Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Minister, Carmelo Abela, attends Passchendaele – The Third Battle of Ypres centenary commemorations

Reference Number:  , Press Release Issue Date: Aug 01, 2017

Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade Promotion, Carmelo Abela, today represented Malta at a UK government-organised event to commemorate 100 years since Passchendaele, known as The Third Battle of Ypres. This cruel First World War battle saw an estimated 320,000 allied soldiers, including at least seven of Maltese descent, who lost their lives in just 100 days in 1917. Three Maltese are named on Menin Gate, and four are buried in official military cemeteries. The number of unidentified Maltese soldiers to lose their lives is unknown. 

Accompanied by the Maltese Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, Ray Azzopardi, Minister Abela and other international representatives, including the German Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, were met on arrival at the Ypres Cultural Centre by the UK First World War Minister, Lord Ashton, and the Minister-President of Flanders, Mr Geet Bourgeois, before being taken to the Tyne Cot Cemetery. Here a soldier of Maltese descent (his parents hail from Mqabba), Private Andrew Camilleri, is buried. He was sadly killed in action, aged just 26, whilst serving with the Australian Imperial Force. 

The respectful commemoration ceremony was attended by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Their Majesties The King and Queen of the Belgians, UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, Belgian Defence Minister, Steven Vandeput, and Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, whose doctor father was posted to Malta during the Second World War.  Minister Abela spoke to the Secretary of State for Defence Fallon, as well as Prime Minister May, Australian Small Business Minister Michael McCormack, HRH The Prince of Wales, and King Philippe of The Belgians. 

Poems were sung at the moving ceremony, names were called, military bands played, stories heard, and letters read. Attendees also spent a moment of silent reflection for both the allied troops and the Germans before the Last Post and wreath laying ceremony began. Minister Abela laid a wreath on the Stone of Remembrance on behalf of all the fallen Maltese soldiers before an impressive fly-past by the 350th Squadron, 2nd Tactical Wing of the Belgian Air Force. 

Minister Abela finished his visit at the Passchendaele Memorial Park, where he had the opportunity to view exhibitions and watch re-enactments to learn more about the events of 100 years ago. Other guests present were descendants of those who fought, whose touching personal stories have been passed down through the generations. Many survivors have even named their children after the battle, in memory of those who lost their lives.

Minister Carmelo Abela at the wreath-laying ceremony at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium, for all those who lost their lives at Passchendaele – The Third Battle of Ypres, 100 years ago.

Minister Carmelo Abela with the Prince of Wales.

Minister Abela with UK Prime Minister, Theresa May.

The gravestone where Private Andrew Camilleri, of Maltese descent, is buried.