13 January 1942: 14 Air Raids – 9 Hours Under Fire

13 Jan

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“Weather, being low heavy rain-clouds, is favourable for dive-bombing.”  War Diary, 11TH Bn The Lancashire Fusiliers

  • 45 enemy fighters and bombers use cloud cover to launch 14 air raids in 19 hours
  • Civilian and military casualties
  • Heavy bombs on Luqa and Hal Far: Hurricane destroyed – Maryland and Blenheim shot down – 2 enemy fighters destroyed
  • Hal Far and Ta Qali runways still waterlogged

RE Bomb Disposal dig for UXB at bus station (NWMA Malta)


At 1340 hours this afternoon attackers dropped a stick of heavy bombs between Floriana and Valletta, leaving large craters scarring the formal gardens and avenues.

Civil defence officers find evidence of a possible unexploded bomb in the middle of the road at the heart of the main bus station outside Kingsgate (Porta Reale).  All bus movements into the area are brought to a halt and an urgent message is telephoned through to Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal.

Lt T W T Blackwell, RE arrives to confirm traces of a large unexploded bomb.  The area is sealed off until further notice and excavations begin.  It takes several hours and over 12 feet of digging before the bomb is – a 500 kg – can be defused and removed. (1)

AIR RAIDS 0001 HRS TO 2359 HRS 13 JANUARY 1942

Weather  Weather: cold wind SW; bright periods, thundery showers.

0347-0510 hrs  Two aircraft approach from the north, dropping bombs in the Mellieha and St Paul’s Bay areas, in Birzebbuga and in the sea off Ghar Hassan.  Heavy Ack Ack fire three immediate barrages.

0836-0913 hrs  One unidentified bomber and six plus fighters approach from the east.  The bomber crosses the coast over Kalafrana dropping bombs between Zeitun and Zabbar while the fighters remain over the sea.  Barrages are fired from Luqa and Harbour guns.  No Hurricanes are airborne.

0959-1030 hrs  One JU88 approaches from the west, crossing the coast near Dingli and dropping bombs between Sheleili Tower and Safi Strip, killing two Other Ranks and injuring six Other Ranks of A Company, 1st Bn The Hampshire Regiment. Four more bombs fall between Marsa and Luqa.  Heavy Ack Ack fire barrages; no Hurricanes are airborne.

1113 hrs Fifteen enemy aircraft – three JU 88s plus fighters – approach the Island from the north in three formations.  Both Heavy and Light Ack Ack guns engage, firing nine barrages.

1133 hrs   Three JU88s and fighters in three formations bomb the Hal Far and Safi areas. 

1200 hrs Four JU 88s and eight ME 109s attack Hal Far.  Two bombs are dropped on the aerodrome.  One Hurricane is a write-off, and two damaged.  No casualties.

1210 hrs  [Guns] Sandwich and Shoreham of 225th Light Ack Ack Battery engage one JU 88.

1239 hrs   All guns of 225th Light Ack Ack Battery engage at intervals ME109s at heights from 200ft to 600ft and at 3,500ft.  Sandwich claims one hit on a ME 109.  Ack Ack Light Machine Guns from Battalion HQ engage two ME 109s. FAS at Harrow position is rendered useless by enemy aircraft.

1245 hrs  One Maryland aircraft returning from a shipping search engages an ME 109 in a dogfight seven miles off the Malta coastline.  The pilot, Wing Commander John Dowland, GC, succeeds in shooting down the Messerschmitt, only to be shot down himself by two enemy fighters.  The Maryland crashes 40 feet from the coastline at Tigne, killing Wing Commander Dowland and Wireless Operator PO Robert Gridley. Observer PO Arnold Potter has managed to bail out and survives.  One of the Messerschmitts is also brought down, by Light Ack Ack fire.

1315-1418 hrs  Enemy formations totalling three JU 88s plus eleven fighters approach from the north.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage, firing six barrages and shooting down one ME 109. A 500kg bomb explodes just outside HQ of the 1st Bn The Cheshire Regiment, blowing out all the windows and damaging a wall.  No casualties, apart from a few minor cuts from broken glass sustained by orderly room staff.

1340 hrs A stick of bombs fall on the main highway between Valletta and Floriana, killing two and injuring eight.  Other bombs fall in Corradino and in the sea.  No Hurricanes are airborne.

1522 hrs  One JU 88 escorted by two ME 109s approach from the north; the ME 109s cross over the south east corner of the Island and skirt the south coast while the JU 88 crosses the coast near Madliena and drops bombs near Naxxar.  The Harbour and Luqa Barrages cause the bomber to recede.

1539-1554 hrs One JU88 approaches from the west and drops bombs on the Pembroke Ranges, causing casualties among a firing party.

1615-1652 hrs  Two JU 88 and four ME 109s approach from the north.  One JU 88 crosses the Island at 15000 feet, probably on reconnaissance.  A second JU 88 dives over Grand Harbour and drops bombs near Hal Far from 7500 feet.  No Hurricanes are airborne.

1733-1800 hrs  Three ME 109s approach from the west at 8000 feet and carry out a sweep round the Island – at times down to 500 feet above sea level.  Two Hurricanes are airborne but do not engage.

1949-2012 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the south east, drops bombs in the sea off Delimara, out of range of the guns, and then recedes.

2032-2049 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north over St Georges [Bay].  Three barrages are fired.  Bombs are dropped in Kalafrana Bay.

2112-2133 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north over St Paul’s Bay, crossing over Ta Qali and receding over Gozo, dropping bombs in the sea.  Heavy Ack Ack fires six barrages.

2211-2225 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north over Ricasoli, dropping bombs near Zabbar and the Palace which do not explode.  Heavy Ack Ack fires two immediate barrages.

2238-2254 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north west over Mellieha, crosses over Ta Qali and recedes north from Spinola.  Bombs fall near Zebbug.  Heavy Ack Ack fire three immediate barrages.

2312-0017 hrs  Five aircraft approach the Island during this period.  One raid fails to locate the Island and recedes.  Other raids cross the coast between Grand Harbour and Madliena, dropping bombs west of Birkirkara and in the sea.  Heavy Ack Ack fires two jmmediate barrages.

Night  Seven air raids involving a total of 22 bombers damage houses.  Ack Ack engages several times.

Civilian casualties  Siggiewi Censu Farrugia, age 24; Wigi Schembri, age 3.

Military casualties  Wing Commander John Dowland, GC, Pilot, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron; Pilot Officer Robert Gridley, Royal Air Force, 69 Squadron; Pilot Officer John Hilton, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Pilot Officer Roderick Huggins, Royal Air Force; Sergeant John Lait, Royal Air Force (VR).  Private John Brandreth, 1st Bn The Hampshire Regiment; Private Henry Chant, 1st Bn The Hampshire Regiment.


AIR HQ  Arrivals six Blenheims, one Mosquito from Gibraltar. Five Hudsons to LG224; two Blenheims to Helwan.

LUQA 69 Squadron  Two Marylands search for shipping.  40 Squadron  Three Wellingtons on bombing mission.

TA QALI  Two fighter Blenheims carried out patrols.  P/O Huggins and two crew of one machine failed to return – presumed shot down.  Six airmen attached 242 Squadron from Luqa and Kalafrana.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 3; dealt with 1 (500kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

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

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Posted by on January 13, 2022 in 1942, January 1942


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