The annual Malta reunion took place between 9th and 23rd April and was attended by 32 UK
members. This year the weather was excellent and rain did not spoil any of the events.
Apart from the traditional events that are organised each year there was a cruise around Grand Harbour which was attended by 14 members who said “it was most enjoyable” – we didn’t even mind a short delay as the secretary had forgotten we were on Maltese time; it was a pleasant interlude spent in the sunshine getting reacquainted with those we hadn’t seen in a while, whilst we waited for the coach.
The display by the Armed Forces of Malta Band was once again superb and it included a
wonderful surprise of the magnificent proving of pace-sticks drill and the Parade of the Colours by Warrant Officers and Colour Sergeants of the Armed Forces of Malta under the very watchful eye of the Battalion Sergeant Major. The band display was, as to be expected, excellent and although Major Ivan Borg has been moved to other duties, the new Band Master continued in the same manner of excellence. We were entertained again in the Officers Mess where we met up with old friends for food, drink and reminiscences of the past year. What an honour it is to be once again invited to such a display and to be treated to such generous hospitality.
The re-enactment of the award of the G.C. to Malta took just over the hour which was most pleasing for the members as it has tended to drag on a bit in the past; the organisers are including little additions and more variety each year, this year the AFM had a silent drill exercise, which, those of you who have had to do such drills know it is quite complicated and requires a tremendous amount of practice.
The Sunday church service at St Pauls Pro Cathedral took place on the second Sunday of our visit, with the GCIA having their remembrance, Commemoration and wreath laying service before morning worship with the AFM trumpeters sounding the Last Post and Reveille. It was disappointing that we were not advised that there wouldn't be any refreshments in the Undercroft, as that had the knock on effect that there was an hour and half wait for the transport; but to mitigate the situation, we were allowed in the the undercroft where coffee facilities were made available.
All in all it was a good reunion and everyone enjoyed themselves.
The event organisers and all those who attended would like to say many thanks to Diane Dyer, Janet Barkway and their band of helpers who did a great job in assisting our elderly members onto the coaches and ensured that none were left behind, also to all those that sent thank you cards and good wishes for arranging the reunion (note by the organisers, Julia and Michael Gaw).
Editor note - I am including here contributions by Janet Barkway who has kindly given her time to writing up a couple of other informal events. Janet is a member of both SE and West Branch and wife of SE Vice Chairman, Edward Barkway. Over to Janet....
We also had a couple of impromptu events, including an open invitation to all of the G.C. I. A. Members who were invited to the Scott-Thompson apartment for pre dinner drinks during the reunion.
Those present had a very convivial time, Barry was a attentive bar man and our glasses never
empty...hic hic! I think Pat and Alex had been kept busy preparing delicious nibbles for us all to eat. So we ate drank and enjoyed the stunning view whilst many put the world to rights.
Edward proposed a vote of thanks to Pat and her parents for the super hospitality.
Thank heavens for the lift as we merrily departed.
(Note from Pat, Joan, Frank, Alex and Barry – thank you to everyone that came along that evening. It was lovely to see everyone relaxed and enjoying themselves and to hear the buzz of chatter. So pleased you all enjoyed it)
Fortunately 10 G.C.I.A. Members were still about, and delighted to accept an invitation to revisit Bighi restoration laboratories. This invitation was extended to us by Edward’s friend Vince, a passionate and committed Maltese to the islands history.
At the last minute Vince was able to add some extra treats. Firstly we went to the shortly to be reopened Fort St Elmo, waiting for us was Vince and his father and the curator. Everything was in its trial stage but the sound was on and with our personal guide we were taken through the ages of Malta's history, despite a fair bit of walking and a shower of rain this did not dampen our spirits. Fort St Elmo is a truly amazing site and a "must" to visit next year but with much more time given to the visit. We all then headed off to Bighi with more passionate guides and restorers. We had Frank informing the specialists what "wards" they were working in when it was an RN hospital much to their amusement. Jack identifying medals on uniforms - they would have liked him to stay the day I think. In between this Vince's father was desperate to talk to Frank, Jack and Margaret about their times and experiences in Malta.
Lindsay noticed a painting we saw last year now completed and Anthony talked us through the restoration which had taken him five years. The textile department had to be the girls favourite, clothes all donated by the public are being restored hopefully for a clothes museum, we were shown christening bonnets, tapestry, shoes, "haute couture" hats and garments all in special catalogued preservation boxes made by the restorers themselves. Janet last year had been working on a piece of lace complete with pins on its "sausage", Lindsay was delighted to show her a picture she had taken a few hours earlier of it on display in Fort St Elmo, that's technology for you!
Then a trip to the Naval Museum for a rather prestigious presentation by Prof. Dauber of his model ship “launching”. The Great Carrack St Anna (1523) which he and his team researched and built 2008 to 2015. There were many people attending including the outgoing Austrian ambassador to Malta, Dr. Petra Schneebauer, who said how much she had enjoyed being in Malta and was delighted to be at this function. Then welcome seats for many of us as we were treated to wine and glorious nibbles, I don't think Margaret and Frank were impressed with the octopus! Jack was in deep conversation with another curator who wanted information of a previous contemporary known to Jack while Ken presented a 1915/2015 poppy pin to the Professor who kindly asked Ken to place it on his coat lapel. (Actually Ken had been giving a few away during the reunion and our holiday). Well, after a busy and very cultural day which at the end of we were "replete" and exhausted, there is no doubt how very fortunate we were to be part of such a albeit short but important part of Heritage Malta. Janet Barkway
Thank you Janet for these reports – very interesting but full of little light hearted reconnoitres
Lindsay Thacker (West Branch Treasurer) has also kindly made a contribution to this report.
George's Day Dinner.
This year 10 GCIA UK members attended the annual dinner at the Preluna Hotel, to celebrate our country's special day, organised by Peter and Mary Robinson for the British Residents Association, along with many of our Maltese friends. A total of over 90 guests, ensured a happy friendly crowd. Frank Thompson, former GCIA National Chairman, was asked to say grace which was followed by an excellent meal from the Preluna staff. The guests of honour were the British High Commissioner, His Excellency Rob Luke, and his wife. Rob gave a short entertaining speech, and also visited most of the tables and chatted to the guests. We all enjoyed listening to, and dancing to the music of Julie James, before reluctantly retiring shortly after midnight.
Thank you Peter and Mary, we look forward to the next one.
Walters Chadwick’s birthday
On Tuesday 21st April most of the members staying in Sliema gathered at the Preluna to celebrate Walter’s 95th birthday.
Thanks to Diane Dyer and the restaurant staff, we had a lovely evening, with balloons and a cake, plenty of wine, and lots of fun and laughter. We look forward to celebrating your 96th next year Walter.