The role of Malta in the Second World War reflects the strategic position that it held in the Mediterranean as it acted as a gateway between the continents of Europe and Africa seeing as it was Britain’s most important Mediterranean naval base. Hence, when Mussolini plunged Italy into the war in 1940, Malta knew that it was destined to play a frontline role. In fact, Malta holds the record for the heaviest, sustained bombing attack: some 154 days and nights and 6,700 tons of bombs.
The people in Malta faced many challenges. Those who lived in the capital Valletta and “The Three Cities” had to be evacuated because of the danger of bombing and were also forced underground into a network of bomb shelters that could reportedly house nearly half of the island’s population. Due to the ferocious bombing, many towns and villages were reduced to rubble and hence, most people were spending long periods in the shelters as a form of protection.
When their morale was at its lowest, there came a glimmer of light, of hope, of joy for such a long-suffering people. The bravery and courage portrayed by the Islands population was not gone unnoticed and on the 15th April, 1942, King George VI awarded the island the George Cross, which is considered to be the highest civilian medal, for its peoples bravery and heroism.
“To honour her brave people, I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that long be famous in history”.
Once the war ended, the Maltese Islands were economically and physically devastated. In 1947, the Islands were granted around £30 million to help rebuild it. However it took several decades and further restructuring once the British forces left Malta completely in 1979, to rebuild the economy.
Re-live the Great Siege that erupted between the Knights of St John and the fierce Ottoman Empire; French and British rule; and the city’s heroic role in World War II. Check Out the Valletta History Package
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