1. There was a time, not very long ago, when the word “Corradino” was associated not with a correctional facility but with one of recreation.
2. The British were firm believers in the benefits of sports and went to great lengths to push this home. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Royal Navy authorities decided to embellish and restructure the Corradino area, which its men used for recreation.
3. Small rooms with basic facilities were transformed into a magnificent building containing a theatre, a library, a huge reading room, a magnificent billiard room, and canteen facilities.
4. The Corradino Fleet Canteen was described by the British Services as “an institution common to both the Royal Navy and the Army; a social centre for the purpose of refreshment and indoor entertainment.” It was later known as the Royal Naval Fleet Club Malta.
5. It served as a recreational facility for British soldiers and sailors for 71 years, from 1897 until 1968.
6. In the late 1960’s, it was no long feasible to keep the club running and it was closed down. Below we can see the announcement of its closure, as published in The Naval Review magazine of 4th October 1968:
THE FLEET CLUB CORRADINO CLOSES DOWN
On May 31st, 1968 the Royal Naval Fleet Club Malta, formerly known as the Fleet Canteen, closed its doors for the last time, after being the second home to the Royal Navy in Malta for the past 71 years. It was opened on 1st February, 1897 by Admiral Sir John Hopkins, K.C.B., then the Commander in Chief Mediterranean, after a sum of £7,000 had been granted by the Admiralty for the erection and fitting out of the Canteen.
The Club, which stood on Corradino Heights above the Parlatorio and Canteen Wharves, was a prominent mark to ships berthing alongside, with its Single Tower and Dome (Twin Towers pre 1941). Run by a Committee representative of the R.N. in Malta under the Presidency of the Commanding Officer of HMS St. Angelo, it catered for all aspects of recreation. Before the war, as many as 36 Snooker Tables were in operation, the restaurant seated 200, whilst the Cinema Theatre held nearly 1,000 persons, and in its heyday 30 members of the N.A.A.F.I. Staff would have been on duty at one time as well as up to 8 members of the Naval Staff.
Since 1950, the facilities, although continuing, have gradually reduced, and many a long serving sailor or ex-sailor will remember the ‘Mess Runs’ to the Canteen, the Ship’s Company dances, the Sailors Operas and the Wakes that took place under the watchful eye of the Club Master-at-Arms, who was responsible for the day to day running of the Club.
7. The building for a while was turned into a trade school, until the building was demolished and the area was excavated to have a huge dock built where the largest ships of the day could be repaired.
8. The ship-repair facility in Corradino, known as Red China Dock because it was built by the Chinese government in 1975, is more than three times the length of a football pitch and twelve metres deep, with a capacity of 300,000 tonnes. It is still the largest dry dock in the Mediterranean, now part of the Palumbo Shipyard.
9. At the same location we can still find the old Corradino Military Prison.
10. Today the word Corradino is more closely associated with the civil correctional facility in Paola, of which it is the name.
Written by Melanie Drury. Photos and information courtesy of Joseph Piccinino.