The end of an ERA at Palazzo D’ Aurel, Gudja
Rear Admiral Sir Nigel Cecil, the last Commander British Forces Malta, died on March 10, a week after being admitted to hospital in England with double pneumonia. He was 91.
Admiral Cecil, who left Malta on board HMS London following the closure of the British military base on March 31, 1979, retained a strong life-long affection for Malta and its people and visited the island regularly.
He owned a flat in Gozo for a number of years and he even named his Siamese cat ‘Lascaris’. In 2005 he celebrated his 80th birthday in Malta at Villa Bologna in Attard.
Admiral Cecil, known as ‘Os’ to his friends, served in Malta from 1975 to 1979 and from 1975 to 1977 he was also Nato Commander South Eastern Mediterranean.
The following is an extract from Peter Apap Bologna’s recently published: Memories II 1973-1988
“The last Staff Meeting of the British Forces in Malta took place at Palazzo D’Aurel on 22 February 1979. The meeting took place in the same room where Brigadier General Thomas Graham met with his staff in 1800 during the blockade of the French forces besieged in Valletta. The venue was requested by Admiral Cecil as a fitting place to commemorate the 180 years of the British Forces’ connection with Malta. Baron Igino Trapani Galea Feriol readily agreed and laid on a superb reception for the Meeting, which was filmed for Granada Television, as well as a formal dinner party for the Admiral and his wife. I interviewed Gino in May 2015 about this event. He commented: “We were very lucky to have Os as he was such a gentleman, and loved Malta so much, he put up no resistance to Mintoff. His deputy Air Commodore Hall was much more confrontational, and whenever Os was not on the scene there was trouble with Mintoff.”
Claude Gaffiero also speaks about the 1979 Departure
“I got on well with Buttigieg and helped him as much as I could. When the British came to leave in 1979, the commander of the British forces was Admiral ‘Os’ Cecil. It was highly important for both us and Admiral Cecil that the leaving of the British troops would go off peaceably and without any hitches. Cecil made a point of befriending the President and he and his wife were regular visitors to San Anton. I would say they became great friends.
“The President as you know was a poet, and the Admiral was something of a musician. They hit on the idea of a poem by Buttigieg, set to music by Os, commemorating the occasion. This was done to Maltese lyrics, and was called L-Għanja tat-Tluq, which would be sung at a farewell concert at the Manoel. I was a go-between and taught myself the melody and could play it on the piano. Then I explained to Buttigieg how he should write his poem, the metre and the scansion, in order to fit Cecil’s music. Buttigieg wrote it in Maltese and I then translated into English. At the grand concert, a tenor sang this parting song in both languages, it was quite moving.”
“What role did Mintoff play in those parting ceremonies and events?”
“Mintoff actually invited Gaddafi, of all people, to the ceremony at Birgu where the Union Flag was lowered by a naval rating, and the Maltese flag raised
by a dock worker. This was Mintoff playing one side against the other. But despite that, there was no nastiness and a peaceable departure was achieved. The credit for that should be attributed to Buttigieg and Cecil.“
Dorothy, Dowager Baroness Marie, Emily, Gino Trapani Galea bid farewell to Admiral Cecil
Palazzo D’Aurel, Gudja. Ancestral home of the Barons of San Marciano. Present home of Baron Igino Trapani Galea Feriol
Baron and Baroness Trapani Galea Feriol, Admiral Cecil and other officers present at the signing
Farewell Dinner at Palazzo D’Aurel was a grand affair and took place on 21 March 1979
The last Staff Meeting of the British Forces in Malta took place at Palazzo D’Aurel on 22 February 1979, in the same room where Brigadier General Thomas Graham met with his staff in 1800 during the blockade of the French forces besieged in Valletta
“Despite inclement weather the quaysides and the bastions of Valletta were crowded when HMS London sailed out of Grand Harbour. The ship’s company lined the decks, the Royal Marines band played on the quarterdeck, and Admiral Cecil took his place on...
Baron and Baroness Trapani Galea Feriol
Dr Guido de Marco, Captain of HMS London, Mario de Marco, Admiral Cecil, unidentified, Christopher Vassallo Cesareo