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ARMY BOMB DISPOSAL CALLED IN TO KEEP LUQA SAFE
Following a spate of injuries to military personnel working on the airfields from exploding delayed-action bombs, the Air Officer Commanding has called for assistance from the Army in tackling the menace which is threatening to disrupt essential repairs and building works at Luqa:
“It was clear something momentous was about to happen. Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal received top secret special orders: all outstanding unexploded bombs must be cleared from areas in and around Luqa and Safi with immediate effect. Lt Blackwell led No.127 BD Section to the airfield first thing on Monday morning, taking with him all existing reports for the area. Small red flags dotted the airfield, each one placed by the RAF to indicate a suspected buried bomb…
The orders stipulated that the area [must] be kept free of UXBs at all times. As each new attack hit the airfields, unexploded bombs were plotted and cleared without delay. Delayed action bombs could not be allowed to remain in the way of aircraft or ground workers. Despite the risk to the bomb disposers they were defuzed at once, or exploded if necessary and the area repaired so that operations could go on…Everyone working on the airfields, including the Bomb Disposal Section, carried on their duties under constant threat of attack.” (1)
AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 MAY TO DAWN 4 MAY 1942
Weather Wind westerly; 50% medium cloud.
0914-0943 hrs Nine ME 109s patrol over the Island.
1051 hrs ME 109s patrol round the coast.
1159 hrs Air raid alert sounds for an incoming formation of 53 enemy aircraft including bombers, fighter-bombers and fighter escort. Three Spitfires are scrambled from Luqa to intercept the enemy aircraft: no claims. One Spitfire is hit in the wing by two bullets: the pilot is unhurt.
1215 hrs Three JU 88s attack the Safi strip and drop several bombs in the Misrah Blandun area.
1225 hrs Four JU 88 and three ME 109s carry out a dive bombing attack on Hal Far, dropping bombs on the dispersal area and on the aerodrome without damaging the runway. Two Hurricanes are damaged.
1230-1245 hrs Two ME 109s at 500 feet and three JU 88s at 2-4000 feet are engaged by seven guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery. No claims.
1300 hrs All clear.
1337-1417 hrs Five Italian Cant Z 1007 bombers cross the coast and drop bombs on Gharghur, Naxxar, Mosta and Ta Qali.
1710-1715 hrs One Spitfire is airborne from Luqa to protect another Spitfire undergoing a cannon test. The protective Spitfire is damaged on landing.
1730 hrs Air raid alert for an incoming formation of 37 aircraft including JU 87s, JU 88s and ME 109 fighter bombers plus fighter escort. Two Spitfires are scrambled from Luqa to intercept enemy aircraft. They engage numbers of ME 109s and a JU 87: no claims. One Spitfire lands at Ta Qali.
1742-1800 hrs Twelve enemy bombers and fighter bombers attack Luqa aerodrome. Bombs land near the main runway and damage a hangar, one photo-reconnaissance Spitfire and a Wellington.
1811 hrs Six JU 88s bomb Safi.
1815 hrs Three JU 88s at 2-4000 feet and one ME 109 at 300 feet are engaged by five guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery: no claims.
1820 hrs Six JU 88s carry out a dive-bombing attack on Hal Far aerodrome, one making a large crater on the runway and demolishing a cook house and accommodation hut. Four unexploded bombs land near the runway. The aerodrome is temporarily unserviceable. A Bren gun team of 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt are buried when a bomb demolishes a sangar wall. Cpl Treharne and Pte Tippett are fit to resume duty within two hours; Pte Braid is admitted to ADS Luqa with a bruised shoulder.
Five fighters attack San Pietru gun position and destroy one predictor. One JU 87 is engaged by a light anti aircraft gun of 1st Bn Cheshire Regt: claim hits. One JU 87 crashes at map ref 536226. Pilot taken to ADS Zabbar; observer killed. Guard mounted. Bombs dropped 250 yards from Zabbar on Zabbar-Marsascala Road.
1842 hrs All clear.
One Wellington aircraft arriving from Gibraltar crash lands at Luqa and is slightly damaged.
2123-2150 hrs A single enemy bomber comes in and drops bombs and incendiaries on the Safi strip and two high explosive bombs on Luqa.
2228-2240 hrs A single enemy bomber drops bombs on the Safi strip.
Military casualties NIL
Civilian casualties Naxxar Alfred Azzopardi, age 56; John Mallia, age 72. Zejtun Tonina Camilleri, age 32; Bonvincino Dalli, age 14; Joseph Grech, age 64.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 4 MAY 1942
ROYAL NAVY During a raid in the early hours of the morning, a fire was started in the Armament Supply Depot, which was quickly got under control and finally extinguished at 1000 hrs. Owing to water seepage only 22 tons of oil fuel were extracted from Breconshire during night 2nd/3rd. Submarine P35 proceeded on patrol and special operations. Operation of towing oil light back from Marsaxlokk postponed owing to weather.
AIR HQ Arrivals Four Wellingtons from Gibraltar. Departures One Catalina to Lisbon. Aircraft casualties Two Wellingtons crashed on landing; crew uninjured.
LUQA 0700-0830 hrs One Spitfire on photo-reconnaissance of Sicilian aerodromes. 1020-1315 hrs One Spitfire on photo-reconnaissance of Catania, Gerbini, Biscari and Pachino aerodromes. Two merchant vessels and two destroyers sighted Pantelleria area.
4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT 1800-2400 hrs Working party of 4 Officers and 150 Other Ranks digging slit trenches and constructing aircraft pens on Ta Qali aerodrome.
1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continue.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 12; dealt with 5 (2 x 500kg, 2 x 50kg; 1 Italian anti-personnel bomb container).
11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS 0500 hrs Exercise “Stand to” down. 0730 hrs Luqa working parties continue and are bombed during the day. No casualties. 1945 hrs Exercise “Stand to” dusk.
(1) From UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012
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