30 May 1942: Most Concentrated Attack in the History of Aerial Warfare

30 May


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Tug HMS St Angelo sunk by a mine


By her resolute opposition Malta has weakened Rommel’s ability to strike at Egypt and is absorbing considerable shock for the Russians by causing wastage, which the German Air Force can ill afford.

Field Marshal Kesselring lost his fight against us when he commanded the German Air Force in the Battle of Britain.  He also failed in his attack on Moscow.  If he fails against Malta a great blow at the heart of German Air Force prestige will have been struck.  When full-scale operations are resumed on the Russian front Malta will almost certainly have a measure of relief by the withdrawal of some units or at least by units based in Sicily getting a lower degree of priority in the matter of replacement aircraft.

The scale of attack against Malta is the most concentrated and sustained attack in the history of aerial warfare.  The average effort of 200 sorties per 24 hours during the early part of April following the 100 sorties averaged during March shows that the utmost is being extracted from the force available.  To achieve this effort two sorties a day by aircraft must be common and a third sortie, particularly by fighters and dive-bombers, is by no means rare.  This intensive use of units over a confined area in which defences are highly concentrated must be producing a high wastage apart from aircraft destroyed.  There are grounds for thinking that the number of aircraft damaged is higher than Malta’s claims. 

Certainly it can be said that, with the resumption of full-scale operations in all theatres, Malta’s contribution to the limitation of Germany’s air power will be felt by the German Air Force for a long time.  War Diary, Air HQ Malta, May 1942


HMS St Angelo was sunk at 1415 hrs this afternoon with the loss of four of her crew.  The 150 ton auxiliary tug was involved in a minesweeping operation about ¾ mile off the entrance to Grand Harbour when she struck a mine.  The three other vessels, Beryl, Trusty Star and Swona, returned to port undamaged.

Before being transferred to minesweeping, the tug was a familiar sight in Grand Harbour, ferrying Royal Navy personnel from Fort St Angelo to several destinations, and more recently carrying out rescues from the Harbour waters.  The casualties have been named as Leading Seaman Joseph Debattista, Able Seaman Vincent Farrugia, Stoker Paul Grima and Stoker Joseph Said.


Weather  Wind south-easterly; fairly clear – slightly hazy.

0510-0555 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali conduct a patrol off the coast.  One aircraft sights a patch of oil two miles off the coast.

1015 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali airborne to intercept approaching fighters; nil report.

1104-1303 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.

1132 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for a fighter sweep over the Island.

1215-1305 hrs  Three Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to patrol the Island: nothing sighted.

1635-1745 hrs  Eight Spitfies 249 Squadron airborne to intercept incoming enemy fighters; nil report.

1705 hrs  Air raid alert: raid does not materialize.

1810 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for incoming Italian bombers with a twenty strong fighter escort, including Re 2001s and Macch 202s.  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far and five of 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept.

1812 hrs  Three Cant 1007s drop eighteen 100kg bombs on Luqa, causing craters on the runway and damaging one Spitfire. 

The Spitfire patrols intercept the retreating formation.  The cannons of three Spitfires of 185 Squadron jam but Sgt Ferraby is able to fire, damaging one Cant 1007 and one Re 2001.  126 Squadron’s F/Sgt Milner, P/O Johnson and P/O Goldsmith damage one Cant 1007; F/Sgt Parks damages another.  P/O Goldsmith destroys one Re 2001.  Sgt Smith destroys one Re 2001, and damages one Cant 1007.

1925-2045 hrs  Three Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to escort Hudsons arriving on the Island.

2150 hrs  Air raid alert: raid does not materialize.

2335 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for approaching hostile aircraft.

2355 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne from Luqa on patrol to intercept.  He climbs to 14000 feet and chases a Cant bomber towards the coast of Sicily where he attacks a Cant 1007 bis which is seen to crash into the sea.  He returns safely at 0045 hrs.

0455-0601 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are despatched to search for a missing delivery Wellington.  They see a large patch of oil five miles north east of Malta.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Arthur Lamb, Mentioned in Despatches, HMS Welshman; Private Anthony Gusman, 1st Battalion, the King’s Own Malta Regiment.

Civilian casualties   Mosta  Francis Bezzina, age 12; Albino Bezzina, age 11; Edwin Gatt, age 11.


ROYAL NAVY  20 tons of oil fuel recovered from Breconshire.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Lodestar from LG 05; three Hudsons, six Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One CW 20 to Gibraltar; one Lodestar to Heliopolis; three Hudsons to LG 222.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed on landing: crew uninjured.

HAL FAR  2100 hrs  Four Albacores and one Swordfish of the NAS took off on strike.  No sightings and all aircraft returned at 0230 hrs.

LUQA  1215-1500 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance Messina and Palermo Harbour.   2104-0345 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight was despatched to locate, shadow and bomb a southbound convoy.  He sighted one merchant vessel and one destroyer and dropped bombs on the merchant vessel which were seen to explode short by 75 yards.  2330-0317 hrs  Three Wellingtons 104 Squadron were despatched to attack the train ferry terminus at Messina.  One turned back with engine trouble.  The others dropped bombs on the target area: no results observed.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  Working parties Luqa aerodrome.

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

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  No 4 Section, No 2 Works Company RE completed accommodation for Advanced HQ for GOC Troops, Malta.  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 5; dealt with 4(1 x 1000kg; 2 x 250kg, 1 x 50kg).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 vehicles, 4 Officers, 130-150 Other Ranks at Safi strip widening and levelling runway.

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

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued.

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Posted by on May 30, 2022 in 1942, May 1942


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