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CIVILIANS DIG OWN SHELTERS IN BELIEF THAT ONLY ROCK CAN PROTECT THEM
Maltese civilians are giving up hours of their own time to dig underground shelters, in the belief that only the Island’s rock can protect them from German raiders. Government officials have acknowledged that the determined dive-bombing by German aircraft has been a considerable shock to the population and conceded that the provision in every locality of rock shelters in which the public have confidence must be speeded up. In a broadcast on 4 February, the Governor said:
“I wish to assure all the people of Malta that the Government is fully alive to the urgent necessity of providing bomb proof shelters with the minimum of delay, and is straining every nerve to do so. You must however realise that shelters hewn out of the rock take a considerable time to complete, and the problem is complicated by a shortage of skilled miners and a shortage of tools.”
In response, communities across Malta decided to take matters into their own hands. For weeks volunteers have been labouring hard provide shelters for their neighbourhoods. In Rabat alone, 120 volunteers responded to a public appeal, including several women; work on nine shelters in the area is now progressing well.
In Pieta young women have been working on a shelter for a month from five in the morning to six in, aided by their husbands and even children. As one of the voluntary miners wrote today: “We went to it with a vengeance. The larger part of the workers were Special Constables, Wardens and members of the MVDF, but little girls and boys helped in clearing the unearthed rubbish…When the sirens wailed…work continued without a single thought to the enemy above us. As the sun sank lower into the horizon, we dropped our picks and shovels and trudged off to our beds with blisters on our fingers, and weariness in our bones, but with the full conviction that what we started to do will prove useful towards the maintenance of the security of our folk at home.”
The shortage of skilled miners arose following the heavy raids on HMS Illustrious, when 400 Gozitan miners left Malta and returned to their home Island. However, they have now returned and, with the Dockyard producing the much-needed tools as quickly as possible, Government projects to create rock shelters are underway. (1)
ITALIAN COMMANDER UNDER HOUSE ARREST AFTER CLASH WITH MUSSOLINI
Italy’s military chief in North Africa, Field Marshal Graziani, has been placed under house arrest in Rome. According to diplomatic sources in Rome, after the significant Italian defeat at Bardia the Field Marshal returned to the Italian capital to attend the Supreme War Council presided over by Mussolini.
In a bold statement, Marshal Graziani emphatically denied all responsibility for the Italian defeats in North Africa. He provided evidence the Council of having warned Il Duce of the likely failure of his military plans in Egypt but had been overruled. The Marshal then tabled his resignation from the Fascist Party.
Marshal Graziani resigned last June but was ordered by Mussolini to withdraw his resignation. He is expected to be replaced in North Africa.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 26 FEBRUARY 1941
0705-0721 hrs Air raid alert for two ME 109 fighters which cross the coast and are engaged by guns of Tigne fort
0819-0824 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.
0930-1019 hrs Air raid alert for four Dornier 215 bombers, one Heinkel 111 bomber and a large formation of ME 109s which cross the Island. Malta fighters are scrambled and shoot down two Dornier 215s confirmed and one probable. Anti-aircraft guns also claim one bomber hit. One Hurricane makes a forced landing in the sea four miles off Delimara due to engine trouble; the pilot is picked up safely. No bombs are dropped on the Island.
1220-1254 hrs Air raid alert for two ME 109s which cross the coast; engaged by guns at Fort Delimara.
1315-1420 hrs Air raid alert for a small formation of ME 109 fighters which machine gun flying boats in St Paul’s Bay.
1530-1610 hrs Air raid alert for four ME 109 fighters approaching the Island. Malta fighters are scrambled and engage the raiders. Ack Ack guns also open fire.
OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 25 FEBRUARY 1941
ROYAL NAVY HMS Upright from Malta attacked and sank a warship heading for Libya, believed to be a Condottiere A cruiser.
AIR HQ Arrivals Glenn Martin Maryland. Departures 1 Whitley. Glenn Martin Maryland arrive direct from the UK having flown overland by night.
LUQA 69 Squadron One Maryland arrived from the UK.
4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT) The Battalion handed over its ‘close and defend Valletta’ role to 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment and will now come under the command of the Northern Infantry Brigade to be mobile reserve.
(1) Adapted from When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint 1981
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