Looking at the current developments in
Trawling through the archives I found what was a typical example of Colonial Condescending Attitude and Racism: not against Africans but against Maltese. With the threat of War with
· The Royal Navy Dockyard was the main economic activity on the island and Maltese
· The Economy of the
· There were already substantial number of Maltese in the R.Non non-permanent contracts as seamen of stokemen
This made sense to all: several Maltese needed work, and the R.N. needed bodies. All the R.N. needed to do was to allow permanent employment of Maltese in all occupations.
Unfortunately the racism of the R.N. officers would not allow such a win / win solution to take place. The late Admiral of the Fleet John D. Kelly, vehemently opposed the plan (any emphasis in the original):
“lower classes of
Not only that the Admiral also rejected the proposal arguing that the Maltese were not to be relied in combat:
“They lack “guts” and initiative. They are steady, sober, docile and not perceptive lazier than the average white man in the same climate. Their virtues, however, fade into nothingness the moment their skins are in danger, or worse, the moment they think their skins are in danger.”
He goes on to provide personal experiences of the Maltese cowardly under combat. Sadly even figures such as the Vice Admiral of Malta W.T.R. Ford, who had a great experience with working with Maltese men as the superintendent of the Dockyard in the
“Are not the shared by myself… however the Maltese “are not endowed with the qualities of courage or coolness in danger, and recently on the occasion of the mining of “Hunter” some Maltese stewards or cooks did hump overboard without order and without necessity.
The idea was dropped.
What saddened me reading such comments is not so much the arrogance and the painting of a whole nation with a single derogatory brushstroke; what saddens me is the realisation of how ingrained was the feeling of superiority within the British Colonial system. With the exception of newly colonised territories,
But they could not do it – the real problem was not the fighting qualities of the Maltese (who I don’t blame for not wanting to die fighting a war they did not understand): it was that the British admirals simply refused to accept that a British man or the lower ranks, could at one day ordered by a person from the colonies.
Seven years later King George V presented the St. Georges cross to the whole island of Malta to 'bear witness to the heroism and devotion of its people' during the great siege it underwent in the early parts of World War Two. It took the necessity of the Second World War for British officers to break their iron wall of prejudice.