A flower for a foreign soul

If only a merciful hand would place a flower on our son’s grave! This was the prevailing wish of mourning parents who not only had to deal with the loss of their sons during World War 1 but also with the knowledge that they were buried in foreign countries where they died. The four-year conflict claimed the lives of some 11,000,000 soldiers and 8,000,000 civilians.

Heritage Malta has joined several other people around the world who have commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of 11 November 1918 which saw the end of WW1.

On Sunday, 11 November, Heritage Malta in collaboration with 1st Hamrun Scout Group commemorated this anniversary with the playing of bugles of the Battle’s Over and the Last Post at Villa Bighi in Kalkara. During the evening, Villa Bighi and Fort St Elmo were lit in red lighting to represent the Beacon of Light which signifies the light of peace that emerged from the darkness of four years of war.

On Monday, 12 November, Heritage Malta in collaboration with the Ministry for Education and Employment, the Commonwealth War Grave Commission, the Royal British Legion (Malta G.C. Branch), and the Royal Naval Association (Malta G.C. Branch) paid tribute to the victims of WWI during an event held at Pietà Military Cemetery.

Form 4 students studying History at St Ignatius College in Ħandaq, St Ġorġ Preca College in Ħamrun, and St Tereża College in Imrieħel, participated in this commemoration. Three students read a poem, a letter written during WW1, and a literary source.

Charles Debono, Heritage Malta Curator of the National War Museum discussed Malta’s role during WW1 where the islands were turned into a huge infirmary; with 25,000 beds in 27 hospitals and convalescence camps spread across both islands. These employed a 3,300-strong medical team, and hosted no less than 125,000 wounded soldiers.

Besides, some 20,000 locals joined the British forces on the battlefield, while over 16,000 dockyard and port workers serviced the vessels of the Allies engaged in the conflict. Around 2,340 prisoners of war were also kept in Malta.

Mark Fitzgerald, representing the Commonwealth War Grave Commission, spoke about the role of this Commission for the care and upkeep of a number of cemeteries.

Peter Robinson MBE, Chairman of the Royal British Legion (Malta G.C. Branch) pointed out the role of this group which aims to create awareness about the consequences of war.

The event came to an end with the playing of the Last Post by Maestro Joseph Chircop and with the placing of wreaths on the cemetery’s war memorial.

Attending students were then accompanied to a guided visit of the WW1 graves at the Pietà Military Cemetery.

 

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