On August 18th Egyptian miners tunneled under the walls of Birgu, exploded a mine and a large section of the main wall collapsed. Immediately the Turks swept forward into this undefended position. The defenders were in shock and hesitated. At this crucial moment, the 70 year old Grand Master grabbed a helmet and sword and led a counter charge. Hand to hand fighting on the rubble of what was once the wall. Some of the Knights tried to get him to withdraw from the combat, but La Valette though wounded in the leg refused, pointing with his sword to a Turkish flag, “Never will I withdraw so long as those banners wave in the wind.” 13 The knights with renewed efforts were able to drive the Turks out of the breech.
The following days, all manner of siege techniques were attempted, but nothing was successful. The Turkish commanders were now in dispute on how to proceed. Morale was suffering. There was the matter of supplies and whether they could keep the army motivated after the heavy losses it had experienced. Turkish Admiral Piali knew that victory must be accomplished before the seasonal winds changed and the fleet could not sail back to Istanbul.