Operation Pedestal saw the Royal Navy in August 1942 suffer fearful losses but achieve its objective: to sustain the small island and its inhabitants who endured months of pounding from enemy bombers. Their courage kept shipping lanes open in total war – and 70 years later they have a lasting tribute.
"On my behalf and on behalf of the people of Maltese people, I would like to thank the veterans here for their bravery which protected our island fortress in its darkest hours during the war.”
British veterans have told of their pride at seeing a memorial to their bravery unveiled in Malta.
The veterans – eight of 100 still alive – were key players in Operation Pedestal, a dangerous wartime mission to relieve the island from enemy bombing and starvation. More than 23,000 Royal Navy and merchant sailors sailed from Gibraltar during August 11-15 1942 against an onslaught of 21 enemy submarines, 23 E-boats and 540 aircraft. More than 350 service and merchantmen lost their lives.
Only five merchant ships made it to Valetta – the most famous of which was the SS Ohio. She had been bombed so badly by enemy fighters that her back was broken and she was in danger of sinking. But she was supported into port by HMS Ledbury and HMS Penn on either side with HMS Rye acting as a stabiliser at the stern.