Hal Far Airfield 1923 - 1945
 
 The Second World War


Page 1 Page 2 Page 4 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6

Air Marshall Arthur Longmore became the scapegoat for the lack of RAF resources in the Mediterranean. In May 1941 his deputy Air Marshall Arthur Tedder replaced Longmore. Both men recognised the need to sustain the air resources of Malta.

By now there are only 8 British aircraft operating against some 15 axis squadrons. Malta desperately needs fighter planes to regain control of its airspace. English Prime Minister Winston Churchill makes a desperate appeal to the United States. December 1941, the 1000 axis raid on Malta has not brought the island any closer to surrender.

In April 1942, the USS Wasp delivered a number of Spitfires to the Mediterranean. The objective was to bring the aircraft carrier within 500 miles off Malta and then fly them off the deck. As soon as the Spitfires arrive, German radar alerts the Axis air fleet at Sicily. The Luftwaffe strikes and destroys or disables every one of the planes. On the same day, British intelligence learns that an airborne invasion from Sicily is imminent. Meanwhile German and Italian troops in Sicily are preparing for the airborne invasion of Malta. Hitler and Mussolini agree on a date for the Axis assault, early June.

On 9th May 1942, the USS Wasp and the British carrier Eagle return and successfully deliver a replacement squadron of 64 Spitfires. However this time they learnt from their mistakes. The first flight of Spitfires had all landed at Ta’ Qali. This time the Spitfires were split amongst the three airfields. They were refuelled and airborne within minutes. They meet the Junkers and Messerschmitts head on. The Luftwaffe gets more than it bargains for. 37 German planes are lost. The British only loose three.

British intelligence learns that the Axis troops cancel the invasion for Malta. Malta continues to be dependent on the outside world. The Germans commence starvation tactics. 1942 was the year that will be remembered as the air Battle of Malta. In June British convoys attempt to reach Malta from Gibraltar and Alexandria. Of 115 Allied vessels only 2 get through. The rationing of supplies takes its toll as morale sinks. Community kitchens barely feed a fraction of the population and the situation was getting critical. The supply ships are unable to break through the Axis obstacles.

The War Cabinet was determined to give up Malta except Churchill. On paper the island was completely undefendable. It was Air Vice Marshall Peter Parke who in July 1942 revolutionized the tactical battle fought over Malta and increased Malta’s strike effectiveness during the critical battles on the Alamein line from July to November 1942.

Building on Churchill’s stubbornness one last desperate attempt from the defenders saw the much needed convoy getting through. Fourteen merchant ships carrying over 120,000 tons of supplies are escorted by 4 aircraft carriers, 40 destroyers, 2 battleships and 12 cruisers. But the reinforced convoy is too large to hide from the Germans. August 10th, the convoy enters the Mediterranean. A powerful German Italian force of 21 submarines and 540 aircraft are waiting!