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 Childhood in Malta 1946 - 1948

  By Anita Sackett.      Copyright Anita Howard/WW2 People's War 2005

  WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC.

  The archive can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar                                                  



    Contents:  Maltese Childhood (1946-8)

Chapter 1: Voyage to Valetta on "Orontes" Leaving Tilbury, England on the P and O liner “Orontes” for Valetta, Malta. In May/June 1946 we...

 Chapter 2: Living at the Crown Hotel, Sliema ....

 Chapter 3: Hal-Far. At last our own home Now that our possessions were unpacked mum could use her sewing machine so she bought some thick cotton...

 Chapter 4: H.M. Dockyard School Tal-Handak, Malta.  Girls wore belts in their house colour...

 Chapter 5: Valetta . Valetta was the capital city of Malta, a very ancient town with many...

 Chapter 6: Christmas 1946/7 Hal-Far. Christmas 1946 was our first Christmas in Malta... Grandma Sackett sent us some books from England for...

  Chapter 7: Outings, cricket matches and returning to England Maltese Childhood Chapter 7: Outings, cricket matches and returning to England.

Chapter 1. Voyage to Valetta on "Orontes"

My father worked at Little Staughton aerodrome in Bedfordshire as a station engineer helping to keep the airfield in good running order so that the aircraft could take off and land. As soon as the war ended he was sent to the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea where he also worked on the damaged airfields, badly bombed during the war.
My mother, little sister and I followed a year later having sold most of our possessions and vacating our council house. Fortunately she stored some of the large furniture which she could not take with her.

In May/June 1946 we travelled to London and then by boat train to Tilbury Docks where we were to board the “Orontes” (P and O liner). The train was packed with passengers who were mainly service men in uniform and I can still smell the damp serge of the uniforms that they wore and the smoke which stung my eyes.
At Tilbury Docks my mother wouldn’t board the ship until she had seen our luggage craned onto the ship. We then walked up the steep gangway looking up to the decks above crowded with waving servicemen.
Once on board we were taken to our cabin and were lucky to have it all to ourselves. It was fun calling windows — portholes and our beds — bunks. I was allowed to have a top bunk as I was five; my sister, nearly two, was too small. She might have fallen out. We learned that the liner had taken many important people to England to celebrate the first Anniversary of V.E. Day and we were on its return voyage although I don’t know where its final destination was.

Breakfast and lunch were served in a grand restaurant at round tables covered with white linen table cloths. Silver service tea, coffee pots and cutlery were provided and of course proper napkins with silver napkin holders. The waiters were dressed in tailcoats, I think and it all seemed so very “posh”. Mum told us to call the lavatory the “toilet” as she thought that was better etiquette although I believe we were correct with the first word.
As we were children we had our tea early as dinner was too late for us. I ordered porridge for breakfast as I’d never had it before and was most disappointed when it was served. Somehow I always thought Goldilocks had eaten pink porridge like blancmange. What a rude shock I got! We also tasted turkey for the first time, now that was a treat. Virginia had her second birthday on board so I suppose we had a little party though I don’t remember it.
Virginia and I used to play in the lift until we were told off and we ran up and down the corridors near our cabin. There were no en-suites then but communal bath rooms and toilets. There was a children’s play room and sometimes we would walk around the deck with my mother for some exercise. I remember one day it was very windy and as we rounded the stern the wind nearly blew us off our feet. Another time it rained on one side of the ship and not on the other.
At Gibraltar the servicemen disembarked and the ship was surrounded by lots of little brightly painted boats from which the boatmen were selling souvenirs. To get them up to the decks above, the items were hauled up and down by ropes. I wanted a leather camel but I was left wanting.
Most of our luggage was in the hold with labels saying “NOT WANTED ON VOYAGE” but as we needed access to other clothes we were allowed into the “WANTED ON VOYAGE” hold. My mother used the ironing room where she taught me how to iron a handkerchief. For years after we still had the cases and trunks with the P and O and hotel labels on them.

The journey took one week and I’ll never forget the day we arrived at Grand Harbour Valletta. I stood on the deck railings looking at the deep blue sea and the vivid blue sky with the honey coloured limestone buildings glowing under a warm sun. I held my little cardboard case with my initials A.M.S painted on by my father a year before.
Somewhere he was waiting for us on the quay side.
The harbour was filled with many naval ships and the naval officers and sailors looked very smart in their crisp white uniforms.
We descended the ladder on the ship’s side into a waiting launch and soon we were reunited with our father.

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Chapter 2.   Living at the Crown Hotel, Sliema

Our taxi sped us to our hotel on the Sliema front. It was a small hotel in a row of large villas with slatted shutters and stone balustrades facing the sea. After the war it had been difficult to rent houses or flats due to the bombing Malta had suffered. When dad arrived most of the available property had been snapped up so we had to live in the Crown Hotel until a place could be found for us.
The room contained a double bed for my parents and a single bed for Ginny and me to share. As soon as we saw the bed we jumped on and played around on it pulling down the white gauze mosquito net, trapping us beneath it; much to my dad’s wrath. The net was then removed. We tried sleeping side by side but with all our toys in bed with us there wasn’t much room so we slept top to toe, with me at the bottom. Of course our feet often touched and we aggravated each other so it was difficult to get to sleep especially as the weather was hot in June. There was no air conditioning in those days though we may have had a ceiling fan. A back window looked down into a little court yard and garden.

Our meals were in the dining room although the evening meal was too late for us so we had our “tea” earlier. The crockery was white with a green rim and stamped with a crown and the hotel’s name underneath it. The silver service ware had ridges on the cutlery handles. I wonder why this memory is so clear ? Sometimes mum would bring ice cream to the bedroom in a silver sundae dish. Oh, how wonderful it tasted. My sister and I still remember the almond taste to this day.

For my 6th birthday in September, I was allowed to dine with my parents and afterwards stand on the sea front watching all the Maltese families promenading. I could see the sea crashing on the rocky beach and smell the strong salty brine. I wore a new dress, oh, I did feel grand and grown up.

The shore was not sandy but many years before some bathing pools had been carved out of the rock with descending steps. They were mostly square and some were curved. This is where we learned to swim. The pools were constantly refreshed with water washing in from the rough sea beyond. Often we would see tiny octopi scuttling across the rocks into the pools so I was very wary when I entered the water. I didn’t like the slimy sides or the sea weed on the bottom.

We wore knitted bathing costumes which sagged when wet. The Maltese girls swam in dresses as scanty clothing for girls was considered to be indecent by the Maltese in those days. My mother made us life saving belts. These were made out of cotton material which she filled with cork gathered from the flotsam and jetsam on the shore line. This idea she copied from the belts worn by the Maltese children. My mother could not swim but watched us from the rocks close by.

Next to the hotel was a Roman Catholic school for girls who wore brown uniforms with summer straw hats. I would watch them coming and going until dad enrolled me at the H. M. Dockyard school which was run by the Navy. My father worked for the Air Ministry Works Department (AMDW) so connected civilian children were allowed to attend the school.
A bus would collect me and take me to the school held in two large villas “Sunshine” and “Seafoam” at Ta’ Xbiex on the way to Valetta. I only remember such detail because I still have the very first school magazine. The headmaster was Instructor Lieutenant Commander A. H. Miles and there were 55 pupils. I don’t remember very much about this site. Later, I remember, the school was moved to Tal-Handak in 1947of which I have many memories.

Meanwhile we lived Sliema, the second largest town in Malta. Often mum would take us into town stopping to look in the open fronted shops with their colourful wares on display. Shoe and sandal shops with pairs of shoes dangling out side or woven straw shopping baskets piled high outside the doorway. There were also shops that sold brightly coloured bales of material, also displayed outside.
One day a shopkeeper ran down the street after us and accused us children of leaving greasy fingerprints on some of his dress material. He said we had been eating crisps and wanted my mother to pay for the cloth. However we were not allowed to eat in the street so my mother knew it wasn’t us and denied the owner. After that incident she never bought anything from him again.

As a treat she would take us for an ice cream or drink into a shop called Bonacci’s, opposite the ferry terminal for Valetta. The shop was still there when I took my mother to Malta in 1982 but is sadly no more.
Most exciting was the ferry ride to Valetta and back. Sailing on the vivid blue harbour sea and reaching the capital, then climbing up the steep steps of the narrow streets into the capital town.

After the rationed war years in England, Malta was so vibrant and colourful, so different. My mother told me that the Maltese people were very friendly and were helpful to mothers with pushchairs and children. She also said they spoke English beautifully and was very pleased when we returned to England and were complimented on the way we spoke.

Most of the buildings in Malta had flat roofs and access to them. Very often we could see clothes drying on the rooftop washing lines but my mother couldn’t find a way onto our hotel roof. One day she spoke to another guest who told her that all the rooms had a spiral stone staircase leading to the roof. So dad searched the room and found the door hidden behind a wardrobe. Once the room had been rearranged we could use the stairs and could hang the washing on the roof to dry.
It was also exciting as from that height we could see over the rooftops, down onto the streets below and further out to sea.

Altogether we stayed at the hotel for 3 months which proved to be very expensive and used up most of my mother’s savings. One day my mother contracted “yellow jaundice” as hepatitis was then called in those days. That meant more expense as there was no free health scheme, so my mother gave my father an ultimatum that if he didn’t find us somewhere to live we would return to England.

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Chapter 3.  Hal-Far - At last our own home.

An old bungalow was found on the edge of Hal-Far aerodrome. I believe it had been used as an officer’s mess and consisted of two large rooms, a kitchen, bathroom, spare room and outside yard.
It was opposite the Naval Sick Bay and behind that were the Naval married quarters.

It seemed like a palace after the small hotel bedroom. The first room was converted into a bedroom for the four of us. A double bed was at one end and two single beds at the other for us. At last we would have a bed each! Dad built us book shelves over our bed heads and wired in electric reading lamps.
There was a curtain rail suspended from the ceiling to divide the bedroom, however my mother could never afford to buy the curtain material. At night I would often get to sleep by counting the curtain rings. One day I was fed up with the same position of the rings so I took the yard brush and moved them with the long handle. What a strange memory!

The other large room was the living, dining area. My father was a good handy man and made further bookshelves and cupboards. He also made a large wardrobe, a smaller one for himself and a dressing table for the bedroom. He had copied the style of the hotel bedroom furniture and used plywood which he painted cream with a dark green border. The rest of the furniture was rented at a huge cost per month which my mother said was exorbitant. She never forgave that shop for cashing in on the shortage of furniture to rent.

The kitchen was very old fashioned, serviced with a coal burning iron range which was much too hot to use in the summer. There was no washing machine or ‘fridge.
In order to keep meat, butter and milk from going “off” we had an ice box in the hallway where it was dark and gloomy, away from the sunlight. It was a wooden or metal lidded box lined with lead. Every so often ice blocks would be delivered from the ice cart and these would be put into the box to help keep the food fresh.

My mother bought a two burner Valor oil stove which she used in the summer. Cordina, a local Maltese man did the heavy washing. He loved children and brought us small gifts from his sister. He was always telling us, “And my sister, she say ----.”

Once he gave us a miniature stone cooking stove, a replica of the ovens used in the back yards of the Maltese houses. He was a wiry little man with rather a big nose. When he rolled up his sleeves to do the washing his arms were white and full of large blue veins. We felt very sad when he couldn’t work for us any more. More government red tape, I believe.

The spare room was the junk room with odds and ends, spare cases and crates, needed for our return to Britain. And of course the toys we had brought from home, which had been in storage. It was great fun to have my tri-cycle, scooter and doll’s pram once again.
Now that our possessions were unpacked mum could use her sewing machine so she bought some thick cotton lace material which she dyed deep pink and green and curtained the bedroom and living room areas. She loved dressmaking and made many frocks for herself and for Ginny and me. We had some very pretty cotton print sun dresses and several times people wanted to know where they were from. One of the materials was called Tabralco, good cotton and lovely to sew. It was scarlet, with a yellow flower design and the dress had a plain yellow Peter Pan collar with puffed sleeves. Ginny and I had matching dresses.
In the 1940s, the dress materials were mostly pretty flower prints which looked fresh and cool in the Maltese climate.

Our house had no garden, just a back yard surrounded by a corrugated iron fence. Behind the fence was a lot of junk left by the American forces after the war. Sometimes we would retrieve books by putting our hands through the gaps to see what we could find.
The yard was paved with old tiles, the remains of an old room. Dad kept his barbells in the yard which he used to keep fit. My, did his face go red! Mum had her washing line there and there was also an old table which we used to cover with a sheet and use as a tent or pirate’s ship.

The house was plain but we enjoyed living there. It was flat roofed, with green slatted window shutters to keep out the sunlight and therefore keep the house cool in the summer. At night the shutters were closed to keep the house secure.

Nearby were many Nissen huts belonging to the Air Ministry. In one, some carpenters worked and we would watch them sawing and planing the wood. I still remember the sweet fresh smell of the wood shavings and sawdust.
One day the carpenters were teasing us and I hit one of them with Joey my lovely brown Teddy bear. Unfortunately one of his glass eyes fell out and although we searched amongst the shavings, Joey remains one eyed to this day.

Sometimes we would venture onto the edge of the aerodrome and see the weather balloon waving in the wind. Dad told us it was used to help the aeroplanes land as it showed which way the wind blew. Sometimes there would be propeller planes waiting on the runway and vehicles with black and white squares on them. There was also a control tower, used to direct the aircraft. Strangely I could never get excited about the aircraft so can’t remember their names. (We still have some photographs left of them.). The terrain was parched and scrubby with no trees and we were careful not to wander too far on to the airfield as that was off limits to us for obvious reasons.

When it was too hot to play out side we used our dressing up box. Mum encouraged us to be creative and use our imagination. We enjoyed many books and our parents read us stories from the classics so we would re-enact them, dressing up as princes, princesses, pirates, Sinbad the Sailor, Robin Hood or Arabian dancing girls.
Mum let us use her outdated clothes; her wedding veil and train, belts, gloves, scarves and hats, costume jewellery and necklaces. An old green rain hat was changed into a Robin Hood hat with an added pheasant’s feather, a crimson velvet hat became a princes’ headgear and my father’s old scout’s hat reshaped into cowboy hat.
We had no near neighbours and very few children to visit and no T.V, so we had to keep ourselves amused. I liked to paint so I would enter a colouring competition every week run by a local paper and although mum said it was good, I never won. She encouraged us to draw, play board games and cut out things and I learnt to do some simple sewing.
We did have a small bakelite wireless, so mum and dad listened to the news and dance band music which they loved. I suppose they also listened to the old radio programmes at night time when we were asleep.

Hal-Far was a fair distance from the nearest village, Birzebuggia, so we had to get a local bus. At first we could use the Navy transport until civilians were excluded from its use. Sometimes we would get a free lift in a large Bedford truck belonging to the Air Ministry.
In Birzebuggia, mum would buy her meat from Mr. Cameleri, the butcher. There were a few little shops for provisions, a shoe menders and bric a brac shops for ribbons and hair slides. Luckily, a tradesman with a donkey cart called at the house with fruit and vegetables, selling juicy water melons, oranges, bananas, grapes, tomatoes, potatoes and cabbages. Mum also bought spinach which Ginny and I didn’t like, although mum said it made Popeye the Sailor man very strong. I didn’t care, I didn’t want to be strong.
A baker also called with a large basket of bread and cakes. The cakes were very sweet and coated with icing sugar. At first we ate lots as we had been rationed during the war and sugar was difficult to get but we soon were sick of the sweetness.
There were no large shops nearby so my mother had to carry everything back from the village to the house. I suppose dad bought some of the heavier items from the NAAFI, a shop for the service people.

There was no rationing in Malta after the war. Malta had suffered much during the siege and the bombing and was awarded the George Cross for its bravery. Also there had been very little food available so Malta was allowed many of the luxuries that were still unavailable in England.

My mother bought extra provisions and stored them away in a cupboard so we could take them back to England when we returned. Sometimes we would play shops with them — tins of evaporated milk, Libby’s, with pictures of cows on the labels, Carnation and Ideal milk, blue packs of sugar, tins of jam and sweetened condensed milk. Later she collected metal biscuit tins, filled them with her stores, and later crated them up to take them back to England on the ship.
Milk was not delivered so we had to use tinned milk which we diluted for ordinary use. I loved the condensed milk as it was very sticky and sweet. Sometimes we had it spread on bread or if mum wasn’t looking I’d lick the spoon.

At one time we had German prisoners of war working in our home. I think they were painting and decorating the rooms. My mother told me later that she had been very frightened during the war, that the Germans would conquer Britain and of what might happen. Here she was in Malta with the Germans working in her house! She could not believe it.
In their spare time the Germans made articles from Perspex, a see through “plastic.” My mother was given a cigarette case etched with her name “Ivy” and decorated with flowers. Other items made for her from bakelite and Perspex were two photo frames. Sadly they have disappeared a long time ago. A pity, as when I visited the War Museum in Valetta in 1981 there were some exhibits similar to those made for my mother.

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 Chapter 4.  H.M.Dockyard School, Tal-Handak

Every school day the bus would pick me up and take me to the Dockyard school at Tal_Handak, (an old disused emergency army barracks). All the service men’s and civilian children attended except a few who went to private schools. The classrooms were small flat topped buildings spread over some fields in the countryside. Our playground was the fields which were bordered by stone walls and prickly pear cactus. In the spring they were covered with yellow flowers which in Portugal are called Bermuda buttercups. The ground was stony so the girls would play at making houses with the stones. We planned the rooms and doorways then built little walls about two stones high making sure we had a kitchen area as well as bedrooms and a main room. We loved this game and even gathered stones in our back yard at home to play the same game. It was even better if we could find a spot that had a large rock or boulder nearby as that could be an upstairs room.

Most of the teachers were Naval Officers. I was in the infant’s department for two years and liked the teachers bar one who always criticised my drawings and as art was one of my favourite subjects I wasn’t too happy about that. They wore Naval uniform - white shirts with epaulettes on their shoulders, white shorts and long white socks to the knee. Some of the teachers were women, wives of the officers.
I still have some of my old reports which said I was good at reading and that my writing was neat and I had a good imagination. I remember the old Beacon readers with the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff and the Troll under the bridge. Oh, how I hated those repetitive stories, I wanted to know what happened, not hear the same sentences over and over again.

The school was divided into four Houses. I was in Nelson (red), there was also Drake (blue), Stevenson (green) and White (yellow!) but I don’t know the origin of the last house. As usual we all competed to win the various awards for athletics, swimming, hockey, cricket and the Study cup. Of course I was too young to be in the team games but I did take part in the school sports day.
It was held at Kalafrana in a big field overlooking the bay. Everyone wore white, skirts for the girls and shorts for the boys with white plimsoles and socks. Girls wore belts in their house colour so mine was red for Nelson House and boys wore a coloured strip down the side of their shorts. My mother said it looked a great sight.
I took part in a flat race and a relay but although I was quite a good runner I only came second. A girl called Emily beat me and she got a prize.
Sadly the magazine said Nelson house came last. However we won the shield for excellence (work) by one point. It states that the junior members had gained many demerits so had lost us many points.
At Kalafrana we could often see aircraft carriers waiting out in the bay.

Every morning we had a school assembly in the hall. Sometimes it was very hot and I can remember a boy fainting with the heat. In the Maltese winter which was much warmer than an English winter, my mother made me wear a vest and petticoat which I hated so when I reached school. I took it off and stuffed it in my satchel. Luckily we missed the very bad winter of 1947 when Britain had very bad snow falls.

I was a very anxious child and worried about learning my tables by heart, doing multiplication and division sums and also learning the “Lord’s Prayer. When I returned to England I was put in the “B” class” but after two weeks I was promoted to the “A” class because I could do division with remainders so it was worth the effort.

At Christmas time the school put on a performance for the parents. The first year I was chosen to recite “Jack and Jill”. I was Jill and a boy was Jack. My mother made me a green dirndl skirt with coloured braid and I had to wear woollen plaits. We both held the pail.
The following year only girls with long hair were chosen for the play as they had their hair combed over the front of their faces and then wore a mask on the back of their head. Goodness knows what they did!

When I was seven I was allowed to join the school Brownie Pack. It was held after school and then a bus would drop me off in Valetta where my mother would meet me with my little sister. We had a white uniform for the summer and brown for the winter but my mother could not afford the two so I only had the white uniform. This I wore with a yellow tie and I was in the “elf” six. We also wore sunhats with a brown hat band for summer and a brown beret for winter. We took several badges. The one I remember was for sewing on buttons. I still sew a mean button.

A boy in my class broke a toy sword that I had taken for a play. His father replaced it with a beauty which he had made. The blade was painted silver and the hilt was carved so it was very lifelike. It remained in our fancy dress box for years.

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 Chapter 5.    Valetta

Valetta was the capital city of Malta, a very ancient town with many mediaeval buildings — cathedrals, churches, spires, domes, opera houses Governor’s Palace and other imposing buildings. After Brownies the school bus would drop me off at the bus terminal outside the main gateway to Valetta where my mother met me.
The buses were different colours so you knew your bus from a distance and also if you could not read or write. All buses started and ended at Valetta so sometimes you had to go there and change buses to get to your destination.

Once there, mum would take us to the gardens which overlooked the Grand Harbour. From there we could see all the ships in harbour and the great walls that were built as fortification to protect Valetta from invading forces.
Sometimes she took us to Queen’s Square, near the Governor’s Palace,
where there was an outside cafe. Another favourite place was near the bombed site of the Opera House where we could get our favourite Wembley’s ice cream.

Valetta was a warren of little streets with tall, balconied buildings and slatted shuttered windows. Across the steep, narrow streets washing was hung out to dry.
There were many little shops - tobacconists, confectioners, shoe menders, bars, haberdashers, basket shops, jewellers which sold Maltese filigree gold and silver, lace and many general shops. No supermarkets in those days.

Amidst all this business I could hear the “chink, chink” of the masons’ adzes chipping new blocks of limestone to rebuild the damaged of Valetta. There was rubble everywhere. How sad the buildings looked.
Sometimes we saw older women wearing the “faldetta,” a black garment with a “hood” over their heads.

Once we went to the carnival to see the wonderful floats and people in fancy dress. On foot, people dressed as giant vegetables and walked between the floats. My mother was amazed at the floats because you could not see the lorries beneath them. They were decorated from top to toe. Streamers were thrown everywhere and the evening finished with a grand firework display.
One year our parents took us to the Carnival Ball in Valetta. We dressed up, my sister as a pirate complete with painted moustache and earrings and me as a cowgirl or Robin Hood. I can’t remember what my parents wore but the Maltese people wore splendid costumes and some of the ladies wore beauty patches on their faces and carried pretty fans. The building was very ornate with decorated ceilings. Later we joined in the dancing.

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 Chapter 6.  Christmas 1946/7 Hal-Far

Christmas 1946 was our first Christmas in Malta. My mother was determined to have a tree but there were none available on the island. So she bought a broom handle and attached some small palm fronds with red ribbons. In a small shop in Birzebuggia (?) she found a box of decorations made from gold and silver bugles and beads. I remember a star, lantern, aeroplane, butterfly, sun, diamond and a basket of mushrooms! I still have the diamond and aeroplane.
The living room was festooned with home made crepe paper chains and folding scarlet bells.
We had a wonderful party inviting some AMDW friends and their children. What a time we had. playing “Musical Chairs, Pass the Parcel and Turn the Trencher”. We also played the usual board games and simple card games.
The following year we repeated the event but when we returned to England we never had another party at home.
Grandma Sackett sent us some books from England for Christmas, I had “Lollipop Wood” by John Paddy Carstairs and “Our Friends next Door” and my sister had a Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme Book. Other gifts I remember were real aluminium toy pots and pans, a tea set with tea pot, a pastry board and a toy cooking stove which had methylated spirit burners and some little sweet shops.
I remember being so excited that I could not get to sleep. In 1947 I asked my mother if there really was a Father Christmas. She told me the truth but I was sworn to secrecy not to tell my sister.

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 Chapter 7.    Outings, cricket matches and returning to England

We did not own a car in Malta so apart from using the local bus we were
taken to places of interest by my father’s Maltese colleagues. We visited Mosta where the local church had a very large dome. During the war a bomb fell through the roof but did not explode. When we went inside a church or cathedral my mother had to wear a headscarf and my father had to remove his hat.
We visited Medina, an ancient walled city surrounded by countryside and we also went to the Roman museum which held many exhibits mainly Roman pottery, relics and mosaic floors etc. Next to it were the catacombs which we explored. They were very spooky and still held skulls and bones which had been placed on the stone
shelves. Needless to say I was relieved to get away from there.

Other outings were with my father’s works’ department when we would travel by bus to other parts of the island. Usually we took our own picnic, swimsuits and towels. The trip to Comino Island was unforgettable. This time we went by a large ferry boat. The Maltese skipper took the wheel and we sailed across the blue Mediterranean to the tiny island in between Malta and Gozo. We then walked to a lovely sandy beach which faced the Blue Lagoon. The water was turquoise and shallow for bathing. After this we played cricket on the beach and enjoyed our picnic. On the return voyage someone played “Come Back to Sorrento” on a mandolin.
Other trips with the AMDW were to the Blue Grotto which was rocky and very deep for swimming. Some people took a boat to see the caves and grotto. We didn’t, much to my disappointment.
Another place we visited several times was Han-Tafia, at the north of the island, now called Golden Bay. It was a long walk down some steep steps to a sandy beach but it was worth it because we could play in the surf. It was such a change from the rocky coastline of Sliema. Another time I went to Gozo on a Sunday School outing.
When we lived in Hal-Far my mother took us into Birzebuggia during the summer holidays, as a small beach was left after a storm which provided us with a great swimming spot.

My father played wicket keeper for the works’ cricket team so we often went to see him play. Many times we went to Luqua, the main aerodrome, where the matches were held. My sister and I were bored with the cricket so we played with the surplus pads and rubber spiked gloves and waited for tea time — little sandwiches and cakes and squash for us. The wives wore pretty dresses and sat chatting in the shade of the pavilion.
Sometimes my parents would take us to the AMDW headquarters at Que —si Sana , near Sliema, where we played with other children and attended the Christmas party with Father Christmas.
After two years of sunny childhood it was time to depart. My father made crates for our belongings and mum packed all the sugar, jam and tinned milk ready for England which was still rationed. We said a very sad goodbye to our house and were taken by taxi to our ship, the “Scythia”, (Cunard White Star Line). This time we were not so lucky with our berths. Mum, Ginny and I had to share with another lady and her two children and dad had to share in the men’s section.
I remember very little about the return voyage but do remember docking at Liverpool, so dull and grey, and seeing all the tall dockside buildings. We stayed overnight in a hotel and went to the funfair at New Brighton; had fish and chips and a ride on a Liverpool tram.
The next day we returned by train to Rushden, Northants where we were to stay with Grandma Sackett in her Victorian terraced house with no electricity or bathroom. It took a long time for us to adjust to life back in England.

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How you can use the content

The stories and images in the WW2 People's War archive have been contributed by the public and copyright rests with the authors, although by registering on the site they have also given the BBC a non-exclusive right to sublicense and use this content. Find out more about the terms under which this content was added to the original site.

If you wish to use the content in a commercial context (eg a publication, CD or website the public needs to pay for to obtain, or a project such as a broadcast series or film), please contact the BBC to obtain permission. Use the Contact Us link on the left hand side of the page to do this.

If you wish to use this content under 'fair dealing' terms - eg as part of a non commercial project such as an educational research project or a cost-recovery project such as a public exhibition or publication, you may do so, but should acknowledge the provenance and copyright holder of the content in the following way. On a credits / acknowledgements page, or in a prominent position if used as part of a display:

'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar'

Each entry or extract should be credited by name / site name eg 'John Smith, WW2 People's War'

Material should not be used for political or lobbying purposes or to raise funds. If you are a political party, or affiliated group, or a charity, and wish to use content from the archive, please make your request directly to the BBC using the Contact Us link.

Users agree to respect and maintain the integrity of the image copied, and not distort, amend or mutilate the original material. Original text and images should not be modified or adapted into a derivative work such as a film or artwork. A series of unmodified extracts can be used, ie assembled into a collective whole, but content from the archive should not amount to more than 20% of your site or publication.

Use of content from the archive does not give you any sublicensing rights. Any organisation or individual who wishes to use the content should be aware of these guidelines and use the content directly from the site.