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Category Archives: March 1942

31 March 1942: Enemy Objective – Neutralise Malta

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  • 20 alerts in the last 24 hours

    De Havilland Mosquito

  • Heavy raids at dusk: 150 high explosive bombs on Grand Harbour and Hal Far
  • Mosquito attacked on take-off
  • Army to help day and night unloading Pampas
  • Restricted bus service introduced

ENEMY OBJECTIVE: NEUTRALISE MALTA

“Since the arrival of the convoy dive bombing attacks on Grand Harbour and all the aerodromes have increased in intensity.  There has been an almost continuous battle between enemy dive bombers and Malta’s Ack Ack defence guns.  From time to time our fighters have taken part in this defence at heavy odds.  This month for the first time Spitfires have been operating from this Island.  Losses to the enemy have averaged about four aircraft shot down and six badly damaged daily.

The enemy has continued nuisance raids (ie sending single aircraft over at night) throughout the month although the number of aircraft over each night has been much greater.  Generally it can be said that the enemy this month has been making an enormous bombing effort against Malta with the object of neutralising the Island as a base for aircraft of all kinds and as a harbour.

On occasions it has appeared as if some of these attacks have been directed agains Heavy Ack Ack gun positions.  The enemy has suffered considerable losses and although great damage has been done to property and installations on the ground it would appear that he has not succeeded in his neutralisation; bombers and fighters still operate from Malta and the artillery defence has sustained little damage.”  (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 MARCH TO DAWN 1 APRIL 1942

Weather  Wind westerly; 100% cloud.

0831-1516 hrs  17 bombers approach singly and drop bombs from above the low cloud.  Only three aircraft drop bombs on land, on Gudja, Hamrun, Zabbar and Zonkor areas, and Valletta near Buttanici Corner.  Heavy Ack Ack fire barrages.  Messerschmitts continually patrol around the Island until 1516 hrs.

1015 hrs  A Mosquito of 69 Squadron is despatched from Luqa on photo-reconnaissance of Tripoli.   Immediately on take-off the pilot is instructed to pancake quickly.  As the Mosquito is slowing in the Luqa circuit, observer Sgt Pike spots two ME 109s.  At least one attacks, hitting the Mosquito in the port and starboard wings and in the rear of the fuselage.  The port wing catches fire and the pilot breaks cloud over Hal Far aerodrome.  Pilot P/O Kelly manages to make a belly-landing: he and Pike scramble out unhurt before the Mosquito burns out completely.

Two Hurricanes airborne from Hal Far are jumped by four ME 109s.  Sgt Broad gives the last of the MEs a short head-on burst and then goes into an evasive spin.  Sgt Steele fails to return.

1025 hrs  Four guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage two ME 109s: no claims.

1030 hrs  Two guns of 225 LAA engage two ME 109s: no claims.

1200 hrs  A Company, 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment report an unexploded bomb 300 yards south of Nigret.

1543 hrs  Six bombers drop bombs in the sea near Grand Harbour and on Luqa, Siggiewi and Zonkor areas.

1705 hrs  Three bombs are dropped on Ta Karach ridge.

1715 hrs  One bomb is dropped on Bubaqra area.

1720 hrs  A single raider drops a stick of bombs between D Company, 8th Bn Kings Own Royal Regiment and Ta Mehrla church.  First bomb of the stick fell very close to the Camp but did only superficial damage to stone billets.

1824 hrs  Three aircraft carry out a patrol to the north of the Island.

1925 hrs  38 aircraft approach from the north.  Malta’s fighters engage.  Searchlights are illuminated 35 times and Heavy Ack Ack engage.  One JU 88 is destroyed by Light Ack Ack.  13 JU 88s drop 52 high explosive bombs of 250kg and 500kg on Grand Harbour, Msida, Gzira and Hamrun.  Bombs on the Dockyard cause severe damage to electric and telephone cables, gas and water mains, and the roadway east of No 3 Dock. Bombs on Hamilton Wharf, destroy the crane track, and 2/3 Dock Pumping Station discharge.  The majority of telephone lines in Dockyard are put out of action.

1940 hrs  Four Hurricanes 185 Squadron, Hal Far, are scrambled to intercept six plus JU 88s.  P/O Ormrod probably destroys one JU 88 and Sgt Eastman scores hits on another.  P/O Wigley attacks a third: no strikes observed.  Three Hurricanes land at Ta Qali, one at Luqa.

1945 hrs  One stick of bombs lands on the Bubaqra area and others around Misrah Blandun area.  Five bombs land near Hagiar Qim battery of 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regt.

1950 hrs  All guns of 225 LAA Battery engage numerous JU 88s attacking Hal Far.  Hits are claimed and observed on several enemy aircraft but exact estimate of damage prevented by failing light.

1953 hrs  A stick of bombs lands near Ta Mehrla Church.

1956 hrs  Twenty plus JU 88s dive-bomb Hal Far, each dropping two 250kg and two 500kg HE bombs.  One Albacore and one Swordfish are burned out; one hangar is damaged by fire.

2005 hrs  Gun position L22 of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt expends five magazines at an enemy aircraft dropping bombs nearby.

2035 hrs  All clear.

2204 hrs  One aircraft drops bombs in the Qrendi area.

2215 hrs  A stick of bombs falls between Guarena and HQ Coy, 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment.

2320 hrs  One aircraft drops bombs on rocks near Benghaisa Point.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Archibald Steele, Pilot Officer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Hamrun  Elizabeth Casha, age 18; Annie Casha, age 17; M’Anna Micallef, age 45; Emanuela Micallef, age 3.  Zabbar  Antonia Muscat, age 33.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 31 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Pandora arrived from Gibraltar to join First Submarine Flotilla and discharged kerosene at Marsaxlokk.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Hudsons, one Beaufort, one Wellington from Gibraltar; one Lodestar from Gambut. Departures  Three Beauforts, two Beaufighters, one Blenheim, one Hudson, one Wellington to 108 MU; one Beaufighter to Heliopolis; one Lodestar to Gambut.

LUQA  2217-0042 hrs  One Wellington Transit Flight ASF attacked Catania aerodrome.

TA QALI  Spitfires operating from Luqa: no combats.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT 0930 hrs  Battalion training exercise started late due to rain.  Held in Birzebbugia.  1430 hrs  All Companies on weekly cross country run.  2030 hrs  Special orders: the Battalion is to unload SS Pampas; 90 men at a time to work day and night from 0900 hrs 1st April.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Strengths:  37 Officers; 827 Other Ranks; 5 RAOC (attached).

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Strength: 34 Officers; 652 Other Ranks.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Disposition of Battalion: A Company (Coy) Ta Karceppu; B Coy & HQ Coy Ta Salvatur; C Coy Ta Hasluk; D Coy Tal Providence.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  0600 hrs  GOC visit Battalion HQ during Battalion Scheme.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  During the month a number of unexploded bombs fell in the Bn area; the majority turned out to be delayed action bombs.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 8; dealt with 4 (3 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

 

(1) War Diary, Southern Infantry Brigade, Malta – March 1942

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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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30 March 1942: King Honours Royal Malta Artillery

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King George VI

KING GEORGE VI TO BECOME COLONEL IN CHIEF TO MALTA REGIMENT

To:  Governor Malta – 30 March 1942

I have it in command from KING to transmit to you the following message.  Begins.

I have been watching with admiration the stout hearted resistance of all in Malta – Service personnel and civilian alike – to the fierce and constant air attacks of the enemy in recent. Weeks.

In active defence of the Island the Royal Air Force have been ably supported by R.M.A., and it therefore gives me special pleasure, in recognition of their skill and resolution, to assume Colonel in Chief of Regiment.  Please convey my best wishes to all ranks of my new regiment, and assure them of the added pride with which I shall follow future activities. Ends.

GEORGE R I.

From: Governor of Malta – 30 March 1942

May the following be transmitted to His Majesty the King:-

“The Royal Malta Artillery desire to thank your Majesty for the most gracious message conveyed to them and for the signal Honour Your Majesty has been pleased to accord them in becoming Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment.  They desire to express their loyalty and devotion to Your Majesty’s Person and they will endeavour to prove themselves worthy of the High Honour conferred on them.” Ends.

Jack Shiner, RAAF

SEVEN AUSTRALIAN AIRMEN KILLED ON DELIVERY FLIGHT

Seven Sergeants of the Royal Australian Air Force were lost today, as they attempted to deliver aircraft to Malta.  The airmen were attached to a despatch unit of the Royal Air Force based at Almaza in the Middle East.  Three were from Western Australia: Sgt Harold Janney of Cottesloe, Sgt Conrad Johnson of Kalamunda and Sgt Jack Shiner, of Pallinup.  It is believed they were shot down in an air battle with enemy aircraft as they approached Malta.  After a thorough search they are officially listed as missing, presumed dead.

The Hudson aircraft carrying the other four airmen reached Malta, only to stall on the approach to landing.  The plane went into a tight spin and crashed into the ground where it caught fire, killing all four.  Two were from New South Wales – Sgt Thomas Pollock of Gordon and Sgt Kenneth Riordan of Gosford.  Sgt Alfred Garrett came from Elsternwick, Victoria and Sgt Charles Reed from Mowbray Heights, Tasmania.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 MARCH TO DAWN 31 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind westerly; 100% cloud.

Daylight  Four air raid alerts but no aircraft cross the coast. Malta’s fighters damage one JU 88.

2039 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs in the Torri L’Ahmar and Wardia areas.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  One aircraft drops bombs on Hal Far.

0106 hrs  An approaching formation of aircraft identified as friendly turns out to be hostile and drops bombs in Kalafrana Bay.

0209 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north then recedes south east.

0358 hrs  Two ME 109s patrol 30 miles south of the Island.

0652 hrs  Two ME 109s patrol south of the Island.

2300 hrs  A Hudson aircraft from Gibraltar stalls on coming in to land at Luqa and spins into the ground at the east end of the long runway.  The plane catches fire, killing the crew: Sgt Pollock, Sgt Garrett, Sgt Riordan and Sgt Read.

Military casualties  Sergeant Harold Janney, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF);  Sergeant Conrad Johnson, RAAF; Sergeant Jack Shiner, RAAF; Sergeant Alfred Garrett, RAAF; Sergeant Thomas Pollock, RAAF; Sergeant Charles Reed, RAAF; Sergeant Kenneth Riordan, RAAF.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Louis Fenech, age 64.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 30 MARCH 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Hudsons, two Beauforts, one Wellington, one Beaufighter, one Catalina from Gibraltar.  Departures  Six Beaufighters, seven Wellingtons, one Beaufort, two Blenheims to 108 MU; one Catalina to Lisbon.

LUQA  2355-0340 hrs  One Wellington Transit Flight ASF despatched to attack Catania aerodrome: target not located – bombs dropped through cloud.

TA QALI  Spitfires operating from Luqa: no combats.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  The Battalion took the part of the enemy in a night exercise against 11th Lancs Fusiliers.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Battalion scheme in mobile operations against 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 7; dealt with 2 (500kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

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Posted by on March 30, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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29 March 1942: Malta Must Be Sustained At All Costs Says London

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MOST DRASTIC STEPS JUSTIFIED

From: Chiefs of Staff, War Office, London  To: Commander in Chief, Middle East

Our view is that Malta is of such importance both as an air staging post and as an impediment to enemy reinforcement route that the most drastic steps are justifiable to sustain it. Even if Axis maintain their present scale of attack on Malta, thus reducing its value, it will continue to be of great importance to the war as a whole by containing important enemy forces during critical months.”

Spitfires over Malta (1)

SPITFIRE FLIGHT DOUBLED

Seven new Spitfires landed in Malta today, more than doubling the fighter flight.  After four days of intense raids, only five serviceable aircraft are available for the air defence of the Islands.  Ground crews have been collecting every serviceable part from damaged planes to restore other machines to flying standard.  Fighter command has resorted to using fake radio transmissions, to fool the enemy into believing there are extra fighters in the air to intercept incoming raids.

AURORA & AVONVALE EVACUATED

As a result of heavy and incessant attacks on the Dockyard it was decided that any ships which could steam and were not required in Malta should be evacuated at the first opportunity.  Aurora, though her refit was not completed, and Avonvale, who had been patched after collision and bomb damage, were sailed for Gibraltar as soon as darkness fell this evening.  Both ships arrived safely.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 MARCH TO DAWN 30 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south westerly; cloud and rain – visibility poor.

Throughout the day a series of single enemy aircraft approach the Island and drop bombs from above cloud level on several areas including Hal Far, Gzira and Tigne.

0724 hrs; 0925 hrs  One enemy aircraft each time approaches from the north but does not cross the coast.

0940-0948 hrs  A single enemy aircraft approaches Grand Harbour and then recedes.

1205 hrs  One JU 88 drops bombs on Ta Karach ridge.

1230 hrs  P/O Peck (Ta Qali squadron) attacks and scores strikes on a JU 88: claimed as damaged.

1351-1402 hrs  One enemy aircraft approaches from the north east but recedes before crossing the coast.

1402 hrs  3rd Bn D Company, Kings Own Malta Regiment reports one unexploded bomb in No 16 Platoon Billet and two more near Bofors position 100 yards south of D Company HQ.  The Royal Engineers (RE) Bomb Disposal Officer attends and the bomb, a 250kg high explosive, is dealt with immediately.

1435 hrs  Bombs fall at Ta Mehrla church but do not explode:  8th Bn Kings Own Royal Regiment report them to RE Bomb Disposal Section who begin digging for two buried bombs immediately.

1750 hrs  Bombs fall on an area north of Bluebell Troop, 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt.

2039-2225 hrs  A series of single enemy aircraft drop bombs from above the cloud on various locations on land, damaging houses, and in the sea.  Malta’s fighters seriously damage one JU 88; Heavy Ack Ack probably destroy another.

Night 29/30th  No raids during the night.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Joseph Yandle, HMS Dulverton; Lance-Corporal Thomas Eaton, 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment; Private Charles Patten, 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment; Private John Farrington, 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 29 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  2000 hrs  Aurora and Avonvale sailed for Gibraltar.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Seven Spitfires, seven Beaufighters, seven Wellingtons, three Blenheims, two Beauforts from Gibraltar.

LUQA  2020-0430 hrs  One Wellington S/D flight special search.

TA QALI  Spitfires operating from Luqa.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  National Day of Prayer.  All Companies on church parade.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  The following officers were killed by enemy action: LL/Cpl t Eaton; Private J Farrington; Private C Patten.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 2 (1 x 50kg, 1 x 250kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

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Posted by on March 29, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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28 March 1942: Malta’s Gunners – ‘Guts, Determination and Hard Work’

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  • One continuous raid lasts 6½ hours.
  • Vice Admiral, Malta congratulates Ta Qali fighter squadrons for performance during convoy attacks.
  • Malta’s fighter squadrons and Ack-Ack gunners in co-ordinated defensive ops.
  • 229 Squadron arrives at Hal Far from the Middle East to reinforce the Island’s fighter defences.
  • Intelligence reports show a concentration of enemy troop-carrying aircraft and troops in southern Italy and Sicily.

ROYAL ARTILLERY ‘MAGNIFICENT’ SAYS RAF COMMANDER

Anti-aircraft Guns Grand Harbour (NWMA Malta)

Letter from Air Commodore H P Lloyd, Air Officer Commanding, Malta to Commander, Royal Artillery, Malta, Major General C T Beckett

I wish to express my greatest admiration of your officers and men for the excellent way in which they are defending this island.  I have been out when raids have been at their height, and I have seen your Gun Crews engage the enemy regardless of their own safety.  For sheer guts, determination and hard work, your men can never be beaten.  You must feel very proud of them.

The attack at Ta Qali was directed quite as much against your gun positions as against the aerodromes.  I was in the target area at the time, so I am not retailing hearsay evidence.  I wish to express my warmest admiration and appreciation to those Gun Crews for their magnificent work.  It was a scene I shall never forget.  Although bombs were directed at your gun positions and there was immense noise, smoke and dust, your Gun Crews engaged each aircraft one by one.  No wild firing.  Just waiting for each bird and then when within range letting him have it.  A great sight, and a performance of which you may feel justly proud.

Then the attacks on Grand Harbour with the magnificent barrage and light Ack-Ack going for each bird.  It takes terrific courage.  Your officers and men have it and to spare.  Every one in the Valletta area has the profoundest admiration for your work and courage.  It is superlative and epic.  Very well done – all of you.  Magnificent.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 MARCH TO DAWN 29 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south; 100% low cloud: visibility poor. Rain in early morning.

0705-0716 hrs  A single enemy aircraft carries out reconnaissance off the north coast; another patrols east of the island.

0830 hrs  One enemy aircraft approaches on reconnaissance, is engaged by accurate Anti-Aircraft fire and withdraws to the south west.

0903-0940 hrs   Two ME 109s patrol south east and north of the Island.

1151 hrs  Two JU 88s approach from the north east and drop bombs in the sea off Della Grazia and Grand Harbour.  Fighters are airborne and engage.

Afternoon Thirty JU88s with fighter escort came in singly and in twos, adopting night bombing tactics and dropping bombs from above cloud level.  Malta’s Spitfires are operating from Luqa: fighters are airborne in pairs, co-operating with Heavy and Light AA to engage the enemy.  Four Spitfires attack and damage a JU 88.  Many bombs are dropped in the sea.

Over a hundred high explosive bombs are aimed on Grand Harbour and the Dockyard.  The Victualling Yard Service Store and Marine Clothing Dept are damaged.  Bombs also land on Gozo, Safi and Zonkor Point, and in the sea.

1630 hrs  225 Light Ack Ack Battery engage one JU 88: no claims.

1704 hrs   One JU 88 carries out a solo raid on Luqa, dropping four HE bombs on the Safi strip.

1825 hrs   All clear.

Night 28/29th  No raids: weather cloudy turning to rain.

Military casualties  Lance-Corporal Felix Alan Walke, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 28 MARCH 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Seven Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Two Beauforts, one Blenheim to Burg-el-Arab; four Wellingtons to Shalufa; three Wellingtons to 108 MU.

HAL FAR  PM  229 Squadron arrives at Hal Far.

TA QALI  Congratulatory message received from the Vice Admiral, Malta, on the performance of the fighter squadrons during the heavy attacks on the convoy.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion drill parade: A & C Coys on Floriana Parade Ground; B & D at Dockyard School.   Luqa working parties finished today.

2ND BN THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Two Officers joined 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt from Breconshire.

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT 1st Bn  Two bombs near Campbell Battery.  Stick of bombs 100 yards north west of post R7.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Brigadier visits Battalion on dispersal scheme.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Working party at Ta Qali aerodrome.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2.

 

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Posted by on March 28, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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27 March 1942: Breconshire Sinks – Maltese Dockyard Worker Earns a Medal

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MALTA SUPPLY SHIP BRECONSHIRE LIES STRICKEN OFF COAST 

HMS Breconshire, hit and set on fire during yesterday’s heavy air raids, is now barely afloat with only six feet of her bilge above water.  Enemy bombing prevented all attemps at taking off her cargo of oil yesterday.  At daybreak this morning, fires broke out again and the ammunition supplies on board began to explode – creating a real risk of blowing the entire ship and the loss of all her cargo.  Moments after her Captain and officers had abandoned an attempt to scuttle her, Breconshire rolled onto her side and capsized.

DESPERATE BID TO SAVE PRECIOUS CARGO

Breconshire’s cargo was far too valuable to be abandoned to the ocean.  Len Austin, Foreman of the Dockyard, was given the dangerous task of recovering her desperately-needed cargo of oil.

“She looked like a huge whaleback sticking out of the water. This is how I first saw her, and heavy seas were breaking over her. We were desperately short of oil fuel and my job was to try to make it possible for the fuel on board to be pumped out from the two cargo tanks on the [starboard] side, and also if possible to break into the engine room and holds.

When the sea subsided it was possible to walk on the ship’s side and make a survey to devise a plan of action. A hole in the side looked to be the only way to obtain access to the air space surrounding the cargo tanks, and the physical removal of ship’s side plates for the engine room and hold.

All my men were ready volunteers and we got on with the job, which was interrupted by air-raids, bombs falling nearby. The work continued and in a day or so we were able to drill a small hole in one tank, through which the oil flowed out by water displacement, the water getting in via the tank air escapes beneath the surface. The oil filled the air space and a wooden plug was driven into the drilled hole in the tank.

The navy now took over and pumped the oil into drums using hand pumps. The system…worked and we recovered hundreds of tons of oil. The ship’s side plates 5 No. were removed and hauled clear. Diesel oil was now available from the Engine room and a host of items from the hold: milk, explosives, bombs, timber, medical supplies etc.”

Maltese Shipwright Supervisor Mr Zammit was also to earn himself the British Empire Medal:

“At the bottom of the air space was the tank margin of one of the ship’s own OFT’s, and this was full of fuel oil. Our manner of winning the oil from the cargo tanks had resulted in the air space getting smothered in thick fuel oil. To get down to the margin tank was very hazardous and to drill the necessary hole almost suicidal. This would have to be carried out in complete darkness and there was the danger of oil fuel vapour exploding. I told Mr. Zammit that under no circumstances was he to send a man to this job, and he obeyed the order.

One day when I visited the ship I was told that he was doing the job himself, and then he appeared through the access hole we had made. He was naked, smothered all over in oil and looked like a negro. He climbed out and jumped overboard to swim round for a while. When he climbed on board, I could see that much of the oil had emulsified which made him look even worse. He was rubbed down and then dressed. He told me, ‘You said I was not to send a man, so I went myself.’  He had succeeded in doing the near impossible and so more oil was recovered. It was a brave if foolhardy action.    Malta could carry on again for a while…” (1)

MALTESE CIVILIANS JOIN LABOUR BATTALION

The Governor and Commander in Chief has announced that a complete register of civilian workers has been compiled for call-up to work as civilian units as required, for the Services or Government.  These groups are not under military discipline.  Gangs of civilians to work on aerodromes have been formed under special Defence Regulations, recruited from residents in nearby villages.

Frequent and heavy bombing – and the absence of slit trenches or any form of shelter for civilian labour – on the aerodromes has made it difficult to maintain sufficient manpower.  Numbers of volunteer workers have been encouraged with the offer of higher than normal pay, and have been working regularly on aerodromes for last twelve days.  As many police as can be spared are assisting.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 MARCH TO DAWN 28 MARCH 1942

Weather  Little wind; 50% high cloud.  Weather deteriorated: very little enemy action.

0804 hrs  One JU 88 with fighter escort carries out reconnaissance.  Heavy Ack Ack heavily engage the aircraft and the formation turns away.

0957 hrs  Five ME 109 fighter bombers approach the Island.

1025 hrs  Two ME 109s drop high explosive (HE) bombs on Luqa and three on Hal Far with several casualties.  One Hurricane is slightly damaged.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1112 hrs  HMS Breconshire turns over on her port side and sinks.

1201 hrs  Nine aircraft including three JU 88s drop six 500kg and six 250kg HE bombs on Grand Harbou.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1545 hrs  Five ME 109 fighter bombers approach the south of the Island and drop five 250kg and five 50kg HE bombs on Hal Far.  L/Cpl Walke, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is seriously injured and taken to No 90 General Hospital (He died 0015 hrs 28th March).  Cpl Brooking is injured in the left arm.

1640 hrs  One JU 88 with fighter escort carries out reconnaissance of Ta Qali and Grand Harbour at 23000 feet. Heavy Ack Ack engage.

3rd Bn KOMR discover a wheel washed ashore at Wied Zurrieq.

1747 hrs  Four aircraft patrol south east of the Island.

2232-0031 hrs  One aircraft patrols the Island, then drops bombs in the sea and incendiaries on land near Dingli.  Heavy Ack Ack fire a barrage.  Fighters are up: no engagement.

Military casualties  Leading Aircraftsman Adrian Styles, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Aircraftsman Leslie Tindall, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Private Thomas Ryan, 2nd Bn Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Zejtun  Carmel Zahra, age 15.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 27 MARCH 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Ten Hurricanes, one Hudson, one Blenheim, one Beaufort, one Lodestar from Gambut.  Departures  One Lodestar to Gambut.

LUQA  0925-1200 hrs  Photo Reconnaissance (PR) Spitfire 69 Squadron Pr of Sicilian aerodromes and Palermo Harbour.   2005-0345 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight special search to relocate vessel sighted by Spitfire AM.

TA QALI  Spitfires operating from Luqa.  No scrambles.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  1800 hrs This unit hands over the Observation Post at Tal Virtu to 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regt.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Working party at Ta Qali aerodrome.

2ND BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Private Ryan died in hospital from wounds.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2.

(1) extract from Autobiography of Leonard (Len) Austin, Foreman of Malta Dockyard, August 1939 – March 1943

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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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26 March 1942: Malta’s Most Intense Raid to Date – Floriana a Furnace

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“Never during the War years was I overtaken by fear more than on the night of the 26th March 1942” (1)

  • Massed air raids on shipping in Grand Harbour
  • Plumleaf, Talabot, Pampas hit as well as Sliema Ferry
  • Breconshire hit again – on fire amidships
  • Targets outside harbour badly damaged – Marsa HAA gun position hit
  • Four JU 88s and three JU 87s destroyed; many more damaged
Talabot is hit (NWMA Malta)

Talabot is hit (NWMA Malta)

LUFTWAFFE PINPOINT BOMBING DESTROYS SHIPS IN GRAND HARBOUR

For nearly six hours today, 120 enemy bombers accompanied by massed fighters attacked in wave after wave, dropping over 350 high explosive (HE) bombs of 250kg and 500kg on ships, docks and gun positions in Grand Harbour and 40 more on Breconshire in Marsaxlokk Bay.

“Unfortunately on this day the German Air Force achieved a degree of accuracy with their bombing which they had never attained either before or since.  Talabot, Pampas and Plumleaf were all hit in a single raid and in the evening Breconshire too was hit and set on fire.

By the evening with Legion sunk, Penelope badly damaged and a large part of the small craft in the harbour sunk or out of action from near misses it was felt that there was little further injury that the enemy could do…Talabot which caught fire and blazed furiously as a result of her hit, had to be scuttled to avoid her cargo of ammunition exploding.  All her holds were flooded and the ship was aground with her gunwale just above water…” (2)

FLORIANA IS A FURNACE

“The odds were that the Talabot with considerable ammunition in its holds would, at any time, explode and damage would have been terrific.  The tragic situation was communicated to us in Floriana with strict instructions to evacuate all in Floriana residing in …the part overlooking the Grand Harbour where the Talabot was anchored.

At sunset Floriana became immersed in a reddish glow, deepening into an inferno-like colour as night set in.  All the surrounding areas in the Grand Harbour assumed a reddish incandescence: the skies were red, the sea was red; red prevailed everywhere – such a scene was never witnessed before.  In the meantime flames were still belching from the Talabot, uncontrolled, and presaging doom.  Floriana looked like a furnace!

As soon as orders for evacuation reached us we [advised] the people to leave their houses and their shelters, move to the northern area and use what shelter space was available.  Many obeyed; others did not as they preferred to watch the flaming scene from vantage points without realising the danger they were exposing themselves to, should the ship explode and blow up vast areas in Valletta, Floriana, Marsa and the three cities.” (1)

“Pampas” ablaze (NWMA Malta)

Desperate attempts to unload the two merchant ships, Talabot and Pampas, were hampered by conditions in the harbour and the constant heavy bombing of ships, docks and salvage equipment.  By the end of today, of the convoy escort which accompanied the supply ships to Malta, HM Ships Legion and Southwold were sunk, Kingston further damaged by bombs and Penelope has serious structural damage from near misses.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 MARCH TO DAWN 27 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south; 100% low cloud.

0700 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north east but recedes before crossing the coast.

1022-1610 hrs  68 enemy aircraft – JU 87s, JU 88s and ME 109s – attack Grand Harbour.  Fighters destroy two JU 87s and two JU 88s, and damage one JU 87 and three JU 88.  One JU 88 is shot down in south Comino Channel and four German prisoners are captured in Gozo.  Ack Ack destroy one JU 88.

1210 hrs  S/L Gracie leading six Spitfires from Luqa attacks a JU 88 and sees strikes.  He himself is them jumped and his aircraft is damaged.  P/O Ormerod in a Hurricane chases a JU 88 through the barrage; his aircraft is damaged and he returns to Luqa.

1230 hrs  Talabot is hit by a 500kg bomb which explodes in the engine room, which starts to fill with oil; a large fire breaks out.  Firefighters and crew of other ships join the efforts to control the blaze while enemy bombs continue to fall close to the ship.  Both pumps in No 2 fire float and one in No 1 float are put out of action by the near miss.

Plumleaf at Parlatorio receives a direct hit and is sunk.  Tug West Cocker at Boiler Wharf is damaged and starts taking water. Front walls and doors in B and C Yards, Marsa are demolished with some damage to lighters.

High explosive bombs hit dockyard buildings and wharves.  The verandah and structure of 10-14 Stores on Stores Wharf and No 2 Caisson are damaged; the south end of No 8 Store demolished.  The north end of Hamilton Wharf is badly shaken. No 3 Boiler Shop entrance doors and offices are smashed by blast. Crane No 623 and  2/3 Dock Pumping Station are damaged. Explosions cause a large crater in front of No 1 Boiler Shop and others on Canteen Wharf and the Scrap Ground.

1335 hrs  Four Spitfires are scrambled from Luqa.  Sgt Brennan damages a JU 88.

1400 hrs  A stick of bombs falls close to PampasLuqa Spitfire P/O McNair gets on its tail and despatches it.  F/L Johnston damages two JU 87s – both probably destroyed.  F/L Connell severely damages a JU 87 and a JU 88.  P/O McNair destroys a JU 88.

1430 hrs  A 500kg bomb falls down the funnel of Pampas and explodes, flooding the engine room and starting a fire amidships.

1550 hrs  The drowned body of German pilot Winkler is discovered by 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment, washed ashore near Wied Zurrieq.  They also find some naval garments washed ashore at Wied Zurrieq and Ghar Lapsi.

Six Hurricanes from Hal Far are airborne to intercept a formation of JU 88s and JU 87s.  Hurricanes attack the bombers over Kalafrana and later over Grand Harbour.  Sgt Steele (cannon) accounts for one JU 88.  Sgt Broad hits two JU 88s.  F/Sgt Fletcher scores hits on two JU 88s, one ME 109 and one JU 87.

1632 hrs  A raid in three waves:  50 JU 88s drop bombs on Grand Harbour: Penelope is near missed and flooded forward; tug Ancient is hit and beached; submarine P39’s back is broken;  Sokol is near missed; Legion sunk; Avonvale hit (damage not very serious).

10 JU 88s attack Breconshire in Marsaxlokk Bay.  The ship is hit, causing a fire on board.  Fighters and Ack Ack engage.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack destroy one JU 87 and two JU 88s, and damage others.

1725 hrs  F/L Connell (Ta Qali) damages a JU 88.  Sgt Brennan damages a JU 88.

1730 hrs  225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage two JU 88s: one hit claimed.  Post SA4 of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt engages two JU 88s, expending two magazines.

1740 hrs  225 LAA engage three JU 88s: one gun claims four hits.  One gun and personnel transfers to the Nigret area.

1750 hrs  P/O McNair (Ta Qali) damages two JU 88s.

1808 hrs  Bombs land near Fort Ta Silch.

1815 hrs  Bombs are dropped near Hamria.

1915-1930 hrs  An enemy flying boat carries out rescue work to the north of the Island.

2230 hrs  Enemy boats are reported 12 miles south east of the Island.  Beach Companies are warned to keep a strict look-out.

Night 26/27th  No enemy aircraft activity although E Boats are plotted off E coast of the Island. The fire on Talabot is contained but the blaze on Breconshire is getting out of control.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Alfred Keylock, Mentioned in Despatches, HMS Avonvale; Able Seaman Albert Bowman, HMS Avondale; Able Seaman James Warwick, HMS Legion; Able Seaman Ernest Lynch, HMS Avonvale.

Civilian casualties  Balzan  Valent Sammut, age 33.  Mosta  Alfred St John, age 2.  Sliema  Carmel Coppola, age 50; Doris Coppola, age 17; Herman Mifsud, age 42.  St Paul’s Bay  Rita Vella, age 6.

Enemy casualties  Paul Winkler.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 26 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Upholder  returned from patrol, having sunk a U boat and trawler off Brindisi and missed a battleship off Taranto owing to very heavy weather and zig-zag on firing.

AIR HQ  Departures  Five Beaufighters, two Blenheims, eight Wellingtons to 108 MU; one Wellington to Shalufa.

HAL FAR  828 and 830 Squadrons amalgamated as Naval Air Squadron, Malta on instructions from Vice Admiral Malta, pending Admiralty confirmation.  PM  One Albacore on shipping search.  Nothing sighted.

LUQA  0753-1545 hrs  One Maryland 69 Squadron special search.

TA QALI  No night operations. 

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  A Company proceeds from Boschetto Gardens to camp at the Pumping Station between Rabat and Dingli.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  CO attends funeral of SSO1.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Working party at Ta Qali aerodrome.

2ND BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A and B Companies changed over: A Company to Marsa, B Company to Luqa.  Private Ryan wounded at Luqa by enemy action.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 22.

(1) Floriana in Wartime, Emanuel S Tonna, Malta 1969

(2)  War Diary, Vice Admiral Malta, March 1942

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed. For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2017 in 1942, March 1942, Uncategorized

 

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25 March 1942: Battle to Save Stricken Supply Ship, Passengers and Cargo

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HMS Breconshire

HMS Breconshire

ROYAL NAVY, MERCHANT MARINE AND AIR FORCE IN DESPERATE BID TO RESCUE SHIP

Since noon on Wednesday bad weather has prevented the disabled supply ship Breconshire from being towed into the safety of Grand Harbour.  For 36 hours she has lain off Zonkor Point, her passengers and crew stranded and vulnerable to the continuous enemy air attacks.  Her precious cargo includes the only oil – 5000 tons – carried by the convoy but this, coupled with tons of ammunition and bombs, makes her a floating time bomb under fire.

Heavy raids on the airfields have made it impossible for Malta’s fighters get airborne and drive off enemy raiders.  Only the guns of destroyer Southwold, standing by to provide cover, could deter them.  But yesterday she struck a mine and then sank after further damage from an enemy bomb.  The heavy swell was driving Breconshire dangerously close to the same minefield and prevented the tug Ancient from attaching a secure towing line.

HMS Southwold

HMS Southwold

The trawler Beryl made three attempts to get alongside and take off the military personnel, but without success. Finally, in the early hours of this morning two tugs, Ancient and Robust, managed to secure a tow and ease the stricken merchantman towards Delimara Point.  With more help from the destroyer Eridge, Breconshire made the turn round Delimara into Marsaxlokk Harbour, where she reached mooring at noon today.

WAR DIARY, GENERAL STAFF, MALTA 24 MARCH 1942

Breconshire moved from Zonkor to No 1 Buoy, Kalafrana. Persistent raids by JU88 and Stukas against her and other shipping in Grand Harbour. Our fighters, HAA active. No hits on Breconshire.  Discharging cargo by lighter in Marsa Scirocco bay. W/T interception through approaching pilots gave indication of targets.  Other targets: direct hit on 3.7″ gun position St Julians and Fd Bty HQ Paola: four OR killed. Many bombs dropped in districts bordering Grand Harbour, Sliema, St Julians.  Maj P J D Johnson taking over duties of GSO1.  In order to deal with enemy attacks on Breconshire the following RA dispositions were made: four 18 pounder Delimara Peninsula and four 25 pounders Birzebuggia task direct fire Marsaxlokk Bay, four 3″ HAA guns Benghaisa Point, 12 Bofors to area Kalafrana-Marsaxlokk Bay under command 3 LAA Regt RMA. LO from ME (Maj C M L Andrews) arrived in Malta.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 MARCH TO DAWN 26 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south; 80% cloud.

0855-1040 hrs  ME 109s patrol the Island.

1052 hrs  A delayed Action bomb explodes south of Safi village.

1107-1123 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialise.

1241 hrs  Air raid alert for incoming enemy aircraft.

1339 hrs  JU 87s and JU 88s escorted by ME 109s attack Grand Harbour and Marsaxlokk Bay, where Breconshire is now tied up.  Bombs are dropped through the clouds as well as from a dive.

1530 hrs  Raiders passed.

1545 hrs  Ta Qali’s fighter squadrons operating from Luqa are scrambled to intercept incoming raiders and defend Breconshire.  S/L Grant shoots down one ME 109 and damages one JU 87.  They are joined by eight Hurricanes from Hal Far: 185 Squadron pilots Sgt Eastman, Sgt Horrocks, Sgt Wilson and Sgt Robb account for one JU 87 ‘probably destroyed’; P/O Ormrod and P/O Wigley share a ‘confirmed destroyed’; F/L Lloyd and Sgt Horrocks, P/O Milburn claim one damaged.

1603 hrs  JU 87s and JU 88s again attack Grand Harbour.  SS Essex is hit through the bows and sustains some damage in her engine room.  The Joiners Shop at the Naval Armament Depot is demolished.  King George V hospital is damaged.  Breconshire is attacked in Marsaxlokk Bay but most of the bombs fall in the sea off Fort St Lucian.

1610 hrs   Ta Qali’s fighter squadrons engage the enemy again.  P/O Peck damages one JU 87.  P/O Nash damages one JU 87.  F/O Lee damages one JU 87.  P/O Plagis damages two JU 87s.  P/O McLeod destroys one ME 109. Ack Ack destroy one JU 88 and damage two, as well as numerous JU 87s.

1625 hrs  Two bombs explode near the Quartermaster’s Stores in Paola and one by the Dockyard wall.  Capt Vassallo of 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regt is slightly hurt.

1630 hrs  One ME 109 is engaged by two guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery; no claim.

1700-1715 hrs  JU 88s drop bombs from above the clouds on Luqa airfield, damaging one Blenheim, and across the Zurrieq-Mqabba area. Four sticks land near Tal Hniena Church, one stick close to Mqabba, demolishing three houses, and one stick north of Kirkop.  Post L22 of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt fires one magazine at a JU 88: no claim.

Night 25/26th  Continuous raids on shipping and dock facilities in Grand Harbour. The enemy uses parachute flares to illuminate their targets. Bombs are also dropped on Breconshire in Marsaxlokk Bay. Bombs, including many delayed action, are dropped across the Island, including 24 high explosives on Gozo.

0325 hrs  Four enemy boats are reported 40 miles off the coast.  All Beach Companies are informed.

0355 hrs  A large number of incendiary bombs is dropped on the Officers’ Lines at Battalion Headquarters 1 Durham.  They are quickly extinguished.

Military casualties  Stoker J Paszek, Polish Submarine Sokol; Private Joseph Abela, King’s Own Malta Regiment; Gunner Percy Morris, Sergeant Joseph Davies, 26th Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery; Gunner Paul Vella, Gunner Pius Tedesco, Gunner Joseph Camilleri, 2nd Heavy Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Floriana  Publio Mercieca, age 16. Gzira  Alfred Bellizzi, age 50.  Marsa  Felice Gatt, age 80.  Sliema  Mary Alvarese, age 88.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 25 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  One Albacore on shipping search east of Malta sighted nothing and crashed on landing: crew unhurt.  Poor visibility – moderate air attacks; no particular damage.  2000 hrs  Carlisle and four ‘Hunts’ sailed for Alexandria.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Wellingtons from Gibraltar; one Wellington from LG 09.

TA QALI  Skeleton Orderly Room established on No 10 Cave.  F/L Gibson, Med, admitted to 90 General Hospital.  249 Squadron operating from Luqa.  No scrambles.  Aerodrome nearly serviceable.   Night operations from Luqa; no interceptions.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  1105 hrs  Storm conditions NORAH and KATE cancelled.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Petrol-less day.  Luqa working parties as usual: 2 Officers, 50 men.  68 ME 109s, JU 87s and JU 88s raid Grand Harbour.  Two ME 109s and three JU 87s destroyed.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Breconshire was beached near Marsaxlokk and the remainder of A Company arrived at Battalion camp by 1300 hrs.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Battalion supplied working party of two Officers and 100 Other Ranks to work at Ta Qali aerodrome.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1.

 

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Posted by on March 25, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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