Wednesday 9 May 2012

Gallant Malta Commemorates Its George Cross.

On 14 April 2012, the Maltese Post Office issued a miniature sheet to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the award of the George Cross to the island of Malta "to bear witness to the heroism and devotion of its people" during the terrible German assault on the island during the Second World War. German and Italian aircraft launched continuous air-raids against the island during the period of the siege of Malta and the brave people suffered greatly and starved as Axis forces attacked convoys of Allied ships attempting to bring food supplies to the island. In honour of the peoples' bravery, King George VI made the award of the highest civilian honour to the island on 15 April 1942. Subsequently the distinction was marked by placing a representation of the medal in the canton of the island's national flag. The award is depicted on the 68c value of the definitive series which was issued on 29 December 2009 (above) and the 70th anniversary issue depicts a photograph taken at the presentation ceremony in 1942 (below).
Over the years Malta has made a number of stamp issues which commemorate the great honour. The first special issue to commemorate the award of the George Cross to the island was released on 15 April 1957, the fifteenth anniversary, and was designed by the great Maltese stamp designer, Chevalier EV Cremona. The set comprised three values:- 1-1/2d, 3d and 1/-. The stamps are in typical Cremona style and are typical of what was really a golden age of Maltese stamps.
Earlier, the 3d value of the 1953-57 definitive series had featured the letter from King George VI to the Governor of Malta which accompanied the award of the medal.
On 15 April 1958, the sixteenth anniversary of the award was commemorated by another set of three stamps again beautifully designed by Chevalier Cremona. The designs dramatically portrayed the siege with a convoy of ships being attacked appearing on the 3d value and searchlights lighting up the skies being depicted on the other two values.
The following year a further set of 3 stamps was issued on 15 April 1959 to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the award of the honour and was again designed by Chevalier Cremona.
Although no George Medal stamp issue was made in 1960, a fourth set designed by Chevalier Cremona was released on 15 April 1961.
Strangely the opportunity to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the award of the medal was missed in 1962 and no further issue was made on the subject until 1 March 1967 when the award's 25th anniversary was commemorated by the last stamps on this theme to be designed by Chevalier Cremona. In these the award is the central point of three interestingly shaped stamps.
The 50th anniversary of the award of the George Medal was commemorated on 15 April 1992 by three stamps designed by Harry Borg. These are certainly not up to the standard of those designed by EV Cremona but the medal featured prominently on each value. No issue was made in 2002 on the 60th anniversary of the award of the honour.
The issue of 1957 had not been the first to feature the George Cross. The medal made its first appearance appropriately on the two Victory stamps which were issued on 3 December 1946, next to the country name at the top of the stamp (a Maltese cross appears at the other end of the inscription).
The medal similarly appeared on the stamps issued on 4 January 1949 to commemorate the royal silver wedding anniversary and on the 4 stamps released on 10 October 1949 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Postal Union.
Finally, the three delightful stamps issued on 1 December 1950 to commemorate the visit of Princess Elizabeth also bore a depiction of the George Medal at the lower right of the stamp.
The valiant people of Malta endured immeasurable loss and suffering as a result of the vicious, prolonged assault on their island home and fully deserved the recognition they received from their king in the form of the award of the George Cross. The issue of this miniature sheet in 2012 is one stamp issue that is fully justified and not to be missed.

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