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HEAVY BOMBING ON GRAND HARBOUR DEVASTATES HOMES
Eye-witness account by Philo Pullicino, age 24, Adjutant of Special Constabulary
“Heavy raid at 12.30pm saw a large formation of bombers passing high overhead, engaged by our guns. Bombs dropped on Birgu and Isla. Rushed to spot by car. Public shelter hit and collapsed burying eight people. Three saved. A tug boat in Dockyard Creek was hit, but the shell failed to explode. Two blocks of houses five storeys high were razed to ground level. The bombs must have been of heavy calibre, judging from the craters.
And yet life goes on. People living next door to the devastated building do not care to move away, though not a pane of glass is left anywhere in their houses. The bombing was more accurate than previously. The Dockyard was hit but no serious damage done.
A woman and two young girls, covered in dust and rather pale, were arguing about how many people they had left in the demolished shelter which, by the way, was thought to be bomb proof as it had fifteen feet of material above it. A shelter next door, which was not so strong, escaped untouched with seven hundred people inside.” (1)
The air raid alert was sounded at 1227 hrs and there was plenty of time for Dockyard employees to reach shelter before bombs fell. Enemy aircraft approached from the east, and dropped sticks of High Explosive bombs and incendiaries across Vittoriosa and the Dockyard.
One demolished an unoccupied house immediately behind Garden Reach. One 250kg demolished the Oil and Cotton Waste Store behind Garden Reach. The building was 75% demolished by the force of the explosion. A smouldering fire was started in the cotton waste which was quickly doused by trailer pumps. £70 worth of mixed oils have been destroyed.
One 50-100kg struck HM Tug Hellespont which was lying at Surgery Wharf, Sheer Bastion. The bomb pierced the aft saloon on the starboard side and detonated under the water. She settled until her stern rested on the bottom. She was pumped out and damage found to be less than at first thought; temporary repairs were made. The force of the explosion damaged and sank the Captain of the Dockyard’s picket boat which was lying astern. She was later raised from the bottom, lifted out of the water and taken ashore for repair. Two police launches were also damaged.
One partially demolished the Government School on top of St Michael’s Bastion. The shock also damaged a salt water tank and debris damaged roofs on the Dockyard below. The submarine Olympus also sustained minor damage.
A high explosive bomb and an incendiary fell near No 4 MG House, demolishing the building and causing a fire among paraffin and oil cans. A chargeman’s cabin was destroyed and other buildings damaged, along with several machines.
One unexploded bomb pierced a house in Crane Street, Senglea, and eventually came to rest in the well below the house.
BRAVERY OF MALTESE WORKERS
One unexploded 250kg struck the north wall of the Dockyard canteen and buried itself three feet into the base of the wall. Had it exploded, the bomb would have brought down much of the building and caused casualties. The unexploded bomb was later removed and dumped at sea. The Maltese workmen who dug out and lifted the bomb were neither volunteers nor chosen men. They were riggers and labourers from the Works Department. They went about the job without showing any fear and had to be reminded to be cautious.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 8 SEPTEMBER 1940
1227-1243 hrs Air raid alert for 24 CR42 fighters escorting 11 enemy SM79 bombers which drop some 30 high explosive bombs on the Dockyard and Grand Harbour area, causing damage to Naval property. Four civilians are killed and two injured; another is missing. Anti-aircraft guns open fire and three Hurricanes and three Gladiators are scrambled. One aircraft hit by Ack Ack is reported losing height with smoke coming from its tail. One enemy bomber is confirmed shot down by RAF aircraft between Zurrieq and Filfla, and another probably. Two Hurricanes are slightly damaged by enemy fire.
Civilian casualties Kalkara Mary Pisani, age 27; Carmel Pisani, age 5; Lorenza Pisani, age 3; Joseph Pisani, age 1.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 1940
ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Bomb Disposal UXB High explosive 400lb x 1 fuzed nose and tail dealt with by Naval authorities but examined by IOO for information. 250lb x 1 Vittoriosa.
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