Battle Of Malta

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Battle Of Malta

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The Great Siege of Malta - Ottoman Turks vs. Knights of St. John

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After the Turks were able to emplace their guns, at the end of May they commenced a bombardment. It certainly seems true that Suleiman had seriously blundered in splitting the command three ways.

He not only split command between Piyale and Mustafa, but he ordered both of them to defer to Dragut when he arrived from Tripoli.

Contemporary letters from spies in Constantinople, however, suggest that the plan had always been to take Fort St.

Elmo first. While the Ottomans were landing, the knights and Maltese made some last-minute improvements to the defences of Birgu and Senglea.

The Ottomans set up their main camp in Marsa , which was close to the Knights' fortifications. The darkness of the night then became as bright as day, due to the vast quantity of artificial fires.

So bright was it indeed that we could see St Elmo quite clearly. The gunners of St Angelo Having correctly calculated that the Turks would seek to secure a disembarkation point for their fleet and would thus begin the campaign by attempting to capture Fort St Elmo, de Valette sent reinforcements and concentrated half of his heavy artillery within the fort.

The unremitting bombardment of the fort from three dozen guns on the higher ground of Mt. Sciberras began on 27 May, [31] and reduced the fort to rubble within a week, but de Valette evacuated the wounded nightly and resupplied the fort from across the harbour.

After arriving in May, Dragut set up new batteries to imperil the ferry lifeline. On 3 June, a party of Janissaries managed to seize the fort's ravelin and ditch.

The Turks attacked the damaged walls on June 10 and 15, and made an all out assault on June 16, during which even the slave and hired galley oarsmen housed in St Elmo, as well as the native Maltese soldiers, reportedly fought and died "almost as bravely as the Knights themselves.

At Dragut's insistence a cannon's aim was lowered, but the aim was too low, and when fired its ball detached part of the trench which hit Dragut in the head, killing him, [33] although according to Bosio, it was a lucky shot from Fort St.

Angelo that mortally wounded him. Finally, on 23 June, the Turks seized what was left of Fort St. A small number of Maltese managed to escape by swimming across the harbour.

Although the Turks did succeed in capturing St. Elmo, allowing Piyale to anchor his fleet in Marsamxett, the siege of Fort St.

Elmo had cost the Turks at least 6, men, including half of their Janissaries. Mustafa had the bodies of the knights decapitated and their bodies floated across the bay on mock crucifixes.

In response, de Valette beheaded all his Turkish prisoners, loaded their heads into his cannons and fired them into the Turkish camp.

By this time, word of the siege was spreading. As soldiers and adventurers gathered in Sicily for Don Garcia's relief, panic spread as well.

There can be little doubt that the stakes were high, perhaps higher than at any other time in the contest between the Ottoman Empire and Europe.

Queen Elizabeth I of England wrote: [35]. If the Turks should prevail against the Isle of Malta, it is uncertain what further peril might follow to the rest of Christendom.

All contemporary sources indicate the Turks intended to proceed to the Tunisian fortress of La Goletta and wrest it from the Spaniards, and Suleiman had also spoken of invading Europe through Italy.

However, modern scholars tend to disagree with this interpretation of the siege's importance. Sire, a historian who has written a history of the Order, is of the opinion that the siege represented an overextension of Ottoman forces, and argues that if the island had fallen, it would have quickly been retaken by a massive Spanish counterattack.

Although Don Garcia did not at once send the promised relief troops were still being levied , he was persuaded to release an advance force of some men under the command of Don Melchior de Robles, a Spanish knight.

After several attempts, this piccolo soccorso Italian : small relief managed to land on Malta in early July and sneak into Birgu, raising the spirits of the besieged garrison immensely.

On 15 July, Mustafa ordered a double attack against the Senglea peninsula. He had transported small vessels across Mt. Sciberras to the Grand Harbour, thus avoiding the strong cannons of Fort St.

Angelo, in order to launch a sea attack against the promontory using about 1, Janissaries, while the Corsairs attacked Fort St. Michael on the landward end.

Luckily for the Maltese, a defector warned de Valette about the impending strategy and the Grand Master had time to construct a palisade along the Senglea promontory, which successfully helped to deflect the attack.

Nevertheless, the assault probably would have succeeded had not the Turkish boats come into point-blank range less than yards of a sea-level battery of five cannons that had been constructed by Commander Chevalier de Guiral at the base of Fort St.

Angelo with the sole purpose of stopping such an amphibious attack. Just two salvos sank all but one of the vessels, killing or drowning over of the attackers.

The land attack failed simultaneously when relief forces were able to cross to Ft. Michael across a floating bridge, with the result that Malta was saved for the day.

The Turks by now had ringed Birgu and Senglea with some 65 siege guns and subjected the town to what was probably the most sustained bombardment in history up to that time.

Balbi claims that , cannonballs were fired during the course of the siege. Having largely destroyed one of the town's crucial bastions , Mustafa ordered another massive double assault on 7 August, this time against Fort St.

Michael and Birgu itself. Cancel Save. Fan Feed 0 Main Page. Universal Conquest Wiki. Part of War of the Sicilian Vespers.

Date July 8, Crown of Aragon. Kingdom of Naples. Roger of Lauria. Although Rommel believed Malta should be invaded, he insisted the conquest of Egypt and the Suez Canal, not Malta, was the priority.

The second was Hitler himself. After the Battle of Crete in May—June , Hitler was nervous about using paratroopers to invade the island since the Crete campaign had cost this arm heavy losses, and he started to procrastinate in making a decision.

Kesselring complained. Hitler proposed a compromise. He suggested that if the Egyptian border was reached once again in the coming months the fighting at the time was taking place in Libya , the Axis could invade in July or August when a full moon would provide ideal conditions for a landing.

Although frustrated, Kesselring was relieved the operation had seemingly been postponed rather than shelved.

Before the Spitfires arrived, other attempts were made to reduce losses. Lloyd had requested a highly experienced combat leader be sent and Turner's experience flying with Douglas Bader over Europe meant he was qualified to lead the unit.

All but one reached the island. By 21 April just 27 Spitfires were still airworthy, and by evening that had fallen to The overwhelming Axis bombardments had also substantially eroded Malta's offensive naval and air capabilities.

Often, three to five Italian bombers would fly very low over their targets and drop their bombs with precision, regardless of the RAF attacks and ground fire.

Along with the advantage in the air, the Germans soon discovered that British submarines were operating from Manoel Island , not Grand Harbour, and exploited their air superiority to eliminate the threat.

The base came under attack, the vessels had to spend most of their time submerged, and the surrounding residences where crews had enjoyed brief rest periods were abandoned.

Hitler's strategy of neutralising Malta by siege seemed to be working. The Germans lost aircraft in the operations. The Allies moved to increase the number of Spitfires on the island.

On 9 May, the Italians announced 37 Axis losses. On 10 May, the Axis lost 65 aircraft destroyed or damaged in large air battles over the island.

The Hurricanes were able to focus on the Axis bombers and dive-bombers at lower heights, while the Spitfires, with their superior rate of climb, engaged enemy aircraft at higher levels.

With such a force established, the RAF had the firepower to deal with any Axis attacks. By the spring of , the Axis air forces ranged against the island were at their maximum strength.

Bomber units included Junkers Ju 88s of II. After the battles of May and June, the air attacks were much reduced in August and September.

The island appeared to the Axis forces to be neutralised as a threat to their convoys. Rommel could now look forward to offensive operations with the support of the Luftwaffe in North Africa.

Even so, he was soon back in Egypt fighting at El Alamein. Despite the reduction in direct air pressure over Malta itself, the situation on the island was serious.

It was running out of all essential commodities, particularly food and water, as the bombing had crippled pumps and distribution pipes.

Clothing was also hard to come by. All livestock had been slaughtered, and the lack of leather meant people were forced to use curtains and used tyres to replace clothing and shoe soles.

Although the civilian population was enduring, the threat of starvation was very real. The move was designed to split Axis naval forces attempting to intervene.

Although he could afford this diversion, he could maintain a standing patrol of only four Spitfires over the convoy.

If Axis aircraft attacked as they were withdrawing, they had to stay and fight. Baling out if the pilots ran low on fuel was the only alternative to landing on Malta.

The pilots had to hope that they would be picked up by the ships. The losses of the convoy were heavy.

Three destroyers and 11 merchant vessels were also sunk. They torpedoed and sank the heavy cruiser Trento and damaged the battleship Littorio.

A further 16 Malta-based pilots were lost in the operations. In August, the Operation Pedestal convoy brought vital relief to the besieged island, but at heavy cost.

It was attacked from the sea and from the air. Moreover, the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle , one cruiser and three destroyers were sunk by a combined effort from the Italian Navy, Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe.

Nevertheless, the operation though costly in lives and ships, was vital in bringing in much-needed war materials and supplies.

Indeed, according to Sadkovich and others, to pretend that the air offensive against Malta had been a purely German affair is misleading.

The Italians must thus get some share of the credit for the destruction of British fighters on Malta, and the sinking of 23 of 82 merchantmen dispatched to the island.

But the RAF preferred to credit its losses to the Germans, even though the Italians flew more fighter missions over the island, had almost as many fighters on Sicily as the Germans in the whole Mediterranean in November , and seem to have been better pilots, losing one aircraft per 63 sorties, compared to a German loss rate of one per 42 sorties.

The surface fleets were not the only supply line to Malta. British submarines also made a substantial effort. She could not go as deep or dive as quickly as the T- and U-class types, but she still made nine supply missions to Malta, which was more than any other vessel of its type.

The ability of the submarine to carry large loads enabled it to be of great value in the campaign to lift the siege.

It was felt that a man with past experience of fighter defence operations was needed. For some reason, the Air Staff did not choose to do this earlier, when the bombing ceased in , and the RAF forces on Malta became primarily fighter-armed while the principal aim changed to one of air defence.

Park arrived on 14 July by flying boat. He landed in the midst of a raid although Lloyd had specifically requested he circle the harbour until it had passed.

Lloyd met Park and admonished him for taking an unnecessary risk. Park had faced Kesselring before during the Battle of Britain.

During that battle, Park had advocated sending small numbers of fighters into battle to meet the enemy.

There were three fundamental reasons for this. First, there would always be fighters in the air covering those on the ground if one did not send their entire force to engage at once.

Second, small numbers were quicker to position and easier to move around. Third, the preservation of his force was critical. The fewer fighters he had in the air he advocated 16 at most , the smaller target the numerically superior enemy would have.

Over Malta, he reversed these tactics owing to changed circumstances. With plenty of Spitfires to operate, Park sought to intercept the enemy and break up his formations before the bombers reached the island.

Until this point, the Spitfires had fought defensively. They scrambled and headed south to gain height, then turned around to engage the enemy over the island.

Now, with improved radar and quicker take off times two to three minutes and improved air-sea rescue, more offensive action became possible.

Using three squadrons, Park asked the first to engage the escorting fighters by 'bouncing them' out of the sun.

The second would strike at the close escort, or, if unescorted, the bombers themselves. The third was to attack the bombers head-on.

His Forward Interception Plan , issued officially on 25 July , forced the Axis to abandon daylight raids within six days. Kesselring responded by sending in fighter sweeps at even higher altitudes to gain the tactical advantage.

The methods would have great effect in October when Kesselring returned. While the RAF and Royal Navy defensive operations dominated for the most part, offensive strikes were still being carried out.

Axis forces in North Africa were denied around half of their supplies and two-thirds of their oil. The submarines of Simpson's 10th Flotilla were on patrol constantly, except for the period May—July , when Kesselring made a considerable effort against their bases.

Their success was not easy to achieve, given most of them were the slow U-class types. Supported by S- and T-class vessels, they dropped mines. British submarine commanders became aces while operating from Malta.

It was one of the few German tankers exporting oil from Romania. The loss of the ship led Hitler to complain directly to Karl Dönitz , while comparing the Kriegsmarine unfavourably with the Royal Navy.

Dönitz argued that he did not have the resources to protect the convoy, though the escort of the ship exceeded that which the Allies could have afforded to give a large convoy in the Atlantic at that point in the war.

It was fortunate for Dönitz that Hitler did not probe the defence of the ship further. The submarine proved to be one of the most potent weapons in the British armoury when combating Axis convoys.

Simpson, and George Phillips, who replaced him on 23 January , had much success. The island base, HMS Talbot , supplied 1, torpedoes at that time.

Wing Commander Patrick Gibbs and 39 Squadron , flew their Beauforts against shipping and increased the pressure on Rommel by attacking his supply lines in September.

Rommel's position was now critical. He complained to the OKW that he was severely short of ammunition and fuel for offensive action.

The Axis organised a convoy to relieve the difficulties. Ultra intercepted the Axis communications, and Wellingtons of 69 Squadron confirmed the Axis operation was real.

Gibbs's Beauforts sank two ships and one of Simpson's submarines sank a third. Rommel still hoped another tanker, San Andreas , would deliver the 3, tons of fuel needed for the Battle of Alam el Halfa.

Rommel did not wait for it to dock, and launched the offensive before its arrival. The ship was sunk by an attack led by Gibbs.

The Beauforts were having a devastating impact on Axis fuel supplies which were now nearly used up. On 1 September, Rommel was forced to retreat.

Kesselring handed over Luftwaffe fuel, but this merely denied the German air units the means to protect the ground forces, thereby increasing the effectiveness of British air superiority over the frontline.

In August, Malta's strike forces had contributed to the Axis' difficulties in trying to force an advance into Egypt. Many of these supplies had to be brought in via Tripoli, many kilometres behind the battle front.

Two fuel-carrying ships were sunk, and another lost its cargo despite the crew managing to salvage the ship. As the British offensive at El Alamein began on 23 October , Ultra intelligence was gaining a clear picture of the desperate Axis fuel situation.

On 25 October, three tankers and one cargo ship carrying fuel and ammunition were sent under heavy air and sea escort, and were likely to be the last ships to reach Rommel while he was at El Alamein.

Ultra intelligence intercepted the planned convoy route, and alerted Malta's air units. The three fuel-carrying vessels were sunk by 28 October.

By August , Spitfires were on hand to defend Malta; were serviceable. Despite the success of Allied convoys in getting through, the month was as bad as any other, combining bombing with food shortages.

In response to the threat Malta was now posing to Axis supply lines, the Luftwaffe renewed its attacks on Malta in October RAF losses amounted to 23 Spitfires shot down and 20 crash-landed.

The British lost 12 pilots killed. He called off the offensive. The situation in North Africa required German air support, so the October offensive marked the last major effort by the Luftwaffe against Malta.

The losses left the Axis air forces in a depleted state. The sheer scale of the force—around ships and 40, soldiers—may have been one reason why it took so long to invade.

Rivalry between Piyale and Mustafa became open disagreement when the invasion started. Mustafa preferred to take the capital Mdina , followed by a land attack on the coastal forts.

Admiral Piyale preferred to take the forts first, by means of a heavy bombardment, and managed to convince Mustafa that his plan could be accomplished swiftly.

However, the decision proved to be a blunder because the Grand Master of the Knights, Jean de Valette, had gambled on the Ottomans invading St.

Elmo first and had moved his heavy artillery into the fort. Admiral Turgut was among those killed. Mustafa seized the initiative and ordered an offensive, transporting his troops wide of the Grand Harbour to avoid Fort St.

Michael on the Senglea peninsula. A cleverly planned assault from sea and land was rebuffed, the Ottomans taking more heavy losses. The Ottomans suffered one of the heaviest sustained bombardments the world had yet seen.

Eventually an all-out attack was ordered in August , and the Ottomans were on the brink of success when, in an audacious move, a small force of knights attacked the Ottoman camp.

Thinking that the knights had Spanish reinforcements, Mustafa retreated and the advantage was lost.

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Battle Of Malta

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