6 May 1942: Sea Battle off Grand Harbour

06 May

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Royal Navy Motor Launch


Motor Launch ML-130 failed to return from patrol round Malta’s coast during the night and is reported lost.  Coastal watch reported seeing vigorous exchanges of fire between vessels, about six miles off Grand Harbour, which began at 0143 hrs and lasted for some twenty minutes.  Observers concluded ML-130 must have disturbed enemy E-boats engaged in mine-laying activities.

At 0307 hrs there was a loud explosion and a vessel was seen burning continuously until 0500 hrs.  The RAF rescue launch was scrambled and proceeded to the reported position to search for survivors.  Only wreckage and part of a carley float were found, leading to the suspicion that ML-130 exploded and was lost.

Intelligence reports were later picked up suggesting that the launch’s commander and nine other crew members, several of them injured, were taken prisoner by three German schnellboote (fast attack boats) off the coast of Malta.  This leaves four of the launch crew unaccounted for.

Royal Lady


In broad daylight this afternoon enemy fighter-bombers carried out a surprise dive-bombing raid on the harbour at Mgarr, Gozo.  One aircraft was seen to release several bombs over the Royal Lady, splitting the vessel in two.  More bombs were aimed at the trawler SS Franco; one hit the vessel, damaging the funnel.  A coffee and rest-house on the harbour was also damaged by an exploding bomb.  The loss of the Royal Lady is a severe blow to the Gozo Mail Service, which she has served since her purchase from the UK in 1938.


A Royal Navy Submarine which left Malta on 27 April heading for Alexandria has been reported overdue.  She was last reported on 29 April, when she attacked the Italian sailing vessel San Giusto off Ras Hilal.  It is believed the submarine was spotted by nearby German vessels with their escorting Italian aircraft, which counter-attacked.  Since then nothing has been heard of the submarine, which is believed sunk.


Weather  Wind westerly; haze – warm.

0533 hrs  Air raid alert: ME 109s patrol around the Island.

0614 hrs  One JU 88 accompanied by two ME 109 fighters drops several bombs on Tigne and one bomb on Valletta.

0655hrs; 0745 hrs  Air raid alert: ME 109s patrol around the Island.

0940 hrs  Five Spitfires 126 Squadron and two Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali intercept a plot of JU 88s.  Fl/Lt Sanders, P/O Slade and Sgt Webster damage one JU 88 each.  P/O Booth damages one ME 109.

Four Hurricanes 229 Squadron are also scrambled from Hal Far.  F/Sgt Ray crash lands at Hal Far.  Sgt Lees is lost over the sea and reported missing.

0954 hrs  Six JU 88s, three Italian BR 20 bombers and 30 ME 109s attack the Hal Far and Safi areas, dropping bombs on the southern perimeter of the aerodrome and injuring two Naval Officers and four naval ratings, two of whom are admitted to hospital.  Two JU 88s and one ME 109 are damaged by fighters and one JU 88 is damaged by Ack Ack.

1000 hrs  Two JU 88s and one ME 109 are engaged by three guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery: no claims.

1022 hrs  One Spitfire is shot down in flames: the pilot bales out and is slightly injured.  The aircraft lands in the area are of 8th Bn Kings Own Royal Regiment who provide a guard for the wreckage.

1050 hrs  Raiders passed.

1050-1214 hrs  Two ME 109s circle north of the Island.

1225 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron from Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept incoming enemy aircraft.  They engage two ME 109s flying low over Ta Qali.  Flt/Sgt Hesselyn damages one ME 109.

1247 hrs  Five Cant 1007 bombers with a 13 strong fighter escort drop a large number of 100kg bombs on Ta Qali and Attard.

1306 hrs  Three BR 20 bombers drop small anti-personnel bombs between Qormi and Attard.

1329 hrs  Raiders passed.

1400 hrs  Cave No 4 at Ta Qali is reported to be on fire: the cave is full of oil and burns all day and late into the night.  The cause of the fire is unknown.

1530 hrs  Four fighter bombers bomb and machine-gun the harbour of Mgarr, Gozo.  The ferry boat Royal Lady is sunk.

1606 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of enemy aircraft approaching the Island.

1630 hrs  Five JU 88s with an escort of ME 109 and Macchi 202 fighters attack Luqa airfield and the Safi strip.  One JU 88 is damaged by Ack Ack.

1730 hrs  All clear.

1920 hrs  Five Hurricanes Mk 2C arrive at Hal Far from the Middle East.

Night  Three air raid alerts for JU 88s bombers which attack in pairs.  Bombs are dropped on Gozo, Luqa, Safi and Siggiewi, and Ta Qali and Mosta.  One Beaufighter Malta Night Fighter Unit is on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft: no engagement.

0143 hrs  The Beaufighter observes an exchange of fire between E boats and a speed rescue service craft.

Military casualties  Able Seaman John Brown, Royal Navy, ML 130; Stoker 2c John Middlemiss, Royal Navy, ML 130; Able Seaman Albert Williams, Royal Navy, ML 130; Sergeant Robert Lees, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 229 Squadron; Private Albert Stringer, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment).

Civilian casualties  Qormi  Saviour Cutajar, age 50.  Sliema  Edwin Azzopardi, age 21.  Zejtun  Toni Gatt, age 71.  Gozo (Victoria)  Toni Saliba, age 38.


AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Spitfires, one Hudson from Gibraltar; two Blenheims, one Beaufighter, five Hurricanes from Gambut; one Lodestar from Heliopolis.  Departures  One Wellington to 108 MU.  Aircraft casualties  One Hurricane shot down in the sea; pilot missing.  One Hurricane crash-landed; pilot uninjured.  Two Spitfires crashed after combat; pilots uninjured.  One Spitfire landed with undercarriage up; pilot uninjured.

LUQA  0700-0910 hrs  One Spitfire on photo-reconnaissance of Sicilian aerodromes.  0929-0934 hrs  One Spitfire on photo-reconnaissance of Naples, West Italian and Sicilian aerodromes has to return with cockpit trouble.  He took off again at 1100 hrs but has to land again immediately with engine trouble.  2055-0230 hrs  One Wellington on shipping search: no sightings, bombs brought back.

TA QALI  1435 hrs  NFF establishment came through. 126 Squadron attached Luqa (pilots only).

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  0830 hrs  Working party on Luqa aerodrome building sangars: two Officers and 100 Other Ranks.  RAOC working party carries on.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1430 hrs  One unexploded bomb at 51302184.  Two unexploded hand grenades at 49318299 (subsequently brought to Battalion HQ).

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continue.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 10; dealt with 13 (4 x 500kg, 4 x 250kg, 1 x 50kg; 4 x Italian anti-personnel bomb containers).

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  0730 hrs  Luqa working parties continued: first of bomber pens completed.

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Posted by on May 6, 2022 in 1942, May 1942


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