5 May 1941: Malta ‘Most Exposed’ Part of British Empire

05 May

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The Times, London MAY 1941

Malta in the Mediterranean

Malta in the Mediterranean

The most exposed position in the British Empire is the island of Malta, which continues to suffer heavy air raids. Situated as it is at the intersection of the British route from Gibraltar to Alexandria with the enemy’s route from the Italian ports to Tripoli, its capture would be of incalculable value to the Axis for the whole of their Mediterranean strategy; and in default of capture they have reason to spare no effort to make its harbour useless as a base for British ships. 

Since Malta is only sixty miles from the airfields of Sicily, and is precluded by its small area from maintaining a defensive air force comparable in numbers to its potential assailants, the opportunities for harassing the garrison and people are enormous. Indeed the Maltese, like so many of their ancestors before them, have been living ever since last June in what is practically a state of siege, though they are invested not from the sea but from the sky.  Up to the middle of February, when the last statistics were given to the House of Commons, Malta had endured over three hundred raids – that is, considerably more than one for every day since Italy entered the war; and the latest news is a reminder that the attack has not slackened. 

The constancy of the Maltese people under this continuous ordeal – from which they have no prospect of respite while Italy remains a belligerent – is beyond all praise. The cramped circumstances in which the Island has to wage aerial war have never been allowed to impair its fighting efficiency, and again and again the attacking squadrons have been beaten off with loss.  The civil defence services have kept down casualties and maintained the spirit of the population at a high level; so far are the Maltese from self-pity that they even raised, in the midst of their own troubles, a subscription in relief of air-raid distress in London.  Large numbers of their young men are on active service with the Imperial Forces, and they are now embarking on a scheme of compulsory service, both military and civil, which in some respects goes beyond that which is in force in England.

General Dobbie is heading the defence with a tenacity worthy of the tradition of De l’Isle Adam and La Valetta; while the Maltese are holding their post of honour with a valour and endurance that come of pride in their share of the Imperial inheritance. Fascist propaganda has laboured for years to persuade them to think of themselves as Italians.  Yet neither in race nor language nor history nor institutions have they part or lot with Italy…  [They] disdain the servile institutions of their Fascist neighbours; and they are confident that their island fortress, which withstood the might of a Suleiman the Magnificent, can indefinitely defy a mere Mussolini.  


Bread rationing begins in Malta today. The ration will be 3/8 rotolo per person (including for children and babies).  At the same time, the price of bread has also been reduced by more than 50 per cent: the ration portion of a single person will now cost half a penny.  The reduction follows a commitment by the British Government to bear the cost of keeping bread prices down in Malta while the Island is under siege. 

The rationing of bread will be managed by the local Protection Offices, which will keep detailed records of every allocation. The Offices will also issue permits to bakers to obtain their allocation of flour to meet the needs of their customers.

Wheat is being milled to the maximum extraction rate and mixed with maize and barley. The resulting bread is now much darker than the white bread the Maltese are accustomed to. 


All Companies of Maltese regiments have been ordered immediately inform their Battalion Headquarters direct of all deaths due to enemy action, in order that the necessary information may be sent to the Record Office for notification of the next of kin. The measure is In line with King’s Regulations 1935.  Information from Companies must contain full particulars of next of kin, and whether the next of kin has been informed.  Casualties in respect of English troops will be reported as laid down in Fortress Orders 1941.


Weather  Fine with a fresh wind.

0828-0843 hrs  Air raid alert for a small formation of enemy fighters which approach the Island and patrol off the coast; no air raid.

2010-2030 hrs  Air raid alert triggered by the return of a Maryland aircraft.


ROYAL NAVY 830 Squadron Fleet Air Arm Swordfish overnight operations minelaying approaches to Tripoli. Information received that one Merchant Vessel blew up and one Merchant Vessel burned out while they were laying the mines.  As no bombs were dropped it is suspected that a flare from a Swordfish landed on the ship unloading petrol and ammunition

AIR HQ  Departures 1 Sunderland.  69 Squadron  Maryland on shuttle service reconnaissance from Middle East via Greek coast and Zante.  2 Marylands reconnaissance eastern Tunisian coast.  Marylands departed Gibraltar 1530 hrs arrived Malta safely; no shipping or aircraft seen en route.  Beaufighter patrols to 60 miles west of Malta from dawn to 1000 hrs in connection with air escort for special merchant vessel due Malta; ship not sighted.  Patrols will be repeated tomorrow at the same time.  

LUQA  Maryland B crew left; C crew arrived PM. Two flights of Beaufighters went out to escort British vessel Parracombe to Malta but did not find it.  

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 3; dealt with 19 (18 x 50kg; 1 x 500kg).

2nd Bn ROYAL WEST KENT REGIMENT  Battalion providing working parties for clearing Valletta.


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1 Comment

Posted by on May 5, 2021 in 1941, May 1941


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One response to “5 May 1941: Malta ‘Most Exposed’ Part of British Empire

  1. Christopher Wright (@Christomicro)

    May 5, 2021 at 6:03 pm

    I was born on Malta on 5th May 1941


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