World War One: wagons for disembarkation in Malta
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Photograph, 1914/1918. World War One: naval, military and medical scenes. Pub: 1914/1918 [CC BY 4.0]
This post is intended for use with the Maltese Democracy walking tour and smart learning activities.
The Context – The difficult times after WW1
After WW1, the Maltese colonial government failed to provide an adequate supply of basic food, imports were limited, food became scarce and the cost of living increased dramatically.
The wage of dockyard and government workers was inadequate to keep with the increase in the cost of food. The dockyard workers formed a union in 1916, and in 1917 organised a strike after being offered a ten per cent pay increase which was considered too small to keep up with the cost of living.
People believed that grain importers and flour millers were making excessive profits over the price of bread. Merchants controlling other commodities also made large profits from the war, in spite of price regulations.
On the political side the first meeting of the National Assembly, held on February 25, 1919, approved a resolution demanding independence from the British Empire.
This difficult situation gave rise to extremism. Crowds took to the streets attacking wealthy people perceived as close to the colonial government.
Significance of the 7th June Riots
Reverse 10 Lira bank note, Malta, 1989.
The resistance and support for the pro-Italian parties that had challenged the British presence on the island increased.
Considered as the first step towards Maltese Independence. In fact:
- The new Governor, Lord Plumer, recommended liberal concessions to the Maltese.
- The House of Commons of the United Kingdom stressed that Malta was to have “control of purely local affairs”
- The Colonial Secretary sent a detailed description of the proposed constitution to the National Assembly. On April 30, 1921, the Amery-Milner Constitution was proclaimed.
- Political censorship enforced after the uprising was repealed on June 15, 1921.
- The first election held under the new constitution was held in October 1921, with the Prince of Wales inaugurating the new representative chambers on November 1, 1921.
Honouring the Fallen
The bodies of the four victims of the Sette Giugno were placed in their tomb in the Addolorata Cemetery on November 9, 1924. On that occasion the Italian Fascist government celebrated the four victims as “martyrs” of the Italian Risorgimento and heroes of the Italian irredentism in Malta.
Addolorata Cemetery. By Frank Vincentz (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 ] via Wikimedia Commons
On June 7, 1986 the Sette Giugno monument was inaugurated at St George Square (Palace Square), Valletta. The Maltese Parliament declared the day to be one of the five national days of the island, on March 21, 1989, with the first official remembrance of the day occurring on June 7, 1989.
Substantial parts of this text have been drawn from Maltese History and Heritage, a project by Vassalomalta.com. Usage permission TBC
2nd image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Malta_-_Paola_-_Addolorata_Cemetery_10_ies.jpg
Bank Note: Aquarell of Gianni Vella. On June 7, 1919, Vella was at the Circolo La Giovine Malta in St Lucy Street, Valletta, where the Assemblea Nazionale was discussing a course of action in its dealings with the British colonial government. Source: http://www.worldbanknotescoins.com/2015/05/malta-10-maltese-lira-banknote-1989.html