“I stopped a British soldier from shooting a Maltese ” – Enrico Dandria

Much has been said and written about the Sette Giugno events on the occasion of its centenary but when a new, never seen before document emerges, interest intensifies. The family of Monsignor Enrico Dandria recently passed on all his personal documents, amongst these an account containing new details about what took place on the streets of Valletta between 7 and 8 June 1919.

With my right hand I grabbed the marine from his shoulder and with my left I raised his weapon”. This is an excerpt from Monsignor Enrico Dandria’s memoirs about what took place during Sette Giugno. The 20 page memoirs can be found in the National Archives in Rabat after being taken there by the Paris family. These documents throw light both on Monsignor Dandria and on Malta’s social and political context at the beginning of the last century.

Enrico Dandria, who lived through turbulent times during the end of the First World War, the Sette Giugno the riots, and political events that followed, played an important role. In these personal documents Mgr Dandria tells of his experience at a meeting of the National Assembly and in the streets of Valletta. He claims to have stopped British soldiers from firing on Maltese and helped a British soldier who was beaten up; and talks about the developments that took place after the murder of the four Sette Giugno victims.

The is among new information about Sette Giugnio events contained in the documentary Culhat for the Bel produced by PBS News Centre, the National Archives, Heritage Malta and the National Celebrations Foundation. The documentary shall be re-broadcast on Saturday and Sunday on TVM 2 at 20.45 and 17.30 hrs.

The centenary of the Sette Giugno events has sparked further research including the book ‘What exactly happened on Sette Giugno”. The author Paul Bartolo said that he managed to obtain authentic documents of what went down at the time between Maltese and Colonial leaders, from archives in Malta and England.

“These documents are based on what was said at the time, not on what was said afterwards. There are obviously pictures and other documentation is reproduced – such as a list drawn up by the police of who was killed and who was injured and a list of those arrested and those subjected to a court-martial; even a list of how prices had increased at the time.”

Of particular interest is the evidence of soldiers in a military inquiry following the bloodshed who admitted to firing on the crowd. The book contains Court-martial documents showing details of six people who were sent to jail on charges of sedition against the empire. 32 others were imprisoned after being arrested by marines during the city riots. From the documents it transpires that the cost of living combined with layoffs and unemployment were the main reason for the prevailing Sette Giugno unrest.