“We give thee thanks almighty God…”
This was the simple prayer of all those who stood at the foot of the unbeaten bastions, on the ramparts of the dauntless Fort St. Elmo, on the dry shores of the Grand Harbour and on the bare roof tops of the shattered homes in Valletta and the Three Cities as they emotionally greeted the convoy ships sailing in the harbour in that month of August 1942.
Minister, colleagues, distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and honour for me, as Mayor of Valletta, and on behalf of my colleague councillors and all the people of
, to welcome you to
on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of Operation Pedestal.
May I point out from the start that
’s gratitude and indebtedness to you and all your colleagues are infinite.
The passage of time will never strike off our memory of this glorious event, for your suffering was our suffering and your hopes were our hopes, and, guided by the noble virtues of courage, perseverance and fortitude, to quote Winston Churchill, “the strength of
I am not a witness to the siege, of course my age gives me away. I have never felt the suffering of hunger, the yelling of sirens, the blasts of bombs and the fear of dying out at sea away from my family.
These must have been your thoughts and feelings as they must have been of all those who experienced those bitter moments of distress.
It appeared that this was the beginning of the end for
Yet I am human, so allow me to share with you my grief for all those who died at sea, or on land to give Me and many others the meaning of life.
We stand here today at the St. James Cavalier, the former NAAFI as all of you know it, in remembrance of one of
’s most difficult yet glorious moments - a turning point in our history.
We stand here today, to give homage to those who gave their lives for others and to honour you, the survivors, of Operation Pedestal for the outstanding noble virtues you have shown throughout your service.
During this operation, the
, alone, was singled out, ferociously attacked by the enemy. She was torpedoed and holed, fire broke out, her boilers blew up and her engines failed. She was twice abandoned and twice reboarded. Repeated attempts to tow failed, but the tanker did not sink.
, with the help of all the other vessels in the operation shaped the fate of
The ships’ resistance was equalled by the power of the seamen who, with no time for food or rest, manned the crippled ships to port.
For everybody, then, it was felt that this was the beginning of the end, of war this time.
War is not a means of showing people how to get what they want. World War II was a terrible experience by means of which enough men, women and children, it is hoped, have learnt to want what is worth having and cherishing.
This is what we are here for today; to celebrate the beauty of life, the significance of peace and the consequence of solidarity.
The effect of war has led Europe to engage itself in the guarantee of freedom to its people and peace to its nations;
Europe’s strength lies within its unity;
to share with your ally, your former enemy;
to work in a country previously refusing your entry;
to invest in a country previously depriving you of your savings;
to live freely in a country which previously imprisoned you.
You, and many others hit the world news and led the way to freedom. The London Calling, the Life magazine, the Time magazine. It was quoted by these publications that “Never before in history have human beings endured or survived such attack.” And that “No spot in the wide world has taken such sustained and savage bombing.”
Standing battered and bloody, Operation Pedestal and Malta made a great history and paved the way to victory over the forces of the Third Reich.
It is for these reasons that the Valletta City Local Government has agreed to confer, for the first time, the title of HONORARY CITIZEN OF VALLETTA to you present and to others in absentia.
CONFERMENT OF TITLE
“Known by all men, the historical importance of operation pedestal, one of the leading events of World War II, a turning point in the Defence of Malta and the survival of its people;
Grateful of the enduring participation of those who, bestowed with the virtues of courage, fortitude and perseverance, put their life at risk to serve others;
And in the memory of many more who, endowed with the same virtues, lost their life in the cause of peace;
Therefore by resolution of the 29th May 2002 the Valletta Local Council herby bestows upon you all, participants of Operation Pedestal, the tile of Honorary Citizen of Valletta for the life long virtues of courage, fortitude and perseverance shown during Operation Pedestal in August 1942.”
Signed, today, the 25th day of September 2002, Paul Borg Olivier, Mayor of Valletta and Simon Cauchi, Executive Secretary.
The handkerchiefs, brought out to express unbound joy, were used to wipe the tears.
Allow me to great you, today, in the same way, we would have done had we, then, been on the shores of Valletta.