The Battle for Malta

Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Aaron Young


An island of ancient legend

and warrior knights.

A link between Europe and North Africa.

And, in 1940, a pivotal British

base in the Mediterranean.

For two years during the Second World War,

the people of the island were

forced underground in terror

as the Axis powers unleashed on them

one of the greatest aerial

bombardments in history.

If Malta fell, the British feared,

then so would North Africa, the Suez Canal

and the oilfields of the Middle East.

The King himself recognised the suffering,

awarding the entire

island the George Cross.

The tale is ingrained

in the island's legend,

but Malta's story is more than its siege.

This was a desperate fight for life

won by the narrowest of margins.

A fight for the seas, a

struggle for the skies,

the battle for Malta itself.

Looking out over the

peaceful harbours today,

it's almost impossible to imagine

that, during the war,

this was hell on earth.

The battle for Malta was

one of the most vicious

of the Second World War.

Malta is just 17 miles long,

but it endured a concentrated

attack so violent

it became the most bombed place on earth.

This may seem out of all

proportion to the island's size,

but it underlined its crucial importance,

for this tiny piece of rock

in the middle of the sea

held the key to the entire

war in the Mediterranean.

And it all started with a speech in Rome.

When Italian dictator Benito

Mussolini declared war on Britain,

it meant war for Malta, too.

Malta had been British since 1814,

home to the Mediterranean Fleet

and an important base in Britain's

Empire across the seas.

But it was now vulnerable

to Italian ambition.

You don't have to travel

very far out from Malta

to realise how isolated this place was.

The nearest British port

was Alexandria in Egypt,

820 miles away to the east.

To the west, you have to

travel 990 miles to Gibraltar.

But 60 miles to the north, and

swarming with enemy aircraft,

lay Sicily, just 15 minutes'

flying time from Malta.

For Mussolini, the island

was an obvious target,

one he believed was ripe for the taking.

When the bombs started coming down,

the first reaction was terror.

Italy and Malta shared a close bond,

but overnight they were at war.

What we call the rude awakening

of the 11th of June.

Eight sorties in a day.

15 civilians casualties, over 200 wounded.

Our brothers, the Italians,

did not take care of what

was being said in Malta.

They just bombed us and killed us.

Malta held great value to the British,

but the first priority was

saving her own shores.

By 10th June 1940, the Nazis

had swept across Europe

and pushed the defeated British

Army back to the Channel coast.

No wonder Mussolini was confident.

France was about to fall,

and it looked like Great

Britain would be next.

Peter Caddick-Adams

is a lecturer in military history

at Cranfield University.

He believes Italy was gambling

on Britain's exit from the war.

The timing is key.

What Mussolini is doing is jumping

on the coat-tails of Germany.

He wouldn't dare do anything

against Britain before,

but now it looks as though

Britain is about to be swamped

by the German war machine,

and all of a sudden Malta finds

itself on the front line.

And Malta's role will be important.

Mussolini had dreamed

of creating a new Rome.

Malta would cement the link between

Italy and his empire in Africa.

And with Britain out of the war,

it would be the easy prize it needed to be.

The thing to remember with

Mussolini's declaration of war

is it takes the Italian

military by surprise,

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "The Battle for Malta" STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 19 Apr. 2021. <>.

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