At the entrance to the Grand Harbour of Valletta, Malta, the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Anzac was joined by STS Young Endeavour for a formation entry into one of the most spectacular harbours in the world, kicking off a few days of engagement between the Australian Navy and the people of the Republic of Malta.
It is said that almost every person in Malta has a familial connection to Australia, and it seemed that the country banded together to welcome Anzac and Young Endeavour, with a gun salute being exchanged, and the Australian National Flag flying in honour on the Maltese National Flagstaff – an honour rarely afforded to visiting warships.
Lieutenant Mike Azoury was the pilot on Anzac’s embarked AS350BA Squirrel, ‘Simpson’, for the entry to Valletta.
“Australian’s are proud of the natural beauty of Sydney Harbour, but flying into Valletta’s Grand Harbour was just as spectacular, with a historical beauty that is hard to put in words.
“Hovering above Anzac and Young Endeavour as they took station and entered the harbour was special.
“Flying into Valletta has to be one of the highlights of my career as a Navy aviator,” Lieutenant Azoury said.
The Centenary of Anzac, a major focus of Anzac’s and Young Endeavour’s respective deployments, was part of the focus in Malta, with the two ship’s companies being represented at a service at the Capuccini Naval Cemetery where two Australian sailors from the First World War are buried.
The main focus of the port visit was to engage with the Maltese community and to strengthen Australia’s relations with one of only two Commonwealth countries in the Mediterranean – goals which were served by an Official Reception onboard Anzac, a ‘sundowner’ event on Young Endeavour, a series of official calls by Rear Admiral Allan du Toit, Australia’s senior military representative to NATO and the European Union, Captain Simon Ottaviano, the Assistant Defence Attache for the Centenary of Anzac, Commander Belinda Wood, Anzac’s Commanding Officer and Lieutenant Commander Gavin Dawe, Commanding Officer of Young Endeavour.
One of the official calls was to the National Library of Malta, where the entourage viewed historical documents and books dating back to the 1100s showing the significance of the island nation throughout history into the modern world, a role that was further enforced in calls with the nation’s president, Her Excellency Mrs Marie Louise Preca, the Minister of Home Affairs and Security, the Honourable Mr Carmelo Abela and the Commander of the Armed Forces of Malta, Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi.
Sporting engagement was another important part of the visit, with a soccer match between an Armed Forces of Malta team and Anzac.
Seaman Matt Wingrove was part of the Anzac team that played in the friendly match where goodwill and camaraderie between the two Commonwealth nations was enhanced.
“The Maltese team were great hosts, and gracious winners,” Seaman Wingrove said.
“They worked together as a team really well, and demonstrated all the best attributes of a cohesive military team.
“It was a fun way to spend an afternoon making friends around the world,” he said.
Anzac’s Commanding Officer, Commander Belinda Wood, described the visit to Malta and the nation’s history, beauty and hospitality having been a highlight of the trip so far.
“The gun salute on entry, the crowds waiting to welcome us and seeing the Australian flag flying proudly was simply breathtaking.
“From the moment we arrived it seemed like the entire country was extending a warm welcome,” Anzac’s Commanding Officer Commander Wood said.
HMAS Anzac is currently deployed on NORTHERN TRIDENT 2015 during which it has participated in a variety of Centenary of ANZAC commemorations at the Gallipoli Peninsula, and in the Mediterranean, and will continue with a series of important international engagements.
Additional imagery is available at: http://images.navy.gov.au/S20151331.