Churchill visited Malta on several occasions throughout his life, though it was during the Second World War that the islands received his most focused attention. The Malta trophy was later given to Churchill as a gift and remains a symbol of the close relationship built between the people of Malta and Churchill himself.
Churchill, Malta and the Second World War
The effects of the Second World War on Britain are well known; the blitz and rationing are just two things that will spring to mind. The impact this war had on the small island of Malta is less recognised though.
The central Mediterranean location of the island put it in a strategic military position. The allies used it as a key stronghold to sustain their North African campaign from and would eventually launch their attack on mainland Italy from here.
Such a strong ally territory was not safe from harm and indeed difficult to defend. Some of the most severe bombardments of the war occurred here; even the blitz did not compare to the destruction of Malta. The entire population would later be awarded the George Cross, Britain’s highest civilian honour for bravery, in recognition of their determined will and courageous spirt.
Churchill’s determination to defend Malta was clear for all to see. His doctor would later write after the war: “The plight of Malta had become an obsession with him.”
" the Navy will never abandon Malta"
Churchill kept true to his word, ensuring every effort was made to protect the island and people of Malta. Both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy were sent to defend Malta and keep it supplied.
In 1942, when he had seen for himself the widespread destruction in Malta’s towns and villages, it was he who asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer for generous funds for reconstruction, saying that “the case of Malta is unique and an account of its superb exertions is shattering”.
Receipt of the Malta trophy
In 1946 Edward Ceravolo, a Maltese citizen asked permission to present Churchill with a piece of Maltese silver as he considered Churchill to be ‘the saviour of the world from slavery and paganism’. Churchill responded immediately, saying he would be honoured to accept the gift.
The piece displays the arms of Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette. Valette, at age 71, led the resistance of the Knights of St.John and the people of Malta against the Turkish armies of Suleiman the Magnificent in the Great Siege of 1565.
Cervalo presented the trophy to Churchill in his room at the House of Commons on 24 July 1946 saying it was 'a token of his admiration of Mr. Churchill’s leadership of the British nation during the war'. Clementine, his wife, received a bouquet of red and white roses.
" It is really lovely. I shall keep this in my home and treasure it as a memorial to Malta's great heroism"
Churchill was touched by the gift and even arranged for a signed photograph of himself, with a box of his ‘Churchill’ cigars to be sent to Ceravolo. Churchill wrote in his letter:
'Dear Mr. Ceravolo
I am sending you herewith a photograph which I have signed, and some cigars, as a small measure of recognition of your kindness in presenting me with the beautiful Maltese shield. This, which now hangs in my study here, is a continual source of pleasure to me, and the care and craftsmanship which produced it have my warm admiration. It will also be a perpetual reminder of Malta’s gallantry during the war.
Winston s. Churchill'
The Malta trophy can be seen hanging on the wall in Churchill’s study and is a constant, valuable and irreplaceable reminder of the close bond that was forged between Winston Churchill and the people of Malta.
With your help, we can ensure that this trophy is kept in his home and treasured as a memorial to Malta's great heroism.