Today, my Dad remembers idyllic days as a sailor in the Forties in sunny Malta.
Life at Kalafrana was idyllic. The accommodation was in two stone built single storey blocks each containing twenty four iron beds and lockers. These bordered onto a small parade ground across from which was a canteen for meals and a small NAAFI for drinks and recreation. Apart from us Safety Equipment ratings there were a number of other personnel responsible for the stores in the hangars, also the cooks and administrative staff.
In over all charge was Lieutenant “Duthchy” Holland an RN regular who was blatantly homosexual and was quite easy going discipline wise. Despite his obvious sexual leanings there was not a whiff on impropriety. If there had been he would not have been tolerated by his superiors. There was a Petty Officer in charge of discipline but he too was easy going provided you did not go too far. Thus the climate was good, the sunshine every day, the food was good as was the accommodation The working day was roughly 8.30am-4.30pm and with twelve of us the workload was low.
Our officer Bill Cants was laissez faire and would take off up to Hal Far in mid-afternoon and you wouldn’t see him next day until turned 9am. We worked Saturdays but this was only a token showing. We would lounge around in the sun on Saturdays onlyy being in earshot of the telephone in the workroom in case someone rang. Sundays were a day of rest. In the Navy attendance at a Church Service on Sunday was compulsory but as there was not chaplain at Kalafrana we were excused,
Alongside the slipway was a short jetty and it was common for us to slip into swimming trunks and sunbathe then to swim in the deep clear water of the smally bay known as Pretty Bay. It was fascinating that octopus came into Pretty Bay and you got quite used to swimming there with hundreds of small octopus below
Previous personnel at Kalafrana (it was an ever-changing population) had built some small boats from packing cases that were available. These were small rudimentary boats but with home made oars or small sails of both. They would change hands for about 10 shillings as one owner left and another came along. I bought one that had been owned by a friend of mine Bernard (Barney) Hunter who had just returned to UK. I used it in my free time to potter about in the main bay Marsa Seitrrocco when weather allowed.
A favourite jaunt for two or three of us with these boats was to sail about 1 and a half miles across the bay to the wreck of the SS Brecondine lying in the bay. The Brecondine was a ship carrying ammunition which had been bombed by the Germans approaching Malta in 1943 and had sunk in the bay. We could sunbathe on the upturned hull and swim off it but we were always careful as there were some pretty big octopus living in the wreck.The nearest village to Kalafrana was Birgebuggia about half a mile along the coast. We would sometimes go along there for a drink but there was only one small bar called Ciro’s which apart from a gramophone did not offer much entertainment. Maybe on a Saturday, after payday (once a fortnight) we might catch the bus to Valetta or into Sliema. It was a bit of a bind in some ways because Navy regulations said that personnel must wear long trousers after 6pm (because of mosquito or sandfly. Sandfly fever was particularly prevalent). If you set off at say 1pm on a weekend it was so hot you wore white shorts and keen length stockings. If you did not intend returning to base before 6pm you had to carry with you all day a pair of serge bell bottom trousers to put on over the sorts as the clocks struck 6pm. It was an irritation you had to put up with as Valetta did not really “get swinging” until after 6pm.