20 April 1941: Strain of Air Raids Severe, Says Clergyman

20 Apr

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Two Bristol Bombay aircraft arrived today

Two Bristol Bombay aircraft arrived today


Rev Nicholls, Chancellor of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, recalls an Easter under bombardment:

Easter has come and gone, and it has seemed very strange in some ways. We had quite good congregations on Good Friday. On Easter Day we had over 100 communicants, which was good considering; Just as we were singing the “Easter Anthem”, we were given our 500th ‘Alert’ and we had some difficulty in accommodating the large congregation in the Crypt. On that night and on the eve, we had several hours of night bombing raids. By the way the Easter Offering was far more than I ever expected – over £20; some people must have put their hands very deeply into their pockets, for which I am very grateful.

The Huns have been very active here lately, and the strain is somewhat severe. At night when the siren wakes us, I find myself shivering as though I had the ague; that is only at night. It is horrible to hear the drone of the enemy getting louder, and then the crumps. But what about poor London, which has just had its worst raid of the war? (1)


The fast transport ship Breconshire made a successful rendezvous with the Mediterranean Fleet today to continue her 1000 mile journey from Alexandria to Malta.  Breconshire and her escort met the Fleet at 0800 hrs this morning as it was also joined by three cruisers and two destroyers.

At noon the ships met with eastbound convoy ME 7; destroyers Janus and Jervis joined the Fleet.


Weather  Fine.    

0814-0850 hrs  Air raid alert for one JU 88 which crosses the Island from south to north at 24000 feet. No bombs are dropped.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled but do not intercept.  Ten anti-aircraft gun positions engage with heavy fire; no claims.  Six ME 109s also approach and attempt to intercept two Bombay aircraft arriving at Hal Far, but are driven off by anti-aircraft fire.  

1132-1215 hrs  Air raid alert for three Italian SM 79 bombers, escorted by six CR 42 and two ME 109 fighters which approach the Island from the north east at 19000 feet and cross the coast over Grand Harbour, dropping bombs on the Fort San Rocco area and in the sea. Anti-aircraft guns engage with light and heavy anti-aircraft fire.  Ten Hurricanes are also scrambled and engage, two succeeding in shooting down three CR 42s confirmed, and another unconfirmed, into the sea.  A search is launched for the enemy pilots who baled out but with no success.

0420-0505 hrs Air raid alert for three unidentified enemy aircraft which approach the Island singly from the north and drop bombs on Grand Harbour, near Hompesch, on Cospicua, Msida Creek, Tarxien, Zurrieq, south of Latnia and on Zeitun, where three houses are demolished. One civilian is killed and two are seriously wounded.  A number of Wellington bombers land during the raid.  One Hurricane night fighter is scrambled but unable to intercept due to poor visibility.

Military casualties  Sergeant Gilbert S Priestnall, Royal Marines, HMS St.Angelo. 

Civilian casualties Msida  Lucardo Vassallo, age 70.


AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Bombay. 69 Squadron Maryland photo-reconnaissance of Tripoli.  Maryland patrol eastern Tunisian coast.  Glenn Martin patrol western Ionian Sea. 

HAL FAR Two Bombay aircraft arrived at Hal Far. One was attacked by enemy aircraft but landed safely. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Bombs fell near Battalion HQ during the night raid; damage negligible.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Sapper Zammit, no 576, awarded MBE for gallantry in rescuing RAF survivors of sinking.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  A sea mine reported off A Company’s area was later washed up south of St Julian’s Tower.

(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 April 20, 2021 in 1941, April 1941


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