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GOVERNOR’S REPORT ON 15 DAY BLITZ 16 MARCH TO 30 APRIL 1941
From: Governor & C in C To: Secretary of State for the Colonies
“Valletta is now a sorry sight. The main street is completely blocked with debris and not one cinema out of five is working.”
During the period 16 March to 30 April there were 15 bombing raids by day and 23 bombing raids by night. These raids resulted in heavy damage to civilian property. 714 houses were demolished or badly damaged. The first part of this period was comparatively quiet but determined enemy activity was resumed on Good Friday and continued thereafter. On the night of 30 April alone 309 houses were wholly or partly destroyed.
During the period 50 civilians were killed and 53 seriously injured in air raids. 28 civilian dockyard employees out of a crew of 29 were lost when the Admiralty Mooring vessel was blown up by mine in Grand Harbour on 8 April.
Important buildings damaged in the Valletta area include St Johns Co Cathedral, Law Courts, the three Malta banks and Floriana Central Hospital, where 100 patients were removed without mishap. There was also much damage to other commercial and residential property in Valletta – especially from the blast of parachute mines – in Sliema and in other widely scattered areas, some of them far from any military objective.
There has been little additional movement of population during this period. About 55000 people were already living away from their former homes and it is hoped that circumstances will not compel any further extensive migration. Safe shelters provide the best anchor. The night population of Valletta has been reduced from about 24000 to under 13000 and that of the Three Cities and Kalkara from about 30000 to about 5000. In the latter area there is sleeping accommodation for the whole of the night population in bomb-proof shelters dug in the rock.
In Valletta and Floriana over 10000 people sleep regularly in shelters and there is ample shelter space but not yet sleeping accommodation for the rest of the night population. The largest single shelter is the old railway tunnel about 1000 yards long running in the rock from Valletta to Floriana. Other tunnels forming part of the old fortification of the Knights are also used and many of the small tunnels have and are being dug by private individuals for themselves and their families in many of the rock faces available. We have made and given out hundreds of picks.
All passive defences are now functioning well and with effective co-operation and there have been expressions of public satisfaction on this score. The main problem now, apart from the completion of the shelter programme, is the clearance of streets and buildings and recovering property from debris. The establishment of two new demolition gangs has already been authorised but further expansion of the service is necessary and will be applied for. The heavy stone construction of older buildings makes this work particularly difficult.
The problem of fire has recently presented itself for the first time. Construction of Malta’s buildings makes them almost immune but stores of timber and contents of shops have been set alight in a few instances in recent weeks, particularly by the explosion of mines. The fire-fighting equipment and organisation is being reviewed. Malta has a large stock of oil dispersed about the Island and bomb-proof protection is not available except for an inconsiderable part of the quantity we need. The problem is therefore an important one.
From the 20 and 21 age groups 833 men have been enlisted under compulsory military service. The calling up of 22 and 23 age groups is now proceeding and four more age groups up to 27 will follow. The willingness and understanding with which compulsory military service, never before known in Malta, has been accepted by the general population is very greatly to their credit. Improvements in pay and family allowances granted by the War Office have greatly helped in this.
The convoy on 23 March of four ships carrying about 30000 tons of stores arrived and was successfully unloaded. On 21 April Breconshire arrived with military cargo. Appearance of these convoys is enthusiastically received by the whole of the population, and large crowds are to be seen on arrival on points overlooking Grand Harbour.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 MAY TO DAWN 5 MAY 1941
0735-0750 hrs Air raid alert for a small formation of enemy fighters approaching the Island. Anti-aircraft guns engage at long range one ME 109 which does not cross the coast. Hurricanes do not intercept.
0804-0835 hrs Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which approaches the Island with two ME 109s and carries out reconnaissance from south to north over the Island. Anti-aircraft guns engage the bomber; no claims. Three Hurricanes are scrambled and engage the JU 88; it falls into the sea 20 miles north. One Hurricane is forced is blinded by oil from the JU 88 and has to break off combat. The ME 109s counter-attack the Hurricanes, damaging one and slightly wounding the pilot.
0825-0930 hrs Air raid alert for six enemy search planes which circles north of the Island looking for the JU 88 and then recede.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 4 MAY 1941
ROYAL NAVY Union arrived to join Malta Submarine Force; a mine (probably acoustic) exploded with 1½ cables of her, causing no damage. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Swordfish overnight operations minelaying approaches to Tripoli.
AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Beaufighter; 69 Squadron 2 Maryland. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland patrolled eastern Tunisian coast. One Hurricane attempted reconnaissance of Comiso but clouds prevented visibility.
HAL FAR One Hurricane damaged in combat with the enemy; pilot P/O Hall sustained a splinter wound in the left arm.
LUQA One Maryland A crew arrived in Maryland; B crew took it on reconnaissance of Ionian Sea and returned.
1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT 1825 hrs One man was wounded by an exploding bomb.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 34; dealt with 9 (8 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg).
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