The British confidence was eroded when aircraft began to dominate the actions at sea later-on in 1941 and 1942. Independent journalism costs money. When the Maltese government questioned the British rationale, they were told that the island could be defended just as adequately from Alexandria as from Malta's Grand Harbour. It envisioned an airborne assault with one German and one Italian airborne division, under the command of German General Kurt Student. [133] Minelaying by Axis aircraft also caused a steady rise in submarine losses. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, in command of Axis forces in North Africa, recognised its importance quickly. Not one person inside the building was injured. The Chief of Staff of the DAK, Fritz Bayerlein once claimed: We should have taken Alexandria and reached the Suez Canal had it not been for the work of your submarines. Around 3,000 mines were laid off Tunisia's coast by Italian naval forces as well. Second, small numbers were quicker to position and easier to move around. In April, 150,389 tons of supplies that were sent to North Africa from Italy reached their destination out of a total of 150,578. The state of the island was worse than he expected. Lloyd's bombers and a small flotilla of submarines were the only forces available to harass Rommel's supply lines into the autumn. In a single night during April 1941, 446 tonnes of bombs were dropped on London; over 58 tonnes (237 bombs) did not explode. More than 30,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped on the UK during the Blitz – Germany’s bombing campaign targeting Britain during the war - killing over 40,000 people. Interactive map shows every bomb the Luftwaffe dropped on UK during World War II There are more than 30,000 locations on the map, researched by the University of York. Please contact me if you can help out with photographs for the site. Only slight losses were suffered by the bombers. AOC Lloyd was starting to wonder if his fighter forces could hold out. RAF losses amounted to 23 Spitfires shot down and 20 crash-landed. It had taken part in the Battle of Taranto which handed naval supremacy to the British, which put it at the top of the Axis' target list. The units numbered some 80 Ju 87s. No interception of the raiders was made because there was no RAF force ready to meet them. 4.45 pm when twelve bombs were dropped along Racecourse Street, Telegraph Street and Church Street. 46 Squadron arrived in June, to be renumbered 126 Squadron. Certainly bringing in more supplies would have made greater strategic sense, before risking going on to the offensive and thus in turn risking the wrath of the enemy. On 13 November 1941 the carrier HMS Ark Royal, whilst transporting aircraft to Malta, was sunk by a U-Boat. [159] The Luftwaffe had played the central role against the convoys. However, the lack of the means (logistical among other things), meant the planners did not believe the operation could be carried out. Human casualties remained light. [110], In response to the reverses, the Luftwaffe returned in force in December 1941 to renew intensive bombing. [3], In the tiny but densely populated island, 5,524 private dwellings were destroyed, 9,925 damaged but repairable, and 14,225 damaged by bomb blast. The Italians admitted the loss of 23 bombers and 12 fighters with a further 187 bombers and seven fighters having suffered damage, mainly to anti-aircraft artillery. or Anti-personnel bombs were also dropped with one of the more effective being the ‘cracker-bombs’. [130] By March–April 1942 it was clear the Luftwaffe had achieved a measure of air superiority. [181] On 16 October, it was clear to Kesselring that the defenders were too strong. Seven people were killed, and more than 50 injured, three seriously - it was the only time people in the city were killed by German bombing. During September, the Allies sank 33,939 tons of shipping at sea. Thanks to Kesselring's pounding of the island Rommel had his supply lines secured. [22], An Italian Savoia-Marchetti S.M.79 bomber, Air power was the method chosen to attack Malta. Park arrived on 14 July 1942 by flying boat. On 20 January two near misses breached the hull below the water line and hurled her hull against the wharf. … It was felt that a man with past experience of fighter defence operations was needed. The atomic bombs we dropped on those dates quickly brought WWII to an end saving many millions of lives.WWII in the Pacific was particularly savage. [111], Until the return of the Luftwaffe over Malta, the RAF defenders had claimed 199 aircraft shot down from June 1940—December 1941, while losses were at least 90 Hurricanes, three Fairey Fulmars and one Gladiator in air combat; ten more Hurricanes and one Gladiator destroyed in accidents, and many more destroyed on the ground. In August 6, a B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, dropped an estimated 12 kilotons of TNT in a uranium bomb termed “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. Spooner 1996, p. 185 and Holland 2003, p. 388. At the Battle of Gazala he would win a major victory while the Battle of Bir Hakeim was less successful. Amongst the most congested spots was Valletta, the capital and political, military and commercial centre. Shores, Christopher and Cull, Brian with Malizia, Nicola. To learn more strategic bombing during World War 2 have a look at the following books: Outside his office, in the underground headquarters at Lascaris, he hung a sign outside; "Less depends on the size of the dog in the fight than on the size of the fight in the dog". Supply issues were bad, the small German force left was forced to abandon operations on 22 April 1941. If they captured Gibraltar, then the Mediterranean would be barred from Britain to the west. It accounted for one Italian submarine, nine merchant vessels and one Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB). The Germans lost 173 aircraft in the operations. [11] The Italian and British surface fleets were evenly matched in the region, but the Italians had a significant numerical advantage in submarines and aircraft. This was achieved using 170-gallon ferry tanks. Bristol Blenheim bombers also joined the defenders and began offensive operations. In February 1941, the Deutsches Afrikakorps (German Africa Corps, or DAK) commanded by Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal) Erwin Rommel was sent to North Africa to prevent an Axis rout. On 9 July 1940, the Battle of Calabria was the only time the main Italian and British (with supporting Royal Australian Navy vessels) fleets engaged each other. [83], The absence of the Luftwaffe enabled the British to bring in much needed reinforcements. The diversion of the North African Campaign drew away significant Italian air units which were rushed from Italy and Sicily to deal with the disasters. Around 180 German and 300 Italian aircraft would carry out the directive. ULTRA intercepted the planned convoy route, and alerted Malta's air units. The British, in particular the Admiralty, suffered from having to cover the Suez Canal, with the Mediterranean Fleet under Admiral Andrew Cunningham and Gibraltar with Force H under Vice-Admiral James Somerville. According to official figures, more than 2,000 civilian buildings were destroyed as opposed to only 300 during the Italian siege. The devout Maltese Catholics, were convinced Malta wouldn’t fall down. Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers disabled a number of Italian heavy units. This formation was to interdict Axis convoys. RAF forces on Malta could not afford to sit idle. Eight Marylands, two other aircraft, three Beaufighters, one fighter variant of the Blenheim and a very large number of bombers were lost in action. The destroyers HMS Jackal, Kashmir, Kipling, Kelly, Kelvin and Jersey were a part of Mountbatten’s fleet. The Axis resolved to bomb or starve Malta into submission, by attacking its ports, towns, cities and Allied shipping supplying the island. [78] III./Kampfgeschwader 30 (KG 30) and III./Lehrgeschwader 1 (KG 1) flew sporadic night attacks during April. However, the Germans backed down over Italian protests. This would have been followed by a seaborne landing of two or three divisions protected by the Regia Marina. The AOC Middle East, Arthur Tedder, sent Group Captain Basil Embry to Malta to assess the situation. A further 16 Malta-based pilots were lost in the two operations. Malta has long been at the crossroads of history given its unique position in the Mediterranean and has been the target of heroes and despots alike. The cruisers HMS Dido and Gloucester accompanied the ships as part of the force. At Kalafrana, all the buildings were close together and above ground. Not only did this preclude any large-scale naval operations, it also left the Italians without adequate fuel for sharpening their combat skills at sea. He acknowledged that the chances of success in an air operation of that kind were low. Ultra intercepts confirmed that 3,500 tons of aerial bombs, 4,000 tons of ammunition, 5,000 tons of food, one entire tank workshop, 25 Bf 109 engines and 25 cases of glycol coolant for their engines were lost. The supply situation was described as excellent by the autumn of 1941. Malta was one of the most intensively bombed areas during the war. In addition 111 churches, 50 hospitals, institutions or colleges, 36 theatres, clubs, government offices, banks, factories, flour mills and other commercial buildings suffered destruction or damage — a total of 30,000 buildings in all. Kesselring complained. One at Luqa, was near to completion. Göring agreed, and was willing to send 16 Gruppen to Sicily, anticipating a Soviet collapse in the east. This convoy is seen as the end of the two-year siege of Malta. In September 1942 alone, 100,000 tons of Axis shipping was destroyed along with 24,000 tons of fuel that Rommel desperately needed. British naval forces passed through to Malta, almost unchallenged. [27], An odd development took place on 19 June. [60] The Allied pilots on Malta had little combat experience and their Hawker Hurricanes were well-worn. By mid-May, the central Mediterranean had been sealed off to Allied shipping, and the DAK was able to send reinforcements to Rommel in North Africa with the loss of only three percent of its supplies, personnel and equipment. [65], German air superiority was taking its toll on the island. Using three squadrons, Park asked the first to engage the escorting fighters by 'bouncing them' out of the sun. This convoy proved critical to saving Malta, as its supplies were deemed to be essential when the Germans returned in December. Lloyd himself said, "a few bombs on Kalafrana in the summer of 1941 would have ruined any hope of Malta ever operating an air force". All males between the age of 16 and 56 were conscripted into Maltese service. [91], Besides preparing for offensive operations and reinforcing the RAF on the island, Lloyd also rectified many of the deficiencies. Most aircraft were clustered together on open runways, presenting tempting targets. To this day there is still the occasional Weymouth bomb scare attributed to the finding of a WW2 bomb on Weymouth beach or brought in by a fisherman. The bombing did not cause much damage and most of the casualties suffered were civilian. Malta was one of the most intensively bombed areas during the war. Simpson, and US Captain George Phillips, who replaced him on 23 January 1943, had much success. [43], German intervention over Malta was more a result of the Italian defeats in North Africa than Italian failures to deal with the island. Within hours, the first bombs had dropped on Malta. The failure to force the issue when the balance of power was in their favour was to have serious consequences for the Axis. On April 9, 1942, two German bombs fell on The Church of the Assumption of Our Lady in Mosta, a city in central Malta. The relief on Malta was significant as the British could concentrate their forces for offensive, rather than defensive operations. They chanced upon the light cruisers HMS Southampton and Gloucester. The ship was sunk by an attack led by Gibbs. Twelve aircraft were delivered by HMS Argus in August, the first of several batches ferried to the island by the carrier. Across the Grand Harbour, in the so-called Three Cities, where the dockyards were located and the Admiralty had its headquarters, 28,000 more were packed into 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2). Staffel Jagdgeschwader 26 (26th Fighter Wing or JG 26), lead by Oberleutnant Joachim Müncheberg, quickly lead to a sudden and marked rise in RAF losses, as the experienced, confident, tactically astute, better-equipped and -trained German fighter units made their presence felt. 39 Squadron flew their Beauforts against shipping and increased the pressure on Rommel by attacking his supply lines in September. [66], Joachim Müncheberg (left) and Feldmarschall Erwin Rommel (right). Geisler was to be returned to Sicily with his remaining air strength to solve the issue. In total, 15,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped on this archipelago. The British lost 12 pilots killed. Eight bombs a minute were dropped on average during the Vietnam war between 1964 and 1973 - more than the amount used during the whole of World War Two. [1] The response was also naval. Axis forces in North Africa were denied around half of their supplies and two-thirds of their oil. One reason for accepting heavy losses was the difficulty in bombing accurately. Royal Navy warships and Sunderland flying boats could not use the island for offensive operations. There were several raids per day. The ferry tanks, combined with a 29-gallon tank in the rear fuselage, brought the total tank capacity up to 284 gallons. [101], Part of the reason for this favourable outcome in November 1941, was the arrival of the Royal Navy's Force K. Its forces successfully destroyed an entire Axis convoy during the Battle of the Duisburg Convoy,[102] which practically blockaded Libyan ports. It was attacked from the sea, but also by air. [61][62] In exchange they claimed 42 air victories, twenty of them (including one over Yugoslavia) credited to Müncheberg. A Stabsstaffel of Sturzkampfgeschwader 3 (StG 3) arrived. Wing Commander Patrick Gibbs and his unit, No. [179] Often, the Spitfires were asked to undertake flights of five and a half hours, travelling the same distance from London to Saint Petersburg. Fortress Malta (2003) pp. Between 20 March and 28 April 1942, the Germans flew 11,819 sorties against the island and dropped 6,557 tons of bombs (3,150 tons on Valletta). In the capital Valletta, some 11,000 people (two-thirds) left the area. Milan and Turin were bombed again in February 1943; the heaviest raids were carried out in July (295 bombers dropped 763 tons of bombs on Turin, killing 792 people) and August (all three cities were bombed and a total of 843 bombers dropped 2,268 tons of bombs over Milan, causing about 900 casualties). This made Malta a dangerous threat to Axis logistical concerns. In WW2 there were about 2 million tons of bombs dropped. Eight bombs a minute were dropped on average during the Vietnam war between 1964 and 1973 - more than the amount used during the whole of World War Two. Thousands of Maltese and 3,000 British Army soldiers were drafted in to better protect the airfields. Landings would be made in the north, with an attack upon the Victoria Lines which lay across the centre of the island. Hans Jeschonnek, Goring's chief of staff, suggested sending Luftflotte 2 and its commander Albert Kesselring to Sicily from the Eastern Front. ; StG 1 made a determined effort against Tiger and Malta without result. During the war, there were at least 57 bombing raids and 1,500 alerts in the city. By that evening, that had fallen to 17. This meant a lack of training, skill and practice in the essential art of night-fighting. Around 60 bombers and 120 Hurricanes were now available. Several hundred tons of supplies, 2,000 soldiers and 200 tons of medical stores reached Malta untouched, which undid all of the work of the Luftwaffe in the first four months of 1941. Over 17 days, the Luftwaffe suffered 34 Ju 88s and 12 Bf 109s destroyed and 18 damaged. [86] Around 65,000 tons made it into Malta altogether in July. In February 1942, Squadron Leader Stan Turner arrived to take over 249 Squadron. Kesselring was given this role officially on 1 December 1941. Granted, Malta was not its own sovereign state at the time, but the people of Malta certainly comprised a nation by any definition. Air Vice Marshal Keith Park replaced Lloyd as AOC. It was the 3,340th alert since 11 June 1940. However five were lost in-between, costing the RAF five pilots. Some of them probably were close to the 2.7 MILLION TONS of bombs dropped in WW Two. [54] Within sight of Malta, Italian torpedo bombers also attacked the carrier, but were driven off by intense anti-aircraft fire. It was considered insufficient to see them into Malta. Nevertheless, the engineers won the battle. Witnessed by Andrew Cunningham, C-in-C of the Fleet from HMS Warspite, the Ju 87s scored six hits. Commanders Ian McGeoch (commanding HMS Splendid),[168] Hugh "Rufus" Mackenzie and David Wanklyn[169] had particular success. It offered a haven for British shipping to and from those places, but it also gave the British an excellent staging platform of offensive thrusts against naval, land, air and shipping targets in the central Mediterranean. After the attack on Vicarage Terrace, (Story HERE) One August night in 1940 eight H.E One destroyed a gun, another hit near her bow, a third demolished another gun, while two hit the lift, wrecking the aircraft below deck, causing explosions of fuel and ammunition.… [71] Tiger was transporting 295 tanks (Matildas and the new Crusaders) and 24,000 tons of oil needed for operations in North Africa. Göring displayed surprising sensitivity to Italian failings while discussing the sending of German reinforcements. Only six obsolete Gloster Sea Gladiator biplanes were stationed on the island, with another six in crates, when on 10 June 1940, Mussolini declared war on the United Kingdom and France. Rommel could now look forward to offensive operations with the support of the Luftwaffe in North Africa. After the Battle of Crete in May and June 1941, Hitler was nervous about using paratroopers to invade the island since the Crete campaign had cost this arm heavy losses and he started to procrastinate in making a decision. [74], During the first four months of German operations, the Luftwaffe had dropped 2,500 tons of high explosives on Malta. These mines were the bane of the Royal Navy's submarines. [6], Total Axis losses in the Mediterranean were heavy. British submarines also made a substantial effort. The island appeared to the Axis forces to be neutralised as a threat to their convoys. The pay was poor and the miners threatened strike action, only to be threatened in turn with a draft into the army. For some reason, the Air Staff did not choose to do this earlier, when the bombing ceased in 1941, and the RAF forces on Malta became primarily fighter-armed while the principal aim changed to one of air defence. [70], Further success was had by the Malta Convoys. The figure of 7,300 I gave her is the number of unexploded bombs dealt with by the Royal Engineers in Malta in two years: 1941 and 1942. Rommel lost 44 per cent of his supplies on October, a jump from the 20 per cent lost in September. He called off the offensive. The vessels had to spend most of their time submerged, and the surrounding flats and residences where crews had enjoyed brief rest periods had to be abandoned. [80] When he arrived on the island Lloyd found little to work with. Mozilla Firefox. [114], Spitfire Vc(trop) in North Africa. August 3 - To the Editor: War is horrible. The estimated tonnage sunk by British U Class submarines alone was 650,000 tons, with another 400,000 tons damaged. Days later he ordered the Ju 87 gruppen to sink HMS Illustrious, a 23,000-ton carrier, Britain's newest. A further attempt to fly 12 Hurricanes into Malta on 17 November, led by a FAA Blackburn Skua, (Operation White) ended in disaster with the loss of eight Hurricanes; they took off too far west of the island and ran out of fuel, and several pilots were lost. [56] The RAF was in no condition to prevent a major German air attack, with only 16 Hurricanes and a couple of Gladiator aircraft serviceable. In supplies, the Axis lost 315,090 short tons (285,840 t). Holland 2003, p. 304. and Spooner 1996, p. 122. As Ms Agius says, “the numbers alone were unbelievable” – so I believe we must pass them down accurately through history, to do full justice to Malta and its people during the war. Several thousands of meters were removed by Italian small vessels from 11 June to 16 August, effectively isolating Malta from the outside world. The loss of nine submarines and their trained crews and commanders was serious. Although the civilian population was enduring, the threat of starvation was very real. Between July and December 1941, 717 RAF fighters passed through Malta and 514 left for North Africa. [118] Loerzer's Fliegerkorps II was still recovering from its losses in the Soviet Union, and could only contribute 118 aircraft in January, but it did grow to 390 in March. 26 More than 750,000 tons of bomb site rubble was also used to build airfield runways for the RAF. 126 — were formed and the defenders received the first cannon-armed Hurricane Mk IIAs. Although frustrated, Kesselring was relieved the operation had seemingly been postponed rather than shelved. The supplies included spares and aircraft. [127] While the Spitfires were a match for the Axis aircraft, many of the ones delivered in March and April were destroyed on the ground and in the air, where they were outnumbered. [46], The failure to intercept Axis shipping was evident in the figures which extended far beyond February 1941. This amounted to a 94 per cent success rate. Malta was a significant military and naval fortress, being the only Allied base between Gibraltar and Alexandria, Egypt. They then began a counter-offensive and drove the British back into Egypt. Following this, and with a resurgence of the aerial bombardment of Malta, surface ships were withdrawn from the central Mediterranean in January 1942. It was fortunate for Dönitz that Hitler did not probe the defence of the ship further. It is estimated that over 7 1/2 million tons of bombs were dropped on Indochina, the vast majority on North Vietnam. All rights reserved. The vast flight deck offered a target of 6,500 square metres. 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