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GHAXAQ FAMILY WIPED OUT BY ENEMY BOMBS
Malta was under air raid alert for 16 hours out of 24 today as the Luftwaffe continue their post-Christmas campaign against Malta. RAF Hurricane aircraft from Ta Qali were scrambled ten times to fight off enemy raiders.
An entire young family was wiped out early this evening when bombs hit the southern village of Ghaxaq. The deceased have been named as John Abela, his wife Vincenza, 26, and their two children: one year old Teresa and baby Carmel, three months. A fifth person, Michelina Busuttil, 47, was also claimed in this major blow to a small agricultural community.
ENEMY MINE-LAYERS DETECTED
Urgent orders were issued early this morning confirming the presence of enemy mine-laying vessels within reach of Grand Harbour. The overnight watch of the Harbour Fire Command reported the sound of engines indicating the presence of surface craft just off the harbour entrance.
Despite regular searchlight sweeps, the engine noise continued. On receiving the report, the Royal Navy suspected enemy E-boats are again engaged in laying mines while aircraft create diversions overhead. The Harbour Fire Command was placed on high alert and continued searchlight sweeps at regular intervals throughout the night, but nothing further was spotted.
This morning’s operation instruction outlined measures to destroy the craft, which are laying mines within the range of the Harbour guns and searchlights. The Harbour Fire Commander at Fort St Elmo is to be issued with a RDF (radio direction-finding) set by 1200 hours tomorrow, to give early warning of the presence of MTBs (motor torpedo boats).
The RDF equipment will switched on at intervals or when enemy ship movements are suspected. Once a craft is detected, searchlights will be trained towards them but not switched on until the RDF shows the target to be within beam and gun range – to retain an element of surprise.
Meanwhile the Royal Navy is maintaining a patrol six miles off shore to intercept surface craft and prevent them from reaching Malta’s shores. Any hostile vessels seen are to be immediately engaged, regardless of the presence of the naval patrol. All harbour guns available will be used in such attacks, taking great care not to engage the naval patrol vessel.
AIR RAIDS 27 DECEMBER 1941
0822-0933 hrs Air raid alarm: nine ME 109’s in two formations patrolled over the Island. Heavy Ack Ack and Bofors engaged; no claims.
0931-1100 hrs Air raid alarm: 14 fighter aircraft crossed the coast – no engagement.
1109-1245 hrs Air raid alarm. A formation of JU 88’s with large fighter escort approached the Island. Hurricanes intercepted causing the enemy to jettison their bombs. One JU 88 was confirmed destroyed, one ME 109 probably destroyed, one JU 88 damaged. Heavy Ack Ack engaged.
1450-1531 hrs Air raid alarm: 33 enemy aircraft approached the Island, nine only crossing the coast; no bombs were dropped.
1617-1644 hrs Air raid alarm; raid does not materialise.
1757-1926 hrs Air raid alarm: nine enemy aircraft crossed the coast and dropped bombs at Ghaxaq, in the sea and near Corrodino.
1940-0520 hrs Air raid alarm: seven alerts were sounded for a total of ten enemy aircraft. Bombs were dropped in sea and on land near Hal Far, on Wardia Ridge and Luqa, where they caused slight damage to officers’ quarters. At 2010 hrs an enemy raider was illuminated and shot down in flames into the sea. A second illumination was effected during last alert when Ack Ack engaged; no claims.
Military casualties Flight Sergeant William MacCosham, Royal Canadian Air Force, 179 Squadron; Gunner Thomas North, 4th Searchlight Regt, Royal Artillery/Royal Malta Artillery.
Civilian casualties Ghaxaq John Abela, age 33; Vincenza Abela, age 26; Teresa Abela, age 1; Carmel Abela, age 3 months; Michelina Busuttil, age 47. Sliema Carmel Muscat, 17.
Enemy casualties German Hauptmann Eberhard Stahle, Stab II/KG 77, Pilot of a Ju.88 bomber, shot down into the sea.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 27 DECEMBER 1941
ROYAL NAVY Three Albacores laid mines off Tripoli.
AIR HQ Arrivals Two Wellingtons, one Beaufort, one Whitley from Gibraltar.
HAL FAR Night 26/27th Four Albacores 828 Squadron carried out a minelaying operation outside Zuara Harbour. Opposition spasmodic and inaccurate. All aircraft returned safely.
LUQA 69 Squadron One Maryland special search (friendly) north half of C/V; one Maryland special search (friendly) south half of C/V; one Maryland SF 6 patrol. Photo-Reconnaissance One Maryland Catania, Celibria. 18 Squadron Two Blenheims attacked rail shipping Zuara-Tripoli; one Blenheim attacked rail transport at Zuara. 107 Squadron Two Blenheims SF 14 patrol; one Blenheim attacked road transport at Zuara.
TA QALI Hurricanes scrambled at 0822-0909, 0932-1038, 1109, 1237, 1450, 1531, 1617, 1637, 1757, 1918. One JU88 destroyed.
CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE Air alarms lasting throughout the day: High explosive bombs dropped in scattered parts.
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