The Award of the George Cross to Malta, 1942 AD
commemorative ceremony and historical reenactment
Malta commemorates the award of the George Cross, the second highest award of the United Kingdom honours system, by a live re-enactment and a narrative son-et-lumiere in Valletta downtown. A celebration of Maltese fortitude and bravery "to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history", and at the same time the chance to enjoy the amazing heritage and beautiful landscape of a unique Mediterrranean gem...
Geographical, cultural and historical contex
The Maltese archipelago is one of the smallest states in the world, consisting of 3 largest islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino, and 18 uninhabited minor islands, all located in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, about 80 km from the Italian island of Sicily, in Europe, 280 km from Tunisia and 330 km from Libya, in Africa. Malta is a beloved and renowned touristic destination thanks to the wonderful seascape, the mild climate, the hospitality of the Maltese people themselves. Besides, the outstanding historical and artistic millenary heritage includes also three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the whole capital city of Valletta, the Hypogeum in Paola (from a Greek word meaning "underground", a rock-cut subterranean complex dating to the 4th millennium BC), and the famous Megalithic Temples of Malta, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.
Malta boasts a quite rich history and has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age. The first settlers were mainly Stone Age hunters or farmers coming from Sicily, who gave birth to a unique, temple-building civilisation. Thanks to its geographical location and natural harbours Malta has always played a key role as a strategic naval base in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea throughout history, attracting several civilizations over centuries, including Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and Spaniards. In the Middle Ages Malta became an important base for the Christian pilgrims and armies heading for the Holy Land.
In 1530 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500-1558) gave Malta in perpetual lease to the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, or Knights Hospitaller, a military religious order and brotherhood of brave and resolute warrior monks, who had lost their former base of operations, Rhodes island, to the Ottoman Turks in 1522. The Knights of St John, soon known also as the Knights of Malta, ruled until Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821, French statesman and military leader, Emperor of France from 1804 to 1814, and in 1815) captured Malta on his way to Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1798.
The very event for which Malta went down to history is undoubtedly the heroic resistance during the Great Siege of Malta in AD 1565, regarded as one of the greatest sieges of all time. Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566), Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, launched a giant invasion with a fleet of about 200 ships and a landing force of about 50.000 warriors. Although vastly outnumbered, the Knights of Saint John, led by their Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Vallette (1495-1568), managed to withstand a very hard siege of several months and win.
From 1814 to 1964 Malta was a dominion of the British Empire. King George VI (1895-1952) of the United Kingdom awarded the George Cross, one of the highest military honours in the United Kingdom second only to the Victoria Cross, to Malta in 1942 for the country's bravery during World War II. This event is commemorated yearly by a son-et-lumiere in the very same square where the actual conferment took place.
Event description and programme
The George Cross (GC) is the second highest award of the United Kingdom honours system, ranking immediately after the Victoria Cross. The GC is the highest gallantry award for civilians, as well as for members of the armed forces in actions for which purely military honours would not normally be granted. The GC was instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI At this time, during the height of the London Blitz (the strategic bombing of the United Kingdom by Germany during WWII), there was a strong desire to reward the many acts of civilian courage. The existing awards open to civilians were not judged suitable to meet the new situation, therefore it was decided that the George Cross and the George Medal would be instituted to recognise both civilian gallantry in the face of enemy action and brave deeds more generally.
The actual George Cross was awarded on a collective basis to the island of Malta in a letter dated 15 April 1942 from King George VI to the island's Governor Lieutenant-General Sir William Dobbie, and later brought over to Malta by Lord Viscount Gort, VC., who had just been appointed and sent to Malta as Governor and Commander-In-Chief. It was presented to the people of Malta during a ceremony that was held on 13 September in St George’s Square, Valletta. Chief Justice Sir George Borg received the medal on behalf of the Maltese nation as a sign of appreciation by the British Monarchy for the bravery and tenacity shown by the Maltese people throughout the war.
The cross and the messages are today found in the War Museum in Fort Saint Elmo, Valletta. The fortitude of the population under sustained enemy air raids and a naval blockade which almost saw them starved into submission, won widespread admiration in Britain and other Allied nations. The George Cross is woven into the Flag of Malta and can be seen wherever the flag is flown. The Malta Tourism Authority will be presenting a commemorative celebration that will recall this historic episode. In April a son-et-lumiere is held in St George’s Square, Valletta, accompanied by a ceremonial re-enactment that will be participated in by the Armed Forces of Malta band, the Malta Police Force and band and some 50 actors who will be re-evoking this historic episode.
Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.
Info & Contact
Venue: St George's Square – Valletta
Time: 19.15 – 21.00 hrs.
Malta Tourism Authority
Address: Building SCM 01, Level 3, SmartCity Malta, SCM 1001, Kalkara, Malta
Tel.: +356 22915000 | Fax: +356 22915394
VisitMalta, the official website for Malta, Gozo & Comino
Image: Malta Tourism Authority.
Text sources: VisitMalta, Malta Tourism Authority, Heritage Malta, Malta.com, Wikitravel, Wikipedia, AirMalta, The Malta Indipendent, Times of Malta, New World Encyclopedia, Maltese Culture Movement, Encyclopædia Britannica.
Valletta and Malta on Google Maps:
Promos and video reportages of the event: