Vittoriosa Dom Mintoff Freedom Day
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End of an era: The moment the British forces left Malta

Description

Malta, once Britain’s most important air and naval base in the Mediterranean, began a new era in its history on 31 March 1979.

The Union Jack was lowered for the final time and was replaced by the Maltese flag as Malta’s Defence Treaty with the UK came to an end.

The last British forces left the island the next morning, and Malta waved farewell to the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the British Army.

In this archive footage, Prime Minister Dom Mintoff is seen climbing the Freedom Monument with a burning torch and lighting an eternal flame.

The monument, designed by sculptor Antonio Agius, still stands next to the waterfront in Vittoriosa.

Positioned on top of the mound are four life-size statues representing a British sailor shaking hands with a Maltese worker, another man hoisting the Maltese flag and a bugler.

These roles were played out in the actual ceremony in 1979 by leading radio operator David Gilchrist of HMS London, Alfred Xuereb from Cospicua, Carmel Boxall from Vittoriosa and PC Richard Cauchi from Hamrun.

The British forces left the island the next morning, and Malta waved farewell to the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the British Army.

Freedom Day is now a national holiday in Malta and Gozo, celebrated annually on 31 March.

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