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After endless weeks of heavy air raids which have terrorised the Island and laid waste to Valletta and many other communities, for three days now the enemy has barely appeared in the skies. A strange silence has followed the few air raid sirens which have sounded. Heavy clouds hanging over Malta have held the bombers at bay. As the dust settled, allowing the Islanders to take stock of the destruction, this morning’s Times of Malta announced that they have been awarded the George Cross.
This afternoon Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie broadcast to the nation “I am quite sure that everyone in Malta felt a real thrill of pleasure when he learned of the high honour His Majesty the King has been pleased to bestow on this Island Fortress. This thrill may have been all the greater since, perhaps, the honour was unexpected. For it is a new thing which His Majesty has done… I do not recall an instance when an honour of this kind has been conferred by a British Sovereign on a community….”
TROOPS LABOUR ON AERODROME IMPROVEMENTS: PURPOSE TOP SECRET
Orders have been issued dated 17 April 1942 for hundreds of troops from all three Infantry Brigades to be available with immediate effect to begin work on the airfields. The manpower is in addition to Army personnel already stationed on airfields for repairs between enemy raids. The reason for the move has not been released, fuelling speculation of a new delivery of fighter aircraft.
LUQA Working party of 250 soldiers and 6 lorries to construct 12 fighter pens in sandbags. 160 soldiers and 8 lorries to extend and heighten 8 Wellington pens. 50 soldiers and 2 lorries for salvage work.
These are in addition to soldiers already employed 200 per aerodrome for filling bomb holes and making runways serviceable immediately after attack; building pens, digging slit trenches by the pens, repairing taxi tracks, camouflaging pens.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 APRIL TO DAWN 18 APRIL 1942
Weather Wind easterly; 100% cloud.
1438 hrs, 1517 hrs; 1735 hrs Air raid alerts but aircraft do not cross the coast. Continued bad weather prevents any operations on a large scale.
Night Alerts are sounded for aircraft approaching the Island but none cross the coast.
Military casualties nil. Civilian casualties nil
OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 17 APRIL 1942
ROYAL NAVY Sokol sailed for Gibraltar for repairs. Torpedo Depot damaged during air raid.
HAL FAR Group Captain J E G H Thomas, DFC, assumed command of RAF Station, Hal Far.
LUQA No operations.
TA QALI Four steam-roller drivers from the Army are attached to this Station. No scrambles; aerodrome repairs pushed on; aerodrome strip serviceable.
1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT C Company still employed in Valletta. Work likely to last some days. A Company still salvaging. D Company clearing roads in Company area.
1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY Work on aerodromes continued.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 8; dealt with 7 (1 x 1000kg; 1 x 500kg, 1 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg).
8TH BN THE KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT Working party of 450 Other Ranks and 15 Officers commenced on Hal Far aerodrome for an indefinite period. Task: building protection walls for aircraft.
11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS 0800 hrs Luqa and Hal Far working parties continued. 1800 hrs This unit mans the observation post at Tal Virtu.
8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT Battalion supplied working parties for building Spitfire pens on Ta Qali aerodrome.
2ND BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT Battalion working party on Luqa: 360 Other Ranks.
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