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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. War of the Sicilian Vespers. Categories :. Cancel Save. The land attack failed simultaneously when relief forces were able to cross to Ft.
Michael across a floating bridge, with the result that Malta was saved for the day. The Turks by now had ringed Birgu and Senglea with some 65 siege guns and subjected the town to what was probably the most sustained bombardment in history up to that time.
Balbi claims that , cannonballs were fired during the course of the siege. Having largely destroyed one of the town's crucial bastions , Mustafa ordered another massive double assault on 7 August, this time against Fort St.
Michael and Birgu itself. On this occasion, the Turks breached the town walls and it seemed that the siege was over, but unexpectedly the invaders retreated.
As it happened, the cavalry commander Captain Vincenzo Anastagi, on his daily sortie from Mdina, had attacked the unprotected Turkish field hospital, killing everyone.
The Turks, thinking the Christian relief had arrived from Sicily, broke off their assault. After the attack of 7 August, the Turks resumed their bombardment of St.
Michael and Birgu , mounting at least one other major assault against the town on 19—21 August. What actually happened during those days of intense fighting is not entirely clear.
Bradford's account of the climax of the siege has a mine exploding with a huge blast, breaching the town walls and causing stone and dust to fall into the ditch, with the Turks charging even as the debris was still falling.
He also has the year-old de Valette saving the day by leading towards the Turks some hundred troops that had been waiting in the Piazza of Birgu.
Balbi, in his diary entry for 20 August, says only that de Valette was told the Turks were within the walls; the Grand Master ran to "the threatened post where his presence worked wonders.
Sword in hand, he remained at the most dangerous place until the Turks retired. Rather, in his report a panic ensued when the townspeople spied the Turkish standards outside the walls.
The Grand Master ran there, but found no Turks. In the meantime, a cannonade atop Ft. Angelo, stricken by the same panic, killed a number of townsfolk with friendly fire.
The situation was sufficiently dire that, at some point in August, the Council of Elders decided to abandon the town and retreat to Fort St.
De Valette, however, vetoed this proposal. If he guessed that the Turks were losing their will, he was correct. Although the bombardment and minor assaults continued, the invaders were stricken by an increasing desperation.
Towards the end of August, the Turks attempted to take Fort St. Michael, first with the help of a manta similar to a Testudo formation , a small siege engine covered with shields, then by use of a full-blown siege tower.
In both cases, Maltese engineers tunneled out through the rubble and destroyed the constructions with point-blank salvos of chain shot. At the beginning of September, the weather was turning and Mustafa ordered a march on Mdina , intending to winter there.
However the attack failed to occur. The poorly-defended and supplied city deliberately started firing its cannon at the approaching Turks at pointlessly long range; this bluff scared them away by fooling the already demoralised Turks into thinking the city had ammunition to spare.
View of Mdina above and map of the city's fortifications as they were in below. On 7 September, Don Garcia had, at last, landed about 8, men at St.
Paul's Bay on the north end of the island. It is said that when some hot-headed knights of the relief force saw the Turkish retreat and the burning villages in its wake, they charged without waiting for orders from Ascanio della Corgna.
Della Corgna seeing the troops in such spirits had no choice but to order a general charge which resulted in the massacre of the retreating Turkish force.
The Turks fled to their ships and from the islands on 13 September. Malta had survived the Turkish assault, and throughout Europe people celebrated what would turn out to be the last epic battle involving Crusader Knights.
The number of casualties is in as much dispute as the number of invaders. Balbi gives 35, Turkish deaths,  Bosio 30, casualties including sailors.
Birgu and Senglea were essentially leveled. Still, 9, defenders had managed to withstand a siege of more than four months in the hot summer, despite enduring a bombardment of some , cannonballs.
Jean de Valette, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, had a key influence in the victory against the Ottomans with his example and his ability to encourage and hold together people as one man.
This example had a major impact, bringing together the kings of Europe in an alliance against the previously seemingly invincible Ottomans; the result was the vast union of forces against Ottomans at the Battle of Lepanto seven years later.
Such was the gratitude of Europe for the knights' heroic defence that money soon began pouring into the island, allowing de Valette to construct a fortified city, Valletta , on Mt.
His intent was to deny the position to any future enemies. De Valette himself died in Buskett at a hunting accident next to the Verdala Palaces. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Ottoman Empire's invasion of Malta in This article is about the siege in For other sieges of Malta, see Siege of Malta disambiguation.
Thinking that the knights had Spanish reinforcements, Mustafa retreated and the advantage was lost. By the end of August, and after a series of costly attacks, Mustafa attempted to break through with siege towers, but each time the towers were destroyed.
As Mustafa settled in for a long siege, news arrived that a Christian relief force had landed on the north of the island. Mustafa retreated, but the forces clashed and less than half of the Ottoman force managed to board the boats.
The invasion had failed, and the Maltese received the admiration of Christian Europe and funds to build stronger defenses. 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.
The British operation should not have been launched: Ultra had informed the Air Ministry of Fliegerkorps X ' s presence on Sicily as early as 4 January.
Hits were scored on both; Southampton was so badly damaged her navy escorts scuttled her. Over the next 12 days, the workers at the shipyard in the Grand Harbour repaired the carrier under determined air attack so that she might make Alexandria.
On 18 January, the Germans switched to attacking the airfields at Hal Far and Luqa in an attempt to win air superiority before returning to Illustrious.
On 20 January, two near misses breached the hull below the water line and hurled her hull against the wharf. Nevertheless, the engineers won the battle.
On 23 January, she slipped out of Grand Harbour, and arrived in Alexandria two days later. The carrier later sailed to America where she was kept out of action for a year.
The Luftwaffe had failed to sink the carrier. They withdrew their fleet's heavy units from the central Mediterranean and risked no more than trying to send cruisers through the Sicilian Narrows.
Both the British and Italian navies digested their experiences over Taranto and Malta. The appearance in February of Messerschmitt Bf E-7 fighters of 7.
Staffel squadron Jagdgeschwader 26 26th Fighter Wing or JG 26 , led by Oberleutnant Joachim Müncheberg , quickly led to a rise in RAF losses; the German fighter pilots were experienced, confident, tactically astute, better-equipped and well-trained.
Five Hurricanes arrived at Malta in early March, another six on 18 March. On 1 March, the Luftwaffe attacks on airfields destroyed all of the Wellingtons brought in in October.
Royal Navy warships and Sunderland flying boats could not use the island for offensive operations, and the main fighter squadrons, Nos. The flotilla had been officially formed on 8 April , in response to the need for a Malta Strike Force.
This formation was to interdict Axis convoys. Commander Lord Louis Mountbatten 's 5th Destroyer Flotilla was later ordered to merge with Mack's fleet to increase its striking power.
The strike force had considerable success, which justified basing it at Malta despite the danger from air attack. On 21 May, the force was sent to join the Battle of Crete.
It was several months before the depleted strike force returned. Further success was had by the Malta Convoys.
The Axis air forces maintained air superiority; Hitler ordered Fliegerkorps X to protect Axis shipping, prevent Allied shipping passing through the central Mediterranean and neutralise Malta as an Allied base.
Around German and Italian aircraft carried out the operation, and the RAF struggled to fly more than six or eight fighter sorties. Occasionally, 12 Hurricanes were flown in from British carriers but the replacements were soon used up.
From 11 April — 10 May, Axis raids were carried out against military installations on Malta. Most of the heavy equipment in Grand Harbour was destroyed and the dry-docks could only be operated by hand.
It was many more times the tonnage dropped by the Italians, but far short of the amount dropped the following year. More than 2, civilian buildings were destroyed as opposed to only during the Italian siege.
Eventually, 2, miners and stonemasons were recruited to build public shelters but the pay was poor and the miners threatened to strike, and were threatened with conscription into the army.
The workers capitulated but instituted a go-slow, trebling the cost of the work. In April, Hitler was forced to intervene in the Balkans which led to the campaign of that name; it was also known as the German invasion of Yugoslavia and included the Battle of Greece.
The subsequent campaign and the heavy German losses in the Battle of Crete convinced Hitler that air drops behind enemy lines, using paratroopers, were no longer feasible unless surprise was achieved.
He acknowledged that the chances of success in an air operation of that kind were low; German airborne forces did not undertake any such operations again.
This had important consequences for Malta, as it indicated the island was only at risk from an Axis siege. When, in June, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union under Operation Barbarossa , Fliegerkorps X departed for the Eastern Front, and the Regia Aeronautica was left to continue its highly effective air campaign against Malta in the coming months.
Supply issues were bad, the small German force left was forced to abandon operations on 22 April By early May , the Luftwaffe had flown 1, bomber, 1, fighter and reconnaissance missions for just 44 losses.
Still, he had every intention of taking the offensive. Outside his office, in the underground headquarters at Lascaris , he hung a sign outside; "Less depends on the size of the dog in the fight than on the size of the fight in the dog".
Within a few hours Lloyd had made an inspection tour of the airfields and the main workshops at Kalafrana. The state of the island was worse than he expected.
The slackening of German air activity had allowed the number of aircraft to increase, but the RAF still had fewer than 60 machines of all types. Maintenance was difficult.
Hardly any spare or replacement parts were available—spares had to be obtained by sifting through the debris of wrecks or by cannibalising undamaged aircraft.
Furthermore, the airfields were too small; there was no heavy equipment to work with; and even the commonest sorts of tools, such as hammers and wrenches, were all but impossible to find.
All refuelling had to be done by hand from individual drums. The shelter was also inadequate, so there was little protection for what equipment they did have.
Most aircraft were clustered together on open runways, presenting tempting targets. At Kalafrana, all the buildings were close together and above ground.
The single engine-repair facility on Malta was located right next to the only test benches. Lloyd himself said, "a few bombs on Kalafrana in the summer of would have ruined any hope of Malta ever operating an air force".
Usually, the protection of air defences and naval assets on the island would have had priority. Certainly bringing in more supplies would have made greater strategic sense, before risking going on to the offensive and thus in turn risking the wrath of the enemy.
But the period was an eventful one. RAF forces on Malta could not afford to sit idle; they could prevent Rommel's advance, or slow it down, by striking at his supply lines.
Malta was the only place from where British strike aircraft could launch their attacks. Lloyd's bombers and a small flotilla of submarines were the only forces available to harass Rommel's supply lines into the autumn.
Only then did the surface fleets return to Malta to support the offensive. With the exception of coal, fodder, kerosene and essential civilian supplies were such that a reserve of 8—15 months was built up.
Operation Substance was particularly successful in July The supplies included spares and aircraft.
Around 60 bombers and Hurricanes were now available. This convoy proved critical to saving Malta, as its supplies were deemed to be essential when the Germans returned in December.
In mid, new squadrons—No. Naval carriers flew in a total of 81 more fighters in April—May. By 12 May, there were 50 Hurricanes on the island.
On 21 May, No. By early August, Malta now had 75 fighters and anti-aircraft guns. Bristol Blenheim bombers also joined the defenders and began offensive operations.
Besides preparing for offensive operations and reinforcing the RAF on the island, Lloyd also rectified many of the deficiencies. Thousands of Maltese and 3, British Army soldiers were drafted in to better protect the airfields.
Even technical staff, clerks and flight crews helped when required. Dispersal strips were built, repair shops were moved underground from dockyards and airfields.
Underground shelters were also created in the belief that the Luftwaffe would soon return. In the attack, 15 men were killed and 18 captured, and most of the boats were lost.
The bridge was never restored, and it was only in that a new one was built in its place. Lloyd asked his bombers to attack at mast-height, increasing accuracy but making them easier targets for Italian anti-aircraft defences.
Part of the reason for this favourable outcome in November , was the arrival of Force K of the Royal Navy, which during the Battle of the Duisburg Convoy sank all the ships, which practically blockaded Libyan ports.
Following the disaster and with a resurgence of the Axis aerial bombardment of Malta, surface ships were withdrawn from the central Mediterranean in January While Italian bombing was again proving successful against the British, the Luftwaffe returned in force in December to renew intensive bombing.
Eight Marylands, two other aircraft, three Beaufighters, one Blenheim fighter and many bombers were also lost.
The mounting shipping supply losses affected Geisler's ability to support Erwin Rommel and his forces, which caused tension between the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe.
Geisler was to be returned to Sicily with his remaining air strength to solve the issue. However, the Germans backed down over Italian protests.
On 6 October Geisler did extend his air sector responsibilities to cover the Tripoli-Naples sea route to curtail losses.
They quickly eliminated Malta's striking force, which was beyond the range of fighter escort while over the Mediterranean. In the first two months, around 20 RAF bombers and reconnaissance aircraft were shot down.
The only notable triumph was the sinking of the 13,ton Victoria merchant ship, one of the fastest merchantmen afloat, by a Fairey Albacore of Squadron, flown by Lieutenant Baxter Ellis, on 23 January.
Over the island, the defensive arm of the RAF was also put under pressure. Kesselring began with a raid on New Year's Day, the 1,th raid of the war.
Of the fighters that had passed through or stayed on the island since the war began, only 28 remained. One-third of all raids were directed against airfields.
The usual tactic involved a sweep ahead of the bombers by German fighters to clear the skies; this worked, and air superiority was maintained.
Only slight losses were suffered by the bombers. Dobbie and the British naval and air commanders argued for modern aircraft, particularly Spitfires , to be sent to Malta.
The pilots told Embry that the Hurricanes were useless and that the Spitfire was their only hope. The squadron leaders argued the inferiority of their aircraft was affecting morale.
Embry agreed and recommended that Spitfires be sent; the type began arriving in March On 29—30 April , a plan for the invasion of the island was approved by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during a meeting at Berchtesgaden.
It envisaged an airborne assault with one German and one Italian airborne division, under the command of German General Kurt Student.
This would have been followed by a seaborne landing of two or three divisions protected by the Regia Marina. The Italians, in agreement with Kesselring, made the invasion of Malta the priority in the region.
However, two major factors stopped Hitler from giving the operation the green light. The first was Erwin Rommel. Due to Kesselring's pounding of the island the supply lines to North Africa had been secured.
He was able to gain the ascendancy in North Africa once again. Although Rommel believed Malta should be invaded, he insisted the conquest of Egypt and the Suez Canal, not Malta, was the priority.
The second was Hitler himself. After the Battle of Crete in May—June , Hitler was nervous about using paratroopers to invade the island since the Crete campaign had cost this arm heavy losses, and he started to procrastinate in making a decision.
Kesselring complained. Hitler proposed a compromise. He suggested that if the Egyptian border was reached once again in the coming months the fighting at the time was taking place in Libya , the Axis could invade in July or August when a full moon would provide ideal conditions for a landing.
Although frustrated, Kesselring was relieved the operation had seemingly been postponed rather than shelved. Before the Spitfires arrived, other attempts were made to reduce losses.