Siege of Malta (World War II)

Military campaign in the Mediterranean Theatre of the Second World War / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The siege of Malta in World War II was a military campaign in the Mediterranean theatre. From June 1940 to November 1942, the fight for the control of the strategically important island of the British Crown Colony of Malta pitted the air and naval forces of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany against the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy.

Siege of Malta
Part of the Mediterranean and Middle East theatre of the Second World War
BombDamageMalta.jpg
Service personnel and civilians clear bombing debris from Kingsway in Valletta in 1942
Date11 June 1940 – 20 November 1942
(2 years, 5 months, 1 week and 2 days)[1]
Location
Result Allied victory
Belligerents

Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg United Kingdom

Flag_of_Canada_%281921%E2%80%931957%29.svg Canada
Flag_of_South_Africa_%281928-1982%29.svg South Africa
Flag_of_Australia_%28converted%29.svg Australia
Flag_of_New_Zealand.svg New Zealand
Naval support:

Flag_of_Free_France_%281940-1944%29.svg Free France
State_Flag_of_Greece_%281863-1924_and_1935-1973%29.svg Greece
Flag_of_Poland_%281927%E2%80%931980%29.svg Poland
Flag_of_Norway.svg Norway
Flag_of_the_United_States_%281912-1959%29.svg United States
Flag_of_Italy_%281861-1946%29_crowned.svg Italy
Flag_of_Germany_%281935%E2%80%931945%29.svg Germany
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Andrew Cunningham
United Kingdom Henry Harwood
United Kingdom William Dobbie
United Kingdom Hugh Lloyd
United Kingdom Keith Park
Fascist Italy (1922–1943) Francesco Pricolo
Fascist Italy (1922–1943) Rino Corso Fougier
Fascist Italy (1922–1943) Inigo Campioni
Fascist Italy (1922–1943) Angelo Iachino
Fascist Italy (1922–1943) Alberto da Zara
Nazi Germany Hans Geisler
Nazi Germany Albert Kesselring
Nazi Germany Martin Harlinghausen
Strength
716 fighter aircraft over the course of the campaign[2] c.2,000 aircraft over the course of the campaign
Casualties and losses
369 fighters (air)
64 fighters (ground)[2]
1 battleship[3]
2 aircraft carriers[3]
4 cruisers[4]
19 destroyers[4]
38 submarines[3]
2,301 airmen killed or wounded[5]
30,000 buildings destroyed or damaged[6]
1,300 civilians killed[6]
357 German aircraft
175 Italian aircraft[2]
72 percent of the Italian Navy transport fleet lost
23 percent of the Axis merchant fleet lost[7]
2,304 merchant ships sunk[8]
17,240 killed at sea[9]
~50 German U-boats (in entire MTO)[3]
Italian submarine losses ~16[3]

The opening of a new front in North Africa in June 1940 increased Malta's already considerable value. British air and sea forces based on the island could attack Axis ships transporting supplies and reinforcements from Europe. General Erwin Rommel, de facto field commander of Panzerarmee Afrika in North Africa, recognised its importance quickly. In May 1941, he warned that "Without Malta the Axis will end by losing control of North Africa".[1]

The Axis resolved to bomb or starve Malta into submission, to soften it up for invasion, 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 Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) flew a total of 3,000 bombing raids, dropping 6,700 tons of bombs on the Grand Harbour area alone over two years.[10] Success would have made possible a combined German–Italian amphibious landing (Operation Herkules) supported by German airborne forces (Fallschirmjäger) but this did not happen.

Allied convoys were able to supply and reinforce Malta, while the RAF defended its airspace, though at great cost in materiel and lives. In November 1942 the Axis lost the Second Battle of El Alamein and the Allies landed forces in French Morocco and Algeria in Operation Torch. The Axis diverted their forces to the Tunisia campaign, and attacks on Malta were rapidly reduced, ending the siege.[1] 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.[11] The Allied victory in Malta played a major role in the eventual Allied success in North Africa.

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