31 MARCH 1979
Freedom Day is a Maltese national feast celebrated annually on the 31st of March. This day marks the historical event when the last British troops left Malta after their presence in our islands, dating back to 1800
An artistic impression of General Bonaparte’s invasion of Malta in 1798
Admiral Sir Alexander John Ball, 1st Baronet
After the events of the French Blockade in 1800, the British Empire eventually gained full sovereignty over Malta and its people. Malta spent over 150 years under the British rule, a period that has shaped Malta’s cultural heritage through the years, with some influences being strongly present to this day. After Malta’s effort and bravery in the Second World War, negotiations for the country’s independence were being discussed.
However, even though Malta officially achieved Independence on the 21st September 1964, a treaty with the British Empire remained in full force until Malta became a Republic a decade later. This treaty stated that Malta, now an Independent Sovereign State and a member of the Commonwealth, would still serve as a British Military base with the Queen of Malta, Elizabeth II, acting as a Head of State.
Upon being re-elected into power in 1971, the Labour Government worked towards re-negotiating this constitutional treaty, making Malta a Republic in 1974. This amended treaty allowed British troops and the Royal Navy, to use Malta as a naval base, effectively maintaining Malta’s ties with the United Kingdom through both financial and defensive support.
Marking the fulfilment of this treaty, the remaining British Forces left Malta on the 31st of March 1979. That day, Malta became independent de facto (by fact) and de jure (by law), appropriately being christened as Freedom Day
troops left Malta after their presence in our islands, dating back to 1800
Armed Forces of Malta - Massed Band
Freedom Day Monument, Vittoriosa
COMMEMORATING FREEDOM DAY
Given that Freedom Day marks an important chapter in Malta’s history, the annually celebrated national event is commemorated by a series of ceremonies taking place in various localities around the island.
As a preparatory celebration of the event, the Malta Police Force as well as the Armed Forces of Malta, hold a yearly musical display at St George’s Square, Valletta. The National Ceremony is held in Vittoriosa where the Freedom Day Monument is situated. The President, Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader, place flowers on the memorial and pay tribute to this event. This ceremony includes a band march by the Armed Forces of Malta followed by the National Anthem.
Perhaps the most awaited event is the Regatta organised by the Malta Rowing Association. The event sees teams from coastal towns around Malta, including those from Valletta, Vittoriosa (Birgu), Senglea (Isla) and Cospicua (Bormla), challenge each other in exciting row boat races within the Grand Harbour. After these races, the honorary shield award is given to the highest ranking teams.
In 2019, the celebrations were even more special as is was the 40th anniversary of Freedom Day.