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3 January 1942: 36 Hour Attack on Malta

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Chapel of Sta Maria Bir Miftuh, Gudja

Chapel of Sta Maria Bir Miftuh, Gudja

LUQA RUNWAY CRATERED – LUFTWAFFE PILOTS TAKEN PRISONER

In the early hours of this morning the enemy launched the first attack of a 36 hour campaign against Malta’s airfields.  The enemy’s target is aircraft on the ground. During the morning alone there are over 80 enemy sorties over the Island.  Bombs fall in several districts including Birzebuggia, Msida, Hamrun and Luqa, which is attacked by 30 aircraft, damaging the airfield and four Wellingtons on the ground.

Luqa’s runway is badly cratered: Army working parties are called up to carry out emergency repairs.  Despite continuous bombing, they work on into the night, finishing the job at 1159 hrs.

The Police and Air Raid Precautions headquarters also report being at full stretch, handling the reporting and guarding of unexploded bombs.

AIR RAIDS

Weather  Morning cold, fine and clear; clouding over in the afternoon.

0225 hrs  Eight Hurricanes from 185 Squadron at Hal Far are scrambled to intercept a formation of three JU 88s and twelve ME 109s.  Hurricanes of 185 Squadron destroy one JU 88 and damage another.  One Hurricane is destroyed; the pilot, Sgt Westcott, bails out and is slightly injured.

Three High Explosive bombs are dropped on the south west of Gudja village near an army HQ.  One Other Rank is killed and billets are damaged.  One bomb falls on the outskirts of Qrendi village, one in a field near the tents of HQ Company and one behind the HQ of 3rd Battalion, The Kings Own Malta Regiment.

0300 hrs Eight bombs fall on Qrendi strip and three on the road to Zurrieq. 0315 hrs A stick of eight bombs falls near the road leading to Ghar Lapsi in the Qrendi strip area.

0430-0510 hrs  A stick of bombs is dropped in the area of Bir Miftuh Church.

0850 hrs Nine Hurricanes are scrambled from Ta Qali to intercept incoming enemy aircraft.

0855 hrs  Air alert.  Eight JU 88s with ME 109s escorting approach from the north and carry out a shallow dive-bombing attack on Luqa and Safi, followed by a similar attack on Hal Far.  Hurricanes unable to intercept; one Hurricane is damaged by gunfire and crashes on landing.  Heavy Ack Ack also responds with defensive barrages, shooting down one ME 109 fighter.

The aircraft crashes in the area of B Company, 4th Bn The Hampshire Regiment who search the wreckage, finding documents which they hand over to the RAF authorities.  The body of the NCO (Unteroffizier) pilot is looked after by the Regiment.

0933-1015 hrs A further two JU 88 bombers with nineteen escorting fighters approach from the north and carry out a second shallow dive-bombing attack on Safi landing strip.  Heavy Ack Ack guns fire a barrage.

21 Hurricanes engage the enemy attackers damaging one JU 88 and destroying another which lands near Zebbug.  The crew bales out and four German airmen are taken prisoner.  One lands in the area of A Company, 4th Bn The Hampshire Regt, who escort him to Corradino Barracks and hand him over to RAF Headquarters for interrogation.

Private Holford of D Company, 2nd Bn The Royal West Kent Regiment on attachment to RAF Luqa is reported killed.

1108-1228 hrs  38 plus aircraft (three JU 88 and escorting ME 109s) approach from the north at 18000 feet and drop bombs from above the clouds on Safi landing strip, starting two fires, and near Gudja searchlight station.  Heavy Ack Ack fire barrages, damaging one JU 88 bomber.  No Hurricanes are airborne.  Heavy Ack Ack damaged one JU 88.

1440-1510 hrs One JU 88 and two ME 109s cross the Island on reconnaissance at a height of 20-25000 feet.  Seventeen Hurricanes are airborne and Heavy Ack Ack stands ready but they do not engage the enemy.

1528-1601 hrs  Four JU 88 escorted by some fifteen fighters approach from the south east and carry out another shallow dive-bombing attack on Luqa and Hal Far aerodromes.  Heavy Ack Ack gunners of Grand Harbour, Luqa and Hal Far open fire on the incoming aircraft and Light Ack Ack gunners of 225 Battery engage one JU 88, claiming hits. No Hurricanes are airborne.

1629-1731 hrs  Six JU 88 escorted by ten fighters approach from the south west and carry out a shallow dive-bombing attack on Luqa.  Six houses in Luqa village are destroyed.  One Whitley and one Maryland aircraft are destroyed on the ground.  Enemy aircraft stay out of sight above the clouds.  Heavy Ack Ack sends up a  barrage and twelve Hurricanes are scramble but do not engage.

1732-1758 hrs  Seven Blenheims of 105 Squadron are transferred from Luqa to Ta Qali and are moved out to dispersal areas.

1932-2046 hrs Royal Artillery Policy Orders are fighters up, guns engage up to 6000 feet; searchlights expose.  Five aircraft approach singly from the north, dropping bombs near Cospicua in Msida Valley and on Birkirkara.  Two aircraft do not cross the coast.

2004 hrs  Bombs damage the power system at Central Infantry Brigade, cutting off the electricity supply for 24 hours.

2025 hrs  One Other Rank of 1st Bn The Hampshire Regt is killed when billets are hit by bombs dropped on south west of Gudja village.

2218-0531 hrs Raids on aerodromes and shipping in Grand Harbour continue throughout the night.  18 aircraft approach the Island during the night.  Bombs are reported across a wide area: in Zeitun, Tal Handaq, Luqa (causing a fire), Safi, Gudja, Dingli, Hal Far, Ta Silch, Qrendi.  Several houses are destroyed. Two Maryland aircraft and four Wellingtons are damaged and four airmen are reported killed.

The Dockyard is also bombed. HMS Havock is attacked and one officer and two ratings killed, and two ratings injured.

Several enemy aircraft are reported to have descended to 4000 feet.  Heavy Ack Ack fired five immediate barrages and defensive fighters are reported to have damaged one bomber aircraft after a short engagement.

Military casualties  Private Arthur Sigrist, 4th Bn The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment).  Private Charles Holford, 2nd Bn The Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment; Cpl John Granard, RAF; Cpl Edgar Verney, RAF.

Civilian casualties  in Birkirkara Raphael Caruana, age 69, Louis Di Mauro, age 59; in Siggiewi Luqa Saliba, age 27; in Gozo (Nadur) Carmelo Gatt, age 2; in Gzira Anglu Mallia, age 43.

Enemy casualites  Unteroffizier Werner Mirschinka, pilot of ME109 fighter, shot down and died. Crew of JU 88 bomber, bailed out and taken prisoner: observer Feldwebel Ulrich Arnold, air gunner Feldwebel Heinrich Freese; wireless operator Obergefreiter Gerhard Hoppe, pilot Oberleutnant Victor Schnez.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: SATURDAY 3 JANUARY 1942

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Beaufighter Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Castel Vetrano aerodrome.  18 Squadron  one Blenheim SF14 patrol returned owing to intercom failure; one Blenheim SF 14 patrol.  107 Squadron Six Blenheims attacked motor transport Misrata-Zliten.  18 Squadron Two Blenheims attacked motor transport Zliten-Misrata.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 6; dealt with 2 (250kg).

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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in 1942, January 1942

 

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1 October 1941: Malta Command Reports Standard of Enemy Bomber Crews Deteriorating

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Lt Carroll (l.) & men of RE Bomb Disposal, Malta (NWMA Malta)

Lt Carroll (l.) & men of RE Bomb Disposal, Malta (NWMA Malta)

RAID SUMMARY SEPTEMBER 1941

  • No of air raids to date 828
  • No of air raid alerts this month 31 (including 21 night alerts)
  • Days without air raid alerts 12
  • Total time under alert 19 hours 23 mins
  • Average length of alert 38 mins
  • Civilians killed by enemy action 4
  • Civilians injured 4

ROYAL ENGINEERS BOMB DISPOSAL SECTION

Unexploded bombs dealt with July-Sept 1941 total: 224

  • High explosives: 15g x 21; 50kg x 8; 130lb x 1; 100kg/250lb x 8; 150kg x 2; 250kg/500lb x 2; 500kg x 2
  • Incendiaries: 2kg x 174; 70kg x 2
  • Anti-personnel: 2kg x 3; 12kg x 1

MALTA COMMANDERS REPORT ON SEPTEMBER RAIDS

The month was chiefly notable for the increase in the number of daylight raids, the majority being made by small numbers of the new Macchi 200s with in-line engines, flying, for the most part, at too great a height for interception by our own fighters. Night bombing increased presumably as a reprisal for our own heavy raids on enemy ports and aerodromes, but the standard of enemy bomber crews appears to be deteriorating.

Bombing occurred only at night. There were twelve night bombing raids, as a result of which three men and one woman were killed, and three men and three women seriously injured. Thirteen houses, one factory and one garage were demolished or badly damaged.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 OCTOBER TO DAWN 2 OCTOBER 1941

Weather  Fine and cool.

1155-1220 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy fighters approaching the Island in two formations. Eight Hurricane fighters 185 Squadron and six 126 Squadron are scrambled.  185 Squadron intercept the first formation five north of Gozo, damaging one enemy fighter.  The second formation which has positioned itself against the sun immediately launches a counter-attack on the Hurricanes which break off their action at once.  One Hurricane’s starboard wing is damaged in an engagement with a Macchi fighter but he returns safely.  Sgt Knight attacks another Macchi and damages its tail unit but is then attacked by three others and forced to break off the action.  The fighter of S/Ldr Mould DFC is shot down.

PM  One Swordfish 830 Squadron carries out a search for S/Ldr Mould without success.

Military casualties  Private Cyril Fletcher, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment); Squadron Leader Peter W O Mould, DFC and Bar, Royal Air Force, 185 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 1 OCTOBER 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Thrasher arrived from patrol in the Gulf of Sirte having carried out two unsuccessful attacks.  Much anti-submarine and minelaying activity off Benghazi. Polish submarine Sokol arrived from Gibraltar and from patrol supporting ‘Operation Halberd’.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 9 Wellington. Departures 1 Maryland, 2 Wellington.  69 Squadron 2 Maryland special patrols. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Battalion mounting guard on convoy ships.

 

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Posted by on October 1, 2016 in 1941, October 1941

 

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22 July 1941: Malta Convoy Attacked by Italian Submarine

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HMS Renown

HMS Renown

TORPEDOES AIMED AT ADMIRAL’S FLAGSHIP

The flagship of Force H Commander Vice Admiral Somerville, HMS Renown, narrowly escaped damage today when torpedoes were aimed at the battlecruiser by an Italian submarine. Renown was attacked in the western Mediterranean while leading the escort for the Malta convoy under ‘Operation Substance’. 

Measures had been taken to divert the attention of the Italian navy from the convoy. Since yesterday, ships of the Mediterranean Fleet operating out of Alexandria have been exchanging radio messages to suggest a major operation in the eastern Mediterranean.  However, the submarine Diaspro on patrol in the western sector spotted the convoy and launched her torpedoes which just missed Renown. 

The Malta convoy continued its progress eastwards without further disturbance today. Ten of the escorting Royal Navy ships were refueled successfully by RFA Brown Ranger which sailed yesterday from Gibraltar in advance of the main Malta convoy. Brown Ranger is now on her way back to port under the escort of the destroyer HMS Beverley.

RFA Brown Ranger

RFA Brown Ranger

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 JULY TO DAWN 23 JULY 1941

Weather  Hot and sunny.

1105-1130 hrs  A formation of enemy aircraft is reported of Cape Passero, heading south. Hurricane aircraft are scrambled but the formation turns away.  As the Hurricanes head back towards Malta, a second formation of 25 enemy aircraft is reported heading for Malta.  Another flight of Hurricanes is scrambled.  The raiders approach to within 15 miles of Grand Harbour, then turn back northwards.  The Hurricanes set off in pursuit bur are unable to catch the enemy.

2117-2342 hrs Air raid alert for two enemy aircraft which approach from the north east individually, crossing the coast east of Salina Bay and Grand Harbour respectively. Bombs are dropped in the Marsa area.

Military casualties  Flight-Sergeant William H Sargent, pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 110 Squadron.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 22 JULY 1941

ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm 5 Swordfish left to attack convoy of 1 tanker 7000 tons, 1 destroyer, and 1 small merchant vessel intercepted south west of Lampion.  They hit the tanker with 2 torpedoes and claimed sunk, one hit with a torpedo on the stern of the destroyer was also secured.  All aircraft returned.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 1 Beaufighter. Departures 1 Sunderland, 4 Wellington 148 Squadron. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance Taranto shot down a Cant seaplane on return.  Reconnaissance Naples, Messina, Palermo, Trapani; search patrol and night shadowing of convoy. 110 Squadron  4 Blenheim attacked a convoy and sank two ships; the Observer of one Blenheim was killed.  After inspecting the Command the Inspector General, Air Chief Marshal Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, and staff proceeded to the Middle East.  

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  240 first line reinforcements arrived for the Battalion: 5 officers, 100 men of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, 100 men of the Green Howard Regiment, 40 men of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

 

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Posted by on July 22, 2016 in 1941, July 1941

 

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24 April 1941: Infantrymen Killed Manning Heavy Guns

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BUFFS TROOPS KILLED ON EMERGENCY ACK ACK DUTY

Four members of 4th Battalion The Buffs were among five servicemen reported killed tonight while they were helping to man an anti-aircraft gun normally handled by the Royal Artillery.  Another member of the Battalion was badly injured. 

HMS Gloucester suffered near-miss

HMS Gloucester suffered near-miss

The Buffs were assigned temporarily to fire the 40mm Bofors gun at Salvatore Gate as an emergency measure, due to the acute shortage of Royal Artillery gunners in Malta. They were assisting with the anti-aircraft barrage during a heavy hour-long raid this evening by 30 enemy aircraft on the Dockyard area, Luqa and Hal Far.  A bomb landed on the Buffs’ gun position; one Royal Artillery gunner also manning the gun was killed and another injured.

The casualties have been named as Corporal J C Miles, Privates J E Duncan, S L Matthews and H F G Woodward, 4th Battalion The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment), and Gunner E Holton, 59 LAA Regiment, Royal Artillery.

HMS Gloucester  which had just arrived in Malta with another cruiser, destroyers and a mine-layer suffered a near-miss in the raid.

VALLETTA BADLY HIT AGAIN – PRIEST RUSHES TO THE RESCUE

Malta’s capital city was again heavily bombed in tonight’s air raid. Buildings were demolished in St Frederic Street, where people were trapped in a shelter.  First on the scene was the Dominican Father Charles Ciantar, the Air Raid Warden of the area, who kept an up-to-date chart showing all the private shelters under his charge and the number of people who usually take refuge in them.  Police and ARP men were soon on the spot.  Even Greek Orthodox priests tried to help. All the trapped people were brought out safely. (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 APRIL TO DAWN 25 APRIL 1941

Weather  Fine.    

2038-2155 hrs   Air raid alert for 30 enemy aircraft which approach from the north singly, and in twos and threes. Using flares to illuminate targets, they bomb St Angelo, Grand Harbour, Valletta – causing considerable damage to civilian and government property – Floriana and Msida, as well as Hal Far and Luqa, where a barrack block is destroyed and a hangar set on fire.  One Maryland and one Magister are written off; three Marylands are damaged.  Unexploded bombs are reported across the aerodrome.  Parachute mines are laid in and off Grand Harbour; mines are also reported off Rocco, Dragonara Point and Tigne.  A bomb falls on a Bofors gun position at Salvatore Gate manned by NCOs and men of A Company, 4th Bn The Buffs, killing one Corporal and three privates and injuring another.  One member of the Royal Artillery is also killed and one wounded.  The gun position is destroyed but the gun is undamaged.  Anti-aircraft guns fire predicted barrages and Bofors engage the mine-laying aircraft. 

Military casualties  Private John Ernest Duncan, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment); Gunner Ernest Holton, 59th LAA Regiment, Royal Artillery; Private Sydney Levi Matthews, 4th Battalion, The Buffs; Corporal John Charles Miles, 4th Battalion, The Buffs; Private Harry Frederick George Woodward, 4th Battalion, The Buffs.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 24 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY  Gloucester arrived to support the destroyers. She suffered a near-miss in a heavy bombing and minelaying attack after dark

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Two Marylands reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast, one on northern sector AM, the second on southern sector PM. 148 Squadron 2 Wellington bombers night raid on Tripoli Harbour.   

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Sgt Crook who was in charge of the Bofors gun at Salvatore Gate hit by bombs tonight was congratulated for his performance during the crisis.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  4 officers and NCOs attended a bomb reconnaissance course. 0445 hrs  Another practice general alarm was held; companies were definitely quicker to their posts.  News was received that we may expect the party back from ‘Picnic’ shortly.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 0; dealt with 1.

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

 

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Posted by on April 24, 2016 in 1941, April 1941

 

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