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27 March 1942: Breconshire Sinks – Maltese Dockyard Worker Earns a Medal

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MALTA SUPPLY SHIP BRECONSHIRE LIES STRICKEN OFF COAST 

HMS Breconshire, hit and set on fire during yesterday’s heavy air raids, is now barely afloat with only six feet of her bilge above water.  Enemy bombing prevented all attemps at taking off her cargo of oil yesterday.  At daybreak this morning, fires broke out again and the ammunition supplies on board began to explode – creating a real risk of blowing the entire ship and the loss of all her cargo.  Moments after her Captain and officers had abandoned an attempt to scuttle her, Breconshire rolled onto her side and capsized.

DESPERATE BID TO SAVE PRECIOUS CARGO

Breconshire’s cargo was far too valuable to be abandoned to the ocean.  Len Austin, Foreman of the Dockyard, was given the dangerous task of recovering her desperately-needed cargo of oil.

“She looked like a huge whaleback sticking out of the water. This is how I first saw her, and heavy seas were breaking over her. We were desperately short of oil fuel and my job was to try to make it possible for the fuel on board to be pumped out from the two cargo tanks on the [starboard] side, and also if possible to break into the engine room and holds.

When the sea subsided it was possible to walk on the ship’s side and make a survey to devise a plan of action. A hole in the side looked to be the only way to obtain access to the air space surrounding the cargo tanks, and the physical removal of ship’s side plates for the engine room and hold.

All my men were ready volunteers and we got on with the job, which was interrupted by air-raids, bombs falling nearby. The work continued and in a day or so we were able to drill a small hole in one tank, through which the oil flowed out by water displacement, the water getting in via the tank air escapes beneath the surface. The oil filled the air space and a wooden plug was driven into the drilled hole in the tank.

The navy now took over and pumped the oil into drums using hand pumps. The system…worked and we recovered hundreds of tons of oil. The ship’s side plates 5 No. were removed and hauled clear. Diesel oil was now available from the Engine room and a host of items from the hold: milk, explosives, bombs, timber, medical supplies etc.”

Maltese Shipwright Supervisor Mr Zammit was also to earn himself the British Empire Medal:

“At the bottom of the air space was the tank margin of one of the ship’s own OFT’s, and this was full of fuel oil. Our manner of winning the oil from the cargo tanks had resulted in the air space getting smothered in thick fuel oil. To get down to the margin tank was very hazardous and to drill the necessary hole almost suicidal. This would have to be carried out in complete darkness and there was the danger of oil fuel vapour exploding. I told Mr. Zammit that under no circumstances was he to send a man to this job, and he obeyed the order.

One day when I visited the ship I was told that he was doing the job himself, and then he appeared through the access hole we had made. He was naked, smothered all over in oil and looked like a negro. He climbed out and jumped overboard to swim round for a while. When he climbed on board, I could see that much of the oil had emulsified which made him look even worse. He was rubbed down and then dressed. He told me, ‘You said I was not to send a man, so I went myself.’  He had succeeded in doing the near impossible and so more oil was recovered. It was a brave if foolhardy action.    Malta could carry on again for a while…” (1)

MALTESE CIVILIANS JOIN LABOUR BATTALION

The Governor and Commander in Chief has announced that a complete register of civilian workers has been compiled for call-up to work as civilian units as required, for the Services or Government.  These groups are not under military discipline.  Gangs of civilians to work on aerodromes have been formed under special Defence Regulations, recruited from residents in nearby villages.

Frequent and heavy bombing – and the absence of slit trenches or any form of shelter for civilian labour – on the aerodromes has made it difficult to maintain sufficient manpower.  Numbers of volunteer workers have been encouraged with the offer of higher than normal pay, and have been working regularly on aerodromes for last twelve days.  As many police as can be spared are assisting.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 27 MARCH TO DAWN 28 MARCH 1942

Weather  Little wind; 50% high cloud.  Weather deteriorated: very little enemy action.

0804 hrs  One JU 88 with fighter escort carries out reconnaissance.  Heavy Ack Ack heavily engage the aircraft and the formation turns away.

0957 hrs  Five ME 109 fighter bombers approach the Island.

1025 hrs  Two ME 109s drop high explosive (HE) bombs on Luqa and three on Hal Far with several casualties.  One Hurricane is slightly damaged.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1112 hrs  HMS Breconshire turns over on her port side and sinks.

1201 hrs  Nine aircraft including three JU 88s drop six 500kg and six 250kg HE bombs on Grand Harbou.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1545 hrs  Five ME 109 fighter bombers approach the south of the Island and drop five 250kg and five 50kg HE bombs on Hal Far.  L/Cpl Walke, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is seriously injured and taken to No 90 General Hospital (He died 0015 hrs 28th March).  Cpl Brooking is injured in the left arm.

1640 hrs  One JU 88 with fighter escort carries out reconnaissance of Ta Qali and Grand Harbour at 23000 feet. Heavy Ack Ack engage.

3rd Bn KOMR discover a wheel washed ashore at Wied Zurrieq.

1747 hrs  Four aircraft patrol south east of the Island.

2232-0031 hrs  One aircraft patrols the Island, then drops bombs in the sea and incendiaries on land near Dingli.  Heavy Ack Ack fire a barrage.  Fighters are up: no engagement.

Military casualties  Leading Aircraftsman Adrian Styles, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Aircraftsman Leslie Tindall, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve; Private Thomas Ryan, 2nd Bn Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Zejtun  Carmel Zahra, age 15.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 27 MARCH 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Ten Hurricanes, one Hudson, one Blenheim, one Beaufort, one Lodestar from Gambut.  Departures  One Lodestar to Gambut.

LUQA  0925-1200 hrs  Photo Reconnaissance (PR) Spitfire 69 Squadron Pr of Sicilian aerodromes and Palermo Harbour.   2005-0345 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight special search to relocate vessel sighted by Spitfire AM.

TA QALI  Spitfires operating from Luqa.  No scrambles.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  1800 hrs This unit hands over the Observation Post at Tal Virtu to 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regt.

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

2ND BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Private Ryan died in hospital from wounds.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2.

(1) extract from Autobiography of Leonard (Len) Austin, Foreman of Malta Dockyard, August 1939 – March 1943

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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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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

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

 

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25 March 1942: Battle to Save Stricken Supply Ship, Passengers and Cargo

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HMS Breconshire

HMS Breconshire

ROYAL NAVY, MERCHANT MARINE AND AIR FORCE IN DESPERATE BID TO RESCUE SHIP

Since noon on Wednesday bad weather has prevented the disabled supply ship Breconshire from being towed into the safety of Grand Harbour.  For 36 hours she has lain off Zonkor Point, her passengers and crew stranded and vulnerable to the continuous enemy air attacks.  Her precious cargo includes the only oil – 5000 tons – carried by the convoy but this, coupled with tons of ammunition and bombs, makes her a floating time bomb under fire.

Heavy raids on the airfields have made it impossible for Malta’s fighters get airborne and drive off enemy raiders.  Only the guns of destroyer Southwold, standing by to provide cover, could deter them.  But yesterday she struck a mine and then sank after further damage from an enemy bomb.  The heavy swell was driving Breconshire dangerously close to the same minefield and prevented the tug Ancient from attaching a secure towing line.

HMS Southwold

HMS Southwold

The trawler Beryl made three attempts to get alongside and take off the military personnel, but without success. Finally, in the early hours of this morning two tugs, Ancient and Robust, managed to secure a tow and ease the stricken merchantman towards Delimara Point.  With more help from the destroyer Eridge, Breconshire made the turn round Delimara into Marsaxlokk Harbour, where she reached mooring at noon today.

WAR DIARY, GENERAL STAFF, MALTA 24 MARCH 1942

Breconshire moved from Zonkor to No 1 Buoy, Kalafrana. Persistent raids by JU88 and Stukas against her and other shipping in Grand Harbour. Our fighters, HAA active. No hits on Breconshire.  Discharging cargo by lighter in Marsa Scirocco bay. W/T interception through approaching pilots gave indication of targets.  Other targets: direct hit on 3.7″ gun position St Julians and Fd Bty HQ Paola: four OR killed. Many bombs dropped in districts bordering Grand Harbour, Sliema, St Julians.  Maj P J D Johnson taking over duties of GSO1.  In order to deal with enemy attacks on Breconshire the following RA dispositions were made: four 18 pounder Delimara Peninsula and four 25 pounders Birzebuggia task direct fire Marsaxlokk Bay, four 3″ HAA guns Benghaisa Point, 12 Bofors to area Kalafrana-Marsaxlokk Bay under command 3 LAA Regt RMA. LO from ME (Maj C M L Andrews) arrived in Malta.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 25 MARCH TO DAWN 26 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south; 80% cloud.

0855-1040 hrs  ME 109s patrol the Island.

1052 hrs  A delayed Action bomb explodes south of Safi village.

1107-1123 hrs  Air raid alert.  Raid does not materialise.

1241 hrs  Air raid alert for incoming enemy aircraft.

1339 hrs  JU 87s and JU 88s escorted by ME 109s attack Grand Harbour and Marsaxlokk Bay, where Breconshire is now tied up.  Bombs are dropped through the clouds as well as from a dive.

1530 hrs  Raiders passed.

1545 hrs  Ta Qali’s fighter squadrons operating from Luqa are scrambled to intercept incoming raiders and defend Breconshire.  S/L Grant shoots down one ME 109 and damages one JU 87.  They are joined by eight Hurricanes from Hal Far: 185 Squadron pilots Sgt Eastman, Sgt Horrocks, Sgt Wilson and Sgt Robb account for one JU 87 ‘probably destroyed’; P/O Ormrod and P/O Wigley share a ‘confirmed destroyed’; F/L Lloyd and Sgt Horrocks, P/O Milburn claim one damaged.

1603 hrs  JU 87s and JU 88s again attack Grand Harbour.  SS Essex is hit through the bows and sustains some damage in her engine room.  The Joiners Shop at the Naval Armament Depot is demolished.  King George V hospital is damaged.  Breconshire is attacked in Marsaxlokk Bay but most of the bombs fall in the sea off Fort St Lucian.

1610 hrs   Ta Qali’s fighter squadrons engage the enemy again.  P/O Peck damages one JU 87.  P/O Nash damages one JU 87.  F/O Lee damages one JU 87.  P/O Plagis damages two JU 87s.  P/O McLeod destroys one ME 109. Ack Ack destroy one JU 88 and damage two, as well as numerous JU 87s.

1625 hrs  Two bombs explode near the Quartermaster’s Stores in Paola and one by the Dockyard wall.  Capt Vassallo of 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regt is slightly hurt.

1630 hrs  One ME 109 is engaged by two guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery; no claim.

1700-1715 hrs  JU 88s drop bombs from above the clouds on Luqa airfield, damaging one Blenheim, and across the Zurrieq-Mqabba area. Four sticks land near Tal Hniena Church, one stick close to Mqabba, demolishing three houses, and one stick north of Kirkop.  Post L22 of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt fires one magazine at a JU 88: no claim.

Night 25/26th  Continuous raids on shipping and dock facilities in Grand Harbour. The enemy uses parachute flares to illuminate their targets. Bombs are also dropped on Breconshire in Marsaxlokk Bay. Bombs, including many delayed action, are dropped across the Island, including 24 high explosives on Gozo.

0325 hrs  Four enemy boats are reported 40 miles off the coast.  All Beach Companies are informed.

0355 hrs  A large number of incendiary bombs is dropped on the Officers’ Lines at Battalion Headquarters 1 Durham.  They are quickly extinguished.

Military casualties  Stoker J Paszek, Polish Submarine Sokol; Private Joseph Abela, King’s Own Malta Regiment; Gunner Percy Morris, Sergeant Joseph Davies, 26th Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery; Gunner Paul Vella, Gunner Pius Tedesco, Gunner Joseph Camilleri, 2nd Heavy Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Floriana  Publio Mercieca, age 16. Gzira  Alfred Bellizzi, age 50.  Marsa  Felice Gatt, age 80.  Sliema  Mary Alvarese, age 88.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 25 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  One Albacore on shipping search east of Malta sighted nothing and crashed on landing: crew unhurt.  Poor visibility – moderate air attacks; no particular damage.  2000 hrs  Carlisle and four ‘Hunts’ sailed for Alexandria.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Four Wellingtons from Gibraltar; one Wellington from LG 09.

TA QALI  Skeleton Orderly Room established on No 10 Cave.  F/L Gibson, Med, admitted to 90 General Hospital.  249 Squadron operating from Luqa.  No scrambles.  Aerodrome nearly serviceable.   Night operations from Luqa; no interceptions.

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  1105 hrs  Storm conditions NORAH and KATE cancelled.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Petrol-less day.  Luqa working parties as usual: 2 Officers, 50 men.  68 ME 109s, JU 87s and JU 88s raid Grand Harbour.  Two ME 109s and three JU 87s destroyed.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Breconshire was beached near Marsaxlokk and the remainder of A Company arrived at Battalion camp by 1300 hrs.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Battalion supplied working party of two Officers and 100 Other Ranks to work at Ta Qali aerodrome.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 1.

 

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Posted by on March 25, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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24 March 1942: Mass Raids on Grand Harbour Surpass Illustrious Blitz

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  • Raids target convoy ships in harbour
  • Weight of bombs double the Illustrious Blitz
  • Raids continuous from noon onwards
  • Bomb on air raid shelter at Hal Far kills RAF personnel
  • 23 military casualties 33 civilian – 23 in Kalkara
  • 28 Stukas dive-bomb Hal Far
  • Smoke-screens protect Breconshire from repeated attacks

AIR RAIDS DAWN 24 MARCH TO DAWN 25 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind north east; 30% medium cloud.

HMS Kingston: a target at Dockyard mooring

0623-0657 hrs  One aircraft passes four miles to the east of the Island and then recedes.  Malta’s fighters are up; no engagement.

0705-0731 hrs  Two aircraft pass over the Island.  Malta’s fighters are up; no engagement.

1015-1052 hrs   Two ME 109 fighter bombers approach the Island from the north.  Malta’s fighters shoot them both down.

1115-1126 hrs  Three aircraft approach the Island from the north without crossing the coast, then recede.

1141 hrs  One JU 88 drops bombs in the sea off Zonkor.

1200 hrs  Six ME 109s drop 12 high explosive (HE) bombs on the Hal Far, Mqabba and Luqa runway (still serviceable).  One bomb drops on the Safi strip, another to the west of Gudja village.

1230 hrs  Fifteen JU 88s in two waves drop thirty 500kg and thirty 250kg HE bombs in the Grand Harbour area, the Quartermaster’s Office, lavatories and D/C stations on St Angelo jetty are hit, a diesel launch and other boats at St Angelo are damaged.  Two large craters are blown on the east side of No 5 Dock; fresh, salt, hydraulic and air lines are fractured.  Unexploded bombs are reported in No 6 Sub Generating Station, No 2 Gun Mounting Store and No 1 Boiler Shop – suspected to be delayed-action.

1344 hrs  Eighteen JU 88s drop over fifty 250kg and 500kg HE bombs from St Julians across Grand Harbour to Tarxien.  Unexploded bombs are reported after the raid, probably delayed-action.  Bombs on the Lyceum Air Raid Precautions Centre kill five and injure five.  Private Edwards, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is killed on leave in Valletta.  Privates Mace and Greshem, HQ Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt are slightly injured in Tarxien.

1439 hrs  An air raid on Hal Far by four ME 109s leaves craters on the dispersal area.

1510 hrs  28 JU 87 Stukas carry out a mass dive-bombing attack on Hal Far aerodrome, dropping 84 high explosive bombs of 250kg and 500kg across the airfield.  Bombs demolish the naval wing of the Officers’ Mess and a barrack block and extensively damage other buildings.  Four vehicles and one trailer are written off.  Six airmen, three soldiers and two civilians are killed.  Private Stockhall (1) and Private Channon, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt were among them, killed while on a working party on the airfield.  Twelve airmen, three Fleet Air Arm, one Malta Auxiliary and two labourers are reported missing. Two RAF officers and one civilian are injured.

1510 hrs  Ack Ack and light machine guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage the Stukas, claiming numerous hits, but smoke pall renders observation difficult.  Official report states two JU 87s destroyed.  F/L Johnston from Ta Qali damages one JU 87 but his aircraft is damaged by ME 109s on landing at 1525 hrs.

1520 hrs  Guns of 225 LAA engage two ME 109s: one hit claimed.

1624 hrs  Evening rescue search.

1700 hrs  Four Hurricanes from Hal Far are airborne to intercept eight JU 88s, scoring hits on at least three of them and causing many to jettison their bombs.

1710 hrs  Six JU 88s escorted by ME 109s attack Hal Far, Safi and Gudja, dropping bombs near barrack buildings.  Several unexploded bombs are reported in the Safi area.

1715 hrs  Guns of 225 LAA engage four JU 88s: four hits claimed on two.  The engagement has to be broken off as friendly fighters intercept the enemy aircraft.

1759 hrs  Enemy raiders attack Grand Harbour, Valletta and Floriana. The Palace and Custom House and Combined War Headquarters, Lascaris Barracks are hit by high explosive bombs.  GSO1 Col A D Clinch is killed and CSO wounded.

2230-2345 hrs  An unknown number of enemy aircraft drop a few bombs on Luqa aerodrome and Safi strip.  One delivery Beaufighter and one delivery Blenheim are seriously damaged.

Night 24/25th  Visibility deteriorates.  The enemy drops flares over Grand Harbour and Heavy Ack Ack are active.

Military casualties  Air Mechanic George Honey, Royal Navy, HMS St.Angelo; AM 1 J Kershaw, Fleet Air Arm, HMS St.Angelo; Ordinary Seaman George Smailes, HMS Dulverton.

Aircraftsman George Baines, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR); Aircraftsman II Alexander Campbell, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Aircraftsman Walter Fisher, Royal Air Force RAFVR; Leading Aircraftsman Henry Gallichan, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Corporal Reginald Haslam, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Leading Aircraftsman James Haynes, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Corporal Harry Kin, RAFVR, Kalafrana; Aircraftsman Edward Lee, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Leading Aircraftsman Gerald Leverington, RAFVR; Aircraftsman Arnold Manchip, RAFVR, 186 Squadron; Leading Aircraftsman Leslie Quinn, RAFVR; Leading Aircraftsman Eugenio Scicluna, RAFVR; Aircraftsman William Titherington, RAFVR; Leading Aircraftsman Clifford Turpin, RAFVR, 185 Squadron; Leading Aircraftsman Alexander Webb, RAFVR, Aircraftsman W. Whatmore, RAFVR; Corporal Alan Woodman, Royal Air Force.

Colonel Andrew Clinch, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; Private Leonard Channon, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment; Private William Stockhall, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment; Private Anthony Micallef, King’s Own Malta Regiment, died whilst on duty at Hal Far; Driver Vincent Micallef, Malta Auxiliary Corps.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Paul Borg, age 17; Louis Sacco, age 60.  Birzebbugia  John Callus, age 49.  Hamrun  Joseph Grixti, age 51.  Kalkara  Joseph Bartolo, age 18; Anthony Busuttil, age 16; Joseph Camilleri, age 45; Filomena Coster, age 54; Mary Coster, age 48; Gustu Coster, age 30; Joseph Coster, age 26; Stella Gauci, age 12; Manuel Gauci, age 9; Rokku Gauci, age 2; Grezzja Hili, age 44; Concetta Hili, age 20; Pauline Hili, age 12; John Hili, age 4; Mary Micallef, age 31; Samuel Micallef, age 10; Toni Micallef, age 9; Carmela Mintoff, age 80; Josephine Mintoff, age 48; Marina Stivala, age 62; Spira Vella, age 70; Michael Ventura; age 75.  Angelica Ventura, age 66; Luqa  Alexander Bonnici; age 36.  Mosta  Luigi Calleja, age 75.  Paola  Toussaints Aquilina, age 17.  Rabat  Mary Adami, age 6.  Valletta  Joseph Mifsud, age 47.  Zabbar  Katie Cardona, age 50.

Enemy casualties  Hans Bretschneider, III/StG 3, pilot, and Ferdinand Burger, III/StG 3, crewman of JU 87 Stuka aircraft shot down by Anti Aircraft fire.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: TUESDAY 24 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Three Albacores left to attack one cruiser and three destroyers 098 degrees Syracuse 67′ but were unable to attack owing to bad visibility.  Heavy bombing attacks but nothing very serious in the way of damage.  Southwold mined and sunk while patrolling BreconshireNight 24/25th  Breconshire towed by tugs Ancient and Robust to Marsaxlokk.  Secured No 1 buoy at 1045/25.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Seven Beaufighters, five Wellingtons, four Blenheims from Gibraltar.

HAL FAR  PM One Swordfish on search for units of the Italian navy.  Three Albacores despatched to attack units of the Italian navy. Which were located at 0340 hrs: one cruiser, three destroyers at 098 degrees, 67 miles course 330 at 25 knots.  Flares are dropped but aircraft are unable to see ships owing to bad visilibity.

LUQA  1025-1248 hrs  One Photo Reconnaissance (PR) Unit Spitfire 69 Squadron despatched on PR of Messina and Palermo Harbours and Sicilian aerodromes.  No photos taken owing to cloud.

TA QALI  249 Squadron operating from Luqa.  1100 hrs  Salvage and repair work proceeds.

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Private Mace and Private Gresham, HQ Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt slightly injured by bombs at Tarxien.  Private Edwards, HQ Coy 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt killed on leave in Valletta.  Private Stockhall and Private Channon, A Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt killed on working party.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  All Companies on route march.  Heavy bomb direct hit on HQ Company cook house: no casualties.  70 JU 88s; 30 JU 87s.  Bombs on War HQ: GSO1 killed.  Bombs on Hornworks.  CO s car and lorries written off.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Training exercise for officers by CO.  SSO1 Col Clinch is killed by a bomb.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  1000 hrs  3″ mortar shoot near Fort Ta Silch.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Anniversary of the formation of 96th Foot, The Manchester Regiment: observed as a holiday.  Message from Brigade wishes the unit a happy birthday.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2.

(1) “My Great Uncle, William Stockhall, a Private in the second batallion Devonshire Regiment, died in Malta on 24 March 1942. [maltagc70] is a wonderful way for my family to understand what he went though in his final days and to honour his contribution.”  Anne Wright, Victoria, Australia.

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

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2017 in 1942, March 1942

 

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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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