8 SEPTEMBER 2020
Victory Day is a national holiday celebrated annually on the 8th of September. On this day, we commemorate two of Malta’s greatest victories: The Great Siege, which ended in 1565 and the Second World War which ended for Malta in 1943.
This national holiday marks the end of two of Malta’s greatest sieges. On this day, we are remined of our ancestor’s resolve and patriotism, who sacrificed their lives during these historical battles.
The first victory occurred in 1565, after the Sicilian fleet helped Malta and the Knights of St. John to overcome the Ottoman Invasion. The Ottomans first besieged Gozo in 1551, taking its entire population into slavery and captivity. After a three month war, the Turks also managed to capture Vittoriosa and Senglea in June of 1565. Having lost their commander Dragut Reis in an accident, as well as most of their troop to the war and diseases, the Ottoman attacks ceased on the 8th of September after being scared by a bluff-defence from Mdina. This event is one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the world and is now referred to as The Great Siege of Malta.
The other victory commemorated on Victory Day marks the ending of World War II for Malta in 1943. Since Malta was located at a strategically significant vantage point for the British Army, the Italian and German forces were desperately trying to take control of the island for themselves. Malta served as a base where British forces could attack passing supply Axis ships and reinforcements. In turn, the Axis (Rome-Berlin-Tokyo) bombed and starved Malta for two consecutive years, making the island one of the most heavily bombed areas during the Second World War, thereafter referred as The Siege of Malta. Things took a turn for the better when a badly damaged convoy miraculously made its way to Maltese shores on the 15th of August.
The convoy was appropriately named as The Santa Marija Convoy, since it arrived on Maltese shores the day the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is celebrated. This event brought hope to Malta, motivating and helping the population and the stationed British Force to survive starvation. After two long years of bombardment, starvation and death, Malta emerged victorious on the 8th of September 1943, after the Italian navy surrendered its attack. This effectively ended the war in Malta, coincidently on the same day The Great Siege ended in 1565. As a commemoration of Malta’s bravery during the War, the country and its people were given the George Cross by King George VI, which was then incorporated to the National flag
Great Siege Monument, Valletta
COMMEMORATING VICTORY DAY
On the 8th of September of each year, Malta gathers as a nation in order to remember the bravery and resilience of its forefathers.
The commemorations start two days prior with an event held during the evening in front of the Great Siege Monument in Valletta. This event’s focus is the annual
speech by a distinguished person from our society. The first speech in this regard, dates to 1927, which was delivered by the Maltese National Poet Dun Karm Psaila. This speech was delivered by other dignitaries throughout the years, amongst them three Presidents of the Republic of Malta namely Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici in 1966; Dr Anton Buttigieg in 1972 and Dr Vincent Tabone in 1995.
Furthermore, as part of Victory Day celebrations a Pontifical Mass is held on the 7th day of September. This mass is held by roster in one of the localities where the Feast of Our Lady of Victories is held simultaneously in the Maltese islands. Such localities are Mellieha, Senglea, Naxxxar and Xagħra Gozo. This year’s Pontifical Mass is scheduled to be held in Xagħra Gozo on the 7th day of September 2020.
On the 8th of September His Excellency the President of Malta pays tribute to fallen victims through a wreath laying ceremony held in front of the Great Siege Monument in Valletta at 10.00 hrs. This is followed by other wreath laying ceremonies by the National Festivities Committee on other sites related to the event, such as the common grave of the fallen soldiers in both Fort St Angelo and the Addolorata Cemetery. Additionally, wreaths are laid on the Victory Monument in both Vittoriosa and Senglea. A rowing boat competition (the Regatta) is held later in the afternoon in the Grand Harbour.