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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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31 December 1940: Malta and the Med After 7 Months of War

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Chateau Bertrand

Chateau Bertrand handed over to RAF Ta Qali

AFTER 7 MONTHS MUSSOLINI’S SEA POWER HAS FAILED TO DOMINATE

A total of nine Royal Navy submarines have been lost in the Mediterranean since Italy declared war in June.  This is viewed as a poor exchange for the sinking of 10 Italian merchant ships of 45,000 tons.

Most of the lost submarines were the large, older boats transferred from the Far East and unsuited to the waters of the Mediterranean. In the same period the Italians have lost 18 submarines from all causes throughout the Mediterranean and Red Sea areas.

Mussolini’s claimed domination of the Mediterranean has not materialised. In spite of the loss of French naval power, Force H and the Mediterranean Fleet have more than held the Italian Navy in check.  As 1940 draws to a close, the balance of power in the Mediterranean increasingly rests with the Allies.  (1)

As a result, Malta has been regularly supplied and reinforced.  At the same time, the Italian Regia Aeronautica has proved unable to subdue Malta through bombing raids.  Despite limited resources, RAF fighters and anti-aircraft gunners have frequently forced enemy raiders to turn back before their attack can be launched.  In recent weeks, with the arrival of Wellington bombers, the Island has been given an attacking role in the war against the Axis in Italy and Greece.

A significant Luftwaffe force has now been moved into Sicily.  As yet they have carried out no missions over Malta. 

AIR RAIDS DAWN 31 DECEMBER 1940 TO DAWN 1 JANUARY 1941

Weather  Overcast. 

No air raids.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 31 DECEMBER 1940

KALAFRANA  Sunderland aircraft of 228 Squadron operated on 10 days during the month, carrying out 11 long reconnaissances mainly to the north east of Malta, including one night naval co-operation patrol.  In addition, one search patrol for missing Swordfish was undertaken but was not successful.  Two communication flights were carried out by Sunderlands between Middle East and Gibraltar with passengers and mail.

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  B Company HQ moved from Chateau Bertrand to new premises on Imtarfa Hill.  Chateau Bertrand was handed over to the RAF.  The CO addressed officers and NCOs of the unit.  During the month air raids have only been intensive during the arrival of convoys.  New defence posts have been sited at Il Kella, Ghain Tuffieha village and St Paul’s Church.  Drastic economy has been made in the use of petrol.  Bathing parties walk and all buses have been stopped except for special services.  The unit has supplied fatigue parties to Targa Battery and Fort Mosta, unloading ammunition.  A junior NCOs course is in progress at Ghain Tuffieha camp.  Subjects covered consist of weapon training, section leading, map and compass work, etc.  A long-service decoration has been awarded to several members of the unit.  There has been a certain amount of flooding of beach posts due to bad drainage requiring the removal of personnel to temporary alternative accommodation.  The RAF petrol barge in St Paul’s Bay has been driven onto the rocks by rough seas. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  1630 hrs  Company take over of Rinella Sector complete.  During the month Maltese labour was employed alongside troops in constructing anti-aircraft posts around the aerodrome.  On each air raid alert these posts were manned by one NCO and two men.  Training for the inter-platoon fitness competition and route marches were carried out when possible.      

(1)  www.naval-history.net

 

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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in 1940, December 1940

 

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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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12 June 1940: Malta Takes Stock

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TROOPS SING “GOD SAVE THE KING” AS THEY MAN GUNS

The Times of Malta reports on the first day at war

Gunners at the ready

Gunners at the ready

Malta’s defenders are at a high pitch of efficiency and morale is strong among civilians and military alike, reports the Times of Malta today.  On the declaration of war by Italy on Monday evening, all personnel who were not at their posts were recalled to duty and Malta’s defences were fully manned with immediate effect.

According to the Times, when the first air raid sounded yesterday morning, anti-aircraft batteries opened fire against two formations of seven and three enemy aircraft.  As they directed their guns against the raiders, Maltese and English gunners were heard to sing ‘God Save the King’.

One of the targets in the first raid was Hal Far aerodrome, where the accuracy of bombing has given rise to suggestions that pilots had previous experience of flying commercial aircraft to Malta.  The second raid followed the same course of approach, then headed for the areas around Grand Harbour and Marsamxetto.  A crater examined following the raids suggests that bombs used were 250lbs.

Bombing ‘indiscriminate’ claims Vice Admiral Malta

The immediate imposition of air raids are a complete u-turn from Mussolini’s much publicised assertions that he would never bomb Malta, says The Times. The Vice Admiral Malta today reported to the Admiralty in London that at least some of the bombing yesterday was indiscriminate. He commented thatbBombing was apparently aimed at military objectives the first raid, but was indiscriminate on the other two.

Miraculous Escape

Workers removing debris from damaged buildings in Gzira today discovered two children in a room beneath piles of debris.  Remarkably, the children were unhurt but were very hungry.

AMERICAN CAR DRIVER SPREADS RUMOURS OF ARMISTICE

Military units across were placed on alert just before noon today after an American saloon car with a red registration plate 5261 was reported in the area of Marsaxlokk.  The car’s occupants were reportedly giving false information to Maltese citizens to the effect that Italy has declared an armistice with the British Government.  The vehicle is believed to have been one of a number engaged in circulating the false propaganda. 

It emerged later that rumours suggested that Italy had ceased fighting due to civil war at home.  Young Charles Grech of Sliema overheard the rumours in a local shop: “At about one o’clock in the afternoon, I happened to be at Tony’s Grocery…when there was a commotion in the street.  I heard drivers tooting their horns and people rejoicing.  A very excited woman entered the shop and shouted, ‘Italy has surrendered…Italy has surrendered.’”  (1)  At the same time a green lorry was also reported spreading rumours in the area of Wardia cross roads.  When approached, the lorry drove off in the direction of Mosta.  The vehicle was later stopped and the driver taken into police custody. 

Warnings were issued to all units and police stations to place road blocks across the Island in order to stop the vehicle.  At eight this evening it sped past the block at Ta Qali, refusing to stop.  Several vehicles were added to the watch list during the day, with the instruction that any civilians spreading false information were to be apprehended.  So far no further arrests have been made.

In a later unconnected incident, two RAF officers were challenged by an Infantry post after they stopped their saloon car to take photographs of the post.  After an investigation, it was established that the two officers had recently arrived and were not aware of proper procedures.  The film was removed from their camera and destroyed.

TROOPS ORDERED TO STAY PUT DURING RAIDS

Malta Infantry headquarters have issued orders for personnel to take up attack positions immediately on hearing the air raid alert, and to remain there until ‘raiders passed’, to avoid movement in the open during air raids.  The orders were issued following an incident during an air raid this morning in which troops moved out of their safe position in order to attack low flying aircraft, and suffered several casualties. 

Infantry face leave ban

All leave has been suspended for Infantry units on Malta today and until further notice.  The announcement from Malta Infantry Brigade was accompanied by procedures for the disposal of the dead during operations in Malta.  The message also informed all Battalions that, after the ‘Raiders Passed’ signal sounds, all normal work must resume.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 12 JUNE TO DAWN 13 JUNE 1940

Weather  Fine and warm. 

0820-0838 hrs  Air raid alert for a single enemy aircraft which approaches the Island at 12000 feet.  A bomb is dropped near Garghur, starting a fire.

0902 hrs  Air raid alert.  Two groups of three plus raiders are reported approaching the Island. 

0919 hrs  One formation of three aircraft is seen flying northwards over Naxxar. 

0932 hrs  Three Gladiator fighters take off, reaching 15000 feet.  The raiders circle 38 miles short of Malta and turn back for Sicily; no contact.

0943 hrs  All clear.  Sounds of gunfire are heard out to sea.

1000 hrs  B Coy, 2nd Bn Devonshire Regiment report an unexploded bomb near Tal Papa.

1630 hrs  Malta Infantry Brigade issues an alert for the impeding approach of British aircraft, which will be flying at relatively low altitude.   Units are told to hold fire until any approaching aircraft are identified.  The expected arrivals are three Hurricanes and one Hudson.

1820 hrs  Malta Infantry Brigade notifies all units that the British aircraft arrivals are cancelled.  Brigades are also informed that inshore patrols will no longer use navigation lights.

1930 hrs  Examination vessel Justified enters Marsaxlokk harbour.

0345 hrs  Units at San Pawl tat Targa report five shots from the direction of Rabat.  Initial investigations suggest they came from 2nd Bn Kings Own Malta Regt.

Military casualties  Chief Engine Room Artificer Charles J McLaughlin; Engine Room Artificer 1c James Tosh.

Civilian casualties  Cospicua  Lawrence Calafato, age 35; Carmel Camilleri, age 9; Joseph Facciol,age 23; Francis Fenech, age 33; Antonia Fenech, age 28; Saviour Fenech, age 8; Maria Fenech, age 6; Romeo Pace, age 35; Concetta Scicluna, age 24.  Gzira  Arthur Brooks, age 18; John Gatt, age 24.  Paola  Joseph(ine) Camilleri, age 24.  Pieta  Antonia Farrugia, age 25; Antonio Farrugia, age 5; Joseph Farrugia, age 4; Josephine Mangon, age 4.  Sliema  M’Assunta Borg, age 48; Victor German, age 17.  Zabbar  Joseph Facciol, age 23.

OPERATIONS REPORTS WEDNESDAY 12 JUNE 1940

ROYAL NAVY  COTS Malta reports several enemy submarines at sea; positions unknown.

KALAFRANA  LAC G Simon (N/Ord Hal Far) transferred to Military Hospital, Imtarfa with sandfly fever.  Station appointments as of 11 June 1940: CO W/Cdr W D J Michie; Admin/Station Defence Officer S/Ldr P Alderton; Chief Engineer Officer S/Ldr H Hipwood; Senior Equipment Officer S/Ldr A Harbot; Senior Accountant Officer S/Ldr W N Hibbert; Senior Medical Officer S/Ldr R L Soper; Chaplain Rev A C Gates; Adjutant F/Lt A G F Cuningham; Station Signals Officer F/Lt L Avery; Marine Craft Officer F/Lt E W T Hardie; Dental Officer F/Lt I StC Alderdice; Deputy Station Defence Officer F/O W R Hardeman; Engineer Officer & Station Intelligence Officer F/O G A V Collins; Engineer Officer attached Hal Far F/O E G Clarke; Medical Officer F/O F T Moore; Signals F/O R V Piddick; Admin F/O J G Long & F/O C S Twist; Flying detached Hal Far F/O J E Jordan; Pilots London aircraft attached from 202 Squadron F/O D C Minchinton & P/O J Bradley.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  L/Sgt King and three Other Ranks detailed to dig for unexploded bomb  at Sliema.

ROYAL ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS: Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported: 1 HE 250lb Sliema: digging commenced under Lt Eastman.. Dealt with: 1 Della Grazia, 1 HE 250lb Sliema. 

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT Luqa  All available troops sandbagging shelters and cutting telegraph poles for aerodrome defence.

(1) Source  Raiders Passed, Charles B Grech, Midsea Books 1998

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Posted by on June 12, 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

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

 

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