The landing of the Turkish army on May 18th was not resisted, spies and merchant men had warned the Grand Master La Valette that Suliman’s fleet and army was descending on Malta.
The Turkish army advanced from its landing site and the first critical mistake was made by the “Turkish High command”6, they bypassed the old city of Mdina that was weakly fortified and manned, to start the siege of the principal fortification of the Hospitallers.
St. Elmo became their initial target, with that decision, the “Turkish High Command”6 had made it’s second tactical error, simply because, the longer St. Elmo held out, the odds increased in favor of of the Knights and soldiers surviving in the other fortifications.
The great Turkish army went to work, long practiced siege techniques went into effect, cannon batteries were established and began a relentless bombardment of St. Elmo, day and night. (Grand Harbor) By the end of May, the Turk’s skillful concentration of cannon fire began to take its toll on the little fort.
A delegation of Knights slipped out of St. Elmo to meet with the Grand Master La Valette and his council, to tell him the position in the fort was untenable.
Legend has it that the Grand Master stared at these Knights and sarcastically said
“…that they need not go back to St. Elmo, but he and a hand picked band would go hold the walls themselves.”
Hearing this, the knights dissent turned to shame, they knew that their honor would not stand such an event and the begged the Grand Master to allow them to return to St. Elmo. “After they were gone the Grand Master told the council, he knew full well (that) St. Elmo was doomed, but the longer it held out … (gave) … hope for the Order in Malta.” 7