2 January 1942: First Ever Rocket Bombs Used on Malta

02 Jan

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Insignia of Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal

The small slip of paper delivered to Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal early this morning was covered in hastily scribbled notes.  It was also marked ‘Priority’ – requiring immediate action.  The UXB Report suggested unusual traces of one or possibly two unexploded bombs in one position, possibly connected to the ‘fireball’ seen skimming over the roof of the NCOs’ Mess last night.

The Bomb Disposal Officer was puzzled by what he found at the site.  Two holes were so close together it seemed a bomb had entered one hole and passed out through the other.  From their size, the bomb was at least a 500kg.  It could explode at any moment; he had to find it.

The Bomb Disposal squad started digging gently into the ground, so as not to disturb the bomb and detonate it as they worked.  Gradually an array of debris emerged: strips of tail fin in a strange blue alloy, sections of piping and metal plating unlike any part of a bomb they had seen before.  Then an NCO sent to search the area reported a 500kg bomb on the surface nearby: it looked unusual.

The Bomb Disposal Officer was facing the first known example of a new and highly-developed type of bomb, seemingly rocket-propelled.  The War Office needed full details.  A controlled explosion was not an option.  Somehow he must make it safe and transport it intact back to the workshop… (1)


From: The War Office                     To:  Governor & Commander in Chief Gibraltar, copy to: Governor & Commander in Chief Malta            

Request that you will make maximum possible use of any opportunities offered by Navy of sending from Gibraltar stocks small consignments of urgently needed ammunition to Malta.  Malta to inform Gibraltar, repeated Troopers, types of ammunition required.  Troopers will replenish Gibraltar stocks earliest opportunity.


0035-0120 hrs  Alarm.  No engagement.

Fort Mosta (NWMA Malta)

0157-0415 hrs  Alarm. Two enemy aircraft approach the Island from N singly, carrying out a nuisance patrol round Island.  1 enemy aircraft crosses the coast dropping small bombs near Musta Fort.

1117-1135 hrs  Alarm. No engagement.

1527-1612 hrs  Alarm. Three JU 88s escorted by twelve ME 109s pass over Gozo. One JU 88 crosses the coast at Ghain Tuffieha, descending from 17,800 feet to carry out a shallow dive-bombing attack on Luqa aerodrome and Safi Strip. Heavy Ack Ack engaged damaging one JU 88. Bofors engaged at the bottom of the dive. One JU88 and one ME 109 damaged by Hurricanes.

Heavy Ack Ack fires S and I geographical barrages and engaged by height control. Sandwich and Sidmouth guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery engage one JU 88 at 6-7000 feet with 11 rounds of 40mm.  Bofors guns engage the JU 88 at the bottom of its dive.  21 Hurricanes engaged.

Heavy Ack Ack damages one JU 88 by height control.  One JU 88 and one ME 109 damaged by Hurricanes.  The only aircraft hit on the ground is one Wellington already “written off”.  The D F Station near Safi is damaged.

“Received a surprise this morning when the Wing Com told us we were moving further east probably Egypt. What a rush to get ready… As a final treat we were dive bombed in the afternoon by three Ju99’s who came down to 2000 feet. The bombs fell about 400 yards from us and sent another of 40 Sqdn’s planes up in smoke. Hurricanes chased them off.

Take off was at 2 am. We had a heavy load with 14 men in each plane plus kit and overload tanks which were empty. The Jerrys bombed us at take off but didn’t score any hits. We were third off and the old wreck took off well considering the load. Our last look at Malta showed a long stick of bombs exploding near the drome.” (2)

1930-2134 hrs  Alarm. The Policy order is issued: fighters up, guns engage up to 6,000 feet.  Searchlights expose.  Eight enemy aircraft approach from the west, height 18-21,000 feet.  Two crossed south coast and dropped 30 bombs in Qrendi area.  The remainder drop bombs out to sea.  No illuminations.

2240-2304 hrs  Alarm.  Policy order issued: guns engage, searchlights expose.  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs on Wardia Ridge.  Heavy Ack Ack fire two immediate barrages at 13,600 feet and 9,000 feet.  Aircraft turn as soon as the first barrage is fired.  No illuminations.

2245-2316 hrs  Air raid.

2320-0506 hrs  Alarm. Policy order changes to fighters up, guns engage up to 6,000 feet and searchlights expose at 0137 for short period.  Intruder Phases I, II and III in operation.

Several enemy aircraft cross the coast and drop bombs on Safi (killing one CR of 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment), Birkirkara (12 bombs – civilian casualties), Hamrun, Luqa, Hagiar Qim, Qrendi Strip, Gudia, Kalafrana, Zebbug Heavy Ack Ack gun position (no casualties), Ta Qali and Jesuits Hill.  Two Wellingtons are destroyed at Luqa.  Average height of aircraft 11/12000 feet.  Heavy Ack Ack fired nine immediate barrages, several of which cause aircraft to turn off course.  Searchlights make one illumination of 30 seconds.  Hurricanes do not engage.

Civilian casualties:  in Mosta Carmel Mifsud, age 55, Carmel Muscat, age 58.  In Zeitun Carmelo Bonnici, age 50, remains of an unidentified corpse probably Giuseppe Debono, age 65.


AIR HQ  Arrivals one Hudson, eight Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures: six Wellingtons, one Whitley for Kabrit; one Beaufort, one Wellington for 108 MU.

HAL FAR  Ten Hurricanes, 185 Squadron, scrambled to attack four JU 88s and a number of ME 109s.  One JU 88 was damaged by Hurricanes K and R.  Hurricane J engaged and damaged one ME 109.  Our casualties one Hurricane damaged, pilot Sgt Sutherland slightly wounded.  Night 2/3rd January Two Albacores despatched to attack merchant vessel of 6000 tons and one destroyer.  Results not observed owing to intense and accurate opposition.

LUQA  107 Squadron  one Blenheim attacked tanker off Misrata.  18 Squadron one Blenheim SF patrol; four Blenheims despatched to attack merchant vessel off Kerkennah.  One only attacked.  S/D Flight  one Wellington special search Melita, Tripoli, Zuara.  40 Squadron: Two Wellingtons nuisance raid Tripoli; 104 Squadron 3 Wellingtons nuisance raid Naples.

TA QALI  Warm in morning but wind strong – cloudy – fine periods – cold later in day.  0810 hrs One Hudson arrived from Gibraltar (Delivery Flight).  Aerodrome surface wet and soggy.  Advance party of Delivery Flight arrived; officers arranged.  Squadron Leader Pascall in charge.  P/O Gudgeon Adjutant.  One Enquiries Officer and three airmen arrived from Luqa.  Five aircraft scrambled.  Several air raids during day – no bombs on aerodrome.  PM Several air raids, no damage to drome.  Heavy gunfire. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2; dealt with 1 (250kg).

(1) Full story in UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010

(2) Extract from “A Flyer’s Diary”, Joe White, WWII (from Air Shared Magazine)  

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Posted by on January 2, 2017 in 1942, January 1942, Uncategorized


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