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30 May 1942: Most Concentrated Attack in the History of Aerial Warfare

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Tug HMS St Angelo sunk by a mine

AIR COMMAND REFLECTS ON CHANGING FORTUNES IN MALTA SKIES

By her resolute opposition Malta has weakened Rommel’s ability to strike at Egypt and is absorbing considerable shock for the Russians by causing wastage, which the German Air Force can ill afford.

Field Marshal Kesselring lost his fight against us when he commanded the German Air Force in the Battle of Britain.  He also failed in his attack on Moscow.  If he fails against Malta a great blow at the heart of German Air Force prestige will have been struck.  When full-scale operations are resumed on the Russian front Malta will almost certainly have a measure of relief by the withdrawal of some units or at least by units based in Sicily getting a lower degree of priority in the matter of replacement aircraft.

The scale of attack against Malta is the most concentrated and sustained attack in the history of aerial warfare.  The average effort of 200 sorties per 24 hours during the early part of April following the 100 sorties averaged during March shows that the utmost is being extracted from the force available.  To achieve this effort two sorties a day by aircraft must be common and a third sortie, particularly by fighters and dive-bombers, is by no means rare.  This intensive use of units over a confined area in which defences are highly concentrated must be producing a high wastage apart from aircraft destroyed.  There are grounds for thinking that the number of aircraft damaged is higher than Malta’s claims. 

Certainly it can be said that, with the resumption of full-scale operations in all theatres, Malta’s contribution to the limitation of Germany’s air power will be felt by the German Air Force for a long time.  War Diary, Air HQ Malta, May 1942

HMS ST ANGELO MINED

HMS St Angelo was sunk at 1415 hrs this afternoon with the loss of four of her crew.  The 150 ton auxiliary tug was involved in a minesweeping operation about ¾ mile off the entrance to Grand Harbour when she struck a mine.  The three other vessels, Beryl, Trusty Star and Swona, returned to port undamaged.

Before being transferred to minesweeping, the tug was a familiar sight in Grand Harbour, ferrying Royal Navy personnel from Fort St Angelo to several destinations, and more recently carrying out rescues from the Harbour waters.  The casualties have been named as Leading Seaman Joseph Debattista, Able Seaman Vincent Farrugia, Stoker Paul Grima and Stoker Joseph Said.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 30 MAY TO DAWN 31 MAY 1942

Weather  Wind south-easterly; fairly clear – slightly hazy.

0510-0555 hrs  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali conduct a patrol off the coast.  One aircraft sights a patch of oil two miles off the coast.

1015 hrs  Air raid alert.  Four Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali airborne to intercept approaching fighters; nil report.

1104-1303 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft: no combat.

1132 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for a fighter sweep over the Island.

1215-1305 hrs  Three Spitfires 601 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to patrol the Island: nothing sighted.

1635-1745 hrs  Eight Spitfies 249 Squadron airborne to intercept incoming enemy fighters; nil report.

1705 hrs  Air raid alert: raid does not materialize.

1810 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for incoming Italian bombers with a twenty strong fighter escort, including Re 2001s and Macch 202s.  Four Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far and five of 126 Squadron Luqa are scrambled to intercept.

1812 hrs  Three Cant 1007s drop eighteen 100kg bombs on Luqa, causing craters on the runway and damaging one Spitfire. 

The Spitfire patrols intercept the retreating formation.  The cannons of three Spitfires of 185 Squadron jam but Sgt Ferraby is able to fire, damaging one Cant 1007 and one Re 2001.  126 Squadron’s F/Sgt Milner, P/O Johnson and P/O Goldsmith damage one Cant 1007; F/Sgt Parks damages another.  P/O Goldsmith destroys one Re 2001.  Sgt Smith destroys one Re 2001, and damages one Cant 1007.

1925-2045 hrs  Three Spitfires 603 Squadron Ta Qali are airborne to escort Hudsons arriving on the Island.

2150 hrs  Air raid alert: raid does not materialize.

2335 hrs  The air raid alert sounds for approaching hostile aircraft.

2355 hrs  One Beaufighter is airborne from Luqa on patrol to intercept.  He climbs to 14000 feet and chases a Cant bomber towards the coast of Sicily where he attacks a Cant 1007 bis which is seen to crash into the sea.  He returns safely at 0045 hrs.

0455-0601 hrs  Four Spitfires 601 Squadron are despatched to search for a missing delivery Wellington.  They see a large patch of oil five miles north east of Malta.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Arthur Lamb, Mentioned in Despatches, HMS Welshman; Private Anthony Gusman, 1st Battalion, the King’s Own Malta Regiment.

Civilian casualties   Mosta  Francis Bezzina, age 12; Albino Bezzina, age 11; Edwin Gatt, age 11.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SATURDAY 30 MAY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  20 tons of oil fuel recovered from Breconshire.

AIR HQ  Arrivals  One Lodestar from LG 05; three Hudsons, six Wellingtons from Gibraltar.  Departures  One CW 20 to Gibraltar; one Lodestar to Heliopolis; three Hudsons to LG 222.  Aircraft casualties  One Wellington crashed on landing: crew uninjured.

HAL FAR  2100 hrs  Four Albacores and one Swordfish of the NAS took off on strike.  No sightings and all aircraft returned at 0230 hrs.

LUQA  1215-1500 hrs  One Spitfire photo-reconnaissance Messina and Palermo Harbour.   2104-0345 hrs  One Wellington S/D Flight was despatched to locate, shadow and bomb a southbound convoy.  He sighted one merchant vessel and one destroyer and dropped bombs on the merchant vessel which were seen to explode short by 75 yards.  2330-0317 hrs  Three Wellingtons 104 Squadron were despatched to attack the train ferry terminus at Messina.  One turned back with engine trouble.  The others dropped bombs on the target area: no results observed.

4th BN THE BUFFS (ROYAL EAST KENT) REGIMENT  Working parties Luqa aerodrome.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Working parties on Luqa aerodrome continue.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  No 4 Section, No 2 Works Company RE completed accommodation for Advanced HQ for GOC Troops, Malta.  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 5; dealt with 4(1 x 1000kg; 2 x 250kg, 1 x 50kg).

1ST BN THE HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT  17 vehicles, 4 Officers, 130-150 Other Ranks at Safi strip widening and levelling runway.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Day working parties building pens for aircraft 6 Officers 200 Other Ranks.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party continued.

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Posted by on May 30, 2017 in 1942, May 1942

 

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15 February 1942: 20 hours of Air Raids – 41 Killed by Single Bomb

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  • Malta under alert for 19 hours 58 minutes
  • Daytime air raid lasts 10 hours 51 minutes
  • 141 enemy bombers and fighters
  • 175 High Explosive bombs dropped on Luqa and Valletta area
  • Bomb brings down cinema onto audience
  • Mine disposal hero killed
  • Eight enemy aircraft destroyed or damaged

CINEMA HIT DURING SUNDAY AFTERNOON FEATURE

Regent Cinema rescue operations (NWMA Malta)

At 1754 hrs today a single JU 88 bomber turned inland towards Fort St Elmo and aimed a stick of four 250 kg bombs along the peninsula of Valletta.  One hit the Casino Maltese, killing at least eight people, the next struck the Palace and the third smashed into the Regent Cinema.  The auditorium was almost full for the afternoon showing of ‘The North-West Mounted Police’ starring Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald.  The building collapsed onto the audience, most of whom were servicemen enjoying their Sunday leave.  Early estimates are 15 civilians and 26 servicemen killed and at least 29 wounded.

Servicemen and civilians who had been sheltering nearby rushed to the scene to help, followed by the Police, ARP squads and medical teams.  According to ARP Sergeant Major John Mifsud:  “…we saw a harrowing scene, with limp and moving limbs entangled between the debris.  We searched for the injured to whom we administered first-aid before rushing them to hospital; our timely intervention saved a few lives.”  (1)

George Boswell was one of the men rescued from the debris.  He had stepped outside to visit the WC when the bomb struck.  A brick wall fell on him, injuring his leg and leaving him in a coma for several days.  

Mr Anton Caruana Galizia was killed in the raid – a man described as “a popular and prominent Maltese” by the Rev Nicholls of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral:   “I remember the day my father’s brother, Anton Caruana Galizia, was buried.  He had been hit by a splinter from a bomb dropped on Valletta in February 1942.  My father was preparing to leave for the funeral and I remarked on the black tie he was wearing.  He answered, ‘It is not half as black as my heart’.  It was a remark I shall never forget. I was seven years old.”  Anne Parnis, Glenelg, S Australia, 2011

ROYAL NAVY MINE DISPOSAL OFFICER KILLED

Lt Cmdr W Hiscock, DSC, GC

The deaths have been confirmed of Lieutenant Commander William Ewart Hiscock, DSC, and Mrs Alice Beatrice Hiscock.  The bomb and mine disposal officer and his wife were killed by an enemy bomb which landed directly on their home in St George’s Barracks.  Lt Cdr Hiscock, Royal Navy (Retired) was appointed to ‘miscellaneous duties, sea mine disposal’ at HMS St Angelo, where he has served since 1939.  He will receive the posthumous award of the George Cross for disarming a hitherto unknown type of Italian torpedo machine in 15 feet of water of St George’s Bay in September 1941.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 15 FEBRUARY TO DAWN 16 FEBRUARY 1942

Weather  30% cloud; bright periods.  Wind westerly.

0745-1836 hrs  One continuous air raid.

0745 hrs  Twelve ME 109s patrol south east of the Island.

0840 hrs  Five Beaufighters from 252 Squadron detachment at Luqa take off to return to Egypt but are warned to return to base due to an incoming enemy raid.  Some fail to hear the message and one is shot down by ME 109s a few miles east of Malta.

Seven JU 88s approach from the east and drop bombs on Luqa and the Safi Strip.  Heavy Ack Ack engage by Height Control destroying one JU 88 which crashes in flames on land near Bubaqra and damaging a second which left the Island smoking badly.  Ten guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery fire 176 rounds, most guns claiming hits on the enemy.  One gun destroys a JU 88 making its escape.

0940-1040 hrs  Wing Commanders Satchell and Rabagliati lead 242 Squadron and 1435 Flight in an attack on three JU 88s without result.  They then attack five ME 109s.  W/Cmdr Satchell shoots off the tail of one and watches the aircraft hit the water: claims one destroyed.  W/Cmdr Rabagliati attacks one ME 109 which turns over and drops into the sea.

0955 hrs  Bombs on are dropped on Safi landing strip and Ta Karach.  One Other Rank is killed and two injured in the raids.

1000 hrs  While enemy fighters patrol off Kalafrana, three JU 88 approach over Kalafrana to bomb Luqa.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.  All guns of 225 Light Ack Ack battery at Hal Far engage and shoot down one JU 88 which crashes into the sea south of Dingli.

1045 hrs  Twelve aircraft are scrambled from Ta Qali and attacked three JU 88s and one ME 109.  No claims.

The ME 109s continue to patrol south of the Island at varying heights up to 18000 feet in formations of up to six aircraft.

1055 hrs  Hal Far aerodrome is attacked again by enemy aircraft.  Three JU 88s at 4-600 feet are engaged by 225 Light Ack Ack Battery guns.  Four positions each claim one hit.

1100 hrs  Three JU 88 approach over Comino and drop bombs on the Safi strip from a height of 9000 feet.  Barrages are fired and the bombers split up, one receding north over Sliema and the other two south.

ME 109s continue to patrol off the Island.

1400 hrs  One JU 88 dives to 7000 feet over Kalafrana Bay, is engaged by Heavy and Light Ack Ack fire and drops bombs in the sea.

1415 hrs  One JU 88 approaches over St Paul’s Bay at 12400 feet, dives towards Grand Harbour at 6000 feet and drops bombs on Sliema sea front.  Both Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.

1430 hrs  One JU 88 approaches from the north and dives towards Grand Harbour at 4-5000 feet.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage; bombs are dropped on St Angelo.

1500 hrs  Enemy fighters continue their patrols off the Island.

1636 hrs  A returning Maryland is attacked by two ME 109s.  One ME 109 is shot down but the Maryland itself is so damaged that it has to make a forced landing in Kalafrana Bay.  All the crew are safe.

1715 hrs  Twelve aircraft under S/Ldr Beazley of 249 and 605 Squadrons are scrambled to escort another Maryland.  They are jumped by ME 109s.  They take evasive action but are not successful.  Pilot Officer Lowe of 605 Squadron is shot down into the sea and reported missing.

1800 hrs  One JU 88s dives over Valetta and scores a direct hit on the Casino Maltese, the Palace and the Regent Cinema.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

1835 hrs  All clear.

1951-2337 hrs  Fourteen aircraft approach from the north but only two cross the coast.  All bombs are dropped in the sea.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

0052-0150 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs in the sea and Kalafrana Bay.  Heavy Ack Ack engage.

0310-0358 hrs; 0427-0535 hrs  One aircraft at a time approaches from the north and drops bombs in the sea without crossing the coast.

0620-0708 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north east but does not cross the coast.  No bombs reported.

Military casualties  Leading Stoker William Dempster, HMS Cleopatra; Able Seaman J W Mills, HMS Cleopatra; Ordinary Seaman W Walker, HMS Cleopatra; Able Seaman Alexander Barr, HMS Maori; Boy 1st Class Ronald Williams, HMS Maori; Boy 1st Class John W. Wilsdon, HMS Maori; Stoker 1st Class George Cole, HMS St.Angelo.

Aircraftsman Robert Kemp, Royal Air Force (RAF) Volunteer Reserve (VR); Corporal Gordon Singer, RAF; Sergeant John Webb, RAF; Flight Sergeant Clive Mulholland, Royal New Zealand Air Force; Aircraftsman 2nd Class Arthur Sydney Day, RAF VR; Flight Sergeant Granville Jackson, Royal Canadian Air force; Aircraftman 1st Class Henry Gorman RAF VR; Sergeant Alan Largent, RAF VR; Sergeant Daniel Keane RAF VR.

Private Francis Byers, 1st Battalion (Bn) The Cheshire Regiment; Private Frank Wilson, 1st Bn The Cheshire Regiment; Private William Dudman, 1st Bn The Hampshire Regiment; Private Vincent Vella, 2nd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment; Fusilier Thomas Wallwork, 11th Bn The Lancashire Fusiliers; Sergeant Robert Cass, 32nd Light Ack Ack Regiment, Royal Artillery; Fusilier Albert Haunce, 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers; Capt Henry Gough, 2nd Bn The Royal Irish Fusiliers; Captain Peter Low, 2nd Bn Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Civilian casualties  Birkirkara   Pio Carabott, age 34.  Floriana  Gerald Ciantar, age 19; Giulio Mifsud, age 19.  Hamrun  Joseph Cassar, age 30; Mary Cassar, age 19; Renzo Flores, age 65; Albert Zammit, age 26.  Paola  John Attard, age 20; Toni Farrugia, age 14; Michael Wickan, age 19.  Pieta  Frances Patsy Cutter, age 19.  Sliema  Melita Abela, age 26, Joseph Amodeo, age 24.  Valletta  Dr R Bonello MD, age 52; Dr A Caruana Galizia LL.D, age 46; Joseph Cassar, age 17; Francis Cremona, age 16; Joseph Falzon, age 17; Frank Farrugia, age 13; Raffaele Mallia, age 54; Frangiska (Kitty) Mamo, age 17; Fr Gerald Pace OC, age 40; Manasser Reginiano, age 18.

Enemy casualties  Leutnant Wilhelm Gretz, 7/LG 1, pilot JU 88 bomber pilot shot down.  Crew of JU 88 bomber shot down by Anti-Aircraft fire:  Pilot Leutnant Waldemar Stadermann, Observer Oberfeldwebel Walter Hesse, Air Gunner Unteroffizier Martin Knobloch, Wireless Operator Oberfeldwebel Albert Stahl; all of 6/KG 77.

OPERATIONS REPORTS: SUNDAY 15 FEBRUARY 1942

ROYAL NAVY  HM ships Penelope, Legion, Lance arrived.

AIR HQ Arrivals  One Clare from Cairo; one Whitley from 236 Wing; one Beaufighter from Gibraltar.  Departures  One Clare, one Whitley to Gibraltar; two Beaufighters to 108 MU; five Beaufighters to LG 10 (two reported missing).

HAL FAR  Night 15/16th  Five Albacores 828 Squadron despatched to attack an enemy force of four cruisers and eight destroyers.  Hits were observed on two cruisers and one destroyer.  Ack Ack and moderate smoke screen effective.

LUQA  69 Squadron  One Maryland SF1 patrol; one Maryland SF2 patrol; one Maryland special search.  S/D Flight  Two Wellingtons special search.

TA QALI  Continuous air raids during the day; many scrambles.  No night operations.

CENTRAL INFANTRY BRIGADE  Reinforcements arrived from Middle East:  1st Bn Durham Light Infantry 2 Officers; 4 Other Ranks; Malta Tanks 4 Other Ranks.  1st Durham Light Infantry Fourth Rifle Company which had been expected failed to arrive.  1800 hrs  Bomb scored direct hit on Regent Cinema, Valletta during performance.  Numerous service personnel and civilians buried under debris.  1 Cheshire casualties:  three Other Ranks killed; four Other Ranks injured.  Working parties of 1 Cheshire co-operated with civilian ARP in extricating casualties.

SOUTHERN INFANTRY BRIGADE  Up to this date 1 Hamps had one killed and two injured as a result of enemy action.  8 King’s Own had one killed and three injured when bomb fell on Regent Cinema.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT During the afternoon the Regent Cinema in Kingsway, Valletta received a direct hit.  There were a large number of service personnel in the building at the time.  Casualties were fairly heavy; exact numbers not yet known.  We lost Private F Wilson and Private F Byers, A Company, killed; Privates Hawksley, Blinkham, Richards and Harrod injured.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  Information was received that A Company and details of Battalion had arrived from Middle East and were at the dockside.  However, it turned out that only two Officers and four Other Ranks had arrived and the ships carrying the remainder of the details and A Company had been forced to return to the Middle East through enemy action.

FORTRESS COMPANY ROYAL ENGINEERS  The Regent Cinema in Valletta received a direct hit.  The cinema was full at the time, causing many casualties.  Two men of 24 Fortress Company Royal Engineers were injured and admitted to hospital.  Rescue parties from 24 Fortress Coy and 173 Tunnelling Coy RE were sent out and did admirable rescue work for 18 hours.  Bomb Disposal UXB Reported 4; not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  This was a very sad day for the Battalion.  1750 hrs a bomb fell on Regent Cinema, Valletta.  Among the casualties was the Adjutant, Captain P Low and OC A Company Captain H Gough: they were both killed.  Fusilier Haunce of C Company was also killed.  The bodies were recovered and brought to Battalion Headquarters.  This loss of the Adjutant  Capt Low and Capt Gough, both very popular and efficient officers, is most keenly felt by all the officers and men of the Battalion.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT  Four men of this unit were injured when a bomb fell on the Regent Cinema, Valletta.  Private A Wilson and Corporal T Langdon were the most seriously injured.

11TH BN THE LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS  Luqa working party.  Bombs at Sliema and St George’s Barracks.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER  During a heavy raid on Valletta a cinema was hit causing a number of Army personnel casualties.  The Battalion was fortunate in sustaining only one slight casualty: Private W Butler.

(1) Malta: Blitzed But Not Beaten’, Philip Vella, Progress Press 1985

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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in 1942, February 1942

 

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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

 

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

 

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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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