A Snippet.

Just a few pictures of Malta with no real home to post them to.

First, a phalanx of men, hundreds of them, marching from Floriana Parade Ground towards the Porta Reale, the archway leading onto the main street through Valetta once called Kingsway and now called Republic Street. The time was 1953 and they are marching down to the bottom of Kingsway to The Governors House. You can see three platoons, with several more behind, each led by an officer with a drawn sword and behind him are two senior rates followed by ratings in three ranks numbered 1 to 17 i.e., a total platoon of 54.

Next, Malta's Strait Street, the Gut, had many drinking bars, but it also had four very distinctive Music Hall bars where between act sailors had to behave themselves and keep, or try to keep, quiet and appreciative. The largest and the best was undoubtedly the Victoria, and as you can see, it was "under the direction of an English man.

These two shots were indicative of what when on inside the Hall.

In this picture of the Gut you can see another of the Music Halls, this one called the Cambridge.

Malta had quite literally hundreds of bars and drinking dens as well as enough cafes and restaurants to feed double the population.  It also had many hotels, some of them very up-market and countless boarding or kipping-down back bedrooms for inebriated sailors unable or unwilling to get back to their ship until leave expired in the morning. If all that were not enough, and totalling a formidable competition bar on bar, the Island also had three large facilities designed specifically to keep English money in English pockets and away from Maltese proprietors pockets. These were the famous Fleet Canteens, run by naval committees for the good of sailors, with a little help from the NAAFI, this one in the centre of Valetta.

 The time for this story is the 1920's up to the start of WW2. The three Fleet Canteens were to be found at Gzira serving those stationed on Manoel Island and ships/submarines in the creeks of Sliema, Msida and Lazaretto which later on closed down and was replaced by the Manoel Island Canteen which many of you will recall; one in Valetta serving the barracks there plus various naval HQ buildings and of course big ships at buoys in Grand Harbour whose boat trip was as easy to Customs House steps as it was to the Three Cities on the other side of the harbour. The bigger the ship the bigger the clientele and the Valetta Club, established in Barriera Wharf [first port of call behind customs House steps] was well frequented.  Little is heard of this Club today but much about the third Club, which was at Corradino at the back of Frenchman's Creek, over towards the Barbary Coast in the Three Cities, and this is partly due because the Valetta Club catered routinely for an audience comprising families as well as sailors and was therefore generally more 'couth', whereas Corradino was quite famous for it sods opera's especially post WW2. Having said that, Corradino was used for the most diverse audiences possible.  Malta had a very large Naval Christian fellowship over and above the indigenous fellowship of the Maltese Roman Catholic faith. From their influence, and that of course of Agnes Weston at the Sailors Rest, sprung many temperance societies and they all needed a meeting space. Additionally, groups like the Masons and the Buffs [RAOB] were powerful lobbyists for sobriety amongst servicemen - Malta was certainly not, contrary to belief, a hopelessly drunken and debauched society. The Corradino Fleet Club played host to these groups as these three pictures show as examples.

This first pictures shows the annual gathering of the naval Catholic society in the theatre at Corradino, and

this picture shows the meeting of the RAOB [the BUFFS]

and this, the Naval Lodge on the Island

 

I don't have a picture of the front of the Valetta Club but I do have pictures of the other clubs. This is the Club at Gzira. Note on the right the sign "I am ex RN" so buy my booze and pay me, not a local man!  This [below] is Corradino, by comparison a much more splendid affair having every conceivable facility imaginable including generous sports pitches.

This pictures gives you some idea of the cavernous space available for use at Corrodino.  The scene is a meet between the French Mediterranean Fleet and the British Mediterranean Fleet in the late 1920's. The Fleet Canteen closed its doors after 71 years of service to the Fleet on the 31st March 1968.

I have perhaps wrongly described Corradino when mentioning sods opera's for more often than not it was used to stage semi professional concerts when the gentry of the Island were invited to a good night out.

Here is just a typical performance, and after it, all were invited back to the Benbow herself for a fancy dress parade around the upper deck.

Putting on a good show in Malta in the 20's/30's was of great importance to the morale of the ship's company. Many drafts and appointments were cancelled or delayed so as not to lose a star director or actor in the ship's concert party. So seriously was it taken, that the normal practice of berthing a capital ship mid stream on buoys was abandoned when a Squadron [of Battleships, Battlecruisers or Cruisers] wanted to push the boat out for a summer gala ball. Instead, they berthed alongside each other, and connected gangways, so that the enormous quarterdecks of these vessels could provide a sea of dance floor for the invited guests. These invites could be for a ship's company ball, a senior rates ball or more commonly, a wardroom ball.

I could go on for hours for there is so much to see and tell about Malta which was always a wonderful tour of duty offering from the finest weather to the best possible social life.