Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseFirst Attack on Malta
11 Jun 1940
ww2dbaseBecause of its strategic position between Gibraltar and Alexandria (and Suez Canal beyond that) as well as being between Italy and Libya, the island of Malta was critical for both sides of the conflict. As a result, Malta found itself in the middle of the Mediterranean conflict as soon as Italy entered the war. Although it was no longer the base of the British Mediterranean Fleet (it moved to Alexandria), it was immediately targeted by the Italian aircraft to augment the Italian Navy efforts to disrupt British shipping. The first raid on Malta came a day after Italy declared war on Britain. Little after 0430 on 11 Jun 1940 55 Italian SM79 aircraft were launched from Sicily to attack the three airfields at Malta: Hal Far, Valetta, and Kalafrana. They were escorted by 18 C.200 Saetta aircraft. At this time, Malta's air defense consisted of a radar station and six Sea Gladiator fighters, and not all were in flight condition. Three of the Sea Gladiator aircraft scrambled immediately. Flight Lieutenant George Burges was the first of the three to make contact with the Italian bombers, but he did not intercept them until the first load of bombs were already dropped. He damaged one of the bombers. His fellow pilot later scored another hit on the damaged bomber, but the Italian aircraft managed to return to Sicily. Although the aging biplanes barely fought off the first raid, Malta would be constantly attacked by Italian and German air forces. In order to maintain Malta's ability to defend itself, the British knew they would need to constantly deliver war goods to the island.
ww2dbaseBattle of Calabria
9 Jul 1940
ww2dbaseOn 6 Jul 1940, a heavily escorted Italian convoy heading to supply Libya. Its destination was Benghazi, but attempts were made to confuse Allied intelligence, tricking them to believe that it was heading toward Tripoli. The escorted consisted of two battleships, 8 heavy cruisers, 8 light cruisers, and 20-some destroyers eventually sailed with the convoy.
ww2dbaseAt the same time, a British convoy from Alexandria sailed toward Malta, planning to deliver supplies and evacuate civilians. The British escort consisted of 3 battleships, 1 carrier, 5 cruisers, and 16 destroyers.
ww2dbaseOn the night of 8 Jul, Italian command deciphered Allied radio signals and learned of the presence of the British convoy. The British also detected the presence of the Italian convoy. To draw the British ships closer to Italian air bases, the Italian ships turned north as they neared each other off Calabria, the "toe" of Italy. Shortly before engagement, technical problems aboard two light cruisers and two destroyers caused them to turn back with additional destroyers for escort. On the same day, Italian aircraft located the British convoy and attacked, hitting Gloucestor's bridge, killing the entire bridge crew, including her captain.
ww2dbaseAt noon on 9 Jul 1940 the two convoys were 90 miles apart. Because the slower Royal Sovereign and Malaya could not keep up with the fleet, British Vice Admiral Andrew Cunningham decided that he would only take Warspite with him and chase after the northward-sailing Italian fleet. At 1315, carrier Eagle launched Swordfish torpedo bombers against the Italian cruisers; they met no success. At 1515 that afternoon, at the distance of 21,500m, the ships began to exchange fire as the two groups drew closer together. At 1522, British Admiral John Towey decided that Italian shells were landing too closely and disengaged his cruiser, but the maneuvering did not prevent cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi's shell from striking cruiser Neptune and begin a fire. By 1530, the firing ceased between the two groups of cruisers in general.
ww2dbaseAt 1552, Italian battleship Giulio Cesare moved within 26,400m to Warspite and commenced firing. Battleship Conte di Cavour was told to hold fire to give Giulio Cesare's spotters an easier time; while that might had been accomplished, it also decreased the Italian fleet's firepower in half. One of Giulio Cesare's shells landed long and exploded near destroyers Hereward and Decoy, damaging them. At 1554, the slower British battleship Malaya caught up and joined the battle. After Giulio Cesare fired two near-misses, she was hit on the rear deck by Warspite's 381mm shell. The hit set off anti-aircraft ammunition, forcing half the boilers to shut down as a precaution, and the speed dropped to 18 knots as a result. At this point, Conte di Cavour began to fire. Warspite circled in place to allow Malaya to get closer. At 1601, Italian destroyers made smoke and covered the positions of the battleships beyond as they made retreat toward Messina. The British fleet lacked speed and did not pursue, choosing to return to Gibraltar. Both fleets attempted to make torpedo runs with their destroyers as the two fleets distanced from each other; none of them made any hits.
ww2dbaseAt 1440, Italian aircraft attacked the convoy with 126 aircraft and damaged Eagle, Warspite, and Malaya. A group of Italian aircraft attacked the Italian fleet by mistake, but caused no damage.
ww2dbaseThe outcome was inconclusive, but both sides claimed victory with worked their respective propaganda machines. Strictly speaking the engagement was more so a small Italian tactical victory for that the Italian convoy was able to successfully reach Libya while the British was turned back, but because of the damage to Giulio Cesare, some consider it a small British victory for that the British ships remained undamaged at the end of the battle.
ww2dbaseThe Battle of Calabria was also known as the Battle of Punta Stilo.
ww2dbaseCarrier Argus successfully delivered 12 Hurricane fighters to Malta in Aug 1940.
ww2dbaseIn Sep 1940, two convoys, one from Alexandria and the other from Gibraltar, simultaneously sailed for Malta. En route, British carriers launched air strikes against Italian air bases.
ww2dbaseMiscellaneous Operations of Nov 1940
ww2dbaseOn 4 Nov the convoys A. N. 6 and M. W. 3 set out from Port Said and Alexandria in Egypt for the Aegean Sea and Malta. The ships were covered by the anti-aircraft cruisers Calcutta and Coventry with the destroyers Dainty, Vampire, Waterhen and Voyager. After getting A. N. 6 into Suda Bay on the northwest coast of Crete, Greece all the ships saving Voyager sailed west with the other convoy. The cruisers Sydney and Ajax left Alexandra on 5 Nov 1940, to land supplies at Suda Bay then, the following day, in the evening, join the Mediterranean Fleet at sea.
ww2dbaseOperation M. B. 8 started with five supply ships sailing to Malta, covered by the Mediterranean Fleet under Admiral Cunningham. The fleet now consisted of the battleships Warspite, Valiant, Malaya, and Ramilles; the carrier Illustrious; the cruisers Gloucester and York from the 3rd Cruiser Squadron; the Orion and later the Ajax and Sydney from the 7th Cruiser Squadron; and 13 destroyers: Nubian (14th Flotilla), Mohawk, Janus, Jervis, Juno, Hyperion (2nd Flotilla) Hasty, Hero, Havelock, Hereward, Ilex and, detached from the 2nd Flotilla, Decoy, and Defender.
ww2dbaseOn 7 Nov saw the start of Operation Coat. Force H under Vice Admiral James Somerville set out from Gibraltar with the carrier Ark Royal, the cruiser Sheffield and destroyers Faulknor (8th Flotilla), Duncan, Forester, Fortune, Firedrake, and Fury, in order to cover Force F which was the reinforcement for the Mediterranean Fleet comprising the battleship Barham, the cruisers Berwick and Glasgow, with destroyers Encounter, Gallant, Greyhound, and Griffin, they were to cover the force until south of Sardinia. On 9 Nov 1940, Swordfish aircraft of Squadrons 810, 818, and 824 made an attack from the carrier on Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. Italian aircraft attacked the force after it was located in the morning, they score near misses on Ark Royal, Barham, and the Duncan. An Italian submarine group of Alagi, Axum, Aradam, Medusa, and Diaspro was sent to the area southwest of Sardinia but was unable to find any of the British fleet. The 14th Destroyer Squadron of Vivaldi, Da Noli, Pancaldo, and Malocello was sent into the Sicilian channel and passed by Force H in the night. On the morning of 10 Nov, Force F joined up with the Mediterranean Fleet coming up from the east when south of Malta and dropped 2,150 troops. The Italian submarines, Mameli, Corallo, Bandiera, Topazio, and Cappani, stationed off the eastern coast of Malta. Only the Capponi, under command of Commander Romeo Romei fired torpedoes at the Ramilles but all torpedoes miss the battleship as she entered Valetta, Malta with the Coventry and the destroyers, together with the supply ships. On 10 Nov the convoy M. E. 3 with four empty ships and the escort of the convoy with the Ramilles set out eastwards. The Italian submarine Topazio launched torpedoes at the group but failed to make a hit, later the group was joined by the destroyer Vendetta that that undergone repairs in Valetta, and the monitor Terror, the group arrived at Suda Bay, Crete, Greece on 13 Nov. The leading destroyers Flaulknor, Fortune, and Fury which had been used as minesweepers, return to Force H which was now south of Sardinia. After meeting up with the units coming up from the west on 10 Nov, the forces of the Mediterranean Fleet at first proceed eastwards. Fulmar fighters from Illustrious intercept Italian aircraft seeking out the Force and shoot down some bombers, the rest of them return to base.
ww2dbaseOperation Judgement Convoy
11 Nov 1940
ww2dbaseA convoy was sent to coincide with the British attack on Taranto, Italy. The convoy reached Malta successfully due to the fact that the Italian forces were overwhelmed with the attack.
ww2dbaseThe attack was consisted of two waves of Swordfish aircraft (under the command of Lieutenant Commander Kenneth Williamson and Lieutenant Commander J. W. Hale) from the carrier Squadrons Nos. 813 815, 819, and 824 from Illustrious (Captain Denis Boyd), which was escorted by cruisers Berwick, Glasgow, Gloucester, and York, along with four destroyers. At the same time three cruisers, Orion, Sydney, and Ajax with the destroyers Mohawk and Nubian swinged to the north to make a raid on the Straits of Oranto. The attack obtained three hits on the battleship Littorio and a single hit on the older battleships Caio Duilio; and Conte di Cavour and the Cavour sank. The heavy cruiser Trento and the destroyer Libeccio were damaged but some bombs failed to detonate. Two of the Swordfish aircraft were lost to anti-aircarft fire from the ships and harbour defences. For more details on the attack on Taranto, please see this article. In the night the cruisers group under Vice-Admiral Henry Pridham-Wippell found a convoy of four Italian ships in the Straits of Otranto sailing to Brindisi from Valona. The freighters were covered by an auxiliary cruiser Ramb III and an old torpedo boat Farbrizi. These two turned away and escape while the steamers Antiono Locatelli, Capo Vado, Catalani, and Premuda were all sunk, a total of over 16,000 tons. Apart from bomb damage to the destroyer Decoy, received on the 13 Nov the forces of the Mediterranean Fleet return to Alexandra without any further action.
17 Nov 1940
ww2dbaseBefore the Battle of Taranto, the Italian Navy employed the strategy of Fleet in Being, which made use of its mere presence to scare off British convoys without actually engaging in major combat. After Taranto, however, it realized that British aircraft made this strategy ineffective as the warships were still threatened even in port. As a result, a major shift in direction took place, and the Italian warships actively sortied into the Mediterranean. On the night of 17 Nov 1940, battleships Vittorio Veneto and Giulio Cesare set sail to intercept the British carrier group containing Ark Royal and Argus on Operation White, delivering aircraft to Malta. British air reconnaissance detected the Italian fleet, and the convoy launched the deliverables of 2 Skua and 12 Hurricane aircraft, and turned around for Gibraltar. Miscalculating the range, 9 of the British aircraft crashed into the sea as they ran out of fuel.
ww2dbaseOperation Collar / Battle of Cape Spartivento
27 Nov 1940
ww2dbaseAfter the losses as a result of Operation White, Operation Collar was launched later that month in attempt to supply Malta again. The convoy set sail with more warships in escort to prevent Italian interference.
ww2dbaseAn Italian fleet centered around battleship Vittorio Veneto set sail to intercept, as expected. The British detected the Italian movement, and the warships intercepted before the Italians closed in on the convoy. At 1145 on 27 Nov 1940, the two forces spotted each other. Admiral James Somerville of the British fleet split his force into two groups. The forward group was let by 5 cruisers, backed up by 2 battleships and 7 destroyers slightly behind them. In the rear, carrier Ark Royal waited to launch Swordfish torpedo bombers as she was escorted by two destroyers and some lighter ships.
ww2dbaseAt 1207, to the surprise of the British, the Italian ships suddenly turned about. Unknown to the British, the Italians were ordered to avoid confrontation unless victory would be certain, which led to apparent withdraw even though the two forces were about even in strength. The Italian order to disengage was given too late, however. The British cruisers were already committed to a chase, and by 1222 the two forces were only 23,500m from each other and began to exchange fire. British cruiser Berwick was hit by two 80-in shells, and Italian destroyer was seriously damaged by a shell from cruiser Manchester. By about 1226, the older British battleship Ramilles could not keep up with the formation, falling outside of firing range, and the Italian ships gained an advantage in the number of guns in the battle. At 1230, Vice Admiral Angelo Iachino gave the order to increase speed to 30 knots, confirming the Italian intention to disengage.
ww2dbaseCarrier Ark Royal never got a chance to launch her aircraft by the time the Italians broke from combat.
ww2dbaseThis minor naval engagement was later labeled the Battle of Cape Spartivento. It was also known as the Battle of Cape Teulada in Italy.
6 Jan 1941
ww2dbaseOn 6 Jan 1941, a convoy left Gibraltar for Malta and Greece escorted by H Force while another convoy sailed from Alexandria for Malta. When the operation ended, the British lost two cruisers and a destroyer, and the Illustrious was damaged by German aircraft and would remain out of commission for several months for repairs.
ww2dbaseA convoy set sail from Gibraltar to Alexandria, while at the same time two small convoys from Egypt to Malta were launched. Carriers Ark Royal and Furious delivered 48 Hurricane aircraft to Malta.
ww2dbaseBritish submarines brought urgent supplies, while carriers Ark Royal, Furious, and Illustrious delivered 48 aircraft, for Malta.
23 Jul 1941
ww2dbaseA convoy of six transports with carrier Ark Royal, battlecruiser Renown, battleship Nelson, several cruisers, and six destroyers in escort was attacked by Sardinia-based Italian aircraft. One cruiser was damaged and one destroyer was sunk, but the transports reached Malta safely.
ww2dbaseA convoy from Gibraltar successfully delivered reinforcements and supplies to Malta, sinking an Italian submarine en route.
24-26 Sep 1941
ww2dbaseA convoy of 9 merchant ships set sail from Gibraltar to Malta on 24 Sep 1941 with the smaller escort force under the command of Rear Admiral Harold Martin Burrough and the larger escort force (H Force) under James Somerville consisted of carrier Ark Royal, battleships Nelson, Rodney, and Prince of Wales, 5 cruisers, and 18 destroyers. On 26 Sep 1941, an Italian fleet sailed to intercept but did not make contact. On 27 Sep, an Italian torpedo bomber attacked and seriously damaged the battleship Nelson. On 28 Sep, the merchant vessel Imperial Star was attacked and scuttled. The remaining 8 merchant ships arrived at Malta on 28 Sep and delivered 85,000 tons of supplies.
ww2dbaseSinking of an Italian Convoy
9 Nov 1941
ww2dbaseOn 8 Nov 1941, Allied intelligence intercepted messages indicating the departure of a large convoy. A decision to intercept was immediately made, dispatching two cruisers (HMS Aurora and HMS Penelope) and two destroyers (HMS Lance and HMS Lively) to intercept. In order to hide the fact that the Allies' Ultra team could now read Axis messages, an aircraft was dispatched to create the false appearance that the convoy was physically discovered by luck. Before dawn on 9 Nov, the British warships intercepted the convoy off Cape Calabria in southern Italy. In the dark, using radar, all five freighters were sunk, along with one of the escorting destroyers. After daybreak, submarine HMS Upholder arrived to sabotage the rescue effort, damaging a destroyer (which would later sink during the unsuccessful attempt to tow her back to port).
10-12 Nov 1941
ww2dbaseDuring this operation, carriers Ark Royal and Argus delivered Hurricane aircraft from Gibraltar to Malta. While returning to Gibraltar, Ark Royal was torpedoed and damaged by German submarine U-81.
ww2dbaseFirst Battle of Sirte
17-19 Dec 1941
ww2dbaseOn 16 Dec 1941, Italians sent a convoy code named M42 from Naples for Benghazi to supply Axis troops in North Africa. A mistake in aerial intelligence placed two British battleships in the area, when there were none at British disposal at the time, and as a result the escort force for the convoy was unnecessarily large. Close to the convoy were the battleship Caio Duilio, three light cruisers, and three destroyers. In slight distance, battleships Littorio, Andrea Doria, Giulio Cesare sailed in support with cruisers Trento and Gorizia, and 10 destroyers. In actuality, the British force was much smaller with only 6 light cruisers and 12 destroyers.
ww2dbaseOn 17 Dec, an Italian reconnaissance aircraft found a British formation near Sidi Barrani. Again, the aircraft's report mistakenly noted it as a battleship group when the battleship was actually a large tanker in the convoy as a battleship, hence further overestimating British strength in the region. The crew of the aircraft was not entirely to blame -- the British painted on guns on the tanker Breconshire for the very purpose of deceit. Admiral Angelo Iachino, upon hearing the reconnaissance, ordered his fleet the engage. The Italian fleet approached with caution, and the British convoy maneuvered to avoid the hostile ships, so the two groups did not engage in combat until after sunset when German aircraft found and attacked it. Using British anti-aircraft fire as a guide, the Italian fleet closed in and began firing at the distance of 32,000m. Admiral Vian of the British escort fleet laid smoke and fled.
ww2dbaseAt the end of the engagement, two British destroyers were damaged. All Italian transports reached their destinations and delivered their cargo.
ww2dbaseIt was after the Italians had completed their mission when the British realized the Italians were also escorting a convoy. The British squadron at Malta was dispatched to intercept them on their way back to Italy. On the night of 19 Dec the British squadron sailed into a mine field about one mile off Tripoli. Cruiser Neptune struck four mines and sank, while destroyer Kandahar also struck one and was scuttled the next day. The cruisers Aurora and Penelope were heavily damaged but were able to return to Malta. It dealt critical damage to the Malta-based K Force and was a severe blow to Allied operations in the Mediterranean.
ww2dbaseActions in Jan 1942
ww2dbaseIn Jan 1942, three small British convoys arrive at Malta from Alexandria. One escorting destroyer, Gurkha, was torpedoed and sank.
ww2dbaseAlso in the same month, two large Italian convoys got through to North Africa to resupply the German Afrika Korps.
ww2dbaseIn Feb 1942, three transports were sent from Alexandria for Malta. One of them was sunk by Axis aircraft, one was attacked and diverted to Tobruk, and the third was disabled and scuttled.
ww2dbaseCarriers Eagle and Argus successfully flew off the first Spitfire aircraft reinforcements for Malta.
ww2dbaseOperation MG1/Second Battle of Sirte
22 Mar 1942
ww2dbaseFrom Alexandria, four transports sailed for Malta, escorted by cruisers Cleopatra, Dido, Euryalus, and Carlisle, and 16 destroyers. The convoy was detected and both surface vessels and aircraft were dispatched to intercept. On 22 Mar 1942, the Italian ships made contact with the convoy. The transports continued to sail for Malta, while the cruisers and destroyers laid smoke and charged at the Italian fleet. After an exchange of fire, the two Italian heavy cruisers backed off, but returned to the action again when battleship Littorio and her destroyers came on the scene. At 1830, the British destroyers launched a torpedo attack; all torpedoes missed, and Havock and Kingston were hit by 15-inch shells from Littorio. At 1900, the battle subsided as the sun set. Most of the British escorts turned for Alexandria as their fuel ran low, while those that were damaged continued on to Malta.
ww2dbaseOn 23 Mar, German and Italian aircraft continuously attacked the island. Transport Campbell was sunk 20 miles from harbor and oil tanker Breconshire was damaged and anchored outside.
ww2dbaseOn 24 Mar, German dive bombers attacked, hitting all three of the remaining transports. By this point, only 5,000 tons of cargo had been unloaded, which meant 21,000 tons of supplies were now beneath the waves.
ww2dbaseThis engagement at Malta was also referred to as the Second Battle of Sirte.
ww2dbase50 Spitfire aircraft were delivered by American carrier Wasp, escorted by battlecruiser Renown, cruisers Cairo and Charybdis and six American and British destroyers. Most of these aircraft were later destroyed on the ground by German bombing.
ww2dbaseOperation Bowery and Operation LB
ww2dbaseOperation Bowery brought in 64 Spitfire aircraft with American carrier Wasp and British carrier Eagle. A few days later, Operation LB brought in 16 more with British carrier Eagle.
12-15 Jun 1942
12-16 Jun 1942
ww2dbaseLaunched simultaneously as the "Harpoon" convoy was the "Vigorous" convoy (MW-11) from Haifa, Palestine and Port Said, Egypt. The 11 transports were escorted by British and Australian warships of the 7th Destroyer Flotilla. Off Tobruk, Libya, they were met by Rear Admiral Philip Vian's Force A, which added 7 light cruisers and 17 destroyers to the escort group. The nearly obsolete battleship Centurion, equipped only with anti-aircraft guns, also joined the convoy; while she added some anti-aircraft protection, her role was also to simulate the presence of a battleship.
ww2dbaseThis convoy sailed through an area of the Mediterranean Sea between Crete, Greece (occupied by Germany) and North Africa (with Italian and German presence) that the Allies nicknamed "Bomb Alley". They expected, and received, intense air and surface attacks shortly after departing Alexandria, Egypt. Early attacks focused on damaging the cruisers and the transports, but as the convoy sailed on, the destroyers became the main targets for the attackers. On 12 Jun, two of the transports were diverted to Tobruk, one due to combat damage and the other engine trouble; the latter would be attacked en route and would sink. By 14 Jun, casualty figures were at two Allied ships sunk and two damaged. During that evening, British submarines deployed outside of Taranto, Italy detected movement of an Italian force consisted of two battleships, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and destroyers; unbeknownst to the British, this force under the command of Admiral Giuseppe Fioravanzo was equipped with radar supplied by Germany (mounted aboard destroyer Legionario), the first use of radar by the Italian Navy in the war. In the early morning of 15 Jun, the convoy attempted a reversal to throw off potential attacks, but were still met by German E-boats, damaging cruiser HMS Newcastle and sinking destroyer HMS Hasty. At 0700 hours, the convoy turned northwest for Malta again.
ww2dbaseMeanwhile, Royal Air Force aircraft from Malta attacked the Italian port of Taranto in the same morning to provide relief as the convoy neared. Although heavy cruiser Trento was disabled by a torpedo launched by a Beaufort bomber at 0515 hours on 15 Jun, the rest of the Italian fleet still sailed to intercept. British submarine Umbra found the damaged Trento several hours later and sank her at 0910 hours, killing half of her crew.
ww2dbaseBetween 0940 and noon on 15 Jun, two more course reversals were ordered, but none of the maneuverings were able to throw off the attackers. South of Crete, cruiser HMS Birmingham was damaged and scuttled, and destroyer HMS Airedale was heavily damaged by German Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers, forcing HMS Aldenham and HMS Hurworth to scuttle her on the next day. In the afternoon, the convoy learned that the sister convoy from Gibraltar, "Harpoon", had reached Malta. At 1800 hours, near misses from German bombers heavily damaged destroyer HMAS Nestor. In the evening, reluctantly, the convoy turned back for Alexandria as the threat of the Italian fleet loomed larger. The fuel situation also contributed to the decision, as the excessive maneuverings used up a lot of fuel. En route to Alexandria, light cruiser HMS Hermione was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-205 south of Crete in the early hours of 16 Jun. Shortly after, HMAS Nestor would be scuttled at 0530 hours as she was deemed not-repairable after damage sustained from the day before.
ww2dbaseAs the Italian fleet retired to Taranto, a RAF Wellington aircraft from Malta torpedoed and damaged battleship Littorio; the Italian battleship was able to sail to port on her own power.
9-15 Aug 1942
ww2dbaseOn 9 Aug 1942, the Z Force of two battleships, three aircraft carriers, seven cruisers, and 24 destroyers escorted another convoy for Malta. The deliverables consisted of 36 Spitfire aircraft and 14 merchant ships' worth of various supplies. The convoy started from Gibraltar, and was detected by Italian aircraft on 11 Aug. It was decided that one Italian cruiser division was to intercept the convoy, supported by ten submarines and a combined force of Italian and German aircraft.
ww2dbaseOn 11 Aug, German submarine U-73 avoided detection of British destroyers and infiltrated the convoy. She launched a torpedo attack on carrier Eagle and sank her. Realizing the operation was now in jeopardy, commander of the escort force Rear Admiral Syfret ordered the Spitfire aircraft destined to Malta to take off from the carrier Furious early; these fighters reached Malta without incident and Furious broke from the convoy and returned to Gibraltar. That evening, Italian submarine Dagabur attacked, but was discovered and destroyed by destroyer Wolverine; Wolverine was damaged in the process, and also broke from the convoy and returned to Gibraltar. At 2000 that night, the Italian air force reached the convoy, damaging the flight deck of the carrier Victorious. From Malta, aircraft were launched to divert further Axis air attacks on the convoy for the remainder of the night.
ww2dbaseOn 12 Aug 1942, Italian submarine Cobalto was found and destroyed by ramming. The first air attack of the day proved to be disastrous, with a merchant ship and destroyer Foresight sunk and carrier Indomitable's flight deck damaged. Without an operating flight deck, Indomitable became a liability, and turned back to Gibraltar as well; the convoy was now protected in the air only by land-based aircraft. During the day, the Z Force reached the end point of their escort duty and turned around for Gibraltar, leaving the remaining merchant ships under the protection of several cruisers and destroyers. The evening of 12 Aug saw the successful raid by Italian submarine Axum, sinking cruiser Cairo and damaging the largest oil tanker in the world Ohio and cruiser Nigeria. A follow-up air attack sank two merchant ships. The British seamen were demoralized. Less than an hour later, the convoy sailed into the ambushing Italian submarines Alagi and Bronzo; they damaged the cruiser Kenya and sank two merchant ships.
ww2dbaseDuring the first hours of 13 Aug, cruiser Manchester and a stunning six merchant ships were sunk by a lone motor boat. As the British convoy limped on toward Malta, the Italian cruiser division of six cruisers and 17 destroyers was now ready to attack. However, German Marshal Albert Kesselring decided that the German aircraft were better poised to finish off the convoy and there was no need to risk the heavy surface ships. As a result, the Italian ships turned back for Messina; en route, British submarine Safari damaged Bolzano and Attendolo. On the night of 13 Aug, one of the German Ju 88 aircraft found and further damaged Ohio; the rest of the German aircraft failed to locate the convoy. The remainder of Pedestal's ships reached Malta on 15 Aug.
ww2dbaseDespite losing one carrier, two cruisers, and 14 merchant ships, the arrival of the Ohio (which was towed into the harbors because of her battle wounds) at Malta brought a significant amount of fuel that allowed the British to continue to operate in Malta.
ww2dbaseA convoy of four transports, escorted by three cruisers and 10 destroyers, sailed from Alexandria to Malta. The cruiser Arethusa was seriously damaged en route, but all transports made it to Malta safely, delivering supplies that were badly needed.
ww2dbaseFour transports arrived from Port Said without loss.
ww2dbaseConclusion of the Campaign
ww2dbaseAs Axis strength dwindled in North Africa, Allied convoys in the Mediterranean became less threatened from Axis interception. As a direct result, the island of Malta began to play the role of an advance attack base. For example, the forthcoming campaign against Sicily and Italy would use Malta extensively.
Last Major Update: Sep 2009
Malta Campaign Interactive Map
Malta Campaign Timeline
|11 Jun 1940||Ten Italian Z.1007 Alcione bombers attacked Grand Harbour, RAF Hal Far, and Kalafrana in Malta, killing 1 civilian and 6 soldiers. RAF Hal Far was the first of the three major Malta airfields to be attacked during the war.|
|24 Jun 1940||Malta received its first strike aircraft with the arrival and creation of No. 830 Squadron with Fairey Swordfish Mk.1 aircraft; they were left behind by HMS Argus when she departed the Mediterranean Sea.|
|9 Jul 1940||At 1515 hours, 50 miles south of Italy, heavily escorted Italian convoy for Benghazi, Libya ran into an equally powerful British convoy for Malta. British battleship HMS Warspite hit Italian battleship Giulio Cesare at the range of 24 kilometers, making it one of the longest naval gun hits of the war. Although Italian ships withdrew first, Italian aircraft forced the British ships back by 1700 hours.|
|12 Jul 1940||In the Mediterranean Sea, Italian bombers attacked British battleship HMS Warspite and cruiser HMS Liverpool between 0850 and 1150 hours. HMS Liverpool was hit by a dud, but it still killed 1 and wounded 2. One Italian bomber was shot down by a Sea Gladiator carrier biplane fighter from HMS Eagle.|
|1 Aug 1940||Operation Hurry: British carrier HMS Argus set sail for Malta with 12 Hurricane fighters for reinforcement. She was escorted by Force H with battlecruiser HMS Hood, battleship HMS Valiant, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, cruisers HMS Arethusa and HMS Enterprise, and 10 destroyers. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean fleet departed Alexandria, Egypt to conduct diversionary maneuvers in the area of Crete, Greece.|
|2 Aug 1940||Operation Hurry: 12 British Hurricane fighters were launched from carrier HMS Argus southwest of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea and flew about 300 miles to Malta; they were to form the new No. 261 Squadron. The escorting surface warships turned back for Gibraltar and England, while the escorting carriers (escorted by battlecruiser HMS Hood, cruiser HMS Enterprise, and 4 destroyers) launched an attack consisted of 8 Swordfish torpedo bombers on the Italian airfield at Cagliari, Sardinia, destroying several aircraft and deploying several mines.|
|6 Aug 1940||Operation Tube: British submarine HMS Pandora reached Malta from Gibraltar with ground equipment and spare parts for the Hurricane fighters delivered by aircraft carrier HMS Argus 2 Aug during Operation Hurry.|
|8 Aug 1940||Operation Tube: British submarine HMS Proteus reached Malta from Gibraltar with spares for the newly-arrived Hurricane fighters.|
|8 Oct 1940||The British Mediterranean Fleet departed Alexandria, Egypt to escort a supply convoy to Malta. The fleet consisted of battleship HMS Warspite, battleship HMS Valiant, battleship HMS Malaya, battleship HMS Ramillies, aircraft carrier HMS Eagle, aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, 12 cruisers, 16 destroyers, and 6 submarines; they escorted four British transport ships.|
|11 Oct 1940||A convoy of 4 merchant ships arrived at Malta from Alexandria, Egypt. The escorting British Mediterranean Fleet began to sail back to Alexandra, but was spotted by an Italian civilian aircraft 100 miles southeast of Malta. Italian destroyers and torpedo boats were dispatched to intercept.|
|12 Oct 1940||Battle of Cape Passero: On the previous day, the British Mediterranean Fleet departed Malta after an escort mission, and was detected by Italian aircraft. At 0200 hours, Italian torpedo boats Ariel, Alcione, and Airone caught up with the fleet and attacked British cruiser HMS Ajax east of Malta; Ariel and Airone were sunk by Ajax. At 0215 hours, Ajax's radar detected Italian destroyers Artigliere and Aviere and opened fire, damaging Aviere and rendering Artigliere dead in the water; Artigliere returned fire and hit Ajax four times, damaging gun turrets and disabled the radar while killing 13 and wounding 20. Ajax was able to retire from the battle under her own power, while Artigliere was towed away by destroyer Camicia Nera.|
|13 Oct 1940||At dawn, a British flying boat spotted Italian destroyer Camicia Nera towing destroyer Artigliere, which was damaged on the previous day during the Battle of Cape Passero east of Malta. Aircraft from HMS Illustrious forced Camicia Nera to cut the tow line, and then cruisers HMS York and HMS Ajax and four destroyers sank Artigliere with torpedoes. The British warships dropped rafts for the Italian survivors before departing; many of the survivors would be rescued by an Italian hospital ship on the following day.|
|14 Oct 1940||En route from Malta to Alexandra, Egypt, aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious detached from the British Mediterranean Fleet and launched an air attack against the Italian Dodecanese Island of Leros. Later in the day, at 1855 hours, an Italian SM79 bomber attacked the fleet 50 miles south of Crete, hitting cruiser HMS Liverpool with a torpedo and blew off her bow after detonating the aviation fuel store, killing 30 and wounding 35; Liverpool would survive the attack and would be towed to Alexandra to receive temporary repairs.|
|4 Nov 1940||British convoys A. N. 6 and M. W. 3 set out from Port Said and Alexandria in Egypt for the Aegean Sea and Malta. The ships were covered by the anti-aircraft cruisers Calcutta and Coventry with the destroyers Dainty, Vampire, Waterhen, and Voyager.|
|5 Nov 1940||British cruisers Sydney and Ajax departed Alexandra, Egypt to land supplies at Suda Bay, Crete, Greece.|
|5 Nov 1940||British cruisers Sydney and Ajax landed supplies at Suda Bay, Crete, Greece and then joined the Mediterranean Fleet at sea.|
|7 Nov 1940||Operation Coat was launched with carrier Ark Royal, cruiser Sheffield, and six destroyers to cover British naval forces en route toward Sardinia, Italy. The force was discovered and attacked by Italian aircraft. Italian submarines were also launched, but they failed to locate the British force.|
|10 Nov 1940||British Force F made rendezvous with the Mediterranean Fleet and dropped 2,500 troops on Malta.|
|10 Nov 1940||British convoy M. E. 3, with several empty ships, departed Malta. The convoy was detected by Italian submarine Topazio, which attempted to attack the convoy with torpedoes; all torpedoes missed.|
|11 Nov 1940||A convoy launched specifically to coincide with the British attack on Taranto, Italy reached Malta successfullly.|
|13 Nov 1940||British convoy M. E. 3 arrived at Suda Bay, Crete, Greece.|
|17 Nov 1940||British aircraft carrier HMS Argus launched 12 Hurricane and 2 Skua aircraft to reinforce Malta, but 6 Hurricane aircraft were ditched at sea and 1 Skua aircraft crash landed on Sicily, Italy after becoming lost.|
|24 Nov 1940||Operation Collar: Allied convoy ME4, with 3 merchant ships and a powerful escort fleet, passed the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea, sailing for Malta.|
|25 Nov 1940||Operation Collar: British Royal Navy Force H under Admiral Somerville departed from Gibraltar to escort Allied convoy ME4 to Malta.|
|26 Nov 1940||Operation Collar: Aircraft from British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious raided the Italian seaplane base in Port Laki, Leros, Dodecanese Islands to distract Italian forces while Allied convoy ME4 sailed for Malta from Gibraltar, but the Italians did not fall for the feint and launched a powerful fleet westward to intercept the convoy.|
|27 Nov 1940||Battle of Spartivento: At 1000 hours, spotter aircraft from British Force H (Operation Collar; escorting Allied convoy ME4) and the Italian interception fleet found each other, and a surface battle soon broke out. The British were initially outgunned (especially as the carrier aircraft were held back), but at 1130 hours the arrival of battleship HMS Ramillies and cruisers HMS Berwick and HMS Newcastle evened up the two sides. Italian Admiral Campioni, with orders to avoid combat unless his forces were superior, began to withdraw at about 1230 hours; battleship Vittorio Veneto's heavy fire stopped the British pursuit. British cruiser HMS Berwick was hit by cruiser Fiume twice at 1222 and 1235 hours (7 killed), while Italian destroyer Lanciere had to be towed back to port after being hit by cruiser HMS Manchester.|
|28 Nov 1940||Operation Collar: British Royal Navy Force H handed off the responsibility of escorting Allied convoy ME4 to the Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet. At 1430 hours, British freighters Clan Forbes and Clan Fraser of this convoy reached Malta. British freighter New Zealand Star would continue sailing, escorted by cruisers and destroyers, for Alexandria, Egypt.|
|2 Dec 1940||British Admiral of the Fleet William Boyle (Earl of Cork and Orrery) arrived at Gibraltar aboard destroyer HMS Jersey to conduct a Board of Inquiry into Admiral James Somerville's decision to disengage at the Battle of Spartivento.|
|6 Jan 1941||British convoy Excess (British ships Essex, Clan Cumming, Clan Macdonald, and Empire Song) departed from Gibraltar for Malta and Greece, escorted by anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Bonaventure (carrying 400 troops) and destroyers HMS Hereward, HMS Jaguar, HMS Hasty, and HMS Hero.|
|6 Jan 1941||British cruisers HMS Gloucester and HMS Southampton, escorted by destroyers HMS Ilex and HMS Janus, departed Alexandria, Egypt, at 1315 hours to carry 510 Army and RAF personnel to Malta and to meet Excess convoy which had departed from Gibraltar on the same day.|
|7 Jan 1941||Admiral Somerville's Force H, consisted of battlecruiser HMS Renown, battleship HMS Malaya, aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, cruiser HMS Sheffield, and 7 destroyers, departed Gibraltar to cover the Excess convoy which left Gibraltar on the previous day.|
|7 Jan 1941||Admiral Cunningham's Mediterranean Fleet, consisted of battleship HMS Warspite, battlesip HMS Valiant, aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, and 7 destroyers departed Alexandria, Egypt, to meet the Excess convoy.|
|8 Jan 1941||British cruisers HMS Gloucester and HMS Southampton arrived at Malta to disembark 510 Army and RAF personnel, escorted by destroyers HMS Ilex and HMS Janus. HMS Gloucester, HMS Southampton, and HMS Ilex continued west to meet the Excess convoy from Gibraltar.|
|9 Jan 1941||Escort duties for the British Excess convoy was passed from Force H (from Gibraltar) to the Mediterranean Fleet (from Alexandria, Egypt); most of Force H turned back for Gibraltar at nightfall, but cruiser HMS Bonaventure and destroyers HMS Hereward, HMS Jaguar, HMS Hasty, and HMS Hero would remain with the convoy. On the same day, 12 Italian C.200 fighter-bombers attempted to attack Malta; 4 were shot down by defending Hurricane fighters of No. 261 Squadron RAF.|
|10 Jan 1941||Italian torpedo boats Vega and Circe attacked the Allied convoy Excess in the Strait of Sicily at dawn; cruiser HMS Bonaventure's gunfire and destroyer HMS Hereward's torpedo sank Vega. At 0815 hours, the convoy made rendezvous with the Mediterranean Fleet (with two battleships, one carrier, and seven destroyers). Shortly after, destroyer HMS Gallant (H59) hit an Italian naval mine that was laid on 6 Aug 1940, losing her bow and killing 58 and wounding 25; she was towed by HMS Mohawk (F31) to Malta for repairs, beaching in Grand Harbour below Floriana. At 1235 hours, German Stuka dive bombers, newly arrived to the theater, attacked HMS Illustrious, hitting her with 6 bombs, destroying the elevator and starting fires in the hangar deck, killing 124; she also sailed to Malta to receive repairs. Illustrious being out of service meant the Axis now had air superiority in the theater.|
|11 Jan 1941||German Luftwaffe Oberst Werner Ennecerus led a dive bomber attack on British cruisers HMS Gloucester and HMS Southampton 120 miles east of Sicily, Italy, hitting Gloucester with one 500kg bomb that failed to explode (9 killed, 13 wounded) and Southampton with two 500kg bombs (98 killed). Southampton was abandoned by the 727 survivors at 1900 hours, then was scuttled by a torpedo from cruiser HMS Orion at 2000 hours. Further east, the Allied convoy Excess, which the cruisers were protecting, reached their destinations of Malta, Egypt, and Greece.|
|12 Jan 1941||British aircraft based on Malta attacked the Axis airbase at Catania, Sicily, Italy.|
|16 Jan 1941||80 German Luftwaffe Stuka dive bombers attacked Valletta Harbor, Malta, trying to finish off damaged British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. HMS Illustrious, British destroyer HMS Decoy, and Australian cruiser HMAS Perth, and British ship Essex were damaged, but none sank. 10 German aircraft were lost.|
|17 Jan 1941||German Luftwaffe Stuka dive bombers attacked Malta.|
|18 Jan 1941||German Luftwaffe Stuka dive bombers attacked Malta for the third consecutive day, destroying 6 RAF aircraft and damaging many more at the Luqa and Hal Far airfields.|
|19 Jan 1941||German Luftwaffe Stuka dive bombers attacked Valletta Harbour, Malta for the fourth consecutive day in their attempt to finish off the damaged British carrier HMS Illustrious, which was only further damaged with near missed. Destroyers HMS Imperial and HMS Decoy were also damaged by the attack. One Stuka aircraft was shot down by a Fulmar aircraft, which was also shot down later in the battle.|
|3 Apr 1941||HMS Argus and HMS Ark Royal, ferrying 12 Hurricane fighters and 3 Skua dive bombers, successfully launched them to reinforce Malta, completing Operation Winch.|
|11 Apr 1941||Destroyers HMS Jervis, HMS Janus, HMS Nubian, and HMS Mohawk of the British 14th Destroyer Flotilla arrived in Malta to act as a night striking force.|
|13 Apr 1941||Luftwaffe aircraft conducted a raid on Malta.|
|28 Apr 1941||German bombers attacked Malta overnight, badly damaging destroyer HMS Encounter in the drydock and destroying minesweeper HMS Fermoy.|
|30 Apr 1941||German aircraft bombed Malta; a bomb passed through British cruiser HMS Gloucester without detonating.|
|1 May 1941||HMS Jersey hit a mine in Valetta, Malta, and later sank during a German air raid.|
|4 May 1941||German aircraft sank British minesweeper Fermoy in dock at Malta.|
|16 May 1941||German bombers damaged British destroyer HMS Encounter in drydock at Malta.|
|14 Jun 1941||British aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Victorious, escorted by cruiser HMS Renown and 7 destroyers, set sail from Gibraltar for Operation Tracer and launched 47 Hurricane fighters for Malta; 43 of them would reach their destination safely.|
|17 Jul 1941||Axis aircraft attacked airfields on Malta.|
|21 Jul 1941||The Allied convoy "Substance" departed Gibraltar to supply Malta; it contains six transports, carrier Ark Royal, battlecruiser Renown, battleship Nelson, several cruisers, and six destroyers.|
|22 Jul 1941||Italian submarine Diaspro fired four torpedoes on HMS Ark Royal and HMAS Nestor escorting the Operation Substance convoy in the Mediterranean Sea; all torpedoes missed. 8 SM79s torpedo bombers and 15 bombers (SM79 and Cant Z1007) took off from Sardinia, Italy to attack the same convoy, but they would fail to locate any of the ships.|
|26 Jul 1941||Six Italian E-boats escorted by MC.200 fighters attempted to attack shipping in Valletta's Grand Harbour at Malta. The Hurricane fighters of Nos. 126 and 185 Squadrons were scrambled and set about the E-boats, sinking four and causing the other two to surrender.|
|27 Sep 1941||An Italian torpedo bomber hit British battleship HMS Nelson in the bow with a torpedo in the Mediterranean Sea between Sardinia, Italy and Tunisia; Nelson was escorting the Operation Halberd convoy for Malta.|
|28 Sep 1941||The Allied Operation Halberd convoy arrived in Malta and began to disembark 50,000 tons of supplies aboard its ships.|
|30 Sep 1941||Italian submarine Adua attacked British ships sailing for Malta to Gibraltar (having just completed escorting the Operation Halberd on the previous day) 250 miles east of Gibraltar. British destroyers HMS Gurkha and HMS Legion counterattacked with depth charges, sinking the Italian submarine, killing all 46 aboard.|
|5 Oct 1941||Swordfish torpedo bombers of British No. 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm based in Malta attacked an Italian convoy en route from Naples, Italy to Tripoli, Libya 67 miles north of Misrata, Libya, sinking tanker Rialto; the 145 survivors were rescued by Italian destroyer Gioberti.|
|11 Oct 1941||Malta-based British bombers of No. 830 Squadron attacked an Italian convoy 100 miles north of Tripoli, sinking ships Zena and Casaregis.|
|18 Oct 1941||Eleven Albacore and two Swordfish aircraft of British No. 828 Squadron took off from HMS Ark Royal to reinforce Malta. One Swordfish torpedo bomber was lost en route, however.|
|31 Oct 1941||It was announced that RAF aircraft operating out of Malta had destroyed 76,500 tons of enemy shipping in the Mediterranean Sea.|
|8 Nov 1941||British cruisers HMS Aurora and HMS Penelope and destroyers HMS Lance and HMS Lively were dispatched from Malta to intercept an Axis convoy (intelligence gained through Ultra; a Maryland aircraft was dispatched to create the illusion that the convoy was spotted) that had just departed from Italy consisted of German freighters Duisburg and San Marco; Italian freighters Maria, Sagitta, and Rina Corrado; and Italian tankers Conte di Misurata and Minatitlan. This convoy carried 223 troops, 389 vehicles, 34,473 tons of supplies, and 17,281 tons of fuel. The convoy was escorted by 2 Italian cruisers and 7 Italian destroyers.|
|9 Nov 1941||At 0100 hours, British cruiser HMS Aurora, cruiser HMS Penelope, destroyer HMS Lance, and destroyer HMS Lively, which had sailed from Malta late on the previous day, intercepted their target, an Axis convoy that was bound for Libya. All five freighters (German freighters Duisburg and San Marco; Italian freighters Maria, Sagitta, and Rina Corrado; and Italian tankers Conte di Misurata and Minatitlan) and Italian destroyer Fulmine were sunk with radar gunnery, while damaging destroyers Grecale and Maestrale. At 0640 hours, British submarine HMS Upholder attacked Italian destroyer Libeccio, which was busy rescuing survivors of the night time battle; an attempt was made to tow her back to port for repairs, but Libeccio would sink en route.|
|10 Nov 1941||The Operation Perpetual convoy, escorted by battleship HMS Malaya, cruiser HMS Hermione, and seven destroyers, departed from Gibraltar. At the center of the convoy, British carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Argus were tasked with delivering 37 Hurricane fighters for Malta.|
|12 Nov 1941||British aircraft carriers HMS Ark Royal and HMS Argus from the Operation Perpetual convoy launched 37 Hurricane fighters to reinforce Malta.|
|14 Nov 1941||The British launched unescorted freighters disguised as French, Italian, and Spanish ships with supplies for Malta. Meanwhile, Operation Astrologer was commenced with transports Empire Defender and Empire Pelican, also with supplies for Malta; Empire Pelican was found and sunk by Italian SM.79 torpedo bombers near the Galite Islands off Tunisia, killing 1.|
|15 Nov 1941||Italian SM.79 torpedo bombers sank British freighter Empire Defender of the Operation Astrologer convoy near the Galite Islands off the Tunisian coast, killing 4.|
|29 Nov 1941||British aircraft from Malta sank Italian tanker Berbera and damaged Italian tanker Volturno at Navarino (now Pylos), Greece.|
|29 Nov 1941||British Royal Navy Force B (cruiser HMS Ajax, cruiser HMS Neptune, destroyer HMS Kimberly, and destroyer HMS Kingston) under the command of Rear Admiral Bernard Rawlings arrived in Malta.|
|1 Dec 1941||Malta-based British reconnaissance aircraft spotted an Italian supply convoy traveling for North Africa. The subsequent attack 60 miles off Libya saw the sinking of tanker Iridio Mantovani (with 10,000 tons of fuel) by aircraft and the sinking of transport Adriatico by cruisers HMS Aurora and HMS Penelope. HMS Aurora and HMS Penelope were attacked by Italian destroyer Alvise Da Mosta with torpedoes and gunfire, but the British cruisers fought back, sinking the destroyer and killing 200.|
|16 Dec 1941||Five German motor torpedo boats from Sicily, Italy entered Malta's Valletta harbour during the night and drop seventy mines there.|
|17 Dec 1941||Allied and Italian naval forces engaged in the First Battle of Sirte as convoys of each side unexpectedly came across each other 185 miles northwest of Benghazi, Libya. Italian battleships Littorio, Andrea Doria, and Giulio Cesare fired on Allied cruisers and destroyers from the distance of 32 kilometers, which was too far to hit accurately, but did still damage British destroyer HMS Kipling and Australian destroyer HMAS Nizam with near misses.|
|21 Dec 1941||Germans and Italians increased air attacks on Malta.|
|12 Feb 1942||British destroyer Maori was sunk at Malta Harbour during an air raid. Only one man was killed as most of the crew were sleeping in shelters ashore, with only a token crew left aboard. Destroyer HMS Decoy, moored nearby, was damaged by the explosion; 2 were killed.|
|20 Mar 1942||Allies in Libya attacked Benghazi and Derna, diverting attention from an important convoy for Malta.|
|21 Mar 1942||Italian submarines Onice and Platino spotted British convoy MW10, which had departed from Alexandria, Egypt, off the Libyan coast. A force consisted of battleship Littorio, 3 cruisers, and 10 destroyers departed from Taranto on mainland Italy and Messina on the island of Sicily to intercept; British submarine P36 spotted this Italian response.|
|22 Mar 1942||Italian battleship Littorio, 3 cruisers, and 10 destroyers successfully intercepted Allied convoy MW10 in the Gulf of Sirte between Libya and Malta at 1430 hours, but they were fended off by the smaller British escort force of 4 cruisers and 17 destroyers. As the Second Battle of Sirte ended at 1900 hours, 3 British cruisers and 6 destroyers were damaged (39 killed), while the Italian battleship Littorio was also damaged. After the two forces disengaged, Italian destroyers Lanciere and Scirocco were sunk by a storm, killing 201 and 189, respectively.|
|23 Mar 1942||German aircraft sank British transport Clan Campbell and damaged transport Breconshire of Allied convoy MW10. The remaining two transports, Pampas and Talabot, reached Malta by the end of the day.|
|24 Mar 1942||German bombers attacked Malta, damaging British destroyer HMS Legion with near misses.|
|26 Mar 1942||British destroyer HMS Legion (G 74), already damaged from an air raid two days prior, was hit again and broke in two at her moorings at Valetta Grand Harbour, Malta; both halves of the ship were re-floated but declared a loss and were towed out of the harbour to deep water and scuttled; 11 were killed in this attack. The 5,415-ton British motor vessel Pampas was hit by multiple bombs in the air raid and sank at her moorings. The empty freighter Talabot was sunk as well. British submarine HMS P39 was sitting alongside a jetty in Grand Harbour when German aircraft launched the attack; the submarine was seriously damaged and while she did not sink, due to the efforts of the crew, it was decided that she was too badly damaged to be worth repairing; she was towed to Kalkara and beached.|
|27 Mar 1942||British aircraft carriers HMS Argus and HMS Eagle departed Gibraltar with battleship HMS Malaya and other warships in escort to deliver 16 Spitfire fighters to Malta.|
|1 Apr 1942||As Italian bombers sank British submarines HMS P36 and HMS Pandora in Valetta Harbour, Malta, the island had become one of the most bombed place on earth. Although Malta remained a thorn on the Axis' side, making convoying between Italy and North Africa hazardous, the Luftwaffe told an impatient Hitler that they could not sink an island with bombs.|
|5 Apr 1942||Italian aircraft attacked Valetta Harbour, Malta, causing fatal damage to minesweeper HMS Abingdon and destroyer HMS Gallant and also damaging destroyer HMS Lance.|
|6 Apr 1942||British tug HMS West Cocker was destroyed by Axis aircraft at Malta.|
|9 Apr 1942||Italian aircraft heavily damaged British destroyer HMS Lance at Malta; she would soon be written off as a total loss.|
|11 Apr 1942||Axis bombers attacked La Valletta harbor, Malta, wrecking British destroyer HMS Kingston in the dry dock.|
|15 Apr 1942||King George awarded Malta the George Cross for heroism and devotion.|
|20 Apr 1942||USS Wasp delivered 46 Spitfire fighters to Malta; most of them would be destroyed in combat within days.|
|21 Apr 1942||Axis aircraft sank British anti-submarine trawler HMT Jade at Grand Harbour, Malta.|
|22 Apr 1942||German and Italian aircraft attacked Malta.|
|28 Apr 1942||Axis aircraft attacked Malta, sinking British tug HMS West Dean.|
|7 May 1942||General Lord Gort flew into Malta and was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Malta in succession to Lieutenant-General Sir William Dobbie. He landed two days before the arrival of the Spitfire V aircraft being brought on the aircraft carriers HMS Eagle and USS Wasp. His first two orders were to employ the Army to assist with servicing the Spitfire aircraft when they arrive and the creation of a smoke screen over the Grand Harbour. He also announced the King's award of the George Cross to the islanders.|
|8 May 1942||British minelayer HMS Welshman, disguised as a French destroyer, departed Gibraltar with RAF personnel and 240 tons of supplies for Malta.|
|9 May 1942||USS Wasp and HMS Eagle launched 47 and 17 Spitfire fighters, respectively, for Malta; 61 of them would arrive safely to reinforce the island. Meanwhile, to the west, British minelayer HMS Welshman, carrying 240 tons of supplies for Malta and disguised as a French destroyer, encountered Axis aircraft but her disguise kept her safe.|
|10 May 1942||German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring prematurely announced that Malta had been neutralized. On the same day, British minelayer HMS Welshman, disguised as a French destroyer, arrived at Grand Harbour at Malta with RAF personnel and 240 tons of supplies.|
|11 May 1942||Newly arrived Spitfire fighters at Malta intercepted an Axis air fleet aiming to bomb Malta, shooting down 47 Axis aircraft at the loss of only 3.|
|11 Jun 1942||Two convoys trying to reach Malta were attacked by aircraft, warships and submarines. Twelve British warships and merchantmen were sunk and eleven were damaged.|
|12 Jun 1942||5 British freighters and 1 tanker departed Gibraltar in Operation Harpoon with 43,000 tons of cargo for Malta, escorted by battleship HMS Malaya, carrier HMS Argus, carrier HMS Eagle, 4 cruisers, 17 destroyers, 4 minesweepers, 1 minelayer, and 6 motor gunboats.|
|12 Jun 1942||11 ships departed Haifa, Palestine and Port Said, Egypt in Operation Vigorous escorted by battleship HMS Centurion (unarmed, serving as a deterrent only), 8 cruisers, 26 destroyers, and 9 submarines, also sailing for Malta; the Vigorous convoy was attacked by German Ju 88 bombers south of Crete, Greece, damaging freighter City Of Calcutta, forcing her to sail for Tobruk, Libya for repairs.|
|14 Jun 1942||During the day, Italian SM.79 torpedo bombers attacked the Allied Harpoon convoy, sailing for Malta, south of Sardinia, Italy, sinking Dutch transport Tanimbar (5 were killed) and disabling British cruiser Liverpool (15 were killed, 22 were wounded; Liverpool was towed back to Gibraltar by destroyer HMS Antelope). In the evening, most of the warships escorting the Harpoon convoy were ordered back to Gibraltar. From other other side of the Mediterranean Sea, the Allied Vigorous convoy sailed westward for Malta. Dutch freighter Aagtekerk of the Vigorous convoy developed mechanical troubles and was diverted by Tobruk, Libya for repairs with two corvettes in escort; 40 German Ju 87 and Ju 88 aircraft attacked them, sinking Aagtekerk (3 were killed) and damaging corvette HMS Primula. In the late afternoon, German Ju 88 bombers from Crete, Greece attacked the Vigorous convoy, sinking the ship Bhutan (1 was killed) and damaging freighter Potaro. Meanwhile, a powerful Italian fleet including two battleships and four cruisers departed Taranto, Italy in an attempt to intercept the Vigorous convoy. After sundown, German motor torpedo boats from Derna, Libya attacked the Vigorous convoy, with S-55 sinking British destroyer HMS Hasty (13 were killed) and S-56 damaging cruiser HMS Newcastle (forced to return to Alexandria, Egypt for repairs).|
|15 Jun 1942||Italian cruisers attacked the Allied Harpoon convoy in the Strait of Sicily at 0539 hours, damaging British cruiser HMS Cairo (2 were killed), damaging destroyer HMS Partridge, and disabling destroyer HMS Bedouin (under the command of Commander B. G. Scurfield; 28 were killed, 213 captured; later sunk by Italian aircraft); British return fire damaged Italian destroyer Vivaldi. In concert, German aircraft attacked freighters of the Harpoon convoy, seriously damaging freighter Burdwan, freighter Chant, and tanker Kentucky (all three abandoned and later sunk by Italian warships). The Harpoon convoy reached Malta after sundown, but the ships ran into a new minefield in the Grand Harbour, sinking Polish destroyer Kujawiak (13 were killed, 20 were wounded), damaging British destroyer Badsworth (9 were killed), damaging destroyer HMS Matchless, and damaging freighter Orari. From the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, the Allied Vigorous convoy also sailed for Malta. At dawn, British Beaufort torpedo bombers from Malta attacked the Italian fleet moving to intercept the convoy, disabling Italian cruiser Trento at 0515 hours; she would be sunk by submarine HMS Umbra at 0910 hours, over 360 were killed. The detection of this Italian fleet turned back the entire Vigorous convoy. En route back to Alexandria, Egypt, Axis aircraft sank British destroyer HMS Airedale (44 were killed, 133 survived) and damaged British cruiser HMS Birmingham and Australian destroyer HMAS Nestor. In Germany, Adolf Hitler postponed Operation Herkules, the planned invasion of Malta.|
|16 Jun 1942||German submarine U-205 sank British cruiser HMS Hermione, returning to Egypt from her duty escorting the Allied Vigorous convoy, 115 miles north of Sidi Barrani, Egypt at 0019 hours; 87 were killed, 440 survived.|
|26 Jun 1942||The Italians were able to step up their air attacks on Malta by transferring aircraft from Libya to Sicily, Italy.|
|8 Jul 1942||Valetta harbor, Malta was attacked by air.|
|10 Aug 1942||The Pedestal convoy, 13 merchantmen and the tanker Ohio (escorted by fifty-nine warships), departed from Gibraltar for Malta. Lying in wait were twenty-one Axis submarines and some 800 aircraft.|
|11 Aug 1942||The first Axis air attacks from Sardinia, Italy, against the Pedestal convoy to Malta were beaten off.|
|12 Aug 1942||At 1200 hours, British carrier HMS Indomitable of Allied Pedestal convoy was hit by two 500-pound bombs, rendering the flight deck unusable. 10 miles off Bizerte, Tunisia, British destroyers HMS Ithuriel and HMS Pathfinder, escorting the convoy, forced Italian submarine Cobalto to the surface with depth charges, and Ithuriel proceeded to ram and sink Colbalto (2 Italians and 2 British were killed; 41 Italians captured). At 2000 hours, Italian submarine Axum attacked the convoy, sinking British cruiser HMS Cairo (24 were killed, 320 survived), damaging cruiser HMS Nigeria (52 were killed), and damaging tanker Ohio. At 1845 hours, Italian SM.79 torpedo bombers heavily damaged F-class destroyer HMS Foresight, breaking her back and knocking out her steering (1 officer and 3 ratings were killed). During the night, the Pedestal convoy rounded Cape Bon in confusion; as the Italians continued to attack, three merchant ships were sunk and merchant ship Brisbane Star was heavily damaged. Earlier in the day, 6 Italian cruisers and 17 destroyers set sail from Messina, Sicily, Italy to intercept the convoy.|
|13 Aug 1942||In the Strait of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, 7 German and 8 Italian torpedo boats attacked the Allied Pedestal convoy, sinking freighters Wairangi, Glenorchy, Almeria Lykes, and Santa Elisa shortly after midnight. At 0100 hours, Italian torpedo boats MAS16 and MAS22 fatally damaged British cruiser HMS Manchester 4 miles off Kellibia, Tunisia, kiling 10. At dawn, German dive bombers sank freighters Waimarama (80 were killed) and Dorset. Later in the morning, already-damaged tanker Ohio was disabled by further bomb hits; she would be abandoned after nightfall. Finally, British fighters from Malta arrived, allowing three Pedestal convoy freighters to sail into Malta between 1730 and 1830 hours; the successful RAF fighter coverage which drove away German air attacks would also force the 6 Italian cruisers and 17 destroyers which had sailed from Messina, Sicily, Italy on the previous day to abandon their mission to intercept the Pedestal convoy.|
|13 Aug 1942||Several attempts to tow F-class destroyer HMS Foresight (Lieutenant Commander Robert Augustus Fell RN), hit by an Italian aerial torpedo on the previous date, were made. When it was observed that an Axis attack might be likely, Tribal-class destroyer HMS Tartar (F43) took on the 181 survivors and scuttled Foresight with torpedoes at 0955 hours.|
|14 Aug 1942||British destroyer HMS Penn, destroyer HMS Bramham, destroyer HMS Ledbury, and minesweeper HMS Rye began towing the previously abandoned tanker Ohio of Allied convoy Pedestal, still carrying her cargo of fuel. Later on the same day, heavily damaged British freighter Brisbane Star reached Malta at 1615 hours.|
|15 Aug 1942||Tanker Ohio, under tow by three British destroyers and one British minesweeper, arrived at Malta at 0700 hours; she would later sink in Valetta Harbour, Malta from her damage after her cargo of fuel was unloaded.|
|16 Aug 1942||British carrier HMS Furious departed Gibraltar with 32 Spitfire fighters on board for delivery to Malta; she was escorted by cruiser HMS Charybdis, destroyer HMS Antelope, destroyer HMS Bicester, destroyer HMS Derwent, destroyer HMS Eskimo, destroyer HMS Keppel, destroyer HMS Laforey, destroyer HMS Lookout, destroyer HMS destroyer HMS Lightning, destroyer HMS Malcolm, destroyer HMS Somali, destroyer HMS Venomous, and destroyer HMS Wishart.|
|17 Aug 1942||In Operation Baritone, British carrier HMS Furious launched 32 Spitfire fighters for Malta; 2 of them were lost during takeoff.|
|13 Sep 1942||The George Cross medal was awarded to the island of Malta. It was officially presented to the people of Malta by Lord Gort, the Governor and Commander-in-Chief.|
|10 Oct 1942||The major Axis air offensive against Malta began.|
|17 Oct 1942||All daylight air raids on Malta were abandoned by the Axis following heavy losses and bombing was now restricted to night-time operations only. The Axis had lost 270 aircraft this year over Malta.|
|17 Nov 1942||The Stoneage convoy departed Alexandria, Egypt for Malta.|
|9 Feb 1943||The first of seven Axis convoys left Italy with reinforcements bound for Tunisia but British aircraft from Malta, submarines, and minefields took a heavy toll.|
|21 May 1943||RAF Hal Far was bombed by the Axis for the last time.|
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Winston Churchill, on the RAF