Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Phases in the effort to keep Malta supplied
As the nature of the war changed over time, there were distinct phases in the effort to resupply Malta. The first phase was the 6-1/2 months between Italy's declaration of war and the end of 1940. 21 ships arrived at Malta without loss during this period. Once the German air forces arrived on the scene, the dynamics changed radically. From January 1941 to August 1942, 82 ships were sent towards Malta, while 49 actually arrived. The remaining 23 were sunk in transit. The fast minelayer Welshman made three trips from May 1942 to July 1942. Submarines also carried supplies to Malta on 31 occasions. Operations to ferry aircraft to Malta from August 1940 to August 1942 succeeded in bringing in 670 Hurricanes and Spitfires. They were ferried on aircraft carriers to within range and then flown off to Malta. The period from the defeat at Gazala to August was one of the most difficult of the war in North Africa. The lack of airbases within range in North Africa forced the dispatch of a large naval force for Pedestal that took heavy losses. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.