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Malta A Childhood Under Siege
Linda Peek

“Air raid warning, air raid warning. Shut your doors and windows.”

The Rediffusion blared out in English and then in Maltese, at 6:55am on the morning of 11 June 1940.

This was the first of many times we would hear that warning. The day our lives changed.

Margaret Staples was nine years old at the beginning of 1939 when her father was posted to the British colony of Malta with the Royal Engineers. Swimming every day, with blue skies and balmy weather; Margaret and her siblings thought they were in paradise.

Everything changed when the Second World War broke out. Hitler wanted to take control of Malta for its strategic position, right in the middle of the Mediterranean. To this end, the Axis powers dropped more bombs on this tiny island than anywhere else on the planet. When that didn’t work, they decided to sink all the supply ships going to the island and force capitulation through starvation.

This is Margaret’s story of survival, told by her daughter Linda.

Gripping, endearing, moving, enlightening, this is a story that should be read by anyone with an interest in Malta, or indeed in the pieces of the mosaic of the Second World War.

Take this lovely, haunting story of war and family as a nudge to preserve the story of your own family, before it disappears into the ether.

, Former Washington Post syndicated columnist and author

I have just finished reading your book Malta A Childhood Under Siege. Loved every minute and what a story. I was born in Malta and emigrated to Australia with my family when I was 14 years old, arriving in Sydney in 1964. I remember my grandparents and parents telling stories about the hardships the Maltese population suffered during WWII. The one about the convoy arriving on the Holy Day of 15th of August 1942 was my favourite as a young boy and you wrote about in the book. Thank for telling the world what that little rock and its people endured because of one single madman.

I have just finished reading Linda Peek's extraordinary book. I couldn't put it down. Not only is it written in an immensely readable way, but she had such a story to tell. And it all meant so much more to me, since every single place in Malta she mentioned is vividly familiar and dear. That, together with my own parents' stories and the historical events which I already knew, made 'A Childhood Under Siege' as fascinating as watching an old black and white film slowly being transformed into full colour.

Linda Peek has written a touching story, drawn from her mother’s memories of life on the George Cross island during the Second War. She brings a largely vanished world to life. It’s a vivid compelling read about a young girl, reacting to the terror of the times and to her growing awareness of what womanhood means. Beautifully observed and crafted. I strongly recommend it.

Front cover of book

The Irish Connection 🇮🇪

Margaret's mother Hilda Mary Staples (nee Hastings) was the backbone of the Staples family. Born in Ireland in the city of Limerick in 1894, she grew up in a poor Catholic family, the eldest girl of nine children. The early 20th Century was not an easy time to be in Ireland, with the flow-on effects of the potato famine, the First World War and the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Growing tensions between the British and the Irish meant that falling in love with a British soldier who was a Protestant was something Hilda Mary had to keep quiet about. When she left Limerick in 1923 and moved to London, she was looking for a better life. The first third of the book tells the reader about Hilda Mary and Sam - where they each grew up, how they met, married and had five children.

During the difficult six years from 1939 to 1945 that the Staples were in war torn Malta, Hilda Mary held the family together. Quietly, in the background. Her strong Catholic faith made it only natural for the family to bond with the Maltese people during this time of struggle against the Axis powers. They were all in it together.

Upcoming events

  • Spiral
    Woden Uniting Church, 40 Gillies St, Curtin, ACT
    10am-12pm Thursday, 27 June 2024
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    1pm Wednesday, 31 July 2024
    184/194 Bourke St, Goulburn, NSW