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
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
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.