Following the massive attacks on Grand Harbour to sinks HMS Illustrious in January 1941, the Luftwaffe in Sicily intensified its attacks in the expectancy that Mlata would be eliminated as a base for British forces intercepting Axis convoys to Libya. german bombers dropped mines which caused widespread destruction in Valletta, Sliema and the Three Cities. Threat of invasion loomed over Malta. All this, however, didn’t deter the Royal Navy surface forces, the submarines and the RAF and FAA from Malta from operating against the convoys to Rommel.
The Mediterranean Fleet has sustained heavy losses in the unsuccessful defence of Crete, yet never gave up its efforts to fight convoys to Mlata dspite the odds. There was a respite in the heavy bombing when Fliegerkorps X was withdrawn from Sicily early in June for the Russian campaign. The Regia Aeronautica bombed haphazardly from high and night causing widespread civilian casualties.
As daring attempt in July against ships in Grand Harbour by the Italian X Flottiglia MAS was wiped out by the guns of the forts at St. Elmo and Ricasoli, manned by the Royal Malta Artillery, and RAF fighters, On the civilian front, sufficient shelters had been cut into the rockface for almost the entire population to take cover. But there were omnious signs that the worst was yet to come.
The U-boats were appearing in the Mediterranean and preparing to take a heavy toll of the heavy units of the Mediterranean Fleet. The Luftwaffe was again heading south determinated to obliterate Malta once and for all. Food stocks were running alarmiingly low. The future looked bleak.