CHRONOLOGY OF THE SIEGE OF MALTA, 1940-43

April 1940

23rd

Malta Fighter Flight born and 8 pilots volunteer.  24 RN Gladiators arrive in boxes March 39.  18 still there in Spring 1940. 8 to be flown to be flown to HMS Glorious, 10 to HMS Eagle.  Maynard hears about 10 for Eagle and ABC gives permission to keep. 4 of the 10 assembled for Malta Fighter Flight.

29th

Malta Fighter Flight dissolved as all 10 Gladiators requisitioned by RN. 

May 1940

4th

RN decides it only needs 3 of the 10, leaving 7 on Malta.  Malta Fighter Flight reformed after all.

June 1940

 

Malta defences at outbreak of war: 34 heavy and 8 light AA guns (instead of approved scale of 112 and 60).  One radar set, and four fighters, obsolete Gladiators (soon only 3).

10th

Italy declares war on Britain.

Governor: Sir William Dobbie.

Air Officer Commanding (AOC): Air-Commodore F.H.M. Maynard.

British 1st Submarine Flotilla of 12 boats divided between Malta and Alexandria loses 3 Malta-based subs in first week.

July 1940

1st

Fleet Air-Arm Fairey Swordfish strike at oil storage tanks in Sicily.

13th

12 C.R. 42s engaged by one Gladiator and one Hurricane.

11th

First Italian air raid on Malta - 10 Italian Cants drop bombs on Grand Harbour and Hal Far.  First casualties – six Royal Malta Artillerymen at Fort St Elmo.  Station Fighter Flight of Sea Gladiators in action (Faith, Hope and Charity). One Maachi 200 (Italian fighter plane) shot down by FO W.J. Woods.

Constant raids during next week.

16th

Italian bombers appearing with fighter escort

17th

Four enemy raids

22nd

No raids – but an Italian S.79 bomber sent over to take reconnaissance pictures and shot down by F/Lt Burges and FO Woods

By end Four Hurricanes arrive at Malta en route to Egypt.  They stay, (operating from Luqa).

16th

After five weeks in battle the RAF lost its first fighter

August 1940

2nd

12 Hurricanes fly off aircraft-carrier Argus (OPERATION HURRY). All aircraft arrive on Malta

30th

OPERATION HATS launched

September 1940

2nd

HMS Valiant, (battleship), Coventry and Calcutta (anti-aircraft cruisers) accompanying three merchantmen arrive at Grand Harbour with army and air force personnel and stores, 8 x 3.7 inch anti-aircraft guns, predictors, height finders, replacement anti-aircraft gun barrels, 100 Bren light machine guns and 10,000 rounds of Bofors ammunition. 40,000 tonnes supplies in total.

15th

20 Stukas (Ju 87s) dive-bomb Hal Far airfield.

Two convoys arrive

October 1940

28th

Italy declares war on Greece and invades, thus changing the war in the Mediterranean.

November 1940

11th

Fleet Air Arm Swordfish from HMS Illustrious, after photographic reconnaissance by Maryland's from Malta attack Italian Fleet at Taranto – the ‘blueprint for Pearl Harbor’.  A complete success.

17th

OPERATION WHITE: 12 Hurricanes flown off aircraft carrier Argus.  Only 4 arrive at Malta, the rest running out of fuel and crashing in the Mediterranean.

Two convoys arrive from Egypt.

One convoy arrives from Britain

December 1940

2nd

Newly arrived twin-engined Wellington bombers begin offensive actions from Malta by bombing Naples

4th

Arrival of first U-class sub

Arrival of German Fliegerkorps X in Sicily

January 1941

8th

Commander G.W.G. Simpson arrives in Malta to take over command of submarines there

9th

Nine Ju 87s and nine C.R. 42s attack ships in Marsa Scirocco

10th

6pm HMS Illustrious arrives at Grand Harbour with a convoy.  After sustained attack during the voyage, 126 crew are dead and 91 wounded.  The cargo ships arrive safely

16th

Over 70 German bombers attack the Illustrious whilst she is still in Grand Harbour being repaired

18th

Over 80 German bombers attack airfields of Luqa and Hal Far

19th

German bombers attack Grand Harbour once more

22nd

Wavell takes Tobruk, leaving Italy with just one North African supply port – Tripoli

23rd

HMS Illustrious slips out of harbour in the evening and safely sails to Alexandria

February 1941

5th

Restrictions on attacking Med shipping lifted

10th

Wavell takes El Agheila

12th

Upholder’s 2nd patrol – nearly sinks Truant

21st

Rommel arrives in Tripoli

Axis aircraft lay parachute mines at Harbour entrance

Continued attacks on the airfields

March 1941

 

Messerschmitt 109s of 7/JG26 ‘Richtofen’ fighter squadron arrive on Sicily.  More than a match for obsolete Hurricane Mk Is

Small convoy gets through

12 Hurricane IIs flown to Malta from the Ark Royal

25th

Rommel attacks El Agheila in Libya

28th

Night Battle of Matapan

April 1941

4th

Rommel takes Benghazi

First of two Blenheim squadrons arrives on Malta

10th

Force K - four British destroyers  - sink five Italian merchantmen and three destroyers for the loss of one destroyer

21st

Royal Navy, under Admiral Cunningham and with assistance of Maltese submarines and Warburton’s photo reconnaissance team, bombards Tripoli

22nd

Five of seven Hurricanes shot down over the sea

27th

OPERATION DUNLOP: 24 Hurricane IIs delivered from  Ark Royal.  23 arrive in Malta

May 1941

15th

HMS/S Upholder’s 7th patrol until 26th May.  Three ships sunk, including the Conte Rosso on the 24th – for which Wanklyn later received the VC

20th

German invasion of Crete

June 1941

1st

Air Vice-Marshal Hugh Pughe Lloyd appointed AOC, replacing Air Commodore F.H.M. Maynard

14th

OPERATION TRACER: 48 Hurricanes dispatched from carriers Ark Royal and Victorious.  45 reach Malta

22nd

Bletchley Park breaks Italian Naval cipher

23rd

First ‘Ultra’ to Alexandria and Malta

July 1941

 

OPERATION SUBSTANCE: convoy from Gibraltar – 6 merchantmen with Naval escort manages to deliver 65,000 tonnes of supplies

26th

Italian E-Boats attack Grand Harbour and Marsamxett and attempt to destroy ships in harbour and the submarine base at Manoel Island, but it fails and the attacking force is wiped out

31st

Axis forces in Libya named Panzerarmee Afrika

August 1941

 

Hitler offers Mussolini 20 U-boats for Med

September 1941

 

OPERATION HALBERD: Convoy from Gibraltar – 9 merchantmen, one carrier, three battleships, five cruisers and eighteen destroyers deliver 85,000 tonnes of supplies.  One merchantman lost, one battleship damaged

 

Malta submarines designated Tenth Submarine Flotilla (but still under Captain (S) One in Alex (Captain Raw).

9th

Chief of German Naval Staff, Rome, reports to Berlin that subs are the most dangerous weapons in the Med, esp. those at Malta

October 1941

 

21st Force K (light cruisers Aurora and Penelope, destroyers Lance and Lively) arrives at Malta

November 1941

 

Field Marshal Kesselring and Luftflotte II transferred from Eastern Front to Sicily

U-boats arrive in Med.

8/9th

Entire Africa-bound Italian convoy sunk by Royal Navy Force K with Maltese aerial support

13th/14th

Ark Royal torpedoed and sunk by German U-Boat after aircraft delivery mission

24th

Force K sinks another convoy

25th

U-boat sinks RN battleship Barham

December 1941

 

OPERATION HERKULES: Axis code name for invasion of Malta in active preparation.  General Kurt Student on command of airborne forces

11th

Lt- Commander MD Wanklyn receives VC for action on the Conte Rosso

15th

Half the entire number of German U-Boats operating in Atlantic ordered to the Mediterranean on special orders of Hitler

19th

Italian human torpedoes cripple battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant in Alex harbour – for the time being it is the end of the British battle fleet in the Med

January 1942

 

German round-the-clock bombing of Malta begins

Italian anti-submarine forces now equipped with asdic

29th

Rommel re-takes Benghazi

February 1942

13th

42 internees deported to Uganda via Cairo under Emergency Powers Ordinance.  Sir Arturo Merceica, former Chief Justice and President of Court of Appeal included

14th

OPERATION MF5: convoy from Alexandria – 3 merchantmen, three cruisers and sixteen destroyers.  Whole force turns back and no supplies delivered

28th

OPERATION SPOTTER: First attempt to fly Spitfires from HMS Eagle thwarted by fault with overload fuel tanks

March 1942

7th

OPERATION SPOTTER: second attempt to fly Spitfires from HMS Eagle – this time successful, and 15 arrive on Malta

21st

OPERATION PICKET I: 9 more Spitfires flown from HMS Eagle

20th-25th

OPERATION MG1: convoy MW10 from Alexandria – 4 merchantmen, 5 cruisers and 17 destroyers.  2 merchantmen, Pampas and Talabot, sunk in Grand Harbour.  A third, Breconshire, towed into Malta and then sunk.  Only 5,000 tonnes supplies saved

22nd

2nd Battle of Sirte: Rear-Admiral Vian, protecting MW10, sees off Italian Fleet

29th

OPERATION PICKET II: 7 further Spitfires flown from HMS Eagle

 

4,992 Axis sorties during March

April 1942

 

Axis air attack reaches climax.  Royal Opera House, Valetta and many other buildings destroyed.  Total tonnage of bombs dropped in March and April is twice that dropped on London during blitz.  Fliegerkorps II flies 9,599 sorties against Malta in April

5th

Easter Sunday

7th

Royal Opera House destroyed.  Times of Malta building hit

9th

Bomb penetrates dome of Mosta Church near Takali (third largest suspended dome in world) while congregation inside, but fails to explode

Dobbie forced to leave Grand Palace

14th

RN submarine HMS Upholder lost, including Lt Commander David Wanklyn, VC.  Upholder had sunk 128,353 tonnes of shipping – 53,648 more than any other submarine

15th

George VI awards the George Cross to the island of Malta

20th

OPERATION CALENDER: USAN’s carrier Wasp delivers 47 Spitfires of 601 and 603 Squadrons.  46 arrive on Malta.  After 48 hours of Axis bombing, only 7 serviceable Spitfires remain

21st

Photographic reconnaissance by Fl Lt. Harry Coldbeck reveals 1,500 400 yd glider strips being prepared at Gerbini, Sicily, for airborne assault on Malta

22nd

10th Submarine Flotilla forced to quit Malta base

23rd

39th  General Hospital at St. Andrews destroyed by Ju 88s: other hospitals extensively damaged

26th

British Ultra discovers plans for withdrawal of Fliegerkorps II from Sicily to North Africa and Crete

30th

Malta ack-ack gunners shoot down 102 Axis planes in the month

May 1942

2nd

Ultra confirms two Luftwaffe gruppen already withdrawn from Sicily.  COS in London assures Governor Sir William Dobbie that invasion threat has for the moment passed

7th

Field Marshal Viscount Gort VC takes over from Dobbie as Governor

9th

OPERATION BOWERY: USAN carrier Wasp and HMS Eagle, together deliver 64 Spitfires. 60 arrive safely

10th

Greatest air battle of Siege: victory for RAF, with 63 Axis aircraft shot down or damaged

Fast 40-knot minelayer, HMS Welshman, arrives with crucial supplies, departing seven hours later

Kesselring reports to German High Command that Malta has been successfully neutralised

17th

Petty pilfering on airfields prompts Wing Commander Gracie to erect gibbets on perimeter as a warning threat to would-be culprits – pictures reach Daily Mirror

18th

OPERATION LB: HMS Eagle delivers 16 further Spitfires – all arrive safely

19th

Axis spy, Borghi Pisani, a Maltese in Italy, lands at Dingli Cliffs, but captured, tried and hanged on 28th November

26th

Rommel begins second advance to Egypt

June 1942

9th

OPERATION SALIENT: 32 Spitfires launched from HMS Eagle.  30 arrive on Malta

12th-16th

OPERATION VIGOROUS: convoy from Alexandria – 11 merchantmen, 1 dummy battleship, 8 cruisers, 26 destroyers, 4 corvettes, 2 minesweepers and 2 rescue ships forced by presence of Italian Fleet to return to Egypt.  One cruiser and 5 destroyers lost and no supplies delivered

12th-17th

OPERATION HARPOON: convoy from Gibraltar – 6 merchantmen, 1 battleship with cruisers, 26 destroyers, 4 corvettes, 2 minesweepers and 2 rescue ships heavily attacked for four days.  2 merchantmen reach Grand Harbour.  1 cruiser, five destroyers and four merchantmen lost.  Only 25,000 tonnes of supplies delivered – but enough to save Malta from starvation for another 2-3 months

Rationing at peak.

1st -14th

Renewed Axis blitz timed to coincide with Afrika Korps advance to Egypt

22nd

German high Command scrap Operation Herkules following fall of Tobruk

28th

Crew of ditched Beaufort of 217 Squadron overpowers crew of rescuing Italian Cant seaplane.  Fly Cant to Malta where Italians made POWs

July 1942

14th

Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park takes over as AOC from Air Vice Marshal Sir Hugh Pughe Lloyd.  Park and Kesselring, as in the Battle of Britain, are opposing commanders once more

15th

OPERATION PINPOINT: 32 Spitfires fly from HMS Eagle.  31 arrive safely Malta

21st

OPERATION INSECT: 32 Spitfires fly from HMS Eagle. 25 arrive safely on Malta

July / August

Successful offensive action against Axis shipping convoys with supplies for Afrika Korps

August 1942

August - October

RAF and Fleet Air Arm continue successful offensive operations against Axis shipping supplying Rommel’s Afrika Korps

10th -15th

OPERATION PEDESTAL: Santa Maria convoy from Gibraltar – 14 merchantmen, 4 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 7 cruisers and 24 destroyers.  Bombed continuously for five days by aircraft, U-Boats and part of the Italian Fleet

Five merchantmen reach Malta, delivering 53,000 tonnes of supplies delivered (from 83,000 tonnes).  9 merchantmen, 1 carrier – Eagle – 2 cruisers sunk; 1 carrier, all cruisers and 3 merchantmen damaged

11th

OPERATION BELLOWS: 38 Spitfires fly off HMS Furious.  37 arrive safely on Malta

17th

OPERATION BARITONE: 32 Spitfires fly off HMS Furious.  29 arrive safely on Malta

September 1942

7th

Rommel checked at Alam Halfa

October 1942

10th -20th

Final Axis blitz on Malta

23rd

Battle of El Alamein begins

29th

OPERATION TRAIN: 29 Spitfires take off from HMS Furious for Malta

November 1942

7th

Operation Torch begins – Americans land in western theatre for first time

15th -20th

OPERATION STONEAGE: convoy from Alexandria -  4 merchantmen, five cruisers, 17 destroyers, delivers 35,000 tonnes of supplies.  1 cruiser damaged.  The Siege finally raised

18th

HMS Welshman arrives with more essential supplies

12 Spitfire fighter-bombers each slung with 2 x 500lb bombs attack chemical factory at Pachino in Sicily

December 1942

1st

OPERATION PORTCULLIS: convoy from Port Said – 4 merchantmen with 1 cruiser, 18 destroyers and 1 minelayer reaches Malta with 55,000 tonnes of essential cargoes – first convoy with no loss since 1941

January 1943

21st

Tripoli falls to Allies

23rd

OPERATION HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily, agreed at Casablanca Conference

Simpson relieved of Tenth Flotilla for George Phillips

Monty takes Tripoli

May 1943

13th

Axis surrender in North Africa

June 1943

1st

King George VI visits the island

July 1943

10th

OPERATION HUSKY: Allied invasion of Sicily begins

Operational HQ on Malta.  608 Allied planes available on Malta for air cover of the invasion

August 1943

17th

Sicily successfully captured by Allies

 

 

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