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This blog is dedicated to Malta - my island home. My aim is not to bore you with history but to share my thoughts and a few facts together with a photo or two. For a more in -depth background of the island please go here. The purpose of this blog is not to point out the short-comings of the island. There are plenty that do that already. My wish is to show you the beauty of an island at the cross roads of the Mediterranean, a melting pot of history; a place where fact and fiction are sometimes fused to create unique myths and legends; a country that has been conquered so many times that our culture is a mish mesh of the lands that surround us and of lands far away. I confess that my greatest desire is to make you fall in love with this tiny enchanting island.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Operation Pedestal

Malta today celebrates the feast of Santa Maria and with it, the 67th anniversary of Operation Pedestal or, as it is known amongst those old enough to remember it, the Santa Maria convoy.
In the summer of 1942 the war in Europe was at its peak and Malta had experienced its fair share of bombing. Hunger was rife and the island was in dire need of food, grain and oil. Two supply ships had made it to Malta in March 1942. However these were sunk in the harbour with only a fraction of the supplies unloaded. A further two supply ships arrived in June of 1942 with much-needed food. However no fuel oil made it through. In August of 1942 Malta was on the verge of surrender. Operation Pedestal was the final effort to supply the island with the supplies it so urgently needed. Fourteen merchant ships, two battleships (HMS Rodney and HMS Nelson), four aircraft carriers (HMS Eagle, HMS Victorious, HMS Indomitable, HMS Furious), seven cruisers and 33 destroyers set out from Britain entering the Straits of Gibraltar on the night of August 10-11. On August 15 the crippled American Merchant ship SS Ohio
(on loan to Britain from the United States) entered Grand Harbour to cheering crowds, supported by the two destroyers Ledbury and Penn. You can go here for the timeline of their passage through the Mediterranean. In all nine merchantmen, one aircraft carrier (Eagle), two cruisers (Manchester and Cairo), and a destroyer (Foresight) were sunk by the Axis accompanied by the loss of 400 men.




The food and fuel brought in by the convoy sustained the island, although its siege was not yet at an end. The ultimate result of Operation Pedestal was that it ensured that Malta stayed in the war. Tacticians say that this helped shift the balance of the war in North Africa just prior to the second battle of El Alamein. Operation Pedestal was the subject of a 1953 black and white British film, Malta Story, which interspersed archive footage of the SS Ohio with scripted studio scenes.


The damage sustained by the Ohio from Stuka bombers was too great for it to be repaired. In 1946, after the war was over, it was towed 10 miles off the coast of Malta and sunk by naval guns. A sad end for a ship with so much history but, perhaps, if it had a choice it would want to lie on the bottom of the sea, close to the island to which it brought so much more than food and fuel.


Sixty seven years later the only bombs that shatter the silence are the petards let off for the feasts of Santa Maria held in 5 villages in Malta and another 2 on the neighbouring island of Gozo. Those who are old enough to remember this event still talk about it with awe and gratitude. Most of the younger generation prefers to ignore the importance of this feat. The rest only vaguely remember it from history class at school. I suppose it is hard to expect today’s generation to be interested in great depth about events which took place so long before they were born. But I was brought up on stories of the war and when the British forces were still in Malta my dad would take me to Grand Harbour to see the aircraft carriers and the battleships and to tell me stories about the war. I was very young at the time, but the names of the Ohio, the Eagle, the Indomitable and the rest still send shivers up my spine - for I am able to acknowledge what they, and their crew of brave men, were able to do that August of so long ago.

7 comments:

  1. I did go to the sites you mentioned Loree, reading more about Malta's ordeal during the war...interesting facts of a terrible time.

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  2. Loree,this was fascinating,thanks. My Grandfather was in port at Malta during the war according to family stories. It was interesting to read a bit of the war surrounding his life and that of others, thanks.

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  3. Born and raised in Belgium, all I have is memories of the stories of my own parents and grandparents on how the war was like over here. Therefor I find it very interesting to read about the war from a different angle than the one we were taught in history class. We tend to forget it was not something that happened in Belgium and involved the Germans. Oh and England was in it too! No, this was indeed a World War going on, and different things happened in different places. We should never forget the horror of this. Thanks for this post, Loree.

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  4. I and not heard of Operation Pedestal. Fascinating story, thanks for sharing.

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  5. Howdy Loree
    I too was brought up on stories about W.W.II.
    When I was 15 years old my Dad took me to Hawaii and we went ot the U.S.S. Arizona monument where my Dad pointed out the names of family members who died serving their country.
    I remember not understanding but not wanting to hurt my father's feeling's
    I listented than later on read all the information I could to help me understand why my Dad took me on such a long journey .
    It was quite the financial sacrifice for my father to make this trip from Texas to Hawaii .
    But while we were there he was able to place wreath's out for the family to honor those who had fallen .
    Thank you for sharing this most amazing information.
    I was not aware of any of this history about Malta it was so very intresting to read about .
    Thank you so much .
    Blessings to you .
    Happy Trails

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  6. Fascinating information, and happy Santa Maria feast! You're keeping the history alive by writing about it!

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  7. A wonderful post Loree that I missed at the time. Been browsing your site again. It's important we keep history alive and learn from it or we're doomed to repeat the past.

    My Dad was in the Royal Navy during the war and spent time in Malta. He revisited again forty years later and enjoyed his holiday. Glad he got to see it in peacetime.

    You mentioned The Malta Story in the post. I've seen the film a number of times. The hotel we stayed in a few years ago showed it on their own video channel. I'm surprised there haven't been more films made about Malta, Both sieges are fantastic stories and all true!

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