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Petitions

Volume 506: debated on Monday 22 February 2010

Petition

Monday 22 February 2010

Observations

Defence

Malta Cross/Africa Star

The Petition of the George Cross Island Association North West Branch and others,

Declares that a small Maltese Cross should be issued by the British Government to be worn with the Africa Star, for personnel involved with the defence of Malta, in recognition of the valiant efforts of our former servicemen and the people of Malta.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to issue a small Maltese Cross to be pinned to the Africa Star.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. Joe Benton, Official Report, 15 December 2009; Vol. 502, c. 934 .]

[P000638]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Defence, received 12 February 2010:

The Africa Star was awarded for a minimum one day service in an operational area of North Africa between 10 June 1940 and 12 May 1943. The whole of the area between the Suez Canal and the Strait of Gibraltar is included, together with Malta, Abyssinia, Kenya, Sudan, The Somalilands and Eritrea. The Africa Star was awarded to Royal Navy and Merchant Navy personnel anywhere at sea in the Mediterranean between 10 June 1940 and the 12 May 1943. Service in Merchant Navy vessels which took part in the landings on the coast of Morocco between 8 November 1942 and the 12 May 1943 also qualified.

It was, as is now, the responsibility of those in command at the time to determine when it was appropriate to request medals for campaign service and similarly to decide when it was felt that their continued issue for a particular campaign was no longer necessary. If the military chain of command agreed that some additional recognition for those who served in Malta between 1940 and 1943 was appropriate, or in fact the introduction of any medal, they would have to prepare a case to be considered by the cross-Government, non-political Committee on the Grant of Honours, Decorations and Medals (HD Committee). This committee considers all cases for new medals and all amendments to the eligibility criteria for existing medals and makes recommendations to the Queen. It is not the remit of Minister’s to introduce or review criteria for introducing medals.

Since the end of the second world war the HD Committee has made it clear that it will not consider cases for any new medals, or amendments to the qualifying criteria for existing medals recognising service performed many years ago. The reason for this policy is that the present HD Committee cannot put itself in the place of the Committee which made the original decision and which would have been able to take account of the views of the Government and of other interested parties at the time of the decision.

In conclusion, the institution of the Africa Star was deemed entirely appropriate for the operations undertaken at that time. It is for these reasons that there are no plans to introduce any additional recognition in the form of a medal, clasp or rosette, for those veterans who served in Malta.

I hope this explains the Government’s position on this matter.