Today Dad describes nights out in Valletta and the joys of beer, brothels and British chocolate.
So typical “run” into Valetta went like this. One o’clockish set off, catch a bus in Biryebuggia (the same buses that we used as tourists in the 1970s) and get off in Valetta. Walk around for a while, go up into the Barracca Gardens and watch the movement of ships in Grand Harbour. Maybe walk down into Sliema and have a beer in a bar and walk along the seafront. Sailors, sailors everywhere. Back up into Valletta. 6pm long trousers on. Walk round a bit more, shops are coming to life. Look at the bombed out Opera House on King Street. Find a suitable bar where food is cheap, order steak (steak was horse meat) egg and chips (almost the staple request), have a beer.
Then mid-evening make your way to Strait Street known as “The Gut”. This is one long street of bars and brothels parallel to King Street. All the Fleet is here most just sightseeing, those with money and no sense partaking. Girls in the doorway offering their wares. The drinks are extortionate. The girls are supposed to be contortionists. This is no place for sailors like us except for sightseeing.
Come out of Valletta into nearby Floriane, find a bar and have another couple of beers and then by 10pm-1030pm catch the bus back to Kalafrana when the few shillings you have left has to last another two weeks.
Back home in England most commodities were still rationed. Naturally being fed by the Navy, we were well provided for but nevertheless in any visits to Valetta we enjoyed being able to buy British chocolate and sweets plenty of which were available. Probably because of the hardships suffered by the siege, there was an effort to let let the Maltese have a taste of good fortune which was not available at home.
Looking to a tie when I should return to England, I made of point of from time to time buying foodstuffs (tinned) that I knew my parents were going short of at home. Corned beef, tinned ham, tinned steak and tinned fruit and saving them up to take back with me whenever that would be. There was no indication of what length of time I might serve in the Mediterranean. Peacetime sailoring before the war meant that a sailor drafted to a ship on commission would serve in that ship until the ship’s commission was completed. This did not apply to shore stations as service in them was more or less a transitory arrangement. This was the case at HMS Falcon. We knew at Kalafrana that we Safety Equipment men were being held as a reserve and that we could be transferred at any time to a ship in replacement of men who had returned home for demobilisation.