Self-Government and Courage

 1921 - 1945

In 1921 Malta was granted the Amery-Milner Constitution which ensured autonomy in internal affairs when a diarchical system of government was introduced. Control was divided between a Maltese government and an Imperial government which had control over many 'reserved matters'. A bicameral legislature, consisting of a Legislative Assembly and a Senate was introduced and the right to vote was given to men who were twenty-one years old, or upwards and had certain literacy and property qualifications. A minority government was formed by Joseph Howard of the UPM (Nationalist). He was succeeded by Francesco Buhagiar and Ugo Mifsud. Following the 1927 Elections Lord Gerald Strickland led the Compact parties, Labour and Constitutional, in government. At the time a political crisis ensued regarding the Senate. It was accentuated by a political-religious struggle between Strickland and the Church. In 1930 the Constitution was amended and then suspended ushering a period of political confusion.

When responsible government was returned in 1932, Ugo Mifsud became Prime Minister. But the Constitution was soon suspended and governatorial autocracy imposed. It was at this time that whilst Maltese artists and authors were gaining prestige, the Maltese language was made the official language of the Courts in 1934.  In 1936 an Executive Council was established and in 1939 the Macdonald Constitution provided for the setting up of a Council of Government half the members of which was to consist of Maltese elected representatives.

The dark clouds that were gathering made the Maltese put aside their political struggle and unite in defence of democracy and civilisation. Following Italy's entry into the War, Malta started to suffer air-raid bombing. People from the Harbour area evacuated their homes and flocked to shelter inland, others went to live in shelters hewn in the rock. A number of persons were interned by the British authorities and some, including Dr Enrico Mizzi, were deported to Uganda.

While Italian and German bombers brought havoc to the Maltese islands, which were at first defended notably by three Gladiators named 'Hope', 'Faith' and 'Charity', the problem of supplies was soon felt. An invasion threat in July 1941 ended in complete failure when coast defenders spotted E-boats of the Decima Flottiglia Mas. Whilst people suffered hunger, a final assault was ordered by Kesserling. But the people's heroism withstood every attack. On the 15th April 1942 King George VI awarded the 'George Cross' to the people of Malta in appreciation of their heroism.

The German invasion plan known as Operation Hercules was scheduled for July 1942, but the Nazi plan also failed. The Santa Maria convoy, including the tanker Ohio, brought relief to the defenders while Mgr Gonzi's appeal to the Gozitans to harvest their wheat solved much of the food problem. People had to live on meager rations of food distributed by the Victory Kitchens. Malta could breathe freely once the Allies had launched their offensive in North Africa.

Slowly the people could come out of their shelters and view the destruction that had resulted in many towns and villages. On 20th June 1943 George VI visited the Island from where landing forces were soon to proceed for the invasion of Sicily. On 8th December 1943 F D Roosevelt, President of the USA, visited Malta and paid homage to her people who gave valorous service to the cause of freedom and justice.

Key Dates - British Period (1921-1945)

1921 The Amery-Milner Constitution granting Self-Government. Opening of first Malta Parliament.

1930  Constitution suspended

1932  Constitution restored

1933  Constitution withdrawn.  Crown Colony Government as in 1813

1936  Constitution providing for nominated members to Executive Council

1939  Macdonald Constitution: Council of Government to be elected. Lord Stricklandís Constitutional Party returned.

1939-45  World War II

1940  First Air Raids in Malta

1942  Award of George Cross to Malta following the full onslaught of the Axis powers.