Part of the Acorn Archive
Hearts of Oak
Dad’s Diary 1941
Transcribed by Sue Twyman
proud daughter of
Lt Philip Bray R.N. [1912 –1988]
January 1942 February 1942
January 3rd 1942
Had a raid at 10 this morning, bombs dropped on the airfield at Luga.
we shot one fighter down in this raid. Another dive bombing raid at noon, bombs, but none close—we shot 2 bombers and 1 fighter down. 2 Hurricanes also crashed.
Another dive bombing raid at 4 and at 5pm.
It feels so awful that each time we are the target, I hardly dare think of what will happen, should a bomb hit us while we are propped up in dock like this, we should all lose our lives!
I am a bag of nerves now, and tremble at the least sound like a bang, and I know it will take a long time to get over it. How I pray I’m alright when I go home.
Had another raid at 7pm and it turned into a blitz. We have fired our guns all day long, and we shall soon be out of ammunition.
The BBC has just announced the loss of our two sister ships the night we were mined—the Neptune and the Kandahar. They have taken a long time to let the people know!
January 4th 1942
During the night we had a nasty air raid and at 5 in the morning, 3 bombs dropped very close to us, and one exploded near one of our destroyers the Havock, there were 3 killed and 5 seriously injured. I keep wondering when Auroras turn will come?
Went to Kaths and we had two very heavy air raids, and we stood out in the street and watched the hordes of enemy bombers diving, and dropping bombs. Terrific barrage, and shrapnel like rain. It certainly looks as if they are after wiping Malta out!
January 20th 1942
Had 8 day raids with bombs,
. They are trying to hard for the dockyard with Aurora in it. At 2-30 this afternoon a heavy bomb fell alongside us—it hit the dockside, and almost toppled us over in the dock, if it had, I should not be writing this now!
We had heaps of shrapnel came on board, a large piece went straight through my kit-locker! Fire mains in fore part of ship burst, and flooded every where. Near shave!!
There were 4 raids during the night and 16 people killed at the Army Camp!
January 25th 1942
We had several heavy daylight raids. One of our ships the Abingdon was machine gunned by four enemy fighter aircraft, there were 7 casualties, one of them that was killed was from our ship!
January 26th 1941
Went to Kaths and had “Lancashire Hotpot” and so enjoyed it! Especially as I am always hungry on board. Our food is very poor now, and we are rationed with 2 boxes of matches a month, and 7 cigarettes a day, and we are the fighting men!!
We had several daylight raids and lost 5 of our fighters in it.
January 30th 1942
We had about eleven daylight raids today, and about 6 during the night. As I went to get into the bus to go to Kaths, a stick of bombs fell quite near to me, just a moment after the siren had gone! I did not take cover, but I have still got the nervous feeling! God knows I have tried to master it. Looks as if the Germans have started to blitz the place in earnest now.
There is no matches, soap or toothpaste or anything else to be bought here now. The food on board is worse than ever, and I get very hungry when not at Kaths.
February 6th 1942
We had daylight raids continuously, with many bombs. There were 12 raids during the day, and at 10am a bomb hit the house opposite Kaths, and all Kaths doors and windows blown off. She and kiddies alright, and only little shaken when I went ashore at 6.
They dropped loads of bombs all over the place, but although close to the ship, none hit us. I watched bomb after bomb leave the planes as they came over, and felt quite alright, but the noise when they explode, makes me feel queer! It was that damned mine—cant forget it somehow!
I watched all the raids during the day, a terrific barrage is always put up, and we shot a bomber and a fighter down today.
February 11th 1942
A new cruiser the Cleopatra came into harbour this afternoon, from England. She was dive bombed and slightly damaged—she has 11 dead and some injured!! Hear she has brought some mail---Hurrah!
February 12th 1942
When I came on board this morning, I found that the destroyer “Maori” had been bombed during the night, and she had blown up and had sunk in the harbour, 5oo yards away from us!! There were 4 killed and many injured, poor devils
I can see the Nazis hitting us if we stay here much longer. Makes one feel a nervous wreck!
There was a big funeral this afternoon for Cleopatra’s dead---eleven!
Had 3 letters from Ethel (wife) today, and several Christmas cards—it all took two and a half months to reach me, but made me happy.
War news looks very black for us now, I think—must strive better—come on England!
February 13th 1942
This was a black day for Malta. We have had heavy raids all day long. The enemy bombers are most daring, and they are very brave in the face of such a heavy barrage
Ordinary raid routine all day—and I went ashore at 5 o’clock and got caught in a real blitz. Could find no room in shelter, so had to stay in the open. I watched 8 heavy bombs burst 500 yards from me—Manoel Island—killing lots of service men. This was dive bombing and very accurate.
I am proud to say Aurora herself, shot down 2 enemy bombers and damaged a third with direct hits!! This is remarkably good shooting.
In the same raid, 4 heavy bombs killed 30 people in Casapola?—these bombs were aimed at Aurora, but missed by quarter of a mile.
Got to Kaths after raid, they were frightened, and Kath has promised to begin to go to a rock shelter now.
February 15th 1942
Our sister ship “Penelope” arrived in harbour at 9 this morning—she had lost the convoy of three ships she was bringing here—they were sunk by dive bombing. War is getting very hot here now!
At ten this morning an air raid started that lasted for 9 hours, the longest we’ve had. I watched an enemy bomber, JU88 get hit with a 4inch shell and it came down to earth in flames—pilot must have been cooked in it!!
Bombers came over at 6 this evening and dropped bombs very close. They hit a cinema with about 200 people in it—heaps dead!
February 17th 1942
13 Naval ratings, killed by bombs ashore in the cinema on Sunday, were buried today—canvas bags—no coffins available!! How serious the situation is, are we holding our own?! I pray so.
2 Italian cruisers and a destroyer sunk yesterday by Naval planes---up the Navy!
How I pray for this awful war to end—so that Ethel and I could be together—that is all I want of life now. I shall look back at you little diary, and read of all these feelings I am having—but I’ll forget them too.
February 22nd 1942
A day of absolute Blitz and hundreds of bombs dropped on Malta!! We were raided by enemy bombers all day long—they do not seem to mind the daylight. At lunch time Backshell and I went to Kaths, and on our way there, we saw two enemy bombers diving straight at us. I watched the bombs leave the plane, watched them all the way down.
A terrific shriek and one burst just 50 yards away from me, in the same road! I was blown into a doorway, and into the front room of a house, bumped into two girls and ended up there!
I apologized—but they were not frightened—I was!! Shook ourselves and carried on to lunch at Kaths Damage and casualties must have been heavy today.
Thanks to Sue Twyman