Fortress Island Malta, Defence & Re-supply During The Siege

The most intensely bombed place on Earth, Malta’s survival and offensive actions are the stuff of legends. A very small population, on the brink of starvation, held out against a mighty aerial armada for some three years in an epic fight to survive and strike back. – Highly Recommended.

AME: Fortress Island Malta, Defence & Re-supply During The Siege

FILE: R2514
AUTHOR: Peter Jacobs
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PAGES:  228
PRICE: £25.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War 2, World War II, Second World War, RAF, 
MTBs, MGBs, Malta Convoys, Hurricane, Sea Gladiator, Spitfire, 
Beaufighter, U Class Submarines, box barrage

ISBN: 1-78346-332-5

IMAGE: B2514jpg
DESCRIPTION: The most intensely bombed place on Earth, Malta's 
survival and offensive actions are the stuff of legends. A very small 
population, on the brink of starvation, held out against a mighty 
aerial armada for some three years in an epic fight to survive and 
strike back.  -  Highly Recommended.

Malta was a vital strategic location in the Mediterranean. It sat 
between Gibraltar and Alexandria. Had Malta been lost to the Axis 
forces, Britain would have had to rely entirely on shipping men and 
materials around Cape Hope, between Britain and the key eastern 
nations of India and Australia/New Zealand. Attacking supplies being 
shipped to Rommel in North Africa and maintaining supplies to the 
British army in Egypt would have been near impossible. The loss of 
Egypt and the Suez Canal was the most likely consequence of the loss 
of Malta.

In 1940, there was very little on Malta in the way of defensive 
capability but it was sandwiched between Italian and Vichy North 
Africa and Sicily and the Italian mainland. With a large air force, 
the Italians should have been able to subdue and capture the Island 
of Malta. When the Italians failed, the Germans sent a well-equipped 
and battle hardened air fleet south to Italy to renew the assault on 
Malta and built an air force in Libya to support Rommel's 
Afrikakorps, with a secondary capability of joining the assault on 
Malta and escorting supply convoys from Italy to Rommel. If that 
scenario had been presented to a military planner, the conclusion 
would have been that Malta would fall and fall quickly. That it 
survived and fought back is incredible.

The people of Malta were not universally in favour of withstanding a 
siege, many having relatives in Italy and Sicily. The British and 
Commonwealth military personnel on Malta in 1940 were small in number 
and there were no fighter aircraft and few anti-aircraft guns. Even 
the Royal Navy presence was modest with most vessels of value having 
been moved to Gibraltar and Alexandria. What was present in volume 
was determination and the bloodymindedness to survive and win against 
impossible odds.

With Italy declaring war following the Battle of France, Malta 
suddenly became very vulnerable because of its position in the 
Mediterranean and its obvious strategic importance to Britain. In 
response there was an urgent search for anything on Malta that would 
assist its defence and urgent plans to ship in fresh supplies and 
arms across a hostile sea. Ammunition and guns were carefully 
catalogued and placed where they would be most effective. The RN 
planned a box barrage using the guns of all warships in port. There 
was also the discovery of a number of FAA Sea Gladiators in crates. 
From these, four aircraft were initially assembled and put into 
service, to be flown by volunteers, several past the age for fighter 
pilots. These biplanes did have some merit. They had a closed 
cockpit, four forward firing rifle calibre machine guns, two wing 
mounted and not requiring interrupter gear to protect the propeller, 
effective gun sights and radio. That did not disguise the fact that 
they were slow and under-gunned against the new generations of metal 
monoplane fighters, many carrying canon and heavy machine guns. 
Never-the-less these aircraft were flown with courage and flare, 
shooting down enemy attackers and boosting island morale.

The supply convoys became another legend as they fought their way to 
Malta from Gibraltar. They included aircraft carriers that flew off 
Hurricanes and Spitfires as soon as the fighters were in range of 
Malta. Some aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed before they reached 
the island but most succeeded in joining the defences and greatly 
enhancing them. Even so, the island was short of fuel and ammunition 
for the defence and short of food for the military and civil 

More anti-aircraft guns arrived with the convoys and the number of 
warships in port increased, extending the box barrage protecting 
the Grand Harbour and taking an increasing toll of enemy attackers. 
As urgent efforts were being made to supply the people and 
strengthen the defences, efforts were also being made to increase 
the offensive capabilities to enable the island to become an attack 
base to destroy the supply convoys from Italy to Rommel. To make 
that possible, aircraft, submarines and fast attack boats were sent 
to Malta and they operated with great success against Axis ships and 
aircraft trying to supply Rommel.

History records the victory of the people of the British and 
Commonwealth forces and the people of Malta, the visit of King 
George VI at great personal risk, and his decision to award the 
George Cross to the entire island and people. This book tells the 
many stories that made up that survival, victory and offensive