Monthly Archives: November 2016

Remembrance Day 2016

In memory of:

Naval Airman 1st Class Kenneth Admiral Brown, Royal Navy
Died, 22 April 1940

Acting Sub-Lieutenant (Air Branch) Arthur Stephen Griffith, Royal Navy
Killed in action, 18 January 1941

Leading Airman Alfred Samuel Rush, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Sub-Lieutenant (Air Branch) Philip Donald Julian Sparke DSC**, Royal Navy
Killed in action, 11 May 1941

Twice a year I specifically write a story about Remembrance—for Memorial Day here in the United States and for Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. A few days ago, I saw seemingly unconnected lines of research come together that led me to a story of wartime gallantry and sacrifice 75 years ago. I was researching a group of Royal Signals soldiers awarded a King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct when I noticed an award to a Maltese Sapper, who had rescued an airman from the sea. Curious (I grew up in Malta), I searched for his story and, in doing so, identified the man that he rescued, his link with three other airmen who died in 1940 and 1941, and discovered a related painting by the renowned Maltese artist Edwin Galea, the father of one of my childhood friends. The story that pulls together these threads is worth telling on this Remembrance Day.

HMS Illustrious at Malta 1941 by Edwin Galea

HMS Illustrious at Malta 1941 by Edwin Galea

The tiny island of Malta in the central Mediterranean had a strategic importance out of all proportion to its size during the early years of the Second World War. Bombing of the island began immediately after Mussolini’s declaration of war on 10 June 1940 and, besieged by Axis forces in Sicily, the island suffered a gruelling fight for survival that lasted until November 1942. Continue reading