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ARP HEROES SAVE FIVE LIVES DURING AIR RAID
“On the next day the 6th, I was walking back from visiting [King George V] Hospital, believing that there was no immediate danger; just as I got to the Casino Maltese a roaring barrage broke out overhead. I ran for the shelter of the Arcades. As soon as it was over – perhaps three minutes – I continued down Teatro Street for home and saw two huge black columns of smoke of exploded bombs appearing over the roof of St.Paul’s. They had fallen on Manoel, as usual these days. That was a bad day for Sliema. The Gaiety Theatre, a very fine theatre was gutted (luckily it was empty), the Union Club hit, Barclays Bank destroyed, and the cashier who was just wishing to finish a job at his desk, killed.” (1)
Barclays Bank had been hit by a bomb which destroyed the strong room in the basement, killing one and severely wounding five members of staff. Superintendent C G Jones of the Sliema ARP District rushed to the scene with his men. Despite continued bombing, they gave First Aid assistance to the five surviving bank staff and then rescued them from the destroyed building. Superintendent Jones would later be awarded the MBE for his work.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 7 FEBRUARY 1942
Weather Wind south south-west. 30% cloud; little wind.
0756-0825 hrs Four aircraft pass to the south of the Island but did not cross the coast.
0829-0910 hrs Two ME 109 fighters patrol south and east of the Island and are engaged by Heavy Ack Ack. Four Hurricanes are airborne.
1029-1040 hrs Fourteen Hurricanes are airborne and make an interception, identifying the aircraft as friendly.
1054-1104 hrs Aircraft identified as friendly.
1200-1347 hrs One JU 88 bomber arrives with a large ME 109 escort, making a reconnaissance flight over the Island while the fighters patrol over the sea. The JU 88 is engaged by Heavy Ack Ack.
1230 hrs Three JU 88s and fighter escort then approach Grand Harbour, dropping a large number of bombs on Manoel, Tigne and Sliema. One Ack Ack barrage is fired and LIght Ack Ack also engage.
1330-1347 hrs Six more JU 88s plus fighter escort approach and drop bombs in the sea off Tigne, near the Dockyard and near Zabbar Gate. Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage: one JU 88 and one ME 109 are destroyed. The crew of the JU 88 bail out; one is killed on landing, two are taken prisoner. The pilot is picked up from the sea by personnel of 11th Bn The Lancashire Regiment. He is suffering from shock and immersion, and is taken for interrogation and first aid.
1525 hrs Five aircraft are scrambled from Ta Qali.
1547-1849 hrs Six JU 88s escorted by a large number of fighters approach from the north.
1620 hrs A stick of bombs is dropped in the sea between Delimara and Benghaisa.
1705 hrs Two JU 88s attack Hal Far. Seven bombs are dropped in the Hurricane dispersal areas. One Hurricane is slightly damaged. No casualties.
1720 hrs Two RAF Blenheim aircraft of 21 Squadron returning from an anti-shipping patrol off Libya are attacked by ME 109 fighters and shot down into the sea off the Island of Filfla.
1805 hrs Four JU 88s attack Hal Far. Fifteen bombs are dropped on the aerodrome destroying one hangar and the armoury of 830 Squadron and damaging other buildings. One Albacore is destroyed. No casualties. 225 Light Ack Ack Battery engages; several hits claimed and observed.
1930 hrs 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment Ghar Lapsi position reports one aircraft burning in the sea near Filfla.
2038-2102 hrs Three plus bombers approach from the north and drop bombs in the sea, staying out of range of Heavy Ack Ack guns.
2118-2339 hrs Eight bombers approach from the north. Heavy Ack Ack engage, causing all bombers to jettison their bombs in the sea except one, which drops bombs on land between Gudja and Hal Far.
2355-0015 hrs One aircraft approaches from the north, is engaged by Heavy Ack Ack and jettisons bombs in the sea.
0034-0054 hrs One aircraft approaches from the north, is engaged by heavy Ack Ack and drops bombs south west of Zabbar.
0115-0143 hrs One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs near Tal Qroqq.
0246-0320 hrs One Hurricane returning over the Island from a patrol is redeployed as a night fighter as an enemy aircraft approaches from the north west and drops bombs on the Hal Far area. A second approaching aircraft is thought to be a returning Wellington but drops bombs west of Baida Ridge and recedes north.
0412-0443 hrs One aircraft approaches from the north, is engaged by Heavy Ack Ack fire and drops bombs south of Hal Far.
0641-0730 hrs Three aircraft approach from the north and are engaged by Heavy Ack Ack fire. Bombs are dropped on Safi Strip and a gun position at Ta Karach, where an unexploded bomb is found lying on the surface. RE Bomb Disposal attend and deal with a 500kg High Explosive.
Military casualties Sergeant Ronald Fletcher, Royal Air Force (VR), 21 Squadron; Sergeant Ronald Hall, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR), 21 Squadron; Sergeant George Hancock, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, Royal Air Force (VR); Staff Sergeant Cornelius Hourigan, Royal Army Medical Corps; Sub-Lieutenant Maurice Swithinbank, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve; Sub-Lieutenant Richard Thomas, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve; Squadron Leader Russell Stewart, Royal New Zealand Air Force; Pilot Officer James Grieve, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Flight Sergeant Gordon Cameron, Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Civilian casualties Sliema Edward Pace Bonello, age 51.
Enemy casualties Obergefreiter Gernot Hartmann, crewman of a JU 88 bomber.
OPERATIONS REPORTS: 6 FEBRUARY 1942
AIR HQ Arrivals Five Wellingtons from Gibraltar. Departures Four Wellingtons to LG224.
HAL FAR Night 6/7th Four Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack one merchant vessel and two destroyers north west of Marsala. The merchant vessel was definitely hit once, possibly twice, despite an effective smoke screen. Weather good.
Two Swordfish 830 Squadron despatched to attack a merchant vessel of 3000 tons and one destroyer. One heavy explosion followed by a fire was observed by one aircraft; the other failed to return. Pilot S/Lt Swithinbank and observer S/Lt Thomas are reported missing.
LUQA 69 Squadron One Maryland SF6 patrol; one Maryland SF 14 patrol; one Hurricane photo-reconnaissance (PR) Sicilian Task; one Beaufighter PR Sicilian Task; one Beaufighter PR Buerat, Misrata. 21 Squadron Four Blenheims sent to attack shipping at Buerat. S/L Stewart, P/O Grieve, Sgt Cameron failed to return. 40 Squadron Seven Wellingtons sent to attack Sirte aerodrome. S/D Flight Two Wellingtons special search for convoy.
TA QALI Aerodrome serviceable; all ranks helping with craters. Movement of HQ to dispersal completed. All other damaged offices vacated and new offices taken in caves. Move to evacuate all sections in target area, namely Pottery and Chateau Bertrand, to caves and get caves serviceable. 0140 hrs F/O Ruthie intruder raid to Comiso: ground mist, saw nothing; returned to Malta but could not find raiders over Hal Far – returned 0330 hrs. 0245 hrs S/Ldr Westmacott carried out special task according to plan: no Ack Ack, no air activity; attacked large lorry at Lake Lentro, left stationary – returned 0525 hrs.
CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE Permanent Infantry observation posts (OP) established at Tal Virtu and Tal Minsia to be manned continuously by four infantry battalions in rotation.
1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY OP at Tal Virtu manned by Intelligence Section.
11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS Reports show numerous bombs dropped near the coast in this unit’s area during the last two days.
1800 hrs New Brigade permanent OP Tal Minsia manned by this unit on continuous watch. One low-flying ME 109 machine-gunned Luqa working party, damaging Ack Ack Light Machine Gun.
8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT The new Air Mail Letter Card Service is inaugurated for troops in Malta.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported; dealt with 1 (500kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.
(1) Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta. Courtesy of website: Malta Family History
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