12 April 1942: Grand Harbour – “Nothing Left to Bomb”

12 Apr

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  • Talabot and Essex ablaze
  • 90% of convoy supplies destroyed
  • Enemy fighters aim to wipe out defences
  • German airman talks


The War Diary of the Mediterranean Fleet today reported that there are no primary targets left in Grand Harbour for the enemy to bomb. In the Dockyard only underground workshops can operate normally.  All the docks have been damaged, electricity supplies and telephone lines are largely out of action.

Talabot hit

Two ships in Grand Harbour were hit by enemy bombs and set on fire today: cruiser HMS Essex and SS Talabot, one of the last two survivors of the recent convoy.  The merchant ship had already been scuttled after being bombed on 26 March and her crew taken off.

The final results of the recent convoy are very disappointing: despite round the clock efforts by Army labour as well as Dockyard stevedores, only 1800 tons of supplies have been saved from destruction – representing ten per cent of the total embarked for Malta two weeks ago. Nevertheless the ships have still managed to deliver some of their cargo of bombs.  They will soon be carried by RAF bombers to unleash over the German air base at Trapani. (1)


Having failed to destroy Talabot and Pampas before they reached Grand Harbour, Luftwaffe pilots have been told they “must to be sunk, no matter what the cost” – a stark reference to the recent losses of German air crews and aircraft to Malta’s fighters and heavy defensive fire.

Heinrich Hübner was Observer on a JU 88 bomber, among the massed formations, hundreds of aircraft, now attacking Malta daily. He remembers little details with remarkable clarity: a man on a bicycle on the open area in front of the Governor’s Palace, dashing into a narrow ally; clusters of people looking up at the aircraft, the flashes from the guns on a British cruiser and the illuminated faces of the Gunners whose courage and accuracy he admired.


A new and dangerous pattern has emerged for enemy air raids on Malta.  As reported on Friday ( 10 April), yellow-nosed Messerschmitt fighters had been reported machine-gunning defensive gun positions some time before raids on Grand Harbour and Ta Qali.  Observers report the tactic has now been extended, with significant numbers of fighters approaching airfield defences to clear a path for their bombers to attack.


Weather  Wind north west; 50% medium cloud.

1215 hrs  43 JU 88s and 10 JU 87s with fighter escort approach Malta in several formations, dividing to attack Grand Harbour, Ta Qali, Luqa and Hal Far.  Heavy Ack Ack destroy one JU 87 and damage two JU 88s.  Several high explosive bombs are dropped on Floriana: five in Gunlayer Square, one on New St, one in First St, one in St Publius St.

1216-1330 hrs  35 JU 88s dive-bomb Luqa runways and dispersal areas.  Two Wellingtons are burned out.

1226 hrs  Four ME 109s attack Hal Far.  One Hurricane is burned out.  Ten JU 88s with fighter escort dive-bomb Hal Far, severely damaging Officers’ quarters and other buildings.  One bus, two lorries and a car are badly damaged.  One fire pump is destroyed and a fire tender badly damaged.

1230-1245 hrs  Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage one JU 88 and two ME 109s.  A/Sgt Evans is injured by the nose cap from a Heavy Ack Ack shell and is taken to hospital.  One gun is damaged by an exploding bomb.  Nine JU 88s and one ME 109 are engaged, with seven hits on five enemy aircraft.  2nd Bn Devonshire Regt fire 144 Bren magazines and 70 Lewis magazines at enemy aircraft.  B Company claims a hit on the cockpit of one ME 109, which crashes a mile out to sea.

1230 hrs  A number of ME 109s machine-gun Ta Qali: one starter trolley is burned out and one Spitfire slightly damaged.

1235-1250 hrs  Twenty JU 88s repeatedly bomb Safi strip and Bir Miftuh Church area.

1245 hrs  Guns of HQ Company 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment hit two JU 88s, parts fall from the wings of one aircraft and it is observed crashing into the sea.  The engine of the other JU 88 was seen to be smoking. D Company also claim hits on a JU 88.  Bombs are dropped between HQ Company and Zurrieq.

1425 hrs  All clear.

1744 hrs   ME 109s machine-gun the Luqa area and gun positions at Benghaisa, Hagiar Qim and Salina.  Total casualties:  four Other Ranks seriously wounded; 10 Other Ranks slightly wounded.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack and small arms engage: two JU 88s and three JU 87s are destroyed.  One JU 88 is seen crashing into the sea.

60 JU 88s approach the Island in formations of 12 each.  Two formations of ten JU 88s attack Luqa, cratering the runway and destroying one Wellington under repair.  The other three attack Ta Qali, Hal Far and Grand Harbour.  Twenty JU 87s follow in and also attack Grand Harbour.

1746 hrs  Attack on Grand Harbour: SS Talabot is hit and set on fire.  Buildings of 4 Platoon, 1 Bn Cheshire Regt at Rinella are badly damaged.  B Company considers move of two platoons to Polverista Gate.  The Naval Canteen in the Dockyard is damaged by bombs.

1800 hrs  Nine JU 88s drop 35 bombs on Ta Qali aerodrome, causing craters on the runway.  The aerodrome is still serviceable with care.

1807 hrs  11 JU 88s drop bombs on Kirkop, Safi and Mqabba areas.  Bombs on Ta Liebru area kill one Other Rank of 1st Bn Hampshire Regt and wound another.  One stick of bombs does not explode.

1849 hrs  All clear.

2059-2155 hrs  Three enemy bombers operating singly drop bombs near Kalafrana and on land and in the sea near Delimara.  One aircraft drops bombs in the sea north of Gozo.

Night  2 raids only by Italian BR 20 aircraft: night fighters cause them to jettison bombs.

2200-2225 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne on patrol: no engagement.

0024-0048 hrs  One enemy aircraft approaches but is driven away by Heavy Ack Ack.  It returns later and drops bombs on the Marsa area.

0048-0330 hrs  One Beaufighter on interceptions: no engagement.

Military casualties  Sergeant Robert Chinnock, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Msida  Emmanuel Agius, age 7.  Qormi  Joseph Scicluna, age 53.  Zejtun  Vincent Ellul, age 67.  Gozo (Xaghra)  Carmelo Azzopardi, age 17.

Enemy casualties  Waldemar Kremin.


ROYAL NAVY  Una returned from patrol off Spartivento having sunk one 8000 ship.  Talabot again hit by a bomb.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Spitfires PRU from Gibraltar.  Departures  Four Wellingtons, three Hudsons to 108 MU.

TA QALI  Aerodrome still serviceable but extensive repairs proceeding.  No night operations.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Sunday and a holiday.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1500 hrs  Corporal Evans is buried at Imtarfa Cemetery.  1505 hrs  Two UXBs are reported area 525183.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Work on aerodromes continued.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 8 (3  x 500kg,3 x 250kg, 2 x 50kg).

1st BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT One Other Rank killed and one wounded by bombs on Ta Liebru.

2nd BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Bombs in Battalion area.

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  2100 hrs  A Company, 3rd Bn report an unexploded bomb at MR 439176.

11th BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Day  Fairly heavy raid; bombs in this area, Hamrun: houses damaged.

2nd BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Near miss on LQ 10 renders the post unusable: weapons are moved to an alternative position.

 (1)  Adapted from ‘Menn uten Medaljer’, A H Rasmussen, by

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Posted by on April 12, 2022 in 1942, April 1942


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