Air Raids on Malta

The final air raids on Malta would come on 26 February 1943, when the Italians tried to sneak a bomber over the island at daybreak. It did not make it. That evening a handful of enemy fighters tried a hit-and-run attack, but failed.

For the Maltese this was a landmark day. Throughout the siege nearly 1,600 civilians had been killed, over 1,800 seriously injured and nearly 1,900 wounded. The rationing had caused casualties too: infant mortality rates were incredibly high in 1942 when one baby in three would die. In fact 2,336 babies under the age of one died that year.

Of all the centres of population the dockyard town of Senglea had suffered the worst with 80 per cent of its buildings destroyed. Even the remaining 20 per cent was so badly damaged that they could not be lived in. Repairs were impossible as the streets were clogged with rubble.

Throughout the siege around 547 British aircraft had been lost in air combat. A further 160 had been destroyed whilst they were on the ground. Various estimates have been made of the enemy losses. In all probability 1,252 German and Italian aircraft had been shot down over the island. In addition there were 1,052 probable kills. In 1942 alone the RAF fighters had destroyed 773 enemy aircraft and possibly an additional 300, which could not be confirmed. Anti-aircraft guns had claimed over 180. In the same year the RAF had lost 195 fighter aircraft and 106 pilots. In 1942 alone the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm had hit eighty-three enemy ships with bombs or torpedoes and had damaged at least another fifty vessels.

The Royal Navy had returned to Malta by the end of 1942. It was now far safer to moor in the Grand Harbour. On 21 December Royal Navy destroyers sunk an enemy supply ship and on 16 January 1943 an Italian merchant ship was sent to the bottom. Between 19 and 20 January the Royal Navy sank an Italian water tanker and then sank eleven out of twelve enemy supply ships.

Compared to the previous months of 1942, December saw an enormous number of cargo vessels arriving at Malta. Sailing from Port Said on 1 December the cargo ships Agwimonte, Suffolk, Glenartney, Alcoa Prospector and the Yorba Linda arrived on 4 December. They delivered 55 tons of supplies. The cargo ships and the escort of three cruisers and ten destroyers suffered no losses en route. Another convoy sailed in on 10 December, having left Alexandria on 6 December; the cargo ships American Packer and Ozarda once again arrived safely. Beaufighters had gone out from Malta to escort the convoy in and they ran into three BV222 six-engine flying boats. During the encounter one of the flying boats was shot down, as was one of the Beaufighters. Another convoy left Alexandria on 9 December, arriving in Malta on 14 December and yet again two merchant ships, Clan Macindoe and Erinna arrived unmolested.

Two Beaufighters belonging to 272 Squadron left Malta at 08.40 on 19 December. They were accompanied by four Spitfires of 249 Squadron. The mission was an offensive reconnaissance. Shortly after 11.00, during their return to Malta, they spotted a DO24 flying boat near Dlimara. One of the Spitfires shot it down, but unfortunately shortly after this one of the Beaufighters crashed into the sea and exploded, killing the crew.

Further supplies arrived on 21 December, having left Port Said on 17 December. Despite the fact that offensive sweeps by the Maltese-based fighters and bombers were commonplace, the month had seen thirty-five enemy air raid alerts and sixty tons of bombs had been dropped on the island.

As the New Year dawned, Malta was adopting a new role. It was no longer besieged, but it would now operate as a bridgehead between the Allied forces gathering in North Africa and the exposed underbelly of the enemy in Sicily and mainland Italy. Victory was still a long way off and privations would still continue on the island. The work was unabated: it was no longer a question of keeping a handful of Hurricanes and Spitfires aloft in an attempt to keep the enemy at bay. Malta had become an armed camp and was fast becoming an island aircraft-carrier, with an offensive capacity to cause enormous damage to the Italians and Germans. The appearance of many German and Italian transport aircraft in the region signalled not the threat of invasion, but desperation on behalf of the enemy. Their shipping losses had been crippling, none of their surface vessels were safe and the few that remained were unwilling to run the gauntlet of Allied aircraft, submarines and surface vessels that now dominated the Mediterranean. The transport aircraft represented the only hope to resupply the dwindling German and Italian effort in North Africa.

January 1943 saw the first month since the outbreak of hostilities when no bombs were dropped on the island of Malta, despite twenty-five air-raid alerts. In the last week of January Tripoli had been captured by the Allies and this was to mark the beginning of the end of enemy resistance in North Africa. Attacks were being launched not only on the Italian mainland, North Africa and Sicily, but also on airfields such as the one on the island of Pantelleria.

The new offensive role of the Spitfires that had so gallantly defended the island brought new challenges to the pilots and their ground crews. A new airfield had been set up on Malta, at Krendi. The new Wing Commander of the two squadrons based there was Sandy Johnstone. They had launched innumerable fighter sweeps over Sicily, hoping to lure German and Italian aircraft into the sky. More often than not the enemy had refused battle. In order to maintain pressure on the enemy, particularly in Sicily, experiments were put into motion to fit a 500lb bomb under each wing of each Spitfire, effectively transforming the fighter into a fighter bomber.

The first attack went in against a chemical factory at Pochino on Sicily on 16 January 1943. Twenty-four Spitfires were employed in the attack, twelve as conventional fighters and the others as fighter bombers. Johnstone later wrote about his experiences in the attack:

In each Spitfire, with his 500lb lethal weapon under each wing, the pilot kept his screaming dive under control while he zeroed the bombs on target by using the normal gun sight. One after the other the bombs ran down on the target area, dropping at regular intervals and exploding with frightening velocity. At least three made direct hits on the factory, sending tons of masonry hurtling through the air to join the twisted metal of the gutted machinery. As the last bomber began its dive I swooped down to ground level with my eleven escorting companions and raced in on the scene of destruction, raking the smoke and flames with cannon and machine-gun fire. The vibrations set up by the firing of the guns was like the tingling of newly awakened nerves. It was a strange overwhelming feeling of excitement that made your mouth dry with the taste of it; your heart beat faster and your body tensed itself in its firm and unrelaxed grip. I swept towards the wreckage of the factory. As I pulled back on the stick to lift the Spitfire above the smoke, there were clear indications that my fire power had struck home. There were signs of a large explosion and judging by the clouds of steam, followed by dense black smoke which billowed from the tall chimney and burst outwards from several of the factory windows, I was certain that I had hit a massive boiler. Reforming, the bomber aircraft, now shed of their loads, acted as an escort to the twelve straffers whose ammunition was spent. We set course for Malta and were back on the ground, ready to refuel without any retaliation from the Sicilian-based enemy aircraft.

Although Johnstone’s attack met with little in the way of reaction from the enemy, not all operations were so fortunate. Pilot Officer Nesbitt of 185 Squadron failed to return after a morning sweep over south-east Sicily on 4 February. He was seen to bale out at 09.00 some 15 miles north-east of the Grand Harbour. Nesbitt reported:

When returning from a sweep on Sicily, owing to engine failure, I was forced to abandon my aircraft about 15 miles from the island. The air screw revolutions increased to 3,300 and I tried to adjust this by pulling up the nose of my aircraft, closing the throttle and moving the air screw pitch-lever back. Nothing seemed to happen so I straightened out, whereupon the engine cut. Checking the ignition switches and petrol lever, I tried the throttle and also tried priming. As this had no effect I put the air screw into fully coarse and started to glide at 135 ASI from approximately 18,000 ft on a coarse of 220̊°. I was then between 5 to 10 miles from the coast of Sicily.

Nesbitt finally managed to ditch. He was covered by four Spitfires of 126 Squadron and was in the water for nearly 40 minutes before HSL166 picked him up.

Incidents such as these were an almost daily occurrence. Another Spitfire was lost on 8 February, a Baltimore on 18 February, a Mosquito on 21 February and another Spitfire that had been in a dogfight with Me109s on 26 February. Engine failure was more of a hazard than engagements with enemy aircraft. Ditching into the sea was still a hazardous affair, despite the successes of the Air Sea Rescue launches and seaplane tenders. On 1 March, for example, eight Spitfires of 185 Squadron made a sweep over Sicily at 25,000ft. They had barely arrived over Sicily when Flight Sergeant Miller’s engine stopped and he was forced to bale out some 32 miles to the north of the Grand Harbour. This had occurred shortly before 09.00 hours. Luckily for Miller HSL107 swiftly picked him up and he was back at his base at 11.40 that day. Miller reported:

I was flying on a sweep over south-east Sicily with seven other fighters of 185 Squadron. At 08.50 hours, while at 23,000 ft and 15 miles inland over Sicily I was about to participate in an attack on three Me109s when my engine cut without any warning. Having tried unsuccessfully to restart the engine, I released my harness and began to glide towards base. When down to 5,000 ft, I attempted to jettison the hood but was unable to do so, I therefore slid it back and turned the aircraft over. My parachute got wedged by the handle of the hood but managed to get free and, after a short drop, found the toggle and the parachute opened. On my way down I removed my gloves and boots and turned the quick release box. Immediately my feet touched the water I released my parachute. When in the water I first freed the dinghy from its cover and, when it was free of the parachute, pushed the lever on the Mae West to operate the CO2 bottle, which did not function properly. I then tried to inflate the dinghy manually but did not know that the valve locking-pin had to be removed. As the dinghy was a dead weight and tending to drag me down, I undid the quick release on my Mae West and let the dinghy go free. I then tried to inflate the Mae West by mouth but was only able to do so partially on account of the sea swell and the effort required.

In the first three months of 1943 Malta’s bombers and torpedo bombers sunk nine enemy vessels, had fourteen probables and damaged several others. Typical of this type of work was an attack made in mid-March. A Baltimore, on reconnaissance patrol, spotted a convoy that was southbound in the Gulf of Taranto, protected by a destroyer escort and an air escort of fifteen Me110s and Ju88s. Five hours later nine Beauforts, with Beaufighter cover, discovered the convoy. The Beaufighters made for the aircraft whilst the Beauforts honed in on the largest of the convoy ships, an 8,000 ton tanker. The tanker was hit three times and there was a huge cloud of smoke rising from the ship and smoke pouring across its decks.

Valuable contributions were also being made by Wellington torpedo bombers. They operated against targets at night that were illuminated by Wellingtons equipped with flares and radar. One such example of an attack took place in January 1943 when Flight Sergeant Hornung attacked an enemy cargo vessel, believed to be 4,000 tons, and escorted by a destroyer. Hornung’s aircraft weaved through a barrage of anti-aircraft fire from the ships and struck the merchant vessel with a pair of torpedoes. The target immediately burst into flames.

Sergeant W A Fraser had an amazing fortnight at the beginning of February 1943. On 2 February a pair of search aircraft had spotted a convoy off the south-east coast of Italy. When Fraser’s Wellington arrived there was only one flare illuminated, which made it difficult for him to make an attack on the tanker and avoid the pair of escorting destroyers. He managed to release the torpedo at 700 yards, hitting the 6,000 ton tanker, which then caught fire and had to be beached. On 7 February he made a successful attack on a 6,000 ton merchant ship, badly damaging it. On 15 February he made an attack on another tanker of 5,000 tons. Despite it being defended by a pair of destroyers and one his crew members being wounded, his torpedo struck the tanker amidships.

By April 1943 the 8th Army had linked up with the Anglo-American troops operating in Algeria and preparations were underway to invade Sicily. By the end of May 1943 the number of Malta’s frontline aircraft stood at around 600 compared to just 200 towards the end of 1942. The new arrivals on the island included four Spitfire wings and additional Mosquito and Beaufighter squadrons. The old airfields had been enlarged and new landing fields had been created. Malta could now dominate the central Mediterranean.

The wheel had definitely turned full circle and in September 1943 Faith, one of the three original Gladiators that had faced the Italians more than three years before, was retrieved from the bottom of a quarry where she had lain. She was then presented to the people of Malta by Air Marshal Sir Keith Park. Faith very much represented the courage and the fortitude of the servicemen and the civilians of the island.

In June 1943 Operation Corkscrew was launched against the Italian island of Pantelleria. In effect it would provide a practice for the forthcoming invasion of Sicily and Italy and it would also give the Allies a chance to gauge the impact of bombing on defensive positions. The tiny island, just eight and a half miles by five and a half miles, lay 140 miles to the north-west of Malta. Plans had been drawn up as early as 1940 to take the island, but these had been put off as it was believed that it would be difficult to continue to hold the island and support Malta at the same time. In June 1943 14,203 bombs, which amounted to 4,119 tons, were dropped on the sixteen gun batteries on the island. There were eighty guns defending the island and the bombing wrecked over half of them. Communications were destroyed, along with air raid shelters and ammunition stores. On D-Day (11 June 1943) surface vessels opened fire on the island an hour before the landing craft reached the beaches. By the time the first British commandos clambered ashore the white flag was already flying.

The Germans had already evacuated the airfield, leaving just a handful of technicians. The Italians, however, had left a garrison of 10,000 men. Within the next two days Lampedusa and Linosa, two other Italian-held islands, were also captured and the route to the invasion of Sicily was now open.

Back on Malta, the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, General Eisenhower and General Montgomery, Commander of the British 8th Army, established their new headquarters at Valletta, in preparation for Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. Some 3,000 ships were being gathered and many of the 600 aircraft based on Malta would provide air cover for the invasion.

The island had received a visit from an American engineer on 25 May 1943. He had come at the invitation of Lord Gort and Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park. British and American engineers had surveyed Gozo, looking for a possible site of a new airstrip. Eisenhower was concerned that Malta’s airfields were not large enough to deal with the huge amount of aircraft that would be required for the opening of the Italian campaign. Eisenhower said:

British field engineers, who depended to a great extent upon hand tools and light mechanical equipment, had given up all hope of finishing an airfield there [Gozo] in time for use in the Sicilian campaign.

The arrival of the American engineer, Major Lee Baron Colt, brought new hope to the plan. He believed he could have an airstrip ready in two weeks. All he needed was men and equipment. Company E, 21st Engineer Aviation Regiment was moved to Gozo. They would have to clear cultivated fields and terraces in order to build a runway 4,000 ft in length and 150 ft in width.

There was continued action still, with numerous dogfights taking place over Sicily and the waters between the Italian island and Malta. Almost daily there were losses.

There was intense excitement on 20 June when the rumour that King George VI was about to visit Malta was confirmed at 05.00. He would be arriving in the Grand Harbour onboard the cruiser HMS Aurora that morning. All the dignitaries were out in force to greet the monarch, along with thousands of Maltese citizens. The King toured the island, visiting many of the sites of the conflict over the past years. Gort signalled to the King on his departure:

At the close of a day never to be forgotten in the history of these islands, the armed forces and the people of Malta and Gozo humbly wish Your Majesty God speed. We are deeply sensible of the honour our beloved sovereign has bestowed on his fortress by this personal visit whilst Malta still stands in the van of the forces of the United Nations in the central Mediterranean. As in the past, this colony has only one intention — never to falter in the service of Your Majesty.

The King replied:

It was with great eagerness that I seized the occasion of my visit to North Africa to come to Malta and bring to the armed forces and to the Maltese people a message of good cheer on behalf of all other peoples of the British Empire. The warmth with which I have been received today has touched me more than I can say. It has been for me one further proof of the loyalty which has inspired the island fortress to withstand the fiercest blows that a cruel enemy could inflict upon her. I thank the people of Malta from my heart and send them my best wishes for the happier times that surely lie ahead.

As for the development of the airfield on Gozo, success was confirmed when seventy-four Spitfires of the 31st Fighter Group, led by Lieutenant Colonel Fred M Dean USAAF were transferred from Tunisia on 30 June. The month had ended with just thirty air raid alerts and not a single bomb had been dropped on Malta.

Malta now braced itself to become part of the invasion effort. Operation Husky was due to be launched on 10 July 1943 and it would be from Malta that Eisenhower would first step foot on enemy-held Europe just two days later. Raids were still necessary prior to the invasion. Each enemy aircraft destroyed in the air or on the ground brought the prospects of the invasion success closer.

According to statistics compiled in England, the total number of enemy aircraft destroyed between 1939 and June 1943 in operations against the RAF and Fleet Air Arm amounted to 3,500 in the Middle East region, which included Malta. This was an incredible amount since the total number of enemy aircraft shot down over Great Britain in the same period was 4,201. RAF losses in the Middle East region amounted to 1,977 aircraft.

Malta’s Spitfires were still in action, even after Allied troops had begun their invasion of enemy-held Europe. Daily Maltese Spitfire sweeps led to dogfights over Sicily and beyond.

By 5 August, with British and Canadian troops almost at Mount Etna on Sicily, Eisenhower delivered his own tribute to Malta:

The epic of Malta is symbolic of the experience of the United Nations in the war. Malta has passed successively through the stage of woeful unpreparedness, tenacious endurance, intensive preparation and the initiation of a fierce offensive. It is resolutely determined to maintain a rising crescendo of attack until the whole task is completed. For this inspiring example the United Nations will be forever indebted to Field Marshal Lord Gort, the fighting services under his command and to every citizen of the heroic island.

The Times of Malta throughout the entire siege had never failed to be published. Mabel Strickland, the editor, writing on 17 August after Sicily had fallen, wrote:

The hideous German Junkers 88s no longer possess the sky, instead there is the continuous drone of British fighters and bombers, heading out for Italy, speeded on their mission by the Maltese with a fierce and furious delight. They are the first liberators of oppressed Europe.

A greater joy was to come to Malta on 8 September. The remnants of the Italian fleet, just twenty-eight vessels, steamed into the Grand Harbour to surrender. The Germans had tried to sink the surrendering Italian surface fleet and had managed to destroy the Italian battleship and flagship, Roma.

On 28 September Marshal Badaoglio signed the Italian surrender at Malta. Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham sent a telegram of confirmation to London:

Pleased to inform their lordships that the Italian battle fleet now lies at anchor under the guns of the fortress of Malta.

Malta’s staunchest ally and supporter arrived on the island in November 1943. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was later to write:

The interrelation between Malta and the desert operations was never so plain as in 1942, and the heroic defence of the island in that year formed the keystone of the prolonged struggle for the maintenance of our position in Egypt and the Middle East.

On Wednesday 8 December 1943 Malta played host to President Roosevelt. He commended the islanders for their contribution:

In the name of the people of the United States of America I salute the island of Malta, its people and defenders, who in the cause of freedom and justice and decency throughout the world have rendered valorious service far above and beyond the call of duty. Under repeated fire from the skies, Malta stood alone but unafraid in the centre of the sea, one tiny bright flame in the darkness, a beacon of hope for the clearer days which have come.

The civilians and servicemen of Malta had suffered enormous losses and privations and many of the vessels that had brought them hope had also been lost. HMS Eagle, USS Wasp and HMS Welshman had all been sunk by the time the war had ended. The USS Wasp had been sunk off Guadalcanal in the Pacific by a Japanese submarine on 15 September 1942. HMS Welshman had been sunk off Tobruk on 1 February 1943 and HMS Eagle had of course been sunk during Operation Pedestal. Four torpedoes, fired from the German submarine U-73 had sunk her in the early morning of 11 August 1942, 70 miles south of Cape Salinas.

Lieutenant General Sir William Dobbie wrote in 1944 of the victory that would have appeared to have been so impossible in 1940:

It was my privilege to witness these amazing happenings from the vantage point of Malta, which was destined to play a great part in the epic struggle. It is possible that the importance and the role of that island fortress have only been imperfectly understood until recently, but it is very evident now that its importance was so great and its role so vital to our wellbeing in the Mediterranean that its retention in our hands justified any effort and any sacrifice however great. It is no exaggeration to say that the security of Malta reacted very definitely on the safety of Egypt, and all that those words imply. If Malta had fallen, the safety of Egypt would have been very gravely endangered. It was from Malta that the attacks were launched by sea and air on the enemy’s lines of communication between Italy and North Africa. By means of these attacks we were able to exert some influence on the effectiveness of the enemy forces in North Africa, and in this way to reduce the threat on Egypt.

Dobbie went on to describe the perilous position that Malta found itself in at the beginning of hostilities:

Our resources were meagre enough. Especially in the early months of the Italian war, the garrison was unbelievably weak both in men and material, and the enemy undoubtedly knew exactly how weak we were. Our air resources in Malta were practically nil, although the fortress was only a few minutes flying away from the many air bases in Sicily and southern Italy at the disposal of the strong Regia Aeronautica. No wonder the Italians had been boasting that they would overrun the island within a few days of the declaration of war. Their resources were amply adequate to justify them making the attempt, especially in view of our own weakness. But this attempt was never made (just as the attempt to invade Britain was never made), and all other attempts during the two long years and more to reduce the fortress by other means failed. We acknowledge with admiration and gratitude the way the people of Malta, the three fighting services and the Merchant Navy faced the ordeal and willingly paid the price needed to keep Malta safe. But even so the fact that Malta is today still in British hands is a miracle. The miracle of Malta is a part, and a big part, of the Mediterranean miracle.

The war front was gradually leaving Malta in the rear. By December 1943 there had been no air raid alerts over the island, a situation that had existed for at least two months. January 1944 saw two air raid alerts and there were none in February.

By August 1944 the island and the servicemen had settled down to a new, more peaceful routine. On 5 August Gort visited Valletta for the last time. He had been appointed High Commissioner and Commander in Chief in Palestine and would be replaced by Lieutenant General Sir Edmond Acton Schreiber.

The last alert was sounded on 28 August 1944. It began at 20.43 and the all clear was sounded at 2.100 hours. In all, Malta had experienced 3,349 air raid alerts. The island had been under alert for 2,357 hours. Of these 1,206 had been actual bombing raids.

The year 1944 brought more food, security and an end to the terror. There were still huge mounds of broken buildings. Each village and town on the island was scarred and disfigured by the actions of the enemy over the period of the siege. Daily Allied aircraft, not Italian or German raiders, flew overhead. The island was subjected to successive invasions: not by the enemy but by servicemen bringing in supplies and material or in transit to or from the front in Italy. Still alert for any danger, the fighter squadrons and anti-aircraft batteries scoured the skies for the sign of an enemy attack. In the harbours cargo ships and other vessels sailed in and out freely, unmolested by the attentions of Ju87s and Ju88s. In the Grand Harbour there was the wreckage of many of the ships that had brought much needed supplies and reinforcements to the island.

For many years the scars left by the blitz on Malta remained. The countryside was strewn with burned out aircraft, the villages and towns with collapsed buildings. In time the army, the air force and the navy would all leave Malta. To this day the Opera House lies in ruins, the only landmark on the island that has not been rebuilt.

In 1992 the Siege Bell Memorial was built on the site of a Bofors gun emplacement, overlooking the Grand Harbour. At noon each day the bell is rung to remind the islanders and the tourists that the island remains the home of the many airmen that fought and died on Malta and that the island remains their resting place.

TIMELINE OF THE SIEGE (APRIL 1940—DECEMBER 1942)

Date       Event

1935      Anti-aircraft defences of the Grand Harbour are strengthened.

20 April 1939      British merchant shipping is banned from operating in the Mediterranean.

July 1939             The Central Committee is created by the governor of Malta’s Advisory Council.

September 1939 District Committees are formed in each parish on Malta.

23 April 1940      Creation of the Malta Fighter Fight, with eight volunteer pilots. Twenty-four Royal Navy Gladiators that arrived in March 1939 have been reduced to eighteen. Eight of them are requisitioned for HMS Glorious and ten for HMS Eagle. In the event, four are to be kept for the Malta Fighter Flight.

29 April 1940      The Malta Flight is dissolved when all ten of the assembled Gladiators are in fact requisitioned by the Royal Navy.

2—3 May 1940  Blackout practice on Malta between 22.00 hours and dawn.

4 May 1940        Malta Fighter Flight re-formed after Royal Navy has a change of plan and only takes three of the ten Gladiators, leaving seven on Malta.

11 May 1940      Air raid warning practice on Malta.

20 May 1940      Volunteers called for, for the Malta Volunteer Defence Force, in Maltese newspapers.

27 May 1940      Emergency hospitals on Malta established and a curfew is introduced between 23.00 and 05.00.

10 June 1940      Italy declares war on Britain at midnight if Malta is not surrendered. At the outbreak of the war Malta had thirty-four heavy anti-aircraft guns instead of an approved 112 and just eight light anti-aircraft guns, instead of sixty. Also on the island are four obsolete Gladiators to operate as fighters and a single radio set.

11 June 1940      The Italians launch their first air raid on Malta at 07.00, attacking Hal Far, Valletta and the Grand Harbour.

12 June 1940      Italian bombers inflict seventeen casualties in four different locations on the island.

13 June 1940      More Italian raids, including bombs dropped over Kalafrana.

14 June 1940      A pair of Italian bombers attacks the Grand Harbour. Refugee settlement centres are established on the island.

15 June 1940      Air raid on Hamrun, killing one person. The Governor of Malta announces that protection officers will work with District Committees.

16 June 1940      Kalafrana hit. More raids launched in the afternoon.

17 June 1940      Five bombers and two fighters attack just after 06.00. Seven Economical Kitchens (or Victory Kitchens) are opened to feed town refugees on the island.

20 June 1940      Malta’s first night air-raid.

21 June 1940      Four Italian raids, with bombs falling on Marsa and Gozo.

22 June 1940      First confirmed kill of an Italian aircraft, off Kalafrana.

23 June 1940      Flight Lieutenant Burges in a Gladiator shoots down a Macchi 200.

26 June 1940      Frequent air raids, with twenty-five S79s. One bomb hits a crowded bus at Marsa, killing twenty-one (seven more would later die from their injuries).

27 June 1940      Malta suffers its twenty-eighth air raid in the evening. There are four deaths.

29 June 1940      Six Italian aircraft intercepted and forced back before bombing runs.

30 June 1940      More Italian raids and cars banned from the roads after 24.00 without special permit.

3 July 1940         Eleven Italian aircraft attack. One S79 shot down by a Hurricane five miles out from Kalafrana.

4 July 1940         Low flying machine-gun attack on Kalafrana.

5 July 1940         Malta receives an unexpected reinforcement when a French floatplane reached Kalafrana at 23.00 hours, having flown from Tunisia. Its crew was eventually attached to No. 230 Squadron at Kalafrana.

6 July 1940         Heavy bomb raid on the island but just one casualty. Civilian respirators issued from police stations.

7 July 1940         Italians hit three Maltese villages, killing a number of children and older residents.

10 July 1940       Several attacks by Italian aircraft. One is shot down.

13 July 1940       Flight Lieutenant Burges awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

15 July 1940       Bombproof shelters opened in Valletta.

24 July 1940       Raid on Kalafrana at 04.00.

31 July 1940       Gladiators from Hal Far Fighter Flight intercept an S79 escorted by a number of CR42s. One CR42 shot down to the north of the Grand Harbour. Pilot Officer Hartley shot down, but rescued by the Marine Craft Section.

2 August 1940    Twelve Hurricanes arrive in Malta from HMS Argus in Operation Hurry.

13—14 August 1940        Nine aircraft of 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm launch attack on Augusta Harbour. Three aircraft fail to make it back to Malta.

15 August 1940  Ten S79s escorted by nineteen CR42s attack Hal Far. Four Hurricanes are scrambled. Sergeant O‘Donnell was shot down by one of the CR42s.

23 August 1940  Several reconnaissance flights launched over the island.

24 August 1940  Six S79s and seventeen CR42s attack Kalafrana and Hal Far. Four Hurricanes manage to shoot down a CR42.

29 August 1940  In Operation Hats convoy sails from Alexandria to Malta, launching attacks on Italian airbases en route.

2—3 September 1940      Six Swordfish from HMS Illustrious arrive in Malta.

4 September 1940            Five Italian-manned Ju87 Stukas attack Malta, bombing Kalafrana.

5 September 1940            Enemy bombers intercepted over Gozo. Italians machine-gun bus passengers.

7 September 1940            Ten S79s and seventeen CR42s attack Valletta just after 12.00. Most bombs fall in the dockyard area.

14—17 September 1940 Several more Italian raids on Valletta, Kalafrana and Hal Far. On 17 September twelve Italian Stukas, twenty-one CR42s and six Macchi 200s attack Luqa airfield. One Stuka shot down off Filfla.

22 September 1940         Italians attack Luqa, destroying several houses and killing a teenager.

23 September 1940         Unexploded bombs in the Hal Far area are cleared.

9 October 1940  Five S79s attack Kalafrana. A Hurricane night fighter intercepts and shoots one down off Benghisa.

11—12 October 1940      Convoy bringing in food and other supplies arrives from Port Said.

15 October 1940                A French flying boat arrives in Malta, having escaped from Tunisia from the French battleship Richelieu.

17 October 1940                More Italian air raids, with one casualty at Zabbar.

31 October 1940                British Wellington bombers, based at Luqa, launch their first bombing raid from the island. The aircraft hit Naples, 350 miles away.

5—6 November 1940      A single CR42 strafes a Sunderland in Marsaxlokk Bay.

12 November 1940          Hurricane shoots down a Macchi 200 in St Thomas Bay.

17 November 1940          Twelve more Hurricanes arrive in Operation White, flown off HMS Argus. Of the twelve only four reach Malta: the rest run out of fuel and crash into the sea. More ships arrive with supplies from Egypt.

18 November 1940          Night raids launched by the Italians around the Grand Harbour and Kalafrana. A Hurricane shoots down an S79.

24 November 1940          Low-level attacks made on Luqa airfield.

26 November 1940          A Macchi 200 shot down by a Hurricane. Convoy arrives from Alexandria.

29 November 1940          Convoy codenamed Operation Collar arrives in Malta with 20,000 tons of supplies.

14 December 940             Several Italian aircraft launch attacks on the island. Little damage is done and they are beaten off by anti-aircraft fire.

20 December 1940           Operation Hide, a convoy from Alexandria delivers supplies on seven merchant ships. An S79 is shot down off Fort Tigne.

9 January 1941   Sixteen Macchi 200s attack Luqa airfield. Nine Italian Ju87s and ten CR42s attack merchant ships in Marsaxlokk Bay and Kalafrana. A Macchi 200 shot down by a Hurricane in St Paul’s Bay.

10 January 1941                Operation Excess convoy from Gibraltar arrives in Malta with ammunition and twelve crated Hurricanes. They also deliver 10,000 tons of stores and 500 soldiers and airmen.

15 January 1941                Italian reconnaissance flights over the eastern part of the island.

16 January 1941                First Italian air raid against HMS Illustrious. A second raid takes place in the afternoon and a third at night. British claim at least ten enemy aircraft, most of which are German. There is extensive damage in Valletta. This is the first time the Germans launch an assault on the island.

17 January 1941                Several more heavy air raids, but only one casualty.

18 January 1941                Fifty Ju87s and Ju88s, with Macchi 200 escorts, launch continuous waves of attacks for over an hour in the morning. At least eighty bombers hit Luqa and Hal Far airfields. Two British Fulmars shot down. British claim eleven enemy aircraft. Third major air raid takes place but the two enemy formations are engaged out to sea and fail to press home their attack.

19 January 1941                Italian Cant shot down off Valletta. Major raids by Germans against the Grand Harbour in an effort to destroy HMS Illustrious. A single Ju88 flies on towards Kalafrana, but is shot down by a Hurricane. Later a CR42 is also shot down near Valletta.

20 January 1941                After a reconnaissance flight by a Ju88 a high level bombing raid is launched on the harbour at night.

21 January 1941                Germans and Italians launch two raids, bombing various targets on the island.

24 January 1941                A Ju88 shot down by a Gladiator and a Cant is shot down by another Malta-based aircraft.

26 January 1941                A Ju88 on a reconnaissance flight is intercepted by two Hurricanes. It disappeared out to sea with smoke pouring out of its engine.

28 January 1941                Six Hurricanes arrive from Egypt, along with some reserve pilots.

4 February 1941                100 enemy aircraft attack Hal Far, Luqa and Kalafrana at dusk. In the previous month sixty- three civilians had been killed.

6 February 1941                Germans and Italians launch dive bombing attacks on Maltese airfields.

7 February 1941 Various alerts but all are reconnaissance flights.

8 February 1941                Several enemy air raids. Six Hurricanes are scrambled at night. They intercept an HE111 above Rabat. The bomber crashed into the sea.

9 February 1941                The British report that to date eighty-five enemy aircraft have been shot down over Malta, twenty-four probable kills and thirty-three more have been damaged.

12 February 1941             First appearance of Messerschmitt Bf109Es, operating out of Sicily. Hurricanes scramble to intercept Ju88s but are attacked by the 109s. One Hurricane is shot down.

16 February 1941             Enemy drops mines close to the harbour entrance.

25 February 1941             A pair of German Dorniers is shot down.

26 February 1941             Heaviest raid to date with thirty-eight Ju87s, twelve Ju88s, ten DO17s, ten HE111s and up to thirty fighters. All attack Luqa. They destroy six Wellingtons on the ground and several Marylands. Eight Hurricanes are scrambled to intercept. RAF loses five Hurricanes and three pilots. British claim five confirmed, four probable and one damaged. Later in the afternoon German fighter attacks fishing boats.

28 February 1941             Parachute mines dropped around Valletta.

1 March 1941     Enemy reconnaissance flights over the island, followed by bombers escorted by fighters.

2 March 1941     Several enemy raids launched.

5 March 1941     At least sixty enemy bombers, escorted by fighters, attack the island. At least one Ju88 and one Ju87 shot down.

6 March 1941     Five Hurricanes and two Wellingtons arrive in Malta from Egypt.

7 March 1941     A Hurricane, flown by Sergeant Jessop, shot down by a German fighter.

9 March 1941     German aircraft raid Valletta. One bomber crash lands on Gozo.

10 March 1941   At midday at least three enemy formations attack the island. Messerschmitt 110s attack Kalafrana. At night anti-aircraft guns claim a German bomber.

11 March 1941   Indiscriminate bombing, mainly on Sliema.

15 March 1941   German aircraft attack Maltese airfields and an enemy mine blows up a Gozo boat.

22 March 1941   Ten Ju88s, escorted by Bf109s, intercepted by Hurricanes. Five Hurricanes are shot down and four of the pilots are lost.

23 March 1941   Day and night time raids on the island. Up to twelve enemy aircraft claimed. Convoy arrives from Haifa.

24 March 1941   Ju88s, escorted by German fighters, drop bombs in the Grand Harbour.

29 March 1941   Night raids by German aircraft across the island.

3 April 1941        Operation Winch sees twelve Hurricanes arrive from HMS Ark Royal. An Italian S79, escorted by CR42 fighters, attempts to attack an RAF launch. Later in the day Ju87s, escorted by fighters, attack two minesweepers off Filfla.

8 April 1941        The mooring lighter Moor is sunk in the Grand Harbour. The explosion causes damage to the surrounding area and many casualties.

11 April 1941      Twelve Macchi 200s, six CR42s and Bf109s appear over the island. Hurricanes are scrambled and shoot down one German fighter. British also lose aircraft in the dogfight over the island. By this stage the Germans and Italians have lost 132 aircraft, with forty-four probable and fifty-eight damaged. British losses to date twenty-nine fighters.

13 April 1941      The 500th alert on the island. There are four raids. Flight Officer Mason shoots down a Bf109 but three others shoot him down. He is later picked up by HSL 107.

14 April 1941      Successive waves of Ju87s and 88s attack the island.

15—19 April 1941            Several more raids of lessening intensity.

20 April 1941      Italian S79s and CR42s, supported by Bf109s, attack the eastern parts of the island.

21 April 1941      A parachute mine lands near a large air raid shelter but fails to inflict casualties.

22 April 1941      German aircraft attack at night using flares. They drop bombs and mines around Valletta.

23 April 1941      Hurricane shot down off Hal Far.

27 April 1941      Twenty-three of twenty-four Hurricanes arrive from HMS Ark Royal in Operation Dunlop. German fighters attack and destroy a Sunderland at Kalafrana. Wellington bombers leave for Egypt, to be replaced by Blenheims, arriving from England via Gibraltar.

29 April 1941      Six Ju88s attack Valletta in the early evening. Seventeen Hurricanes are scrambled and they shoot down one Ju88.

30 April 1941      Heavy raids against the Grand Harbour and Valletta. The cathedral and a Greek Orthodox Church are destroyed.

2 May 1941        Twenty-one crated Hurricanes and other supplies, due to arrive on the cargo ship Parracombe in Operation Temple, are lost when the vessel hits a mine off Cape Bon.

4 May 1941        The parish church of St Publius is severely damaged after a raid.

6 May 1941        Major German attacks on the island. Several Hurricanes shot down.

9 May 1941        Convoy Operation Tiger arrives from Alexandria. Ju87s attack as they enter the Grand Harbour but they are chased off by Hurricanes that claim a kill.

10 May 1941      German fighters engaged by Hurricanes. One German aircraft destroys a Sunderland in Marsaxlokk Bay.

11 May 1941      German fighters machine-gun seaplane bases and Valletta is bombed.

13 May 1941      Hurricane shot down by German aircraft.

15—20 May 1941            Enemy air raids against Valletta and Zabbar.

21 May 1941      Operation Splice sees forty-eight Hurricanes due to be launched from HMS Ark Royal and HMS Furious. Forty-one actually take off and forty reach Malta, along with five Fulmar aircraft.

25 May 1941      Enemy raids claim one casualty at Naxxar.

31 May 1941      Raids damage the former Courts of Justice and block Kingsway. The Law Courts building collapses.

3 June 1941        Two raids on the island. In the second raid a German Ju52 is shot down. Signposts are removed for fear of enemy airborne attack. An S79 is shot down by a Hurricane off Gozo.

6 June 1941        In Operation Rocket forty-three Hurricanes safely arrive on Malta from HMS Ark Royal and HMS Furious.

7 June 1941        Night raids by HE111s.

9 June 1941        Luftwaffe leaves Sicily. Off Malta four Italian S79s are intercepted by four Hurricanes: one S79 is shot down.

11 June 1941      An S79, escorted by seventeen Macchi 200s, is intercepted off Valletta in the early morning. The bomber is shot down.

12 June 1941      An S79, escorted by thirty Macchi 200s, is intercepted by eighteen Hurricanes. An unspecified number of Italian fighters are shot down. In the afternoon a Cant and a CR42 are also shot down. Later Hurricanes claim another Cant but a Hurricane, flown by Sergeant Walker, is shot down by a CR42 forty-five miles north of Valletta. Italians press attacks on Mosta.

14 June 1941      Forty-eight Hurricanes and four Hudsons arrive from HMS Ark Royal and HMS Victorious in Operation Tracer. Four Hurricanes run out of fuel and crash en route.

15—18 June 1941            Enemy air attacks on Tarxien and Marsa. On June 18 a Macchi 200 is shot down.

23 June 1941      An HE115 float plane, flown by a Norwegian, arrives from England. It will undertake special operational work.

25 June 1941      An S79, escorted by thirty-six Macchi 200s, is intercepted by nine Hurricanes. Two enemy aircraft are shot down.

27 June 1941      In Operation Railway One, twenty-one of twenty-two Hurricanes arrived on Malta from HMS Ark Royal. One Hurricane ditches en route. There are two raids in the morning, one S79 and two Macchi 200s are intercepted by nine Hurricanes. One Macchi is shot down and another ditches into the sea.

30 June 1941      Forty-two Hurricanes are due to launch from HMS Ark Royal and HMS Furious in Operation Railway Two. After a Hurricane crash on HMS Furious only thirty-five take off, all of which reach Malta. In the afternoon Hurricanes engage a number of Macchi 200s and one Macchi is shot down.

4 July 1941         A Cant on a reconnaissance flight, escorted by thirty-eight Macchi 200s, is intercepted by four Hurricanes. One Macchi is shot down and one Hurricane of No. 126 Squadron, out of Safi, fails to return.

5 July 1941         Enemy raids on Hamrun, killing three children.

7 July 1941         More raids, this time on Paola, killing several civilians.

8 July 1941         A Fiat BR20 is shot down by anti-aircraft fire. Fighters intercept Macchi 200s and seaplanes and scare them off.

9 July 1941         Kalafrana is targeted at night by two raids.

11 July 1941       At least forty Macchi 200s attack in the afternoon. A group of them attacks Luqa airfield. Three enemy fighters are shot down.

12 July 1941       Enemy raids kill several civilians at Hamrun and Marsa.13 July 1941. Malta will now only face Italian aircraft for the time being, as the Germans are shifted to the Russian front.

17—18 July 1941              Enemy fighters and reconnaissance aircraft launch more raids and one civilian is killed.

25 July 1941       65,000 tons of supplies arrive on cargo ships in Operation Substance. HMS Ark Royal, as part of the operation despatches seven Swordfish to the island. Twenty-two Hurricanes intercept a reconnaissance Cant and forty Macchi 200s. Three enemy aircraft are shot down.

26 July 1941       The Italian navy X-MAS flotilla launches a raid on the Grand Harbour and Marsamxett. The attack was repelled and in the pursuit a Hurricane was shot down 30 miles north of the island.

1 August 1941    Throughout the previous month thirty-nine civilians had been killed and the island had faced 800 alerts.

3—7 August 1941            Italian raids at Sliema and other targets. At least four enemy aircraft shot down.

14—21 August 1941        Several raids against Hamrun, Zejtun and Sliema. Incendiaries also dropped.

26—28 August 1941        Incendiaries and air raids, particularly on Naxxar, killing six civilians, including five children.

4 September 1941            A large group of Macchi 200s were engaged by Hurricanes. At least six Italian aircraft are claimed. There are several more raids during the night. The Italians lose Lieutenant Carlo Romagnoli.

7 September 1941            RAF aircraft engage Italian fighters.

8—9 September 1941      Five Italian Ju87s attack Valletta. A BR20M attacks Hal Far and nine Z1007bis also attack. A pair of Hurricanes intercept and a Cant is shot down. HMS Ark Royal despatches fourteen Hurricanes in Operation Status One.

12 September 1941         Anti-aircraft crews shoot down a pair of BR20s.

13 September 1941         Forty-five of forty-six Hurricanes arrive safely on Malta from HMS Ark Royal and HMS Furious in Operation Status Two.

29 September 1941         Five Hurricane fighter bombers of No. 185 Squadron attack Comiso airfield. They are intercepted by the new Macchi 202 fighters. One Hurricane, flown by Pilot Officer Lintern, is shot down north of Gozo.

1 October 1941                 Macchi 202s launch their first sortie over Malta. There are seven that are intercepted by eight Hurricanes. Another Hurricane is shot down.

4 October 1941                 Another Hurricane, flown by Pilot Officer Veitch, is believed to have been shot down by Macchi 202s.

14 October 1941                Six Macchi 202s attack Luqa airfield just before dawn. Five Hurricanes are scrambled followed by six more. Pilot Officer Barnwell is shot down.

17—18 October 1941      Several air raids are launched, claiming five civilians. On 18 October HMS Ark Royal in Operation Callboy delivers eleven Albacores and two Swordfish. One of the Swordfish is lost en route.

22 October 1941                Fourteen Macchi 202s attack Luqa airfield on two occasions. Nine Hurricanes intercept and Sergeant Owens’ aircraft is shot down.

24 October 1941                Bombing raid on Gozo.

31 October 1941                Night raids launched and a Cant Z1007 is shot down.

1 November 1941            In the early hours four BR20M night bombers are intercepted and one is shot down. Nonetheless the Italians bomb Valletta and Marsa.

8—12 November 1941    Raids and bombings on three successive days from 8 November. On 12 November Hurricanes of Nos 126 and 249 Squadrons attack Gela airfield. They are intercepted by Macchi 202s and one Hurricane is lost. HMS Ark Royal and HMS Argus deliver thirty-four Hurricanes and a Swordfish. This is the last reinforcement of aircraft in 1941.

22 November 1941          A Macchi 202 is shot down by a Hurricane of No. 249 Squadron.

5 December 1941             Luftwaffe Fliegerkorps II moves to Messina on Sicily with the aim of destroying Malta’s offensive power and preparing her for invasion.

8 December 1941             Intensive air raids across the island.

10 December 1941           More attacks on Malta and Maltese volunteers are requested for training as pilots and observers in the RAF.

12—17 December 1941   Incessant daily raids, with six alerts on 15 December alone.

18 December 1941           The cargo ship Breconshire arrives in Malta from Alexandria.

19 December 1941           In the morning three Ju88s, escorted by Macchis, attack the airfields and the Grand Harbour. One bomber damaged and another shot down over Gozo. In the afternoon German fighters shoot down a Hurricane flown by the American Pilot Officer Steele.

20 December 1941           Two formations of bombers, supported by fighters, scatter bombs across the island.

21 December 1941           Four Ju88s and twenty BF109s and Macchi 202s launch a raid in the late morning. Eighteen Hurricanes are scrambled. One Hurricane of No. 185 Squadron is shot down, as is one Macchi and a probable second.

22 December 1941           Enemy fighters attack fishing boats off the Grand Harbour. One of the intercepting Hurricanes is shot down; a Ju88 fails to return to base, as does a No. 18 Squadron Blenheim on reconnaissance.

24 December 1941           Ju88s, escorted by fighters, attack several positions on Malta. Four Ju88s bomb the Grand Harbour in the morning. One bomber shot down and possibly a second. German aircraft claim one Hurricane.

27 December 1941           Three Ju88s and twenty BF109s spotted off Kalafrana. One bomber shot down. After dusk another Ju88 is shot down over the island.

28 December 1941           Early afternoon sees Ju88s and escorts approaching. Hurricanes scrambled. One Hurricane shot down. Anti-aircraft defences claim a bomber and Hurricanes claim a second.

29 December 1941           One of the heaviest raids since the return of the Luftwaffe. Thirty-six enemy aircraft involved in morning raid. Two Hurricanes collide in mid-air. Later, eighteen Hurricanes intercept twenty-four enemy aircraft, claiming one. Four Hurricanes scrambled to intercept German fighters over Gozo and two Hurricanes are lost. German aircraft also attack Luqa airfield, destroying fifteen aircraft on the ground.

30 December 1941           Ten Hurricanes scrambled to intercept five Ju88s approaching the island. A single Ju88 shot down.

2 January 1942                  Heavy raids claim numerous civilian lives.

3 January 1942                  Twenty-two Hurricanes intercept Ju88s and BF109s. One Ju88 and one BF109 shot down, but a Hurricane is also shot down by antiaircraft fire.

4 January 1942                  Two early morning raids. Enemy attacking Luqa lose one bomber.

5 January 1942                  Stukas launch continuous attacks on Malta’s airfields. This is repeated the next day.

11—14 January 1942       Incessant raids on various targets across the island.

15 January 1942                Seventeen alerts in 24 hours, with heavy bombing.

16 January 1942                Since the Italian declaration of war Malta has endured 1,285 air alerts.

18—22 January 1942       Up to eleven alerts each day. Waves of bombers and fighters almost continually over the island. On night of 19 January a Ju88 shot down.

25 January 1942                Four Hurricanes shot down over Kalafrana by BF109s, escorting Ju88s intent on hitting an inbound convoy.

27 January 1942                Breconshire arrives from Alexandria. Hurricane lost.

28—31 January 1942       Several raids each day. One Hurricane lost on 28 January.

2 February 1942                Raid on Kalafrana.

3 February 1942                Raid on Hal Far and Kalafrana.

4 February 1942                Several civilians killed across the island.

5—6 February 1942         Enemy raids on Sliema and two enemy aircraft destroyed on 6 February.

7 February 1942                Sixteen alerts in the past 24 hours.

8 February 1942                Enemy attack Kalafrana.

9—11 February 1942       Several civilians killed in widespread raids.

12 February 1942             Attacks begin at dawn. Two inbound Beaufighters shot down. Later a Ju88 is lost, as is a Hurricane. Several cargo vessels arrive, escorted by cruisers and destroyers.

15 February 1942             Four daylight raids. One of seven Ju88s attacking Luqa shot down. Beaufighter lost in second raid. BF109 lost in third raid. Evening casualties include a Hurricane and a Maryland.

20—22 February 1942     Several raids each day.

23 February 1942             Ju88 shot down by anti-aircraft fire. Later another BF109 lost.

24 February 1942             Airfield raids see loss of two Hurricanes.

27 February 1942             Ju88 attack on the Grand Harbour leads to the loss of a Ju88 and three Me109s.

1 March 1942     Luftwaffe attacks Grand Harbour and other targets. Hurricane lost at midday.

4 March 1942     One Me109 shot down off the island.

5 March 1942     Six Hurricanes intercept five Ju88s and ten Me109s. One Hurricane lost. Luqa is heavily bombed.

7 March 1942     Fifteen Spitfires arrive safely on Malta after a 700 mile flight. They launch from HMS Eagle in Operation Spotter.

9 March 1942     Ju88s and Me109s hit Luqa, Safi and Hal Far. Hurricanes claim one bomber and anti-aircraft a second. This is the last time that Hurricanes alone face the enemy.

10—13 March 1942         Daily raids with some civilian deaths.

14 March 1942   Me109 shot down; four Spitfires engage 109s over Gozo and shoot another one down.

17 March 1942   Heavy air raids kill many civilians across the island.

18 March 1942   One Spitfire, two Hurricanes and an Me109 lost in dogfights over the island.

20 March 1942   Heavy raids. Spitfires claim another Me109.

21 March 1942   Nine more Spitfires arrive on the island in Operation Picket, flown in from HMS Eagle. Several waves of Ju88s attack the island. This is the largest single attack since the Luftwaffe returned in December 1941. There are many civilian casualties.

22 March 1942   Several cargo ships safely arrive. Spitfires shoot down three Ju88s. One enemy attack believed to have used at least seventy bombers.

24 March 1942   Heavy attacks on the island, inflicting widespread casualties.

25 March 1942   Breconshire badly hit by German fighters. In the afternoon Grand Harbour hit by nearly seventy German aircraft. This is believed to be one of the biggest air battles fought over the island.

26—28 March 1942         Continued attacks claim more civilian lives.

29 March 1942   Seven Spitfires arrive from HMS Eagle in Operation Picket Two.

1 April 1942        Three Me109s and two Ju88s shot down. Later two Stukas are lost as they attack Kalafrana and Hal Far.

2 April 1942        Two Spitfires fail to return after being scrambled in the morning. Kalafrana bombed.

3—6 April 1942  Heavy raids on each day, particularly on 6th.

7 April 1942        Malta’s 2,000th alert. Several more civilian casualties.

8 April 1942        Several Ju88s and 109s attack Kalafrana.

9 April 1942        Forty or more Ju88s, sixteen Ju87s and forty Me109s hit the airfields at midday. Sixty Ju88s and twelve Ju87s involved in afternoon raids. One Hurricane lost.

10—14 April 1942            Daily raids, with eighty bombers involved on 12 April. Daily civilian casualties. Me109 shot down on 14 April.

15 April 1942      Fighter defence down to around six aircraft due to losses and damage to airfields and also fuel shortages.

18 April 1942      Kalafrana hit by several raids throughout the day. Several military personnel killed.

19 April 1942      Grand Harbour raided and ships set on fire. Many civilian casualties.

20 April 1942      Valletta, Hal Far and Kalafrana hit by seventy Ju88s and twenty Ju87s.

21—22 April 1942            More raids from first light until dusk. Ju88 shot down on 22 April.

23 April 1942      Forty Ju88s, fifteen Ju87s and fighter escorts hit the island. One Ju87 destroyed.

24 April 1942      Several raids with the largest on the Grand Harbour by thirty Ju88s and twenty Me109s.

25 April 1942      Eight-five Ju88s and fifteen Ju87s attack Luqa. Similar numbers return midday.

26 April 1942      Large raid on Kalafrana and Valletta by seventy enemy aircraft. Anti-aircraft claim a Ju88.

28—30 April 1942            Numerous raids. Two enemy aircraft shot down on 30 April, bringing anti-aircraft tally for the month to 102 downed.

2 May 1942        Widespread bombing inflicts numerous civilian casualties.

4 May 1942        Ferryboat Royal Lady machine-gunned on her way to Gozo.

5 May 1942        Six Hurricanes arrive from Gambut. Evening air raid by enemy fighter bombers with fighter escorts.

6 May 1942        Royal Lady sunk. One Hurricane lost.

8 May 1942        Ju88 and Me109 and a Ju87 lost in morning raid. Several civilian bombing casualties.

9 May 1942        In Operation Bowery sixty new Spitfires arrive, one crashing on landing. Enemy raids the Grand Harbour.

10 May 1942      More attacks on Grand Harbour. RAF scrambles thirty-seven Spitfires and thirteen Hurricanes. Claims of up to sixty-three enemy aircraft shot down. More raids in the afternoon and evening by Italian aircraft.

12 May 1942      Two Spitfires lost. Evening raid intercepted and one S84 shot down.

13 May 1942      Sixteen German bombers and twenty Me109s intercepted. One Me109 shot down.

14 May 1942      Twenty-eight Spitfires intercept Ju88s and fighter escorts attacking Luqa and Ta’Qali. One Spitfire lost.

17 May 1942      Nine enemy aircraft shot down by RAF and anti-aircraft fire.

18 May 1942      In Operation LB seventeen new Spitfires arrive from HMS Eagle.

19 May 1942      Four Italian aircraft and six German fighters destroyed in dogfights.

25 May 1942      Numerous air raids over Malta, but Valletta streets now reopened after removal of debris.

26—27 May 1942            Several air raid attacks, including those on Hamrun and Luqa.

2 June 1942        Three Italian S84 bombers, twenty-four RE2000s and thirty-two Macchi 202s intercepted by twenty Spitfires off Kalafrana. One Spitfire lost.

3 June 1942        Thirty-two Spitfires arrive from HMS Eagle in Operation Style. Four lost en route and one crashes on take-off.

7 June 1942        Five Italian fighters, an Italian floatplane and two German bombers shot down.

8 June 1942        Me109s shoot down one of nine Spitfires flown by Rhodesian Pilot Officer Barlow (603 Squadron).

9 June 1942        Thirty-one Spitfires arrive from HMS Eagle in Operation Salient.

10 June 1942      By this stage Malta has endured 2,537 alerts, 492 daytime raids and 574 night attacks. Spitfire lost but pilot recovered.

15 June 1942      Several enemy attacks on airfields. Single Spitfire lost.

16 June 1942      Cargo ships and escorts arrive in Malta in Operation Harpoon, bringing airmen and supplies.

22 June 1942      Large scale night raids.

23 June 1942      Evening raids by Italians. One Macchi 202 shot down and one Spitfire lost.

26 June 1942      Bombing raids claim several civilians across the island.

27 June 1942      Four Spitfires engage eight Me109s. One Spitfire lost. Later Beaufighters shoots down a pair of Ju88s.

1 July 1942         Ta‘Qali airfield hit in the evening. One Spitfire interceptor lost.

2 July 1942         Cant bombers with Macchi 202s and RE2001 escorts en route to Safi and Kalafrana are intercepted by Spitfires. Unconfirmed kills.

3 July 1942         Cant bombers and Macchi 202s try again but once more are beaten off.

4 July 1942         Three S84s and twenty-two Macchi 202s plus up to seventeen additional fighters intercepted in the early morning. Two S84s shot down.

5 July 1942         Similar size raid but this time scared off by Spitfires. Spitfires claim a number of kills. Germans attack in the evening and twenty Spitfires are scrambled. Two bombers are shot down.

7 July 1942         Very heavy raids. Around twelve enemy aircraft shot down, mainly German. Several others badly damaged. One Spitfire also lost.

8 July 1942         Spitfires intercept German bombers, escorted by German and Italian fighters. One Spitfire lost.

9 July 1942         Germans target Ta’Qali. Twenty-seven Spitfires are scrambled and one is lost. Two German aircraft are destroyed.

10—11 July 1942              Widespread bombing. British claim eighty-two enemy aircraft over the last ten days: upwards of eight a day.

13 July 1942       Early morning raid sees one Spitfire lost.

14 July 1942       Heavy enemy raids. A number of unconfirmed enemy losses.

15 July 1942       Thirty-one new Spitfires arrive in Operation Pinpoint from HMS Eagle.

17—20 July 1942              Incessant raids. A number of Me109s claimed and a Ju88 on 20 July.

21 July 1942       Twenty-eight Spitfires safely reach Malta from HMS Eagle in Operation Insect.

24 July 1942       Enemy raids on numerous targets across the island.

26 July 1942       Today Malta marked its 2,800th alert.

27 July 1942       Up to thirteen enemy aircraft claimed by antiaircraft defences.

28 July 1942       Spitfire and a Ju88 lost in the morning. Several children killed by bombing.

30 July 1942       Spitfire shot down in St Paul’s Bay.

31 July 1942       Two Spitfires lost in dogfights with Me109s and Macchi 202s.

3 August 1942    Spitfire lost in dogfight with Me109s.

9 August 1942    Spitfire lost in mid afternoon.

11 August 1942  HMS Furious delivers thirty-seven Spitfires to Malta in Operation Bellows.

15 August 1942  Operation Pedestal arrives in Gibraltar, with cargo ships and escorts. One Me109 and one Spitfire lost in dogfight.

17 August 1942  Ju88s attempt to attack Grand Harbour but make off. HMS Furious delivers twenty-eight more Spitfires in Operation Baritone. One Me109 shot down at midday.

19 August 1942  Heavy raids resume.

26 August 1942  German and Italian fighters in sweep over Malta but are dispersed.

31 August 1942  Lighter raids on island.

5 September 1942            Me109 shot down to the south-east of Kalafrana.

6 September 1942            Two Beaufighters lost and an unclear number of enemy aircraft shot down.

8 September 1942            Spitfire shot down as Me109s make reconnaissance sorties over the island.

17 September 1942         Numerous 109s seen over Zonqor Point and to the north-east of Grand Harbour. One enemy aircraft shot down. Later Spitfire is also lost.

19 September 1942         Two Italian seaplanes shot down by Spitfires in the evening.

24—25 September 1942 Several raids greeted by heavy anti-aircraft fire. Two enemy aircraft claimed on 25 September.

29 September 1942         Generally believed to be the day in which Britain gained air superiority over Malta. Enemy aircraft attacking today are driven off before they reach the island.

10 October 1942                Ju88s target Gozo, killing a number of civilians.

11 October 1942                The opening of the last blitz on Malta. Seven Ju88s, twenty-five Macchi 202s and four Me109s are intercepted by nineteen Spitfires. Britain claims seven bombers, five German fighters and three Italian fighters. Several more are reported damaged.

12 October 1942                Five air raids launched. Two British aircraft lost.

13 October 1942                One of the heaviest raids since May. In the fourth raid alone seven Ju88s, thirty Macchi 202s and forty-two Me109s attack. By the end of the day Britain claimed twenty-two enemy aircraft destroyed.

14 October 1942                Four raids launched. Four Spitfires lost in return for a number of enemy aircraft.

15 October 1942                Four more raids. Several claims and counterclaims made on kills.

16 October 1942                Similar pattern, as Luftwaffe tries to knock out the airfields. Several aircraft lost by both sides.

17 October 1942                More large scale attacks. Spitfire destroyed in head-on collision with Ju88. Two more Ju88s shot down at midday. In the evening fifteen bombers hit Kalafrana.

20 October 1942                Daylight raids on Maltese airfields.

21 October 1942                Britain claims that up to this point over 1,000 enemy aircraft have been destroyed, but admits that 6,704 buildings on Malta have either been destroyed or badly damaged.

22 October 1942                Ju88 shot down.

23 October 1942                A German and then an Italian raid in the evening kills a number of civilians.

25 October 1942                Two more fighter bomber raids. Me109 shot down in first raid and Spitfire lost in the second.

26 October 1942                One of thirty-six enemy aircraft shot down in early morning raid. Three more Me109s lost later in the day.

29 October 1942                Twenty-nine Spitfires arrive from HMS Furious in Operation Train. This will be the last reinforcement of fighter aircraft by aircraft carrier.

3 November 1942            Bomb raids against three targets on the island.

13 November 1942          Beaufighters of No. 227 Squadron intercept formation of German and Italian troop carriers. Four Ju52s and two SM81s shot down.

20 November 1942          Convoy delivers 35,000 tons of supplies in Operation Stoneage.

22 November 1942          Two more German transport aircraft destroyed, along with three Italian transports.

24 November 1942          Enemy fighters carry out sweep across the island. Malta now permanently on the offensive, rather than defensive. By the end of the month only thirty air raid alerts occurred and just 12 tons of bombs were dropped on the island.

5 December 1942             Enemy aircraft launch sporadic raids.

9 December 1942             More enemy troop carriers intercepted and shot down.

10 December 1942           Four Beaufighters intercept more enemy troop carriers en route from Tunisia to Sicily.

31 December 1942           Throughout the month thirty-five air raid alerts have been sounded and 60 tons of bombs have been dropped on the island. The air battle for Malta is now considered won and raids are becoming less common.

Malta Maelstrom. Supermarine Spitfires of No. 249 Squadron, Royal Air Force, defend Grand Harbour from Junkers Ju-88s, Messerschmitt Me-109s and Reggiane Re.2001s, in Fortress Malta, by Nicolas Trudgian.