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During the Second World War, it was recognised, not for the first time in the island’s history, that winning control of Malta was keyto controlling the Mediterranean. At cemeteries across Malta it’s possible to visit the graves and memorials commemorating 6,000 members of the Commonwealth forces who lost their lives either on the ground, in the air or at sea. It is not just the fallen of the Second World War that are remembered – almost half the war graves on the island commemorate victims from First World War campaigns in nearby Gallipoli in Turkey and Salonika (now Thessaloniki) in Greece.

Pieta Military Cemetery, Malta


Malta at War First World War A British colony from 1814 to 1964, Malta served as the ‘Nurse of the Mediterranean’ during the First World War. From the spring of 1915, the hospitals and convalescent depots established on the islands of Malta and Gozo dealt with over 135,000 sick and wounded, chiefly from the campaigns in Gallipoli and Salonika, although increased submarine activity in the Mediterranean meant that fewer hospital ships were sent to the island from May 1917.

A guide to Malta’s World War Commemorations

Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery

Second World War

www.cwgc.org

Fortified and garrisoned during the Second World War, Malta was of vital strategic importance to the Allies, both as the only British-held harbour between Gibraltar and Alexandria and, perhaps more crucially, as a base for air and submarine operations against Axis (Germany, Italy and Japan) convoys supplying North Africa.


Remembering The Dead in Malta Almost 6,000 Commonwealth servicemen and women lie buried in Malta’s cemeteries or are commemorated by name on memorials to the missing. The Commission also cares for more than 200 war graves of other nationalities in Malta and almost 4,000 non-war graves, mostly those of servicemen, their dependants and civilian workers attached to military establishments. The Commonwealth war burials in Malta are unlike those found anywhere else. Many joint and collective burials were made, marked by flat tablets (see below). This style was chosen due to the shallow earth crust in Malta; it also enabled several inscriptions to be accommodated.

Imtarfa Military Cemetery, Malta


Historical Snapshot – ‘The Siege’ During the Second World War, the Axis famously laid siege to the island by blockade. This starved its military and civilian population of essential supplies. Malta’s resistance was challenged by a merciless bombing campaign that reached a climax early in 1942 with 154 days of continuous raids. In March and April more bombs were dropped on the island than fell on London during the entire Blitz, the anti-aircraft gunners responding with more than 160,000 rounds in April alone, bringing down more than 100 Axis aircraft.

“More bombs were dropped on the island than fell on London during the entire Blitz” The island’s three airfields were repeatedly targeted. Alarming numbers of aircraft were destroyed on the ground and the RAF struggled desperately to keep operational those that remained. The industrial areas and harbours were also badly hit and more than 30,000 of Malta’s buildings were destroyed. Much of the 250,000 strong civilian population were evacuated to the centre of the island where they were forced to live an underground existence. Almost 1,500 civilians died in the bombing and more suffered from hunger and sickness in the unsanitary living conditions. On 15 April 1942, at the height of its people’s suffering, King George VI made the unique gesture of awarding the George Cross to the Maltese nation, acknowledging their bravery. The island’s defence relied upon a combined operation in which the contributions made by the three branches of the armed forces and Merchant Navy were equally crucial. Though heavily pressed in defence, offensive raids on Axis lines of communication were still launched from


the island by air and sea. Malta’s proximity to Italy and North Africa meant her own vital supply convoys were themselves suffering with many ships – 31 between 1940 and 1942 – lost to mine or submarine. Some, having run the gauntlet from Gibraltar or Alexandria, were sunk by air raids in the comparative safety of the Grand Harbour at Valletta. By the early summer of 1942, the situation was critical. Though individual ships and aircraft had trickled in a lifeline of supplies, no substantial convoy had got through since the previous September and stocks of food, maintenance equipment and spares, fuel and antiaircraft ammunition were very low. Believing that Malta was essentially finished, the Axis powers turned their attention elsewhere; for a while the raids eased, allowing defences to be improved and on the night of 9 August Operation Pedestal, the largest relief convoy ever planned for Malta, left Gibraltar. Under almost constant attack by sea and air, only five of the convoy’s 14 vessels made it to Valletta, the capital. These five ships brought 55,000 tons of desperately needed supplies. Malta had been on the verge of collapse but now had enough to carry on, resisting a new

Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery (below, left and right)


wave of air raids that October and holding out until the final relief came the following summer with the Axis powers’ defeat in North Africa.

Millard Liebeck made the front page of the Toronto Globe and Mail upon graduating as a Flying Officer with the Royal Canadian Airforce, his story featuring alongside news of the attack on Pearl Harbour. A year later, 1941, his crew was sent to a besieged Malta. Their mission was to prevent Axis oil supplies from reaching North Africa. Liebeck died when his aircraft was set upon by Axis fighters about 100 miles north of Tobruk, Libya. The battle lasted about 20 minutes before the Canadian Torpedo Bomber was overpowered. Liebeck’s plane was seen crashing into the sea at a steep angle, with the remains never recovered. He is commemorated at the Malta Memorial, along with over 2,000 other airmen.

Pieta Military Cemetery, Malta


The Malta Memorial With its pivotal contribution to the air war in the Mediterranean, Malta was chosen after the Second World War as the location for one of the Commission’s memorials to commemorate members of the Commonwealth air forces who gave their lives and who have no known grave. The Malta Memorial (pictured left) designed by Sir Hubert Worthington remembers 2,300 such airmen. These were lost flying from bases in Austria, Italy, Sicily, islands of the Adriatic and Mediterranean, Malta, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, West Africa, Yugoslavia and Gibraltar.

The Civilian Roll At the end of the Second World War the Commission was given the task of compiling a register of all Commonwealth civilians who had lost their lives as a result of enemy action. The Malta roll lists almost 1,500 civilians, practically all of whom died during the critical years of 1940-42. The Roll is searchable via the CWGC website.


Service Cemeteries in Malta Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery Representing the CWGC’s biggest commitment in Malta, 694 Second World War burials (mainly Naval and Air Force) and 351 from the First World War are buried here. Among those are the 22 men that died when HMS Russell was sunk by a mine off Malta in April 1916. The CWGC also cares for many non world war graves in Malta, including 1,445 here.

Imtarfa Military Cemetery This cemetery lies one kilometre north of Medina, Malta’s former capital. It contains 15 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and 238 from the Second World War.


Pembroke Military Cemetery Pembroke Military Cemetery contains 9 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and 315 from the Second World War. The Pembroke Memorial commemorates 52 servicemen of the Second World War whose graves in other parts of Malta cannot be maintained. Their names appear on marbles plaques set into the plinth of the Cross of Sacrifice.

Pieta Military Cemetery There are 1,303 Commonwealth casualties of the First World War commemorated at Pieta Military Cemetery, including 20 Indian servicemen. 166 Second World War casualties are also commemorated here.


CWGC Commitments in Parish and Civil Cemeteries Addolorata Cemetery Casal Zebbug Church Maria Addolorata Cemetery, Casal Dingli Marsa Jewish Cemetery Siggiewi (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) Cemetery Ta-Braxia Cemetery Tarxien Cemetery Turkish Military, Marsa Zurrieq (St. Leo’s) Cemetery

Full cemetery details, including visiting information and opening times of these cemeteries, can be found via the CWGC “Find a Cemetery” search facility on www.cwgc.org

Malta

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Addolorata Cemetery Casal Zebbug Church Imtarfa Mlitary Cemetery Malta Memorial Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery Maria Addolorata Cemetery Marsa Jewish Cemetery Pembroke Military Cemetery and Memorial Pieta Military Cemetery Siggiewi (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) Cemetery Ta-Braxia Cemetery Tarxien Cemetery Turkish Military, Marsa Zurrieq (St. Leo’s) Cemetery

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11 9 4 2

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10 14

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The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is responsible for the commemoration of almost 1,700,000 members of the Commonwealth forces who gave their lives in the two world wars. The graves and memorials of these men and women, who came from all par ts of the Commonwealth and who were of many faiths and of none, are found around the globe in 153 countries. Enquiries on the location of individual burials or commemorations can be directed to the offices below or to the Commission’s website at www.cwgc.org where there is an online searchable database. Commonwealth War Graves Commission 37 Rhapsody, Triq L-Inbid, Attard, Malta Tel: +356 21450107

Front cover: Pieta Military Cemetery, Malta

Commonwealth War Graves Commission Mediterranean Area, PO Box 40970 - TT 6308, Cyprus Tel: +357 24819460 Email: enquiries@cwgc.org

A Guide to War Grave Commemorations in Malta  

Discover the places of remembrance for more than 6,000 Commonwealth servicemen and women, commemorated on Malta from the two world wars.

A Guide to War Grave Commemorations in Malta  

Discover the places of remembrance for more than 6,000 Commonwealth servicemen and women, commemorated on Malta from the two world wars.