The Great Siege of Malta, 1565

When, on September 8th, 1565, the last Turkish troops had been driven from the island, only six hundred of its original defenders were still capable of bearing arms. But, as T.H. McGuffie writes, the attacking force had lost some twenty-five thousand men; and the Turkish drive westwards was for ever halted.

National day in Malta has for long been celebrated on September 8th each year, because on that day in 1565 the famous Great Siege of Malta ended. Not even the lifting of an infinitely longer investment during the Second World War caused any change. That tremendous assault had begun on the day when Italy joined the war in June 1940, and did not finally cease until after the allied conquest of Northern Africa early in 1943. Hitler’s Luftwaffe joined Mussolini’s air force in December 1941, and the siege really ended on November 26th, 1942, when four merchantmen, escorted by H.M.S. Orion, sailed unattacked and unchallenged into Valletta Harbour.

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