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6 July 1941: Heavy Bombs on Paola & St Julians Destroy Homes and Kill 6

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BR 20 bombers

BR 20 bombers

240 HIGH EXPLOSIVE BOMBS OVER MALTA

Fifteen civilians were killed and 14 injured when heavy bombs struck the Dockyard community of Paola tonight. In a series of four air raids spread over five hours, more than 20 enemy bombers crossed the coast singly at intervals at a height of 17000 feet, dropping over 240 high explosives, many of them 100kg and 250kg.  Bad weather hampered defensive operations by Malta’s night fighters who were scrambled in pairs for each of the raids but were unable to engage the enemy bombers. 

The first four raiders approached the Island at about 1030 pm but made no significant attack, dropping bombs on rocks at Mellieha Bay and in the sea. An hour later the second wave of ten BR 20s crossed the coast north west of Grand Harbour and dropped several 250kg bombs on Paceville in St Julians, demolishing four houses and damaging ten others with no casualties.  Bombs were also dropped on Ta Braxia Cemetery and Sa Maison in Pieta.  Anti-aircraft guns opened fire but were unable to locate their targets.

Just after 1am a single bomber crossed over Grand Harbour and dropped 15kg bombs on Marsa. The heaviest raid came towards 3am when the final wave of 12 bombers approached, crossing the coast in three separate formations between Grand Harbour and Delimara.  One formation headed directly over the Harbour area and dropped several sticks of 250kg and 100kg bombs across Vittoriosa and the heart of Paola, where the civilian casualties occurred.

ROYAL MALTA ARTILLERY AT WORK

RMA Gunner recalls a summer at Ghain Tuffieha

“In July 1941 we handed over the Naxxar Silent Gun Position to 6th HAA Battery [Royal Malta Artillery] – also of our regiment – and my troop moved to Ghajn Tuffieha.  Battery HQ joined the other troop at Ta’Giorni…

We established ourselves in the wooden huts at Ghajn Tuffieha Camp, the same huts we used to go into as Boy Scouts when we were ‘camp followers’ to our older friends in the Kings Own Malta Regiment machine gun platoon in 1938. I took over four 3 inch 20 cwt guns but this time they were deployed in two Silent Gun sites – two guns in each – with no instruments to direct the fire.

It was a very busy time for us for we had to stack a very large quantity of 3 inch 20cwt ammunition in a cave situated close to one of the sites. Early every morning the whole troop, except for guards and cooks, marched uphill for nearly two miles to get to Bajda Ridge (Biddy).  Here, from time to time, a huge Matador gun tower arrived loaded with ammunition, which we had to unload and carry to a cave off the road…  Each box was made of steel with separators to take four live cartridges; one former stevedore had a lump of hard skin on his right shoulder the size of half a tennis ball.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 6 JULY TO DAWN 7 JULY 1941

Weather  Stormy.

2218-2252 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy aircraft approaching from the north. Two Hurricanes are scrambled but do not engage due to bad weather.  The raiders drop bombs on rocks at Mellieha and in the sea.

2313-0049 hrs  Air raid alert for ten enemy BR 20 bombers which approach the Island and drop high explosive bombs on St Julians demolishing several houses, on Pieta, and in the north of Grand Harbour. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders with two barrages; no claims.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled and anti-aircraft guns open fire; no claims.

0106-0206 hrs  Air raid alert for a single bomber which crosses the coast and drops bombs on Marsa. Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.

0228-0317 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy aircraft which approach the Island in three separate formations. They cross the coast singly between Grand Harbour and Delimara, and drop bombs on Paola killing several civilians. Bombs are also dropped on Vittoriosa and near St Thomas’ Bay.  Two Hurricanes are scrambled; no claims.

Military casualties Private Frank Watson, 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment; Private Emmanuel Tanti, Kings Own Malta Regiment.                                              

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 6 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Mine detonated in Floating Dock. P33 arrived from Gibraltar. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 8 Swordfish bombed and laid 5 cucumbers off Tripoli. 

AIR HQ  Arrivals 6 Blenheims, 1 Catalina. 82 Squadron 6 Blenheims attacked shipping Palermo Harbour. 

HAL FAR  One Fulmar patrolled over Catania and attacked a large aircraft which burst into flames.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  All ranks were kept in barracks owing to ‘Exercise Asia’; organised bathing parties were allowed.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal Section busy on unexploded bombs. Exercise review concludes that all our drivers should be trained soldiers as MAC drivers have a tendency to go to ground under bombing. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 4.

(1) Recollections of a Malta HAA Gunner, Maurice G Agius, Allied Publications 2008

 

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Posted by on July 6, 2016 in 1941, July 1941

 

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27 May 1941: Blenheim Bombers Lost in Attack on Convoy

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Blenheim Mk IV BBLENHEIMS EXPLODE DURING LOW-ALTITUDE BOMBING RUN

Two Blenheims of 82 Squadron were shot down today while engaging in an offensive operation in the southern Mediterranean. The Blenheims were among six sent to attack a large convoy escorted by destroyers as it headed for Tripoli in Libya.  Early this afternoon they reached the six merchant vessels with their escort of eight destroyers and launched their attack. 

The bombers flew in low over the ships to release their bombs in the midst of very heavy anti-aircraft fire. Two of the merchant ships were hit but two of the Blenheims were also destroyed as they dived down towards the vessels.  It has been suggested that the resulting explosions destroyed two of the Blenheims.  The pilots of the two bombers have been named as Flt/Lt G M Fairbairn and Sgt E B Inman.  Their crews were Sgt R J Austin, Sgt K P Collins (1), P/O P J Higgins and Sgt S W Kemp.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 MAY TO DAWN 28 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0719-0745 hrs  Air raid alert for two Italian SM79 bombers which approach the Island possibly on their way south for reconnaissance. Anti-aircraft guns open fire; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

0923-0957 hrs  Air raid alert for two SM 79 bombers escorted by 12 ME 109 fighters which cross over the Island from the north at high altitude, apparently on reconnaissance, then split formation, reform to the east of the Island and recede northwards. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Hurricane fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

2250-0010 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft which cross over Grand Harbour singly, laying mines. Anti-aircraft guns fire one short barrage; no claims.

0025-0050 hrs  Air raid alert for enemy aircraft approaching from the north. One stick of bombs is dropped on Gozo.

0335-0402 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy bomber which crosses the Island, dropping bombs near Qormi.

Military casualties  Sergeant Ronald Joseph Austin Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), Flight Lieutenant Garnet Mackenzie Fairbairn, RAFVR, Pilot Officer Peter John Higgins Royal Air Force VR, Sergeant Edwin Bentall Inman, RAFVR, Sergeant Stanley William Kemp, Royal Air Force all 82 Squadron; Sapper Joseph Chircop, Royal Engineers, Malta Territorial Force.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 27 MAY 1941

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Beaufighter. 69 Squadron Maryland reconnaissance east of Malta to Cape Stilo.   Maryland reconnaissance southern part of eastern Tunisian coast reports convoy.  Maryland sent to locate ships reported by RAF finds convoy 80 miles east of Malta, escorted by 4 SM 79s and one Cant Z501. 139 Squadron Six Blenheims (five of 82 Squadron, one of 139 Squadron) attacked a large convoy escorted by destroyers.  F/Lt Fairbairn and Sgt Inman were shot down.

LUQA  One Beaufighter 252 Squadron left for Middle East.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  The unit was examined by the Petrol Commission but no means were found by which either vehicles or petrol consumption could be reduced. Motor Transport staff were commended on their fuel controls.  Command Signal Exercise held at 0430-0815 hrs involving Bn HQ and Signals.  The exercise was to test out communications.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  0430-0815 hrs Bn and Company Headquarters took part in Malta Command Exercise No 2. The Battalion celebrated Bois des Buttes anniversary with a holiday: a Fur and Feather show was held during the morning and sports, games and entertainments in the evening.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 3 (1 x 250kg; 2 x 500kg).

1st Bn HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Two companies to Xlejli Tower to take over defence of Luqa aerodrome. Remaining two companies disposed one at Zurrieq, one at Kirkop landing strip.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Command Signal exercise involving HQs down to Companies. Very little traffic through Battalion area. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  HQ and all three companies all on bicycles to concentrate on Marsa in the Southern Infantry Brigade reserve. Warning for ‘Picnic’ force to move issued to A Company.  Night interrupted with raids all night.

(1) Sgt K P Collins was injured but survived and was taken prisoner.

 

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Posted by on May 27, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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13 February 1941: New German Force Heads to North Africa via Med

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Rommel in North Africa

Rommel in North Africa

VICTOR IN FRANCE AIMS TO REPEAT SUCCESS

A major new German military force is set to cross the Mediterranean to North Africa, according to intelligence sources. Their commander, Major General Erwin Rommel is reported to have already landed in Libya.  Following his success in the invasion of France in 1940,  Rommel has been given the task by Chancellor Hitler to take on the British in North Africa, following heavy Italian defeats in the region. 

Observers and reconnaissance have recently made several reports of military forces amassing in Italy and Sicily, as well as extensive merchant and naval shipping movements through the Mediterranean to Libya. Malta bombers are expected to play a key role in impeding the successful transfer of resources to the North Africa campaign.

GERMAN BOMBERS ARMOUR-PLATED

German bombers are reinforced with armour-plating, according to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief. Reporting the discovery in a telegram to the War Office today, Lt Gen Dobbie has recommended that the Army should be issued with A/P SAA .303 ammunition.  If the issue is approved, the Island would need an initial delivery of one million rounds, rising to five million rounds in time for the forthcoming increase to the Garrison recently authorised by London.

A WEEK IN MALTA – REPORT TO THE BRITISH WAR CABINET FOR 6-12 FEBRUARY

The Island was persistently but ineffectively raided by enemy aircraft, which included German bombers and probably fighters. Forty-five bombers maintained a prolonged attack on the night of 8th/9th, during which our Hurricanes destroyed two JU 88s and damaged a third; relatively unimportant damage was sustained at Luqa and Hal Far, though civilian property suffered considerably.  On the 12th, two intercepting Hurricanes were lost, but one pilot was rescued from the sea.  ME 109s have been reported over Malta, but have not been in action.

Our aircraft reconnoitred Tunis and the coast and sea routes from Italy to Tripoli and Benghazi. On the night of 11th/12th the aerodromes at Comiso and Catania in Sicily were attacked with over five tons of bombs by Wellingtons from Malta.  At least four enemy aircraft were destroyed at Catania and large fires were started at both aerodromes. 

Enemy transport activity on a considerable scale has been maintained between Sicily, Tripoli and Sardinia.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 14 FEBRUARY 1941

Weather  Fine and clear.

1508-1522 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber accompanied by six ME 109 fighters which approach the Island from the north on reconnaissance at 22000 feet. Hurricane fighters are scrambled but on sight of them the ME 109s turn away and fly off.  Anti-aircraft guns open fire, hitting the JU 88 which is last seen losing height with smoke pouring from one engine.  No bombs are dropped on the Island.

1915-1932 hrs; 1942-2001 hrs; 2200-2235 hrs; 2331-2325 hrs; 2340-0040 hrs  Air raid alerts for a series of nuisance raids over the Island. Hurricane fighters are airborne in turn throughout.  In the first raid bombs are dropped between Mosta and Naxxar.  In the second, from Rinella to Della Grazia and one enemy bomber is damaged by a Hurricane.  In the third, raiders cross the coast over Dingli; bombs are dropped to the west of Ta Qali aerodrome; three fall on B block of Imtarfa Hospital, killing three patients, seriously wounding six and slightly wounding another six.  The third attack approaches from the south and drops bombs in the sea off Fort Leonardo.  In the fourth, bombs are dropped on the Grand Harbour area.  Searchlights pick up a single bomber heading away over the north coast.  During the raids bombs are also dropped on Pembroke and on Luqa aerodrome, seriously damaging one Wellington and slightly damaging one Whitley.

Military casualties  Private Lawrence Duckworth, 8th Battalion, Manchester Regiment; Private Robert McGill, King’s Own Malta Regiment; Private James Frederick Scott, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 13 FEBRUARY 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm attacked and believed sank a merchant convoy heading for Libya.

AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Sunderlands. Sunderland patrolled western Ionian Sea.  69 Squadron  Maryland photoreconnaissance Comiso and Gela aerodromes: Comiso eight JU 88s of which one burned out, 11 HE 111s, one SM 79, plus 16 unidentified fighters; Gela seven bombers, nine fighters unidentified but with dark camouflage.   

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland arrived from Middle East en route for UK. One Sunderland 230 Squadron arrived from Middle East with passengers.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland photoreconnaissance Gela and Comiso.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battle practices on Ghain Tuffieha ranges.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Private L Duckworth was killed by a bomb on an air raid shelter at Imtarfa Hospital.

 

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

 

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14 November 1940: Malta Early Warning Systems Improved

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NEW RADIO DIRECTION FINDER (RDF) EQUIPMENT IMPROVES MALTA DEFENCES (1)

RDF equipment Mark 1

RDF equipment Mark 1

The system which provides essential early warning of enemy formations approaching Malta is undergoing significant improvement. RDF equipment detects incoming aircraft from some distance, enabling the RAF to scramble the Island’s defending fighter force to catch approaching raiders unawares and attack or deter them well before they reach the coast.  The information also supports the sounding of air raid alerts across Malta, giving troops and civilians time to get to shelter before bombers arrive.

There has been a RDF system in Malta since 1939, when stations were set up on Dingli Cliff. Three more sites are now planned and a centre to filter information is being set up in the cellar of a house in Scots Street, Valletta. New equipment has now arrived which can detect shipping and low-flying aircraft, along with experienced service personnel from the Home Front to man the updated systems. RDF Stations identify the approximate number of approaching aircraft (both Allied and Axis) as well as their height.  The details are passed on by telephone to the filter room and from there to all relevant points.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 14 NOVEMBER TO DAWN 15 NOVEMBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

No air raids.

Military casualties  Private Arthur Phillips, 2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 14 NOVEMBER 1940

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland on patrol over Ionian Sea then posted to Middle East to rejoin 230 Squadron.

TA QALI  S/Ldr Balen OC 261 Squadron posted to RAF Station Luqa.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS Approx 10000 rounds ammunition issued direct from ship to Royal Artillery towards 100% reserve.

(1) Radio Direction Finder equipment became known as RADAR

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Posted by on November 14, 2015 in 1940, November 1940

 

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8 October 1940: Military Chiefs Discuss Possible Invasion of Malta

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GOVERNOR ANTICIPATES SEABORNE ATTACK

Malta Governor & Commander in Chief Lt Gen Dobbie

Malta Governor & Commander in Chief Lt Gen Dobbie

In the first of two telegrams, Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief wrote today to the Chief of Imperial General Staff at the War Office with his views on the prospects for Malta in the face of an invasion from the sea:

I cannot visualise a full dress attack on Malta unless the enemy are confident of being able to prevent the Mediterranean Fleet from intervening for a sufficient period to enable them to gain control of the Island. After consulting the Vice Admiral Malta I imagine that seven days is the maximum period the enemy could hope to have free from interference…  This limit would probably rule out a deliberate step by step attack and would necessitate a maximum effort at all possible places simultaneously, carried through with the utmost determination; German stiffening might give the necessary vigour.

The local naval forces likely to be available within the next few months are only a few submarines, and even these are uncertain. Motor Torpedo Boats would be extremely useful against sea-borne attack but cannot materialise for a long time, so I am not counting on them. It follows that the Navy here will not be able to do much to interfere with sea-borne attack. The Air Force available at present could not count on preventing the enemy from gaining air superiority if he made determined efforts to do so. The four fighter squadrons asked for, and which might have prevented such a result, cannot I understand come for some time. We must therefore face the fact that the enemy would have local air superiority, except in so far as our Ack Ack guns might interfere; this of course is a serious handicap. But the RAF reconnaissance aircraft should be able to give us warning of concentrations of shipping in Sicily, thus reducing the chance of a complete surprise.

I assume the enemy will have ample resources of men and material and that in order to gain a quick decision he will attack on a very wide front. Further, that he will use self-propelled armoured landing craft and will do the journey from Sicily at night, attacking at or before dawn. I assume also that these craft will carry some medium or light tanks and possibly flame-throwers, the latter to deal with beach posts. That the attack would be supported by fire from warships and intense air attack. From the foregoing consideration the following conclusions emerge:

  • (a) We must stop as many of the landing craft as possible from reaching the beach. To do this we need guns, since small arms fire is useless against their armour.
  • (b) In an attack of such intensity and so widely dispersed, the enemy may well get a footing at a number of points. Immediate counter-attacks will be essential and these must be assisted by the greatest possible supporting gun or mortar fire, to give them the best chance for success.
  • (c) Deliberate counter-attacks supported by strong artillery fire may be necessary in more than one area at once. These attacks must be made by forces strong enough to ensure success…

If we have to meet a full dress attack in the circumstances I have envisaged, we require the following additional troops and equipment: three battalions complete with mortars, one field battery, two anti-tank troops Royal Artillery, one or two sections of Field Company Royal Engineers or equivalent, 50 Lyon lights and 10 beach defence lights and 60 x 2” mortars, plus 100 anti-tank rifles, besides other weapons already asked for.

I suggest that these troops if sent here should be regarded as a reserve available to be sent elsewhere in the Near East should the naval situation change so that a full scale attack on Malta is deemed unlikely. But meanwhile some such force is needed if the fleet is to be freed from undue preoccupation with the safety of Malta.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 8 OCTOBER TO DAWN 9 OCTOBER 1940

Weather  Fine.

1935-2020 hrs  Air raid alert for four enemy bombers which approach Delimara from the east at 14000 feet and drop bombs in the sea off Delimara, Wied Znuber and two miles off Grand Harbour. Two turn back before crossing the coast. The remaining two are illuminated and held by searchlights, then engaged by one Malta Hurricane fighter. One Italian bomber is brought down in flames into the sea off Delimara. Another is so badly damaged that it is unlikely to return to base; it is last seen by the Hurricane pilot and coastal observers flying at 1000 feet with one engine on fire. Two men are seen baling out towards the sea. The Hurricane lands safely. Searchlight crews are praised by the Air Officer Commanding for exceptionally good work.    

Military casualties  Private Ronald Frost, 2nd Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment

Enemy casualties  Tenente Adolfo Ferrari, 257a Squadriglia, 108o Gruppo, 36o Stormo, pilot of a Savoia SM79 bomber shot down.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 8 OCTOBER 1940

HMS Aba (1)

HMS Aba (1)

ROYAL NAVY  0655-1024 hrs  Swordfish 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm despatched on patrol; nothing sighted. Hospital ship Aba arrived and departed: discharged three, embarked 52.  

AIR HQ  0345-0845 hrs  Glenn Martin 431 Flight reconnaissanace of Ionian sea, Taranto Harbour and Brindisi; nil report.

KALAFRANA  Operations by Sunderland aircraft of 228 and 230 squadrons. 1230-1605 hrs Glenn Martin 431 Flight on reconnaissance; nothing to report. 0345-1515 hrs Sunderland 228 Squadron and 0403-1532 hrs Sunderland 230 Squadron reconnaissanace of Ionian sea, Taranto Harbour and Brindisi; nil report.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT 1200 hrs  CSM W Fry and five Other Ranks embarked as invalids on board a hospital ship at Malta for passage to UK.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT   Four discharged men left for UK.

(1)  http://hospital-ship-aba.blogspot.co.uk/

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Posted by on October 8, 2015 in 1940, October 1940

 

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