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Malta’s Role in WWII: A History

Ever heard of the really small island in the middle of the Mediterranean called Malta? Well if not, you sure are missing something.

During World War II, Malta became the most bombed place on earth – 6,700 tons of bombs fell in just six weeks.

At the outbreak of World War II, Malta was Britain’s most important Mediterranean naval base. As such, it was to protect east-west supply lines while blocking the passage between Italy and North Africa. When Mussolini plunged Italy into the war on June 10, 1940, Malta knew for sure that it was destined to play a frontline role. Europe was nine months into the conflict when, on June 11, Malta suffered its first air attack on the dockyards.

At that point, Malta’s entire anti-aircraft resources totaled forty-two guns, two dozen searchlights and three Gloster Gladiator biplanes which had been discovered in crates and hurriedly assembled. The Gladiators, christened Faith, Hope and Charity, were matched against two hundred Italian aircraft based 60 miles (100km) north in Sicily. On the face of it there was surely no contest, but by forcing the enemy aircraft to bomb from a greater height, the three small Glosters more than earned their keep. The Maltese people no longer felt like a sitting target, and for three long weeks the Gladiators defended Malta’s airspace alone.

In December 1940, the German air force moved into Sicily to support the Italians and with two hundred and fifty aircraft the combined Axis forces greatly outnumbered Malta’s aerial strike force. Meanwhile, German and Italian submarines maintained a relentless assault on the supply convoys.

Malta’s worst period of the war was in early 1942, when the air raids never ceased. In April alone, 6700 tons of bombs rained down on the island and on the 15th of that month a special message from the British kind, George VI, informed the people of Malta that they had collectively been awarded the George Cross for their unyielding bravery “…to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.”

The Maltese minimized loss of life during the war by constructing air-raid shelters and relocating large numbers of the population from Valletta and Grand Harbour are to safer parts of the island. The old railway tunnel between Valletta and Floriana provided a sanctuary for many during the bombing raids and, as in medieval times, people sought shelter in Mdina. Some 35,000 buildings throughout the islands suffered damage or were destroyed during the war, 11,000 of them in April 1942, the worst month of bombing.
Ultimate control of the central Mediterranean hinged on supply lines and in the early months of 1942 the Allies suffered heavy shipping loses in the Malta-bound convoys. For much of the year the country’s civil and military population was reduced to near starvation levels, relying on communal feeding service and being forced to eat their diminishing animal stocks.

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User Comments
  1. johann bachus

    On February 28, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    malta was not the most bombed country…go germany

  2. johann bachus

    On February 28, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    malta was not the most bombed country…go germany

  3. Ronald Marbles (The Abacus)

    On February 29, 2008 at 6:15 am

    Get your facts right. And yeah the Germans were the biggest A55hole5 during WWII.

  4. Malta was the most bombed

    On March 28, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Techically it was the most bombed land:bombtonnage ratio.

  5. mike from malta

    On April 17, 2008 at 8:09 am

    nice post …respect to you.
    my grandfather used to tell me stories about how many bombs fell on malta during ww2. he often tells me stories of when he was a kid and they used to hear the air raid sirens in valletta the capital..scary stuff.
    respect for the post
    mike from malta

  6. Ruth from Malta

    On September 11, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Malta was the most bombed country in the world per square mile.

  7. Dean

    On September 20, 2008 at 7:40 am

    u wouldnt know the meaning of bravery
    get a life

  8. gino proud to be Maltese

    On January 13, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Yes Malta was and remain the most bombed country in the world,according to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Do respect this facts,Malta did a great job during WW2

  9. Heather

    On January 19, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    My uncle was a spitfire pilot for the RAF and was killed over Malta in January 1943. He was a hero and so were the people of Malta. Let’s not quibble over whether Malta was a country, land mass or whatever you want to call it, people died and that’s all that mattered.

  10. Melissa

    On January 31, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    My Grandfather was an English soldier and went to Malta
    to help fight the Germans. He passed away 2 weeks ago he was 94 was to be 95 next month. They were all brave my nan and grandfather told me some horrific stories about Malta being bombed.

  11. Malta

    On February 15, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    F.+ck Germany

  12. jacob maltese 4 life

    On May 11, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    i don’t care who u are I`m proud to be Maltese and i don’t care if it was the most bombed land mass country or pile of rocks, Malta is a pretty bad ass little country and i don’t know if anyone here is intelligent enough to read the part about the George cross but I’m pretty sure its the only country in the world with it on the flag…proud to say I’m Maltese

  13. lawrence

    On June 26, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    In the study I have a picture of my father with his arm over
    one of his Maltese mates, British pilots under a spitfire wing
    at the ready, I am alive and breathing today because of their
    heroics , I live in the best country in the world (Australia)
    but when I die you can rap me up in a Maltese flag and spread my ashes across the proudest country in the world Malta.

  14. NickFord

    On September 8, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Interesting and well written

  15. ste

    On May 2, 2010 at 7:35 am

    respect to you lawrence =]

  16. James

    On December 5, 2010 at 1:07 am

    I can’t believe anyone would say anything rude Towards what happened to Malta my Nunu went through hell for. Our freedom go to F yourself

  17. RachelLlama

    On May 2, 2011 at 10:29 am

    why is everybody swearing??? :(

  18. Bill

    On November 25, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Because of stupid comments made by people like Johann Bachus. People like him should put up or shut up, but NO guts!
    Malta and it’s people stood fast against the Italians and then the Germans at a time of desperation and almost defeat. It gets my blood boiling to hear PRATTS like him making statements like the one above. The war ended along time ago and we should move on, but his comment is insulting and stupid. I am Maltese and PROUD of it. MALTA IS the only country in the WORLD to have been awarded the George Cross. So Johann Bachus who ever you are GO sit in a one of your GERMANY bombs and I will be Happy to push the detonator with you on it!

  19. Drew

    On December 29, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Malta is 9 miles wide and 19 miles long roughly. Two years of air raids and the Germans couldn’t defeat it. Yeah johann, go Germany. FOOL!

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