Usually when one thinks of the siege of Malta, it’s the 1565 defense of the little island by the Knights Hospitaller against the overwhelming forces of the Ottoman Empire. Cool stuff to be sure, but the siege that grabbed me is the aerial defense of Malta by the RAF and Fleet Air Arm against the air forces of Italy and Germany.
What makes it super interesting to me is the length of the siege, nearly two years, from April 1940-November 1942. From beginning to end the cast of characters stay the same, but the technology improves and the planes change, from Gloster Gladiators and Fiat Cr. 42’s to Hurricanes and Me 109E’s to Spitfire Mk. V’s and MC 202’s. And lots of various interesting planes in between.
The air siege, launched from airfields on Sicily, was intended to deprive the British of naval support from the Valetta harbor, particularly a submarine base that took a toll of Axis shipping. Targets were broadened to include the airfields and aircraft that protected the harbor as well as the Grand Harbor’s formidable anti-aircraft defenses.
Dave Schueler and I see Malta an interesting campaign opportunity, and using the Airwar 1940 rules, the ease of play and numbers of planes even a novice can fairly safely run, I’m thinking big.
These are planes I’m building in 1/300
British–These take the British from 1940-1942, except for the early Gladiators. I’ll leave those to Daveshoe. Surprisingly, the Spitfires don’t make their appearance until the last six months of the campaign. (60 planes total)
12 X Hurricane 1’s (all completed)
6 X Fairey Fulmars (all completed)
12 X Hurricane IIc’s (4 completed)
6 X Kittyhawk II’s (0 completed)
6 X Beaufighters (0 completed)
6 X Blenheim Mk. IV (0 completed)
6 X Wellington II’s (0 completed)
6 X Spitfire Mk. V (0 completed)
Italians–The campaign begins with Italians in a more or less desultory bombing campaign. They are replaced by the Germans in 1941 as they assume a larger role in the Mediterranean during the campaign in Greece, but depart to support the Barbarossa campaign. The Italians again resume the half-hearted attacks on Malta until the Germans get serious about protecting their Afrika Korps supply lines. (72 total planes)
6 X Fiat Cr. 42s (0 completed)
12 X Fiat G. 50’s (all completed)
12 X Macchi MC-200) (6 completed)
9 X SM 79 (all completed)
3 X Cant Z 1007bis (all completed)
6 X Ju 87 (0 completed)
6 X Fiat Br. 20 Cigogna (0 completed)
6 X Re. 2000 (0 completed)
12 x Macchi MC 202 (0 completed)
Germans–The Luftwaffe plane types remain pretty consistent during this time period with upgrades to the Me-109 in 1941. (54 planes)
12 X Ju. 87 Stukas (10 completed)
12 X Ju. 88A’s (0 completed)
6 X Me110c’s (0 completed)
12 x Me 109E-7’s (0 completed)
12 X Me 109F’s (0 completed)
Yes that’s a lot of planes. I already own a lot of them, but they need to be pinned, and in some cases painted or re-painted. Not a chore. Painting planes gives me a lot of pleasure and they go pretty fast. The worst part is sticking decals on them.
If you’d like more information on Malta I have a few handy suggestions:
Doug Hamm shared an excellent articled from Osprey Military Journal Vol. 2 Issue 4 titled Malta: The Fighter Pilot’s Paradise by Anthony Rogers. It covers the introduction of new fighters to the siege and defense of Malta from beginning to end with useful anecdotal attachments.
Dave Schueler sent me a copy of Malta Air Campaign by Chris Riches from Wargames Illustrated. Unfortunately I don’t have any additional information about year, volume or number. Even so, it’s a super two page article that neatly divides the siege into seven periods and establishes the likely appearance of each significant plane type for each period, establishing a basis for random encounters. If interested, I can send you a copy.
Last but not least, Osprey has begun offering a new series of air campaigns. Among the first of these is Malta 1940-42. It’s a great mini-history of the campaign and includes tons of useful information about the opposing forces and the anti-aircraft defenses of the island. Reasonably priced, and highly recommended.
On the painting table
In addition to the Ju.88’s and Me 109’s I’m working on, I have a scattering of Hawkmoon figures to complete. At the present time I have four units for the Hawkmoon project completed. I’m currently working on two of the excellent Eureka personality figures–Oladahn of the Bulgar Mountains and Count Brass. I’m also working on the cute little steampunk mortar that will serves as the projector of magical missiles. When I finish this little collection, I’ll have one unit of mounted Kamarg warriors (six figures) left to paint. I still need to acquire twelve figures to represent the magical Legion of the Dawn. Almost finished with this project.
One of the things I still have to complete in the four or so weeks remaining before Enfilade is a new range of flight bases for Airwar 1940. It’s much simpler than what we used to use for Mustangs with the its six different levels. For the newer game I just need stands at “normal” level and low level. But I need a lot, like fifty. I jettisoned Paul Hannah’s old system that required a lot of bending of brass wire mounted on a base with brass tubing cut to size. Instead I’m using 2″ square Litko bases with brass wire drilled and glued into the base, add a little epoxy just for extra support and then brass tubing, 2″ for low level, 4″ for normal. I’m sticking a steel base on the bottom for extra weight. At this point the steel bases are on order, so I’m waiting to get ’em
It’s been a pretty quiet month for new orders. I sent in a Litko order. Their new site is quite nice, but I did manage to order the wrong item. My mistake. Kudos to Litko. They’ve gotten really fast and my postage seemed a bit lighter, but that could be because of my mistake.
I also placed an order to MSD games. Tried some different decals. I really like the quality of those I get from I-94, but the mix of markings, particularly for the British isn’t a very economical activity. So I tried some Dom’s Decals and some in-house British roundels. I’ll let you know how they work out. Because it’s MSD I also ordered some planes-what else. I ordered some Me-110’s, which will fill out my six for Malta. I also ordered some F-105’s. A Vietnam Downtown campaign is very much on our want list, and you can’t do one without some decent Thunderchiefs. I’ll have to run them by George Kettler, our official judge of what works to see what he thinks. I picked up a pair of F-105D’s and a F-105F Wild Weasel just as samples. Kinda spendy at six bucks a throw.