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Last Commander British Forces Malta dies aged 91

Rear Admiral Nigel Cecil saying goodbye to well-wishers in Kalkara on the day the last British forces left Malta on March 31, 1979. Photo: Frankie Attard

Rear Admiral Nigel Cecil saying goodbye to well-wishers in Kalkara on the day the last British forces left Malta on March 31, 1979. Photo: Frankie Attard

Rear Admiral Sir Nigel Cecil, the last Commander British Forces Malta, died on March 10, a week after being admitted to hospital in England with double pneumonia. He was 91.

Admiral Cecil, who left Malta on board HMS London following the closure of the British military base on March 31, 1979, retained a strong life-long affection for Malta and its people and visited the island regularly.

He owned a flat in Gozo for a number of years and he even named his Siamese cat ‘Lascaris’. In 2005 he celebrated his 80th birthday in Malta at Villa Bologna in Attard.

Admiral Cecil, known as ‘Os’ to his friends,  served in Malta from 1975 to 1979 and from 1975 to 1977 he was also Nato Commander South Eastern Mediterranean.

He had the awkward task of dealing with Prime Minister Dom Mintoff at a difficult time in Anglo-Maltese relations, but he is said to have established a positive working relationship with the then Maltese leader.

We will always remember the goodwill shown to the British Forces in those days

When Mr Mintoff died in 2012, Admiral Cecil issued the following statement through the British High Commission:

“I, the last Commander British Forces in Malta wish to pay my personal last respects to Mr Dom Mintoff, with whom I always enjoyed a good personal relationship during a politically very complicated last few years leading up to the final departure of the British Forces from Malta in 1979.

“We will always remember the goodwill shown to the British Forces in those days from the President, through so many of the people of Malta. All these factors made the final departure so much easier and all of us involved at the time are ever grateful.”

Rear Admiral Nigel Cecil in Malta in 1979, with Fort St Angelo in the background.Rear Admiral Nigel Cecil in Malta in 1979, with Fort St Angelo in the background.

Admiral Cecil’s first visit to Malta was as a one-year-old in 1926 as his father was stationed here in the Royal Navy. He and his wife then lived in Malta, at Villa Bologna, from 1961 to 1963 as he was stationed in the Mediterranean.

He had a long and distinguished career in the Royal Navy from 1943 until 1979 and saw action in WW2. He repeatedly served on the highly dangerous Russian Convoys, for which he received an Arctic Star medal in 2014, and was at D-Day and the Normandy operations in 1944.

From 1961 to 1963 he commanded a guided missile destroyer, from 1971 to 1973 he was the British Naval Attaché in Cape Town, South Africa and he was Naval ADC to the Queen in 1975. Shortly after he left Malta, Admiral Cecil was knighted and he then went on to serve as Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle of Man from 1980 to 1985.

After that he lived for nearly 30 years on The Isle of Wight before returning to England.

A Service of Thanksgiving for Admiral Cecil will be held on Wednesday, March 22 at 11am at Wonston Church, near Winchester, England.

He is survived by his wife Annette and his son Robert.

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