15 June 1940: Malta Faces Mass Refugee Problem

15 Jun

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Floriana refugeesIt is estimated that since last Monday up 100,000 people have fled their homes.  The mass exodus from bombing target areas began as soon as the first air raids struck on Monday.  Refugees headed for every possible safe area of Malta, away from Grand Harbour, Marsamxetto or the airfields.  The population of Siggiewi alone has increased by some 5000.  Many families who had lived for generations in the Harbour areas knew no-one in their destination village but went anyway, knocking on the doors until strangers let them in.

Governor and Commander in Chief today paid tribute to the way in which those living near military objectives have behaved in the recent trying circumstances.  However, recognising the problems that have arisen from the mass removal of civilians from those areas to the villages, he said:

“For every village there is going to be appointed an officer who working in cooperation with the District Committee, the Police and the Special Constabulary, will be responsible for seeing that everything is done that can be done for the safety, health and welfare of the evacuees… [These officers] will make arrangements to improve the distribution of food and other essential commodities; they will take steps to see that the sanitary system and water supply is adequate…they will supervise billeting and see that all available accommodation is used to the best advantage.”

To coincide with the announcement, the Government Gazette published a set of regulations to underpin the establishment of refugee settlement centres in all villages outside the enemy bombing target areas.  Organisations will work together to find homes for refugees and persuade owners to accept them, and to convert public buildings, including schools, into emergency accommodation.  This includes partitioning rooms, making plank beds and collecting furniture, cutlery, china and clothes for refugees whose homes and belongings have been destroyed.


The Vice Admiral Malta today informed the Commander in Chief, Mediterranean, that he now considers Malta unsuitable as a submarine base.  The decision follows the extent and number of air raids since Tuesday. In his message, the Vice Admiral proposed that all submarines should not return to Malta but proceed direct to Alexandria from their current patrol.

HMS Calypso

HMS Calypso

The recommendation comes after the tragic loss of HMS Calypso, which was confirmed sunk today by an Italian U-boat.  She was on an anti-shipping patrol against Italian ships heading for Libya when she was struck by a single torpedo.  Calypso is the first Royal Naval vessel to be sunk by the Regia Marina since Italy declared war on the Allies.  One officer and 38 ratings are missing, feared lost.


Weather  Early thundery showers, then clear sky with considerable haze to 5000 feet.  Gale force winds at times.

1035-1045 hrs  Air raid alert.  One enemy aircraft is already over the Island at 15000 feet and drops nine bombs on an approximate line from the Dockyard to Delimara Point, killing two civilians and injuring six more.  The raider immediately dives to 4000 feet.

1539-1353 hrs  Air raid alert.  Fighters take to the air but no aircraft area sighted.

1530 hrs  RAOC explode a bomb successfully near HQ of B Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt.

1640 hrs  A loud explosion heard from the direction of Hal Far is reported as a possible delayed action bomb but later confirmed as a controlled explosion by the bomb disposal squad.

1716-1757 hrs  One enemy reconnaissance aircraft crosses over Mellieha.  Two enemy aircraft approach from the north east at 15000 feet and drop six bombs on open ground between Birzebugga and Hal Far.  One enemy raider is intercepted by Malta fighters and is hit but not shot down, and releases its bombs in the sea south of the Island.  The British pilot identifies the enemy aircraft as German from its twin water-cooled engines and swastika on the wings.

1920 hrs  One Gladiator carries out flying practice around Hal Far aerodrome and the Kalafrana seaplane base.  A Sunderland flying boat is also tested at Kalafrana Slipway.

2315 hrs  A defence post reports a flashing light near the Targa Gap; an investigation found nothing.

Civilian casualties  Hamrun  Anthony Borg, age 26.


ROYAL NAVY  During air raids today the Naval Armament Depot was hit and one lighter was sunk.

KALAFRANA  Sgt Beaddie, Medical Staff Luqa, transferred to Military Hospital, Imtarfa, with gastroenteritis.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS: Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with: 1 HE 250lb Tal Papa; 1 HE 130lb Isla Point, Senglea.

(1) Source: When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint Malta, 1981

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Posted by on June 15, 2020 in 1940, June 1940


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