16 February 1941: Eleven Air Raids on Malta in 24 Hours

16 Feb

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Night searchlights“…we heard the alarm siren no less than eleven times between 7 in the morning and midnight, but we held our services all the same.” (1)

For an eleventh night Malta has been under the air raid alert for hours at a time, on a day which saw eleven air raid alerts in just 24 hours. From before 6pm to after midnight, a series of alarms was triggered by enemy aircraft approaching singly and flying over the Island.  No bombs were dropped; instead the aircraft engaged in more mine laying.  One Hurricane was scrambled at a time in defence; there were no interceptions.


Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief is becoming increasingly concerned at the lack of Anti-Aircraft personnel on the Island. In a strongly-worded telegram to the War Office in London today, he warned of serious implications for the Island’s defences, should the situation continue:

“The proposed establishment of anti-aircraft batteries in Malta is utterly inadequate. Raids are now frequent throughout the 24 hours and personnel have been standing to for long hours continuously day and night.  With normal sick wastage in other ranks there are no reliefs, and the officer establishment allows no reliefs even with none on sick leave.  Unless an adequate establishment is allowed to Malta, it will be necessary to put 25 per cent of guns out of action for resting. 

Your cable dated 1 December stated the new establishment for Heavy batteries would be seven officers and 210 other ranks. The number of officers must be increased to eight.   Further, your cable dated 21 November gives the minimum workable number for Light batteries. 

I request the immediate revision of the establishment and also that the batteries being sent from Egypt be up to the full revised strength.”


Weather  Fine.

0736-0800 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy Heinkel HE 111, which approaches from the south of the Island and swoops down over Hal Far, machine-gunning the airfield and several anti-aircraft gun positions. One Swordfish aircraft is damaged.  Anti-aircraft guns open fire; no claims.  Two Hurricanes and one Gladiator are scrambled; no interception.

0859-0949 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber escorted by twelve ME 109 fighters which approach from the east and fly over the Island at 9000 feet. Six Hurricanes are scrambled and engage the raiders.  The Messerschmitts immediately split into two formations, one climbing above and the other dropping below the Hurricanes.  One Hurricane crashes; the pilot, F/Lt J MacLachan, bales out and lands at Marsascala, injuring his arm.  Two more Hurricanes are slightly damaged and temporarily unserviceable.

1745 hrs; 1827 hrs; 1930 hrs; 2050 hrs; 2207 hrs; 2244 hrs; 2303 hrs  A series of air raid alerts for enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly.  Those approaching the coast are engaged by anti-aircraft fire.  All aircraft retreat without dropping any bombs.

0020 hrs  All clear.


AIR HQ  Departures 6 Whitley. Aircraft casualties Maryland attempted reconnaissance of Palermo and Trapani ports; bad weather prevented execution. 

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance attempted Trapani and Palermo prevented by bad weather. 148 Squadron Three Wellingtons bombing raid on Catania and Comiso.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 2 ( 2 x 43lb Italian).

(1) Extract from diary of Reverend Reginald M. Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.  Courtesy of website: Malta Family History


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Posted by on February 16, 2021 in 1941, February 1941


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