Malta's Police Force - for example, in my time in the 1950's

Many of you will remember Malta's police constables and officers as a friendly bunch, and by and large, I am sure that they were. One in particular, a giant Gozonian appropriately nicknamed Tiny, became a friend to many a sailor loose in Valletta, looking to charm the locals - well females at least - or take on the whole world with fisticuffs. He appeared not to take offence [whether meant or not] chosing to be the sole representative of the local force on duty but with a rapid and reliable communications channel to the Naval Provost. It was they, the RPO's and leading patrol men who did the 'dirty work' with Tiny taking the credit for running an orderly and well behaved Strait Street clientelle. However, those shrewd operator's [the Jaunties] offloaded much of their work to the patrols landed by the ships secured in either of the two central harbours.

In the 1950's, friend Mintoff seems to have had a tight and overwhelming affect upon their operations and practices, and it was a dangerous thing to say or do something which he didn't like.  Having said that, he didn't exactly like the British and in oh so many ways, that dislike was reciprocated by the British.

One of the problems when researching, is that delving into records often produces far too much material, leaving the researcher to prioritise and to ditch what cannot be fitted into one's web pages.  I am no exception. I have therefore decided to show you just two example of the Mintoff-influenced era in which his police force often turned nasty for no obvious reason.

The first example [one of several] is about what you say about the Maltese politicians, even when in jest and sticking with polite rules devoid of all innuendo, foul or profane language. It smacks of a 'big brother' mentality! It {they.........occurred in 1956}. Maltese prisons, thinking about the Commander being locked up instead of being bound over, were not big enough to incarcerate all on the Island who had a good go at Mintoff for his anti British ways. Few, unsuspecting libertymen, were aware of the volatility abroad on the street of Valletta and were wise to frequent the fleet clubs, or if not them, the bars on the Barbary  Coast, which were always less tense and more friendly.


Now for a story which involved the Governor of Malta and Flag Officer Malta {a rear admiral - W.G. Brittain }, the top two men concerned with the happenings occurring in the Islands making up the archipelago: the C-in-C {an admiral - Sir Guy Grantham} looks after the Mediterranean.

The story covers two quite separate incidences one for HMS Daring and one for HMS Owen.

As a naval story, it has all that we always knew would happen with officers demonstrably looking after the interest of men whether onboard or ashore.  I have seen such actions time and again in my thirty year career, but rarely have I seen it written down and available [after declassification and released time-expired by the National Archives] in the public domain for all to see: although often seen when for RN eyes only, where the material is destroyed when no longer relevant!

The story is about the brutal behaviour of rogue Maltese policemen, towards defenceless sailors, who have done absolutely nothing to warrant such an attack, an attack which was not uncommon  on royal sailors, their only crime being in British uniforms: junior rates were not allowed ashore in civilian clothing until the 1960's.

It is believed that the outcome was for the Governor {Sir Robert Edward Laycock, KCMG, CB, DSO, KStJ a famous army commander before retirement} representing HM The Queen, had a word with the elected Prime Minister Dom Mintoff {the office of which was disbanded in 1958 for four years} about this and other incidents, but Mintoff, being the abrasive man he was, ignored His Excellency's approach, and as we all now know, the Malta situation grew ever more acid and acrimonious.

As you read the story, please remember that I have used the words 'rouge policemen' openly admitting that not all in the Island's Force were of that persuasion, not even towards some of the British sailors whose antisocial behaviour could try the patience of a Saint, never mind the copper on the beat!

Finally, a huge BZ to the officers involved, the heroes of the story with the rogue policemen the anti-heroes.