War tourism in Malta, once the most bombed place on earth

The sheer intensity of the raids saw flame and smoke blacken the skies, as this vital outpost became 'the most bombed place on earth'.

Malta played an important role during the Second World War, as Nathan Morley discovered on a weekend break to Valetta.

It is no exaggeration to say that during the Second World War, Malta was the most bombed place on earth. More than 14,000 incendiaries were dropped, destroying about 30,000 buildings but, despite this, Malta fought on.

The entire fortress island, at the very heart of the Mediterranean, was continually rocked under the thundering sound of exploding bombs and roaring anti-aircraft defences.

As fascist Italy, along with their German allies, sought to take the island from its British colonial masters, the population retreated to underground shelters, escaping the bombardment.

The struggle is beautifully captured at the Malta War Museum, which displays a vast collection of period exhibits,  including  weaponry, uniforms, and even the butt of a cigar once puffed by British wartime leader Winston Churchill.

Most visitors come from English speaking countries – Britain, Canada, Australia, Americans for example, but also from European countries. We have visitors from European countries, but most of them according to the visitor’s books we have, come from English speaking countries,” curator Charles Dobono told me.

From here, Eisenhower planned the invasion of Sicily.

Another must stop on any wart excursion, takes us deep below the streets of Valetta to the Lascars War Rooms. This labyrinth of complex of tunnels and chambers housed the War Headquarters from where the defence of the island was conducted.

Tony, our tour guide, explains that from here, General Dwight D. Eisenhower planned the invasion of Sicily, an operation many describe the practice-run for the D-Day landings.

Actually this is invasion school,” Tony says. “Everybody is doing things for the very first time, nobody did it before. So here you are learning to get these massive numbers of ships, aircraft and men together to start invading a continent.”

The Malta War Museum

Even today, there remains a strong bond between the Maltese people and the British Forces.

Many troops, of course, married into Maltese families. However, Malta was a tough posting, with the raids, sand flies, food shortages and blistering summer heat.

The heroism of the people of Malta earned them a collective George Cross from Britain, it’s a depiction of which remains on the Maltese flag until the present day – and a reminder that this island will never escape its connection to the events of 1939-45.


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Nathan Morley covers travel and tourism. Follow him on Twitter @nathanmorley