Malta Timeline – Second World War.
This page tells the story of the Mediterranean island country of Malta during the Second World War, through facts and illustrated by stories from the
Victor and Hornet comics.
This is a work in progress page.
left - a map of Malta and right - the George Cross won by its people during World War Two.
A brief modern history of the island of Malta.
The country of Malta consists of three islands, the main one Malta, Gozo and Comino. The Treaty of Paris in 1814 saw Malta become a part of the British Empire. The British used the islands as a shipping way-station and fleet headquarters. Malta was of strategic value to the British as it was situated
between the Strait of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal in Egypt which allowed ships to travel onto the Far East. This route being regarded as an important
trade route and the centrepiece of Britain’s strategic naval position in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Maltese people benefited from this route by the introduction of several new products examples of which include wheat (for bread making) and bacon.
Relations between the British and the Maltese people were not always harmonious. A riot in 1919 over new taxes left four Maltese men dead. This day
is commemorated every year in Malta. The country gained its independence from the United Kingdom on 21st September 1964 and became a republic on the 13th December 1974. Malta remains apart of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Captial - Valletta.
Population approximately 408,330 (as of July 2011).
The people of Malta speak their official national language of Maltese and as a second language, English. The islands today are internationally known
as a tourist resort with several historical monuments and including nine UNESCO World Heritage sites. The islands are also a freight transshipment point and financial centre.
- A very brief Malta World War Two Timeline
- Early 1940 – First siege of Malta – With the surrender of French armed forces in May 1940, the British had to protect their interests in the
Mediterranean against initially Italian (and later) German military forces. The Italian forces were not strong enough to disrupt British merchant
shipping in the Mediterranean. Which was just as well as at the beginning there was only a handful of elderly Royal Air Force (RAF) Sea Gladiator planes
[nicknamed FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY], available to protect the island. Later, Hurricane fighters arrived on the island to assist in it’s defence.
- Early 1941 - Second siege. German forces had by now joined the fray and bombed the island for 154 consecutive days in an attempt to bomb the island and its people into submission. The German Luftwaffe (airforce) may well have prevailed, but they were re-assigned to the Russian front, before they
could finish the job. Further Axis success’s of sinking Royal Navy ships (battleships and an aircraft carrier) meant that the navy only had cruisers left with which to protect the merchant convoys travelling to and from Malta.
- October 1941 – The Royal Navy (RN) formed Force K consisting of two cruisers (Aurora and Penelope) and destroyers (Lance and Lively) were sent to Malta to assist in attacking and destroying of German convoys. In one raid they successfully sank seven merchant ships and one escort destroyer and damaged three other destroyers.
- December 1941 – Force K suffered their first losses with the sinking of two ships and one damaged after the ships sailed into a minefield off Tripoli
harbour. This had serious consequences as the German convoy reached its destination and allowed the German General Rommel to retake Cyrenaica (the eastern coastal region of Libya).
- The Axis resolved to bomb, or starve Malta into submission by attacking its ports, towns, cities and Allied shipping supplying the island. Malta was one of the most intensively bombed areas during the war. The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and the Italian 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.
August 1942 - The oil tanker Ohio carrying much needed petrol for the RAF planes defending Malta, survives a torpedo attack and somehow the crippled ship, with two destroyers lashed on either side of the tanker, manages to limp into Valletta harbour, to receive a hero's welcome.
- By November 1942, the Axis had lost the Second Battle of El Alamein and the Allies landed forces in Vichy French Morocco and Algeria under Operation Torch. The Axis diverted their forces to the Battle of Tunisia, and attacks on Malta were rapidly reduced. The siege effectively ended in November 1942.
- In December 1942, air and sea forces operating from Malta went over to the offensive. By May 1943, they had sunk 230 Axis ships in 164 days, the highest Allied sinking rate of the war. The Allied victory played a major role in the eventual Allied success in North Africa.
The GC was awarded to the island of Malta in a letter dated 15 April 1942 from King George VI to the island's Governor Lieutenant-General Sir William Dobbie:
"To honour her brave people, I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history."
The George Cross is woven into the Flag of Malta (top left hand corner) and can be seen wherever the flag is flown.
The GC is ranked after the Victoria Cross (VC) and is the highest gallantry award for civilians and military personnel for actions which are not in the face of the enemy. Usually awarded to individuals, this is the only occasion the medal has been awarded to a country.
The brief one page article below tells of the siege of Malta, from the Victor issue 431, artist not known.
Another factual account below also tells the story of the siege of Malta. Artist Bevan from the Victor annual 1977.
The next factual story below tells of the oilship Ohio's adventures as she makes the perilous journey to the be-sieged island of Malta. Artist Sanchis, from the Victor 1973 annual.
Next, two front and back cover stories about the RAF's battles in defending the island. The first story features the three Sea Gladiator planes, Faith, Hope and Charity (artist Coleman? from Victor issue 111). Next is a story about Sergeant Hesselyn's adventures during a dogfight. (Artist Josef Marti, from the Victor issue 611).
There was other acts of heroism during the siege of Malta and one of those stories is told below. (Story from the Hornet issue 134, artist Ripol). And finally another RAF story about Canadian Sergeant-Pilot Beurling adventures. (Artist Coleman, from the Victor 768).
text © Adrian Banfield, 2012.