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OPERATION BOWERY A SUCCESS
Commanders in Malta are in celebratory mood tonight after the second major attempt to supply the Island with a Spitfire force proved a resounding success. Under ‘Operation Bowery’ 60 new fighters reached the Island today out of a total of 64 which took off from the aircraft carriers USS Wasp and HMS Eagle. From the early hours of this morning Malta’s three airfields of Hal Far, Luqa and Ta Qali stood ready for the new arrivals. The Island’s artillery loaded their guns, ready to fight off enemy attacks intent on destroying the Spitfires.
The first arrivals came into view just before 10 am and ground crews went into action. Each aircraft was allocated a number which matched them to a specific ground crew, before being taken to a protective pen to refuel and re-arm. Within minutes, every new Spitfire was ready for a fresh pilot to take off to fight off enemy attacks on the next arrivals. The new measures ensured there was no repeat of the heavy losses following the previous delivery attempt in April.
RAF fighter sorties: 125 by Spitfires, 9 by Hurricanes
RAF casualties: 2 Spitfires destroyed
Enemy bomber sorties: 24 JU 88s, 17 JU 87s, 10 Cant 1007s, 5 BR 20
Enemy casualties: destroyed 4 ME 109s, 3 Cant 1007s; probably destroyed 2 ME 109s, 3 JU 87s, 1 Macchi, 1 BR 20; damaged 7 ME 109s, 3 JU 88s, 2 JU 87s, 2 Macchi 202
AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 MAY TO DAWN 10 MAY 1942
Weather Wind southerly; no cloud – haze.
0400 hrs Malta airfields – reveille at Ta Qali, Luqa and Hal Far. Working parties are picked and final arrangements confirmed for the arrival of Spitfires. Royal Artillery raise ammunition restriction to cover arrival of Spitfires.
0500 hrs USS Wasp and HMS Eagle, Western Mediterranean: ‘Operation Bowery’ – Spitfires ready to take off for Malta at first light.
0722 hrs One JU 88 and six ME 109s carry out reconnaissance over Malta.
0800 hrs Zero hour – Malta’s airfields at state of readiness.
0915 hrs Five Italian bombers approach the Island with a mass formation of 53 ME 109 fighters. A number of ME 109s are engaged by two Ack Ack light machine guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA): hits claimed.
0924 hrs Five Cant 1007s drop bombs on the Marsa and Floriana areas. Bombs hit Haywharf, causing a fire in the HQ of No 1 Section 24 Fortress Company Royal Engineers and destroying searchlight equipment. In Marsa Private Shepherd B Coy 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is injured in the leg by a cannon shell.
0940 hrs Nine Hurricanes are airborne, six from Luqa and three from Hal Far, as escort for the arrival of Spitfires from the western Mediterranean. Six Spitfires 242 Squadron are also scrambled from Ta Qali to give high cover. 242 Squadron are attacked by four ME 109s over Luqa. F/Lt Sanders destroys one ME 109 and F/O Holland and P/O Mitchell between them destroy another. One Spitfire ditches in the sea: F/Lt Buckstone is missing.
1000 hrs Ta Qali logs the first 22 new Spitfires and their pilots to arrive over the next hour. Each aircraft is numbered ready to be met by an allocated ground crew and taken to a protective pen to refuel, re-arm and repair as necessary, ready for a fresh pilot to take off within 20 minutes as cover for the next arrivals.
1015-1020 hrs Ack Ack Light Machine Guns of 225 LAA engage ME 109s at 3-600 feet: hits claimed.
1055 hrs Ta Qali: 11 of the new Spitfires take to the air with experienced pilots of 249 Squadron and engage ME 109s. P/O Nash destroys one and probably destroys another; F/Lt Buchanan probably destroys one. P/O Milburn crashes near Safi and is killed.
1100 hrs 11 more new Spitfires arrive at Hal Far plus another flight at Luqa, all to be met, serviced and airborne within minutes. Ack Ack guns defend them from attack by numerous ME 109s swarming over the airfield at 150-500 feet: hits claimed.
1145 hrs Guns of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt at Wolseley Camp engage ME 109s heading in over Fort Ta Silch to attack Hal Far: no claims.
1200 hrs Four Spitfires on patrol make visual contact with delivery aircraft heading in towards Malta: one new Spitfire is observed falling into the sea. A ME 109 is spotted nearby and chased away.
1205 hrs The last batch of new Spitfires lands. 60 have arrived out of a total of 64.
1258 hrs Raiders passed.
1312 hrs News of the delivery of Spitfires has reached the Luftwaffe in Sicily. A formation of 14 JU 88s and 20 ME 109s is observed heading towards Malta.
1315 hrs Eleven Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft. Two JU 88s claimed as damaged. Eight Spitfires 249 Squadron are also airborne: P/O Nash damages one ME 109. Five Spitfires 185 Squadron are also up: Sgt Tweedale crashes at Luqa and is killed.
1330 hrs Six JU 88s drop 24 high explosive bombs on Ta Qali, damaging two motor transport vehicles. A delayed action bomb explodes near the caves, injuring A/C Oliver. Three airmen slightly are injured in the Maintenance Quarry, Attard-Rabat Road.
1355 hrs Nine JU 88s attack on Hal Far and Safi. One bomb damages the runway and the aerodrome is unserviceable for an hour. About six delayed action bombs are also scattered over the area. One soldier is seriously injured and four others slightly injured. Bombs are dropped on Wied Znuber: three Other Ranks 4th Bn Hampshire Reg are injured by bomb splinters.
1356-1415 hrs Two JU 88s at 2-3000 feet engaged by guns of 225 LAA Bty.
1405 hrs Four Spitfires from Hal Far and Luqa land at Ta Qali. P/O Noble is shot up over Ta Qali.
1423 hrs Raiders passed.
1531 hrs One JU 88 carries out reconnaissance.
1550 hrs 12 Spitfires 603 Squadron are scrambled to intercept incoming ME 109 fighters. F/O Holland, P/O Mitchell and F/Sgt Hurst each damage one ME 109. One Spitfire is damaged.
1610 hrs Messerschmitt 109s carry out a fighter sweep.
1615 hrs 14 JU87s with a 40-strong fighter escort dive-bomb the Safi and Siggiewi dispersal areas. One Wellington already damaged is burned out. Three JU 87s break away to attack the San Pietru gun position, killing two Other Ranks and wounding five more, and drop bombs between Hompesch and St Clements Church.
1620 hrs Five Spitfires 185 Squadron attack JU 87s over Grand Harbour. F/Lt Lawrence damages one ME 109. Sgt Broad claims one JU 87 probably destroyed; he also damages one JU 87. F/Lt Lawrence and P/O Wigley each claim one JU 87 probably destroyed.
1630 hrs One JU 87 is engaged by one gun of 225 LAA Bty: hits claimed.
1640 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron, Ta Qali, returning from a patrol over Sicily attack JU 87s who have been bombing Luqa and Grand Harbour. P/O Nash probably destroys one.
1700 hrs Raiders passed.
1727 hrs 11 Spitfires (4 of 601 Squadron and 7 of 126 Squadron) are scrambled from Luqa to intercept approaching enemy aircraft. Nine aircraft engage in combat; two no contact. Claims three probable Italian BR 20s destroyed; one Macchi 202 destroyed, two Macchi 202 damaged.
1744 hrs Five Cant 1007s and numerous fighters attack, dropping fifty 100kg bombs on Attard camp and on Ta Qali airfield.
1805 hrs Nine Spitfires 601 Squadron are scrambled from Luqa to intercept incoming enemy aircraft. Four have combat; five make no contact. Claims: one ME 109 and one JU 88 damaged.
1835 hrs Eight Spitfires 603 Squadron and three Spitfires 249 Squadron are airborne from Ta Qali but did not manage to intercept five Cant 1007s and seven JU 88s which go on to attack the airfield. F/Lt Douglas destroys one ME 109; F/O Slade damages another. F/L Douglas goes into a bomb crater on landing and damages his aircraft.
1846-1934 hrs Seven JU 88s drop 40 high explosive bombs on Ta Qali causing craters on the aerodrome. Three Spitfires are damaged.
0040 hrs; 0230 hrs Two air raid alerts: a total of 12 aircraft drop bombs in the Tal Handaq area, on Tigne parade ground and in the sea. An E boat and some aircraft appear to be minelaying in the sea north of Grand Harbour. Some damage is caused to gas and water pipes. One JU 88 is probably destroyed by Ack Ack.
0050-0212 hrs; 0250-0520 hrs Two Beaufighters are airborne from Luqa on patrol to intercept enemy aircraft. One BR 20 is claimed as probably destroyed.
0414-0421 hrs Three German schnellboote lay a triangular minefield off Sliema point to cover one possible approach of HMS Welshman which has been reported by the Luftwaffe heading for Malta.
0438 hrs Schnellboot S-31 collides with a loose mine and sinks. 13 men are rescued including her Commanding Officer and two Italian officers; 13 are lost.
Military casualties Sergeant Alwyn Bentley, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Flight Lieutenant John Buckstone, Royal Air Force VR, 603 Squadron; Aircraftsman I John Clarke, Royal Air Force VR; Pilot Officer Harold Milburn, Royal Air Force VR, 245 Squadron. Corporal Frederick Few, Royal Air Force, Squadron Leader John Gorringe-Smith, Royal Air Force, Flight Sergeant Thomas Grosvenor, Royal Air Force VR, Flying Officer John Leslie, Royal Air Force VR, Flying Officer William White, Royal Canadian Air Force; all 221 Squadron. Sergeant John Jacklin, Flight Lieutenant Raymond Sly, Pilot Officer Gordon Tweedale, all Royal Australian Air Force. Private Leonard Harvey, Private Lindon Lever, Corporal Thomas Maloney, Private Raymond Small, all 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. Gunner Seraphim Cauchi, 30 Bty, 3 LAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Joseph Falzon, 11th AA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Peter Portelli, 11 HAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.
Civilian casualties Attard Carmela Muscat, age 23. Balzan Sister Alexandra Borda, age 31. Floriana Mary Polidano, age 17. Gzira Joseph Mifsud, age 36. Qormi Teresa Sammut, age 20. Zejtun Gaetan Mifsud, age 54.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 9 MAY 1942
ROYAL NAVY Further sweep of Grand Harbour entrance channel with all available minesweeping craft.
AIR HQ Arrivals One Lodestar from Gambut. Departures One Lodestar to Heliopolis, three Hudsons to Gibraltar, one Beaufort, one Wellington to 108 MU. Aircraft casualties One Spitfire shot down in combat; pilot killed. One Spitfire shot down in the sea off Malta; pilot missing, believed killed. One Hurricane straffed by ME 109s while landing; pilot uninjured.
LUQA 0847-1210 hrs One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance and visual reconnaissance of Messina, Palermo and Trapani harbours and south Italian aerodromes. 1525-1730 hrs Spitfire on search to locate enemy shipping Malta to Messina. 2123 hrs One Wellington S/D Flight on special search: failed to return. S/L Gorringe-Smith, P/O Leslie, P/O White, Sgt Bently, Sgt Grosvener, Sgt Jacklin, C/L Few missing.
TA QALI 3 Officers, 14 Airmen from HQ Mediterranean, 19 from Gzira, attached for temporary duties. 1535-1640 hrs Four Spitfires 249 Squadron patrol over Sicily.
1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT Special party four Officers and 100 Other Ranks required for work on Luqa on stand by to fill in bomb craters from 0500-1000 hrs daily. Working party of 12 men to fill belts for RAF. 9 and 30 cwt lorries required for work at Luqa. Large deliveries of Spitfires expected. Italians dropped bombs from a great height in Bn area. Cpl Maloney, Pte Lever, Pte Harvey, Pte Small killed; Pte Schooley very badly injured, not expected to live. Capt Roddy slightly injured. Very unfortunate as men were caught absolutely unawares. Ptes Harvey and Small were manning the Ack Ack light machine gun.
1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continued.
FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 20; dealt with 10 (1 x 1000kg, 3 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg, two Italian anti-personnel bomb containers).
1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT 17 trucks, 14 officers and 261 Other Ranks building pens and filling craters on Hal Far aerodrome.
2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS Battalion assisting in maintaining and servicing of aerodromes: arrival of reinforcements of Spitfires.
11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS 1430 hrs This unit takes over Luqa working party from Durham Light Infantry. No craters required filling today.
8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT This unit supplied a working party of 150 men: Spitfires arrived.
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