Less than 24 hours after Italy declared war on Britain and France, Malta’s vulnerability was graphically exposed. On the morning of June 11, 1940, the island’s anti-aircraft guns burst into action and the Gloster Sea Gladiators of the resident Fighter Flight were scrambled.

The Italian Air Force was staging the first of countless actions that would continue for 2½ years, later aided by their German allies, to neutralise and seize the Mediterranean island.

Initially, Fighter Flight’s few biplanes were Malta’s sole aerial defence but, on June 21 and 22, five Hawker Hurricanes originally destined for the Middle East arrived on the island.

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