The last surviving Spitfire ace to have fought over Malta described the bombing horrors the nation endured as it commemorated receiving the George Cross for its resilience and heroism.
Former RAF pilot Allan Scott from Wem joined the Prince of Wales in the Maltese capital for a national event marking the 75th anniversary of King George VI awarding the Maltese the gallantry honour – a symbol on the country's flag.
The 96-year-old ex-flight sergeant, who was making his first visit to the country since he patrolled the skies over the Mediterranean islands during July-December 1942, said of Malta: “It was the most bombed place on earth, it was really – they stated it, Malta was the most bombed place on earth.
“When you come to the battle of Malta, they had a target the size of the Isle of Wight and they flattened it.”
The Spitfire pilot from Wem, who gained vital experience flying in the Battle of Britain, said: “We were scrambled every day and when we came to the October Blitz (in 1942) we were scrambled four times a day. We just got out to get a bite or something to drink, then you were in the cockpit again.”
Malta was targeted by Italian bombers from 1940, and later by Nazi war planes, and by the end of the war it had the unenviable record of suffering the heaviest sustained bombing attack of the conflict – 154 days and nights.
Thousands of tonnes of bombs dropped on airfields, naval bases, homes and offices.
From January to July 1942 the bombardment was so intense Malta had respite for only one
24-hour period when the skies were free of enemy bombers.
During an open-air commemoration ceremony, the events around the Siege of Malta were projected on to the side of St George’s Square in the capital, and the repercussions were expressed through music, poetry and dance.
Before the event began, Mr Scott, who played down his efforts during the Second World War, was mobbed by dignitaries who wanted to shake his hand and thank him for his war service.
In a speech Charles told the guests: “These remarkable islands, with which my family hold such a deep and personal connection, suffered truly unimaginable hardship as the brutal ferocity of war engulfed them.
“By 1942, after almost two years of intense aerial bombardment, Malta was on the brink of surrender. Indeed, between March and April that year more bombs were dropped on Malta then were dropped on London during the entirety of the Blitz.
“And yet with characteristic determination and strength of spirit Malta’s valiant citizens held firm.”
The Siege of Malta was broken when a handful of ships limped into Malta's port – in a military plan called Operation Pedestal – after making their way across the Mediterranean.
Mr Scott was sent out to defend the convoy on its last leg and even brought down one enemy plane.
After 75 years he still spoke with conviction about the efforts to break the blockade, which had brought Malta to the brink of starvation, and said the convoy “couldn't fail”.
Before leaving the commemorations, Charles met some of the Second World War veterans – including Mr Scott, who remained tight-lipped about his conversation with the heir to the throne.
He recalled his experiences in the UK and in Malta in his book Born to Survive which was released in November 2013.
In October 2015 he returned to Biggin Hill and flew in a Spitfire for the first time in 65 years.