25 July 1915

Extract from the war diary of George Wardle, 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment

[Sailing for Malta] The 25th day of July dawned and no land of any description was in sight, this was the second Sunday morning which had dawned since we embarked. Sunday on board this ship is just like a weekday in every respect except thatit it’s a day of less work, we have a church parade each day in the week so that Sunday is no different in that respect As we had been on guard all night we were glad of a sleep as soon as we were relieved. We must have been asleep about three hours when we were awoke by shouting on board and, looking up, were surprised to see land on the horizon to the south, this time it turned out to be the longed for island of Malta where we knew we should put into port for a short time. We managed to get hold of a pair of strong glasses and, as we drew nearer the land, we could distinguish large buildings of similar description to those in the Holy Land. They were built of a light buff coloured stone which looked almost white under the sun. It was a truly picturesque coast. At the bottom of one of the peaks was a town with its large public buildings and churches of oriental build, with domed roofs, its square built fortress guarding the harbour. Up the sides of the hills was a large military camp and on the peak above stood a castle of no small proportions proudly flying the British flag. This was the nearest we had been to land since leaving the Rock of Gibraltar. Long white roads could be seen winding from the harbour to the castle and other large buildings, which were grouped together about three quarters of the distance up the hills, from the distance, it looked like a large town. The whole of the coast as far as we could see looked like a typical Eastern picture. About 2.30 p.m. we came opposite the town of Malta, Italy; here we were piloted into the grand harbour and in time moored to a buoy. The entrance of the harbour, which was a little over a mile wide, was well guarded by the guns with which the forts literally bristled. On examining the forts one wondered how long it had taken to build them, it looked absolutely impossible for any force brought against it to take it. High on the forts were wireless stations, the largest we have ever seen. The sea was as calm as a lake in the harbour and a beautiful green. Scores of native boats came after us selling fruits and tobacco and small native wares at a cheap rate. The tiniest of rowing boats and sailing boats, like cockle shells, manned by native lads, some of them not in their teens who dived for coins, which were thrown into the water by the soldiers on board. The boats had mostly high bows and sterns and added to the gaiety of the scene. A troop ship was just leaving as were entering the harbour where it had put in for coal and further orders. We sailed to Malta under sealed orders and will probably know in a short time where we are bound for. About five o’clock Vic went overboard for a swim, swam ashore and back, the sea in the harbour was delightfully cool and clear. On the south side of the harbour, high above the water, was built a large hospital, its tall and slender pillars, large windows and balconies together with it prominent position make it a building more distinguished than other buildings. On the narrow strip of ground between the hospital and the water were palm trees and shrubs which showed up against the pale coloured stone of which the hospital was built As the sun sank down it shone on the windows of all the buildings on the east side of the harbour, making them so bright a gold that it was impossible to gaze at them. The sun sank and as we turned in for the night, the hottest of nights we have had since we sailed, we saw all the gay coloured boats making for the shore to which they were moored for the night We lay awake a long time gazing at the peaceful scene which looked more like a picture now than ever. It went dark all at once and the lights of the harbour and the coloured lights, from buildings ashore, shone out in prominence. The lighthouse, at the entrance of the harbour, sent out flashes across the sea. We dropped off the sleep.

 

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