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Air Battle of Malta...


...Aircraft Losses and Crash Sites 1940-42 - new from Greenhill Books


Title: Air Battle of Malta, Aircraft Losses and Crash Sites 1940-42

Author: Anthony Rogers

Publisher: Greenhill Books

ISBN: 978-1-78438-188-2

As well as the Battle of Britain, I think the story of Malta is also one of the best known air battles to have taken place during WW2.  This new book by Anthony Rogers is a real detective story to trace the stories of around 200 of the aircraft and crews which came down on the islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino.  These are a proportion of some 1000 aircraft losses that were incurred throughout the course of the siege that lasted from 1940 through to 1942.  The book doesn't try to tackle those which came down at sea, nor those which were as a result of landing accidents.

There are 10 chapters which tackle the topic in a chronological sequence, starting with June-August 1940, at a time the island's defences were at a minimum as they came under attack from the Italian Regia Aeronautica and when the legend of the Gladiators Faith, Hope and Charity was born and at the end of the period the first Hurricanes arrived to bolster the defences.  So it continues, section by section, over the course of 1941 as the Luftwaffe arrives and then get redeployed and the Italians come to the fore once more, before the Luftwaffe returns.  The AA defences and the Hurricanes are the main defence of the island until the Spitfires arrive from March 1942 and gradually take over from the Hurricanes.  Despite constant pressure, Malta holds on and vital supplies get through, particularly with the arrival of the Pedestal convoy and the fuel carried on the tanker Ohio.  In the final months of 1942 the Axis forces give up on the offensive against the island, enabling the RAF and the Royal Navy to begin offensive operations from the island.

Apparently there were no records kept of the crash sites on the islands, so it has been a real detective story for the author to track down all the information.  From information at the National Archives, the IWM and numerous others the result is an excellent piece of work.  Now long after the war there remain a diminishing number of veterans who can return to the island, but like the author, their families can be fascinated to find out more about their family history and hence this is ideal for those looking not only for RAF and Commonwealth airmen, but also for German Luftwaffe and Italian Regia Aeronautica men as well.  Much of  the detail comes from personal accounts and diaries of the men involved and from witnesses on the island.  These days Malta and Gozo are a popular holiday destination with plenty of very warm weather.  A couple of years ago my eldest daughter chose Malta as the venue for her wedding.  While we were there for this special event, we also had time to see the island and visit a couple of the museums mentioned in the book.  I wish I had had this book with me at the time, it would have been a great reference.  Maybe it is a sign that it might be time to go back to Malta and have another look around at this island that is so packed with history.


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