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To honour the brave people

Maltese and tourists travelled back in time to witness a glorious moment in history - when the nation was awarded the George Cross medal during World War II in 1942 - through a one-off re-enactment of the ceremony. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

Maltese and tourists travelled back in time to witness a glorious moment in history - when the nation was awarded the George Cross medal during World War II in 1942 - through a one-off re-enactment of the ceremony. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli.

The words of King George VI resounded in St George's Square, Valletta, announcing the award of the George Cross medal to the nation.

"To honour the 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," King George VI's citation read.

The crowd listened on - probably as it did 66 years ago...

The scene was only yesterday - not 1942 - but the Malta Tourism Authority, with the assistance of historians and experts, recreated an event that transported spectators back in time. Some had even been present in the height of World War II, when the actual ceremony took place.

Authentic details included the original toga that was worn by the Chief Justice of the time, George Borg, loaned by the family for yesterday's one-off commemorative and symbolic re-enactment that depicted one of the most memorable and triumphant moments in wartime Malta.

Re-enactors set the stage, playing the role of the Chief Justice, the highest authority in the land, receiving the medal from Governor Gort. The George Cross is the highest British honour that can be awarded to civilians for acts of bravery and Malta is the only country to have ever received it as a nation in recognition of the stoicism, true grit and will of the Maltese, who were instrumental in helping the country pull through a horrific, incessant blitz.

The handing over of the medal had actually taken place several months later on September 13. The re-enactment involved some 300 participants, including the Armed Forces of Malta and the Malta Police Force bands, the Association of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides and the St John's Ambulance - which had been present on the day. Wartime costumes were obtained, with the police wearing uniforms from their museum, while wartime RAF uniforms were loaned from the Malta Aviation Museum.

Even the VIPs of the time were present, including then Archbishop Dom Maurus Caruana, Bishop Michael Gonzi and Air Vice Marshall Keith Park, among other dignitaries.

Air-raid warnings rang out and the sound of aircraft flying overhead could be heard in the square as a narration of the events, based on a script by George Peresso, echoed in Maltese and English to put the audience into the picture.

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