Copyright The Malta Historical Society, 2005.

Source: Melita Historica. [Malta Historical Society]. 7(1976)1(91-93)

NICOLA MALIZIA, Inferno su Malta, Biblioteca del Cielo, Mursia Editore, Milan, 1976, 298 pp. including Preface, Appendices and Index.

It is always interesting to read about what the other side thought, [p.92] did and how they acted in a war book. Nicola Malizia, the writer of Inferno su Malta, or, to translate it into English, "Hell over Malta", appears to have the right credentials to write about the long battle waged by the Axis to subdue Malta, without success, in the 1940-43 period of the Second World War. He is a member of the Italian Air Force and has three other books on aeroplanes and aerial warfare to his credit. He calls the Battle of Malta "the longest aerial battle of the Second World War".

Apart from a few topographical mistakes, the most glaring of which is the confusion in the writer's mind between the place-names Ta' Qali and Ta' Vnezia which are often depicted in the book as two different places and, hence, two different aerodromes, the narration is sound and often critical. Maliziadescribes the whole campaign in great detail, down to the names of the airmen and pilots who took part in each raid and each manoeuvre. From this point of view, the book tends to be a collection of facts in chronological order an important contribution to a greater knowledge of the progress of the war, one must admit, but, in a number of places, somewhat tedious and colourless writing as well. In other instances, the writer does not hesitate to confront the often contradictory statements issued by the two sides during the war, and here Malizia provides us with a provocative criticism.

Both sides erred and exaggerated in their propaganda. Both sides underscored their losses, viewed the development of the struggle from two different points of view, and inflated their small victories. Malizia provides us with a detailed appendix of all the Italian and German squadrons who took part in the Malta war, and of all the pilots and airmen of both sides, i.e. Italian on the Axis side and British on the Allied side, who died in the Battle of Malta.

A number of episodes are vividly produced. At the same time, the writer does not hesitate to show how inane and unprepared the whole campaign was from the Italian side and the resentment which existed between the Italian and the German commands. Obviously, the book was written by one with preconceived ideas against the Fascist dictatorship, even though his patriotism every now and then exposes an endemic anti-British sentiment. The first chapter, which deals with a brief description of the island, among other things, suffers as a consequence from some inaccuracies.

These minor defects, however do not diminish from the importance of the book as a window upon the other side in the long struggle for the submission, or victory, depending on the side from which one wants to look at it, of Malta and the Maltese. Books about the Battle of Malta [p.93] written from enemy sources and documents are few and can be counted on one's hand. Inferno su Malta provides the historiographer with a great deal of useful information. It also provides those who have not experienced the war at all with the other side's aims and failures in the struggle. To those who, like me, have lived the war but may not always have had the occasion of eliminating the propaganda, the book has provided new insights into the struggles and the travails of our native country.

Joseph Zammit Mangion