Commemoration of the award of the George Cross to the Maltese nation (Photo by Fiona Vella)

Malta During World War II


  • Population in Malta and Gozo at the beginning of the War : 270,000

  • Air Raids registered throughout the war over Malta: 3,340 totalling 2357 hours

  • 15,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the Maltese islands

  • 1,581 Civilians killed – 3780 injured – Military and Merchant marine: 7,500

  • 10,761 buildings destroyed especially in the towns around the Grand Harbour and the military airfield.


Significant Dates for Malta during World War II


3rd September 1939 Britain and France declare war on Germany following The latter’s invasion of Poland on September 1.


June 10, 1940 Mussolini declares war against the Allies.


June 11, 1940 First Air Raid on Malta launched from Sicily - six soldiers die at Fort St. Elmo.


16th January, 1941 Blitz on Grand Harbour in order to destroy HMS. Illustrious. This was the first Luftwaffe attack.


March 3, 1941 Conscription of all men aged 16 – 56.


July 26, 1941 Italian E boats attack on Grand Harbour fails to penetrate the iron net protection at the Breakwater.


April 15, 1942 Citation by George VI bestowing the people of Malta with the George Cross Medal.


August 15, 1942 What was left of the Operation Pedestal Convoy (Santa Marija Convoy) reached Grand Harbour, thus saving Malta from certain starvation or surrender.


September 13, 1942 George Cross Presentation Ceremony in St. George’ Square (Palace Square) is held.


September 8, 1943 Italy surrenders to the Allies. Italian Navy anchored at St. Paul’s Bay, Malta.


June 9, 1943 Allies launch Invasion of Sicily known as ‘Operation Husky’ from Tunis and Malta.


August 1944 Last Air Raid on Malta


1945 Terms of surrender with Germany on April 29 and with Japan on August 14 bring an end to World War II




The George Cross (GC) is the highest civil decoration of the United Kingdom, and also holds, or has held, that status in many of the other countries of the Commonwealth of Nations.[1] ]

The GC is the civilian counterpart of the Victoria Cross (VC) and the highest gallantry award for civilians as well as for military personnel in actions which are not in the face of the enemy or for which purely military honours would not normally be granted.

The George Cross medal which was awarded to the people of Malta on April 15 (it was actually presented by Lord Gort, who was then governor of Malta, to Sir George Borg, Chief Justice, on behalf of the Maltese people on September 13.

Following the end of the Second World War, the George Cross medal was integrated into the Maltese flag.

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’.

The above citation was issued by King George VI on April 15, 1942 to honour the people of Malta, who, at the time, were enduring incessant bombing raids carried out by the Axis powers. The actual presentation of the George Cross Medal was held in September 13, 1942, by Lord Viscount Gort, VC, then Governor and Commander-In-Chief in Malta to Chief Justice Sir George Borg, who received the Award on behalf of the Maltese nation. On the express wish of King George VI this award was incorporated soon after into Malta’s national flag.

The George Cross first appeared (on 28th December 1943) on a blue canton and this was the design until independence on 21st September 1964, when the arms and flag were changed again.
This time the blue canton was removed and substituted by a narrow fimbriation or fringe of red.

Il-George Cross u Malta fi zmien it-Tieni Gwerra Dinjija.

Il-15 ta' April ifisser kommemorazzjoni ta' 3,343 raid mill-ajru, 2,357 siegħa taħt l-attakk, 15,000 tunnellata ta' bombi, 10,761 binja mġarrfa, u 9,000 vittma bejn mejta u midruba ... dawn huma ftit miċ-ċifri li jixhdu t-tbatija li kellu jġarrab il-poplu Malti matul it-Tieni Gwerra Dinija, hekk kif bejn l-1941 u l-1942 Malta ġiet ibbumbardjata aktar milli ġiet ibbumbardjata Londra, li hi seba' darbiet akbar minn Malta, matul il-Gwerra kollha.

Iżda minkejja dan kollu, l-Maltin ma ċedewx, u rnexxielhom joħorġu rebbieħa. Għall-qlubija li wera tul il-Gwerra, l-ġens Malti kien ġie ppremjat bil-George Cross.