Features Operation Pedestal WWII Maltese Food

Due to it’s position in the Mediterranean, Malta played a key role during WWII andthe island’s stragic position meant that the British Navey and Air force could attackAxis convoys trying to supply German and Italian forces in North Africa.

Malta paid a very heavy price as a British base and it endured the heaviest bombingon earth at that time.

During WWII there was a great shortage of food on the island and rationing wasintroduced by the Government. Ration cards were issued to everybody for basicfood supplies such as lard, margarine, oil, tea, coffee, corned beef, tinned sardinesmkerosene etc. Fresh food and vegetables were scarce and meat was as rare as caviareand there was a thriving black market for the most basic supplies, especially kerosene,at very high prices.

The health of the Maltese population suffered greatly and scabies were endemicon the island, as were diseases such as typhoid and tuberculosis. Milk was onlyavailable for babies and young children, hospitals and pregnant women. As thesiege continued, conditions worsened and there was insufficient food available for thepopulation who were on the verge of starvation and surrender by August 1942.

Starvation was probably the biggest threat to Malta since as an island with verylimited resources she was dependent on imported supplies and these were dwindlingfast. Malta was desperate for food and supplies and on the verge of surrenderand had it not been for the arrival of the supplies that reached Malta on the eightremaining ships of Operation Pedestal that arrived on the Feast of Santa Marija 1942,the island would have had no other choice but to surrender on the planned date of 31August 1942.

Rationing… Families of five or less were entitled to four boxes of matches, larger families were allowed six. Soap and coffee rations were more complicated: a single person was entitled to one bar of soap (rations were issued on the 6th and 21st of each month); a family of four or less got two bars, families of five to eight persons got three bars. Families of three or less had a ration of ¼ rotolo of coffee. In August 1941 lard, margarine and edible oil were also put on the ration card. The tapering scale also applied to these items.

Kerosene, used for cooking and lighting, was rationed on a weekly basis from May 1941. The kerosene carts which supplied the towns and villages were horse drawn, the distribution being under the supervision of the police. The rationing of kerosene caused more disputes than almost any other item, being particularly susceptible to bribery and black market operations. Tinned tuna fish and sardines, a daily fare of the working men, became increasingly scarce and again were bought up by the unscrupulous and sold at black market prices.

(From: ‘When Malta Stood Alone’ Joseph Micallef – quote used by Ernle Bradford)

Starvation was probably the biggest threat to Malta since as an island with very limited resources it was completely cut off and supplies were dwindling fast, Malta would only be saved if a convoy of supplies from England would bring over the much needed supplies and allowing the Maltese to continue their struggle. This convoy was to reach Malta in August 1942, is was code named Operation Pedestal.

King's letter - George Cross 15th August


The letter by King George VI awarding the George Cross to Malta

The wording of that letter:

To honour her brave people I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear Witness to a heroism and devotion That will long be famous in history.