The British Island colony of Malta played a critical role in the battle for the Mediterranean.1 It was critical because it directly affected the outcome of the North African Campaign. The Islands strategic importance lay in its geographical position (60 miles from Sicily) and its offensive capability against the Axis convoys that supplied the Afrika Corps in Libya. To the Allies Malta and Force K (The submarine and surface fleet based at Malta) were absolutely neccessary and indeed decisive in preventing the Axis convoys from reaching North Africa and therefore helping the Eighth Army in defeating Rommel and later Arnim, due to their lack of fuel and supplies. The fact is that if the Axis powers had captured Malta then it would have been a severe blow for the Allies in that their offensive capability in the Mediterranean would have been significantly weakened, whilst the Axis convoys would have been more successful in supplying North Africa. The effect of this, coupled with the effect of the Luftwaffe being based at Malta would have been a huge blow to the Allies and could well have had a decisive affect upon the course of the Desert War. The Island came under constant bombardment and the civilian population was reduced to hurrendous standards of living, with a typhoid epidemic in the summer of 1942, but the Island was awarded the George Cross in April of that year.
The Island was only able to hold out to the Axis onslaught through Allied convoys such as Pedestal and Harpoon that brought food, fuel, medical supplies aswell as more fighters arriving (61 Spitfires in May 1942). This was a costly efforet however and out of the 86 supply ships sent to Malta between August 1940 and August 1942, 31 were sunk and many others severely damaged.
Diverted and Committed Troops
Weapons In North Africa
Commanders and their tactics
High Command Disputes And Interference
Concluding thoughts on the North African Campaign
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