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13 May 1941: Disabled Refugees and Children Saved by ‘Miracle’ Bell

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Bell oldUNEXPLAINED TOLLING SENDS EVACUEES TO SHELTER

A home for elderly and disabled people at Qormi escaped destruction this afternoon in an event which its Spiritual Director has described as ‘miraculous’. The home was evacuated from the Three Cities to Qormi last year. 

The home’s alarm bell sounded at around 2pm, as enemy bombers were crossing the east coast heading for Luqa aerodrome. As residents of the home and pupils of the village school headed for an underground shelter, the home’s caretaker rushed towards the Spiritual Director saying he had not rung the bell as he had not received the customary call from the Police.  At that moment, a terrific explosion rocked the building, shrouding it in a thick cloud of dust.  It was only then that the air raid alert sounded over the village.

The question of how the bell was rung remains a mystery, which the Spiritual Director has described as a “truly miraculous deliverance, which could have resulted in one of the worst tragedies to befall Malta through the war”. He added that five days ago, on “the feast of Our Lady of Pompeii, I conducted a Service in the chapel; as if having a premonition of an impending disaster, I urged everyone to pray devoutly”.   Today he believes those prayers were answered. (1)

TROOPS WARNED OF DANGERS OF SEA BATHING

Troops have been warned today that, owing to the presence of mines all round the coast and at many places inside the harbours, bathing is dangerous. Bathing may be allowed at the bather’s own risk everywhere it is possible, except in the special danger area near the entrances to the Grand and Marsamxetto Harbours, ie from Ras il Gebel to Sliema Point.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 MAY TO DAWN 14 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0735-0753 hrs  Air raid alert for a JU 88 bomber which carries out reconnaissance escorted by three ME 109 fighters.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1342-1421 hrs  Air raid alert for a small formation of bombers escorted by 25 ME 109s approaching the Island from the east.  Bombs are dropped on the Luqa aerodrome damaging one Wellington bomber, and on Tal Handaq, Marsa Creek and Ta Qali, Qormi and Hamrun, where 10 houses are destroyed, one civilian is killed and 12 injured, five seriously.  Qormi New Chapel and Government School are destroyed.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; ME 109s swoop down from 20000 to 10000 feet to attack them.  Two Hurricanes are shot down; pilot P/O P J A Thompson is killed, the other pilot bales out and is slightly injured.

0001-0402 hrs Air raid alert for 18 enemy aircraft approaching from the north east.  They head directly for Luqa, dropping 12 high explosive bombs on the airfield.  Three Maryland aircraft are damaged – two will be unserviceable for at least 12 days; one is lorry destroyed, two barrack blocks and the NAAFI are damaged.  Bombs are also dropped on Imtarfa Hospital, destroying the Royal Engineers office and one lorry.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled, one of which engages and damages one Heinkel HE 111 bomber which is illuminated by searchlights.  Anti-aircraft guns fire several barrages.  Two Beaufighters are scrambled and pursue the raiders back to their base in Sicily where they attempt to attack them during landing; no claims.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Peter John Alfred Thompson, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 261 Squadron; Rev Albert Edward Farrugia Bugeja, Royal Army Chaplains’ Department att. Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Hamrun  Adorata Scicluna, age 60.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 13 MAY 1941

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Sunderland. Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance Tripoli reported two convoys.  Maryland eastern Tunisian coast. 

HAL FAR  F/Lt Westmacott injured in aerial combat.

LUQA  Two Beaufighters 252 Squadron patrolled Sicilian coast to intercept enemy raiders returning from Malta; no interceptions.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The Battalion is responsible for the defence of the area of Grand and Marsxamxett Harbours. D Company had an early morning exercise “General Alarm” with Southern Infantry Brigade.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 22; dealt with 0.

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Two companies are responsible for the defence of the Qrendi and Safi landing strips; the remainder are in reserve.

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY  28 pdr cable Camerata to St Elmo and 28 pdr St James to St Elmo cut by enemy action now repaired.

(1) When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint 1981

 

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Posted by on May 13, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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10 May 1941: Maltese ‘Deserving of Highest Praise’

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GOVERNOR & C IN C PRAISES FORTITUDE OF CIVILIANS IN MESSAGE TO LONDON

Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

Lt General Dobbie has written a top secret personal letter to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London today outlining the impact of the recent heavy bomb and mine attacks on Malta and its citizens.

I am very grateful for your message of sympathy for civilian casualties and loss of property in recent air raids. The small number of casualties in comparison with the destruction of buildings is due partly to the movement of population from areas most liable to attack and partly to the increasing provision of safe shelters dug in the rock, particularly in the most dangerous areas.

The outstanding feature of the last month has been the frequent occurrence of night raids by about 40 bombers dropping parachute flares and mines as well as bombs. Damage both from mines and bombs has been widespread but has been greatest in Valletta.  The main street and several others are blocked with great quantities of stone from destroyed buildings and will take a long time to clear with our limited resources.

This extensive damage to their principal city which was founded immediately after the Great Siege in 1565 and has stood unchanged since the time of the Knights has been profound shock to Maltese sentiment and damage to several large churches including the Cathedral of St John has given deep offence. Added to that but separate from it is the material loss caused to large numbers of individuals by the destruction of property and businesses which it has taken them years to acquire. 

Nevertheless the reaction of the people is deserving of the highest praise. They have been hardened in anger towards the enemy and are facing their own individual calamities with cheerfulness and fortitude.  With the first light after the destruction of their homes and shops, they are busily engaged with hammers and boards covering up damage where they can and rescuing their stock and possessions from among the debris to make another start.  As one of them recently said after the destruction of his home: “We will endure anything except the rule of these barbarians and savages.”  The homeless are received by others, especially among the poorer classes, with most remarkable hospitality and people in undamaged areas have been living for nearly a year with comparative cheerfulness in conditions of close overcrowding and consequent discomfort.

The great majority are, I am sure, quite unshaken in their belief in final victory and the Prime Minister’s recent statement that Malta will be defended with the full strength of the Empire (maltagc70 7 May 1941) meant very much to the people here.  They ask for retaliation against Italy.  They know that it is the Germans and not the Italians who have done them greatest injury but retaliation upon Germany from England is too far off to give them the same satisfaction that they would derive from retaliation upon Italy whose reaction they could vividly picture whose present immunity so close at hand is a source of lively irritation.  Unfortunately that balm has been for some time lacking.

I am very sure that the people would be greatly heartened by a message from Her Majesty’s Government at the present time. They feel they are sharing in the Empire’s struggle and though they know that their misfortunes are very much less than those of the people in England, they would like it to be known there that they are sharing in that way too.

RIFLE SHORTAGES ACROSS MIDDLE EAST AND INDIA AS WELL AS MALTA

Malta troops face a continuing serious shortage of rifles after the War Office today turned down a request for urgent additional supplies. The Island’s Governor and Commander in Chief has requested supplies of almost 4000 rifles, (maltagc70 17 April) more than half of which are needed to arm new Maltese conscripts. 

However, the War Office has replied that there are also serious deficiencies of supplies in the Middle East and India. It is therefore possible to send only 1000 to Malta, which is the maximum currently available in the UK.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 MAY TO DAWN 11 MAY 1941

Weather  Overcast with poor visibility.

1136-1150 hrs Air raid alert for three ME 109 fighters which patrol round the Island.  Their presence suggests the passage of JU 52 transport aircraft north to south off Malta.  Three Beaufighters are sent to investigate; one fails to return.  The other two Beaufighters find no trace of the JU 52s.  A fourth Beaufighter is sent to search for the missing aircraft.  F/Lt J Lowe and F/Sgt J H Tranter are reported missing.

1408-1420 hrs  Air raid alert for a small formation of ME 109s which patrol round the Island without crossing the coast.

1843-1942 hrs  Air raid alert for six ME 109 fighters which approach the Island, split up and patrol at 20000 feet.  One group circles for some time off Kalafrana before one ME 109 dives down and machine-guns a Sunderland at its moorings in Marsaxlokk Bay; the aircraft burns out and sinks.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled and engage the ME 109s, claiming one probably shot down.  Heavy and light anti-aircraft guns also engage; Bofors claim a direct hit on a Messerschmitt. 

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant John Joseph Lowe, Flight Sergeant John Henry Tranter, Royal Air Force, 252 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 10 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Foresight arrived for repair of defects.

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Maryland shuttle from the Middle East via the Greek coast.  Maryland patrol off eastern Sicilian coast.  Maryland photo-reconnaissance of Tripoli; about 25 merchant ships seen, some 9000 tons.  Maryland Ionian Sea patrol.  Maryland shuttle service to Zante and back. 252 Squadron Nine Beaufighters carry out a daylight successful strafing attack on aerodromes at Catania and Comiso doing much damage.  Wellington bombers night attack on Tripoli caused several large explosions and large fires.  All aircraft returned safely. 

HAL FAR 830 Squadron Five aircraft carried out operational flight against Tripoli; all aircraft returned safely.

 

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Posted by on May 10, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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