[78] III./Kampfgeschwader 30 (KG 30) and III./Lehrgeschwader 1 (KG 1) flew sporadic night attacks during April. The Axis diverted their forces to the Battle of Tunisia, and attacks on Malta were rapidly reduced. Lloyd had requested a highly experienced combat leader be sent and Turner's experience flying with Douglas Bader over Europe soon meant he was qualified to lead the unit. [23] Later, 10 Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM.79s and 20 Macchi C.200s flew over the island, with no air opposition. By November 1942, the Axis had lost the Second Battle of El Alamein and the Allies had landed forces in Vichy French Morocco and Algeria under Operation Torch. [54] Within sight of Malta, Italian torpedo bombers also attacked the carrier, but were driven off by intense anti-aircraft fire. On 13 November 1941 the carrier HMS Ark Royal, whilst transporting aircraft to Malta, was sunk by a U-Boat. The single engine-repair facility on Malta was located right next to the only test benches. He still maintained a healthy numerical superiority over the enemy, but he was convinced of Italian inferiority. [154] Lloyd the AOC, wanted to give No. [79], On 1 June, Air Vice Marshal Forster Maynard, Malta's Air Officer Commanding, was replaced by Air Commodore Hugh Lloyd. Across the Grand Harbour, in the so-called Three Cities, where the dockyards were located and the Admiralty had its headquarters, 28,000 more were packed into 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2). Discover (and save!) RAF forces on Malta could not afford to sit idle. From 11 April to 10 May, just 111 Axis raids were carried out. Landings would be made in the north, with an attack upon the Victoria Lines which lay across the centre of the island. [161], The surface fleets were not the only supply line to Malta. It offered a haven for British shipping to and from those places, but it also gave the British an excellent staging platform of offensive thrusts against naval, land, air and … The Maltese people may have ended the war with the distinction of being the only entire population to be awarded the George Cross, Britain's highest civilian honour for bravery. The defeat of France in May–June 1940 removed the French Navy from the Allied order of battle and changed the balance of naval and air power in Italy's favour. Hitler lived up to his word, the German airborne forces did not undertake any such operations again. [11] In the 1930s Italy sought expansion in the Mediterranean and Africa; regions dominated by the British and French. [39], The Royal Navy's submarines also began a period of offensive operations. Rommel lost 44 per cent of his supplies on October, a jump from the 20 per cent lost in September. On 14 January, 44 Ju 87s scored a hit on the ill-fated after lift. They sank five ships (mainly German) - Sabaudia (1,500 tons), Aegina (2,447 tons), Adana (4,205 tons), Isetlhon (3,704 tons) and Arta. [135] The effectiveness of the air attacks against Allied naval assets was apparent in the Italian naval records. [128] The Germans had watched their delivery and pressed home heavy attacks. Conflicts. The move was designed to split Axis naval forces attempting to intercept. Messerschmitt Bf 110s and Ju 88 night fighters were flown into to Sicily to support Fliegerkorps II from Zerstörergeschwader 26 (ZG 26, or Destroyer Wing 26) and Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1 or Night Fighter Wing 1). The British confidence was eroded when aircraft began to dominate the actions at sea later-on in 1941 and 1942. Much to the anger of the Germans, he refused to seek out and engage the British thereafter. Just the monitor Terror and a few British submarines were left to defend the island from the sea. [89] May to December 1941 also saw the arrival of the first Bristol Blenheim units (No. The Axis organised a convoy to relieve the difficulties. [13], The island itself is 17 by nine miles and has an area of just under 100 square miles (260 km2). Further convoys in November and December 1942 provided enough supplies to last until 1943 - breaking the siege. The Italian navy surrendered on 8th September, by coincidence the very same day on which 378 years earlier the Great Siege had ended. Between January and April, the Axis sent 321,259 tons to Libya and all but 18,777 tons reached port. Bristol Blenheim bombers also joined the defenders and began offensive operations. [85] This defeat stunned Mussolini. The outmoded Hurricanes still struggled against the very latest Bf 109Fs of Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53) and the Italian Macchi C.202s now operating over the island. When the Maltese government questioned the British rationale, they were told that the island could be defended just as adequately from Alexandria as from Malta's Grand Harbour. There were several raids per day. They sank 37,000 tons of Italian shipping; half by one vessel, the submarine HMS Truant. Losses averaged 12 percent during this time. The last air raid over Malta occurred on 20 July 1943. Support: Height 510 mm, Width 914 mm. AOC Lloyd was starting to wonder if his fighter forces could hold out. The end of the war saw the Islands economically and physically devastated. [35], When it became clear to the British that the Italian air forces were limited and having little impact on the population, which could endure, a steady stream of reinforcements arrived. The only loss was one transport, the The island appeared to the Axis forces to be neutralised as a threat to their convoys. The Axis bombing had already done severe damage to the Three Cities. Mines and Naval craft shared a further ship destroyed between them, accounting for 1,778 long tons (1,807 t). GROUND CREWS OF NO. Simpson to command the unit. [16], While there were concerns that the island, far from Britain and near Italy, could not be defended, the British decided in July 1939 to increase the number of anti-aircraft guns and fighters on Malta. [173] Of the nine ships sent, five were sunk by Malta's forces. It could unload six ships at a time, making the port the best facility west of Alexandria, 1,000 miles to the east. Following this, and with a resurgence of the aerial bombardment of Malta, surface ships were withdrawn from the central Mediterranean in January 1942. [17] The British leadership had further doubts about whether to hold the island in May 1940 when French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud reported that the situation in France was dire, but that Italian dictator Benito Mussolini might be appeased by concessions, including Malta. It envisioned an airborne assault with one German and one Italian airborne division, under the command of German General Kurt Student. I., II., and III. During World War II Malta was in a pivotal position. [91], Besides preparing for offensive operations and reinforcing the RAF on the island, Lloyd also rectified many of the deficiencies. 38, 40 and 104 Squadrons, equipped with Wellington bombers, hit Axis convoys in Tripoli. [172], Wing Commander Patrick Gibbs, OC 39 Squadron, The offensive was also by air. [47] On 10 December 1941, Fliegerkorps X, under the command of Hans Ferdinand Geisler, and with support of his chief of staff Major Martin Harlinghausen, was ordered to Sicily in order to attack Allied shipping in the Mediterranean. They used rocket-assisted PC 18000RS Panther Bombs. In reality, Cunningham gave Simpson and his unit a free hand. Administratively, the Tenth Flotilla operated under the First Submarine Flotilla at Alexandria, itself under Cunningham. • 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• Military and Merchant Navy casualties 7,500• People injured 3,780• Convoys to Malta (1940 - 1942) 17• Tonnes of Axis shipping sunk by Malta-based submarines 390,660• Enemy aircraft destroyed   (confirmed)   241   (unconfirmed) 48• Buildings destroyed or extensively damaged 10,761. Unfortunately no bomb-proof pens were available as the building project had been scrapped before the war, owing to cost-cutting policies. Until U Class vessels could be made available in numbers, British ''T'' class submarines were used. 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. [99] In October, 18,800 tons of Axis shipping was sunk. IN THE BACKGROUND ARE VICKERS WELLINGTON, HANDLEY PAGE HALIFAX, DOUGLAS C47 DAKOTA AND B24 LIBERATOR AIRCRAFT. Nevertheless, the operation was vital in bringing in much-needed war materials and supplies. This led to a notable increase in the bombing of Malta. An opportunity to attack the vessel came on the 6 January. In the event, Allied convoys were able to supply and reinforce Malta, while the RAF defended its airspace, though at great cost in material and lives. From April throughout the summer that year, the Islands were pushed to the brink, almost to capitulation. [114], Spitfire Vc(trop) in North Africa. The remaining smaller vessels continued to escort the convoys needed to supply the Allied forces in Italy, and to support both Fifth and Eighth armies on their seaward flanks. It was attacked from the sea, but also by air. The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) flew a total of 3,000 bombing raids over a period of two years in an effort to destroy RAF defences and the ports. The highlight of this tour is the visit to the 'ultra secret' complex of underground tunnels and chambers from where the British forces took care of the defence of Malta and where in July 1943, General Eisenhower and his Supreme Commanders Admiral Cunningham, Field Marshal Montgomery and Air Marshal Tedder coordinated the famous Operation Husky - the Invasion of Sicily. In that month, one-third of his supplies and 41 per cent of his fuel was lost. Owing to the shortage of torpedoes, enemy ships could not be attacked unless the target in question was a warship, tanker or other "significant vessel". [6], Total Axis losses in the Mediterranean were heavy. (35,000…: Malta during WWII (How was life for the Maltese during the war?, How was Malta attacked by the Axis powers?, Why did Italy attack Malta in 1940?, How was Malta defended during the war?, Why did the Axis powers fail to take Malta?, When did the war over Malta come to an end?, Consequences) The lack of food and water caused a sickness rate of 10 per cent among Axis soldiers. In the Mediterranean and on Malta, the Allies recovered and began offensive operations against Axis shipping bringing supplies to the DAK in North Africa. 126 — were formed and the defenders received the first cannon-armed Hurricane Mk IIAs. 137–138 and Jellison 1984, p. 114. 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 Germans launched Operation Sonnenblume, which reinforced the Italians in North Africa. On the first day, 55 Italian bombers and 21 fighters flew over Malta and dropped 142 bombs on the three airfields at Luqa, Hal Far and Ta Qali. By 15 December, half of these vessels were either in the Mediterranean, or on their way to the Theatre. The RAF dominated the sky over Malta. The Italians admitted the loss of 23 bombers and 12 fighters with a further 187 bombers and seven fighters having suffered damage, mainly to anti-aircraft artillery. [27], An odd development took place on 19 June. [120], The British Navy and Air Commanders, as well as Governor Dobbie, argued for modern aircraft, particularly the Spitfire, to be sent to Malta. [117] The Axis conducted 263 raids in that month, a significant jump from the 169 in December 1941. The Germans took most of the oil from Romania and left scarce resources for Italy to pursue large-scale operations on the Mediterranean. The Italian fleet meanwhile surrenders at Malta and other Mediterranean ports. Axis bombers came around the clock. The Bf 109F was more than a match for the outdated Hawker Hurricanes. The mounting, albeit small, losses were starting to concern Rommel. [42] On 14 January 1941, U Class submarines arrived, and the submarine offensive began in earnest. The subsequent campaign and the heavy German losses in the Battle of Crete convinced Hitler that air drops behind enemy lines, using paratroopers, was no longer feasible unless surprise was achieved. They did not pass on the intelligence to the Admiralty, who probably would not have sailed within range of the Ju 87s if they had known. Second, small numbers were quicker to position and easier to move around. The number fired by the 10th Flotilla was 1,289, with a hit rate of 30 per cent.[171]. [11] In 1940, conditions were more than favourable for an assault on Malta. Up until this point, the Spitfires had fought defensively. All livestock had been slaughtered, and the lack of leather meant people were forced to use curtains and used tyres to replace clothing and shoe soles. A destroyer, (HMS Kandahar) was also mined while attempting to assist the stricken Neptune. Most heavy equipment in Grand Harbour was destroyed; the dry-docks could only be operated by hand. [77] Geisler, commanding the remnants of Fliegerkorps X, could only count upon mine-laying aircraft from Kampfgeschwader 4 (KG 4) and Ju 87s in night operations. Malta remained a British possession. Hitler had little choice other than to rescue his Italian ally or lose the chance of taking the Middle Eastern oilfields in Arabia. Staffel Jagdgeschwader 26 (26th Fighter Wing or JG 26), lead by Oberleutnant Joachim Müncheberg, quickly lead to a sudden and marked rise in RAF losses, as the experienced, confident, tactically astute, better-equipped and -trained German fighter units made their presence felt. Hitler proposed a compromise. But that figure fell to 83,000 tons (27,300 for the Germans) and by November it was just 29,843 tons (5,100 tons for the Germans),[91] from 79,208 sent out. [141] With such a force established, the RAF had the firepower to deal with any Axis attacks. U Class submarines operated from the Manoel Island Base known as HMS Talbot. [36] The Wellingtons arrived in October, from No. [67] Allied surface forces managed to sink only one small Axis convoy in daylight hours during the whole North African Campaign,[68] but at night the British proved that they could destroy Axis shipping. Had they been motivated, the shelters could have been built at one-third of the cost. Kesselring was given this role officially on 1 December 1941. [75] One of the main reasons for this was a lack of shelter — the British focused on protecting military targets. By the end of May 1942, Kesselring's forces had been reduced to just 13 serviceable reconnaissance aircraft, six Bf 110s, 30 Bf 109s and 34 bombers (mostly Ju 88s): a total of 83 compared with several hundred aircraft two months earlier. Kesselring responded by sending in fighter sweeps at even higher altitudes to gain the tactical advantage. His Forward Interception Plan, issued officially on 25 July 1942, forced the Axis to abandon daylight raids within six days. The carrier is to the right of the large crane, The British operation should not have been launched: Ultra had informed the Air Ministry of Fliegerkorps X's presence on Sicily as early as 4 January. Fliegerkorps X departed for the Eastern Front, and the Regia Aeronautica was left to continue its ineffective hit and run tactics against Malta in the coming months. The vast flight deck offered a target of 6,500 square metres. He was starved of his supplies while the British reinforced their lines in Egypt, prior to the Second Battle of El Alamein. A constitution was prepared. [143], By the spring of 1942, the Axis air forces ranged against the island were at their maximum strength. The Italians, in agreement with Kesselring, put invading Malta at the top of Axis priorities in the region. On 13 January the Ju 87s, now equipped with SC 1000 bombs failed to achieve a hit. Within a few hours Lloyd had made an inspection tour of the airfields and the main workshops at Kalafrana. 12: Mussolini is rescued by aircraft from mountaintop captivity by German SS troops led by Otto Skorzeny. It had a population of around 250,000 in June 1940,[14] all but three or four per cent of them native Maltese. The cruisers HMS Dido and Gloucester accompanied the ships as part of the force. 1943. This was achieved using 170-gallon ferry tanks. Lloyd's bombers and a small flotilla of submarines were the only forces available to harass Rommel's supply lines into the autumn. In all, 2,304 Axis ships were sunk, with a combined displacement of 3,130,969 long tons (3,181,211 t).[8]. All targeted military installations. The failure to force the issue when the balance of power was in their favour was to have serious consequences for the Axis. It was considered insufficient to see them into Malta. The three fuel-carrying vessels were sunk by 28 October. Malta played an important role in the 1943 invasion of Sicily with the nerve centre being housed within the Lascaris War Rooms. Operated by Jagdgeschwader 26, they gained air superiority over the worn-out aircraft and inexperienced pilots of Malta's RAF contingent, The appearance in February of a staffel (squadron) of Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-7 fighters of 7. Lieutenant Commander Lennox Napier sank the German tanker Wilhelmsburg (7,020 tons). [126] The reinforcement of Malta by carrier ("Club Runs") became more frequent through 1942. By May 1941, nearly 60,000 people had left the cities. Over Malta he reversed these tactics owing to changed circumstances. Within hours, the first bombs had dropped on Malta. 261 and 274 Squadrons, were put under severe pressure. [129], The overwhelming Axis bombardments had also substantially eroded Malta's offensive naval and air capabilities. [71] Tiger was transporting 295 tanks (Matildas and the new Crusaders) and 24,000 tons of oil needed for operations in North Africa. The elimination of the French and the withdrawal of the British would give the Italians a prime opportunity to seize Malta. Nevertheless, the engineers won the battle. [45] A large part of the Axis defensive success was due to naval mines. The Italian navy surrendered on 8th September, by coincidence the very same day on which 378 years earlier the Great Siege had ended. [112] The success against Axis shipping soon dried up. Stuka bombers based in Sicily were to pound Malta into submission. Thousands of Maltese and 3,000 British Army soldiers were drafted in to better protect the airfields. All males between the age of 16 and 56 were conscripted into Maltese service. Small numbers of reinforcements arrived; five at the beginning of March, another six on the 18th. Only slight losses were suffered by the bombers. The fewer fighters he had in the air (he advocated 16 at most), the smaller target the numerically superior enemy would have. [72] They were completed on 12 May. It weighed 2,000 tons and could reach 18 knots on the surface. Two-thirds of the Italian merchant fleet was sunk; 25 per cent by British submarines, 37 per cent by Allied aircraft. Holland 2003, p. 304. and Spooner 1996, p. 122. This was followed by HMS Galatea on 15 December. The AOC Middle East, Arthur Tedder, sent Group Captain Basil Embry to Malta to assess the situation. On 10 January he could muster 255 (179 serviceable) aircraft including 209 dive and medium bombers. 261. [164], The impact of Park's methods was instant. By the start of the first German operation, Geisler had 95 aircraft and 14,389 men in Sicily. On 9 May the Italians announced 37 Axis losses. [59], Messerschmitt Bf 109F. One particular target was aircraft carriers. 261 Squadron RAF in August. [84] The defeat in the Battle of Cape Matapan encouraged the Italians to be even more half-hearted in their operations against Malta. The second would strike at the close escort, or, if unescorted, the bombers themselves. The methods would have great effect in October when Kesselring returned. [159] The Luftwaffe had played the central role against the convoys. The Axis resolved to bomb or starve Malta into submission, by attacking its ports, towns, cities and Allied shipping supplying the island. Operation Substance was particularly successful in July 1941. But the period was an eventful one. ULTRA intelligence would reach Malta on Axis Convoy movements. After the Battle of Crete in May and June 1941, Hitler was nervous about using paratroopers to invade the island since the Crete campaign had cost this arm heavy losses and he started to procrastinate in making a decision. [166] The year 1942 was particularly impressive for offensive operations as well. The two convoys departed for Malta, the former from Gibraltar, the latter from Haifa and Port Said. The FAA aircraft were to form the nucleus of what was to become No. They then began a counter-offensive and drove the British back into Egypt. After just eight weeks, the original force of Hurricane units were grounded owing to a lack of spare parts. 185 and No. [139][140] Malta now had five full Spitfire squadrons; No. The shelter was also inadequate, so there was little protection for what equipment they did have. War began for Malta on June 10th 1940, with Italy having declared war. Italy capitulated soon afterward, on September 8. Mack's 14th Destroyer Flotilla, comprising HMS Janus, Jervis, Mohawk, Juno and Nubian. [34] This was confirmed again in March 1941, when Royal Navy forces decisively defeated Italian naval forces in the Battle of Cape Matapan. They chanced upon the light cruisers HMS Southampton and Gloucester. [69], The flotilla had been officially formed on 8 April 1941, in response to the need for a Malta Strike Force. [12] The Allied victory played a major role in the eventual Allied success in North Africa. [180] On 11 October, the defenders were mass equipped with Spitfire Mk VB/Cs. The raids were designed to affect the morale of the population rather than inflict damage to dockyards and installations. This had important consequences for Malta, as it indicated the island was only at risk from an Axis siege. It was many more times the tonnage dropped by the Italians, but far short of the amount dropped the following year. Occasionally a dozen would be flown in off British carriers but, being heavily outnumbered, the replacements were soon used up. At the time of these first air raids, the defending fighters on Malta consisted of obsolete Gloster Sea Gladiators, in the Hal Far Fighter Flight. Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers disabled a number of Italian heavy units. With plenty of Spitfires to operate, Park sought to intercept the enemy and break up his formations before the bombers reached the island. Some 11 days later, news of the Soviet counterattack during the Battle of Stalingrad increased morale even more. The British had only a few only a few dighters on the Island when Italy declared War. Show more. In the first two months, around 20 RAF bombers and reconnaissance aircraft were shot down. It was running out of all essential commodities, particularly food and water, as the bombing had crippled pumps and distribution pipes. With Malta and the Mediterranean secured, the Allies were able to use them as bases to launch amphibious landings in North Africa (November 1942), Sicily (July 1943) and mainland Italy … The type began arriving in March 1942. [24], The Italians flew at around 20,000 feet. [98], In concert with Royal Navy submarines, the RAF and FAA sank 108 Axis ships (300,000 grt) between June and September. The Italians had been heading to intercept the British convoys sending reinforcements to aid Greece in the Greco-Italian War. Amongst the most congested spots was Valletta, the capital and political, military and commercial centre. Two freighters of the western convoy reached Malta and delivered supplies, making them the only ships out of a total of 17 to deliver their loads – a mere 25,000 tons of supplies. After some discussion, Winston Churchill convinced the British War Cabinet that no concessions should be made. But that gain came at a price. - This series of articles was published in the Sunday Times of Malta between 2010 and 2015 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Malta’s involvement in the Second World War and its pivotal role in the Mediterranean struggle. Spares had to be obtained by sifting through the debris of wrecks or by cannibalising undamaged aircraft. In 1947 self-government was introduced. The units numbered some 80 Ju 87s. The strike force had considerable success, which justified basing it at Malta despite the danger from air attack. SS Empire Song, which hit a mine and sank. Malta entered the war sharply and suddenly. The Luftwaffe in particular swarmed over the island almost at will. [104] Joint operations with the RAF were so effective that during November 1941 the Axis supply line suffered significant losses. The first was I./Sturzkampfgeschwader 1 and II./Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 (I and II Group Dive Bomber Wings 1 and 2). Over the next four months, few of JG 26's Bf 109s were damaged, let alone shot down. Kesselring complained. The Allied Navies sank 773 Axis ships, totalling 1,342,789 long tons (1,364,337 t). For other uses, see, Luftwaffe returns (December 1941–August 1942), Holland, James. Of the 340 fighters that had passed through or stayed on the island since the war began, only 28 remained. On 10 January they were within range of the Ju 87 bases. [105] In particular, special flights of RAF Wellingtons, which were fitted with air-to-surface vessel radar, were critical to Force K operations. The ability of the submarine to carry large loads enabled it to be of great value in the campaign to lift the siege. [162], In July Hugh Lloyd was relieved of RAF command on Malta. Although he could afford this diversion, he could only cover the convoy with four Spitfires at one time if he wanted to provide constant cover, as the others would need to be returning and taking off after refuelling. Geisler persuaded the OKL to give him four more dive-bomber gruppen (Groups). [28], Italian battleship Giulio Cesare firing during the Battle of Calabria, on 9 July 1940, In 1938 Mussolini had considered the invasion of Malta under Plan DG10/42. Achetez neuf ou d'occasion [108] On 19 December 1941 ships from both Forces ran into a minefield while pursuing an Italian convoy.