6 May 1941: New Anti-Aircraft Strategy a Great Success

06 May

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Searchlights vital in co-ordinated attack

Searchlights vital in co-ordinated attack


A new anti-aircraft gun policy put into force tonight has proved a great success. Under the new strategy, the enemy was engaged alternately by fighters and gunfire at varying periods.  The fighters closing in on any intersection of searchlights, ready to deal with an illuminated bomber.

The new tactic was employed for the first time during an air raid at 2020 hrs this evening, when 36 enemy aircraft came over in three waves to attack Grand Harbour and Luqa aerodrome. Two Hurricanes were scrambled during an initial period, while anti-aircraft fire was suspended.  They shot down one raider confirmed, plus one probable and one damaged.  The Hurricanes then withdrew while anti-aircraft guns fired predicted barrages. 

Two JU 88s were shot down by Bofors guns; one on land, one on the coast. Two more Hurricanes were then scrambled and engaged the raiders again.  Searchlights proved very effective throughout the combat, achieving a number of illuminations which enabled the fighters and gunners to find their targets.

Watching from their defence posts around Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto, 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment personnel commented in their War Diary: “…this was a most enjoyable and cheering raid.  Low-lying clouds forced the enemy lower than they normally lie to come, and the searchlights picked them up one after another while they were dealt with.  One enemy raider was hit almost over our Battalion HQ and at one moment it was thought it would land on us, but it actually came down ½ a mile away…A most satisfactory night.”


132 unexploded bombs (UXB) have been reported to Malta’s Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Section in the first 5 days of this month. However, following concerns regarding the safety procedures surrounding UXB sites, new orders have today been issued to troops and civil defence across Malta for dealing with unexploded bombs.

From today unexploded bombs must only be approached by personnel of Bomb Disposal Section Royal Engineers, or personnel of other units who have attended bomb disposal reconnaissance courses – and any such approach will be for the purpose of identifying and reporting unexploded bombs only.

Under the new safety measures personnel from other units are expressly ordered never to dig for or touch the unexploded bombs. Digging will only be undertaken by members of other military units on request of the Royal Engineers, and will be under RE supervision.


Weather  Fine.

1154-1250 hrs  Air raid alert for six HE 111 bombers approaching the Island escorted by 30 ME 109 fighters.  They carry out a high level bombing raid on Luqa, dropping 15 high explosive bombs on the  aerodrome.  One Beaufighter is written off, two badly damaged and six slightly damaged.  A shelter of 2nd Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment is hit but no personnel are inside.  11 Hurricane fighters are scrambled and attack the bombers, one of which is last seen with its engine on fire and unlikely to reach base.  Hurricanes are shot down by raiders – the pilots bale out: Sgt R A Branson suffers burns to his right leg and P/O C K Gray is wounded in the left thigh.  A third Hurricane crash lands and is written off.  P/O A Dredge’s Hurricane crashes in flames on the airfield; he suffers severe burns. Pilot Officer P D Thompson’s Hurricane is damaged but he manages to land, despite suffering from a splinter wound in his leg.  One ME 109 is damaged by anti-aircraft fire.

1755-1830 hrs  Air raid alert for five JU 88 bombers, with an escort of 20 ME 109s.  The bombers carry out a second high level attack on Luqa.  A bomb hits tar barrels north of the aerodrome, starting a large fire.  Hurricanes are scrambled and shoot down one JU 88.

2020-2330 hrs  Air raid alert for 36 enemy aircraft which come over in three waves, including JU 87s, JU 88s and HE 111s.  Bombs are dropped on Luqa aerodrome; bombs and mines on the Grand Harbour area.  The Northern Petroleum tank at Marsa is destroyed, causing a large fire.  14 houses are destroyed in Casa Paola and Cospicua; one civilian is killed.  Luqa runway is damaged with craters and another shelter of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment is damaged.  Three Marylands are damaged and unserviceable but repairable.  In the Dockyard several workshops are extensively damaged, stores and sheds destroyed.  Parachute mines laid in and outside Marsamxetto and Grand Harbour.

A new defensive policy for anti-aircraft guns is put into operation, while searchlights achieve a good number of illuminations. Two Hurricanes are scrambled to 10000 and 15000 feet in the first part of the raid, with no Ack Ack fire.  They shoot down one raider confirmed, plus one probable and one damaged.  Ack Ack then engages with a barrage, followed by the scramble of further Hurricanes.  Heavy Ack Ack fire eight barrages.  Bofors guns fire at parachute mines and at all aircraft below 3000 feet, destroying two: one lands on the Ordnance Repair Shops at the Ospizio.

Air raid alert triggered by An enemy search party then circles the island 15 miles off the coast for 45 minutes.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Joseph Calleja, age 40; Gudja Spiro Brincat, age 60. Tarxien Vincent Falzon, age 56.


ROYAL NAVY Usk is 72 hours overdue and is given up as lost.  6 mines were exploded off Grand Harbour. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Operations against Tripoli. Lieutenant N K Cambell‘s aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and ditched just off the Libyan coast.

AIR HQ  69 Squadron 2 Marylands patrolled eastern Tunisian coast. A Maryland carried out the shuttle service from the Middle East via Crete and Zante.  Two Marylands patrolled the Greek coast.  4 Beaufighters patrolled to 85 west of Malta.  The Hurricane of the photo-reconnaissance unit photographed Catania aerodrome at 30000 feet; visual reports give 20 twin-engined aircraft on the aerodrome.     

HAL FAR  Four Hurricane casualties from Hal Far as a result of enemy action. P/O Dredge crashed on the aerodrome in flames; he was seriously injured.  P/O Thompson sustained a small splinter wound in the leg.  P/O Gray baled out and was hurt in the left thigh.  Sgt Branson baled out, sustaining a burn to the right leg. 

LUQA  Maryland A crew left for Middle East but returned due to compass trouble after reaching Crete. D crew arrived PM; C crew took a machine on reconnaissance of the Ionian Sea and returned. 

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A Company fired their rifle practises on the range.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1 (1 x 50kg).


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Posted by on May 6, 2021 in 1941, May 1941


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