During the Second World War, the small island of Malta proved to be of vital strategic importance for the Allies. From there British sea and air forces based on the island could attack Axis forces almost anywhere around the Mediterranean. Knowing this, Axis forces besieged Malta and for two years attempted to bomb or starve her people into submission.
The people of Malta endured incredible hardship during that time. At the height of the siege food, fuel and ammunition were all in short supply. At one point, ammunition was so low that anti-aircraft guns could only fire a few rounds each day. The people of Malta came to the brink of starvation. The island is considered to be the most heavily bombed place of the Second World War.
Recognising their bravery and sacrifice, on 15 April 1942 King George VI awarded the George Cross to the people of Malta. Considered the highest award for bravery available to civilians, the George Cross was awarded to Malta to "bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history."
This would be the first of only two times that the George Cross would be awarded to a group, rather than an individual. Today, the flag of Malta recognises that award with the display of the George Cross in its top hoist corner.
Watch last year's service:
Reviewed 02 August 2021