11 February 1942: Three Ships Bombed – Destroyer Sunk in Harbour

11 Feb

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  • Phoenicia Hotel: staff find unexploded bomb
  • Three Royal Navy ships bombed at Malta: one destroyer sunk; 26 killed
  • Blenheims caught in surprise attack
  • Military forced to have days without motor transport to save fuel

    HMS Cleopatra


Cruiser HMS Cleopatra and destroyer Fortune were attacked by JU 88 bombers as they headed towards Grand Harbour this morning.  Cleopatra was hit by a 500kg bomb which passed through the forward structure and exploded, killing or mortally injuring twenty of the crew.  The two ships had made a brave dash through the western Mediterranean via Gibraltar, bringing essential spares to Malta.  Despite the bombing, both vessels made it in to harbour where Cleopatra is undergoing repairs.


Overnight a single enemy bomber manages to hit the destroyer HMS Maori while she is lying at anchor in Grand Harbour.  The bomb enters the engine and gear room and explodes, sinking the ship. Most of the crew are sleeping in on-shore accommodation but six are killed in the explosion.


Blenheims of 21 Squadron at Luqa were ambushed today as they returned to base from a shipping sweep over the Gulf of Gabes.  As the lead aircraft approached Malta, the radio operator was alerted that an air raid was in progress.  The formation moved into a holding pattern to the south of Malta.  After fifteen minutes, the leader radioed for further instructions.  Almost immediately the Blenheims were swooped on by enemy fighters.  One aircraft piloted by Sergeant John Stubbs was shot down into the sea.  A search vessel found no survivors.

Bomb crater in front of Phoenicia Hotel (NWMA Archive)


A suspected unexploded bomb was discovered in wreckage at the Phoenicia Hotel in Floriana this morning and reported to Royal Engineers HQ.  The Bomb Disposal Officer inspected the scene, confirming traces of a probable point of entry of a bomb.  It is believed to be part of a bomb load which struck Floriana yesterday in the area of the Hotel, which is currently in use by the military.  A bomb disposal squad started digging immediately and by this afternoon had uncovered a 50kg bomb ten feet below the surface, which was defuzed and removed for disposal. 


Weather  Weather 100% low cloud.  Rain at times.  Wind westerly; cold.

0656-0712 hrs  Air raid alarm: caused by arrival of friendly aircraft.

0950-1141 hrs  Twelve JU 88 bombers escorted by twenty plus ME 109 fighters approach from the north and attack HM ships south of the Island.  Malta’s fighters are up and engage the enem; Heavy Ack Ack also engage.

0959 hrs  Twelve JU 88s and 20 ME 109s attack HM ship south of the Island.  Malta’s fighters airborne.  Both they and Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1015 hrs  Twelve Hurricanes from 249, 126, 242 and 605 Squadrons take to the air under Wing Commander Rabagliati.  They make Contact with six JU 88s and four Messerschmitts four miles north of Gozo.  Four of the Hurricanes attack two JU 88s: strikes are observed on engines.  Another JU 88 is attacked and damaged.  The engagement ends when all ammunition is used up.  No Messerschmitts are attacked but Hurricanes claim three bombers damaged.  One Hurricane is damaged by return fire.

1122 hrs  One JU 88 bombs Hal Far causing two craters on the aerodrome.  No damage to buildings or aircraft, and no casualties.  Five Light Ack Ack gun positions engage the bomber at 4000 feet but low cloud makes accurate targeting difficult.

1236-1258 hrs  Two JU 88s approach from the north.  One drops bombs in the sea; the other flies over Grand Harbour without dropping bombs.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Ta Qali squadrons are stood down.

1409-1626 hrs  Approximately 40 aircraft – JU 88s and ME 109s – approach the Island from the north and drop bombs in the sea off Tigne and St Julians, on land north east of Gudja, and near Della Grazia.  Malta’s fighters are not up.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  There is an unconfirmed report from Central Infantry Brigade that five JU 87 Stuka dive-bombers are involved in the raid.

1703-1723 hrs  Three unidentified aircraft appear to be carrying out a search ten miles north of Gozo, then recede north.

2032-2048 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north at 10-11000 feet.  Flares are observed over Gozo but no bombs are reported.  The aircraft recedes north east; guns do not engage.

0035 hrs  Flight Lieutenant Palmer is scrambled from Ta Qali for an incoming raid.  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs on Grand Harbour, hitting HMS Maori which explodes and sinks.  Heavy Ack Ack fire two barrages and the aircraft recedes north.

0214 hrs  All clear.  Flight Lieutenant Palmer proceeds to Sicily but returns owing to bad weather: operations are cancelled.

0308-1331 hrs  One bomber approaches from the north at 11000 feet, drops flares over Salina and bombs in the sea off St George’s, finally retiring northwards.  Heavy Ack Ack fire two barrages.

0345-0412 hrs  One bomber approaches from the north at 10-12000 feet, dropping flares near Luqa and bombs near Qormi, finally receding north.  Heavy Ack Ack fire three barrages.

Military casualties  HMS Cleopatra  Able Seaman (AS) Arthur Batten; AS Charles Carter; AS Ivor Connell (died of wounds) AS William Copland, Ordinary Seaman (OS) Thomas Curtis; Leading Stoker William Dempster; OS Dennis Gill; Master at Arms Eric Jex; Petty Officer George Johnson; AS Charles Kemp; OS Herbert Lawrence; Temporary Sub Lieutenant (Sub Lt) Alexander McDonald (died of wounds next day); AS John Mills; Temporary Acting Leading Seaman Denis Mitchell; Stoker 1st Class William Mitchell; OS Leonard Phillips; OS William Robinson; OS William Walker; Acting Paymaster Sub Lt Roy Walmsley;OS Leonard Warren.

HMS Maori  OS Alexander Barr; AS Sidney Chew; Sick Berth Petty Officer John Rawson (missing presumed killed); Gunner Sydney White (missing presumed killed); OS Ronald Williams; Boy John W Wilsdon.

Air Force  Flight Lieutenant Victor Nicolls (Mentioned in Despatches), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Sergeant John Stubbs, 21 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Peter Tyas,  21 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Sergeant Justyn Grabham, 21 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Civilian casualties  Mosta  Gamri Chetcuti, age 12; Emilia Defelice, age 65.


AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Champion, two Wellingtons, four Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures   Two Wellingtons to LG 224; two Beauforts to 108 MU; eight Beaufighters to 108 MU (two reported missing).

LUQA  69 Squadron  Two Marylands SF1 patrol; one Maryland SF2 patrol; one Maryland photo-reconnaissance Corfu, Argostoli, Patras, Navarino; one Maryland protection of friendly convoy.  21 Squadron  Four Blenheims shipping sweep Gulf of Gabes: Sgt Stubbs failed to return.  Wellingtons attack Catania aerodrome and Tripoli Harbour.

TA QALI  Officers and men attached for the day from Hal Far.  2030 hrs  S/Ldr Westmacoll on intruder raid Comiso: on his approach the beacon switched off and Hurricane returned as engine vibrating.  By signal OPS 576 dated 11/2/42 night intruder operations cancelled as Hurricanes required for daylight operations.  Instructions as to removal of tanks and two cannons.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  B Company held a TEWT on Corradino.  A petrol-less day.  Post L45 was bombed during the  afternoon.  32 bombs in vicinity of the post.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued.  Day without motor transport.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 5; dealt with 11 (10 x 50kg; 1 x 2kg).


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1 Comment

Posted by on February 11, 2017 in 1942, February 1942


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One response to “11 February 1942: Three Ships Bombed – Destroyer Sunk in Harbour

  1. Susan Earl

    March 5, 2017 at 4:26 pm


    I have been reading your amazing emails from the very first, I had been waiting to get to the attached dates of information. My uncle Ronald was killed in Malta in 1942 aged 18. My mum (his brother) and my gran ( his mum) are sadly no longer with us, but we were always led to believe that Ronald was killed in the Regent cinema bombing , but these 2 articles both say he was killed. On the Maori as well as at the cinema.

    My family had been in touch with an amazing man, John Mizzi, from his first contact with my gran when he was about 16, until he passed away. He was compiling the Malta War story. John and sent my gran photos at the time in 1942 of his grave.

    How do I find out exactly what is the true event regarding Ronald Williams death? I understand the position Malta was in and that everything must have been chaos, but if possible the correct info would be for our family history for my granddaughter to always remember and to pass on.

    Thank you , with immense gratitude and respect for the Malta story.

    Susan Earl.


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