Malta Reunion 2018

This year's reunion took place from 12th to 25th April, and although our group was small this year, it was yet another great event.  

The ceremonies were successful well attended by all and the social side was great fun.  The weather the first week was "unpredictable" with gale force winds at the Siege Bell ceremony and very chilly evenings.  However, it soon perked up and the second week saw lovely sunny days. 

Here is a short report on our visit and some photos, but don't forget to visit our Facebook page www.facebook.com/GeorgeCrossIsland and also the Malta branch Facebook page www.facebook.com/gciamaltabranch where you will find lots more photos.  The AFM band Facebook page also has some photos.


 
 On the morning of Friday 13th the National Trust of Malta launched a project to restore and conserve important notarial documents and our Association President, Judge Joseph Galea Debono gave a short presentation @ Din l-Art Helwa, about the project to restore and conserve a volume that includes the warrant of the awarding of the George Cross to Malta
 

On Friday evening we all attended a commemoration of the award of the George Cross to the people of Malta in St. George's Square, Valletta.  Wreaths were laid by Judge Joseph Galea Debono, Pat Scott (National Treasurer) and Vincent Bonnello Secretary of Malta Branch.  Judge Joseph Galea Debono also gave an address in Maltese and you can read it (in English) on the Association President's page of this site.  The AFM Band opened the event, accompanied by the standard bearers including our own Barry Wenman with the West Branch standard the Police Band escorted the George Cross Medal into the square and also gave a display.  There was an audio visual presentation depicting the historical event and an audio visual poem by Dun Karm Psaila.  Thank you to the Malta Tourism authority and Ino Bonello for organising this event which was respectful and well presented.

 
 
 

On Saturday 14th it was the Siege Bell Remembrance service, organised by Malta Branch.  The weather stayed dry and the gale force wind did not deter anyone. HE Marie Louise Coleiro Precca arrived at 11.00 accompanied by piper Mario Farrugia, who also played during the wreath laying.  Gunner George Zammit, Armed Forces of Malta, sang L-Innu Malti (Maltese national anthem) on the steps of the Siege Bell.  Peter Robinson MBE, Chairman of the Malta branch opened the ceremony and Judge Joseph Galea Debono followed.  The Reverend Ian Rutherford and Reverend Fr. Marius Zerafa officiated. The Exhortation and Kohima Epitaph were read in Maltese by veteran Major Maurice G. Agius, ED, RMA (Retd) and in English by veteran Captain Jack McNulty R.M.  Wreaths were laid by HE the President of Malta, Judge Joseph Galea Debono, Mr Peter Robinson,HE Stuart Gill HC for the United Kingdom along with HC's for Australia, India, Ireland, France, USA, Germany, Ghana.  Wreaths were also laid for Russia, Turkey, Canada and New Zealand, the Malta Police Force, Armed Forces of Malta, Royal British Legion, GCIA West Branch, RNA, RAF Association (Malta branch), Royal Malta Artillery Association, Royal Marines Association, Sea Cadets and many others. As always, the Siege Bell tolled at the end.
 
 
 

After returning by coach, we all met up in Sliema for lunch and a good catch up with all our friends, some of whom we hadn't seen since last year's reunion.  After lunch we boarded the coach for Fort Madalena where we had been invited by Judge Josephy Galea Debono for a PowerPoint presentation on the restoration of the Victoria Lines. The Fort became Malta's main radar station during WWII and was still being used by the British Army as a Radar Station up until 1978/79. It really was a fascinating afternoon and following the presentation Joe took us on a short tour of part of the 'great wall of Malta'. We thank our President, Judge Joseph Galea Debono, for a very informative presentation and guided tour. We wish the St. Johns Rescue Corps best of luck with their project to restore the Fort and the Victoria Lines to make them accessible to the public.

 
 
 
 
So then it was Sunday morning and our visit to St Pauls Pro Cathedral in Valetta for the service which included a commemorative wreath laying ceremony. The Reverend Ian Rutherford officiated and it was truly a fitting memorial for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during WWII.  Wreaths were laid for the RN by Pat Scott and for the MN by Fiona Evans.  HE Stuart Gill also laid a wreath on behalf of the United Kingdom.  After the excellent service we went into the newly refurbished undercroft for some refreshments.  It really has been beautifully refurbished and is a very convivial environment for getting together and enjoying everyone's company.


Well Sunday didn't end there as "Judge Joe" had yet another trip for us, this time to Fort St. Elmo. 
Heritage Malta organised that the Fort would be open to visitors free of charge all day to commemorate the 76th anniversary of the award of the George Cross to Malta. The Fort houses the recently reopened War Museum and there was a re-enactment by men in period uniforms from the time of the Knights of St. John.  Joe gave us a very informed guided tour of the Fort, his knowledge is extraordinary and fascinating. There was also an exhibition of documents related to the War period, a Malta Artisan Market and an exhibition of 19th Century paintings by the "Schranz Family of Artists - A Journey of Rediscovery".  Notwithstanding the fabulous views from the fortifications across Grand Harbour.


After such a busy weekend, we all took advantage of a "free day" on Monday and went off in all directions for shopping, site seeing or just relaxing. Phew, we really needed a recharge to our batteries !

Tuesday 17th was one of the highlights of our reunion, the visit to Luqa Barracks and the band display by the AFM Band.  Once again it did not disappoint which a fabulous programme of music and marching.  We were then invited into the officers mess for drinks and refreshments.  It was such an honour to be given such a unique opportunity .  The Band of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM), formerly known as the Royal Malta Artillery Band (RMA Band), was established in the late 19th century (1890) yet it can trace its origins way back to the year 1800, when a band with fifes and drums formed part of the Malta Light Infantry Regiment. During the years 1939 to 1942, owing to the war circumstances, the band was put into suspended animation and its members served in support of the parent regiment, the Royal Malta Artillery. It was reformed in 1943.  The AFM Band was established in 1970 under the baton of Warrant Officer I Chircop Anthony. Today, the AFM Band which has a compliment of 43 musicians and is directed Warrant Officer 1 Jonathan Borg is the only specialised Band on the Island. The Band’s President is Colonel Mark Mallia AFM whilst the Band Secretary is Major Edric Zahra AFM.  Thank you to Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi, Commander of the AFM, for enabling us to once again enjoy the hospitality of the AFM and AFM Band and to Lieutenant Adrian Cipriott for all his hard work in coordinating the event.  There really are so many wonderful photos of this so do visit the Facebook pages as mentioned in the first paragraph.  There is also a video which you can access through our Facebook page.

 
 
 

Our next ceremony was on Thursday 19th at the Air Museum, Ta Qali where we have a commemorative service in the little chapel. Fr Meli once again officiated at the ceremony during which he blessed the plaques and ashes of WWII veterans. 
connections with Malta in WWII. 

The chapel is dedicated to the Royal Air Force and Commonwealth Air Forces Servicemen lost in the defence of Malta. West Branch standard was paraded by Barry Wenman, Malta Branch by Liam Barlow and Parade Marshall was Joe Buttigieg.  The wreath was laid by Ray Wrigglesworth, West Branch Chairman and the Kohima by Captain Jack McNulty, R.M.  After the ceremony we were given free access into the Air Museum and a lovely lunch prepared by Mary Rose Polidano.  Thank you to Mary Rose and Also to Ray Polidano, Air Museum Curator.


After the Air Museum ceremony we then had a few free days until our next one which was on Monday 23rd which of course is St. Georges Day (another noteworthy event on this day was the birth of the new Prince Louis to HRH Prince William and Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge).  Father Meli officiated at each ceremony and we were accompanied by two buglers from the AFM who played the Last Post and the Reveille.  Wreaths were laid at the RN memorial, Pieta; the RAF memorial at Floriana and finally to the National memorial where Judge Joseph Galea Debono laid a wreath on behalf of the Association. We also attended the St. George's Day dinner organised and hosted by Peter and Mary Robinson of Malta branch where almost 100 people attended and enjoyed good food and good company - well done Peter and Mary.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The final ceremony of the reunion was Anzac Day on Wednesday 25th.  Anzac Day commemorates the thousands of Australian and New Zealand Troops who volunteered to help in the fight of Freedom during WWI, many lost their lives in Gallipoli, Turkey. The Commemoration Ceremony and Wreath Laying took place at Pieta Military Cemetery and was a very moving affair, meticulously organised by the Australian and New Zealand High Commissions. The Tribute to the Anzacs who died attributed to Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Atatruk was read, the words reduced big men to tears. Malta during the 1st World War was the "Nurse of the Mediterranean", which is why many of the wounded found themselves here. A large number were also buried in the cemetery where the service was held. There was after the Ceremony a Reception for invited guests at the Australian High Commissioner's Residence.
 
 
 
 
 

So that brought us to the end of another great reunion and we can't wait until we all meet up in Malta again next year.

Photographs provided by Deborah Plenty, Sue Hudson and John Navarro with one or two from the AFM Band Facebook page
Comments