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15 February 1942: 20 hours of Air Raids – 41 Killed by Single Bomb

15 Feb

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  • Malta under alert for 19 hours 58 minutes
  • Daytime air raid lasts 10 hours 51 minutes
  • 141 enemy bombers and fighters
  • 175 High Explosive bombs dropped on Luqa and Valletta area
  • Bomb brings down cinema onto audience
  • Mine disposal hero killed
  • Eight enemy aircraft destroyed or damaged

CINEMA HIT DURING SUNDAY AFTERNOON FEATURE

Regent Cinema rescue operations (NWMA Malta)

At 1754 hrs today a single JU 88 bomber turned inland towards Fort St Elmo and aimed a stick of four 250 kg bombs along the peninsula of Valletta.  One hit the Casino Maltese, killing at least eight people, the next struck the Palace and the third smashed into the Regent Cinema.  The auditorium was almost full for the afternoon showing of ‘The North-West Mounted Police’ starring Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald.  The building collapsed onto the audience, most of whom were servicemen enjoying their Sunday leave.  Early estimates are 15 civilians and 26 servicemen killed and at least 29 wounded.

Servicemen and civilians who had been sheltering nearby rushed to the scene to help, followed by the Police, ARP squads and medical teams.  According to ARP Sergeant Major John Mifsud:  “…we saw a harrowing scene, with limp and moving limbs entangled between the debris.  We searched for the injured to whom we administered first-aid before rushing them to hospital; our timely intervention saved a few lives.”  (1)

George Boswell was one of the men rescued from the debris.  He had stepped outside to visit the WC when the bomb struck.  A brick wall fell on him, injuring his leg and leaving him in a coma for several days.  

Mr Anton Caruana Galizia was killed in the raid – a man described as “a popular and prominent Maltese” by the Rev Nicholls of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral:   “I remember the day my father’s brother, Anton Caruana Galizia, was buried.  He had been hit by a splinter from a bomb dropped on Valletta in February 1942.  My father was preparing to leave for the funeral and I remarked on the black tie he was wearing.  He answered, ‘It is not half as black as my heart’.  It was a remark I shall never forget. I was seven years old.”  Anne Parnis, Glenelg, S Australia, 2011

ROYAL NAVY MINE DISPOSAL OFFICER KILLED

Lt Cmdr W Hiscock, DSC, GC

The deaths have been confirmed of Lieutenant Commander William Ewart Hiscock, DSC, and Mrs Alice Beatrice Hiscock.  The bomb and mine disposal officer and his wife were killed by an enemy bomb which landed directly on their home in St George’s Barracks.  Lt Cdr Hiscock, Royal Navy (Retired) was appointed to ‘miscellaneous duties, sea mine disposal’ at HMS St Angelo, where he has served since 1939.  He will receive the posthumous award of the George Cross for disarming a hitherto unknown type of Italian torpedo machine in 15 feet of water of St George’s Bay in September 1941.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 16 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather  30% cloud; bright periods.  Wind westerly.

0745-1836 hrs  One continuous air raid.

0745 hrs  Twelve ME 109s patrol south east of the Island.

0840 hrs  Five Beaufighters from 252 Squadron detachment at Luqa take off to return to Egypt but are warned to return to base due to an incoming enemy raid.  Some fail to hear the message and one is shot down by ME 109s a few miles east of Malta.

Seven JU 88s approach from the east and drop bombs on Luqa and the Safi Strip.  Heavy Ack Ack engage by Height Control destroying one JU 88 which crashes in flames on land near Bubaqra and damaging a second which left the Island smoking badly.  Ten guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery fire 176 rounds, most guns claiming hits on the enemy.  One gun destroys a JU 88 making its escape.

0940-1040 hrs  Wing Commanders Satchell and Rabagliati lead 242 Squadron and 1435 Flight in an attack on three JU 88s without result.  They then attack five ME 109s.  W/Cmdr Satchell shoots off the tail of one and watches the aircraft hit the water: claims one destroyed.  W/Cmdr Rabagliati attacks one ME 109 which turns over and drops into the sea.

0955 hrs  Bombs on are dropped on Safi landing strip and Ta Karach.  One Other Rank is killed and two injured in the raids.

1000 hrs  While enemy fighters patrol off Kalafrana, three JU 88 approach over Kalafrana to bomb Luqa.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  All guns of 225 Light Ack Ack battery at Hal Far engage and shoot down one JU 88 which crashes into the sea south of Dingli.

1045 hrs  Twelve aircraft are scrambled from Ta Qali and attacked three JU 88s and one ME 109.  No claims.

The ME 109s continue to patrol south of the Island at varying heights up to 18000 feet in formations of up to six aircraft.

1055 hrs  Hal Far aerodrome is attacked again by enemy aircraft.  Three JU 88s at 4-600 feet are engaged by 225 Light Ack Ack Battery guns.  Four positions each claim one hit.

1100 hrs  Three JU 88 approach over Comino and drop bombs on the Safi strip from a height of 9000 feet.  Barrages are fired and the bombers split up, one receding north over Sliema and the other two south.

ME 109s continue to patrol off the Island.

1400 hrs  One JU 88 dives to 7000 feet over Kalafrana Bay, is engaged by Heavy and Light Ack Ack fire and drops bombs in the sea.

1415 hrs  One JU 88 approaches over St Paul’s Bay at 12400 feet, dives towards Grand Harbour at 6000 feet and drops bombs on Sliema sea front.  Both Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.

1430 hrs  One JU 88 approaches from the north and dives towards Grand Harbour at 4-5000 feet.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage; bombs are dropped on St Angelo.

1500 hrs  Enemy fighters continue their patrols off the Island.

1636 hrs  A returning Maryland is attacked by two ME 109s.  One ME 109 is shot down but the Maryland itself is so damaged that it has to make a forced landing in Kalafrana Bay.  All the crew are safe.

1715 hrs  Twelve aircraft under S/Ldr Beazley of 249 and 605 Squadrons are scrambled to escort another Maryland.  They are jumped by ME 109s.  They take evasive action but are not successful.  Pilot Officer Lowe of 605 Squadron is shot down into the sea and reported missing.

1800 hrs  One JU 88s dives over Valetta and scores a direct hit on the Casino Maltese, the Palace and the Regent Cinema.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1835 hrs  All clear.

1951-2337 hrs  Fourteen aircraft approach from the north but only two cross the coast.  All bombs are dropped in the sea.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

0052-0150 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs in the sea and Kalafrana Bay.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

0310-0358 hrs; 0427-0535 hrs  One aircraft at a time approaches from the north and drops bombs in the sea without crossing the coast.

0620-0708 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north east but does not cross the coast.  No bombs reported.

Military casualties  Leading Stoker William Dempster, HMS Cleopatra; Able Seaman J W Mills, HMS Cleopatra; Ordinary Seaman W Walker, HMS Cleopatra; Able Seaman Alexander Barr, HMS Maori; Boy 1st Class Ronald Williams, HMS Maori; Boy 1st Class John W. Wilsdon, HMS Maori; Stoker 1st Class George Cole, HMS St.Angelo.

Aircraftsman Robert Kemp, Royal Air Force (RAF) Volunteer Reserve (VR); Corporal Gordon Singer, RAF; Sergeant John Webb, RAF; Flight Sergeant Clive Mulholland, Royal New Zealand Air Force; Aircraftsman 2nd Class Arthur Sydney Day, RAF VR; Flight Sergeant Granville Jackson, Royal Canadian Air force; Aircraftman 1st Class Henry Gorman RAF VR; Sergeant Alan Largent, RAF VR; Sergeant Daniel Keane RAF VR.

Private Francis Byers, 1st Battalion (Bn) The Cheshire Regiment; Private Frank Wilson, 1st Bn The Cheshire Regiment; Private William Dudman, 1st Bn The Hampshire Regiment; Private Vincent Vella, 2nd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment; Fusilier Thomas Wallwork, 11th Bn The Lancashire Fusiliers; Sergeant Robert Cass, 32nd Light Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Artillery; Fusilier Albert Haunce, 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers; Capt Henry Gough, 2nd Bn The Royal Irish Fusiliers; Captain Peter Low, 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara   Pio Carabott, age 34.  Floriana  Gerald Ciantar, age 19; Giulio Mifsud, age 19.  Hamrun  Joseph Cassar, age 30; Mary Cassar, age 19; Renzo Flores, age 65; Albert Zammit, age 26.  Paola  John Attard, age 20; Toni Farrugia, age 14; Michael Wickan, age 19.  Pieta  Frances Patsy Cutter, age 19.  Sliema  Melita Abela, age 26, Joseph Amodeo, age 24.  Valletta  Dr R Bonello MD, age 52; Dr A Caruana Galizia LL.D, age 46; Joseph Cassar, age 17; Francis Cremona, age 16; Joseph Falzon, age 17; Frank Farrugia, age 13; Raffaele Mallia, age 54; Frangiska (Kitty) Mamo, age 17; Fr Gerald Pace OC, age 40; Manasser Reginiano, age 18.

Enemy casualties  Leutnant Wilhelm Gretz, 7/LG 1, pilot JU 88 bomber pilot shot down.  Crew of JU 88 bomber shot down by Anti-Aircraft fire:  Pilot Leutnant Waldemar Stadermann, Observer Oberfeldwebel Walter Hesse, Air Gunner Unteroffizier Martin Knobloch, Wireless Operator Oberfeldwebel Albert Stahl; all of 6/KG 77.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: SUNDAY 15 FEBRUARY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  HM ships Penelope, Legion, Lance arrived.

AIR HQ Arrivals  One Clare from Cairo; one Whitley from 236 Wing; one Beaufighter from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Clare, one Whitley to Gibraltar; two Beaufighters to 108 MU; five Beaufighters to LG 10 (two reported missing).

HAL FAR  Night 15/16th  Five Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack an enemy force of four cruisers and eight destroyers.  Hits were observed on two cruisers and one destroyer.  Ack Ack and moderate smoke screen effective.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF1 patrol; one Maryland SF2 patrol; one Maryland special search.  S/D Flight  Two Wellingtons special search.

TA QALI  Continuous air raids during the day; many scrambles.  No night operations.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  Reinforcements arrived from Middle East:  1st Bn Durham Light Infantry 2 Officers; 4 Other Ranks; Malta Tanks 4 Other Ranks.  1st Durham Light Infantry Fourth Rifle Company which had been expected failed to arrive.  1800 hrs  Bomb scored direct hit on Regent Cinema, Valletta during performance.  Numerous service personnel and civilians buried under debris.  1 Cheshire casualties:  three Other Ranks killed; four Other Ranks injured.  Working parties of 1 Cheshire co-operated with civilian ARP in extricating casualties.

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Up to this date 1 Hamps had one killed and two injured as a result of enemy action.  8 King’s Own had one killed and three injured when bomb fell on Regent Cinema.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT During the afternoon the Regent Cinema in Kingsway, Valletta received a direct hit.  There were a large number of service personnel in the building at the time.  Casualties were fairly heavy; exact numbers not yet known.  We lost Private F Wilson and Private F Byers, A Company, killed; Privates Hawksley, Blinkham, Richards and Harrod injured.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Information was received that A Company and details of Battalion had arrived from Middle East and were at the dockside.  However, it turned out that only two Officers and four Other Ranks had arrived and the ships carrying the remainder of the details and A Company had been forced to return to the Middle East through enemy action.

FORTRESS COMPANY ROYAL ENGINEERS  The Regent Cinema in Valletta received a direct hit.  The cinema was full at the time, causing many casualties.  Two men of 24 Fortress Company Royal Engineers were injured and admitted to hospital.  Rescue parties from 24 Fortress Coy and 173 Tunnelling Coy RE were sent out and did admirable rescue work for 18 hours.  Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 4; not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  This was a very sad day for the Battalion.  1750 hrs a bomb fell on Regent Cinema, Valletta.  Among the casualties was the Adjutant, Captain P Low and OC A Company Captain H Gough: they were both killed.  Fusilier Haunce of C Company was also killed.  The bodies were recovered and brought to Battalion Headquarters.  This loss of the Adjutant  Capt Low and Capt Gough, both very popular and efficient officers, is most keenly felt by all the officers and men of the Battalion.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Four men of this unit were injured when a bomb fell on the Regent Cinema, Valletta.  Private A Wilson and Corporal T Langdon were the most seriously injured.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party.  Bombs at Sliema and St George’s Barracks.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER  During a heavy raid on Valletta a cinema was hit causing a number of Army personnel casualties.  The Battalion was fortunate in sustaining only one slight casualty: Private W Butler.

(1) Malta: Blitzed But Not Beaten’, Philip Vella, Progress Press 1985

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

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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in 1942, February 1942

 

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