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MALTA HQ REPORTS ON AIR ATTACKS 3-16 MARCH
In two weeks of heavy air raids, Malta’s airfields have been put out of action, ships and buildings smashed around Grand Harbour, civilians killed and their homes destroyed. The tiny Hurricane fighter force has been outnumbered ten to one. A report to the War Office today reviews the latest challenge for the Islanders and their defenders:
Recent enemy attacks on aerodromes have generally been built up in intensity over a period of about a fortnight, firstly very thorough daily reconnaissance followed by one or two attacks by two or three high flying bombers protected by fighters, culminating in intensive combined dive-bombing and low level attack by up to 100 planes.
These [massed] attacks are always protected by some 25 ME 109 and 110 fighters, flying at 15-20000 feet and are carried out by 20-30 JU 87 (Stukas) and an equal number of JU 88s who dive from 7-8000 feet right down to 100 feet of their target, while 20-30 Dorniers and Heinkel carry out low-level bombing from 8-5000 feet.
These attacks are usually carried out in three waves and whereas formerly full use was made of cloud and sun, in heavy attacks the Germans appear to rely more on the weight of numbers and come straight in, taking violent avoiding action from the moment they are ungagged, but steadying up for the dive. Flights do not follow one another as heretofore, but dive individually from all directions.
The most effective method so far found to deal with this form of attack is for guns to fire a geographical barrage over an area and up to a height agreed with the RAF, certain gun positions also being detailed to engage the low-flying aircraft. There are insufficient guns at present round Ta Qali to permit of this latter manoeuvre without weakening the density of the barrage too much, but it is hoped soon to increase gun protection in this area. A minimum of 20 guns for each barrage is necessary.
Malta fighters lay off outside an area and attack all disorganised enemy flights and single planes as they emerge from their attack. There have been far too few fighters here to attack these large formations as they come in with their own fighter escort. Considering how greatly they have been outnumbered, these tactics seem to have met with success, but the only really satisfactory solution is greatly increased numbers of fighters which can engage and destroy the enemy before bombs are released.
35 enemy aircraft have been confirmed shot down by anti-aircraft fire from 1 January to 16 March 1941. With regard to comparison of the defence of the Dockyard area with that of the aerodromes, it has been found that similar casualties have been inflicted on the enemy in both cases, but damage has been greater in the Dockyard area, owing to congestion.
It has been found that sufficient warning has been given to all guns of each bombing attack. So far no experience has been gained of the use of the Kerrison Predictor, owing to its recent arrival on the Island.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 MARCH TO DAWN 17 MARCH 1941
0755-0848 hrs Air raid alert for four Dornier 215 light bombers plus six fighters approaching the Island. The bombers are engaged lightly by Ack Ack at Benghaisa. The fighters endeavour to intercept Wellington aircraft returning from a mission; no damage is caused.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 16 MARCH 1941
ROYAL NAVY An acoustic mine by the Floating Dock was exploded with a Kango hammer.
AIR HQ 1030-1230 Maryland patrolled between Cape Bon and Sicily for shipping information for submarines. Weather bad and visibility very poor. Maryland photoreconnaissance Trapani.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (3.7” Ack Ack).
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