15 June 1941: Thousands in Malta Have No Air Raid Shelter

15 Jun

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Over 50000 Maltese civilians currently have no access to an air raid shelter, according to reports out today. 5000 men are currently employed in the construction of some 400 public rock shelters, to add to the 473 currently in use.  Altogether these will offer shelter for 138000 people.  In addition 27000 are still using concrete shelters and 62700 using private shelters. 

Out of a civilian population of 270000 (without including the military garrison), this still leaves tens of thousands without any sort of shelter: over 12000 in Birkirkara alone. In Hamrun and Marsa half the population have no access to shelter; Qormi, Zejtun and Mosta are in a similar position and Rabat, Zebbug and Siggiewi not much better.  There have been several incidents of civilians turning up to their local shelter and being unable to enter, some suffering injury or being killed as a result:

The shelter in South St is 'choked with beds'

The shelter in South St is ‘choked with beds’

“I went from my house at Hamrun to the strong shelter in Zerafa Street, Marsa. There was no place for me within, and I had to stand on the stairs near the entrance without any rock to protect me…I was told afterwards that the other shelters in the vicinity…were also filled to the limit.” (1)

Those lucky enough to get inside a shelter face overcrowding and discomfort, according to the Malta press:

“Even when after a lot of trouble one manages to get a very small space in a shelter one has got to put up with a lot of inconvenience such as having to stand in a very crowded shelter for hours and hours, and having to bear the cries of children and put up even with free fights… The shelter at the bottom of South Street, Valletta, is absolutely choked with beds so that people with more consideration for others who have not brought a bed down with them find it very difficult to find a place to stand inside the shelter.”

Well aware of the situation, the Governor & Commander in Chief is becoming increasingly concerned about the delay in shelter provision, which is now largely due to a shortage of suitable manpower. He recently applied to the War Office for miners to be sent to Malta to help speed up all the underground works needed on the Island.  In another telegram today, he outlined the current situation and stressed the increasing urgency:

“The tempo of shelter construction has increased and about 5000 men are now employed in the work. The space of two square feet allotted to shelters provides standing room but it is not adequate for long periods in shelters especially during all-night raids…It will be necessary after the present programme is completed to extend space in shelters considerably.  This will be particularly important if we are subjected to a sustained series of raids or to prolonged bombardments…

We have no choice but to press on with the digging of shelters with the maximum force of miners available. Ever since the entry of Italy into the war, provision of shelters has been the question of greatest interest to the whole population, who have allowed [the Government] no rest in their constant suggestions of ways of speeding up construction.  The fact that casualties have been so exceedingly small is mainly due to the protection afforded by shelters…If we are to face a long period of bombing attacks we must provide the people not merely with cramped accommodation in shelters but with adequate room for maintenance of health and spirits during any periods of continuous all-night raids.”


Weather  Cloudy; rain overnight.

No air raids.

Civilian casualties Tarxien  Francis Abela, age 22.


AIR HQ Arrivals 2 Bombay, 2 Wellington. Departures 2 Wellingtons, 28 Hurricanes left for Middle East; 7 Hurricanes turned back after losing lead Wellington in cloud. 69 Squadron 3 Marylands on reconnaissance.

HAL FAR  5 civilians injured by the explosion of a land-mine in Hal Far creek.

FORTRESS ROYAL ENGINEERS  Bomb Disposal UXB reported 2.

(1) When Malta Stood Alone, Joseph Micallef, Interprint Malta 1981


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Posted by on June 15, 2016 in 1941, June 1941


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