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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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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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10 March 1941: Heavy Air Strikes Day and Night on Multiple Targets

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Standard type 55 fuze head (1)

Standard type 55 fuze head (1)

MYSTERY FUZE DETONATES IN THE HANDS OF BOMB DISPOSAL SQUAD

The fuze from an unexploded bomb has detonated in the hands of bomb disposal hours after it was removed. The 50kg bomb was dealt with an estimated two hours after it fell; the normal procedure was followed and the fuze was removed.  It was marked with the number 55, which normally indicates that it was designed to explode on impact or within a few seconds.

It was next morning, as a member of the bomb disposal squad was handling the fuze, that it suddenly detonated. Fortunately, no high explosive was attached and there were no serious injuries.  The fuze head was re-examined by the Bomb Disposal Officer and it was found that the EIAZ 55 marking was considerably smaller than usual, suggesting this may be a variant on the standard 55 fuze.  The delayed action has raised concerns that this may be a more dangerous type of fuze.  An urgent telegram has been sent to the War Office in London requesting any available information on fuzes of this description. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 10 MARCH TO DAWN 11 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

0950-1030 hrs  Air raid alert for two JU 88 bombers and six ME 109 fighters which cross the Island and are engaged by anti-aircraft fire. No claims and no bombs dropped.

1033-1044 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of a friendly fighter.

1056-1115 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1221-1320 hrs  Air raid alert for approaching formations of Heinkel HE 111 bombers and ME 109 fighters. One formation of three Heinkels flies to and fro over the south coast but turns away without releasing any bombs, apparently acting as a decoy.  Meanwhile nine ME 110 fighters in two formations launch diving machine-gun attacks on Sunderland flying boats in St Paul’s Bay.  One Sunderland is burned out and two others damaged.  A petrol lighter is hit below the waterline and beached before sinking.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled and ground defences engage, shooting down one enemy fighter and damaging two others. 

1600-1615 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

2300-0100 hrs  Air raid alert in place while up to 20 enemy bombers, including JU 87s, JU 88s, Dornier 215s and Heinkel 111’s, approach the Island one at a time, cross the coast at different points and fly over the Island in bright moonlight. Searchlights are also illuminated seven times and engage the raiders.  The Junkers bombers execute accurate dive-bombing attacks, dropping bombs along a line between St Edward’s College and Grand Harbour, hitting the Dockyard power generating station three times and putting it out of action.  The tool store and north east corner of the Foundry are wrecked, the Fitting Shop and Joiners Shop are damaged, as is the water supply. 

A high explosive bomb hits a boat house and store, causing a fire and damage to the north end of the Corradino Tunnel. One police constable is missing under the debris. SS Essex is hit three times, causing her to list to port.  One bomb on Hamilton Wharf causes slight damage to Imperial in No 2 Dock.  A raider is caught in the searchlight beam, hit and damaged by anti-aircraft guns over the Harbour. 

The first HE 111s and DO 215s drop bombs on Luqa aerodrome from 10000 feet, setting fire to a store and damaging a hangar containing one Maryland aircraft. Using the fire as a marker, the following bombers drop more bombs on Luqa, damaging the sick quarters, and on the surrounding area.  Malta fighters are scrambled, engaging one enemy Dornier 215 bomber south of the Island.  The raider appears to lose control and seems to be descending as it passes out of searchlight range.  Another raider is destroyed by Malta fighters and two more damaged by anti-aircraft fire.

0210-0250 hrs; 0315-0330 hrs Air raid alerts for an approaching enemy aircraft. The first raider does not cross the coast and bombs are dropped in the sea north east of the Island.  The pattern is repeated twice more.  Hurricane night fighters are scrambled on each occasion; no claims.

Military casualties  Petty Officer Joseph M N G Bonnici, Royal Navy, HMS Ploughboy.

Civilian casualties  Cospicua  Police Constable Francis Camilleri, age 21.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 10 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY HMS Unique sank Italian vessel Fenice.

AIR HQ  Sergeant Frederick Robertson, 261 Squadron, awarded the DFM.

4th Bn THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT REGIMENT)  30 mature conscripts arrived at C Company billets and are to undergo a nine-week course of training. 4th Buffs has proved a popular unit among recruits.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  24 Fortress Company blasted cliffs at Delimara to make them proof against scaling by landing parties. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2; dealt with 1 (500kg).

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  8 conscript recruits joined the Battalion.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A mine was washed up on to the beach in the Rinella sector.  

(1)  www.bombfuzecollectorsnet.com

 

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Posted by on March 10, 2016 in 1941, March 1941

 

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