The late actor Charles Thake used to say, jokingly, that during the war the Italians used to fly high to shake hands with St Peter. And in ”Taħt in-Nar’, Ġużè Ellul Mercer wrote that Italian aircraft used to dump their bombs haphazardly.
It has often been stated that during World War II, the Italians were so cowardly that whenever they attacked Malta they used to fly high, drop their bombs into the sea, and fly back. Was this true?
In the documentary ‘Malta fil-Gwerra’, TVM journalist Mario Xuereb and researcher Martin Debattista show that since even before the war, the ‘Times of Malta’ and its sister paper ‘Il-Berqa’ had instilled in the minds of the Maltese that the Italians were not cut out for war.
When the war started, in reality, it was a different picture. Through various documents, witnesses and accounts, the documentary shows that the Italian pilots were very good aviators, and were renowned for their acrobatic manoeuvres. There were less trained for fighting. On 11 June 1940, however, when the first air attack on Malta took place, it had been the Italians who created panic and caused the first deaths among the Maltese.
So did the Italians really dump their bombs and turn back? This was normal practice for trained pilots from every nation. They used to dump their bombs at the end of an attack so that, among others, the aircraft would become lighter and more manoeuvrable if chased by some fighter.
Contrary to what many thought, in general terms, although they lacked strong leadership and sophisticated armaments, Italian pilots were as valorous as all other pilots who took part in the war.
The documentary includes, for the first time, exclusive footage of Malta in the war, shot by Stan Fraser, a British gunner stationed in Malta between 1941 and 1943.