Faith, Hope, Charity and Fortress Malta

On June 10, 1940, Italy declared war on Britain. On the following morning, Italian bombers attacked Malta (then a British colony). Lonely Planet Malta picks up our story:

The only aircraft available on the islands on June 11 were three Gloster Gladiator biplanes–quickly named Faith, Hope and Charity–whose pilots fought with such skill and tenacity that Italian pilots estimated the strength of the Maltese squadron to be in the region of 25 aircraft!

Did the Italians ever acquit themselves well during World War II? I only ever seem to hear about Italian defeats.

Anyway, the story of Malta during World War II is fascinating, and I’d love to read a book length account (the aforementioned Lonely Planet recommends Siege: Malta, 1940 – 1943) of that period.

If you think the London Blitz was bad news for the British, consider that in 1942 the island suffer ed154 days and nights of continuous bombing. That compares with 57 days at the height of the aerial attacks on London.

Though the island was constantly attacked for three years, they never surrendered, and provided a critical tactical advantage for the allies in the Mediterrenean.

As you may have guessed, I visited Malta’s National War Museum today. They still have the remains of Faith on display. You can see a photo on this site.


  1. Interesting post, and an example of the major thorn in the side of the Axis that Malta turned out to be. However, Lonely Planet Malta may be romanticizing things a bit. According to the Wikipedia link you provided in the post, the ‘Faith, Hope, and Charity’ story is a myth:

    “During the siege of Malta, the entire island of Malta was -for a period of 10 days- protected by a small force of Gladiators, giving rise to a myth that only three Sea Gladiator aircraft, named Faith, Hope and Charity formed the entire fighter cover of the island. In fact, more than three aircraft were operational, though not always at the same time; others were used for spare parts[6]. A stock of 18 aircraft (serial numbers N5518 – N5535) from 802 Naval Air Squadron had remained at Malta after HMS Glorious was sunk in 1940.”

  2. I told my grandfather that we were heading to Malta this year (to visit you, natch) and he told me stories about landing in Malta for refuelling on Northern Africa trips. I think he said he’d landed there 3 times. He was a tail gunner in the second world war stationed in England as a member of the RAF and then RCAF.

    “They got pounded,” is what I remember he said. And he mentioned something about most of the buildling being nothing but rubble, full of bullet holes from large-calibre rounds of attacking aircraft.

  3. Jeff: Yeah, I was going to mention that (deeply obsessive) Wikipedia entry, but I liked the romance of the myth better than the clunky reality.

  4. Just thought you may be interested in a “machinima” film, made by amateur film-makers and gaming enthusiasts, called Faith Hope and Charity about this same story. It’s a rather large download, but is free and hopefully a fitting tribute to the brave people of Malta and those who served to protect her. You can download it at

  5. hi there.

    My grandfather Reginald Jack Hyde was one of the pilots of these three planes.
    I have the org log book with the location and reg numbers etc.
    pretty coolI thought.
    If you have any questions:
    Faith, Hope and Charity

  6. Hi there,

    as the grandson of a career Maltese soldier who was an anti aircraft gunner let me re assure you that indeed there were only 4 Gloster Sea Gladiators on the island. They were unassembeld in crates. The only RAF pilots on the island at the time were transport and bomber pilots. This is because it was initially thought that Malta was not defendable. Thankfully wiser heads prevailed. The RAF pilots had the three planes assembled and one kept aside for spare parts. This can be confirmed in Ernle Bradfords excellent book The Second Great Seige, and also in Malta G.C The Unconquered Isle by Ian Hay and Fortress Malta by James Holland.

    Malta was a place were the unusual happened and because of its size fighter pilots claims were easily verified by wreckage. George “Screwball” Beurling claimed to have shot down a ME 109 with twelve rounds into the cockpit and engine. This was confirmed. Aidrian Warburton was a photo recce pilot who converted a Martin Maryland medium bomber into an armed photo recce plane. He shot down 8 enemy aircraft by sheer skill. The tanker Ohio saved Malta on the 15th of August 1942 by manageing to berth in the grand harbour lashed together with two Royal Navy destroyers.

    Thanks all

  7. As a Maltese/Canadian, one would have to admire the skill and courage of the “FEW” that fought over the skies of Malta. “Faith Hope and Charity” as they were known, went up and took on the Italian airforce. To say that evey Maltese person on the island owe there life to these brave pilots and their Gladiators, not more can be said.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: