Malta's service to the British Empire as a naval base is well documented. Malta nobly served during the two World Wars. During World War I, Malta garrisoned English naval seamen and was the site of the largest military hospital in the Mediterranean. Due to its strategic position during World War II, Malta was the target of German and Italian bombing attacks. The island endured the heaviest conventional bombardment of the entire war. To honor the valor of the Maltese people, King George VI awarded the George Cross to the "Island Fortress of Malta" in 1942. The cross appears today on the Maltese flag.
The structure of government in Malta changed periodically during the 150 years of British rule. In 1921, Malta became self-governing while power and responsibility was shared between Britain and Maltese ministers. In 1936, Malta became a colonial regime. Malta earned its independence within the Commonwealth in 1964, became a Republic in 1974, and ended its dependence on England in 1979 when it proclaimed its neutrality.