News

Malta Reunion 2016 - see page for pictures and text.  Veterans visit to St Martin's College

New Operation Pedestal Publication by Max Hastings

posted 12 May 2021, 06:37 by Pat Scott

In August 1942, beleaguered Malta was within weeks of surrender to the Axis, because its 300,000 people could no longer be fed. Churchill made a personal decision that at all costs, the ‘island fortress’ must be saved. This was not merely a matter of strategy, but of national prestige, when Britain’s fortunes and morale had fallen to their lowest ebb.

The largest fleet the Royal Navy committed to any operation of the western war was assembled to escort fourteen fast merchantmen across a thousand of miles of sea defended by six hundred German and Italian aircraft, together with packs of U-boats and torpedo craft. The Mediterranean battles that ensued between 11 and 15 August were the most brutal of Britain’s war at sea, embracing four aircraft-carriers, two battleships, seven cruisers, scores of destroyers and smaller craft. The losses were appalling: defeat seemed to beckon.

This is the saga Max Hastings unfolds in his first full length narrative of the Royal Navy, which he believes was the most successful of Britain’s wartime services. As always, he blends the ‘big picture’ of statesmen and admirals with human stories of German U-boat men, Italian torpedo-plane crews, Hurricane pilots, destroyer and merchant-ship captains, ordinary but extraordinary seamen.

Operation Pedestal describes catastrophic ship sinkings, including that of the aircraft-carrier Eagle, together with struggles to rescue survivors and salvage stricken ships. Most moving of all is the story of the tanker Ohio, indispensable to Malta’s survival, victim of countless Axis attacks. In the last days of the battle, the ravaged hulk was kept under way only by two destroyers, lashed to her sides. Max Hastings describes this as one of the most extraordinary tales he has ever recounted. Until the very last hours, no participant on either side could tell what would be the outcome of an epic of wartime suspense and courage.

Also, here is a link to Max Hastings talking about the book:   https://www.dropbox.com/s/lzkqcl317e665j0/OperationPedestal_TRAILER.mp4?dl=0

Cancellation of Siege Bell Ceremony

posted 7 Apr 2021, 00:57 by Pat Scott

The Malta Branch Chairman, Peter Robinson, has informed us of the following:
Unfortunately due to the ongoing pandemic and, so as not to compromise anyone’s safety, we have once again had to take the painful decision to cancel the ceremony. 

In order that another year does not go by without some recognition of the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives during the WWII siege of Malta and other conflicts we will remember them with a minutes silence at 11.00 am on the morning of 15th April during a Courtesy call to our Malta Branch Patron H.E. Dr. George Vella, President of Malta.

We would be honoured if you were able to pause in a minute of silent remembrance at 11.00 am on Thursday 15th April.

We hope that next year we will be able to meet at the Siege Bell to commemorate the 80th Anniversary. 

Malta Reunion 2021

posted 5 Feb 2021, 01:44 by Pat Scott

It is with great regret that I have to advise you that the 2021 Malta Reunion will not be going ahead.  The situation with Covid 19 has not improved and even though the vaccine is being rolled out it will be some time before it affects the rate of infection, we do not believe that it will not be safe to travel by April.  It is possible that if the situation improves perhaps we might organise something for later in the year.

Peter Robinson, the Malta Branch Chairman, has said that he has not made a decision yet on whether the Siege Bell ceremony will be able to go ahead.  We hope very much that it can and wish Peter good luck.

Our Association President, Judge Joseph Galea Debono, sends us this message:

It is with great regret that I note that the Annual Reunion of the George Cross Island Association will not be held again this coming April because of the Covid19 situation worldwide which makes travel very problematic.
However I fully understand and appreciate the valid reasons why this decision has been taken by U.K. Branch.

It is my sincere hope that we can however meet again in April, 2022 to commemorate the 80th. Anniversary of the award of the George Cross to the Maltese Islands when I hope even the Authorities will participate in making this Anniversary an event to be remembered."

Regards,
Joe

HMS URGE: REMEMBRANCE ON APRIL 27th ANNIVERSARY

posted 26 Apr 2020, 05:16 by Pat Scott   [ updated 26 Apr 2020, 05:18 ]

Here is an update on the HMS Urge commemorations from Francis Dickinson of the HMS Urge Family Group

Dear HMS Urge family members and friends,

This is a short update ahead of tomorrow's anniversary of HMS Urge's last sailing from Malta in 1942, particularly for those who do not have access to the HMS Urge Facebook Page. Following postponement of the Malta commemorations due to Coronavirus, people have nevertheless wanted to mark the anniversary, as follows:

1. Those who wish to will hold a 2 minute silence on April 27th at 11am, this will of course be on a remote basis given Coronavirus restrictions

2. The Mayor of the town of Bridgend in Wales which adopted Urge in 1941, Cllr.Alan Wathan, is playing a leading role in the 2 minute silence, and he and his team have done great work in highlighting the anniversary within the town.

Bridgend Town Council have a page on HMS Urge as follows: http://www.bridgendtowncouncil.gov.uk/hms-urge.aspx

The Town Council have issued a press release about the anniversary: http://www.bridgendtowncouncil.gov.uk/media/8357/BTC-Press-Release-HMS-Urge-44-Heroes-Remembered.pdf

Working with the Town Council, the Reverend Rachel Wheeler of Bridgend has recorded an excellent tribute to Urge released yesterday on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0aABWMxKCw

3. The Friends of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum have also kindly wished to mark the anniversary - there is an article on Urge and ship's company as follows: https://www.rnsubmusfriends.org.uk/remembering-hms-urge-on-27th-april/

4. HMS Urge is being remembered in Malta also. St.Paul's Pro-Cathedral in Valletta is remembering Urge today and many others lead by the University of Malta and Heritage Malta will be tomorrow.

Whilst it is sad that we are not in Malta for the Commemoration, many people across the world will still be remembering HMS Urge today and tomorrow pending the rearrangement of the Commemoration. Best wishes for everyone's health meanwhile.

Yours,

Francis

G . C . Medal Anniversary 1943 - 2020

posted 16 Apr 2020, 01:52 by Pat Scott

Yesterday many of us would have gathered at the Siege Bell for the commemorative service of the award of the George Cross to the brave people of Malta.  This service has been observed since the inauguration of the Siege Bell in 1992.Despite not being able to travel to Malta, members did not forget the significance of this day and sent emails and photos of how they each marked it - including flying the Malta flag from their home.  Also I include a photo of one the oldest UK Pedestal Veterans, Victor Coombes (RN). Vic got himself up anddressed into his regalia so that he could mark the occasion in a fitting and appropriate manner.  At 99years of age, this was no mean feat - particularly the tying of his Association tie with fingers that don't work quite so well as they used to.  Well done, Vic and thank you from us all.  I shall be including more photos from members in our next Association newsletter.

Malta Reunion 2020 - Cancelled

posted 15 Mar 2020, 02:40 by Pat Scott

It is with great regret that I have to advise that the George Cross Island reunion in Malta for 2020 is cancelled.  This step has been taken based on the Government of Malta imposing a 14 day quarantine for ALL arrivals from ALL countries. But as well as this quarantine period making it impossible for us to go ahead, we should be thinking of our health and that of our loved ones.  By staying well, we can hopefully enjoy a reunion in our beloved Malta in 2021.

All branch meetings are also cancelled and further events will be postponed until Covid 19 has been controlled.

Malta 2020 Reunion update - HMS Urge

posted 18 Jan 2020, 02:32 by Pat Scott   [ updated 18 Jan 2020, 06:00 ]

In addition to our programme announced this week, we have been in communication with Francis Dickinson, the grandson of HMS Urge's captain Lieutenant-Commander E.P. Tomkinson, regarding a possible memorial ceremony to commemorate HMS Urge as an official war grave, which will hopefully take place towards the end of our reunion visit this year.

One of the aims of the George Cross Island Association is "To honour the People of Malta, and those who fought on their behalf", another is "To facilitate the exchange of memories" and of course we encourage and promote the upholding of Maltese history, particularly from a military perspective during WWII. So with this in mind, I think we would all find the plight of HMS Urge of great interest and also wish to pay our respects to the families of her at this very poignant time.

On the 27th April 1942 HMS Urge, a U-class submarine, left Malta for Alexandria with 32 crew, 11 other naval personnel and a British war reporter aboard. She was declared missing after failing to reach her destination 10 days later. It was not known what had happened to HMS Urge until a discovery was made in the summer of 2019

The discovery came after Francis Dickinson approached the University of Malta who, through Professor Timmy Gambin, carried out exceptional work on the discovery of HMS Urge. Mr Dickinson together with Mr.Platon Alexiades, a naval researcher from Canada, whose work was essential to the discovery, were both part of the search team. Through their research on HMS Urge, they requested that the marine archaeology survey team search an area that had been heavily mined during the Nazi's two-and-a-half year siege of the island. A sonar image revealed a submarine-like shape at a depth of 130 metres. "The damage to the bow shows a very violent explosion ... indicating that the ship would have sunk very fast giving no chance to anybody to survive from this tragedy," said Professor Timothy Gambin. Besides the damage on the bow, the wreck is in absolutely fantastic condition. It is sitting upright on the seabed, very proud, in the direction that it was ordered to take on its way to Alexandria". 

The Ministry of Defence said it recognised the wreck site "as the last resting place of HMS Urge and those who lost their lives in service of their country" and is declared as an official war grave. A ceremony is expected to be held in April, to commemorate HMS Urge and her crew.

An interesting fact is that In 1941 there was a national "warship week" which raised money to meet the costs of providing military machinery and vehicles for the war. Bridgend contributed about £300,000 to the fund and the town adopted the submarine HMS Urge along with two other warships.

Any members of the George Cross Island Association who would like to be kept informed about the ceremony, please do contact me at info@georgecrossisland.org.uk and I will also keep the web site updated with any information I receive regarding this.  You can also find a wealth of information about HMS Urge and the discovery off Malta on the internet using any search engine.



Malta Reunion 2020

posted 1 Sept 2019, 04:31 by Pat Scott

We are aware that once again we are going to clash with Easter, so we are trying to organise the programme to avoid members having unnecessary expense.  Provisionally, we are proposing that the Welcome Meeting will take place late afternoon/early evening on Tuesday 14th April (day after Easter Monday).  This will hopefully give people flexibility to get the best price possible for flights at that time.  We are expecting that the Siege Bell Ceremony will take place on the 15th although that is always subject to change depending on the circumstances, Malta branch will keep us appraised. We will be working towards fitting the programme of ceremonies and events from the 16th and concluding with Anzac Day on the 25th as usual.  If you are interested in coming to the Malta reunion and would like confirmation, please contact me by email on pat.scott@georgecrossisland.org.uk or by post via the National Chairman: Ray Wrigglesworth 16, Bloxworth Road, Poole, Dorset, BH12 4BW. Tel:01202 779321.  A draft programme will be issued in the December members newsletter and will also be published here on the web site.

National AGM

posted 1 Sept 2019, 04:28 by Pat Scott

Please be advised that if you have any Agenda items for the National AGM taking place at 10:30 on the 5th October at the Royal Maritime Club Hotel in Portsmouth, you will need to get them to me at least 3 weeks ahead of this date.  You can send them to me via email on pat.scott@georgecrossisland.org.uk or by post via the National Chairman: Ray Wrigglesworth 16, Bloxworth Road, Poole, Dorset, BH12 4BW. Tel:01202 779321.  Please include your name and membership number as the proposer, along with the name and membership number of your seconder.

1-10 of 70