Fortress Island Malta - Defence & Re-Supply During the Siege, Peter Jacobs

Fortress Island Malta - Defence & Re-Supply During the Siege, Peter Jacobs

The siege of Malta was one of the longest British campaigns of the Second World War, lasting for over two years (admittedly at varying levels of intensity). There were two main military aspects to the siege - the naval blockade of the island and the prolonged series of Italian and German air attacks. Both of these were fought against the background of the very changeable campaign in North Africa, which saw British forces based on the island directly influence the fighting by sinking large numbers of Axis supply ships, while the periods of German and Italian success saw the island even more isolated.

The main focus here is on the naval blockade and the air battles. There are detailed accounts of the various attempts to run supplies through to Malta from Gibraltar and Alexandria, some of which resulted in very costly naval battles. Just enough food, oil and other equipment reached Malta to allow the island to survive until the siege was finally lifted, so this was perhaps the most important element of the siege.

The air battles are also examined in some detail, with sections looking at individual days of aerial combat or the careers of particular pilots, as well as a more general examination of the way in which the battle swung back and fore, as the Germans committed or withdrew aircraft and the British attempted to fly reinforcements of various types onto the island. Although the first stage of the siege, when a handful of Gladiator biplanes faced the Italians, is most famous, the main parts of the siege saw quite sizable forces of Hurricanes and later Spitfires facing powerful Luftwaffe forces in some very large scale battles, and that later stage gets the most coverage here.

At the time many on Malta would have expected the key part of the siege to be an eventual German and Italian attempt to actually capture the island, but that attack never came. The prolonged attempts to defend Malta from the air and the costly supply convoys were thus key to saving the island from being starved into surrender, and allowing Malta to become a key offensive base (there is some good coverage of this part of the siege as well, as Allied naval forces including submarines and attack aircraft hit the vital supply convoys running from Italy to support Rommel in North Africa). This is a good readable account of one of the key battles in the Mediterranean during the Second World War.

Chapters
1 - A Strategic Island Left in a Hopeless Situation
2 - First Day of Siege - 11 June 1940
3 - Reinforcements
4 - An Opportunity Missed
5 - A Period of Optimism
6 - The Illustrious Blitz
7 - Enter the 109s
8 - The Arrival of 249
9 - Hitting Back, June to November 1941
10 - Return of the Luftwaffe
11 - A Desperate Situation
12 - At Last - Spitfires!
13 - George Cross Island
14 - An Island Facing Starvation
15 - Operation Harpoon and Operation Vigorous
16 - 'Screwball'
17 - Pedestal - The Biggest Convoy of Them All
18 - The Siege Ends

Author: Peter Jacobs
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 240
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2016


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