Thursday, 5 November 2009

National War Museum - Valletta Post 128

Fort St Elmo

Main Entrance to Fort St Elmo

The National War Museum is situated in a building known as the Old Drill Hall in Lower Fort St Elmo at the tip of the Valletta peninsula. It was originally built in 1553 to protect the entrance to The Grand Harbour of Valletta. The Fort was destroyed during the Great Siege of 1565 and reconstructed in 1567, there have been some modifications since then.

It now houses the Police Academy and a small part is occupied by The National War Museum. In more recent times, part of it was used as a film location jail for Midnight Express. It did look a little bit sad when we were there and in need of a bit of work to tidy it up but the entrance to the Museum has been renovated.

I visited the National War Museum about twelve years ago but it was completely renovated earlier this year and the change is amazing. Shame they haven't renovated The Fort, it's looking very neglected. Given its historical importance in the two sieges it really should be a big tourist attraction.

The Museum's collection focuses on the two World Wars 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. It recounts the story of the events which led to the two wars, their development, major actions and consequences locally and abroad.

Special reference is made to the role of Malta in the theatre of war and the contribution of the Maltese population to the war effort especially during the incredibly difficult conditions of 1942.

The visit begins with the origins of the First World War, the outbreak, major battles on land and sea and Malta's role as naval base and Nurse of the Mediterranean. Artifacts on display include German machine guns, trench mortars and a torpedo.

Searchlight

Motor bike

Husky

Gun

The fighter force defending Malta was a very small force of British-operated Gladiators, three were named Faith, Hope and Charity. Have to say Faith and Hope were very apt names for these planes. You can see more about them on this website and here's a photo of Faith on display in the National war Museum. I was amazed at how small the plane was.



Faith

I found an amazing piece of video on Google. It's an e
xcerpt from a rare WW11 Italian colour documentary showing shows Italian and German air forces from an air field in Sicily on a bombing mission over Malta in 1942, with scenes of air battle against RAF Spitfire interceptors. It's really awful watching the bombs drop.



Here are some photographs of the various Armed Forces uniforms on display

Royal Navy Uniforms

Royal Navy

This is exactly what my Dad would have been wearing when he was in Valletta During World War 11. I remember him talking about his bell bottoms which traditionally had to have the creases horizontally across the trouser legs as well as vertically because they had to be kept folded in their kit bags. Apparently the sailors wore bell bottoms so that they could roll the bottoms up when they were working in the rigging. Obviously not during WW11!

Love those "whites"!

Pilot

Army Uniforms


I really loved this Air Raid Precaution first aid kit. Note the old Boots the chemist logo!

Boots first aid case

ARP First Aid Kit


It's a great museum and has lots of personal memorabilia and awards.

This is one awarded to Carmelo Zammit who was killed when HMS Louvain was torpedoed by the U-Boat UC22 on 21 January 1918 in the Aegean Sea.

Award First World War

Here's another from World War 11 awarded to Frederick Neville Riley of the Merchant Navy.



There were lots more materials which have been donated to the museum by servicemen and women's families. One of the saddest was a letter notifying a Royal Navy seaman's wife in England of his death. It was written in what seems an absolutely callous way and included information on how she could claim for him. There was a photograph of him in uniform and a lovely postcard he had sent to her. It was so sad.

On Friday 15 April 1942 the entire island of Malta was awarded the George Cross, the highest civilian award for gallantry. The award is not given lightly and was unprecedented in British history.
For more information about The Cross and its recipients take a look at The George Cross Database .

The importance of the award was keenly felt by the Maltese people at the time and provided a much needed boost to the morale of the country whilst it was being constantly bombed and its people were starving.

The George Cross is mounted in a simple wooden frame with the letter from King George V1 and is housed in the National War Museum.

George Cross

I've just bought a copy of James Holland's book Fortress Malta - An Island Under Siege 1940 -1943. So I hope to find out lots more about this amazing island and its people during that time.

Post 128