  Six civilians are slightly injured.  The enemy are observed to adopt night dive-bombing tactics and though not illuminated by searchlights are engaged by anti-aircraft guns using predicted barrage. There are no claims but the barrage forces the high release of bombs on several occasions.  

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 6 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals  5 Hurricanes, 2 Wellingtons.  Sunderland patrol western Ionian Sea.  Five Hurricanes arrived from Egypt to reinforce 261 Squadron.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 22; dealt with 21, including 19 at Hal Far aerodrome (1 x 5kg incendiary, 7 x 50kg; 2 x 200kg; 11 x 500kg).

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

 

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

 

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5 March 1941: 100 Strong Blitz Puts Air Bases Out of Action

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11 HURRICANES BATTLE VALIANTLY AGAINST 100 RAIDERS

Malta’s tiny fighter force is inadequate to counter mass enemy raids such as the blitz on the Island today, according to the Governor and Commander in Chief in a telegram to the War Office today:  

Hal Far Under Attack (NWMA Malta)

Hal Far Under Attack (NWMA Malta)

“A blitz raid of several formations totally certainly not less than 100 aircraft of which at least 60 bombers attacked Hal Far today. A few of these aircraft dropped bombs and machine-gunned Kalafrana, where damage to buildings and aircraft is slight; one Sunderland will be unserviceable for a few days.” 

The damage to Hal Far was still being assessed this evening. Preliminary reports find that one Swordfish and one Gladiator are burned out and all other aircraft rendered temporarily unserviceable.  The runway is also out of action.  All barrack blocks are now unserviceable; one has been completely demolished; hangars have also been badly damaged.  Water and power have been cut off.

Adjutant of the Special Constabulary Philo Pullicino saw the raid as it unfolded:

“I was awe-stricken as I saw the sky filled with planes overhead. In various formations they flew over us towards Hal Far and when just past us they dived into the barrage.  On my left I counted ten in triple V formation, just behind them came fifteen more in two lines, then from the right came eighteen in one single line and they all dived in a follow-my-leader fashion.  Above, fighters whirled and banked.  Our brave fighters, greatly outnumbered (there were about ten of ours up!), flew at the enemy at all heights even right inside our own barrage.  They are a brave lot!  God bless them!(1) 

Eleven Malta fighters were scrambled and destroyed two JU 88s, two JU 87s, one Dornier 215 and two ME109s confirmed, plus one JU 88 probable. One Hurricane was lost in a dog-fight; the pilot, Sgt Charles Macdougal – a veteran of the Battle of Britain – was killed.  Anti-aircraft guns destroyed nine enemy aircraft and damaged one JU 88 and three JU 87s.  There were probably more enemy aircraft too damaged to reach their base but this has yet to be confirmed.

“For this blitz every serviceable Hurricane and every available pilot was put up and they achieved results against very heavy odds,” Lt Gen Dobbie told the War Office. “The only answer to this kind of thing is obviously more fighters and those must somehow be provided if the air defence of Malta is to be maintained.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 MARCH TO DAWN 6 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0713-0725 hrs  Air raid alert for an enemy HE 111 aircraft which approaches the Island from the north west at low altitude and machine-guns Sunderland flying boats in St Paul’s Bay. It heads southwards over the Island and drops bombs some distance out to sea off Delimara.  The raider is engaged by small arms and heavy anti-aircraft fire; no claims.  Malta fighters are scrambled; no results.

1710-1800 hrs Air raid alert for large formations totaling 60 enemy bombers and 40 escorting fighters approaching from the north. They fly eastwards along the north coast, turn south and cross the coast, dive-bombing Hal Far aerodrome in two waves, badly damaging hangars, Naval stores and other buildings.  Four aircraft (Swordfish, Seals and a Gladiator) are burned out and two more Gladiators and two Fulmars are damaged and temporarily unserviceable.  The runway is badly cratered and will be unserviceable for 36-48 hours.  One infantry post of 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is circled by 26 high explosive and anti-personnel bombs landing within 60 yards.  Kalafrana is also attacked, causing slight damage to buildings and one Sunderland aircraft.

Anti-aircraft guns fire a fixed-height barrage at 2500-3000 feet with marked success, destroying nine raiders and damaging at least four more. Malta fighters are scrambled.  One Hurricane flies through the anti-aircraft barrage to attack an enemy bomber over Luqa aerodrome.  The bomber is seen to lose height as it retreats towards the coast.  Three Hurricanes launch a further attack and the bomber crashes in the direction of Marsaxlokk Bay.  Fighters destroy a total of seven raiders, plus another probable, and damage three.  One Hurricane and its pilot are lost in combat.    

Military casualties  Sergeant Charles White Macdougal, Pilot, 811002, Royal Air Force (Aux), 261 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 5 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  As a result of air reconnaissance of the approaches to Tripoli it was decided to sail Upright and Utmost at once for offensive patrols on the Tripoli convoy routes. Truant also sailed for coastal patrol in the Gulf of Sirte.

AIR HQ 0735 hrs  Maryland photoreconnaissance of Tripoli (prior to intended operations tonight by 80 Fleet Air Arm Squadron), and Mellaha.  Sgt Morton, 228 Squadron, awarded the DFM.

LUQA 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Tripoli and Mellaha aerodrome.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 (1000kg).

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

 

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

 

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4 March 1941: Malta Defenders Have Destroyed 100 Enemy Aircraft

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SM79 crashedFIGHTERS AND GUNNERS SUCCESSFULLY ATTACK 183 RAIDERS

Since Italy entered the War on 11 June 1940 Malta’s fighters and anti-aircraft defences have now topped the 100 mark in enemy victims. The following are the official totals:  112 enemy aircraft confirmed shot down, a further 38 probably failed to reach their bases, while 45 are known to have been damaged.

STRICT REGULATIONS FOR ALERTS REPEALED

Employers (Discontinuation of Service) Emergency Regulations of 1940 were enacted to safeguard the interests of employers when constant air attacks caused them to shut down their business. Under the Regulations, any civilian not following air raid instructions faced prosecution and many have been fined by the courts.  As a result, most civilians have stopped work and headed for shelter immediately in response to the air raid alert.  However, the result has been a marked decline in productivity, according to the Government:

“Much time valuable to the war effort is at present being lost by everyone putting down their tools or shutting up their establishments immediately on the sounding of the Alert and remaining idle until the All Clear is sounded…The Alert is sounded on a number of occasions and no raid develops, or only one aeroplane on reconnaissance crosses the coast and, with the exception of splinters falling from the shells of our own guns which can with reasonable care be avoided, there is no danger whatever; on other occasions only a portion of the Island is in danger and elsewhere it is completely free of enemy bombs. Yet the whole life of the Island stops at every Alert.”

Now people have shown they can discipline themselves to take cover during raids, the Government has decided to lift the Regulations. From now on it will be left to civilians to take cover only when there is imminent danger.

“…after some months on the front line it is felt that the people must have become accustomed to raids and must themselves know when it is necessary to take cover and when they may carry on their work in safety…With regard to traffic, other than public conveyance, on the road there will be no restrictions on its continuing during an Alert. Persons who have no important public or private duties to perform should stop, but those who have such duties should proceed…on their journey, only interrupting it and taking cover when the necessity to do so appears imminent and danger immediate.”

According to the Government announcement, the individual is now free to develop an air raid sense – and very rapidly many will find that carrying on with their normal occupation is far sounder than the nervous hours of suspense in overcrowded shelters. (1)

CURFEW MEASURES TIGHTENED

Due to fear of night assault by parachutists military authorities want to control any movement in and out of towns and villages during the night. Curfew regulations now stipulate that “except to proceed to shelters, no persons will be allowed to move even within town or village boundaries during curfew hours of 9pm to 6.30am.” Perhaps hardest hit will be farmers who will no longer be able home for their fields while it is still dark, as they normally do.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 MARCH TO DAWN 5 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0912-0935 hrs  Air raid alert. Two Wellingtons returning from a mission are followed in towards Malta by two enemy ME 109 fighters.  No engagement.

1115-1130 hrs; 1400-1425 hrs  Air raid alerts; raids do not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 4 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Utmost returned from a special mission in the Gulf of Hammamet.

AIR HQ 1100-1430 hrs  Maryland photoreconnaissance Sicily: Palermo one cruiser, three destroyers, one merchant vessel, six small ships; Boccadifuoco one JU 52, 24 fighters, eight HE 111s or JU 88s, four other aircraft; Trapani aerodrome one JU 52, twelve JU 87s, one large and two small unidentified aircraft. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 6 at Luqa aerodrome (3 x 50kg; 3 x 500kg).

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

 

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

 

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3 March 1941: Malta’s First Conscripts Line Up in Birkirkara

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FIRST CONSCRIPTION SINCE 1792 GETS UNDERWAY

Young men lined up at Birkirkara School this morning to become Malta’s first conscripts since 1792. Conscription was announced on 19 February under new Compulsory Service Regulations introduced by the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief, Lt Gen Dobbie.  Notices were immediately sent out calling all men aged 20-25 to report to their local office. 

In charge of the recruitment session was Director of Compulsory Services Mr Sansom, assisted by Captain A Bartolo. “Every help possible was given to every recruit to state his case, whether of hardship or that of one engaged in essential work.  Fourteen men were exempted there and then from military service as being needed for other essential service.  51 were under height and accordingly exempted.  Only six men were found medically unfit at the preliminary examination. 

There were 30 applications for postponement certificates, and all who applied, whether their case was prima facie justifiable or not, will be remitted to the ‘Hardship Committee’, before whom their case will be heard.” (1)

In the coming days men of the same age group will be reporting at their local conscription centre. Any man who receives a notice to report but fails to comply will be liable to arrest by the police.

PC CARMEL CAMILLERI AWARDED GEORGE MEDAL

The Malta Government Gazette announced today that Police Constable Carmel Camilleri has been awarded the George Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty. The award citation reads:

Burned out Wellington bomber in Qormi

Scene of PC Camilleri’s bravery at Qormi

“In the early morning of the 4th November 1940, a Royal Air Force aircraft crashed on a house at Qormi, and the front portion of the machine fell into a 40ft shaft at the bottom of a deep quarry beyond the house.  Moans were heard coming from the shaft, from which flames were spouting, and an injured airman was observed supporting himself under the vertical edge of the shaft.  A wire rope was lowered which the airman grasped, but after being drawn up a few feet he could not maintain his hold and fell back into the shaft.  PC Camilleri, who had been one of the first on the scene, immediately volunteered to go down for him, in spite of the flames from the burning aircraft and in disregard of danger from the possible explosion of heavy calibre bombs, and was lowered into the shaft.  The rope slipped and he fell to the bottom, fortunately without serious injury.  A third rope was lowered to which PC Camilleri tied the injured airman who was then hauled up.  The rope was again lowered for Camilleri, who was brought up with no injuries beyond slight burns.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 MARCH TO DAWN 4 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0810-0817 hrs  Air raid alert for a single unidentified enemy aircraft which approaches at 18000 feet and carries out reconnaissance.

0932 hrs  Two enemy motor torpedo boats are spotted 15 miles south of Mazara course.

Military casualties  Supply Assistant Kenneth O Hedgecock, HMS Illustrious; Private Arthur C Higgins, 2nd Battalion, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 3 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ  69 Squadron Maryland photoreconnaissance aborted over Palermo due to enemy fighter patrol, and over Trapani due to thick haze.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 3 (2 x 50kg; 1 x 1000kg).

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A Company moved to Luqa and took over positions from B Company, who moved to the Rinella sector.

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

 

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

 

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2 March 1941: Malta Must Have More Medical Services

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GOVERNOR PRESSES WAR OFFICE ON NEED FOR ADDITIONAL PERSONNEL

900 patients in Malta's military hospitals

Malta’s hospitals

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has reacted strongly to claims by the War Office in London that the Island does not need additional Garrison medical services including traditional dressing stations and ambulances in the field to deal with casualties. Based on the size of the Island, the authorities in London have suggested that Malta’s hospitals are close enough to military installations to act as dressing stations without the need for facilities closer at hand. 

In response Lt Gen Dobbie has pointed out that road difficulties in Malta make distances longer than appreciated. [Dressing stations in the field] save petrol, avoid swamping general hospitals and provide for the possible evacuation of general hospitals.  There are already 900 patients currently in hospital in Malta. Medical Services are working under pressure and in semi-peace conditions without reserve for any serious enemy attack and the current 161 Field Ambulance is not considered enough for the collection of casualties. 

Discussions between the Governor and C in C and the War Office have been going on since November, when Lt Gen Dobbie first applied for the medical reinforcements, and he repeated today that the they were “the minimum absolutely essential and from which I cannot accept diminution.”  His determination was rewarded when the War Office finally agreed to the formation of a second Field Ambulance unit. 32 officers, 54 other ranks and 50 sisters will now be despatched to Malta, with the proviso that 30 of the 179 other ranks still needed should be enlisted locally. 

FRIENDLY FIRE TRAGEDY

A Flight Commander from HMS Illustrious was tragically killed today when the car in which he was travelling was fired on by a sentry. Lieutenant William Barnes, RN of 806 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm was returning to camp along the road between Luqa and Zurrieq.  The driver of his car failed to stop at a military checkpoint and the Maltese sentry opened fire.  The bullet ricocheted and killed Lt Barnes.   

SUMMER TIME INTRODUCED

Summer time was introduced in Malta today and all clocks were advanced one hour. Times of ‘stand to’ for troops were altered in line, to 0615/0700 hrs and 1845/1945 hrs.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 MARCH TO DAWN 2 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1008-1110 hrs  Air raid alert for three formations of twenty enemy aircraft including one JU 88 bomber which approach and fly over the Island two or three times. No bombs are dropped.  Eight Hurricanes and three Fulmars are scrambled.  One formation of ME 109s attacks the Fulmars, damaging one; the pilot is slightly wounded.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1655-1705 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Lieutenant (A) William L L Barnes, Royal Navy, 806 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm (HMS Illustrious); Flying Officer John Joseph Walsh, Royal Air Force, 261 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 2 MARCH 1941

HAL FAR Three Fulmars up during morning raid; one aircraft damaged in combat with the enemy; pilot slightly wounded. Lt Barnes, RN, 806 Squadron, was shot and killed by a sentry on the Luqa-Zurrieq road, while he was returning to camp.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  As far as the situation allowed a day of rest for the men but there are permanent posts to be manned.

 

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

 

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1 March 1941: Sea Mines Explode Under Minesweeper

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2300 bicycles now in constant use (NWMA Malta)

(NWMA Malta)

RAID SUMMARY FEBRUARY 1941

  • No of air raid alerts 107 (including 28 night raids)
  • No of bombing raids 31
  • Days without air raid alerts 1
  • Total time under alert 56 hours 47 mins
  • Average length of alert 31.8 mins
  • Enemy aircraft shot down 11; unconfirmed 8; damaged 6

PLOUGHBOY SAVED FROM SINKING

Minesweeping drifter Ploughboy was severely damaged today when three mines exploded close to the vessel.  The drifter was engaged in a sweep and operating a Kango hammer at the entrance to Grand Harbour when the mines detonated.  One was close beneath the drifter and caused serious damage, killing one rating, Able Seaman Carmelo Farrugia, and wounding another nine – at least one seriously. Ploughboy was left in a dangerous condition and had to be beached to prevent her from sinking.

Ploughboy has been heavily engaged in clearance since the Luftwaffe laid large numbers of acoustic and magnetic mines in and off Grand Harbour and Marsamxett Harbour two weeks ago. She is the only vessel at present in Malta which can carry out the necessary clearances. Ploughboy is expected to be out of action for some time until repairs can be completed.

CYCLE MECHANICS NEEDED IN MALTA

From: Governor & C in C                      TO: War Office

Over 2300 pedal cycles are now in constant use by the infantry for tactical and petrol-saving purposes. Since a large proportion are not service pattern the number of repairs required is relatively large.  Armourers are already overworked and fully employed on weapons.  To avoid using fighting personnel for repairs, I request the authority to enrol twelve cycle fitters for attachment to battalions.  Any necessary training can be given.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 MARCH TO DAWN 2 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

0823-0935 hrs  Air raid alert for several enemy formations totaling 20 aircraft, including JU 88 bombers and ME 109 fighters, which circle round the Island crossing the coast at intervals. Malta fighters are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns engage; no confirmed results.

1230-1310 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching enemy aircraft. Six JU 88 bombers escorted by fighters drop bombs in the sea, on Tigne, and on a line from Rocco to Tarxien.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no engagement.  Anti-aircraft guns engage with heavy fire; no confirmed results.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Carmelo Farrugia, HMS Ploughboy

Civilian casualties  Valletta  Carmel Attard, age 50.

OPERATIONS REPORTS 1 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  HMS Ploughboy exploded mines at the entrance to Grand Harbour and had to be beached to prevent her from sinking.  One Maltese rating was killed, nine others are wounded. Regent arrived from patrol off Tripoli with some damage from a depth charge attack, having sunk a merchant vessel.  

AIR HQ  69 Squadron Maryland photoreconnaissance Taormina north of Catania as requested by Vice Admiral Malta; enemy fighters attempted interception but failed.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A floating mine in the harbour settled near a post of B Company which had to be evacuated from the danger area. All approaches were roped off.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 ( 1 x 500kg).

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  16 volunteer recruits joined the Battalion.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strength 24 officers, WO1 6, other ranks 132.

 

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Posted by on March 1, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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28 February 1941: Mines on Valletta – 200 Homeless

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CIVILIAN THROWN FROM 3RD FLOOR BY BLAST SURVIVES

Communities in Valletta emerged from their shelters this morning to a scene of devastation following last night’s widespread dropping of parachute mines by enemy aircraft. 200 have now been made homeless across the city; most have been given temporary shelter at St Francis Convent in Kingsway. 

Parachute Mine (1)

Parachute Mine (1)

The damage from parachute mines is especially severe due to their operation. Although the bombs themselves are heavy, the parachute slows their descent so that they explode on or near the surface, causing maximum blast effect over a wide area.  One mine near the church of Our Lady of Pilar blew a crater 25 feet across, damaging the church and the adjacent convent.  The Auberge d’Aragon suffered the full force of mine blast which severely damaged its roof.  A nearby school was also structurally undermined.   

Arriving to marshal his men in the rescue operations, Adjutant of the Special Constabulary surveyed the destruction: “Glass was smashed all over the capital and houses wrecked over a wide area. Casualties were four dead and twenty injured – without our good shelters I hate to think of the figure which might have been reached. 

Two men were dug out of a cellar while I was there; one was in a pretty bad mess and did not survive. Another person was blown out of his bath into the street when the front of his house was sucked out by the blast.  He flew from a third storey but was not hurt.

Someone informed me that an unexploded mine had just been seen on a nearby roof, and would I please go to see whether it was dangerous! I sent an [Royal Engineers bomb disposal] chap and followed gingerly behind with my heart all a-throb, but it was only a cover-part of the exploded mine – to which was attached a piece of parachute…200 families are homeless in Valletta.” (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 1 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

Military casualties Lance-Corporal Francis Gilmore, Corps of Military Police; Sergeant Lewis John Frederick Godwin, Royal Air Force; Lance Corporal John Charles Kelly, Army Dental Corps, attached Royal Army Medical Corps; Pilot Officer Hubert Scadeng, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Civilian casualties Valletta  Anthony Farrugia, age 19; Anthony Zammit, age 19.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 28 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY   At first light enemy aircraft laid mines at the entrance to the harbours and some in Grand Harbour. The Harbours are temporarily closed while the positions of mines is fixed. 

AIR HQ  Maryland photoreconnaissance Reci Maddelena, Cagliari, Elmas and Alghero at the special request of SO Forces N.  

KALAFRANA During the month Sunderlands of 228 Squadron carried out 12 patrols over a wide area in search of enemy shipping. Five communication flights were made by aircraft of 228 Squadron with important passengers and freight between Middle East and Gibraltar.  Several Sunderlands 10 Squadron RAAF and 230 Squadron arrived and departed conveying passengers between Middle East and UK.

LUQA  69 Squadron One Maryland photoreconnaissance Maddelena, Cagliari, Elmas and Alghero.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths: 24 officers, WOs 6, 132 other ranks.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Strengths: 27 officers, 509 other ranks.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal  Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 46; dealt with 23.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Strengths: 27 officers, 879 other ranks plus two permanently attached.

(1)  Bomb Fuze Collectors Net http://www.bombfuzecollectorsnet.com/

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

 

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Posted by on February 28, 2021 in 1941, February 1941

 

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27 February 1941: 8 Killed by Enemy Mines – Gozo Boat Sunk

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HEAVY MINES ON VALLETTA FOR SECOND TIME IN TWO WEEKS

Civilian and military casualties have been reported after enemy aircraft again laid heavy mines across Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto. An hour before dawn ten bombers dropped mines on the approaches to and within both harbours; four of them came down on land.  The harbours had to be temporarily closed while the Royal Navy located and marked each of the mines. 

Damage in Britannia Street, Valletta (NWMA Malta)

Damage in Britannia Street, Valletta (NWMA Malta)

Two mines landed on densely populated areas of Valletta causing considerable damage: one between Brittania Street and St Mark’s Street, and another on the Bastions in Marsamxett Road. Three civilians are believed dead and several others missing.  The other two landed on buildings in Marsamxett, damaging a police barracks, an army dental centre, the Malta Chronicle printing office and an RAF billet.  Two military police are reported killed and five wounded, one Army dental operative is believed dead and one wounded; four men of the Royal Irish Fusiliers are wounded.  The attack follows a similar mine-laying raid on 14 February when five civilians were killed by mines on homes in Valletta and Senglea.

For a second time in a fortnight Reverend Reginald Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Valletta woke to a terrifying bombardment and had to calm his parishioners:  … our worst experience hitherto. At 5.15 when the siren blew, I dressed as usual. There were rather less than the usual 100 persons taking refuge. I went upstairs for a few moments, and returned below. Five minutes later there was a loud explosion very near indeed. A cry of fear rose from the people and they surged towards our corner. Two minutes later there was a most frightful roar of stupendous power (or perhaps two in quick succession). I scarcely retained consciousness, as it seems now.

My wife was sitting up on her bed, I on the edge with my arms around her, her head buried on my shoulder. Mrs. Gale at the other end, her face in her hands, shivering with fear, screams from many people; myself saying ‘Keep calm’ in an automatic voice. Banging, tearing, splitting, rending, and through it all a great wind rushing through the funk-hole. I truly thought that we were directly hit and the building coming down. Then no more. I waited a few moments, and went out of our curtained corner, to find the door leading to the dining room shot across the floor in three pieces.

Two army officers badly shaken had just come in having been caught in the open as they rushed for safety from some high-up flat to our shelter. When the raiders had passed, I inspected the damage. A large part of the outer side of the dining room and the housekeeper’s rooms are framed glass and the French window. Glass and frames were all over the floor. Upstairs, about a quarter of a ton of stone from the roof was lying upon the bed and the floor. In the drawing room, some of the ceiling stones, of which the roof is made, had fallen; the window frames were torn from their seating and were lying about having broken tables in their fall. There was a twenty-pound stone on the lid of the piano…

The explanation of it all is that some ships were expected in on Friday (we did not know this) and this Blitz was an endeavour to destroy them by dropping parachute mines. The venture was successful to this extent that the ships were diverted elsewhere. About seven mines were dropped in the harbour, and since then our people have been trying to locate them, or to fire them by magnetic sweeps.” (1)

MINES DESTROY GOZO BOAT

Two crew members are missing after Gozo Boat No 34 was destroyed by an exploding mine off St Julian’s earlier today. The mine was one of four which detonated off the north coast during the day: the first two off Sliema and later two more off St Julians.  Of the boat’s crew of eleven, six were rescued – one of them was found to be seriously wounded.  Three more were later picked up unhurt and taken back to Gozo.  Two are still missing, believed killed.  A warning has been issued to Gozo boats to keep at least one mile from the shore while crossing between Malta and Gozo.

LONDON WAR CABINET RECEIVES REPORT OF ATTACK ON LUQA

On 26 February Luqa aerodrome (Malta) was attacked by about 60 German bombers, escorted by 20 to 30 fighters. The losses on the two sides were:

  • Enemy losses – 9 certain, 12 probable, 1 damaged.
  • British losses – 3 destroyed in the air, 7 destroyed on the ground, 3 badly damaged, 3 slightly damaged.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 28 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0834-1000 hrs  Air raid alert for 35 enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the north in five formations. Eight Hurricanes and two Fulmars are scrambled. Only one JU 88 bomber crosses the coast while the remainder circle out to sea.  The bomber is engaged by anti-aircraft guns.  There are no claims.

1510-1520 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which approaches the Island and aims 3-4 bombs at HM sloop Fermoy a mile out from St Thomas’ Bay; no hits. Four Hurricanes and Ack Ack guns engage; no claims.

0515-0630 hrs Air raid alert for 10 enemy aircraft which approach the north coast and drop parachute mines in and off Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto Harbour.  Four of the mines hit land and explode; two in Valletta cause considerable damage to property, killing at least three civilians and injuring twelve.  The others damage Marsamxett police barracks, army dental centre and the Malta Chronicle Printing Office and an RAF billet, killing three service personnel and injuring ten.  One mine is exploded in the air by gunfire from the ground.  Anti-aircraft guns claim one enemy aircraft hit and probably destroyed. 

Civilian casualties  Gozo  Anthony Cauci, age 29; Francis Vella, age 29. Valletta Carmelo Attard, age 50.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 27 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Two mines were detonated off Sliema and later two off St Julians. The latter blew up a Gozo boat. 

(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 February 27, 2021 in 1941, February 1941

 

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26 February 1941: 100 Strong Attack on Luqa Equals Illustrious Blitz

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MASSIVE DAYLIGHT RAID ON LUQA DESTROYS AIRCRAFT, BUILDINGS AND HOMES

Luqa airfield under attack (NWMA Malta)

Luqa airfield under attack (NWMA Malta)

Some 100 aircraft launched a massive bombing attack on Luqa airfield today, destroying or grounding the aircraft of Malta’s bomber squadron, damaging military buildings across the airfield and injuring six military personnel. Bombs also smashed into the nearby village of Luqa, destroying homes, injuring 14 civilians:

“The bombs just rained down all over and about the place. The village square hardly has a house standing… The Church of St Andrew escaped a direct hit, but bears the scars of battle all over.  Some people who remained in their homes had miraculous escapes…There were several soldiers in the square who just managed to reach the cover of an ordinary cellar shelter propped up with wood support. The house they were in a moment before crashed on the top of the cellar, but it did not give way to the weight of the masonry.” (1)

The third raid alert of the day sounded at 1245 pm, as over forty bombers and thirty fighters headed towards the Island’s north coast and on to Luqa. “Dive-bombers approach and attack in heavy waves. After what appears to be a preliminary skirmish with our fighters, the Malta barrage opens fire.  The first wave appears to dive the lowest.  They approach at a high altitude, then break up and dive singly.  The barrage concentrates over the enemy’s objective.  To reach it with any chance of getting close hits, the bombers, diving almost vertically, have to dash at high speed right into a veritable fire of bursting shells.  They seem to release four bombs at a time.  Clouds of smoke rise from the bursting bombs and from those enemy aircraft which dive straight to earth.  Just as one wave of attackers appears to have been dealt with, another follows in quick succession, mostly from the same direction as the first wave.” (2) 150 bombs were dropped on the airfield alone during the raid, eleven failed to explode – seven remain on the runway which is currently closed.  

Malta’s fighters launched a determined counter-attack, with eight Hurricanes of 261 Squadron led by Flying Officer F F ‘Eric’ Taylor DFC destroying three Junkers bombers and probably destroying seven. One JU 87 attacked by anti-aircraft fire drops its bombs on Gudja village before crashing nearby, killing a civilian.  However, in the fierce dogfight four Hurricanes were destroyed, including that of F/O Taylor who was one of the first Hurricane pilots to join the defence of Malta.  Two other pilots, P/O P Kearsey and P/O C E Langdon, were also killed.

Anti-aircraft guns launched a heavy barrage over Luqa, destroying five bombers confirmed and four probable, and damaging several more. “I saw one Junkers 87 still burning on Luqa hill. It was the first to dive and never got out of the dive.  The pilots were sitting in the burning plane, a mass of smouldering, charred bones.  A ghastly sight.”

DEVASTATION IN LUQA – 75 PER CENT OF HOMES DAMAGED OR DESTROYED

Damage in LuqaThe village of Luqa has been all but destroyed in the air raid today – which is Ash Wednesday, one of the holiest days in the Malta calendar. A reporter from the Times of Malta who visited the village after the raid writes:

“There is hardly a street without a demolished house or one seriously damaged or shaken. The debris is still piled up on the streets…The villagers told me that tons of bombs have fallen in or about the village.  There were signs of destruction everywhere.  77 houses have been completely demolished, 25 others seriously damaged and uninhabitable, and it is reckoned that only about 25 per cent of the homes there have so far escaped completely unscathed.

So many bombs – some of them the biggest ever dropped – have fallen all around the village…that almost all houses and farms on the outskirts facing the fields bear marks of the shrapnel, which bit holes into the walls. But Luqa’s remarkable record is that although so many of its homes have been levelled, it has had only one casualty…” (1)

Despite the destruction, reports have praised the behaviour of Luqa’s villagers. “They would not hear of leaving the village, and accommodated themselves without fuss in their neighbours’ houses where they were given food and drink. By the evening, notwithstanding the battered state of the village, business went on as usual.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 27 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0730-0755 hrs Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber escorted by six ME 109 fighters which approach the Island. Four of them attack a Gladiator over Hal Far, causing no damage.  Anti aircraft guns engage and the raiders turn away without launching an attack.

1030-1055 hrs Air raid alert for a large formation of enemy fighters which approach the Island and split up as they cross the coast.   One Messerschmitt attacks a meteorological Gladiator without success.  Eight Hurricane fighters are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims

1245-1345 hrs  Air raid alert for 30 JU 87 and12 JU 88 bombers, escorted by 30 mixed ME 109 and BR 42 fighters which approach the Island and carry out a heavy raid on Luqa aerodrome, dropping some 150 bombs. Six Wellingtons are burned out on the ground and seven others badly damaged, of which four will be out of action for 2-3 months.  Seven others will be unserviceable for up to a month.  One Glenn Martin Maryland is a probable write-off, three others will be unserviceable for at least a week, another is slightly damaged.  One Miles Magister is slightly damaged.

Bombs also damage buildings, including two hangars, an officers’ mess, the airmen’s cookhouse, the NAAFI, three barrack blocks and a ration store room, and the HQ of 12 Field Regiment Luqa. One 200 gallon fuel tank is burned out, one lorry written off and several others damaged.  The aerodrome surface is badly cratered and likely to be unserviceable for 48 hours.  Four men of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment and two of the Royal Artillery are wounded.  Four unexploded bombs lie within the camp and seven others on the aerodrome, mostly on the runways.  Damage to civilian property in Luqa village is considerable.  One JU 87 attacked by anti-aircraft fire drops its bombs on Gudja village before crashing nearby.   

Towards the end of the attack 10 Dornier 215 and 10 Heinkel 111 bombers approach the Island but drop no bombs. Malta fighters are scrambled and engage the enemy, destroying three Junkers bombers and probably destroying seven.  Anti-aircraft guns engage, launching a heavy barrage over Luqa, destroying five Junkers confirmed and four probable, and damaging several more. They also damage one Dornier 215.  Three Malta fighters do not return after the raid.  One civilian is killed and 14 injured. 

1345-1409 hrs  Air raid alert for two JU 88 bombers which fly over the Island at high altitude but drop no bombs. Three Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders evade engagement.

1558-1700 hrs  Air raid alert for one enemy Red Cross seaplane accompanied by an escort of twenty fighters on a mission to pick up casualties. They search the seas around the northern part of the Island for an hour.  Eight Malta fighters are scrambled and engage the escorting Messerschmitts from time to time, along with anti-aircraft guns.  One ME 109 is severely damaged.  

Two German prisoners whose JU 87 crashed in the sea during this morning’s raid are rescued by the High Speed Launch, brought ashore and interrogated at Kalafrana.

1742-50 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy formations approaching the Island. Five Hurricanes are scrambled and with enemy withdraw without crossing the coast.

0625-0730 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Philip James Kearsey; Pilot Officer Charles Edwaard Langdon; Flying Officer Frederic Frank Taylor, Royal Air Force, 261 Squadron.

Civilian casualties Gudja  Angelo Caruana, age 84.  

Enemy casualties Feldwebel Johannes Braun, 4/StG 1, pilot of Junkers JU 87 Stuka shot down; Unteroffizier Heinz Langreder, 4/StG 1, pilot of JU 87 Stuka shot down and died; Oberleutnant Kurt Reumann, commander of the 6/StG 1, pilot of a JU 87 Stuka, shot down; Gefreiter Erwin Suckow, crewman of JU 87 Stuka, shot down and died.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 26 FEBRUARY 1941

AIR HQ 0830-1136 hrs Maryland photoreconnaissance of Tripoli Harbour, Mellaha and the Gulf of Gabez.    

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli harbour and search for Sorman aerodrome; his aircraft was chased out by ME 109s.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  1245-1345 hrs  Air raid.  Luqa aerodrome is about two miles from Battalian HQ which, being high up, made an excellent grandstand.  Never has this unit seen such an exhibition.  The Ack Ack barrage was terrific but the Germans dived straight into it to loose their bombs.”  Posts SJ2, 3 and 4 handed over to the Regt by 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 17; dealt with 6 (4 x 50kg, 2 x 500kg German).

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

(2) Malta Diary of A War, Michael Galea, Peg 1992

 

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Posted by on February 26, 2021 in 1941, February 1941

 

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