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Monthly Archives: March 2021

12 March 1941: Heavy Night Bombing Expected to Increase

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MORE NIGHT ATTACKS LIKELY AS ENEMY SEEKS TO AVOID AIRCRAFT LOSSES

Enemy flares illuminate bomb targets at night (NWMA, Malta)

Enemy flares illuminate bomb targets at night (NWMA, Malta)

After a night in temporary shelter residents of St Rita Street in Sliema faced the wreckage of their homes for the first time this morning: “Piles of debris, twisted and bent girders, smashed furniture and here and there the remains of prams…One or two residents aimlessly searched through debris in the hope of retrieving some of their personal belongings.   Further along the lane the more fortunate were busy moving furniture from homes rendered uninhabitable by blast.  Dazed young women, many with babies in their arms, were doing their best to supervise the removal of what was left of their homes.  Others who had lost all just stood there.” (1)

Kept off school for the day, young Charles Grech discovered that several of his school friends had been killed in the raid. “I remember that I had made a resolution not to remain outside any more during raids. However, I never kept it because of the claustrophobic atmosphere of the shelter.  I used to get a choking feeling and was terrified at hearing the least explosion when I was below ground.”(2)

As night attacks become increasingly frequent, which Malta’s high command believes is a change of enemy tactics, following their heavy aircraft losses during daylight raids. Since the two recent mass raids on Luqa (26 February) and Hal Far (5 March) the enemy has not launched heavy attacks during daylight hours.  However, night time attacks are becoming more frequent.  While most are ‘nuisance raids’ – single plane or small formation flying over Island for long periods to demoralise the population through lack of sleep – experience of the past two nights suggests there may be more damaging raids to come.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 MARCH TO DAWN 13 MARCH 1941

Weather  Windy with low cloud.

0620-0632 hrs; 1047-1100 hrs  Air raid alert; raids do not materialise.

1220-1245 hrs  Air raid alert for a large formation of enemy aircraft approaching the Island. Only one raider crosses the coast and withdraws after being engaged by anti-aircraft fire.  No bombs are dropped.

0145-0205 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which crosses the Island and drops three bombs in the sea off Benghaisa.

Military casualties  Aircraftsman Giuseppe Borg, Royal Air Force (Volunteer Reserve).

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Glenn Martin Maryland, 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA One Sunderland returned from Gibraltar with passengers.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (500kg).

(1) When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint 1981

(2) Raiders Passed, Charles B Grech (translated by Joseph Galea Debono) Midsea Books 1998

 

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Posted by on March 12, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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11 March 1941: Bombs on Sliema Kill 21 Civilians and Injure 16

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RFA Plumleaf (3)

RFA Plumleaf (3)

CIVILIANS PERISH TRYING TO ENTER BUSY SHELTER

21 civilians were killed and another 36 injured tonight when high explosive bombs struck St Rita Street in the residential district of Sliema. Many of the victims were caught in the narrow street as they desperately tried to enter an overcrowded shelter.  Ten houses were completely demolished and 25 others badly damaged in the blast.  Some 70 people were rendered homeless and had to be accommodated at the Sliema ARP Centre and the Blue Sisters Hospital. 

Young Charles Grech was talking with friends outside his local shelter: “…we heard a terrible screech.   ‘Falling bombs!’ somebody shouted and there was a general rush to the friary door and down to the shelter which was already full of people.  Somebody had tripped on the top of the stairs and fallen down and this added to the confusion.  When the explosion came, somebody panicked and tried to close the front door of the friary.   I found myself face down on the ground with the crowd treading over me.  The coat I was wearing was torn…More people who had remained at home started arriving when they heard the explosion but they could not enter the friary, as it was full up…” (1)

After the raid local residents rushed to St Rita Street. One described later what he saw:  “It all appeared to me to be a dream or rather a nightmare and all I could think of was the absolutely unreal inhumanity of it all. The bright moonlight bathed the scene of utter devastation, the acrid reek of explosive filled the cool night air.  The uncanny silence was broken only by muffled groans and long drawn sighs.” (2)

The bombing was part of an unusually heavy raid on the coast west of Marsamxett Harbour which has escaped attack in recent weeks. Residents became concerned earlier today when Plumleaf was towed into Sliema Creek, the first vessel to be berthed there since HMS Terror left for North Africa last November.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 MARCH TO DAWN 12 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

1020-1100 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy formations approaching the Island from the direction of Comiso. Identified as ME 109 fighters, they remain at 5 miles’ distance.  They are believed to be standing by to draw the fire of Hurricanes while reconnaissance is carried out.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no engagement.

1220-1242 hrs  Air raid alert; for enemy aircraft approaching from the direction of Comiso. One JU 88 bomber crosses the Island at 23000 feet on reconnaissance.   Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1630 hrs Two enemy aircraft are picked up by RDF heading northwards some 20 miles from the coast of Malta. Their speed suggests JU 52 transport planes.  Seven Malta Hurricanes are despatched to intercept but the enemy turn away out of tracking range.

2210-2259 hrs  Air raid alert for seven to ten enemy aircraft which approach and carry out a concerted attack at various points. One high explosive bomb on Msida scores a direct hit on a torpedo depot, seriously damaging an entire block.  Another explodes near a defensive position at St George’s, causing some blast damage.  Bombs on Sliema demolish 10 houses and damage 25 others.  21 civilians are killed and 36 injured.  Bombs are also dropped in the sea off Delimara, Kalafrana, Hal Far, Tigne and St Julians, and on land north east of Ta Qali.  Searchlights illuminate one Heinkel HE 111. A Malta night fighter engages, damaging one raider.

0135-0155 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Aircraftsman J Azzopardi, Royal Air Force (VR); Gunner Saviour Borg, 2AA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Sliema  Giovanni Borg, age 24; Saverio Borg, age 20; Giuseppe Borg, age 13; Emmanuel Buttigieg, age 40; Anthony Buttigiege, age 30; James Churchill, age 50; James Henry Churchill, age 9; Dorothy Churchill, age 4; George Churchill, age 6 weeks; Andrea Degiovanni, age 43; Doris (Dolores) Calleja, age 17; Annie Farrugia, age 67; Mary Grech, age 18; Alex Grech, age 15; Annie Grech, age 11; Teresa Grech, age 3; Aneglo Saliba, age 16; Nazarreno Scicluna, age 50; John Scicluna, age 44; Benedict Scicluna, age 17; Dolores (Doris) Zahra, age 60.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 11 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm  Five Swordfish on anti-convoy patrol of Tripoli Harbour; all returned safely.

AIR HQ  Departures 2 Sunderlands.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Gibraltar with passengers and freight. One Sunderland left for Middle East with Air Officer Commanding and other passengers.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 4 (1 x 200kg;3 x 500kg).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Evening stand-to altered to 1900-2000 hrs; morning stand-to altered to 0600-0700 hrs.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A mine on the beach in the Rinella sector was exploded by the Royal Navy mine disposal unit.

(1) Raiders Passed, Charles B Grech (translated by Joseph Galea Debono) Midsea Books 1998

(2) When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint 1981

(3) Royal Fleet Auxiliary Historical Society

 

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Posted by on March 11, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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10 March 1941: Heavy Air Strikes Day and Night on Multiple Targets

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Standard type 55 fuze head (1)

Standard type 55 fuze head (1)

MYSTERY FUZE DETONATES IN THE HANDS OF BOMB DISPOSAL SQUAD

The fuze from an unexploded bomb has detonated in the hands of bomb disposal hours after it was removed. The 50kg bomb was dealt with an estimated two hours after it fell; the normal procedure was followed and the fuze was removed.  It was marked with the number 55, which normally indicates that it was designed to explode on impact or within a few seconds.

It was next morning, as a member of the bomb disposal squad was handling the fuze, that it suddenly detonated. Fortunately, no high explosive was attached and there were no serious injuries.  The fuze head was re-examined by the Bomb Disposal Officer and it was found that the EIAZ 55 marking was considerably smaller than usual, suggesting this may be a variant on the standard 55 fuze.  The delayed action has raised concerns that this may be a more dangerous type of fuze.  An urgent telegram has been sent to the War Office in London requesting any available information on fuzes of this description. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 MARCH TO DAWN 11 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0950-1030 hrs  Air raid alert for two JU 88 bombers and six ME 109 fighters which cross the Island and are engaged by anti-aircraft fire. No claims and no bombs dropped.

1033-1044 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of a friendly fighter.

1056-1115 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1221-1320 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching formations of Heinkel HE 111 bombers and ME 109 fighters. One formation of three Heinkels flies to and fro over the south coast but turns away without releasing any bombs, apparently acting as a decoy.  Meanwhile nine ME 110 fighters in two formations launch diving machine-gun attacks on Sunderland flying boats in St Paul’s Bay.  One Sunderland is burned out and two others damaged.  A petrol lighter is hit below the waterline and beached before sinking.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled and ground defences engage, shooting down one enemy fighter and damaging two others. 

1600-1615 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

2300-0100 hrs  Air raid alert in place while up to 20 enemy bombers, including JU 87s, JU 88s, Dornier 215s and Heinkel 111’s, approach the Island one at a time, cross the coast at different points and fly over the Island in bright moonlight. Searchlights are also illuminated seven times and engage the raiders.  The Junkers bombers execute accurate dive-bombing attacks, dropping bombs along a line between St Edward’s College and Grand Harbour, hitting the Dockyard power generating station three times and putting it out of action.  The tool store and north east corner of the Foundry are wrecked, the Fitting Shop and Joiners Shop are damaged, as is the water supply. 

A high explosive bomb hits a boat house and store, causing a fire and damage to the north end of the Corradino Tunnel. One police constable is missing under the debris. SS Essex is hit three times, causing her to list to port.  One bomb on Hamilton Wharf causes slight damage to Imperial in No 2 Dock.  A raider is caught in the searchlight beam, hit and damaged by anti-aircraft guns over the Harbour. 

The first HE 111s and DO 215s drop bombs on Luqa aerodrome from 10000 feet, setting fire to a store and damaging a hangar containing one Maryland aircraft. Using the fire as a marker, the following bombers drop more bombs on Luqa, damaging the sick quarters, and on the surrounding area.  Malta fighters are scrambled, engaging one enemy Dornier 215 bomber south of the Island.  The raider appears to lose control and seems to be descending as it passes out of searchlight range.  Another raider is destroyed by Malta fighters and two more damaged by anti-aircraft fire.

0210-0250 hrs; 0315-0330 hrs Air raid alerts for an approaching enemy aircraft. The first raider does not cross the coast and bombs are dropped in the sea north east of the Island.  The pattern is repeated twice more.  Hurricane night fighters are scrambled on each occasion; no claims.

Military casualties  Petty Officer Joseph M N G Bonnici, Royal Navy, HMS Ploughboy.

Civilian casualties  Cospicua  Police Constable Francis Camilleri, age 21.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 10 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY HMS Unique sank Italian vessel Fenice.

AIR HQ  Sergeant Frederick Robertson, 261 Squadron, awarded the DFM.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  30 mature conscripts arrived at C Company billets and are to undergo a nine-week course of training. 4th Buffs has proved a popular unit among recruits.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  24 Fortress Company blasted cliffs at Delimara to make them proof against scaling by landing parties. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2; dealt with 1 (500kg).

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  8 conscript recruits joined the Battalion.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A mine was washed up on to the beach in the Rinella sector.  

(1)  www.bombfuzecollectorsnet.com

 

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Posted by on March 10, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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9 March 1941: Enemy Fighters Strike Without Warning

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ME 110 new 0316RAIDERS FLY IN LOW TO EVADE DETECTION

Enemy aircraft evaded Malta’s Radio Direction Finder early this morning to launch an attack on Ta Qali before the air raid had sounded. Four Messerschmitt 110s approached just after dawn at very low altitude, flying towards Gozo just above the water.  Crossing the coat one failed to clear a ridge and crashed, just 50 feet from a road.  On impact its wings flew off and land 200 feet away.  The crew were killed; one was found with an open parachute, two others at the foot of a nearby ravine.  The aircraft burned out. 

The remaining fighters flew on towards Malta. At home in Mdina, Philo Pullicino was still asleep: I was awakened to the sound of machine gunning and the zoom of planes. Rushing to the window, I was just in time to see the three enemy planes machine-gun the ground and set [three] Hurricanes on fire.  They got away through a stiff barrage of red fire.” (1)

The crashed ME 110 was later found to be burned out. Orders have been issued for two Hurricanes to form a standing patrol covering the dawn period from now on. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 MARCH TO DAWN 10 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0627-0648 hrs  Four enemy ME 110 fighters and a bomber approach at low altitude. They are not detected by the Radio Direction Finder and no air raid alert is sounded.  One raider fails to clear a ridge on Gozo and crashes 50 feet from a road.  The aircraft burns out.  The remaining fighters machine-gun Ta Qali, burning out one Hurricane and damaging two others. 

0836-0951 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which drops four bombs on Grand Harbour.   Malta fighters are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns engage.

1151-1205 hrs  Air raid alert for nine enemy aircraft seen five miles north of Grand Harbour approaching the Island; raid does not materialise.

1808-1827 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which crosses Grand Harbour and drops four bombs near St Clements Bastion. Malta fighters are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns raise a heavy attack.  At least one enemy aircraft is damaged.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 9 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ  P/O Lewin, 148 Squadron, awarded the DFC.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.

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

 

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Posted by on March 9, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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8 March 1941: Malta Artillery Strength To Top 9000

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A 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun and crew, Malta (IWM)ROYAL ARTILLERY STRENGTHENED TO THREE BRIGADES

A large increase in the Artillery establishment has now been approved for Malta. There will be three Brigades, totalling approximately 430 officers and 9000 other ranks.  Two will be dedicated to anti-aircraft defences, the third to mobile and coast defence.  A new unit, 10 Anti-Aircraft (AA) Brigade, will form in Malta on a date to be agreed, this is in addition to 7 AA Brigade already underway.  Royal Artillery command and Headquarters will be strengthened accordingly.

MARYLAND RETURNS AFTER FORCED LANDING IN GREECE

A Glenn Martin Maryland aircraft returned to Malta today after making a forced landing in Greece yesterday. The Pilot F/Officer Warburton left Malta at 0930 hrs yesterday morning to carry out photoreconnaissance of Taranto.   As he approached the target he sent the following message:  “Am being attacked by enemy aircraft – short of petrol – landing in Greece.”  On his return to Malta F/O Warburton reported that he was chased by enemy fighters out into the Adriatic and forced to land at Tatoi aerodrome, Athens. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 MARCH TO DAWN 9 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0800-0843 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which carries out reconnaissance at a high level.

1415-1430 hrs; 0030-0100 hrs  Air raid alerts; raids do not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 8 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Drifter Justified towing a skid exploded two magnetic mines close to the Marsamxett boom. HMS Utmost sank an enemy 8000 ton transport. 

AIR HQ  69 Squadron Glenn Martin Maryland of Flying Officer Warburton which had to make an emergency landing in Greece has returned.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  GOC made a tour with the CO of a large number of our posts and seemed satisfied. He informed us that in addition to our present duties we are to form one machine gun company from the less important posts; this company to become mobile when necessary.  Its job will be to put in a ‘stop’ in the event of the enemy gaining a footing on the Island, or to support a counter-attack to drive him into the sea.  On the code word ‘Libya’, Cos will despatch by motor transport personnel and equipment to the Mobile Machine-Gun Company to rendezvous as quickly as possible.  This is going to be a very difficult job to raise.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  22 conscript recruits joined the Battalion.

 

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Posted by on March 8, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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7 March 1941: Without More Fighters Malta Cannot Continue

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ME 109LUFTWAFFE HAS AIR SUPERIORITY OVER THE ISLAND

Malta’s commanders are becoming increasingly concerned about the defence of the Island against the Luftwaffe. Following heavy air raids on Hal Far on Wednesday and Luqa a week before, Malta’s Air Officer Commanding, Air Vice-Marshal Maynard, concluded that without an increased fighter force he cannot protect the Sunderland and Wellington bomber squadrons based in Malta.  In the attack on Luqa on Wednesday 26 February, the entire Malta bomber squadron on the base was destroyed or grounded; a similar destruction resulted from this week’s raid on Hal Far.

The War Diary of Malta General Staff notes: Air superiority rests with the enemy at the moment very definitely, owing to the small fighter force in Malta. It is very noticeable however that, except for dawn or night attacks and a few other rare exceptions, the enemy stays at great height, due to the strong reaction of the Island’s anti-aircraft defences.”

In a message today, Lt Gen Dobbie warned the Chief of Air Staff in London that without suitable aircraft to defend Malta, the Island will be unable to continue as a useful naval and air base for the Allies in the Mediterranean. In addition, the prolonged enemy campaign of persistent round the clock nuisance raids interspersed with mass bombing attacks is taking its toll on the fighter squadrons as well as the civilian population.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal confirmed in his response that he places a high priority on the defence of Malta but that other demands, as well as transport difficulties in the Mediterranean, were making the provision of reinforcements difficult. He confirmed that more Hurricanes will be sent to Malta as soon as is practicable.

POWS IN MALTA

The War Office has requested details of prisoners of war taken in Malta since 3 February. They have expressed particular interest in German POWs.  The Island’s Garrison has reported the subsequent capture of two Germans: Cadet Officer Roman heil Oberfagnich (station and squadron unknown) and Wireless Telegraph Operator Heinrich Stamm Gefreiter, Unit 7(31) Geschwader, station Catania.  Both airmen are reported well.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 7 MARCH TO DAWN 8 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

1158-1247 hrs Air raid alert for four JU 88 bombers and ten ME 109 fighters approaching the Island. The JU 88s drop bombs near Chateau Bertrand at Ta Qali.  Over St Paul’s Bay two of the fighters dive down to 150 feet and machine-gun a moored Sunderland, killing one of the crew. Fighters also attack two Hurricanes detailed to protect a Glenn Martin Maryland which is returning from a reconnaissance mission.  One of the Hurricanes is forced to land in the sea; the pilot is rescued.  They shoot down the Maryland over Wied Tal Kleigha, killing the pilot and one of the crew.  A sergeant bails out of the burning aircraft and is fired on by ground troops as he lands; he survives.  Anti-aircraft guns engage and claim two raiders probably destroyed. 

1702-1741 hrs  Air raid alert for some 20 enemy aircraft circling 20 miles to the north of the Island; raid does not materialise.

2042-2330 hrs  Air raid alert for between 30 and 40 enemy aircraft including bombers which attack the Island in groups, dropping bombs on various areas including Luqa, Grand Harbour, Pembroke, Ta Silch and Zonqor. Many bombs are dropped in the sea and several raiders miss the Island altogether.  Anti-aircraft guns raise a heavy barrage; one raider believed damaged.

Military casualties   Flying Officer John Boys Stones, Pilot, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron; Sergeant Allen S Jones, Royal Air Force, 228 Squadron; Sergeant Jack Levy, Wireless Operator, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 7 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ 0512-1212 hrs Sunderland reconnaissance western Ionian Sea. 0930 hrs 69 Squadron  Maryland photoreconnaissance Taranto.  Maryland reconnaissance Taormina, on return pilot and one of crew shot down over Malta. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 at Hal Far aerodrome (500kg).

 

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Posted by on March 7, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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5 March 1941: 100 Strong Blitz Puts Air Bases Out of Action

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11 HURRICANES BATTLE VALIANTLY AGAINST 100 RAIDERS

Malta’s tiny fighter force is inadequate to counter mass enemy raids such as the blitz on the Island today, according to the Governor and Commander in Chief in a telegram to the War Office today:  

Hal Far Under Attack (NWMA Malta)

Hal Far Under Attack (NWMA Malta)

“A blitz raid of several formations totally certainly not less than 100 aircraft of which at least 60 bombers attacked Hal Far today. A few of these aircraft dropped bombs and machine-gunned Kalafrana, where damage to buildings and aircraft is slight; one Sunderland will be unserviceable for a few days.” 

The damage to Hal Far was still being assessed this evening. Preliminary reports find that one Swordfish and one Gladiator are burned out and all other aircraft rendered temporarily unserviceable.  The runway is also out of action.  All barrack blocks are now unserviceable; one has been completely demolished; hangars have also been badly damaged.  Water and power have been cut off.

Adjutant of the Special Constabulary Philo Pullicino saw the raid as it unfolded:

“I was awe-stricken as I saw the sky filled with planes overhead. In various formations they flew over us towards Hal Far and when just past us they dived into the barrage.  On my left I counted ten in triple V formation, just behind them came fifteen more in two lines, then from the right came eighteen in one single line and they all dived in a follow-my-leader fashion.  Above, fighters whirled and banked.  Our brave fighters, greatly outnumbered (there were about ten of ours up!), flew at the enemy at all heights even right inside our own barrage.  They are a brave lot!  God bless them!(1) 

Eleven Malta fighters were scrambled and destroyed two JU 88s, two JU 87s, one Dornier 215 and two ME109s confirmed, plus one JU 88 probable. One Hurricane was lost in a dog-fight; the pilot, Sgt Charles Macdougal – a veteran of the Battle of Britain – was killed.  Anti-aircraft guns destroyed nine enemy aircraft and damaged one JU 88 and three JU 87s.  There were probably more enemy aircraft too damaged to reach their base but this has yet to be confirmed.

“For this blitz every serviceable Hurricane and every available pilot was put up and they achieved results against very heavy odds,” Lt Gen Dobbie told the War Office. “The only answer to this kind of thing is obviously more fighters and those must somehow be provided if the air defence of Malta is to be maintained.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 MARCH TO DAWN 6 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0713-0725 hrs  Air raid alert for an enemy HE 111 aircraft which approaches the Island from the north west at low altitude and machine-guns Sunderland flying boats in St Paul’s Bay. It heads southwards over the Island and drops bombs some distance out to sea off Delimara.  The raider is engaged by small arms and heavy anti-aircraft fire; no claims.  Malta fighters are scrambled; no results.

1710-1800 hrs Air raid alert for large formations totaling 60 enemy bombers and 40 escorting fighters approaching from the north. They fly eastwards along the north coast, turn south and cross the coast, dive-bombing Hal Far aerodrome in two waves, badly damaging hangars, Naval stores and other buildings.  Four aircraft (Swordfish, Seals and a Gladiator) are burned out and two more Gladiators and two Fulmars are damaged and temporarily unserviceable.  The runway is badly cratered and will be unserviceable for 36-48 hours.  One infantry post of 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is circled by 26 high explosive and anti-personnel bombs landing within 60 yards.  Kalafrana is also attacked, causing slight damage to buildings and one Sunderland aircraft.

Anti-aircraft guns fire a fixed-height barrage at 2500-3000 feet with marked success, destroying nine raiders and damaging at least four more. Malta fighters are scrambled.  One Hurricane flies through the anti-aircraft barrage to attack an enemy bomber over Luqa aerodrome.  The bomber is seen to lose height as it retreats towards the coast.  Three Hurricanes launch a further attack and the bomber crashes in the direction of Marsaxlokk Bay.  Fighters destroy a total of seven raiders, plus another probable, and damage three.  One Hurricane and its pilot are lost in combat.    

Military casualties  Sergeant Charles White Macdougal, Pilot, 811002, Royal Air Force (Aux), 261 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 5 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  As a result of air reconnaissance of the approaches to Tripoli it was decided to sail Upright and Utmost at once for offensive patrols on the Tripoli convoy routes. Truant also sailed for coastal patrol in the Gulf of Sirte.

AIR HQ 0735 hrs  Maryland photoreconnaissance of Tripoli (prior to intended operations tonight by 80 Fleet Air Arm Squadron), and Mellaha.  Sgt Morton, 228 Squadron, awarded the DFM.

LUQA 69 Squadron Photoreconnaissance Tripoli and Mellaha aerodrome.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 1 (1000kg).

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

 

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Posted by on March 5, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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4 March 1941: Malta Defenders Have Destroyed 100 Enemy Aircraft

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SM79 crashedFIGHTERS AND GUNNERS SUCCESSFULLY ATTACK 183 RAIDERS

Since Italy entered the War on 11 June 1940 Malta’s fighters and anti-aircraft defences have now topped the 100 mark in enemy victims. The following are the official totals:  112 enemy aircraft confirmed shot down, a further 38 probably failed to reach their bases, while 45 are known to have been damaged.

STRICT REGULATIONS FOR ALERTS REPEALED

Employers (Discontinuation of Service) Emergency Regulations of 1940 were enacted to safeguard the interests of employers when constant air attacks caused them to shut down their business. Under the Regulations, any civilian not following air raid instructions faced prosecution and many have been fined by the courts.  As a result, most civilians have stopped work and headed for shelter immediately in response to the air raid alert.  However, the result has been a marked decline in productivity, according to the Government:

“Much time valuable to the war effort is at present being lost by everyone putting down their tools or shutting up their establishments immediately on the sounding of the Alert and remaining idle until the All Clear is sounded…The Alert is sounded on a number of occasions and no raid develops, or only one aeroplane on reconnaissance crosses the coast and, with the exception of splinters falling from the shells of our own guns which can with reasonable care be avoided, there is no danger whatever; on other occasions only a portion of the Island is in danger and elsewhere it is completely free of enemy bombs. Yet the whole life of the Island stops at every Alert.”

Now people have shown they can discipline themselves to take cover during raids, the Government has decided to lift the Regulations. From now on it will be left to civilians to take cover only when there is imminent danger.

“…after some months on the front line it is felt that the people must have become accustomed to raids and must themselves know when it is necessary to take cover and when they may carry on their work in safety…With regard to traffic, other than public conveyance, on the road there will be no restrictions on its continuing during an Alert. Persons who have no important public or private duties to perform should stop, but those who have such duties should proceed…on their journey, only interrupting it and taking cover when the necessity to do so appears imminent and danger immediate.”

According to the Government announcement, the individual is now free to develop an air raid sense – and very rapidly many will find that carrying on with their normal occupation is far sounder than the nervous hours of suspense in overcrowded shelters. (1)

CURFEW MEASURES TIGHTENED

Due to fear of night assault by parachutists military authorities want to control any movement in and out of towns and villages during the night. Curfew regulations now stipulate that “except to proceed to shelters, no persons will be allowed to move even within town or village boundaries during curfew hours of 9pm to 6.30am.” Perhaps hardest hit will be farmers who will no longer be able home for their fields while it is still dark, as they normally do.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 4 MARCH TO DAWN 5 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0912-0935 hrs  Air raid alert. Two Wellingtons returning from a mission are followed in towards Malta by two enemy ME 109 fighters.  No engagement.

1115-1130 hrs; 1400-1425 hrs  Air raid alerts; raids do not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 4 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Utmost returned from a special mission in the Gulf of Hammamet.

AIR HQ 1100-1430 hrs  Maryland photoreconnaissance Sicily: Palermo one cruiser, three destroyers, one merchant vessel, six small ships; Boccadifuoco one JU 52, 24 fighters, eight HE 111s or JU 88s, four other aircraft; Trapani aerodrome one JU 52, twelve JU 87s, one large and two small unidentified aircraft. 

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 6 at Luqa aerodrome (3 x 50kg; 3 x 500kg).

(1) When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint 1981

 

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Posted by on March 4, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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3 March 1941: Malta’s First Conscripts Line Up in Birkirkara

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FIRST CONSCRIPTION SINCE 1792 GETS UNDERWAY

Young men lined up at Birkirkara School this morning to become Malta’s first conscripts since 1792. Conscription was announced on 19 February under new Compulsory Service Regulations introduced by the Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief, Lt Gen Dobbie.  Notices were immediately sent out calling all men aged 20-25 to report to their local office. 

In charge of the recruitment session was Director of Compulsory Services Mr Sansom, assisted by Captain A Bartolo. “Every help possible was given to every recruit to state his case, whether of hardship or that of one engaged in essential work.  Fourteen men were exempted there and then from military service as being needed for other essential service.  51 were under height and accordingly exempted.  Only six men were found medically unfit at the preliminary examination. 

There were 30 applications for postponement certificates, and all who applied, whether their case was prima facie justifiable or not, will be remitted to the ‘Hardship Committee’, before whom their case will be heard.” (1)

In the coming days men of the same age group will be reporting at their local conscription centre. Any man who receives a notice to report but fails to comply will be liable to arrest by the police.

PC CARMEL CAMILLERI AWARDED GEORGE MEDAL

The Malta Government Gazette announced today that Police Constable Carmel Camilleri has been awarded the George Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty. The award citation reads:

Burned out Wellington bomber in Qormi

Scene of PC Camilleri’s bravery at Qormi

“In the early morning of the 4th November 1940, a Royal Air Force aircraft crashed on a house at Qormi, and the front portion of the machine fell into a 40ft shaft at the bottom of a deep quarry beyond the house.  Moans were heard coming from the shaft, from which flames were spouting, and an injured airman was observed supporting himself under the vertical edge of the shaft.  A wire rope was lowered which the airman grasped, but after being drawn up a few feet he could not maintain his hold and fell back into the shaft.  PC Camilleri, who had been one of the first on the scene, immediately volunteered to go down for him, in spite of the flames from the burning aircraft and in disregard of danger from the possible explosion of heavy calibre bombs, and was lowered into the shaft.  The rope slipped and he fell to the bottom, fortunately without serious injury.  A third rope was lowered to which PC Camilleri tied the injured airman who was then hauled up.  The rope was again lowered for Camilleri, who was brought up with no injuries beyond slight burns.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 MARCH TO DAWN 4 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0810-0817 hrs  Air raid alert for a single unidentified enemy aircraft which approaches at 18000 feet and carries out reconnaissance.

0932 hrs  Two enemy motor torpedo boats are spotted 15 miles south of Mazara course.

Military casualties  Supply Assistant Kenneth O Hedgecock, HMS Illustrious; Private Arthur C Higgins, 2nd Battalion, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 3 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ  69 Squadron Maryland photoreconnaissance aborted over Palermo due to enemy fighter patrol, and over Trapani due to thick haze.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4; dealt with 3 (2 x 50kg; 1 x 1000kg).

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A Company moved to Luqa and took over positions from B Company, who moved to the Rinella sector.

(1) When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint 1981

 

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Posted by on March 3, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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2 March 1941: Malta Must Have More Medical Services

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GOVERNOR PRESSES WAR OFFICE ON NEED FOR ADDITIONAL PERSONNEL

900 patients in Malta's military hospitals

Malta’s hospitals

Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief has reacted strongly to claims by the War Office in London that the Island does not need additional Garrison medical services including traditional dressing stations and ambulances in the field to deal with casualties. Based on the size of the Island, the authorities in London have suggested that Malta’s hospitals are close enough to military installations to act as dressing stations without the need for facilities closer at hand. 

In response Lt Gen Dobbie has pointed out that road difficulties in Malta make distances longer than appreciated. [Dressing stations in the field] save petrol, avoid swamping general hospitals and provide for the possible evacuation of general hospitals.  There are already 900 patients currently in hospital in Malta. Medical Services are working under pressure and in semi-peace conditions without reserve for any serious enemy attack and the current 161 Field Ambulance is not considered enough for the collection of casualties. 

Discussions between the Governor and C in C and the War Office have been going on since November, when Lt Gen Dobbie first applied for the medical reinforcements, and he repeated today that the they were “the minimum absolutely essential and from which I cannot accept diminution.”  His determination was rewarded when the War Office finally agreed to the formation of a second Field Ambulance unit. 32 officers, 54 other ranks and 50 sisters will now be despatched to Malta, with the proviso that 30 of the 179 other ranks still needed should be enlisted locally. 

FRIENDLY FIRE TRAGEDY

A Flight Commander from HMS Illustrious was tragically killed today when the car in which he was travelling was fired on by a sentry. Lieutenant William Barnes, RN of 806 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm was returning to camp along the road between Luqa and Zurrieq.  The driver of his car failed to stop at a military checkpoint and the Maltese sentry opened fire.  The bullet ricocheted and killed Lt Barnes.   

SUMMER TIME INTRODUCED

Summer time was introduced in Malta today and all clocks were advanced one hour. Times of ‘stand to’ for troops were altered in line, to 0615/0700 hrs and 1845/1945 hrs.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 MARCH TO DAWN 2 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine and warm.

1008-1110 hrs  Air raid alert for three formations of twenty enemy aircraft including one JU 88 bomber which approach and fly over the Island two or three times. No bombs are dropped.  Eight Hurricanes and three Fulmars are scrambled.  One formation of ME 109s attacks the Fulmars, damaging one; the pilot is slightly wounded.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1655-1705 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Lieutenant (A) William L L Barnes, Royal Navy, 806 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm (HMS Illustrious); Flying Officer John Joseph Walsh, Royal Air Force, 261 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 2 MARCH 1941

HAL FAR Three Fulmars up during morning raid; one aircraft damaged in combat with the enemy; pilot slightly wounded. Lt Barnes, RN, 806 Squadron, was shot and killed by a sentry on the Luqa-Zurrieq road, while he was returning to camp.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  As far as the situation allowed a day of rest for the men but there are permanent posts to be manned.

 

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Posted by on March 2, 2021 in 1941, March 1941

 

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