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Heaviest bombing raid on Malta yet

Bomb damage to the motor transport depot of 32nd Company, Royal Army Service Corps at Floriana, 20 March 1942.
The Luftwaffe and the Regia Aeronautica Italiana now began stepping up their bombing attacks on British occupied Malta.

The island lies at the crossroads of the Mediterranean. It was ideally placed for launching attacks on the supply route to the Afrika Korps in Libya – provided the island base itself could be defended. As it lay between British bases of Gibraltar, 1000 miles to the west, and Alexandria, 1000 miles to the east, keeping the the island supplied was turning into a major challenge for both the Royal Navy and the RAF. Malta rapidly became ‘the most bombed place on earth’ over the next few weeks as the struggle intensified. Daily progress of the campaign can be followed at Malta GC at 70. For more background see feature on Malta bombing.


The enemy attacks on the island and shipping in the vicinity were on a very heavy scale, involving approximately 940 sorties. This is at least 60 per cent, in excess of the total for the previous week.

The heaviest attack which has yet been delivered against Malta was made on the 21st March, when Takali aerodrome was the main objective. A mixed force of nearly 220 enemy aircraft participated in this raid, and great devastation was caused among buildings, and a reservoir was destroyed. During the day small reinforcements of Spitfires and Blenheims reached the island.

During the air attacks on our shipping [a resupply convoy] the limited force of Spitfires and Hurricanes available was continuously in action. In one of these attacks by 30 Ju. 88s heavily escorted by fighters, our fighters either destroyed or seriously damaged 16 of the attackers.

Other targets attacked during the week were Halfar, Luqa, Grand Harbour and the submarine bases. Considerable damage to property resulted and there were a number of service and civilian casualties. Fourteen of our aircraft were destroyed on the ground and 34 others were damaged.

In all a total of thirty-one enemy aircraft were shot down and a greater number damaged. Nearly half of these enemy casualties were caused by A.A. fire.

From the Air Situation Report for the week as reported to the British War Cabinet, see TNA CAB66/23/16

Somewhat belatedly the decision had been made to re-enforce Malta with Spitfires, to augment the ageing Hurricanes. This meant conveying them on aircraft carriers as far eastwards as possible in the Mediterranean and then launching them with long range tanks for the flight over the sea to Malta. Fifteen Spitfires had successfully flown from HMS Eagle on 7th March and a further nine left on 21st March as part of Operation Picket.

Operation PICKET I: RAF pilots walk towards their aircraft on the flight deck of HMS EAGLE after receiving their final instructions, before flying a reinforcement of nine Supermarine Spitfires to Ta Kali, Malta.
Operation PICKET I: Supermarine Spitfire Mark VB(T), BP844, the first of a further nine Spitfires to reinforce the RAF on Malta, taking off from the flight deck of HMS EAGLE with Squadron Leader E J "Jumbo" Gracie at the controls. Behind him, the other aircraft await their turn. These Spitfires, equipped with 90-gallon ferry drop tanks, flew to Ta Kali to re-equip No. 126 Squadron RAF, which Gracie was to command. BP844 was shot down over Malta, with the loss of its pilot, on 2 April 1942.

3 thoughts on “Heaviest bombing raid on Malta yet”

  1. Thank you for the link to the MaltaGC at 70 blog, which will provide many hours of interest, I’m sure.

    The immediate thing that strikes me about the March 20th post is the apparent lightness of bombs that constitutes a heavy bombing. A raid that lasted continuously for five hours saw 1800 lbs of high explosive dropped, which works out at 360 lbs an hour.

    I am not for one moment belittling the experience, nor have I any concept of what an explosion of one pound of high explosive can do, having never seen an explosion bigger than a firework. But 1800 lbs is about what a single Heinkel 111 was capable of carrying. And in indiscriminate bombing, they could release their entire cargo within a few seconds. It does seem to suggest small numbers of aeroplanes circling and releasing bombs periodically, intended to terrorise and disrupt as much as to cause damage. And also, that the islands were largely defenceless.

  2. looking to find any details of a 1942 german squadron leader..named Otto Wviner..( not sure if spelt correctly)…who i think crash landed in Malta in WW2…I have a fob watch given to me by my late grandfather with his name and description…CAM 10…
    URUSINGER..GERMANY SQUADRON LEADER ..STUCAS…trying to locate any details of his family or person..named on watch?

    Can you help?

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