Association President


Though we were all dreading it and hoping against hope that we would be lucky enough to see our Patron of the George Cross Island Association celebrate his 100th birthday in a few weeks’ time, fate decreed otherwise.

 For people of my age as a child in immediate post-war Malta, His Royal Highness was certainly not a remote consort of the then heir to the throne. After a naval career as a junior officer during World War II in the Mediterranean and in other theatres, he was actually based in Malta in the late forties and early fifties as an officer on the destroyer HMS Chequers.

As such he was very much part of the local scene, playing Polo at the Marsa and living the ordinary life of an officer in the Head Quarters of the Mediterranean Fleet.
But of course the local media were following his activities much closer when his 
young wife Princess Elizabeth visited him for long stretches staying in Villa Guardamangia in Pieta’, ceded to him by the leaseholder his uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten who was also based at the station. Indeed, the Times of Malta was replete with coverage of the young married couple with very poignant photos of them enjoying happy albeit short spells in their early married life.

But Prince Philip had a much longer connection with the Island and was again and again a welcome visitor to our shores. He was here in May 1954 at the end of the Royal tour of the world and then in the late fifties to launch the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and of course in September 1964 to hand over the Constitutional Documents to the then Prime Minister Dr. George Borg Olivier, making Malta an independent member of the British Commonwealth.
The Royal visit in 1967 was a landmark for me when as a young law graduate I had the opportunity to cover most of the events as a correspondent for the Times of Malta from close quarters. In 1992 he was back with Queen Elizabeth when Her Majesty inaugurated the Siege Bell Memorial erected by the George Cross Island Association at the Lower Barrakka in Valletta. This was an occasion of great frustration for me as I had to turn down an invitation to a Royal reception on board the Royal Yacht Britannia in Grand Harbour, as I was detailed to attend a conference for Ombudsmen in Madrid on the day.
It was in the course of the second Heads of the Commonwealth Conference in Malta seven years ago that I had the honour to be introduced to His Royal Highness, this time as President of this Association which he had taken under his patronage ever since its inception. 

At last, I had met this great affable personality, who was so closely related to Malta.
His demise will be strongly felt and on behalf of the George Cross Island Association I extend our heartfelt condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and all the members of the Royal Family.

May He rest in peace.  
Joseph Galea Debono.