24 May 1942: Malta on the Attack as Enemy Bombers Stay Away

24 May

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Wellington bombers


The arrival of a delivery flight of nine new Wellington bombers today strengthened the Island’s forces for the campaign against Axis convoys supplying Rommel’s forces in North Africa.

Overnight, three Wellingtons of 104 Squadron assisted by S/D Flight attacked a southbound convoy of one merchant vessel of 5000 tons and one of 1000 tons plus two destroyers 135 miles from Benghazi.  Observers report a successful hit on the the large merchant vessel.  One of the destroyers was also machine-gunned during the attack.


Malta’s skies were free of enemy bombers today, as the Axis count their losses in the recent battle for supremacy in the air.  Even the endless fighter sweeps were kept at bay by a constant series of patrols by the Island’s Spitfire squadrons.  One JU 88 reconnaissance aircraft and two Italian Macchi fighters were destroyed and a third Macchi damaged in the two air combats today.

Monitors following Radio Roma heard them describe the plight of the Italian bomber pilots sent to attack Malta by night as “a hard lot.  We are blinded by searchlights, hammered by the AA guns, pursued and ambushed by night fighters.  There is no seeing the enemy till the British guns start spitting death at your bomber.” (1)

Thanks to them, for the first time in many weeks Malta’s inhabitants enjoyed a quiet night, with no air raid sirens.


Weather  Little wind; no cloud.

0705-0948 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance Messina Harbour and east Sicilian aerodromes.

0716-0757 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are airborne from Luqa on interceptions: no combat.

0745-0855 hrs  Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali airborne: nil report.

0906-1118 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa: no combat.

0930-1045 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali airborne; nil report.

1056-1153 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa: no combat.

1225-1305 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali airborne: nil report.

1313-1414 hrs  Two Spitfires 185 Squadron are scrambled form Hal Far.  P/O Halford destroys one JU 88.

1445-1530 hrs  Two Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali airborne: nil report.

1545-1625 hrs  Three Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali airborne to intercept three enemy aircraft.  P/O Dicks-Sherwood destroys one Macchi 202 and damages another.  P/O Barlow destroys one Macchi 202.

Night  No enemy activity.

Military casualties  Sergeant Arnold Merritt, Pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 104 Squadron; Gunner Thomas Hunter, 223 Battery, 32 Light Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Nil.


AIR HQ  Arrivals  Nine Wellingtons from LG 106; one Lodestar from Heliopolis; two Albarcores from BU-Amud; three Blenheims, six Beauforts, two Wellingtons, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Lodestar to Heliopolis; five Wellingtons to LG 222.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed on landing: pilot killed, rest of crew injured.

LUQA 2110-0220 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight despatched to locate and bomb convoy then [guide] Wellington force onto same.  2133-0430 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight on armed search of Pantelleria, Cape Bon, Marittimo area.  2206-0255 hrs  Three Wellingtons 104 Squadron are despatched to attack southbound convoy in co-operation with the S/D Flight Wellington.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  0900-1700 hrs  Working party of 9 Officers and 200 Other Ranks plus 8 x 15 cwt trucks daily for reconstruction of pens for aircraft at Luqa aerodrome.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Working parties at Luqa and Ospizio continue.

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

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 28 anti-personnel ‘Thermos’ bombs.

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Work completed on Hal Far.  Work in Safi strip began. 17 vehicles, 4 Officers, 150-250 Other Ranks widening and levelling runway.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Battalion drums and pipes beat the retreat at Mosta.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Night working parties building pens for aircraft 6 Officers 200 Other Ranks.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued.

(1)  Malta Diary of a War, Michael Galea, Publishers Enterprises Group Ltd 1992


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Posted by on May 24, 2022 in 1942, May 1942


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