On this day in 1940…

11 June 1940 marked the start of the Siege of Malta, the longest siege in British military history. For the next two-and-a-half years, the tiny island would be hammered by more than 3,000 raids by Italian and German aircraft, but the Maltese people – and the British military personnel based there – stayed resolute throughout. RN Submarines based out of Malta were able to savage the convoys which were supplying Rommel’s Afrika Korps, and to turn the tide in the theatre.

Hitler’s decision to over-rule his commanders, and to take Crete by airborne invasion, rather than Malta, was one of his biggest blunders of the war. Though Crete fell, the Imperial defenders there savaged the German airborne troops to such an extent that it was the last major air drop they performed in the war.

In an interesting parallel to the Christmas greetings exchanged during the sieges of the Boer War 42 years earlier, on the morning of Christmas Day, 1941, an Italian plane dropped a bag containing a hand drawn card, with the inscription: ‘Happy Christmas to the Gentlemen of the Royal Air Force at Takali, from the Gentlemen of the Regia Autonautica, Sicily’

In 1942, King George VI would famously award a collective George Cross to the Maltese people, in recognition of their loyalty, courage and stoicism.

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