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NEW SPITFIRES SLOW TO GET OFF THE GROUND
“The fighter strength was reinforced on the 20th by the arrival of 46 Spitfires from UK…Prior to the above mentioned reinforcement there was a period when it was not possible to have any fighter aircraft airborne at all, due to unserviceability. It was very noticeable that with the arrival of the fighter reinforcements, the enemy preluded his bombing attacks with fighter sweeps and maintained fighters over the Island even after the bombers had made their get-away.
During the period when the 46 Spitfires were necessarily grounded for refuellling and re-arming and brought into a fully operational condition, many were damaged on the ground by enemy action. The inability to scramble our aircraft was due in the first place to the fact that minor details such as cannon testing were not done, and it would appear that the aircraft had come straight from the factory without being tested to see that they were fit to fly operationally.” War Diary, Air HQ Malta, April 1942
AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 APRIL TO DAWN 21 APRIL 1942
Weather Wind easterly; no cloud, fine.
0615-0635 hrs Air alert sounds for a single aircraft: nothing transpires.
0810 hrs 63 enemy bombers plus fighter escort approach the Island from the north in several plots.
0815 hrs 30 JU 88s bomb the Grand Harbour area, including Floriana, Pieta and Marsa Creek. In the Dockyard the Abattoir is bombed; Pampas is hit and set on fire. A shelter in St Lawrence Street, Senglea is hit by a bomb and partly collapses, killing one person and injuring five. Manoel Island is hit by several bombs, damaging offices and workshops, as well as the pier.
One stick of bombs falls on Hompesch 3.7″ Ack Ack Battery, wounding two Other Ranks. The bombers are engaged by light machine gun fire from 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment.
18 of the JU88s target Pieta, Marsa and Floriana: bombs land on the Argotti Gardens, St Anne’s Street, Gunlayer Street and Square, Market Street, Magazine Street, Mall Gardens and Mall Street, St Calcedonio Street, First Street and New Street. One person is killed and one seriously injured.
22 JU 87 Stukas and 11 JU 88s bomb Kalafrana and Hal Far. Delimara Gun position is hit – one gun is damaged.
0830-0855 hrs Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery engage numerous JU 87s and JU 88s: hits claimed.
0935 hrs All clear.
1000 hrs 23 Spitfires land at Ta Qali from Gibraltar.
1046-1106 hrs Two enemy aircraft patrol to the north of the Island.
1100 hrs 23 more Spitfires are reported landed safely at Ta Qali.
1230 hrs Over 100 enemy aircraft – JU 87s, JU 88s and ME 109s – head towards the Island in several waves and divide to attack the Grand Harbour area, Ta Qali, Luqa, Hal Far and Delimara.
23 JU 88s and 30 JU 87 Stukas attack Grand Harbour and Floriana, where bombs cause extensive damage to the Parade Ground, St Philip’s Garden, Lintorn Barracks, Kingsgate, Rundle Garden, Mall Gardens, the Granaries and Sliema Bus Terminus.
12 JU 88s raid Hal Far, damaging barrack blocks and leaving craters on the aerodrome. One petrol bowser is destroyed. Four JU 88s bomb Delimara point.
1250 hrs Three Hurricanes of 185 Squadron at Hal Far engage twelve JU 88s. P/O Noble and P/O Wigley each claim one JU 88 damaged. Two Hurricanes 185 Squadron and two Hurricanes 229 Squadron intercept another formation of JU 88s. F/L Lloyd and SGt Brooks each damage a JU 88; Sgt Tweedale claims two destroyed.
1250 hrs JU 88s heading south from Grand Harbour are engaged by light machine gun fire from 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regiment at Hompesch: hits are claimed.
1315-1330 hrs Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery engage numerous JU 87s and JU 88s: hits claimed.
1330 hrs Fifteen JU 88s dive bomb Luqa airfield, Safi strip and the dispersal areas. One Maryland is damaged by a Bofors shell. Incendiary bombs are dropped, setting the grass on fire.
1400 hrs Another wave of enemy raiders drops bombs on Ta Qali. Sgt Taylor destroys one ME 109 and one JU 87. He is slightly injured by perspex splinters in the face. P/O Sergeant damages a JU 88. Aircraft cannons are reported to have jammed continuously owing to bad ammunition.
1430 hrs Twelve more JU 88s attack Floriana and Valletta, where bombs explode in St James and Porte Reale.
Four ME109s drop bombs on St Paul’s Bay near positions of 2nd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment.
1715 hrs For the third time massed formations of enemy bombers and fighters approach the Island, dividing to attack. Ta Qali is the main target but Luqa and Safi, Hal Far and the Dockyard are also bombed.
1720 hrs 20 JU 88s carry out medium-height bombing of Luqa aerodrome. Several ME 109s machine-gun the airfield: two Spitfires are shot up on the ground. Craters are blown in the Siggiewi end of the main runway. One unexploded bomb is reported near the bomb store, close to the Zurrieq road.
1730 hrs Five Spitfires 601 Squadron take to the air to intercept incoming enemy aircraft: only one returns to Luqa, at 1840 hrs.
1800 hrs 31 JU 88s attack Ta Qali: many bombs land on the camp, including several delayed action bombs. Ghain Znuber is machine-gunned, causing three casualties to D Company, 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment; one serious.
1805 hrs 12 JU 88s drop bombs from the Safi strip to Ta Karach ridge. Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery engage numerous enemy bombers: hits claimed.
1815 hrs Two JU 88s attack Hompesch. One stick of bombs falls between Bluebell Troop (1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt) and Zejtun and another at 497225.
1825 hrs Two ME 109s machine-gun B Company, 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt at Zejtun School and fly out to sea over Zonqor Ridge. Troops retaliate with light machine gun fire: no hits claimed. One stick of bombs falls 400 yards west of St Clements Church.
1853 hrs Raiders passed.
1925 hrs Five aircraft approach the Island without crossing the coast. They are followed in by a formation of bombers with fighter escort.
1930 hrs Eleven Spitfires from Ta Qali and five from Luqa are scrambled to intercept the incoming aircraft. Six of the Spitfires from Ta Qali have a dog fight with ME 109s. Sgt Hesselyn destroys one ME 109 and damages one JU 88. P/O Brooker damages one ME 109. Sgt Brennan destroyes one ME 109 and one JU 88. P/O McNair probably destroys one ME 109. P/O Sergeant destroys one JU 88. F/Lt McQueen destroys one JU 88. F/Lt Lucas damages one ME 109.
P/O Putnam is killed and F/Sgt Ryckman is missing. F/Lt Johnson successfully bales out over Luqa. Two Spitfires are slightly damaged. Total enemy aircraft: 8 destroyed, one probably destroyed, six damaged.
2000 hrs Nine remaining JU 88s carry out a dusk attack on Ta Qali. Many incendiary bombs are dropped during the raid, evidently intended to destroy the newly-arrived Spitfires.
2020-2044 hrs Nine aircraft approach the Island in two waves: three are illuminated by searchlights and engaged by Ack Ack fire. Bombs are dropped in the Dockyard area.
Night Six alerts are sounded for single approaching aircraft. Bombs are dropped on Ta Qali, Luqa, Corradino, Hal Far and in the sea.
2336-0115 hrs One JU 88 bomber comes in from the north and drops incendiaries near a Pioneer billet near Tarxien, which are extinguished by the Pioneer platoon.
0240-0327 hrs One JU 88 approaches from the north and drops bombs and incendiaries between two defence posts of 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt causing a slight fire among crops, which is quickly put out.
Military casualties Pilot Officer George Ryckman, Royal Canadian Air Force, 402 Squadron; Gunner Lewis Evans, Lance Sergeant James Golding, Gunner Sidney Nurse, Gunner Alfred Phillips, all of 484 Bty, 4 Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery; Sapper Leonard Soper, Mentioned in Despatches, 16 Fortress Coy., Royal Engineers; Police Constable C Cachia HM Dockyard.
Civilian casualties Floriana Henry Moakes, age 42. Hamrun Dr Annetto Montanaro LLD, age 79. Mosta Concetta Mifsud, age 80; Rev Joseph Mifsud, age 50. Rabat Louis Agius, age 20; Giovanna Maria Bezzina, age 20. Sliema Carmel Rogers, age 71.
OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 20 APRIL 1942
ROYAL NAVY Clyde carried out successful trial and sailed for Gibraltar. Upholder 48 hours overdue. 46 Spitfires arrived – Operation Calendar – USS Wasp.
AIR HQ Wellington crashed on landing: crew unhurt. Spitfire PRU 907 departed from Gibraltar for Malta missing: no further news. Arrivals 47 Spitfires, 13 Wellingtons, two Blenheims, one Beaufort, one Hudson from Gibraltar. Departures One Hudson to Gibraltar; four Wellingtons to 108 MU; two Blenheims to Gambut.
LUQA 1042-1225 hrs One Spitfire on photo-reconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes. 2135-0135 hrs Seven Wellingtons S/D Flight on search for and strike enemy tanker and escort: attack carried out.
TA QALI F/O Penny is discharged from No 90 General Hospital. More Spitfires arrive. 20 Officers (603 Squadron) accommodated. Aerodrome serviceable – repairs proceeding.
1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT Bombs near the entrance of Battalion HQ. Pte Kilshaw HQ Company hit by piece of stone: mouth cut. Working parties resumed as Saturday. C Coy 80 men and A Coy 40 men Valletta. D Coy 40 men at Ospizio salvaging RAOC stores.
1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY Work on aerodromes continued.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bastion shelter hit by bomb, bomb on north Square Lintorn Barracks, no casualties. Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 15; dealt with 20 (2 x 1000kg; 5 x 500kg, 12 x 250kg, 1 x 50kg).
2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS Regimental silver removed from Valletta.
8TH BN THE KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT Bombs 150 yards wide of Battalion HQ west to east. Spitfire hit steel pylon and crashed in area at 417208: guarded by this unit. Aerodrome working party started working at night instead of during the daytime.
11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS 2130 hrs Luqa and Hal Far working parties continued.
ROYAL ARTILLERY HQ Ammunition restrictions raised to cover arrival of Spitfires.
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