The Annual Reunion of the George Cross Island Association to Malta took place
this year, 2014, between the 10th and 24th April. 

As always Julia and Michael Gaw were the event organisers of another successful and thoroughly enjoyable reunion. Malta Branch were responsible for organising the Siege Bell Ceremony.

Big thank you as ever to Julia and Michael for the hard work and time you both put in to getting the event organised.  Hope you two enjoyed yourselves as much as we all did.

There were around 50 members attending of which 14 were veterans or widows or veterans, many of whom had served themselves.

This year’s reunion was better than ever – well we say that every year - so it just goes to show how much we all enjoy ourselves.  Our veterans, most in the mid-90s proudly managed to attend all the events and members with walking disabilities, also attended every single event.  So come on some of you younger folk – shake a leg, don’t be shown up by our senior members, join us next year – I guarantee you will have a truly enjoyable and memorial fortnight meeting up with good friends and comrades.

We all got together at the welcome meeting on Friday 11th, and National Chairman, Julia Gaw, introduced the newly appointed Association President, Judge Joseph (Joe) Galea Debono to the membership.  He was given a warm welcome by everyone and replied by delivering a charming speech outlining his interesting background, his family links to the Siege and WWII in Malta and his commitment to the George Cross Island Association.

The first of the events took place on Sunday 13th - a Palm Sunday service at St. Paul's cathedral Valetta.  The traditional service included a procession from the cathedral and outside -  complete with a young donkey – it was absolutely charming.  After the main service the Association had a short service and the National Standard, paraded by George Stirling with wreaths laid by two of our veterans.  After the service we all gathered in the underground crypt for refreshments and Easter goodies.

On Sunday evening to commemorate the award of the George Cross to Malta, the Malta Tourism Authority organised a celebration held in St George's Square, Valletta and a ceremonial re-enactment of this historic event. 

'To honour the brave people I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history'.

King George VI, issued the above proclamation on 15 April, 1942, to honour the people of Malta. 

Members of the GCIA were invited as guests to attend the event, which of course many of us were honoured to do.

On Tuesday 15th it was the Siege Bell Remembrance Service And Wreath Laying Ceremony, organised and hosted by Malta branch

The weather was kind to us and we were honoured by the presence of the new President of the Republic of Malta, H.E. Ms. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, whose support of the George Cross Island Association we value highly. Prior to the ceremony the Association President Dr. Joe Galea Debono and his wife, the National Chairman, Mrs Julia 
Gaw, the National Secretary, Mr Michael Gaw, the Chairman Of West Branch, David Andrews and his wife Catherine, had an audience with the President in the Palace.

The Ceremony commenced at 11 am with Judge Joseph Galea-Debono making the opening address and Mr Peter Robinson MBE and Chairman of Malta Branch following with his address.  The Chaplains were Canon Simon Godfrey, Reverend Doug McRoberts, Reverend Fr. Maurius Zerafa.  Other dignitaries attending included the British High Commissioner H.E. Mr Rob Luke, the Australian High Commissioner  H.E. Ms Jane Lambert, The Ambassador Of The USA, Ms Gina Abercrombie Winstanley, HE Mr Boris Marchuk, Ambassador of the Russian Federation, The Canadian Consul, Mr Pier Luca Demajo and New Zealand Consul Mrs Jill Camilleri, The Mayor Of Valetta Mr. Alexei Dingli, The Deputy Commander Of The Malta Armed Forces Colonel Mark Mallia, The Deputy Commissioner Of Police Mr Raymond Zammit.

Following the prayers and readings the Exhortation was read in English and Maltese by Mr Lino Camilleri MBE and Siege Veteran (Malta branch), after which the Last Post and Revellie were performed by the Armed Forces of Malta.  The Piper, Mr Mario Farrugia, played during the wreath laying ceremony.

As always, the ceremony concluded with the mournful, sombre tones of the tolling of the Siege Bell (Mr Kenneth Cauchi was the Siege Bell ringer).

On Thursday 17th we had a commemorative service at Chapel at the Malta Aviation Museum at Ta Qali. The Reverend Doug McRoberts officiated.  Doug is retiring this year, so we were all very said that this would be the last event for us but of course we all wish him well in his retirement and thank him for all his support over the years.

This picture, taken by Ray Wrigglesworth (West Branch) is a lovely reminder of Doug and also the one with him and the standard bearers.

Prayers were said in the Chapel and the standards were paraded, it was another beautiful service enjoyed andcelebrated by us all.

Our host, as always, was Museum Director Ray Polidano who allowed us all to visit the museum exhibits in all three hangers. His wife and her helpers prepared a lovely lunch in the "NAAFI" hut. 

The little chapel is looking superb and there are now many plaques dedicated to members and veterans of the Siege who have crossed the bar and those who had served in Malta at some time.

As always Easter was marked by various religious festivals and processions, on Good Friday many members joined the various celebrations – it was a little cool that evening but by wrapping up warm it was very moving and enjoyable.

So we all rested up until Easter Monday which saw us attending the threememorials - Royal Navy (Msida), Royal Air Force and the National War Memorial (Floriana). 

The Armed Forces of Malta supported us at each memorial, the playing of the Last Post and Reveille 
which were followed by the wreath laying.  

Our National Standard and SE Standard accompanied the wreath laying.

On Tuesday 22nd April, most of the main party attended a very impressive display performed by the marching band of Armed Forces of Malta band at Luqa Barracks.

The weather was kind to us, and managed not to rain. It was very windy, and
the 'ladies with hats' were very pleased we had opted for fascinators on this occasion, as we may have had to chase them around the parade ground ! ( not very ladylike )

The band as always played some excellent music, and their rendition of Londonderry Air, was very moving.  Those veterans who were able, joined the march past at the end, and all three GCIA standard bearers represented us in their usual dignified manner – George Stirling carried the National Standard, Michael Gaw, South East and Edward Barkway was honoured to carry the Malta Branch standard, as their usual standard bearer was unavailable.

After the display we were welcomed in to the sergeants mess this year and treated to a very generous reception with delicious food and liquid refreshments.  Thanks were expressed by both GCIA and Army representatives, and Peter Robinson and Judge Joseph Galea Debono, introduced our veterans to Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi, and other officers present.

As always the occasion was well attended by the members who all thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we give our sincere thanks to the Armed Forces of Malta for their kind and generous hospitality.
(Written by Lindsay Thacker).

Those of us staying in Sliema decided it would be a great idea to have an informal "get together".  So after some loose debate it was agreed that it would be fixed up for the evening of the 22nd - Lindsay and Janet were tasked with coming up with an idea and whoever liked their the idea would join in, thus was born the "Sliema Dining Club"

A local restaurant, a stones throw away from the Preluna, was duly booked by
and a goodly crowd signed up to enjoy a superb meal at a very reasonable price.  Although it was an informal evening, Edward Barkway thanked Lyndsay and Janet for their good choice of venue and proposed a toast to "The Veterans" which was admirably responded to by former National Chairman, Frank Thompson.

Sadly the evening had to end, but everyone agreed it had been a very pleasant evening indeed. 

(Written by Edward Barkway)

On Wednesday 23rd April on a sunny Maltese day several members went on a bumpy bus ride to the Naval Hospital at Bighi. Edward Barkway arranged this visit and his friend of many years, Vince Pulis, was there to meet to meet the group with Edward and Vince warmly embracing each other.  Vince was thrilled to meet a captivated group and enthralled everyone with all with stories......he would have loved more time with us and hopefully a follow up visit can be organised during next year’s reunion.

The purpose of the visit was to have a glimpse at all the restoration work to paintings, artefacts and books.

Sadly Vince was needed elsewhere were left in the capable hands of head
curator.  It was an amazing visit, we were indulged by such a knowledgeable curator who in our limited time tried to give us a concise tour. Bighi is now known as the restoration laboratories. Each room is dedicated to its own specific area of restoration. This is obviously a Herculean task and a labour of love, we were fortunate to be given "Carte Blanche" to wander around the rooms, talk to the individual restorers and take photographs.
Our visit was unique in many ways - memories to some of days gone by and chance to see young talent in action. Three members were indeed treated to there delight - Margaret  Machin was born at the hospital( just few years ago!!) and was shown the building where her birth would have taken place, another little private tour unknown to us all at the time was that the curator, Ray, took Frank Thompson to one-side and took him to see where he worked in the x-ray department during both the 50s and 60s and he was intrigued to see the old fireplaces, remembering them being "stoked" up central heating then...he reminisced how he missed the smell of Lysol though Ha ha!.

Lindsay Thacker was in her element to see Gozo lace being restored ...the pins had gone art sadly now not seen in Gozo or Malta.

Wow what a visit.

Jack McNulty, Alan Sandall, Frank Thompson and the rest of the menfolk went to the Naval Museum where Jack held court over the models of ships that he helped to identify at it's installation, every class of ship to have been in service with the Royal Navy is represented, the submarines barely an inch long and all in perfect detail ...the ladies chose to retire to the "Slice Of Lemon" restaurant for a coffee!!

Vince would have loved to have spent more time with the veterans, to hear of their experiences, so if you have a story to tell, however short, of Bighi please email  know so we can pass them on to Vince for the Malta Heritage project.

(Written by Janet Barkway)

As it was St. George's day many members attended a gala dinner hosted by the
British Residents Association at the Preluna Hotel and hosted by Peter Robinson.  Deputy High commissioner Jonathan Knight was the honoured guest an he gave his usual uniquely entertaining speech.  The food was excellent and the entertainment was from vocalist Julie James who was accompanied by George on the keyboards. – Another well organised event and we all thank Mrs Mary Robinson for a wonderful evening. 

Thursday saw many of the party returning home, however it being Anzac Day the remaining members of the GCIA attended the ceremony and the National Standard was on parade.

Sadly neither the Siege bell ceremony nor any of the other events received much media coverage which is very disappointing. However, it was a great reunion enjoyed by everyone with many of us saying that we can't wait until next year !