Battle Of Malta

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Battle Of Malta

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The Turkish armada, which set sail from Constantinople on 22 March, was by all accounts one of the largest assembled since antiquity.

According to one of the earliest and most complete histories of the siege, that of the Order's official historian Giacomo Bosio , the fleet consisted of vessels, which included galleys , seven galliots small galleys , and four galleasses large galleys , the remainder being transport vessels, etc.

The Italian mercenary Francisco Balbi di Correggio , serving as an arquebusier in the Spanish corps , gave the forces as: [4]. The Knight Hipolito Sans, in a lesser-known account, also lists about 48, invaders, although it is not clear how independent his work is from Balbi's.

In a letter written to Philip II only four days after the siege began, de Valette himself says that "the number of soldiers that will make land is between 15, and 16,, including seven thousand arquebusiers or more, that is four thousand janissaries and three thousand sipahis.

Indeed, a letter written during the siege by the liaison with Sicily, Captain Vincenzo Anastagi , states the enemy force was only 22, and several other letters of the time give similar numbers.

Before the Turks arrived, de Valette ordered the harvesting of all the crops, including unripened grain, to deprive the enemy of any local food supplies.

Furthermore, the Knights poisoned all wells with bitter herbs and dead animals. The Turkish armada arrived at dawn on Friday, 18 May, but did not at once make land.

Piyale wished to shelter it at Marsamxett Harbour , just north of the Grand Harbour, in order to avoid the sirocco and be nearer the action, but Mustafa disagreed, because to anchor the fleet there would require first reducing Fort St.

Elmo, which guarded the entrance to the harbour. Mustafa intended, according to these accounts, to attack the poorly defended former capital Mdina , which stood in the centre of the island, then attack Forts St.

Angelo and Michael by land. If so, an attack on Fort St. Elmo would have been entirely unnecessary. Nevertheless, Mustafa relented, apparently believing only a few days would be necessary to destroy St.

After the Turks were able to emplace their guns, at the end of May they commenced a bombardment. It certainly seems true that Suleiman had seriously blundered in splitting the command three ways.

He not only split command between Piyale and Mustafa, but he ordered both of them to defer to Dragut when he arrived from Tripoli. Contemporary letters from spies in Constantinople, however, suggest that the plan had always been to take Fort St.

Elmo first. While the Ottomans were landing, the knights and Maltese made some last-minute improvements to the defences of Birgu and Senglea.

The Ottomans set up their main camp in Marsa , which was close to the Knights' fortifications. The darkness of the night then became as bright as day, due to the vast quantity of artificial fires.

So bright was it indeed that we could see St Elmo quite clearly. The gunners of St Angelo Having correctly calculated that the Turks would seek to secure a disembarkation point for their fleet and would thus begin the campaign by attempting to capture Fort St Elmo, de Valette sent reinforcements and concentrated half of his heavy artillery within the fort.

The unremitting bombardment of the fort from three dozen guns on the higher ground of Mt. Sciberras began on 27 May, [31] and reduced the fort to rubble within a week, but de Valette evacuated the wounded nightly and resupplied the fort from across the harbour.

After arriving in May, Dragut set up new batteries to imperil the ferry lifeline. On 3 June, a party of Janissaries managed to seize the fort's ravelin and ditch.

The Turks attacked the damaged walls on June 10 and 15, and made an all out assault on June 16, during which even the slave and hired galley oarsmen housed in St Elmo, as well as the native Maltese soldiers, reportedly fought and died "almost as bravely as the Knights themselves.

At Dragut's insistence a cannon's aim was lowered, but the aim was too low, and when fired its ball detached part of the trench which hit Dragut in the head, killing him, [33] although according to Bosio, it was a lucky shot from Fort St.

Angelo that mortally wounded him. Finally, on 23 June, the Turks seized what was left of Fort St. A small number of Maltese managed to escape by swimming across the harbour.

Although the Turks did succeed in capturing St. Elmo, allowing Piyale to anchor his fleet in Marsamxett, the siege of Fort St.

Elmo had cost the Turks at least 6, men, including half of their Janissaries. Mustafa had the bodies of the knights decapitated and their bodies floated across the bay on mock crucifixes.

In response, de Valette beheaded all his Turkish prisoners, loaded their heads into his cannons and fired them into the Turkish camp.

By this time, word of the siege was spreading. As soldiers and adventurers gathered in Sicily for Don Garcia's relief, panic spread as well. There can be little doubt that the stakes were high, perhaps higher than at any other time in the contest between the Ottoman Empire and Europe.

Queen Elizabeth I of England wrote: [35]. If the Turks should prevail against the Isle of Malta, it is uncertain what further peril might follow to the rest of Christendom.

All contemporary sources indicate the Turks intended to proceed to the Tunisian fortress of La Goletta and wrest it from the Spaniards, and Suleiman had also spoken of invading Europe through Italy.

However, modern scholars tend to disagree with this interpretation of the siege's importance. Sire, a historian who has written a history of the Order, is of the opinion that the siege represented an overextension of Ottoman forces, and argues that if the island had fallen, it would have quickly been retaken by a massive Spanish counterattack.

Although Don Garcia did not at once send the promised relief troops were still being levied , he was persuaded to release an advance force of some men under the command of Don Melchior de Robles, a Spanish knight.

Cornut was killed by Roger in single combat when he boarded Roger's flagship, but Bonvin broke through the line with some galleys and escaped.

About 10 galleys were captured. This wiki. This wiki All wikis. Sign In Don't have an account? This article is about the Battle of Malta For other military actions on Malta, see Siege of Malta.

For other uses, see Battle of Malta disambiguation. Three destroyers and 11 merchant vessels were also sunk. They torpedoed and sank the heavy cruiser Trento and damaged the battleship Littorio.

A further 16 Malta-based pilots were lost in the operations. In August, the Operation Pedestal convoy brought vital relief to the besieged island, but at heavy cost.

It was attacked from the sea and from the air. Moreover, the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle , one cruiser and three destroyers were sunk by a combined effort from the Italian Navy, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe.

Nevertheless, the operation though costly in lives and ships, was vital in bringing in much-needed war materials and supplies. Indeed, according to Sadkovich and others, to pretend that the air offensive against Malta had been a purely German affair is misleading.

The Italians must thus get some share of the credit for the destruction of British fighters on Malta, and the sinking of 23 of 82 merchantmen dispatched to the island.

But the RAF preferred to credit its losses to the Germans, even though the Italians flew more fighter missions over the island, had almost as many fighters on Sicily as the Germans in the whole Mediterranean in November , and seem to have been better pilots, losing one aircraft per 63 sorties, compared to a German loss rate of one per 42 sorties.

The surface fleets were not the only supply line to Malta. British submarines also made a substantial effort.

She could not go as deep or dive as quickly as the T- and U-class types, but she still made nine supply missions to Malta, which was more than any other vessel of its type.

The ability of the submarine to carry large loads enabled it to be of great value in the campaign to lift the siege.

It was felt that a man with past experience of fighter defence operations was needed. For some reason, the Air Staff did not choose to do this earlier, when the bombing ceased in , and the RAF forces on Malta became primarily fighter-armed while the principal aim changed to one of air defence.

Park arrived on 14 July by flying boat. He landed in the midst of a raid although Lloyd had specifically requested he circle the harbour until it had passed.

Lloyd met Park and admonished him for taking an unnecessary risk. Park had faced Kesselring before during the Battle of Britain. During that battle, Park had advocated sending small numbers of fighters into battle to meet the enemy.

There were three fundamental reasons for this. First, there would always be fighters in the air covering those on the ground if one did not send their entire force to engage at once.

Second, small numbers were quicker to position and easier to move around. Third, the preservation of his force was critical.

The fewer fighters he had in the air he advocated 16 at most , the smaller target the numerically superior enemy would have.

Over Malta, he reversed these tactics owing to changed circumstances. With plenty of Spitfires to operate, Park sought to intercept the enemy and break up his formations before the bombers reached the island.

Until this point, the Spitfires had fought defensively. They scrambled and headed south to gain height, then turned around to engage the enemy over the island.

Now, with improved radar and quicker take off times two to three minutes and improved air-sea rescue, more offensive action became possible.

Using three squadrons, Park asked the first to engage the escorting fighters by 'bouncing them' out of the sun. The second would strike at the close escort, or, if unescorted, the bombers themselves.

The third was to attack the bombers head-on. His Forward Interception Plan , issued officially on 25 July , forced the Axis to abandon daylight raids within six days.

Kesselring responded by sending in fighter sweeps at even higher altitudes to gain the tactical advantage. The methods would have great effect in October when Kesselring returned.

While the RAF and Royal Navy defensive operations dominated for the most part, offensive strikes were still being carried out. Axis forces in North Africa were denied around half of their supplies and two-thirds of their oil.

The submarines of Simpson's 10th Flotilla were on patrol constantly, except for the period May—July , when Kesselring made a considerable effort against their bases.

Their success was not easy to achieve, given most of them were the slow U-class types. Supported by S- and T-class vessels, they dropped mines.

British submarine commanders became aces while operating from Malta. It was one of the few German tankers exporting oil from Romania.

The loss of the ship led Hitler to complain directly to Karl Dönitz , while comparing the Kriegsmarine unfavourably with the Royal Navy. Dönitz argued that he did not have the resources to protect the convoy, though the escort of the ship exceeded that which the Allies could have afforded to give a large convoy in the Atlantic at that point in the war.

It was fortunate for Dönitz that Hitler did not probe the defence of the ship further. The submarine proved to be one of the most potent weapons in the British armoury when combating Axis convoys.

Simpson, and George Phillips, who replaced him on 23 January , had much success. The island base, HMS Talbot , supplied 1, torpedoes at that time.

Wing Commander Patrick Gibbs and 39 Squadron , flew their Beauforts against shipping and increased the pressure on Rommel by attacking his supply lines in September.

Rommel's position was now critical. He complained to the OKW that he was severely short of ammunition and fuel for offensive action.

The Axis organised a convoy to relieve the difficulties. Ultra intercepted the Axis communications, and Wellingtons of 69 Squadron confirmed the Axis operation was real.

Gibbs's Beauforts sank two ships and one of Simpson's submarines sank a third. Rommel still hoped another tanker, San Andreas , would deliver the 3, tons of fuel needed for the Battle of Alam el Halfa.

Rommel did not wait for it to dock, and launched the offensive before its arrival. The ship was sunk by an attack led by Gibbs. The Beauforts were having a devastating impact on Axis fuel supplies which were now nearly used up.

On 1 September, Rommel was forced to retreat. Kesselring handed over Luftwaffe fuel, but this merely denied the German air units the means to protect the ground forces, thereby increasing the effectiveness of British air superiority over the frontline.

In August, Malta's strike forces had contributed to the Axis' difficulties in trying to force an advance into Egypt. Many of these supplies had to be brought in via Tripoli, many kilometres behind the battle front.

Two fuel-carrying ships were sunk, and another lost its cargo despite the crew managing to salvage the ship.

As the British offensive at El Alamein began on 23 October , Ultra intelligence was gaining a clear picture of the desperate Axis fuel situation.

On 25 October, three tankers and one cargo ship carrying fuel and ammunition were sent under heavy air and sea escort, and were likely to be the last ships to reach Rommel while he was at El Alamein.

Ultra intelligence intercepted the planned convoy route, and alerted Malta's air units. The three fuel-carrying vessels were sunk by 28 October.

By August , Spitfires were on hand to defend Malta; were serviceable. Despite the success of Allied convoys in getting through, the month was as bad as any other, combining bombing with food shortages.

In response to the threat Malta was now posing to Axis supply lines, the Luftwaffe renewed its attacks on Malta in October RAF losses amounted to 23 Spitfires shot down and 20 crash-landed.

The British lost 12 pilots killed. He called off the offensive. The situation in North Africa required German air support, so the October offensive marked the last major effort by the Luftwaffe against Malta.

The losses left the Axis air forces in a depleted state. They could not offer the air support needed at the frontline. The situation on the island was still stringent going into November, but Park's victory in the air battle was soon followed by news of a major success at the front.

At El Alamein in North Africa the British had broken through on land, and by 5 November were advancing rapidly westward. Some 11 days later, news of the Soviet counterattack during the Battle of Stalingrad increased morale even more.

The extent to which the success in North Africa benefited Malta was apparent when a convoy Operation Stoneage reached Malta from Alexandria on 20 November virtually unscathed.

This convoy is seen as the end of the two-year siege of Malta. On 6 December, another supply convoy under the codename Operation Portcullis reached Malta without suffering any losses.

After that, ships sailed to Malta without joining convoys. The last air raid over Malta occurred on 20 July It was the 3,th alert since 11 June In the densely populated island, 5, private dwellings were destroyed, 9, were damaged but repairable and 14, damaged by bomb blast.

In addition churches , 50 hospitals , institutions or colleges , 36 theatres , clubs, government offices, banks , factories, flour mills and other commercial buildings suffered destruction or damage, a total of 30, buildings in all.

A War Damage Commission was set up to compensate those whose property was destroyed or damaged during the war. Total Axis losses in the Mediterranean were moderate.

Human casualties amounted to 17, personnel at sea. In supplies, the Axis lost , tons. This was more than reached Malta. Mines sank another ships of , tons in total.

The navies and air forces shared in the destruction of 25 ships for , tons and aircraft sank 1, ships, for a total of 1,, tons.

Mines and naval craft shared a further ship destroyed between them, of 1, tons. In all, 2, Axis ships were sunk, with a combined tonnage of 3,, Table of Axis ships escorted to Libya , June — January In his novel Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Chris Cleave presents the misery and horror of the siege through the eyes of British officers whose experiences are loosely based on those of his grandfather David Hill, who served in the Royal Artillery.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Siege of Malta disambiguation. Naval support:.

Mediterranean and Middle East Theatre. Battle of the Mediterranean. Radius of action of Allied aircraft operating from Malta in relation to Axis shipping routes, summer and autumn, Main article: Operation Herkules.

World War II portal. The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 July Retrieved Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 29 August Bradford, Ernle [].

Siege: Malta — Bragadin, Marc'Antonio For the Ottomans, this was their worst reversal in more than a century, and it gave Christian Europe hope that Turkish expansion could be halted.

Siege of Malta Article Additional Info. Print Cite. Facebook Twitter. Give Feedback External Websites. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article requires login.

External Websites. Tony Bunting Tony Bunting is a historian who has recently completed a research project at the University of Central Lancashire on the evolution of nineteenth-century British imperialism.

He was a contributor to See Article History. This contribution has not yet been formally edited by Britannica. Learn More.

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