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22 February 1942: Guns May Be Withdrawn From Malta

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  • Fifteen raids in the last twenty hours
  • Two air raids – lasting all day
  • 116 enemy aircraft over Malta
  • ME 109s dive-bomb aerodromes
  • Almost continuous dog-fights
  • Hurricanes and Ack Ack claim hits

WAR OFFICE WARNS GUNS NOT IN USE SHOULD GO TO MIDDLE EAST

From:  The War Office                                                                To:  Governor & C in C Malta; copy C in C Middle East

Understand you have recently received Mideast ten (repeat ten) German 0.77mm guns with ammunition, but that you have not the personnel to man them.  If this is so suggest you return guns and ammunition to Mideast at first opportunity.

Hal Far Under Attack (NWMA Malta)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 22 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 23 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather  Fair; wind south-westerly.  Low cloud later in day.

0922-1312 hrs  Four waves of three JU 88s each, with approximately ten fighters as escort, attack Hal Far.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  Three ME 109s dive on Hal Far and are engaged by guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Regt.  During pauses between bombing ME 109s patrol south of the Island.

A total of 52 bombs are dropped on Hal Far, causing severe damage to buildings.  Cinema and motor transport buildings are demolished by direct hits, which destroy one omnibus, two light cars, two tractors and a petrol bowser.  Other vehicles are badly damaged.  Aircraft damaged: five Albacores (three write-offs) and two Swordfish.  Personnel casualties: one seriously injured, three slightly.

1100 hrs  One gun position of 225 Light Ack Ack (LAA) Regt engages one JU 88: no claim.

1121 hrs  Bombs are dropped in the area of Misrah Blandun.

1130 hrs  One gun position of 225 LAA Regt engages one ME 109 at 3000 feet: no claim.

1135 hrs  Eight aircraft are airborne from Ta Qali and attack three JU 88s and fighters: claims two probable, three damaged.

1200 hrs  A bomb near A Company of 8th Bn Kings Own Royal Regiment severely injures L/Cpl R Crawford in the head.  [He is taken to 90 General Hospital but dies later.]

1209 hrs  Bombs are dropped in the area of Misrah Blandun.

1255 hrs  Bombs are dropped in the Mqabba area.

1312 hrs  All clear.

1325 hrs  Seven Hurricanes of 185 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali.

1345 hrs  Two guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Regiment engage three JU 88s: no claims.

1353 hrs  Seven unidentified bombers and twenty-five escorting fighters approach from the north.  Bombs are dropped on Hal Far, Lija, Nadur, Ta Qali, Luqa (including the Safi strip), Tal Liebru and in the sea.  At Ta Qali one Hurricane is written off and a barrack block severely damaged.  One airman is killed. At Luqa One delivery Wellington under repair is destroyed and another seriously damaged; one Hurricane is damaged.  Three soldiers are injured.

Hurricanes claim one JU 88 destroyed, one ME 109 destroyed.  S/Ldr Chaffe, OC 185 Squadron, is shot down.  He is later spotted in a dinghy 4-5 miles south of Delimara Point but is not picked up.  Heavy Ack Ack fire 13 barrages.

1400 hrs  Light machine guns of 1st Bn Dorset Regiment engage one ME 109 fighter from Fort Ta Silch; no claim made.

1445 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Safi landing strip.

1547 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Safi landing strip and Ta Klantun area.  Two unexploded bombs are reported west of Ta Karach.  Guns of 225 LAA Regt engage three JU 88s at 4-5000 feet, claiming one hit.

1815 hrs  225 LAA Regt: all guns engaged three ME 109s at 3-5000 ft.  One hit is claimed.  Billets are damaged at one gun position and a generator at another is rendered unsafe.

1905 hrs  225 LAA Five gun positions engaged one JU 88.

1910 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Safi landing strip.

2055 hrs  All clear.

2104-2115 hrs  One enemy bomber approaches from the north east, dropping bombs in the sea ten miles east of Grand Harbour.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

2300 hrs  Bombs are dropped on Ta Qali aerodrome, causing damage to one Hurricane, a steam roller and fire fighting equipment.

2314-0030 hrs  Two enemy aircraft approach from the north and drop bombs south of Ghain Tuffieha and between Ta Qali and Naxxar.  Heavy Ack Ack engage five times.

0042-0235 hrs  Two enemy aircraft approach from the north and drop bombs east of Rabat searchlight position, and in the sea north of Grand Harbour.  One barrage is fired.

0502-0625 hrs  A single enemy aircraft approaches from the north to within 15 miles of the coast then recedes north east.

Military casualties  Squadron Leader Ronald Chaffe, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron, Hal Far; Sub-Lieutenant (A) J Buscall, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (attached to HMS Grebe the Naval Air Station in Egypt, but operating from Malta); Lance Corporal Robert Crawford, 8th Battalion Kings Own Royal Regiment.

Enemy casualties  Unteroffizier Walter SCHWARZ, Pilot of Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter, shot down: his body was recovered from the crashed aircraft.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: 22 FEBRUARY 1942

AIR HQ  Arrivals  Six Wellingtons from Gibraltar (one missing); six Wellingtons from Shallufa; two Albacores from El Adem (one missing).

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland special search for convoy.  21 Squadron  Two Blenheims despatched to carry out SF2 modified.  One aircraft returned owing to hatch blowing off.  F/Lt Mitchell also returned.  Took off again but was attacked by ME 109s so returned.  S/D Flight  One Wellington search for enemy sea forces.  Returned with oil trouble, then took off again.

TA QALI  Aerodrome serviceable.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  Bombs in Battalion area 80 feet from HQ billets – no casualties but electric cables down.  AOC held memorial service at Battalion HQ.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  One ME 109 shot down in this area.  Wreckage guarded by D Company.

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

 

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

 

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24 January 1942: 132 Bombing Raids Since Christmas

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421 MALTA CIVILIANS KILLED SINCE JUNE 1940

FROM:  Governor (Lt Gen Sir W Dobbie)              TO:  Secretary of State for the Colonies

Most important event of the month was the arrival of convoy of three ships totalling 21000 tons on 19th January.  This was most welcome after nearly four months without convoys and has greatly encouraged us all.  I will report further when unloading is completed, but the convoy brought valuable replenishments of wheat, coal, kerosene, and other commodities.

465 buildings damaged or destroyed this month

Raids have greatly increased in frequency during the past month.  There were 150 alerts during the day and 103 at night.  These included 68 raids by day and 64 by night during which bombs were dropped.  91 persons were killed (41 men, 18 women, and 32 children) and 99 seriously injured (47 men, 22 women and 30 children).  430 houses and 35 other premises were demolished or badly damaged.  Worst incidents were at Gzira on the night of 1-2nd January when 27 people were killed and 9 seriously injured, and at Mosta during daytime on 19th January when 16 people were killed and 11 seriously injured.  In neither case were people in the shelters.

The total number of casualties since the beginning of the war with Italy is now 421 killed, 396 seriously injured.  5106 houses, etc., have been demolished or badly damaged…(to be continued)

ARMY CHIEF ISSUES ORDERS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING

The GOC has issued instructions that more fitness training will be carried out.  Already started with physical training for all ranks daily before breakfast, a full fitness training will begin from next week.

The program includes one four mile cross country run weekly; one cross-country run weekly (starting with 1/4 mile and working up to 1 mile); one route march every fortnight during which 15 minutes will be marched and the next five minutes run, alternately throughout.  Lastly bicycle reconnaissance tours will be carried out so that units may learn all areas of the Island.  These will work up to 30 mile cycle marches.

AIR RAIDS SATURDAY 24 JANUARY 1942

Weather   Wind south west.  30% clouds; fine.

0904-1052 hrs  Two JU 88s escorted by nine ME109s approach from the north and drop ten bombs on Hal Far badly cratering the aerodrome, damaging one Swordfish and one Hurricane, a Bofors gun, and one billet and predictor of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery.

0950 hrs  225 LAA Battery engages the JU 88s, claiming one hit.  Malta fighters are up and engage one JU 88.  Heavy Ack Ack engages until our fighters give “Tally Ho”.  Enemy fighters are too low to effect Ack Ack engagement.  One JU 88 follows the raid on reconnaissance at 25000 feet.

1010 hrs  Seven aircraft of 249 Squadron are scrambled from Ta Qali.  S/Ldr Beazley and P/O Tedford attack six JU 88s and twelve ME 109s; they are forced on the defensive by ME 109s and see no results of their attack on JU 88s.  P/O Tedford attacks a ME 109, with no result.

1102-1144 hrs  Eighteen plus aircraft approach from the north.  Enemy fighters patrol south of the Island, while nine JU 88s escorted by fighters cross the coast to the north west.  They drop bombs on Luqa, damaging several aircraft, including specially-equipped Wellington bombers, and starting a fire.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  L/Cpl G Spiteri of D Company 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment, on duty at Luqa aerodrome, is killed by shrapnel wounds to the abdomen.

1314-1320 hrs  Two aircraft approach the island and are identified as friendly.

1325 hrs  Fifteen aircraft of 126, 242, and 249 Squadrons are scrambled at Ta Qali.  P/O Moon of 249 Squadron joins with 185 Squadron from Hal Far to attack a JU 88, causing damage to the engine.  The enemy raid ultimately fades.   P/O Moon is hit in the glycol tank and manages to land with his engine off, at Luqa airfield.

1333-1412 hrs  Twelve plus unidentified aircraft approach from the north but recede without crossing the coast.  Hurricanes are airborne but do not engage.

1419-1441 hrs  Two JU 88 escorted by three ME 109s approach from the south and drop bombs in the sea, south of the Island.  Hurricanes are up and engage a JU 88, claiming probable damage.

2226-2248 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs in the sea to the south east of the Island, before receding north.

2325-2347 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north, skirts the Island to the north and north-west and crosses the coast in the Qrendi area, dropping bombs near Hal Far.

0013-0136 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs in the sea off St Thomas’ Bay, before receding north.  Heavy Ack Ack do not engage because a friendly aircraft is taking off.

0150-0212 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north.  Heavy Ack Ack fire one barrage and bombs are dropped in the sea before the aircraft recede north.

Civilian casualty  Mqabba John Mary Briffa, age 54.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: SATURDAY 24 JANUARY 1942

AIR HQ Arrivals  One Albacore from Berka; one Catalina from Aboukir. Departures  One Hudson, one Catalina to Gibraltar; one Hudson to LG 224.

HAL FAR  Eight hurricanes 185 Squadron engaged a formation of two JU 88s and four ME 109s.  Both JU 88s and one ME 109 were damaged.  One Hurricane slightly damaged but pilot unhurt.  Night 24/25th Three Swordfish 830 Squadron despatched to attack one merchant vessel, seen earlier by an Albacore.  The Swordfish failed to locate the ship.  All aircraft returned safely.

TA QALI  Aerodrome serviceable.  One airman attached to Kalafrana for Police Course.  1920-0150 hrs   Intruder raids over Sicily commenced by 1435 Night Fighter Unit, with raids over Catania, Cerbini and Comiso.  S/Ldr Westmacott patrolled Catania for 1hr 20 mins – no activity on aerodrome but heavy Ack Ack.  F/Lt Palmer patrolled Comiso for half an hour, finding all lights on.  He saw JU 88 taking off at 2030 hrs and fired a three-second burst at 600 feet.  A bomber disintegrated in mid-air.  He fired at another on the ground and gave a two-second burst at 4-500 yards but saw no results owing to intense Ack Ack.  No searchlights [active].  F/Lt Stones, F/O MIlls and F/Sgt Fowler found nothing on patrol: weather deteriorating.

1st BN DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT 1600 hrs  Funeral of Private F Smith at St Andrews Cemetery.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 4; dealt with 3 (1 x 250kg, 2 x 50kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

 

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Posted by on January 24, 2017 in 1942, January 1942, Uncategorized

 

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17 March 1941: Malta Needs Fighters More Than Ack Ack Guns

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More fighters needed to repel raids

More fighters needed to repel raids

ONLY AN IMPROVED FIGHTER FORCE CAN PROTECT THE AIRFIELDS

Increased ground defences will not be enough to protect the airfields without an increase in fighter strength, says Malta’s Commander in Chief. Responding to the Chief of Imperial General Staff about the effectiveness of light automatic machine guns against attacks (maltagc70, 15 March), Lt General Sir William Dobbie stressed again the need for more, and better performing, fighter aircraft as “the only satisfactory solution” to ensure the security of the aerodromes.  He also reminded the War Office that balloon barrages and RAF PAC Units (1) originally destined for Malta’s airfields had been diverted elsewhere.

Ground defences of the aerodromes and flying boat bases are currently: Hal Far Bofors 4, light automatics 20; Luqa Bofors 6, light automatics 31; Ta Qali Bofors 5, light automatics 27; Marsaxlokk (Kalafrana) Bofors 10, light automatics 29. It is believed that the effectiveness of the light automatics could be enhanced by the use armour-piercing ammunition (apparently none is currently available). 

However, Lt Gen Dobbie concludes: “after all, the only satisfactory solution is a greatly increased force of fighter aircraft with adequate performance. I have pressed for this and trust the War Office will press this claim.  Unless and until it is provided, an adequate deterrent cannot be expected, and Malta cannot play its part as a naval and air base.” 

Six Hurricanes have arrived in Malta from the Middle East to reinforce 261 Squadron but the Island’s fighter force is still only a fraction of strength of Luftwaffe attacks. Only a week ago (maltagc70, 7 March) Malta’s Air Officer Commanding, Air Vice-Marshal Maynard, stated that without an increased fighter force he cannot protect the Sunderland and Wellington bomber squadrons based in Malta.

The initial reply from the War Office made no comment on the prospect of further fighters, concentrating remarks on ground defences:

“Experience shows that the Bofors, particularly used with a predictor, is the most effective weapon against the dive-bomber. We request confirmation of this, or otherwise.”

AIR RAIDS DAWN 17 MARCH TO DAWN 18 MARCH 1941

Weather  Cold and wet, with some bright spells.

1036-1050 hrs, 1200-1214 hrs  Air raid alerts for approaching enemy aircraft which turn away without crossing the coast. Malta fighters are scrambled; no engagement.

1800-1811 hrs; 0238-0249 hrs Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

OPERATIONS REPORTS MONDAY 17 MARCH 1941

AIR HQ 0730-1215 hrs 69 Squadron  Maryland photoreconnaissance Naples Harbour. Three convoys heading for harbour.  

HAL FAR 830 Squadron Operational flight against Tripoli postponed owing to bad weather.

1st Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Anti-tank screen demonstration by 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Snipers course at Pembroke Ranges.

 (1) parachute and cable

 

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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in 1941, March 1941

 

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13 June 1940: Unexploded Bombs

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MALTA’S FIRST UNEXPLODED BOMB

Sapper R H Walter, age 20, 24 Fortress Company, Royal Engineers (1)

Just after 9 am Sgt Major Robinson came to us and said, ‘I’m looking for three volunteers for a dangerous job. What about it you three?’  We looked at one another, none of us eager to reply without knowing the nature of this dangerous job. After a silence Sapper Scott said ‘What is this job, Sir?’ The Sergeant Major said, ‘Digging out an unexploded bomb over at Sliema.’  After giving the matter some thought Sapper Scott said ‘I’ll go.’  Sapper McDonald looked at me, hesitated and then said ‘All right, I’ll go.’  To be honest I wasn’t at all keen to volunteer but couldn’t bear the thought of being branded a coward so I replied ‘I’ll go.’

Lt W M Eastman RAOC

Lt W M Eastman RAOC

After we had collected the necessary tools and equipment and a 30 cwt lorry we were to report to Sliema Police Station.  We were met by Lt William Eastman of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, who would be the Officer in Charge of the whole operation. This was because at that time we had no Royal Engineer Officers qualified in Bomb Disposal work.

The unexploded bomb was located along Rudolph Street, some 300 yards from the Police Station.  It was three feet from the South side pavement.  The hole was about one foot in diameter and 18 inches deep, quite neat around the edges.

Lt Eastman ordered us to open up a hole 5 feet square, digging with sandbag-covered spades, removing as much of the rubble as possible with gloved hands. Only two men would work in the hole. On finding any trace of the bomb Lieutenant Eastman was to be informed and we were to await further instructions.  He also told us not to go deeper than 3 feet, and to break for lunch at 1 pm at a local cafe.  Police Sergeant Orr informed us that a local barkeeper had left a case of beer for us which was brought down to where we were working. It was a very hot day and the beer was most appreciated and nearly gone by lunchtime, however we had a second case of beer brought to us during the afternoon.

We started digging at 11.30 am. We stripped off to the waist and were wearing khaki shorts – our normal summer dress. We broke the surface of the road with pickaxes and once through the first six inches of hard-core the spoil was easier to get out. The hessian sandbags on the shovels proved a waste of time. The compacted sandstone needed crowbars and shovels, but we worked all the time with caution, and removed a lot of the rubble with our gloved hands.

By 1 pm we had reached a depth of 18 inches and stopped for lunch in the local cafe.  Several of the local inhabitants had made a collection of money to provide us with a meal and the beer, for which we thanked them.  I noticed that during the meal – and for that matter for the whole time that we had been digging – we were all very quiet; none of the normally constant chatter when Sappers are at work. I was tensed up to the point of being frightened and I did not relish the job at all. I suspected that the rest of the lads felt the same, but something none of us would admit.

By 3 pm we had got down to a depth of 3 feet but had found nothing, so we stopped work as instructed. Lt Eastman returned and under his guidance we pressed on with the digging, though from now on only one man worked down the hole in spells of just 15 minutes each, while the rest of us waited 50 yards away. Lieutenant Eastman stayed at the hole and kept in touch with our NCO Corporal Brewer by field telephone, reporting to him exactly what we were doing.

The bomb had severed a sewer pipe and raw sewage was seeping into the hole. It didn’t smell very nice and the earth was wet. However we plugged it with sandbags which stopped the flow of sewage into the hole.  By 4 pm we had reached a depth of 4 feet 6 inches and exposed the fins of the bomb. Work stopped and Lt Eastman went into the hole by himself to remove them. He told us that it was a 250 lb bomb: from here on we carried on digging with much more care.

We carried on digging until the light began to fade and at 9pm Lt Eastman decided called a halt for the day. He told us that we should locate the bomb the next day and it should be a straight forward job to defuze it and make it safe.  We loaded up the tools and covered the hole with a tarpaulin, anchored it down and placed red hurricane lamps around. Lt Eastman informed Police Sergeant Orr that the area must remain out of bounds to all the local inhabitants overnight.  We would return the next day and start work at 9 am.

We returned to Floriana Barracks, had a bath and changed into clean clothes before going over to the cookhouse for a meal, after which we were just in time for a glass of beer in the canteen. The lads were not so quiet as they had been whilst digging for that bomb.   I was very tired and went to bed: I had a good nights sleep, despite my apprehension for the day ahead.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 JUNE TO DAWN 14 JUNE 1940

Weather  Fine; low cloud.

0610-0702 hrs  Air raid alert for two Italian aircraft which approach from the north, fly down the coast to within eight miles of Delimara, circle Filfla and fly on southwards.

0840-0850 hrs  Air raid alert for two Italian aircraft, reported passing over St Paul’s Bay heading south; no bombs dropped.

0901-0905 hrs  Air raid alert.  No bombs dropped.

1137 hrs  Defence posts are warned of a friendly aircraft approaching, flying in at 8000 feet.

1210 hrs  An enemy bomber approaches at a height of 20000 feet and drops six large bombs on Kalafrana and near Benghaisa.  No air raid alert has sounded.  An Army working party are assisting an RAF officer in the removal of an unexploded bomb when an enemy bomb falls nearby. Private H Kite and Private J Slade are killed, Lance Corporal F Martin and Private C Aldridge are wounded, along with one Maltese RAF labourer and one civilian.  RAF Squadron Leader Warfield is slightly wounded.

HMS Diamond

HMS Diamond

1320 hrs  HMS Diamond is attacked by two enemy aircraft 20 miles south west of Malta.

1400 hrs  Air raid alert.  A Malta Gladiator is scrambled to attack.  Seeing the Gladiator, the enemy bomber releases several bombs prematurely on Mellieha, causing some damage to buildings, then escapes into cloud.   2nd Bn Devonshire Regt report an enemy aircraft at 5000 feet dropping bombs on Kalafrana, Birzebuggia and Hal Far.

1430 hrs  Malta defences are warned that HMS Diamond and a destroyer will patrol off the west of the Island this evening.

1610-1700 hrs  Air raid alert.  Bombs are dropped on Mellieha village.

1945-2007 hrs  Air raid alert.

2105 hrs  HMS Galatea leaves Grand Harbour.

2340 hrs  A defence post of 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers reports hearing three bursts of light machine gunfire from the direction of Gharghur fort.  A further report suggests they came from behind the Roadhouse from the direction of the pumping station in Naxxar Gap.  On investigation, 2/Lt Salmonson establishes that sentries of Kings Own Malta Regiment at Mosta Fort fired six shots at that time.  Serjeant Parlato and two men went to investigate shots at 2400 hrs and were fired on from near a house by Targa Gap.  However, they saw neither a man nor the flash of a rifle.  They later spotted a man moving near the small chapel nearby and tried to round him up but failed to find him and withdrew.  They also report having seen a red light from the roof of the same house during the night.  A nearby defence post confirmed having occasionally seen a light on the Victoria Lines, including tonight, and also one from the direction of St Paul’s Bay.  The positions of both have been noted and possible sources will be investigated in the morning.

Military casualties  Private Henry Kite, Private John Slade, 2nd Battalion The Devonshire Regiment.  

Civilian casualties  Cospicua  Joseph Scicluna, age 24; two unidentified males; one unidentified female. 

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 13 JUNE 1940

HAL FAR  Unexploded bomb destroyed.

KALAFRANA  A bomb fell 30 yards from the Accounts Section which suffered superficial damage.  S/Ldr J M Warfield (HQ Medit) wounded in left side of neck by bomb explosion; needed five stitches.  C E Portelli in same accident received minor abrasions with mild concussion; transferred to ADS Tarxien.  One unidentified male corpse removed from the sea; collected by police 2200 hrs.    

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS: Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with: incendiaries 3; HE 250lb in Sliema now uncovered.

(1)  Adapted from an account by Sapper Walter on www.maltafamilyhistory.com

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Posted by on June 13, 2015 in 1940, June 1940

 

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11 June 1940: Malta’s First Day at War

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  • Seven air raid alerts
  • Three bombing raids by 35 enemy aircraft
  • Casualties reported: military 13; civilian 16
Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

GOVERNOR CONFIRMS MALTA AT WAR

Lt General Sir William Dobbie today addressed the population of Malta in response to last night’s announcement from Italy:  “Whereas I have received information that War has broken out with Italy, I hereby announce to His Majesty’s Subjects in the Islands the outbreak of hostilities in humble trust in the guidance and protection of Divide Providence, and in assured confidence of the cordial support and tried fidelity and determination of the people of Malta.”

The Governor and Commander in Chief followed up his announcement with a visit to several Army Battalions across the Island.  A night-time curfew has also been announced from today until futher notice, to begin at 8.30pm.  The bus service will cease at 7pm each evening.

EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNTS

SPECIAL CONSTABULARY 0650 hrs  Philo Pullicino, Adjutant, age 24

“I was rudely awakened…by a novel sound which swept across the whole length and breadth of the Island…there were cries of ‘the sirens’ and ‘air raid’…we rushed to the shelter.  For one hour we crouched to the accompaniment of the roar of distant guns…

I put on my uniform and hurried out as we heard the long steady note of the sirens giving the ‘raiders passed’.  Everyone thought it was a well-timed rehearsal, though it was difficult to explain the guns.  I had not been out ten minutes when for the second time the wailing sirens sent us scuttling for shelter… I jumped into my car and rushed to the office…I found out that it had been a pukka raid.  [High explosive] bombs had been dropped and had killed people…  I admit I was scared at this swift murderous blow from the skies… (1)

SOLDIER 0700 hrs  Corporal John Kelly, 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers, St Andrews Barracks

“We had ‘Stand To’ at dawn, and after ‘Stand Down’ had returned to our garage. We were still in battle order, when at 7 am the sirens started howling ‘Air Raid Warning’, as the Italian Air Force flew in to attack Malta. In our first ever air raid we heard the roar of A A guns and the crash of bombs, in a rolling thunder, sounding closer and closer to us.

Our Sergeant, Billy Strawbridge, roared out over the terrible din, “Double over to the slit trenches and stand by”. As one man, we raced across to the slit trenches 200 yards away, led by Fusilier ‘Popeye’ Byrne, a small man. As he ran he approached a piece of masonry – five feet high. Popeye paused for a second, then an A A Battery 400 yards away opened up with a shattering crash. Popeye with a startled shout bounded over this high obstacle, as though it was nothing and continued his run. An amazing jump for a small man. When we reached the slit trenches and stood by, ready to dive if the bombs came any closer, I stared at Popeye with admiration and prayed that he would be picked to represent Ireland in the post war Olympics, in the high jump…”  (2)

PARISH PRIEST 0720 hrs  Mgr Lorenzo Spiteri, parish priest, Mqabba

Porte des Bombes

Porte des Bombes

“On 10th June 1940, as I was listening to the radio with a friend of mine, Guzeppi Ellul, we heard Mussolini declare war on Britain.  We were struck dumb.  On the following morning at about seven we had the first air raid.  From the church roof I watched as the Italian planes released their bomb-loads.  I turned to my companion, a priest, and suggested we give each other absolution in case of sudden death.  My friend made light of my proposal and said, ‘Let’s not panic; this is the time when everyone has to play his part.’  On that first day Guzeppi Ellul was to lose his life as he was on his way to report for duty; instead of getting off at Blata l-Bajda as usual, he decided to stop at Porte des Bombes, where he was killed by one of the first bombs to be dropped ever Malta.” (3)

AIR RAID PRECAUTIONS (ARP) 1925 hrs  Zabbar ARP Centre: hit by bombs

“The sound of crushing masonry, the screaming of the bombs, the explosions – all new to the men – caused concern among the personel.’  The superintendent, L Demajo Albanese, calmed his men…He later wrote in his logbook:  “Soon bombs were heard exploding in my area.  All of a sudden we saw dense clouds coming from Rock Gate and some casualties started coming in the Centre to receive some treatment.  [They informed] us that houses were demolished and that there were several casualties.  Sergeant Lorenzo Attard took his squad with him…he found two dead bodies near Rock Gate and several other casualties which were inside the demolished houses and could not get out.  Attard worked magnificently with the help of his squad and in a short time six persons were brought out, put in an ambulance and rushed to the Centre.”  (3)

ARP 1925 hrs  Cottonera ARP Centre

Convent of St Teresa

Convent of St Teresa

“One bomb hit the Centre and another two the Convent of St Teresa adjoining…Ordered my men to collect picks, bandages, cotton wool and disinfectants that lay scattered about and rushed out… Opened rock tunnel near Silver Jubilee Gate on the road to Zabbar and organised a First Aid post – everyone suffering from serious shock.

Attended to about 40 wounded in two motor trucks and despatched same to…hospital.  Attended to about 20 walking casualties and sent them to their homes.  Attended to six casualties on motor lorry (military) coming from the direction of Zabbar Gate. 

Rescued casualties from under the debris…Number of houses demolished and partly demolished and damaged by blast may be considered to be above 250 (conservative figure)…dead bodies sent to Central Civil Hospital.”  The Cottonera ARP centre handled 82 casualties of whom 22 were found to be dead.  Cottenera ARP Centre logbook  (3)

CIVILIAN 1925 hrs  Emanual Scicluna, Married Quarters, 4B Zabbar Gate

“Myself, and my married daughter Maria Bujega, and her husband Anthony, with ten children were taken to the Central Hospital, all injured; my wife Concetta and my daughter Giuzepppa, 34 years of age who was a caretaker at the Cospicua School…were seriously injured.  Since then I have seen my dead wife at the Central Hospital but as regards my daughter I have not yet heard of her to this day, and I do not know whether she is dead or alive.” (3)

SPECIAL CONSTABULARY 1925 hrs  Philo Pullicino, Adjutant, age 24

“…another raid, this time a big one.  It lasted from 7.25pm to 8.30pm…We heard the planes droning continuously – and the firing: God, it was a nightmare!  Every gun in the neighbourhood blazed away at machine-gun speed.  The monitor HMS Terror barked above them all with her 4.7s…[A] lull in the storm saw us tearing down to the Duluri Church with thirteen blankets [for refugees] on our heads.  We dumped them there and, stopping a truck, we made him drive us both to Gzira.  The ‘Raiders Passed’ signal had not sounded yet…

HMS Terror

HMS Terror

The streets were deserted and we got to Manoel Bridge in record time.  About five hundred yards on we came upon disaster.  Three houses had receive direct hits (on their facades) and had strewn the main road with debris… In the gathering darkness the scene was terrifying: there was a strong smell of gas…Telephone and electricity wires hung limply across the road.  I ran up Ponsonby Street.  A house had disappeared…Further on, more commotion, more ruin, more disaster.  Corpses and casualties were being unearthed.  People, white and haggard, peeped frightened from broken windows and doorways…Six persons rushed up to me, I being in uniform, and asked me to take them somewhere – anywhere!…

I told them to wait on the pavement…soon more came.  These I also lined up.  But presently they came in hundreds and swamped me.  What could I do?  Where should I send them?  Then…I remembered vaguely that it was stated that refugees could go into churches.

I ordered, asked, persuaded people to walk towards Msida and Hamrun and Birkirkara.  I said transport would follow and pick them up; they were to stop cars and ask for lifts…I stopped a bus, asked the driver where he was going, but before he could answer the bus was full!  I ordered him to take the to the place he was proceeding to, no matter where it was.

A family jumped into a boat and started rowing out.  I yelled and pulled them back, and pushed them along with the packed, walking mass…  (1)

ARP 2200 hrs  Gzira

“Extensive damage was done to Gzira… word was received at 10 o’clock at night that persons were lying buried under demolished buildings.  In a house in Ponsonby Street, a girl aged ten had been completely buried in a ruined house.  Joseph Pirotta who was one of the rescue party…managed to extricate a girl alive at great personal danger working in darkness.”  Msida ARP Centre logbook  (3)

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 JUNE TO DAWN 12 JUNE 1940

Weather  Fine and warm; light westerly breeze.

0415 hrs  Malta troops ordered to stand to.

0452 hrs  Marsaxlokk reports both parties of distinguished persons safely on board flying boat.

0655 hrs  Air raid alert.  Ten Italian SM79 bombers in two formations escorted by Macchi 200 fighters approach the Island at 14000 feet, crossing the coast over Kalafrana and Hal Far, and heading towards Grand Harbour.

0659 hrs  Anti-Aircraft fire is reported over St Pauls Bay and Luqa.

0706 hrs  Sixteen 250lb bombs are dropped on Hal Far causing craters on the aerodrome and damaging vehicles; two land within 15 yards of HQ shelter and the Officers’ Mess.

0710 hrs  Another thirty bombs fall between Fort Benghaisa, Birzebbugia and Kalafrana, where buses, a searchlight and vehicles are damaged.  One aircraft carries out a low-flying attack on Fort St Elmo, dropping a stick of bombs between the lighthouse and the Harbour Fire Command post, killing six members of the Royal Malta Artillery and wounding several others.  One gun is put out of action.  Damage to the Dockyard is slight.  Enemy aircraft are engaged by fighters and Ack Ack; two are reported shot down in the sea by Maltese gunners – one near Filfla and the second north of the Island. 

0714 hrs  Bombers are reported Kalafrana, and then bomb Hal Far again.

0715 hrs  Wardia reports two aircraft breaking north west: one over Marfa Ridge, the other over the Victoria Lines.

0720 hrs  A second attack of fifteen enemy bombers with fighter escort approaches from the same direction.  They attack Corradino, Portes des Bombes, Pieta Creek, Sa Maison and the new St Luke’s Hospital.  Two bombs hit the Water and Electricity Department at Portes des Bombes, killing two Maltese workmen.  Another bomb hits St Luke’s Hospital, destroying a nearby house.  A bomb on Msida destroys a house, killing two civilians.

0725 hrs  Marsa reports light machine gun fire in the Cospicua area.

0736 hrs  Giordano Lighthouse, Gozo, reports that 11 aircraft are seen heading for Sicily.

0820 hrs  All clear.

0845-0920 hrs  Air raid alert for aircraft which cross the Island on reconnaissance.

0957 hrs  Royal Malta Artillery at Delimara report an aircraft sunk off Benghaisa.

1009 hrs  Air raid alert for three aircraft which cross the Island on reconnaissance.

1045 hrs  Church bells sound to signal the all clear.

1115 hrs  Vice Admiral Malta reports two cables cut in position 37 degrees 24’ north, 10 degrees 50’ east.

1123-1145 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of four enemy aircraft approaching from Gozo and heading towards Valletta at high altitude – no attack.

1400 hrs  One NCO and 13 Other Ranks 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment are sent to post a guard on a ship in Grand Harbour.

1433-1452 hrs  Air raid alert for aircraft which cross the Island on reconnaissance.

1925 hrs  Air raid alert at sunset.  25 Italian aircraft in formations of five approach the Island at 15000 feet from Armier Bay to Torri L’Ahmar, passing east to west over the north of the Island.  Bombs are dropped on Zabbar, Tarxien, Marsa, Cospicua, and Pieta, Gzira, Tigne and Sliema, causing civilian casualties.  Bombs damage the Modern Imperial Hotel, Rudolph Street, and land on Parallel Street, in Sliema.  Bombs also damage property in Ponsonby Street, Gzira. Two direct hits on Verdala Barracks cause severe damage and injure 15 servicemen; several more bombs demolish houses nearby.  Petroleum tanks in Corradino are destroyed.  One enemy raider is shot down by Ack Ack fire and another by Malta’s Gladiator aircraft.

1945 hrs  One enemy airman is believed to have bailed out.  A patrol of 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers carries out a search in the Pembroke area but finds nothing.  Three motorboats spotted off Grand Harbour.  Believing them to be hostile, guns of Forts San Rocco, Ricasoli and St Elmo open fire, sinking two of the boats.  They are later confirmed as friendly; 1st Bn Dorset Regiment rescue five of the crew.

1955 hrs  A naval signal station reports parachutists at Gargur.  A gun battery at St Pauls Bay reports a sighting of parachutists in the direction of Sliema.  Reports are later amended to one parachutist.  Two patrols are sent out to investigate.

2017 hrs  Qawra Tower reports two unidentified warships 45 degrees east of Valletta making smoke.

2050 hrs  All clear.

2142 hrs  A small motor boat spotted heading to sea off Qawra Tower is challenged and returns to St Paul’s Bay.  The boat was found to contain Lieutenant Giddings, naval contraband control officer.

0505 hrs  A boat is reported 3 miles out heading north east; believed to be a mine sweeper.

Military casualties  Leading Seaman Joseph Caruana; Stoker 1c Joseph Farrugia; Stoker 1c Hector G Gittos; Stoker 1c Salvatore Lautier; Stoker 1c Carmelo Rodo; HMS St Angelo.  Lt Evan E Wellman, MPK.  Gunner Thomas Taylor, 7th Heavy Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Artillery; Boy Philip Busuttil (age 16); Gunner Carmel Cordina; Gunner Paul Debono; Bombardier Joseph Galea; Gunner Richard Micallef; Gunner Michael Saliba, 1 Heavy Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties   Birkirkara  Carmel Galea, age 40.  Cospicua  Joseph Ancilleri; Doris Galea, 5 mths; Romeo Pace, age 35.  Gzira  Michael Camenzuli, age 39; Mary Doublet,age 46; Lilian Doublet, age 7; Julian Micallef, age 65; John Trapani, age 48; Rosina Vassallo, age 33.  Mqabba  Joseph Ellul, age 36.  Msida  Paul Galea, age 37.  Pieta  Antonia Farrugia, age 25; Anthony Farrugia, age 5; Joseph Farrugia, age 4; Josephine Mangion, age 4.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 11 JUNE 1940

HAL FAR  Air raid damage report: 16 bombs in total on the aerodrome and beyond the boundary severe damage to a few buses, a chance-light and private cars.  Bombs believed 250lb; all exploded on impact or within one second.

KALAFRANA  Married families successfully evacuated.  Two Maltese recruits examined for fitness in RAF.

2nd Bn DEVONSHIRE REGIMENT  Bombs dropped near HQ and Officers’ Mess affecting electric light cables and telephones.  Ack Ack battery position claims to have hit enemy plane.  No casualties.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS: Bomb Disposal UXB  Dealt with 1 incendiary Cospicua.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  A Company Reserve Platoon moved to Tigne Barracks.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Private MacKay wounded at Verdala Barracks.

(1) The Road to Rome, Philo Pullicino, MPI Publishing 2012

(2)  RSM John Kelly, MBE, DCM, BA, Royal Irish Fusiliers – Malta Family History

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

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

 

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2015 in 1940, June 1940

 

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