This Document is to be read in conjunction with The Eastham Family Tree
This work is based on a considerable amount of research both in terms of the family and primarily his military service. It is not possible within the military records to identify individuals who were not officers as 'other ranks' were not mentioned unless within dispatches. This research has been compiled using some works from the 11th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, the War Diaries from the National Archives, Articles drawn from the Internet, The book 'Malta Diary of a War 1940 - 1945 written by Michael Galea and research on the ground in Malta. I would like to thank all those who have aided me in my quest.
Jack Eastham. He was born on 29 Mar 1914 in 10, Granville
Street, Chadderton, Nr Oldham, Lancashire, England (Birth certificate
held) the only son of John Edward Eastham and Alice Coode. He died on
26 Jun 1992 in Oldham and District General Hospital, Oldham, Lancashire,
England due to chronic renal failure (Death certificate held). He is buried
in Grave B15 Section 70, Greenacres Cemetery, Oldham, Lancashire, England.
Jack was employed as a bobbin carrier in a cotton mill in Oldham at the time of his marriage and this is undoubtedly where he met Annie who was working as a cotton winder. The mill was the Holyrood. John Smith and Sons commissioned the practice of Joseph Stott who was born on 25 October 1836 in Oldham, the son of James Stott and Mary Henthorn to build the Holyrood Mill, Windsor Street, Higinshaw, Oldham, Lancashire, England in 1870. Holyrood mill had 59,000 spindles but sadly was destroyed by fire in 1961
Jack Eastham and Anne Hill were married on 25 Jun 1938
in Providence Chapel, Regent Street, Oldham, Lancashire, England (Marriage
certificate held). At the time of their marriage Jack was living with
his mother, Alice nee Coode or Codd, at 1 Cheltenham Street, Oldham, Lancashire,
England, and Annie was living with her 'adopted' parents Arthur and Alice
Warburton at 101 Beever Street, Oldham, Lancashire, England. After their
marriage they went to live for a short time in Cheltenham Street and then
subsequently moved to 137 Acre Lane, Oldham, Lancashire, England by April
1940 when Jack was called up to the army and they remained there until
On his enlistment the details of his identification
were as followsas given in his pay book:
On the 14th October 1940 the 11th Battalion Lancashire
Fusiliers was formed in Rochdale out of the 50th Holding Battalion under
the command of Lieutenant Colonel R.C. Harris. Its first move was to Boulton
Mill, Dursley in Gloucestershire where it assisted the people of Bristol
during the intensive German bombing raids. In November 1940 the 11th Battalion
strength was listed as:
On the 25/26 March 1941 the Battalion moved to Scotland and was attached to the 51st Highland Division being billeted in The Cruden Bay Hotel, The Masonic Hall Peterhead and The Drill Hall Frazerburgh. Their role was one of defence and during the time here they saw some action from isolated raids by enemy bombers.
On 17 May 1941 the Battalion moved to Pollock Camp, Glasgow for mobilisation overseas. Mobilisation continued and on 11 June 1941 the Battalion moved from Pollock Camp, Glasgow to Langton Camp, Duns in Berwickshire. All personnel were granted 1 week embarkation leave.
Central Mediterranean Area
By an accident of nature Malta lay athwart the supply routes from Italy to North Africa, which gave Britain air and sea control over Italy's Mare Nostrum ( the Mediterranean).
In September 1939 Malta found itself at war by default,
through its association with Britain. At that time the political spectrum
in Malta was sharply drawn between Nationalist party members who identified
closely with Italian values and culture, and Constitutionalists voters
who tolerated, or benefited from British colonial rule. Viewed as an internal
threat by the British, prominent people with declared sympathy for the
Italian cause were placed in North African concentration camps for the
duration of hostilities. The possibility of widespread civilian strife
or uprising by Axis sympathizers at war's onset struck fear with local
authorities, but it neverhappened. Whatever kinship the Maltese held for
Italy came to an abrupt end in 1940 when incredibly the Italian air force
indiscriminately bombed civilian targets, causing death, causalities and
For Malta, Monday 10th June was a significant day asat 7 pm Mussolini made his declaration of war at the Palazzo Venezia in Rome. HE Lieutenant-General William George Sheddon Dobbie mad a radio broadcast to the people of Malta asking for the utmost calm and for themto trust in God.
The first raids on Malta came at 6.25 a.m. on June 11th 1940 when there were 8 raids by German Luftwaffe. 60,000 to 80,000 people fled the Grand Harbour area. There were only 5 shelters which were in the Three Cities area. In October 1940 Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, C-in-C of the German navy proposed the occupation of Malta to the Fuhrer, which was declined. By 1941 Malta was under severe air bombardment by the German X Air Corps under General Seisler operating from Sicilian air bases, some 93 km away. The Maltese people were defiant and in Valetta they watched as members of the Italian community were detained and interned and were even more delighted when all Talian shipping in Maltese waters was seized. The 12th June recorded the first casualties of the war when members of the Royal Malta Artillery gave their lives in defence of their island. The 3rd September saw the first convoy since the start of hostilities brought into the Grand Harbour. The raids continued and on 22nd September Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Aircraft Production, in a message to Malta said "The world needs no proof of your people's devotion to our common caise, but it will never forget their valout and constancy in these days of crisis". The 12th October saw another successful docking of 4 merchant ships with essential supplies and this was repeated on 12th November. The year ended with a bombing raid which damaged Government buildings
To say Malta's air defences were small at the beginning of WWII would be an understatement. The total air power on Malta consisted of 4 Gloster Gladiator biplanes. These were packed in crates & left at Kalafrana flying boat base by HMS Glorious which left to join the Norwegian campaign. In fact, there were enough parts to make up 8 biplanes but the Navy wanted 4 back to join the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle. The remaining 4 were assembled, 3 were to be used on operations with the remaining 1 kept in reserve. After assembling the biplanes the Royal Navy decided on having them back for work in Alexandria, so they were taken apart for re-packing. Following talks between Air Commodore Maynard & the Royal Navy it was decided to leave the biplanes on Malta & they were re-assembled. Their first use in combat came at 0649 on the 11th of June 1940 when 10 Italian Savoia Marchetti 79 bombers bombed Grand Harbour. No aircraft were shot down in this encounter. On the 7th raid of the day the Gladiator's drew blood by shooting down a Macchi 200 fighter. Although the biplanes were slower than the Italian fighters they were more manoeuvrable. Flying Officer John Waters nicknamed the aircraft 'Faith, Hope & Charity'. Three bladed propellers were fitted in place of the usual two to give the biplanes a faster rate of climb. Other parts were later used from a Swordfish. Superchargers were left on maximum during the climb after take off (which was against orders) so they could gain height faster. This put extra strain on the engines & 2 of them blew pistons. Maintenance crews converted Blenheim bomber engines to fit the Gladiators. Faith, Hope & Charity fought for 17 days without relief & played a fundamental role in fooling the Italian intelligence into thinking Malta had a substantial fighter defence.
The Battalion marched from the camp accompanied by the band and were taken by lighter to the 36000 ton French liner 'Louis Pasteur' and on the 11th July 1941 the 11th Battalion under the command of Lt Col G F Page, sailed from Greenock on the River Clyde to an unknown destination, Code 'Z', and after 7 days with the Atlantic Convoy they arrived in Gibraltar. This was to be the end of luxury for a significant length of time for they were about to embark to an island garrison which would suffer a major onslaught. Jack Eastham's recollection was the injections in each arm given to the soldiers as the boarded the ship.
They had six hours to disembark and re-embark with all battalion stores and weapons onto the cruiser HMS Edinburgh, The main body of the Battalion were aboard HMS Edinburgh and C Company under Captain D W Lister to the minesweeper 'Manxman'. They were now part of the convoy 'Operation Substance'. This was the first convoy through the Mediterranean since the fall of France. The convoy sailed out into the Atlantic with the intention of passing through the Straights of Gibraltar during darkness.
Jack Eastham recalled the journey from Gibraltar to
Malta aboard the Cruiser Edinburgh a follows:
The Malta Convoy 'Operation Substance' of July 1941
consisted of six fast merchant ships City of Pretoria, Deucalion, Durham,
Port Chalmers, Melbourne Star (Captain D R MacFarlane) and Sydney Star
(Captain T S Horn). Captain MacFarlane had been appointed Commodore of
the Convoy. The escort for the journey consisted of the battle-cruiser
HMS Renown, the battleship HMS Nelson, the aircraft-carrier HMS Ark Royal,
cruisers HMS Edinburgh, Manchester, Arethusa and Hermione, the cruiser
minelayer HMS Manxman and 17 destroyers with Vice Admiral Sir James Somerville
All the merchant ship of 'Operation Substance', including the Melbourne Star, arrived at Malta with their valuable cargoes.
Royal Naval Ships
" Force H Turned back to Gibraltar at the Skirki Channel so as not to put capital ships at risk
Ships in the Convoy
Sydney Star was torpedoed by an E-boat & sustained
a 40 x 20' hole in her bows. She started to sink by the head & drifted
towards the enemy held island of Pantellaria. HMS Nestor came alongside
& started evacuating the crew & 464 troops from the 32nd Light
AA Regiment. Apart from the personnel her cargo was grain, naval stores
& ammunition. It took about half an hour to transfer some 500 men.
A skeleton crew remained on board & managed to get 12 knots out of
the engines. They set coarse for Malta.
The convoy reached Malta on the 24th July & was greeted by reconnaissance aircraft from Sicily who brought up high level bombers to attack to convoy in harbour. This attack was broken up by the anti-aircraft barrage & Hurricanes.
The following extract is from the diaries of Bill Lazell a sergeant who served with the Royal Artillary who was part of the convoy:
Friday 11th July 1941: Arrived at Gourock in Scotland
and embarked on H.M.T.S. Pasture.
Even as they arrived at Valetta only just making it into the harbour as the boom was closing due to a submarine attack. On the 24th July 1941 at 1130 hours HMS Edinburgh sailed into the Grand Harbour at Valletta with the 11th Battalion lined up on deck and the band playing the British Grenadiers. The 11th Battalion landed at the Customs on the Grand Harbour at Valetta, Malta.
Although these pictures were taken much later this is a good representation of what it was like before the German bombardment.
After disembarking the 11th Battalion marched through the streets of Valetta and Floriama to their final billets in Birkirkara and Hamrun.
The barracks at Birkirkara still exist complete with the allocated names as seen below. 20 servicemen were allocated to each house.
Morale was high. They settled to their task which was mainly the defence of the city of Valetta and the immediate northern coastline from Sliema through St. Julian's Bay to St. George's Bay against invasion from sea and air. Rifle companies were not used to man coastal defences and forts but were mobile and used for operational tasks mainly at Luqa, the main RAF aerodrome and TaQali. Luqa was the largest airfield on Malta in WWII. Aircraft types operating from this base included just about every type on Malta including bombers, fighter bombers, torpedo, fighters etc. It was the first airfield in Malta to have a hard surface, all the others were grass/dirt which would become muddy in wet weather (winter). In these circumstances it was difficult to operate & all operational aircraft were moved to Luqa which made this a busy airfield.
At Luqa the 11th Battalion were mainly responsible, but not entirely so, for the defence and maintenance of the aerodrome, repairing runways, preparing dispersal bays and widening taxiways. The Battalion HQ was at Birkirkara.
The 11th Battalion served as part of Central Command
The civilian population were primarily concentrated
in the towns and a significant number were located in Sliema, Valletta
and Floriana. Air raid defences were put into place which made use of
the underground ancient caves and disused railway tunnels although the
capacity was far less than that needed.
Malta had a significant array of defences which had been constructed in the timesof the Templars and all they needed was the modern equipment of war.
On the16th January 1941 the aircraft carrier Illustrious
limped into Valletta with the rest of a battered convoy after being attacked
by Axis forces on its way from Alexandria. Massey Anderson, Reuter's correspondent
aboard the Illustrious cabled "The Illustrious, battle scarred but
triumphant made port today after fighting off waves of German dive bombers
for seven hours in the Straits of Sicily. Goering's Luftwaffe had swooped
out of the sky in this first Mediterranean action and had given her one
of the severest poundings ever delivered from the air against a single
ship". The Illustrious suffered severe casualties with 160 dead and
91 injured. Battered, Easter Sunday, 13th April, saw the sounding of the
500th air raid alert.
A further attack was planned in Sicily but on the
night of the 23rd Illustrious sailed out of the harbour bound for the
safety of Alexandria. She was able to make 20 knots & moved so fast
she missed her escort cruiser squadron which were heavily bombed.
In December the Luftwaffe built up considerable strength
in Sicily and on 31st December there was an 'invasion imminent' warning
in Malta. The attack did not materialise. flattened and wrecked by the
full onslaught of the Axis power, Malta stood up and showed its tormentors
a clenched fist of resistance. By October of the same year Hitler issued
the remarkable order to Paratroop General Kurt Student to prepare, in
cooperation with the Italians, for operation "Hercules", the
conquest of Malta from the air -- an airborne assault that fortunately
The Lascrais War Rooms
The Lascrais War Rooms complex originates from the
early stages of WW2 when an old communications tunnel, dug by the Knights
Templars in the 1700's, running across under the Upper Barracca Gardens
from Battery Street to the Valletta Main Ditch was converted into a Sector
Operations Room by the Royal Engineers for Royal Air Force use. From here
the movements of enemy aircraft could be tracked and plotted on a large
map to facilitate air and ground defence coordination. With the intensity
of the war, more space was excavated to make more room underground for
communications and radar tracking facilities. Late in 1940, the Royal
Navy war room at Fort St. Angelo made its way to this complex along with
that of the artillery's anti-aircraft defence. The coast artillery room
remained where it was in the crypt under the then Garrison Church now
the Exchange Building at Castille Place, Valletta.
January and February saw the heaviest rain of the winter
of 1941/42 but it did not deter the attacks on Luqa, Valetta, Birkirkara
and Hanrum. The first bombing attacks were cautious and tentative with
Italian Savoia bombers being used and these accompanied by large numbers
of fighters would attack several times a day. The first fatal casualty
by enemy action was recorded on 8 Feb 1942 when 3457389 Fusilier Hopwood
H died of wounds received from a bomb on 5 February 1942.
tons of bombs falling on the Island this month with severe damage being inflicted in Sliema and Valetta Grand Harbour and surrounding area (3,156 tons in April) together with the aerodromes at Luqa (805 tons in April), Takali (841 tons in April) and and Hal Far for which the 11th Battalion were now providing defence and maintenance. On 24 April 1942 two hospitals were bombed at St Andrews by the Luftwaffe despite them being clearly marked with a red cross. The losses to the aircraft of the Luftwaffe were now becoming significant. The 11th Battalion were mainly responsible, but not entirely, for the defence and maintenance of the aerodrome at Luqa repairing runways, preparing dispersal bays and widening taxiways. The Battalion HQ was at Birkirkara. Jack Eastham recalls "As you looked out over the Grand Harbour you could see the brightly illuminated flashes of the anti aircraft guns and the Stuka dive bombers descending into it. There were brave men on both sides of the conflict".
On April 9, 1942, during an afternoon air-raid, a 200 kg Luftwaffe bomb pierced the dome (two others bounced off) and fell among a congregation of more than 300 people awaiting early evening mass. It did not explode. Its replica is now on display inside the rotunda under the words Il-Miraklu tal-Bomba, 9 ta' April 1942
By May the situation had become very serious. The dockyard
had been put out of action, the enemy had complete control of the air
and by the changed tactics of attacking AA sites, army barracks and camps
it was clear that an invasion was imminent. Ammunition was running out
and no convoys had been able to get through for some time.
June saw Luftwaffe activity change as the raids were
now using bombs with shorter fuses resulting in many bombs, which although
armour piercing, were ineffective as they exploded shortly after
There, a fabulous welcome awaited them. On the ramparts
above the wreck strewn harbour, on the Barracca, St Angelo and Senglea,
great crowds of Maltese men and women waved and cheered and a brass band
on the end of the mole was giving a spirited rendering of Rule Britannia.
Captain Mason, however, standing at the salute on the battered bridge
of the Ohio, could spare no moment's thought for the pride of bringing
the ship to harbour, since the creaking plates showed that the Ohio might
still end at the bottom of the Grand Harbour.
HMS EURYALUS - Dido-class AA Cruiser
Merchantmen and takers arrive and the population have a more upbeat optimism. Rations are increased to the delight of the 11th Battalion. The year ends with offenses from the forces in Malta against enemy targets and almost insignificant enemy air strikes.
January Enemy activity is very light over the island and the 11th Battalion continue with their duties at Luqa. There is an outbreak of Infantile Paralysis about 9 Januar and the Battalion is banned from visiting bars, cinemas, etc. There are a number of sector changes for the companies and the disbanding of R Company with the resultant reallocation of men. Late enemy activity over the Island but driven away by AA fire.
The Lascaris War rooms were used by the joint command to plan the invasion of Sicily.
With the successful North Africa Torch landings behind them and the gradual clearance of Axis forces from Tunisia underway the resources were becoming available to undertake a series of amphibious landings in the Mediterranean. The ambitious "Round Up" (Normandy) was still not feasible so the objective of the next phase in the conduct of the war was to tie down Axis forces thus relieving pressure on the Eastern (Russian) front, and to force Italy out of the war. This was agreed at the Casablanca conference of January 1943 although for a while the Americans were inclined towards increasing pressure in the Pacific and later attacking Germany directly. In the end it was agreed to plan for a large scale assault via the periphery of Europe, or as Churchill preferred to call it "the soft underbelly of Europe" - initially Sicily.
General Guzzoni had 12 divisions - two German and 10 Italian to defend the island; five of the latter were infantry and five immobile coastal defence divisions. The garrison was 350,000 strong but included only 35,000 Germans and even they were not fully mobilised. Beach defences, including pillboxes and barbed wire, were less formidable than those encountered in Normandy the following year and modern tanks were relatively few in number. However the rugged rolling country favoured the defenders. The Allied Commander was General Eisenhower supported by Admiral Cunningham the Sea Forces Commander. General Alexander was Land Forces Commander and Air Marshal Tedder was Air Forces Commander.
The original Allied plan was to launch two widely separate landings in the north-west and south east of the island. General Montgomery objected on the grounds that this approach violated the principle of a combined and closely coordinated force. The plan was changed with the British 8th Army landing on the south east of the island and the US 7th Army landing on the south.
There were 2,760 ships and major landing craft converging on their rendezvous near Malta. They were from the River Clyde in Scotland, from Norfolk and Virginia in the USA and from ports from Beirut to Algiers in the Mediterranean. Seven and a half Divisions and all their equipment were at sea and eager for action.
February Continues with little to report. Convoys arrive and the 11th Battalion are allocated appropriate duties. The outbreak of Infantile Paralysis is now under control and the cinemas are about to re-open. Night and other exercises continue.
March Little to report for the Battalion. They continue to man the fuel and ammunition dumps. The 25 March sees enemy activity over the Island and the sirens sound for the first time in 22 days. 1st Brigade (comprising 2 Devons, 1 Dorsets and 1 Hamps) leave Malta.
April The Battalion hands over all Command Guards and Working Party commitments to 2nd Battalion Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment. Battalion continues to man fuel dumps and convoy duties. On 14 April MV King Edwin, loaded with Octane, Benzene, ammunition and food, in the Grand Harbour exploded and went on fire which was still reported as burning on 16 April. On 18 April the Battalion won the final of the Inter Regimental Knockout football competition against R.A.M.C., by 3 goals to 1. Training continues.
May The Battalion continue with their military exercises. A convoy consisting of 4 destroyers, 5 Merchantmen and 1 troopship arrive in Valetta. The Battalion takes over the Guard at the Governor.s Residence, San Anton Palace. The Battalion takes over POW guard of prisoners sent from North Africa, some of which fought the
2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. Various degrees of training carry on. Some increased enemy air activity towards the end of the month.
June The month sees much activity as convoys arrive throughout the month. The Battalion continues with company relocation and hand over of some of the fuel and ammunition dumps. On 20 June HM The King visited Malta acknowledging the cheers of the Battalion which lined the route. He left later the same day aboard HMS Aurora from the Grand Harbour.
The month comprised mainly regular duties.
C Company was involved with the secret building of camps to house the 1000.s of servicemen for the invasion of Sicily. These camps were in some remote places for security reasons. Jack Eastham recalls that These camps were tented villages and we erected lots of tents. We were not going with the invasion but at least we played a small part.
July Saw the introduction of anti saboteur patrols as there is now considerable troop activity through Malta in readiness for the invasion of Sicily. The naval bombardment can be heard in Malta and reports were made of sightings of the gun flashes. An air raid of some 15+ bombers attack Sliema and St George.s Bay dropping bombs. Lt Colonel D F Page became the Battalion.s firs casualty of 1943 when hit in the head by a bomb splinter. At the end of the month other raiders cross the Island being engaged by the AA resulting in no bombs being dropped.
On the 9th/10th July the British 8th Army landed on the south east of the island and the US 7th Army landed on the south.
The disposition of the forces was as follows;
Force A (ex force W) under the auspices of Rear Admiral Troutbridge on the Bulolo comprising Dempsey's 13th Corps (5th & 50th Divisions) which was to land between Syracuse and Avola on the south east coast,
Force B under the auspices of Rear Admiral McGrigor on the Largs. 231 Independent Brigade was 15 miles to the south at Marzamemi and Sir Oliver Leese's 30th Corps (including the 51st Highland Division) were allotted the southernmost tip of the island south west of Cape Passero.
Farther to the west and round the corner of the island was Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian's Force V and the 1st Canadian Division, both under Leeses's 30 Corps. All three Rear Admirals came under the command of Ramsay who was on the Antwerp,
Further still to the West between Scicli and Licata, with the vital airfield at Gela in the middle, were Divisions of the US 7th Army and US 11 Corps . They were to land on three beaches "Cent," "Dime" and "Joss" with a division allotted to each plus an armoured brigade for "Joss." The remainder of the Armoured Division to which it belonged was kept afloat as a reserve. The American Operation was under the command of Lieutenant-General Patton and Vice-Admiral Hewitt.
In addition a number of special operations were in place. The first was No 3 Commando and the South African Squadron of the SAS to the extreme right near Syracuse. The second involved Nos 40 and 41 Royal Marine Commando, under Laycock, to the left of the Canadians near Pachino. The third was a number of airborne landings, both British and American, to speed up the capture of airfields.
There were potential conflicts of interest between the services in the timing of the operation. On the one hand the parachutists needed bright moonlight conditions but the thousands of ships lying off shore felt vulnerable to air attack in such conditions. However since the Allies now had air superiority the matter was resolved in favour of the parachutists.
An Allied deception plan convinced the Germans that Greece or Sardinia were the most likely targets for the invasion and the CIC of the Luftflotte 2 concentrated his resources to the defence of the latter. Pantelleria and Lampedusa had surrendered in mid June after sustained and heavy aerial bombing by the Allies and the bombing of Sicilian Airfields, in the 7 days prior to Husky, had been so successful that not a single Axis plane put out to harass convoys approaching Sicily.
With the conquest of Sicily it effectively meant that the air attacks on Malta would cease as the German and Italian planes did not have the range to fly from their bases in Italy.
Husky was a great triumph and Mountbatten could not disguise his delight at the important part Combined Operations had played in the operation. For his part Hewitt's report included 178 recommendations and ended with the warmest praise for the co-operation and comradeship between the Royal Navy and that of the USA. He recalled that it was only barely 14 months since he had visited Admiral King's office in Washington. They and their respective teams had shared much in the planning of the operation and the rewards were there for all to see.
Outcome (positive): Allied victory. With the capture of Sicily the Allies made ready for the invasion of Italy. 37,000 German and 130,000 Italian losses mostly prisoners. Gain of naval and air bases in the Mediterranean.
Outcome (negative): 31,158 killed, wounded or missing.
August starts with the celebration of Minden Day with such celebrations as the circumstances will allow. The Battalion HQ moves to Ta Saliba. There is little enemy activity so the Battalion make the most of their time by training and vehicle and equipment maintenance. N bombs were dropped in this period.
September Sees the surrender of Italy and the order is issued not to fire on Italian Planes. On 14 September Major Markes arrives in Malta to take over command of the Battalion and on 17 September Lt Colonel Page D.S.S. leaves his command and the island of Malta. Again this quiet month allows traing and maintenance to continue also allowing army life to get back to normality with increased inspections.
October Is a quiet month allowing battle training and courses to take place. Battalion organises additional moves for HQ and other Companies. A period of heavy rain ensues with billets being flooded.
November and December Sees the completion of HQ moves to St Andrews. The month comprises day and night exercises and demonstration of battle techniques, parades and training. Winter dress now becomes order of the day.
On November 19th Winston Churchill together with Field Marshal Lord Gort and Vice-Admiral Hamilton visited Malta and Churchill was taken to see the devastation incurred in thedockyard and the shattered cities of Sanglea and Valletta. He drove through the Victoria Gate and onto the Palacer where a croud had gathered outside in the square. Churchill appeared on the balcony and saluted the crowd.
January, February and March continue to be months of consolidation, training, exercises and regular duties in the dockyard. Training at night intensifies and officers from the Battalion attend appropriate training courses. Weopan drills including grenade throwing continues.
April continues in much the same way until the 25 April when 389 Greek sailors are taken into protective custody and disarmed by the 11th Battalion. The situation deteriorated with the Greek mutineers causing concern and it was decided to segregate the worst offenders. 102 Greek Naval personnel were escorted to new protective custody at Ghain Snuber.
May Sees the end of the 11th Battalion.s tour of duty in Malta. They hand over their responsibilities to other battalions and move out of their barracks down to the docks to start the next phase of their war contribution.
11th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers pictured at St Patricks Barracks prior to their leaving for Italy.
Jack Eastham, is sat 4th from left front row
Jack Eastham is 6th from left 2nd row
By 1942, the bitter struggle for control of the central Mediterranean reached its climax. To the German mind there was then no alternative: either Malta, the thorn on their side must fall, or the German Africa Corps under command of the legendary desert fox, General Erwin Rommel would be lost. Field Marshall A. Kesserling, C-in-C German Armed Forces in the area, decided Malta was too great a nuisance to be allowed to live. It was to be smashed, made silent and uninhabitable, then invaded. Accordingly he ordered a change in the German attack tactics on Malta, from single sorties or small formations, to carpet bombing by dense concentrations of bombers.
The entire "Fliegerkorps" in Sicily, consisting of three hundred fifty aircraft, was thrown against Malta with a vengeance, pouncing on any ship or plane which tried to succor the island. The Germans systematically selected one point after the other, and pounded away day and night, until each target was pulped out of existence. Bombs were dropped by the ton: by the hundreds of tons: by the thousands of tons. In April 1942 alone 6,730 tons of bombs were dropped, a dubious record of airborne wholesale destruction which still holds true to this very day. The German High Command thought the obliteration of Malta and its people was complete. But they were wrong. Under the crescendo of exploding bombs and mounting casualties, the hardened Maltese and their British comrade-in arms stood firm and fought back as best they could. However passionately Benito Mussolini and the German Armed Forces Operations Staff desired Malta's capture, the decisive factor again was Hitler's determination that no full scale invasion be attempted. Meanwhile in Malta, British Governor and C-in-C General Sir William Dobbie, was replaced by Field Marshall Lord John Gort V.C, of Dunkirk fame. This transfer of power signalled Britain's determination that Malta should not be allowed to die, for if it fell the Mediterranean sea would be lost and the North African campaign gravely imperilled. There were several attempts by the British navy to reinforce Malta with food, guns and ammunition. The larger and most significant of these convoys was code named "Pedestal". Some sixty surface ships and eight submarines set out of Gibraltar headed for the besieged island. So fierce was the ensuing sea and air battle that every single one of the ships was hit. One the "Ohio", a fourteen thousand ton American tanker was marked for special treatment. Hit and damaged by more blows any ship can endure, she made her agonizing way to Malta under constant air attack strapped between two escort destroyers, with a third vessel acting as her rudder. By autumn 1942 the German-Italian effort to subdue Malta came to a final end. The island now rearmed, resumed its former function as a deadly predator on the Axis supply routes to North Africa. The pendulum had swung again.
In September 1943, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham, C-in-C Mediterranean, sent a radio message to the Admiralty in London, England, which read in part, "Please to inform your Lordships that the Italian battle fleet now lays at anchor under the guns of the fortress of Malta". In May 1945 the war in Europe came to an end, and with it Malta had earned a place of honour in the annals of world history.
During the campaign in Malta 12 members of the 11th Battalion were killed and are buried at
Pembroke, Pieta and Mtarfa cemeteries. Captain D W Lister was awarded the Military Cross for a
bren gun duel with a low flying German fighter, Lt Thomas Broe MM (Click on Thomas's name to see his feature page) was was Mentioned in Despatches and
CQMS acting WO2 H W Marsh was awarded the British Empire Medal
Napoleon once said that the only way to invade Italy was from the top. The Allies did not heed his warning and paid dearly for every inch of ground. Battles compared in their sheer intensity and horror with those of World War One. At Anzio alone the Allies suffered 135,000 casualties and Monte Cassino, over 54,000. In Tunisia, another 45,000 casualties. 20 Victoria Crosses were awarded during the Italy Campaign - 5 at Cassino alone! So the legend goes, veterans of the Italian campaigns were called "D-Day Dodgers" by Lady Nancy Astor MP in a speech, after she received a letter from a disgruntled British soldier who signed it "D-Day Dodger". However she refuted the claim soon after in the 8th Army News.
On 21st May 1944 at 0555 hrs the Battalion left Malta from Lascaris Wharf aboard the French ship Ville d.Oran. after having been stationed there since July 1941. The weather was hot and the visibility hazy. They sailed first to Syracuse in Sicily arriving at 1057 hrs and sailing for Naples at 1800 hrs after being addressed by Brig I de la Bere O.B.E.
The battalion arrived in Naples on 22nd May 1944 at 0745 hrs without
incident and from there proceeded to a transit camp near the impoverished
village of Afragola, arriving at 1030 hrs, for a few days before proceeding
to No 1 I.R.T.D. at San Martino where they arrived on the 27th May 1944
at 1400 hrs and marched in behind the Battalion brass band. This again
was only a stopping off place and after several days on the 4th June
1944 the Battalion moved to Caserta Railway Station and board a train
for Taranto and Brindisi via Solerno and Portenza. A Party and Battalion
HQ go to 186 Transit Camp at Taranto and B Party go to Brindisi for
a further spell of garrison duties at one of the main distribution depots.
In July the Battalion left Brindisi for the staging area at Taranto
where, after a brief seven days and a pep talk from Major General Ayres,
it left for the Guards IRTD at Caserta, where the Battalion was split
into two companies, one to the Welsh Guards and the other to the Coldstream
Guards as a reinforcement unit. There was intensive field training until
the 11th August 1944 when to the surprise of everyone the authority
was received to revert to normal infantry and the Battalion again became
a fighting unit of the 1st British Infantry Division and were soon on
their way to the Italian Theatre of War after Capt (QM) T Broc equiped
the Battalion in seven days.
German Tigre Tank
On the morning of the 1st September 1944 the Battalion acted as advanced guard to the Division as it moved forward in pursuit along Route 65. B. and D. companies crossed Monte Rinaldo through minefields without incident. Soon the Germans began laying down a mortar attack and D. company received casualties with five dead and nine wounded. A. and C. companies were established on the outskirts of the village of Montorsoli and the whole Battalion was under heavy bombardment with A. and C. companies trapped in the open receiving casualties. They stayed in these positions until relieved by the 2nd Royal Scots on the night of 2nd September 1944. The Battalion moved back to Rovezzano for rest and reorganisation.
On the night of the 12th/13th September 1944 the Battalion moved to a concentration area at Borgo San Lorenzo where they were told that the 1st Division was to break the Gothic Line in the central sector with the 66th Infantry Brigade leading.
The 1 Infantry Division was a pre-war Regular Army formation, which was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. In March 1943, it was deployed to Tunisia and then used to secure the Island of Pantelleria. From there, it went on to Italy, arriving on 7 December 1943. The division landed at Anzio on the 22 January 1944 under the command of the U.S. VI Corps. It sustained heavy casualties during the battle for Anzio. It remained in the Anzio beach-head until the breakout. It then rested and refitted after its long period on front-line duty.
Commander Major General Charles Loewen
2nd Infantry Brigade
3rd Infantry Brigade
66th Infantry Brigade
On the night of the 15th/16th September 1944 the 11th Battalion attacked on the right hand with .B. and .C. companies both achieving their objectives without much opposition. The following morning they pushed on to a commanding feature known as Pt.960 taking a few casualties. On the morning of the 16th September 1944 .A. and .D. companies were sent to extend the position by occupying two points on the right flank. .B. and .C. companies were viciously counter attacked on the morning of the 17th September 1944 but repelled the attack. The Battalion advanced the next day to Monte Ceppo with .D. company leading supported by
A Company on its right, both taking a few casualties.
On the 19th September 1944 the advance continued in heavy rain with the Tac HQ moving ahead to point 950 with B and C Companies in reserve. The main HQ is located at Il Monte. At 1400 hrs on the 20th September the Tac HQ moves onward behind B and C companies (Jack Eastham was in C company) with the objective to push along Bullock Route as the advance to the Contact Force reaching the lower slopes of Monte Carlozlano 1187 Metres by 1800 hrs without encountering the Germans. By 1900 hrs the Tec HQ together with B and C Companies run into heavy machine gun and mortar fire in the mist. This situation was made worse with the allied artillery falling short of their target and the Battalion took several casualties including Major Moir RA, Battery Commander killed. At first light on the 21st September 1944 the enemy artillery fire, reinforced by allied batteries falling short caused more casualties amongst the leading troops. The rest of the Battalion closed up on the leading companies taking up defensive positions on Monte Carlozanco. The weather had become very bad with heavy rain and mist making the evacuation of casualties over the steep, wet, slippery mountain paths painful and difficult. It was during this action on the 21st September 1944 that L/Corporal Jack Eastham was wounded in action, receiving shell wounds to his left arm. There is no information as to whether it was from the German artillery or the allied artillery shortfall.
On the 12th October 1944 he was evacuated as a hospital patient
to the UK and on the 10th March 1945 he was discharged from the army
being classified as unfit for any form of military service.
War Diaries in slide show
Use the Arrows at top of War Diary to go to next Page of Diary
1940 England 21 pages
1941 England 25 pages
1942 Malta 144 pages
1943 Malta 155 pages
1944 Malta 155 pages
1944 Italy 29 pages