Malta - The George Cross Island
The Second World War 1939-45
The island of Malta has long been a strategic base for British forces operating in the Mediterranean Sea, or as a stop-off point for those en route to other theatres. During the Crimean War of 1853-1856, ships stopped at the island and during the First World War it served as a major naval base supporting the campaign in Gallipoli.
Throughout WW2 its importance was premier both as a naval base and an air base from where aircraft flew operations to protect convoys to North Africa. Italy declared war against Britain on 10th June and the following day mounted its first air raid against Malta. From then on the island's position became increasingly more important.
From January 1941 until August 1942 the island was constantly attacked and at one point Malta was the most bombed location of the war. The island's defences were sorely pressed and resources were severely rationed. The epic heroism which helped deliver the 'Operation Pedestal' convoy with its vital supplies of fuel undoubtedly saved the island.
The civilian population suffered heavy casualties and in April 1942 their bravery was recognised when King George VI awarded the island the George Cross. The island was vital in allowing the Allies to carry on the war in the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.