Malta During WWII - Facts & Figures • Population in Malta and Gozo at the beginning of the war 270,000 • Air raids registered throughout the war over Malta 3,343 • Total hours under Air-raids 2,357 • Tonnes of bombs dropped on the Maltese islands 15,000 • Civilian casualties June 1940 - April 1944 1,581 For some reason, the Air Staff did not choose to do this earlier, when the bombing ceased in 1941, and the RAF forces on Malta became primarily fighter-armed while the principal aim changed to one of air defence. Until U-class vessels could be made available in numbers, British T-class submarines were used. Air Headquarters Malta (AHQ Malta or Air H.Q. They flew to the French colony of Tunisia, but insecurity compelled them to seek friendlier surroundings. George Frederick "Buzz" Beurling, DSO, DFC, DFM & Bar (6 December 1921 – 20 May 1948) was the most successful Canadian fighter pilot of the Second World Hardly any spare or replacement parts were available—spares had to be obtained by sifting through the debris of wrecks or by cannibalising undamaged aircraft. Commander Lord Louis Mountbatten's 5th Destroyer Flotilla was later ordered to merge with Mack's fleet to increase its striking power. [158] Lloyd the AOC, wanted to give No. Valetta was virtuall More than 2,000 civilian buildings were destroyed as opposed to only 300 during the Italian siege. Many famous British ships were lost due to torpedo and air attack, including the carriers Ark Royal and Eagle and the battleship Barham. Other diversion airstrips similar in function to Safi were located at RAF Krendi and on Malta's second island of Gozo. [189] The novel is interspersed with brief episodes from other periods of Maltese history. [156] Poor nutrition and sanitation led to the spread of disease. LATEST NEWS. [30] No RAF airfield on Malta was operational at that time; one, at Luqa, was near to completion. [135] The Regia Aeronautica also pressed home attacks with determination. They torpedoed and sank the heavy cruiser Trento and damaged the battleship Littorio. On 14 January, 44 Ju 87s scored a hit on the ill-fated after lift. Certainly bringing in more supplies would have made greater strategic sense, before risking going on to the offensive and thus in turn risking the wrath of the enemy. [46][47], The performance of the fleet was mixed at first. The British Operation Excess was launched, which included a series of convoy operations by the British across the Mediterranean Sea. [177][178], In August, Malta's strike forces had contributed to the Axis' difficulties in trying to force an advance into Egypt. With plenty of Spitfires to operate, Park sought to intercept the enemy and break up his formations before the bombers reached the island. We take our lunch at the Hotel Point de Vue, at Rabat, which was used by fighter pilots as an officers’ mess during the war. These mines were the bane of the Royal Navy's submarines. Another went through the armoured deck and exploded deep inside the ship. Among his many books are The RAF Air Sea Rescue Service 1918-1986, The Battle of Jutland … You must have JavaScript enabled in your browser to utilize the functionality of this website. Find items in … {detailed description}This is the story of the historic air defence of Malta by the RAF against the combined attacking forces of the Italian and German air forces. But operating overseas in Africa meant most of the supplies to Axis forces would come via the sea. [28][29], The Italians flew at around 6,100 metres (20,000 ft) and the monitor HMS Terror and gunboats HMS Aphis and Ladybird opened fire. The Italians believed they could not beat the Royal Navy's fleet of ageing battleships or keep them bottle… On 6 December, another supply convoy under the codename Operation Portcullis reached Malta without suffering any losses. The Italians had been heading to intercept the British convoys transporting reinforcements to aid Greece in the Greco-Italian War. An urgent supply convoy from Gibraltar to Alexandria (Operation Tiger) coincided with reinforcements for the Mediterranean Fleet, two small convoys from Egypt to Malta and 48 more Hurricanes flew off HMS Ark Royal and Furious in Operation Splice, with only the loss of the SS Empire Song, which hit a mine and sank with 10 Hurricane fighters and 57 tanks on board. Nearly all 80 purpose-built sea craft that would land the Italian Army ashore were expected to be lost but landings would be made in the north, with an attack upon the Victoria Lines, across the centre of the island. Museum Winter Closedown Announced. Air war over Malta : the allies. 01226 734222 Toggle navigation. [125], Before the Spitfires arrived, other attempts were made to reduce losses. The ability of the submarine to carry large loads enabled it to be of great value in the campaign to lift the siege. [137] Mine-laying by Axis aircraft also caused a steady rise in submarine losses. By the start of 1941, a limited petroleum stockpile meant only seven months of fuel could be guaranteed. After that, ships sailed to Malta without joining convoys. When the route was closed Malta remained a forward base for offensive action against Axis shipping and land targets in the central Mediterranean. On 21 May, No. Rommel still hoped another tanker, San Andreas, would deliver the 3,198 tons of fuel needed for the Battle of Alam el Halfa. [69] The RAF Hurricanes were kept operational by being patched up and cannibalised and their performance, already inferior to the Bf 109E-7, deteriorated. The Germans launched Operation Sonnenblume, which reinforced the Italians in North Africa. On 21 May, the force was sent to join the Battle of Crete. Hitler proposed a compromise. The Allied defeat in France from May–June 1940 removed the French Navy from the Allied order of battle and tilted the balance of naval and air power in Italy's favour. [140] Kesselring reported to the German High Command that "There is nothing left to bomb. The state of the island was worse than he expected. Only slight losses were suffered by the bombers. This formation was to interdict Axis convoys. In return the Islands were under constant attack, in a game of return fire. In the densely populated island, 5,524 private dwellings were destroyed, 9,925 were damaged but repairable and 14,225 damaged by bomb blast. [35], By the year's end, the RAF claimed 45 Italian aircraft had been shot down. British U-class submarines began operations as early as June. [54], By 2 January 1941, the first German units reached Trapani on Sicily's southern coast. If Axis aircraft attacked as they were withdrawing, they had to stay and fight. Using three squadrons, Park asked the first to engage the escorting fighters by 'bouncing them' out of the sun. [92] In May 1941, 47 Hurricanes were flown into the island. Moreover, the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle, one cruiser and three destroyers were sunk by a combined effort from the Italian Navy, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe. Before June was out, they raided Sicily and sank one Italian destroyer, damaged a cruiser and destroyed oil storage tanks in the port of Augusta. By 12 May, there were 50 Hurricanes on the island. The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) flew a total of 3,000 bombing raids, dropping 6,700 tons of bombs on the Grand Harbour area alone,[11] over a period of two years in an effort to destroy RAF defences and the ports. A Stabsstaffel of Sturzkampfgeschwader 3 (StG 3) arrived. [31] On 12 June an Italian aircraft on a reconnaissance flight over Malta was shot down. The first was I./Sturzkampfgeschwader 1 and II./Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 (I and II Group Dive Bomber Wings 1 and 2). Of the 340 fighters that had passed through or stayed on the island since the war began, only 28 remained. JavaScript seems to be disabled in your browser. For more information on what data is contained in the cookies, please see our Cookie Policy. Geisler persuaded the OKL to give him four more dive-bomber gruppen (Groups). The workers capitulated but instituted a go-slow, trebling the cost of the work. The bombing did not cause much damage and most of the casualties suffered were civilian. This is the story of the historic air defense of Malta by the WRAF against the combined attacking forces of the Italian and German air forces. It was several months before the depleted strike force returned. The British victory at the Battle of El Alamein in Oct. proved decisive. Around 60 bombers and 120 Hurricanes were now available. The new force was named the Tenth Submarine Flotilla and was placed under Flag Officer Submarines, Admiral Max Horton, who appointed Commander G.W.G. In addition 111 churches, 50 hospitals, institutions or colleges, 36 theatres, clubs, government offices, banks, factories, flour mills and other commercial buildings suffered destruction or damage, a total of 30,000 buildings in all. On 23 January, she slipped out of Grand Harbour, and arrived in Alexandria two days later. Ten Italian SM 79s had drawn off the carrier's Fairey Fulmar fighters while the escorting cruiser HMS Bonaventure sank the Italian torpedo boat Vega. [132] The Germans had watched their delivery and pressed home heavy attacks. [99] Further success was had later in the month, although British losses from anti-aircraft fire from Italian ships were often heavy. Ultra intercepts found that 3,500 tons of aerial bombs, 4,000 tons of ammunition, 5,000 tons of food, one entire tank workshop, 25 Bf 109 engines and 25 cases of glycol coolant for their engines were lost. [129] A further run by Eagle delivered nine Spitfires. On 20 January, two near misses breached the hull below the water line and hurled her hull against the wharf. [120] The Axis conducted 263 raids in that month, compared to 169 in December 1941. Mines and naval craft shared a further ship destroyed between them, of 1,778 tons. The extent to which the success in North Africa benefited Malta was apparent when a convoy (Operation Stoneage) reached Malta from Alexandria on 20 November virtually unscathed. Synopsis This is the story of the historic air defense of Malta by the WRAF against the combined attacking forces of the Italian and German air forces. Accordingly, the Luftwaffe redeployed the majority of its aircraft in Sicily. A War Damage Commission was set up to compensate those whose property was destroyed or damaged during the war. The situation on the island was still stringent going into November, but Park's victory in the air battle was soon followed by news of a major success at the front. [122], One-third of all raids were directed against airfields. It hosted aircraft of Air Headquarters Malta (AHQ Malta) during the Second World War. Malta at War Museum, Couvre Porte, Birgu. For other uses, see, Radius of action of Allied aircraft operating from Malta in relation to Axis shipping routes, summer and autumn, 1941, sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFde_Zeng2007 (, Military history of Gibraltar during World War II, Military history of the British Commonwealth in the Second World War, "The Consummate Diplomat Wants Malta on the Map", "BBC – WW2 People's War – MALTA – WORLD WAR II", "War Damage Commission decision deemed unjust", "Lo sviluppo della Pesca meccanizzata sambenedettese -ilQuotidiano.it", Malta Command 1930 – 1945 at www.BritishMilitaryHistory.co.uk, Combat History of the Supermarine Spitfire – The Defence of Malta (1942), The Air Battle of Malta, 1940–1942 (HMSO 1944), Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, Rape during the Soviet occupation of Poland, British Empire battles of the Second World War, Japanese occupation of the Andaman Islands, Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Siege_of_Malta_(World_War_II)&oldid=995551115, World War II campaigns of the Mediterranean Theatre, Battles and operations of World War II involving Italy, Battles and operations of World War II involving the United Kingdom, Aerial operations and battles of World War II involving Germany, Battles of World War II involving Australia, Battles of World War II involving New Zealand, Battles and operations of World War II involving South Africa, Military history of the British Empire and Commonwealth in World War II, Articles with unsourced statements from November 2014, Articles with minor POV problems from October 2020, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, 716 fighters over the course of the campaign, This page was last edited on 21 December 2020, at 17:41. He acknowledged that the chances of success in an air operation of that kind were low; German airborne forces did not undertake any such operations again. [22] With the British home islands in danger, the defence of Malta was not the priority and it was lightly protected. They could not offer the air support needed at the frontline. Losses averaged 12% during this time. Göring agreed, and was willing to send 16 Gruppen to Sicily, anticipating a Soviet collapse in the east; Fliegerkorps II (Bruno Loerzer), arrived in January 1942, with Kesselring as Oberbefehlshaber Süd (OB Süd, Commander-in-Chief South) from 1 December 1941. Five Hurricanes arrived at Malta in early March, another six on 18 March. Initially attached to the Malta Naval Air Station at Kalafrana, the airfield was opened by the Governor and C-in-C, Field Marshal Lord Plumer, on 16 th January, 1923; the first official flight of Service aircraft taking place on 19 th February, 1924. [25] RAF and Royal Navy anti-shipping squadrons and submarines on Malta threatened the Axis supply line to North Africa and both sides recognised the importance of Malta in controlling the central Mediterranean. Eventually, 2,000 miners and stonemasons were recruited to build public shelters but the pay was poor and the miners threatened to strike, and were threatened with conscription into the army. Recognising the critical battle was approaching in North Africa (Second Battle of El Alamein), Kesselring organised Fliegerkorps II in Sicily to neutralise the threat once and for all. The raids were designed to affect the morale of the population rather than inflict damage to dockyards and installations. The 10th Army was crushed in Operation Compass, a British counter-stroke, and Adolf Hitler decided to come to the aid of his ally. The island was poorly equipped when Italy declared war on Britain in June 1940 and its only defense against air attack at the outset of war were 34 heavy and 8 light antiaircraft guns, one radar set and four Gladiator biplane fighters. The relief on Malta was significant as the British could now concentrate their forces for offensive, rather than defensive operations. [19] In October 1939, the Mediterranean Fleet was transferred eastwards to Egypt, stripping the island of its naval protection. Staffel (squadron) Jagdgeschwader 26 (26th Fighter Wing or JG 26), led by Oberleutnant Joachim Müncheberg, quickly led to a rise in RAF losses; the German fighter pilots were experienced, confident, tactically astute, better-equipped and well-trained. It had a complete lack of battle experience. The Germans took most of the oil from Romania and left few resources for Italy to pursue large-scale operations in the Mediterranean. The third was to attack the bombers head-on. [10] General Erwin Rommel, in de facto field command of Axis forces in North Africa, recognised its importance quickly. In the event, Allied convoys were able to supply and reinforce Malta, while the RAF defended its airspace, though at great cost in materiel and lives. However, two major factors stopped Hitler from giving the operation the green light. All but one reached the island. Owing to its exposed position close to Italy, the British had moved the headquarters of the Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet from Valletta, Malta in the mid-1930s to Alexandria in October 1939. The Allies were able to launch offensive operations from Malta and some 60% of Axis shipping was sunk in the second half of 1941. Larger submarines also began operations, but after 50% losses per mission, they were withdrawn. When the Maltese government questioned British reasoning, they were told that the island could be defended just as adequately from Alexandria as from Grand Harbour, which was untrue. [19], Air power was the method chosen to attack Malta. [37] On the other hand, British confidence was eroded when aircraft began to dominate the actions at sea later on in 1941 and 1942, as the Royal Navy had long been expected to be the principal defender of the island. For Malta, the Second World War started when fascist Italy invaded France on June 10, 1940. They quickly eliminated Malta's striking force, which was beyond the range of fighter escort while over the Mediterranean. During September, the Allies sank 33,939 tons of shipping at sea. The Italians believed they could keep the Royal Navy's fleet of ageing battleships bottled up in Alexandria. Besides preparing for offensive operations and reinforcing the RAF on the island, Lloyd also rectified many of the deficiencies. The Allied defeat in France gave the Italians an opportunity to seize Malta but Italian intelligence overestimated the Maltese defences and Mussolini thought that an invasion would be unnecessary once Britain made peace. 126, 185, 249, 601 and 603 Squadrons. [27] Later, 10 Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79s and 20 Macchi C.200s flew over the island, with no air opposition. [78] They were completed on 12 May. By mid-May, the central Mediterranean was again closed to Allied shipping and the DAK in North Africa was able to receive reinforcements, only 3% of its supplies, personnel and equipment being lost en route. After the battles of May and June, the air attacks were much reduced in August and September. The Siege of Malta during World War II was one of the greatest dramas of the conflict. Embry agreed and recommended that Spitfires be sent; the type began arriving in March 1942. Over 17 days, the Luftwaffe suffered 34 Ju 88s and 12 Bf 109s destroyed and 18 damaged. Most of the losses were due to mines. [98] In September 1941, 830 Naval Air Squadron sank or damaged the ships Andrea Gritti (6,338 tons) and the Pietro Barbaro (6,330 tons). The FAA aircraft were to form the nucleus of what was to become 830 Naval Air Squadron, providing Malta with its first offensive strike aircraft. Between 20 March and 28 April 1942, the Germans flew 11,819 sorties against the island and dropped 6,557 tons of bombs (3,150 tons on Valletta). The Siege of Malta in World War II was a military campaign in the Mediterranean Theatre.From June 1940 to November 1942, the fight for the control of the strategically important island of the British Crown Colony of Malta pitted the air forces and navies of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany against the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy. Jonathan Sutherland has written widely on historical subjects, in particular on military and aviation history, and has long been fascinated by the history of Norfolk and its military heritage. Owing to a shortage of torpedoes, enemy ships could not be attacked unless the target in question was a warship, tanker or other "significant vessel". The island was poorly equipped when Italy declared war on Britain in June 1940 and its only defense against air attack at the outset of war were 34 heavy … The ferry tanks, combined with a 29-gallon tank in the rear fuselage, brought the total tank capacity up to 284 gallons. Ultra intercepted the Axis communications, and Wellingtons of 69 Squadron confirmed the Axis operation was real. U-class submarines operated from the Manoel Island Base known as HMS Talbot. Both the British and Italian navies digested their experiences over Taranto and Malta. 6. Today, we start our study of Malta in the Second World War by looking at the role of the British Army’s Malta Garrison troops, in particular, the Royal Artillery in the anti-aircraft role as they defended both the island and its marine assets as the ‘Siege of Malta’ began in earnest in June 1940. The island was poorly equipped when Italy declared war on Britain in June 1940 and its only defense against air attack at the outset of war were 34 heavy and… from 1940 to 1943 the Italians flew 35,724 sorties against the island and the Germans 37,432 – but 31,391 of the Luftwaffe's missions were completed in 1942. British forces in the Mediterranean suffered other serious losses at the end of 1941. Dispersal strips were built, repair shops were moved underground from dockyards and airfields. On 1 September, Rommel was forced to retreat. This is the story of the historic air defence of Malta by the RAF against the combined attacking forces of the Italian and German air forces. In both the First and Second World War, it was part of our gateway to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. In supplies, the Axis lost 315,090 tons. The destroyer HMS Kandahar was also mined while attempting to assist Neptune. This website requires cookies to provide all of its features. [146] The impact of the Spitfires was apparent. [106] Among the contributors to the sinking of Axis shipping was 828 Naval Air Squadron, 830 Naval Air Squadron, the British 10th Naval Flotilla and 69 Squadron which shadowed convoys with their Maryland aircraft. The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force both fought to defend the island and keep it supplied. British air-raids from Malta on axis convoy ships on their way to North Africa helped the allies to win the war in North Africa. [34] The arrival of more fighters was welcome. About the tour: Malta At War by Air The island of Malta has sat at the heart of British history for many centuries. The RAF Malta Command would then dispatch the ASV-Wellingtons to sweep the seas and direct the British naval forces to the convoy. Malta became a base for Allied attacks on enemy ships plying supply routes to North Africa and on the Italian air and naval bases. Bristol Blenheim bombers also joined the defenders and began offensive operations.[95]. Table of Axis ships escorted to Libya, June 1940 – January 1943: In his novel The Kappillan of Malta (1973) Nicholas Monsarrat gives an account of the Siege of Malta from June 1940 to August 1942 as experienced by the fictional Catholic priest Father Salvatore. Gibbs's Beauforts sank two ships and one of Simpson's submarines sank a third. The strategic importance of the Allied-controlled island was magnified after the North African front opened in 1940, providing the Allies with an excellent staging platform from which to attack naval, land, and air targets in the central Mediterranean. [108], On 13 November, the carrier HMS Ark Royal— returning to Gibraltar after transporting aircraft to Malta—was sunk by a U-boat. [15], Malta is 27 km × 14 km (17 mi × 9 mi) with area of just under 250 km2 (97 sq mi). A further attempt to fly 12 Hurricanes into Malta on 17 November, led by a FAA Blackburn Skua, (Operation White) ended in disaster with the loss of eight Hurricanes; they took off too far west of the island due to the presence of the Italian fleet and ran out of fuel, and several pilots were lost. Despite the reduction in direct air pressure over Malta itself, the situation on the island was serious. [12] Success would have made possible a combined German–Italian amphibious landing (Operation Herkules) supported by German airborne forces (Fallschirmjäger), but this did not happen. The Allied navies sank 773 Axis ships, totalling 1,364,337 t (1,342,789 long tons). This meant a lack of training, skill and practice in the essential art of night-fighting. 261. It was one of the few German tankers exporting oil from Romania. When did the war over Malta come to an end? Hans Jeschonnek, Goring's chief of staff, suggested sending Luftflotte 2 and its commander Albert Kesselring to Sicily from the Eastern Front. The Italian and British surface fleets were evenly matched in the region but the Italians had far more submarines and aircraft. On 19 th September 1940 No.431 (General Reconnaissance) Flight, later to … It had played the key role in the Battle of Taranto, handing naval supremacy to the British, hence it became top of the Axis' target list. Difficulty in bombing accurately '' on Pinterest areas during the second would strike at the Battle was inconclusive, another. German affair is misleading two-thirds of their oil wrecks or by cannibalising undamaged aircraft pilots Embry! British and Italian navies digested their experiences over Taranto and Malta without suffering any losses squadrons, Park asked first! 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