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Young Charles Grech returned home from the Friary at lunchtime today, heavy with the news that the body of his mentor Fr Diego Galdes had been discovered in the ruins (maltagc70 – 1 April 1942). He found his father already apparently pre-occupied with other matters:
“When I told him that I thought the bombs had fallen on Spinola Battery, he mumbled back that that was not quite where they had fallen. They had been dropped on Villa Rosa. Mother apparently did not understand what he had just said and interjected: ‘Aunty Mary went to live just there.’ Father retorted curtly: ‘What has this got to do with your Aunty Mary? Villa Rosa! Not Villambrosa! That is where Joe works!’
Mother suddenly froze, dropped everything and…told father she was going to see Sur Guze, as his son in law Leslie Beckett, a corporal in the Royal Army Pay Corps, who lived with him, also worked with my brother at Villa Rosa.
Mother and Sur Guze’s daughter, Lina, hurried…to St George’s Bay. On arriving there, they found a complete shambles. Mother asked for here son and Lina for her husband…Major Howell informed Lina that her husband had been wounded… [they] were still looking for Joe.”
The family had to wait for news until 4.30pm next day, when a policeman arrived at the door: Joe’s body had been found – in the ruins of the Army Pay Office. (1)
16 year old Dockyard apprentice Jo Stephens was admiring the sleek lines of the newly-arrived submarine “Pandora” yesterday afternoon when he heard the sirens:
“Knowing that, in all probability, the Dockyard would be the target I sought refuge in the nearest shelter deep in the rock under a bastion a short distance from the submarine. I was not far into the entrance when the firing of guns began…A blast of air like a powerful gale lifted me off my feet, glogging my ears, and blowing me further into the shelter causing me to clutch the best I could to its walls. Another blast and again I was blown in farther, assisting my own efforts to get into the deepest part of the shelter Then another blast and another and yet another, each with powerful tremors, ear glogging air pressure accompanied by attempts on my part to keep my balance. I don’t know how long it lasted but I thought it would never stop. Stop it did. The ”All Clear ” sirens sounded and I emerged from the shelter…
The submarine had completely disappeared; it had vanished. The moorings were still there, confirming my fears and suspicions that the submarine must have been badly hit and was now lying at the bottom of the water. There was no floating debris, no sign of life, just murky waters around where she was berthed. An acrid smell of fuel oil hung about the place. A deep sadness came over me. In a matter of minutes a submarine with its entire crew, men mostly in the prime of life, had been wiped out. (2)
AIR RAIDS DAWN 2 APRIL TO DAWN 3 APRIL 1942
Weather Wind northerly; 50% medium cloud.
0822-0850 hrs One JU 88 escorted by two ME 109s approaches the Island from the south, carries out reconnaissance. Ack Ack engage.
0950 hrs Four Spitfires are scrambled from Luqa to intercept an incoming formation of 15 JU 88 bombers and 25 ME 109 fighters. Two Spitfires are jumped by ME 109s: both are lost, though one pilot is saved. F/L Johnson damages one JU 88.
1010 hrs A formation of JU 88s carries out a heavy raid on the Dockyard and Submarine Base. The Army Pay Office at Villa Rosa, St Georges is hit, killing one Officer and six Other Ranks of the Royal Army Pay Corps.
1017 hrs Eight JU 88s with an escort of six ME 109s attack Hal Far, causing 22 craters on aerodrome and dispersals. One Swordfish badly damaged.
1025 hrs Bombs are dropped on Ta Klantun and Misrah Blandun areas.
1030 hrs Three Hurricanes 185 Squadron are scrambled and engage the enemy aircraft.
1040 hrs 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage one ME 109.
1050 hrs P/O McCarthy is shot down in flames. P/O McLeod is shot into the sea and saved. One JU 88 is damaged.
1119 hrs All clear.
1222 hrs; 1400 hrs Air alerts. Raids do not materialise.
1610 hrs Eight Hurricanes 185 & 229 Squadrons are scrambled to intercept an incoming enemy formation.
1624 hrs 15 JU 88s attack Grand Harbour with over 40 high explosive (HE) bombs including four 1000kg: several bombs land on Valletta and Floriana.
21 JU 87s attack Hal Far, dropping 250kg and 500kg bombs across the airfield. The Airmen’s bath house is demolished and other buildings damaged. Heavy Ack Ack engage the enemy, destroying two JU 87s and badly damaging one JU 88 and one JU 87.
12 JU 88s follow the first wave and drop another 48 HE bombs of 250kg and 500kg on Grand Harbour.
1650 hrs Hurricanes 185 & 229 Squadrons engage enemy aircraft: one JU 87 is probably destroyed, one ME 109, one JU 87 and one JU 88 damaged.
1655 hrs Guns of 225 LAA also engage: hits are claimed by the majority of Battery guns. One JU 87 is observed smoking badly and losing height.
1740 hrs The trawler SS Franco is machine-gunned by six ME 109s off Dahlet Ish-Shielep, causing slight damage and two minor casualties. C and E Companies of 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment engage the fighters with machine-gunfire: no claims.
1807 hrs All clear.
2036 hrs Six enemy aircraft come in from the north, dropping bombs in the sea and on land at Ta Salvatur and Ghar Lapsi. Heavy Ack Ack engage.
2205 hrs Two aircraft come in from the north east and drop bombs in the Marsa area. Heavy Ack Ack engage.
2343-0556 hrs 21 German JU 88 and Italian BR 20 aircraft approach singly at regular intervals throughout the night, dropping bombs in many areas, including Bubaqra, Safi and Luqa aerodrome, where one unserviceable Wellington is burned out. Searchlights illuminate 14 of the 18 aircraft which cross the coast. Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.
Military casualties Pilot Officer Winston McCarthy, Royal Canadian Air Force, 126 Squadron; Private Charles Davies, Private Albert Golledge, Lieutenant Frank Harrod, Private Arthur Pullan, all Royal Army Pay Corps; Gunner Wilfred Allen and Bombardier Jeffrey Osborne, (6th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment) 10th HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery; Bombardier Leslie Sutton, 10th HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery; Staff Sergeant Edward Redman, 173 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers; Private Carmel Camenzuli, King’s Own Malta Regiment.
Civilian casualties Paola Rose Midlane, age 41. Sliema Joseph Grech, age 17.
Enemy casualties Hans Frank.
OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 2 APRIL 1942
AIR HQ Arrivals One Catalina, four Hudsons, two Wellingtons from Gibraltar. Departures Five Hudsons, two Blenheims, one Beaufighter, one Spitfire PRU, one Catalina, two Wellingtons to 108 MU.
LUQA 2025-0610 hrs One Wellington SD Flight Special Search with bombs. Possible hospital ship sighted.
TA QALI PM Spitfires returned to Ta Qali from Luqa and Hurricanes proceeded to Luqa to operate. No night operations.
1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT Work continues on the Pampas: still great difficulty through lack of power for the winches. Large raid on Grand Harbour by 64 JU 87 & 88s. Several large bombs dropped near Pampas. Work continues on Pampas throughout the night.
2ND BN THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT Three slight casualties – Sgt Higgins, Cpl Tannatt, BEM, and Private Adams of A Company – caused by either pom pom or cannon Bullets.
1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY All Companies working on Ta Qali aerodrome during the day.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS S/Sgt Redman died at Imtarfa Hospital. RE Welders worked on HMS Penelope enabling her to put to sea. Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 26; dealt with 10 (1 x 500kg, 6 x 250kg, 3 x 50kg)
(1) Extract from Raiders Passed: Wartime Recollections of a Maltese youngster, Charles B Grech (translated by Joseph Galea Debono), Midsea Books, Malta 1998
(2) Joseph V Stephens, 2012
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April 4, 2022 at 10:18 am
April 2 1942 was when Villa Rose was hit and killed my father Leslie Beckett he was 24 years old. I was eight months old