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Situated at the end of the Lascaris Ditch in Valletta, beneath the Upper Barracca Gardens, the Lascaris War Rooms (LWR) is  one of Malta's most best-preserved secrets from the Second World War and the Cold War era. This subterranean complex served as the nerve center from which the British military effectively coordinated the defense of the Island and offensive operations in the Mediterranean. During the Cold War period, they were shared with NATO until 1970 to monitor the activities of the Soviet navy in the Mediterranean











The Lascaris War Rooms (LWR) represent the second phase in the expansion of the British Combined War Headquarters as established in 1940. As the war progressed it became evident that the existent Combined War Headquarters was too small for the war needs especially as Malta's role in the conflict kept increasing. In 1941, a nearby plot across from the old Lascaris tunnel started being tunneled to provide better protected office and staff accommodation. Another even bigger tunnel complex started being excavated under the Saints Peter and Paul Counter-guard in the Ditch. Named as the St. Peter's Tunnels this was to house all of operation rooms and their supporting facilities under one roof spread on two floors  However, with the volume of enemy air raids on the island reaching its pitch in April 1942 all building work on these two projects was halted to divert the workmen employed on them to help out in the national effort to provide every civilian with adequate air raid shelter cover in the shortest time possible.

In May 1942, there was a change in the command of the Royal Air Force in Malta. Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Hugh Pugh Llyod was replaced by AVM Keith Park. This change brought with it also a new approach in defending the island against enemy raiders. Until then the raiders were allowed to reach the island and sow their harvest of death in the hope of shooting them down by a combination of fighter aircraft and anti-aircraft artillery. During the Battle of Britain,  Park  was pivotal to the defeat of the Luftwaffe. A few weeks after taking command in Malta he introduced his 'Forward Attack Plan' by which the enemy was to be stopped while still over the sea  preventing it from dropping its bombs on land. To realize this plan a higher degree of radar  efficiency was required which at the time could not be achieved due to the smallness of the Filter Room then in existence. The latter was used to swiftly process, confirm and plot radar information concerning raids before passing it on to the nearby Fighter Operations Room from where action was taken to intercept the enemy. In October 1942, Park convinced the other service commanders to relocate the Combined War Headquarters to the excavation on the other side of the old Lascaris tunnel which was earmarked as new office and staff accommodation.

Work started on the new Combined War Headquarters in earnest combining the efforts of all the three services including the Royal Engineers and the Admiralty's Dockyard Engineering Department. Building materials were scarce so many shortcuts had to be taken and extensive use of recycled material was made including old metal air ducting from damaged or sunken ships. The new complex soon named as the Lascaris War Rooms or the Lascaris Tunnels was completed by May 1943 in time for their use in the invasion of Sicily. It extended the full length of the old Lascaris tunnel some 150m long and runs in a straight line from the Lascaris Ditch to the Lascaris Battery below the Saluting Battery. It is spread on two levels and is mechanically ventilated. It was electrically powered by two diesel powered generators set beneath it. The complex was divided into three parts. The inner was occupied by the navy, the middle section by the army and eth outer part leading to the Lascaris Ditch was allocated to the RAF. Each had its own operation room and supporting facilities. But in the RAF part there were a Fighter Operations Room (Sector No.8) which was supported by a Filter Room and a Radio Direction Finding Room used for night fighting operations but also to guide lost aircraft. Each room was supported by its own offices, radio rooms and a central telephone exchange. There was a separate operations room for combined service work mainly between the RN and the RAF concerning aero-naval support. This was also used by the RAF for general reconnaissance work by Wing No. 248. Ensconced at the far end of the building and completely cut off from it there is a small mezzanine on three floors which accommodated what was called the Special Liaison Unit (SLU) -  dissemination of Ultra intelligence to field commanders including the Governor and Commander-in-Chief carried out by MI6. 


In January 1943, the Allied leaders met at Casablanca in Morocco to decide about the next step to be taken in the war following the Allied victory in North Africa. Upon the instance of the British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill the US President Roosevelt agreed eve if grudgingly to invade Sicily. The US favoured invading France as the shortest route to Germany. Thus, Operation Husky came into being and Malta was chosen to serve as its advance headquarters and the main fighter base which was to cover the invading seaborne armada. It was also, accommodate half of the the 51st Highland Division with its equipment and armour amongst other things. On the night of 9 July 1943 the invading fleets converged on Malta to await the signal to head for Sicily. Hundreds of glider towed aircraft lade with airborne infantry flew from Tunisia over Malta in the direction of Sicily to land the first troops behind the landing beaches. Close to midnight, the US General Dwight D. Eisenhower in his capacity as Supreme Allied Commander flanked by the British Admiral of the Fleet Andrew Cunningham and Generals Alexander and Montgomery gave the signal to invade Sicily from the Combined Operations Room at the Lascaris War Rooms. Two days before Eisenhower had established his Tactical Headquarters at Lascaris from which he was to direct the invasion of Sicily.


Against all predictions the Allied conquest of Sicily was short and swift. By 17 August 1943 it was complete. This soon caused the war to ebb away from Malta. By 1944, activity at the war rooms started to decline with parts of it being closed or converted into other sues such as the direction of the enormous task involving the repatriation of millions of Prisoners of War and war dislodged persons. In the late 1940s, the RAF part was modernized to bring it in line with the latest s improvements in radar technology and the jet age. In the 1950s the naval part of the war rooms started being shared with NATO's Headquarters Allied Forces Mediterranean (HAFMED). This went on until 1970 when NATO was asked to leave Malta by the government. In the 1960s, the RAF transferred its fighter Operations to RAF Luqa. The War Rooms went on being used mostly as a Communications Centre (COMMCEN) by the Royal Navy. until July 1977 when they were closed down as part of the closure of the British military base in Malta which took place on 31 March 1979.



In 2009, Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna - the Malta Heritage Trust was entrusted by the government of Malta with the restoration and management of the former Combined War Headquarters in Valletta which also includes the Lascaris War Rooms in total covering an area of 35,000 square meters most of which is underground. Following extensive  historical research and supported by the Royal Air Force Historic Branch and the Royal Engineers a long period of restoration was begun to return the historic complex back to its former glory. Since then it has become one of the most visited military historical attractions in Malta.



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Malta Time Gun-Museum

Saluting Battery

Malta at War Museum

Fort Rinella

SS Peter & Paul Counter Guard

St Peter's Galleries

Lascaris War Rooms



Monday - Saturday: 10.00 - 16:30

Last admission- 16:00 

(Except on 24,25 and 31 Dec, 1 Jan, Good Friday and Easter)

Lascaris War Rooms, Lascaris Ditch, VLT 2000, Valletta, Malta

Members: FREE

Adult (16+ years old): €6

Child (5-15 years old): €3

Entrance Fees (incl. guided tour & audio-guide)

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