Malta: Strategic Importance
In 1941 the outcome of a war between the world’s greatest powers depended on possession of one small Island: Malta. Following the fall of France and the opening of a new battle front in North Africa in the summer of 1940, Malta became critical to both Allied and Axis commands seeking to maintain supplies to their armies there. Victory in North Africa meant control of the life-blood of military forces on all fronts: oil.
“Its effective action against the enemy communications with Libya and Egypt is essential to the whole strategic position in the Middle East.” Winston Churchill addressing the House of Commons
Malta’s position betweenSouthern Europe and North Africa, and at the gateway between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, made it a perfect base for Allied attacks on enemy supply routes for the desert campaign. When Italy declared war on the side of the Axis in June 1940, Malta stood alone on the front line facing an enemy just sixty miles to the north. The nearest Allied territory was a thousand miles away.
“Without Malta the Axis will end by losing control of North Africa,” declared Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in May 1941. As Hitler’s Luftwaffe tried relentlessly to bomb and starve this vital Allied base into submission, the people of this tiny island endured the full force of a new and devastating type of war: ‘blitzkrieg’.
In an epic struggle for survival, Malta was to become ‘the most bombed place on earth’.