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24 March 1942: Mass Raids on Grand Harbour Surpass Illustrious Blitz

24 Mar

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  • Raids target convoy ships in harbour
  • Weight of bombs double the Illustrious Blitz
  • Raids continuous from noon onwards
  • Bomb on air raid shelter at Hal Far kills RAF personnel
  • 23 military casualties 33 civilian – 23 in Kalkara
  • 28 Stukas dive-bomb Hal Far
  • Smoke-screens protect Breconshire from repeated attacks

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 MARCH TO DAWN 25 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind north east; 30% medium cloud.

HMS Kingston: a target at Dockyard mooring

0623-0657 hrs  One aircraft passes four miles to the east of the Island and then recedes.  Malta’s fighters are up; no engagement.

0705-0731 hrs  Two aircraft pass over the Island.  Malta’s fighters are up; no engagement.

1015-1052 hrs   Two ME 109 fighter bombers approach the Island from the north.  Malta’s fighters shoot them both down.

1115-1126 hrs  Three aircraft approach the Island from the north without crossing the coast, then recede.

1141 hrs  One JU 88 drops bombs in the sea off Zonkor.

1200 hrs  Six ME 109s drop 12 high explosive (HE) bombs on the Hal Far, Mqabba and Luqa runway (still serviceable).  One bomb drops on the Safi strip, another to the west of Gudja village.

1230 hrs  Fifteen JU 88s in two waves drop thirty 500kg and thirty 250kg HE bombs in the Grand Harbour area, the Quartermaster’s Office, lavatories and D/C stations on St Angelo jetty are hit, a diesel launch and other boats at St Angelo are damaged.  Two large craters are blown on the east side of No 5 Dock; fresh, salt, hydraulic and air lines are fractured.  Unexploded bombs are reported in No 6 Sub Generating Station, No 2 Gun Mounting Store and No 1 Boiler Shop – suspected to be delayed-action.

1344 hrs  Eighteen JU 88s drop over fifty 250kg and 500kg HE bombs from St Julians across Grand Harbour to Tarxien.  Unexploded bombs are reported after the raid, probably delayed-action.  Bombs on the Lyceum Air Raid Precautions Centre kill five and injure five.  Private Edwards, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is killed on leave in Valletta.  Privates Mace and Greshem, HQ Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt are slightly injured in Tarxien.

1439 hrs  An air raid on Hal Far by four ME 109s leaves craters on the dispersal area.

1510 hrs  28 JU 87 Stukas carry out a mass dive-bombing attack on Hal Far aerodrome, dropping 84 high explosive bombs of 250kg and 500kg across the airfield.  Bombs demolish the naval wing of the Officers’ Mess and a barrack block and extensively damage other buildings.  Four vehicles and one trailer are written off.  Six airmen, three soldiers and two civilians are killed.  Private Stockhall (1) and Private Channon, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt were among them, killed while on a working party on the airfield.  Twelve airmen, three Fleet Air Arm, one Malta Auxiliary and two labourers are reported missing. Two RAF officers and one civilian are injured.

1510 hrs  Ack Ack and light machine guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage the Stukas, claiming numerous hits, but smoke pall renders observation difficult.  Official report states two JU 87s destroyed.  F/L Johnston from Ta Qali damages one JU 87 but his aircraft is damaged by ME 109s on landing at 1525 hrs.

1520 hrs  Guns of 225 LAA engage two ME 109s: one hit claimed.

1624 hrs  Evening rescue search.

1700 hrs  Four Hurricanes from Hal Far are airborne to intercept eight JU 88s, scoring hits on at least three of them and causing many to jettison their bombs.

1710 hrs  Six JU 88s escorted by ME 109s attack Hal Far, Safi and Gudja, dropping bombs near barrack buildings.  Several unexploded bombs are reported in the Safi area.

1715 hrs  Guns of 225 LAA engage four JU 88s: four hits claimed on two.  The engagement has to be broken off as friendly fighters intercept the enemy aircraft.

1759 hrs  Enemy raiders attack Grand Harbour, Valletta and Floriana. The Palace and Custom House and Combined War Headquarters, Lascaris Barracks are hit by high explosive bombs.  GSO1 Col A D Clinch is killed and CSO wounded.

2230-2345 hrs  An unknown number of enemy aircraft drop a few bombs on Luqa aerodrome and Safi strip.  One delivery Beaufighter and one delivery Blenheim are seriously damaged.

Night 24/25th  Visibility deteriorates.  The enemy drops flares over Grand Harbour and Heavy Ack Ack are active.

Military casualties  Air Mechanic George Honey, Royal Navy, HMS St.Angelo; AM 1 J Kershaw, Fleet Air Arm, HMS St.Angelo; Ordinary Seaman George Smailes, HMS Dulverton.

Aircraftsman George Baines, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR); Aircraftsman II Alexander Campbell, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Aircraftsman Walter Fisher, Royal Air Force RAFVR; Leading Aircraftsman Henry Gallichan, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Corporal Reginald Haslam, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Leading Aircraftsman James Haynes, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Corporal Harry Kin, RAFVR, Kalafrana; Aircraftsman Edward Lee, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Leading Aircraftsman Gerald Leverington, RAFVR; Aircraftsman Arnold Manchip, RAFVR, 186 Squadron; Leading Aircraftsman Leslie Quinn, RAFVR; Leading Aircraftsman Eugenio Scicluna, RAFVR; Aircraftsman William Titherington, RAFVR; Leading Aircraftsman Clifford Turpin, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Leading Aircraftsman Alexander Webb, RAFVR, Aircraftsman W. Whatmore, RAFVR; Corporal Alan Woodman, Royal Air Force.

Colonel Andrew Clinch, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; Private Leonard Channon, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment; Private William Stockhall, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment; Private Anthony Micallef, King’s Own Malta Regiment, died whilst on duty at Hal Far; Driver Vincent Micallef, Malta Auxiliary Corps.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Paul Borg, age 17; Louis Sacco, age 60.  Birzebbugia  John Callus, age 49.  Hamrun  Joseph Grixti, age 51.  Kalkara  Joseph Bartolo, age 18; Anthony Busuttil, age 16; Joseph Camilleri, age 45; Filomena Coster, age 54; Mary Coster, age 48; Gustu Coster, age 30; Joseph Coster, age 26; Stella Gauci, age 12; Manuel Gauci, age 9; Rokku Gauci, age 2; Grezzja Hili, age 44; Concetta Hili, age 20; Pauline Hili, age 12; John Hili, age 4; Mary Micallef, age 31; Samuel Micallef, age 10; Toni Micallef, age 9; Carmela Mintoff, age 80; Josephine Mintoff, age 48; Marina Stivala, age 62; Spira Vella, age 70; Michael Ventura; age 75.  Angelica Ventura, age 66; Luqa  Alexander Bonnici; age 36.  Mosta  Luigi Calleja, age 75.  Paola  Toussaints Aquilina, age 17.  Rabat  Mary Adami, age 6.  Valletta  Joseph Mifsud, age 47.  Zabbar  Katie Cardona, age 50.

Enemy casualties  Hans Bretschneider, III/StG 3, pilot, and Ferdinand Burger, III/StG 3, crewman of JU 87 Stuka aircraft shot down by Anti Aircraft fire.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: TUESDAY 24 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Three Albacores left to attack one cruiser and three destroyers 098 degrees Syracuse 67′ but were unable to attack owing to bad visibility.  Heavy bombing attacks but nothing very serious in the way of damage.  Southwold mined and sunk while patrolling BreconshireNight 24/25th  Breconshire towed by tugs Ancient and Robust to Marsaxlokk.  Secured No 1 buoy at 1045/25.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Seven Beaufighters, five Wellingtons, four Blenheims from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  PM One Swordfish on search for units of the Italian navy.  Three Albacores despatched to attack units of the Italian navy. Which were located at 0340 hrs: one cruiser, three destroyers at 098 degrees, 67 miles course 330 at 25 knots.  Flares are dropped but aircraft are unable to see ships owing to bad visilibity.

LUQA  1025-1248 hrs  One Photo Reconnaissance (PR) Unit Spitfire 69 Squadron despatched on PR of Messina and Palermo Harbours and Sicilian aerodromes.  No photos taken owing to cloud.

TA QALI  249 Squadron operating from Luqa.  1100 hrs  Salvage and repair work proceeds.

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Private Mace and Private Gresham, HQ Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt slightly injured by bombs at Tarxien.  Private Edwards, HQ Coy 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt killed on leave in Valletta.  Private Stockhall and Private Channon, A Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt killed on working party.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  All Companies on route march.  Heavy bomb direct hit on HQ Company cook house: no casualties.  70 JU 88s; 30 JU 87s.  Bombs on War HQ: GSO1 killed.  Bombs on Hornworks.  CO s car and lorries written off.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Training exercise for officers by CO.  SSO1 Col Clinch is killed by a bomb.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  1000 hrs  3″ mortar shoot near Fort Ta Silch.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Anniversary of the formation of 96th Foot, The Manchester Regiment: observed as a holiday.  Message from Brigade wishes the unit a happy birthday.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2.

(1) “My Great Uncle, William Stockhall, a Private in the second batallion Devonshire Regiment, died in Malta on 24 March 1942. [maltagc70] is a wonderful way for my family to understand what he went though in his final days and to honour his contribution.”  Anne Wright, Victoria, Australia.

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

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Posted by on March 24, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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