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‘It was terrible’: How Malta survived the war

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This extraordinary archive footage shows how people in Malta struggled during the darkest days of the Second World War.

Camera crews spoke with survivors of the conflict, including teachers, dockyard workers and Victory Kitchen supervisors to hear their harrowing past experiences of Malta at war.

During the Second World War, Malta was the most bombed place on earth. More than 14,000 bombs were dropped, destroying about 30,000 buildings but Malta still fought on.

The two-year period between 1940 and 1942 was the most intense bombing campaign Malta has ever seen with more than 15,000 tonnes of high explosives were dropped on towns and villages by the Hitler and Mussolini’s air forces during more than 3,300 air raids.

Thousands of homes in Valletta, Sliema, Senglea, Vittoriosa, Cospicua, Floriana and elsewhere around the Grand Harbour were destroyed or damaged, and more than 1,500 civilians lost their lives.

Deeply-buried shelters provided the most protection against a direct hit, with most towns and villages having their own air raid shelters.

The people of Malta ended the war with the distinction of being the only nation to be awarded the George Cross. The medal is awarded by the British monarch for acts of the greatest heroism or courage in circumstances of extreme danger.

To this day, Malta holds the record for the heaviest, sustained bombing attack: some 154 days and nights and 6,700 tons of bombs.

Malta during the war – facts and figures

• Population in Malta and Gozo at the beginning of the war – 270,000
• Air raids registered throughout the war over Malta – 3,343
• Total hours under Air-raids – 2,357
• Tonnes of bombs dropped on the Maltese Islands – 15,000
• Civilian casualties June 1940 – April 1944 – 1,581
• Military and Merchant Navy casualties – 7,500
• People in Malta injured – 3,780
• Tonnes of Axis shipping sunk by Malta-based submarines – 390,660
• Buildings destroyed or extensively damaged – 10,761

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