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MALTA AT WAR MUSEUM

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HISTORY & DESCRIPTION

The Malta at War Museum was established by Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna - the Malta Heritage Trust in 2009 to document Malta's significant challenges during the Second World War and its role in the conflict between 1940 and 1943.

The museum was intentionally housed in its present premises on account of the fact that Birgu was one of the three dockyard towns in Cottonera which suffered the most damage from bombings. Additionally, during the war, the building, originally a 17th-century guardhouse as part of Birgu's land front fortifications, played a pivotal role in providing wartime services to the community as district police station and wartime rescue (ARP) and relief services. 

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MALTA'S WARTIME SIEGE 1940-43

On the eve of the Second World, Malta was a strategic British naval base, strategically positioned to safeguard the swift route to India, then the primary possession of the British Empire.With Italy's entry into the war on the side of Germany on June 10, 1940, the island was thrust into the midst of the conflict. The following day, early morning raids by Italian bombers marked the beginning of a grueling three-year siege and blockade, which persisted until 1943 when the Allies conquered Sicily in Operation Husky. Throughout this period, Malta endured relentless air assaults and endured severe shortages as supply lines were severed, necessitating costly convoy operations to sustain the island.  By August 1942,  Malta had reached  a critical point of starvation and had it not been for Operation Pedestal a.k.a. Santa Marija Convoy  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MALTA G.C. DOCUMENTARY FILM - 1942

At the Malta at War Museum, visitors have the opportunity to watch the rare wartime documentary 'Malta G.C.' Produced by the Crown Film Unit, this short film utilises real combat footage captured in and around Malta during the siege by various service filming units in January 1943, at the request of King George VI. The King expressed his desire for Malta's wartime story to be documented on film and shared with all his subjects, acknowledging the stoic bravery displayed by the Maltese and their defenders against overwhelming odds. Released shortly after Malta was awarded the George Cross, the film is narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier. It provides an overview of Malta and its people during that time, guiding viewers through the key stages of the siege until April 1942 when the island was honoured with the George Cross. Recognising the significance of the project, Sir Arnold Bax, the then King's Musician, composed the 'Malta Suite' for the film voluntarily. 'Malta G.C.' was screened across the Atlantic and throughout the British Empire, and later served as source material for the 1953 British war film directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, depicting the Siege of Malta during the Second World War and featuring actors like Alec Guinness and Jack Hawkins. Digital copies of this historic film are available for viewing at the museum.

THE THREE DOCKYARD TOWNS - BIRGU, ISLA AND BORMLA

Once the war reached Malta in 1940, the Grand Harbour, the naval dockyard, and the aerodromes instantly became primary targets. Nestled around the dockyard on the eastern side of the Grand Harbour were the historic towns of Birgu, Isla, and Bormla. As the air raids began, these towns suffered significant collateral damage. By the end of the conflict, approximately 60% of all their housing stock was destroyed, leading to the dispersal of their pre-war populations. Those who remained, mainly dockyard workers and their families, were forced to endure stone-age living conditions, with many being killed or maimed. With their homes destroyed, many residents settled in small ramshackle stone cabins attached to dugouts in the sides of the Coronation Garden Ditch below the Malta at War Museum, effectively creating a new town. At the height of the Blitz, approximately 500 families, not including individuals, were known to live there. The building now occupied by the Malta at War Museum served as a District Police Station at that time, but also functioned as a clinic, Air Raid Precautions center, and Relief Office, providing assistance to those who lost their homes or were in dire need of support.

CORONATION GARDEN AIR RAID SHELTER

The Malta at War Museum is situated at street level at Couvre Porte, Vittoriosa (Birgu), a 17th-century three-gated piece of outer fortifications that protected the town's land entrance. Beneath it lies the Coronation Garden Air Raid Shelter, a vast network of rock-hewn chambers and tunnels named after the nearby garden in the ditch, which was named after the coronation of King George VI in 1936. Originally, the shelter began as a small air raid refuge for police use under their station in 1940. However, once the German Blitz began in 1941, it was expanded to accommodate various government relief services. This included a First-aid Station and surgery in the outer chambers leading into the ditch. Additional facilities such as communal dormitories, a birthing room, and various private cubicles were established at the back. At the height of the blitz, it provided shelter for hundreds of families and individuals. Today, this air raid shelter has been fully restored and opened to visitors. It offers the most comprehensive insight into the history and evolution of air raid shelters in Malta.

MUSEUM COLLECTION

The artefact collection on display at the Malta at War Museum is unparalleled in both its quality and coverage. It boasts some of the rarest items available on the subject, including the first George Medal awarded to a dockyard worker early in the war, part of the flying gear of the RAF Spitfire ace Flight Lieutenant Dennis Barham, a Malta Home Guard uniform, and a complete 40mm Light Anti-Aircraft Bofors Gun mounted on an original 'Malta LAA Mount' manufactured at the dockyard. This allowed such guns to be mounted out on the bastions. Among hundreds of other items, there are also rare wartime childhood items and a poignant votive dress worn by a mother in gratitude for her family having been spared the horrors of war.

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the island would have been forced to surrender. Despite all the hardships its people and garrison held on earning them the admiration and respect of the whole free world. On 15 April 1942, King George VI conferred on the Island, her people and garrison the highest civilian bravery award bestowed by the British government for non-operational gallantry in recognition of the collective effort in fighting on.Malta's role in the Second World War was not limited to receive Axis punishment but its forces sustained an aggressive campaign against the enemy at every opportunity

offered. Malta based aircraft and submarines continuously attacked and destroyed numerous Axis convoy to North Africa which ultimately led to the final defeat of the Axis forces in North Africa in January 1943 which paved the way to the invasion of Sicily in July opening the way to the liberation of Europe. 

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HERITAGE PASS

1 TICKET - 7 SITES

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Saluting Battery

Malta at War Museum

Fort Rinella

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Lascaris War Rooms

MALTA AT WAR MUSEUM

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Monday - Saturday 10:00-16:30 Last admission at 16:00

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

 

Malta at War Museum, Couvre Porte, BRG1810, Vittoriosa

 

Malta Members: FREE

Adult (16+ years old): €14

Senior: €12

Family (2 Adults & 3 Children u/16 yrs old): €28

Child (5-15 years old): €7


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