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15 May 1941: Bomb Disposal Squad Faces 330 UXBs While Short of Men

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HMS Encounter badly damaged by bomb

HMS Encounter badly damaged by bomb

BOMB DISPOSAL FACES MANPOWER SHORTAGE

Malta is short of manpower for bomb disposal, it emerged today. An experienced Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal officer and sergeant disembarked from Breconshire last month but trained Other Ranks who were also expected have failed to arrive.  The extra manpower was intended to replace personnel of 24 Fortress Company, Royal Engineers, members of which have been being seconded to bomb disposal work since June 1940. 

The RE Bomb Disposal Officer and Section deals with all unexploded bombs across Malta and Gozo, outside of Royal Navy and RAF premises. Their workload has been especially heavy in the past month of heavy enemy bombing: 330 unexploded bombs have been reported.  An average of 15% of bombs dropped fail to explode.

The secondment to Bomb Disposal of some 20 Other Ranks from 24 Company has had an impact on important Field Works which are also the duty of the Royal Engineers. The Governor and Commander in Chief has written to the War Office today to query the non-arrival of the expected Sappers.  He is in favour of the NCOs of 24 Company currently serving in bomb disposal to continue in their duties but is anxious for the expected additional 44 Sappers allocated for bomb disposal to be sent to Malta at an early date. (1)

SERVICEMEN IGNORING BLACKOUT ORDERS

Military personnel have been issued with a strong reminder about the importance of maintaining proper blackout across Malta. In an order issued to 1st Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment today, troops have been told that infringement in military buildings of blackout orders and restrictions on the use of electric lights is much too frequent. 

According to the order, some soldiers seem to be under the impression that civil regulations in this respect do not apply to them. This is much resented by the civil population, who think that their lives and property may be endangered by such carelessness.  Company commanders have been ordered to impress on all ranks that blackout infringements will be treated seriously and that soldiers are as much bound to comply with civil regulations as any other citizens; they should, in fact, have a higher standard of discipline.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 MAY TO DAWN 16 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0743-0810 hrs  Air raid alert for a JU 88 bomber which approaches and carries out reconnaissance over the Island while escorting enemy fighters patrol out to sea.  Anti-aircraft guns engage the bomber without result.

1211-1240 hrs  Air raid alert for 25 ME 109 fighters which cross the coast at various points and drop bombs on the Luqa area.  One Wellington is burned out and three Beaufighters damaged.  Hurricanes are scrambled and engage the raiders; one Hurricane** is destroyed in combat.  A ceiling barrage by anti-aircraft guns is unsuccessful.

1523-1615 hrs  Air raid alert for 15-20 ME 109s which carry out a bombing raid on Luqa and Hal Far aerodromes, where a Fleet Air Arm store is badly damaged.  Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.  Enemy fighters then scout the island in small formations, one of which attacks  Hurricanes on patrol.  One Hurricane is shot down and the pilot killed. 

0312-0500 hrs  Air raid alert for 12 enemy aircraft in three formations which approach from the north, cross the coast at various points and drop bombs and mines on Grand Harbour, Valletta and the Luqa area. In the Dockyard, a bomb on Hamilton Wharf damages a generator station. HMS Encounter is hit by a small bomb in the boiler room, causing considerable damage. MV Amerika suffers superficial damage from a near-miss.  More mines are laid at the entrances to Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto Harbour.  A new type of mine is dropped in the raid, identified as G mines, rather than the parachute mines used recently.  Two Hurricane night fighters are scrambled.  There is only one illumination low down: Bofors and light anti-aircraft guns engage the raiders; no claims.

Military casualties  Sergeant Ernest Victor Wynne, Pilot, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.

Civilian casualties  Valletta  Anthony Cremona, age 54; Paul Vella, age75. Zabbar  Anna Psaila, age 82.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 15 MAY 1941

ROYAL NAVY Cachalot arrived from UK with 16 tons of special stores on board.  5 Swordfish took off on a search for convoy: nil report.  ‘G’ mines dropped by aircraft in entrance to Grand Harbour: Harbour closed. Unbeaten gunned and damaged 800 ton schooner.

AIR HQ 69 Squadron Maryland patrol east Sicilian coast. Maryland reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.  Hurricane photo-reconnaissance Gela aerodrome; photos reveal 18 unidentified aircraft, believed fighters. 

HAL FAR  Sgt Wynne killed in aerial combat with ME 109s.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB reported 11; dealt with 0.

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

 

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Posted by on May 15, 2016 in 1941, May 1941

 

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30 April 1941: Two Nights’ Raids ‘A Nightmare to All Who Lived Through Them’

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HARDLY A PANE OF GLASS LEFT IN VALLETTA

Greek Orthodox Church destroyed

Greek Orthodox Church destroyed

Communities across Malta, both civilian and military, are left reeling after a second night of intense and heavy bombing raids. Substantial damage was done to the Dockyard (see below) but Valletta fared the worst: hardly a window is left intact across the ancient city.  St John’s Co-Cathedral has been seriously damaged; almost destroyed.  The Oratory and Vestry are heavily damaged, while the main door has been blasted and destroyed.  The Museum and precious paintings have suffered badly. The two belfry towers have been damaged.  The church of the Greek Orthodox community has also been destroyed.

The City’s Law Courts, the Exchange, St James Hotel and several banks have been demolished, three cinemas were hit and several cafes, restaurants and business premises in Kingsway were either destroyed or damaged. A total of 47 shops and 27 houses have been destroyed.  Kingsway Main Gate is now blocked by debris.

In the Dockyard, storehouses and wharfs as well as several vessels were badly damaged. The main Malta strike force had left harbour when the first raid began.

In Sliema 86 houses were demolished, another 80 and a convent seriously damaged. 20 more houses and a police station were damaged by bomb blast.  In Mosta mines destroyed several houses.

Clearing debris in Valletta

Clearing debris in Valletta

Further afield, air raid shelters in Luqa and Zebbug were hit by mines. In Luqa 45 civilians taking cover in two adjacent shelters were saved after a dangerous rescue operation by three policemen. In Zebbug both the entrance and the exit of the shelter were blocked by debris from the collapsed house above.  17 were trapped inside: 11 were rescued by the Hamrun Demolition Squad, the other six were found to be dead. (1)

First reports suggest that in total four children were killed in the raids and four other civilians buried under bomb rubble are feared dead; five civilians have been seriously injured.

It has been reported that damage to communications caused in last night’s bombing raid hampered the control of 14 Hurricanes scrambled to counter-attack the raiders and no engagements take place.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 APRIL TO DAWN 1 MAY 1941

Weather  Fine.

0755-0810 hrs Air raid alert for two JU 88 bombers escorted by three ME 109s approaching the Island. They are assumed to be on reconnaissance but fly over Grand Harbour and drop bombs on St Angelo and nearby boats.  An explosion 200 yards offshore causes a dghajsa carrying twelve Royal Malta Artillery (RMA) personnel towards Ricasoli Barracks to capsize.  Witnessing the incident from the barracks, Lieutenant Joseph E Agius dives into the sea and with the help of two RMA recruits rescues eleven men encumbered by greatcoats. (2)

0817-0835 hrs  Air raid alert for a single JU 88 which crosses the Island on reconnaissance.

1047-1120 hrs; 1146-1226 hrs  Air raid alerts; raids do not materialise.

1200 hrs  Communications with Fortress HQ put out of action by last night’s raid are restored.

1757-1836 hrs  Air raid alert for six HE 111 bombers escorted by six ME 109s which approach the Island and drop bombs and mines on the Grand Harbour area including Valletta, where a bomb explodes on the corner of St Nicholas Street and Kingsway. The motor vehicle entrance to St Nicholas St is completely blocked by debris. One bomb lands on Maddalena Sacristy and another on the Orphanage.

In the Dockyard a stick of bombs falls along Garden Reach. A submarine store is demolished and a small fire starts.  The CO2 plant receives a direct hit.  Stores at the entrance to St Theresa Tunnel are damaged and debris blocks the road.  The road outside the East Gate is blocked by a large crater and debris from a destroyed house.  A stick of bombs lands close to the HQ of 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment.  Anti-aircraft guns engage and destroy one enemy aircraft. 

2034-2254 hrs  Air raid alert for a first wave of 35 enemy bombers including JU 87 Stukas, JU 88s and HE 111s which approach the Island in relays. The first relay of 20 comes in two waves, the first high to attract the defences.  The second wave then glides in low to lay mines in the Harbour and its approaches. Two parachute mines explode in the city, destroying the Law Courts, a church, houses and shops in Kingsway.  Another 15 bombers then approach, dropping parachute flares across Grand Harbour and Valletta followed by 150 high explosive bombs, causing extensive damage.

In the Dockyard a bomb on inflammable stores starts a large fire which is hard to bring under control. The road outside is blocked by a large crater, making it difficult for fire appliances to gain access.  A machine shop is hit, blocking the road into St Theresa Tunnel.  A large bomb on No 2 dock demolishes buildings and causes further damage to HMS Encounter.  No 3 dock caisson receives a direct hit, flooding the dock and with it the vessel Coral. Trusty Star – the only LL minesweeper currently in action – is sunk at Machinery Wharf. Fermoy in No 5 dock is further damaged and sinks. The Baulk Timber Store receives a direct hit, causing much damage to the roof.  A bomb close to Corradino Tunnel blocks a ventilation shaft. The Boat House is hit by four or five small bombs, not all of which explode. 

Some of the bombers (identified as Heinkels) are illuminated by searchlights over Grand Harbour and anti-aircraft guns put up a barrage; no claims. One Hurricane is scrambled but does not engage the raiders. 

11 more Heinkel bombers cross the coast over St Thomas’s Bay and head for Luqa aerodrome, dropping 53 high explosive bombs across the area. Two mines are dropped on the Ta Karach Ridge, one blows out the door of a gun position. A further formation of 11 HE 111s crosses the coast and attacks Ta Qali, dropping mines and 80 high explosive bombs.  A large mine falls in the garden of the Attorney General Sir Philip Pullicino family just below the bastions in Mdina and fails to explode; the family is evacuated.

Military casualties  Gunner Alfred Allison, 1 Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; 2nd Lieutenant Edgar Bartolo, 1st Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Joseph Calleja, Royal Malta Artillery; Master at Arms Leslie George Hunt, HMS St.Angelo; Bombardier Joseph Mizzi, 1st Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Marine Edward Joseph Mullard, Royal Marines; Bombardier Carmelo Pulis, 1st Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery; Gunner Joseph Vella, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Senglea  Irish Ashmore, age 11; Agnes Ashmore, age 9; Tommy Ashmore, age 4; Charles Zarbe, age 13; Edward Zarb, age 12; Mary Zarb, age 10. Valletta Carmela Caruana, age 71; Vincenza MacGill, age 33; Edwidge Zarb Cousin, age 5.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 30 APRIL 1941

ROYAL NAVY HMS Abingdon is damaged by suspected acoustic mines while sweeping. Royal Navy Bomb & Mine Disposal  Total number of unexploded bombs dealt with during the month: 37.

AIR HQ  Arrivals 3 Wellington. Departures 4 Wellington. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.  Three Wellingtons arrived from Gibraltar and left later with a Wellington of 148 Squadron that had been under repair.   

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  C and D Companies spent the day on the practise firing ranges.

1st Bn DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  1155 hrs One man was injured at Corradino by a bomb explosion. Strengths 36 officers, 884 other ranks, 2 RAOC (attached).  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Blitz on Valletta, severe damage to Strada Reale; RE assisted with clearance. Bomb Disposal UXB reported 29; dealt with 2 (2 x 50kg).  Total unexploded bombs during month: reported 190; dealt with 50.

2nd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Battalion strength officers 36, NCOs 24, other ranks 640.

3rd Bn KINGS OWN MALTA REGIMENT  Enlisted during April 6 volunteers, 21 conscripts. Strengths officers 28, WO/Sgts 30, other ranks 669.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS    MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY  Four storemen returned from Ordnance Dump, Gozo. Strengths officers 25, WO 8, other ranks 122; Armourers other ranks 7; Artisans other ranks 4. 

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  1700 hrs L/Cpl A Watton buried at St Andrews Cemetery.

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

(2) Malta Blitzed But Not Beaten, Philip Vella, Progress Press 1985

 

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

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2016 in 1941, April 1941

 

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29 April 1941: Heaviest Bombing Yet in 6½ Hour Raid

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GRAND HARBOUR, VALLETTA, AIRFIELDS AND VILLAGES HIT

Malta experienced its heaviest bombing raid of the war so far tonight when nearly 90 enemy aircraft came over and dropped mines and bombs. The raid followed an earlier attack in which another 84 bombs were dropped on Grand Harbour. 

From just before 9 this evening the Island was under alert for 6½ hours as raiders launched their attacks in two waves, dropping over 800 high explosive bombs from 50kg to 1000kg on the Grand Harbour, Luqa and Ta Qali airfields and several inland villages. Parachute mines were laid in the harbours and approaches.

Bombing Aub Auvergne now law courtsSeveral 1000kg were among the bombs which landed on Valletta, badly damaging many buildings including St John’s Cathedral, a church, theatre and cinema, and causing a large fire. A bomb demolished the corner of Merchants Street and St Christopher Street, as well as several shops in Kingsway.  Another fire started in Floriana.  The Dockyard fire engine was sent to assist civil fire engines in tackling the blazes. Fort St Elmo was damaged, one officer and three men killed. Electricity and water supplies and telephone communications have been badly affected. 

In the Dockyard bombs hit two dock areas, forming numerous craters. Workshops and stores were completely demolished and three damaged, a nearby wharf is now blocked by debris. HMS Encounter in dry dock was damaged by bomb splinters, then a bomb penetrated the forecastle and exploded inside the ship, blowing a hole in her bottom. A bomb hit the bridge of Fermoy in No 5 dock and passed through the hull, causing her to settle by the bow.

Bighi Hospital and Fort St Angelo were hit by bombs; two marines and two dockyard personnel were wounded and one master at arms is missing. One of 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers was killed and one injured; one of Royal Malta Artillery was killed and two injured.  The guard room of HQ 1st Bn Cheshire Regiment was hit by a bomb and destroyed, along with the recreation room; rifles are written off. 

In Zabbar five houses were demolished and three damaged by four bombs; two women are injured. In Cospicua 16 bombs were dropped demolishing eight houses and badly damaging five houses and seven shops. 10 houses were demolished at Marsa, one civilian killed and one injured.

86 bombs were dropped on the Ta Qali area alone, where some 22 flares were seen floating down to illuminate the target. Several mines exploded on land, including one near Luqa where a serious fire broke out. Several sticks of bombs were dropped on the south and south west perimeters of Luqa aerodrome, severing telephone communications.  One stick of bombs landed near the entrance to a dugout of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment; there are no reported casualties.

In Zurrieq, six bombs damaged 17 houses and injured one woman; bombs also fell near the HQ of 1st Bn Hampshire Regiment.  18 bombs were dropped on the village of Zebbug and many more on the outskirts. 4 houses and a store were demolished and 106 houses damaged, many seriously; six civilians were killed.  The mine dropped near Tad-Dawl Chapel and failed to explode.

Buildings including a hangar and messes were damaged at Ta Qali; 13 unexploded bombs were reported across the aerodrome. Three Hurricanes were damaged and will be out of action for a week. 

During the raid troops across the Island were placed on full alert for a possible enemy parachute landing. The Island went into shut-down as road blocks were put in place.  The alarm was triggered by a report of parachutists who had baled out of an enemy aircraft shot down during the raid earlier this evening.  Once it was confirmed there were no more parachutists at large the precautions were relaxed but barriers remained closed as a precaution. 

A total of eight civilians were killed and 15 seriously wounded. 34 unexploded bombs were reported to Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal.  Only two JU 88 bombers were shot down in the raids, one by Bofors fire.  The second was hit by Ack Ack fire before being destroyed by Hurricane fighters.

HEAVY ACK ACK BRIGADE FOR MALTA DELAYED

The War Office has written to Malta’s Governor and Commander in Chief today warning that there will be a delay in the arrival of the much needed additional anti-aircraft units. Shipping will not be available to transport 68 Heavy AA Regiment to join the next planned convoy WS 7 for onward travel to Malta.  However, the telegram confirms that 199 Heavy AA Battery is expected to arrive in the Middle East on WS 7 and will be transported to Malta as soon as possible.  The date of embarkation will be notified later.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 29 APRIL TO DAWN 30 APRIL 1941

Weather   Fine.    

0744-0815 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

1051-1115 hrs Air raid alert for a single JU 88 bomber which approaches the Island and carries out reconnaissance. Heavy anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1835-1920 hrs  Air raid alert for six JU 88s escorted by ten ME 109s which approach the Island and carry out a high level bombing attack on Grand Harbour, dropping 24 high explosive bombs of 250kg and 60 of 50kg. One private of 2nd Bn Royal West Kent Regiment is wounded.  One JU 88 is hit by anti-aircraft fire using height control and then attacked by Hurricanes; it crashes just above the Naval Ranges at Ghain Tuffieha.  The crew of four bale out: one lands on Pembroke Ranges and is captured by 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers, the other three in the sea nearby and are rescued and taken prisoner.  One ME 109 is also believed shot down by a Hurricane.  One Hurricane is damaged on landing.

2050 hrs  Air raid alert for 70 JU 88 and HE 111 bombers which cross the coast in two waves and launch a heavy raid for four hours, dropping some 700 high explosive bombs and mines on the Grand Harbour area as well as the Luqa and Ta Qali areas and several villages. Parachute mines are dropped on Grand Harbour, off the harbour entrance and in Sliema Creek. 

Searchlights are effective, illuminating raiders 13 times for 2 minutes each. Heavy Ack Ack fire 34 predicted barrages, some of which succeed in turning the enemy off course; one JU 88 is shot down by Bofors fire.  Some mines are exploded by Bofors guns. 

2232 hrs  Infantry Brigades issue an alert to all troops: “Take parachutist precautions.”

2332 hrs  All defensive barriers are closed and road blocks manned.

2340 hrs Parachutists are confirmed as eight in number and identified as having baled out from aircraft engaged in an earlier air raid. Anti-parachutist precautions are relaxed but the barriers remain closed.  

0030 hrs  All clear.

0112-0130 hrs  Air raid alert for a formation of enemy aircraft which approaches the Island but does not cross the coast.

0144-0314 hrs  Air raid alert for 17 Heinkel HE 111 bombers which approach from the north and drop mines and bombs on Grand Harbour and Valletta, as well as Ta Qali, Zebbug, Qrendi, Mosta and Balzan. 144 high explosive bombs are dropped and mines laid.  Heavy Ack Ack fire nine predicted barrages; no claims.

0313 hrs  All clear.

Military casualties  Leading Aircraftsman Herbert Cecil Hermon, Royal Air Force; Sergeant Ralph Norman Tapper, Royal Air Force; Lance-Corporal Alexander Booker Watton, 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers; Gunner Joseph Zarb, 3 Battery, 1 Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Senglea  Carmel Degiorgio, age 34. Valletta  Brother Bonaventura Attard, age 21; Brother Hilarion Borg, age 22; Nazzareno Cachia, age 38; Connie Grech, age 45; Philip Grech, age 23; Brother Marcellino Pisani, age 22.  Zebbug  Rochani Tikamadas, age 48. 

Enemy casualties  Weldwebel Rudolf Lenzner, pilot; Unteroffizier Paul Kietzmann, air gunner, Weldwebel Wilhelm Heller, Observer; Helmut Hartlich, Wireless operator; crew of JU 88 bomber 5th Staffel, 2nd Gruppo, shot down and taken prisoner.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 29 APRIL 1941

AIR HQ Arrivals 1 Sunderland. 69 Squadron Marylands reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.    

NORTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Training exercise held in spite of a very disturbed night due to heavy air raids and a false alarm of parachutists.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland (RAAF) arrived from Gibraltar with passengers and freight.

1st Bn CHESHIRE REGIMENT  A and D Companies on the range firing MMG. During night air raids Bn HQ guard room was hit by a bomb and destroyed, along with the recreation room.  Much kit and stores destroyed.  The Bn fire engine turned out and gave useful assistance.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 34; dealt with 0.

MALTA SIGNALS COMPANY  Classification of Signallers 4th Bn The Buffs (passed 4, failed 0).

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS  Workshops personnel returned to Gzira from Gozo.

2nd Bn ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  1700 hrs Fusilier H E Hawkins was buried at St Andrew’s Cemetery.

 

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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in 1941, April 1941

 

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