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2 February 1942: Malta Not Equipped for Night Attacks

02 Feb

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“Anywhere else but Malta, an air raid warning would sound over a large area as the enemy aircraft moved towards their target; whereas when our sirens sounded, we were the target.” (1) 

Searchlights over Floriana

GUNNERS LEFT IN THE DARK

Malta’s defenders are struggling against an increasing numbers of night-time air raids.  The Island is just 27 km long and 14.5 km across.  From the first sight of an approaching raid to when enemy aircraft cross the coast and reach target takes just a few minutes, giving little opportunity for a successful counter-attack.  The Island needs more searchlights, to give the Gunners a better chance of getting enemy aircraft in their sights.

Telegram from:  Governor & Commander in Chief                         To: War Office

IMPORTANT 

Reasons for increase in AA S/Ls [Anti-Aircraft Searchlights].  Situation here not comparable with UK.  Small area of island with consequent proximity [vital positions] creates gun and fighter aircraft zone in confined space which demands quick pick-up and efficient illumination of many targets, in order to ensure quick results with gun or fighter aircraft in short time available for engagement.

Enemy intruder tactics demand adequate searchlights for co-operation with Bofors for defence of aerodromes.  Further searchlights required for co-operation with Bofors for defence [of] harbour and for anti mine-laying role.  Enemy activity over small area necessitates all lights in action constantly without gaps in layout, or in aerodrome or harbour defence.

Spares essential for organised system overhaul, for replacement damage enemy action and for training locally raised personnel and instructors.  Present holding 61.  Disribution: 48 operational and 13 for overhaul, replacement damage enemy action, and training.  Minimum operational requirement essential present commitments, including aerodromes and harbour: 66.  Spares: 4 for overhaul; 4 for replacement and 5 for training.  Total holding required: 79.  Proposals for additional personnel follow.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 3 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather  Rough and cold. Wind westerly.  Rain and hail during the day.

0945-0948 hrs  Aircraft identified as friendly.

1014-1025 hrs  Three aircraft are scrambled from Hurricane squadrons working out of Luqa.  One aircraft approaches from the north, turns when 30 miles north east of Grand Harbour and recedes.  No interceptions.

1110 hrs  One Hurricane is scrambled from Luqa and four more at 1130 hrs.  One JU 88 bomber approaches from north to south, crosses the Island from south to north at 28000 feet and is engaged by Heavy Ack Ack.  Malta’s fighters do not engage.

1240 hrs  Four Hurricanes scrambled from Luqa land back at Ta Qali: the airfield is now serviceable.

1319-1345 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north, passes the Island fifteen miles to the east and recedes south.

1352 hrs The previous raid re-appears from the south, is barraged by Heavy Ack Ack as it approaches Kalafrana, and jettisons bombs in the sea.

1400 hrs  The JU 88 attempts to attack Hal Far and is engaged by Light Ack Ack, claiming three hits.  Two Hurricanes of 605 Squadron attack one JU 88 at 10000 feet south of the airfield.  The enemy aircraft is damaged, the rear gunner believed killed.  Both Hurricanes are slightly damaged.  1419 hrs  All clear.

1830-1913 hrs  Four JU 88s escorted by fighters approach from the north and cross the coast near Kalafrana, damaging a slipway and one Sunderland aircraft.  before dropping bombs on Hal Far and the Safi Strip.  Several heavy high explosives and many very small bombs are dropped on the Hurricane dispersal areas.  One Hurricane is a write-off; two airmen are wounded.

1859 hrs  3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment report incendiaries between Nigret and Guarena, headquarters of C Company, a stick of High Explosives near Hagiar Qim battery.

1907 hrs  1st Bn The Dorsetshire Regiment reports incendiary bombs in the sea east of Delimara and in area Wied Ta Mazza.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage enemy aircraft and several hits are claimed on one JU 88 which is believed destroyed.  Gunner A Beard of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery is injured and taken to No 90 General Hospital.

2024-2045 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and is engaged by Heavy Ack Ack, dropping bombs in the Qrendi area and in the sea.

2304-0204 hrs  Ten aircraft approach singly from the north over a period of three hours, dropping bombs on Hal Far, Zeitun, Siggiewi, Corradino and Ta Xbiex.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

2317 hrs  One JU 88 attacks Hal Far.  Eight bombs are dropped causing craters on the aerodrome and damaging one building.  One Swordfish is slightly damaged.  No casualties.

2334 hrs  One enemy aircraft drops bombs 600 yards from Zeitun School.  0204 hrs  All clear.

0300-0325 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs in the sea just south of the Island before receding north west.

0417-0425 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north, misses the Island, orbits six to ten miles to the east, drops bombs in the sea and recedes.

Military casualties  Gunner Leslie Mills, 222 Battery, 10 HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Field, (relative of a serviceman).

OPERATIONS REPORTS: 2 FEBRUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals Two Blenheims, one Sunderland, one Beaufort from Gibraltar.  Departures Three Blenheims to LH 224.

HAL FAR  Night 2/3rd  Four Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack merchant vessel of 7-8000 tons off Mahdia.  At least one, possibly two, torpedoes hit the ship.  Visibility good.  Light Ack Ack from ship rather accurate.

LUQA 69 Squadron One Maryland SF14 patrol; one Maryland SF15 patrol. 40 Squadron  Wellingtons despatched to attack repairing base at Naples.

TA QALI  0950 hrs  Aerodrome unserviceable.  Squadrons proceeded to Luqa for operations: eight aircraft and forty maintenance personnel. 1920 hrs  Night intruder raids over Sicily (Catania): one lorry damaged; no interceptions, returned 2200 hrs. 1955 hrs  W/Cdr Satchell over Comiso – damaged car and fired on by Ack Ack, intense at times, returned 2250 hrs. 2115 hrs  Sgt Wood to Catania; saw no enemy activity; was ignored completely – returned 0035 hrs. 2225 hrs  P/O Rathie to Comiso – saw nothing; returned 0035 hrs. 2245 hrs  F/Lt Stones to Catania: attacked large black limousine, set it on fire; returned 0125 hrs. 0055 hrs  F/O Thompson to Comiso and Gela: saw Cant Z506; gave bursts from 400 to 100 yards; aircraft fell in sea about 1/2 mile from Licata Harbour – returned 0320 hrs. 0215 hrs  F/O Robertson to Catania: saw flare path near C.Passero; no contacts, weather deteriorating, returned 0350 hrs. 0305 hrs  F/Lt Palmer returned owing to engine trouble 0330 hrs.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Brigade HQ protective platoon formed.

1st BN CHESHIRE REGIMENT  B Coy on the range firing Tommy gun: results were not very good on paper but the shortening was not too bad.  The Command photographer took Officers’ photographs for [security] passes.

11TH BN LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party 120 strong.

8TH BN MANCHESTERA’ party from B Company were supplied for a working party at Ta Qali aereodrome.   Brigadier in charge of administration and STO expressed their appreciation of the excellent work done by military working parties in assisting with the unloading of merchant ships of the last convoy.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 2 (1 x 30kg, 1 x 500kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

(1) Henry Lavington, from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed. For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com

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Posted by on February 2, 2017 in 1942, February 1942

 

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