beautiful and functional

Merhba from Valletta, Malta,

The George Cross is the highest British honour recognising bravery in war. It is usually conferred on individuals. The only nation ever to be awarded the Geroge Cross is Malta.

In April 1942, King George bestowed the unusual honour on Malta “to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history”. World War 2 still had some years to run but Malta’s worst was behind it.

Being so central in the Mediterraean confers a special strategic value to this tiny nation. It’s magnificent harbours add greatly to its appeal. Apart from its recent history, Malta has always been under direct attention – and often direct control – of the prevailing powers ever since seafaring peoples went to sea.

During World War 2, Malta sustained huge amounts of relentless bombing from the Axis powers, in particular Italy. The loss of life and domiciles had the island’s population suffering at near starvation. If it weren’t for the costly visit of the US Ohio with its supplies, the island nation may have succumbed. The privations during the war and devastation afterwards led thousands to emigrate to Australia, and some other countries, too.

Ironically, it might have been an unintended legacy from the unsuccessful Ottoman siege of 1565 which left Malta the infrastructure and fortitude to withstand such an attack. in 1565, the Ottomans were by far the superior force but they were repelled after 33 days by the determined Maltese, led by Jean de Vallette.

After this unexpected victory (an event which Türkish history has been fairly tardy to acknowledge), the Maltese decided to build a stronger bastion, on the thinking that the Ottomans might return and try again. They also built a magnificent city on the peninsula, all out of the abundant local limestone. De Vallette wanted to build a city which was both functional and beautiful. Today, the capital, with its wooden balconies and interior gardens and limestone edifices, is the jewel of the islands.

Today, Malta remembers these events with pride. The modern republic (since 1974) of an independent nation (since 1964), a member of the European Union (since 2004), has a cross on its national flag but it is not the Maltese Cross. It’s the George Cross.

Addiju from Malta


Leave a Reply