time to explore with esplora
A quick guide to WW2 spotting on the South of the Island
Andrew Galea sets out on a hunt for some of the best local wartime sites and relatively uncharted pillboxes, which most people do not even know exist
I would strongly recommend starting off with a visit to the excellent Malta at War Museum in Birgu (Vittoriosa). This museum caters to families and experts alike and gives a great overview of the Second Great Siege of Malta with its fascinating displays. When visiting, make sure to explore its large underground shelter, which is a real eye opener.
Take time to walk around the Three Cities area. Here, a lot of buildings still have bomb damage with shrapnel marks on their facades. The Inquisitors Palace is a good example of this.
The Island was preparing itself for an invasion, so you should be looking out for pillboxes (concrete bunkers, which would have housed machine guns). These would have been found on the shoreline as a first line of defence and then further inshore in defence lines. Look out for them at junctions on hills etc.
There are two types of pillboxes that one can find on the island: the early/pre-war pillboxes, which are very well camouflaged and usually faced with a natural rubble wall stone effect, as well as the two-story square pillboxes made out from concrete. The latter would have been painted to blend in with its surroundings. This can be seen clearly at Wied Iż- Żurrieq, where you go when visiting the Blue Grotto. There is a beautiful early example in full view of the boat jetty. When visiting Għar Dalam, you would be able to see a line of the later two-story examples very close by.
The pretty fishing village of Marsaxlokk and even Marsascala and Birżebbuġa have plenty of pillboxes on their approach.
Malta International Airport is still surrounded by a few remaining pillboxes, but you will realise they’re a different style as they were built for the Royal Air Force. Many pillboxes would have a small structure in front or on top of the main structure to house the search light.
There is also the Commonwealth War Grave site in Kalkara, which one should visit to get a true picture of the price of war. Making history in 1942, Malta became the most bombed place on earth. As you would expect, there are plenty of heavy anti-aircraft batteries scattered in the South of the Island. These would have consisted of four concrete gun placements and a central control building. These are extremely hard to spot as sadly most of them are in a very poor state, such as the one at Delimara.
Whilst visiting the Maltese islands, look out for local WW2 reenactors such as Battlefront Living History and Malta Command and check if they will be having a public display. Normallly they have period vehicles as well as their helmets in the unique WW2 rubble war Malta camouflage effect.