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Fortress Island Malta (Hardback)

Defence and Re-Supply During the Siege

Aviation WWII

By Peter Jacobs
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 228
ISBN: 9781783463329
Published: 5th January 2016



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The introduction of Italy into the Second World War on 10 June 1940 signalled the start of the siege of Malta, and for the next two and a half years the Axis powers did all they could to batter the small island into submission. Malta’s defences were initially verging on non-existent but the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, could not give up on the island. Laying at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, where the supply route between Italy and the Axis armies in Libya crossed the Allied sea route between Gibraltar and Alexandria, almost exactly at its mid-point, Malta was strategically too important and held the key to the door of the desert war being fought in North Africa.

If Malta could be held then it would allow British forces to maintain an offensive capability in the Mediterranean and prevent Axis supplies from reaching North Africa. But everything needed to fight a campaign – people, food, fuel, ammunition, medical stores, aircraft and spares – would have to be delivered to Malta in sufficient numbers and on a regular basis. It would take a monumental air and maritime effort just to survive, let alone hit back, and to manage both would require those in command to carefully balance Malta’s precious and limited resources. Otherwise, it meant surrender and who knows what the outcome of the Second World War might have been had the island fallen.

Here, the accomplished military author Peter Jacobs tells the extraordinary story of the heroic defence and re-supply of the Fortress Island of Malta during the longest siege in British history.

The most intensely bombed place on Earth, Malta’s survival and offensive actions are the stuff of legends. A very small population, on the brink of starvation, held out against a mighty aerial armada for some three years in an epic fight to survive and strike back. – Highly Recommended.

Read the complete review here.


The island of Malta has been used as a military base in the Mediterranean by Britain since the 19th Century, but its importance was never more vital that during WWII. In June 1940 the Italians bombed the island, with a view to reducing its operational value. Yet, the more it was attacked the grater its importance became and had to be supplied.

This is the story behind how the island was supplied and continued to be a thorn in the side of the Axis forces. The author does an excellent job in telling the history with well-researched evidence and first-hand accounts. The urgency of the island's defence comes through, along with the desperation to survive. A very accessible read and a good reference work to have on your shelves.

Gun Mart, September 2016 – John Norris

The book is a handsome hardback with a beautifully designed dust jacket and printed on nice glossy paper with a wealth of b/w photos in the middle of the book that give a good idea of the drama and intensity of the siege. There is also an extensive Bibliography at the back of the book for anyone who wishes to carry out further reading. In all, I would say that this is an excellent resource for anyone who wishes to find out more about the tactics and drama of keeping Malta supplied during the Second World War. It is a well researched and beautifully produced volume and deserves a place on bookshelf of anyone with an interest in the Second World War.

Speed Readers

SIEGES are one of the features of the Second World War in Europe, from the siege of Warsaw in September 1939 to the fall of Wroclaw in May 1945. The siege of Malta began in June 1940, when Italy entered the war as a member of the Axis, and finished in November 1942, when the Axis air forces had become too over-stretched to maintain the siege. Much has been written about the siege, and Peter Jacobs, himself the son of a veteran of the Malta convoys, has synthesised these writings and drawn upon primary sources to produce an up-to-date account of the siege and the events surrounding it...

... Peter Jacobs recounts the story of the island’s defence and resupply clearly and dispassionately. As he notes, this is only part of the story, but those exploring other aspects of the siege, such as the attitudes of the civilian population or Axis strategy in the Mediterranean, will find Jacobs’s work an invaluable starting point, with a comprehensive bibliography and guide to the siege papers in the UK National Archives. For the general reader, Jacobs has produced an excellent tale of human courage and endurance.

Australian Naval Institute - John Johnston

I'll start by saying this new book from Peter Jacobs and Pen and Sword is a really good read. In 18 chapters, the author tells us the story of one of the most famous sieges of WW2. After some background on the Strategic Position of Malta it moves on to the first day of the siege, as for the end, there are differences about exactly when that was. Some take it as the end of the Axis air raids, in October 1942 while others look at the arrival of a significant re-supply convoy, in December 1942. That final stage in the story is left to the final chapter.

Military Modelling - Robin Buckland
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