The Siege of Malta (1940 to 1943)

The people of Malta suffered terrible conditions during the siege of Malta and their bravery was honoured by the award of the George Cross in April 1942 by King George VI. 

The bombing was almost non-stop; during the months 1st January 1942 to 24th July 1942 there was only ONE period of 24 hours without bombs falling. Malta endured 154 continuous day and night bombings.

The memories of this terrible time prompted a retired Navy man called Fred Plenty, to bring together comrades and friends so that they could share their experiences.  He enlisted the help of his one time Captain, Capt. E.A.S Bailey. Together, with a small group of others, they launched the George Cross Island Association in July 1987. The membership included both British and Maltese and quickly grew in numbers drawn from Navy, Army, Air Force, Merchant Navy, nursing and Civil Defence personnel.  Fred Plenty became a Life Vice President and Founder of the Association.  

The GCIA membership operates from several geographical branches (see our membership page for details), including the all important Malta Branch which was founded by Col A.L. Pace Bonello, MBE who is himself a veteran of the Siege of Malta.  We do however, all come together whenever possible at various events during the year.

The Association hold a reunion in Malta every year to commemorate the award of the George Cross and to remember over 7,000 civilians and serving men who were killed during this bitter and prolonged siege.

At the inception, the Association was fortunate to have as our President, Admiral of the Fleet, The Lord Lewin.  Sadly, the Lord Lewin died in January 1999.  The current President of the GCIA is Judge Dr.Joseph Galea Debono B.A., L.L.D.

One of the many important events The Lord Lewin attended as President of the GCIA was the inauguration on the 29th May 1992 of a 10 Ton Bronze Bell (known as the Siege Bell) which is situated overlooking Grand Harbour. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh KG.KT. Prince Philip was also present along with the then President of Malta, H.E. Doctor Tabone.  The Siege Bell is a memorial to the 7000 people who lost their lives in the WW II Siege of Malta and was the brainchild of a member of the Malta GC Branch of the GCIA, the late Mr Philip Pullicino.

Siege Bell facts: 
Siege Bell
  • Funds were raised in Malta and UK by all the GCIA Branches. Both the Malta and UK Governments gave big contributions in cash and in kind.
  • The sculptor was Michael Sandle
  • The Bell was caste in the UK and its chimes are the same as the main bell of CologneCathedral. 
  • The cladding of the Siege Bell Monument is Gozo stone

The London Siege Memorial 
The idea to have a UK monument came from a GCIA member who felt that it would be fitting for a memorial to be erected in London as Valletta had its Memorial - the Siege Bell.


On August 15th, 2005 the then President of Malta, Edward Fenech Adami, 
laid the first wreath at the
foot of 
the newly-erected monument.

An organising committee was set up under the 
chairmanship of the Hon. Tim Lewin, son of the late Admiral Lord Lewin, who had been GCIA president when the Siege Bell had been erected in 1992.

From Mgarr Harbour by sea and by road from Sicily, a block of stone cut from a Gozo quarry is now standing in the grounds of All Hallows Church by the Tower of London. It stands some three metres high and on each of its four sides is a plaque setting out part of the story of the sacrifice of some 7,000 Maltese men and women and Commonwealth and Allied servicemen and women who lost their lives in defence of Malta.

Dr Fenech Adami had previously attended a service of thanksgiving to commemorate those who served and died during the Siege of Malta, along with over 500 invited guests from the Royal Navy, RAF, Army, Merchant Navy, representatives of the US Navy and other wartime allies.  The Malta G.C. branch was represented by four veterans: Lt. Col A.L. Pace Bonello, MBE (founder of the Malta branch of the GCIA), Major S.J.A. Clews MBE, Capt. A. Sant Cassia, and Mr. Walter Sullivan.

After the service the congregation gathered outside around the monument and, on the arrival of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, who was at that time the George Cross Island Association Patron, President Fenech Adami made his dedication address recalling the bravery of the Maltese people and the Allied servicemen and women.

Dr Fenech Adami led the wreath-laying ceremony and was followed by the Duke of Edinburgh, who laid a wreath on behalf of the UK armed forces. Wreaths were also laid by representatives of Commonwealth countries and the Allies. Lt Col Pace Bonello laid a wreath on behalf of the GCIA.

Malta's High Commissioner in London at that time and Mrs. Michael Refalo, and former High Commissioner George Bonello Du Puis were also present.