1963 Cuban missile crisis - Malta & Gibraltar


In 1963, along with about 1,000 others, I was a pupil at RNS Verdala primary school in Malta.
When the Cuban missile crisis erupted, I remember the Med Fleet weighing and sailing in great haste: it seemed odd seeing Sliema Creek, Marsaxmetto, Msida, and Grand Harbour devoid of grey war canoes all of a sudden. Nary a matelot in Tony's and the Gut must have felt the absence of Jack!

The events of that year recently cropped up in conversation over the dinner table at home - my daughter was learning about the crisis in History lessons!

As I say, I can remember the Fleet and, therefore, 99% of the Dad's of pupils at the school, heading over the horizon. Malta was, when all said and done, a prime target for a pretty early big bang, if the whole thing had kicked off in a big way: Med Fleet, NATO HQ, white-painted Vulcans at Luqa, all the kit held under Corradino Heights, dockyards, etc.

As schoolchildren, we were, from memory, blissfully unaware of the full import of these events. Part of the dinner conversation included: what did the school staff know and had they been briefed not to say anything to us children to avoid unnecessary nasty thoughts?

My father was on the staff at the school, so I asked him and a couple of other teachers who had been there at the time.

From memory, they said, they were not briefed, specifically, to keep schtum - although it seems the Head, a Lt Cdr, did attend Morning Prayers, and received his briefing on events that way. As my father and other staff said, there was really nothing that could be done. Evacuation of families was out, so it was crack on and enjoy life before the 'sunshine' became too bright and hot!

This led us to thinking about Gibraltar - another obvious target. Were there any plans there for families to leg it over the border in a hurry?

I would be intrigued to read other peoples' memories of that period of crisis, particularly as they related to Malta and Gib.