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1 May 1941: Heavy Increase in Night Raids on Malta

01 May

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RAID SUMMARY APRIL 1941

  • No of air raid alerts 90 (including 25 night raids)
  • Days without air raid alerts 4
  • Total time under alert 69 hours 51 mins
  • Average length of alert 46.5 mins
  • Civilians killed by enemy action 62
  • Civilians injured 112
  • Enemy aircraft destroyed by anti-aircraft guns
  • Day: 1 probable
  • Night: 2 confirmed, 1 probable
  • The total civilian casualties and damage from 11 June 1940 to 30 April 1941:
  • Killed 274 (145 men, 66 women, 63 children u16)
  • Seriously injured 204 (91 men, 81 women, 32 children u16)
  • Buildings wholly or partly destroyed 1901
Grand Harbour is a constant target

Grand Harbour is a constant target

MALTA HQ REVIEWS APRIL 1941

The month was notable for greatly increased air activity by German aircraft at night, partly due to the arrival in Malta of a convoy and war vessels. There was also a heavy increase in night attacks, both bombing and mine-laying, largely as a result of warships stationed in Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto.  On 21 April heavy bombing of Grand Harbour and the Dockyard area began, gradually increasing in tenacity towards the end of the month. Systematic mining of the approaches to Grand Harbour were also carried out.

Four particular enemy tactics became noticeable during night raids:

  • They were usually preceded by one aircraft on a meteorological flight;
  • The first aircraft usually crossed the whole length of the Island from west to east at a great height to force the searchlights to illuminate;
  • The increased use of flares;
  • On two or three occasions a flashing light could be seen about ten miles north of Grand Harbour at sea level. This is thought to have been a submarine giving landfall guidance to aircraft on nights with no moon. The Navy despatched a trawler after the second such appearance.

There were 42 reconnaissance or offensive patrols in the vicinity of the Island triggering the air alarm, as well as others for which the alert was not sounded. Reconnaissance was usually carried out by a single JU 88 bomber while the escort circled off the coast of the Island.  The escort rarely crossed the coast except when in superior numbers and on specific offensive patrol.  Two daylight and one night dive machine-gun attacks took place: on Luqa aerodrome and Marsaxlokk Bay during daylight and on St Paul’s Bay at night.

At the beginning of the month the policy was adopted of sending Malta fighters up on moonless nights, as well as on nights when the moon was up. The policy was not successful and was quickly discontinued. Searchlights were employed on 15 nights and obtained 47 illuminations.   The firing of predicted barrages at night has been discontinued in favour of immediate barrage procedures.  This has been employed on approximately 140 occasions and has undoubtedly had a deterrent effect on the enemy, causing them to divert from their apparent objective.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 MAY TO DAWN 2 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0728-0830 hrs  Air raid alert for six to ten ME 109s which circle round the Island. Hurricane fighters are scrambled; one is damaged and another shot down by a raider; the pilot is safe.

1023-1125 hrs  Air raid alert for nine unidentified aircraft approaching the Island. One JU 88 is fired at by anti-aircraft guns at Benghaisa.

1643-1805 hrs  Air raid alert for six bombers and twenty ME 109 fighters approaching the Island from the north at high altitude and head for Grand Harbour. Bombs are dropped in the sea outside the Harbour, believed to be aimed at an A/S trawler.  16 Hurricanes are scrambled and succeed in breaking up the formation of ME 109s which then scout around the coast of the Island in pairs.  One group of Hurricanes is caught in a surprise attack.  One of them is shot down and crashes near Ghaxaq church; the pilot P/O R A Innes is injured but bales out safely.  A second Hurricane is damaged in combat, pilot Sgt Walmsley is slightly injured.

2023-2105 hrs  Air raid alert for thirty enemy aircraft which approach Grand Harbour and lay mines as well as dropping bombs in the area. One Hurricane is scrambled but does not engage.  Anti-aircraft guns fire 16 barrages against targets exposed by searchlights.  Light anti-aircraft guns also engage and claim hits on raiders.  One enemy aircraft crashes in the sea off Salina Bay.

Civilian casualties  Marsa  Joseph Vassallo, age 39.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 1 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Truant arrived from patrol having sighted various coastal traffic off Tripolitania and sank a caique full of explosives.  Owing to danger from night minelaying, she was sailed for Gibraltar at 2000.  Gloucester and destroyers sailed to attack convoy, but weather was unfavourable and no contact was obtained. Upholder sank two merchant vessels 

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Two Marylands patrolled eastern Tunisian coast, sighted a convoy. Maryland special patrol north and south point of western Sicily for enemy shipping.  21 Squadron Six Blenheims made two sorties to attack; during the second attack one merchant vessel and one destroyer were attacked and left stationary. 

HAL FAR Hurricanes of C Flight 261 Squadron began operating today. Two casualties as a result of combat with the enemy: P/O Innes and Sgt Warmsley were injured.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 33; dealt with 8 (8 x 50kg).

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Strengths: officers 25, other ranks 122.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Evening ‘stand to’ now 2000 hrs.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Strength of Battalion: officers 27, other ranks 870. Battalion providing working party of 1 officer and 50 other ranks clearing debris in Kingsway, Valletta. 

 

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed. For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com

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Posted by on May 1, 2016 in 1941, May 1941, Uncategorized

 

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