An RAF ground crew refuels and rearms a Spitfire Mark Vc from No. 603 Squadron RAF at Ta
Kali airfield. The protective wall was raised from
empty fuel cans and sandbags.
the whole year 1942. The number of attacks
on the island dropped significantly, and
for the whole month Spitfires took off for
only 38 scramble sorties. The important
things, however, took place at sea. Thanks
to the success of the Pedestal convoy
and ample fuel supplies in Malta, British
offensive operations aimed at supply
routes for Rommel’s “Panzerarmee
Afrika” were once again in full swing.
While the British were successfully
building up supplies in advance of the
decisive battle, the Axis forces gradually
lost 20 per cent of all supplies sent by sea
from Italy during September and as much
as 44 per cent of supplies in October.
Fuel shortages were particularly critical.
It was therefore decided to carry out
another bombing offensive against Malta
with the aim of re-securing safe shipping
routes and eliminating it once and for all.
The offensive, also known as the October
Blitz, was launched on October 11, and
once again there were “dogfights” between
Spitfires Mk.V, German Bf-109F/Gs and
Italian C.202s and Re.2001s. However, air
superiority over Malta was by then clearly
in the hands of the re-enforced British
squadrons, while considerable fatigue
was already showing on the GermanItalian side, as well as frustration and
wear and tear from the previous battles.
The spectacularly planned October Blitz
lasted only seven days and was a clear
defeat for the Axis forces. During those
days, RAF pilots flew nearly 2,400 combat
sorties with their Spitfires, shooting down
99 confirmed enemy aircraft, 51 probably
and 122 aircraft damaged with the loss of
24 Spitfires and thirteen pilots. In addition,
40 aircraft were damaged and 13 Spitfires
were destroyed on the ground.
In November the number of Luftwaffe
raids dropped significantly, with only 29
alerts during the month. With the intensity
of hostilities so drastically reduced, Allied
convoys bringing essential supplies
found it easier to reach the island and
also brought material for repairs and
airfield construction. Malta’s survival was
essential to the victory at El Alamein and
the subsequent success of the land battle
in North Africa.
So much desired Spitfires therefore
ultimately achieved the air superiority over
the battlefield and thanks to them Malta
held on. Until the middle of November,
when the air raids on Malta were recalled,
385 Spitfires were dispatched to Malta
during thirteen operations off the aircraft
carriers, 367 of them flew over to the
island. During the heavy fighting, the
Spitfire pilots were credited with at least
600 aerial victories. The most successful
of them all, Canadian George “Screwball”
Beurling scored 28 confirmed kills.
He was followed in distant second place
by “Paddy” Schade with 14 kills, Canadian
Wally McLeod with 13 kills and “Slim”
Yarra with 12 kills. A total of 41 Spitfire
pilots scored five or more kills during
the fighting for Malta, earning ace status.
Almost one hundred of Spitfire pilots paid
the ultimate price during the combat.
to the “spring board” for the Operation
Husky, i.e., invasion of Sicily. On the eve
of the operation there were 35 squadrons
with 600 aircraft based in Malta. The
capacity of the four existing airfields at
Luqa, Ta Kali, Hal Far and Qrendi was
expanded, and a fifth airfield, Xewkija,
was temporarily built for USAAF on the
adjacent Gozo archipelago. On July 10,
1943, this operation opened the way to
the liberation of the whole continent.
In just couple of days, the Allies captured
the solid supporting base on the Sicilian
soil and soon after the Allied aircraft
were transferred from Malta bases to the
liberated airfields in Sicily and Southern
Italy. Due to these changes the special
Malta camouflages became history.
Spitfires flew their further missions
carrying the standard camouflage
Mechanics of the special assembly group at the
Spitfire Mk.V at Gibraltar. Behind them the fuselages of Hawker Hurricanes can be seen in their
shipping crates. The Special Assembly Group was
set up at Gibraltar in July 1942 to assemble and
test fly aircraft transported from Britain and destined for Malta. The two earliest Mk.Vb Spitfires,
EP720 and EP791, became part of the Operation
Train, the last delivery of Spitfires to Malta.
Spitfires Mk.Vb from No. 249 Squadron at Ta Kali
airfield, autumn 1942.
After the battle
During the first months of 1943 the air
battle for Malta ceased. The defenders
won having destroyed more than
a thousand of the enemy aircraft in
combat. Another sign of the change
in the situation of Malta’s defenders was
the arrival of new Mk.IX Spitfires at the
end of March. The Mediterranean Island
was transformed from the besieged base
A trio of Mk.Vc Spitfires from No. 249 Squadron waiting on the main runway at Ta Kali for
scramble, while a Bristol Beaufighter lands in the