Operation Pedestal 1942 is an historic – and heroic – World War II Allied operation that is
commemorated yearly in Malta, to remember the bravery of all those merchant seafarers, and naval
as well as other military and civilian personnel who successfully delivered much-needed supplies to
the tiny island of Malta.
In Malta, it is known as Il-Konvoj ta’ Santa Maria (Santa Maria Convoy), because it coincides with the
feast of the Blessed Virgin, on the 15 th of August. The Italians, who at that time were part of the Axis
forces, refer to it as the “Mid-August Battle” (Battaglia di Mezz’Agosto). The most crucial cargo
during Operation Pedestal was fuel, carried by SS Ohio, an American tanker, manned bya British
crew. The convoy sailed from Britain on the 3 August 1942 and passed through the Strait of
Gibraltar into the Mediterranean on the night of 9/10 August. The Axis forces pursued the convoy,
causing tremendous losses to the Allied fleet with an estimated loss of over 500 seamen. Many
losses were incurred and only five of fourteen merchant ships that originally set sail on the convoy
actually reached Malta.
Despite being costly for the Allies, it was a great victory, specifically because of Malta’s strategic
location in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, allowing the Allied forces to eventually take
control of North Africa and prepare for the invasion of Sicily.
Every year, the Royal Navy Association (Malta GC Branch) carries out a commemorative service with
the the Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) and the Royal Navy Officers’
Association (Malta), Representatives from the British High Commission in Malta as well as other
embassies and dignitaries representing other organisations participate in this yearly event. This year
the President of Malta made an address to those present and this was followed by prayers by the
Chancellor of the Anglican Church in Malta as well as by one of the representative Chaplains of the
Catholic Church in Malta. A ceremony, during which wreaths were laid at the sea in Grand Harbour,
The laying of wreaths by the various organisations represented in the ceremony, this year, was
carried out, from the bow of the P23, a patrol vessel of the Maritime Squadron of the AFM.
Members of the Armed Forces of Malta played the bagpipes and a gun salute was given as a sign of
respect to the fallen. Members of the Royal Navy Officers Association (Malta) and the RNA Malta
(GC Branch) attended carrying their Association flags and wearing their medals, while the family
members of the last surviving crew member of the SS Ohio were also in attendance.
The Nautical Institute (Malta Branch), represented by the Branch Chairperson, Dr Geraldine Spiteri,
was present at this ceremony celebrated on the 11 th of August. The event was held at Pinto 3
Terminal, at the Valletta Grand Harbour Waterfront. This year, alongside the 80 th Anniversary of
Operation Pedestal, the Nautical Institute celebrates its 50 th Anniversary.