21 August 1940: Governor Considers Malta’s Strategic Role in War

21 Aug

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In a personal letter today to his friend ‘Dillo’ – Sir John Greer Dill, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, head of the British Army – Lt General Dobbie revealed his innermost thoughts on the prospects for Malta in the present conflict:

The Palace, Malta

Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

Lt Gen Sir William Dobbie

“…We are all well here and are going on increasing the protection of vital things and of the civil population. Of course many months are still required to complete these…It seems that it is possible that things may boil up in near and Mid East. I am anxious that in any case Malta should pull its weight to the best advantage – but I am finding it difficult to know what to advise. There are two alternative policies: (a) it should be a centre of offensive activity; (b) it should be strictly defensive.

For (a) one can say that all one’s instincts clamour for striking all the blows one can, when and where one can, and Malta’s proximity to Italy makes it a suitable starting point, and therefore could not be ignored by Italy. For (b) it can be said that the defection of France has thrown upon Malta greatly increased responsibilities. The Naval Base and Dockyard facilities are more than ever needed, and the integrity of its aerodromes and refueling facilities for aircraft are really vital, since it is the one remaining link between England and Egypt for land planes and between Gibraltar and Egypt for sea planes.

It may be argued that offensive action from here will produce serious retaliation and that any advantage we may get from making diversions in order to help operations elsewhere, will be greatly more than counterbalanced if these vital naval and air facilities are made ineffective.

One has to remember that the air force we have here cannot exceed a certain force, since our aerodrome accommodation is so limited. A determined attack on our aerodromes is difficult to counter entirely, and loss of aircraft here cannot be so easily replaced as at home. Yesterday we had an attack on two of our three aerodromes and considerable damage was done to some Blenheims passing through en route to Egypt.

It is not that I am anxious about the safety of Malta. Please God we can and will hold it against anything the Italians do – but I want to ensure that its usefulness to Imperial defence will not be impaired. It is a dangerous argument to assume that if we don’t hit the other fellow, he won’t hit us. But it is probably true that if we do hit him and become a nuisance he will try and abate the nuisance by hitting us.

There are still some things which are vital but are not yet properly protected, eg [electricity] generation station in the Dockyard. In a few months that will be able to snap its fingers at bombs – but in any case ships refitting are vulnerable, and air defences, however good, cannot give anything like complete protection.

The civil population are in good heart and I am not anxious about their morale – but it will have to be watched. I am consulting Cunningham and others about this – but what I have written gives the picture as I see it at present…

W G S Dobbie


A new Combined Operations Room in Valletta has opened for use. Housed in a secret location deep underground, the facility is now the main operational headquarters of the war effort in Malta. Each of the three armed services will co-ordinate their activities from here, all linked to a central point of command. Facilities include the most up to date communications systems to ensure effective liaison across the Island.


Weather  Fine and warm.

1520-1537 hrs  Air raid alert for six enemy fighters which cross the Island at high altitude.   Malta fighters are scrambled and Ack Ack guns attack the raiders, one of which is seen to dive away to the north. No bombs are dropped.


Nothing to report.

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Posted by on August 21, 2015 in Uncategorized


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