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5 April 1942: Rocket Bombs Hit Valletta

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Bombs on Floriana 5 April 1942 (NWMA Malta)

  • 176 bombers attack
  • 280 tons of bombs in four raids
  • Main targets: Dockyard, Valletta and Floriana
  • Five ships damaged

UXB CONFIRMS RETURN OF ROCKET BOMB TO MALTA 

“St Clements Bastion, bomb unit of rocket bomb; fuze recovered”  RE Bomb Disposal 5th April 1942 (1)

The first ‘Rocket Bombs’ recorded in World War II were dropped on Malta in January 1942 when RE Bomb Disposal were called to deal with an unusual UXB in Floriana. Their report to the War Office in London detailed a new and deadly weapon: a heavily-armoured 500kg bomb, made even more powerful by the addition of rocket propulsion.  The extra thrust was designed to aid the bomb’s penetration of warships and fortifications.

In the air the bombs were a terrifying sight, trailing flames several yards long as they fell.  The reintroduction of these bombs against Malta shows the Luftwaffe’s increasing determination to maximise destruction of all targets.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 5 APRIL TO DAWN 6 APRIL 1942

Weather  Wind northerly: slight haze.

0750 hrs  23 JU 88s and JU 87s attack the Dockyard and Floriana, dropping heavy high explosive bombs, including Rocket bombs.  The Victualling Yard is further damaged, another explosion blocks the tunnel leading to No 11 Shelter.  The Cooperage store and houses collapse.  Pinto Wharf and Filippo Sciberras Square in Floriana are hit; the popular First and Last Bar disappears.

1122 hrs  53 enemy aircraft come in from the north and drop bombs on the Dockyard area.  A near miss at the north end of Bakery Wharf causes serious subsidence.  Police Quarters, 27 Store and GD Station are rendered unsafe.  Bombs explode on Store Wharf, the Yard Machinery Shop and another tunnel.  A large bomb hits the side of No 2 Dock puncturing the caisson and flooding the dock.  Two large bombs hit No 1 Boiler Shop and Gunmounting Wharf, which is left with a 20 foot crater.  A large number of bombs land on the Dockyard School area: Corrodino Gate is hit and almost every road is blocked.  A large unexploded bomb is reported near Zabbar Gate.

1145 hrs  Three aircraft drop bombs on Hal Far.  They are engaged by five guns of 225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA): no claims.

1215 hrs  All clear.

1410 hrs  Four Spitfires 126 Squadron are scrambled to intercept large formations of JU 88s, JU 87s and ME 109s.  The Spitfires make individual attacks:  F/L Johnston probably destroys one ME 109; P/O Putman destroys one JU 88.  P/O Bisley destroys one JU 87 and damages one JU 88 before he is jumped by six ME 109s.  He is injured in the legs and hand, and lands at Ta Qali with his wheels up, from where he is taken to hospital.

1415 hrs  While 30 ME 109s patrol the Island, 40 JU 88s and 12 JU 87s attack the Grand Harbour area, dropping bombs on the Dockyard, Valletta and Floriana, where the Capuchins Friary is almost completely destroyed, killing two.  Bombs also hit St Francis Street, the Granaries (St Publius Square), The Seminary, Great Siege Road and Pinto Wharf.  Several civilians are injured.  Heavy Ack Ack engage: claim one JU 87 probably destroyed.

1426 hrs  Four ME 109 fighter bombers approach Hal Far from the south.  Two drop bombs causing craters on the aerodrome.  Two are engaged by four guns of 225 LAA Bty: no claims.

1705 hrs  28 JU 88s attack Grand Harbour.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack engage.  Two JU 88s are destroyed and one ME 109 damaged by Light Ack Ack.

1745 hrs  Six ME 109 fighter bombers attack Ta Qali but miss the runway.  Two others are engaged by one gun of 225 LAA Bty: no claim.

2053; 2119 hrs  One enemy aircraft each time approaches from the north and drops bombs in the sea.

2337-0010 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops bombs in the sea south of the Island as well as other objects which drop more slowly.

0302-0418 hrs  Two aircraft approach from the north: one drops HE and incendiary bombs on Luqa and Gudja, the other drops bombs in the sea.

0513-0605 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north and drops incendiaries on the Rabat and Ta Qali area.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Frederick Barr, HMS Kingston; Thomas Lee, Telegraphist, HMS Kingston; Able Seaman Reginald Prince, HMS Kingston; Ordinary Seaman Stanley Sellers, HMS Kingston; Able Seaman John Taylor, HMS Kingston; Able Seaman Stanley Wilson, HMS Kingston; Able Seaman Frederick Eager, HMS Penelope; Sergeant John Hawkins, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (VR); Pilot Officer Hugh McKee, Royal Canadian Air Force; Pilot Officer Edmund Smith, Royal New Zealand Air Force; Sergeant Kenneth Thomas, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, Royal Air Force (VR).

Civilian casualties  Cospicua  Carmela Montague, age 33; Daniel Montague, age 13; Joseph Montague, age 11; Mary Montague, age 8.  Floriana  Antonia Attard, age 50; Joseph Borg, age 70.  Hamrun  Augustine Balzan, age 16; Marianna Borda, age 77; Frances Borg, age 40; Fr Clement Cauchi, age 67; Joseph Farrugia, age 48; Emanuel Grima, age 15; Concetta Sultana, age 6.  Marsa  Paul D’Amato, age 77.  Msida  Joseph Abela.  Rabat  Anthony Camilleri, age 42.  Tarxien  Mary Bonnello, age 11; Amadeo Micallef, age 44.  Valletta  Philip Camilleri, age 64.  Zebbug  Alfred Barbara, age 27.  Zejtun  Angelo Agius, age 29; Dolores Busuttil, age 2.

OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 5 APRIL 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Havock sailed at 2000 hrs and ran ashore off Kelibia, being subsequently destroyed by her own crew at 0400 hrs on 6th April.  During raids on Grand Harbour, Abingdon and Gallant were damaged and beached.  Lance received a direct hit while in dock and was blown off the chocks and partially submerged.  Kingston and Plumleaf were also hit and damaged.

AIR HQ  Wellington crashed taking off: crew and passengers unhurt.  Two Wellingtons crash-landed: crews unhurt.  One Beaufort crashed in flames at Luqa: no survivors.  One Beaufort missing: no further news.  

Arrivals  One Beaufighter, three Blenheims, three Wellingtons, two Hudsons, one Beaufort from Gibraltar.  Departures  Three Wellingtons to 108 MU; two Beauforts to Sidi Barrani.

LUQA  1040-1357 hrs  One Spitfire 69 Squadron on photo-reconnaissance Tripoli railway-Gabes.

TA QALI  No night operations.

1st BN THE CHESHIRE REGIMENT  1200 hrs  Work on Pampas cut down to one Officer, 30 OR, 1200-2000 hrs.  Private J Firman injured at RT shed: admitted to hospital.

1st BN THE DORSETSHIRE REGIMENT  4 seater car, motor cycle and fitters shop demolished by bombs at Dockyard School.

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  A and E and part of HQ Companies on Ta Qali aerodrome.  C & D Companies to commence training on 6th.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bombs on Casemate Bks causing damage to WOs & Sgts Mess.- no casualties.  Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 14; dealt with 4 (2 x 500kg; 2 x 250kg) not including anti-personnel bombs and incendiaries.

8TH BN THE  KINGS OWN ROYAL REGIMENT Working party of 200 Other Ranks and 3 Officers building protective walls for aircraft at Hal Far.

2ND BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT Sgt Ellis wounded by enemy action at St George’s Barracks: taken to 45 General Hospital.

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

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

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Posted by on April 5, 2017 in 1942, April 1942

 

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26 March 1942: Malta’s Most Intense Raid to Date – Floriana a Furnace

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“Never during the War years was I overtaken by fear more than on the night of the 26th March 1942” (1)

  • Massed air raids on shipping in Grand Harbour
  • Plumleaf, Talabot, Pampas hit as well as Sliema Ferry
  • Breconshire hit again – on fire amidships
  • Targets outside harbour badly damaged – Marsa HAA gun position hit
  • Four JU 88s and three JU 87s destroyed; many more damaged
Talabot is hit (NWMA Malta)

Talabot is hit (NWMA Malta)

LUFTWAFFE PINPOINT BOMBING DESTROYS SHIPS IN GRAND HARBOUR

For nearly six hours today, 120 enemy bombers accompanied by massed fighters attacked in wave after wave, dropping over 350 high explosive (HE) bombs of 250kg and 500kg on ships, docks and gun positions in Grand Harbour and 40 more on Breconshire in Marsaxlokk Bay.

“Unfortunately on this day the German Air Force achieved a degree of accuracy with their bombing which they had never attained either before or since.  Talabot, Pampas and Plumleaf were all hit in a single raid and in the evening Breconshire too was hit and set on fire.

By the evening with Legion sunk, Penelope badly damaged and a large part of the small craft in the harbour sunk or out of action from near misses it was felt that there was little further injury that the enemy could do…Talabot which caught fire and blazed furiously as a result of her hit, had to be scuttled to avoid her cargo of ammunition exploding.  All her holds were flooded and the ship was aground with her gunwale just above water…” (2)

FLORIANA IS A FURNACE

“The odds were that the Talabot with considerable ammunition in its holds would, at any time, explode and damage would have been terrific.  The tragic situation was communicated to us in Floriana with strict instructions to evacuate all in Floriana residing in …the part overlooking the Grand Harbour where the Talabot was anchored.

At sunset Floriana became immersed in a reddish glow, deepening into an inferno-like colour as night set in.  All the surrounding areas in the Grand Harbour assumed a reddish incandescence: the skies were red, the sea was red; red prevailed everywhere – such a scene was never witnessed before.  In the meantime flames were still belching from the Talabot, uncontrolled, and presaging doom.  Floriana looked like a furnace!

As soon as orders for evacuation reached us we [advised] the people to leave their houses and their shelters, move to the northern area and use what shelter space was available.  Many obeyed; others did not as they preferred to watch the flaming scene from vantage points without realising the danger they were exposing themselves to, should the ship explode and blow up vast areas in Valletta, Floriana, Marsa and the three cities.” (1)

“Pampas” ablaze (NWMA Malta)

Desperate attempts to unload the two merchant ships, Talabot and Pampas, were hampered by conditions in the harbour and the constant heavy bombing of ships, docks and salvage equipment.  By the end of today, of the convoy escort which accompanied the supply ships to Malta, HM Ships Legion and Southwold were sunk, Kingston further damaged by bombs and Penelope has serious structural damage from near misses.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 26 MARCH TO DAWN 27 MARCH 1942

Weather  Wind south; 100% low cloud.

0700 hrs  One aircraft approaches from the north east but recedes before crossing the coast.

1022-1610 hrs  68 enemy aircraft – JU 87s, JU 88s and ME 109s – attack Grand Harbour.  Fighters destroy two JU 87s and two JU 88s, and damage one JU 87 and three JU 88.  One JU 88 is shot down in south Comino Channel and four German prisoners are captured in Gozo.  Ack Ack destroy one JU 88.

1210 hrs  S/L Gracie leading six Spitfires from Luqa attacks a JU 88 and sees strikes.  He himself is them jumped and his aircraft is damaged.  P/O Ormerod in a Hurricane chases a JU 88 through the barrage; his aircraft is damaged and he returns to Luqa.

1230 hrs  Talabot is hit by a 500kg bomb which explodes in the engine room, which starts to fill with oil; a large fire breaks out.  Firefighters and crew of other ships join the efforts to control the blaze while enemy bombs continue to fall close to the ship.  Both pumps in No 2 fire float and one in No 1 float are put out of action by the near miss.

Plumleaf at Parlatorio receives a direct hit and is sunk.  Tug West Cocker at Boiler Wharf is damaged and starts taking water. Front walls and doors in B and C Yards, Marsa are demolished with some damage to lighters.

High explosive bombs hit dockyard buildings and wharves.  The verandah and structure of 10-14 Stores on Stores Wharf and No 2 Caisson are damaged; the south end of No 8 Store demolished.  The north end of Hamilton Wharf is badly shaken. No 3 Boiler Shop entrance doors and offices are smashed by blast. Crane No 623 and  2/3 Dock Pumping Station are damaged. Explosions cause a large crater in front of No 1 Boiler Shop and others on Canteen Wharf and the Scrap Ground.

1335 hrs  Four Spitfires are scrambled from Luqa.  Sgt Brennan damages a JU 88.

1400 hrs  A stick of bombs falls close to PampasLuqa Spitfire P/O McNair gets on its tail and despatches it.  F/L Johnston damages two JU 87s – both probably destroyed.  F/L Connell severely damages a JU 87 and a JU 88.  P/O McNair destroys a JU 88.

1430 hrs  A 500kg bomb falls down the funnel of Pampas and explodes, flooding the engine room and starting a fire amidships.

1550 hrs  The drowned body of German pilot Winkler is discovered by 3rd Bn Kings Own Malta Regiment, washed ashore near Wied Zurrieq.  They also find some naval garments washed ashore at Wied Zurrieq and Ghar Lapsi.

Six Hurricanes from Hal Far are airborne to intercept a formation of JU 88s and JU 87s.  Hurricanes attack the bombers over Kalafrana and later over Grand Harbour.  Sgt Steele (cannon) accounts for one JU 88.  Sgt Broad hits two JU 88s.  F/Sgt Fletcher scores hits on two JU 88s, one ME 109 and one JU 87.

1632 hrs  A raid in three waves:  50 JU 88s drop bombs on Grand Harbour: Penelope is near missed and flooded forward; tug Ancient is hit and beached; submarine P39’s back is broken;  Sokol is near missed; Legion sunk; Avonvale hit (damage not very serious).

10 JU 88s attack Breconshire in Marsaxlokk Bay.  The ship is hit, causing a fire on board.  Fighters and Ack Ack engage.  Heavy and Light Ack Ack destroy one JU 87 and two JU 88s, and damage others.

1725 hrs  F/L Connell (Ta Qali) damages a JU 88.  Sgt Brennan damages a JU 88.

1730 hrs  225 Light Ack Ack Battery (LAA) engage two JU 88s: one hit claimed.  Post SA4 of 1st Bn Dorsetshire Regt engages two JU 88s, expending two magazines.

1740 hrs  225 LAA engage three JU 88s: one gun claims four hits.  One gun and personnel transfers to the Nigret area.

1750 hrs  P/O McNair (Ta Qali) damages two JU 88s.

1808 hrs  Bombs land near Fort Ta Silch.

1815 hrs  Bombs are dropped near Hamria.

1915-1930 hrs  An enemy flying boat carries out rescue work to the north of the Island.

2230 hrs  Enemy boats are reported 12 miles south east of the Island.  Beach Companies are warned to keep a strict look-out.

Night 26/27th  No enemy aircraft activity although E Boats are plotted off E coast of the Island. The fire on Talabot is contained but the blaze on Breconshire is getting out of control.

Military casualties  Able Seaman Alfred Keylock, Mentioned in Despatches, HMS Avonvale; Able Seaman Albert Bowman, HMS Avondale; Able Seaman James Warwick, HMS Legion; Able Seaman Ernest Lynch, HMS Avonvale.

Civilian casualties  Balzan  Valent Sammut, age 33.  Mosta  Alfred St John, age 2.  Sliema  Carmel Coppola, age 50; Doris Coppola, age 17; Herman Mifsud, age 42.  St Paul’s Bay  Rita Vella, age 6.

Enemy casualties  Paul Winkler.

OPERATIONS REPORTS THURSDAY 26 MARCH 1942

ROYAL NAVY  Upholder  returned from patrol, having sunk a U boat and trawler off Brindisi and missed a battleship off Taranto owing to very heavy weather and zig-zag on firing.

AIR HQ  Departures  Five Beaufighters, two Blenheims, eight Wellingtons to 108 MU; one Wellington to Shalufa.

HAL FAR  828 and 830 Squadrons amalgamated as Naval Air Squadron, Malta on instructions from Vice Admiral Malta, pending Admiralty confirmation.  PM  One Albacore on shipping search.  Nothing sighted.

LUQA  0753-1545 hrs  One Maryland 69 Squadron special search.

TA QALI  No night operations. 

1ST BN THE DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY  A Company proceeds from Boschetto Gardens to camp at the Pumping Station between Rabat and Dingli.

2ND BN THE ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS  CO attends funeral of SSO1.

8TH BN THE MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Working party at Ta Qali aerodrome.

2ND BN THE ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A and B Companies changed over: A Company to Marsa, B Company to Luqa.  Private Ryan wounded at Luqa by enemy action.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS Bomb Disposal UXB  Reported 22.

(1) Floriana in Wartime, Emanuel S Tonna, Malta 1969

(2)  War Diary, Vice Admiral Malta, March 1942

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

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2017 in 1942, March 1942, Uncategorized

 

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11 March 1941: Bombs on Sliema Kill 21 Civilians and Injure 16

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RFA Plumleaf (3)

RFA Plumleaf (3)

CIVILIANS PERISH TRYING TO ENTER BUSY SHELTER

21 civilians were killed and another 36 injured tonight when high explosive bombs struck St Rita Street in the residential district of Sliema. Many of the victims were caught in the narrow street as they desperately tried to enter an overcrowded shelter.  Ten houses were completely demolished and 25 others badly damaged in the blast.  Some 70 people were rendered homeless and had to be accommodated at the Sliema ARP Centre and the Blue Sisters Hospital. 

Young Charles Grech was talking with friends outside his local shelter: “…we heard a terrible screech.   ‘Falling bombs!’ somebody shouted and there was a general rush to the friary door and down to the shelter which was already full of people.  Somebody had tripped on the top of the stairs and fallen down and this added to the confusion.  When the explosion came, somebody panicked and tried to close the front door of the friary.   I found myself face down on the ground with the crowd treading over me.  The coat I was wearing was torn…More people who had remained at home started arriving when they heard the explosion but they could not enter the friary, as it was full up…” (1)

After the raid local residents rushed to St Rita Street. One described later what he saw:  “It all appeared to me to be a dream or rather a nightmare and all I could think of was the absolutely unreal inhumanity of it all. The bright moonlight bathed the scene of utter devastation, the acrid reek of explosive filled the cool night air.  The uncanny silence was broken only by muffled groans and long drawn sighs.” (2)

The bombing was part of an unusually heavy raid on the coast west of Marsamxett Harbour which has escaped attack in recent weeks. Residents became concerned earlier today when Plumleaf was towed into Sliema Creek, the first vessel to be berthed there since HMS Terror left for North Africa last November.

AIR RAIDS DAWN 11 MARCH TO DAWN 12 MARCH 1941

Weather  Fine.

1020-1100 hrs  Air raid alert for five enemy formations approaching the Island from the direction of Comiso. Identified as ME 109 fighters, they remain at 5 miles’ distance.  They are believed to be standing by to draw the fire of Hurricanes while reconnaissance is carried out.  Eight Hurricanes are scrambled; no engagement.

1220-1242 hrs  Air raid alert; for enemy aircraft approaching from the direction of Comiso. One JU 88 bomber crosses the Island at 23000 feet on reconnaissance.   Anti-aircraft guns engage; no claims.

1630 hrs Two enemy aircraft are picked up by RDF heading northwards some 20 miles from the coast of Malta. Their speed suggests JU 52 transport planes.  Seven Malta Hurricanes are despatched to intercept but the enemy turn away out of tracking range.

2210-2259 hrs  Air raid alert for seven to ten enemy aircraft which approach and carry out a concerted attack at various points. One high explosive bomb on Msida scores a direct hit on a torpedo depot, seriously damaging an entire block.  Another explodes near a defensive position at St George’s, causing some blast damage.  Bombs on Sliema demolish 10 houses and damage 25 others.  21 civilians are killed and 36 injured.  Bombs are also dropped in the sea off Delimara, Kalafrana, Hal Far, Tigne and St Julians, and on land north east of Ta Qali.  Searchlights illuminate one Heinkel HE 111. A Malta night fighter engages, damaging one raider.

0135-0155 hrs  Air raid alert; raid does not materialise.

Military casualties  Aircraftsman J Azzopardi, Royal Air Force (VR); Gunner Saviour Borg, 2AA Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery.

Civilian casualties  Sliema  Giovanni Borg, age 24; Saverio Borg, age 20; Giuseppe Borg, age 13; Emmanuel Buttigieg, age 40; Anthony Buttigiege, age 30; James Churchill, age 50; James Henry Churchill, age 9; Dorothy Churchill, age 4; George Churchill, age 6 weeks; Andrea Degiovanni, age 43; Doris (Dolores) Calleja, age 17; Annie Farrugia, age 67; Mary Grech, age 18; Alex Grech, age 15; Annie Grech, age 11; Teresa Grech, age 3; Aneglo Saliba, age 16; Nazarreno Scicluna, age 50; John Scicluna, age 44; Benedict Scicluna, age 17; Dolores (Doris) Zahra, age 60.

OPERATIONS REPORTS TUESDAY 11 MARCH 1941

ROYAL NAVY  830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm  Five Swordfish on anti-convoy patrol of Tripoli Harbour; all returned safely.

AIR HQ  Departures 2 Sunderlands.

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Gibraltar with passengers and freight. One Sunderland left for Middle East with Air Officer Commanding and other passengers.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1; dealt with 4 (1 x 200kg;3 x 500kg).

8th Bn MANCHESTER REGIMENT  Evening stand-to altered to 1900-2000 hrs; morning stand-to altered to 0600-0700 hrs.

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  A mine on the beach in the Rinella sector was exploded by the Royal Navy mine disposal unit.

(1) Raiders Passed, Charles B Grech (translated by Joseph Galea Debono) Midsea Books 1998

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

(3) Royal Fleet Auxiliary Historical Society

 

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

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2016 in 1941, March 1941

 

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