World War II: Malta--Civilians (1940-43)

Malta World War II Malta civilians
Figure 1.--Malta is a small island and most of the population lived in the Valetta Grand Port area, the precise area the Axis air commanders focused the bombing. This photograph shows a young Maltese school boy who looks to be getting redy for school in th morning. He has survived the Axis bombing. The caption reads, "A Maltese toungster is shown in the interior of one of the shelters hewn out of in the rock of and old Malta fort." It was dated January 22, 1943, but was probanly taken a little earlier.

Malta at the time of World War II had a small population. We have seen various estimates -- 0.18-0.25 million people. The civilians suffered terribly. They had to move underground. World War II histories give the impression that the Maltese stand against the Axis was an English effirt. This is surely true of the military battle. But the population was not English. Malta was an English colony, but over 95 percent of the population was ethnic Maltese. For the most part they remained supportive of the Britih, but they took a terrible beating from the rlentless Axis bombing. Malta was a tiny island, is 17 km (11 mi) by 14 km (9 mi) and has an area of less than 260 km2 (100 sq mi). The population totaled about 0.25 million. Not only was the island tiny, but most of the people lived within 6.4 kilometres (4 mi) of the Grand Harbour, which became a primary focus of the Axis bombing. The population density here was more than six times greter than the rest od te iusland. The most populated area was Valletta, the capital and political, military and commercial center. Across from Valetta was the Grand Harbour and the so-called Three Cities. Here was the all-important dockyards and the Admiralty headquarters. It was these small areas that the Axis bombers struck again and again. [Jellison, p. 11.] Newsreels in Britain and America showed school children moving rapidly into undergrond bunkers when the air raids sireens sounded. The Axis air and naval blockade prevented food from reaching Malta. And the Island was not self sufficent in food, especialy after the military garrison was substantially enlarged to fight off am expected invasion. Victory Kitchens were set up to feed the population. The population was near starvation by August 1942.

Sources

Jellision, Charles Albert. Besieged: The World War II Ordeal of Malta, 19401942 (University of New Hampshire: 1984).






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Created: 7:54 PM 4/27/2010
Last updated: 11:40 PM 10/19/2013