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The daylight skies of Malta are now considered safe enough for a major event to be held in the open air. After months of waiting, His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief Viscount Gort, VC made the formal presentation of the George Cross to the people of Malta in Palace Square this morning. The simple and dignified ceremony began with a guard of honour of the Royal Malta Artillery who marched down Kingsway and into the Square, accompanied by the band of the King’s Own Malta Regiment.
At 9.15 am, a wooden display case holding the Cross was carried out of the Palace by Police Commissioner Joseph Axisa and handed to Viscount Gort, who addressed the assembled company:
“On my appointment as Governor of Malta, I was entrusted to carry the George Cross to this Island fortress. By the command of the King, I now present to the People of Malta and her Dependencies the decoration which His Majesty has awarded to them in recognition of the gallant service which they have already rendered in the fight for freedom.
How you have withstood for many months the most concentrated bombing attacks in the history of the world is the admiration of all civilised peoples. Your homes and your historic buildings have been destroyed and only their ruins remain as monuments to the hate of a barbarous foe. The Axis Powers have tried again and again to break your spirit but your confidence in the final triumph of the United Nations remains undimmed.
What Malta has withstood in the past, without flinching, Malta is determined to endure until the day when the second siege is raised. Battle-scarred George Cross Malta, the sentinel of Empire in the Meditteranean, meanwhile stands firm, undaunted and undismayed, awaiting the time when she can call ‘Pass friend, all is well in the Island Fortress.”
Finishing with a reading of the original citation, Viscount Gort formally presented the George Cross to His Honour Sir George Borg Kt, who received it on behalf of the people of Malta and its Dependencies. He then gave a brief address thanking His Majesty and the Governor for the recognition and appreciation of the people of Malta.
The ceremony was attended by the commanding officers of the Army, Navy and Air Forces in Malta, with special places reserved for the captains and officers of the valiant Santa Marija convoy. 1st Coast Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery provided the Guard of Honour. Squeezed between piles of neatly piled debris from bomb damaged buildings, detachments from all three armed services lined the Square, alongside the Island’s Police, Special Constabulary and Passive Defence Organisations.
AIR RAIDS DAWN 13 SEPTEMBER TO DAWN 14 SEPTEMBER 1942
Weather Fine; visibility 10-15 miles.
0800-0840 hrs Five Spitfires 185 Squadron Hal Far are airborne to intercept reported enemy raiders but they do not materialise. In the course of practice flying Sgt Swain goes into a spin from 3000 feet and crashes in a field near Luqa. He is killed and the aircraft destroyed.
0910-1025 hrs Five Spitfires 249 Squadron Ta Qali on patrol sight two ME 109s but lose them in the cloud. Two Macchi 202s are then seen flying at great speed. No combats.
0156-0219 hrs Air raid alert. Three enemy bombers approach but only one crosses the coast, dropping bombs on the area of Ta Qali. Heavy Ack Ack engage. Malta’s night fighter is airborne: no engagement.
Military casualties Flight Sergeant Lawrence Swain, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 185 Squadron.
Civilian casualties Nil.
OPERATIONS REPORTS SUNDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 1942
ROYAL NAVY P34 and P42 returned from patrol and were swept in the Hythe. P35 returned to harbour with engine defect.
AIR HQ 17 Spitfires carried out an offensive reconnaissance over Sicily. Enemy aircraft sighted but no combat. 0245-0440 hrs One Beaufighter on intruder patrol over Sicily. Arrivals Two Hudsons, one Beaufort from Gibraltar; two Wellingtons from LG 224. Departures One Hudson to Gibraltar. Aircraft casualties One Spitfire stalled and crashed: pilot killed.
HAL FAR 1105-1210 hrs Five Spitfires were airborne on a sweep over South East Sicily: no enemy aircraft sighted.
TA QALI 0720-0830 hrs Seven Spitfires 229 Squadron (one returned early) on reconnaissance patrol over the Sicilian coast. They encountered heavy Ack Ack fire but ¼ mile behind aircraft. Enemy aircraft not sighted. 1845-1935 hrs One Spitfire 249 Squadron and one of 229 Squadron on shipping search: no sightings.
1st Bn KING’S OWN MALTA REGIMENT The following letter of appreciation was received: “I am directed by the GOC to convey to you His Excellency’s congratulations on the smartness of the guard provided by the 1st Bn King’s Own Malta Regiment. The GOC wishes to add his own congratulations and I am to request that you will make this known to the Commander, 1st Bn The King’s Own Malta Regiment and the NCOs and men who formed the guard.”
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