16 June 1940: Four Gladiators Not Enough To Defend Malta

16 Jun

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Gladiators in Malta (NWMA)

Gladiators in Malta (NWMA)


Malta’s four operational Gladiator aircraft cannot be expected to last long under the current pressure from enemy attacks, according to Air chiefs.  The introduction of Macchi fighters to protect Italian bomber formations has placed the Island’s four defenders under severe threat.  Although the four Gladiators are being conserved as much as possible, they are not expected to last long under present conditions. 

Italian bombers are also using special tactics to isolate and pick off Malta’s Gladiators.  One bomber from a formation of five hangs back, then when attacked by a Gladiator it loses height.  It flies under the rest of the bombers who then attack the Gladiator from above with a down-firing moveable gun.  The straggling bomber is the only target the Gladiators normally have a chance to attack.

Air Chiefs praised the courage and commitment of the Gladiator pilots which had placed the enemy under sufficient pressure to make them deploy fighters and evasive manoeuvres.  However, the usual enemy tactic of a high approach followed by a shallow get-away dive is producing high speeds which make Gladiator interception difficult.  Attempts to optimise Gladiator performance are placing additional strain on already overworked aircraft engineers.

The situation makes it even more imperative that Hurricane fighters are deployed to Malta at the earliest opportunity.


To the Editor, Times of Malta: Sir,

“I, on behalf of the People living in the area of St. Charles Street, and Rudolph Street, should like to thank through the medium of your paper, the Officers and men, also Police Sergeant Orr, for the excellent work carried out without thought for their own safety in not only removing the unexploded bomb from the said area, but also for the excellent morale instilled into the inhabitants under such trying conditions.

I should like to thank the Officers and men of the Royal Engineers concerned, for the work done under trying circumstances.  I cannot express myself in words, but I on behalf of the inhabitants of this area, once again thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

P G Mayo


Weather  Fine.

0810-0935 hrs  Air raid alert for thirteen enemy aircraft which cross the Island three formations, flying east to west at 15,000 feet.  The lead formation is reported as five Heinkel bombers.  The raiders are attacked by fighters.  They drop six high explosives and six incendiary bombs over Luqa and Kalafrana, where one 250lb bomb damages the north slipway and damages four vehicles.  Two fall on Kirkop; one fails to explode.  The power house is also damaged but still functioning.  The second formation, identified as five SM 79s, are also attacked by fighters and disperse.  The final three, probably Macchi 200 fighters, also disperse when engaged by Malta fighters.

1445 hrs  A message is received by 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regt that the unexploded bomb at a Kirkop defence post will be dealt with in the next 30 minutes.

1450-1545 hrs  Air raid alert.  Three enemy bombers fly across the Island from south west to north east at 10000 feet and drop six bombs on Mosta, believed to be intended for Ta Qali.  Fighters engage the raiders without result.

2115 hrs  Infantry companies are informed that a destroyer is due in Grand Harbour at 2200hrs and will depart before daylight.

Civilian casualties  Cospicua  Emanuel Spiteri, age 65.  Zejtun  Saviour Mifsud, age 56.


KALAFRANA  Pte Bartolo, Kings Own Malta Regiment and AC E Bonavia transferred to ADS Tarxien.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Cpl Brewer and three Other Ranks working on unexploded bombs.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS: Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with: 1 HE 250lb in Gzira was exploded, partially demolishing three houses.

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Posted by on June 16, 2015 in 1940, June 1940


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