War tourism in Malta, once the most bombed place in the world – Famagusta Gazette
Malta played an important role during the Second World War, as Nathan Morley discovered during a weekend in Valletta.
It is no exaggeration to say that during the Second World War, Malta was the most bombed place in the world. Over 14,000 arsonists were dropped, destroying around 30,000 buildings but, despite this, Malta continued to fight.
The whole fortress island, in the very heart of the Mediterranean, was continually rocked by the deafening sound of exploding bombs and roaring anti-aircraft defences.
As Fascist Italy, along with its 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 Malta War Museumwhich features an extensive collection of period exhibits including weapons, uniforms and even the butt of a cigar once puffed by British warlord Winston Churchill.
“Most visitors come from English-speaking countries – Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Americans for example, but also from European countries. We have visitors from European countries, but most of them, according to the guestbooks we have, are from English-speaking countries,” curator Charles Dobono told me.
Another must stop on any wart excursion, takes us deep into the streets of Valletta to the Rogues War Rooms. This complex maze of tunnels and chambers housed the war headquarters from where the defense of the island was conducted.
Tony, our tour guide, explains that from here, General Dwight D. Eisenhower planned the invasion of Sicily, an operation that many describe as training for the D-Day landings.
“In fact, it’s an invasion school,” Tony says. “Everyone is doing things for the very first time, nobody has done it before. So here you learn how to bring together these huge numbers of ships, planes and men to start invading a continent.
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 difficult posting, with raids, sandflies, food shortages and scorching summer heat.
The heroism of the people of Malta earned them a collective George Cross of Great Britain, a depiction of which remains on the Maltese flag to this day – and a reminder that this island will never escape its connection to the events of 1939-45.