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RAID AFTER RAID TARGETS SOUTHERN AIRFIELDS AND DOCKYARD
Malta was under alert for over nine hours tonight as enemy bombers carried out a constant series of air raids. The alert sounded just after six in the evening heralding in the first of the raiders who approached in a group of three and bombed Hal Far aerodrome. They were followed by wave after wave of similar raids, aircrafts approaching in twos and threes, mainly targeting Luqa and Hal Far airfields as well as the Dockyard area, dropping their bombs from heights varying between 400 and 15000 feet. Up 70 enemy bombers were employed in the raids, including both JU 88 and HE 111s.
Malta fighters were scrambled throughout the night and shot down one enemy bomber plus another probable. Many bombs were dropped on the south of Island, damaging the Leper Hospital and many civilian houses were damaged. There were no casualties and only slight damage to military property. During the attacks Swordfish aircraft returning from a mission managed to land safely at Hal Far.
Rev Reginald Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral sat up through the night with his parishioners: “There were about 140 people sleeping in the Crypt. I got them to bring cards, draughts, etc., as they just do nothing but sit about – or lie about. I have produced about 20 old hassocks from the church, which they use as head pillows and some bring deck chairs, etc. I feel sorry for the women with babies…there were long intervals of silence punctuated with sudden burst of furious gunfire.” (1)
AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 9 FEBRUARY 1941
1505-1525 hrs Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which approaches from the south east over Delimara and makes a reconnaissance flight over the Island.
1649-1722 hrs Air raid alert for enemy aircraft seven miles west of the Island. Marsaxlokk reports a single plane flying in high from the south west. Four Hurricanes, two Fulmars and six Swordfish are scrambled; no engagement.
1810-0315 hrs Air raid alert. Four formations of three enemy aircraft approach the Island a few minutes apart. Bombers swoop in very low and drop bombs on Hal Far, damaging a hangar and causing considerable damage to civilian property. One civilian guard is killed, three civilians and two soldiers are wounded. Searchlights engage and illuminate four of the raiders.
Bombers attack Luqa aerodrome, damaging the runway and two Glenn Martin Marylands. Bombs are also dropped near Luqa reservoir, west of Qormi, between Mqabba and Zurieq, on Marnisi and Hamrun, and between Paola and Corradino. Six Hurricanes and two Fulmars are airborne and shoot down two JU 88 bombers plus another probable. One aircraft is reported crashing near San Pietru.
Through the night a series of enemy aircraft approach the Island in ones and twos and dive-bomb Luqa aerodrome and the surrounding area. The Leper Hospital, St Vincent de Paule hospital and some civilian houses are damaged. One civilian is killed and another severely injured. 30 goats are killed. In another attack bombs are dropped in Marsa, on Tarxien and near Hompesch Arch. During the attacks Swordfish aircraft returning from a mission landed safely at Hal Far.
Civilian casualties Sliema Francis Grech, age 17, Malta Auxiliary Corps.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 8 FEBRUARY 1941
ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm fired five torpedoes on Tripoli harbour. One aircraft force-landed in Tunisia.
AIR HQ Departures 1 Sunderland. Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli Harbour. Maryland photoreconnaissance Palermo, west Sicily and Trapani; eight Whitleys arrived for operation “Colossus”. 148 Squadron Six Wellingtons left for Middle East.
KALAFRANA One Sunderland left for Gibraltar and UK with passengers and mail.
LUQA 69 Squadron One Maryland photoreconnaissance Tripoli; one Maryland reconnaissance of western Sicily ports.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 6.
(1) Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta. Courtesy of website: Malta Family History
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