Hal Far Airfield 1923 - 1945
 
 The Second World War


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Malta’s strategic position and her good weather conditions permitted all year round training by the Royal Navy fleet. Until the outbreak of war, carrier-borne aircraft deployed at Hal Far also practised torpedo attacks on defended harbours and stationary ships. The radio-controlled Queen Bee drone was also transferred from Alexandria, Egypt and formed part of the fleet at Hal Far.

In the meantime, the Admiralty had at last won its battle to regain control of the naval aircraft and in the summer of 1937, the Fleet Air Arm passed anew to the Royal Navy. Planning for the hand over transition period was estimated to take be two years, during which all personnel would revert to naval ranks and the Fleet Air arm which eventually operate from its shore bases. Although Sicily was just a mere 100 km away, little consideration was given by the RAF for the defence of Malta if Italy had to declare war against Britain. Personnel with the British Ministry of Defence were of the opinion that Malta was undefendable in the face of a determined Italian onslaught.

Thus the outbreak of war on 3rd September 1939, found no operational defence aircraft stationed on Malta. No 3 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit stationed at Hal Far made up of Swordfish and the unpiloted Queen Bee carried some maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine patrols but resumed its training role by October of the same year. The situation worsened when Germany invaded Belgium, Holland and France. It was only a matter of weeks for Mussolini to join forces with Germany. Losses of the RAF in France and the Battle of Britain made it impossible to provide air defence for the Maltese Islands.

By January 1940, the 825 Squadron re-embarked on HMS Glorious which withdrew from the Mediterranean for operations in the North Sea. 18 crated Gloster Sea Gladiators were left in storage at Kalafrana. The Admiralty gave permission to the erection of six Sea Gladiators left at Kalafrana. By early March 1940, five were in action, but only two were kept airborne at any one time.

On 18th April 1940 the No. 3 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit was again operational, although this could hardly be called a defence against an onslaught of Italian bombers. The situation became quite desperate. On 11th May 1940, after the Authorities had learnt of the use of troop-carrying aircraft and paratroops by the Germans in Holland, Hal Far airfield was blocked by motor vehicles except for one landing strip which could also be blocked in an emergency. On 27th May 1940 a curfew was imposed between 23:00 and 05:00 hours. Anyone caught breaking the curfew without valid reason was likely to be shot!

As Italy joined Germany and entered the war on 10 June 1940, its first target became the British held island of Malta. The following day Mussolini sent his bombers on Malta. Hal Far was raided by ten Italian bombers. This tiny rock in the Mediterranean was the most bombed country in the Second World War. But the Maltese were not going to give in, nor were the British.