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Malta’s commanders are becoming increasingly concerned about the defence of the Island against the Luftwaffe. Following heavy air raids on Hal Far on Wednesday and Luqa a week before, Malta’s Air Officer Commanding, Air Vice-Marshal Maynard, concluded that without an increased fighter force he cannot protect the Sunderland and Wellington bomber squadrons based in Malta. In the attack on Luqa on Wednesday 26 February, the entire Malta bomber squadron on the base was destroyed or grounded; a similar destruction resulted from this week’s raid on Hal Far.
The War Diary of Malta General Staff notes: “Air superiority rests with the enemy at the moment very definitely, owing to the small fighter force in Malta. It is very noticeable however that, except for dawn or night attacks and a few other rare exceptions, the enemy stays at great height, due to the strong reaction of the Island’s anti-aircraft defences.”
In a message today, Lt Gen Dobbie warned the Chief of Air Staff in London that without suitable aircraft to defend Malta, the Island will be unable to continue as a useful naval and air base for the Allies in the Mediterranean. In addition, the prolonged enemy campaign of persistent round the clock nuisance raids interspersed with mass bombing attacks is taking its toll on the fighter squadrons as well as the civilian population.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal confirmed in his response that he places a high priority on the defence of Malta but that other demands, as well as transport difficulties in the Mediterranean, were making the provision of reinforcements difficult. He confirmed that more Hurricanes will be sent to Malta as soon as is practicable.
POWS IN MALTA
The War Office has requested details of prisoners of war taken in Malta since 3 February. They have expressed particular interest in German POWs. The Island’s Garrison has reported the subsequent capture of two Germans: Cadet Officer Roman heil Oberfagnich (station and squadron unknown) and Wireless Telegraph Operator Heinrich Stamm Gefreiter, Unit 7(31) Geschwader, station Catania. Both airmen are reported well.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 MARCH TO DAWN 8 MARCH 1941
1158-1247 hrs Air raid alert for four JU 88 bombers and ten ME 109 fighters approaching the Island. The JU 88s drop bombs near Chateau Bertrand at Ta Qali. Over St Paul’s Bay two of the fighters dive down to 150 feet and machine-gun a moored Sunderland, killing one of the crew. Fighters also attack two Hurricanes detailed to protect a Glenn Martin Maryland which is returning from a reconnaissance mission. One of the Hurricanes is forced to land in the sea; the pilot is rescued. They shoot down the Maryland over Wied Tal Kleigha, killing the pilot and one of the crew. A sergeant bails out of the burning aircraft and is fired on by ground troops as he lands; he survives. Anti-aircraft guns engage and claim two raiders probably destroyed.
1702-1741 hrs Air raid alert for some 20 enemy aircraft circling 20 miles to the north of the Island; raid does not materialise.
2042-2330 hrs Air raid alert for between 30 and 40 enemy aircraft including bombers which attack the Island in groups, dropping bombs on various areas including Luqa, Grand Harbour, Pembroke, Ta Silch and Zonqor. Many bombs are dropped in the sea and several raiders miss the Island altogether. Anti-aircraft guns raise a heavy barrage; one raider believed damaged.
Military casualties Flying Officer John Boys Stones, Pilot, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron; Sergeant Allen S Jones, Royal Air Force, 228 Squadron; Sergeant Jack Levy, Wireless Operator, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron.
OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 7 MARCH 1941
AIR HQ 0512-1212 hrs Sunderland reconnaissance western Ionian Sea. 0930 hrs 69 Squadron Maryland photoreconnaissance Taranto. Maryland reconnaissance Taormina, on return pilot and one of crew shot down over Malta.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 at Hal Far aerodrome (500kg).
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