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16 April 1942: Malta’s Defences ‘Truly Desperate’

16 Apr

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  • The George Cross must surely lift morale but the threat remains
  • Will desperately needed Spitfires come and save Malta?
  • Valletta and Grand Harbour devastated; airfields cratered – what else will the Luftwaffe find to bomb?

    Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

LT GEN SIR WILLIAM DOBBIE REPLIES TO THE KING

“The people and garrison of Malta are deeply touched by Your Majesty’s kind thought for them in conferring on the fortress this signal honour.  It has greatly encouraged everyone, and all are determined that by God’s help Malta will not weaken but will endure until victory is won.”  Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie, Governor & Commander in Chief, Malta

FIGHTER SITUATION “DESPERATE”  – MALTA ENVOY TO LONDON REPORTS “SOMETHING BIG UNDERWAY”

News of the award of the George Cross is expected to be a significant boost to morale, but the battle to defend Malta goes on.  Supplies of ammunition for the anti-aircraft guns are fast running low.  The airfields are badly cratered and hundreds of troops struggle to carry out running repairs needed after each heavy bombing raid.  And with every raid, fewer serviceable aircraft are able to take to the skies against a determined Luftwaffe. 

“The situation in Malta was becoming truly desperate, fighter aircraft were at a minimum, ammunition for the heavy anti-aircraft guns around the airstrips was rationed to 15 rounds per gun per raid, food was minimal in quantity and quality, water for washing was almost unheard of, and fuel was used only for aircraft.

The [Commander-in-Chief] sent S/L Ed Gracie, CO of 126 Squadron to London to stir up the bureaucrats and get more fighters for Malta. This was underway anyhow but Gracie managed to underscore how truly desperate it was on Malta. Another delivery of Spitfires was being planned. Gracie sent a message back to the effect that something big was underway.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 APRIL TO DAWN 17 APRIL 1942

Weather  Wind cold, northerly. 100% cloud; poor visibility.

0635 hrs; 0835 hrs; 1525 hrs  Air raid alerts are sounded for fighter patrols and single aircraft approaching the Island on reconnaissance.  No bombing raids.

Night  Enemy aircraft appears suspended due to bad weather.

Military casualties  Private Paul Attard, King’s Own Malta Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Zejtun  Joseph Caruana, age 12.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 16 APRIL 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Clyde arrived from Gibraltar and berthed at Msida to disembark stores and fuel.  Submarine P34 returned from patrol on account of leaking rivets.

LUQA  No operations.

TA QALI  Bad weather prevents operations.  Extensive salvaging of equipment from blitzed camp proceeding.  Billeting of personnel arranged and moves completed as follows:  Malta Night Fighter Unit – Protection Office, Rabat; Runway & Maintenance Crews – Messina House; 126 Squadron – billets in Mosta; SHQ and remainder – tents in Boschetto Gardens.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Large working party required for work in Valletta to clear debris of water mains.  C Company sent two officers and 80 men.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Work on aerodromes continued.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 11; dealt with 6 (1 x 1000kg; 2  x 250kg, 3 x 50kg).

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  0800 hrs  Hal Far working party continued.  1600 hrs  Battalion ordered to find additional working party of 1 Officer, 130 men for Luqa.

225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY  F Troop, 225 Light Ack Ack Battery, RA relieved from their positions by E troop 196th/65th Light Ack Ack Regiment, RA, for a period at Rest Camp.

(1) Adapted from the diary of Malta pilot Robert Wendell “Buck” McNair, Canadian Air Aces and Heroes, WWI, WWII and Korea

 

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

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Posted by on April 16, 2017 in 1942, April 1942

 

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