Monday, February 11, 2008

Malta, G.C. during the Second World War

A merchant vessel enters the Grand Harbour, Valetta, Malta
[Photograph by J. Ritson]

During WW2 the Maltese islands, then a British Colony, were in a key strategic location. The Grand Harbour, Valetta was the only Allied-held harbour between Alexandria (Egypt) in the Eastern Mediterranean and Gibraltar close to the Western outlet of the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, Malta served as a base for the RAF and submarine operations to attack the Axis convoy routes to North Africa. In their turn, the Axis Forces laid siege to Malta blockading essential supplies of food, ammunition and fuel.

The climax to the siege of Malta by the Axis Forces came in 1942, with 154 days of continuous air raids. More than 30000 buildings were destroyed and about 1500 civilians died despite most of the population being evacuated to the centre of the main island of Malta often sheltering in underground caves. In March and April 1942 more bombs fell on Malta than in the London during the 1940 Blitz.

[For additional information about Malta, G.C. during WW2 click on 'Comments' below]

3 Comments:

Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Anti-Aircraft Gunners: British, Commonwealth and Maltese fired off more than 160,000 rounds against the attacking German and Italian aircraft during the siege. More than 100 German aircraft were shot down. Despite this defensive effort, supplies of every kind were running critically low because of losses to the Merchant Navy convoys after September 1941. In its hour of great need, King George VI awarded Malta and its people the George Cross: an unparalleled gesture of solidarity of this or any other war.

Malta’s salvation came only in August 1942. On 9 / 10 August of that year, a convoy of 14 vessels set sail from Gibraltar for Malta, codename: Operation Pedestal. Although only 5 of the 14 Merchant vessels made it to Valetta’s Grand Harbour, this meant 55000 tons of supplies had made it through. Fuel supplies were critical by tis stage. The ‘unsinkable’ tanker, the SS Ohio, was one of the vessels that made it through, limping into port at 06.00 on 15 August to great cheers from the civilian population.

Malta has a largely Catholic population. In the Roman Catholic calendar the 15 August is the Feast of the Assumption, one of the most important days of the Church. The Feast of the Assumption in 1942 was also the day of Malta’s deliverance. The faithful believed their Deliverance was due to their prayers having been answered. Whatever the reason , this was the day that proved to be the turning point in the Battle for Malta.

(Thanks to Mr John B. Wright who researched WW2 in Malta on my behalf)

Monday, 11 February, 2008  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph -

The Maltese people were quite right in saying that they were saved by the prayers pof the faithfull to Our Lady on the feast of the Assumption - Aug 15th.

This assumption was fist mention in St.John's papers and again at the Council during the 6th Century and also at a Mass in the Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome about that same time.From then on it was known as the feast of the Assumption and celebrated on Aug 15th.

It was not however made into a doctirne of the Church until it was promulgated by Pope Pius X11 in November of 1950 by an infallible declaration - probably the last one we have had since that time !

Even Vatican 11 Council which changed so many things did not change it and in fact reinforced it's authenticy in the decree Lumen Gentium.

Tuesday, 12 February, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Want to know the lighter side of Malta during WW2?
Read David Niven's autobiography - he was there and it makes a great read. I think it was called Bring on the Empty Horses.
Catherine L.

Sunday, 17 February, 2008  

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