- Contributed by
- Jean Bruce
- People in story:
- Leonard Francis Cuthbert Knight
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 May 2005
VE Celebrations on Malta
These diary extracts were written by my father, Mr L.F.C. Knight (1912 — 1991) as part of our Family History, which includes stories of life as family members knew it, photos, family trees and other relevant information. After serving at Reading, my father was sent overseas and below is a description of the life on Malta in 1945 up to VE Day.
Tues 2 Jan 1945
One of our lot beaten up in Sliema, possibly his own fault from over celebration on New Years Eve.
Wed 3 Jan
Weather chilly and wet. Rumours of local gangs operating for robbery. Advice to go out several together.
Sat 6 Jan
Five kitbags full of drift wood for firing. To Command Hall at Valetta. Missed lorry back, had to walk. Back at 12.30
Mon 8 Jan
H.M.S. Bicester in harbour, the adopted ship of the Pay corps. Ships crew usually entertained but lack of funds prevented this.
Thurs 11 Jan
Fed up with hanging around barracks. Went down to Sliema crossed by ferry to Valetta. Looked around shops. To Vernon Services Club. To Command Hall. Variety Show, comedians, dances, sketches, accordionist, baritones and sopranos. Back by Shousa, a ferry boat and army lorry. Very dark and eerie in back streets of Valetta no street lamps all sorts of shadows amongst the very, very many bombed buildings.
Joke: Tripped over a ration book and hurt badly by falling on the points.
Sun 14 Jan
Started a walk at 9.45 am to Birkara, Segovia and Zuriack to the Blue Grotto a deep ravine leading down to the sea. Very rocky with high cliffs, wild and dangerous. Back to Zuriack to catch 4pm bus back to Valetta and then by usual ferry to Sliema. Supper at St. Andrews café egg and chips. Back by 7pm.
Mon 15 Jan
One more on U.K. leave after over 4 years overseas service. Work pushed, two civilians have left and two on U.K. leave. Demobilisation start but very few and far between. Tombola. Included in Sundays walk were the occasions of seeing groups of villagers playing tombola. We thought it primitive.
Note: Nowadays they call it Bingo (very similar) but no different in set up.
Sat 20 Jan
To Command Hall “The Gang show” R.A.F. very good all male cast. Jokes: Definition of a chiffonier — a tall thing with drawers. If your husband is backward, sent it forward. Never put the pansies in a bed with the Sweet Williams. A quick growing hollyhock plant it and jump back. Going down a street and fell over two sand bags. One turned over and said “you will take me back home with you won’t you darling!"
Sun 21 Jan
Up early for breakfast and then another walk. To Chadwick Lakes. These are in a wadi. Three of four of them in a string used as reservoirs. Only a limited use as they become dry in later months. Lunch at Rabat. Back down valley at Mosta. Return by 4.15pm
Mon 22 Jan
Good news from Russian front. Went to the Education block to look at maps and a browse around books and pamphlets. Windy and wet.
Thurs 25 Jan
Rumour that Roosevelt Churchill and Stalin will meet on the island.
Fri 26 Jan
Rumour correct. Preparations for the meeting of the big Three in hand, large ship and destroyers congregating in the harbour. Leave stopped. No letters, no outward mail.
Sat 27 Jan
Local leave allowed. One week. Tennis. Hot shower changed clothes. At 5pm to Valetta. Collected films. To Command Hall. Snooker and show. Winning plays of the weeks 1. Dr B Toole with the Irish Players 2. The Bear with H.M.S. St. Angela. (Tchekov) 3. The Distant Drum with the Service Players. H.M.S St. Angelo won. Back in lorry for 11.15pm The prizes were presented by Lady Schreiber in the presence of the Governor.
Sun 28 Jan
A days walk to Mellieha (with one or two lifts). Passed Marfo Ridge Back to Mellieha and bus to Birkara. St. Georges for 4.30 pm.
Some points of Interest.
1. The Faldetta. (Spanish and Italian for petticoat). This is the black hood worn by many women attending church. A traditional custom.
2. Keys of doors left in lock on the outside in many country houses. Maybe to show trust in others or an invitation to the unexpected guest of the ever open door.
3. Curios seaweed. Round balls of shape of horse manure and also a flaky type.
4. Dogs on flat roofs of houses, bark furiously but can’t get down for attack.
5. Bits of ground scratched out wherever there is any sign of soil.
6. The wonderful colouring of the sea.
7. Bill Harris ex Pay Corps in Egypt gave me my name in Arabic (K)night Jack.
8. Trotting contest at Birkara.
9. Almond blossom out.
Two weeks leave with walks and work in between
Leave: Monday to Friday 29th Jan to 4th Feb
Monday: To Valetta, tennis, snooker, letters etc. Rain and wind.
Tuesday: Cleaned out locker. Nothing special personally. More air activity. Reported arrival of the Big Three with Eisenhower, Montgomery and Cunningham. Cycle borrowed from stores with ride around district. Cold and draughty barracks.
Wednesday: Out on bike to Valetta. Big crowds outside the Castille. Waited but saw no top people. Plenty of high rank Army, Navy and Air Force. Back for 12.30 Books and writing as it turned out wet.
Thursday: To St. Paul’s Bay, Mellieha, Shein Tufieha, Mosta and back in cycle.
Friday: To Valetta, two American cruisers entered harbour. Cycle to San Anton gardens. Back for dinner. Explored rocks on seashore. Sea eggs very nasty spiny creatures to tread on when bathing.
Sun 4 Feb
Sunday walk through dock area. Bomb damage terrific. On to Zabbar and Marsascala. A puppy chasing goats ripping their wool etc. Tea and Sandwiches at Marsascala. Then round St. Thomas Bay to Marsa-sirocco. High cliffs path dangerously near the edge. Horseshoe shaped bays with crystal clear blue water. Passed Delamara Point to Bir Zabbug. Large bay used as a sea-plane base where the Devonshire was sunk with only part of the hull still showing. Two old Englishmen at Bir-Zebbug. One was 73 had served his time and remained on the island. He had been a dockyard policemen. The other has also worked in the dockyard and was hoping to return to England. After 30 years of marriage his wife has been killed in an air raid. Back to Valetta for lorry to St. George in time for tea.
Wed 7 Feb
A meeting at Australia Hall. Talk by G.O.C. Malta to troops on everything and nothing. Just a general chat, censorship of mail, leave systems, length of overseas service, pastimes, studies, boredom, post war re-construction and re-organistaion. His speech was good humoured. Anecdotes of chiefs of staff who had visited the island e.g. the American five star general named Marshall who could not be called Marshall Marshall so was referred to as General of the Army Marshall. The story of the ship after attempts at tying up was given the signal “good” to which was added a little later “and gracious” and how Stalin was supposed to have stayed at San Anton Palace, the coolest part of the island.
Thurs 8 Feb
Work at office. Lt Skene in charge, not saying a word all day. Very miserable. To Valetta, musical evening at Toc H. Bach and Grieg. Back for 8.45pm.
Sun 11 Feb
Walk Mosta, Rabat to Dingle Heights. Found pre-historic cave dwellings. Down Wadi and up to Zeebug. Back for 7.30 pm A good long walk about 20 miles in fine weather.
Mon 12 Feb
News on radio of the meeting of the Big Three in the Crimea Malta mentioned as a stopping place en route.
Leave one week 17th February
Saturday: Feast of St. Paul’s shipwreck. Carnival dances at beginning of week which finishes on Shrove Tuesday. Fancy Dress worn on occasions by local people.
Monday: Tennis am. Tried fishing pm. Locals catch very small octopus considered a delicacy.
Tuesday: Sliema very rough sea.
Wednesday: Letters and pictures at Barracks cinema
Thursday: Valetta. Books at educational centre back for 12.30 Gramophone concert at Educational block, Brahms, Sibelius, Brusch.
Friday: Ramble on nearby sea coast rocks Toc H snooker and so ended a weeks leave!
Joke: Cow which ate a thistle with a bee in it. When bee woke up the cow was gone.
Wed 28 Feb
Four big ships in harbour Highland Monarch our ship from the convoy included.
Fri 2 Mar
Two of our R.A.P.C. returned from leave in England. Besieged by questioners. How did they get on? How did they find things? And similar questions.
Walk around rocks at Rifle range, not used now due to complaints from local fishermen who had been subject to near misses.
Sat 17 Mar
Swim in afternoon St. Georges Bay. Everyone learning to swim and making it across the wide bay given a signed certificate from our Colonel.
Note All above in between days usual reading, letters, pictures, games and so forth.
Sat 31 Mar, Sun 1 Apr
Examining rock pools and collecting flowers for pressing. Swimming, wallowing in the sea at intervals but care needed because of sewerage pollution.
Tues 3 Apr
Cricket pm match v Sergeants of Pembroke Area. Scored 29 not out. (Other cricket matches were played during the spring and summer).
Wed 11 Apr
To Valetta. By bus to Rabat. Allied Malta Industries Ltd. Saw home-spun fabrics, lace etc. No purchase made. Back by bus to Valetta.
Tues 17 Apr
Cricket match. No grass Coconut matting for pitch with concrete ground usually a parade ground except Officer’s ground where real grass is to be found.
Sat 21 Apr
Watched shipping including aircraft carrier “Venerable”.
Sun 23 Apr
To Anglican Cathedral in Valetta where Dr Garbett Archbishop of York preached a very ordinary sermon. The local R.C.s were celebrating the Feast of St. Publicus with procession in the streets. Went to St. Johns Co. Cathedral.
Fri 4 May
Battleships “Anson” and “Duke of York” in the Harbour.
Sat 5 May
To San Anton Gdns. A flower show in progress.
Tues 8 May
War over V.E.Day
More stories and pictures including more Leonard Knight’s Diary Extracts of Malta can be found on our Family Memories website:
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.