A (Brief) Beginner's Guide To Maltese History Part 17: The Second World War
After covering the ridiculous carnival riots, it’s time for us to talk about another event which greatly shaped Maltese history: The Second World War.
As you know by now if you’ve been following this thing closely, we’re at the time when the British became our overlords and we were having a bit of a problem adjusting. We wanted to be independent but the whole self-government thing was not working out very well.
All of that bickering was put aside, however once the Second World War came about.
The war started out in 1939, and at first, it sounded like it could've been good for business. See, wars meant riches and commerce to the Maltese as most ships stopped here to get provisions, like what had happened with Gallipoli.
We mainly started feeling it was all BS, however, when Italy decided to join in. Suddenly, our neighbours were dropping a worrying amount of bombs on us on a daily basis.
Of course, By this time Italy and Germany became allies and they decided to invade North Africa and Greece in the 40s. Greece was a failure, but they did manage to get North Africa... ish.
Malta was the stepping stone for any country to get all of its fingers in the continental pie. However, we were also super difficult to defend due to our location.
Even though we were super difficult to retain, the British still thought it was best for them to hold onto us since we were vital to all of their war plans, supply lines, provisional keeping and even regular break stops for the RAF.
We became officially involved in the War on the 11th of June 1940.
When Mussolini decided to start helping out his moustached German bro, we became suddenly vulnerable to air attacks. The first attack was carried out on the Grand Harbour, since most of the Allied ships were kept here.
This was shocking for the Maltese people since they were never ever really attacked that way before. Also, keep in mind that we felt like the Italians were our homebros. This whole deal really bruised more than just egos.
The plan was to pound us into submission.
We held out like champs, and this meant that we became the number one supply base for the Allies. Also, we were a pretty mean submarine and surface force base, which made us even more vulnerable to Axis attacks.
Our island was also very useful when it came to intercepting the Axis planes and ships, since they didn’t really have any other way to reach North Africa (suck it Rommel).
1941 was a year of savage air raid attacks over our island. The British suffered a number of huge losses and Malta was almost turned into dust.
We saw a bit of a turning point in 1942. There was this whole plan made up by the British called Operation Pedestal. There’s a ton of documentaries about this super cool operation which you should totally watch.
Anyway, the Germans were laying a whole siege on us with their bombs, targeting towns and convoys, leading to a worrying shortage in military equipment and food on our island. Have you ever encountered a hungry Maltese person? Now imagine a whole island of starving Maltese people.
To get food and stuff, people were literally sending out Allied ships armed to the teeth from Gibraltar, through Egypt. Most of these ships never made it.
In mid-August, the British had a mission to carry supplies to Malta, because everyone was literally starving to death. 14 ships were on their way here with supplies, but only nine of them made it. The first three ships managed to arrive here on the 13th of August, and two heavily damaged tankers got here by the 15th. They carried fuel supplies and food. These ships literally saved the whole island from dying.
These ships - and the amazing day that saved so many Maltese lives - came to be known as the Santa Marija Convoy.