10 May 1942: The Battle of Malta – Fiercest Attack the World has Ever Known

10 May

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  • Enemy fighters destroyed/damaged by RAF 57
  • Enemy fighters destroyed by Ack Ack 8

    JU 87 Stuka


Royal Navy Commander Edward Woolley was working that morning at Hamrun with Army Bomb Disposal Officer, Lt Thomas Blackwell, where they had just dealt with an unexploded G mine:

“Just as we left a most terrific barrage started right above us. It was so sudden we didn’t even have time to take cover, and perforce had to watch what was probably the fiercest and most concentrated aerial attack the world has ever known. It so happened that during the night a single ship had run the gauntlet to Malta and was being unloaded at top speed. Jerry sent over about a hundred Stukas to get it. Only the day before we had received reinforcements of Spitfires and the Gunners were given unlimited fire and my God did they use it. The air was literally black with barrage, planes and bits of planes. The Spits got so excited they followed the Stukas right through the barrage and we lost a couple. Jerry lost about seventy the highest day’s loss by a long way. The whole affair lasted about twenty minutes and we stood in the doorway to a house the whole time, never been so frightened in my life.”  (1) 

HMS Welshman


Minelayer HMS Welshman arrived in Grand Harbour today, bringing spare parts and 105 RAF maintenance crew for Spitfires to Malta as part of Operation Bowery.  She was also loaded to the limit with 540 tons of stores including the supply for Malta of 15 tons of smoke-making compound, as well as 96 Rolls Royce Merlin aircraft engines, over 80,000 rounds of Bofors shells, plus medicines, tinned meat, powdered milk and dehydrated foodstuffs.

Welshman embarked on 7 May and, once at sea, was disguised as the French super destroyer Leopard and flying French colours to cover her passage through the Mediterranean.  The disguise fooled French and German reconnaissance aircraft and Welshman completed her passage to Malta unchallenged, entering Grand Harbour early this morning having narrowly missed two mines on her way in.

Unloading HMS Welshman (IWM GM 1377)

“The RAF personnel. were soon on their way and then task of unloading began. I was on watch in the radio room below decks and at about 1000 hours the air raid warnings began. At 1100 hours the ship was shaken by three explosions — two bombs had landed on the quay, demolishing one of the cranes, and the third had landed in the dock, all within about 20 feet of the ship. Part of one of the cranes landed on the multiple pom-pom deck, killing one of the crew and putting the gun out of action… For the first time during the siege a smoke screen was laid over the Harbour and this may well have saved the Welshman”  (2)

British Pathe News: Supplies for Malta CLICK HERE


Weather  Wind southerly: no cloud – haze.  Very hot.

0530 hrs  HMS Welshman enters Grand Harbour.  Immediately on berthing she puts up a smoke screen completely obscuring her from view.

0550-0700 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to intercept enemy aircraft: no engagement.

0555 hrs  ME 109s carry out a patrol to the south east of the Island.

0720-0821 hrs  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron are airborne from Hal Far on patrol duties over Grand Harbour.    

0750 hrs  Three Spitfires 601 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa on intercept patrol: no contact.

0752 hrs  One JU 88 and ten ME 109s carry out reconnaissance over the Island.  Sgt Boyd, 185 Squadron, fires at two ME 109s without result.

0820-0940 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne from Ta Qali on patrol: nil report.

0951 hrs  First reports of formations of enemy aircraft heading from the direction of Comiso.  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa to intercept.  They engage enemy fighters: two ME 109s are probably destroyed; one damaged.

Island on full alert: Lascaris Operations Room orders Ground Observers to readiness and Anti-Aircraft guns to alert status.  19 Spitfires 601 and 126 Squadrons are scrambled from Luqa to intercept enemy aircraft.

First visual reports of incoming enemy raiders from observation posts on Gozo and Marfa Ridge.

Anti-aircraft guns open barrages on incoming aircraft.

1041 hrs  Twenty JU 87s and eight JU 88s escorted by large numbers of ME 109s head for Grand Harbour and attempt to attack shipping through the smoke screen.  They are met by an intense Ack Ack barrage over the harbour and large numbers of Spitfires attacking from above – all operating through the smoke and defensive barrage.  Observers describe enemy bombing as ‘very inaccurate’.

1048 hrs  Five Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali to intercept enemy aircraft.  A number of JU 87s and JU 88s are attacked in the Grand Harbour area.  Sgt Boyd probably destroys one JU 88 and damages another.  Sgt Dodd destroys one JU 87.  F/Lt Lawrence probably destroys one JU 88.  SGt Broad probably destroys one JU 88 and P/O McKay probably destroys one JU 88.

Spitfires from Luqa 126 and 601 Squadrons claim two JU 87s,and one JU 88 destroyed; two JU 87s and two JU 88s probably destroyed; two JU 87s and two JU 88s damaged.

1050 hrs  Seven Spitfires 603 Squadron and five Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali and intercept fifteen JU 87s.  F/Sgt Hurst destroys one JU 87 and damages another.  F/Lt Douglas probably destroys one and damages another.  F/O Holland damages three ME 109s.  P/O Nash destroys one JU 87 and probably destroys another.  F/Lt Buchanan damages one JU 87, F/O Lee probably destroys one, Sgt Brennan destroys one and damages another.  P/O Plagis destroys one JU 87 and damages one ME 109.

One Spitfire, one JU 88 and one JU 87 are seen to crash in the Grand Harbour area.

1115 hrs  Spitfires return to Luqa: P/O Briggs fails to return to base.

1138 hrs  Raiders passed.

1200 hrs  One JU 88 and two ME 109s carry out reconnaissance.

1330 hrs  Unloading of Welshman is complete.

1358 hrs  ME 109s carry out a fighter sweep across the Island.

1430 hrs  Reports come in of a formation of 7 JU 88 bombs with an escort of 30 ME 109 fighters approaching the Island. 12 Spitfires 126 and 601 Squadrons from Luqa and eight Spitfires 249 Squadron, Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept.

1445 hrs  Approaching Grand Harbour the enemy raiders are attacked by Spitfires and Heavy Ack Ack fire.  Spitfires 126 and 601 Squadron from Luqa claim two ME 109s probably destroyed, one damaged.  Four Spitfires are damaged; pilots unhurt.

Seven JU 88s drop bombs on Grand Harbour.  The smoke screen is still in place, obscuring HMS Welshman from view and hampering visibility.  Bombs damage a gun mounting store, smithery and boiler house in the Dockyard.  Three bombs land two hundred yards north west of Hompesch.

1453 hrs  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron dive on the seven JU 88s as they turn away from releasing their bombs.  S/Ldr Grant destroys one; F/Sgt Hesselyn probably destroys one ME 109.  One JU 88 is seen to crash in the Zabbar area.

1500-1520 hrs  Numerous ME 109s at 300-1000 feet are engaged by guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA).

1555 hrs  Raiders passed.

1740 hrs  A formation of Italian bombers with fighter escort totalling 35 aircraft is reported heading for the Island.  10 Spitfires are scrambled from Luqa to intercept enemy aircraft.

Five Cant 1007bis escorted by fighters drop bombs to the east of Grand Harbour.  The smoke screen is still in place and Harbour gunners put up a very heavy anti-aircraft barrage.  Spitfires from Luqa claim two Cant 1007 and one Macchi 202 destroyed; one Cant 1007 damaged.

1810 hrs  Another large formation of enemy aircraft approaches, including 16 JU 87 Stukas and large numbers of ME 109 fighters.

1814 hrs  Seven Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled from Hal Far to intercept the enemy aircraft.

1835 hrs  The JU 87s attack Grand Harbour amid a smoke screen and very heavy anti-aircraft barrage.  Bombing is described as ‘very wild’.  Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron and ten Spitfires 603 Squadron from Ta Qali join the Spitfires of 185 Squadron and engage the JU 87s.  Ta Qali fighter F/O West damages one ME 109; P.O Watts destroys one ME 109.  P/O Hetherington probably destroys one ME 109; F/Lt Douglas and P.O Forster between them probably destroy one JU 87.  F/Lt Douglas damages another.  F/O Mitchell destroys one JU 87 and damages another, and probably destroys one ME 109.  Sgt Broad and Sgt Dodd, 185 Squadron each damage a ME 109.

1850 hrs  Eight Spitfires are scrambled from Luqa to intercept enemy aircraft.  One ME 109 is destroyed and one probably destroyed; one JU 87 is damaged.

One JU 88 carries out reconnaissance over the Island.

1905 hrs  Six guns of 225 LAA engage two ME 109s: no claims.

1920-2012 hrs  Seven Hurricanes 229 Squadron from Hal Far are scrambled to escort the air/sea rescue high speed launch.

1950 hrs  Raiders passed.  Malta fighters land.

2004 hrs  Eight enemy aircraft are reported carrying out a search to the north of the Island.

2100 hrs  Another fire breaks out in a cave at Ta Qali, destroying 7000 gallons of paraffin and a large amount of oil.  Three Maltese airmen are placed under arrest.  The Station Commander announces that a gibbet has been erected on the road leading to the caves as a warning to anyone considering sabotage.

2130 hrs  HMS Welshman leaves Grand Harbour.

Night  Two alerts for two enemy aircraft.  Bombs are dropped on Gozo and in the Marsaxlokk area.

2359-0151 hrs  One Beaufighter airborne from Luqa on patrol chases en enemy bomber but loses contact.

0205-0308 hrs  One Beaufighter airborne from Luqa to locate enemy forces observes suspected activity 10 miles north of C San Dimitri.  He sees a flashing light is seen which does not seem to be operating in any sequence to suggest a message.  Four units are located: presumed to be enemy vessels.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Arthur Lamb, HMS Welshman; Pilot Officer George Briggs, Pilot Officer, Royal Australian Air Force; Sergeant Samuel Conlon, 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment; Joseph Brownrigg, Artificer, Malta Auxilliary Corps, attached Royal Army Service Corps; Sapper Francis Grech, Royal Engineers, Malta Territorial Force; Bombardier Albert Mengham, 7th Heavy Ack Ack (HAA) Regiment, Royal Artillery; Gunner Michael Sammut, 11 HAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Private Stephen Scholey, 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Nil

Enemy casualties  Unteroffizier, Christian Appmann, III StG 3, pilot of JU 87 Stuka; Unteroffizier Walter Kern KERN, III StG 3, gunner of JU 87; Unteroffizier Gerhard Nikolia, III StG 3, Pilot of JU 87; Unteroffizier Walter Rauer, III StG 3, wireless operator of JU 87; Unteroffizier Heinrich Schaefer, III StG 3, Gunner of a JU 87.  Unteroffizier Walter RAstinnes, III StG 3, pilot of JU 87 crashed, survived and was taken prisoner.

Primo Aviere Antonio Braschi, crewman of Cant-Z.1007; Sottotenente Salvatore de Maria, crewman of a Cant-Z.1007; Aviere Scelto Celestino Giovannini, crewman of a Cant-Z.1007; Primo Aviere Vittorio Rey, crewman of a Cant-Z.1007; Tenente Domenico Robilotta, crewman of a Cant-Z.1007; Aviere Scelto Giovanni Zancan, crewman of a Cant-Z.1007.


ROYAL NAVY  Submarine P35 sailed.  Greek submarine Triton arrived Marsaxlokk. Considerable enemy air activity during the night, and it is suspected that a number of mines were laid off Grand Harbour.  Beryl and Trusty Star were in action with E boats which were driven off to the north east.  Beryl observed the tracks of three torpedoes.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Wellington, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Aircraft casualties  One Spitfire straffed by ME 109s when landing; pilot uninjured.  One Hurricane taxied into a bomb crater.  One Spitfire faield to return from operations: pilot missing.  One Spitfire is hit by Ack Ack fire; pilot uninjured.  One Spitfire is shot down over the sea off Malta; pilot safe.

LUQA  0957-1156 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance Sicilian aerodromes.  0950-1330 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance of the Tripoli coast.  1535-1745 hrs  One Spitfire on special search Messina.

TA QALI  0400 hrs reveille; all on the spot 0530 hrs.  New arrivals at Ta Qali: one Sergeant and 28 Others.  The organisation on Ta Qali aerodrome is excellent and military personnel on the aerodrome do good work.  One crew in pen changed delivery aircraft into operational one in 7 1/2 minutes.  Orderly Room staff manning emergency communications and erecting tents for new pilots.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  Working party of 7 Officers and 150 Other Ranks for bomb-crater filling on Ta Qali aerodrome.  Working party of 1 Officer and 20 Other Ranks for filling ammunition belts at Ta Qali aerodrome.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  50 men B Company to stand by at Corradino to keep roads open in and around the Dockyard.  Cruiser HMS Welshman brought in stores.  Same numbers as yesterday on Luqa.  B Company party standing by volunteered to help unolad the cruiser.  Unloading finished by mid-day.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1115 hrs  One JU 87 attacking Grand Harbour is engaged by HQ: no claims.

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

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 8 (4 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  12 Officers and 205 Other Ranks building pens and filling craters on Hal Far aerodrome.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Ack Ack light machine guns 8th Bn Kings Own Royal Regt engage low-flying ME 109s.  Hits observed on one which is last seen going out to sea, smoking badly.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working parties continued.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  The unit supplied 10 trucks and drivers for Ta Qali.

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Posted by on May 10, 2022 in 1942, May 1942


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