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“WE HAD TO WORK, EVEN DURING AIR RAIDS” RE Bomb Disposal Officer Lt G D Carroll (1)
Malta’s military forces, dockyard workers and bus drivers must now work through air raids, according to an order from the Island’s high command. A system of flags has been introduced so that work can continue across the Island, outside of the direct target area. As well as the siren, a yellow flag will be raised for a raid heading for Malta; a red flag in the danger zone will be the signal to take immediate shelter.
“Necessity of spending long periods at night in shelters naturally reduces efficiency on the following day. Moreover stoppage of work during raids interferes with business and the progress of works. Stoppage of all buses during raids has also caused great inconvenience. The large number of raids has made it essential to deal with this problem, and I have already arranged for buses to run during raids. This they are now doing, and the arrangement is working well.
Necessity for unloading [convoys] as rapidly as possible made it essential to devise some means under which stevedores could be induced to work during raids until the danger actually approaches. This has been achieved by posting naval lookout on the Palace Tower, and giving special signals by flag and sounding of the hooter in the Dockyard known as the typhoon, when raiders are likely to approach, or guns to fire over the Grand Harbour.
For the first three days unloading of two ships was worked by soldiers, but the stevedores are now unloading all three, and so far rate of progress is satisfactory. Am now arranging to extend system of visual warnings of approaching danger so as to enable work to proceed during air raids as far as possible all over the Island.”
Governor & Commander in Chief, Lt Gen Dobbie in a cable to the War Office, January 1942
Airfields devised their own systems so that personnel working far from the main buildings could be alerted to immediate danger, as Joseph Zahra’s father experienced working at Hal Far:
“Dispersal of aircraft was a strategy to reduce the chances of group destructions on the ground by bombing. Dad and colleagues were urged by their immediate superiors to carry on with their job during air raids when the attack was not on Hal Far. Someone would be watching and when enemy formations are seen heading in their direction, a flare shot from a signal pistol warned Dad & Co to take cover. They would sensibly head away from airfield installations and towards a cave on the cliffs they knew of, called ix-Xifer, close by to Ghar-Hasan. There were times when enemy planes caught up with them and and the pilot opened up the machine guns. Lying down flat on their faces terrified they would keep fingers crossed.”
Joe Zahra, Malta 2011
AIR RAIDS WEDNESDAY 28 JANUARY 1942
Weather Wind south west. Little cloud, fine; rain at night.
1032-1135 hrs 21 aircraft (probably ME 109 fighters) approach the Island from the north and carry out patrols to the west, the south east and over the Island. No bombs are dropped. Heavy Ack Ack guns engage; no Hurricanes are airborne. During the raid, three ME 109s carry out the usual patrol to the east of the Island at a height of 50 feet.
1407-1507 hrs One JU 88 escorted by fighters approaches from the north. Heavy Ack Ack engages but no bombs are dropped.
1517-1554 hrs Three JU 88s escorted by fighters approach from the north and drop five bombs on Hal Far aerodrome. One Hurricane is burned out and two are damaged. One Albacore is a write-off and five Swordfish are damaged. Slight damage to buildings. No casualties. Heavy Ack Ack guns engage, along with four guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Regiment, twice forcing the bombers off course and destroying one JU 88 which crashes into the sea.
1715 hrs Two aircraft are scrambled from Ta Qali, followed by four more at 1720 hrs. No contact with the enemy.
1940-2040 hrs Bombs reported in the sea off Madliena (possibly mines).
OPERATIONS REPORTS: WEDNESDAY 28 JANUARY 1942
AIR HQ Arrivals Two Blenheims, one Hudson from Gibraltar; one Whitley from Kabrit. Departures One Hudson to LG 224.
LUQA 69 Squadron One Maryland SF14 patrol; two Hurricanes photo-reconnaissance south west Italian aerodromes – one (Sgt R Ballantyne, RAAF) failed to return [later reported as prisoner of war]. S/D Flight One Wellington special search.
TA QALI Congratulations to Malta Night Flight Unit from Air Officer Commanding. No intruder raids: weather bad.
1st BN CHESHIRE REGIMENT C Company carried out their first run and route march. Several long air alerts sounded and a few bombs dropped in the area.
1st BN DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT 1600 hrs Funeral of L/Cpl R Carter at St Andrews Cemetery.
1ST BN DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY Settling in: heavy kit arrived from the docks.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 2; dealt with 1(500kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.
(1) UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012
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