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- Raids target convoy ships in harbour
- Weight of bombs double the Illustrious Blitz
- Raids continuous from noon onwards
- Bomb on air raid shelter at Hal Far kills RAF personnel
- 23 military casualties 33 civilian – 23 in Kalkara
- 28 Stukas dive-bomb Hal Far
- Smoke-screens protect Breconshire from repeated attacks
FAMILY TRAGEDY AT KALKARA
During ferocious attacks on the convoy ships in Grand Harbour today, one family in the village of Kalkara was almost completely wiped out when a bomb fell on their home, bursting the gas and water mains supplying nearby Bighi Royal Naval Hospital. Gas seeped into the basement shelter where Mary Coster, her mother and aunt together with other younger members of the family had taken refuge. The whole family was overcome with the fumes and collapsed, drowning in the water which was pouring into the shelter from the fractured water main.
Hearing what had happened, Mary’s son Joseph rushed down to the house from Bighi Hospital, where he worked with his brother Augustus. Descending into the shelter Joseph was overcome by the gas. Augustus who followed him down, together with a cousin, shared the same fate. Only their other brother Thomas survives, having remained in Mosta where his mother and siblings had been refugees up to a few days ago. The family had only returned to Kalkara because of a catastrophic air raid on Mosta.
Thomas Coster is now the sole survivor of a family wiped out by enemy action on Malta in two world wars. His father, Alfred Coster, lost his life when HMS Russell was mined outside Grand Harbour on 27 April, 1916 as it returned from the Dardanelles campaign. Alfred’s two brothers had died at the Battle of Jutland some weeks later. (1)
AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 MARCH TO DAWN 25 MARCH 1942
Weather Wind north east; 30% medium cloud.
0623-0657 hrs One aircraft passes four miles to the east of the Island and then recedes. Malta’s fighters are up; no engagement.
0705-0731 hrs Two aircraft pass over the Island. Malta’s fighters are up; no engagement.
1015-1052 hrs Two ME 109 fighter bombers approach the Island from the north. Malta’s fighters shoot them both down.
1115-1126 hrs Three aircraft approach the Island from the north without crossing the coast, then recede.
1141 hrs One JU 88 drops bombs in the sea off Zonkor.
1200 hrs Six ME 109s drop 12 high explosive (HE) bombs on the Hal Far, Mqabba and Luqa runway (still serviceable). One bomb drops on the Safi strip, another to the west of Gudja village.
1230 hrs Fifteen JU 88s in two waves drop thirty 500kg and thirty 250kg HE bombs in the Grand Harbour area, the Quartermaster’s Office, lavatories and D/C stations on St Angelo jetty are hit, a diesel launch and other boats at St Angelo are damaged. Two large craters are blown on the east side of No 5 Dock; fresh, salt, hydraulic and air lines are fractured. Unexploded bombs are reported in No 6 Sub Generating Station, No 2 Gun Mounting Store and No 1 Boiler Shop – suspected to be delayed-action.
1344 hrs Eighteen JU 88s drop over fifty 250kg and 500kg HE bombs from St Julians across Grand Harbour to Tarxien. Unexploded bombs are reported after the raid, probably delayed-action. Bombs on the Lyceum Air Raid Precautions Centre kill five and injure five. Private Edwards, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is killed on leave in Valletta. Privates Mace and Greshem, HQ Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt are slightly injured in Tarxien.
1439 hrs An air raid on Hal Far by four ME 109s leaves craters on the dispersal area.
1510 hrs 28 JU 87 Stukas carry out a mass dive-bombing attack on Hal Far aerodrome, dropping 84 high explosive bombs of 250kg and 500kg across the airfield. Bombs demolish the naval wing of the Officers’ Mess and a barrack block and extensively damage other buildings. Four vehicles and one trailer are written off. Six airmen, three soldiers and two civilians are killed. Private Stockhall (1) and Private Channon, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt were among them, killed while on a working party on the airfield. Twelve airmen, three Fleet Air Arm, one Malta Auxiliary and two labourers are reported missing. Two RAF officers and one civilian are injured.
1510 hrs Ack Ack and light machine guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage the Stukas, claiming numerous hits, but smoke pall renders observation difficult. Official report states two JU 87s destroyed. F/L Johnston from Ta Qali damages one JU 87 but his aircraft is damaged by ME 109s on landing at 1525 hrs.
1520 hrs Guns of 225 LAA engage two ME 109s: one hit claimed.
1624 hrs Evening rescue search.
1700 hrs Four Hurricanes from Hal Far are airborne to intercept eight JU 88s, scoring hits on at least three of them and causing many to jettison their bombs.
1710 hrs Six JU 88s escorted by ME 109s attack Hal Far, Safi and Gudja, dropping bombs near barrack buildings. Several unexploded bombs are reported in the Safi area.
1715 hrs Guns of 225 LAA engage four JU 88s: four hits claimed on two. The engagement has to be broken off as friendly fighters intercept the enemy aircraft.
1759 hrs Enemy raiders attack Grand Harbour, Valletta and Floriana. The Palace and Custom House and Combined War Headquarters, Lascaris Barracks are hit by high explosive bombs. GSO1 Col A D Clinch is killed and CSO wounded.
2230-2345 hrs An unknown number of enemy aircraft drop a few bombs on Luqa aerodrome and Safi strip. One delivery Beaufighter and one delivery Blenheim are seriously damaged.
Night 24/25th Visibility deteriorates. The enemy drops flares over Grand Harbour and Heavy Ack Ack are active.
Military casualties Air Mechanic George Honey, Royal Navy, HMS St.Angelo; AM 1 J Kershaw, Fleet Air Arm, HMS St.Angelo; Ordinary Seaman George Smailes, HMS Dulverton.
Aircraftsman George Baines, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR); Aircraftsman II Alexander Campbell, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Aircraftsman Walter Fisher, Royal Air Force RAFVR; Leading Aircraftsman Henry Gallichan, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Corporal Reginald Haslam, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Leading Aircraftsman James Haynes, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Corporal Harry Kin, RAFVR, Kalafrana; Aircraftsman Edward Lee, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Leading Aircraftsman Gerald Leverington, RAFVR; Aircraftsman Arnold Manchip, RAFVR, 186 Squadron; Leading Aircraftsman Leslie Quinn, RAFVR; Leading Aircraftsman Eugenio Scicluna, RAFVR; Aircraftsman William Titherington, RAFVR; Leading Aircraftsman Clifford Turpin, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Leading Aircraftsman Alexander Webb, RAFVR, Aircraftsman W. Whatmore, RAFVR; Corporal Alan Woodman, Royal Air Force.
Colonel Andrew Clinch, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; Private Leonard Channon, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment; Private William Stockhall, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment (2); Private Anthony Micallef, King’s Own Malta Regiment, died whilst on duty at Hal Far; Driver Vincent Micallef, Malta Auxiliary Corps.
Civilian casualties Birkirkara Paul Borg, age 17; Louis Sacco, age 60. Birzebbugia John Callus, age 49. Hamrun Joseph Grixti, age 51. Kalkara Joseph Bartolo, age 18; Anthony Busuttil, age 16; Joseph Camilleri, age 45; Filomena Coster, age 54; Mary Coster, age 48; Gustu Coster, age 30; Joseph Coster, age 26; Stella Gauci, age 12; Manuel Gauci, age 9; Rokku Gauci, age 2; Grezzja Hili, age 44; Concetta Hili, age 20; Pauline Hili, age 12; John Hili, age 4; Mary Micallef, age 31; Samuel Micallef, age 10; Toni Micallef, age 9; Carmela Mintoff, age 80; Josephine Mintoff, age 48; Marina Stivala, age 62; Spira Vella, age 70; Michael Ventura; age 75. Angelica Ventura, age 66; Luqa Alexander Bonnici; age 36. Mosta Luigi Calleja, age 75. Paola Toussaints Aquilina, age 17. Rabat Mary Adami, age 6. Valletta Joseph Mifsud, age 47. Zabbar Katie Cardona, age 50.
Enemy casualties Hans Bretschneider, III/StG 3, pilot, and Ferdinand Burger, III/StG 3, crewman of JU 87 Stuka aircraft shot down by Anti Aircraft fire.
OPERATIONS REPORTS: TUESDAY 24 MARCH 1942
ROYAL NAVY Three Albacores left to attack one cruiser and three destroyers 098 degrees Syracuse 67′ but were unable to attack owing to bad visibility. Heavy bombing attacks but nothing very serious in the way of damage. Southwold mined and sunk while patrolling Breconshire. Night 24/25th Breconshire towed by tugs Ancient and Robust to Marsaxlokk. Secured No 1 buoy at 1045/25.
AIR HQ Arrivals Seven Beaufighters, five Wellingtons, four Blenheims from Gibraltar.
HAL FAR PM One Swordfish on search for units of the Italian navy. Three Albacores despatched to attack units of the Italian navy. Which were located at 0340 hrs: one cruiser, three destroyers at 098 degrees, 67 miles course 330 at 25 knots. Flares are dropped but aircraft are unable to see ships owing to bad visilibity.
LUQA 1025-1248 hrs One Photo Reconnaissance (PR) Unit Spitfire 69 Squadron despatched on PR of Messina and Palermo Harbours and Sicilian aerodromes. No photos taken owing to cloud.
TA QALI 249 Squadron operating from Luqa. 1100 hrs Salvage and repair work proceeds.
SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE Private Mace and Private Gresham, HQ Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt slightly injured by bombs at Tarxien. Private Edwards, HQ Coy 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt killed on leave in Valletta. Private Stockhall and Private Channon, A Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt killed on working party. (2)
1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT All Companies on route march. Heavy bomb direct hit on HQ Company cook house: no casualties. 70 JU 88s; 30 JU 87s. Bombs on War HQ: GSO1 killed. Bombs on Hornworks. CO s car and lorries written off.
2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS Training exercise for officers by CO. SSO1 Col Clinch is killed by a bomb.
11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS 1000 hrs 3″ mortar shoot near Fort Ta Silch.
8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT Anniversary of the formation of 96th Foot, The Manchester Regiment: observed as a holiday. Message from Brigade wishes the unit a happy birthday.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 2.
(1) Thanks to Joseph and Mary Galea Debono.
(2) “My Great Uncle, William Stockhall, a Private in the second batallion Devonshire Regiment, died in Malta on 24 March 1942. [maltagc70] is a wonderful way for my family to understand what he went though in his final days and to honour his contribution.” Anne Wright, Victoria, Australia.
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