27 February 1941: 8 Killed by Enemy Mines – Gozo Boat Sunk

27 Feb

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Civilian and military casualties have been reported after enemy aircraft again laid heavy mines across Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto. An hour before dawn ten bombers dropped mines on the approaches to and within both harbours; four of them came down on land.  The harbours had to be temporarily closed while the Royal Navy located and marked each of the mines. 

Damage in Britannia Street, Valletta (NWMA Malta)

Damage in Britannia Street, Valletta (NWMA Malta)

Two mines landed on densely populated areas of Valletta causing considerable damage: one between Brittania Street and St Mark’s Street, and another on the Bastions in Marsamxett Road. Three civilians are believed dead and several others missing.  The other two landed on buildings in Marsamxett, damaging a police barracks, an army dental centre, the Malta Chronicle printing office and an RAF billet.  Two military police are reported killed and five wounded, one Army dental operative is believed dead and one wounded; four men of the Royal Irish Fusiliers are wounded.  The attack follows a similar mine-laying raid on 14 February when five civilians were killed by mines on homes in Valletta and Senglea.

For a second time in a fortnight Reverend Reginald Nicholls, Chancellor of St.Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Valletta woke to a terrifying bombardment and had to calm his parishioners:  … our worst experience hitherto. At 5.15 when the siren blew, I dressed as usual. There were rather less than the usual 100 persons taking refuge. I went upstairs for a few moments, and returned below. Five minutes later there was a loud explosion very near indeed. A cry of fear rose from the people and they surged towards our corner. Two minutes later there was a most frightful roar of stupendous power (or perhaps two in quick succession). I scarcely retained consciousness, as it seems now.

My wife was sitting up on her bed, I on the edge with my arms around her, her head buried on my shoulder. Mrs. Gale at the other end, her face in her hands, shivering with fear, screams from many people; myself saying ‘Keep calm’ in an automatic voice. Banging, tearing, splitting, rending, and through it all a great wind rushing through the funk-hole. I truly thought that we were directly hit and the building coming down. Then no more. I waited a few moments, and went out of our curtained corner, to find the door leading to the dining room shot across the floor in three pieces.

Two army officers badly shaken had just come in having been caught in the open as they rushed for safety from some high-up flat to our shelter. When the raiders had passed, I inspected the damage. A large part of the outer side of the dining room and the housekeeper’s rooms are framed glass and the French window. Glass and frames were all over the floor. Upstairs, about a quarter of a ton of stone from the roof was lying upon the bed and the floor. In the drawing room, some of the ceiling stones, of which the roof is made, had fallen; the window frames were torn from their seating and were lying about having broken tables in their fall. There was a twenty-pound stone on the lid of the piano…

The explanation of it all is that some ships were expected in on Friday (we did not know this) and this Blitz was an endeavour to destroy them by dropping parachute mines. The venture was successful to this extent that the ships were diverted elsewhere. About seven mines were dropped in the harbour, and since then our people have been trying to locate them, or to fire them by magnetic sweeps.” (1)


Two crew members are missing after Gozo Boat No 34 was destroyed by an exploding mine off St Julian’s earlier today. The mine was one of four which detonated off the north coast during the day: the first two off Sliema and later two more off St Julians.  Of the boat’s crew of eleven, six were rescued – one of them was found to be seriously wounded.  Three more were later picked up unhurt and taken back to Gozo.  Two are still missing, believed killed.  A warning has been issued to Gozo boats to keep at least one mile from the shore while crossing between Malta and Gozo.


On 26 February Luqa aerodrome (Malta) was attacked by about 60 German bombers, escorted by 20 to 30 fighters. The losses on the two sides were:

  • Enemy losses – 9 certain, 12 probable, 1 damaged.
  • British losses – 3 destroyed in the air, 7 destroyed on the ground, 3 badly damaged, 3 slightly damaged.


Weather  Fine.

0834-1000 hrs  Air raid alert for 35 enemy aircraft approaching the Island from the north in five formations. Eight Hurricanes and two Fulmars are scrambled. Only one JU 88 bomber crosses the coast while the remainder circle out to sea.  The bomber is engaged by anti-aircraft guns.  There are no claims.

1510-1520 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 bomber which approaches the Island and aims 3-4 bombs at HM sloop Fermoy a mile out from St Thomas’ Bay; no hits. Four Hurricanes and Ack Ack guns engage; no claims.

0515-0630 hrs Air raid alert for 10 enemy aircraft which approach the north coast and drop parachute mines in and off Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto Harbour.  Four of the mines hit land and explode; two in Valletta cause considerable damage to property, killing at least three civilians and injuring twelve.  The others damage Marsamxett police barracks, army dental centre and the Malta Chronicle Printing Office and an RAF billet, killing three service personnel and injuring ten.  One mine is exploded in the air by gunfire from the ground.  Anti-aircraft guns claim one enemy aircraft hit and probably destroyed. 

Civilian casualties  Gozo  Anthony Cauci, age 29; Francis Vella, age 29. Valletta Carmelo Attard, age 50.


ROYAL NAVY  Two mines were detonated off Sliema and later two off St Julians. The latter blew up a Gozo boat. 

(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 27, 2021 in 1941, February 1941


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