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12 June 1940: Malta Takes Stock

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The Times of Malta reports on the first day at war

Gunners at the ready

Gunners at the ready

Malta’s defenders are at a high pitch of efficiency and morale is strong among civilians and military alike, reports the Times of Malta today.  On the declaration of war by Italy on Monday evening, all personnel who were not at their posts were recalled to duty and Malta’s defences were fully manned with immediate effect.

According to the Times, when the first air raid sounded yesterday morning, anti-aircraft batteries opened fire against two formations of seven and three enemy aircraft.  As they directed their guns against the raiders, Maltese and English gunners were heard to sing ‘God Save the King’.

One of the targets in the first raid was Hal Far aerodrome, where the accuracy of bombing has given rise to suggestions that pilots had previous experience of flying commercial aircraft to Malta.  The second raid followed the same course of approach, then headed for the areas around Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto.  A crater examined following the raids suggests that bombs used were 250lbs.

Bombing ‘indiscriminate’ claims Vice Admiral Malta

The immediate imposition of air raids are a complete u-turn from Mussolini’s much publicised assertions that he would never bomb Malta, says The Times. The Vice Admiral Malta today reported to the Admiralty in London that at least some of the bombing yesterday was indiscriminate. He commented thatbBombing was apparently aimed at military objectives the first raid, but was indiscriminate on the other two.

Miraculous Escape

Workers removing debris from damaged buildings in Gzira today discovered two children in a room beneath piles of debris.  Remarkably, the children were unhurt but were very hungry.


Military units across were placed on alert just before noon today after an American saloon car with a red registration plate 5261 was reported in the area of Marsaxlokk.  The car’s occupants were reportedly giving false information to Maltese citizens to the effect that Italy has declared an armistice with the British Government.  The vehicle is believed to have been one of a number engaged in circulating the false propaganda. 

It emerged later that rumours suggested that Italy had ceased fighting due to civil war at home.  Young Charles Grech of Sliema overheard the rumours in a local shop: “At about one o’clock in the afternoon, I happened to be at Tony’s Grocery…when there was a commotion in the street.  I heard drivers tooting their horns and people rejoicing.  A very excited woman entered the shop and shouted, ‘Italy has surrendered…Italy has surrendered.’”  (1)  At the same time a green lorry was also reported spreading rumours in the area of Wardia cross roads.  When approached, the lorry drove off in the direction of Mosta.  The vehicle was later stopped and the driver taken into police custody. 

Warnings were issued to all units and police stations to place road blocks across the Island in order to stop the vehicle.  At eight this evening it sped past the block at Ta Qali, refusing to stop.  Several vehicles were added to the watch list during the day, with the instruction that any civilians spreading false information were to be apprehended.  So far no further arrests have been made.

In a later unconnected incident, two RAF officers were challenged by an Infantry post after they stopped their saloon car to take photographs of the post.  After an investigation, it was established that the two officers had recently arrived and were not aware of proper procedures.  The film was removed from their camera and destroyed.


Malta Infantry headquarters have issued orders for personnel to take up attack positions immediately on hearing the air raid alert, and to remain there until ‘raiders passed’, to avoid movement in the open during air raids.  The orders were issued following an incident during an air raid this morning in which troops moved out of their safe position in order to attack low flying aircraft, and suffered several casualties. 

Infantry face leave ban

All leave has been suspended for Infantry units on Malta today and until further notice.  The announcement from Malta Infantry Brigade was accompanied by procedures for the disposal of the dead during operations in Malta.  The message also informed all Battalions that, after the ‘Raiders Passed’ signal sounds, all normal work must resume.


Weather  Fine and warm. 

0820-0838 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island at 12000 feet.  A bomb is dropped near Garghur, starting a fire.

0902 hrs  Air raid alert.  Two groups of three plus raiders are reported approaching the Island. 

0919 hrs  One formation of three aircraft is seen flying northwards over Naxxar. 

0932 hrs  Three Gladiator fighters take off, reaching 15000 feet.  The raiders circle 38 miles short of Malta and turn back for Sicily; no contact.

0943 hrs  All clear.  Sounds of gunfire are heard out to sea.

1000 hrs  B Coy, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment report an unexploded bomb near Tal Papa.

1630 hrs  Malta Infantry Brigade issues an alert for the impeding approach of British aircraft, which will be flying at relatively low altitude.   Units are told to hold fire until any approaching aircraft are identified.  The expected arrivals are three Hurricanes and one Hudson.

1820 hrs  Malta Infantry Brigade notifies all units that the British aircraft arrivals are cancelled.  Brigades are also informed that inshore patrols will no longer use navigation lights.

1930 hrs  Examination vessel Justified enters Marsaxlokk harbour.

0345 hrs  Units at San Pawl tat Targa report five shots from the direction of Rabat.  Initial investigations suggest they came from 2nd Bn Kings Own Malta Regt.

Military casualties  Chief Engine Room Artificer Charles J McLaughlin; Engine Room Artificer 1c James Tosh.

Civilian casualties  Cospicua  Lawrence Calafato, age 35; Carmel Camilleri, age 9; Joseph Facciol,age 23; Francis Fenech, age 33; Antonia Fenech, age 28; Saviour Fenech, age 8; Maria Fenech, age 6; Romeo Pace, age 35; Concetta Scicluna, age 24.  Gzira  Arthur Brooks, age 18; John Gatt, age 24.  Paola  Joseph(ine) Camilleri, age 24.  Pieta  Antonia Farrugia, age 25; Antonio Farrugia, age 5; Joseph Farrugia, age 4; Josephine Mangon, age 4.  Sliema  M’Assunta Borg, age 48; Victor German, age 17.  Zabbar  Joseph Facciol, age 23.


ROYAL NAVY  COTS Malta reports several enemy submarines at sea; positions unknown.

KALAFRANA  LAC G Simon (N/Ord Hal Far) transferred to Military Hospital, Imtarfa with sandfly fever.  Station appointments as of 11 June 1940: CO W/Cdr W D J Michie; Admin/Station Defence Officer S/Ldr P Alderton; Chief Engineer Officer S/Ldr H Hipwood; Senior Equipment Officer S/Ldr A Harbot; Senior Accountant Officer S/Ldr W N Hibbert; Senior Medical Officer S/Ldr R L Soper; Chaplain Rev A C Gates; Adjutant F/Lt A G F Cuningham; Station Signals Officer F/Lt L Avery; Marine Craft Officer F/Lt E W T Hardie; Dental Officer F/Lt I StC Alderdice; Deputy Station Defence Officer F/O W R Hardeman; Engineer Officer & Station Intelligence Officer F/O G A V Collins; Engineer Officer attached Hal Far F/O E G Clarke; Medical Officer F/O F T Moore; Signals F/O R V Piddick; Admin F/O J G Long & F/O C S Twist; Flying detached Hal Far F/O J E Jordan; Pilots London aircraft attached from 202 Squadron F/O D C Minchinton & P/O J Bradley.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  L/Sgt King and three Other Ranks detailed to dig for unexploded bomb  at Sliema.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS: Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported: 1 HE 250lb Sliema: digging commenced under Lt Eastman.. Dealt with: 1 Della Grazia, 1 HE 250lb Sliema. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT Luqa  All available troops sandbagging shelters and cutting telegraph poles for aerodrome defence.

(1) Source  Raiders Passed, Charles B Grech, Midsea Books 1998

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Posted by on June 12, 2020 in 1940, June 1940


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