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14 February 1942: Bomb Disposal Officer’s Lucky Escape

14 Feb

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UNEXPLODED BOMB AT THE OPERA HOUSE

This morning Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer Lt George Carroll received a call from the Police in Valletta: an unexploded bomb is located close opposite their station:

Opera House with balustrade to R (NWMA Malta)

“When you look at the front of the Opera House, to the right a building ran across the present Square, with a balustrade on the top of it, which was part of a walkway.  I was told that there was a bomb on the balustrade.

When I arrived, I saw that the bomb was hanging suspended over the street.  The balustrade had a ledge extending towards the square.  I edged along this parapet on my knees – knowing I could fall onto the pavement below.  When I reached the bomb I found it was one which I hadn’t seen before:  it was small, made of metal, and on the top it had a rocking cap.  The bomb was attached to a wire, which I had to carefully snip, so that I could deal with the fuze and then take the bomb away for examination.

I traced the wire back and found that stretched across streets and houses.  Then I realised that, while I was on the ledge delicately holding the bomb, someone anywhere in Valletta could have found the wire and pulled it out of curiosity, banging the bomb against the balustrade and exploding it in my hands.

I found out that the bomb had been sent up by the Navy.  To deal with Stukas, they invented a system whereby they sent into the air a pot of explosive with a rocking cap on top – the fuze mechanism – attached to a thousand feet of wire, with a parachute at the end.  It would probably be fired up by a mortar, to launch it vertically into the sky.  As it was fired into the air, the parachute would separate and as a Stuka hit the wire, the parachute would pull across the wing;   The pot would hit the wing and the rocking cap would set it off, destroying the wing and bringing the plane down…I could have been blown to smithereens!”

Realising that other such bombs could easily fall into less expert hands with fatal consequences, Lt Carroll promptly arranges for an Information Office to issue a warning to the public, which appears on the front page of the Times of Malta.  (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 15 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather  Wind south-westerly; light.  Clear sky.

0941-1040 hrs  A raid by one ME 109 fighter which drops two bombs on Ta Qali and machine-guns the rear of Chateau Bertrand.  Light Ack Ack engage.  A reconnaissance mission by one JU 88 escorted by two ME 109s is engaged by Heavy Ack Ack at height control.  Hurricanes are airborne; no engagement.

1051-1135 hrs  Two raids, each of three plus ME109s aircraft orbit an area north of Grand Harbour without approaching the coast.

1151-1354 hrs  Three ME 109s approach at 15000 feet and dive to 5000 feet to drop bombs on Ta Qali.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.  Bombs damage the Guard-room, Photo section and and equipment store: one administration building collapses and three lorries are destroyed.  AC1 Wilson sustains slight injuries.  Ten enemy aircraft patrol at 17000 feet, waiting for two Marylands returning from a convoy patrol.  Twelve Hurricanes are airborne and the two Marylands land safely.

1612-1753 hrs  Eight enemy fighters approach from the north.  Twelve Hurricanes are airborne but do not engage.  No enemy aircraft cross the coast.

1950-2045 hrs  One enemy bomber approaches the Island from the north.  One anti-aircraft barrage is fired and bombs fall in the sea north east of Ricasoli.

0200-0737 hrs  Two air raid warnings last most of the night.  A series of eleven aircraft approach the Island in ten incursions.  17 barrages are fired.  Bombs are dropped in the sea and on land in the areas of Mosta, Corradino, French Creek, Zebbug, Mqabba and Madliena.

Military casualties  Leading Seaman Augustus Rendell, HM Whaler Swona, Royal Naval Patrol Service; Lance Sergeant Leonard Johnson, 32nd Light Ack Ack Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Mrs Alice Hiscock, St.Georges Barracks.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: SATURDAY 14 FEBRUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Catalina, one Beaufort, two Beaufighters from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Catalina to Cairo; one Beaufort to LG 224.

HAL FAR  Night 14/15th  One Swordfish 830 Squadron despatched on shipping search.  Area covered: Malta-Lampedusa-Rerenna-Tripoli.  Nothing sighted.  Two Hurricanes of 605 Squadron based at Hal Far are scrambled from Ta Qali.  P/O Lowe is shot down in the sea and reported missing.  P/O Wigley fired at an ME 109 with no observed result.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland Just I patrol; one Maryland Just II patrol; one Maryland photo-reconnaissance Messina Harbour; one Maryland special search for friendly convoy.  252 Squadron  Four Beaufighters protection of friendly convoy.  21 Squadron  One Blenheim reconnaissance for enemy forces.  40 Squadron  Two Wellingtons attacked Gerbini aerodrome; six Wellingtons attacked Catania; three despatched to attack Comiso aerodrome; two aircraft also attacked Syracuse; one aircraft also attacked Augusta and one aircraft attacked Augusta only.  One aircraft jettisoned his bombs and returned early.  S/D Flight  One Wellington search around friendly convoy.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Regimental Dance Band plays at Manoel Theatre, Valletta.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 1 – not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

(1)  UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

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

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1 Comment

Posted by on February 14, 2017 in 1942, February 1942, Uncategorized

 

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One response to “14 February 1942: Bomb Disposal Officer’s Lucky Escape

  1. Jason Pilalas

    February 27, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Mrs. Alice Hiscock, noted as a civilian casualty, was killed in her home by bombing, as was her husband, a Lieutenant-Commander and ironically, a bomb disposal specialist and winner of the GC and DSC. He is noted in the February 15, 1942 entry.

     

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