On 10 June 1940, Benito Mussolini, dictator of Italy and ally to Hitler’s Nazi Germany, declared war against Britain and France. The small cluster of islands that make up the Republic of Malta, lying just 50 miles south of Italy, became an area of great strategic importance for the Allies’ efforts, both as a stronghold for their military campaigns in North Africa and as a base from which to launch their planned invasion of mainland Italy.
Malta was the only Allied presence between Alexandria, Egypt, and Gibraltar in the west, after the fall of Crete in June 1941. It served as a key strategic position and supply route and thus was a prime target for the Axis powers.
From June 1940, to November 1942, Malta was subjected to a sustained and devastating aerial bombardment by Axis bombers. Attacks occurred over 154 days and nights, and 6,700 tons of bombs were dropped on the island and surrounding seas.