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Tal-Ħandaq Nostalgia

Memories of the Royal Naval School, Malta, 1947 - 1978.


Manoel Island under attack

She___Lor_RV__59.jpg 66netballw5B15D.jpg manibomb~0.jpg PS1_28329w.jpg 61fcw.jpg
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Martin Powell   [Nov 06, 2010 at 05:05 PM]
Hello David, would you know if they were local troops or a UK regiment? There is an island myth that local gunners deserted their guns more than once but I've never found any written evidence (and prefer not to believe it). And have you read Grand Barrage by 'Gun Buster'? It's about Manoel Island HAA unit.
  [Nov 09, 2010 at 01:40 PM]
Sorry Martin I can't help much, I only have the memories of conversations between parents and their contemporaries as a lad between 9 - 13years of age. Unfortunately my eldest brother Stuart (an old Verdala boy) who could provide answers is no longer with us. I understand that my dad (a regular who enlisted c. 1916, and was RSM in the '30s) was commissioned in 1938, and was used as a trouble shooter during the war. He must have served with at least five different units during the blitz, stiffening backbones where needed. I remember Manoel as being a British battery, but think Spinola was manned by both RA (LAA)and RMA (HAA). There must have been LAA there, as I vividly remember my dad telling us that he ordered a Bofor shell be put through the top story of a house perched on the edge of Balluta bay, as it was displaying a very bright light on the roof in the middle of a heavy night air raid. I can well believe that some crews deserted their guns when the going got hot. I know that on the odd occasion I got caught in a raid when visiting him, I strongly wished that I was elsewhere.
Martin Powell   [Nov 10, 2010 at 05:23 PM]
Thanks David. I dare say if a bomb is heading straight for you you're not just going to sit there. Some more memories of wartime pupils are in the Archive section, along with a booklet by Army pupil Michael Longyear (still with us I believe), we flogged a couple of dozen for him at the 2007 reunion. Plenty of copies of Grand Barrage come up on ebay quite cheaply.

Chris W - above you can see those peepholes in St Paul's spire (they're on all four sides) re the 1882 pic.
  [Nov 11, 2010 at 01:22 PM]
Thanks Martin, I had never heard of "Grand Barrage" but now I shall locate a copy for myself out of interest. The only other things I call to mind about the time my dad was stationed on Manoel are; he had the habit of standing on a narrow wooden foot bridge during airraids in view of his men; and he had a falling out with some major, who he considered to be a weakling and a bloody idiot.
Martin Powell   [Nov 11, 2010 at 06:53 PM]
Hope you enjoy it David. According to Wiki, Gun Buster was the pen name of a father & son team John & Richard Austin. Although a novel, it was obviously written by someone who was there or who had a damn good first-hand account from someone, it is very detailed about Manoel and Malta. They wrote several others including one on Dunkirk, but not got round to reading them yet.
  [Nov 12, 2010 at 01:19 PM]
It sounds interesting Martin, I'll let you have my opinion once I get hold of a copy. My dad always threatened to write a book about Malta, he was going to title it "They sailed under my guns" (in connection with the surrender of the Italian fleet). At the request of one daughter-in-law I have given talks to classes in junior school, and actually started putting my war time experiences as a child down for her. Unfortunately I did something which wiped out 20,000 + words from the computer, and just cannot be bothered to start all over again.
Martin Powell   [Nov 15, 2010 at 05:28 PM]
Perhaps your Dad was the source / inspiration?! Also recommend Michael Longyear's booklet. How about an armchair + mini-dictaphone and maybe get your d-i-l to type it out if she's keen on the topic.
Chris Willmann   [Nov 15, 2010 at 05:35 PM]
Thanks for pointing that out Martin-and giving me more "ammo" Wink
Martin Powell   [Nov 15, 2010 at 05:47 PM]
It was my idea in the first place! Just my second choice.
David Arnold   [Dec 03, 2010 at 02:18 PM]
Hi Martin. I've now read Grand Barrage! Manoel did have it rough, almost daily after heavy raids, my mum sent my bro Stuart to Manoel to check dad was ok. Stu was a 2nd yr apprentice when the Illustrious was bombed, and claimed he was used as a stretcher bearer. My sister, Irene, worked in the RAF HQ Cypher office and was awarded a BEM, to my dad's disgust. He only got an MBE for rescuing 2 airmen from a burning plane that crash landed near to a previous location of his.
OldBat   [Dec 11, 2010 at 07:48 PM]
Hi David, that's interesting about your brother acting as an Illustrious stretcher-bearer. My husband's brother was killed in that bombing and buried at sea between Filfla and Dingli Cliffs. There's due to be a picture of him in the Jan Navy News, due out just before Christmas. Surely an MBE is a higher award than a BEM? - but I didn't know that it was awarded for individual acts of bravery. That was certainly plucky to rescue men from a burning plane.
David Arnold   [Dec 12, 2010 at 12:59 PM]
Hi - It's sad so many good men lost their lives in those far off days. Stu fed us with many a gory detail of the bombing (with bravado), but it must have affected a sixteen/seventeen year old boy(mind you, we grew up fast in those days). Stu took over the role of family provider during my father's enforced absences and was adept at obtaining a few "rabbits" from friendly ship's cooks to eke out the family rations. Yes, I am aware the MBE (Military division) ranks above the BEM, but my dad thought if Irene received the BEM for sitting on her backside safely deep underground, he should have received at least a George medal.
Prefect   [Dec 12, 2010 at 01:06 PM]
The problem will no longer arise as the BEM has been in abeyance since 1992 in UK (John Major), so now everyone gets the MBE.
David Arnold   [Dec 12, 2010 at 01:16 PM]
Yep - I was aware of that. I think Irene was asked if she wanted to trade up at that time, but declined as she was fond of her BEM. I wonder what the old man would have thought of my kid bro Ted collecting an OBE for what he (dad) would have considered was for "Long Service and Good Conduct" at the MOD (Navy)?
OldBat   [Dec 12, 2010 at 04:43 PM]
Yes, a GM or GC would seem to have been more appropriate for this brave action. I'd forgotten about the 'Military Division' part of the MBE - is that for individual acts of bravery? There seem to be a lot of anomalies in the honours system. That must have been very traumatic for your brother. From things I've read (including the book 'Swordfish' by OV David Wragg) there was absolute carnage on the flight deck when a bomb came through the open lift hatch and exploded among the planes and crews in that confined space.
Prefect   [Dec 13, 2010 at 02:24 AM]
Except that GCs are civilian. The Military distinguish between acts of bravery "in the face of the enemy" and otherwise. OBEs are generally thought to be "Other Bu****'s Effort's!
OldBat   [Dec 13, 2010 at 04:12 PM]
Yes of course they are (civilian) - must have been thinking of MC or MM - they're for the army aren't they? OBE - careful, my dad got one but NOT for 'Other Bu****'s Efforts!!
phillrose   [Dec 14, 2010 at 03:22 AM]
Surely stating that GCs are civilian is incorrect, a number of EOD operatives have been awarded the GC as there bravery has not actually been "in the face of the enemy", had it been thye would likely have got the VC. For the same reason awards in Northern Ireland to EOD operators have been GCs and not VCs + of course the award of a VC to a soldier in NI would probably have upset the nats. and we could not have that. Interesting about OBE and MBE, nearly exactly the same wording from my father when he picked up his MBE, "My B***** Efforts.
Prefect   [Dec 14, 2010 at 03:47 AM]
OK Phill, the official description HERE says it is primarily civilian though also awarded to the military NITFOTE, so we are both right.
David Arnold   [Dec 16, 2010 at 01:10 PM]
I am reluctant, OB, to talk much about what Stuart related about the Illustrious bombing, in case I cause upset to a casualty's relative who may see/hear it. Suffice to say his comments were a sick making hell on earth. My mum bought my dad a large original water colour of the bombing from "Galea's" in Valleta soon after the event, which was displayed in a prominent position in their home for the remainder of their lives. This pic, and dad's medals, are now in the possession of one of Stuart's daughters.

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