The National War Museum – Valetta
Last summer my husband and I visited the tiny island country of Malta. It was a first visit for me and a return trip for him – he had last been when he was much, much younger on a family trip with his Dad. His father served on Malta with the 8th Manchesters during World War II and wrote of his experiences there in tiny little pocket journals supplied to the soldiers by the British Legion. We have since transcribed those journals and written a book of his father’s time on Malta which we have shared with family.
For us, our visit to Malta was not only to experience the magic of the ‘Jewel of the Mediterranean’, but also to revisit some of the areas in which his Dad spent four years of his youth. Our visit took us not only to museums but also to many of the significant World War II sites on Malta.
Malta has an incredible history with many rulers having governed its shores – the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Normans, Arabs, French and British have ruled over Malta each leaving their own influence – from Roman catacombs to red British Victorian era mailboxes and iconic phone booths. Possibly one of the most important periods of its history came under the Knights of St John, the aristocratic military order to which Malta was ceded in 1530, and which controlled the islands for almost 250 years.
What better place to start our discovery of his Dad’s years on Malta than the War Museum in Valletta.
The National War Museum is located in the building known as the Old Drill Hall of Lower Fort St Elmo near the harbor.
It is a small museum yet it is full of World War II items including black-painted Italian torpedo boats, “Faith” (the only surviving Gladiator biplane of the trio that defended Malta), and the George Cross, awarded to the Maltese people by King George V. The museum tells the story through artifacts and memorabilia of Malta’s contributions to the War.
Malta played an integral role during World War II because of its close location to Italy. The Siege of Malta took place from 1940-1942. During this time Malta became the most bombed place on earth – 6,700 tons of bombs fell in just six weeks. Near the end of 1942 the air and sea forces based on Malta went on the offense. The Maltese based forces sank 230 Axis ships in 164 days, the highest Allied sinking rate of the war.
The Air Raid Precautions (ARP) organizationhad been set up to prepare the civilian population for of aerial bombardment and the possible use of gas. Many of the individuals were unpaid volunteers some of whom went on to be awarded the British Empire medal for bravery.
Even if you may not be a history ‘buff’, I believe, because of Malta’s integral role during the war, that a visit to Malta should definitely include a visit to the War Museum.
If you want to go:
Lower Fort St Elmo,
Valletta VLT 1741
Tel: +356 21 222 430
Monday to Sunday: 09.00 – 17.00hrs
Last admission at 16.30hrs
Closed on 24, 25 & 31 December, 1 January & Good Friday
Adults (18 – 59 years): €6.00
Youths (12 – 17 years), Senior Citizens (60 years & over), and Students: €4.50
Children (6 -11 years): €3.00
Infants (1 -5 years): Free