12 August 1941: 44 Unmarked Unexploded Bombs Reported Across Malta

12 Aug

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'Molotov bread basket' incendiary bomb container

‘Molotov bread basket’ incendiary bomb container


A total of 44 unexploded bombs reported following last night’s air raid are of a type never encountered before by Allied forces, according to the Bomb Disposal Officer. During the raid hundreds of small incendiary bombs were dropped on land surrounding Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto, and across a path inland towards Ta Qali.  The count of unexploded bombs reported so far includes 22 at Zeitun, 9 at Marsa, 4 at Hamrun, and one or two at Birkirkara, Balzan, Lija, Sans Souci and Valletta.

The Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officer, Lt G D Carroll, went to Zeitun early this morning, scene of the largest concentration of unexploded incendiaries. The bombs he found were dark grey, about 12 inches long and weighing 2kg.  But he could find no markings or numbers of any kind to suggest a fuze type or operating mechanism.  Eye-witnesses reported that flashes were seen in mid-air behind enemy planes during the raid.  The reports suggest that several bombs were loaded into one container which exploded and discharged them in mid-air – an operation similar to the Russian ‘Molotov Bread Basket’.

Leaving the area under guard, the Bomb Disposal Officer carefully removed one of the bombs and packed it in sandbags for transporting back to Lintorn Barracks in Floriana, where the bomb was dismantled to determine a method for making it safe. The incendiary, which is probably Italian, is made up of two dark grey cylinders joined end to end, one with a steel casing containing fuel oil, the other an electron casing containing thermite.  He found the actuating mechanism under a cap screwed on the end of the thermite cylinder; it was evidently armed by an arming vane which unscrews the safety pin from the cap.  He could now devise a means of dealing with the unexploded incendiaries and by the end of the day 34 had been made safe by the RE Bomb Disposal Section.

A report on the operation of the bomb has been cabled to the War Office in London for the information of other bomb disposal officers in the field.  Information gathered from attack sites suggested that each container held an estimated 40 incendiaries mixed with some 200 small high explosive bombs marked Tritolo SAV 937.  Each batch fell roughly in a line about a mile long.  The resulting fires on stone or earth lasted about 10 minutes.  It is believed that the targets were aircraft and petrol dumps.  Further investigations are in hand. 


Troops of 8th Bn Manchester Regiment are settling in to their temporary posting on Gozo today, having arrived yesterday for intensive training.  The Battalion is the latest infantry unit to arrive on Malta’s sister Island to provide a military presence as a precaution against enemy invasion.  According to their Commanding Officer: 

“The troops soon made themselves at home. Gozo proved a pleasant surprise and will prove to be an excellent station.  The population are very well disposed towards troops and the change after our sojourn in defence posts is very welcome.  We had the opportunity of studying the topography of the Island which is very good for field training, with no wire to impede our movements. Ridges, knolls and wieds are plentiful, roads are good and the bathing is excellent.”


Weather  Sunny and fresh.

1716-1739 hrs  Air raid alert for twelve enemy fighters which approach Gozo from the north east, and carry out a patrol round the Island at 24000 feet. Hurricanes are scrambled but the raiders recede eastwards, turn north east and finally north.


ROYAL NAVY  All ships of the 2 August convoy have completed unloading, except for coal. Rorqual arrived from Alexandria with petrol and stores. P32 sailed for patrol east of Tripoli.

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland patrols of Tunisian coast and western Ionian Sea.  Hurricane photoreconnaissance Catania aerodrome and port, and visual recce of Augusta. 38 Squadron 4 Wellingtons attacked Tripoli railway station area dropping bombs and incendiaries, damaging the station and railway line, buildings and vehicles. 

HAL FAR  One Fulmar machine-gunned aircraft on Catania aerodrome and dropped two bombs plus one flash bomb on both Catania and Gerbini aerodromes.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 44; dealt with 34 (2kg incendiary).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion leaves Gozo and is relieved by 8th Bn Manchester Regiment.  Bn returns to Malta: headquarters and HQ Company at Xlejli Tower, A Coy at Gudja Camp, B Coy at Pembroke Ranges, C Coy static defence at Safi landing strip, D Coy at Mqabba and Zurrieq. 

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Battalion HQ at the Citadel, Rabat, Gozo.  A Company at Gharb and Zebbug, B Coy at Nadur, C Coy Xghajra, D Coy At Rabat, E Coy Xewkija and Sannat.


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


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