Hermes' Wings

History, Writing and Personal Musings

Tag Archives: Pilot sketches

The Island that Refused to Die

Malta-Masthead

Book in progress (November 2013-present)


Status (November 2017): Manuscript complete. 649 pages. Being proofed.
Above mast painting by Rowland Hilder, 1942

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Occupying a strategic place in the narrows of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta was a British Imperial island during the Second World War. It was a rocky aircraft carrier from where the British could launch attacks on Sicily, and its natural harbor allowed the Royal Navy to exercise dominion over the middle sea.

The Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, was determined to take the island for his own, and in June 1940, he had the men and the machines to do it. But he (and later the Germans) had badly underestimated the fighting spirit of islanders. Although out-manned and outgunned, Royal Air Force aircraft flown by British, Commonwealth and American pilots harried enemy attackers and Allied vessels based there wreaked havoc on German and Italian shipping. The Nazis responded by trying to blast Malta off the map and starving it into submission.

Besieged, the island hung on against the odds, kept alive through a tenuous and erratic supply line (vulnerable convoys sailing from Gibraltar and Alexandria), 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.

Malta’s ordeal lasted for over 900 days (nearly two-and-a-half years) as her defenders fought a lonely, heroic campaign, a private little war against the might of two Axis militaries and 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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