Whilst attending the 2012 North West Branch reunion in July, we were treated to a very interesting and moving presentation by Vivien Reck Lomax, who is also a GICA member.
This is also at the heart of the George Cross Island Association - to honour and remember the people of Malta and those who fought on their behalf; reuniting Members in a unique bond of friendship by facilitating the exchange of memories and holding social activities such as the recent Reunion.
Through this article I cannot convey the emotion of Vivien’s presentation but would urge you to attend one of Vivien’s presentations should you ever be fortunate enough to be able to do so.
The title of Vvien Reck Lomax’s presentation was: Malta – A Recurring Theme In a Life Time
I quote now from text kindly given to me by Vivien…
Vivien Reck’s family arrived on Malta prior to the Second World War on the troop ship HMT Dilwara. (For those of you interested in the history of the vessel, you will find some information here - http://www.ssmaritime.com/British-India-Dilwara-Class.htm#_1._MS_Dilwara_). She still has a postcard sent by her mother to her maternal grandmother in 1939 saying that all was well and how happy they were.
Dramatically, things were to change. In June 1940 the windows of their apartment were blown in. They were living in a block called The Camerata in Merchant Street, Valetta, which is still there today.
So began their daily pattern of running to slit trenches and shelters. Vivien’s brother, Brian, wrote an extensive war ballad outlining their life at that time (see below this article for a transcript of the ballad). Vivien herself has her mother’s diaries and, physically, she still has the shrapnel scars where she fell into a bomb crater while running to the cave shelters in the village of Mtarfa, the place where the family had been moved to from Valetta.
The story of the Reck family life is extensive and sometimes a little tragic for such young children. Vivien, now Mrs Reck Lomax, is still in touch with her childhood friends, and cave shelter neighbours Teresa and Mary Hayes.
Vivien maintained both personal and professional connection with Malta, especially whilst teaching at Edge Hill University in West Lancashire.
In early spring of 2004 Vivien was a guest on the Maltese television programme ‘Tista tkun int’. She wanted to find the Maltese maid who had taken her to her family home simply to give her nourishing food during the worst of the siege episodes. Both Vivien and Brian were frequently ill with lowered immunity problems. Unfortunately Annie Chercutti had died some years earlier, but Vivien chose on that programme to praise the women of Malta for their courage and generosity, especially with the threat of capitulation.
Shortly after arriving home in England Vivien’s father, Thomas James Reck, was killed in action in Belgium. Brian Reck, her brother was accepted, on a Lord Kitchener full grant scholarship, for Cambridge University, to read Law.
Mrs Reck Lomax still maintains links with her childhood village of Mtarfa.
Sliema Point has changed considerably in its reconstruction.
Vivien presents her “Malta Story” to raise modest funds for two local health charities in Southport.
Vivien sends her best wishes to all members of the GCIA and those who fought, and had service experience during the serious episodes of the Siege of Malta.
As one who spent her formative years in Malta this dynamic island holds for her powerful memories of her loving, but foreshortened, family life. This same complex experience has enriched, and enlightened, both her personal and professional life.
Vivien and her husband Keith maintain a political and affectionate interest in Malta’s future.
Malta Besieged by Brian Reck
Where I ran, and swam and dived,
There the Knights and Turks had fought and died.
This was about four hundred years before
I and my family came to Malta’s shore.
Though we did not know it then
Another, longer savage siege was to begin.
In the islands some four score miles square,
Soon death and destruction were to fill the air.
Then skies, so azure coloured
Were by shells to be discoloured.
In the air we only had Faith, Hope and Charity.
Little air protection against an enemy.
Sixty miles away on the isle of Sicily,
Stood the might, it seemed, of Italy.
Against a small embattled isle,
Not for us a prospect to raise a smile.
My first recollection of an air attack,
Was crashing glass and being thrown on my back.
From then the memories are various,
Some good, some bad, some hideous.
The whistle, pause, then thud of bomb
Was to be part of my school curriculum.
We young children were in no way aware,
Of the parental pessimism and despair.
It was on the eleventh of June nineteen forty
That the Italian bombers made their first sortie.
Whilst Sicily was three score miles away,
Our help was a thousand miles at bay
The best plan for safety, it did seem,
Was to evacuate from the harbour scene
The quarter million population,
Were to see injury, death and near starvation.
Though the Hurricanes were soon arriving,
We felt great joy as the Spitfires coming.
Everywhere I was taken round the island,
Guns seemed to be in place throughout the land.
The rumour developed, perhaps through fear,
That the Italians would drop bombs anywhere.
We slept and lived, for quite a while, in rock shelters,
Making our own catacombs for hopeful survivors.
After the two thousandth air raid and dreadful loss,
The King awarded the whole island the George Cross.
But still the crisis continued unabated,
Battered convoys still arrived though sadly depleted.
Though bravery and self-sacrifice continued on land and sea,
Final victory was only a distant light we could see.
News of victory in North Africa came,
To children’s ears it was now a giant game.
Veteran English and other troops came to stay nearby,
From a force we came to know as the Eighth Army.
These bronzed soldiers gave us souvenirs of war,
Items of German and Italian regalia.
These troops must have wondered, looking at our faces,
What British boys and girls were doing in these places.
We must have reminded many of them,
Of their own families and children.
Gradually the raids by day and night had ceased,
By now the tide had begun to recede.
One of the most outstanding sights I saw,
Was the surrendered Italian fleet, passing Malta’s shore.
A fleet immaculate in blue and white,
But one whose planes had bombed us by day and night.
And even in our darkest hour,
We knew the Italians were not the ones to fear,
The Germans were the ones to take seriously,
But even they were due to meet their destiny.
By the war’s end nearly two thousand had died,
To save a freedom that was not to be denied.
Soon it was safe for us to sail, in convoy home,
Though the war in Europe was not yet done.
My father going on before, was to be part of the
D-Day landings, His job, as in Malta,
Involved in signals and communications
But while in Belgium, a V.2. rocket came one day,
To crash to earth near Antwerp Town,
And blow Dad’s life away.
There springs to mind, a catalogue of memories?
Life a Bofors salvo.
Valletta, Luqa airport, St. George’s bay
And Fort St. Elmo.
These are memories certain not to last,
Destined like history, to be in the past.
Like Phoenician, Roman, and Knights of Malta,
Only to be recorded by the local scholar.
It was to be the destiny of our remaining family,
To settle where born, near the River Mersey.