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George Cross awarded to the island of Malta

Malta is also known as the George Cross Island, holding the distinction of being the only entire population to receive the bravery award. This year marks 75 years since the end of the Siege of Malta which led to the honour.

King George VI recognised the people's gallantry in the face of severe food shortages and under some of the heaviest bombardment of the Second World War and bestowed the highest civilian honour upon the nation in April 1942.

George Cross awarded to the island of MaltaThe headline of the Times of Malta as it records the award of the George Cross to the island of Malta in May 1942. (UK Crown Copyright / MOD. Courtesy of Air Historical Branch, RAF)

The population and their defenders had endured a level of attack which even surpassed that of London during the Blitz. It held the unwanted record of surviving the heaviest sustained bombing attack which saw 6,700 tonnes of bombs dropped during 154 days.

In awarding the nation the honour he had created, King George V's citation read: 'To honour her 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'.

In receiving the award the island's governor, Lieutenant-General Sir William Dobbie said: "By God's help Malta will endure until victory is won."

Malta was a target for the combined German and Italian forces because it stands at the gateway to North Africa. As a result almost daily combing raids ensued in the Siege of Malta, which lasted for two and a half years. The enemy planned on bombing and starving Malta into submission – what they had not planned on, was the dogged determination of its people.

Visit The Siege of Malta homepage

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