The end of an ERA at Palazzo D’ Aurel, Gudja

Malta Independent - - LIFESTYLE ON SATURDAY -

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

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