Malta to Leros: 1943-2023
In 1943 thousands of soldiers previously in Malta faced one of the most gruelling Battles of the second world war. Cut off from any aerial support and lacking re-reinforcements, the 4th Buffs, West Kents, Royal Irish Fusiliers, and King’s Own were forced to surrender. Many were captured, and others managed to escape the besieged island. Those which became Prisoners of War would spend several years in the heart of the reich deep in Germany before being liberated in 1945.
British infantry men on Leros had spent more than two years in Malta previously. They were well known by the locals who fought through the Siege of Malta alongside them. On the steep slopes of Leros and in its dramatic valleys soldiers donned Malta camouflage on their helmets owing to the similar garigue landscape such camouflage was intended to be used in.
Battlefront Malta will be representing these men who left Malta for Egypt and later Kos (for the Durham Light Infantry) and Leros. Between the 24th and the 29th of September we will be in Leros itself commemorating the 234th Brigade and all the men who fought in this battle.
Malta and Leros have other historical and symbolic links. Most poignantly, Leros is often called ‘Malta of the Aegean’. Not only did the famous ‘Knights of Malta’ come to possess Leros in 1309 ( and during their rule in Rhodes between 1310 and 1522), but it also has the largest harbour of all its neighbouring islands strategically located in the Eastern Dodecanese. Battlefront will only reinforce an already existing link between the two Mediterranean islands.
Apart from taking part in the official commemorations, we will also be publishing an original memoire by Lieutenant C.J.H. Morgan of the 4th Buffs. His wartime log narrates his time spent in Malta with a detailed account of the Battle of Leros. We will also include original material from the regiment’s war diaries held at the National Archives in Kew, London.
The Battle of Leros itself is extremely interesting for anyone interested in Maltese history and military history in general. It was one of the first battles in The Second World War where the Italians fought alongside the Allies (following the capitulation of Italy). More so, it can be considered as a case study of what could have happened in Malta should the planned invasion have been executed. It was, after all (apart from many geographical and contextual differences), a small rocky island protected by British Infantry battalions who had to fend off, amongst others, German soldiers and parachutists.