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GOOD FRIDAY: BOMBING DAWN TILL DUSK – AIRFIELDS UNUSABLE
“Day alerts lasted from 0645 to 1935 hours, with two breaks, one of 7 minutes and one of 3 minutes. Main objectives: Ta Qali and Hal Far. Some bombs on Luqa.” (1)
BOMB ‘HIT THE GROUND – AND I DIED’
Malta has only two Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers and two Sections (total 30 men) to deal with all unexploded bombs (UXB) outside of RAF and Navy premises – compared to over 70 Sections in London. With pressure increasing under intense bombing raids, BD Officer Lt George Carroll encounters yet another 250kg UXB:
“Under the bastions there were arches where they created some storehouses. One of the bombs that came down landed in the rubble on the top of the arch. It was stuck there. As the Officer I had to deal with it on my own. So I crawled across the arch with my trowel, like an archaeologist. I was scraping away gently to find the fuze about half way up the bomb.
Then suddenly the bomb fell, right in front of my eyes… I died! It hit the ground…and I died – and it bounced – and I died – and it rolled – and I died – but I didn’t die.
That was the feeling, when that happened in front of you.” (2)
AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 APRIL TO DAWN 4 APRIL 1942
Weather Little wind: no cloud; fine.
Enemy fighters remain in the vicinity of the Island throughout the raids.
0730 hrs Ten JU 88 bombers raid Ta Qali, dropping 60 high explosive (HE) bombs on the aerodrome. One does not exploded until later (delayed-action). The aerodrome is unserviceable for six hours except for the strip and east side only. One fighter Blenheim is hit by shrapnel and one unserviceable Beaufighter is damaged. Two bowsers are damaged. One Maltese labourer is killed. A defence post of 8th Bn Manchester Regt receives a direct hit; Pte Barton is buried in debris, but unhurt.
0831 hrs Six JU 88 bombers raid Hal Far airfield, leaving craters on the dispersal area. Four of the JU 88s are engaged by six guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA): two hits are claimed on one enemy aircraft.
0955-1013 hrs Guns of 225 LAA engage five JU 88s: two guns each claim two hits on separate aircraft. The JU 88s drop bombs on Kirkop and Ta Salib areas.
1053 hrs Air raid on Hal Far by five ME 109s causes more craters on the dispersal area.
1130 hrs Ta Qali is attacked by 24 plus enemy bombers. Venezia Bluff is heavily bombed with aerial torpedoes and armour-piercing bombs. The attack is evidently intended to demolish the caves under the Bluff.
1202-1314 hrs Ten JU 88s approach the Island.
1220 hrs The bombers attack Safi strip and Hal Far, destroying one Hurricane, damaging the Officers’ quarters and destroying a quantity of paraffin. Several bombs land in the area of 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt: Pte Payne of A Company is killed; Ptes Underhill, Ayres and Wills injured. Equipment, arms and bicycles of C Company are damaged.
1225-1240 hrs Anti-Aircraft guns engage four JU 88s: one JU 88 is damaged and six guns of 225 LAA claim eight hits on three others.
1317 hrs Five ME 109 fighter bombers attack Hal Far. Enemy fighters patrol the south east and south west of the Island throughout the afternoon.
1420 hrs Three enemy aircraft raid Hal Far, damaging one Albacore, killing one soldier and injuring two others.
1645 hrs Four JU 88s and 21 JU 87s drop some 60 bombs on Ta Qali, leaving a large crater in the middle of the runway extension, and numerous craters on the south side. One Spitfire is destroyed, two severely damaged and one slightly damaged. One airman is injured. The runway is repaired in five hours.
1730 hrs One Hurricane is airborne from Ta Qali to intercept an incoming formation of five JU 88s: P/O Rathur sights one JU 88 illuminated by searchlights and destroys it.
1745 hrs Four JU 88s attack Luqa airfield, dropping bombs on the airfield, Kirkop and the Safi strip. One Other Rank of 4th Bn Hampshire Regt is injured.225 LAA engage: three guns claim eight hits on three aircraft.
1810 hrs Guns of 225 LAA Bty engage two ME 109 fighters: no claims.
1905 hrs Eight JU 88s are engaged by guns of 225 LAA Bty: five guns claim a total of 15 hits on six JU 88s. Gunner Atherton is taken to hospital with a bomb splinter wound to the shoulder. ‘A’ Troop TQH and billets are rendered unserviceable.
1925 hrs Large formations of enemy aircraft drop bombs on Ta Qali, Hal Far and Safi. Hal Far Barracks are seriously damaged. The Hal Far-Zurrieq road is badly cratered and impassable. Bombs hit the camp of C Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt, seriously wounding Pte Sidney Martin, who died from his wounds at 2000 hrs. Motor vehicles are destroyed and the cookhouse is wrecked.
1940 hrs All clear.
1945 hrs A suspected sea plot is reported by Southern Infantry Brigade, 20 miles south east of Kalafrana.
2045 hrs A single aircraft drops bombs in the north east of the Island.
2100 hrs Two sea plots of one vessel each reported fourteen miles east, course south east, speed 40 knots. Coastal lights in the south east are exposed.
2217 hrs Bombs are dropped near Safi village.
2340 hrs Three bombs are dropped in the Bubaqra area.
0015 hrs Enemy aircraft dropped two bombs on Ta Qali airfield, making two craters and rendering the runway unserviceable for two hours.
0242 hrs One unexploded bomb is reported in the Kirkop area.
0252-0603 hrs Bombs are dropped on Luqa; one damages an airmen’s billet. One transit Wellington under repair is further damaged. Two airmen are slightly injured.
Military casualties Private Sydney Martin, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment; Private Thomas Payne, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.
Civilian casualties Zebbug Joseph Agius, age 60.
OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 3 APRIL 1942
AIR HQ Arrivals Three Beaufighters, seven Wellingtons from Gibraltar; one Lodestar from Gambut.
LUQA 2030-0310 hrs One Wellington SD Flight Special Search with bombs. One merchant vessel successfully bombed.
TA QALI In the evening the Brigade decided to evacuate three gun posts on Venezia Bluff.
CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE All training cancelled throughout Brigade in order to devote maximum effort to aerodrome and Dockyard working parties. These continued throughout the month. Three Infantry Battalions and Malta Tanks contributing to the approximate total of 1100 personnel on aerodromes. 1 Cheshire finding various parties up to 300 for Civil Government.
1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY All Companies working on Ta Qali aerodrome during the day.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS S/Sgt Redman & 7 Other Ranks killed on 1 April buried at Pieta Military Cemetery. Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 10; dealt with 12 (2 x 500kg, 6 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg)
8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT E Company manning the ground defences on Ta Qali aerodrome.
(1) War Diary, Royal Artillery HQ, Malta: April 1942
(2) Adapted from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012
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