MALTA

A personal appreciation by Alan Mason –

Having visited the Maltese Archipelago on holiday, around twenty years ago in the nineties, I found the islands, the people, their history and culture fascinating for a number of reasons; that include the landscape, the archaeology and the architecture. The Archipelago is made up of three inhabited islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino, along with a number of smaller rocky islets. The main island of Malta is 17 miles (27 Km) long and 9 miles (14 Km) wide. The capital, Valetta, is on the Grand Harbour in the north of the main island.

 1. Limestone Cliffs near the Blue Grotto, Malta

I. THE LANDSCAPE

Geological History

Malta, like most of the islands of the Mediterranean, is composed of white, sedimentary limestones (1) which were originally formed under warm, shallow tropical seas. Plate tectonics created the Maltese archipelago. When the northward-moving African Plate collided with the Eurasian Plate it forced the marine limestones way up above sea-level. The Alps, which now rise to a height of over 15, 000 feet, formed as a result of this cataclysmic collision, and they too are composed of compressed and folded marine limestones.

The Mediterranean Sea has a long and complex geological history, and its basin has been emptied and flooded many times. It appears that within the last 10, 000 years the great Mediterranean plains have filled with sea-water, so that what are now islands, like Malta, were once prominent hill-tops. Today, Malta has an interesting landscape of low, limestone hills and a shoreline of capes and bays, inlets and curious rock formations.

A. Blue Grotto

There are “blue grottoes” in various parts of the Mediterranean, and they share similar characteristics. They are south-facing inlets with shallow water and white sandy bottoms. The preferential absorption of red and yellow wavelengths of bright sunlight provides beautiful blue light effects, as shown in Figures 2 and 3. They stimulate an artistic wish to capture something of the colour and movement of the scenes in the caves. (4)

 2 and 3 “The Blue Grotto”

4. Watercolour of Interior of the Blue Grotto

The caves of the Blue Grotto can be visited in small wooden boats, capable of carrying six to eight passengers. They are driven by outboard motors and are handled by local fishermen. Their small size enables the fishermen to easily enter and navigate the network of sea-caves.

Instead of taking one of the hotel tours to the Grottoes I drove myself down to the coast. As I approached the small jetty, a fisherman beckoned to me. “We’re just about to leave. There is one place left.” “How much?” “Two pounds”. I gave him the money. This was in the nineties and I thought it very good value for money.

5. Tourist Passenger Boat at the Blue Grotto

B. Delimara Point

This headland is in the far south-east of the island, beyond the fishing port of Marsaxlokk, and is dominated by a very large modern power station, (whose switchgear panels were supplied by Mertech). The relics of a much more ancient industry can be seen on the shore. Salt pans, usually circular, have been cut in the rock, with smaller pot holes within them.

The tidal range is only about two feet a day, but this is enough to fill the pools. The hot sun evaporates the water and concentrates the brine. The denser brine falls to the bottom so the densest concentration is found in the potholes.


 6. Saltpans and Potholes at Delimara Point, Malta Island


7. Watercolour Painting of Delimara Point

The young fishermen in Figure 7 are standing on rocks above the old salt pans of Delimara Point. They stopped fishing before I had finished painting and came up the rocks towards me and were generous in their praise of the painting.

 C. Xwieni Bay (pronounced shwee ay nee)

 The bay, on the NW coast of Gozo, shows a series of heavily eroded cliffs, headlands (8) and a spectacular sea-arch, the “Zerka Window” (9).

8 and 9 Coastal Features at Xwieni Bay, Gozo

The island has a convenient English name, Gozo, but it is called in Maltese, Ghawdex, (pronounced how desh). Compared with the main island of Malta, it is smaller and more rural. It can be reached by car ferry from the opposite coast or direct from Valetta. Xwieni Bay (pronounced shwee ay nee) is on the north-west side of the island.

10. Simple Map of Malta to Show the Locations Described and Illustrated in the Text

D. Dingli Cliffs

A geological feature, known as the Great Fault, runs across Malta from Madliena in the east, through Mosta, Mdina and Rabat to the Dingli Cliffs in the west. The fault is associated with a ridge of hills. The highest point on the island is at 830 feet (253 metres) above sea level near the Dingli Cliffs which fall 800 feet into the sea. (11)

E. Bingemma Gap

The British began to build a series of military defensive lines across the hills of the Great Fault, in the 1870s to protect the Royal Navy harbour installations of Valletta and Sliema around Grand Harbour. These were called the Victoria Lines. By 1907 the British realised that the Lines were of doubtful defensive value and they were abandoned. In 1988 the independent Government of Malta submitted an application to UNESCO for World Heritage Status for the existing fortifications of the Victoria Lines.

The Bingemma Gap (12) is a break in the line of hills, and the Victoria Lines, which gives an excellent view of the plain several hundred feet below.


11. and 12. The Hills of the Great Fault from Bingemma to Dingli

F. Ghar Hassan

There is an extensive series of cliffs and limestone caves at the south-east corner of the main island, in which artefacts have been found from human occupation during the Palaeolithic, and from later periods.

13. to 16. Exterior and Interior Views at Ghar Hassan

II. THE ARCHAEOLOGY

There is a long archaeological record of human occupation on Malta from the Palaeolithic, Neolithic and later periods. These are displayed in the National Museum of Fine Arts, South Street, Valletta.

G. National Museum


17. Two of Malta’s Earliest Artefacts from the National Museum, Valletta

These carvings of rotund naked women have been discovered in ancient sites all over Europe and are seen by archaeologist as part of an ancient fertility ritual.

H. Mnajdra (pronounced eem ny dra)

The Mnajdra temples are constructed of the harder Coralline Limestone which is more resistant to weathering but is more difficult to work. Parts of the inner walls are faced with the softer Globigerina Limestone which is easier to work and whiter in colour. The excellent aerial photograph (18) shows the double nature of the temple complex. The ground level views show the temple entrance, (19) and one of the inner chambers. (20)

We believe that the temples were used for healing rituals, because clay models of human body parts, showing injury or disease, were excavated from the site. Hidden chambers have been found within the thickness of the walls. Some have suggested that the priests hid in these chambers to produce the “voice” of the deity speaking to the worshippers. The carefully chamfered doorway, (21) and the doubly recessed opening (22) show the craftsmanship of the temple builders.


18, 19, and 20. Mnajdra Temples, seen in Aerial and Ground Views

21., and 22. Recessed Openings within the Mnajdra Temples

I. Hagar Qim (pronounced ad jar heem)

Curiously, the temple of Hagar Qim is only a few hundred yards {metres) from the temple of Mnajdra. The one temple can easily be seen from the other, but Hagar Qim is a little closer to the sea.

23, 24 and 25. Hagar Qim Temple Complex and Two Ceremonial Entrances

This temple complex is later than the Neolithic. It comes from the Copper Age of Malta, around 2, 700 BC and can be seen, from the aerial photograph, (23) to be different from the Mnajdra site in general layout and also in detail. The human figure in 24 gives some idea of the enormous size of the limestone blocks used in the construction of the temple. Libation holes, for pouring libations or offerings (of wine, oil or water) to the gods are shown in 26 and 27.

26 and 27. Libation Holes at the Hagar Qim Temple Complex

J. Ggantija (pronounced jan tee yar)

This temple is on the island of Gozo, and is a few miles inland rather than on the coast like Mnajdra and Hagar Qim. All these solar temples are impressive in terms of their size and the great blocks used in their construction. Given the skill of the builders we may guess that we are only seeing the rough shell of the original structure. The complete building may have had painted plaster covering both internally and exteriorly like the domestic dwellings of the period.

28. and 29. Details of the Ggantija Temple Complex

The “Oracle Hole” (29) is claimed to be an aperture into which the devotee could whisper questions to the deity, and from which an answer might emerge, after the style of the Greek oracle of Delphi.

All three temples were designed so that the light of the rising sun would produce certain effects within the chambers of the building. I have an excellent booklet, with diagrams, by a Maltese archaeologist, describing these effects, but I am, at the time of writing, unable to lay hands on it.

The excellent wikipedia article “Megalithic Temples of Malta” is very good on the structure, design and evolution of the temples but very brief on the solar effects. I quote briefly from the comments on the Mnajdra complex, “The southern temple is oriented astronomically, and aligned with the rising sun during solstices and equinoxes. During the summer solstices the first rays light up the edge of a decorated megalith between the first apses, while during the winter solstice it lights up a megalith in the opposite apse.” At the equinoxes the rays of the rising sun pass straight through the principal doorway to reach the innermost central niche.

The article badly needs a diagram to illustrate the effect. I have supplied one, based on three facts, (i) sunrise at the equinoxes is always exactly due east everywhere on earth, (ii) in the northern hemisphere sunrise at the winter solstice is towards the south-east, depending upon the latitude of the observer, and (iii) sunrise at the summer solstice is towards the north-east.

30. Sunrise at Solstices and Equinoxes in Solar temples of Malta

The equinoctial pathway (31) and the triple niches (32) at Mnajdra are illustrated below, as they appear, in full sunlight. A diagram (33) has been prepared to give an idea of the appearance of the temple interior at the times of the solstitial and equinoctial sunrises.

31. and 32. Key Elements in the Solar Alignments at Mnajdra Temple, Malta

33. The Triple Niches at Mnajdra during the Solstitial and Equinoctial Sunrises

III. THE ARCHITECTURE

For a small island Malta has a remarkable collection of very fine buildings, in the categories of military, ecclesiastical and secular.

J. Valletta

Valletta, the capital, is built on a peninsula jutting into the Grand Harbour, and is a most beautiful and interesting city. It is dominated by the sixteenth century fortifications from the time of the Knights of Malta. This period is discussed more fully at the end of this essay.

The magnificent low aerial photograph (34) gives a clear idea of how the fortifications still encircle the modern towns. Fort St Angelo juts forward into the harbour, and the town behind it is Vittoriosa, one of the “Three Cities” which adjoin Valetta. The Maltese name is Birgu, and its honorific title, “Citta Vittoriosa”; (the victorious city) was awarded by the Knights of Malta, to the town because of the outstanding courage of its citizens during the Great Siege of 1565.

34. Fort St Angelo and the Town of Vittoriosa, or Birgu

35. Watercolour of Valetta Waterfront

The great sloping bastions of the fortress walls (35) overawe the conventionally-sized houses along the waterfront.

There are many churches on Malta, which is a predominantly Roman Catholic country. Although there are a few Protestant churches, most of them are Anglican from the time when the islands were a British colony. The gouache (36) below shows the narrow Wren-style Anglican Cathedral and the typically Maltese ribbed dome of the Carmelite church crowded together above the eighteenth-century fortress walls with their characteristic roll mouldings.

36. Protestant and Catholic Churches in Valletta, Malta

Even the vernacular architecture of Valletta has a dignified charm of its own in comparison with the formal public buildings and omnipresent military works. The gouache of a Valletta street (37) shows different styles of doorways, balconies, and oriel (projecting) windows, creating a fascinating composition with variety and harmony.

A further aspect of Maltese local culture is illustrated by the gouache of the attractive Maltese traditional oared craft. (38) It was moored in Dockyard Creek, an inlet of Grand Harbour, in the town of Vittoriosa (Birgu). It has some of the characteristics of the Italian gondola, but it is much broader in the beam for its length.

The curtained kiosk amidships is also seen on some larger Venetian gondolas, but it is normally built as an integral part of the boat and painted black. The Maltese kiosk seems to be an altogether more flimsy affair. This traditional craft probably has a Maltese name, but as yet, I have not discovered it.

37. and 38. Maltese Vernacular Styles in Housefronts and Traditional Oared Craft

There is a great deal to see in Valletta and I have only touched lightly on the wealth of good things there.

L. Mdina (pronounced eem deen ar)

The Maltese language is unique but it borrows from its neighbours, the Italians to the north, and the Arabs of North Africa to the south. The name Mdina (or Medina, as it is usually transliterated from Arabic) is an Arabic name that means, “The City”. Although the name is widely used in the Arab world, the most famous Medina is in Saudi Arabia, quite near Mecca and part of the Haj or annual Muslim pilgrimage.

39. and 40. Approaching Mdina, Malta

The town has the nickname, “The Silent City”, because it is a completely walled community with no motor traffic, and a mass of elegant religious, and secular buildings along with private houses. It is breathtakingly beautiful and photogenic from almost any direction. It is perched on a hill (39) and surrounded by open fields giving it the effect of a jewel in a special setting. Approaching the main gate we are again in a rather severe, though well-proportioned, military environment. (40, 41)

Once inside the walls, the town’s more domestic atmosphere is apparent. (42, 43)

41. 42, 43. Views of the Interior of Mdina, Malta

The most impressive building in Mdina is, perhaps, the Co- Cathedral, with its red dome, best seen from a distance (44) beyond the walls. For a small island, Malta is possibly only entitled to one Cathedral, but the Mdina Co-Cathedral shares the honour with St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta. In the watercolour the city walls are framed by the wild Opuntias (prickly pears) and False Oat Grass of the foreground.

44. The Co-Cathedral of Mdina Seen from Outside the City Walls

M. Marsaxlokk (pronounced mar sar shlock)

This is a charming fishing village, whose harbour, crowded with brightly coloured local fishing boats, (46) is dominated by its elegant church. (45)

45. Harbour and Church, Marsaxlokk, Malta

46. Fishing Boats in the Harbour at Marsaxlokk, Malta

N. Dingli

There are many isolated, smaller buildings that exert a fascination for the artist, as indicated by the man (47) I met among the wild fennel plants, at the Madalena Chapel, near the town of Dingli, and close to the Dingli Cliffs. He was producing an excellent watercolour. He favoured a small camping stool and rested the board with his paper, across his knees. I used a folding metal-frame chair, with a back. It fitted easily inside a suitcase for travelling. This was twenty years ago. With the current airport hysteria I suspect that my chair would now be regarded as a most dangerous object, capable of reducing Heathrow to a heap of ashes.

47. Painting Out of Doors

I was visiting the Dingli region, not for the Madalena Chapel, but for another small, and isolated religious building, the Il Fawwara Chapel. (48) It is, to my taste, a more interesting building than the severely rectangular Madalena Chapel.

48. Ink and Gouache Study of the Il Fawwara Chapel, Dingli, Malta

O. Selmun Palace

There are many old palaces on Malta, and some have assumed new roles. The reader is invited to guess what might be the function of the Selmun Palace, shown below. (49)

49. Pen and Ink Study of the Selmun Palace

At the time this pen and ink study was made, (1995), the palace was being used as a discotheque.

P. Buskett Woods

One of the few well-wooded parts of Malta is the Buskett Woods, near the centre of the main island. The name fascinated me as it suggested some eighteenth century English adventurer, perhaps Sir Orlando Buskett. The truth is more prosaic. The name is a variant of the Italian term “boschetto” which means little wood or shrubbery. The poetic English word “bosky” is cognate with the Italian, “bosco”, wood.

50. Verdala Palace and Buskett Gardens

THE TWO SIEGES OF MALTA

The Maltese Archipelago has been under siege many times in its history, but I want to concentrate on two major sieges of the islands; the Muslim Siege in 1565, and the Nazi German Siege in 1941-42. In a short essay like this I do not want to embark on a detailed history of Malta, which is a long and fascinating story in itself, but it is necessary to sketch in a little of the historical background.

51. The Greek Temple Siege Monument

THE MUSLIM SIEGE OF 1565

The History of Muslim Expansion

One of the frequent fictions propagated by modern Muslim writers and agreed to by Western liberals, is the idea that Muslim states have always the victims of Western expansionism, of which the Crusades were the worst example. It may come as a surprise to discover that this is the exact reverse of the truth. For most of the time since the origin of Islam, the Muslim religion, in the seventh century, Western Europe has been in a life and death struggle to keep Muslim Imperialism out.

It is only our woeful ignorance of our own history here in the West, which makes it possible for the facts about Muslim expansionism to be ignored. This truth does not require the reader to follow complex and technical political arguments; it is only necessary to understand a series of maps. (These maps use a standard format, marking most of the modern major cities
simply
as a means of readily identifying regions. In former times many of these cities did not exist under these names, or they were no more than villages. As subject of the essay, Malta is given a prominence in these maps which it would not normally receive.)

Map 1 of Europe (52) shows the Byzantine Empire is at the centre. Following invasions of Rome by Germanic tribes from the east and north, the Christian Roman Emperors sought security by moving their capital eastwards to Constantinople, named after Constantine, the first Christian Emperor. The capital was also called Byzantium, and the region it controlled was the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire. It was largely based in Italy, Greece and Anatolia (modern Turkey), as well as almost all of the coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea.

52. Map 1 of Europe – The Roman Empire Moves East

53. Map 2 of Europe – The Muslims Spread Westwards

Christianity had spread throughout the old Roman Empire by peaceful means, despite the record of severe persecutions by a succession of pagan Emperors. The Germanic tribes which had overthrown and sacked Rome were gradually being converted to Christianity. All this changed radically in the seventh century as Map 2 (53) shows. In just a hundred years the balance of power had undergone a remarkable shift.

The whole of the Middle East, and North Africa, which once had been Christian, was now Muslim. There had been no nonsense about “peaceful conversion”. The conquered peoples were given a straight choice, “Islam, or death.” This was the “Holy War” or jihad, four centuries before the Crusades were even thought of. Western Europe was divided into many small nations at this time and had no reply to the Muslim invasion. The Byzantine Empire was the only bulwark against Muslim expansion into Europe.

54. Map 3 of Europe – The Muslims Enter Mainland Europe

By the middle of the eighth century, seen in Map 3 of Europe, (54) the situation had become even worse. The Muslim colonists had overrun the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) and had driven north until they were stopped at the Battle of Tours in the centre of France.

The harsh indictment, that “It took the Muslims seven months to conquer Spain, and seven centuries for the Spaniards to finally throw them out,” is, unfortunately true. Southern Europeans remained embattled against North African Muslim slave raids against their coasts for the next thousand years, (from the 700s to the 1700s).

55. Map 4 of Europe – The Turks Take Over Anatolia and the Middle East

Turkish Expansion

The Christian kingdoms of Europe managed to stabilise situation, so that further Muslim attempts to invade were held up for several centuries. Map 4 of Europe (55) takes us forward to the close of the eleventh century. The biggest change noticeable is the expansion of Christianity into Scandinavia and eastern Europe, as a result of missionary activity. Although the area on the map looks large, the actual size of these populations was relatively small.

The Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) was now half Christian (north) and half Muslim (south). The shrivelling Byzantine Empire was now reduced to the area of modern Greece and Romania, along with some islands. The important new power was the Turkish Empire.

The Turks were a westward-wandering nomadic people from central Asia. They converted to Islam early in the eleventh century and they galvanised Muslim expansion. First, they overran Christian Anatolia and from then on this region became known as Turkey. Next they took over control of their fellow Muslims in the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula. Palestine and Jerusalem was part of their new dominions. This region was significant beyond its size, because it was a magnet for Jewish, Christian and Muslim pilgrims. It was the Turkish restrictions on Christian pilgrims which provided the impetus for the Crusades, beginning at very end of the eleventh century. There were several separate Crusades over the next 200 years. The First Crusade captured Jerusalem in 1099. Although the Crusaders managed to establish a number of small independent kingdoms in the eastern Mediterranean they were ultimately unsuccessful for logistical reasons.

There were no easy overland supply routes for the Crusaders, and they depended on shipping for supplies and munitions from Europe, hundreds of miles away. These were always a prey for Muslim pirates. By contrast, the Muslim opponents of the Crusaders had easy access to supplies brought overland from regions within distances of less than a hundred miles. In the shorthand of military strategists, the Crusaders suffered from over-extended lines
of communication, and their Muslim opponents had the advantage of short, internal lines of communication.

56. Map 5 of Europe – The Turks Take Over Balkans Europe

The Turks Invade Europe

The Ottoman Turks continued to take control over more and more of the Muslim world. In Europe, by the end of the fifteenth century, as Map 5 (56) shows, they had overrun the Balkan Peninsula and were moving into eastern Europe. The two significant dates from this period were, 1453 when the Byzantine Empire finally collapsed and Byzantium or Constantinople was captured and re-named Istanbul. It then became the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The other date was 1492. It was not only the year in which Columbus reached the outlying islands of the continents of North and South America, but also the year in which the Muslims were finally driven from Granada, their last province in Spain. Three important Mediterranean islands still remained in Christian hands. These were, Cyprus, in the east, close to the Turkish mainland, Crete, off the southern tip of Turkish-occupied Greece, and Malta, between Christian Sicily and Muslim North Africa.

57. Map 6 of Europe – The Turks Move against Western Europe

The Ottoman Siege of Malta

By the time of the Muslim siege of Malta, in 1565, the Ottoman Turks had scored some notable successes in the western Mediterranean Sea, principally by capturing islands, as a result of their naval supremacy. The dates on Map 6 (57) indicate the year in which the various places fell to Turkish invasion. Corsica and the Balearic Islands (Majorca and Minorca) had been brought under Muslim rule, and a toehold had been seized in Western Europe with the capture of the small seaport of Nice, now in southern France.

In mainland Europe, the Ottoman Turks made continual attacks upon Vienna, the capital of Austria, throughout the sixteenth century and for most of the seventeenth century. Their intention to overpower the countries of Western Europe was never in any doubt, summed up in their own boast, “To stable our horses at St Peter’s, in Rome.” Though they never captured Vienna, the Turks held all the capitals of the Balkan states including Hungary.

At the time Malta was under siege, in 1565, the islands of Cyprus and Crete were still in Christian hands but under continual pressure from Muslim pirate vessels.

The Knights of St John of Jerusalem were a powerful fighting force. They were a relic of the times of the Crusades, and the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitallers. Even in the sixteenth century they seemed anachronistic. They had been based on the Greek island of Rhodes, which was captured by the Turks in 1522. Malta was their final base.

The Muslim forces attacking Malta numbered about 50, 000 and the Christian garrison was about 6, 000. The siege began in the early summer of 1565 and as a result of stubborn and heroic resistance by the Knights and the civilian population, it ended in September when the Ottoman Turks withdrew and the siege was raised. The only successes they had achieved were the capture of Gozo, and also the fort of St Elmo on the main island of Malta. The great hero of the defence was the French nobleman, Jean de la Valette, Grand Master of the Knights of St John, after whom the Maltese capital, Valetta, is named.

58. A Contemporary Drawing of the Grand Harbour during the Siege

For readers wishing to know more of the siege, they are recommended to read, “The Great Siege” by Ernle Bradford. This is an excellent short account, about the size of a paperback, written by an ex-Royal Navy officer, who was in Malta during World War II. The front end paper is reproduced above. The book’s main weakness is the lack of illustrations apart from the end papers.

After the Siege

As the reader may appreciate the story of the Turks attempt to overwhelm Europe is a long one. After the abortive attack on Malta, the Turks managed to capture Cyprus in 1571, but in that same year, suffered a crushing naval defeat in the Battle of Lepanto, off the coast of central Greece. This reverse and the failure to take Malta had the effect of curtailing Turkish military ambitions in the western Mediterranean. They also suffered a major military defeat in the Battle of Vienna in 1683, and this brought an end to Turkish ambitions to overrun Europe.

Various independence movements in the nineteenth century succeeded in driving the Turks from Greece and the other Balkan countries. Eventually, by the early twentieth century, the Ottoman Empire had collapsed and the Turks were confined to the Anatolian Peninsula and an area around Istanbul. The survival of Western Europe as a collection of free and independent nations was, “A damned close-run thing.” in the words of the British military commander, the Duke of Wellington.

THE NAZI SIEGE OF 1940 – 42

When Adolf Hitler came to power, quite democratically, in 1933, (59) he began leading the German people on a course of military expansion into eastern Europe. He had occupied Czechoslovakia and Austria by 1938, but when he attacked Poland in 1939, this brought in France and Britain, who were part of a military alliance with the Poles. Thus the Second World War began in 1939, and not in 1942, as many Russians and Americans imagine.

59. Adolf Hitler, Newly Elected German Chancellor in 1933

Russian Reluctance to Stop German Fascism

It is only recently that most Russians have heard, or been taught in universities and schools, that the armed conflict with Nazi Germany began two and a half years before the Germans attacked them in 1941. The uncomfortable fact that the Russians had a “non-aggression pact” with the Nazis, (60) which allowed the Germans to plunder other nations unhindered, was concealed from the Russian people for decades after the events. This fact detracted from the myth of the Russians as stalwart opponents of German fascism.

60. Stalin, left, and Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister in 1939

It even leads to the question, had the Germans concentrated on Western Europe and North Africa, and left Russia alone, would the Russians have intervened at all? It is perfectly true that the Russian people suffered far more than any others, in terms of numbers killed, in what they call, “The Great Patriotic War” but that is no reason for ignoring uncomfortable truths about the reality of early military actions against German Fascism by other nations, like Poland, France and Britain.

American Reluctance to Stop German Fascism

The American people are also inclined to see the Second World War as beginning in December 1941 with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The United States stood by on the sidelines as Poland was overrun in 1939, and when France capitulated in 1940. During the major air attacks on British cities in 1940, known colloquially as “the Blitz”, there was much supportive talk from pro-British Americans, but talk is cheap. None of them seemed to realise that this was a life and death struggle, and if the final outcome was bad for Europe, it might, in due course, become very bad for the USA as well. Too often the conflict was seen as “those Europeans, fighting each other again.” The United States considered that it was big enough to be self-sufficient in all the things it needed, and it was sensible to keep clear of foreign involvement. This American policy was termed “isolationism” and is rather exemplified by the spare rural landscapes of the popular illustrator, NC Wyeth. (61)

61. Rural America in the Thirties – Two Works by N C Wyeth

This leads to an important question similar to the one posed about Russia. Had the Japanese not attacked the Americans at Pearl Harbour, would the USA have eventually entered the war against German Fascism?

What Might Have Been

I would like to speculate about the two difficult questions I posed. Firstly, if the Germans had not attacked Russia, I believe that Stalin would have continued to give the Germans a free hand. He expected the conflict between Britain supported by its Empire, and the Germans would fatally weaken both sides, so that when it was over he could step in and take over the whole of Europe at little cost to the Russian military. Stalin was an evil dictator who had arranged the murder of so many millions of his fellow countrymen that the deaths of millions of foreigners meant little to him.

I think that if the German military had not been distracted by the 1941 Russian invasion plans they could have concentrate all their efforts on the North African campaign. They would probably have beaten the British forces, captured Egypt, the Suez Canal, and the Iranian oilfields. The British would probably been compelled to sue for peace. Once the active campaign against Britain was over, and the Germans had a ready supply of oil for their tanks, they could then concentrate on Russia.

A German attack on Russia, without any other distractions would probably have succeeded. They would have captured all the important industrial and manufacturing centres in the western part of the Soviet Union as well as the Baku oilfields. The Russians would not have surrendered but would have retreated into the vastness of Central Asia and carried on guerrilla warfare against the occupation.

62. What Might Have Happened in Europe by 1943

The Americans would have wrung their hands, throughout all these conflicts, but in the end would have done nothing. Germany would have controlled Western Europe from the English Channel to the Urals. (62)
It is likely that they would not only have taken North Africa, but also the British colonies in the rest of Africa, either by negotiation or by force, as Britain would have been unable to stop them.

Fortunately, the conduct of German military operations was not left to the highly professional General Staff, who would certainly have avoided a war on two fronts (North Africa and Russia). Adolf Hitler not only dictated general policy, but he interfered in the details of general operations and the day-to-day conduct of particular units. This interference, in terms of a mistaken “two-fronts policy” was crucial. Hitler’s denial of flexible response to his field commanders ensured needless difficulties for the German forces under battle conditions.

The Mediterranean Sphere of Operations

To quote from the excellent British Admiralty booklet, “East of Malta, West of Suez”, “It looked pretty good. When war began, the entire Mediterranean coast was Allied (British & French) or neutral, and the British and French fleets ruled the sea unchallenged.” (p. 7). The map in Figure 63 is reproduced from the booklet, with the addition of some colour. In those days the French had overseas colonial territories in North Africa, namely, Algeria and Tunisia, while the British Empire included Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt, Palestine and Cyprus.

63. French and British Territories in the Mediterranean, 1939

Within a year, this favourable situation had changed radically. Although the French and British had gone to war over Poland, they provided very little direct help to the Polish people. The Germans invaded, and after a brief campaign of a few weeks, (Aug-Oct) defeated the Polish forces and occupied the country. To show how robust the Russians were in opposing German Fascism, they joined them in attacking Poland and then partitioning its land between them.

Poland was a long way from Britain and France and it would have been difficult for them to render assistance to the Poles other than directly attacking Germany. The period of military inactivity on the part of the Allies continued until May 1940, and in later years it became known as “the Phony War”.

Blitzkrieg

The Germans were ready by 10 May 1940, and they unleashed the “Blitzkrieg” (lightning war) upon the Low Countries and France. The dates of the surrenders are: Holland (14 May), Belgium (28 May) and France (22 June). Italy was initially neutral, but seeing the rapid success of the Germans, Mussolini (64) their Fascist dictator, declared war on Britain and France on the 10 June, in the hope of profiting from the disaster.

64. and 65. Two Important Axis Leaders – Mussolini and von Rundstedt

The British had put an army ashore to aid the French in their resistance to the German invasion. This was the British Expeditionary Force. When the French capitulated the BEF was put in great peril. They carried out a fighting withdrawal to the small French port of Dunkirk. They were pursued by German forces under the command of Gerd von Rundstedt, one of their most able generals. He reached the Dunkirk perimeter by the 24 May and was ordered by Hitler to halt.

As von Rundstedt watched with mounting frustration, the Royal Navy began the evacuation of soldiers of the BEF and allies of other nationalities, from the beaches of Dunkirk. Apparently, Hitler wished to use an SS division of dedicated Nazis, to administer the final blow to the BEF, rather than the regular Wehrmacht (German Army) units under the command of von Rundstedt. Had Hitler left the operational decisions to von Rundstedt, it is likely that the whole BEF would have been captured and sent into captivity. Though their equipment and arms were abandoned, the men from Dunkirk provided the base from which a much expanded British army was created.

The New General Situation in the Mediterranean

The second map reproduced from “East of Malta, West of Suez”, (66) is entitled “The Scales Tilt”. It shows the dramatic change in British fortunes. When the French capitulated, the northern part of France was occupied by German troops, and the western seaboard appears in black on the map as enemy coastline. The southern part of France was allowed a French government, based in the town of Vichy, (pronounced vee shee). The Vichy Government and its French colonies could only function if they obeyed the Germans, stayed neutral, and avoided anything controversial. Its neutral coastlines now appear striped on the map.

66. French, Italian and British Territories in the Mediterranean, 1940

The Italian coast and that of its colonies were now closed to British ships since Mussolini had declared war on the 10 June. However, Greece had thrown in its lot with Britain, possibly because of fear of its Italian neighbour, so the myriad of Greek islands and ports in the Eastern Mediterranean were friendly to visiting British naval vessels and merchant ships.

With the fall of France, the British Government were extremely worried about the future of the French Battle Fleet. The French Navy Minister, Admiral Darlan, ordered it to their naval base at Oran in North Africa. The British Admiralty several times called on the French fleet to either surrender to the Royal Navy, or to move to the Caribbean Sea, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and out of the European sphere of operations.

The Destruction of the French Fleet

The outcome of the negotiations led to one of the many tragedies of the Second World War. The French fleet in Oran could have become the Free French Navy, and joined the British in the fight against Fascist Germany and Italy. Its exploits could have become a source of pride to Frenchmen everywhere. Instead, Darlan refused the British overtures and because the risk of the French warships falling into German hands was so great, the Royal Navy was ordered, on the 3 July, to open fire on them and sink every vessel. This resulted in the deaths of 1, 300 French seamen and created bad blood between Britain and the Vichy French government ever after.

The order was given by the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, but it is difficult to see what else he could have done. Transfer of the French fleet to Germany could have lost the war for Britain right at the outset.

67 / 68 The Two Top Vichy French Leaders – Darlan and Petain

The villain of the piece was Admiral Darlan, (67) who was not just, “a simple sailor” as his apologists claim. He became more of a politician than a sailor as Navy Minister in the Vichy Cabinet. He belonged to that group of right-wing French politicians who were not entirely unhappy about their country’s close ties with Fascist Germany. Had he responded positively to the British overtures he would have lost his Vichy job. Darlan later became virtual head of state in the Vichy Government.

In case readers may think, as a British citizen, I overstate the case against Darlan, I conclude with two pieces of French evidence. (i) Marshall Petain, (68) head of the Vichy Government, was tried for treason, by the French, when the war was over. His role in the whole sorry business was far more honourable than any of the politicians, but he was found guilty and died in prison at the age of 95 in 1951. (ii) Darlan was assassinated in Dec 1942 by the French Resistance. Undoubtedly he would have been executed, as a traitor, by the new French government after the war.

Italian Fascism on the March

Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator of Italy, having declared war on Britain on the 10 June 1940, announced a total blockade of all British possessions in Africa and the Mediterranean two months later, on the 10 August. His “lightning war” proceeded at a more leisurely pace than the German, “blitzkrieg”. The Italians advanced eastwards from their Libyan colony into Egypt on the 13 September, and they made their expected attack southwards into Greece on 28 October.

Hitler was now intent on the invasion of Britain, and the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) was trying to destroy the Royal Air Force, and terrorising the civilian populations with bombing raids on major cities. The Italian efforts were regarded as no more than “sideshows” to the main event. As the Italians had about 250, 000 troops in Libya, while the British had about only 36, 000 in Egypt the result seemed to be a foregone conclusion.

Italian Fascism Defeated

However, the result was quite different. The British commander, General Wavell (69) had decided that attack was the best form of defence, and his troops captured a series of towns along the Libyan coast rolling up the Italian forces towards ultimate defeat. They reached Benghazi by the 6 Feb 1941. (72) “In 62 days .a force of two divisions had utterly destroyed ten Italian divisions, taking 130, 000 prisoners, 380 tanks and 845 guns. The British had lost 500 men in the conflict.” (Young, op. cit) The troops were closely supported by the Air Force which destroyed aircraft on the ground in Italian airfields, and by the Royal Navy, which sent ships close inshore to bombard Italian positions.

69/70/71 Leaders of the Libyan Campaign 1940 – 41 (Wavell, Graziani, Bergonzoli)

To be fair to the Italians, they were badly led by cautious (Graziani, 70) or ineffective (Bergonzoli, 71) commanders. A further factor was that Mussolini was a dictator, not universally popular, and the Italian soldiers showed a remarkable alacrity to surrender to the British. They were unwilling to sacrifice their lives for Mussolini’s unworthy causes. I believe the record was set by a single British corporal who marched 1, 200 Italian prisoners back to his unit.

During the course of Wavell’s campaign the Royal Navy scored a spectacular success against the Italian Navy, where six of its battleships were moored in Taranto Harbour, inside the “heel” of Italy. At that time, battleships (74/79) were the largest gunships in any nation’s fleet. They carried 15″ (38 cm) calibre guns in triple turrets and could fire a shell taller than a man, for a distance of fifteen miles (24 Km).

72. British Military Successes against the Italians 1940 – 41

On the night of 11 / 12 November 1940 “twenty ancient ‘Swordfish’ biplanes (73) from the British aircraft carrier, ‘Illustrious’ made one of the most successful torpedo attacks of the war” (p. 112 Young, op. cit) Of the six Italian battleships, three were sunk, (73) along with two cruisers, for the loss of two British planes.

73. Fairey “Swordfish” RAF Torpedo Bombers over the Mediterranean

“The relative strengths of the two battle fleets had now been reversed in favour of the British. (The Italians now had two while the British had five.) For those who had eyes to see, Taranto was the end of the battleship era in naval warfare.” (p. 38, MacIntyre, op. cit)

74. The Battleship “Cavour” sunk in Taranto Harbour (MacIntyre, op. cit)

The Strategic Significance of Malta

The Royal Navy came to realise the increasing significance of Malta during the events of 1940. The existing British forces on Malta had been unable to prevent the passage of Italian naval convoys from Sicily to Libya. Constant and complete air reconnaissance was essential to naval operations, and “Malta was the only possible base for such reconnaissance as well as for the air and submarine striking force…to cut the Italian convoy route.” (p. 32, MacIntyre, op. cit). The defences of the island were put into better order, particularly anti-aircraft protection, and the harbour facilities for naval and commercial shipping.

The Germans eventually woke up to the fact that their Italian allies of the Berlin–Rome Axis were now in very serious trouble militarily. It became clear to German military thinkers that North Africa was no sideshow, but
it was a vital region for prosecuting the war against Britain.

The Luftwaffe had failed to destroy the RAF during the summer of 1940, (the Battle of Britain) and the whole invasion project had been called off. Hitler was persuaded to despatch one of his best generals, Erwin Rommel (75) to North Africa to sort out the mess. He arrived in Libya, with German forces, the nucleus of the Afrika Korps, (76) on 12 February 1941.

It should not be thought that Hitler, personally, had been convinced of the need to concentrate on the North Africa campaign. Fortunately, for the fate of the world, he had other fish to fry. He was deep into the planning of Operation Barbarossa, for the invasion of Soviet Russia. When Rommel opened his African campaign in March 1941 the Russian invasion was only three months away. Rommel was always kept short of men, materials and petroleum for his tanks, because these things were needed for the Russian campaign.

75. / 76. Erwin Rommel, German General, and Insignia of the Afrika Korps

However, Rommel did the very best he could with what was available. In March he drove eastwards across Libya and towards the Egyptian border, but he had realised the vital significance of Malta in the far west of his sphere of operations. Malta was clearly threatening his supply lines from Italy to Libya. In May 1941 he stated, “Without Malta the Axis will end by losing control of North Africa.” These were prophetic words. The outcome for Malta was a big increase in bombing raids to destroy the harbour installations.

There were 3, 000 bomber raids over the two years 1940 – 1942. This is about four raids a day, every day. Figure 76 gives some idea of the devastation wrought by bombing, as civilians and military clear debris from a Valletta street on 1 May 1942.

77/78. The Impact of the War on Malta

As Rommel advanced across Libya, the Royal Navy was completing its destruction of the Italian Navy, at the Battle of Cape Matapan. An Italian force had been sent to intercept a British convoy, when it accidentally encountered the British fleet during the night of the 28 March. The Italians were completely taken by surprise when the British switched on searchlights and opened fire at point-blank range, sinking three cruisers and badly damaging the battleship, ‘Vittorio Veneto’. The Italians lost 2, 400 sailors, although 900 were rescued by the British, who lost two aircraft but no sailors.

79. The Battleship Warspite which was present at the Battle of Cape Matapan, 1941

The effect of these victories in the Eastern Mediterranean was that British convoys from Egypt sailed without interruption, while the Italians were unable to protect their commercial shipping.

Rommel’s North African Campaign

Rommel arrived in Libya on 12 February 1941 and in March began pushing eastwards, with German and Italian troops, to recover the ground captured from the Italians by Wavell’s forces. He had reached the Egyptian frontier by the 11 March and began to besiege the port of Tobruk, a main base for British supplies from Egypt and Europe. (80)

Despite these reverses the British decide to hold Tobruk, partly as it was full of supplies, and also as a springboard for a later counterattack. It also denied to Rommel a forward base for attacking Egypt. The siege of Tobruk lasted from April to November 1941, and it was held by 23, 000 troops, 15, 000 of whom were Australians. There was very heavy fighting between the British and the Axis forces around the Libyan / Egyptian frontier from March to November of 1941 but Tobruk was held and finally relieved. A lull in the fighting occurred from January to May 1942

“Had Rommel’s force been in the desert in December 1940″…the earlier British successes against the Italians “would not have been possible… we may be thankful that Hitler sent Rommel to North Africa four months too late” to have any chance of capturing Alexandria and Egypt. (Brigadier Peter Young, op. cit)

80. British Defeat in Libya, 1941

Malta’s Darkest Hour

The value of Malta as a British naval base grew more apparent each day. Submarine and aircraft attacks reduced the effectiveness of the convoys of Italian supplies to the Axis troops fighting in eastern Libya. Rommel lost supplies at an alarming rate in 1941, (Aug. 35% and Oct. 63%) the Germans were compelled to reply and sent a strong Luftwaffe force to Sicily, together with 25 U-boats, (submarines – “Unterseeboot” = under sea boat). One of these sank the British aircraft-carrier, “Ark Royal” in November 1941. (81)

81. “Ark Royal” Torpedoed November 1941

“The sufferings of the inhabitants from hunger were very serious. Continual pounding from the air was their lot for 18 months. Many were compelled to live in the huge caves beneath Valletta. Both of the Governors of the island, General Dobbie, and then Field-Marshal Gort, VC, lived on the lowest ration scale, so as to share the privations of the people in their care.

Early in 1942 Hitler stepped up the air offensive, and by April only six British aircraft remained. Forty-seven Spitfires were flown in but 3o were destroyed on the ground before they could be refuelled. By the beginning of May the end seemed near. Food, fuel and ammunition were all nearly exhausted, but at the end of the month 62 more Spitfires were flown in, and this time the ground staff got them into the air just before the bombers came over.

Tremendous efforts were made to get convoys through from Alexandria and Gibraltar, but the losses were bad. (In June 4 of 6 freighters were lost, and in August 6 of 11). The last in was the American tanker Ohio, full of fuel and practically disabled. (82). By the autumn of 1942 the worst was over, and the island had survived an ordeal unequalled even by the famous siege of 1565 when Jean Parisot de la Vallette and the Knights of Malta had held out for four months against the Turks.” (p. 143, Young, op. cit)

82. The Tanker “Ohio” Arrives in Grand Harbour, Valletta, for the Relief of Malta

On the 15 April 1942, the British Crown, in the person of King George VI, took the unprecedented step of awarding the George Cross to the entire population of Malta, in recognition of their suffering and their heroism. From then on, the islands were known as, “Malta, GC”. The flag of the modern, independent nation of Malta still bears the George Cross.

83. Malta’s New Flag and Medal

In those days, the George Cross was the highest award for civilian bravery. For example, it was awarded to John Axon, driver of a runaway freight train, who remained at his post, trying to gain control of his locomotive, although scalded by steam. He told his fireman assistant to jump clear, before the locomotive gathered speed downhill and crashed into another freight train.

Nowadays, the nature of the award has subtly changed. It is mainly used to recognise bravery in the Armed Services, uniformed organisations like the Police or Fire Service, and is rarely given for bravery on the part of ordinary civilians, who have to be content with lesser awards. As the award to Malta demonstrates, this was not the original intention of the George Cross.

The Germans Cross Egypt

84. Rommel’s Campaign in North Africa, May to November 1942

After a period of inactivity from January to May 1942, Rommel was ready and he opened his attack on the 26 May. The British forces, now re-organised as the Eighth Army, were under the command of General Alan Cunningham. Rommel had a larger army than Cunningham, but two thirds of it was composed of Italians, whose enthusiasm for the war was low. The Germans had the advantage of better tanks and weaponry.

As explained earlier, the Axis forces had driven the British back to the Egyptian border, and now Rommel pushed his forces rapidly towards the port of Alexandria and the Suez Canal. On the 21 June, following a heavy bombardment Tobruk surrendered to the Germans. This was a great morale boost for the Axis forces, and provided them with a mass of British stores and a convenient forward base for conquering Egypt.

By the 1 July Rommel had reached the region of El Alamein on the coast, where he had been halted by the British defences. He had covered about 220 miles since he renewed his campaign, so that Cairo and the Suez Canal were only 180 miles away. At this point, after the continuing British retreat from Libya, command of the Eighth Army was given to General Bernard Montgomery on the 13 August.

Rommel and Montgomery

Rommel was handsome, dashing and somewhat impetuous, while Montgomery was careful and methodical. The Afrika Korps, Rommel’s German troops, idolised their leader, and would follow him anywhere. They had a tremendous ‘esprit de corps’, and high morale. Even among British troops, Rommel and his men were respected, even admired.

85. The New Commander of the Eighth Army

Montgomery’s attitude to command was coloured by his experiences as a junior infantry officer, on the Western Front, during the First World War. He explained that he rarely ever saw any commanding officers in the trenches, and he was appalled at the completely futile and hopeless attacks they were expected to make. When he reached high command he made a point of visiting the forward positions, to see the conditions of his men, and “What was more important, to let them see me.” He would not mount an attack unless he had local superiority in numbers and armour. There must be better than an even chance of success.

It is unlikely that Montgomery was loved by his men as Rommel was. Montgomery was a widower, a non-smoker, non-drinker, and something of a martinet. However, his men knew that he was a brave man, that he cared about them, that he was a competent general, and would not throw their lives away on reckless or futile attacks. They respected him rather than loved him, and that was, perhaps, enough.

War in the Desert

The war across North Africa has always been described as a “cleaner” campaign than the rest of the war. It was fought across the wide open spaces of the desert, which was mostly rocky rather than sandy. (86/87) There were few towns of any size, except on the coast. The fighting was mostly confined to soldiers and civilian casualties, (now known as “collateral damage”) were small.

86. / 87. Infantry and Tanks in the Desert

The two sides respected each other, and there were no atrocities. Prisoners were treated humanely. Rommel was not a Nazi and his Afrika Korps was never seen as a Nazi force. Unlike the campaigns in Europe, which were marred by mass deportations, executions, bombing and atrocities against civilian populations, there was little of this in North Africa.

For these reasons, the ordinary German citizens of the post-war period have been able to take pride in the achievements of the Afrika Korps. A couple of personal instances are offered here. I once had a work colleague who had been a member of the Afrika Korps, then a prisoner of war, and later a British citizen. He never had any reason to conceal these facts from the people he met during the rest of his life in Britain, and would speak about his service with pride.

On holiday in Cyprus, in the nineties, I had hired a 4WD, because I liked exploring the more remote parts of the rugged countryside. I wore a white baseball cap with a wide peak to protect against sun glare. Pulling up that day, at a rocky cove, in the Akamas Nature Reserve, and climbing out, I was greeted with an ironic comment from a German tourist, “Ach, ach, der Afrika Korps ist gekommen.” (Hey, hey, here comes the Afrika Korps).

This is not to romanticise the Desert War, which still involved killing the enemy, being attacked by low-flying aircraft, or heavy artillery, seeing friends burned to death inside a stricken tank, and being blown up by booby-traps set by retreating troops.

The Battle of El Alamein and After

Rommel had been held up since July at El Alamein. Everyone knew that this was where the crucial battle must take place. If the British were defeated, then Rommel would sweep on to take Alexandria, and the Suez Canal. The whole of Egypt and probably the Middle East would be lost.

Montgomery had laid his plans carefully, and explained to his men what was expected of them. By the 4 November 1942 he was ready. Finally, he visited men in forward positions, as he was accustomed to do, to give them encouragement, and confidence. This was what Shakespeare meant in the play “Henry V”, with his memorable phrase before the Battle of Agincourt, as the king visits his soldiers, “A little touch of Harry in the night.”

The battle was a great victory for the British forces and the Eighth Army rolled forward in the westward advance that had been planned. (Readers must look elsewhere for a description of the battle itself.) The oft-reproduced photograph in Figure 88 may well be posed, as it would not be usual for two infantrymen with rifle and bayonet, to overpower a tank.

88. The Victory of El Alamein 4 November 1942

89. The Campaign against Rommel’s Afrika Korps, Nov 1942 – Jan 1943

It was a whirlwind success. The battle was fought on the 4-5 November, and by the 13 November Tobruk had been liberated, Benghazi was freed on the 20 November 1942, and the British entered Tripoli on the 23 January 1943. (89) At the same time as the successful campaign against Rommel, Allied landings were taking place in French North Africa.

For Malta, the worst of the siege was over, and although the bombing continued at a slackening pace, it was clear that the war was moving from North Africa to Europe

90. The Siege Memorials, Valletta

There was a small museum about the 1940 – 42 Siege, just below the memorials, near the Lower Barracca Gardens. This was twenty years ago so it may have shifted elsewhere. It dealt with the defence of the islands and individual acts of heroism by servicemen and civilians. I was in my fifties at the time, and was deeply moved by the youth of those who had died at 18, 19, and 20. Truly, “for our tomorrow, they gave their today.” (91)

91. Poppies near Mdina, Malta

On a lighter note, I conclude this essay on Malta with a final watercolour of the seas breaking gently at Delimara Point.

92. Salt Pans at Delimara Point

REFERENCES AND ILLUSTRATIONS

The main works of reference used are:

A. “Malta and its Islands” published by “Plurigraf” 1991. The author of the text is not stated. It is an excellent and informative booklet with very good colour illustrations on every page.

B. “The Great Siege” by Ernle Bradford, Hodder and Stoughton, 1961, is an excellent short account, but lacks illustrations.

C. “East of Malta, West of Suez”, HMSO 1943, is an excellent Admiralty account of the war in the Eastern Mediterranean 1939-41, with maps and black and white photographs. No author is indicated. It is referred to as “East of Malta”

D. “World War 1939 – 1945” Peter Young, Barker, 1966, with maps and a few black and white illustrations. The author was a professional soldier.

E. “The Battle for the Mediterranean” by Donald MacIntyre, Batsford, 1964, is a clear account of paperback size, with maps and a few black and white illustrations. The author was a naval officer.

F. “The Faber Atlas” by D J Sinclair, Geo, 1956. Many of the author’s maps have been adapted from this source.

ILLUSTRATIONS

1. Limestone Cliffs near the Blue Grotto, Malta (Author)

2 and 3, the Blue Grotto. (Author)

4. Watercolour of Interior of the Blue Grotto (Author)

5. Tourist Passenger Boat at the Blue Grotto (Author)

6. Saltpans and Potholes at Delimara Point, Malta Island (Author)

7. Watercolour Painting of Delimara Point (Author)

8 and 9 Coastal Features at Xwieni Bay, Gozo

10. Simple Map of Malta to Show the Locations Described and Illustrated in the Text (Author after “Plurigraf” op. cit)

11. and 12. The Hills of the Great Fault from Bingemma to Dingli (Author)

13. to 16. Exterior and Interior Views at Ghar Hassan (Author)

17. Two of Malta’s Earliest Artefacts from the National Museum, Valletta (“Plurigraf” op. cit)

18, 19, and 20. Mnajdra Temples, seen in Aerial and Ground Views (“Plurigraf” op. cit)

21. and 22. Recessed Openings within the Mnajdra Temples (Author)

23, 24 and 25. Hagar Qim Temple and Two Ceremonial Entrances (“Plurigraf” op. cit)

26 and 27. Libation Holes at the Hagar Qim Temple Complex (Author)

28. and 29. Details of the Ggantija Temple Complex (Author)

30. Sunrise at Solstices and Equinoxes in Solar temples of Malta (Author)

31. and 32. Key Elements in the Solar Alignments at Mnajdra Temple, Malta (Author)

33. The Triple Niches at Mnajdra during the Solstitial and Equinoctial Sunrises (Author)

34. Fort St Angelo and the Town of Vittoriosa, or Birgu (“Plurigraf” op. cit)

35. Watercolour of Valetta Waterfront (Author)

36. Protestant and Catholic Churches in Valletta, Malta (Author)

37. and 38. Maltese Vernacular Styles in Housefronts and Traditional Oared Craft (Author)

39. and 40. Approaching Mdina, Malta (Author)

41. 42, 43. Views of the Interior of Mdina, Malta (Author)

44. The Co-Cathedral of Mdina Seen from Outside the City Walls (Author)

45. Harbour and Church, Marsaxlokk, Malta (Author)

46. Fishing Boats in the Harbour at Marsaxlokk, Malta (Author)

47. Painting Out of Doors (Author)

48. Ink and Gouache Study of the Il Fawwara Chapel, Dingli, Malta (Author)

49. Pen and Ink Study of the Selmun Palace (Author)

50. Verdala Palace and Buskett Gardens (Author)

51. The Greek Temple Siege Monument (Author)

52. Map 1 of Europe – The Roman Empire Moves East (Author)

53. Map 2 of Europe – The Muslims Spread Westwards (Author)

54. Map 3 of Europe – The Muslims Enter Mainland Europe (Author)

55. Map 4 of Europe – The Turks Take Over Anatolia and the Middle East (Author)

56. Map 5 of Europe – The Turks Take Over Balkans Europe (Author)

57. Map 6 of Europe – The Turks Move against Western Europe (Author)

58. A Contemporary Drawing of the Grand Harbour during the Siege (Bradford, op. cit)

59. Adolf Hitler, Newly Elected German Chancellor in 1933(“A Pictorial History of Nazi Germany”, Erwin Leiser, Penguin, 1962)

60. Stalin and Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister in 1939 (Leiser, op. cit)

61. Rural America in the Thirties – Two Works by N C Wyeth (google images)

62. What Might Have Happened in Europe by 1943 (Author)

63. French and British Territories in the Mediterranean, 1939 (After “East of Malta”)

64. and 65. Two Important Axis Leaders (Mussolini and Von Rundstedt) (Young, op.cit)

66. French, Italian and British Territories in the Mediterranean, 1940 (After “East of Malta”)

67. / 68. The Two Top Vichy French Leaders – Darlan and Petain (google images)

69/70/71 Leaders of the Libyan Campaign 1940 – 41 (google images)

72. British Military Successes against the Italians 1940 – 41 (Author)

73. Fairey “Swordfish” RAF Torpedo Bombers over the Mediterranean (google images)

74. The Battleship “Cavour” sunk in Taranto Harbour (MacIntyre, op. cit)

75. / 76. Erwin Rommel, German General, and Insignia of the Afrika Korps (google images)

77 / 78. The Impact of the War on Malta (google images)

79. The Battleship Warspite which was present at the Battle of Cape Matapan, 1941 (google)

80. British Defeat in Libya, 1941 (Author)

81. “Ark Royal” Torpedoed November 1941 (google images)

82. The Tanker “Ohio” Arrives in Grand Harbour, Valletta, for the Relief of Malta (“A Celebration of Marine Art”, RSMA, Blandford, 1996)

83. Malta’s New Flag and Medal (google images)

84. Rommel’s Campaign in North Africa, May to November 1942 (Author)

85. The New Commander of the Eighth Army (google images)

86. / 87. Infantry and Tanks in the Desert (google images)

88. The Victory of El Alamein 4 November 1942 (google images)

89. The Campaign against Rommel’s Afrika Korps, Nov 1942 – Jan 1943 (Author)

90. The Siege Memorials, Valletta (Author)

91. Poppies near Mdina, Malta (Author)

92. Salt Pans at Delimara Point (Author)

END

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4 Responses to MALTA

  1. Phil Krause says:

    Another epic by Alfi, I love the original watercolours. One thing that you missed out is the horrendous traffic, another the high prices of everything.

  2. alfy says:

    Sorry for the omission, but I did explain that this was all twenty years ago, when the world was young, all the men were handsome, and all the women were virtuous.

  3. Deskarati says:

    An outstanding piece, once again Alfy. Not only a personal appreciation of Malta but excellent history lesson of the area for us all.

  4. Stephen Ciantar says:

    Very interesting reading indeed. However I wish to point out that No 34 does not depict Fort St Angelo and Vittoriosa, (Birgu). It shows Senglea Point in Senglea (L-Isla) which is opposite St Angelo and Vittoriosa. These 2 places i.e. Vittoriosa and Senglea, together with Cospicua (Bormla) are known as the 3 Cities.

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