Ladies and Gentlemen,
May I start by thanking the organizers of this Commemorative Event, for organizing it in the first place, and also for asking me to have the honour and the pleasure to unveil this small but significant monument.
During the Second World War, Malta played a most significant role in events that were taking place in the Mediterranean. A British colony sitting right in the middle between Nazi Occupied Europe and Fascist Italy, on the North, and heavily fought for territories in North Africa to the south of us, which became the battle grounds of Rommel and Montgomery.
Malta’s role as a British Naval Base, has been covered in innumerable accounts and books. The Naval defence forces used Malta’s strategic location to disrupt enemy plans and actions. Concurrently enemy forces were concentrated and spurred on by the overriding need to paralyse Malta’s defence forces in the air, on the sea, as well as in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea.
This defence of Malta as a base, and the security of the Maltese population during the war, came at a cost; a huge cost, both in material losses, as well, and even more importantly, in human lives.
Enemy action and the persistent bombings brought with them the deaths of thousands of persons. They brought with them sufferings and deprivations beyond belief, which people bore with determination, and hope for months and years on end.
It is a known fact that by far the large majority of servicemen who fought to keep us safe, and who risked their lives, day in day out to keep the enemy at bay, were foreigners, mostly British.
Ironically we still celebrate with pomp the arrival in our harbours of a limping ship or two, which were instrumental to keep Malta’s resistance going during the war, but we definitely do not commemorate with equal manifestations the loss of so many who we know drowned with their ships while accompanying that particular convoy to its destination.
The numbers are huge and unfortunately these numbers are hardly ever backed by names and faces.
In today’s commemoration of the loss of the HMS Submarine Urge on the 27th April 1942, we are doing something different. We have come to know where the submarine, which was lost almost eighty years ago, lies. We also know the names of all those brave young men who lie in this watery grave.
We can somehow visualize them.
It is more than fitting, that we commemorate these brave warriors. We owe it to them.
When the HMS Urge was lost with its valiant crew, I was just 3 days old.
On the 24th of April my mother gave birth to me in the cellar of my grandmother’s house where there was the entrance for an underground shelter, hewn in live rock intended to give protection to our extended family during air raids.
The irony of it all, is that whereas mothers were bringing children into the world, new life; healthy, young adults in their prime of life were putting their own lives at stake to defend the population and the country from suffering the vicissitudes of an invasion or occupation by forces inimical to democracy and bent on dictatorship.
On behalf of the People of Malta, I take this opportunity to extend my sincere condolences to the families of the servicemen lost in HMS Urge. Their father, husband, son on duty, underwent the extreme sacrifice to fulfil their oaths of allegiance to the military and naval responsibilities they subscribed to on joining the service.
I can understand the pain that came with the loss of each and every person on that submarine. I can only imagine what it means growing up without a father, with a son missing in action, being widowed after one year of marriage, but I honestly cannot say what it must have actually meant to the bereaving relatives.
I can also imagine the pain of not knowing where the earthly remains of these valiant men were.
This commemoration is in itself part of a much needed closure.
We now know where they lie.
As a country, whose defence these brave young men were determined to uphold, we think it more than fit and proper that we set up this memorial for their memory not to be forgotten.
We salute their memory, and through them also the memory of the many others that lie in their as yet unmarked watery graves, somewhere on the bottom of the sea, where they gave their lives so that we could live.
May they all rest in eternal peace.