Joseph Farrugia’s War: June 1940
DINGLI – 10 JUNE 1940
“I was just six days short of my tenth birthday when Italy declared war on Great Britain. This time the war arrived at our door step. I vividly recall the evening of [10 June] 1940. It was an unusually cloudy evening and the atmosphere was rather edgy.
I lived in Dingli. All the people were talking with anxiety on their faces. I was running hither and thither to learn all about what was going on. I used to listen to the BBC through a loudspeaker which was put high up next to the door of the Police Station. It is still there. And so is the Police Station. I followed the happenings of the war which had started in September 1939 through this loudspeaker. There were only three radios in the village of Dingli. We did not own one.
Now a certain person Mr. Bonello a teacher in our primary school owned one and he opened the side door of his house so that we could follow what was being said on the Italian radio. I did not understand one word of Italian then. They said that Mussolini was about to address the Italian nation.
People said that Mabel Strickland was in the village to organize the local Air Raid Wardens Team so that in case of air raids there would be officially organized personnel to take care of people in case of war attacks . I did see Mabel just before dark. She had apparently organized a group under the headship of Mr. Joseph Ebejer the local headmaster.
Mr. J. Bonello then translated to those present in front of his house that Mussolini had declared war on Britain. We were now at war. We did not know what was to follow but the atmosphere was that of sadness and apprehension When I went home I did notice that Mum and Dad were far from being in a happy mood. They talked to each other in undertones lest we hear them.
Mother might have attempted to dissuade Dad from going to work in Hamrun where he worked as a technical instructor at what was initially the Hamrun Railway Station. He was a railway driver till the railway system was active.
[Next] morning was to be full of excitement. We had no school as the school building was required for other uses and the authorities did not want all children gathered in one place not knowing what was about to happen . By mid-morning news came that the dockyard was bombed. Dingli had the highest per capita men employed there. The news was not good. One man from Dingli who lived in Cospicua (Bormla) was killed in the raid.
The fact that the war had literally started and hit our shores now sank deeper. My grandfather sent for all his sons and daughters and offered them shelter for the nights in a cave he owned in the fields just behind the school. This cave was formerly used to house horses and donkeys but my grandfather had not kept any for some time now. This empty cave hand-cut in the rocks was quite a safe shelter. Many including my father accepted and we just threw our straw filled mattresses on the floor and slept there for the night each family together in a space which it was allocated. We were seven.
In the morning of the 12th my uncles and Dad went to work. The 11th June my Dad and my uncles did not leave the village to go to work. I suppose my mother persuaded Dad to wait and see what happens the first day. Dad was a stickler for work and wanted to turn up for work as soon as possible which he did. He came back safely.
A few days later families were offered for free thick wooden planks to build a cover inside their homes and stay indoors under them during air-raids.”
Joseph Farrugia, Attard, 2011.