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TWO BOMBS ON SLIEMA KILL 22
Teenager Charles Grech of Sliema was due to meet Fr Diego Galdes when he heard the air raid alarm. Ignoring the advice of his friend to take cover, Charles set off towards the friary. He froze when he saw a JU 88 bomber release its load, and two heavy bombs heading in his direction:
“I mumbled a quick Act of Contrition and clung to the corner of the block almost as if to stop the building from falling on top of me. Then two huge deafening explosions and a tremendous blast flung me to the ground. There was a cloud of dust and smoke. Pieces of glass and wood were flying in all directions. Balconies fell into the street and doors and windows were blown out to the opposite side of the road…The cuts I received from the glass soon brought me back to my senses. I could not see further than five yards up the street, because of the thick dust cloud and the dense smoke and could not tell where the bombs had fallen… most probably, not more than a block away…I thought that they must have fallen pretty close to the church…[Father] told us that besides the church and the friary many other buildings had also been damaged and that there were dead and wounded everywhere. I immediately thought of Fr Diego…” (1)
Fr Diego Galdes was killed when a bomb struck the Franciscan friary: he was one of 22 killed in Sliema, who also included Police Sergeant Michael Riviera.
ENEMY’S HEAVY LOSSES
During these 24 hours Heavy and Light Ack Ack destroyed five JU 87s and two JU 88s and one ME 109. Aircraft destroyed two JU 88s, two JU 87s and two ME 109s; probably destroyed five JU 87s and damaged five JU 88s, one JU 87 and two ME 109s. None of Malta’s aircraft are missing.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 APRIL TO DAWN 2 APRIL 1942
Weather Wind southerly; no cloud.
0917 hrs 26 JU 88s and six ME 109 fighter bombers escorted by fighters approach the Island.
0955 hrs 23 JU 88s and fighter bombers attack Hal Far, dropping over 100 high explosive (HE) bombs and destroying one Albacore and damaging three plus a Swordfish, badly damaging four Hurricanes and slightly damaging another four. Three vehicles are written off and two bowsers damaged. Private C F Rowe, A Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is killed while working on the airfield. Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery attack the enemy aircraft: no claims.
1005 hrs Five JU 88s drop 50kg bombs on Safi strip, Mqabba area and south of Gudja village. One unexploded bomb is reported on Safi.
1015 hrs JU 88s dive-bomb Luqa aerodrome, cratering the runway. Two airmen are slightly injured, one Transit Wellington and an ambulance damaged.
1030 hrs Four ME 109s machine-gun positions of 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regt (KOMR) at Armier Bay, Torri L’Abjad. They also fire on a Gozo boat in the South Comino Channel. Seven men from E Company immediately man the bullet-ridden boat and, while enemy fighters were still overhead, they help the boat’s engineer put to sea to rescue one of the crew who had dived overboard during the attack.
1051 hrs One JU 88 carries out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour.
1101 hrs Six ME 109s raid Hal Far, dropping five 250kg and four 50kg bombs and causing craters on the aerodrome. One Hurricane is written off. One large bomb is dropped on Tal Liebru area, near Safi.
1315-1350 hrs Four Spitfires take off from Luqa and intercept six ME 109s. P/O Plagis damages one.
1437 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron attack two Messerschmitts and fifteen JU 88s. F/O Nash and P/O Plagis both probably destroyed JU 88s and S/L Grant damaged one. One Spitfire is damaged; F/O Lee is wounded in the foot.
1455 hrs Guns of 225 LAA Bty engage JU 88s heading for Hal Far.
1500 hrs Nine JU 88s drop dozens of HE bombs on Hal Far, causing craters on the aerodrome. One airman is killed.
1510 hrs Four guns of 225 LAA Bty engaged three ME 109s diving from 1500 to 300 feet.
1530 hrs Nine JU 88s drop 65 high explosive bombs, including six 1000kg, across Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto. Several houses are demolished in Valletta. Bombs on Floriana hit Kingsgate, Sliema bus terminus, St Johns Ditch, Great Siege Road, Msida Bastion Quarters, Block B and Lintorn Barracks. In Sliema the Convent of the Franciscan Minors is destroyed and adjacent churches badly damaged, killing two women and a child. Nearby houses are also destroyed, killing 22 civilians.
1535 hrs Two ME 109s attack Mellieha Camp of 1st Bn KOMR.
1555 hrs Twenty JU 88s approach the Island, dropping bombs on Luqa and the Safi strips.
1630 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron intercept Messerschmitts and a Dornier 24. P/O Plagis and Sgt Hesselyn destroy ME 109s; P/O Buchanan and S/L Grant damage ME 109s.
1711 hrs A large formation of JU 88s, JU 87s and ME 109s are reported heading towards the Island.
1800 hrs Five Spitfires 249 Squadron sight 25 JU 87s and many ME 109 fighters approaching Grand Harbour. F/O Buchanan and P/O Nash destroy one JU 87 each and P/O Plagis and S/L Grant probably destroy one each.
1835 hrs Seven Hurricanes 185 Squadron then approach at 8000 feet and join the attack. Sgt Fletcher destroys one JU 87 and probably destroys another. Sgt Pawley probably destroys one JU 87 and damages one JU 88. Two Hurricanes are slightly damaged. The remaining Stukas dive-bomb Grand Harbour, dropping 96 bombs of 250kg across the Dockyard and submarine base.
2000 hrs 30 JU 88s and JU 87s drop bombs on Hal Far, causing numerous craters on the aerodrome. Three sticks of bombs fall on Safi strip and four on the Tal Liebru area.
Night Total of 46 JU88s and Italian BR 20 aircraft raid the Island, of which 18 drop bombs.
2035 hrs One bomb is dropped on the Ta Salib area.
2100 hrs One Beaufighter takes off from Ta Qali on patrol over Malta.
2113 hrs Two bombs land on the Tal Liebru area.
2120 hrs One JU 88 is damaged by Ack Ack fire and is seen to drop into the sea.
2140 hrs Two bombs fall in Wied Has-Saptan and eight on the Safi strip.
2225 hrs One bomb lands on the San Christu Church area and one on Wied Has-Saptan; a stick of unexploded bombs is reported in the Nigret area.
2310 hrs One bomb lands on the Nigret area and explodes, severely damaging the Togores Palace.
2354 hrs The Beaufighter attacks and damages one JU 88 which counter-attacks, setting fire to the port engine of the Beaufighter. The starboard engine stops but the aircraft lands safely at Ta Qali at 0015 hrs: crew unhurt.
0008 hrs One stick of bombs is dropped on Ta Karach ridge.
0205 hrs Three bombs land on the Tal Liebru area.
0420 hrs All clear.
Military casualties Able Seaman Henry Gunn, HMS Penelope; Thomas Lewis, Chargeman of Boilermakers, HMS Dockyard. Corporal Ronald David, Leading Aircraftsman Michael Ellis, Leading Aircraftsman Stanley Hoskin, Leading Aircraftsman Albert Osborne, Corporal Joseph Pitt, Flight-Lieutenant Frederick Povey, Corporal Dennis Wills, all Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Gunner Thomas (Edgar) Burfield, Gunner Thomas Richardson, Lance-Bombardier John Scarborough-Taylor, Gunner Ernest Smith, all 4th HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery; Gunner Anthony Mifsud, 11th HAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery. Sapper Ronald Feltham and Sapper Clarence Weaver, 16 Fortress Company, Royal Engineers. Corporal Fred Chappell, Sapper Evan Evans, Sapper Henry Hayes, Sapper William Leighton, Sapper Daniel Mizen, Sapper John Sandilands, all 173 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers. Private Charles Rowe, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment; Lance-Corporal Charles Pearce, Corporal William Foote and Private Ernest French, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment; Sapper Paul Psaila, Royal Engineers, Malta Territorial Force.
Civilian casualties Birkirkara Edgar Zahra, age 3. Balzan Walter Farrugia, age 43. Gzira John Azzopardi, age 15; Ophelia Colombo, age 25; Concetta Mifsud Ellul, age 43; Mary Anne Miller, age 10. Paola Anthony Vassallo, age 22. Sliema Carmen Bates, age 6; Imelda Bates, age 5; George Bates, 9 mths; George Cassar, age 27; Vincenza Cassar, age 20; Censa Cauchi, age 80; Hilda Clarke, age 32; Ivy Clarke, age 5; Joseph Clarke, age 2; Albert Fava, age 1; Fr Diego Galdes, age 52; Alfred Gatt, age 50; Giulia Gatt, age 46; Rose Marie Gatt, age 4; Thomas Lewis, age 54; Lonza Micallef, age 50; Michael Riviera, age 40; Josephine Tabone, age 22; Antonia Tabone, age 7; Alfred Zammit, age 50; Marianna Zammit, age 45; Carmel Zammit, age 15. Zebbug Carmel Attard, age 50; Frances Attard, age 16. Zejtun Carmel Camilleri, age 18; Cristopher Caruana, age 77; Annunziato Desira, age 21; Louis Grech, age 31.
Enemy casualties Unteroffizier Winfried Gunther, 8/StG 3, Pilot of a JU 87 Stuka shot down by Anti Aircraft fire. He baled out into the sea, was rescued by a RAF Launch and taken prisoner.
OPERATIONS REPORTS 1 APRIL 1942
ROYAL NAVY During heavy air raid P36, Pandora and drifter Sunset were sunk. Havock, Sokol, Swona, Girl Margaret and a number of small craft were damaged and Unbeaten was damaged while bottomed. Talabot received one hit with a heavy bomb. Submarine workshops were damaged. One Albacore and one Swordfish at Hal Far were burned out.
AIR HQ Arrivals Two Spitfires PRU, two Beaufighters, three Blenheims, one Sunderland, one Beaufort, one Hudson from Gibraltar. Departures One Wellington, four Hudsons, one Beaufort, one Sunderland to 108 MU.
LUQA 1045-1345 hrs 69 Squadron Spitfire Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Sicilian aerodromes. 2242-0607 hrs One Wellington SD Flight Special Search with bombs. One destroyer sighted: bombs jettisoned.
TA QALI Considerable work carried out on erection of pens for aircraft. Large numbers of soldiers working on aerodrome and 42 men reported from Hal Far on attachment. Hurricanes from Hal Far operating from Ta Qali.
1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT 0900 hrs GOC speaks to the troops starting work on SS Pampas. Work is hampered by lack of power for the winches – and air raids. Private Camenzuli KOMR attached to us for training was killed by a bomb.
1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT Explosion of bombs on crashed JU 87 kills Cpl Foote, L/Cpl Pearce and Pte French, and wounds LCpl Bell and Pte Garrett.
1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY All Companies working on Ta Qali aerodrome during the day.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS During afternoon raid, the garage received a direct hit. Casualties: 173 Company – 6 killed; 24 Fortress Coy – 1 killed. A further bomb fell at the rear of the Administrative Block, Lintorn Barracks. UXB Reported 23; dealt with 11 (3 x 500kg; 1 x 250kg; 7 x 50kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.
11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS 1000 hrs This unit takes over the Observation Post at Tal Minsia from 1 Cheshire Regt (now unloading convoy).
(1) From Raiders Passed: Wartime Recollections of a Maltese youngster, Charles B Grech (translated by Joseph Galea Debono), Midsea Books, Malta 1998
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