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BRITISH DO NOT REALISE SCALE OF ATTACKS ON MALTA, SAYS LORD PRIVY SEAL
In two days of debates over the War Situation in the House of Commons, Ministers have emphasised to the British Parliament the real extent of the bombing suffered by Malta in the previous two months. Speaking yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Clement Attlee, said:
“…In Libya a considerable portion of the German air force has to be employed, and in the watch on the Mediterranean and in the attacks on Malta. I think everyone has been thrilled by the magnificent defence put up by our troops and by the people in Malta. Watching day after day, one realises the weight of that attack. There has been nothing like it for continued weight of attack in any other part of the world during this war. It has been a tremendous attack. All credit is due to the people of Malta, and to their gallant Governor, General Dobbie, now in this country after very hard service, whose place has been taken by General Lord Gort. But Malta has not only defended itself; it has occupied the attention of a very large portion of the German Luftwaffe.”
Contributing to the debate, Mr John Wardlaw-Milne (member for Kidderminster) questioned the scale of enemy action against the Island: “…I think he said that a considerable proportion of the Lufwaffe was occupied in fighting against Malta? Does he really believe that? Does he really believe that a considerable proportion of the whole of the air forces of Germany is occupied against Malta? If so, all I can say is that I wish he would give the House the information on which he bases that view…”
Sir Stafford Cripps, The Lord Privy Seal, today responded to that question in a speech about the conduct of the war: “I do not think that either the House or the country realises the enormous degree of attack which Malta has suffered, and the enormous number of aircraft we have had to get into Malta in order to counter that attack….During the month of April no fewer than 5,000 sorties were flown by the Germans against Malta, and more bombs were dropped on the island during that period than were dropped in this country in any month during the worst period of the blitz. And if one realises the area of Malta compared with the area of this country one appreciates what a vast concentration there was…” Hansard, May 1942
AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 MAY TO DAWN 21 MAY 1942
Weather Wind south-westerly.
0835-0935 hrs The alert is sounded for a small group of incoming enemy fighters. Four Spitfires 126 and 601 Squadrons from Luqa and four Spitfires 185 Squadron from Hal Far are scrambled to intercept: no engagements.
0935 hrs A second small plot of enemy aircraft approaches. Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne from Ta Qali. P/O McLean and P/O Northcott chase two ME 109s down to deck level but observe no results.
1000 hrs Sgt Sim 185 Squadron from Hal Far lands at Ta Qali due to shortage of petrol.
1035 hrs A third small group of enemy fighters is reported heading for Malta. Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne from Ta Qali and sight two ME 109s but have insufficient height to engage.
1114 hrs The air raid alert sounds for more enemy fighters approaching the Island.
1137 hrs Two Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali. They land at 1205 hrs without engaging the enemy.
1413 hrs A formation of some six ME 109s is reported approaching the Island. Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are airborne from Luqa to intercept: no engagement.
1534 hrs Five ME 109 fighter bombers approach the Island. Two Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far but do not engage.
1555 hrs The fighter bombers drop high explosive bombs on Ta Qali, causing craters on the runways.
1600-1700 hrs Two Spitfires are airborne from Ta Qali: no engagements.
2032 hrs; 2150 hrs; 2302 hrs A total of nine enemy raiders drop high explosive and anti-personnel bombs on Luqa airfield and dispersal areas.
2148-2247 hrs One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit is airborne on patrol: no engagements.
0037-0215 hrs One Beaufighter is airborne from Luqa to search for delivery Wellingtons: nothing sighted.
0310-0326 hrs One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit is airborne on patrol but returns with radio transmitter failure.
Military casualties Sergeant Frank Howard, Pilot, 777674, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 601 Squadron.
Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 20 MAY 1942
ROYAL NAVY One Albacore failed to return from a mission against small convoy previously reported by SDF Wellington. The sortie was unsuccessful due to the effective smoke screen laid by escorting destroyers. The sailing of Porpoise with stores from Alexandria to Malta was held up on account of the mine situation at Malta.
AIR HQ Arrivals Three Wellingtons from Gibraltar; one Lodestar from Gambut. Departures Two Wellingtons to 108 MU; one Lodestar to Heliopolis.
4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT 0900-1700 hrs Working party of 9 Officers and 200 Other Ranks plus 8 x 15 cwt trucks daily for reconstruction of pens for aircraft at Luqa aerodrome.
1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT Luqa: 3 Officers and 100 men on pen-building; 2 Officers 50 men crater-filling; 1 NCO 11 men ammunition working party and 18 men driving trucks. A Company 1 Officer 50 men for Ospizio Depot.
1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continue.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 5; dealt with 4 (1 x 250kg, 1 x 50kg, 2 x Italian AP bomb containers).
11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS Luqa working party continued.
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