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12 July 1942: Malta’s Resistance Celebrated Worldwide
Australian publication ‘The Age’ this week carries an appreciation of the sacrifices of an Island fortress which holds the key to the Mediterranean:
“Only a dot on the map reveals the presence of Malta, island outpost that has been, and is destined to remain one of the key points, not only of the war in the Mediterranean, but of the struggle by the Allies for undisputed mastery of the seas.
The outside world hears little of the great drama that unfolds, day by day, on those 150 square miles of rocky territory. Malta takes it quietly, and the Maltese themselves would be the last to wish that their qualities of resistance should be represented as anything else than that which was expected of them. Since the day in the early summer of 1940, when Mussolini appeared on the balcony of the Palazzo Venezia and informed the frenzied Fascists crowded in the square below him that Italy had decided to make war, Malta has borne the full brunt of a prolonged aerial attack.
An Eventful Life
…True, there are gaping wounds and scars where indiscriminate bombing has wrecked the homes and churches of the sturdy and devoutly Catholic Maltese in La Valetta and the villages and hamlets of the island, but morale has never been shaken, and the chief concern of the islanders is to hit back harder than they have been hit.
As the morning sun comes up from the sea the sirens churn out their first warning of the day. There is no panic. Mothers gather their children together and make quietly for the safety of the deep rock shelters. The men continue with their work until the gun splinters become too numerous or the bombs fall too close. At dusk, whole families find their way to the shelters for a sound sleep away from the noise and danger of bombing…
…The three services co-operate in their task. Typical, perhaps, was a conversation overheard between an officer of a night fighter unit and an army officer commanding a searchlight battery. ‘You illuminate,’ said the RAF officer, ‘we eliminate’…
There are brave men in the front line at Malta…it was here that the wing commander of a shot-up reconnaissance aircraft so manoeuvred his machine that his observer was able to bale out with the photographs before he himself crashed to his death.
From time to time there is talk about a possible invasion of Malta. The Italians once tried to raid the defences of La Valetta with two-man submarines and other small craft, but it is almost certain that none of the vessels reached its base to tell the story of this dismal failure. The Germans have been raiding in strength from the air for many weeks and the have paid dearly for the very relative degree of success obtained. Malta carries on.” (1)
CLOCKS BROUGHT FORWARD
At 0200 hours this morning clocks in Malta were changed from three hours to two hours in advance of GMT.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 JULY TO DAWN 13 JULY 1942
Weather Wind southerly; no cloud.
0945 hrs A plot of eleven JU 88s with fighter escort is reported approaching the Island. Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron and seven of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept. Twenty-five miles north of Gozo the Spitfires of 249 Squadron engage the escort of Macchis and RE 2001s. Sgt Beurling sets one Macchi on fire. P/O Berkeley Hilldoes not return.
1005 hrs The air raid alert sounds as the bombers approach the Island and go on to drop bombs on Ta Qali.
1025 hrs All clear.
1035-1110 hrs The air raid alert sounds again as another seven JU 88 bombers approach and drop anti-personnel bombs on Ta Qali.
1140-1230 hrs Two Spitfires 249 Squadron search for P/O Berkeley Hill’s dinghy. Sgt Beurling encounters two Macchi fighters and destroys them both.
1405 hrs Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled on intercept patrol; nil report.
1510 hrs Air raid alert.
1520 hrs Twelve JU 88s attack Ta Qali, dropping bombs on the aerodrome and near the caves, cratering the runway extension and eastern dispersal, and causing a grass fire. The western dispersal crew room is hit and several aircraft are damaged by shrapnel.
1530-1625 hrs Two Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne to cover minesweepers.
1620 hrs All clear.
2335-2340 hrs Air raid alert. Raid does not materialise.
Military casualties Flying Officer Owen Berkeley-Hill, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Lance-Corporal John Bell, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment.
Civilian casualties Nil.
Enemy casualties Tenente Carlo Seganti, shot down north of Malta.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 12 JULY 1942
ROYAL NAVY QBB 197 channel completed by [17th Minesweeping Flotilla: Ryde, Hyde, Hebe and Speedy] and Motor Launches. No mines cut.
AIR HQ Arrivals One Beaufort, two Beaufighters, two Hudsons from Gibraltar. One Halifax en route from Gibraltar to Kasfareet landed at Malta. Aircraft casualties One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot missing, believed killed.
13 July 1942: Heavy Bombing Returns – 20 Bombers in Single Raid
Heavy bombing returned to Malta today as up to twenty bombers carried out air raids across the Island. Large numbers of high explosive and anti-personnel bombs were used in the raids. Main targets were Luqa and Ta Qali airfields and dispersal areas. But a determined fight back by Spitfires forced several raiders to jettison their bombs. As a result the communities of Gudja, Ghaxaq, Mqabba, Zeitun, Imtarfa and Rabat were also badly affected. Supported by Heavy Ack Ack Malta’s fighters attacked destroyed or damaged 18 enemy aircraft.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 JULY TO DAWN 14 JULY 1942
Weather Wind southerly; no cloud.
0615-0630 hrs Air raid alert. Raid does not materialise.
0730 hrs Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept approaching enemy bombers with an escort of fighters, including ME 109s, RE 2001s and Macchi 202s. Five miles east of Zonqor they spot twenty enemy bombers flying in two formations, one of eleven and one of nine. The Spifires meet the first formation as it reaches the coast, and attack. P/O Northcott destroys one JU 88; S/Ldr Hamilton damages two and F/Lt Douglas damages one. The bombers are forced to jettison their bombs.
0800 hrs Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled too late to get up to the bombers but attack the fighters. P/O McElroy destroys one ME 109; F/Sgt Rae destroys one RE 2001 and damages two others.
0805 hrs Air raid alert. Ten JU 88s and eight fighters attack Luqa and Gudja, damaging one Beaufighter.
0830 hrs All clear.
1120 hrs Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept an approaching formation of nine JU 88s with an escort of eight fighters.
1125 hrs The raiders attack Luqa, destroying one Hurricane and one Beaufighter, and damaging three Beaufighters, two Beauforts and one Wellington. Bomb blast damages the Poor House buildings. One airman is killed and two wounded. The Spitfires dive onto the bombers as they are attacking the airfield. F/Sgt Irwin destroys one JU 88; he is hit by return fire but is unhurt. P/O Northcott damages one JU 88.
1140-1155 hrs Air raid alert. Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled; nil report.
1400-1535 hrs Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne on intercept patrol: no engagement.
1655 hrs Ten Spitfires 603 Squadron and seven of 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept a formation of 19 JU 88s with fighter escort.
1710 hrs Air raid alert. 603 Squadron engage the bombers out over Sliema. F/Sgt Parkinson probably destroys one ME 109; F/Sgt Brown damages one. F/Lt Mitchell damages two JU 88s; P/O Sherwood and F/Sgt Ballantyne each damage one. P/O McLeod damages one Macchi 202. He is shot up in the oil system but successfully lands his aircraft. P/O Jones 249 Squadron is shot up by an unseen aircraft: his elevator controls are shot away but he makes a perfect landing.
1729 hrs The remaining bombers attack Ta Qali; bombs fall on the aerodrome, causing six craters, and also near the caves.
1745 hrs All clear.
2115-2130 hrs Air raid alert. Raid does not materialise.
Military casualties Leading Aircraftsman John Drainer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Private Kenneth Barnes, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment; Private Leonard Dicks, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment;Gunner Carmel Schembri, 3 Light Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.
Civilian casualties Imtarfa Florence Mary Hamilton, wife of Lt Col Hamilton, Officer in Charge Medical Division, 90 General Hospital Imtarfa, who was injured in the raid.. Qormi Saviour Mifsud, age 34. Rabat Emanuel Darmanin, age 11; Joseph Gauci, age 60; George Zammit, age 65. Zejtun Saviour Desira, age 50.
OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 13 JULY 1942
AIR HQ One aircraft attacked three F boats in position 195 degrees Lampedusa course southerly, scoring near misses on one of them. Arrivals One Wellington, five Beauforts, three Beaufighters, three Wellingtons, one Hudson from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis; one Wellington en route from Gibraltar to Kasfareet landed at Malta. Aircraft casualties One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot injured. One Spitfire force-landed after combat: pilot uninjured. Three Beauforts failed to return from strike: crew missing.
14 July 1942: Battle of Britain Leader is New Air Commander Malta
Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Rodney Park arrived today to take up the appointment of Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Royal Air Force Malta. He replaces Air Vice Marshall Hugh Pughe Lloyd, who is expected to depart for the Middle East immediately after the hand-over to his successor.
Air Vice Marshal Park was posted to Malta from Egypt, where he has been Air Officer Commanding since January 1942. His arrival is welcomed by RAF: Park has faced Luftwaffe commander Kesselring before, when he commanded RAF operations during the Battle of Britain.
As the new AOC’s aircraft approached, a radio message came through from Air HQ Malta warning that the Island was under attack and ordering the plane to divert. Park over-ruled the message, ordering the pilot to land.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 JULY TO DAWN 15 JULY 1942
Weather Wind westerly; moderate to fresh. 30% medium cloud.
0945-1050 hrs One Spitfire 249 Squadron Ta Qali is sent to search for a dinghy: nothing sighted.
0945 hrs Seven Spitfires 249 Squadron and eight of 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept enemy fighters which are approaching in formation with bombers. Heavy Ack Ack fire barrages. 249 Squadron attack: F/Sgt Williams damages one ME 109, Sgt Beurling is hit in the heels with shrapnel and P/O Hetherington crash lands at Hal Far with engine trouble. F/Sgt Parkinson 603 Squadron destroys one ME 109; two of his colleagues’ Spitfires are slightly damaged in combat.
1010 hrs Air raid alert. Seven JU88 escorted by 15 fighters drop High Explosive and anti-personnel bombs from 18k feet on Luqa airfield. A petrol bowser is burned out and an ambulance destroyed.
1044 hrs All clear.
1237 hrs Air raid alert. Six ME109s patrol over the Island at 20000 feet.
2238-2310 hrs Air raid alert. Two enemy aircraft drop bombs in the sea north west of Gozo and off Ricasoli and anti-personnel bombs around Senglea.
2315-2335 hrs Air raid alert.
Military casualties Nil. Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS DAY TUESDAY 14 JULY 1942
ROYAL NAVY Naval Air Squadrons carried out search for shipping, but returned without sighting.
AIR HQ One aircraft attacked Messina as an alternative to shipping as none was found. The bombs fell south of the town in the vicinity of the railway, but results were unobserved. Arrivals One Beaufighter, one Beaufort and one Hudson from Gibraltar. Aircraft casualties One Spitfire crash-landed: pilot uninjured. One Spitfire damaged in combat: pilot wounded. One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot rescued injured.
15 July 1942: Operation Pinpoint Delivers Spitfires
SS Empire Shackleton arrived at Gibraltar in convoy OG 85 on 25 June carrying 32 cased Spitfires. It was originally intended that the operation to deliver the aircraft to Malta should start on 2 July, but it was postponed for 12 days.
Ahead of the mission, at 2200 hrs on 13 July St Day, escorted by Haarlem set out in advance of the convoy, to patrol in the area of Cape de Gata on the look-out for enemy vessels. At 0500 hrs next morning Eagle embarked with its precious cargo of 32 Spitfires, with six Sea Hurricanes for fighter protection of the force, and sailed with Charybdis, Cairo, Westcott, Wrestler, Ithuriel, Antelope and Vansittart.
The force was spotted by enemy aircraft at 0830 hrs and reported back to their base. Despite two such reports, at 0613 hrs on 15 July the first flight of eight Spitfires took off from Eagle, to be followed by three more flights. One Spitfire crashed on taking off; the pilot was saved but the plane was lost. The remaining 31 Spitfires in all landed safely at Malta and the ships arrived back at Gibraltar on the morning of 16 July.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 JULY TO DAWN 16 JULY 1942
Weather Wind westerly; moderate. 50% medium cloud.
0940-1030 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron and eight of 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to act as fighter cover for approaching friendly aircraft: no engagement.
0955 hrs Fifteen Spitfires arrive in Malta from the aircraft carrier Eagle.
1510 hrs Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron and eight of 603 Squadron are airborne on intercept patrol: no engagement.
1520 hrs Air raid alert for a strong fighter sweep of 20 ME 109s, RE 2001s and Macchi 202s. Malta’s fighters damage one ME 109.
2210-2225 hrs; 2257-2315 hrs Air raid alerts. A total of four Italian aircraft, two BR 20s and two Cz 1007s, approach the Island singly. They drop bombs in the sea north of the Island, on land east of Wardia. Heavy Ack Ack engage. One Beaufighter is airborne but does not engage.
Military casualties Lance-Corporal George Bonello 2nd Battalion, King’s Own Malta Regiment.
Civilian casualties Hamrun Joseph Grech, age 8. Naxxar Carmel Grech, age 15. Rabat Felice Gauci, age 30.
OPERATIONS REPORTS DAY WEDNESDAY 15 JULY 1942
ROYAL NAVY 31 Spitfires, flown off from HMS Eagle arrived without incident. Minesweepers operating over QBB 197 channel and approaches to Marsaxlokk. No mines swept.
AIR HQ Arrivals One Blenheim from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis. Aircraft casualties One Wellington caught fire on landing: crew safe.
TA QALI Wing Commander Le May OBE arrived to take over command of RAF Station Ta Qali; vice-commander is Wing Commander Gracie DFC. No 1435 Night Fighter Force moved to Luqa.
16 July 1942: Welshman Delivers the Goods
Just after 6 o’clock this morning HMS Welshman entered Grand Harbour bringing essential supplies and personnel. The merchantman left Gibraltar on 14 July under the protection of Force H, the convoy covering Operation Pinpoint for yesterday’s delivery of Spitfires.
Welshman left the convoy yesterday and survived air, surface and submarine attacks, including one heavy raid by German and Italian aircraft as she struggled through. The delivery Spitfires on their way to Malta were detailed to provide protection to Welshman en route.
Berthed in number five dock, Welshman was carefully manoeuvred into a listing position, to simulate damage. The Dockyard smoke screen was made ready, to be put up when enemy bombers were approaching, so that unloading could begin immediately. As well as 120 service personnel, the precious cargo included powdered milk, edible oils, soap and vitamin concentrates much needed for the civilian population, as well as naval and military stores.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 16 JULY TO DAWN 17 JULY 1942
Weather Wind south westerly; fresh. 30% cloud – cold.
0625-0645 hrs; 0750-0800 hrs Air raid alerts for enemy fighter sweeps. Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to patrol: no interception.
1343-1425 hrs Air raid alert for a fighter sweep. Three Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne to act as cover for minesweepers.
1835 hrs Air raid alert. Four Spitfires 603 Squadron are sent up to patrol: nil report. Two Spitfires 603 Squadron are also airborne to act as escort for minesweepers.
2222-2319 hrs Air raid alert. Four unidentified enemy bombers drop bombs on Luqa and Ta Qali. Heavy Ack Ack engage. Beaufighters are airborne: no engagement.
2345-0020 hrs Air raid alert for several enemy aircraft approaching singly. Heavy Ack Ack engage and Beaufighters are airborne. All bombs are dropped in the sea.
Military casualties Nil. Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 16 JULY 1942
ROYAL NAVY Marsaxlokk and approaches swept by Oropesa, SA and LL [acoustic and magnetic equipment].
AIR HQ One Hudson, one Catalina, one Beaufort, one Beaufighter, two Hudsons, two Wellingtons from Gibraltar; 31 Spitfires from naval operation.
TA QALI Warrant Officer Bowden and 31 airmen reported ex UK [via] HMS Welshman.
17 July 1942: RAF Rescue German Pilot
A German pilot shot down over Malta this afternoon and rescued by the RAF has died from his injuries. Feldwebel [Sergeant] Heinz Sauer was piloting his Messerschmitt 109 as part of a fighter sweep over Grand Harbour when he was attacked by 603 Squadron Spitfire pilot Wally McLeod. His aircraft destroyed, Sauer ejected and parachuted into the sea, hitting the water some eight miles off Kalafrana.
The RAF rescue launch headed to the spot and pulled the badly injured Heinz Sauer from the water. He died from his wounds before the launch reached shore.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 JULY TO DAWN 18 JULY 1942
Weather Wind south-westerly; no cloud.
0934 hrs Air raid alert. Three ME 109s carry out a fighter sweep.
1420 hrs Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept an approaching formation of four JU 88s with fighter escort. The Spitfires engage the fighters; P/O McLeod destroys one ME 109. F/Sgt Parkinson crash lands; he is unhurt.
1430 hrs Five JU 88s escorted by twenty fighters attack Luqa and Safi. The bombers execute a shallow dive from 21000 to 16000 feet, dropping anti-personnel bombs and high explosives, including several delayed-action bombs. Two Beauforts are damaged. One airman is seriously injured and two others slightly injured while trying to defuze a bomb. Heavy Ack Ack engage. Malta’s fighters destroy a total of four ME 109s and damage three more, without loss of any Spitfires.
1500 hrs All clear.
1610 hrs Three Spitfires 603 Squadron are airborne to intercept approaching enemy aircraft: no interceptions. The air raid alert sounds but there is no bombing raid.
1753-1808 hrs Air raid alert. One enemy aircraft carries out a search ten miles north east of Grand Harbour.
1830-1833 hrs Air raid alert. Raid does not materialise.
2200-2245 hrs Air raid alert for three JU 88 bombers which approach singly. Heavy Ack and searchlights engage; Malta’s fighters are airborne and destroy one JU 88. All bombs are dropped in the sea.
2340-0005 hrs Air raid alert for approaching Italian bombers. Malta’s fighters are airborne; the raiders drop all their bombs in the sea.
Military casualties Nil. Civilian casualties Nil.
Enemy casualties Feldwebel Heinz Sauer, pilot of a Messerschmitt 109.
OPERATIONS REPORTS DAY FRIDAY 17 JULY 1942
ROYAL NAVY Smoke screen was put up for one formation of bombers, during the day, and once after dark.
AIR HQ Reconnaissance reports show that the number of enemy aircraft at Comiso has fallen from 43 to 11. Arrivals One Beaufort, two Wellingtons, one Hudson from Gibraltar. Aircraft casualties One Spitfire force-landed with engine failure: pilot uninjured.
18 July 1942: Magic Carpet Brings More Supplies
Submarine HMS Parthian arrived in Malta today with a small cargo of supplies, including cartridges and shells. The arrival is the latest of the ‘Magic Carpet’ runs designed to break the enemy siege of the Island, in which submarines act as underwater freighters and deliver essential supplies which cannot be brought by surface vessels. The submarines stow cargo in every available space to maximize the amount carried. With deliveries every 12 to 14 days, the Magic Carpet runs are helping to arm and fuel Malta’s defenders as well as bringing medical and other crucial stores for the Island’s inhabitants.
Parthian’s mission was the second successful delivery of supplies in two days. Welshman sailed today for Gibraltar having unloaded her cargo without any significant enemy interference.
MALTA’S FIGHTER STRENGTH UP WHILE AXIS NUMBERS FALL
From: Governor & C in C Malta To: C in C Middle East Rptd The War Office
Military Situation Report for Week Ending 18 July 1942
1. Daylight air attacks against aerodromes considerable on 12 and 13 July totalling 66 JU 88s; thereafter mainly fighter sweeps. Night activity slight. Photo reconnaissance shows decrease of 43 JU 88s on Sicilian aerodromes. 31 Spitfires reinforcement arrived. RAF destroyed 5 bombers 12 fighters; damaged or probably destroyed 30. Ack Ack no claims.
2. HMS Welshman arrived with small cargo powdered milk, edible oil, after rough passage. Not attacked in harbour. Army assisted in rapid unloading.
3. Slight damage to military billets and stores. 5 Other Ranks killed; 4 Officers, 17 Other Ranks wounded. 25 UXBs plus 773 anti-personnel bombs disposed of by bomb disposal section.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 JULY TO DAWN 19 JULY 1942
Weather Wind southerly; slight. No cloud.
0815-0850 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali are scrambled to intercept an incoming fighter sweep: no combats.
1105-1210 hrs Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali and ten of 249 Squadron are airborne in response to a reported fighter sweep: nothing sighted. 249 Squadron pilots F/Sgt Brown is taken ill in the air and returns to base early; P/O Lowery taxis into a hole, damaging his aircraft; Sgt Hogarth has trouble with his undercarriage and returns early.
1405-1500 hrs Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to intercept a reported plot of enemy aircraft, including two JU 88 bombers and fifteen Messerschmitts. They see the enemy fighters first, and then chase one of the JU 88s, flying at sea level. P/O McLean is shot up and bales out. P/O Latimer is shot up and crash lands; he is slightly wounded. The JU 88 is probably destroyed and one ME 109 damaged.
1413 hrs Air raid alert. The remaining JU 88 with ME 109 escort attacks Luqa, dropping anti-personnel bombs and high explosives, including several delayed action bombs.
1415-1430 hrs Two Spitfires 249 Squadron patrol to cover the air sea rescue launch but return early due to radio trouble. Two Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to take over and escort the rescue launch which picks up P/O McLean.
1830-1945 hrs Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are on patrol: raid does not materialise.
Military casualties Nil. Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 18 JULY 1942
ROYAL NAVY HMS Welshman sailed at 1945 hrs, having sustained no damage from air attack. The only deliberate attacks on her were made at night when a few bombs were dropped in the Dockyard area. Submarine Parthian arrived at Marsaxlokk with stores from Gibraltar. QBB 197 swept by Speedy and Grand Harbour entrance by Swona.
AIR HQ Arrivals One Beaufort, one Wellington from Gibraltar; one DC3 from Bilbeis. Aircraft casualties One Spitfire shot down into the sea: pilot rescued injured. One Spitfire crashed on landing after combat: pilot uninjured.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 129. Dealt with: High Explosives 29, including 9 delayed-action (6 x 500kg; 14 x 250kg; 4 x 50kg; 2 x 35kg; 3 x AP containers); anti-personnel bombs: 777.
(1) The Age, Australia, July 1942
(2) Canadian Air Aces and Heroes, WWI, WWII and Korea
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