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26 March 1942: Malta’s Most Intense Raid to Date – Floriana a Furnace

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“Never during the War years was I overtaken by fear more than on the night of the 26th March 1942” (1)

  • Massed air raids on shipping in Grand Harbour
  • Plumleaf, Talabot, Pampas hit as well as Sliema Ferry
  • Breconshire hit again – on fire amidships
  • Targets outside harbour badly damaged – Marsa HAA gun position hit
  • Four JU 88s and three JU 87s destroyed; many more damaged
Talabot is hit (NWMA Malta)

Talabot is hit (NWMA Malta)

LUFTWAFFE PINPOINT BOMBING DESTROYS SHIPS IN GRAND HARBOUR

For nearly six hours today, 120 enemy bombers accompanied by massed fighters attacked in wave after wave, dropping over 350 high explosive (HE) bombs of 250kg and 500kg on ships, docks and gun positions in Grand Harbour and 40 more on Breconshire in Marsaxlokk Bay.

“Unfortunately on this day the German Air Force achieved a degree of accuracy with their bombing which they had never attained either before or since.  Talabot, Pampas and Plumleaf were all hit in a single raid and in the evening Breconshire too was hit and set on fire.

By the evening with Legion sunk, Penelope badly damaged and a large part of the small craft in the harbour sunk or out of action from near misses it was felt that there was little further injury that the enemy could do…Talabot which caught fire and blazed furiously as a result of her hit, had to be scuttled to avoid her cargo of ammunition exploding.  All her holds were flooded and the ship was aground with her gunwale just above water…” (2)

FLORIANA IS A FURNACE

“The odds were that the Talabot with considerable ammunition in its holds would, at any time, explode and damage would have been terrific.  The tragic situation was communicated to us in Floriana with strict instructions to evacuate all in Floriana residing in …the part overlooking the Grand Harbour where the Talabot was anchored.

At sunset Floriana became immersed in a reddish glow, deepening into an inferno-like colour as night set in.  All the surrounding areas in the Grand Harbour assumed a reddish incandescence: the skies were red, the sea was red; red prevailed everywhere – such a scene was never witnessed before.  In the meantime flames were still belching from the Talabot, uncontrolled, and presaging doom.  Floriana looked like a furnace!

As soon as orders for evacuation reached us we [advised] the people to leave their houses and their shelters, move to the northern area and use what shelter space was available.  Many obeyed; others did not as they preferred to watch the flaming scene from vantage points without realising the danger they were exposing themselves to, should the ship explode and blow up vast areas in Valletta, Floriana, Marsa and the three cities.” (1)

“Pampas” ablaze (NWMA Malta)

Desperate attempts to unload the two merchant ships, Talabot and Pampas, were hampered by conditions in the harbour and the constant heavy bombing of ships, docks and salvage equipment.  By the end of today, of the convoy escort which accompanied the supply ships to Malta, HM Ships Legion and Southwold were sunk, Kingston further damaged by bombs and Penelope has serious structural damage from near misses.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 MARCH TO DAWN 27 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south; 100% low cloud.

0700 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north east but recedes before crossing the coast.

1022-1610 hrs  68 enemy aircraft – JU 87s, JU 88s and ME 109s – attack Grand Harbour.  Fighters destroy two JU 87s and two JU 88s, and damage one JU 87 and three JU 88.  One JU 88 is shot down in south Comino Channel and four German prisoners are captured in Gozo.  Ack Ack destroy one JU 88.

1210 hrs  S/L Gracie leading six Spitfires from Luqa attacks a JU 88 and sees strikes.  He himself is them jumped and his aircraft is damaged.  P/O Ormerod in a Hurricane chases a JU 88 through the barrage; his aircraft is damaged and he returns to Luqa.

1230 hrs  Talabot is hit by a 500kg bomb which explodes in the engine room, which starts to fill with oil; a large fire breaks out.  Firefighters and crew of other ships join the efforts to control the blaze while enemy bombs continue to fall close to the ship.  Both pumps in No 2 fire float and one in No 1 float are put out of action by the near miss.

Plumleaf at Parlatorio receives a direct hit and is sunk.  Tug West Cocker at Boiler Wharf is damaged and starts taking water. Front walls and doors in B and C Yards, Marsa are demolished with some damage to lighters.

High explosive bombs hit dockyard buildings and wharves.  The verandah and structure of 10-14 Stores on Stores Wharf and No 2 Caisson are damaged; the south end of No 8 Store demolished.  The north end of Hamilton Wharf is badly shaken. No 3 Boiler Shop entrance doors and offices are smashed by blast. Crane No 623 and  2/3 Dock Pumping Station are damaged. Explosions cause a large crater in front of No 1 Boiler Shop and others on Canteen Wharf and the Scrap Ground.

1335 hrs  Four Spitfires are scrambled from Luqa.  Sgt Brennan damages a JU 88.

1400 hrs  A stick of bombs falls close to PampasLuqa Spitfire P/O McNair gets on its tail and despatches it.  F/L Johnston damages two JU 87s – both probably destroyed.  F/L Connell severely damages a JU 87 and a JU 88.  P/O McNair destroys a JU 88.

1430 hrs  A 500kg bomb falls down the funnel of Pampas and explodes, flooding the engine room and starting a fire amidships.

1550 hrs  The drowned body of German pilot Winkler is discovered by 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment, washed ashore near Wied Zurrieq.  They also find some naval garments washed ashore at Wied Zurrieq and Ghar Lapsi.

Six Hurricanes from Hal Far are airborne to intercept a formation of JU 88s and JU 87s.  Hurricanes attack the bombers over Kalafrana and later over Grand Harbour.  Sgt Steele (cannon) accounts for one JU 88.  Sgt Broad hits two JU 88s.  F/Sgt Fletcher scores hits on two JU 88s, one ME 109 and one JU 87.

1632 hrs  A raid in three waves:  50 JU 88s drop bombs on Grand Harbour: Penelope is near missed and flooded forward; tug Ancient is hit and beached; submarine P39’s back is broken;  Sokol is near missed; Legion sunk; Avonvale hit (damage not very serious).

10 JU 88s attack Breconshire in Marsaxlokk Bay.  The ship is hit, causing a fire on board.  Fighters and Ack Ack engage.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack destroy one JU 87 and two JU 88s, and damage others.

1725 hrs  F/L Connell (Ta Qali) damages a JU 88.  Sgt Brennan damages a JU 88.

1730 hrs  225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage two JU 88s: one hit claimed.  Post SA4 of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt engages two JU 88s, expending two magazines.

1740 hrs  225 LAA engage three JU 88s: one gun claims four hits.  One gun and personnel transfers to the Nigret area.

1750 hrs  P/O McNair (Ta Qali) damages two JU 88s.

1808 hrs  Bombs land near Fort Ta Silch.

1815 hrs  Bombs are dropped near Hamria.

1915-1930 hrs  An enemy flying boat carries out rescue work to the north of the Island.

2230 hrs  Enemy boats are reported 12 miles south east of the Island.  Beach Companies are warned to keep a strict look-out.

Night 26/27th  No enemy aircraft activity although E Boats are plotted off E coast of the Island. The fire on Talabot is contained but the blaze on Breconshire is getting out of control.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Alfred Keylock, Mentioned in Despatches, HMS Avonvale; Able Seaman Albert Bowman, HMS Avondale; Able Seaman James Warwick, HMS Legion; Able Seaman Ernest Lynch, HMS Avonvale.

Civilian casualties  Balzan  Valent Sammut, age 33.  Mosta  Alfred St John, age 2.  Sliema  Carmel Coppola, age 50; Doris Coppola, age 17; Herman Mifsud, age 42.  St Paul’s Bay  Rita Vella, age 6.

Enemy casualties  Paul Winkler.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 26 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Upholder  returned from patrol, having sunk a U boat and trawler off Brindisi and missed a battleship off Taranto owing to very heavy weather and zig-zag on firing.

AIR HQ  Departures  Five Beaufighters, two Blenheims, eight Wellingtons to 108 MU; one Wellington to Shalufa.

HAL FAR  828 and 830 Squadrons amalgamated as Naval Air Squadron, Malta on instructions from Vice Admiral Malta, pending Admiralty confirmation.  PM  One Albacore on shipping search.  Nothing sighted.

LUQA  0753-1545 hrs  One Maryland 69 Squadron special search.

TA QALI  No night operations. 

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  A Company proceeds from Boschetto Gardens to camp at the Pumping Station between Rabat and Dingli.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  CO attends funeral of SSO1.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Working party at Ta Qali aerodrome.

2ND BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A and B Companies changed over: A Company to Marsa, B Company to Luqa.  Private Ryan wounded at Luqa by enemy action.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 22.

(1) Floriana in Wartime, Emanuel S Tonna, Malta 1969

(2)  War Diary, Vice Admiral Malta, March 1942

All written content © maltagc70 unless otherwise attributed. For conditions of use contact bdmalta@btinternet.com

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2017 in 1942, March 1942, Uncategorized

 

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23 March 1942: Malta Convoy Under 9 Hour Attack – Only 2 Ships Reach Harbour

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CONVOY FIGHTS ITS WAY INTO GRAND HARBOUR

SS Talabot (Times of Malta)

Having changed course frequently in an attempt to avoid detection by the enemy, Convoy MW 10 was unable to reach Grand Harbour under cover of darkness this morning as planned.  Approaching the Island in broad daylight, the convoy of four freighters – Breconshire, Clan Campbell, Pampas and Talabot – and their protective force headed for Malta.  From dawn onwards they were under constant air attack by a determined Luftwaffe.  Malta’s fighters put up a strong resistance against a total enemy force of 62 JU 88 bombers and 25 ME 109 fighters.

Only Pampas and Talabot made it safely into Grand Harbour; Clan Campbell was sunk and Breconshire disabled by Luftwaffe attacks.  Chiefs of Staff have reluctantly concluded that until Malta’s air space is safe no further convoys can be planned.  Without essential supplies, the Island will be unable to feed or defend itself.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 23 MARCH TO DAWN 24 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south and squally; 100% low cloud – visibility poor.

0514-1423 hrs  62 JU 88s with an escort of 25 ME 109s attack the convoy as it approaches Malta and within Grand Harbour.

Hurricanes and Spitfires are airborne almost continuously from dawn until dusk, carrying out 42 sorties.  F/Lt Lawrence and Sgt Broad 185 Squadron destroy a Heinkel He111.  Sgt Horricks and Sgt Eastman 185 Squadron probably destroy a JU 88.  S/Ldr Mortimer-Rose, Sgt Eastman, P/O Wigley, F/Sgt Fletcher 185 Squadron and two pilots of 249 Squadron damage four JU 88s.  Sgt Ellis, P/O Noble and P/O Beckett score hits on two other JU 88s.  Many others are hit and forced to jettison their bombs.  Two JU 88s are damaged by Anti-Aircraft fire and others by HM ships.

PM  There is continuous Ack Ack fire out to sea but owing to bad visibility enemy planes are not visible.

0815 hrs  Talabot comes within sight of land, welcomed by two Hurricane fighters sent out to meet her.  Within half a mile of harbour she is attacked by a ME 109 but undamaged.

0915 hrs  Talabot enters Grand Harbour followed by Pampas, surviving another Messerschmitt attack in which four gunners are wounded.  Word has spread of the convoy’s arrival and cheering Maltese crowd the bastions to welcome the two freighters, with destroyers Kingston and Havock – both damaged yesterday en route to Malta – as they cruise into harbour.

HMS Breconshire

0920 hrs   Breconshire is in sight of Delimara Point when she is attacked by ME 109s with bombs and machine-gunfire.

0936 hrs  A JU 88 aims a bomb at Breconshire which explodes under the ship, stopping her engines.

1000 hrs  Another JU 88 aims bombs at Breconshire, causing further damage.  In the heavy swell, the ship begins to drift.

1020 hrs  Still 20 miles from Malta, the slower merchant vessel Clan Campbell is severely damaged by a dive-bombing attack.

1100 hrs  Clan Campbell sinks with the loss of her Captain and five hands.  The destroyer Legion is badly damaged.

1200 hrs  Efforts to bring Breconshire into port have to be abandoned: the weather is too rough for towing or disembarkation.  The ship, passengers and crew have to sit at anchor off Zonkor Point awaiting a tow.  One gun and crew of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery is transferred to Zonkor Point to provide protective cover.

Night 23/24th  Weather and visibility bad: no enemy action.

Military casualties  Sub-Lieutenant Basil Rivers, Mentioned in Despatches, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS St.Angelo; Ordinary Seaman Norman McLeod, HMS Beaufort; Petty Officer John Blue, HMS Carlisle; Able Seaman J Hulme, HMS Havock; Able Seaman Arthur Adaway, HMS Kingston; Sub-Lieutenant John Carter, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, HMS Kingston; Able Seaman John Jordan, HMS Kingston; Leading Stoker Joseph Strange, HMS Kingston; Able Seaman George Querstret, HMS Kingston.  Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Cherry, Royal Artillery, attached to Malta Territorial Force; Gunner William Griffiths, 4th Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties   Kalkara  Agostino Mintoff, age 16.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 23 MARCH 1942

HAL FAR  Eight Hurricanes 185 Squadron from Hal Far are airborne on convoy patrol.  Fifteen pilots patrol in pairs from dawn to dusk.  PM  One Albacore despatched on shipping search: nothing sighted.  Owing to bad weather the aircraft landed in the sea.  Pilot Lt Head is saved but two others, S/L Rivers and L/A Tuttle are lost.

LUQA  No operations.

TA QALI  Orderly room established in St Edward’s College with accounts and Guard Room.  No operations: runway only is serviceable.  Salvage work proceeding.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  Convoy arrives from Mid East bringing reinforcements:  11th  Lancs Fusiliers one Officer; 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regt, five Officers; 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry eight Officers, 92 Other Ranks.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Convoy brings Officer reinforcements for Brigade as follows:  4 Buffs eight; 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers ten; 8th Bn Manchester Regt five.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT 1000 hrs  Gas masks worn for one hour.  1400 hrs  All Companies did weekly cross country run.  Heavy cloud during the day.

2ND BN THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Seven Officers joint the Battalion from the convoy.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  0400 hrs  Duty Officer warned that ‘A’ Company was arriving by convoy early in the morning.  By 1200 hrs two Officers and 40 Other Ranks had joined the Battalion in camp.  The remainder of the Company were on board Breconshire which had stopped ten miles out to sea owing to engine trouble.  The seven Other Ranks killed in the air raid on 21st March were buried in the Imtarfa Hospital Cemetery.

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  Seven Officers arrived in Malta and were taken on strength.

225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY  One gun and personnel are transferred to Zonkor Point to protect shipping.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 23.

 

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Posted by on March 23, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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22 March 1942: Ta Qali Repaired in 24 Hours – Malta Convoy Attacked

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ROUND THE CLOCK REPAIRS GET AIRFIELD UP AND RUNNING AFTER CARPET-BOMBING

Reviewing the devastation caused by carpet-bombing of Ta Qali over the past 72 hours, Air Officer Commanding, Air Marshall Sir Hugh Pughe Lloyd, concludes that the airfield is likely to be out of action for a week.  Responding to a call from Malta’s High Command, the Army joins forces with the RAF in an all out effort to repair the damage and get the runway operational.  Despite enemy bombing, and a heavy machine-gun attack by a formation of Messerschmitts, working parties labour tirelessly round the clock, and by dusk today the airfield was declared serviceable again.

HMS Kingston

FOUR HOUR BATTLE TO DEFEND MALTA CONVOY

Malta’s survival is under threat unless the Island gets essential supplies to keep going and withstand the enemy onslaught.  A small, fast-moving convoy of four freighters left Alexandria 48 hours ago with a large cruiser and destroyer escort, in an attempt to run essential items across the Mediterranean.  By 0930 hrs this morning the Italian Navy had closed on the convoy and attacked the escort ships.  Destroyers Havock and Kingston were hit during a day of engagement, before the attackers were beaten off at 1900 hrs.  The convoy is reported as still heading for Malta with its escort, including the damaged destroyers.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 MARCH TO DAWN 23 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; 100% low cloud.

0655-0801 hrs  Six ME 109s carry out a patrol south east of the Island.

0815-0840 hrs  One JU 88 escorted by seven ME 109s approach the Island.  The ME 109s drop four 250kg and twelve 50kg high explosive (HE) bombs on Ta Qali while the JU 88 carries out reconnaissance.

0852-0907 hrs  Six ME 109s carry out a patrol round the Island.

0917-0937 hrs  Six ME 109s carry out a patrol round the Island.

0951 hrs  ME 109s patrol the Island while JU 88s carry out three bomb attacks.  Bombs are dropped on Luqa and Safi strip, and Ta Qali.  Malta’s fighters and Heavy Ack Ack engage. HAA damage one JU 88.

1020 hrs  Three JU 88s drop bombs in a line from Luqa to Siggiewi.  One Maryland and one Wellington are burned out, two Blenheims damaged.   Two RAF and two Army personnel are injured.

1026 hrs  Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage two JU 88s diving from 5000 to 2000 feet: two guns claim one hit each.  Seven Hurricanes 185 Squadron, Hal Far are scrambled to intercept three JU 88s.  Sighting their quarry over Filfla, pilots P/O Allardice, P/O Wigley and Sgt Robb attack, scoring hits on fuselage and wings.  P/O Allardice fails to return.

1145 hrs  B Company, 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment reports one fighter crashing into the sea off west Bassasa.

1235 hrs  Raiders passed.

1250-1305 hrs  Two ME 109s carry out a patrol east of the Island.

1318-1323 hrs  Two ME 109s carry out a patrol east of the Island.

1408 hrs  Ten ME 109s carry out a patrol, then swoop down over Ta Qali, machine-gunning the airfield.  Light Ack Ack engage and ground defences return heavy fire, damaging one ME 109.

1410 hrs  Two defence posts of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt spot one JU 88 flying low towards the coast and open fire: no claims made.

1440-1725 hrs  Enemy fighters patrol the Island.  ME 109s drop 16 HE bombs on Ta Qali. Malta’s fighters are up: no engagements.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1730 hrs  11th Bn Lancashire Regt reports aerial torpedo mines dropped around their coastline.

1733 hrs  Three Spitfires are airborne from Luqa to escort five Albacores.  20 miles from Malta the formation is attacked by two ME 109s.  F/L McQueen attacks one, closing to 50 yards, and sees the ME dive into the sea.

1738 hrs  Four enemy aircraft patrol east of the Island.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1827 hrs  One aircraft approaches to the north of Grand Harbour, then recedes.  HAA do not engage.

1919 hrs  Three aircraft approach to the north of Grand Harbour, then recede.  HAA do not engage.

1938 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the south east, then recedes.  HAA do not engage.

1940 hrs  All clear.

2158-2210 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Raid does not materialise.

Night  No air raids: weather deteriorating.

Military casualties  Signalman Claude Brown, HMS Havock; Ordinary Seaman Arthur Crane, HMS Havock.  Leading Stoker Henry Neuschaffer, HMS Kingston; Able Seaman Daniel Ferris, HMS Kingston; Pilot Officer Philip Allardice, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR), 185 Squadron; Gunner Alfred Segon, 4th Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Mosta  Joseph Bartolo, age 40; Saverin Galea, age 45; Grezzju Schembri, age 9.  Valletta  John Cachia, age 48.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 22 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Olympus sailed for Gibraltar with passengers and stores.  Five Albacores carried out a shipping sweep without result.  An escort of three Spitfires accompanying the Albacores shot down an ME109.  One Albacore landed in the sea off Zonkor Point: two of the crew missing.  PM  Naval engagement: convoy very heavily bombed; no casualties.  Dark CS 15 returned to Alexandria.  Convoy split and proceeded independently to Malta.

AIR HQ  Departures  Six Beauforts, two Blenheims to 108 MU.

HAL FAR  PM  Five Albacores are despatched to attack an enemy convoy but are recalled.  One Albacore is attacked by an ME 109; no damage.

TA QALI   Large Army working parties and salvage parties arranged and work proceeded.  By nightfall runway made serviceable.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  1930 hrs  Storm conditions NORAH and KATE.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Cpl Brown, L/Cpl Thomas and Fusilier Surgent injured by shrapnel.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 30.

 

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Posted by on March 22, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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21 March 1942: 300,000kg of Bombs on Malta’s “Day in Hell”

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  • 300 tons of bombs on Ta Qali in 48 hours
  • 146 high explosive bombs target Mosta
  • 81 killed and many more wounded
  • Bombs on shelter in Mosta cause mass casualties
  • 5 enemy aircraft destroyed, 5 damaged
  • 9 Spitfires land safely ex Gibraltar

 

Ta Qali: 1600 bombs in 48 hrs

Ta Qali: 1600 bombs in 48 hrs

MASS BOMBING RAIDS ON TA QALI AND MOSTA

Raids on Ta Qali continued today with increased intensity.  In massive and widespread attacks this afternoon, communities surrounding the air base also suffered badly, as the enemy extended their targets to Mosta and surrounding communities of Rabat, Imtarfa and Balzan.  Casualties known so far are 20 military and 61 civilians killed and over 100 wounded.  22 civilians were killed in Rabat; 30 were killed and 45 wounded in Mosta, where a large number of bombs fell.

Today’s raids bring the total number of bombs dropped on Ta Qali in the last 48 hours to 1600.  Since Thursday night over 300 tons of bombs have left huge craters across the airfield, now said to resemble the surface of the moon.

Mosta (NWMA Malta)

Mosta (NWMA Malta)

A CHILD REMEMBERS

In Mosta, little Doris Vella was in the air-raid shelter with her mother.  Her father had just left them, on urgent business, and her two older brothers had just escaped their mother’s grasp, to go up and watch the German bombers:

“The next instant a deafening explosion plunged the whole place into darkness and sent us reeling against the walls of the cubicle.  In the ensuing panic I began to grope around and felt the heads of the three young ones.  The straw mattresses on the bunks caught fire and burst into flames…As our eyes got accustomed to the dim light we saw dead bodies piled on top of each other.  A number of RAF men appeared at the shelter entrance and picking their way through the pile of corpses grabbed us and took us outside.  We walked in a state of shock towards our house and saw carts carrying bodies.  We recognized that of Milda’s mother, a refugee from Vittoriosa, horribly mutilated.  The walls of Gafa Street were black with the blast of the explosion.  We learned later that three [bombs] had landed and exploded simultaneously at the entrance and the emergency exit of the shelter.”   Doris lost her father and two brothers in the raid.  (1)

SPITFIRE PILOT’S DAY IN HELL

One 1000kg bomb landed in front of the Point de Vue Hotel in Rabat, being used as a billet for RAF fighter pilots.  Buck McNair had just arrived back at the hotel when the bomb exploded:

“When I came to, I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t feel I was dead, but I didn’t feel whole. My eyes were open, but my jaws and chest didn’t seem to be there…I felt for my tin hat, then I started to be able to see just as if the sun was coming up after a great darkness. I tested myself. I felt carefully with my fingers and found that I had a face and a chest, so I felt better…

As I became more conscious, I found I was upstairs; but I knew I shouldn’t be upstairs. I should be downstairs. Then I realized I had been blown upstairs either through a door or through an opening at the turn of the staircase. I’d been thrown up 20 or 30 feet …

I went out onto the roof and back down the main staircase which was barely hanging in place. I saw the bodies lying at the foot of it. They were in a heap. There was no blood. The raid was still on – the All Clear hadn’t sounded. But everything seemed very quiet. Heavy dust covered the bodies. I looked at them – studied them. One was headless, the head had been cut cleanly away from the top of the shoulders. I didn’t see the head, but I could recognize the man by his very broad shoulders …

I heard a moan, so I put my hand gently on the bodies to feel which of them was alive. One of them I noticed had a hole, more than a foot wide, right through the abdomen. Another’s head was split wide open into two halves, from back to front, by a piece of shrapnel. The face had expanded to twice its size. How the man managed still to be alive I didn’t know. I thought of shooting him with my revolver. As I felt for it, I heard Bud Connell’s voice behind me. ‘Look at this mess!’

I put my hand against the wall, but it slithered down it. It had seemed dry with all the dust, but when I took my hand away I found it was covered with blood with bits of meat stuck to it – like at the butcher’s when they’re chopping up meat and cleaning up a joint. I turned to Bud. ‘For God’s sake,’ I said, ‘don’t come in here.’ Then I noticed that my battledress and trousers were torn and ripped …

Ronnie West appeared. It seemed natural to see him. He had been in the building with us, but he didn’t say anything about me being there. He didn’t seem to want to talk …Now an ambulance and a doctor arrived. The doc asked me to help him with the bodies. I said ‘Get someone else, I’ve seen enough.’…The realization of what had happened began to dawn very slowly … My left arm had gone out of joint when I was blown upstairs by the bomb, but I had shoved it back in place … (2)

SPITFIRES LAND THROUGH THE FIRE

In the midst of the onslaught, a delivery flight of nine Spitfires managed to land safely, having flown off HMS Eagle ex Gibraltar.  The aircraft were protected as they approached by Malta’s fighter squadrons.  An expected delivery of seven more Spitfires failed to arrive.  They were unable to take off from Eagle as a Blenheim aircraft due to escort them to Malta did not make rendezvous with the carrier.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 21 MARCH TO DAWN 22 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south west; 80% cloud.

0900 hrs  Seven Messerschmitts drop twelve 50kg high explosive (HE) bombs on Ta Qali, near the Rock Shelter and by underground hangers: one bowser is burned out.

1000 hrs  Nearly 100 bombers, including several Heinkel HE 111, and about 20 fighters attack Ta Qali, in a repeat of last night’s raid, except that this time enemy aircraft approach in groups at greater height, not in ‘line ahead’.

Hundreds of HE bombs, mainly 250kg and 500kg, are dropped on and around the airfield, causing 27 craters and damaging the Pottery, control van and other vehicles.  Many fires are started.  Bombs which fell wide of the mark kill five military Other Ranks and wound another five, at Imtarfa.  Two Other Ranks from a working party are wounded. Two Beaufighters, two Hurricanes and one Spitfire are damaged.  One soldier and one civilian are killed; four soldiers, one pilot and two civilians are injured.  All work is called to a halt, due to the number of delayed-action bombs on aerodrome.  Ack Ack destroy one JU 88 and damaged two more.

1014 hrs  Two JU 88 bombers drop one 1800kg bomb each on Manoel Island and Bighi Hospital.

1107 hrs   Eight ME 110s with 25 ME 109s patrol the Island, then drop eight 250kg and twenty-seven 50kg HE bombs on Ta Qali and Rabat.  Seven Hurricanes from Hal Far attack the ME 110s, claiming four destroyed.  Pilots S/Ldr Mortimer-Rose, P/O Ormrod, P/O Beckett, P/O Allardice, P/O Wigley, Sgt Rose, P/O Milburn.  One aircraft returns early due to engine trouble.  Light Ack Ack gunners destroy one ME 109.  Malta’s fighters are airborne, but occupied in escorting nine Spitfires arriving from Gibraltar.

1135 hrs  Three JU 88s drop bombs on the Safi strip.

1436 hrs  Between 60 and 70 bombers approach the Island from different directions with a relatively small fighter escort. Planes come in irregularly, in groups of two and three, at heights ranging from 10,000 to 16,000 feet.  Consecutive aircraft do not follow each other into a steep dive.  Hundreds of HE bombs are dropped from varying heights; mainly 250kg and 500kg but also several 1000kg, and some rocket bombs.  The main target is Ta Qali, where main damage is to assembly areas and approaches, petrol installations and a reservoir.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage: three JU 88s are destroyed and three damaged.

1545 hrs  JU 88s and Messerschmitts carrying bombs target outlying districts, causing casualties and damage in Rabat and Imtarfa, Mosta, Balzan and San Anton. 

Two JU 88s attack Tigne and Manoel, dropping one 1800kg HE bomb each and demolishing buildings at Tigne Barracks.

1658 hrs   One JU 88 carries out reconnaissance at 20000 feet.

1944 hrs  Two enemy aircraft drop bombs in the sea and on land near Dingli. Heavy Ack Ack engage.

2215 hrs  All clear.

Military casualties  Flight Lieutenant Cecil Baker, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve VR), 126 Squadron; Flying Officer John Booth, Royal Air Force (VR), 249 Squadron; Flying Officer James Guerin, Royal Australian Air Force; Pilot Officer William Hallett, Royal Air Force (VR), 126 Squadron; Pilot Officer Edward Streets, Royal Air Force (VR), 126 Squadron; Flight Lieutenant Arthur Waterfield Royal Air Force (VR).

Private Stephen Gardiner; Private James Garnick; Private Charles Levey; Private James Joseph Murray, Private Robert Sadler; Private John Wake; Private John William Dewhurst (died 22nd March); all 1st Battalion, Durham Light Infantry.  Lance-Corporal Peter Thompson, Royal Army Service Corps, attached Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps; Sergeant James Ure, Royal Army Service Corps, attached Royal Army Medical Corps; Private Raymond Siviour, 4th Battalion, The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment); Lance-Corporal Pacifico Falzon, Royal Engineers, Malta Territorial Force; Lance-Corporal Clarence (Terence) Gallagher; Corporal Douglas Baldwin; Lance-Corporal William Brown; Fusilier Harold Vernon; all 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Civilian casualties  Attard  Anthony Pace, age 24.  Balzan  Sister Paola Agius, age 73; Joseph Muscat, age 32.  Floriana  Francis Azzopardi, age 16; Publio Mercieca, age 16.  Mdina  Vincent Mizzi, age 13.  Mosta  Doris Borg, age 6; Teresa Cuschieri, age 70; Gio Maria Cuschieri, age 37; Anthony Degiorgio, age 79; Carmela Degiorgio, age 77; Maria Degiorgio, age 34; Georgina Dougall, age 42; John Fabri, age 9; Carmelo Fenech, age 11; Joseph Fenech, age 11; Giovanni Galea, age 66; Victor Galea, age 39; Kalanc Gatt, age 42; Francis Gatt, age 13; Giuseppe Gatt, age 9; Maria Gauci, age 8; Censu Gauci, age 5; Mary Grech, age 54; Alfred Montanaro, age 63; Mary Montanaro, age 60; John Montanaro, age 18; Olga St John, age 26; Zareno St John, age 3 mths; Pina Tabone, age 22; Santu Tonna, age 32; Bartholomew Vella, age 41; Carmelo Vella, age 12; Giuseppe Vella, age 9; Vincent Zammit, age 39; Ganna Zarb, age 48; unidentified female; unidentified male.  Msida  Salvu Vella, age 45.  Rabat  Carmel Abela, age 63; Louis Adami, age 29; Mary Adami, age 6; Albert Adami, age 2; Catherine Azzopardi, age 80; Rev. Robert Calleja, age 58; Lewis Caruana, age 2 mths; Domenic Ceci, age 84; Angelina Ellul, age 73; Spiru Galea, age 63; Teresa Galea, age 42; Peter Giordimaina, age 65; Alb. Laferla, age 45; Dolor Mangani, age 20; Felicia Mifsud, age 26; Gisuarda Mifsud, age 10 mths; Albert Mifsud, age 19; Harriet O’Neil, age 56; Gisuardo Portelli, age 71; Dr A Stilon LLD, age 64; Margherita Vassallo, age 28; unidentified female.  St Paul’s Bay  Rita Vella, age 6.  Zejtun  Carmelo Zahra, age 15.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: 21 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Raid no 1843 Damage to Ricasoli Rifle Range.  Surgeon Rear Admiral’s Residence at Royal Naval Hospital demolished.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Nine Spitfires, two Blenheims from Gibraltar; one Sunderland from Aboukir.  Departures  Four Beaufighters, two Hudsons to 108 MU; one Wellington to Shalufa; one Hudson to Gibraltar; one Sunderland to Aboukir.

HAL FAR  PM  One Albacore despatched on shipping search: nothing sighted.

LUQA  0807-1246 hrs  One Maryland 69 Squadron despatched on photo-reconnaissance of Taranto and Messina.

TA QALI  1600 hrs  Third blitz on Ta Qali [this afternoon], damaging the Officers’ Mess at Rabat and killing six officers including AFL (F/O) Waterfield, Intelligence Officer, and five pilots.  Over 1500 high explosive bombs plus incendiary bombs have been dropped on the camp in the last 24 hours.  Immediate steps are taken to arrange alternative accommodation for officers and airmen.  The entire personnel of 500 airmen have to be evacuated and housed in Rabat and St Edwards College.  There are a large number of absentees: police patrols are inaugurated and all shelters are searched.  Kitchen and ablutions are arranged and premises at Messina House are taken over.  All officers and airmen are arranged for by dusk.  All equipment is salvaged from the Orderly Room and Guard Room which are evacuated as the buildings are destroyed.  By nightfall a new Orderly Room is operational and new sick quarters are set up.  Equipment stores are installed in caves.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  0915 hrs   Battalion drill parade. AC HQ under the CO Floriana.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  During a large scale air raid on Ta Qali aerodrome some bombs fell near Imtarfa Hospital for which B Company were supplying a guard.  One scored a direct hit on a guard tent: five Other Ranks were killed outright; one died of wounds the same day and another died of wounds on 22nd.  Four more Other Ranks were wounded and admitted to hospital.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  PM Blitz on Ta Qali: Quarter Master’s store hit.  Cpl Baldwin, L/Cpl Gallagher, L/Cpl Brown, Fusilier Vernon killed.  Battalion took one German parachutist prisoner.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  Two more heavy raids on Ta Qali aerodrome.  4 Buffs working party one Other Rank killed, four Other Ranks injured.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Observation Post at Tal Virtu has several near misses during intense raids on Ta Qali during the past 24 hours.  Bombs in this unit’s area at Hamrun, St George’s, St Julian’s, Balzan and Birkirkara.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Another very heavy raid on Ta Qali aerodrome and some of the billets and posts were damaged.  Battalion suffers five casualties: one injured and four suffering from shock.  A Spitfire, a petrol pump and an ammunition van are set on fire.  Lt Cummins and his Platoon Sergeant Jones fought the fires and managed to put them out.  Air Officer Commanding visited the scene and thanked the personnel for their good show.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 15.

(1) From The People’s War, Malta 1940-43, Laurence Mizzi, Progress Press 2002

(2) Diary of Robert Wendell ‘Buck’ McNair from Canadian Aces (Miles Constable)

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20 March 1942: Carpet Bombing of Ta Qali – 1000 HE Bombs in 2 Hours

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Ta Qali (NWMA Malta)

 

  • Five-hour continuous air raid from 8am
  • 114 high explosive bombs on Valletta and Grand Harbour
  • 1800kg bombs dropped on the capital
  • Cannon shells fired at civilian area
  • 21 civilians, 5 military killed
  • Army called in to repair Ta Qali runways

MASS FORMATIONS OF ENEMY RAIDERS 

“’There was a red flag warning, I was making my way down the main street in Valletta, clambering over masses of rubble. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining.  Looking up at the bright blue sky between the buildings, I watched as some 30 or more German bombers went over my head… they seemed headed towards Ta Qali.  It was that sort of life.  As far as I could tell, almost everyone else was in shelter or heading for shelter – which I respected.  I was on my own out there.’

Lt Carroll was looking up at the forward party of the 74 aircraft attacking Ta Qali today.  The enemy turned on the airfield with all their might, determined to destroy runways and write off all the aircraft…In just 24 hours, the Luftwaffe dropped nearly a thousand bombs, totalling almost 300 tons, on Ta Qali – an area the size of a small English village.  In a similar period 500 tons of bombs were used across the entire city of Coventry in England.  Here was the first ever instance of carpet bombing on such a scale against a military target.  And it had just been inflicted on the tiny Island of Malta. 

Delayed action bombs were scattered all over the airfield, holding up repair work on the runways.  The RAF called on Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal to help with the sheer number of unexploded bombs (UXB).  In two days, RE Bomb Disposal alone have received over 70 UXB reports.”  (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 20 MARCH TO DAWN 21 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south west; clear.

0805 hrs  Four Hurricanes are scrambled from Ta Qali, joining seven others from Hal Far.  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron are scrambled to act as top cover for the eleven Hurricanes.  Spitfire pilots spot six ME 109s: P/O McNair attacks and destroys one.

0825 hrs  P/O Leggo’s aircraft is attacked by ME 109s and loses its tail fin, causing it to spin downwards. P/O Leggo tries to regain control but without success, and bales out but at 100 feet his parachute has no time to open: he falls to his death.  The aircraft crashes to the ground between Qrendi and Siggiewi.

0900 hrs  Six JU 88s bomb Sliema and St Julians.  Bombs land on St Julians Police Station and Rockyvale.  L/Cpl Patt and Fusilier Russell of B Company, 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers is killed; two Fusiliers are injured and admitted to hospital.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage and destroy one JU 88. 

0920 hrs  Two JU 88s approach and drop one 1800kg High Explosive bomb each near the Fish Market in Valletta, and in Grand Harbour. 

One JU 88 carries out reconnaissance from the north to the south of the Island at 30000 feet.  Five JU 88s approach Grand Harbour but are turned away by Heavy and Light Ack Ack, dropping all bombs in the sea off Ricasoli and St Elmo. 

0950 hrs  Six JU 88s approach and bomb Marsa, Jesuits Hill and Gzira.  One gun position at Jesuits Hill receives a direct hit: no casualties.  One JU 88 is damaged by Light Ack Ack.  During the raid a Dornier flying boat searches north of the Island.  Heavy Ack Ack engages at extreme range.  Military casualties:  two killed; two wounded.

1245 hrs  Bombs land near D and R Companies of 11th Bn Lancashire Regt, south east of Cisk Brewery.  Cannon shells are fired at Birkirkara, causing civilian casualties.

1250 hrs  Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage one JU 88: one hit claimed.

1311 hrs  All clear.

1618 hrs  One JU 88 escorted by two ME 109s approaches, then recedes, at 25000 feet.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1707 hrs  Ten ME 109s patrol the Island.  Heavy Ack Ack do not engage.

1720 hrs  44 JU 88s dive-bomb and machine-gun Ta Qali, killing 13 civilians.  Bombs cause considerable damage to barrack blocks and ablutions, roads and pens.  The aerodrome is cratered and unserviceable.  Several aircraft are damaged and one airman slightly injured.  Many fires are started.  Many delayed action bombs are used.  Ack Ack fires a strong response: four JU 88s are shot down and destroyed.

1816 hrs  Four JU 88s escorted by sixteen ME 109s bomb Ta Qali.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.  One JU 88 is damaged by Light Ack Ack.

1830 hrs  Three bombers dropped six bombs on Ta Qali, damaging Camp Magister and one billet.  LAC Armstrong is admitted to hospital, as is LAC Bond, who dies at 2345 hrs.

1919 hrs  About 50 aircraft, including JU 88s and fighter escort, head towards Malta in from North formed up in line ahead, at about 10000 ft. Heavy Ack Ack engage and as the raiders come with range of Bofors guns, the Light Ack Ack gunners open fire.  The shooting is extremely accurate in spite of difficult light. 

Enemy bombers get through to carry out a concentrated bombing attack on Ta Qali.  Bombs rain down on the airfield for half an hour causing numerous craters, though runways are not significantly damaged.  Many of the high explosive bombs carry delayed action fuzes. Large numbers of incendiary bombs are dropped on the camp. Two RAF personnel are wounded.  Other bombs fall near Mqabbe and Tal Liebru.

After dark, three further aircraft patrol to the south, then cross the coast and drop bombs near Mqabba and Tal Liebru and on Ta Qali.

2333 hrs  All clear.

0047 hrs  One enemy aircraft approaches from the north and crosses the Island without dropping any bombs.

0241-0609 hrs  Four enemy aircraft drop bombs on Ghain Tuffieha, St Paul’s Bay and St Julian’s.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Douglas Leggo, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 249 Squadron; Leading Aircraftman George Bond, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Lance-Corporal John Patt, 11th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers; Fusilier Harold (Joseph) Russell, 11th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers; Fusilier Edward Thompson, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Civilian casualties  Attard  Alessandro Camilleri, age 50; Salvo Gatt, age 49; Ganni Portelli, age 55; Emmanuele Vassallo, age 47.  Birkirkara  Anthony Gatt, age 12.  Hamrun  Carmelo Camilleri, age 11; Guisa Cuschieri, age 3; Francis Farrugia, age 13.  Lija  Salvu Mallia, age 45.  Marsaxlokk  Nardu Caruana, age 56.  Mosta  Salvu Dimech, age 70; Giovanna Frendo, age 75; Pietro Micallef, age 45; Rita Micallef, age 24; Duminka Micallef, age 18.  Naxxar  Zaru Grech, age 30; Joseph Sciberras, age 18.  Pieta  Lewis Camilleri, age 44. St Julian’s  Joseph Debono, age 45. Valletta  Margherita Buttigieg, age 44.  Zejtun  Salvu Spiteri, age 30.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 20 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Olympus arrived from Gibraltar with passengers and petrol.  Three Albacores dropped two torpedoes aimed at one light cruiser and one merchant vessel, 2000 tons, escorted by one destroyer.  Result unobserved.  0800 hrs – convoy MW10 sailed from Alexandria.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Beaufighters, three Hudsons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Five Blenheims, four Beauforts , one Hudson from 108 MU; one Wellington from Shalufa.

HAL FAR  PM  Three Albacores 828 Squadron were despatched on a shipping search.  0415 hrs  A Convoy of one 2000 ton merchant vessel, one light cruiser, one destroyer position 190 degrees Messina 23 miles course 200 degrees, speed 10 knots.  Two torpedoes were aimed, one at the cruiser and one at the merchant vessel.  Aircraft had to take avoiding action due to flak.  Strikes not observed.

LUQA 1140-1710 hrs  One Maryland 69 Squadron photo-reconnaissance Trapani, Palermo and Cagliari Harbours; Elman aerodrome and vis. of Pantelleria.

TA QALI  Severest raids on aerodrome ever had.  Large numbers of incendiary bombs.  All officers proceeded to Camp immediately after first raid, to assist under direction of CO.  Army contacted: immediate repair of aerodrome arranged.  Lessons learned:  underground alternative accommodation should have been provided months ago, both for aircraft and personnel.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Heavy raid by Luftwaffe on Ta Qali.  Battalions of this Brigade provided working parties for filling up craters on the aerodrome.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  1800 hrs  This unit takes over the Observation Post at Tal Virtu. 

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Extremely heavy raid by Luftwaffe on Ta Qali aerodrome.  Battalion supplied working party for filling up bomb craters on the aerodrome.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 16-20 March 35 (average 7 per day).

(1 ) Adapted from UXB Malta, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

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9 March 1942: Germany boasts “Malta under a hail of bombs day and night”

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94 ENEMY AIRCRAFT DROP BOMBS ON MALTA

German radio today broadcast the claim: “the Island Fortress of Malta is under a hail of bombs by day and night” as raids continue round the clock.  Luqa received another pounding today with damage to aircraft and runways but the enemy did not escape without losses. Malta’s fighters went on the counter attack, destroying at least three aircraft and damaging ten.  The Island’s anti-aircraft guns also claimed at least one aircraft destroyed and two damaged.

German bombs marked “Iron Greetings for Malta” (NWMA Malta)

LUFTWAFFE BOMBS DURING DAYLIGHT 9 MARCH 1942

  • 1000kg ‘Herman’              19
  • 500kg                              67
  • 250kg                              58
  • 50kg                              163

TOTAL                                307    Weight: 75150 kg

WARNING TO INFANTRY: DO NOT REMOVE BOMB FRAGMENTS

“Fragments of exploded bombs and tail fins often provide important evidence.  Cases have recently occurred where this evidence has been denied to the Bomb Disposal Officer because the pieces have been taken away as souvenirs.  It is the duty of all ranks to report immediately any fragments of exploded bombs and to report anyone seen taking away such pieces.” (1)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 9 MARCH TO DAWN 10 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south west; cloudy.

0750 hrs  Seven Hurricanes are scrambled from Ta Qali.  Wing Commander Rabagliati leads 242 Squadron to escort Blenheims leaving the Island,

0825 hrs  Five JU 88s drop twenty-two High Explosive bombs on theSafi strip.  Two aircraft are set on fire.

0845 hrs  One ME 109 with a yellow edge and red spinner is seen by 242 Squadron and attacked but it continues to shadow the Blenheim formation.

0858 hrs  Fourteen ME 109s and six JU 88s cross the coast and drop bombs on Luqa and Safi.

0918 hrs  Three JU 88s drop bombs on Safi, destroying one Wellington on the ground.  Three JU 88s drop bombs south west of Loreto Church and south west of Gudja village.  Three soldiers are wounded.

0925 hrs  Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA Bty) engage three JU 88s at 3-5000 feet: 13 hits claimed.

0927 hrs  Three ME 109s drop bombs on the Safi strip.

0945 hrs Three JU 88s and eight ME 109s cross the coast and drop bombs on Hal Far.  L/Cpl Creek of C Company 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt receives a slight shrapnel wound.  Hurricanes destroy one JU 88 and one ME 109, damage two ME 109s and seven JU 88s.  Seven ME 109s and four JU 88s are also attacked.  One Hurricane pilot, Sgt Finlay, is slightly injured.

1000 hrs  Gunners of 225 (LAA Bty) engage three JU 88s engaged at 3-5000 feet; no claims.

1020 hrs  All clear.

1040 hrs  Eight Hurricanes from are scrambled from Ta Qali and intercept an incoming raid of three JU 88s and nine ME 109s.

1055 hrs  JU 88s drop bombs between Gudja and Luqa and one bomb in near HQ of 4th Bn Hampshire Regiment.

1120 hrs  The Hurricanes engage the enemy aircraft at a point 20 miles east of Delimara and attack.  One JU 88 is damaged and Wing Commander Rabagliati destroys one ME 109.

1221 hrs  Twelve JU 88s attack Luqa, dropping heavy High Explosive bombs and causing craters on the Safi strip.

1227 hrs  Bombs are dropped at south end of Safi strip: four fires are seen in the dispersal area.

1255-1315 hrs  Four JU 88s drop bombs on the Safi strip.  Four Wellingtons are damaged; three burned out.

1324 hrs  Bombs dropped on Safi strip.

1405 hrs  Three JU 88s drop bombs north of Safi strip.  One 1000kg bomb lands to the south west of Gudja.

1408 hrs  Guns of 225 (LAA Bty) engage two JU 88s at 6-8000 feet: no claim.

1500 hrs  Six Hurricanes of 126 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali.

1515 hrs  225 LAA Bty engage six JU 88s at 4000 feet and one ME 109 at 100 feet.  Fifteen hits are claimed: five of the JU 88s claimed as damaged.

1520 hrs  Six JU 88s with fighter escort drop two 1000kg bombs each on Safi strip.  One Maryland is set on fire.

1520 hrs  Hurricanes of 126 Squadron intercept three JU 88s and six ME 109s off the Island of Filfla, as the enemy are going away from Hal Far.  F/O West damages two JUs.  P/O Hallett destroys one ME 109.  F/O Anderson causes an explosion in a JU and leaves it descending steeply: later confirmed destroyed.  S/L Norris damages a JU causing the engine to emit black smoke.  American P/O Howard Coffin is attacked by an ME and is forced to crash land close to a searchlight position near Gudja, suffering some head injuries: he survives.

1551 hrs  All clear.

1615 hrs  Enemy aircraft come in four waves, each wave dropping bombs onSafi and Luqa.  The first wave is engaged by Heavy Ack Ack.  One JU 88 is destroyed and crashes on Hal Far; one ME 109 is damaged.  An unexploded bomb is reported at Bir-id-Deheb: traffic is diverted and the RE Bomb Disposal squad informed.

1712 hrs  Three JU 88s at 5000 feet are engaged by Ack Ack fire: no claims.

1740 hrs  Five JU 88s diving on Hal Far are engaged by 225 LAA Bty. Two guns obtain a direct hit on one JU 88 which catches fire and crashes into the ground.  Two enemy airmen bale out and are taken prisoner by RAF personnel.  Two of the remaining aircraft are claimed as damaged.

1840 hrs  Three JU 88s drop bombs on the Ta Liebru area and from 469195 to 468202.  225 LAA Bty engage the JU 88s at 4-5000 feet: four hits claimed on each plane.

1842 hrs  All Clear.

1940-2020 hrs  One enemy aircraft crosses theIsland from north to south: believed to be a rescue plane.

Night 9/10th  Continuous air raid throughout the night: bombs in many areas.  Heavy Ack Ack and searchlights are active but night fighters do not engage.

2037-0615 hrs  Nineteen aircraft approach the Island from the north and drop 200 High Explosive bombs on Luqa, Grand Harbour, Qrendi, Wardia, Ghain Tuffieha, Delimara, St Thomas’ Bay, Latnia and in the sea at Kalafrana.  Searchlights operational and Heavy Ack Ack engage.

0200 hrs  Bombs are dropped near Ta Sinia Tower.

0250 hrs  One bomb lands in Kirkop area.

0335 hrs  Four bombs are dropped in the Mqabba area.

0615 hrs  Bombs land near Fort Ta Silch.

0626 hrs  A delayed action bomb explodes on Safi strip.

0800 hrs  A delayed action bomb explodes on Safi strip.

Military casualties  Sergeant Ronald McGregor Herman, Royal Australian Air Force; Private William Jones, 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Qormi  Dolores Agius, age 6; Concetta Briffa, age 53; George Ellul, age 17.

Enemy casualties  Oberleutnant Gerhard Becker, 6/KG 77, pilot of a JU 88 bomber shot down by Anti Aircraft fire early evening; also Unteroffizier Anton Schweiger, Air Gunner, who baled out into the sea but died; Unteroffizier Arnulf Thiemann, Observer was found unconscious and taken to hospital but did not recover; Unteroffiziere Walter Kunzi, Wireless Operator baled out and was found unconscious but survived, and was taken prisoner.  Leutnant Herbert Muller, 1/KG 54, Pilot of a JU 88 bomber, plus crew Obergefreiter Heinrich Meier, Obergefreiter Kurt Schrey and Obergefreiter Erich Wulf.

HMS Porpoise

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 9 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Porpoise arrived from Alexandria with passengers and petrol.  2000 hrs Cleopatra, Penelope and Kingston sailed to intercept enemy convoy.  Three Swordfish and three Albacores attacked an 8000 ton merchant vessel, escorted by three destroyers, in the vicinity of Pantelleria.  Two torpedoes were dropped and the merchant vessel was probably hit.  One Albacore crashed on landing.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance unit.  Departures  Three Blenheims, one Wellington to 108 MU; one Beaufighter to Marsa Matruh.

LUQA  1030-1435 hrs  One Maryland 69 Squadron carries out a special search.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT Several alerts during the day; little damage to buildings.  Bombs on Luqa: Private Jones, C Company, killed, and Private Smithson, D Company, seriously injured.  Gas masks worn 1000-1100 hrs.  30 Other Ranks C & D Coys fired on Parachute Range at Marsa.  6 Platoon A Company night firing on Pembroke Range.

2ND BN THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  L/Cpl Creek, C Company, slightly injured by shrapnel at Hal Far.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  CO carried out reconnaissance of the Victoria Lines.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT During the night bombs are dropped 300 yards north of Battalion HQ.  No damage.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Almost continuous dogfights and Ack Ack.  Luqa working party sustained minor casualties.

225TH LIGHT ACK ACK BATTERY, ROYAL ARTILLERY  Outcome of raids resulted in slight damage to equipment at one gun position, C Troop HQ is damaged, one caravan badly damaged and one billet rendered unsafe.  One unexploded 500kg bomb is discovered 20 yards from a gun position which is evacuated after removal of the gun barrel, auto-loader etc to a place of safety.  The UXB is reported to the RE Bomb Disposal Section.  The BD Officer deals with the bomb and declares the area safe by 1100 hrs next morning.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 21 February-15 March 128 (average 6 per day).

(1) UXB Malta – Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal 1940-44, S A M Hudson, History Press 2010/2012

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5 March 1942: 83 HE Bombs on Airfields in Afternoon Raid

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ROYAL ARTILLERY ORDERS PROTECT MALTA’S FIGHTERS

Mqabba (NWMA Malta)

Royal Artillery Headquarters today announces new measures to safeguard Malta’s defending fighter aircraft during “enemy intruder tactics at night against the harbours and aerodromes on the Island [which] are persistent and increasing in intensity.”  The Operation Instruction which comes into effect at 1900 hrs is to enable guns and searchlights to operate effectively against enemy intruder aircraft without endangering the safety of the Island’s own aircraft.  The order identifies zones within which guns will not engage the enemy while Malta-based aircraft are taking off and landing.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 MARCH TO DAWN 6 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind north west.  No cloud; fine.

0750-0843 hrs  Five aircraft approach the Island but do not cross the coast.

0923-1141 hrs  Ten enemy fighters, four with bombs, approach Ta Qali from the south and drop ten high explosive (HE) bombs near underground hangars. Three civilians of AMDW [operations room] are injured and two vehicles damaged.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1143 hrs  Eight Hurricanes from Ta Qali intercept five JU 88s, and some of the Messerschmitts as they return from the raid.  Hurricanes from Hal Far join the formation.  S/L Wells attacks two JU 88s but sees no results before he is chased back by two MEs.  P/O Hall and P/O Morrison-Jones also fire at one JU 88.

Sgt Boyd attacks a 3rd JU 88: the engine catches fire and it disappears in a slow, shallow dive.  He then gets on the tail of a 4th JU and sees the starboard engine catch fire.  Finally he attacks a 5th JU but observes no results as Messerschmitt fighters chase him back. 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry report a JU 88 crashed at Jebel Ciantar: the machine burst into flames and there are no survivors.

1155 hrs  Ten JU 88s with an escort of twenty fighters approach the Island.  Four JU 88s dive over Grand Harbour and drop 1000kg bombs on Floriana, Lazaretto and Manoel Island.  One lands on the civilian area of Savoy Hill, Sliema.  Sixteen Hurricanes plus Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage the enemy.

1210 hrs  P/O Kidson engages a Messerschmitt 109 to the north of Malta.  Kidson’s Hurricane is shot down into the sea; he does not return.

1240 hrs  A Second wave of six JU 88s with fighters crosses Kalafrana to drop bombs on the Safi strip and Luqa.  One Wellington is hit and burns out.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage: 225 Light Ack Ack Battery claim two hits on JU 88s – at least one is confirmed damaged.

1300 hrs  All clear.

1439-1815 hrs   A series of raids directed against the aerodromes.

Six ME 109s approach Ta Qali: three of them drop eleven HE bombs on the airfield and surrounding area.  Bombs explode near two Blenheims but do no damage.  Another bomb falls near No 11 Cave, dropped by three ME 109s.

Enemy aircraft continue to patrol off the coast.

Six JU 88s with fourteen ME 109s approach from the north, turn over the coast and attack the southern airfields.  24 HE bombs of 250kg and 48 HE bombs of 50kg are dropped on Luqa, Safi and Hal Far.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.

1630 hrs  JU 88s attack Luqa rendering the short runway unserviceable for two hours. One Maryland is damaged, two Blenheims damaged, one Wellington damaged.  Huts in the Blenheim dispersal area are damaged.  Three JU 88s are engaged at 4-6000 feet by five guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Regiment: no claims.

1635 hrs  Two JU 88s attack Hal Far, dropping two bombs on the dispersal areas and the remainder off the aerodrome.  No damage or casualties.

1635 hrs  Two JU 88s drop bombs on the Safi strip, plus one on the Ta Klantun area and one on Ta Karach ridge.

Enemy aircraft continue to patrol off the coast.

1815 hrs  All clear.

1920-0712 hrs  A continuous series of raiders, 18 in all, come over Malta and bomb Ta Qali and at Luqa, where on Blenheim is burned out, one Wellington damaged and a petrol tanker destroyed.

15 bombs fell in the area of 8th Bn Kings Own Royal Regiment:  eleven landed in fields (including six near a Bofors gun position) and four in a field 200 yards south west of Mqabba Church.  One did not explode and was provisionally identified as delayed action.  It was reported as Priority to Royal Engineers HQ: a Bomb Disposal Officer attended to defuze the bomb which was removed next morning.

2105 hrs  Bombs on Bidni area.

2120 hrs  Sgt Wood of 1435 Night Fighter Unit crashes on Ta Qali aerodrome due to the collapse of his aircraft’s undercarriage.

2130 hrs  Bombs vicinity post L22.

2220 hrs  Bombs on Marsaxlokk.

2350 hrs  Bombs dropped south of Loreto church.

0235 hrs  Bombs on Hompesch and between Kirkop and Safi.

0645 hrs  Bombs dropped in Tal Liebru area.

Military casualties  Pilot Officer Marcus Kidson, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 126 Squadron; Private Victor Giles, 1st Bn The Hampshire Regiment.

Enemy casualties  Oberleutnant Hermann RAAB, pilot of Messerchmitt Bf 109 fighter, reported missing.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: THURSDAY 5 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  P35 returned from patrol off Messina, having unsuccessfully attacked a small convoy.  Upholder arrived, having sunk a 5000 ton northbound ship. 

AIR HQ  Departures  Four Wellingtons to 108 MU.

HAL FAR  Night 5/6th  One Albacore 828 Squadron on search for enemy shipping Malta-Tripoli-Quara.  Nothing sighted.

LUQA  0736-1103 hrs  One Maryland 69 Squadron carried out SF 2A patrol; one Maryland 69 Squadron special search.  2244-0320 hrs  Two Wellingtons 37 Squadron carried out a diversion raid in conjunction with minelaying aircraft.  2321-0025 hrs  Two Wellingtons 37 Squadron minelaying in Tripoli Harbour.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  ‘Barossa Day (1)  – a Battalion holiday.  General Officer Commanding, Maj Gen D M W Beak VC DSO MC at dinner.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued.  Bombs overnight at Qormi.  0915 hrs  Battalion training exercise: “Company in Defence” area Tal Minsia. 

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  GOC Troops and Staff visited Battalion HQ and inspected loaded carriers and trucks.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 21 February-15 March 128 (average 6 per day).

(1)  Barossa Day commemorates 5th March 1811 when 87th Regt of Foot (later Royal Irish Fusiliers) captured the Eagle standard of the French 8th Regiment at the Battle of Barossa – the first such victory in the Peninsular wars.  Commending them for the Barossa victory, the Prince Regent directed that they wear the eagle on their colours.

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Posted by on March 5, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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