By ALBERT FENECH
Writing has brought me an enormous amount of satisfaction throughout my life, but amalgamated to this is the need for thorough research before putting pen to paper and often reveals to me facts I would never have even dreamt of.
For example, did you ever know that PETER USTINOV and DAVID NIVEN served in the Royal Sussex Regiment? Well … they did!
The difference in being “a private soldier” is that of one joined of own free will and voluntarily, while “conscripted soldiers” were those legally drawn in at a time when conscription was still at its height.
Well, well, well … whoever would have thought so?
The history of this renowned regiment known as “The Orange Lily” is related in Wikipedia as:
“The Royal Sussex Regiment was a British Army Line Infantry Regiment in existence from 1881 to 1966. The Regiment was formed in 1881 as part of an amalgamation with the 35th Royal Sussex Regiment of Foot and the 107th Foot Bengal Light Infantry and saw service in the 2nd Boer War and both world wars.”
On 31 December 1966, the Royal Sussex Regiment was amalgamated with the other regiments of the Home Counties Brigade to form the Hampshire Regiment and presently the “Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment.” The last Regimental Colonel in 1966 was Brigadier John Blackwood Ashworth, CBE, DSO.
The history of this wonderfully colourful regiment has been collated by Les “The Bat” Deacon who is now aged 77 and was born in Hampden Park, Eastborne, Sussex and may be viewed on (1) HOME (Homepage) – The Orange Lilies – The Royal Sussex Regiment, a wonderful site that explains all the details.
Those who have read so far may ask but what the hell has this to do with Malta, my own home country?
The Unknown Soldier
Well, it has a lot and lot to do at a time in the early to the mid-1960s when the Regiment was stationed in Malta and accommodated at the British army barracks in St Andrew’s.
This was a period of great historic evolvement for the Maltese Islands. In 1963 it was declared that after many, many hundreds of years under foreign occupation, Malta was to become an independent country on 21st September, 1964, no longer a part of the British Empire but to become a Member of the British Commonwealth.
Then Maltese PM Dr. George Borg Olivier (with the seated Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on his right) declares Malta’s Independence on 21st September, 1964
Although this was highly welcomed in the Islands as the greatest ever evolvement in its history since the pre-Stone Age period, it still caused a lot of local controversy.
The Nationalist Party Government in administration at the time said this was the greatest achievement in Maltese history; the doubtful said this was most foolhardy because the Islands could not exist on their own, while the Opposition Labour Party said this was a colossal disaster because although the Government had been lumbered with responsibility for economic and internal affairs, the country’s air space would still be administered by the British Government, as well as their occupying substantial property sites for their militia, as well as total command and domination of surrounding territorial waters.
Street demos and violent clashes were frequent and although the British militia had to remain strictly neutral, it did all possible to help support the Malta Police.
Opposition protests continue
Meanwhile, life for the “Orange Lilies” went on as normal. They were made welcome to all bars and entertainment places, particularly the “red light district” in Valletta’s Strait Street where young women were available for what is termed “entertainment”.
There are a number of British Military Cemeteries around Malta, mainly containing the bodies of British servicemen who perished in the two World Wars, either in Malta itself, or because Malta was regarded as the Hospital of the Mediterranean during WWI and many wounded victims from around the Mediterranean and the Middle East were transferred to recover in Malta.
A visit to one of these would relate to the graves of Sussex Regiment fallers as well as with connections to Kent and Sussex.
For those interested in delving further: