9 February 1941: Churchill Praises Malta’s Defenders

09 Feb

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British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (IWM MH26392)


Winston Churchill has praised the achievements of Malta’s ground and air defenders against the blitz launched on the Illustrious in January. To date 85 enemy aircraft have been shot down over Malta plus another 24 probables and 33 damaged. In a speech today, he referred to the Island as an example of Allied resistance:

“In the Central Mediterranean, the Italian Quisling, who is called Mussolini, and the French Quisling, commonly called Laval, are both in their different ways trying to make their countries into doormats for Hitler and his new order, in the hope of being able to keep or get the Nazi Gestapo and Prussian bayonets to enforce their rule upon their fellow countrymen. I cannot tell how the matter will go, but at any rate we shall do our best to fight for the Central Mediterranean.

I dare say you will have noticed a very significant air action which was fought over Malta a fortnight ago. The Germans sent an entire Geschwader (squadron) of dive-bombers to Sicily. They seriously injured our new aircraft carrier Illustrious, and then, as this wounded ship was sheltered in Malta harbour, they concentrated upon her all their force so as to beat her to pieces.

But they were met by the batteries of Malta, which is one of the strongest defended fortresses in the world against air attack. They were met by the Fleet Air Arm and by the Royal Air Force and in two or three days they had lost, out of 150 dive-bombers, upward of ninety-fifty of which were destroyed in the air and forty on the ground. Although the Illustrious in her damaged condition was one of the great prizes of the air and naval war, the German Geschwader accepted the defeat. They would not come any more.

All the necessary repairs were made to the Illustrious in Malta harbour, and she steamed safely off to Alexandria under her own power at twenty-three knots. I dwell upon this incident not at all because I think it disposes of the danger in the Central Mediterranean but in order to show you that there, as elsewhere, we intend to give a good account of ourselves. But, after all, the fate of this war is going to be settled by what happens on the oceans, in the air and, above all, in this island.”


Orders have been issued to troops that steel helmets must be worn by all personnel in the open during air raid alerts. In addition, any personnel who have to look up must wear eyeshields.  No such protection should be removed until 30 minutes after the ‘raiders passed’ signal.


Weather  Fine and clear.

0725-0740 hrs; 1032-1050 hrs  Air raid alert; raids do not materialise.

1430-1535 hrs  Air raid alert for a large number of enemy aircraft approaching the Island in two formations. Twelve Hurricanes and three Fulmars are scrambled and the raiders turn back without crossing the coast. 

1620-1650 hrs  Air raid alert for an enemy aircraft flying southwards very slowly over Delimara; raid does not materialise.

1835-1930 hrs  Air raid alert for an unidentified aircraft approaching the Island; raid does not materialise.


AIR HQ Departures 2 Sunderlands. 69 Squadron  Maryland despatched for photoreconnaissance special mission (Operation Colossus) believed successful.  Sunderland patrol for enemy shipping depth of 100 miles north and south Tunisian coast.  

KALAFRANA  One Sunderland left for Middle East with passengers and freight. One Sunderland left for Gibraltar with passengers.

LUQA 69 Squadron  One Maryland special mission successfully accomplished.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 1.


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Posted by on February 9, 2021 in 1941, February 1941


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