In preparation for Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily during World War II, troops from all parts of the British Empire began arriving in Malta and dispersed in various parts of the island, including Mellieħa.

Operation Husky started during the night of July 9-10, 1943, when British and US paratroopers were dropped near the predicted invasion beaches. Then, just before sunrise on July 10, Allied armies disembarked on the beaches of southeastern Sicily.

The Sicilian campaign came to an end on August 17, 1943, with the arrival of troops of the British Eighth Army in Messina, after the Axis powers had evacuated every possible military personnel and war material.

Both before and during the invasion, the soldiers conducted training every day, which often caused damage to farmers. The following are some of the reports of damage filed by farmers, as well as other incidents that occurred in the Mellieħa area during this period.

Map of Operation Husky. Source: https://www.spunt.mt/post/operation-husky-how-the-liberation-of-europe-was-launched-from-malta

Map of Operation Husky. Source: https://www.spunt.mt/post/operation-husky-how-the-liberation-of-europe-was-launched-from-malta

Map of the Invasion of Sicily operations. Source: https://www.naval-history.net/WW2RN17-194306.htm

Map of the Invasion of Sicily operations. Source: https://www.naval-history.net/WW2RN17-194306.htm

On July 8, Mary Vella, aged 76, reported that, on July 3, at about 3.20pm, while Royal Marine PO/X 104265 L. Blyton of ‘H’ Battery stationed at St Paul’s Bay was driving an AEC Matador artillery tractor no. 4133476, on turning into Sixth Street, Mellieħa, he hit the corner of premises no. 13, Sixth Street, causing £2.10/- worth of damages to the stonework.

A day later, on July 9, a report was made that an accident had occurred on July 6 at 9am. While LX 21805 PO Alfred Laring, RN, stationed at No. 38 Naval Camp, Għajn Tuffieħa, was driving military vehicle no. 4922110 through Contrada Manikata, proceeding to Għajn Żnuber, on turning a sharp corner he accidently hit a wooden hut and damaged foodstuffs and killed a hen, valued at £4, to the detriment of Pasqual Galea, 42, of no. 14, Manikata Road.

From enquires made, it resulted that Laring was driving uphill and on the proper side of the road and at a regular speed. Galea had requested that no further action be taken because the naval authorities had erected a new wooden hut for him and he had also been paid for the damages.

Barges practising disembarking of troops at Paradise Bay before the invasion. Photo: National War Museum Archives

Barges practising disembarking of troops at Paradise Bay before the invasion. Photo: National War Museum Archives

A British soldier reads up on Sicily before the invasion of the island on July 10, 1943. Photo: Imperial War Museum

A British soldier reads up on Sicily before the invasion of the island on July 10, 1943. Photo: Imperial War Museum

On July 11, Saviour Caruana, 47, reported that, during the previous fortnight, gunners from RA Troops No. 1 Camp stationed at Għadira, while on training, entered his field at l-Għadira and removed rubble walls and caused damages to his cauliflowers and turnips.

That same day, Vincent Vella, 61, reported that, during the previous days, troops from No. 4 Camp of the Royal Marines stationed at Selmun, while on training, entered his field at Selmun, causing damages by demolishing the rubble walls and removed the soil. He claimed £15 compensation.

Giomaria Gauci, 70, reported that, during the previous fortnight, Royal Marines of Troops No. 1 Camp had entered his field at Marfa while training and caused £11 worth of damages to grapes and vines.

Fields at Mellieħa Bay. Photo: Author’s collection

Fields at Mellieħa Bay. Photo: Author’s collection

Fields at L-Aħrax. Photo: Author’s collection

Fields at L-Aħrax. Photo: Author’s collection

Vincent Debono, 67, reported that, during the previous 10 days, Royal Marines, Troops of No. 1 Camp, stationed at l-Aħrax, caused damages to tomato plants, rubble walls and the door of his private shelter, situated at Għar Bakrat. Moreover, they removed the wooden beds and mattresses. He claimed £5 compensation.

On July 19 at about 1pm, eight men were seen bailing out of a United States Army Air Force aircraft over Mellieħa after presumably having engine trouble. They were taken in charge by soldiers of the 1st Battalion, King’s Own Malta Regiment (KOMR) and conveyed to the 39th General Hospital at Mellieħa Bay, assisted by the police.

It seems the only US aircraft lost on this day in Malta was a Consolidated B-24D Liberator Ten High of the 564th Bomb Squadron/389th Bombardment Group but its pilot, Lieutenant Ben Walsh, and nine crew members survived. However, according to the Police Occurrence, eight, not 10 crew members were recovered.

A B-24 Liberator in desert camouflage at RAF Luqa. Photo: R.J. Caruana collection at National War Museum ArchivesA B-24 Liberator in desert camouflage at RAF Luqa. Photo: R.J. Caruana collection at National War Museum Archives

It was reported that at 1.02pm, RAF A/S rescue launches HSL107, HSL2598 and ST280 were called out to search for the crew who reportedly jumped with parachutes from the damaged Flying Fortress bomber off Gozo’s coast. The launches spent many hours searching but it was only HSL2598 that returned back to base with a crew member. From these two reports it is unclear what happened to the 10th crew member. Maybe the crew member fell into the sea and was picked up from another place, possibly from Gozo.

At about 4pm on July 27, Anthony Vella, 40, was sitting on a stone behind a public shelter on the Mellieħa-Marfa Road, at the curve before reaching Mellieħa Bay, with his left foot stretched outside the corner of the shelter on the road.

A search for a deserter was conducted in premises No. 106, Parish Street, Mellieħa, but he was not found

Meanwhile, military truck L4717029, attached to CRE, North No. 9, was coming downhill from Mellieħa towards L-Għadira loaded with building material, driven by Palestinian No. 31998 Szalat of No. 178, General Transport Company, RAOC, on the proper side of the road and at a speed of about 10mph, and the left rear wheel of the truck passed over and injured Vella’s leg. On hearing shouting, Szalat stopped the truck suddenly and alighted from his seat to see what had happened and found Vella injured. He duly placed him on the truck and conveyed him to the 39th General Hospital, where Vella was attended to by the orderly medical officer and later moved to Vincenzo Bugeja Hospital, Ħamrun, for further treatment.

An AEC Matador towing a large field gun descending a narrow winding road in Sicily. Photo: Imperial War Museum

An AEC Matador towing a large field gun descending a narrow winding road in Sicily. Photo: Imperial War Museum

A convoy of military transport in North Africa. Military transport such as these trucks must have been common in Malta at this time. Photo: Imperial War Museum

A convoy of military transport in North Africa. Military transport such as these trucks must have been common in Malta at this time. Photo: Imperial War Museum

From enquiries made. it resulted that before and on turning the corner where the shelter was situated, Szalat repeatedly sounded the horn as the road was very narrow and the truck was coming from the opposite direction. It also resulted that, as the steering wheel of the truck was on the right-hand side and Szalat could not notice Vella’s foot projecting from behind the shelter on to the road and as Vella’s left foot was lame, he could not draw it backwards when he heard the sound of the horn of the approaching truck.

On August 2, Anthony Grech, 50, reported, that during the previous eight days, gunners of the Searchlight Battery, RA, of No. 2 Camp, while on training, caused damages to walls and removed the soil from his field situated at l-Aħrax tal-Barriera.

A drawing by the author of typical tents mounted by the soldiers stationed at Mellieħa. Photo: Author’s collection

A drawing by the author of typical tents mounted by the soldiers stationed at Mellieħa. Photo: Author’s collection

A tent platform at Xagħra ta’ Għekek. In the background a pillbox can also be seen. Photo: Author’s collection

A tent platform at Xagħra ta’ Għekek. In the background a pillbox can also be seen. Photo: Author’s collection

The four areas of the camps. Photo: Author’s collection

The four areas of the camps. Photo: Author’s collection

A tent platform at Selmun. Photo: Author's collection

A tent platform at Selmun. Photo: Author's collection

On August 16, Saviour Caruana, 47, reported that, during the previous fortnight, soldiers of the ‘A’ Company, Cheshire Regiment, stationed at Għadira, caused damages to vines and grapes in his field at Għadira.

A member of the Basuto Company. Photo: National ArchivesA member of the Basuto Company. Photo: National Archives

On the same day, a search for a deserter, No. 884839, Gunner Birchall, 26th Defence Battery, RA, was conducted in premises No. 106, Parish Street, Mellieħa but he was not found.

Joseph Borg, 47, reported that gunners of the 12th Field Regiment, RA, while on training, entered his field at It-Torri l-Abjad and caused damages to his watermelons.

Flight Lieutenant N. Glew, stationed at RAF Qrendi, reported that, on August 11, he found two photographic cameras missing from his car while it was parked and left unattended near the Riviera Hotel at Għajn Tuffieħa. One was a No. 35 Kodak Make and the other a Zeiss Ikon, both in a black leather case and valued about £35. Subsequent enquiries and investigations proved futile.

 

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to thank the staff of the National Archives for their assistance during his research.

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