70th anniversary of Italian fleet's surrender in Malta

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the formal surrender of the Italian fleet in Malta in the Second World War.

Italy surrendered on September 8, 1943 and Britain immediately made arrangements for the Italian fleet’s ships to sail to North Africa or Malta.

The bulk of the fleet, including the modern battleships Roma, Vittorio Veneto and Italia, six cruisers and eight destroyers sailed out of La Spezia on September 9.

The furious Germans, formerly Italy’s allies, launched two air attacks against them and managed to hit and sink the Roma in one of the earliest ever use of a guided bomb. The Roma capsized and broke in two, with 1,253 of its crew losing their life.

The remainder of the fleet linked up with escorting Royal Navy units the following day.

Other battleships and units, based in Taranto, including the Doria and Duilio, also sailed for Malta

Three Italian warships arrived on September 10 but most of the ships - 76 in total - arrived on September 11, 1943 and anchored in St Paul's Bay.

British Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham issued his famous signal to the Admiralty: “Be pleased to inform their Lordships that the Italian battle fleet now lies at anchor under the guns of the fortress of Malta.”

It was a fitting end to three bitter years of war where Malta just managed to survive a siege from the air and the sea thanks to hard-fought convoys from Gibraltar and Alexandria.


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