Saturday, September 22, 2007

The German air offensive against Malta

Forces based in Malta had been so successful against Italian shipping that those who were aware of such things expected retaliation. By January 1942, a renewed German air offensive against the island had dropped 669 tons of bombs, exceeding the previous high from April 1941. The German focus was on attacking airfields, but they also bombed ships in the harbour. The destroyer Maori was sunk in February 1942 in Grand Harbour. The bomb total was 1020 tons for February, as the pace of attacks escalated. Soldiers were brought into the effort to repair airfields and to build protections for aircraft on the ground. Group kitchens were put in place by late 1941 and by the end of 1942 were feeding 200,000 people per day. The Hurricanes were outclassed by the latest Me-109s, so on 6 March, Spitfires started to arrive. The first shipment was 32 aircraft. It was on 12 February that the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau broke out of Brest and went through the Channel to return to Germany. The old aircraft carriers Eagle and Argus were used to ferry aircraft, since all of the modern carriers were needed elsewhere, especially in the Far East. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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