About Lascaris War Rooms
The Lascaris War Rooms in Malta were an important military headquarters during World War Two and the setting from which the invasion of Sicily and Malta’s air defences were coordinated. Comprised of a complicated web of subterranean tunnels, the existence of the Lascaris War Rooms remained secret throughout the conflict.
A Royal Navy base for years after the war, in the 1960s the Lascaris War Rooms became a strategic communication centre for NATO. Since 2009 it has been under the management of the Malta Heritage Trust and is now a popular tourist site.
Lascaris War Rooms history
Located 150 feet under the Upper Barracca Gardens and Saluting Battery in Valletta, the Lascaris War Rooms housed Britain’s war headquarters in Malta during World War Two. Work began in 1940 during the siege of Malta, expanding a series of tunnels that had previously been used as slave quarters by the Hospitaller crusaders. The complex was completed in 1943 and saw around 1000 people working there.
The ultra secret complex housed an operations room for each of the fighting services, in particular, an RAF control room from which all sea and air operations were controlled. A Filter Room saw all radar traffic and a Combined Operations room provided a heavily guarded facility with encryption machines used to receive and send secret communications.
In July 1943 the rooms were used by General Eisenhower and his commanders Admiral Cunningham and Field Marshal Montgomery and Air Marshal Tedder, to plan the invasion of Sicily – also known as Operation Husky.
After the war’s end, the Lascaris War Rooms became the headquarters of the Mediterranean Fleet. Lascaris also also played a role during the Suez Crisis in 1956, and was on full alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, expecting a missile attack on Malta. The rooms were later taken over by NATO in 1967 to be used to intercept Soviet submarines in the Mediterranean during the Cold War.
After Malta Heritage Trust acquired the war rooms in 2009, they were restored and opened to the public.
Lascaris War Rooms today
Visitors can explore the Lascaris War Rooms with an hour long tour of the tunnels full of artefacts such as wall charts that transport you back to the 1940s. The whole complex was mechanically ventilated and still functions today, allowing the tunnels to be visited today.
In the war rooms you can also catch the Operation Husky exhibition that aims to explain both the role of Malta in the campaign, but also demonstrate the hardship of the Sicilian population due to indiscriminate bombing and atrocities committed by both Allied and Axis forces. Access is by ticket only, 13€ for a standard adult. The entrance is located in St James Ditch.
Getting to Lascaris War Rooms
Looking out onto the Grand Harbour, you can easily find the Lascaris War Rooms from the Upper Barrakka Gardens. The bus stop Lascaris along bus route 133 is only a minute walk away, and the rooms are only a short walk from other sites such as the Valletta City Gate or Grandmaster Palace.