One of the most tragic episodes in the attempts to fly fighter aircraft to Malta during the Second World War was Operation White in November 1940. Twelve tropicalised Hurricanes led by two Fleet Air Arm Skuas took off from the aircraft-carrier Argus, but through a series of reasons only five reached Malta, the rest having been lost over the sea through lack of fuel with, as the British Prime Winston Churchill wrote later, "their devoted pilots."
"Never again were the margins cut so fine, and though many similar operations took place in the future never did such a catastrophy occur," he lamented.
The detailed narrative of this loss is told in the13th number of Malta at War which is published by Bieb Bieb Enterprises, recording the full story of the island's three-year siege. This is the first number of the second volume of a three-volume publication running into 36 parts and selling at Lm1.75 each issue.
A spectacular photograph on the cover of this issue shows bombs falling around the aircraft-carrier Illustrious at Parlatorio Wharf on January 16,1941 when the German dive-bombers caused havoc in the Three Cities and Valletta.
Another photograph inside shows the deck of the carrier at sea off Malta after the afterlift had been shattered by a direct hit and the hangar set on fire. The full account of this memorable event of the Second World War is recalled from different quarters to relive the drama in the next two forthcoming issues with dramatic stories and photographs.
Convoys to Malta from both ends of the Mediterranean were escorted by the full force of the Royal Navy which sought to bring the Italian Fleet to battle. One of these took place off Cape Spartivento, Sardinia in November 1940 during the first attempt to pass through from one end of the Mediterranean to the other merchant ships and troops embarked in warships. The photographs of the battle are from British and Italian archives.
A tour of the shelters of Valletta describes how families lived together underground inside the old fortifications of the Knights.
In the period under review at the end of 1940 refugee families were returning back home in contempt of the bombing of the Regia Aeronautica. These movements were to lead to heavy casualties among the civilian population when a few weeks later the Luftwaffe launched its might against the Illustrious in Grand Harbour and against the airfields.
The index to volume one is being compiled and will be available to order with the binding - final details will be announced in due course as the publishers have extended the deadline for the first 12 issues to be returned to them for binding in a very attractive format.
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