Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings

The Island that Refused to Die

Malta-Masthead

Book in progress (November 2013-present)


Status (March 2017): All major research completed. In the process of concluding this non-fiction project  |    Above mast painting by Rowland Hilder, 1942

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A British Imperial island during the Second World War, Malta occupied a strategic place in the narrows of the Mediterranean Sea. It was a rocky aircraft carrier from where the British could launch attacks on Sicily, and its natural harbor gave the Royal Navy an excellent base. In short, Malta was a thorn in the enemy’s side.

The Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, was determined to take it for his own, and in June 1940, he had the men and the machines to do it. But although Mussolini and the Germans tried their best to blast Malta off the map and starve it into submission, they had badly underestimated the fighting spirit of islanders and the British. Although outmanned and outgunned, Royal Air Force planes flown by Commonwealth pilots and American volunteers harried enemy attackers and Allied warships based there wreaked havoc on German and Italian shipping.

Kept alive through a tenuous and erratic supply line — vulnerable convoys sailing from Gibraltar and Alexandria, Malta hung on, defying the odds, wielding massive influence on the battles raging in North Africa and sparking fierce naval clashes which gutted the Axis merchant fleets and scarred the Italian Regia Marina, that other Royal Navy. The phrase “naval battles of World War II” may conjure imagery of the Pacific, but more surface engagements were fought in the Mediterranean than in any other place during the war — 50, compared to 36 in the Pacific and 49 in the Atlantic.

The siege of the island lasted for nearly two-and-a-half years, eclipsing all the great sieges of modern history (barring Leningrad) as the defenders fought a lonely, heroic campaign, a private little war against the might of two Axis militaries, paving the way for the Allied liberation of the Mediterranean.

Below follows some of the assorted art and graphics connected with this work. They’ll probably never be published in the way I intend anyway.

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malta-map-1942

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Photo section

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9 responses to “The Island that Refused to Die

  1. Mark Hoskins November 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I was very interested to read your notes on Ronald Chaffe. I am currently writing a definitive history of Bristol Rugby Club, and he played one game for us in 1935-36. No official list has survived of the club’s WW2 fallen, but I knew he was one of them. However, I only knew he had died off the coast of Malta, so your notes have been of great value and will be acknowledged in the book. The only other info I have on him is that he attended Cotham School in Bristol and is listed on the war memorial there.

    Mark Hoskins

    Historian Bristol Rugby

    • Akhil Kadidal November 14, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      Glad to be of help.

      Yeah, Ron Chaffe was a very colorful character. His untimely death was the stuff of a Homeric tragedy. Completely unnecessary.

      I have additional information about his time on Malta which could be of interest – although it may not be pertinent to your book.

  2. Steven Preston March 4, 2014 at 11:13 am

    I am very interesting in learning when this book will be published.

    • Akhil Kadidal March 4, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      Thanks for the interest,Steven.

      The book is almost complete, but I’ve been caught up in a side book project on nature for an organization – which has taken a protracted amount of time to finish.

      Nevertheless, I plan to wrap up “Malta” by June and hope to move it on to the publishing stage by the end of the year.

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