Paul Calleja and Charles Xuereb (November 1) have rightly qualified the award of the George Cross to Malta in April 1942, later incorporated in the Maltese flag under British influence.

Some 9,000 Maltese died during the Great Siege of 1565 by the Turks. The fighting was vicious and the victory hard earned with the assistance of the Viceroy of Sicily, Don Garcia de Toledo and the ‘great help’ or Gran Soccorso.

Yet, our forebears never dreamed of adding the eight-pointed cross of the Order of St John to their red and white flag or standard. Besides, the Grand Masters may not even have allowed it. So, the Maltese flag remained plain red and white in vertical bands.

There is a probable myth that this red and white Maltese standard or flag owed its origin to the Norman Count Roger de Hauteville in 1091 or to his son King Roger II in 1127.

A more probable origin is Aragonese, around 1427, when the King of Sicily granted colours to the chief communes or Università (governing councils) of this island: say, yellow and red stripes for the flag of Palermo, two other colours, possibly blue and white stripes for Catania, another two colours for Messina, and red and white for Malta.

This is the traditional simple Maltese flag. It was flown by the Maltese insurgents against the French in 1798-1800 outside the walls of Valletta and Cottonera.

Until 1942, Malta’s flag was a simple white and red. The addition of the George Cross is, in my view, an artistic intrusion and aberration, lying as it does in a top left corner of our ancient flag.

What I say above is not meant to demean in any way the important contribution to freedom and democracy which the British government and people made in the crucial years of World War II. They lost thousands of young men fighting to save Malta and to bring about a turnaround in North Africa. But this is beside the point.

A simple two-coloured flag, with no additions, is aesthetically more acceptable and would reinforce our ancient nationhood.

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