The island of Malta, being located in the Central Mediterranean had a strategic role to play during the Second World War. The three main British bases in the Mediterranean were Gibraltar, Malta and Alexandria the naval base of the British Mediterranean Fleet. Suddenly, with the Italian declaration of war on Britain and France, Malta found itself on the frontline between Italy/Sicily and the Italian colony of Libya. During the North African Campaign (1940-43) the Island’s strategic importance increased dramatically. With the failure of the Italians in taking Malta and overwhelming the British in Egypt, Hitler had no other choice but to intervene in the Mediterranean War.
With the intervention of the Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean, the Axis (Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy) resolved to eliminate and neutralise Malta, by starving its people and attacking, military installations, civilian targets and British convoys transporting cargo to the island. This became known as the Second Siege of Malta, which took place between 1940 and 1943, eventually ending in victory for the Allies in September 1943. Throughout the campaign, many ships and aircraft on both sides were sunk or shot down and destroyed. Much of this has been preserved in the archaeological record.
One such aircraft was a Junkers Ju88, discovered in 2009 outside of Salina Bay and resting at a depth of 55m. The Luftwaffe launched wave after wave of air raids using aircraft such as the Messerschmitt BF109E/F fighter, the Junkers Ju87 Stuka dive bomber and the Junkers Ju88 bomber. During the preparation for the invasion of Sicily, known as Operation ‘Husky’, the Allies had built up their own indomitable defence system. Malta was now the base for 35½ squadrons consisting of over 600 modern fighters and bombers.
The Junkers Ju88 wreckage is well-preserved, with a tail broken off that lies a small distance from the same site. The cockpit still retains its forward-looking machine gun. The wreck probably ended up in the sea after being hit by flak over its target, or shot down during a dogfight (aerial battle).
- Maximum Depth in Metres: 55