Three Anzacs from Malta: A true story of friendship, love, and loss

Author: Gioconda S Schembri

Publisher: Gioconda S Schembri, Softback &.Kindle, 280 pages with photographs.

Price: £17.02, Kindle Edition: £2.33

ISBN: 9780994564443

The book is the true story of three men from Malta: Charles Bonavia, Waldemar Beck and Anthony Xuereb. In the words of the author, “This is a timeless story about migration, the heartache of separated families, loss and war. But this book is mainly a tribute to the tenacity of the human spirit in the face of enormous adversity, as well as a celebration of the virtues that transcend borders and time: courage, friendship, and love.”

While Malta’s role in the Second World War is well-documented and the subject of many books and studies, little is written of their First World War contribution. One such book that was reviewed in an earlier Gallipolian is ‘Gallipoli: the Malta connection’ by John Mizzi. A total of 48 Maltese joined the Australian Imperial Forces in the First World War, with more joining the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces and British forces. As far back as the Battle of Trafalgar Maltese are recorded as having been present.

Who were Charles, Waldemar and Anthony, and where did they come from? What was their story and how were they connected? The book delves into the family history of each, beautifully explaining the backgrounds of these young men. In their early twenties, at a time of high unemployment in Malta, they seeked adventure overseas and chased their dreams to the other side of the world, heading for Australia. War is on the horizon and all three would join up to fight. Charles joined 11/AIF and died on 25 April 1915 during the first day of the Anzac landing. Anthony, 25/AIF, arrived in Gallipoli much later, survived the campaign and the war. Waldermar, 16/AIF enlisted later and was not to go to France until 1917. He died of wounds in July 1918 on the Western Front. Where Charles was one of the first Maltese to die, Waldemar was one of the last.

Maltese born author, Gioconda Schembri, also migrated to Australia where she joined the public service and served for three years at the Malta High Commission in Canberra as First Secretary, as well as Acting High Commissioner for several months. She has worked with the Maltese Community Council of Victoria, the Australian public service, the Consulate of Malta, and as a freelance translator of the Maltese language. Gioconda does a wonderful job using the historical context of pre-war social life in Malta and that of the war to help bring alive this story. Numerous photographs and images help pictorially whilst the text keeps one engaged at every turn of a page.

The book is a fitting memorial to these three young Maltese men.