By James Davis
In May 1942, during a heavy raid by the German Luftwaffe, Lord Gort VC arrived in Malta to take over governorship of the Island from Lieutenant General Sir William Dobbie. With him, he brought over a prestigious medal – The George Cross!
There was no time for pleasantries and Sir Dobbie left on the same plane that brought Gort to Malta. Years later, Dobbie remarked that it was sad that he did not see the medal which was earned under his watch as governor.
The presentation of this medal was made in a public performance some months later in September of the same year and the medal toured every town and village so that the entire population could see the honour that their King, King George VI had bestowed on them.
‘To honour her brave people, I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.”
The letter was signed ‘George R.I”
The George Cross is, a British civilian and military decoration, only second in ranking to the Victoria Cross, Great Britain’s highest award ‘for valour in the face of the enemy’ The decoration was instituted in 1940 by the King George VI himself for “acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger”.
But why did the King award the George Cross to Malta, which out of 410 or so investitures is the only one to a nation?
Leopold Stennett Amery who was the secretary of state for India had suggested to His Majesty that tiny Malta had unlike other countries who received the onslaught of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy remained stoic. Their heroic defence of the island and the resilient manner which the Maltese people continued with their way of life in the face of such undaunting odds had brought the attention of the world upon them. The King agreed and bestowed the honour that to this day is still proudly emblazoned on the Maltese national flag.
In his farewell speech, on the 8th May, Dobbie said,
“I consider that the People of Malta have rightly earned the admiration of the whole world, an admiration crystallised by the award of the George Cross to the Island.”