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World War II Shelter

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The passageway leading to the Battery has five rather claustrophobic stone rooms leading off it. These were cut out of the rock in the early stages of World War II for five families. Most of the owners of these rooms spent the night here as a precaution against surprise attack. They used makeshift bedding resting on water-pipe frames that can still be seen in the chambers today.

Lying well over twenty kilometres away from the Grand Harbour and from Malta’s airfields (Hal Far, Hal Luqa, and Ta’ Qali) and devoid of any significant Allied installations, Gozo in fact escaped the heavy Axis’ bombing that decimated Valletta, The Three Cities, and other neighbouring towns. It was nonetheless subjected to several air raids during 1942 that claimed civilian lives so the people of Gozo, along with some 6000 refugees from the main island, sought shelter underground.

Air-raid shelters were constructed in Gozo from the beginning of 1941 until the end of 1942. Out of some 170 public shelters created by the Works Department, twenty were in ir-Rabat. Their siting presented a major challenge as the greater part of the town’s historic core stands on a clay outcrop. As a result, two sizeable shelters were dug at the foot of the towering walls of St. Martin’s and St. John’s Demi-bastions.

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