MALTA

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE 20TH CENTURY

 A HISTORY LESSON IN ONE VERY SHORT INFORMATIVE gif

 

Malta was just one port in the Mediterranean used by the Royal Navy. At other times in the 20th century, the fleet was dispersed to Egypt [Alexandria] and to Algeria [Algiers] particularly in WW2.  However, Malta was the only Port whose terra firma was utilised to the full, even to the point of revamping the ancient buildings to suit naval use as a major fortification. Nelson took Malta from the French in the early 19th century, and we kind of gave it back to the Maltese Government on the 31st March 1979, when the then Flag Officer sailed away from the base in the destroyer HMS London.

When people say that the navy and those now serving in it is so very different to what the sailors of yore experienced, there is never a truer phrase uttered when it comes to service in and on Malta, especially for all those who served between 1945 and the pull-out.

Malta wasn't just a naval base, for at times it was a major garrison [with more soldiers than sailors on the islands] and of course it had a large and very active airfield [RAF Luqa] which is now the iland's commerical airport, as well as fleet air arm bases. With accompanying familes, and all three armed forces represented in great numbers, there were many problems [chief of which was housing, but also medical and schooling]  with the associated shortage of barracks for unaccompanied men, which usually, as in all our foreign bases, outnumbered those who could and did take their familes.

The islands of Malta [Malta proper, Filfla, Gozo and Camino] where visited by all serving on the "base" by foot, bike, motorised transport and boat, that is all except Filfla, which was only visited by naval shells fired from the guns of ships in the Mediterranean Fleet: it was out of bounds to all human visitors, but frequented by birds.

The main building as far as the navy was concerned was Lascaris, immdediately above Customs House buidling and steps in Grand Harbour Valletta, wherein ruled the Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean, who was superior to all other officers including the army and the airforce, and all Nato officers. He had his own yacht, a smart frigate called HMS Surprise, and lived in a smart house [Admiralty House] which was in South Street Valletta, the same side of town as was the "Gut" in Strait Street, famous or infamouse depending upon ones personal view. Valletta "throbbed" at nght when the fleet was in, but so too did other well known areas like Floriano [with its own "gut"] ,Gzira/Sliema  water front bars, and the Barbary Coast over on the south side of Grand Harbour, looked after those wishing to walk from their barracks [Ricasoli, St Angelo, Rinella, Bighi] to enjoy a drink in the copious bars serving what the Maltese call their three cities, which added together, form an area equating to a large village in the UK.

Lascaris was also the HQ's of the Fleet and housed its large communications centre manned by many men and Wrens. Many famous admirals became the C-in-C Mediterranean, notably A.B.C.[the famous WW2 naval commander] Cunningham with initial of A.B., Lord Louis Mountbatten, and another admiral called Cunningham [no relation to A.B.C.] but he too became an admiral of the fleet.

Those who served in LASCARIS got together to form an association, which later on, exteneded its membership to all who had served in Malta. It had a good website made and maintained by the webmaster a chap called Bill Halton. Bill stepped down, and somehow or another I was invited to write a new site - not that there was anything wrong with Bill's. It wasn't used or accepted chiefly because I believe that many members had opted to do their business on facebook by that time, and because of that preference, there is no longer a Lascaris website. Anyway, for that proposed new website I devised a little animated gif file, which now unused,  is a pity really. Your'll find it below, but please do take note of the copyright which is owned by me, coming up as the last entry before it automatically restarts from the beginning again. I don't do social media, so no further comment!

Some of the names you may find unfamiliar but stick with it. The only name which does require clarification is the hotel in Sliema called the Imperial. This was the first accommodation for Wrens serving in Malta well before Whitehall Mansions was commissioned.