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How the British Navy and Air Force Saved Malta

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Old August 30th, 2010   #1
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Post How the British Navy and Air Force Saved Malta

Since I last wrote about the importance of saving the island of Malta from Axis occupation and its importance to the defeat of the German/Italian forces in North Africa it is important to know how this was done by getting just enough supplies to keep the civilians and military alive and able to fight.
Malta contained a considerable civilian population, a large garrison drawn from all three Services and served as a very active operational base throughout the siege, it may be assumed that only the use of a considerable number of large merchant ships could support the demands for food, fuel and other supplies. Indeed, the great maritime/air battles that ensued around the convoys from east and west are usually seen as the means of supply. It is true that the failure of anyone of these operations would have made inevitable the surrender of the island, there was always a predicted but always changing date by which the island must capitulate due to starvation. However, lack of ammunition for the defenses, fuel for them and the population, and loss of aircraft could also have forced such an act prior to starvation itself. The support of Malta therefore took a number of forms. Firstly the passage of heavily escorted convoys conveying bulk supplies of food, fuel and ammunition. Secondly, the provision of very scarce ("high value") items such as vital spares, ammunition, medical stores and concentrated food by fast warships. Thirdly, the delivery of similar items by submarines, either as part of an operational patrol or a dedicated supply trip by a partly converted vessel. Fourthly, the provision of fighter aircraft by using Fleet carriers to take them within flying range of the Island and, finally, by clandestine voyages by independent merchant ships. The failure of anyone of these would have proved fatal to Malta. For the rest of this essay please visit my blog at Military History of the 20th Century.
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