Veterans school visit

This is a recount of a visit to St. Martin's College during the 2016 Malta Reunion.  The first section has been written by Mrs Janet Barkway and is followed by a section written by the college.

Peter Robinson, Chairman of Malta branch was asked to liaise with St Martin’s College to set up a visit and a talk by some of our World War II veterans; due to a George Cross Association Council meeting, neither he or Pat Scott could take on the task.

So suddenly I was "copied" into an email, and after a few emails to fix up the arrangements, two teachers arrived at the Preluna Hotel, Sliema, to take us to school, not too early; the veterans were suited and booted, proudly wearing their medals, shoes polished and their preparation homework done – they were ready for the off, along with Lindsay Thacker and myself to keep them ship shape !!

Well, what a welcome we had in the library, the librarian had a vast array of books on Malta at war on display, quite a distraction for us all, even she had no idea of the number of books they had on the shelves.

The idea was that the veterans would talk to the students who were study
ing Malta at war in the 1940's in relaxed groups about their experiences and answer questions put to them by the students, in rotation.  

What wasn’t expected was the number of other students who came down during their own break time all of whom wished to be involved and listen to the veterans and contribute to the questions.

It was a huge success, RAF veteran, Walter Chadwick was so impressed by a young boy called Malcolm who was clearly very well informed and had a passion for the subject; in Walters own words "I was happy to listen to him !'.

Ivy Bateman was a popular veteran, the girls adored her, asking many questions about her husband’s time in Malta whilst she was at home in England without him for quite a few years.  Ivy met a young boy who is to attend Liverpool university this year to study history, this impressed Ivy.  Ivy was also very active herself as a British army driver 

Alan Sandall, Royal Navy veteran, had forgotten his medals (he got a hundred lines !!) but despite that, at one point had pupils waiting for seats to interview him, we have the pictures to prove this !!

Such was the interest and evident pleasure of the project and the visiting veterans, Lindsay and I found it difficult to move the students along so that those waiting could get their turn, so much so that we had to appeal to the teachers for help!!

ack McNulty, Royal Marines, was another very popular veteran; he met a young Russian student whose grandparents had perished in the war.  Typically Jack played down his role and array of medals, Lindsay had to deal with confusion here, it appeared Jack, ever the joker, had told the students that he got his medals from a pawn shop; three boys were confused or intrigued until Lindsay explained the difference between a pawn shop and porn ...thanks for that Jack !!

Unfortunately, Lindsay and I had not expected such a large number of students and we had only taken a few large paper poppies to hand out, so rather discreetly we had to eke them out amongst the girls, who indeed were thrilled.
At the end of the session, revived with tea and a biscuit (staff break time), we were all presented with books about Malta, Walter was presented with a book of poems written by the students at the college .

The director of the college came to thank us all before we left, this time our veterans had plenty of questions for her, and she was indeed delighted to learn how well the event had gone.  It seemed that the staff themselves had been impressed with the informative questions that had been put to the veterans by the students.

So after a photo call, school was over for the day and we were driven safely back to the Preluna Hotel.  What a very enjoyable time it was and we all loved every minute.

Incidentally there was a report and a picture in The Times of Malta, unknown to us, however back copies were found for all the veterans to take home to their families.  Fame indeed for the 2016 reunion veterans!

The following is a write up by the college themselves:

St Martin’s College recently welcomed four British World War 2 veterans.  Students met Captain Jack McNulty, Mr Alan Sandall and Mr Walter Chadwick who served in the British army and navy and were stationed in Malta for some time during WW2.  The three gentlemen, whose ages range from 89 to 96, were in Malta for the annual reunion that is organised by the George Cross Island Association.  They were accompanied by Mrs Ivy Bateman, who served in the British army in the UK, and whose husband had served in Malta.

The aim of the event was to assist students in appreciating the service and experiences of those who served during the 1940’s Siege, as well as to bridge the gap between generations.  Students had the opportunity to speak to the veterans and learn more about such an important part of recent history from first-hand experiences.

The veterans’ visit was complemented by an exhibition in the school library of books related to World War 2.  Furthermore, as a commemoration of the event, every participating student was given a British coin that was used in Malta in 1942.  The event was organised by the students’ history teacher and coordinator of the humanities department, Mr Paul Portelli.

St Martin’s College would like to thank Mr Peter Robinson, Mrs Janet Barkway and Mrs Lindsay Thacker from the George Cross Island Association for their kind help and efforts in making this visit possible.