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Tonight the people of Malta endured their longest uninterrupted air raid of the war so far. The alert sounded at twenty minutes to nine this evening as the first enemy aircraft approached the Island. They were followed by more, in ones and twos, stretched over a period of more than two and a half hours.
Searchlight operators were frustrated in their efforts to illuminate the raiders by low cloud, which prevented anti-aircraft guns from launching a counter-attack. The poor visibility also hampered the raiders who were seemingly unable to locate their targets, circling several times before dropping bombs on random locations across the Island, and in the sea.
The raid was the second approach by enemy aircraft this evening. Two hours earlier raiders circled over the Island for half an hour in low cloud but left without dropping any bombs.
ENEMY EXPLOIT RED CROSS TO EVADE ATTACK
This morning an enemy aircraft appeared over the east of Malta bearing a red cross in a white circle. Flying at high altitude, the aircraft was clearly carrying out reconnaissance under the protection of a marking which normally gives immunity from attack. However, this deception by the Luftwaffe is well known in the UK, where such planes are now fired on by RAF fighters and anti-aircraft batteries.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 JANUARY TO DAWN 16 JANUARY 1941
Weather Hazy skies.
1107-1115 hrs Air raid alert for one enemy aircraft reported already over the Island, circling over Grand Harbour; identified as a Heinkel 111 or Junkers 88. No Malta fighters can be scrambled in time. A Glen Martin heads in for landing at Luqa and is followed in by an enemy aircraft marked with a Red Cross. A few anti-aircraft guns open fire on the Maryland before recognition but cause no damage. No bombs are dropped.
1940-2050 hrs Air raid alert. Searchlights illuminated over Grand Harbour detect three enemy aircraft to the north. Searchlights at Sliema, St Thomas Bay and Hal Far are illuminated and one Hurricane fighter is scrambled. Due to low cloud, aircraft are heard but not seen circling over Luqa, Hal Far and Grand Harbour apparently searching for their target – presumed to be the Harbour. They leave without launching an attack.
2139-0015 hrs Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which approach singly and in pairs. Low cloud prevents searchlights from illuminating the aircraft. The raiders circle targets before dropping bombs in the sea off Grand Harbour, one between Hompesch and Zabbar one near Latnia crossroads, two near Bofors gun positions at Pretty Bay and one near a gun position at Pembroke. One Wellington lands at Luqa during the raid.
0115-0130 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.
OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 15 JANUARY 1941
AIR HQ Maryland standing by to shadow Junkers if they appeared. 0500-1000 hrs Maryland reconnaissance Maddelena but abandoned when near target due to bad weather. Sunderland recce of western Ionian Sea abandoned as impossible to take off during heavy swell. 0837-1114 hrs Maryland recce Taranto Harbour (abandoned due to bad weather) and Catania aerodrome: about 100 aircraft, of which 25 Junkers 87 and 88, seven Fiat BR 20, 20 Macchi 200, four SM 79 and 30-40 aircraft burned out or severely damaged – damage from raid of 13 January. West side hangar a total wreck and another badly damaged, others partly damaged. Damage on central administrative buildings and many bomb craters on the aerodrome. Two Macchis patrolling; one attacked the Maryland from very close range scoring with explosive bullets in the main spars of both wings and one tyre. Maryland’s rear gunners first pan jammed and the Macchi was too far away by the time the second pan adjusted. No further damage done on landing but aircraft temporarily unserviceable. Crew unwounded.
LUQA 69 Squadron (431 Flight): 1 Maryland reconnaissance Catania aerodrome hit by Macchi 200; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Palermo and Catania, weather bad; 1 Maryland special reconnaissance Naples unsuccessful; 1 Maryland reconnaissance Maddalena abandoned due to bad weather. 148 Squadron: 9 Wellingtons bombing raid on Catania aerodrome.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 (HE 43lb).
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