Osprey- Battle of Malta, June 1940-November 1942
Author: Anthony Rogers
Illustrator: Graham Turner
Paperback, 96 pages, with over 80 black and white and color photographs, illustrations, and maps.
In this newest volume in the Campaign series (No. 381), the author covers an overview of the aerial and sea operations that broiled over and around the island of Malta during WWII. A colony of the British crown at the time, Malta was a vital component of the sea routes between the Mediterranean and North Africa and would play a key role in the success of the Allies of staunching supplies for the Afrika Korps and operations in the desert. It was first bombed by the Italian Regia Aeronautica in 1940, who were then later joined by the German Luftwaffe in 1941. For two and a half years, the island endured punishment and supply shortages and survived purely on the tenacious actions of the RAF, Royal Navy, and British anti-aircraft artillery forces along with the island's inhabitants. Malta Tanks is mentioned very briefly, but there was no real combat operations for armored forces and they were pretty much relegated to training and towing damaged aircraft and vehicles after air raids.
The book follows the standard Campaign format, breaking down content into the following:
- Opposing Commanders
- Opposing Forces
- Opposing Plans
- The Battle
- The Battlefield Today
- Acronyms and Abbreviations, Bibliography, and Index
The included maps and 3-dimensional 'bird's-eye-views' included in the book really lend some clarification to the seesaw actions in the theater. For the air, Gladiators and Hurricanes staved off Italian aircraft and German Ju-88s and Me-109s until the arrival of the venerable Spitfires in March of '42. On the sea, RN ships and convoys to supply the island forces were met with U-Boats, Schnellboot, and other Axis naval forces.
My knowledge of the actions in Malta was limited before requesting the book for review. Having recently seen my friend's finished Malta Vickers Mk. VI in MMI, I was anxious to learn more only to find out that armor played a miniscule part in this setting. Convoys from both sides were bringing armor to Malta, but neither side saw any armored combat. I did get grabbed in by the book as I read it however- in the constant back and forth between the two sides. While it may not seem of interest to AMPS members, there is a lot to pull from the book. Plenty of diorama opportunities abound from the content inside-- between the artillery guns, and the ground forces involved. I was always drawn into the rubble wall camouflage of Malta armor, but learned from the book that the helmets worn by the gunners also had this camo pattern. The Battlefield Today section was quite brief but had some interesting facts of what became of the areas surrounding the island defenses.
As always, there is plenty to learn from these types of Osprey books. While disappointed that there was not much to say on the armor front in this campaign, I was interested to learn more anyways. I built aircraft before I started with armor, and some of the stuff I have in my stash from that time might make their way up the pile. I can't ding the book for lack of armor as it wasn't a factor in the battle-- I was still fascinated by all aspects. From the leadership having experience dating back to WWI, to the air and sea operations that flipped back and forth, this was a little-known, but vastly important, battleground. If the proposed Italo-German invasion had occurred in 1942, things in the desert may truly have come to a different outcome and the Americans might not have even had a chance to learn the hard lessons taught during Operation Torch. Malta's contribution to the war effort was rewarded in April of 1942 when the island was awarded the George Cross by King George VI, the only time such an honor was bestowed on an entire community.
Recommended for anyone interested in learning more about this little-known theater of WWII.
Thanks goes out to Osprey Publishing for this review sample.
Reviewed by Michael Reeves
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