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LUQA RUNWAY CRATERED – LUFTWAFFE PILOTS TAKEN PRISONER
In the early hours of this morning the enemy launched the first attack of a 36 hour campaign against Malta’s airfields. The enemy’s target is aircraft on the ground. During the morning alone there are over 80 enemy sorties over the Island. Bombs fall in several districts including Birzebuggia, Msida, Hamrun and Luqa, which is attacked by 30 aircraft, damaging the airfield and four Wellingtons on the ground.
Luqa’s runway is badly cratered: Army working parties are called up to carry out emergency repairs. Despite continuous bombing, they work on into the night, finishing the job at 1159 hrs.
The Police and Air Raid Precautions headquarters also report being at full stretch, handling the reporting and guarding of unexploded bombs.
Weather Morning cold, fine and clear; clouding over in the afternoon.
0225 hrs Eight Hurricanes from 185 Squadron at Hal Far are scrambled to intercept a formation of three JU 88s and twelve ME 109s. Hurricanes of 185 Squadron destroy one JU 88 and damage another. One Hurricane is destroyed; the pilot, Sgt Westcott, bails out and is slightly injured.
Three High Explosive bombs are dropped on the south west of Gudja village near an army HQ. One Other Rank is killed and billets are damaged. One bomb falls on the outskirts of Qrendi village, one in a field near the tents of HQ Company and one behind the HQ of 3rd Battalion, The Kings Own Malta Regiment.
0300 hrs Eight bombs fall on Qrendi strip and three on the road to Zurrieq. 0315 hrs A stick of eight bombs falls near the road leading to Ghar Lapsi in the Qrendi strip area.
0430-0510 hrs A stick of bombs is dropped in the area of Bir Miftuh Church.
0850 hrs Nine Hurricanes are scrambled from Ta Qali to intercept incoming enemy aircraft.
0855 hrs Air alert. Eight JU 88s with ME 109s escorting approach from the north and carry out a shallow dive-bombing attack on Luqa and Safi, followed by a similar attack on Hal Far. Hurricanes unable to intercept; one Hurricane is damaged by gunfire and crashes on landing. Heavy Ack Ack also responds with defensive barrages, shooting down one ME 109 fighter.
The aircraft crashes in the area of B Company, 4th Bn The Hampshire Regiment who search the wreckage, finding documents which they hand over to the RAF authorities. The body of the NCO (Unteroffizier) pilot is looked after by the Regiment.
0933-1015 hrs A further two JU 88 bombers with nineteen escorting fighters approach from the north and carry out a second shallow dive-bombing attack on Safi landing strip. Heavy Ack Ack guns fire a barrage.
21 Hurricanes engage the enemy attackers damaging one JU 88 and destroying another which lands near Zebbug. The crew bales out and four German airmen are taken prisoner. One lands in the area of A Company, 4th Bn The Hampshire Regt, who escort him to Corradino Barracks and hand him over to RAF Headquarters for interrogation.
Private Holford of D Company, 2nd Bn The Royal West Kent Regiment on attachment to RAF Luqa is reported killed.
1108-1228 hrs 38 plus aircraft (three JU 88 and escorting ME 109s) approach from the north at 18000 feet and drop bombs from above the clouds on Safi landing strip, starting two fires, and near Gudja searchlight station. Heavy Ack Ack fire barrages, damaging one JU 88 bomber. No Hurricanes are airborne. Heavy Ack Ack damaged one JU 88.
1440-1510 hrs One JU 88 and two ME 109s cross the Island on reconnaissance at a height of 20-25000 feet. Seventeen Hurricanes are airborne and Heavy Ack Ack stands ready but they do not engage the enemy.
1528-1601 hrs Four JU 88 escorted by some fifteen fighters approach from the south east and carry out another shallow dive-bombing attack on Luqa and Hal Far aerodromes. Heavy Ack Ack gunners of Grand Harbour, Luqa and Hal Far open fire on the incoming aircraft and Light Ack Ack gunners of 225 Battery engage one JU 88, claiming hits. No Hurricanes are airborne.
1629-1731 hrs Six JU 88 escorted by ten fighters approach from the south west and carry out a shallow dive-bombing attack on Luqa. Six houses in Luqa village are destroyed. One Whitley and one Maryland aircraft are destroyed on the ground. Enemy aircraft stay out of sight above the clouds. Heavy Ack Ack sends up a barrage and twelve Hurricanes are scramble but do not engage.
1732-1758 hrs Seven Blenheims of 105 Squadron are transferred from Luqa to Ta Qali and are moved out to dispersal areas.
1932-2046 hrs Royal Artillery Policy Orders are fighters up, guns engage up to 6000 feet; searchlights expose. Five aircraft approach singly from the north, dropping bombs near Cospicua in Msida Valley and on Birkirkara. Two aircraft do not cross the coast.
2004 hrs Bombs damage the power system at Central Infantry Brigade, cutting off the electricity supply for 24 hours.
2025 hrs One Other Rank of 1st Bn The Hampshire Regt is killed when billets are hit by bombs dropped on south west of Gudja village.
2218-0531 hrs Raids on aerodromes and shipping in Grand Harbour continue throughout the night. 18 aircraft approach the Island during the night. Bombs are reported across a wide area: in Zeitun, Tal Handaq, Luqa (causing a fire), Safi, Gudja, Dingli, Hal Far, Ta Silch, Qrendi. Several houses are destroyed. Two Maryland aircraft and four Wellingtons are damaged and four airmen are reported killed.
The Dockyard is also bombed. HMS Havock is attacked and one officer and two ratings killed, and two ratings injured.
Several enemy aircraft are reported to have descended to 4000 feet. Heavy Ack Ack fired five immediate barrages and defensive fighters are reported to have damaged one bomber aircraft after a short engagement.
Military casualties Private Arthur Sigrist, 4th Bn The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment). Private Charles Holford, 2nd Bn The Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment; Cpl John Granard, RAF; Cpl Edgar Verney, RAF.
Civilian casualties in Birkirkara Raphael Caruana, age 69, Louis Di Mauro, age 59; in Siggiewi Luqa Saliba, age 27; in Gozo (Nadur) Carmelo Gatt, age 2; in Gzira Anglu Mallia, age 43.
Enemy casualites Unteroffizier Werner Mirschinka, pilot of ME109 fighter, shot down and died. Crew of JU 88 bomber, bailed out and taken prisoner: observer Feldwebel Ulrich Arnold, air gunner Feldwebel Heinrich Freese; wireless operator Obergefreiter Gerhard Hoppe, pilot Oberleutnant Victor Schnez.
OPERATIONS REPORTS: SATURDAY 3 JANUARY 1942
LUQA 69 Squadron One Beaufighter Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Castel Vetrano aerodrome. 18 Squadron one Blenheim SF14 patrol returned owing to intercom failure; one Blenheim SF 14 patrol. 107 Squadron Six Blenheims attacked motor transport Misrata-Zliten. 18 Squadron Two Blenheims attacked motor transport Zliten-Misrata.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 6; dealt with 2 (250kg).
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