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					MALTA’S WORLD WAR II VETERANS GCIA National Memorial in London
By Major Stanley J A Clews MBE (GCIA Vice-President Army, Hon Secretary Malta GC Branch) It was good to read all about the World War II veterans who have been coming to Malta and meeting old friends with whom they served during and since World War II. Those were terrible days between 1940 and 1943 when friends were made – some friends were found and some were lost, forever. When reading stories about the return to Malta of these veterans it made me wonder how many people in Malta have heard of the George Cross Island Association. The GCIA, as we are known, was founded by a Royal Navy rating named Fred Plenty in 1988. His original idea was that those who served in Malta during the Siege should form an Association in UK and hold an annual reunion in Malta. To meet old friends and colleagues with whom they served here in the last War. The Association was set up with six Branches being formed in UK. A year later the Malta GC Branch was formed. Ever since 1989 the GCIA has been holding an annual reunion when about 100 Malta veterans each year join their Maltese counterparts holding various events in collaboration with HE The President of Malta, the Armed Forces of Malta and various other ex-servicemen’s associations. Since 1993 the annual reunion has been held to coincide with the commemoration of the Award of the George Cross to Malta on 15th April 1942. The main event at these Reunions is the Ecumenical Service and Wreath-laying Ceremony held as far as possible on 15th April itself each year at the Siege Bell Monument situated below the Lower Barrakka Gardens in Valletta when Malta’s President leads the ceremony. It is worth recording that the Siege Bell Monument was the brainchild of a member of the Malta GC Branch of the GCIA, the late Mr Philip Pullicino. It was the work of sculptor Mr Michael Sandle and the Bell itself was caste in the UK and its chimes are exactly the same as those of the main bell of Cologne Cathedral. Funds were raised in Malta and UK by all the GCIA Branches. Both the Malta and UK Governments gave a big contribution in cash and in kind whilst the cladding of the Siege Bell Monument is of hard Gozo stone. The final unveiling and dedication of the Siege Bell Monument took place on 29th May 1992 when the Ceremony was presided over by the then President of Malta Dr Censu Tabone and Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth. On that occasion over 200 veterans from UK joined Maltese servicemen and civilians in a ceremony which dedicated the Siege Bell Monument to some 7,000 Maltese and allied servicemen and women and Maltese civilians who gave their lives during the 1940-43 Siege of Malta. At that time the President of the George Cross Island Association was the late Admiral Lord Lewin who had himself served as an RN Lieutenant Commander in the Malta “Santa Maria” Convoy which saved Malta on 15th August 1942. Lord Lewin, who did so much in putting the GCIA on a sound footing, was present for the ceremony at the Siege Bell Monument on May 29th 1992. He in fact read the dedication in the presence of President Tabone, Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister Fenech Adami, Archbishop

Mercieca, many dignitaries from Malta and the Commonwealth and representatives of all the allied nations who took part in the Siege. In the years since 1992 the George Cross Island Association has long felt the need for a monument to be built in UK with the same aims as that of the Siege Bell here in Malta. In other words to remember those over 7,000 Servicemen and women of the allied forces and Maltese Servicemen and women and civilians who gave their lives in the defence of Malta during the 1940-43 Siege. However it was not until just over two years ago that the Chairman of the North East and Scotland Branch of the GCIA, Royal Navy veteran Mr Fred Jewett, suggested the idea of a monument which should be put in place in London. A steering committee was set up by the GCIA and the main Organising Committee was then formed and headed by the son of the late Admiral Lord Lewin, the Hon Tim Lewin. The latter added a number of high-powered personalities in his team and after all their hard work the GCIA London Memorial came into being and it will now be unveiled and dedicated on 15th August next. It has been a long, hard road for Tim Lewin’s Committee but the Governments of both Malta and UK have given their full support and cooperation and the necessary funds have been collected thanks to Mr Lewin and his team. The Malta Government, through the services of former Malta High Commissioner in London Dr George Bonello du Puis, in fact, provided the stone that will form the monument itself. This stone was recently sent over to the UK from Gozo.. The Monument itself is to be erected in Tower Place close to the Tower of London near All Hallows Church where the dedication Service will be held. GCIA Patron HRH The Duke of Edinburgh will lead the ceremony and wreaths will be laid after the Ecumenical Service. It is understood that a Malta Government delegation headed by HE The President of Malta Dr Eddie Fenech Adami will be attending the unveiling and dedication of this unique monument which will be recording one of the greatest moments in Malta’s proud history. A George Cross Island Association Malta delegation is also expected to take part headed by Malta President Emeritus Dr Censu Tabone, himself a veteran of the Malta Siege and who succeeded Admiral Lord Lewin as President of the GCIA. Many Members of the George Cross Island Association in Malta, in UK and from around the world will be hoping to make the journey to London. For many it will be for the last time, but they will be paying tribute to those who gave their lives in the defence of the Maltese Islands during World War II. We the founder members of the George Cross Island Association are disappearing from the scene. However, the recruitment of Associate - and younger! – Members will, we hope, carry on the traditions and memories of those who took part in the defence of Malta during the Siege of 1940-43.

Major Stanley J A Clews MBE, MBIM, MIPM, Malta GC Branch Hon Secretary & Vice President (Army), Flat 1, Amery Court, Amery Street, Sliema SLM08 Tel: (++356) 21331962; Email: stanclews@yahoo.co.uk


				
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