10 March 1942: Spitfires Claim Their First Bandits

10 Mar

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“What a scrap – 109s, Spits, Hurricanes and 88s all over the Island…Everybody is standing up on top now, watching.” (1)


Messerschmitt Bf 109

Messerschmitt pilot Heinz Rahlmeier of Luftwaffe unit 8/JG53 today became the first enemy pilot shot down by a Spitfire over Malta.  Rahlmeier was among fifteen fighters accompanying a bombing raid on Luqa this morning.  As the enemy formation approached the Island, they ran into a surprise attack by a squad of Spitfires – on the offensive for the first time since arriving in Malta three days ago.  The 19 strong defensive force of Spitfires and Hurricanes scrambled from Ta Qali and Hal Far was the largest the Island has been able to muster for some weeks.

Spitfire pilot Flt Lt Heppell of 249 Squadron scored the first major strike on Rahlmeier’s Bf 109 and watched the fighter drop into the sea.  Pilot Officers Nash and Plagis also scored hits, claiming aircraft ‘probably destroyed’; P/O Daddo Langlois damaged another.


While the Spitfires pursued their dog-fight, a group of Messerschmitts turned on four of the less-agile Hurricanes in a counter-attack.  Pilot Officer John Mayall was shot down and crashed near the Elementary School in Attard.  22 year old P/O Mayall, Royal Australian Air Force, was killed; his aircraft was burned out and a total loss.  He is buried in the Capuccin Naval Cemetery, Malta.  With thanks to Tim Sutherland & family of P/O Mayall


Weather  80% low cloud.

0847 hrs  Four JU 88s with fighter escort approach the Island and drop bombs near Xleili Tower and near Ghar Dalam.

0931 hrs  Bombs dropped in Ta Karach area.

1020 hrs  Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron and eight Hurricanes 126 Squadron plus four Hurricanes from Hal Far scrambled to meet an incoming enemy raid.

1037 hrs  Eighteen aircraft including three JU 88s cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa airfield.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.  Light Ack Ack destroy one ME 109.

1050-1115 hrs  Four Spitfires jump the escorting ME 109s.  F/L Heppell sees strikes and enemy aircraft dropping into the sea.  P/O Nash and P/O Plagis claimed one probable ME.  P/O Daddo-Langlois sees pieces fly off another ME.  Four Hurricanes are jumped by Messerschmitts and P/O Mayall is shot down, crashing near Hamrun.

1107 hrs  Three JU 88s dropped bombs along the Safi strip.

1154 hrs  All clear.

Three Hurricanes of 605 Squadron Hal Far are scrambled to intercept JU 88s and fighter escort.

1221 hrs  Fifteen aircraft, including three JU 88s, drop bombs on the Safi strip.  Malta’s fighters are up and Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1258 hrs  Three JU 88s dropped bombs on Safi strip from Ta Liebru area to S Nicola Church area. 

P/O Hoole engages two ME 109s at 12000 feet, at a range of 200 yards: results unobserved.

1344 hrs  All clear.

1420 hrs  Three JU 88s with fighter escort drop bombs on Hal Far, including three 1000kg, causing seven craters on the aerodrome and dispersal areas.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1450 hrs  Bombs are dropped in the Misrah Blandun area and on Safi village.

1600 hrs  Two ME 109s patrol to the south of the Island.

1632 hrs  Forty enemy aircraft approach the Island in four waves of bombers with fighters in support.  First one JU 88 carries out reconnaissance.  The second wave of two JU 88s drops bombs on Luqa.  The third wave of three JU 88s drops bombs on the Safi strip.  Bombs are then dropped in front of the Hangars at Hal Far.  Two Hurricanes are badly damaged.  L/Cpl Jefferies and Private Foster of D Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt are slightly injured.  Malta’s fighters and Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1640 hrs  Eight Hurricanes 242 Squadron and four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali to intercept incoming JU 88s and Messerschmitts.

1725 hrs  The eight Hurricanes attack two JU 88s.  F/L Kee sees his cannon shells cause an explosion inside an enemy aircraft.  Sgt Boyd and P/O Morrison Jones also hit the same aircraft. The four Spitfires attack two other JUs.  F/L McQueen sees damage to the wing of one and F/O Buchanan damages another JU 88. The bombers jettison their bomb loads into the sea off Filfla.

ME 109s counter attack and P/O Murray’s plane is hit: he bales out but his parachute fails to open fully and he is injured on landing.  (He died later).  On a search for P/O Murray, F/O Buchanan is jumped by a ME 109 and his aircraft is badly shot up, forcing him to land at Ta Qali with slight leg wounds.  He is admitted to hospital.

1755 hrs  Two JU 88s at 4-6000 feet engaged guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery: four hits claimed on one JU 88.

1810 hrs  Bombs are dropped on the Safi strip.

1842 hrs  All clear.

Night 10/11th  Malta’s fighters are grounded owing to bad weather.

2003 hrs  One enemy aircraft is engaged by Heavy Ack Ack as it crosses the coast.  It goes on to drop two bombs between Qawra Tower and Mosta.

2038 hrs  The same aircraft approaches again and crosses the coast near Grand Harbour.  Heavy Ack Ack engage; no bombs are dropped.

2115 hrs  One aircraft approaches the Island and drops bombs near Madliena.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

2216 hrs  One enemy aircraft drops bombs eight miles north east of Grand Harbour.

2300 hrs  All clear.

0316 hrs  One aircraft approaches the Island – identified as an enemy fighter.  No bombs are dropped.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer John Mayall, Royal Australian Air Force; Pilot Officer Kenric Murray, Royal Australian Air Force; Emmanuel Duca, Driver, Malta Auxiliary Corps.

Civilian casualties  St Julians  Calcedonio Parnis, age 22.


ROYAL NAVY  Force K arrived at 0900 hrs.  Nothing sighted.  Cleopatra and Kingston left for Alexandria at 2000 hrs.  Three Swordfish and one Albacore carried out a search without result.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Beaufighters from Gibraltar; two Albacores from El Adem.

HAL FAR  Three Swordfish 830 Squadron, one Albacore 828 Squadron dispatched to attack a convoy of one merchant vessel and escort between Pantelleria and Maritimo.  No attack made owing to very poor visibility and effective smoke screen by escorting vessels.

LUQA 1506-1945 hrs  One Maryland 69 Squadron carries out a special search.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT 30 Other Ranks A Company firing on Marsa Range.  Parachute practice.  1400 hrs Cross country run for all Companies.

2nd BN THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Work on roads, filling in craters.

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  C Company move to S Agata Church.  B Company move to Gudja Church.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  0900 hrs  Battalion exercise: Advance Guard and Mobile Column – Dingli area.  1000 hrs  D Company guarding crashed Hurricane in L’Imreahel area.

225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY As a result of bombs on Hal Far, C Troop HQ is removed to a nearby infantry billet.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  QM Fanning’s staff publicly thanked in the Times of Malta for the good work during air raids in Mosta.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 21 February-15 March 128 (average 6 per day).

(1) Diary of Sgt Thomas Barker, BEM, RAF Hal Far

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Posted by on March 10, 2017 in 1942, March 1942


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