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The Malta at War Museum

Published on March 31, 2019 by Gattaldo

Don your hard hats because this is a bumpy ride through the trials and tribulations of World War 2 as experienced by the Maltese.

You can imagine the scene, Vittoriosa's main square after the first air raid. People running about, panic in their eyes, everyone talking animatedly about what had just happened. A scuffle or two erupted with those known to be Italian sympathisers. Malta had always been politically divided between the pro-British and the pro-Italians. An exodus to less exposed inland towns and villages followed which resulted in a social change that's still visible to this day.

The adjacent town of Cospicua had been hit hardest due to the Docks. The number of casualties caused those from Birgu (Vittoriosa) to fear they were next. Italy's decision to attack hurt many who never expected their friends, the Italians would attack.

In less than a week, Birgu was deserted. Many left for the countryside. The ones who remained sought shelter in deep rock tunnels under the bastions, including one below the St James Cavalier (a few meters away from Indulgence Divine). One of these shelters, the entrance to which can be reached from Couvre Porte, is now part of the Malta at War Museum.

Birgu square's clock tower which was destroyed in the war.

Birgu square's clock tower which was destroyed in the war.

 

The museum is housed  in an 18th century army barracks which served as a police station and air raid precautions centre during the war. Below it is a massive underground rock-cut air raid shelter, one of those which offered refuge to those who had been left behind. This shelter is also part of the Malta at War Museum experience.

 

The Museum offers a collection of period artefacts and memorabilia ranging from personal items, documents, medals, uniforms and weaponry. It also features numerous period newsreels and sounds, hands-on interpretation and multilingual audio-guides. If you're interested in this part of Malta's history, it's worth visiting along with Valletta's National War Museum.

Meet The Author
I’m a freelance creative, living in London. Together with my partner Michael, we travel as often as we can. We love houses with character and engaging history. Having done up two old houses on the island of Malta that need constant love and attention, gives us the perfect opportunity to visit often.
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