Ladies of Lascaris (Paperback)
Christina Ratcliffe and The Forgotten Heroes of Malta's War
As featured by the Mail Online, September 2018: "Remarkable life of English singer who became and aircraft plotter in Malta during World War Two"
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The world premiere of the musical stage play Star of Strait Street took place in Valletta on 4 April 2017. It celebrates the life of Christina Ratcliffe, an English singer and dancer who became an aircraft plotter in Malta in the Second World War. She worked in the underground Royal Air Force operational headquarters beneath Lascaris Bastion in Valletta.
This is Christina’s story and that of other British and Maltese girls employed by the RAF. It is also the story of Philip Glassborow’s hit musical Star of Strait Street.
In June 1942 fifty-three female civilian plotters worked at Lascaris, some as young as fourteen. Six including Christina were decorated for gallantry. What they did, how they lived and how some of them died is told in part using their own words. Their descriptions of life beneath the most intensive, prolonged bombing the world has ever seen are extraordinary and rare: female perspectives at the heart of military conflict.
Described in the Times of Malta in 1942 as ‘Christina of George Cross Island’, she herself said Malta ‘is carved on my heart’. For years after the Second World War in small corner cafés and bars that are such a feature of Malta’s towns and villages, people talked about a remarkable RAF photo-recce pilot called Warby and his stunning companion Christina, a true heroine, they said. Yet she died alone and unnoticed and was buried in a shared grave.
Now the memory of what she and the LADIES OF LASCARIS achieved has been brought back to life for a well-deserved encore in writing and on the stage.
When Gimli, the fierce dwarf in The Lord of the Rings, wields his battle axe, you pay attention.Speedreaders
When Gimli aka John Rhys-Davies tells you to read a book, you should probably also pay attention.
This is that book. As an actor, Rhys-Davies has an eye for plot and an ear for words, and he is right, this is a story worth knowing. Why it ever came to matter to him is a story in itself. If you think of the book’s first chapter, fittingly titled “Connections,” as one big circle drawn on the page, at its end it will have turned into a Venn diagram of quite enormous complexity. Kudos to author Paul McDonald, who definitely is in one of those overlapping circles, to have had the presence of mind to say at some point during his RAF recce missions, “Wait a minute . . . who? when? why?”
Yes, of course, a book about Malta in World War II involves Spitfires and the Royal Air Force and all sorts of events and people a student of that era will recognize and be interested in. “The most valuable pilot in the RAF” features prominently here, but in a context that is surely not all that widely known. A quick caveat: this is not the first book to deal with the subject, not even McDonald’s first.
Read the full review here
"A highly recommended tale of a group of extraordinary, cheery, hard working ladies in very dangerous circumstances."Military History Society
Article: 'The West End dancer who became a heroine in the Second World War' as featured byThe Stage, 4th July 2019
As featured inThe Bookseller 26/4/19
This is one of those books that deserves a very wide readership because it is a human story of a society at war and the young women who learned to plot the aircraft during the daily raids. It will of course appeal to military history enthusiasts and professionals because it is such an important untold story, but it should be read by a wider audience as an untold story of courage and determination with itsFiretrench
unique picture of life under the most intense bombing ever conducted, its part in victory in the Mediterranean and eventually in Europe.
Read the full review here
This account of the life of an interesting lady and acquaintances set against the backdrop of the Second World War siege of Malta is a ‘good read’: all that an author may expect. The thread of the story, Christina Ratcliffe, is interesting in itself but superimposed on the well-researched situation of Malta at war it creates a tale of the indomitable spirit of the population.Review by Michael Longyear
The story of a young girl, perhaps a little feckless but strong in character, travelling so widely in the 1930s would be interesting enough. This story shows how she develops into a charismatic lady under very difficult conditions who helped create an entertainment group in the early part of the war and became a watch supervisor in the plotting room of the wartime Air Headquarters of the most bombed area in the world.
Her romantic involvement with an RAF pilot and the dangerous life he led is well recorded without being mawkish. Her commitment to Warburton is shown to be complete making the decline of her later years more poignant and touching.
To complete the story, creating a real feel for the time, the recollections of various characters living in Malta makes for a complete picture of how people of different callings were affected by the privations of a siege that lasted for over two years.
I would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys a good factual human story set against a fascinating account of a crucial period of history.
This is a most curious and multi-facetted little volume... This volume may be of interest to those looking for a ‘War story’ with a difference and those with an interest in military aviation, the Royal Air Force, the ‘Battle of Malta’, World War II and the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations.Keith Rimmer, NZ Crown Mines
Author interviewed byTalk Radio Europe, 8th January 2019
As featured inRAF News 2/11/18
As mentioned in The Oldie newsletterThe Oldie
As featured inMail Online 14/9/18