BMMHS Evening Zoom Talk: Operation Pedestal

Operation Pedestal

Speaker: Col (retd) David Vassallo

BZT Evening 14th July 2021

Wednesday 14th July 2021; 7:30pm

Malta GC and Operation Pedestal

From 1940 into 1942 Malta faced relentless attacks by the Luftwaffe and Italian Air Force. The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force were heavily engaged in defending the island and attempting to keep the island supplied. Malta provided a base to disrupt Axis supply lines to Libya, and also for supplying British armies in Egypt.
 
Following the success of the Royal Navy in managing to inflict a number of defeats on the Italian Navy, in late 1940, Luftwaffe units were sent to the central Mediterranean region. During January 1941 they were immediately successful in limiting British operations. Following Hitler’s invasion of Russia in June of that year these units were moved to the Eastern Front. This allowed British submarines and aircraft from Malta to go on the offensive, with the aim of crippling the Axis supply lines and causing major logistical problems for Rommel’s Afrika Korps. However the German aircraft returned in December and helped to restore the supply route and effectively neutralise Malta as a base for Allied operations.
 
The Luftwaffe & Italian air force then laid siege to Malta, bombing key military installations, towns and supply convoys. This caused significant shortages of food and ammunition for the islands population and service personnel. The Royal Navy ran a number of heavily protected convoys sailing from Gibraltar in the west and Alexandria in Egypt in attempts to resupply the island. These hard fought convoys suffered considerable losses in crews and ships.
 
Operation ‘Pedestal’ was a convoy that reached Malta in August 1942 and may be regarded as a significant turning point in the siege of Malta, despite suffering very heavy casualties.
 
David’s talk will cover life under siege in Malta and the subsequent attempts to bring in the much needed aircraft, food, fuel, ammunition and supplies on Operation Pedestal.
Operation Pedestal
BOMB DAMAGE IN VALLETTA, MALTA, 1 MAY 1942. (A 8701) A heavily bomb-damaged street in Valletta, Malta. This street is Kingsway, the principle street in Valletta. Service personnel and civilians are present clearing up the debris. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185686
Operation Pedestal
OPERATION PEDESTAL, AUGUST 1942 (GM 1430) 13 August: Arrival of the first ships at Malta: The ROCHESTER CASTLE proceeds to her berth in Grand Harbour, Valletta. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205195490
Operation Pedestal
OPERATION PEDESTAL, AUGUST 1942 (A 11158) Preliminary movements 3 - 10 August 1942: HMS VICTORIOUS followed by HMS ARGUS, with HMS EAGLE in the distance. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185860
Operation Pedestal
OPERATION PEDESTAL, AUGUST 1942 (A 11293) Preliminary movements: 3 - 10 August 1942: Photograph taken from the after end of VICTORIOUS' flight deck showing HMS INDOMITABLE and EAGLE. A Hawker Sea Hurricane and a Fairey Albacore are ranged on VICTORIOUS' flight deck. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185915
Operation Pedestal
OPERATION PEDESTAL, AUGUST 1942 (A 11200) 11 August: The loss of HMS EAGLE and the first air attacks: A general view of the convoy under air attack showing the intense anti-aircraft barrage put up by the escorts. The battleship HMS RODNEY is on the left and the cruiser HMS MANCHESTER on the right. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185876
Operation Pedestal
OPERATION PEDESTAL, AUGUST 1942 (A 11164) 12 August: Air Attacks: Arming a Hawker Sea Hurricane fighter on board HMS INDOMITABLE. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185864
Operation Pedestal
OPERATION PEDESTAL, AUGUST 1942 (A 11186) 12 August: The bombing of HMS INDOMITABLE: The score-board for the successes of HMS INDOMITABLE's air group painted on the island. INDOMITABLE's fighters claimed to have shot down 38 Axis aircraft. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185872
Operation Pedestal
OPERATION PEDESTAL, AUGUST 1942 (A 11171) 12 August: Evening air and submarine attacks: A bomb falling astern of MS GLENORCHY, which was later sunk by air attack. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185866
Operation Pedestal
OPERATION PEDESTAL, AUGUST 1942 (A 11184) 12 August: Evening air and submarine attacks: 4 inch gun crew resting on board HMS MANCHESTER during a lull in the fighting. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185871
Operation Pedestal
OPERATION PEDESTAL, AUGUST 1942 (A 11247) 13 August: Italian MAS (Motor Torpedo Boat) boat attacks: A DIDO class cruiser firing at night against Italian MAS boats. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185901
Operation Pedestal
OPERATION PEDESTAL, AUGUST 1942 (A 11498) 15 August: The arrival of the OHIO at Malta: The tanker OHIO discharging oil into the oilers BOXALL and PLUMLEAF. The OHIO was probably the most important ship in the convoy with her cargo of 11,000 tons of petrol which was desperately needed to maintain the aircraft flying from Malta. OHIO had been torpdoed on 12 August and had been subsequently damaged by bombs on 13 August and was forced to dro... Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119570

About the speaker - Col (retd) David Vassallo FRCSEd MA L/RAMC 

David Vassallo, originally from Malta, is a consultant military general surgeon who served for
35 eventful years in the Royal Army Medical Corps before retiring in 2018. He has extensive field hospital experience in war zones, his first deployment being to the First Gulf War, followed by multiple tours in Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

David also has a passion for military history, particularly relating to Malta and to military medicine, with three books to his name. He has published articles on the history of Camp Bastion Hospital in Afghanistan, and chapters on the history of Operations Telic and Herrick at the behest of the Surgeon General for the official medical history of these campaigns; he has a Masters in the History of Warfare from King’s College London, his dissertation being on the transformation of the UK’s Defence Medical Services in conflict from 1990 – 2015. He is now Chairman, Friends of Millbank (the former Royal Army Medical College in London), www.friendsofmillbank.org, organising monthly online talks which celebrate the history, achievements and ongoing relevance of military medicine.

His chosen charity is the Museum of Military Medicine – he is raising funds for this Museum’s forthcoming move from Aldershot to a stunning new location in Cardiff Bay in 2023.

Funds raised from this talk will go to the Museum of Military Medicine - These funds will help to support the Museum’s forthcoming move from Aldershot to a stunning new location in Cardiff Bay in 2023.

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