Almost totally surrounded, outnumbered and outresourced, the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta became a byword for bravery and resilience in World War Two, and never more so than in the April of 1942. Joseph Debono explains
‘April is the cruellest month,’ wrote the poet TS Elliot. These prophetic words were never truer than in Malta in April, 1942. The island had been subjected to almost daily Axis attacks ever since June 11, 1940, hours after Mussolini had harangued the crowd from Rome’s Palazzo Venezia, informing them that he had declared war on Britain and France. Immediately, Malta was on the battlefront and just before 7am Savoia-Marchetti SM79s of the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) were over the island sowing death and destruction. This heralded a pattern of incessant air raids over the next three years, on an island measuring just 17 miles by nine, with a quarter of a million civilians crowded around the Grand Harbour in Valletta and the villages surrounding the then three aerodromes.