Suzanne Kyrle-Pope was a civilian stranded on Malta for much of the siege.
[J: can you remember feeling of islanders and Maltese when war declared 1939 and when Italy entered war.]
When war was first declared in September obviously we were all very upset. I in particular and my mother who was there still with me were very worried about my two sisters husbands who were in the forces in Europe, or the other more active theatre. But nothing happened in Malta. You see Italy didn’t join the war until June the following year and nothing happened in Malta at all. Life went on absolutely as normal. By the time Italy came in my mother had left Malta and gone home to England. I’d got married in April that year and my husband and I had a little flat in St Julians. I don’t know what I was doing, teaching or not, but the moment Italy came into the war or just before Italy came into the war I think that the government had warning. All the battalion wives and families were called into the barracks at St Andrews which was further up the coast from St Julian’s when the battalion itself had gone out to their war positions around the island because everybody expected the Italians would land. Outposts guarding the beaches, the vulnerable beaches, also the airfields of Takali and Kalafrani and Luqa and my husband was on the coast somewhere. I was married to a soldier in 1940 in the 2nd battalion of the Devonshire Regiment which was barracked, I mean it lived in quarters where St Andrews barracks. The Dorset Regiment was also part of the garrison and they were off in St George’s barracks which was not very far from St Andrews up the coast. So they were all out and they were living in goat sheds or under canvas or in barns, wherever they could get shelter: not very comfortable which didn’t matter because it was the summer. So we families were allocated quarters in St Andrews barracks. A lot of the officer’s wives went to live in the officers mess and another young Captain’s wife Elisabeth Young (as she then was). Our husbands were great friends. Now she and I were both billeted on the Quartermaster’s wife. The Quartermaster was called Titch Labbett. He was minute, about 5 foot high. His wife was small as well. She was called Midge Labbett and we were billeted in their quarter which was a semi-detached stone-built house. In the other side was the army dentist whose name I don’t remember and his family. Across the little road was a slip-trench dug ready for us as an air-raid shelter. The dentist never used it. Perhaps they had their own trench. As we had semi-detached we might have done but the Labbetts and we went down. The Labbetts comprised of Midge Labbett, and two boys who were about 11 and 13 at the time Peter and Michael. We all went down when the raids took place and soon after Italy came into the war they did raid.
[J: do you remember first raid?]
Yes I remember the first raid because we had an ack-ack gun not far from us and the din from the ack-ack gun made us all jump out of our skin. But we never saw the Italian aircraft and we certainly never saw or heard a bomb.
[J: threat from sea rather than air?]
Oh yes. Yes, seaborne landing. It was expected right through, as well as the air raids, but particularly the landing. The husbands came into the barracks to see us when they could which to begin with we went three weeks without seeing them. I was very newly married and I was only just 19. Very young and if you’ve read my book I married so young to get away from my horrible father. Who was an awful tyrant. But then they got themselves organized so that the husbands did get one day off a week to come in.
[J: can you remember thinking expecting to see Italians appear across sea at any time?]
I don’t remember being afraid or. You see I just assumed I think that any attack would be repelled before they reached the island. I had… I really had had such a sheltered childhood that I didn’t use my brain till quite a little while after I got away from my parents. To start thinking well what is going to be the outcome. And never…. I never I don’t think many people among the civilians ever considered for one moment that we wouldn’t win the war and although when the bad raids started it was terrifying. The fear when the Germans were bombing you. You had to use your willpower to quell your fear because it could be quite sick-making. You could feel the fear welling up inside you and your hand would shake and you would feel your head bursting with sheer terror. You had to pull yourself together and say stop it! It’ll be all right. You’ve got to think of something else.
[J: fear was I could be blown to bits by bomb? What was it like to live through relentless bombing? Malta most bombed place etc. Do you think people would cope with it now?]
It is interesting you should say that because I discussed that with my husband and I said I wonder if among our children, of whom we have three, would they stand up to it or would my grandchildren stand up to it. Well of-course we had to. We had to stand up to it and one of the things was we all said we must not show our fear to the Maltese. Because the Maltese are a very volatile people being partly Latin and panic could be so infectious. It could so easily be started. And if an English person started the panic it would inflame — or I used to think this — could inflame the local Maltese very quickly.
[J: Maltese looking up to British for direction]
Yes. I think also that they are quite canny over where the money comes from and after all the naval, being such a big vast naval base, it brought in enormous wealth to the island on which Malta depended. Everybody says how wonderful the Maltese were, weren’t they good and they got the George Cross but you know when one or two ships got in which had ammunition in — now I’ve made a note of this as this has never been published and it may only be a rumour. I think its more than a rumour because my soldier husband had to produce troops to go with the unloading to help with the unloading — but it was rumoured that the (and you mustn’t publish this I don’t think unless you say it was rumour) but the Maltese went on strike and would not unload the ammunition from the ships which were berthed alongside and were being constantly dive-bombed and they refused to unload the ammunition and so soldiers from the garrisons and royal naval sailors from the ships that were there and from the naval base were ordered to go and unload the ammunition and oil. Now I can remember this being told to me as a fact but I have never read it. There was one ship in particular, the â€˜Essex’ which came in and she berthed just below the hospital and she had some seed potatoes and she had ammunition among other things. Now we were told at the time that if the munition holds had been hit that the whole of Valletta would have gone up. It was just opposite the entrance to the grand harbour and she was hit by a bomb which did not explode and I was told went into the hold which held the seed potatoes. And that was a miracle and the Maltese thought of it as a miracle at that moment. Again, this would need to be corroborated. Now Ernie Bradford talks about the â€˜Essex’ coming in but he doesn’t mention that fact. Could it be rumour? But you see supposing that rumour had been spread on purpose. It was a tremendous value to the morale. All the time it wasn’t just the defence of Malta, it was maintaining morale and the feeling of… it must have been the primary concern to the government and the heads of the services in war in Malta. Leading on from that point, we were totally unaware of many much of the history of the war. My father was in Singapore and I suppose we did hear about the sinking of the Prince of Wales, but we were only fed ripples of world news by Malta Rediffusion which was what the local radio was called and the Times of Malta which was owned and the editor was Mabel Strickland who I knew. A terrifyingly tall woman. About 8 feet tall. You ought to read her book? It’s fascinating. [brief discussion of newspaper archives: they had a fire in the archives of the Times of Malta and they lost a lot of their archive and it was very difficult I found to get photographs for my book]. I’ll go back to when we were living in the barracks. It was a very happy time. Although we didn’t know what the future held, we three women were all reasonably intelligent. I’d only begun to fulfil my mental potential, but we used to have great discussion and word games and on the table beside us at our meals we always had a pile of dictionaries Pears Encyclopaedia and Oxford Book of Quotations. That was beside us on a great big pile so that we could refer and argue about the meanings of words or the spellings of words and we also had similar books in the air raid shelter where we sat for hours between the air raid warnings and the all clears. And we used to keep — some nights we had to sleep in the shelters — we each of us had a deckchair and rugs and we kept wide-necked thermoses of water there and sweets and biscuits. And always the most important thing of all was the insect repellent for the sandflies which came out of the rock, lived in the rock. Sandflies everywhere in Malta. They bite you, like a midge, but if you get bitten too much you get sandfly fever which is extremely unpleasant. Its almost a hospital scene. They were around in the house. You needed insect spray in most rooms.
[J: did you have mosquito nets?]
In our houses yes, but not in the shelters of-course.
[J: were mosquitoes a problem down there]
Yes, but not malarial. They were just [?]. The windows of some houses had wire fly screens. But every day… Elisabeth and I were VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachment) – you know what that is, not qualified nurses: you’ve done a first aid course. And Elisabeth and I used to go along to the MI room. Those who were among the officers wives or among any of the wives in that Regiment working as VADs used to go and help in the MI room. There was a large population of families: women and children in the barracks. Normally they were all very fit young soldiers there. So there was quite a lot in the daily surgery (the MI room wasn’t called a surgery, it was the MI room) We had to go to do the normal sorts of dressings and things. And Elisabeth kept a horse and trap in the barracks stabling and she used to go off in her trap to ballet classes (the war had already started). She was very artistic and she was always waving her arms about like a ballet dancer and prancing about the house on tiptoes. She was very very graceful and … great fun. And then, because the Italian bombing was so ineffectual the army decided that we could all go back to our own homes wherever they were and we were all released from the barracks as it were.
[J: roughly how long after war started?]
Not very long. About 2-3 months. Before the Germans. So from my point of view I then had to find somewhere to live. We’d given it [previous flat] up. We didn’t go back there. Anyway there was a voluntary evacuation — a further one — of women and children by sea — this is before the Mediterranean became impassable –and so a tremendous number of women and children left the island. Elisabeth and I stayed on and Elisabeth went to…
[J: did you consider leaving?]
No. Absolutely not because I knew if I did and I went back home I should be back under my father’s thumb in no time at all and I for heavens sake had only just escaped from the bloody man. I was going to stay well clear, bombs or no bombs, and anyway when you’re newly married and in love you’re going to stay with your husband. Take what comes. No children involved. So Elisabeth and I stayed on. Elisabeth went back to her flat or took another flat but she went to a flat in Sliema, at Qui-si-sana which overlooks Slima Creek. She had a ground floor flat. I think it was near Taxbiex[?]. I went into Valletta because I needed to get a job. If you stayed on in Malta obviously you had to do war work and I was taken on.
[J: you couldn’t have worked as a nurse in the hospital?.]
I wasn’t a nurse, I was only a VAD. I expect I could but the hospital was right in the middle of the island and in any case I didn’t want to do that. It never entered my head I don’t think and I was taken on by military intelligence — army intelligence — in the decoding office. And our office was in the Castille and our offices were on the ground floor and I had got a room in the St James Hotel which was in a side street off the main street in Valletta which in those days was called the Strada Reale[?] and that was a beautiful old very old house. I’ve got this in my book. And it was built in the form of a square with a villa courtyard and I think I was up on the first floor or second and the rooms opened out from an internal balcony which encircled the courtyard on each floor and so you went upstairs and walked along the gallery to the door into your room off the gallery. The owners of the hotel were Maltese and under the hotel there was an enormous natural cave. You probably wouldn’t remember what the shape of a Quink bottle used to be. Narrow neck then opening out into a bulb, rather like and acid cowboy[?]. That was the shape ++ is better: that was the shape of the cave and there were steps down into it hacked out of the rock, and when the serious bombing started all the occupants of the hotel went down and slept there every night.
[J: How big was it. How many in the hotel?]
I should think 40 or something. There was the owners family. I should think between 30 and 40. No I should think about 40. Not very many people were living there. There was another naval family living there with a tiny baby. The mother had been the daughter of the Colonel of the Devonshire Regiment who had married out there a naval officer. He was on night duty sometimes so he wasn’t always there at night. She and the baby used to go down. I had my…we each had a patch where we put up our bedding and I again took down my deckchair and some rugs and a cushion and my basket which I took down every single night in which there was a wide-necked thermos of water, my gas masks which one took everywhere, everybody did, biscuits and my jewellery and a torch. And we slept there while the thump of the raids went on above us.
[J: Was there much chat. Did you try and sleep?]
Oh yes, you had to sleep. You had to. That was your sleep in 24 hours.
[J: with bombs going off was it too hard to sleep?]
I suppose we got used to it. We must have got used to it.
[J: What if you were desperate for the loo?]
I don’t think that that ever bothered me. But the Maltese peed where they were. I don’t know if the Maltese had a bucket or something down in their part of that huge, it was a huge cave. It was circular. When you came in they were away down on the left, the Maltese. And then over there was the naval family and then there were other people there. And I was over in this area on the right. And I was near an alternative exit up to the road. There was an entrance from the hotel and there must have been steps up to the road because that was the way we got out after it had been cleared when we were bombed within two inches of a stick. They couldn’t get at the entrance from under the hotel because the hotel was on top of it. The hotel was ++ obviously there were so many lumps of rock so…Well then I worked as I said in Intelligence and I lived there for several months and we worked on typing. To start with we worked on four letter codes or maybe five letter or figure codes. Worked from a book, very old fashioned decoding. And the key changed daily. And then — Earnest Bradford’s book, the Siege of Malta p.138 — the typex machines arrived. It’s a glorified typewriter really. But it stood on a table on a framework and it operated, you typed, but above it there were various wheels. It was in a way the very earliest progenita of an Enigma because wheels turned inside it and you had a different key I think for each message. They made a tremendous clatter because every letter you pressed the wheels turned round inside the machine. And if you made a mistake, it automatically — I mean if you coded in your message — it automatically turned it into gobbledegook which came out on strips of paper like the old fashioned telegrams which you then had to lick and stick onto forms. And those were typed. Those went away to whoever it was who was trying to look at[?] the signal, presumably by radio. And then when it reached the other end of-course the key setting was the first group of letters. If you got any letters wrong, or if you had typed a B instead of a D that threw out the whole message. So you had to be accurate. We had a break for lunch.
[J: What time would you get there in the morning?]
About 8 in the morning or half past eight It was an eight hour shift. Whatever. I think it must have been about 8.30 to 5.30? I don’t honestly remember. But it was a long days work. And we didn’t pay much attention t the raids. I don’t remember going to air raid shelters when we were there. We must have done because the office had to be moved. I used to go to the Union Club for lunch which was half way down Strada Reale on the left hand side. Huge [?]. All the officers who had their day off from the outlying garrison and outposts used to come in and go to the Union Club so there was always a gathering there and you could get a sandwich or something and then gradually it came down to.. there always seemed to be an unlimited supply of gin which was marvellous. And you got plates/dishes of potato chips, locally grown potatoes. In Malta they grew a lot of potatoes and a lot of tomatoes which were the local sort of crops really other than grapes and oranges. I lived on chips and tomato ketchup. Which was delicious. Gin and I know not what. And then we’d go back to the office again. And then the evening meal I had in the hotel provided by the Italian hotel owners ++.
[J: Was there rationing from the word go?]
Oh no. None at all to start with. Things just gradually got more difficult to find. We used to eat a lot of fish in Malta but with the mine laying all around the coast of Malta the fishing boats couldn’t go out. And we laid mines all round the island except or where our ships needed to go in and out. The only fish we could get really were whitebait which would come right in and you could almost scoop them out of the sea. Anyway it Pietar Creek which is the innermost inlet of Slima harbour. I finally left in April 1942 by which time rationing was quite severe. But it seems stupid to say so but I didn’t really notice it. I must have noticed it but I don’t remember that aspect. Anyway I’ll go on… We weren’t told what ships were coming in. A lot of ships came in from time to time — naval ships — but security was very tight, and we simply weren’t told. It was only afterwards — I knew a lot of young naval officers of course from being a naval daughter — a lot of my friends had come in and out of Malta without my being aware of it. Or they being aware of the fact that I was there. My future brother-in-law — my present husband’s brother — turned up. That was great fun. There was still… The Malta Club, which always had, pre-war, a dance every Tuesday night. It was taken over by the army. It had a Polo field and football fields. It was the sports centre, the sports club of the island. And of-course all those open spaces were taken over by the royal artillery and they had their ack-ack guns and big defence guns there so the Malta Club closed down for its members but the club in Sliema which had only tennis courts and squash courts remained open and the Sliema Club always had a dance on Saturday night and those went on right through the bombing and were very popular. The bands were live. Whether they were Maltese or military I don’t know but they had live dance bands. Every Saturday night, and we used to get there on bicycles and I always wore my trousers and my full kit for spending the night in a road-side shelter. And then I took my full length evening dress and silver evening shoes and I mean nowadays you would call the dresses we wore ball dresses I mean they were dÃ©colletÃ© and strapless you know the full thing with flowing skirts. And all of that went into a cardboard box on the carrier of my bike and I would set off and then I suppose I met up with whoever had invited me. They were dinner dances. If my husband — he always tried to get out on a Saturday — if he did then he bicycled but if it was somebody else… but change at the club into full [?]. And you had a lovely dance, wonderful evening. The evening started much earlier then than they do now. Dinner would be at 7.30pm or 8pm. You wanted to get on with it anyway because you knew the worst raids were in the middle of the night. I think they always ended at midnight. They might have ended slightly earlier. Then you went into the ladies room, took off your evening dress, put on your trousers and your coat, anorak or whatever and you had woolly hoods ++ and you packed up your dress, and you tied it onto the back of your bike and you set off home. By which time the air raids would have started. So occasionally you would have to leap off your bike and fling it down by the side of the road and dive into a road-side shelter. And the road-side shelters were excavated at intervals on every road and they had an entry on both sides of the road and they were z-shaped so that you went down one side and got into the shelter under the road and you came up the other side. Occasionally of-course they were hit and everybody inside was killed. They weren’t very deep. And then when the all clear went you came out and jumped on your bicycle and resumed your ride home.
[J: If pitch black did you have a torch?]
Oh you weren’t allowed lights, oh no. There was always a certain amount of light you know. Don’t forget, all this was by the sea so you always had reflected light from the sky from the sea. It was never absolutely pitch dark so you had to feel your way. Now the other thing that happened early in the war, and it had to be stopped because of… when the bombing became so intensive, the Malta Amateur Dramatic Society (MADC) was quite famous throughout the whole of the Mediterranean and it was run by two sisters: absolute battle-axes they were, called Kay and Ella Warren. They were both spinsters. They had lived in Malta with their mother of for about I think since the world began! They ran the MADC and they’d put on almost… I don’t think they, must have had early experience in the theatre because they were very knowledgeable and they produced shows up to professional standard. And with the start of the war, just as the war started I — there were not many girls left — I was cast as the young girl lead in some frightfully exciting thriller and the baddy who was going to rape and murder me was a naval Commander. I don’t think I better tell you his name. He may be still alive. He had an appalling reputation with girls. He was really quite a dirty old man. When I say old, he can’t have been that old but he was a commander so he was [30?]. I would have been playing opposite him and my mother was appalled. She was still there so this must have been before I was married in fact, this must have been before Italy came into the war, the spring of 1940. And I was really all agog. I thought this was really marvellous. I was so innocent. I really didn’t know one end of a man from another. And I thought perhaps I’m going to learn something now. This is really great. I was very pleased to be asked and honoured for that matter. And then the fleet, all the ships were removed from Malta, it became obvious that there was going to be bad bombing and whatever his name was, his ship went and half the male cast left so the whole production had to be cancelled before we’d even started rehearsals. So I was cheated. So the Warrens then said oh all right we’ll produce a concert party, a roving concert party, and at that point when my present husband was in the harbour, in his submarine — he was in the submarines and I had already met him and got to know him very well. He acted as a stage manager and quite a group of us, there was one Devonshire Regiment daughter called Molly Davidson who was younger than me, who had been caught out. She was supposed to have gone back to school but she didn’t. So she studied for school certificate at home in Malta with her parents. She joined it and we used to go round, we did all sorts of things. We did excerpts from Noel Coward plays and songs and dance routines and little sketches and everything you can imagine and then we went round to all the military outposts who were bored stiff where they were trapped for six days a week and we performed in goat sheds or even in the open and the stages were made of planks raised on kerosene drums: a bit dangerous. You had to make sure someone was standing at the other side of the stage if you were on one side of it. And the backdrop was just tarpaulins and we changed behind the tarpaulins. And it was such fun. And we must have had one or two musicians who came round with us. We went from camp to camp, place to place, outpost to outpost in army lorries and this again was a matter of morale and we were frightfully popular. The soldiers all absolutely adored it. And it was tremendous fun. But then that had to be stopped.
[J: When did that stop?]
When the German dive-bombing became concentrated and accurate. But you will have all of these dates in your official histories. Now I’ve said here the raids increased in duration and accuracy… Now this was in the winter of 1940-41. When the Luftwaffe moved down to Sicily to take over from the Italians. This was after Hitler had got control over Europe, after he had given up his attacks on England so that must have been September/October 1941. At that point we were having 8-10 raids daily. And a red flag was flown in the area which was the target for the raid and presumably the headquarters — we had Enigma by then –we must have known where the object of the raid, the target was going to be. When the red flag went up we had by law to take shelter. This was after the raids had become constant and if we’d all been in shelter all the time there were raids on the island, life would have come to a standstill so we then only sheltered when you were in the immediate area.
[J: when did the flat go up? How did you see it?]
The flag went up when it became apparent. In Valetta it went up on the Castille. It went up on the highest point they could put it on. And presumably they did as well whether it was the submarine base or the airfields. And Hurricanes were shot down and then the ammunition became exhausted and then the shipping of-course and convoys were lost and then rationing started. First thing that had to be rationed was kerosene which was used for cooking and then food. There was no petrol because of-course nobody had a car. All the petrol was used for military purposes.
[J: with kerosene could you only use a cooker one a day maximum?]
Yes. So it was an advantage to have a meal. When I was living in the hotel, the hotel managed, they cooked in the evenings. It was an advantage to me to be able to go to the club and have whatever the club could offer me or offer us. The club was always packed. And of-course the amount of flirting that went on, and the amount of fun… most of the young women had left the island. So any other young women and I was among the young women that remained, we were at a premium and we always had circles of young men around us. It was lovely and it was only then that I realised that I had a personality of my own and that I wasn’t such a dead lump of unattraction which was what my father had always told me. You’ll never get married he used to say. You’re so fat and so dull. I believed him. And gradually I began to find that I had a little wit and I had the courage to use it and to contribute fun and it was — although the bombing was terrifying — it was a wonderful blossoming for me during that period.
[J: in wartime live more intensely, live for every minute]
Absolutely. Yes. And I mean the number of times it was suggested to me oh lets go to bed. And I didn’t. I can’t think… well I suppose I was newly married and brought up to the fact that you didn’t and in those days you didn’t sleep around. You really and truly didn’t. And it was obviously a certain type of young men who asked you who’d had success previously. So ++ nicer young men wouldn’t dream of asking you. I mean you would kiss but that was all right. Even I realised that that was fairly harmless. Now the wife of a very senior Captain who must have been in his late 40s, early 50s in the Devonshire Regiment whose name was Curly. His surname was Davidson. His wife was Dorothy and she was short and bright and great fun and rather very outspoken and my parents didn’t like her — don’t write this down because her grandchildren are still alive — she was slightly what my parents would have called vulgar. My parents were frightful snobs. She had a heart of gold. She was very good to me and I was devoted to her. And their daughter Molly was the girl who was caught out in Malta aged 15 before she had taken her school certificate. And she and I remained lifelong friends until she died a year ago. We used to go on holiday together. Now after the Devonshire Regiment was out at their outposts she, Dorothy, took a flat in ++ Reale which is just outside Valletta on the edge of the harbour and they had a flat which overlooked the harbour and somehow or other they got to know a lot of the submarine officers who com…
[END OF SIDE A]
… I had got to know a lot of the submariners before the war because my elder sister was out with my parents and me and she was engaged to a submariner and married him in April 1939 in Egypt. But through Jimmy I got to know a lot of the submarine officers who remained on and through them I got to know the newer arrivals and so many of my young men friends I don’t mean boyfriends, were all delighted to be mixing with girls were submarine officers and they all used to gather at Dorothy Davidson’s flat and I used to go along as well. It was open house in the evenings and it was great fun and we used to have gramophone records on which… I don’t know if we drank there but it was just a jolly gathering and the raids would go on and none of us paid a great deal of attention and eventually I would go back to the hotel. Then the hotel was hit. The Germans had taken over the bombing from the Italians and I think that they realised that bombs themselves didn’t do a great deal of damage to the buildings in Malta which were built of huge solid blocks of the rock of which Malta itself is comprised. And bombs really didn’t penetrate. But mines did because mines blew. The blast from the mines being so much greater than the bombs, blew the buildings down so the started dropping mines on parachutes and on one of the first evenings they did this and it hit the hotel where I was living and three sides of this building collapsed on top of the exit, the two entries or exits formed a cave underneath in which we were all sheltered so we were trapped down there and immediately the dust from the rock filled the place with thick impenetrable fog. I mean breathing became very difficult from the dust that blew out of the stone. I was the only person with a gas mask so of-course I put my gas mask on but I was as far as I can remember also the only one that had any water. So everybody wet their handkerchiefs and the woman with the baby wet the babies nappies to put across their mouths and noses so that they could breath so they had filters for this foul dust. And we could hear hissing so we realised that probably the gas ++ had been hit but I can remember being frightened but in a totally fatalistic way thinking that somebody will rescue us. It’ll be all right. The gas won’t really affect us because the rocks of which the building was comprised were so huge that quite a large amount of oxygen must be getting in the cave as well as the gas and anyway you couldn’t smell the gas so it can’t have been all that serious. And the raid went on and of course the noise of the raids which I haven’t mentioned was really part of the terror. The scream of the dive bombers who incorporated a special mechanical device to increase the sound of their diving to make them more frightening which was not part of the engine or part of the bombs but just sheer terrorising factor and it was terrifying. And then you got the whistle of the bombs coming down. And a stick of bombs was usually 7 or 8 and we all became quite clever at judging from the noise the bomb, the noise of the next bomb and the next bomb and so on — this would be of-course only in your immediate vicinity — whether you were in the path of the stick or not and the second time I was bombed I reckoned that I would be hit in the stick and I was. But that was a little bit later. And then all the time of-course there was the ack-ack which was the sharp cracks of the carum of the bombs bursting. Even today when aircraft are diving low near me I duck. I still hate low diving aircraft. I find that horrible. Anyway there we sat waiting. And sure enough. I think really the description in my book of the rescue is better than going through it all again.
[J: did the ground shake?]
Yes of-course it did. You felt the reverberations through the rock. But Malta is an absolutely solid lump of rock so I don’t remember the ground shaking so much as the effect of the blast which was totally unpredictable. And when we were eventually rescued from that tomb as it really was the following day in daylight my room was on the only wall that was not demolished of that square, hollow square of the hotel. And I could see on my dressing table, a vase of flowers, untouched. But that’s in my book. Well then the Dobby’s[?], he was the Governor, General Sir William Dobby[?]. They were very kind, they had known my parents well. They had me to stay and I have described that in my book. I should think I stayed with them about 10 days. There were a lot of airmen there as well having brief rest periods because they were under constant strain. And then another young wife who had been in the St James hotel who was married to an army surgeon. I can’t remember the name. She was Anne and he was Tom (oh they were dull). And anyway we decided that we would share a flat or house or something and we found a lovely… at the bottom half of the Mountbatten’s house in Guardamangia. Have you heard of Guardamangia?. Well it’s spelt Guardamangia and it’s a very steep very narrow hill going up between two of the creeks of Sliema harbour. The innermost of the creeks is Pietar and Guardamangia goes up from Pietar creek and then at the top there’s now a new modern hospital and then another road down the far side to M++ creek. Now the Guardamangia had a lot of lovely large beautiful old houses and it was the place where the creme de la creme lived and my father as second in command of the Mediterranean fleet had taken a house up there. And the GOC, General Officer Commanding the army, he lived up there. Sort of admirals and generals lived up there and the Mountbattens had a lovely house which they occupied when they were in Malta. When they weren’t in Malta that house was divided up into flats which were let. And Anne and Tom and I — my husband never seemed to feature much, well he didn’t really — took the so-called ground floor flat which also had stairs going down to a semi-basement flat. It was on a very steep hill and we all lived together to start with and it obviously wasn’t going to work, so we agreed we would split up and they would have the larger room and the grander flat — because he was home quite often — at ground level, and I would have the basement flat which opened on one side which had windows which had gratings at street level but on the other side were the rooms with windows, french windows out into a little garden, a very bosky leafy little garden which was full of grapefruit trees. And I’ve always liked a garden so I said I will have the downstairs flat which was rather dark but it didn’t matter because I was out all day in the office all day anyway. And they had a much grander flat on the first floor. So they were very happy and I was very happy and I don’t know where they went for their shelter but I would go just down the hill where there was a shelter just under the road and I kept my chair there, my deckchair there, folded up by day, and every night had to carry down — I couldn’t leave things there during the day — cushion, usual things. And lower down Guardamangia the Maltese work people lived. The higher part of Guardamangia was full of rather rich large houses and nobody ever went into this shelter from there, from those houses. Perhaps they all had their own shelters, I don’t know. I went down to the street shelter which I think I describe where there was a shrine with a light kept permanently… the Maltese are very ardent Roman Catholics and it was permanently lamp lit at the shrine to the Virgin Mary. I think that they worshipped the Virgin Mary more than they worshipped God really. I suppose Roman Catholics do don’t they. And next door to the shrine they used to use a corner for peeing and the stink down there was awful. Every night and sweat of course. I don’t know that they washed that much and urine and tobacco. There were sandflies. It was really all extremely unpleasant. And damp of-course. That’s why you took your bedding down every day. If you left it there overnight it would be even more damp. The humidity was quite alot. You really had to take two rugs because you had to lie or sit on one and have the other one over you because your chair was damp too. It was there that I saw more and more of the submariners and I got to know. I got to know a lot of them in the Davidson’s flat, the younger officers because they knew the younger officers because of Molly being so much younger. But I also knew the older officers, the commanding officers from my brother-in-law who by that time had left Malta and anyway had been killed in a submarine in the North Sea. But I knew for instance David W[?] and Tomo Tomkinson. [re: David] He was a marvellous man, he was a mystical man in some ways. And then there was Tomo Tomkinson who had courted my elder sister who was also lost on his last patrol before going home. You were either lost on your first patrol as a commanding officer on a submarine or on your last patrol. My brother-in-law was lost on his first patrol in the North Sea. Before you got the experience to make your snap decisions as quickly as you must, it’s too late and you’ve gone or at the end of your last patrol on a mission which could be a year, two years or whatever, you’re just tired. That used to be the theory at the time. And Teddy Woodward was another CO. I think he survived the war.
[J: did you know a chap called Tubby Crawford?]
[J: Can you tell me a bit about those three: Wanklyn and Tomkinson and Crawford?]
Not really because I think they were my sister’s generation. She was 7 or 8 years older than me. I ++ worshipped David W[?] from afar. The one I can tell you about is the Commanding Officer of the Polish submarine which was called Socol and his name was Boris Carlitsky but that is all in my book and he was of their generation and he and his First Lieutenant, I suppose the other ones in his boat as well, had all left their families in Poland and they knew that they had been overtaken by the Germans or the Russians and that they wouldn’t see them again because they wouldn’t be able to go home having fought for the English or the British. And they were all absolute desperate fighters. All they wanted to do was to sink the axis shipping and kill axis personnel and they were so brave in the quite absurd risks they took and got away with. Diving under the booms of harbours and lying at the bottom of harbours all day and then attaching mines and then getting out again after having done so at night. Their stories are told over and over again particularly in this book â€œThe Fighting T[?]. But when they were in, between patrols I saw a great deal of Boris Carlitsky. He used to call me his little English rose and he used to take me out a deux for lunch. We never went out at night I suppose again because lack of transport but we used to go out to this wonderful restaurant at St Anton which is just by the D[?] Palace and we used to have lunch out there, out in the open under fabulous vines with grapes dangling over our heads. And they did wonderful food I remember, they managed to ++ it and he always used to order ahead a little posy about that big, tiny little pink rosebuds which was on my plate before we arrived. He was a very dramatic and he used to say wouldn’t I go to bed with him and I would say well no I wouldn’t. He said all right never mind. And he used also to take me to dances at the Sliema club and he was of-course divine dancer. They played very hard when they were in harbour and then they fought very hard when they were out on patrol.
[J: what happened to him?]
He survived the war and he I don’t remember what happened to his family but I know he married an English woman and he used to live in East Anglia but I don’t think he’s alive now.
[J: Did everyone worship Wanklyn?]
There was an aura of valour anyway. Because Wanklyn hadn’t been given his VC at that point. It was given to him posthumously wasn’t it? Well they were worshipped I suppose you could say. Tomkinson was another, Tubby Woodward was another. He was a womaniser. He never tried it on with me — he didn’t find much co-operation — but he was a very attractive man, Tubby Woodward and also very brave and reckless in his strategy when at sea in his boat. My present husband was in one [submarine] but not… that is another story. His submarine was on the surface at night charging their batteries which they had to do by night, they had to do it on the surface, so they were off the south coast of Italy and they were spotted by an Italian or German who came out to attack them and they were rammed, a certain amount of damage was done but they had a gun which was perfectly undamaged. My present husband was only a Sub-Lieutenant and the Captain ordered the crew to abandon ship for absolutely no reason but craven terror and Michael wanted to fight but the First Lieutenant was also a coward and had already jumped in the water. I don’t know if you ought to say this about that because you could be had up for libel. The Captain was court-martialled and thrown out of the navy at the end of the war and my husband had to witness against him which was a terrible thing to have to do to a fellow officer and I think that this First Lieutenant was as well. And they were rescued, some of them were being machine-gunned in the sea and my husband went back down into the submarine which started to sink from the damage to get out one or two sailors who had been inured. The Captain couldn’t care less. He was already swimming for his life. But Michael went back. Those who were picked up and captured were put into prison camps and they were ordered by the Captain to do this that and the other and the sailors mutinied. They wouldn’t obey the Captain of the submarine. They said no the only man they could obey was my husband and my husband used to be in touch with them in prison. They were in the same POW camp but different parts of it — officers and men were not in the same part. But he used to have to go and visit his men and boost their morale and chat them up.
[J: was he there for the rest of the war?]
Yes he was. He kept escaping but hey kept recapturing him. But that’s another story in itself. But he was taken prisoner, his submarine was lost and I was told, I was married that year, maybe I wasn’t, I was engaged… anyway I was told he’d been shot trying to escape and I assumed that he’d been killed so at that point I gave up and married a soldier. Now going back to the submarine base, the second in command of the submarine base was a Lieutenant Commander called Hubert Marsham. Under the commanding officer who was Captain Shrimp Simpson (you will read that in â€œFighting T[?]). Hubert Marsham was a bachelor (I think Shrimp was actually), and Hubert was a funny old thing. Passed over Lieutenant Commander. He became very fond of me, but not sexually. He never wanted to go to bed so that was all right. Made life much easier. But he was very kind to me and Shrimp — when the target area was the submarine base which included Guardamangia (it was quite close to the submarine base) — Shrimp used to send Hubert Marsham up on a motorbike to collect me when he knew I was at home and not in the ++ office to go back and shelter with the submariners because they had a very deep shelter under the base. So I used to ride pillion behind Hubert. Everybody else was in a shelter. I’d go along the streets to get to Manoel Island, sometimes being dive-bombed. And then we would arrive at Manoel Island and jump off the motorbike and Hubert would say go on quick, I’ll follow you and I would shoot down into the shelter and he would stow the motorbike under something and I would be with dozens and dozens and dozens of sailors deep down and that was when I got to know some of the captains who were in the base and not on patrol. And then there was a direct hit one day and sick bay was hit which was above the shelter and a lot of damage was done and people were killed in the sick bay and of-course everybody rushed out to clear up and rescue who they could but I wasn’t allowed to go. People very gallant in those days. I was told to go into the officers mess and sweep up the glass. I think there were some literally fairly bloody sights in the sick bay, people smashed up, killed, and now at that point I had a maid who used to come and I would bicycle home for lunch and not go to the Union Club every day, bicycle down the hill whose name I can’t remember between Floriana and [?] and then up to my flat and Nina would provide me with something to eat before I bicycled back to the office again for the afternoon session. And again there is the story in my book so don’t write it down now unless you want to about one day Nina begged me to go to the shelter and I refused… and she was sure we were going to be hit and I didn’t go and we were hit. But she did go, I got her to go.
[J: Can you remember when the bomb came, what you thought?]
Oh yes, I’d reckoned it was going to hit. When the stick started, it was over the far side of Floriana, I reckoned, and then I heard the second and the third and then I reckoned I think the sixth is going to come pretty close and it landed just outside my front door.
[J: But you were OK?]
Yes I was OK. The doors were smashed, the walls were cracked, the furniture was blown down all over the place. The damage was considerable in the flat. It was still liveable in. The ceilings were a bit messy.
[J: You were just hiding under a table?]
That’s right. Dorothy Davidson had moved also out of Floriana because the bombing was too bad there and she had come to the top of Guardamangia — there was a side street with some houses in it. She and Molly were in [?] street and they reckoned that that bomb must have hit near me and they came down to see if I was all right and they found me under the dining room table with a bottle of brandy and a table-spoon. So I never lived that down.
[J: when you heard bomb and thought this is going to hit, what did you do?]
I can’t have done because I got the whole bottle of brandy which was at the far end of the room. But I don’t remember doing that, nor do I remember thinking that I would get the brandy. All I remember was thinking well I think this may be it. There wasn’t much I could do about it but I suppose I may have thought well let’s have a slug of brandy, maybe that’ll help I suppose. I may tell you that Brandy is my evening tipple even to this day. The office then moved or had already moved from the Castille which had been hit and the office was considered too vulnerable to be left in the Castille so we were moved down into Las Caves which was the headquarters — which was all underground — it was all the time being extended, dynamited, in extensions. And we had a little rather like a P&O liner where you have a little corridor running from fore to aft and off it you have side shoots which are little cul de sacs with four cabins. Literally blown out of the rock with dynamite. And I went off to the loo one day from my typex machine. I think we had about 4 machines in our office. And there I was in the loo which I think was quite a long way to go. The other girls and their machines were evacuated out of the office and of-course there was going to be some dynamiting very close by with a further extension. And I got back to the office and the girls weren’t there. I thought oh well, I didn’t think anything of it and sat down at my machine and resumed and there was a dynamite explosion which really damaged my ears and I’ve been deaf. It was very painful at the time but I started becoming deaf fairly soon after that. I’ve been increasingly deaf ever since. One thing you asked what my impressions were was the cold in the winter. Both of the houses and also in the shelters there was no form of heating. Houses aren’t built for the cold in Malta. There were no fireplaces and of-course no central heating or there wasn’t in those days. And they were jolly cold and one heated oneself before the war with electric fires but of-course electricity was at a premium, it was only on for an hour or so and there were a lot of colds and sore throats, those sort of problems. Cold and damp, sandflies, smells and noise.
[J: very hot in summer?]
Yes quite hot in summer. I didn’t mind that. Of-course the air-raid shelters were cool.
[J: Was there much mingling with Maltese?]
No there wasn’t before the war. You had your maids but otherwise no.
[J: Not even during the war?]
Well during the war no because I was working all day.
[J: No Maltese working with you?]
No but there were Maltese working. There was a Maltese Regiment which was doing a wonderful job, a Maltese akak regiment: RMA, Royal Malta Artillery.
[J: Just after you left, hopeless bungled spy came onto the island and got caught. Maltese. Executed. What was the mood of the Maltese towards the Italians: anti? Aware of sympathy?]
No one wasn’t aware of it. Ernie Bradford’s book he will tell you that they were 100% loyal to the British and I think they were. I don’t remember any feelings that were anti-British or pro-Italian at all. If there were any one wouldn’t have heard about it and neither do I remember anything about any spy. If there was one of-course it would have been kept very quiet but the evening, the night…when the bombing was really appallingly bad which must have been the winter of â€˜41/42 the three cities round the dockyard were evacuated into the countryside and this is written up by Ernie Bradford and I definitely remember an appeal for any blankets that one could spare and everybody in the countryside were asked to house these people. They mostly had friends and families to go to. This was in the winter. There must have been thousands and thousands of them and then in April â€˜41 the bombing eased a bit because the Germans were reinforcing Greece and so we were able to sleep in our beds again and to go out into the countryside a bit for walks on bicycles and the wild flowers were so lovely and it gave you a feeling of hope and joy that however much they’d bombed they couldn’t stop flowers coming out. And the wild flowers in Malta are wonderful. The wild jonquils, that is narcissus and anemones in the wieds (dried up water course) were absolutely glorious. And in the field, the open farming fields, the wild gladioli in the summer which were sort of purplish red and sheets and sheets in the spring of yellow Oxalis all over the floor of the wieds. And the anemones and the narcissus used to grow up the sides of the wieds in the crevices of the rock. The floor used to be Carrup[?] trees and thorn trees and these Oxalis which you waded through brilliant brilliant citric yellow. Lovely. And then out on the Dingling[?] cliffs the dwarf irises, only a couple of inches high which are still there. I saw some when I went out a few years ago. Little tiny. They’ve got a very delicate little feeling of blue. You have to bend down and look to see the thing its so tiny. And then in June the German airforce was withdrawn from the Mediterranean (I’ve got a note of that) to be sent up to the Russian front. So life really did become very much easier, but briefly. But on July 25th 1941 the Italians did make an attempt at a landing. A U-boat[?] landing. And that was badly mismanaged by them, hopelessly mismanaged and again that is very well described by Ernie Bradford but I was sleeping in my flat in Guardamangia and I had my radio on because I couldn’t sleep and you know sometimes you were sort of hit with occasional thoughts in the small hours of what is going to become of us, how long is this going to go on for and so as to stop thinking I used to turn on my radio and I was on the short-wave and obviously something was going on. There were Italian voices which were obviously not our own radio and then there was the noise of gunfire coming over the radio. I didn’t hear it from the actual — well unless I was confusing it with what was happening outside although it was 2 or 3 miles away — and then I heard British voices as well but not clear enough to hear what they were saying but there was obviously something going on and this was the [?]-boat attack. Now Elisabeth Young who lived in Slima was closer because one of the [?]-boats got into Slima and she can probably tell you more than I can about it. And it was quite exciting.
[J: You didn’t know what was going on?]
Absolutely none and between 2 and 3am it was obvious that an attack was taking place but you could see nothing from Guardamangia. Nobody said anything the next day. There was no mention of it in my office anyway. The officers must have known what it was all about. And there were crowds according to Bradford who watched what was going on but I don’t know how they could have watched if it was in the dark but I suppose they would have seen the gunfire, from the Barracca in Malta. You haven’t been to Malta yet… there are wonderful museums of the siege. When the food was getting difficult we had figs which grow locally anyway, grapes which grow locally anyway, ooquats and of-course oranges in the winter which were wonderful and then there was always the tomatoes and the potatoes. Ernie Bradford will tell you that the potatoes got very short because they ran out in the siege but that must have been after I left. And then there were Carrub[?] trees, C[?] beans which the donkeys used to eat but its rather like chocolate and the beans are about 7 foot long are more and I think those were used and ground up and olives and pumpkins they always grew alot of. Goats. Goats milk. Before the war the goats used to be driven round in the towns in Valetta everywhere and they wore bras of cotton in which their udders hung which was rather a good thing because the udders sweat and get awfully dirty ad they would be bought at the doorsteps of those who were buying, that is the Maltese, and the Maltese would take out the jugs and the goats would be milked on the doorstep. And that went on, but they gradually became more and more scarce as the goats got eaten. I’ve told you about the sandflies but there were always cockroaches too and the little lizards inside the houses on the walls always called geckos, and if you have a house without geckos it’s an unlucky house. They were lovely. They made a sort of clicking noise. Used to happen in Bahrain and Singapore too. And if by any chance you touched them their tail fell off and would still wriggle on the floor. The water supply remained good. I don’t remember ever being short of water but we couldn’t swim because all the beaches were fortified with barbed wire and so on. Bread wasn’t rationed until April/May 1942. It became debased — Maltese bread was delicious. It was always very crusty and had a rather open texture, a sort of beigy colour but it was very good. I don’t know why it was so good but it had a slightly sour taste which was delicious — but then it began to get sort of soggy and I think it was debased with potato flour and then eventually it was rationed. There was always great excitement of-course if a ship did get in and everybody stood at the top of the Barracca (Higher Barracca and Lower Barracca: two terraced bastions overlooking grand harbour) outside the Castille overlooking the grand harbour shouting and cheering but every time a convoy came of-course the dive-bombing got worse. And you looked straight across from the Barracca to the Illustrious which came in when I was there and that was non-stop bombing. That was the worst bombing of all as far as I was concerned.
[J: When did the hotel get hit?]
I can’t remember the date. You’d find that out in Malta from the archives but I was in the flat in Guardamangia for far longer than I was in the hotel. I can only have been in the hotel a matter of … it must have been during the winter of 1941.
[J: It could have been when the Illustrious was in, beginning of 1941?]
Yes it could. It could. Now 1942, February 1942 I had my 21st birthday and I think I was in the flat by then in Guardamangia. And the man in charge of the akak guns on M[?] Island, his name was Colin Nightingale, and one of the intrepid submarine commanders whose name was Pat Northern[?] combined with my husband John Formby to give a dance for me at the Slima Club for my 21st birthday which was February 1942. Oh of-course I was in the flat then. And I’d been in the flat about a year. The St James Hotel must have been in January 1941. I think that was when they started using landmines. By the summer of 1941 things eased off. Everybody came out from sleeping in their shelters and caves. I went back to my flat but the people who had lost their homes, who had made their homes in the shelters and caves, in particular under Valletta, under the bastions of Valletta there were deep moat-like ditches all the way round Valetta and they then set up camp in those ditches and everybody came out, the children were running about bare-foot, and the old women were still wearing their Faldettas (the women wore black and then they had a cloak and then a wide board about that wide which was covered in black fabric and was about that long and it had fabric gathered onto the ++, the curved ends and round the back) and they wore it over their heads. And it made a sort of umbrella balanced across their heads. Very picturesque. And they were called Faldettas. I don’t think you see them nowadays. And they would be cooking on the open fires and the primus stoves if they had kerosene in these ditches and now another thing I’ve made a note of here which is just a second thought but I’ve no idea of the date. Floriana[?] which was the open paved area, big paved area between Porto Reale, that was the gate into Strada Reale and Valletta — and between the gate at the far end of Floriana, there was a big flat area which was completely paved and in it there were round discs, stones, which lifted off like corks. They covered holes and underneath were granaries, the old granaries made by the Romans or whoever. And those areas, those granaries were used as air raid shelters and during the bombing of either winter 41 or Spring 42 although I think it was the latter a bomb went through one of the granary holes and penetrated and exploded and of-course the blast inside the granary below, the number of dead surpassed two or three hundred. I haven’t read about that but I remember that.
[J: Presumably there were ladders down?]
I don’t know because I never saw one of the lids lifted off but there must have been an entrance from the side I think. I don’t think they would have had entries from the middle. I think that would be like the hold of a ship where it was tipped in but I think that the entries to the people to get in would have been round the side but it was a big area I mean 4 or 5 acres of it. And that is where the main bus station is. I used to have a lot of submariners to supper in my flat if I had any food or if not they’d just come and we would listen to classical records and just sit and I remember I did have a fireplace. I did have a fire in the winter and I also remember that I did put on a long evening dress when they came. I don’t mean dÃ©colletÃ© but I remember having a dark brown velvet dress with long sleeves and gold border. I think it was rather fetching. Because I thought you know they liked to see a woman dressed as a woman. And we would sit and talk and there would be four or five at a time and they’d all go off back to their… It was all… relationships — I don’t mean in the modern sense of the word — was full of friendship [?] and compatibility. How can I put it? You helped everybody. I don’t mean by rushing forward with firewood or a tin of sardines. You just talked with people to jolly them along. Everybody was friendly to everybody else. You didn’t quarrel with people. It was a universal feeling of survival. You’ve got to survive, you’ve got to help each other to survive. And at the same time have fun. And there was lots of fun and I can remember at the gatherings at Dorothy Davidsons, we used to sing for all these young men, the young submariners, the sub-lieutenants mainly or the very junior lieutenants. We used to have singsongs or play cards.
[J: strong team spirit?]
Yes. You didn’t talk about it. You didn’t say we must have team spirit. It was just there. As life became more and more tough. It wasn’t overtly expressed in any way. And I can remember — through my contacts with the submarines — I didn’t see so much of Shrimp Simpson because he was old enough to be my father and I stood very much in awe of him. Hubert Marsham was much older than me but I was close to him. He jolly nearly converted me to being a Roman Catholic. Very nearly because I had been brought up as a practising Christian attending Church every Sunday and I used to sometimes go into the Protestant Church in Valetta. But it was so cold. Nobody was interested in you. They didn’t care if you’d been bombed the night before or not. No, there was no priest, no parson visited me ever except the army padre from the Second Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment. But I used to want to go into a church to say a prayer and I remember Hubert saying to me. None of this is in my book. Why don’t you come with me to a Roman Catholic church? he said. And I was frightened of the Roman Catholic church because my father and mother thought the devil would eat you if you went into a Roman Catholic church or something. But in the end I did go to a Roman Catholic church with Hubert and he didn’t prostheletyse at all. He just said well lets sit down for a bit and we did, we sat for about 20 minutes and we walked out again. But the atmosphere was of warmth and caring and I remember the Roman Catholic priest coming along and just touching my shoulder with his hand and touching Hubert’s shoulder. There was no forcing you to kneel down and say your prayers or anything but there was comfort there which gave me courage and after that I used to drop in to Roman Catholic churches occasionally. I would just sit or kneel I don’t remember which I found very warming and consoling and when I got home and told my mother she was furious and wrote to my father and my father wrote to me and said if you go to a Roman Catholic church again I shall cut you off without a shilling. Isn’t it amazing. I’d forgotten that. I don’t know why I didn’t put it in my own book. Perhaps I didn’t think it would interest anybody. But I’ve got here mildew. Everything got mildew, damp.
[J: presumably that was in the winter?]
No because warmth and damp. You see the air raid shelters were damp in the summer from rain. There would be a dampness in the air and there was always mildew. Everything got mildew. And the other thing about the shelters was the Maltese who wailed and prayed all night long without ceasing at their shrine. And the fleas in the shelter. We always had fleas to contend with. And of-course you took them home with you from the shelters so you had fleas to contend with at home as well. I don’t remember any other English people in that shelter.
[J: in winter it was just damp because it was damp?]
Yes. Letters came very, very seldom from home but you had no thought or discussions…There was never any conception of losing the war. This is how I’ve written down these random thoughts. No thought or discussion as to final outcome of the war. No conception of losing. One had to control ones thoughts and fears of an island invasion. No remembered questioning of how long the continuous bombing would last or for how long could Malta hold out.
END OF SIDE B