In the town where I live, there is an old naval hospital. It was built by the British in the early years of the last century. Today, part of it is a boys’ school but the part at the rear is abandoned, run-down, eerily silent.
I often go for walks in the grounds. The silent, vacant windows stare blindly at me. I wonder whether they’re still there, the ghosts of the soldiers of the Great War.
Because they brought them here, you see, the shell-shocked and weary, the wounded and weak. From the trenches of the Dardanelles and Salonika; they brought them here to heal. They brought them here to die. And those that succumbed to their wounds were laid to rest on this rocky island, far, far away from home.
One hundred years ago the world was in turmoil. The face of Europe defaced by trenches that zig-zagged across it like open wounds; wounds that, despite the armistice four long years later, would not heal. Wounds that would spawn another, nastier, deadlier war. It was the end of the age of innocence. Life would never be the same again.
It has been a poignant year. A year of commemorating the start of the Great War and the beginning of the end of the second World War. To those that fought, whether they lived or died, we owe much more than my simple tribute can ever express. We are forever indebted to their bravery and their sacrifice.
During the Frist World War, Malta earned the title of Nurse of the Mediterranean when thousands of soldiers from the Gallipoli campaign were brought here to convalesce.
For the sake of historical accuracy, I would like to clarify that the hospital I mentioned in my opening paragraph was only partially completed during the First World War and it is debatable whether wounded soldiers were taken there during this conflict. However, the website of the Royal Army Medical Corps does mention that soldiers suffering from infectious diseases were treated there.
Location: Sir David Bruce Royal Naval Hospital, Mtarfa, November 2014