2 May 1942: Malta Braced for Invasion – Time Bomb Terror Kills 21

02 May

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Luftwaffe view of Malta

Orders for a “Stand To” issued to all units yesterday as a military exercise are now believed to be early preparations for an enemy invasion.  Reports have filtered down to Battalion Commanders that the Germans are building up forces in Italy.  The recent Luftwaffe blanket bombing activity against Malta followed by the present lull adds to impressions that the enemy is preparing to invade.  The Island’s garrison is therefore in a state of readiness, while reconnaissance missions continue to monitor the situation in Sicily and on the Italian mainland.


Several delayed action bombs were dropped on the communities of Zejtun and Tarxien today by Luftwaffe Junkers 88 bombers.  Time bombs landed to the south of the road from Zejtun to Tarxien road but did not detonate until after the All Clear.  Several houses were destroyed, 21 civilians killed and 30 wounded by the blasts.

Reports have come in of several other explosions today while no air raids were in progress.  The blasts are an indication of the widespread use of delayed action bombs during last night’s air raids.  The enemy appears to have adopted a new tactic of using single aircraft to drop time bombs across a wide range of targets, bringing many areas to a standstill until the unexploded bomb can be dealt with.  An unreported bomb exploding seemingly at random causes widespread alarm, let alone the risk of injury and death to passers by.  The number of unexploded bombs reported to Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal has risen from 3 yesterday to 32 today.  Who knows how many more time bombs lie as yet undetected, ready to explode at any moment?


Weather  Wind wouth-westerly; 100% cloud.

0905-0910 hrs  Messerschmitt 109 fighters carry out a patrol south of the Island.

0925 hrs  A delayed-action bomb explodes behind a coal dump at Hal Far, injuring a soldier of Kings Own Malta Regiment.

1028 hrs  Two JU 88s escorted by ME 109s approach the Island.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1045 hrs  The JU 88s drop eight bombs near Zejtun Church and on houses south of Zejtun-Tarxien road.  Many of the bombs do not explode on impact.  They detonate later, destroying several houses, killing 21 civilians and wounding 30.

1200 hrs  Corporal Ingram, B Coy, 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regt is injured by an exploding delayed action bomb.

1717-1835 hrs  Six JU 88s, ten ME 109s and some Macchi 202s carry out a medium level dive bombing raid on Luqa and the Safi strip.  One Maryland is damaged and one Wellington burned out.  Hagiar Qim gun position is also attacked, killing one Other Rank and wounding four, and damaging equipment.  Spitfires are airborne and engage enemy aircraft, damaging one ME109.  3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regt also engage a low-flying JU 88: hits claimed.

2121 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which drops bombs inland from Valletta.

2209 hrs  One aircraft descends to 2000 feet over Grand Harbour, showing navigation lights, but drops bombs in the sea.

2315 hrs  One Beaufort aircraft arriving from Gibraltar crashes on landing at Luqa aerodrome.  The aircraft is written off; the crew are unhurt.

0020 hrs  One Hudson aircraft from Gambut crashes on landing at Luqa.  The aircraft is written off; the crew are unhurt.

Military casualties  John Psaila, Steward, HMS St.Angelo; Gunner Henry Barrett, 4 HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Hamrun  Giovanna Borg, age 76.  Kirkop  Leonardo Cassar, age 76.  Mdina  Sister Rosaria Abela, age 82. Zejtun  Carmela Abela, age 14; Saviour Baldacchino, age 55; Saviour Bellotti, age 52; Tarcisio Bonnici, age 12; Rosario Bugeja, age 65; Mary Camilleri, age 68; Gracie Felice, age 14; Mary Rose Felice, age 5; Spira Fenech, age 46; Giuseppa Fenech, age 11; Victoria Fenech, age 10; Francis Frendo, age 30; Saviour Galea, age 17; Joseph Harris, age 11; Emanuel Hyzler, MD, age 56; Giuseppe Mamo, age 68; Calcedonio Palmier, age 40; Giuseppe Piscopo, age 75; Gaetana Portelli, age 60; Francesca Schembri, age 30; Emanuel Zammit, age 24.


ROYAL NAVY  A doubtful sighting report of a submarine was received from a beach post, but not confirmed.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Beaufort, one Catalina from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Wellingtonto 108 MU; one Sunderland to Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Beaufort Mk I crashed on landing: crew uninjured.

HAL FAR  0030 hrs  Albacore X sighted a convoy of two merchant vessels with two destroyers 140 degrees 14 miles Lampion.  Albacore C scored a hit on one merchant vessel.  Both aircraft landed back at 0430 hrs.

LUQA  1205-1305 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance of Sicilian aerodromes.  2032-0500 hrs  One Wellington SD Flight sent in co-opereation with Albacores fro m Hal Far to locate and bomb northbound convoy.  Direct hit on destroyer of convoy consisting of one merchant vessel and one destroyer.  Albacores not seen.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Exercise continues: likely to last 72 hours.  Not exactly an exercise as there is a possibility of invasion as the Germans are building up forces in Italy.  Battalion remained manning posts and rebuilding and improving where possible.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 27; dealt with 4 (1 x 250kg, 3 x 50kg).

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Private Williams HQ Coy received injury (bomb splinter wound in back) when engaged with night working party on Hal Far aerodrome.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  1845 hrs  Luqa working parties at night cancelled.  To continue during the day.  1945 hrs  Exercise “Stand To” dusk.

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Posted by on May 2, 2017 in 1942, May 1942


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