26 June 1940: Air Raid Warning System Down – Heavy Casualties

26 Jun

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Operations HQ lacked warnings

Operations HQ lacked warnings


A record 37 civilians are reported killed and at least 57 wounded in air raids today.  The high casualty toll followed a complete absence of air raid alerts.  Damage to a radio mast in severe overnight storms is preventing the detection of approaching enemy formations, with the result that no warnings were sounded. 

Adjutant of the Special Constabulary Philo Pullicino had a lucky escape:  “…the planes were over us before the sirens went.  At the depot, Police HQ Bujega Institute, Hamrun, two dived on us while we were watching them, thinking they were RAF planes.  Someone yelled, and as I took a leap into the trench shelters I heard the swishing, whistling of bombs careering through the air…then the crash came.  I saw the flash and felt the blast of hot air on my face – but we were still alive.  A group of four bombs had fallen about two hundred yards away but, worst of all, I felt they had been aimed at our headquarters…”  (1)

Malta’s government is very concerned at the impact on the morale of the civilian population.  Military authorities have said that repairs to the mast are unlikely to be complete until this evening at the earliest.

Incendiary bomb destroys bus, killing 21 

Some 45 passengers, mostly dockyard workers, travelling on a bus were involved in a tragic incident at Marsa Crossroads at 5.30pm today.  The bus, which was on its way from Cospicua to Valletta, had stopped to allow its passengers to seek shelter from an air raid.  Almost immediately it was hit by an incendiary bomb and burst into flames.  Local residents tried to help: Gejtu Miscat entered the burning bus and managed to drag out two of the passengers, who survived. 

One survivor who had already alighted and sought shelter in a small shop nearby said he saw at least six corpses and several others injured near the bus.  A fire crew and ARP personnel were quickly on the scene but were unable to prevent further casualties. In all 21 passengers were killed outright and nine others seriously injured.  Of those, seven died shortly afterwards.  Eight of the casualties recovered from the wreckage of the bus could not be identified.

Enemy attack from new direction

Enemy raiders over Malta were reported as coming from Libya as well as Sicily today.  Bombers were seen to approach the Island near Delimara Point in groups of five per raid, flying across the Island in a north westerly direction.  It is suspected that magnetic mines were dropped during raids, as well as high explosive and incendiary bombs.

HMS Proteus

HMS Proteus


Two submarines which have undergone recent refit at Malta, Odin and Orpheus, have been reported overdue in Alexandria.  The Admiralty have ordered the two submarines nearest to Malta to proceed there with all despatch.  Proteus and Pandora embarked immediately.


The Commander in Chief Mediterranean today sent the following signal to the Admiralty in London: “It is now intended to run a convoy from Malta to Alexandria.  Five destroyers will leave tomorrow, Thursday, morning, followed by 7th Cruiser Squadron as a covering force.  Destroyers will proceed first to carry out a hunt for U Boats and thence to Malta to arrive at dusk on 29 June, fuel and sail with two convoys, one of 13 knots and the other 9 knots, with the expected arrival date in Alexandria of 2nd July.”


Weather  Fair. 

0720-0815 hrs  Four enemy bombers and three fighters approach the Island and drop four bombs on Kalafrana and Hal Far, where one wrecks part of the quarters.  Gladiators are scrambled but no interceptions.

0928-0940 hrs  Five enemy bombers fly over the coast and drop 30 bombs on and around Luqa aerodrome.

1230-1249 hrs  Five enemy bombers approach the Island, and drop bombs from 16000 feet on the Dockyard.  The Dockyard School is slightly damaged.

1518-1547 hrs  Five more enemy raiders drop five bombs around Luqa aerodrome.

1745-1755 hrs  Five enemy bombers cross the coast and head towards Luqa at 12000 feet.  Bombs are dropped between Marsa and Hamrun, and at Tarxien, as well as several more in the sea. 

2225 hrs  Infantry night patrols report signalling from the direction of St Paul’s Bay and from Imtarfa towards St Paul’s Bay.  A flashing light is also reported from near Mosta dome.  All incidents will be investigated.

Military casualties  P O Std George Howard, HMS St Angelo.

Civilian casualties  Harry Abela.  Birkirkara  Carmel Cachia, age 33; David Castles, age 62; Arthur Farrugia, age 40.  Gzira  Joseph Farrugia, age 31.  Hamrun  Joseph Cordina, age 22; Ernest Cutajar, age 33; George Zammit, age 32.  Marsa  Carmelo Frendo, age 29; Filomena Pace, age 60; eight unidentified casualties.  Mqabba  Angla Ghigo; age 55; Giulio Ghigo, age 25; Emanuel Ghigo, age 18; Carmela Saliba, age 30; Pauline (Polly) Saliba, age 6; Josephine Saliba, age 3; one unidentified male.  Paola  Francis Caruana, age 54; Raffaele Cini, age 55; George Howard, age 35.  Qormi  Gianni Borg, age 25; Lucrezio (Grazio) Cassar, age 26; PC Calcedonio Saliba, age 25.  Tarxien Dockyard Policeman Albert Peel, age 20.    Valletta  Francis Farrugia, age 50; Domenico Galea, age 28.  Vittoriosa  Paul Saliba, age 7.  Zebbug  Emanuel Cassar, age 53. Zejtun  Lorenzo Caruana, age 35. 

Enemy casualties  Primo Aviere Angelo Alvisi, 33o Gruppo, 11o Stormo, crewmember of a Savoia SM79 bomber bailed out into the sea.


ROYAL NAVY  SS Masirah arrived and to Marsaxlokk for unloading ammunition.  French submarine Narval arrived. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals  1 Sunderland  Departures  1 SunderlandAir Officer Commanding, Mediterranean proposes to use the Swordfish of 767 Squadron for operations against Sicily.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from UK and proceeded further east and one from Middle East proceeded to UK.  LAC Simon (Medical Orderly) discharged from hospital and returned to unit Hal Far.  AC E Agius, AC Farrugia and AC Vella admitted Military Hospital Imtarfa.      

LUQA  0945 hrs  Patrols are sent out to inspect damage to the aerodrome.  Slight damage to the runways includes one crater which is quickly filled in.  There is also minor damage near the Control Tower and two defence posts.  One unserviceable Hurricane is slightly damaged and two hangars are damaged by bomb splinters.  A second report confirms bombs dropped near the main gate and near the reservoir caused no significant damage.  The position of all bombs is plotted on a map.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Incendiary bombs dropped near Bn Hq and a high explosive on crossroads near HQ Company Office, causing civilian casualties.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 2 HE 250lb Cospicua. 

(1) The Road to Rome, Philo Pullicino, MPI Publishing 2012

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Posted by on June 26, 2020 in 1940, June 1940


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