AMACS MEMBERS’ TOUR OF THE LASCARIS COMPLEX ON 4TH MAY
Tour of Lascaris War Rooms, The Unfinished Bunker and St Peter & Paul Counterguard
The AMACS visit on Saturday 4th May (which was very well attended) was organised in Conjunction with Heritage Organisation, Wirt Artna.
In the course of ongoing restoration works at the Underground War Headquarters Wirt Artna discovered a set of unfinished tunnels which were part of an underground bunker under the St Peter and Paul counterguard. It has not been fully decided what are the future plans for these tunnels but Wirt Artna granted AMACs, as keen WW2 enthusiasts, special access to the tunnels and the unfinished bunker together with a tour of the St Peter and Paul counterguard scarp. We were also treated to a “sneak peek” of the new restoration works that are currently in progress for the upcoming opening of the Operation Husky rooms which are an addition to the Lascaris War Rooms tour.
All of these areas are strictly off limits to the public but the AMACS team were able to not only gain access but were treated to a full commentary tour by one of their very knowledgeable guides.
Covering an area of around 8000 sqm, the unfinished bunker and tunnels are far larger than one would imagine and it was amazing to see the scale and precision of the works carried out by the British Royal Engineers. Surprisingly, the overall condition of the tunnels is very good as the area is naturally well ventilated. Situated underneath the St Peter and Paul counterguard scarp, the tunnels are cut into the rock itself and if finished would have become a very secure place from which to control military operations in the Mediterranean.
Construction commenced in 1941. Several attempts were made to complete the bunker but each time, construction was halted for various reasons. The project was finally abandoned in 1950. If finished, this would have become a huge headquarters in preparation for the looming possible Soviet nuclear threat. In 1973, since the HQ was never completed, it was used as a dumping ground for piles of smashed military equipment, most of which is still there to this day. This includes a mining-style railway network together with the carts used to remove rock and stone during the construction process.
Our tour then moved on to the newly restored Operation Husky Rooms which are part of the Lascaris complex and concluded with a tour of the normally inaccessible St Peter and Paul Counterguard scarp with its amazing views over Grand Harbour.
We would like to express our thanks to Gabriel from Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna for his cooperation in organising this visit and in particular to our guide, James, for his excellent talk and insights which lasted well over two hours. Well done guys!
Wirt Artna are continuing to do great work to preserve many historical sites in Malta and we would urge you to visit their web site and support the organisation in any way you can. They need our support so that visitors to Malta can enjoy our history for many years to come.
To find out what they currently have to offer, please visit: https://www.wirtartna.org/
Andrew Galea, Gary Ashton
AMACS Historical Visit Organisers, May 2019