6 March 1941: Airfield Attacks Expose Weak Ground Defences

25 Mar

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RE Bomb Disposal squad

RE Bomb Disposal squad


Following recent air attacks on Malta’s aerodromes, the War Office is concerned about the level of ground defences to protect these vital facilities. They have written to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief asking for his views on the methods used by the Luftwaffe to attack the aerodromes.  The telegram also asks for his conclusions as to the best means by which anti-aircraft defence may deal with those attacks.

Meanwhile, the War Office has informed Malta that 225 Battery 25 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment is now ready for despatched to the Island, once shipping is available. One Battery of 68 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment will be despatched as soon as possible after the arrival of the next convoy WS 6.  Both Batteries are established to meet the requirements specified in the Governor and Commander in Chief’s telegram of 17 February.

In addition, a new battery of 74 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment was formed in Malta on 15 February comprising 59 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, with 10, 22 and 30 Light Anti-Aircraft Batteries, Royal Malta Artillery attached under its command. Lt Gen Dobbie now proposes to form 3 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery as soon as the additional Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillery arrives for 74 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment.


The Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Squad were called on by RAF commanders today to help clear unexploded bombs from Hal Far. The aerodrome was put out of action by yesterday’s mass air raid by 60 enemy bombers.  Apart from the damage done by exploding bombs, a large number of unexploded bombs across the airfield are hampering the clear-up as well as operations.

“Lt Talbot took on 19 of the unexploded bombs warranting immediate attention, all within reach of the runway. While he concentrated on those on the surface, his Sappers began hacking away at the ground for the remaining eleven. Fortunately the hard limestone had prevented the bombs from penetrating too far.  By early afternoon one 500kg AP and ten 500kg SAP bombs were exposed – all of them with extension caps.  In several cases the cap was jammed in position and the bomb had to be carted from the runway still fuzed…Each one was driven steadily to the nearby cliffs, to be rolled over the edge.  Work continued late into the day, by which time another two 200kg GP and seven 50kg GP bombs had been defuzed and dropped into the sea.” (1)


The Chief of the Air Staff today told the War Cabinet that particulars had just been received of a very heavy air attack on Malta [yesterday] by a force of over 100 German and Italian aircraft. Eleven Malta fighters had taken the air against this force.  The total losses inflicted on the enemy by our fighters and anti-aircraft guns had been 16 aircraft destroyed, one probably destroyed and eight damaged, for the loss of one Hurricane and one pilot.


Weather  Fine.

0659-0714 hrs; 0904-0927 hrs; 1129-1146 hrs Air raid alerts for a single JU 88 bomber approaching the Island each time. Hurricanes are scrambled; the bomber returns without attacking.

1657-1711 hrs  Air raid alert for two enemy JU 88 bombers escorted by two ME 110 fighters which cross the Island at 16000 feet. Hurricanes are scrambled and the raiders are engaged by anti-aircraft guns; they withdraw without dropping any bombs.

2006-2155 hrs Air raid alert for eight to ten enemy aircraft which approach the Island and drop bombs along the north coast including Grand Harbour, Valletta, Pembroke and Balluta Bay in St Julian’s, as well as Hal Far and Delimara. One ARP Centre in Valletta is demolished, the Jesuits College and six other houses damaged.  Six civilians are slightly injured.  The enemy are observed to adopt night dive-bombing tactics and though not illuminated by searchlights are engaged by anti-aircraft guns using predicted barrage. There are no claims but the barrage forces the high release of bombs on several occasions.  


AIR HQ Arrivals  5 Hurricanes, 2 Wellingtons.  Sunderland patrol western Ionian Sea.  Five Hurricanes arrived from Egypt to reinforce 261 Squadron.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 22; dealt with 21, including 19 at Hal Far aerodrome (1 x 5kg incendiary, 7 x 50kg; 2 x 200kg; 11 x 500kg).

(1)  UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012


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1 Comment

Posted by on March 25, 2021 in 1941, March 1941


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One response to “6 March 1941: Airfield Attacks Expose Weak Ground Defences

  1. Frances Harris

    March 6, 2021 at 5:25 pm

    My father, John Lockett, leaning on bomb, on left.


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