How the November 1942 convoy was more important than that of Santa Marija
One’s first thoughts generally gravitate towards food. Even more so, perhaps, during World War II. In 1939 the newspapers and the Colonial Government had given the impression there was enough food in storage for several months in the event of war. In reality, however, this was not the case. With the war proceeding in earnest, many Maltese started to suffer hunger. Children hardly had enough to live on.
In the documentary ‘Malta fil-Gwerra’ TVM journalist Mario Xuereb and researcher Martin Debattista, with the participation of University of Malta lecturer Dr Noel Buttigieg, explain that somehow, during 1940 the Maltese managed to survive. In April 1941, however, after the blitz on the Illustrious and the devastation on Grand Harbour, belts started being tightened and the Government had to act.
In December 1941 the Government issued a law which laid down the amounts of food which could be consumed, and a centralised office was set up for food distribution. Provisions were distributed twice a month.
The food situation worsened at the beginning of 1942, when the Germans piled the pressure on Malta. Convoys did not continue to make it to land as before. Victory Kitchens were set up in January in the hope of reducing the need for cooking fuel in homes, and also for food stocks to be eked out through less wastage.
During the first two weeks of August, rations were further reduced to 300 gms of bread per day, half a rotolo (400 gms) of sugar, 200 gms of lard or butter, 50 gms of tea, one tin of corned beef and two small tins of fish. No laundry soap, no cheese. The much-awaited convoy limped into the harbour in the middle of the month. A convey which will always be remembered as having saved Malta.
Despite this, after the Santa Marija convoy, another sizeable convoy with food and other provisions was needed so that the Maltese would not suffer hunger. It was the November convoy which gave the island breathing space, kept it alive and provided an opportunity for the fight to continue on full stomachs.