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25 February 1942: Governor Telegrams Urgent Need For Help

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  • Six night raids: main target Luqa
  • Wellingtons land while airfield under attack
  • Floating mine sighted close to shore
  • RAF reports soap shortage

LT GEN DOBBIE NEEDS PERMANENT STAFF

From:  Governor & C in C Malta                                                                To:  War Office

Lt Gen Dobbie

Personal for CIGS from General Dobbie.  For nearly two years I have been trying to function as Commander in Chief and fortress commander without any staff beyond my A MS except what I have been able to borrow or improvise from time to time.  This has been most unsatisfactory and has made my work viz a viz the services very difficult.  I have come to the conclusion that a properly appointed permanent staff is necessary while the war lasts or at any rate for so long as Malta is a centre of active operations.  I have approached the Admiralty and Air Ministry and they have very kindly appointed a commander and wing commander respectively to my staff.  I need in addition an army officer.  He must be a properly trained first grade staff officer preferably PSC and fitted to act as my Chief Staff Officer.  I cannot find such a one from the garrison here, nor can I deplete the staff of the GOC by taking one of his staff.  I therefore ask that the appointment of a GSO 1 be approved for this purpose for the duration of the war and that he be sent out to me without delay.  In view of the nature of his duties he must be very carefully selected.  I trust you will give me this help which I feel I need badly.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 26 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather  Fine periods; wind slight, south-west.  Deteriorates to rain.

0925-0938 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Raid does not materialise.

1053-1107 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Raid does not materialise.

1453 hrs  3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment report a mine floating past west Zurrieq towards west Bassasa.

1750 hrs  Four Hurricanes 1435 Squadron scrambled from Ta Qali.

1752-1815 hrs  One JU 88 approaches from the north, drops bombs north of Ta Qali and retires north-west.  Hurricanes attack a JU 88: no claims.

2032-2115 hrs  One JU 88 approaches the Island from the north and drops bombs in Zebbug and Gudja areas, and in the sea off St Paul’s Bay.  Seven barrages are fired.

2324-2340 hrs  One enemy aircraft approaches from the north to within ten miles of Gozo, orbits and recedes north east.

2353-0022 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north, crosses Grand Harbour and drops bombs near Tarxien.  The plane then recedes south and does two runs across the coast near Kalafrana, dropping bombs on the Safi strip and in the Zebbug-Qormi area before receding north.  During the raid Wellingtons manage to land at Luqa.  Four barrages are fired.

0225-0258 hrs  One aircraft approaches the Island from the north, drops bombs on Baida Ridge, then heads south west for ten miles before turning and dropping more bombs near Ghain Tuffieha.  Three Wellingtons circle Luqa for over an hour during the raid.

0353-0443 hrs  Two unidentified bombers approach the Island from the north.  One patrols 35 miles to the west of Gozo and recedes north.  The second aircraft comes to within 15 miles east of Zonkor before receding north.

0448-0732 hrs  Three unidentified aircraft approach from the north and drop bombs in the sea off Torri Qalet Marku.  Two barrages are fired.

Military casualties  Lance-Corporal Leonard Dawkins, 1st Battalion The Hampshire Regiment; WO2 Leonard Beaumont, 4th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery, aged 40 years.

Civilian casualties  Gzira  Anthony Borg, age 60.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: WEDNESDAY 25 FEBRUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Departures  Three Beaufighters, one Beaufort, one Blenheim to 108 MU.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF2A patrol; one Maryland SF1 patrol.  S/D Flight  One Wellington special search.  37 Squadron  Six Wellingtons attacked shipping in Tripoli Harbour.

TA QALI  Men are suffering from the lack of soap and other toilet requisites.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Petrol-less day.  Battalion TEWT again cancelled owing to bad weather.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Battalion Night Scheme from 0200 hrs until 1230 hrs: area of Scirocco.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 21 February-15 March 128 (average 6 per day).

 

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Posted by on February 25, 2017 in 1942, February 1942

 

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24 February 1942: Bombs Target Cathedral – Civilians Buried Under Debris

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BOMBS STRIKE THE HEART OF VALLETTA:  MILITARY HELP WITH RESCUE

This afternoon enemy raiders drop bombs from a height of 5000 feet on the city of Valletta.  They land just yards from St John’s Cathedral, demolishing houses and shops in Zachary Street.  Civilians are reported buried under the debris.  The call goes out to Army units for rescue parties to help in the rescue operation.

S/Ldr Percival Stanley “Stan” Turner, DFC & Bar (courtesy Canadian Air Aces & Heroes)

MALTA’S NEW FLYING ACE TALKS TACTICS

Squadron Leader Percival Stanley (Stan) Turner DFC & Bar – recently posted to Malta to improve fighter operations – takes to the skies to demonstrate the tactics he believes are needed to win the air battle against the Luftwaffe:

One morning – it was 24 February – Turner took me by the arm in the Mess at Mdina and led me out onto the balcony overlooking the airfield… ‘Look here,’ he said, ‘you’ll be one of the flight commanders in the Squadron and I shall look to you to help me with changing the flying pattern here. We can’t have any more of this goddam VIC formations otherwise we’ll all get bumped, that’s for sure. I want you to learn this line-abreast stuff with me. And quickly.’ …’a couple of guys will never get bounced: attacked maybe, yes; but never surprised, no kidding.’

Reflective, yet impatient, he looked down at the airfield. ‘They’ve got several serviceable aeroplanes down there this morning. If Ops have got nothing on the table we’ll grab a couple of aircraft and run the sequences through. If a raid develops while we’re up, we’ll get stuck into it.’

My log book shows that we were airborne for thirty-five minutes in our clapped-out Hurricane IIs. My recollection is that during that time it seemed that Stan had the throttle of his aircraft permanently ‘through the gate’. It was all I could do to keep station. His taut nerves dictated his air speed. All the while, Woodhall, controlling from the ‘hole’ in Valletta, was in touch over the R/T, his deep, unhurried voice dispensing confidence.

‘Stan,’ he said, rejecting the Squadron’s ‘Tiger’ call sign, ‘there are some little jobs at angels 20 going south very fast. They may be working round up-sun behind you. Keep a good look out.’

‘OK, Woody,’ said Stan, ‘I can see them.’ With that, he seemed to find a bit of extra boost and headed up towards the sun. ‘We’ll just have a swing round,’ he said, over the R/T, ‘and see if we can get at the bastards.’ There wasn’t a chance of it.

Nothing doing, we went back to Takali and landed having done few of the manoeuvres Stan had been talking about. We walked back to what had once been 249’s dispersal hut from our aircraft in their sandbagged pens. The CO lit his pipe. ‘That’s it then,’ he said, ‘all there is to it. Just remember to keep the speed up. It’s no good floating about round here.’” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 25 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather Improved: less wind; brighter periods; warmer.  Wind south.

0801-0813 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Raid does not materialise.

0930-0943 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Raid does not materialise.

1126 hrs  Eleven Hurricanes are scrambled from Ta Qali – four of 1435 Flight, the balance of 242 Squadron.  They attack two JU 88s: no claims.  A number of ME 109s patrol around the Island.

1145 hrs  One JU 88 comes in and drops bombs on Ta Qali aerodrome, damaging buildings, cratering the runways and cutting the RAF line to the dispersal area. P/O MacNamara is killed; F/O Lloyd and A/C Smith are injured and taken to hospital.  The aerodrome remains serviceable.

1210 hrs  The remaining two JU 88s follow and drop bombs between Safi and Hal Far, straddling Xleili Tower.

1227 hrs   All clear.

1510 hrs  Eight Hurricanes of 249 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali.

1530 hrs  Eight JU 88s escorted by ME 109s attack in waves of twos and threes.  Bombs are dropped on Valletta, Hal Far, Safi and Luqa.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.  Malta’s fighters engage ME 109s: no claims.  P/O Tedford is reported missing.  S/Ldr Turner crash lands at Luqa.

1700 hrs  Five Hurricanes scrambled to search for P/O Tedford: no results.

1727 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Zachary Street, near St John’s Cathedral, Valletta, demolishing houses and shops, and burying civilians under debris.

1800 hrs  1st Bn The Cheshire Regt and 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment are called in to help remove the debris.  They work in shifts through the night in an attempt to rescue survivors.

1817 hrs  Bombs are dropped on the Safi landing strip.

1842 hrs  All clear.

2022-2045 hrs  One JU 88 approaches from the north; Heavy Ack Ack engage and bombs are dropped in the sea.

2232-2310 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs on Qrendi strip.  One stick of 250kg bombs straddles D Company HQ, of 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment: no serious damage or casualties.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

0020-0043 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north.  Heavy Ack Ack engage and bombs are dropped in the sea.

0342-0356 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north, turns at 25 miles and recedes.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Thady Brian McNamara, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 242 Squadron; Pilot Officer Donald Tedford, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Civilian casualties  Cospicua  John Borg, age 51; Ghaxaq  Ubaldesca Vella, age 32; Sliema  John Brincat, age 32.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: TUESDAY 24 FEBRUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Six Wellingtons from 231 Wing; three Beaufighters, one Beaufort, one Blenheim from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Wellington to LG 224.

HAL FAR  Night 24/25th  One Swordfish 830 Squadron on search for pilot of missing Hurricane off coast of Malta.  Nothing sighted.  Three Albacores 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm despatched to attack two merchant vessels and one destroyer.  Owing to very bad weather nothing was sighted.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF2 patrol; one Maryland SF1 patrol; one Maryland photo-reconnaissance Tripoli.  S/D Flight  One Wellington special search.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT 1430 hrs All Companies did their cross country run.  1727 hrs  Bombs dropped on Valletta.  Working party of 1 Officer and 30 Other Ranks sent to clear debris.  Worked from 1800-2100 hrs and 0001-0300 hrs.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Working party at Luqa.

225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY  L/Bdr H L Glover and Gunner N Burrows are interred at St Andrews Military Ceremony.

2ND BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  4 ARWs during day – bombs on aerodromes and Valletta.  Bn provided working party to clear Zachary Street.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 21 February-15 March 128 (average 6 per day).

(1)  Memories of Flt Lt Laddie Lucas, 1942, courtesy of Canadian Air Aces and Heroes, WWI, WWII and Korea

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Posted by on February 24, 2017 in 1942, February 1942

 

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23 February 1942: Malta’s medical Supplies Running Out

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MEDICAL STOCKS URGENTLY NEEDED

From:  Governor & C in C Malta                                                   To:  The War Office

1.  Government medical stocks are estimated generally speaking to last four (repeat four) months with the exception of certain item very urgently required which were specified in my COSUP 51631 of 26/1 to Crown Agents and for which I have requested despatch by air.  Other items of which we have less than three months supply are specified in monthly lists and should be accorded priority of shipment.  I have consulted the pharmaceutical profession regarding stocks of medical stores held by chemists and a survey of their stock position is now being undertaken.  Result of survey will form subject of a further telegram…

HMS P38

MALTA BASED SUBMARINE LOST

Having left Malta on 16 February on a mission to attack a large convoy aiming to supply Axis forces in Tripoli, HMS P38 was attempting to attack the convoy to the north of Tripoli when she herself was attacked and forced to surface.  Further gunfire and depth charges sank the submarine, with the loss of all 32 hands.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 24 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather  Mixed: rather cold; wind stronger.  Low cloud later; wind south west.

0758-0832 hrs  Two ME 109 fighters approach from the north, circle the Island, then recede.

0920-1005 hrs  18 enemy aircraft approach from the north.  One JU 88 bomber crosses over Grand Harbour, apparently on reconnaissance.  Fighter-bombers attack the Hal Far area.  Various small formations of ME 109s patrol the Island.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Bombs are dropped near Tal Papa; one explodes close to a gun position, killing two Other Ranks of the Royal Artillery, and injuring three.  The gun and predictor are put out of action.

1024-1047 hrs  Two ME 109s approach from the north, apparently on patrol.  Twelve Hurricanes are airborne; guns do not engage.

1122 hrs  Eight JU 88s, three ME 109 fighter bombers and fifteen escorting fighters approach from the north and attack Ta Qali, Kalafrana, Luqa and Safi.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage, claiming two hits and shooting down one JU 88.  The aircraft catches fire and pitches into the sea three miles out, west of Filfla: three bale out and one is rescued by 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment.

1240 hrs  Ten Hurricanes of 185 Squadron are airborne  and attack two JU 88s and six ME 109s: claiming two JU 88s damaged; and one ME 109 probably destroyed.  One Hurricane crash lands at Hal Far.

1246 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Safi landing strip, killing one Other Rank of 4th Bn The Hampshire Regiment, and injuring another two.

1339 hrs  All clear.

1409-1442 hrs  Eight ME 109s and two unidentified aircraft approach from the north.  Heavy Ack Ack engage; no fighters are airborne.

1500 hrs  Eleven Hurricanes of 242 Squadron are scrambled.

1528-1821 hrs  Twelve ME 109s approach the Island in two formations.

1540 hrs  The first formation dives on Ta Qali and drops twelve bombs, damaging the Guard Room, Billet No 15, blackouts and motor transport vehicles.  LAC Calton is injured and later dies in hospital.  The eleven Hurricanes attack four ME 109s: no claims.  Heavy Ack Ack also engage.

The second formation makes a complete circuit of the Island: four come in over Ghain Tuffieha and drop two bombs.

1700-1800 hrs  ME 109s search for their own aircraft in distress.

1800 hrs  Two JU 88s come in at 10000 feet and drop bombs in French Creek and on the Safi strip.  No barrage is fired due to the proximity of own fighters.

1907-1920 hrs  Two bombers approach the Island, drop bombs in the sea ten miles to the north and recede.

2046-2056 hrs  One aircraft comes to within 20 miles north of Grand Harbour, apparently on a search, then recedes north.

2127-0229 hrs  Eleven enemy bombers come in, crossing and re-crossing the coast at various points.  Bombs are dropped in the sea off Grand Harbour, near Ghar Lapsi, near Bubaqra observation point, near Gudja, in Kalafrana area, Ta Qali and Luqa areas, on Ta Karach Heavy Ack Ack position (causing one slight injury), near Hal Far, on the Safi strip, in the sea off Delimara and on Marfa Ridge.  Twelve barrages are fired.

0330-0400 hrs  One aircraft comes in from the north, drops eight bombs on the coast near St Georges, crosses the Island and recedes northwards over Gozo.

0421-0508 hrs  One aircraft crosses the coast three times at various points and is barraged twice.  Bombs fall in the sea east of Qawra Tower before the aircraft recedes north.

0536-0601 hrs  One aircraft comes in from the north and is barraged, causing him to drop his bombs four miles east of Torri L’Ahmar.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant Michael Holdsworth and Sub-Lieutenant Norman Clark, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (shot down overnight: 24/2/1942); LAC Douglas Calton, Royal Air Force; Private Thomas Frampton, 4th Bn The Hampshire Regiment; Gunner Sidney Atkins, 4th HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery; Lance-Bombardier Harold Glover, 74th LAA Regiment, Royal Artillery, aged 30 years.

Enemy casualties  Werner Wonde.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: MONDAY 23 FEBRUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Departures  One Flamingo to Heliopolis; three Blenheims to Mersa Matruh.

HAL FAR  Night 23/24th  Three Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack anchored ships of the coast of Tripoli.  The ships were not sighted; aircraft returned to base with torpedoes.  Weather: visibility one mile; hazy.  Three more Albacores 830 Squadron despatched to attack same ships.  S/Lt Cramp crashed soon after take-off: crew unhurt.  S/Lt Holdsworth was shot down off Tripoli.  Missing crew: S/Lt Holdsworth, pilot, S/Lt Clark – observer.  The third aircraft did not sight the ships and returned to base.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland SF2 patrol; one Maryland SF1 patrol; one Maryland photo-reconnaissance Tripoli.  S/D Flight  One Wellington special search.  37 Squadron  One Wellington despatched to attack shipping in Tripoli Harbour.  No shipping located.  Aircraft bombed main quay.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Working parties on Luqa 140 men.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Mortar platoon took over camps at Dingli and Rabat.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Bombs near C and D Companies and in Siggiewi area during the night.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Working party at Luqa.   

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 21 February-15 March 128 (average 6 per day).

 

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Posted by on February 23, 2017 in 1942, February 1942

 

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22 February 1942: Guns May Be Withdrawn From Malta

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  • Fifteen raids in the last twenty hours
  • Two air raids – lasting all day
  • 116 enemy aircraft over Malta
  • ME 109s dive-bomb aerodromes
  • Almost continuous dog-fights
  • Hurricanes and Ack Ack claim hits

WAR OFFICE WARNS GUNS NOT IN USE SHOULD GO TO MIDDLE EAST

From:  The War Office                                                                To:  Governor & C in C Malta; copy C in C Middle East

Understand you have recently received Mideast ten (repeat ten) German 0.77mm guns with ammunition, but that you have not the personnel to man them.  If this is so suggest you return guns and ammunition to Mideast at first opportunity.

Hal Far Under Attack (NWMA Malta)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 23 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather  Fair; wind south-westerly.  Low cloud later in day.

0922-1312 hrs  Four waves of three JU 88s each, with approximately ten fighters as escort, attack Hal Far.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Three ME 109s dive on Hal Far and are engaged by guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Regt.  During pauses between bombing ME 109s patrol south of the Island.

A total of 52 bombs are dropped on Hal Far, causing severe damage to buildings.  Cinema and motor transport buildings are demolished by direct hits, which destroy one omnibus, two light cars, two tractors and a petrol bowser.  Other vehicles are badly damaged.  Aircraft damaged: five Albacores (three write-offs) and two Swordfish.  Personnel casualties: one seriously injured, three slightly.

1100 hrs  One gun position of 225 Light Ack Ack (LAA) Regt engages one JU 88: no claim.

1121 hrs  Bombs are dropped in the area of Misrah Blandun.

1130 hrs  One gun position of 225 LAA Regt engages one ME 109 at 3000 feet: no claim.

1135 hrs  Eight aircraft are airborne from Ta Qali and attack three JU 88s and fighters: claims two probable, three damaged.

1200 hrs  A bomb near A Company of 8th Bn Kings Own Royal Regiment severely injures L/Cpl R Crawford in the head.  [He is taken to 90 General Hospital but dies later.]

1209 hrs  Bombs are dropped in the area of Misrah Blandun.

1255 hrs  Bombs are dropped in the Mqabba area.

1312 hrs  All clear.

1325 hrs  Seven Hurricanes of 185 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali.

1345 hrs  Two guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Regiment engage three JU 88s: no claims.

1353 hrs  Seven unidentified bombers and twenty-five escorting fighters approach from the north.  Bombs are dropped on Hal Far, Lija, Nadur, Ta Qali, Luqa (including the Safi strip), Tal Liebru and in the sea.  At Ta Qali one Hurricane is written off and a barrack block severely damaged.  One airman is killed. At Luqa One delivery Wellington under repair is destroyed and another seriously damaged; one Hurricane is damaged.  Three soldiers are injured.

Hurricanes claim one JU 88 destroyed, one ME 109 destroyed.  S/Ldr Chaffe, OC 185 Squadron, is shot down.  He is later spotted in a dinghy 4-5 miles south of Delimara Point but is not picked up.  Heavy Ack Ack fire 13 barrages.

1400 hrs  Light machine guns of 1st Bn Dorset Regiment engage one ME 109 fighter from Fort Ta Silch; no claim made.

1445 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Safi landing strip.

1547 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Safi landing strip and Ta Klantun area.  Two unexploded bombs are reported west of Ta Karach.  Guns of 225 LAA Regt engage three JU 88s at 4-5000 feet, claiming one hit.

1815 hrs  225 LAA Regt: all guns engaged three ME 109s at 3-5000 ft.  One hit is claimed.  Billets are damaged at one gun position and a generator at another is rendered unsafe.

1905 hrs  225 LAA Five gun positions engaged one JU 88.

1910 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Safi landing strip.

2055 hrs  All clear.

2104-2115 hrs  One enemy bomber approaches from the north east, dropping bombs in the sea ten miles east of Grand Harbour.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

2300 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Ta Qali aerodrome, causing damage to one Hurricane, a steam roller and fire fighting equipment.

2314-0030 hrs  Two enemy aircraft approach from the north and drop bombs south of Ghain Tuffieha and between Ta Qali and Naxxar.  Heavy Ack Ack engage five times.

0042-0235 hrs  Two enemy aircraft approach from the north and drop bombs east of Rabat searchlight position, and in the sea north of Grand Harbour.  One barrage is fired.

0502-0625 hrs  A single enemy aircraft approaches from the north to within 15 miles of the coast then recedes north east.

Military casualties  Squadron Leader Ronald Chaffe, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron, Hal Far; Sub-Lieutenant (A) J Buscall, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (attached to HMS Grebe the Naval Air Station in Egypt, but operating from Malta); Lance Corporal Robert Crawford, 8th Battalion Kings Own Royal Regiment.

Enemy casualties  Unteroffizier Walter SCHWARZ, Pilot of Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter, shot down: his body was recovered from the crashed aircraft.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: 22 FEBRUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Six Wellingtons from Gibraltar (one missing); six Wellingtons from Shallufa; two Albacores from El Adem (one missing).

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland special search for convoy.  21 Squadron  Two Blenheims despatched to carry out SF2 modified.  One aircraft returned owing to hatch blowing off.  F/Lt Mitchell also returned.  Took off again but was attacked by ME 109s so returned.  S/D Flight  One Wellington search for enemy sea forces.  Returned with oil trouble, then took off again.

TA QALI  Aerodrome serviceable.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Bombs in Battalion area 80 feet from HQ billets – no casualties but electric cables down.  AOC held memorial service at Battalion HQ.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  One ME 109 shot down in this area.  Wreckage guarded by D Company.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 21 February-15 March 128 (average 6 per day).

 

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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in 1942, February 1942

 

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21 February 1942: Malta Needs Food, Fuel and Fighters to Survive

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  • Morale in the balance as heavy raids resume
  • Convoy losses and air attacks taking their toll
  • Civilian loss of life hits record levels
  • Food rations cut by half
  • Vital kerosene at half normal ration

TELEGRAM:  IMMEDIATE AND MOST SECRET 

From:  Governor (Lt Gen Sir W Dobbie)                           To:  Secretary of State for the Colonies, copy Commander in Chief Mediterranean

My telegram of 18th February to the War Office for the Chief of Staff.  I am anxious that the effect of the recent measures of restriction on the civilian side should be fully realised in London.  These measures are

  • (a)  Return to summer kerosene rations.
  • (b)  Prohibition of all bus traffic on Saturday and Sunday except for essential employees of the Government and the Services.
  • (c)  Curtailing of lengthy bus routes so that people will now have to walk considerable distances if necessary during raids to catch buses.
  • (d)  Further drastic reduction of already quite inadequate food rations.

(e)  Reduction of sugar rations to 21 ounces per half month.  It must be remembered that sugar is a more important article of diet in Malta than in England.

2.  As you know our consumption of all commodities was already restricted to the minimum level which I thought acceptable on a long term basis.  Some of the new cuts go below that level.  Civil consumption of kerosene – after bread the most important commodity for civil use in Malta – is now just above half its normal level.  Food consumption will be well under half normal.  Motor transport petrol on the civil side will be little more than a quarter what it was in July 1941 when strict control was started and even then it was far below peace-time level.

3.  You know our stock positions from my telegram under reference.  I feel that we have reached a critical point in the maintenance of Malta.  If the opportunity of the dark period in March is not taken to run in supplies, we shall have to wait until April when the lengthening days and possible intensification of the war may increase the risks at sea.  Our supply position will then be such that the loss of the whole, or even of a substantial part, of a convoy would create a most dangerous situation here.  The arrival in the meantime of small quantities of supplies by submarines or single ships would no doubt alleviate that situation to some extent but could not substantially change it.  Even if after April our position could be remedied before it became too late, it would not be easy to build up our stocks again to a safe level, and we should be faced with a further period of acute difficulty.

4.  Quite apart from the actual stock position the state of public morale is a most important factor.  The necessity for the recent measures of restriction will no doubt be accepted by the public but they cannot fail to have their effect on the morale, especially if they have to be kept in force for any length of time.  The spirit of the people throughout the heavier attacks of the recent weeks have been remarkably good, though loss of civilian life has been greater than during any other equal period.  Nevertheless there is some evidence of a beginning of despondency beneath the surface.  World events and particularly our set-back in Libya have their natural effect here but other causes nearer home operate more strongly.  The people have always drawn their greatest encouragement from the success in the air over their island and the arrival of convoys.  The consolation of the latter has not lain solely in securing food or other supplies.  It has also been a demonstration of our control of the surrounding seas.  The inferiority of our fighter aircraft to those of the enemy in performance has been a cause of marked depression.  Steps are being taken to reverse that situation but in the meantime the lowering effects of the present position are joined to those of the failure of the recent convoy and of the increased restrictions which that failure has made necessary.

5.  I have always maintained that this fortress stands on four legs:  the three services and the civil population.  If we are attacked, the duty of the latter will be to remain resolutely in their [homes] and I have no present reason to doubt that they would fail in that duty.  It must be remembered however that about a third of the garrison consists of Maltese troops who are naturally affected by the spirit of their families at home.  We have also to count, while preparing for attack, on some thousands of civilian workmen.  Inevitably there has already been some deterioration in the morale. That deterioration is not yet alarming and it is naturally important to prevent it from becoming so.

6.  For all these reasons I earnestly hope that an immediate decision will be taken to send us further supplies in adequate quantity by the quickest available means.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 22 FEBRUARY 1942

Daytime  Total of 50 ME 109s and JU 88s.  Bombs dropped on Kalafrana, Hal Far, Luqa, Ta Qali.  Enemy aircraft engaged by Heavy and Light Ack Ack and by Hurricanes.  One ME 109 destroyed and several JU 88 and other ME s damaged.  Extensive damage to service property and installations.  Casualties:  two soldiers wounded.

0756-0832 hrs  One JU 88 escorted by two ME 109s circles the Island and recedes.  One aircraft drops bombs in Kalafrana Bay.  Heavy Ack Ack engaged.

0856 hrs  One JU 88 approaches from the north.

0917 hrs  The JU 88 attacks Hal Far, dropping four bombs and causing superficial damage to buildings.  One Swordfish is burned out; one Naval Rating killed.  One RAF serviceman is seriously injured; four Army personnel and one Naval Rating injured.  Heavy Ack Ack and fighters engage.

0920 hrs  The JU 88 is engaged by guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery guns at 5500 feet; no damage claimed.

0938 hrs  All clear.

1023-1058 hrs  Four JU 88 escorted by ME 109s approach from the north.  One JU 88 carries out reconnaissance at high altitude, while the other three drop bombs on Hal Far, Safi and Luqa.  Five Wellingtons under repair are further damaged; two Hurricanes are damaged.  One petrol bowser and the duty pilot’s tent are destroyed; the duty pilot is wounded.  Heavy Ack Ack and Light Ack Ack engage.  Four Hurricanes fire all their ammunition from short range.  Many strikes are claimed on the engines, fuselage and tail of one JU 88: aircraft is believed unlikely to reach base.

1150-1235 hrs  Three JU 88s escorted by fighters approach from the north and drop bombs on Luqa and the Safi landing strip.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Two ME 109s carry out a low flying attack against a Sunderland in Kalafrana Bay.  They are engaged by Light Machine Guns of 1st Bn Dorset and 2nd Bn Devon Regiments.

1333-1412 hrs  Four JU 88s escorted by fighters approach from the north and drop bombs in the Safi – Gudja areas, damaging living quarters, a sound locator and searchlight position at Gudja.  Malta’s fighters up; no engagement.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1505-1521 hrs  Nine plus unidentified aircraft drop bombs in the sea 300 yards off Tigne from above the cloud.  Heavy Ack Ack fire barrage.

1555-1605 hrs  Two plus aircraft approach the north of Gozo, split up and recede north.  Fighters are airborne but do not intercept.

1648-1720 hrs  Twelve plus aircraft approach in three groups.  Malta’s fighters are airborne and Heavy Ack Ack launch a barrage over Grand Harbour.  Bombs are dropped on Island Bay from above the cloud.

1800-1944 hrs  Twelve plus aircraft come in and drop bombs from above cloud, east of Grand Harbour. Ten plus ME 109s follow and patrol south east of the Island at 9000 feet.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1950-2016 hrs  A nuisance raid of aircraft believed to be aimed at the Libyan ferry service and a diversion near Gozo.  No aircraft cross the coast.

Night 21/22  Almost continuous raids.  Bombs in the sea and on land at Delimara, Mellieha, Ta Qali, Tarxien, Marfa Ridge, Ta Silch, Torri Qalet Marku, Wardia Ridge, Valletta and Gudia.  Hal Far aerodrome is cratered; one Albacore slightly damaged.  One Hurricane slightly damaged at Ta Qali.  No casualties.

2045-2135 hrs  Air raid alarm.  No aircraft crossed the coast: bombs are dropped in the sea south of Hal Far and 25 miles east of the Island.

2153-2250 hrs  One aircraft crosses the coast four times and is barraged five times.  Bombs are dropped in the sea off Tigne, Manoel Island, Hal Far and Benghaisa, and on land at Delimara.

2257-0043 hrs  One aircraft is barraged five times and drops bombs on land at Ta Qali, Mellieha, Valletta and in the sea near St Paul’s Bay, Comino, St Thomas’ Bay and Zonqor.  Many of the bombs are incendiaries; some are reported as unexploded (ie delayed-action bombs).

0024 hrs  One unexploded bomb is reported south of Tarxien (believed delayed-action).

0050-0527 hrs  Four aircraft operating singly and in succession carry out patrols and occasionally cross the coast.  One unexploded bomb is reported in French Creek (believed delayed-action); other bombs fall on Marfa Ridge (four), Hal Far (two), Ta Silch, the road house near Madliena, Torri Qalet Marku, Wardia Ridge, Ghallis Rocks and Gudia.  There are also bombs in the sea to the north of the Island.  Two low-flying ME 109s machine-gun an area in the vicinity of Wardia Battery.  Heavy Ack Ack fire five barrages.

0547-0604 hrs  One aircraft approaches Comino but does not cross the coast.

0639-0725 hrs  Four bombers operate individually in succession; only two cross the coast.  The first is barraged twice and drops bombs in the sea off Rocco.  The second, a JU 88, drops one bomb near Selmun Palace.

Military casualties  Lieutenant Frederick Bedford, HMS St.Angelo, Senior Observer, Fleet Air Arm, killed in action over St Paul’s Bay.

Civilian casualties  Mqabba  Anthony Ghigo (age 24).

OPERATIONS REPORTS: SATURDAY 21 FEBRUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Sunderland, four Hudsons, one Flamingo from Gibraltar.  Departures  Three Wellingtons to Shallufa, three Wellingtons to LG 224; three Hudsons to LG 224.

HAL FAR Night 21/22nd  Four Swordfish 830 Squadron despatched on search for enemy shipping.  Area searched from Messina Straits on bearing 110 for 100 degrees.  Two Albacores 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm despatched to attack 4000 ton tanker off Tripoli.  One torpedo hit the ship.  Both aircraft returned safely.  One Albacore 828 Squadron Fleet Air Arm despatched on search for enemy shipping crashed in the sea off St Paul’s Bay on the way out.  Lt Bedford (Observer) is missing.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland reconnaissance of Sicilian harbours; one Maryland photo-reconnaissance special task; one Maryland SF3 patrol.  21 Squadron  One Blenheim despatched to attack shipping at Palermo; no attack made.  S/D Flight  One Wellington special search.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  2nd Bn Irish Fusiliers mount guard at the Governor’s Palace, St Anton.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Rain ceased overnight.  Air raids resumed.  Luqa working party resumed.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 21 February-15 March 128 (average 6 per day).

 

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Posted by on February 21, 2017 in 1942, February 1942, Uncategorized

 

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20 February 1942: Time Bombs Set to Terrorise Malta

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DELAYED-ACTION FUZES FOUND IN BOMBS ON TAL VIRTU

Tal Virtu

“[Royal Engineers] Bomb Disposal HQ received the news they had been dreading since the previous December: the bombs …were delayed-action.  The Luftwaffe had added a terrifying new tactic to their bombing campaign against the Island: unpredictability.  From now on, anyone finding or working on an unexploded HE bomb faced a fearful prospect: it could be a time bomb and set to explode at any moment – maybe even as they approached.

Both [RE] Bomb Disposal Officers had experience of Type 17 delayed-action [DA] fuzes on the Home Front.  Lt Carroll remembered how their introduction during the Blitz on London in 1940 reduced the life expectancy of Bomb Disposal Officers to a matter of weeks:

‘The Germans were amazed that their excellent bombs were not going off.  The only way they could tackle the matter was to kill the people who were dealing with the bombs.  They devised a clock, which would be set for any period between a few minutes and [eighty] hours.  So from then on the first requirement was to listen to the bomb.  If there was ticking, there was a clock inside which had to be stopped.’

…Overnight, the task facing the two Bomb Disposal Officers became significantly more hazardous and time-consuming.  Already hard-pressed to cope with the increasing numbers and weight of unexploded bombs on the Island, Lt Blackwell and Lt Carroll were now constantly on the alert for possible DA bombs.  In the four weeks following the 21 February raid, out of 177 UXB reports a dozen more bombs had DA fuzes.  As bombs became more complex and dangerous, the two BD Officers had to be much more involved with each one of them.

But every single buried bomb would now require a longer and more delicate bomb disposal operation.  The Germans did not need to drop a high percentage of delayed-action bombs to cause the extra disruption: once they started using them, the threat of an explosion without warning was achieved with every bomb that fell.”  (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 21 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather  Wind southerly.  100% low cloud; rain.

0646 hrs  Air raid alert: raid does not materialise.

0847-0902 hrs  One twin-engined aircraft crosses the coast near St Paul’s Bay and recedes over Ghain Tuffieha without dropping bombs.  Fighters up; no interceptions.  Heavy Ack Ack do not engage.

0922-1010 hrs  One JU 88 approaches from the south east, circles to the east and north, crosses the coast at St Paul’s Bay, flies over Grand Harbour and drops bombs in the Bighi area.  Fighters are up and an interception made.  Heavy Ack Ack engages.

1033-1122 hrs  Two bombers escorted by two ME 109s approach from the north.  One bomber drops bombs in the sea north of the Island, the other crosses the coast and drops bombs on Senglea from above the clouds, then recedes north. Malta’s fighters are airborne; no interceptions. Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1232-1303 hrs  One unidentified bomber approaches from the north and crosses the coast over Grand Harbour.  Bombs are dropped in Cospicua and Zeitun.  Aircraft then recede north.  Heavy Ack Ack engage. Malta’s fighters are up; an interception is made.

1423-1540 hrs  Four JU 88s approach from the north and drop bombs in the sea off Grand Harbour, and on Ta Qali, near the reservoir, and in the Mosta area. Malta’s fighters are up; no interceptions.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1545-1559 hrs  Air raid alarm: raid does not materialise.

1641-1719 hrs  Four unidentified aircraft approach from the north and drop bombs on the runway at Luqa.  Fighters are up near the enemy so Heavy Ack Ack do not engage.

1722-1739 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the south east, turns three miles from the coast and recedes.

2152-2215 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north west and drops bombs in the Kalafrana area.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

2242-2252 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the south east, turns 15 miles south west of the Island and recedes south east.

0205-0308 hrs  Two aircraft approach from the north west.  Bombs are dropped in the sea; others dropped on Tal Virtu area do not explode.

0312-0317 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north east and drops bombs in Kalafrana Bay.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

Civilian casualties  Edward Griffiths; Mosta  Jimmy Gauci (age 3); Jessie Haig (age 40);  Zabbar  William Miller (age 55).

OPERATIONS REPORTS:FRIDAY 20 FEBRUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Seven Wellingtons to Shallufa.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Beaufighter photo-reconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes; one Maryland Just 1 patrol; one Maryland SF1 patrol.  S/D Flight  One Wellington search Messina – C Colonne.

TA QALI  Further planes took off and landed at Luqa to operate there.  30 ground crews attached to Luqa.  Ta Qali aerodrome unserviceable except for take-off.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Normal work and training.  Brigade conference in the afternoon followed by COs conference.  Party returned from Tal Minsia operations.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Observation Post at Tal Minsia manned by the Intelligence Section.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Still very wet.  This unit takes over Observation Post at Tal Virtu for a week.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 3 (1 x 50kg; 1 x 250kg; 1 x 500kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

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

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Posted by on February 20, 2017 in 1942, February 1942

 

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19 February 1942: First Raid-Free Day Since 1 December

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THUNDER AND LIGHTNING REPLACES ‘DONNER UND BLITZEN

The only violent crashes heard over Malta today came from the continuing heavy storms.  After eleven weeks of constant air raids the enemy stayed away as the Island battled with a natural onslaught from the weather.  Conditions also kept most Allied aircraft grounded, as floods made Ta Qali and Hal Far airfields unusable.  But as soon as the weather clears, the Luftwaffe will inevitably return.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 19 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 20 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather  Wind north east.  Continuous heavy rain; low clouds.  Storm conditions.

0845 hrs  Two aircraft of Ta Qali’s 249 Squadron scramble from Luqa: nothing to report.

0940 hrs  Six aircraft of 249 Squadron scramble from Luqa: nothing to report.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: THURSDAY 19 FEBRUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Departures  Four Beaufighters to 108 MU; two Beaufighters to LG 224.

HAL FAR  No operations owing to very bad weather.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF1 patrol.  21 Squadron  Three Blenheims despatched on mission.  Shipping sweep Kerkennah – Bjerba – Misrata.  No aircraft missing.

TA QALI  Aerodrome unserviceable owing to rain.  Three of six aircraft 249 Squadron scrambled 0940 hrs from Luqa went on as bombers to Comiso.  No night operations.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Heavy rain most of the day.  Battalion TEWT.  Companies did cross-country run in the afternoon.  Funeral of Private Hawksley at St Andrews.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Battalion Skeleton Scheme in the area of Nadur Tower. Commanding Officer gave a lecture to Central Infantry Brigade on the “Defences of Tobruk” at the British Institute, Valletta.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party temporarily cancelled due to aerodrome under water.  Gales still blowing.  Battalion signal exercise for all officers: failed to contact A and D companies owing to atmospheric interference.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1; not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

 

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Posted by on February 19, 2017 in 1942, February 1942

 

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