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18 April 1942: Skies Clear – Raiders Return With 1000 bombs

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KALAFRANA SHELTERS UNDER FIRE

“…we were being bombed mercilessly. By that time my parents had hired a private shelter and organized it [to] live in.  That meant that we did not have to jump out of bed at night and run, at panic speed, to the shelter whenever the sirens blared the air raid warning. If we were awoken at night by the noise of the guns and falling bombs, it was just a matter of turning over and go back to sleep…it was definitely safer in those instances when incoming enemy planes were not detected until they were on top of us dropping their bombs.

The shelter was in a stone quarry out in the fields. There were three other shelters besides ours. Two were next to ours on the same quarry face but the other one was on an opposite corner, hewn, as it later turned out, in a rather queer manner.  Although situated nearer to Kalafrana than our proper home, it was still considered to be at a safe distance.

However, the shelters in the quarry must have attracted the attention of the Luftwaffe commanders who regularly scanned the terrain on photographs taken during reconnaissance flights…on one occasion, when my sister and I were just outside the entrance to our shelter, it just occurred to me to lift my head up and I saw the front of a Junkers 87 on a vertical dive right over us. I suddenly pushed my sister into the shelter entrance and I followed. When we were about five or six feet inside the shelter, we felt a terrific blast pushing us in. It was a bomb, dropped by the enemy plane I had just seen. True, there was an air raid on at that time but the planes were attacking Luqa airfield quite a distance away. We thought we were safe but that 87 I saw must have been detailed to attack our spot.

The shelter on the corner away from us was hit and it gave in. It would not have collapsed had it been properly planned and constructed. There were people inside that shelter and as it turned out, a seven year old boy and his nine year old sister were killed. Their mother was maimed when a large piece of rock landed on her leg… Joseph Zahra, 2011

AIR RAIDS DAWN 18 APRIL TO DAWN 19 APRIL 1942

Weather  Wind southerly.  Clear; no cloud.

0612-0704 hrs  Two ME109s patrol the Island.

0717-0743 hrs  One aircraft is spotted to the west of Malta but does not cross the coast.

0855 hrs  15 JU 88s bomb Hal Far.

0920-0936 hrs  One bomber accompanied by two fighters carries out reconnaissance.  On crossing the coast they are engaged by Heavy Ack Ack.

0947 hrs  26 JU 88 bombers attack Kalafrana and Ta Silch.  One Other Rank 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is killed and three slightly injured at Dowdalls Motel.  The buildings and hangars at Kalafrana suffer severe damage and a small fire breaks out in the Gzira petrol station.  One defence post is hit, knocking off its corner.  Bombs are also dropped on the Wied Znuber area.

0950 hrs  Six JU 88s carry out high-level bombing and dive-bombing over Luqa, leaving craters on the runway.  One unserviceable Wellington is burned out.

1020 hrs  JU 88 bombers attack Delimara Fort and Camp of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt.

1030 hrs  Six JU 88s attack Hal Far, damaging one Fordson and some buildings.  One Hurricane is slightly damaged.  1030 hrs  Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery engage numerous JU 88s: hits claimed.

1140 hrs  Three bombs explode near the Headquarters of A Company 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment at Bubaqra.

1200 hrs  A stick of bombs explodes close to B Company 1st Bn Dorset Regt at Zejtun, injuring Lt G H Treadwell and Capt N H Golding.

1220 hrs  Four waves of JU 88s approach the Island and split into formations to bomb the Grand Harbour area, Luqa, Safi and Hal Far.

16 JU 88s bomb the three runways; 27 JU 88s target Grand Harbour and surrounding areas, including Floriana, Corrodino, Msida Creek, Manoel Island and Tigne.  The Royal Malta Yacht Club at Hay Wharf receives a direct hit.  1st Btn Dorsetshire Regt reports an attack on Hompesch 3.7″ Ack Ack Battery by JU 88s: bombs also fall between Bluebell Troop and Hompesch.  Enemy aircraft are engaged by light machine gun fire from Bn HQ.

1227 hrs  Ten JU 88s attack Hal Far, leaving five craters on the aerodrome and damaging the Airmen’s cookhouse.  One Hurricane is slightly damaged.

1228 hrs  Three JU 88s drop bombs on the Bubaqra area.

1230 hrs  Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery engage numerous JU 88s: hits claimed.

1255 hrs  All clear.

1405-1452 hrs  24 JU 87s and 36 JU 88s attack Kalafrana, Hal Far and Birzebbuga, where the petrol tank is set on fire.  An underwater mine cable is broken.  Three JU 87s target Delimara Fort and Ack Ack Battery.

1439 hrs  15 JU 88s targeting Hal Far cause ten craters on aerodrome and dispersal area.  One Hurricane is burned out.  Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery engage numerous JU 88s: hits claimed.

1650 hrs  45 JU 88s bomb Grand Harbour, Marsa Creek, Dockyard Creek and the Abattoir, and Zabbar.  Tal Handaq, Tal Qroqq and Manoel gun positions are also bombed.  Heavy Ack Ack engage: no claims.

1655 hrs  Eight JU 88s carry out a high-level bomb attack on Luqa, Safi and Siggiewi.  Heavy Ack Ack engage: no claims.

1806 hrs  Raiders passed.

1811 hrs  24 JU 87s and 27 JU 88s and three ME 109s approach the Island and split into separate formations to bomb Delimara, Kalafrana, Birzebbuga, Benghaisa and Hal Far.  Bombs hit RAF main workshops, Delimara and Benghaisa Forts.  Delimara searchlight projector is damaged.  There are 16 casualties.

1817 hrs  15 JU 88s dive-bomb Luqa, cratering the runway.  One unserviceable Hudson and one Wellington under repair are burned out; one Maryland is slightly damaged and two Hurricanes under repair are written off.  A motor roller is badly damaged.

1830 hrs  20 JU 87s bomb Hal Far, damaging barrack blocks and cratering the aerodrome.

1928 hrs  All clear.

Night  Four alerts for seven Italian BR 20 bombers.  Bombs are dropped on Latnia, Mosta and in the sea.

2030-2105 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne on interceptions: no engagements.

2105 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Raid does not materialise.

2220 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Bombs are dropped in the Latnia area.

0012-0042 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne on interceptions: no engagements.

0355 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Raid does not materialise.

0455 hrs  Air raid alarm.  Raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Shipwright 1st Class John Burns, HMS St Angelo; Flight Lieutenant Archibald Beer, Mentioned in Despatches (Three times), Royal Air Force; Corporal Kenneth Hayter, Royal Air Force; Sergeant Jack Smith, Royal Air Force; Sergeant F M Smith, serving at Kalafrana RAF Base; Bombardier Anthony Bonello, King’s Own Malta Regiment; Sergeant Gaetan Cristina, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner George Ford, 7th Heavy Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Artillery; Gunner Joseph Galea, 11th HAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Henry Marshall, 32nd Light Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Artillery; Michael Mizzi, 2nd Heavy Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties Birzebbugia  Carmel Cutajar, age 31.  Cospicua   (PC 49) Carmel Borg; (PS 850) V. Walton, age 40.  Marsa  Joseph Formosa, age 78.  Zejtun  Joseph Bonavia, age 9.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 18 APRIL 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Seven Wellingtons, one Hudson from Gibraltar. Departures  Four Blenheims, one Wellington, one Hudson, three Beauforts to 108 MU.

TA QALI  Extensive preparations pushed on with pens during day and night by Police, Army and ground crews, under Pilots.  Maintenance pushed up for arrival of Spitfires.  Many air raids during day – no bombs on camp.  Runway serviceable.  No scrambles.

ROYAL ARTILLERY HQ  Fort Delimara one NCO, three Other Ranks wounded.  Fort Tigne and Tigne LAA positionn 1 Other Rank killed, 6 wounded.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  All activity resumed. Working parties in Valletta continue: 80 men from C Coy, 40 men from A Coy.

2ND BN THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  U/L/Cpl Leonard Percy Galton A Company 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is killed at Dowdalls Motel (W/T Cadre) and L/Cpl Barnes (Carrier Platoon), L/Cpl May (A Coy) and Cpl Sear (E Coy) are slightly injured.  Sector post R33 received a direct hit.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Lt Treadwell and Capt Golding were injured by a bomb at Zejtun.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Work on aerodromes continued.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 27; dealt with 8 (2 x 1000kg; 1 x 500kg, 3 x 250kg, 2 x 50kg).

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Pte Salkeld A Company received serious injuries from a bomb splinter when member of aerodrome working party.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  0800 hrs  Hal Far and Luqa working parties continue.  2230 hrs  Luqa working party now operating during hours of darkness to accelerate completion of tasks.  Hal Far working party to work at night also.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Working parties continue building Spitfire pens on Ta Qali aerodrome.

2ND BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  130 Other Ranks working on Luqa overnight.

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

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2017 in 1942, April 1942, Uncategorized

 

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12 April 1942: Grand Harbour – “Nothing Left to Bomb”

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  • Talabot and Essex ablaze
  • 90% of convoy supplies destroyed
  • Enemy fighters aim to wipe out defences
  • German airman talks

DOCKYARD DEVASTATION

The War Diary of the Mediterranean Fleet today reported that there are no primary targets left in Grand Harbour for the enemy to bomb. In the Dockyard only underground workshops can operate normally.  All the docks have been damaged, electricity supplies and telephone lines are largely out of action.

Talabot hit

Two ships in Grand Harbour were hit by enemy bombs and set on fire today: cruiser HMS Essex and SS Talabot, one of the last two survivors of the recent convoy.  The merchant ship had already been scuttled after being bombed on 26 March and her crew taken off.

The final results of the recent convoy are very disappointing: despite round the clock efforts by Army labour as well as Dockyard stevedores, only 1800 tons of supplies have been saved from destruction – representing ten per cent of the total embarked for Malta two weeks ago. Nevertheless the ships have still managed to deliver some of their cargo of bombs.  They will soon be carried by RAF bombers to unleash over the German air base at Trapani. (1)

VIEW FROM THE ENEMY

Having failed to destroy Talabot and Pampas before they reached Grand Harbour, Luftwaffe pilots have been told they “must to be sunk, no matter what the cost” – a stark reference to the recent losses of German air crews and aircraft to Malta’s fighters and heavy defensive fire.

Heinrich Hübner was Observer on a JU 88 bomber, among the massed formations, hundreds of aircraft, now attacking Malta daily. He remembers little details with remarkable clarity: a man on a bicycle on the open area in front of the Governor’s Palace, dashing into a narrow ally; clusters of people looking up at the aircraft, the flashes from the guns on a British cruiser and the illuminated faces of the Gunners whose courage and accuracy he admired.

ENEMY FIGHTERS’ AIM: WIPE OUT DEFENCES

A new and dangerous pattern has emerged for enemy air raids on Malta.  As reported on Friday (maltagc70.com 10 April), yellow-nosed Messerschmitt fighters had been reported machine-gunning defensive gun positions some time before raids on Grand Harbour and Ta Qali.  Observers report the tactic has now been extended, with significant numbers of fighters approaching airfield defences to clear a path for their bombers to attack.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 APRIL TO DAWN 13 APRIL 1942

Weather  Wind north west; 50% medium cloud.

1215 hrs  43 JU 88s and 10 JU 87s with fighter escort approach Malta in several formations, dividing to attack Grand Harbour, Ta Qali, Luqa and Hal Far.  Heavy Ack Ack destroy one JU 87 and damage two JU 88s.  Several high explosive bombs are dropped on Floriana: five in Gunlayer Square, one on New St, one in First St, one in St Publius St.

1216-1330 hrs  35 JU 88s dive-bomb Luqa runways and dispersal areas.  Two Wellingtons are burned out.

1226 hrs  Four ME 109s attack Hal Far.  One Hurricane is burned out.  Ten JU 88s with fighter escort dive-bomb Hal Far, severely damaging Officers’ quarters and other buildings.  One bus, two lorries and a car are badly damaged.  One fire pump is destroyed and a fire tender badly damaged.

1230-1245 hrs  Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage one JU 88 and two ME 109s.  A/Sgt Evans is injured by the nose cap from a Heavy Ack Ack shell and is taken to hospital.  One gun is damaged by an exploding bomb.  Nine JU 88s and one ME 109 are engaged, with seven hits on five enemy aircraft.  2nd Bn Devonshire Regt fire 144 Bren magazines and 70 Lewis magazines at enemy aircraft.  B Company claims a hit on the cockpit of one ME 109, which crashes a mile out to sea.

1230 hrs  A number of ME 109s machine-gun Ta Qali: one starter trolley is burned out and one Spitfire slightly damaged.

1235-1250 hrs  Twenty JU 88s repeatedly bomb Safi strip and Bir Miftuh Church area.

1245 hrs  Guns of HQ Company 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment hit two JU 88s, parts fall from the wings of one aircraft and it is observed crashing into the sea.  The engine of the other JU 88 was seen to be smoking. D Company also claim hits on a JU 88.  Bombs are dropped between HQ Company and Zurrieq.

1425 hrs  All clear.

1744 hrs   ME 109s machine-gun the Luqa area and gun positions at Benghaisa, Hagiar Qim and Salina.  Total casualties:  four Other Ranks seriously wounded; 10 Other Ranks slightly wounded.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack and small arms engage: two JU 88s and three JU 87s are destroyed.  One JU 88 is seen crashing into the sea.

60 JU 88s approach the Island in formations of 12 each.  Two formations of ten JU 88s attack Luqa, cratering the runway and destroying one Wellington under repair.  The other three attack Ta Qali, Hal Far and Grand Harbour.  Twenty JU 87s follow in and also attack Grand Harbour.

1746 hrs  Attack on Grand Harbour: SS Talabot is hit and set on fire.  Buildings of 4 Platoon, 1 Bn Cheshire Regt at Rinella are badly damaged.  B Company considers move of two platoons to Polverista Gate.  The Naval Canteen in the Dockyard is damaged by bombs.

1800 hrs  Nine JU 88s drop 35 bombs on Ta Qali aerodrome, causing craters on the runway.  The aerodrome is still serviceable with care.

1807 hrs  11 JU 88s drop bombs on Kirkop, Safi and Mqabba areas.  Bombs on Ta Liebru area kill one Other Rank of 1st Bn Hampshire Regt and wound another.  One stick of bombs does not explode.

1849 hrs  All clear.

2059-2155 hrs  Three enemy bombers operating singly drop bombs near Kalafrana and on land and in the sea near Delimara.  One aircraft drops bombs in the sea north of Gozo.

Night  2 raids only by Italian BR 20 aircraft: night fighters cause them to jettison bombs.

2200-2225 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne on patrol: no engagement.

0024-0048 hrs  One enemy aircraft approaches but is driven away by Heavy Ack Ack.  It returns later and drops bombs on the Marsa area.

0048-0330 hrs  One Beaufighter on interceptions: no engagement.

Military casualties  Sergeant Robert Chinnock, 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Msida  Emmanuel Agius, age 7.  Qormi  Joseph Scicluna, age 53.  Zejtun  Vincent Ellul, age 67.  Gozo (Xaghra)  Carmelo Azzopardi, age 17.

Enemy casualties  Waldemar Kremin.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 12 APRIL 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Una returned from patrol off Spartivento having sunk one 8000 ship.  Talabot again hit by a bomb.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Spitfires PRU from Gibraltar.  Departures  Four Wellingtons, three Hudsons to 108 MU.

TA QALI  Aerodrome still serviceable but extensive repairs proceeding.  No night operations.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Sunday and a holiday.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1500 hrs  Corporal Evans is buried at Imtarfa Cemetery.  1505 hrs  Two UXBs are reported area 525183.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Work on aerodromes continued.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 8 (3  x 500kg,3 x 250kg, 2 x 50kg).

1st BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT One Other Rank killed and one wounded by bombs on Ta Liebru.

2nd BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Bombs in Battalion area.

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  2100 hrs  A Company, 3rd Bn report an unexploded bomb at MR 439176.

11th BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Day  Fairly heavy raid; bombs in this area, Hamrun: houses damaged.

2nd BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Near miss on LQ 10 renders the post unusable: weapons are moved to an alternative position.

 (1)  Adapted from ‘Menn uten Medaljer’, A H Rasmussen, by www.warsailors.com.

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

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2017 in 1942, April 1942

 

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3 April 1942: Bomb Disposal Officer ‘Loses a Life’

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GOOD FRIDAY: BOMBING DAWN TILL DUSK – AIRFIELDS UNUSABLE

“Day alerts lasted from 0645 to 1935 hours, with two breaks, one of 7 minutes and one of 3 minutes.  Main objectives: Ta Qali and Hal Far.  Some bombs on Luqa.”  (1)

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

BOMB ‘HIT THE GROUND – AND I DIED’

Malta has only two Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Officers and two Sections (total 30 men) to deal with all unexploded bombs (UXB) outside of RAF and Navy premises – compared to over 70 Sections in London.  With pressure increasing under intense bombing raids, BD Officer Lt George Carroll encounters yet another 250kg UXB:

“Under the bastions there were arches where they created some storehouses.  One of the bombs that came down landed in the rubble on the top of the arch.  It was stuck there.  As the Officer I had to deal with it on my own.  So I crawled across the arch with my trowel, like an archaeologist.  I was scraping away gently to find the fuze about half way up the bomb. 

Then suddenly the bomb fell, right in front of my eyes… I died!  It hit the ground…and I died – and it bounced – and I died – and it rolled  – and I died – but I didn’t die. 

That was the feeling, when that happened in front of you.” (2)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 3 APRIL TO DAWN 4 APRIL 1942

Weather  Little wind: no cloud; fine.

Enemy fighters remain in the vicinity of the Island throughout the raids.

0730 hrs  Ten JU 88 bombers raid Ta Qali, dropping 60 high explosive (HE) bombs on the aerodrome.  One does not exploded until later (delayed-action).  The aerodrome is unserviceable for six hours except for the strip and east side only.  One fighter Blenheim is hit by shrapnel and one unserviceable Beaufighter is damaged.  Two bowsers are damaged.  One Maltese labourer is killed.  A defence post of 8th Bn Manchester Regt receives a direct hit; Pte Barton is buried in debris, but unhurt.

0831 hrs  Six JU 88 bombers raid Hal Far airfield, leaving craters on the dispersal area.  Four of the JU 88s are engaged by six guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA): two hits are claimed on one enemy aircraft.

0955-1013 hrs  Guns of 225 LAA engage five JU 88s: two guns each claim two hits on separate aircraft.  The JU 88s drop bombs on Kirkop and Ta Salib areas.

1053 hrs  Air raid on Hal Far by five ME 109s causes more craters on the dispersal area.

1130 hrs  Ta Qali is attacked by 24 plus enemy bombers.  Venezia Bluff is heavily bombed with aerial torpedoes and armour-piercing bombs.  The attack is evidently intended to demolish the caves under the Bluff.

1202-1314 hrs  Ten JU 88s approach the Island.

1220 hrs  The bombers attack Safi strip and Hal Far, destroying one Hurricane, damaging the Officers’ quarters and destroying a quantity of paraffin. Several bombs land in the area of 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt: Pte Payne of A Company is killed; Ptes Underhill, Ayres and Wills injured.  Equipment, arms and bicycles of C Company are damaged.

1225-1240 hrs  Anti-Aircraft guns engage four JU 88s: one JU 88 is damaged and six guns of 225 LAA claim eight hits on three others.

1317 hrs  Five ME 109 fighter bombers attack Hal Far.  Enemy fighters patrol the south east and south west of the Island throughout the afternoon.

1420 hrs  Three enemy aircraft raid Hal Far, damaging one Albacore, killing one soldier and injuring two others.

1645 hrs  Four JU 88s and 21 JU 87s drop some 60 bombs on Ta Qali, leaving a large crater in the middle of the runway extension, and numerous craters on the south side.  One Spitfire is destroyed, two severely damaged and one slightly damaged.  One airman is injured.  The runway is repaired in five hours.

1730 hrs  One Hurricane is airborne from Ta Qali to intercept an incoming formation of five JU 88s: P/O Rathur sights one JU 88 illuminated by searchlights and destroys it.

1745 hrs  Four JU 88s attack Luqa airfield, dropping bombs on the airfield, Kirkop and the Safi strip.  One Other Rank of 4th Bn Hampshire Regt is injured.225 LAA engage: three guns claim eight hits on three aircraft.

1810 hrs  Guns of 225 LAA Bty engage two ME 109 fighters: no claims.

1905 hrs  Eight JU 88s are engaged by guns of 225 LAA Bty: five guns claim a total of 15 hits on six JU 88s.  Gunner Atherton is taken to hospital with a bomb splinter wound to the shoulder.  ‘A’ Troop TQH and billets are rendered unserviceable.

1925 hrs  Large formations of enemy aircraft drop bombs on Ta Qali, Hal Far and Safi.  Hal Far Barracks are seriously damaged.  The Hal Far-Zurrieq road is badly cratered and impassable.  Bombs hit the camp of C Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt, seriously wounding Pte Sidney Martin, who died from his wounds at 2000 hrs.  Motor vehicles are destroyed and the cookhouse is wrecked.

1940 hrs  All clear.

1945 hrs  A suspected sea plot is reported by Southern Infantry Brigade, 20 miles south east of Kalafrana.

2045 hrs   A single aircraft drops bombs in the north east of the Island.

2100 hrs  Two sea plots of one vessel each reported fourteen miles east, course south east, speed 40 knots.  Coastal lights in the south east are exposed.

2217 hrs  Bombs are dropped near Safi village.

2340 hrs  Three bombs are dropped in the Bubaqra area.

0015 hrs  Enemy aircraft dropped two bombs on Ta Qali airfield, making two craters and rendering the runway unserviceable for two hours.

0242 hrs  One unexploded bomb is reported in the Kirkop area.

0252-0603 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Luqa; one damages an airmen’s billet.  One transit Wellington under repair is further damaged.  Two airmen are slightly injured.

Military casualties  Private Sydney Martin, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment;  Private Thomas Payne, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.

Civilian casualties  Zebbug  Joseph Agius, age 60.

OPERATIONS REPORTS FRIDAY 3 APRIL 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Three Beaufighters, seven Wellingtons from Gibraltar; one Lodestar from Gambut.

LUQA 2030-0310 hrs  One Wellington SD Flight Special Search with bombs.  One merchant vessel successfully bombed.

TA QALI  In the evening the Brigade decided to evacuate three gun posts on Venezia Bluff.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  All training cancelled throughout Brigade in order to devote maximum effort to aerodrome and Dockyard working parties.  These continued throughout the month.  Three Infantry Battalions and Malta Tanks contributing to the approximate total of 1100 personnel on aerodromes.  1 Cheshire finding various parties up to 300 for Civil Government.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  All Companies working on Ta Qali aerodrome during the day.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  S/Sgt Redman & 7 Other Ranks killed on 1 April buried at Pieta Military Cemetery.  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 10; dealt with 12 (2 x 500kg, 6 x 250kg, 4 x 50kg)

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  E Company manning the ground defences on Ta Qali aerodrome.

(1) War Diary, Royal Artillery HQ, Malta: April 1942

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

 

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

 

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1 April 1942: 148 aircraft bomb Malta – 9 ships hit – 62 killed

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Ruins of Franciscan Friary, Sliema 1942 (NWMA)

TWO BOMBS ON SLIEMA KILL 22

Teenager Charles Grech of Sliema was due to meet Fr Diego Galdes when he heard the air raid alarm.  Ignoring the advice of his friend to take cover, Charles set off towards the friary.  He froze when he saw a JU 88 bomber release its load, and two heavy bombs heading in his direction:

“I mumbled a quick Act of Contrition and clung to the corner of the block almost as if to stop the building from falling on top of me.  Then two huge deafening explosions and a tremendous blast flung me to the ground.  There was a cloud of dust and smoke.  Pieces of glass and wood were flying in all directions.  Balconies fell into the street and doors and windows were blown out to the opposite side of the road…The cuts I received from the glass soon brought me back to my senses.  I could not see further than five yards up the street, because of the thick dust cloud and the dense smoke and could not tell where the bombs had fallen… most probably, not more than a block away…I thought that they must have fallen pretty close to the church…[Father] told us that besides the church and the friary many other buildings had also been damaged and that there were dead and wounded everywhere.  I immediately thought of Fr Diego…” (1)

Fr Diego Galdes was killed when a bomb struck the Franciscan friary: he was one of 22 killed in Sliema, who also included Police Sergeant Michael Riviera.

ENEMY’S HEAVY LOSSES

During these 24 hours Heavy and Light Ack Ack destroyed five JU 87s and two JU 88s and one ME 109.  Aircraft destroyed two JU 88s, two JU 87s and two ME 109s; probably destroyed five JU 87s and damaged five JU 88s, one JU 87 and two ME 109s.  None of Malta’s aircraft are missing.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 1 APRIL TO DAWN 2 APRIL 1942

Weather  Wind southerly; no cloud.

0917 hrs  26 JU 88s and six ME 109 fighter bombers escorted by fighters approach the Island.

0955 hrs  23 JU 88s and fighter bombers attack Hal Far, dropping over 100 high explosive (HE) bombs and destroying one Albacore and damaging three plus a Swordfish, badly damaging four Hurricanes and slightly damaging another four.  Three vehicles are written off and two bowsers damaged.  Private C F Rowe, A Company, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt is killed while working on the airfield. Guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery attack the enemy aircraft: no claims.

1005 hrs  Five JU 88s drop 50kg bombs on Safi strip, Mqabba area and south of Gudja village.  One unexploded bomb is reported on Safi.

1015 hrs  JU 88s dive-bomb Luqa aerodrome, cratering the runway.  Two airmen are slightly injured, one Transit Wellington and an ambulance damaged.

1030 hrs  Four ME 109s machine-gun positions of 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regt (KOMR) at Armier Bay, Torri L’Abjad.  They also fire on a Gozo boat in the South Comino Channel.  Seven men from E Company immediately man the bullet-ridden boat and, while enemy fighters were still overhead, they help the boat’s engineer put to sea to rescue one of the crew who had dived overboard during the attack.

1051 hrs  One JU 88 carries out reconnaissance of Grand Harbour.

1101 hrs  Six ME 109s raid Hal Far, dropping five 250kg and four 50kg bombs and causing craters on the aerodrome.  One Hurricane is written off.  One large bomb is dropped on Tal Liebru area, near Safi.

1315-1350 hrs  Four Spitfires take off from Luqa and intercept six ME 109s.  P/O Plagis damages one.

1437 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron attack two Messerschmitts and fifteen JU 88s.  F/O Nash and P/O Plagis both probably destroyed JU 88s and S/L Grant damaged one.  One Spitfire is damaged; F/O Lee is wounded in the foot.

1455 hrs  Guns of 225 LAA Bty engage JU 88s heading for Hal Far.

1500 hrs  Nine JU 88s drop dozens of HE bombs on Hal Far, causing craters on the aerodrome.  One airman is killed.

1510 hrs  Four guns of 225 LAA Bty engaged three ME 109s diving from 1500 to 300 feet.

1530 hrs  Nine JU 88s drop 65 high explosive bombs, including six 1000kg, across Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto.  Several houses are demolished in Valletta.  Bombs on Floriana hit Kingsgate, Sliema bus terminus, St Johns Ditch, Great Siege Road, Msida Bastion Quarters, Block B and Lintorn Barracks.  In Sliema the Convent of the Franciscan Minors is destroyed and adjacent churches badly damaged, killing two women and a child.  Nearby houses are also destroyed, killing 22 civilians.

1535 hrs  Two ME 109s attack Mellieha Camp of 1st Bn KOMR.

1555 hrs  Twenty JU 88s approach the Island, dropping bombs on Luqa and the Safi strips.

1630 hrs  Four Spitfires 249 Squadron intercept Messerschmitts and a Dornier 24.  P/O Plagis and Sgt Hesselyn destroy ME 109s; P/O Buchanan and S/L Grant damage ME 109s.

1711 hrs  A large formation of JU 88s, JU 87s and ME 109s are reported heading towards the Island.

1800 hrs  Five Spitfires 249 Squadron sight 25 JU 87s and many ME 109 fighters approaching Grand Harbour.  F/O Buchanan and P/O Nash destroy one JU 87 each and P/O Plagis and S/L Grant probably destroy one each.

1835 hrs  Seven Hurricanes 185 Squadron then approach at 8000 feet and join the attack.  Sgt Fletcher destroys one JU 87 and probably destroys another.  Sgt Pawley probably destroys one JU 87 and damages one JU 88.  Two Hurricanes are slightly damaged.  The remaining Stukas dive-bomb Grand Harbour, dropping 96 bombs of 250kg across the Dockyard and submarine base.

2000 hrs  30 JU 88s and JU 87s drop bombs on Hal Far, causing numerous craters on the aerodrome.  Three sticks of bombs fall on Safi strip and four on the Tal Liebru area.

Night  Total of 46 JU88s and Italian BR 20 aircraft raid the Island, of which 18 drop bombs.

2035 hrs  One bomb is dropped on the Ta Salib area.

2100 hrs  One Beaufighter takes off from Ta Qali on patrol over Malta.

2113 hrs  Two bombs land on the Tal Liebru area.

2120 hrs  One JU 88 is damaged by Ack Ack fire and is seen to drop into the sea.

2140 hrs  Two bombs fall in Wied Has-Saptan and eight on the Safi strip.

2225 hrs  One bomb lands on the San Christu Church area and one on Wied Has-Saptan; a stick of unexploded bombs is reported in the Nigret area.

2310 hrs  One bomb lands on the Nigret area and explodes, severely damaging the Togores Palace.

2354 hrs  The Beaufighter attacks and damages one JU 88 which counter-attacks, setting fire to the port engine of the Beaufighter.  The starboard engine stops but the aircraft lands safely at Ta Qali at 0015 hrs: crew unhurt.

0008 hrs  One stick of bombs is dropped on Ta Karach ridge.

0205 hrs  Three bombs land on the Tal Liebru area.

0420 hrs  All clear.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Henry Gunn, HMS Penelope; Thomas Lewis, Chargeman of Boilermakers, HMS Dockyard.  Corporal Ronald David, Leading Aircraftsman Michael Ellis, Leading Aircraftsman Stanley Hoskin, Leading Aircraftsman Albert Osborne, Corporal Joseph Pitt, Flight-Lieutenant Frederick Povey, Corporal Dennis Wills, all Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.  Gunner Thomas (Edgar) Burfield, Gunner Thomas Richardson, Lance-Bombardier John Scarborough-Taylor, Gunner Ernest Smith, all 4th HAA Regiment, Royal Artillery; Gunner Anthony Mifsud, 11th HAA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.  Sapper Ronald Feltham and Sapper Clarence Weaver, 16 Fortress Company, Royal Engineers.  Corporal Fred Chappell, Sapper Evan Evans, Sapper Henry Hayes, Sapper William Leighton, Sapper Daniel Mizen, Sapper John Sandilands, all 173 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers.  Private Charles Rowe, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment; Lance-Corporal Charles Pearce, Corporal William Foote and Private Ernest French, 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment; Sapper Paul Psaila, Royal Engineers, Malta Territorial Force.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara  Edgar Zahra, age 3.  Balzan  Walter Farrugia, age 43.  Gzira  John Azzopardi, age 15; Ophelia Colombo, age 25; Concetta Mifsud Ellul, age 43; Mary Anne Miller, age 10.  Paola  Anthony Vassallo, age 22.  Sliema  Carmen Bates, age 6; Imelda Bates, age 5; George Bates, 9 mths; George Cassar, age 27; Vincenza Cassar, age 20; Censa Cauchi, age 80; Hilda Clarke, age 32; Ivy Clarke, age 5; Joseph Clarke, age 2; Albert Fava, age 1; Fr Diego Galdes, age 52; Alfred Gatt, age 50; Giulia Gatt, age 46; Rose Marie Gatt, age 4; Thomas Lewis, age 54; Lonza Micallef, age 50; Michael Riviera, age 40; Josephine Tabone, age 22; Antonia Tabone, age 7; Alfred Zammit, age 50; Marianna Zammit, age 45; Carmel Zammit, age 15.  Zebbug  Carmel Attard, age 50; Frances Attard, age 16.  Zejtun  Carmel Camilleri, age 18; Cristopher Caruana, age 77; Annunziato Desira, age 21; Louis Grech, age 31.

Enemy casualties  Unteroffizier Winfried Gunther, 8/StG 3, Pilot of a JU 87 Stuka shot down by Anti Aircraft fire.  He baled out into the sea, was rescued by a RAF Launch and taken prisoner.

P36 – a U class submarine

OPERATIONS REPORTS 1 APRIL 1942

 

ROYAL NAVY  During heavy air raid P36, Pandora and drifter Sunset were sunk.  Havock, Sokol, Swona, Girl Margaret and a number of small craft were damaged and Unbeaten was damaged while bottomed.  Talabot received one hit with a heavy bomb.  Submarine workshops were damaged.  One Albacore and one Swordfish at Hal Far were burned out.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Two Spitfires PRU, two Beaufighters, three Blenheims, one Sunderland, one Beaufort, one Hudson from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Wellington, four Hudsons, one Beaufort, one Sunderland to 108 MU.

LUQA  1045-1345 hrs  69 Squadron Spitfire Photo-reconnaissance (PR) Sicilian aerodromes.  2242-0607 hrs  One Wellington SD Flight Special Search with bombs. One destroyer sighted: bombs jettisoned.

TA QALI  Considerable work carried out on erection of pens for aircraft.  Large numbers of soldiers working on aerodrome and 42 men reported from Hal Far on attachment.  Hurricanes from Hal Far operating from Ta Qali.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT 0900 hrs  GOC speaks to the troops starting work on SS Pampas.  Work is hampered by lack of power for the winches – and air raids.  Private Camenzuli KOMR attached to us for training was killed by a bomb.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  Explosion of bombs on crashed JU 87 kills Cpl Foote, L/Cpl Pearce and Pte French, and wounds LCpl Bell and Pte Garrett.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  All Companies working on Ta Qali aerodrome during the day.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  During afternoon raid, the garage received a direct hit. Casualties: 173 Company – 6 killed; 24 Fortress Coy – 1 killed.  A further bomb fell at the rear of the Administrative Block, Lintorn Barracks.  UXB  Reported 23; dealt with 11 (3 x 500kg; 1 x 250kg; 7 x 50kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  1000 hrs  This unit takes over the Observation Post at Tal Minsia from 1 Cheshire Regt (now unloading convoy).

(1) From Raiders Passed: Wartime Recollections of a Maltese youngster, Charles B Grech (translated by Joseph Galea Debono), Midsea Books, Malta 1998

 

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28 March 1942: Malta’s Gunners – ‘Guts, Determination and Hard Work’

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  • One continuous raid lasts 6½ hours.
  • Vice Admiral, Malta congratulates Ta Qali fighter squadrons for performance during convoy attacks.
  • Malta’s fighter squadrons and Ack-Ack gunners in co-ordinated defensive ops.
  • 229 Squadron arrives at Hal Far from the Middle East to reinforce the Island’s fighter defences.
  • Intelligence reports show a concentration of enemy troop-carrying aircraft and troops in southern Italy and Sicily.

ROYAL ARTILLERY ‘MAGNIFICENT’ SAYS RAF COMMANDER

Anti-aircraft Guns Grand Harbour (NWMA Malta)

Letter from Air Commodore H P Lloyd, Air Officer Commanding, Malta to Commander, Royal Artillery, Malta, Major General C T Beckett

I wish to express my greatest admiration of your officers and men for the excellent way in which they are defending this island.  I have been out when raids have been at their height, and I have seen your Gun Crews engage the enemy regardless of their own safety.  For sheer guts, determination and hard work, your men can never be beaten.  You must feel very proud of them.

The attack at Ta Qali was directed quite as much against your gun positions as against the aerodromes.  I was in the target area at the time, so I am not retailing hearsay evidence.  I wish to express my warmest admiration and appreciation to those Gun Crews for their magnificent work.  It was a scene I shall never forget.  Although bombs were directed at your gun positions and there was immense noise, smoke and dust, your Gun Crews engaged each aircraft one by one.  No wild firing.  Just waiting for each bird and then when within range letting him have it.  A great sight, and a performance of which you may feel justly proud.

Then the attacks on Grand Harbour with the magnificent barrage and light Ack-Ack going for each bird.  It takes terrific courage.  Your officers and men have it and to spare.  Every one in the Valletta area has the profoundest admiration for your work and courage.  It is superlative and epic.  Very well done – all of you.  Magnificent.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 28 MARCH TO DAWN 29 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south; 100% low cloud: visibility poor. Rain in early morning.

0705-0716 hrs  A single enemy aircraft carries out reconnaissance off the north coast; another patrols east of the island.

0830 hrs  One enemy aircraft approaches on reconnaissance, is engaged by accurate Anti-Aircraft fire and withdraws to the south west.

0903-0940 hrs   Two ME 109s patrol south east and north of the Island.

1151 hrs  Two JU 88s approach from the north east and drop bombs in the sea off Della Grazia and Grand Harbour.  Fighters are airborne and engage.

Afternoon Thirty JU88s with fighter escort came in singly and in twos, adopting night bombing tactics and dropping bombs from above cloud level.  Malta’s Spitfires are operating from Luqa: fighters are airborne in pairs, co-operating with Heavy and Light AA to engage the enemy.  Four Spitfires attack and damage a JU 88.  Many bombs are dropped in the sea.

Over a hundred high explosive bombs are aimed on Grand Harbour and the Dockyard.  The Victualling Yard Service Store and Marine Clothing Dept are damaged.  Bombs also land on Gozo, Safi and Zonkor Point, and in the sea.

1630 hrs  225 Light Ack Ack Battery engage one JU 88: no claims.

1704 hrs   One JU 88 carries out a solo raid on Luqa, dropping four HE bombs on the Safi strip.

1825 hrs   All clear.

Night 28/29th  No raids: weather cloudy turning to rain.

Military casualties  Lance-Corporal Felix Alan Walke, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 28 MARCH 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Seven Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  Two Beauforts, one Blenheim to Burg-el-Arab; four Wellingtons to Shalufa; three Wellingtons to 108 MU.

HAL FAR  PM  229 Squadron arrives at Hal Far.

TA QALI  Congratulatory message received from the Vice Admiral, Malta, on the performance of the fighter squadrons during the heavy attacks on the convoy.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  Battalion drill parade: A & C Coys on Floriana Parade Ground; B & D at Dockyard School.   Luqa working parties finished today.

2ND BN THE DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Two Officers joined 2nd Bn Devonshire Regt from Breconshire.

KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT 1st Bn  Two bombs near Campbell Battery.  Stick of bombs 100 yards north west of post R7.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Brigadier visits Battalion on dispersal scheme.

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

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 2.

 

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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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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.

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