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Malta and the 1943 invasion of Sicily

Malta played an important role in the 1943 invasion of Sicily with the nerve centre being housed within the Lascaris War Rooms.

A multitude of aircraft, ships and troops were gathered at various points along the North African coast because of the limited space available on the island.

However, two new airfields, one at Qrendi and another one at Xewkija, were commissioned in the build-up to accommodate extra aircraft.

Overall command of Operation Husky was in the hands of General Dwight Eisenhower, while the invasion force comprised the British 8th Army under General Sir Bernard Montgomery and the American 7th Army under Lieutenant-General George Patton respectively.

The armada of just over 2,500 ships was under the command of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham while 4,000 aircraft were placed under Air Chief-Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder.

On July 10, 1943, with air superiority having been gained over Sicily, the invasion force began landing on the beaches under the cover of a naval bombardment and air support.

The British army landed in the vicinity of Syracuse while the Americans landed in the Gulf of Gela.

After six days of fighting, the allies captured the lower half of Sicily and the airfields in that part of the island.

However, the British advance was slowed down by German troops dug in around Mount Etna while, on the other hand, the Americans made their way towards Palermo.

With the capture of Palermo on July 22, the Americans proceeded towards Messina. The threat of being caught in a pincer movement resulted in the tactical withdrawal of the enemy forces to the Italian mainland.

This was accomplished in such a manner that two-thirds of their troops got away. The Allied forces captured Messina on August 17, bringing the campaign to a close.

The jeep used by General Eisenhower, named after the operation, is on display at the National War Museum, in Lower Fort St Elmo in Valletta.

Another priceless relic of Operation Husky is preserved at the Lascaris War Rooms − the huge map used in the course of the invasion of Sicily which roughly measures 5.5 metres in height by 10 metres in width.

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