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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - Malta at War

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Malta at War Museum and Wartime Shelters

Couvre Porte, Birgu; tel: (+356) 21896617; www.wirtartna.org  

Regular Adult Ticket: €8.00; child (Up to 16 years): €6.00; students and senior citizens: €7.00; family ticket (2 Adults and 3 children up to 16 years old): €22.00; open Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00 to 17:00; closed on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and New Year's Day

 

 

No, not yet another museum but a shrine to the suffering of the people of Malta during those dark days of World War II.

Despite its size, Malta's location in the centre of the Mediterranean is strategic. Then a British enclave, this made it a prime target for the wrath of the German Luftwaffe and Italian Regia Aeronautica. During the years 1941-1943 Malta was showered with no less than 18,000 tonnes of bombs by the Axis forces, and earned the unenviable attribute of being the most severely shelled location in the world.

Malta GC, a 30-minute feature film is preceded by an enthusiastic introduction by the museum guide. Whilst this is British wartime propaganda it is largely historically correct and emotionally highlights the hardships endured by the Maltese as their families, homes and livelihoods were systematically shattered by the enemy.

Before entering the subterranean shelter, your guide will ask you to put on a yellow hard hat. This network of tunnels was chiselled out of the rock using such rudimentary equipment as a pick-axe and a shovel – quite a feat, as these extensive passageways lie some 40 feet below ground level.

The warden still sits at his desk in his office – one of the two rooms equipped with tiles in this complex. You will also see a chamber that used to function as a chapel; and another that served as a birth room. This was the only room with a supply of electricity. In the interests of hygiene, this room was also tiled. Before this room was set aside for women in labour, privacy was virtually unknown during the birth process. People who were wealthy enough could rent a private cell – hardly less squalid than the communal dorms. After the guided tour you may wish to wander around the shelters at leisure.

The bravery of these people who in their resolve to survive defied the terror from the sky is as heartening as the trail of destruction and death left by the enemy is heart-wrenching.