Malta During WWI

Malta was not on the front line of World War I (unlike World War II) but did participate in many ways nevertheless. Malta was known as the 'Nurse of the Mediterranean' due to its role of caring for wounded soldiers (British, Australian & allied) from Turkey & Greece. To begin with it was a rest & rehabilitation station but quickly progressed into caring & treating the worst wounds soldiers & sailors were receiving especially after the horrific disaster of the Gallipoli landings.

In all some 27 hospitals providing 25,000 beds were set up on Malta to care for the wounded. From Spring 1915 over 135,000 sick & wounded personnel arrived in Malta & Gozo from Gallipoli & Salonika.

The population of Malta responded to the call to arms. By the first September of the war 1,000 Maltese were serving with the British fleet. Some Italians who were married to Maltese ladies were killed at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 on battleships HMS Defence & HMS Indefatigable.
On the 25th September 1914 Maltese recruits for a new Army reached 1,000. Many Maltese served at the Dardanelles as stevedores & labourers at ANZAC, Hellas & Suvla beaches under difficult circumstances. Some 864 sailed for Mudros on 1st September 1915. Work included unloading ships, laying roads, blasting, cutting stone & wood & digging wells.
Later, another 800 labourers & stevedores were sent to Salonika, Greece. Five officers & 42 men of the Royal Malta Artillery served with 1,108 Maltese in Galipolli & 1,300 in Salonika. In all some 24,000 Maltese volunteers joined various British services during the Great War.

In 1915 The Kings Own Malta Regiment of Militia volunteered for service in Salonika, Greece.

The disastrous landings at Gallipoli in April 1915 resulted in a large number of wounded arriving in Malta hospitals. During the war some 58,000 wounded passed through Malta's hospitals.

As in the second war submarines & mines were to play a part in sinking allied ships including hospital ships.

On 13th February 1915 the first take off of an aircraft from Malta took place when a Short Seaplane Type 135, No.136 took off from the waters of Grand Harbour. The role of aircraft on Malta was to escort convoys & detect enemy submarines. This led to the establishment of a seaplane base at Kalafrana (started late 1915) where by May 1916 hangers & spillways were already constructed. This base was later used during WWII.

On the 7th April 1918 the Zeppelin LZ 104 took off from Bulgaria to target Malta's Dockyard area. It was last heard of round the heel of Italy where it most likely blew up with its cargo of 5,000 kilos of bombs & incendiaries. This would have been Malta's first bombing raid.

Hospitals included - Valletta Military Hospital, Zammit-Clapp Hospital in St.Julians, Mtarfa Hospital, Spinola Palace, Bighi Hospital, Cottonera Hospital, Hamrun Hospital, St.George's Hospital, St.Paul's Hospital, St.Andrew's Hospital, St.David's Hospital, St.Patrick's Hospital, St.John's School - Sliema, St.Ignatius Hospital, Tignè Hospital, St.Elmo & Baviere Hospitals - Valletta, Manoel Hospital, Ghajn Tuffieha Camp & Fort Chambray on Gozo.

The numbers of those buried on Malta during the Great War are 1500 British, 26 Anzac servicemen also French, Indian & Egyptians along with 26 Turkish prisoners of war.

I would recommend the book 'Malta during the First World War - 1914-1918' by Anthony Zarb-Dimech to anyone interested in this area of history. I found it really interesting Not many books cover this area of Malta's history & this site draws heavily from this authors work on WWI.

ISBN: 99932-0-306-8