ATTACK ON GRAND HARBOUR ECLIPSES ILLUSTRIOUS BLITZ
42 civilians were killed this afternoon in a single massive air raid on Grand Harbour. 18 JU 88 bombers with a 40-strong Messerchmitt fighter escort swooped down the north coast just before two o’clock this afternoon. They dropped bombs on Valletta, Ricasoli, Zabbar, Corradino, Marsa, Hamrun and Paola, as well as outlying districts. Densely populated areas of Paola were particularly badly hit: 34 are reported dead in this area alone.
The sheer numbers of aircraft made it impossible for Malta’s Ack Ack gunners to prevent them reaching their targets. It is estimated that over 150 bombs of up to 500kg were dropped in the raid, which lasted well over an hour. Airfields were also heavily bombed: many bombs fell on Luqa and the Safi strip, and at least 14 High Explosive bombs are reported on Hal Far.
… “Paola was badly blitzed; whole streets are down, if we are to believe a godly soldier who is stationed there…A corner of Valletta Palace was knocked off; a bomb dropped in Palace Square; it was one of those which goes off on the slightest impact and does not bury itself in the earth. It made only a very small saucer-like hole, but walls within 100 yards have large chunks chipped out. But it killed at least two people.
A man who was there and heard it coming flung himself down and got away with it. But a lady continued her walk and was hit in the face; and a well known man Mr Reggie Smith who was going to the library had his leg blown off. He died a fortnight later. At his funeral which I took in the Chapel at Ta Braxia itself, a large number of Maltese actually came into the building, encouraged by Mr. Charles Edwards.”
Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta. Courtesy of website: Malta Family History.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 13 FEBRUARY 1942
Weather 100% low cloud; rain. Wind westerly.
0818-0951 hrs Two JU 88 bombers, two ME 109 fighters and two unidentified aircraft approach from the north and carry out patrols at varying heights off the south east of the Island. Malta’s fighters are up but do not intercept. Heavy Ack Ack engage; all aircraft recede north.
1013-1023 hrs One unidentified aircraft approaches from the north at 8000 feet and appears to be searching about 15 miles north of St Paul’s Bay, before finally receding north. Fighters are up but do not intercept. The plane does not come within range of Heavy Ack Ack guns.
1035-1050 hrs Four aircraft approach from the north and again appear to be searching 15 miles north of St Paul’s Bay. Malta’s fighters are not up; enemy aircraft do not cross the coast.
1120 hrs Twelve Hurricanes are scrambled to intercept one JU 88, one Dornier 24 and a number of ME 109s. P/O Ormerod attacks the JU 88 which catches fire and goes straight down into the sea. The Dornier 24 and two ME 109s are also attacked and hit. Two Hurricanes are also damaged: one crashes on landing, the other is missing: F/Lt Allan is reported missing.
1158-1241 hrs Two JU 88s and two ME 109s approach from the north and drop bombs on the Safi strip. Malta’s fighters are still up and engage the enemy. Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.
1345 hrs Three aircraft of 249 Squadron mount a search for F/Lt Allan, with no result. It is thought he was picked up by the Dornier 24 as he bailed out.
1351-1523 hrs 18 JU 88 and 40 ME 109s launch an attack on Grand Harbour, dropping bombs on Valletta, Ricasoli, Zabbar, Corradino, Marsa, Hamrun and Paola. There is significant damage to civilian areas with many casualties. Heavy Ack Ack engage.
1413 hrs Six JU 88s attack Hal Far, dropping fourteen bombs and causing blast damage to buildings. One Swordfish and one Hurricane are damaged. One soldier of 2nd Bn The Devonshire Regiment is seriously hurt.
1415 hrs Bombs are dropped on the Safi Strip and Giacomo Ridge area. Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery engage, firing a total of 178 rounds. Hits are claimed by four gun positions. Gunner W Goulden is removed to No 45 General Hospital with fractured ribs. There is damage to tent and accommodation at XLS 26 and billets at XLN 77.
1429 hrs Bombs are dropped in the Mqabba area.
1520 hrs Bombs are dropped across the area of 1st Bn The Dorsetshire Regiment: no military damage or casualties are reported.
1607-1835 hrs One bomber and 25 ME 109s approach from the north and drop bombs on Luqa village. The fighters carry out an offensive patrol. Heavy Ack Ack engage.
2135-2200 hrs One aircraft approaches from the north, turns three miles east of Gozo and recedes without dropping bombs.
2213-2236 hrs One aircraft approaches from the north, crosses the coast over Mellieha and drops bombs in the sea before receding over Gozo. Ack Ack do not engage.
0043-0057 hrs One aircraft approaches from the north west, drops bombs in the sea west of Gozo and recedes without crossing the coast.
0339-0440 hrs One aircraft approaches from the north west and is barraged as it approaches St Paul’s Bay, causing it to jettison bombs in the sea and recede north.
Military casualties Sub-Lieutenant Alexander McDonald, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, pilot, HMS Grebe; SPO Joseph Fenech, Royal Navy, Lazzaretto; Sergeant Arthur Moore, WOAG, Royal Air Force; Private Reginald Panton, 2nd Bn The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment; WOII Emanual Farrugia, 3rd Regt, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Jack Hart, 4th Heavy Ack Ack Regiment; Gunner William Jones, 4th Heavy Ack Ack Regiment.
Civilian casualties Gharghur Carmelo Micallef, age 8. Marsa Carmelo Calleja, age 54.
Paola Maria Agius, age 31; Victor Agius, age 29; Carmel Bugeja, age 76; Emanuel Busuttil, age 26; Antonia Busuttil, age 4; Carmela Cachia, age 52; Carmel Camilleri, age 30; John Desira, age 70; Joseph Fenech, age 35; Maria Fleri, age 29; Lilian Fleri, age 1; Jane Gatt, age 55; Anna Gera, age 75; Carmela Grech, age 53; Mary Grech, age 21; Aurelia Grech, age 19; Jane Grima, age 19; Rosina Mallia, age 56; Louis Mallia, age 9, John Mazzello, age 75; Carmela Morris, age 68; Regina Pace, age 64; Joseph Pisani, age 64; Jane Pisani, age 50; Carmela Pisani, age 34; Mary Salsero, age 17; Lawrence Scerri, age 55; Charles Theobold, age 77; John Vassallo, age 75; Stanley Warne, age 13; Andrea Zammit, age 76; Stephen Zammit, age 62; Carmelo Zammit, age 33; Marianna Zarb, age 50.
Qormi Joseph Farrugia, age 36. Tarxien Alfonzon Camilleri, age 46; Gio Batta Cutajar, age 14; Michelina Grech, age 72. Zejtun Salvina Bonnici, age 15; Giusa Buttigieg, age 14.
Enemy casualties Oberfeldwebel Heinz Bosch, pilot of a JU.88 bomber – shot down; Oberleutnant Herbert Doerz pilot of a JU 88 bomber – shot down and crashed into the sea.
OPERATIONS REPORTS: 12 FEBRUARY 1942
AIR HQ Arrivals one Cathay, three Hudsons, three Beaufighters from Gibraltar (one Beaufighter reported missing). Departures Four Hudsons to 108 MU; one Champion to Cairo.
LUQA 69 Squadron One Maryland SF1 patrol; one Maryland SF2 patrol; one Maryland SF3 patrol.
40 Squadron One Wellington Catania Aerodrome; six Wellingtons Tripoli shipping.
S/D Flight One Wellington special search.
1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT C Company handed over Della Grazia are to 1 Dorsets by 1200 hrs; retained Rinella in Battalion area. A Company took over Valetta from 11 Lancs and moved into Camerata Barracks. & Platoon B Company took over Corradino from 6 Platoon A Company; C Company took over Notre Dame from A Company. Companies carried out fortnightly route march. Working party on Luqa was bombed: four men wounded and admitted to hospital: Private Dunn broken ankle and contusion of face; Private Bromley a broken femur; Private McNeice contusion of face. Private Lea slightly wounded.
11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS Brigade boundaries altered to include 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry on south west coast. 1st Cheshire take over Whitehall-Sliema Creek area from this unit. D Company hand over Valletta posts to 1st Cheshires and become mobile reserve.
2ND BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT Private Panton killed during afternoon.