6 July 1940: Dockyard Bombed Without Warning Killing Workers

06 Jul

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Bombs struck the Dockyard this evening only seconds after the air raid alert sounded, causing casualties among men who were still making for shelter.  Two dockyard workers were killed and nine wounded, including three with life-threatening injuries.  The casualties have not been named.

fort St Angelo

fort St Angelo

Fort St Angelo evacuated

Four enemy bombers took part in the raid, which also targeted Fort St Angelo.  Three high explosive bombs smashed into gardens adjacent to the Officers’ quarters.  The impact and blast effect shattered all the doors and windows and considerably loosened the stone in the main structural walls of the buildings.  The quarters had to be evacuated and officers billeted temporarily in the former slave quarters, the residences of the Vice Admiral and the Captain of the Dockyard.

Another stick of bombs fell in a line from Vittoriosa to French Creek.  High explosives landed on Dockyard Creek: one on Store Wharf caused a crater and casualties, another demolished the upper floor of an office building.  A third bomb struck HMS Olympus lying in No 2 Dock, piercing its hull and puncturing the Dock itself in 17 places.  Damage to Olympus has set the completion of her refit back two months.

HMS Olympus

HMS Olympus


The attack came just hours after a very heavy air raid over the Dockyard and the workers’ community of Paola.  Just after three o’clock this afternoon 20 enemy aircraft swept over the coast and rained dozens of high explosive bombs over the area.  One unexploded bomb was reported outside Ghajn Dwieli Gate.  Adjutant of the Special Constabulary Philo Pullicino rushed to the scene and was shocked by what he saw:

“The scene at Paola was indeed terrifying.  I think it must have been the worst up to date.  The first thing I noticed was splinters of glass inches deep all over the town, far from any burst bombs.  I walked along crunching and breaking glass underfoot. 

There were a hundred houses demolished while twice that number needed new doors and windows.  Roofs and windows and wooden balconies hung imply, overlooking the debris-strewn road.  Electricity and telephone cables were down everywhere.  Here and there water was trickling out from broken pipes.

In some places one or more houses had simply disappeared – nothing remained except an empty space.  The bombs must have been big!  Thank God the place had been evacuated…The town must have been mistaken for a military objective – it had been bombed before and today received the full force of the blow…I spoke to a woman who had been in her house alone when the house next door was demolished by a direct hit…(Her calmness amazed me.)  ‘I have stuck it more than the others, but now I think it were better if we started moving.’”  (1)    


Weather  Fine, warm and clear. 

0810-0840 hrs   Air raid alert for three formations of enemy aircraft which approach to within nine miles of the Island before turning away.  No raid materialises.

1455-1540 hrs  20 bombers approach the Island and carry out a heavy bombing raid and dropping 100 bombs.  High explosives are dropped on Kirkop, Luqa, Paola, Verdala Barracks and the Dockyard, in the sea off Benghaisa and San Rocco, and between Mosta and Naxxar.  Several evacuated houses at Paola are destroyed with five minor casualties among civilians.  Nineteen bombs land on Luqa, including six on the runway causing damage which is quickly repaired.  One bomb lands on the corner of a hangar, destroying the building.  Another just misses a slit trench occupied by personnel of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regt., covering them with dust but causing no casualties.  Some motor transport at Verdala is damaged.  One Ack Ack gunner at San Giacomo is slightly wounded.  One enemy aircraft is believed brought down and a second badly damaged.

2110-2140 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four enemy aircraft attack the Island, dropping high explosive bombs near the Dockyard and on Fort St Angelo, damaging gardens, near Tal Bajda and Tal Virtu, and in the sea off Kalafrana.  A low-flying machine-gun attack is made between Madalena Tower and St Andrews Barracks.  The aircraft swoops over the parade ground of Pembroke Barracks, firing its tail gun towards the ground.  Two enemy aircraft are shot down by small arms fire into the sea off Madalena Tower.

2335 hrs  Lights are reported from the west of Verdala, believed possible signaling.  A few minutes later more possible signaling lights are seen coming from Dingli.

Civilian casualties  Michael Falzon, age 70. 


AIR HQ  0445 hrs  Anti-submarine and reconnaissance patrol by Swordfish: nothing to report. 

KALAFRANA  Six recruits medically examined for the RAF.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 1 HE 250lb Dockyard; 1 HE 130lb Mqabba.

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


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1 Comment

Posted by on July 6, 2015 in Uncategorized


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One response to “6 July 1940: Dockyard Bombed Without Warning Killing Workers

  1. David

    November 29, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Official war records has the date of the Olympus being damaged as 7th July. (PDF page 375)


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