Malta was a strategic outpost for the Allied forces during WWII. By the end of the war, Malta held the unfortunate title of most bombed country. At the beginning of the War Malta had very few shelters and the Maltese were encouraged into basements, under stairs or dining tables. During the conflict, a network of air raid shelters were hewn out of the soft rock. By June 1941 there were 473 public excavated shelters and 382 still in construction.
Many of these rock-hewn air raid shelters remain today, and some are open to the public. They are a testament to the Maltese determination and fighting spirit. Not only are they an unusual tourist attraction but they educate tourists and locals alike about living through WWII in Malta.
In the town of Mgarr, below an unassuming restaurant, lies one of these shelters. To check the opening hours of the shelter we messaged the restaurant via Facebook and quickly got a response. I believe that you can visit most mornings before lunch service. For only €3 per person, and a small wait, we watched a short film about Malta’s experiences during WWII and were given a private tour of the tunnels.
As we were guided through the shelter you could see the pickaxe marks along the walls which shows the determination of the men who dug these 220 metre long tunnels. This shelter is larger than the one we explored in Mosta, and it also had a number of side rooms dug into the limestone. Our guide informed us that the wealthier families used these side rooms and the slither of privacy that came with them. The shelter was still furnished with beds, cots and personal items. One of the rooms was used as a makeshift school with blackboard and chairs. Another room was an infirmary and there was also a nursery. The Maltese had spent many months living underground and they had banded together to create some sense of normality and community whilst hiding from the horrors above ground.
Last Updated on 24 March 2022 by Michael