Looked at from my experiences which started with my first visit in 1955; two visits in 1956/7 to and from the Suez War; a draft to Lascaris 1957-1959; a visit  en-route to Singapore in 1966 [home via Panama Canal in 1968]; a visit in 1970 en-route to Singapore [home via Beira Patrol and The Cape]; two visits to and from the Far East in 1977/78 GROUP 6 Deployment as a  FOF2 sea rider and a nostalgic holiday in February 2004.

You bet!
Very Happy Times
but then again I was young and foolish some of that time,  probably even foolhardy !
Today tourists wander around to say the least, a claustrophobic environment dictated by financial survival and keeping north African refugees at bay so as not to spoil what fun is left on these lovely islands

Before I begin, have you ever wondered why MALTA, of all places, has never been 'rewarded' by the British calling one of their major ships H.M.S. MALTA?  Some would argue that MELITA and MALTA are synonymous claiming that it was the Romans who named Malta so because it was a rock on which honey was made and this {green border} is taken from 'Malta and the Romans' site: 

C 200 BC Malta given the status of Municipium with autonomy for local government. During this era Malta is known in the Roman world for the production of textiles, in particular, sail cloth, and for the production of honey (possibly giving Malta its present name - deriving from the Latin name for honey).
Melita Greek Honey Sweet

The only problem with that is shown above {red border}, because it would appear that Melita is Greek and not Latin. I had to "lead you in" this way, because in 1888 and again in 1942, the Navy had a ship called HMS Melita, the latter {'42} an Algerine class minesweeper, and, although it doesn't appear to have ever been to Malta, an Algerine called HMS Gozo did. However, HMS Melita is not HMS Malta. So back to why such a ship has never been named. I found the answer Click to enlarge quite by accident when looking for a different and unrelated subject.  Just imagine, if they had built them, they would have been the biggest ships in the RN - a kind of a 'salute' for all that Malta suffered for the sake [and support] of the allies against the axis forces.   That cleared up we can now start the story.

was the only place in the world, where sailors in ships of the Royal Navy lived and worked in full view of the civilian  population on a twenty four hour a day basis. It nearest rival was Hong Kong where HMS Tamar [the local RN Shore Base] was in the centre of town and warships berthed at her jetties in full view of the passing traffic and the industrious Chinese population.  In the UK,  Portsmouth and to a lesser extent Gosport were places where civilians could view warships whilst crossing the harbour in the passenger ferries or by walking on the Gosport Hard. Portland in Dorset, provided a panoramic view of ships in the harbour, albeit distant, and ships using Londonderry were berthed in the River Foyle alongside the public road. All other ports had certain restrictions which prohibited civilians from observing at close quarters and these included Ireland Island in Bermuda; Singapore Naval Base, always abbreviated to SNB; Rosyth [East Scotland] Faslane and Rhu Narrows [West Scotland]; Chatham; Aden; Gibraltar and Devonport [Plymouth] although some might argue that the Hoe gives one an excellent view of passing warships navigating around Drakes Island and of course, the viewing point at Stonehouse's Devils point  just cannot be beaten to view passing warships close up. That may be true, but the view cannot be compared with the view one gets standing on the Round Tower at Portsmouth!

Malta also could claim to be the leader in notoriety! Not too long after the war, Malta, despite its crown as a race of deeply religious people appeared [at least to sailors] to allow  Strait Street [Strada Stretta], the 'GUT' to set-up and operate with the minimal interference from the police and from the naval provost: click Click to enlarge for extra info. For those of you who never experienced this place of iniquity, it has not, nor did it ever have, an equal when it came bars, clubs, mini-dance halls grouped together in a long but unbelievably narrow street [10 foot from bar door to bar door across the street] which attracted just about every sailor in Malta no matter what Creek their ships was anchored in, and that you can safely measure in the thousand's in the 1950's, this despite poor pay. This picture shows my pay in 1958 which as a killick was 25/- per day [£1.25] Click to enlarge.   It was a wild place and it very often got out of hand so much so, that it wasn't uncommon for a large ship to be denied entry into Malta until a large ship already there had sailed, as it were, to make room for more riotous and unruly behavior. Strangely there were few girls, and none of them pretty, in fact quite the opposite.  It was a place where sexual favours might be given which didn't involve the women's body, except for her hand of course!   [me in the GUT Feb 2004 taken by my wife] Thus, the sailors went there to DRINK and that they did without reserve.  Drink, as always, led to arguments and then to fights. Whilst fights are not unusual, Malta was unique in that ships companies joined in the fight wholesale to support their man who had provoked an argument, and destroyer crew against destroyer crew was always a possibility.  They didn't fight about women; there was none in Malta, not that sort anyway, so they fought over status exhibiting sheer aggression the likes of which we see today on Saturday nights in our towns and cities but no longer in our Navy.  If you wanted a peaceful run-ashore [relatively peaceful that is] you opted for the bars along the Barbary Coast, Valletta bars away from Strait Street and Gzira front bars, although that was 'destroyer ally' bearing in mind that destroyers berthed in Sliema Creek. To make matters worse, there was a miniature GUT in Floriana, but its small size was less of an attraction than  its 'big brother'. Floriana's 'gut' was called the Balzunetta, or Barcelonetta and was right next to the Maglio Gardens.   Malta's problem was obvious - no girls, but the boys wanted to play and play hard, and this they did night after night leaving behind broken furniture, broken human bodies and enough broken glass to feed a recycling machine.  By and large, the sailors who were based in Malta, ashore or afloat, did not frequent this den of iniquity except for the occasional giggle, and the customers came in droves from visiting ships, whose hapless landed shore patrol soon lost control. This type of clientele was not necessarily good for the bar keepers because when the ships went to sea the bars were empty for lengthy periods.  As a comparison, Gibraltar was tame although I don't think the Master-at-Arms in HMS Rooke would readily agree. There is no famous or infamous drinking area in that Port although of course there are many bars, some with more dubious reputations than others. Excellent runs ashore like Naples and Beirut in the Lebanon [before the Christians and Moslems tore it apart] had girls, so drink was moderated by their presence.  Further afield, Singapore had Boogis Street but few if any sailor took it seriously as other than a 'viewing gallery' for weirdo's.  Regularly, accompanied men would take their wives there for a quick peep before going off to Orchard Street for dinner. Certainly notorious drinking areas in Singapore town didn't make sense because of the distance, approximately 12 miles back north to the naval base, and anyway the three villages of Sembawang, Chong Pang and Neesoon did for outside the base, whilst inside there were many clubs in which one could let ones hair down, with an easy walk back to barracks [HMS Terror] or your ship. Singapore had the girls. Hong Kong had the girls sustained by the area immediately outside the main gates of HMS Tamar known as Wanchai [no such overt place today - new image and all that] and the China Fleet Club right next door.  I was there many times and it was better than Singapore as a local run ashore, but it had a name around the Fleet without substance: it was almost romantic whereas Malta was a man's place and best not forget that. Just the other side of the China Fleet Club was the biggest police station you have ever seen where the officers were British and the policemen Chinese: they didn't tolerate bad behavior. If the truth were known, sailors in Hong Kong drank in the Fleet Club or the Wanchai bars because everywhere else in town was too expensive. Now back home to the UK still looking for a comparison with Malta. All UK ports had girls, so again, the comparison with Malta is hard to make. To my knowledge Portsmouth's bars were too well spread out to form a 'hot drinking spot', although in the 1950's Queens Street and The Hard had some good pubs and virtually outside the main barrack and main dockyard gates. Chatham, Portland, Rosyth, Faslane, Londonderry, Penarth had bars frequented by Royal sailors, but no one name has been handed down for posterity as being a must for visitors to those ports. That leaves Devonport, and for this purpose, Plymouth, for there, for the first time, we come close to, but no where near, Malta.  Plymouth, from Drakes Circus to Stonehouse has a street called Union Street which sailors immortalized as Union Straza. There, every evening things got 'noisy' and west country cider helped the show along.  It always amazed and amused me that despite having too much to drink, we always ended up outside the dockyard gates purchasing glass pint bottles of milk, oggies or pasties which we consumed on the long walks back to our ships or barracks. No other naval place on earth had such a end-of-evening nightcap. The many oggie stalls at the two Devonport dockyard main gates [Albert and St Levan's] must have had till takings near to those of some of the Staza's bars.  SO!  Malta is unique.  How do I know all this? I was in the Navy at the right time, at the right places at the right age, and I observed the goings on performed by my mess mates - I didn't perform myself of course!!!  Whoops! Nearly forgot the American Navy equivalent, another Klondike of a place now also long gone.  Its name was Olongapo at Subic Bay in the Philippines.  My submarine used to operate with the USN and we visited Subic several times.  That was a Malta with the girls - think about it!

Again, Malta, because of its Grand Harbour and its many creeks in which our ships were berthed just a few tens of metres away from passers-by, was probably the most photographed "naval" environment in the world, and almost countless snap-shots must be tucked away in personal albums, adding to the many official photographic records that exist for posterity. I mention that fact because with so many photographs in existence it is difficult for any one person to claim a copyright.  Recently, during my February 2004 visit, I was able to procure photographs from several sources to use on this web page. I am grateful to Emmanuel Abela of St.Andrews, an Established Maltese [that means he worked for the Admiralty, under-went an apprenticeship in the dockyard and unlike Un-Established Maltese people, was awarded a retirement pension]: additionally, I include some my wife and I took.

Although I am too young to talk about the second world war, Malta historians use the war as a watershed, and the post war Malta is very much different to pre war Malta. Therefore, I am referring to post-war [even though the table below starts in 1939] and I am going to begin with a list of Admirals, and in one case an Admiral of the Fleet, who were the Commanders-in-Chief in  the Mediterranean and who were based in Malta, although during the Suez War of 1956, the C-in-C moved his Flag to Cyprus - see Bits and pieces Volume V item Number 4 - see also my home page http://www.godfreydykes.info for many other navy/communication branch pages. Two points here. Firstly, I am not aiming to state whether the Flag was ashore or afloat, thinking particularly about HMS Surprise but also of capital ships, and secondly, whereas it is traditional to show decorations and medals, I am omitting these for brevity.

Date/Period Rank Name
1939 Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham
1942 Acting Admiral Sir Henry Harwood
1943 Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham *# @
1943 Admiral Sir John Cunningham *
1946 Admiral Sir Algernon Willis
1948 Admiral Sir Arthur Power
1950 Admiral Sir John Edelsten  Click to enlarge Sir John on HMS Surprise awarding regatta prizes
1952 Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten
1955 Admiral Sir Guy Grantham
1957 Admiral Sir Ralph Edwards
1957 Admiral Sir Charles Lambe
1959 Admiral Sir Alexander Bingley
1961 Admiral Sir Deric Holland-Martin
1964 - 1967 Admiral Sir John Hamilton
* Sir Andrew and Sir John were not related. As Sir John followed Sir Andrew in Malta in 1943, so again Sir John [now an Admiral of the Fleet] took over from Sir Andrew in 1946 as the First Sea Lord.

# Sir Andrew was known throughout the navy as ABC, so there was never any doubt as to which of the Cunnigham's one was talking about! His Name was Andrew Browne Cunningham.

@ Click to enlarge Read this

Flag Officers Malta/Commander British Forces Malta
1968 Rear Admiral D.L. Davenport
1970 Rear Admiral D.G. Kent
1972 Rear Admiral J.A. Templeton-Cotill
1973 Rear Admiral D.A. Loram
1975 Rear Admiral O.N.A. Cecil

Although it is now 25 years since the British pulled-out of Malta, Click to enlarge much remains of the original infrastructure which today [February 2004] is either in an unused dilapidated condition, or is in the process of being transferred to organisations whose intentions are to refurbish to add to the growing  list of tourist attractions. However, do not waste your time looking for HMS Falcon at Hal Far in the extreme southeast corner of the Island whose former runways are now roads, nor HMS Phoenicia on Manoel Island in Gzira  near Sliema now out of bounds whilst the former naval establishment and its family lido are being converted to the Royal Yacht Club Marina, or the old Corradino Canteen for example in Grand Harbour's French Creek, but do bother to go and see the old WRNS quarters Whitehall Mansions [Msida] which is now much beautified and in full time use.

For better viewing I have added large GIF's which you can navigate by using your scrollbars.  However, large pictures need lots of RAM, so if you have lots of it, and remember you can increase it by doing a restart before you view this page then choose the GIF. Where a GIF has been published I have included a smaller JPG alongside it which requires less RAM to open. A GIF has the letter 'G' to the right and a JPG the letter 'J' to the right.  
Whitehall Mansions in 2004 Click to enlarge G Click to enlarge

More of these places later.

Noteworthy and of historic significance [for TWO reasons]

The last major group of Royal Navy ships to visit Malta was in 1978, just a few months before closure - reason 1.

Group 6 Deployment under Rear Admiral Martin La Touche Wemyss, flying his Flag in the cruiser HMS Tiger [MMWS] commanded by Captain G.M.K. Brewer Royal Navy and consisting of:-

HMS Cleopatra [GMLU] - Captain J.M. Webster Royal Navy
HMS Rhyl [GDCA] - Commander P.C. Phipps Royal Navy
HMS Amazon [GNID] - Commander R.N. Woodward Royal Navy
HMS Mohawk [GHQX] - Commander R.F. Cobbold Royal Navy
HMS Zulu [GHRA] - Commander P.J. Grindal Royal Navy
RFA Regent [GRMH] - Captain J.G.M. Coull Royal Fleet Auxillary
RFA Grey Rover [GYXM] - Captain R.B. Matthews Royal Fleet Auxillary

visited Malta en-route home from the Far East having executed what was in effect, a Silver Jubilee showing the Flag tour of East of Suez countries.

All eight ships entered Grand Harbour with Tiger and the RFA's at buoy's and the frigates at buoy's in Dockyard Creek. 

I was the FCRS on Admiral Wemyss's Staff embarked in HMS Tiger.

Reason 2

The day of sailing had been well published, and since it was to be the last departure of a large group of ships, all Grand Harbour viewing areas were crowded. From Senglea to Kalkara [Ricasoli Point] and from Lascaris to St Elmo Point few spaces were left vacant. 

     Mohawk was moored in Dockyard Creek ahead of Rhyl,  waiting to slip after Tiger had cleared ahead of her. Rhyl slipped early forcing Mohawk to slip early and move out into Grand Harbour where her passage was blocked by Tiger. Once into Grand Harbour Mohawk attempted to turn to port and then to fall in line astern of the column. Unfortunately Mohawk got it wrong and finished up on Customs House steps with the port anchor ready to let  go hanging over the jetty almost hitting a enthusiastic photographer. This  was the  only time in 180 years of British naval presence in Malta that a dghajsas was seen to  aquaplane! Mohawk  suffered damage to her bows just above the water line but was able to proceed under reduced speed and manoeuvring which prevented the ship taking part in exercises en-route to Gibraltar and thence home to Devonport. The damage was confined to the space below the paint locker and there was a small charge for being allowed to look down into "Neptunes Grotto" which was put into the guide dogs for the blind charity.  Mohawk's Commanding Officer Commander  Richard Cobbold Royal Navy eventually attained the rank of Rear Admiral.  One lasting memory for those watching must have been of the ratings lining Tiger's flight deck taking  several paces backwards as Mohawk plunged towards Tiger, and of  RFA Regent  giving Mohawk  three cheers as they sailed past.

Flag Officer Malta/Commander British Forces Malta, Rear Admiral Cecil sent a suitable signal to our boss Rear Admiral Weymss.

As the very last GROUP of Royal Navy warships to leave Malta and Grand Harbour, we certainly did it in great STYLE!!

Note: The internal happenings in HMS Mohawk and the observations made from the ship after the events describe above, were kindly made known to me by the Radio Supervisor of the ship, Radio Supervisor David Askew.  Thank you David for sharing this information.

Perhaps I should say at this point that whereas many R.N., ships [tens upon tens of them] have visited  Malta since its closure as a naval base in 1979, the Malta these young sailors see does not compare with the Malta of my subject.  Therefore, I am writing this for all who served in Malta before its closure. Malta, despite its proven loyalty and overt friendship to the Royal Navy, has, like several other geographical areas/ports around the world, a hang-up when it comes to nuclear, and no nuclear submarine has ever visited Malta.  That might be understandable, but a farcical event took place involving 'anti-nuclear demonstrators' when in June 1988 HMS Ark Royal was denied entry into Grand Harbour and had to anchor in St Paul's Bay just 16-odd miles further West: Valletta's loss and Bugibba's gain! These same demonstrators were obviously away from the Island on holiday in the summers of 1993 and 1994 for Ark Royal entered Grand Harbour with the usual pomp in full procedure Alfa.

It is extremely important to understand Malta's position today as it nears its membership of the European Union in May 2004. To do this I have added here a little potted history which most of you will know, so it is intended not to teach [or preach!!] but to dust away the cob-webs. 

What spot is it where the Fleet doth lie,
At anchor 'neath a cloudless sky,
Where Jack can't keep his 'mouthpiece' dry?
- It's Malta!

What place is it where the winds can blow,
Where the rain can rain, till it's touch-and-go-
Whether you'll swim your way down Strada or no?
- It's Malta!

Which Isle is this where Younger's stout,
Has caused the head of many a lout -
To swell three times its size? no doubt
 - It's Malta!

Where can the eye with rapture gaze -
On a forest of masts, and funnels, and stays,
Where saving 'fag-packets' is quite a craze?
- It's Malta!

Where is it where the glaring sun
Will cause your margarine to run,
Until it's melted down to 'nun'?
- It's Malta

What blot is this upon the map
Where poets get the 'Doo-la-tap'
Because their poetic brains went snap?
- It sure is Malta!

from the Nautical Gazette No8 June 1925

Strada is the Valletta Gut!

Contrary to popular belief, the relationship between the Maltese people and we the Brits, has been 'stormy' for many a long year. Certainly, in your own time serving in Malta whether pre or post war, and for that matter whether that war was the first or second, you may have experienced some civil unrest and outward hostility towards the British. In my time, I was stationed ashore at HMS Phoenicia/Lascaris Wireless when Don Mintoff's followers rioted in 1958. The troubles started in 1919 and riots broke out resulting in the shooting dead of four Maltese persons. 1921 saw the Maltese in a self-governing role in local matters whilst the British controlled matters of imperial concern, but after years of arguing between the pro-British and pro-Italian factions mainly about the language question whereby Italian was used in the courts and ordinary Maltese people did not understand what was being said about them, the British suspended the Maltese constitution in 1930. In 1932 it was restored but suspended a year later in 1933. The Maltese did not regain internal self-government until 1947. However, in 1934 the British ordered that Maltese should be the official language in the courts which greatly pleased Maltese people. Two years later in 1936, English became the official language of Malta for administration reasons in addition to Maltese in the courts.  With the language problem solved, Maltese schools engaged themselves in teaching Maltese and English as main curricula subject. This did not please the Nationalist politicians who used Italian for their rallying. Italian fascists under Mussolini supported their cause. When  war broke out 42 Maltese Nationalist politicians were deported to Uganda for the duration.  After the war they all returned safely to Malta, one of them, Dr Enrico Mizzi, becoming the Prime Minister in 1950. When Italy entered the war in 1940 and subsequently bombed Malta, any love of the Italians and their language soon evaporated. In 1943, 28 Italian warships were brought to Maltese harbours/creeks when the Italian Armistice was signed. Two Maltese men had very different ideas about Malta's future. Giorgio Borg Olivier wanted Dominion status [Malta to have full Dominion rights] but Don Mintoff wanted Integration with Britain, whereby Malta would have 3 MP's in the House of Commons in London. Britain liked the idea, but the Maltese Nationalists opposed it, and the Church of Malta strongly rejected the idea thinking that British Protestantism   might affect the staunchly Catholic Islands. In 1956, whilst we were addressing the 'Egyptian problem', Malta held a referendum.  The Nationalists boycotted it and the Church 'engineered' a NO VOTE, this despite that the majority of those that did vote, voted in favour of Integration. During my time in the Island in 1958, Don Mintoff fell out with the Church and with Britain and resigned. The British Governor took power to maintain law and order and the Constitution was revoked in 1959.  Malta was now run by an Executive Council. In 1961 self-government was restored and Borg Olivier was returned in 1962 helped greatly by the Church of Malta. Soon after in 1964, Malta won its independence within the Commonwealth. Thus Her Majesty The Queen remained the Head of State of Malta with an appointed Governor General acting in her name living on the Island. Malta aspired to even greater things and now wanted economic independence also. Malta signed an agreement with Britain to receive £M50 [part loan] over a period of 10 years in return for the continuing use of the military bases on the Island.  Traditionally dependent on British military spending Malta had now to diversify its economy, and set about encouraging tourism and manufacturing.  Then the beginning of the final phase began when in 1967 Britain announced massive and rapid defence cuts for the Island affecting all aspects of Maltese workers working for the Admiralty. The people of Malta were quite naturally concerned and negotiated with the British to slow down the timetable of cut-backs.  This Britain agreed to do. In 1971 Don Mintoff became Prime Minister and predictably informed us that the Defence and Assistance Agreement would be cancelled UNLESS it was substantially revised in Malta's favour.  Britain was unimpressed but Mintoff played on NATO fears that Malta might instead become a base for hostile forces.  In 1972 Britain agreed that Malta was to receive an annual payment of £M14 from combined NATO and UK sources.  In December 1974 when Malta became a Republic with a Maltese President as Head of State, it retained its Commonwealth membership. It is well known that in 1979, the last of the British Forces left the Island, and in the case of the Royal Navy manifest in the sailing of HMS London from Dockyard Creek. However, what might not be known is the way Malta played her International Card.  For many years, Malta had been the home of the British Forces in the Mediterranean and was therefore agreeing, albeit reluctantly, to being in-arms with the British militarily.  In 1979, Malta declared to the World that from henceforward, she would be completely NEUTRAL in all matters of war and that the United Nations would record a Declaration of Non-Alignment. Malta entrenched this article into her constitution. 

It would appear that many Maltese people have been told about the 'Irish Fortune' and how joining the European Community acted as a panacea to all her ill's.  They have been told that Malta too will see dynamic changes in her economy and moreover, that they will become a rich country without the need to rely on her two [current] 'dollar-earners', namely tourism  [many hotel beds remain empty throughout the year] - and light manufacturing [13,000 are currently unemployed which is worrying for the economy].  During my recent visit I got to talking with a Maltese lady who was clearly older than myself.  Her father had been a doctor on the island and moreover, one of the first British trained medical men.  I got to talking about tourism and did she think that joining the EU would bring in more visitors. I was quite surprised to hear that during the 1920's and 1930's many British tourists came to Malta for a summer holiday and brought in important currency.  However there were two problems in Malta in those days. Firstly that local Maltese people tried to outdo the established British breweries by making their own concoction to sell to the sailors at a knock-down price.  When the fleet came into port and the sailors money ran low, they would drink this local brew at a few pennies a glass.  The brew caused wide spread temporary blindness and all kinds of other ailments which both naval and civilian doctors treated. One was chronic liver disease and the other was DT's, or delirium tremens. Secondly, when we talk about 'Maltese Tummy' today we talk about being temporarily incapacitated. In the 1920's and 1930's British holiday makers caught Maltese Fever or Brucellosis which would always leave its mark and regularly killed those infected.  It was transmitted by using raw goats milk - ugh!

To those who know Malta but haven't returned recently, I can tell you that very little has changed from the 1950's and the place still presents itself as a loveable sleepy backwater. A good 80% of her public transport has not changed in 50 years and little appears to have been done in preparation for joining the EU, although I did see that 'part of the sacred-cow had been slaughtered' manifest in that a church in Valletta was being converted in Malta's Stock Exchange.  Lots of hotels have been built on hitherto backwaters; gardens have been created; rarely did I see people crossing themselves on passing the ubiquitous religious icons; gone are the ladies of the church who stood on corners of Valletta streets dressed in black and large hooped hoods inviting donations; post cards with topless beauties are plentiful and explicit lingerie shops abound, which in my time would have been dis-allowed by the Church.  Valletta has changed the name of its main thoroughfare [which is pedestrianised along its length but traffic criss-crosses it at many points] from Kingsway to Republic Street and apart from smart cafes replacing less-smart cafes nothing has changed and even the proverbial Maltese promenading {passegiata as they call it} continues.  Strait Street is no longer the 'Gut' and they will show indifference at being reminded that there was such a place.  Nevertheless, the street remains exactly the same [how, in its environment, could it possibly physically change?] and yes, it still has bars and cafes although I would wager a bet that the tills are not as busy as when the fleet hit town. Floriana's 'gut' is still physically there, but the bars have gone. Most annoyingly and 'flying-in-the-face' of tourism, is that on certain days everything stops at 1pm and the streets are deserted by the locals [but not by tourists] and all shop shutters are lowered.  

In summary, whilst I am glad that I recognise still the Malta of my youth, I find it difficult to believe that Malta is yet ready for this elevation into a EU country. Whatever, I know you will all join me in wishing dear old Malta good fortune - their people deserve it!


Now for some pictures to remind you of how it all was in days gone by.


Malta in perspective. Malta's land mass is considerably smaller than that of the Isle of Wight. Much of Malta's land mass is wasted by rocky scrub-land and adhoc small farming patches which I will not call fields, whereas the mass of the Isle of Wight is fully utilised by sustainable management. The scales of each map used are different. 

In this picture of Malta only, I have shown where the main Royal Navy/Royal Marine presence was.

Inside the large circle/oval were:-

HMS St Angelo, formerly HMS Egmont HMS Ricasoli, where I passed for Leading Telegraphist
The Dockyard Victualling and Stores Yard
RNH Bighi Lascaris [C-in-C offices/FO Malta offices]
Rinella W/T Rinella Creek; Kalkara Creek; Dockyard Creek; French Creek; Corradino Heights; Grand Harbour; Senglea; Birgu; Vittoriosa.
St Elmo Point [entrance into Grand Harbour] Tigne Point [entrance to Sliema Creek; Msida Creek and Lazaretto Creek] for submarines, destroyers/frigates and sweepers.
Marsa [Admiralty House] and Admiralty House Valletta. Gzira for Manoel Island, Manoel Island fleet canteen, HMS Phoenicia, the Lido and the Base Supply Office [BSO]
Whitehall Mansions, the much loved home of the WRNS. Floriana NATO Headquarters; Valletta NATO building.

Inside the medium size oval shape were:-

HMS Falcon the RNAS at Hal Far Kalafrana facilities

and inside the small circle was the Royal Marines Commando Training Facility at Ghajn Tuffieha.  

There is a place in the middle of  Malta called Ta Qali [said Ta Kali] - between Rabat and Mosta - which is the Aviation Museum and which has the old runways [now roads/car park] where the Fleet Air Arm base of HMS Goldfinch used to be. These areas are now under the control of the Maltese Government. 

Whilst RNW/T Rinella at Fort Rinella {famous for being the Island's main rum store for the Navy} behind HMS Ricasoli [mentioned above in the large table] was the transmitting station for the island, RNW/T Dingli and RNW/T Zebbug were a few miles to the west of Valletta and they were the receiving stations - click on picture to see a list of shore station radio equipments Click to enlarge.  When Zebbug closed down  in February 1976 she sent her final message from Malta. Just think, as I was hitting my morse key sat on ship-shore in Lascaris my dots and dashes were falling over the Barbary Coastal areas and floating in the ether all over the world. Click just HERE to hear the sad and haunting sound of morse code which left my morse key from my 8Mhz ship-shore chair, and which will forever travel the air waves of the Mediterranean looking for the Navy on the fair isle of Malta, wondering why that august callsign of GYX, had been abandoned: RIP my friend. Click to enlarge [Note:  Even if you don't understand Morse, you can still listen to its sad and haunting sound!!]

This little island in the Med
is mourning now Zebbug is dead.
It passed away without a noise
And now the RAF care for our boys.
We hoped to stay a little longer
To make our suntans that much stronger.
That we must go said the voice from on high
We had to agree we know not why.
So we say farewell from this small place
Take care RAF and don't lose face

This is Filfla, an island off Malta beyond which, at a range of approximately 170 miles, is North Africa Click to enlarge. The Navy spent countless hours over many years bombarding this rock for gunnery practice, and entry onto the island is forbidden without express permission because of the possibility of unexploded shells.  However, it has become a sanctuary for wild life which can only improve its lot! 

Dealing first with the Fleet Air Arm. The FAA has several web sites covering their squadrons based ashore and embarked. Hal Far has a good web site which can be found at http://www.hms.vengeance.btinternet.co.uk/falcn.htm

Regrettably I cannot find anything about the Royal Marines facility at Ghajn Tuffieha.  When HMS Tyne visited Malta in 1956 on her way to the Suez War [as the Flagship] we youngsters spent four days at this camp toughening-up.  It was good fun and the booties didn't hurt us too much!

Next comes Whitehall Mansions and the WRNS.  Whitehall Mansions was already the name of the building before the WRNS moved in, but might have been called Furse House in honour of Dame Katherine Furse, the first Commandant of the WRNS, had not that name already been used for a house in London which provided accommodation for WRNS working there.  It is not generally known, but nevertheless true and recorded for posterity in the pages of history, that when in 1917 the Second Sea Lord asked Dame Katherine, at that time the C-in-C of the women's VAD - Voluntary Aid Detachment - to a meeting in the Admiralty, the resultant organisation soubriquet would be less than attractive.  At first, the women's service was called 'Women's Auxiliary Naval Corps' [WANKS] but changed to 'Women's Auxiliary Naval Service' [WANS].  That too was discarded in favour of the third choice which was 'Women's Royal Naval Service' the [WRNS].  Good catholic Maltese girls didn't go out with British servicemen, so any decent medium term relationship was a non-starter: obviously, there will have been a couple of exceptions to what clearly was the norm. Many sailors, particularly those stationed ashore and perhaps working alongside the WRNS, enjoyed long to medium term friendships with our British girls.  {MARGARET ROBINSON nee Gordon [known also as 'blondie' or 'scouse' ]...........an ex Wren Writer working in the small ship's pay office in the Base Supply Office on Manoel Island in the 1958-1960  period and now living in Australia, says "I must say that the shortage of women on the Island was to the Wren's advantage at the time. You could have a face like a bag full of spanners, but still get a date!! My boss in the pay office was very understanding when I asked for make and mends just to keep up with the dates I had made.  Oh halcyon days!" Margarets email address can be found on the Lascaris web site under on-line members and she can also be contacted at www.geocities.com/navy99_1999/Assoc.html a site for ex-Wrens down under!     The majority of the WRNS left the Mansions on a daily basis and travelled by RN buses to various parts of the Island, where they were employed as communicators, writers, plotters, stenographers etc etc. Here are a few more February 2004 photographs.  They are thumbnails. As above, I have up-loaded large GIF photographs for your enjoyment, so use your scrollbars, and also the same photograph as a JPG.    Click to enlarge G Click to enlarge J   The new front entrance to a beautifully restored frontage in a building now used by the Maltese authorities.  Click to enlarge G Click to enlarge J  Looking up the stairs leading to the small side entrance door on the left hand side of the building. Click to enlarge G Click to enlarge J   A view of the rear of the Mansions.  Click to enlarge G Click to enlarge J    Looking down the steps to the main road below Click to enlarge G Click to enlarge J   and the small side entrance near the top of the steps.

That’s what oppos are for! – By Jeff Dykes [written  when  based in Malta]


If you've never been it’s worth the trip

It’s warm, at times hot, but you can take a dip,

And you can get here for just a snip

Come, join us all for a jolly good sip.


A sip of what do I hear you  ask

Well, it could come from a cask

Just settle back and start to bask

Getting a bottle will be no big task.


A bottle of what, Is there a local brew?

You bet my friend and real strong too

They make it just for me and the crew

You’ve had enough when the pink elephants come into view.


Ere, this will put you in a spin

Drink well my friend of Marsavin

And if when full you commit a sin

We’ll tell your next of kin.


I’m off now , got to get ready for a date

See you later and don’t get into a state

Oh, and one last thing about my slate

That is to say, many thanks mate.


Now lend us a rubber, a bar will do

If only half a bar, then a tanner too

Im off ashore to see my girly

It wont go far, but nor will Shirley


Then off I go to Whitehall Mansion

Ive been so often that I am a stanchion

Tonight could be my lucky score

But knowing Shirley, it could be another bore.


Enough of this and another rejection

Ive decided to leave and swap my erection

For a large Marsavin injection

Ah……lovely…..what perfection.  






P.S. Honest, I have never known a girl called Shirley….nice name though!

P.P.S. I wrote this 47 years ago, when I was 'silly'. In those days we lived hand-to-mouth and money was tight, very tight. The culture was to borrow money from ones mess mates which was called a 'rubber'. A bar is a £1 [it is in the dictionary also] and thus half a bar was ten bob [50p]. A tanner was a sixpenny piece, worth 2½p today.   

P.P.P.S. I know that it is a bit rude, but I make no apologises for printing this poem. However, equally I do hope that it does not cause offence.  I am a little bit more mature today -
boring, but true!







Continuing with Msida, this was the view before 1960 of the depot ship HMS Forth with the boats of the 1st Submarine Squadron alongside on their trots. The view is from Whitehall Mansions. Click to enlarge  Forth was the longest serving depot ship in Malta first going to Msida creek in 1948.  She left for the UK on the 1st of October 1960 to be replaced by a much smaller ship, the LST HMS Narvik on a temporary basis. The next two pictures come from a large aerial photograph showing the large 'S' bend formed by Sliema, Lazaretto and Msida Creeks, with Sliema at the top right edge of the letter 'S' and Msida at the bottom left edge. If you print them both, then overlay the Sliema/Lazaretto picture of Whitehall Mansions on top of the Msdia picture of Whitehall Mansions trimming accordingly, you will see all three creeks in true perspective. The picture is post-war and shows {in the left hand picture} HMS Forth sitting in Msida Creek, and {in the right hand picture} the large ship, HMS Ranpura, with her many vessels, sitting in Lazaretto Creek. In the distance are destroyers and frigates sitting in Sliema Creek. Note the farmers fields immediately behind Whitehall Mansions and the war damage along the coastal road to Gzira. The big land mass in the middle of the Sliema/Lazaretto picture is of course Manoel Island Click to enlargeClick to enlarge.   Later, In 1967 Forth came to Singapore and was the Depot Ship to me at that time serving in submarine Auriga. Another view of Forth with her boats at Malta, this time 1951 in Grand Harbour at the entrance to Dockyard Creek Click to enlarge Her view, anchored off Fleet Landing HMS Terror in the Straits, was a lonely affair compared to her exciting 12 years in Malta for all she had to look at was jungle. Here is Narvik in Msida Creek with the Torpedo Depot on the right [now pulled down and replaced by a garden/pedestrian walk way] and Whitehall Mansion in clear view as the prominent building on the left hand side. In the garden there is a memorial to the Torpedo Depot. Click to enlarge  After Narvik came the Ausonia and she departed in late summer 1964. After the submarines left the Creek was used for minesweepers and then they left Malta in 1969.  Msida Creek is now filled with small boats, ferries [Valletta and Gozo], and immediately outside Whitehall Mansions there is a car park. 

Next, back along the twisting curving road to Gzira where I lived in barracks called HMS Phoenicia,  just 30 minutes or so by foot from Whitehall Mansions. From the main road  running through the Gzira water front there was [and still is] a small bridge which crosses a water-run which leads onto Manoel Island Click to enlarge G Click to enlarge J    Note now in February 2004, there is a petrol station at the very foot of the bridge.  Manoel Island, named after a 14 year old [1722-1736] called Antoine Manoel de Vilhena, is a large island by Maltese standards jutting out into a large bay comparable to that of Grand Harbour, and by so doing, forming two large creeks, and those, with the Creek of Msida forms a natural harbour [haven] behind the northern perimeter of the Valletta peninsular. This harbour is called Marsamxett [Marsamuscetto]  Harbour Click to enlarge {see below for key}. Here is a picture showing the whole of Manoel Island with the bridge to it middle left of the photograph Click to enlarge.

1= Floriana 2= Valletta 3=Msida Creek 4=Lazaretto Creek 5=Slieman Creek  6=HMS Phoenicia 7=Manoel Island 8=Whitehall Mansions
9=Gzira Front 10=Manoel Island Bridge 11=Manoel Island Fleet Canteen 12=Msida Roundabout 13=Manoel Island Lido 14=Out to Sea 15=Slieman Front *=Sports pitches


The creeks formed by Manoel Island were called Sliema in the north and Lazaretto in the south with Msida Creek independent of Manoel Island further south still.  [Lazaretto Creek with Manoel Island on the left]

Click to enlarge

 A good part of the Royal Navy presence at any one time was 'parked' in these three creeks.  Sliema was used for destroyers and frigates; Lazaretto for reserve fleet, small vessels and, supporting the dockyard, the heavy repair ship HMS Rampura whilst Msida was used for submarines and their parent 'mother-ship'. [Sliema Creek with Manoel Island on the right] Click to enlarge Add to the business of the comings and goings afloat, were the operations of a good sized naval barracks HMS Phoenicia, the Lido which was frequented by families as well as single service personnel, the diving school, shore-side facilities for the ships in the creeks, a large BSO [Base Supply Office] and last but not least, the large fleet canteen which supported just about every social and sporting facility imaginable.  It was a very busy place although it could never have been compared to Valletta for size and activity. Note the many ships present in both creeks. For those of you who used the bars on the Gzira front, the ever popular Don's [or Yorkie's] bar is still there immediately across from the bridge, and after a quick peep inside, it hasn't altered one iota in nearly 50 years except for a new main door.  The main road leading to Sliema is now a double dual carriageway with a substantial walkway on the sea side and a small traffic island between the two carriageways, so some land reclamation must have taken place.  [The duck farm sanctuary] Click to enlarge  The walk to Sliema is much the same, but Sliema itself has changed to accommodate the tourists requirements. Like Msida, all the creeks are full of boats of all sizes and types, and Malta has three large patrol boats in her navy which are moored at the top end of Msida over on the bottom part of Floriana. [The notice at the gates to the Canteen. It reads "Manoel Island and Tigne Point Development. NO PEDESTRIAN AND VEHICULAR TRAFFIC ACCESS TO MANOEL ISLAND. This forms part of the Manoel Island and Tigne Point Project. We regret any inconvenience caused and plan to open the site to public access as soon as possible. In the meantime, you are reminded that unauthorised entry is forbidden for reasons of safety"  The picture in the bottom right corner shows one what the finished project will look like]Click to enlarge  On Manoel Island, the road leading up to the canteen gates is roughly twice as wide as it used to be [looking up to the old Manoel Island Fleet Canteen]  Click to enlarge  and on the left there is a duck farm where birds of all types seek refuge: having said that, we saw at least [the road now much wider sports a "Yacht Yard" on the left hand side going up to the Canteen] Click to enlarge  three sleeping cats sprawled amongst the rocks which form the sanctuary! Once at the old gates, the way ahead is barred for safety reasons for they are building a major marina where [a second view of the canteen showing more of the out buildings] Click to enlarge HMS Phoenicia used to be. It is still possible to see the old canteen which appears to be ready to fall down and the road from it up to the hill top and Phoenicia's main gate has not changed and is still narrow. 

Next, to where I worked when based ashore from 1957 to 1959 which was LASCARIS in the heart of Valletta.  During the war, the British fought the 'Battle of Malta' from deep inside the Lascaris tunnels which today are a tourist attraction and very well presented. I highly recommend a visit in addition to your visit to the War Museum proper at Fort St Elmo.  Fortunately, I never had to work in these underground caverns, but where I did work, just around the corner from the tourist entrance to the Lascaris War Rooms, is still exactly the same as it was 47 years ago, although the building has been much modified with new windows and doors etc. It is now owned and used by the Maltese Government and used as the National Stats Office. The approach to the old communication centre is via a long tunnel itself many tens of feet below the arched entrance into the city of Valletta. Here I am at the  entrance Click to enlarge and at the end by the old officeClick to enlarge[sorry about the poor quality]. No you can't have your old job back Click to enlarge !  Then at the bottom of the tunnel I found a photograph of the 1957 staff which included me and many others I knew 47 years previously. I photographed this picture with my digital camera at close-up range and what follows is the result Click to enlarge.  This is a digital zoom of that picture Click to enlarge G Click to enlarge J.  From that, I isolated yours truly Click to enlarge and I am right in the middle to the immediate left of the Petty Officer.

Finally, since we are now in Valletta, to  Grand Harbour and its surrounding areas and memories, which could be considered as being the naval heart of Malta.  Click to enlargeClick to enlarge J    The entrance to the harbour has not altered and it is still protected by the staggered breakwater. Entering the harbour, on the port side Kalkara [HMS Ricasoli Point] is still the same as it was 50 years ago when the STC [Signal Training Centre] offered advancement courses for the professional killick rate, and where one could pass provisionally for petty officer, subsequently attending the professional course in the UK at HMS Mercury. It was also a centre for cookery, leadership, a rifle range, a transit centre and bathing facilities at the Fleet Lido.  It is a fascinating place to visit and now used for film sets. We also visited the naval cemetery at Kalkara which is beautifully kept.  Incidentally, HMS Ricasoli closed down on the 1st September 1958 - my, how time flies!  Over on the starboard side much has changed at St Elmo's Point. This picture Click to enlarge shows a bell tower which is part of a large and attractive memorial monument to the dead of the second world war, which was opened by HM The Queen in 1995. Click to enlarge G Click to enlarge J   The whole area has been revamped {there used to be a light-house on St Elmo's malta_how st elmos point used to be 2 } and it, plus the lower Barracca Gardens immediately opposite give the visitor a very pleasant place in which to sit and observe:  pity that there are very few ships entering and leaving  port. Click to enlarge G Click to enlarge J     Integral to this almost total refurbishment are good museums and audio visual displays although little has changed when it comes to garry-horse owners pestering you to take a ride.  Once inside the harbour little seems to have changed except for four things. Click to enlarge  G Click to enlarge J    All the  buoys have been lifted;  French Creek is dominated by large cranes and a chimney stack for the main power station whose top marks the highest point on Malta;  customs house steps is no longer the home for the proverbial and one time ubiquitous dghajsas and clearly the barklor's [a dghajsas man] have found new work Click to enlarge and Barriera Wharf and the Steam Ferry Landing appeared to have no regular use anymore.  Remember the merchant ships being berthed bow on to the Landing.

We now say goodbye to the Valletta side of Grand Harbour and remind ourselves of the 'meat-on-the-bone' side, where work came before the pomp and circumstance of Lascaris!!

The Creeks on this side of the harbour are generally well known to Royal sailors, but sometimes, their names get mixed-up or are wrongly used.   In this picture all creeks except Sliema [which has been circled only] are highlighted. No 1 is Ricasoli - No 2 is Bighi - No 3 is St Angelo - No 4 is Senglea - No 5 is Valletta - No 6 is Marsamxett Harbour - No 7 is Lascaris.  Rinella Creek and Kalkara Creek together were often referred to as Bighi Bay. RNH Bighi, once a  major hospital working in conjunction with the RN Memorial Hospital at Imtarfa [near Mdina in the centre of the island which closed in 1978] closed in 1970. It is now used as a Trades Training Area as well as for public housing. Click to enlarge Bighi still sits upon that rock looking like a beautiful Greek Palace. Bighi Bay appears not to be attractive to small boat owners and is more or less deserted. Round the bay we come to Vittoriosa, HMS St Angelo, Dockyard Creek, the Dockyard, the victualling yard and several other facilities. What a sad site is HMS St Angelo.  This was the place which contained barracks; messdecks; dining halls; offices; a NAAFI shop; bars; a cinema; a rifle range; classrooms; a parade ground; post office; library; sick bays; a dental surgery; Chapels and the Captains House. It also had store rooms; workshops; sail-loft; paymasters office; MOD Police HQ's, and it was home to the Malta Port Division who were locally entered personnel [LEP].  We were told that The Knights of Malta had taken it over, but for my money, it has been ruined. The place is in a bad state although the following photographs do not show the internal ruination. 

The old victualling yard with its bakery, rum store, dry and fresh issue stores has been part converted into a Maritime Museum which is well worth a visit and from here you can get a dghajsas ride, outboard motor and all, back to Valletta. 

The dockyard itself is completely unused and derelict.  Both its main dockyard gates are shut and bolted  and painted bright red. Windows are smashed in the dockside workshops and the creek is half full of luxury craft of every type some so beautiful that their owners, if not international corporations, are very seriously rich! They are busy extending a marina into the creek and also building a 5-star hotel.

Senglea itself as a place [or city, as they call it] has not changed at all.  However French Creek has. No 1 dock is still there [the submarine dock] but the huge jetty on which carriers and their ilk were berthed for repairs has now been converted to a dry dock for commercial shipping.  However, Laboratory Wharf rebuilt with the assistance of the Royal Navy before closing is still in use.  Of course the days of Corradino, its famous canteen, theatre, sporting facilities have long been history. An old picture of Corradino. Some called this area Corradino Hill whilst other Corradino Heights.  Four  views of inside St Angelo today  Click to enlarge Click to enlarge.  Right looking at St Angelo from Senglea and left, looking towards Senglea from St Angelo Click to enlarge.  Top the lovely garden at Senglea Point overlooking Grand Harbour and the childrens playing area, and bottom overlooking French Creek from a Senglea street with number 1 dock first and the commercial dock second  Click to enlarge. Two pictures of the gates leading to the victualling/stores depot on the road leading to St Angelo, now the Maritime Museum Click to enlarge. Two views looking down Dockyard Creek towards Grand Harbour. Note the large Marina Click to enlarge.  Two views of Dockyard Creek.  Bottom looking into the Creek from St Angelo and top looking across the creek from Vittoriosa to Senglea Click to enlarge.  Two views of the Dockyard Proper. Top looking down the dockyard from the dockyard main gate in Conspicua and bottom, looking up the dockyard from the dockyard gate [painted red but hardly visible in the shade] near to Senglea's Macina Bastion Click to enlarge.  Two views of the main Dockyard gate and security wall at the Cospicua end Click to enlarge.  The now derelict main Dockyard building looking from Vittoriosa side. The windows are broken and it is a sad sight Click to enlarge.

Finally;  Here's to the health of your blood,
Here's to the blood of your health;
If your health is your blood
And your blood is your wealth
Then here's to your bloody good health.