Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Malta Convoys

The island of Malta possessed the only British-held harbour between Gibraltar and Alexandria and was crucial to convoys bringing supplies to forces in the Western desert. The Axis hoped to neutralize it by air attack, and Malta was besieged from 1940 until the Axis surrender in North Africa in May 1943. It owed its survival to fighter squadrons based on its airfields and fast convoys that ran the gauntlet to reach the island. In March-April 1942 Malta received twice the tonnage of bombs dropped on London during the Blitz, and in all 1,493 of her citizens were killed and 3,764 wounded.

The aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable (above) almost hidden by near misses from air attack as she helps escort the vital Pedestal convoy to Malta, August 1942.

Tugs bustle round the American tanker Ohio, crippled but still full of fuel, as she enters Valetta harbour, August 1942.

The crew of a pom-pom multiple antiaircraft gun aboard a destroyer escorting the Pedestal convoy enjoying a smoke break between air attacks. The photographer had already been sunk aboard the cruiser HMS Manchester, and transferred to a destroyer “with his camera intact.”

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