The War Graves
Malta was the first place in the Empire to be attacked from the air and assaulted by sea, and during the long ordeal of the siege 432 members of the garrison were killed by enemy aircraft alone. There were numerous deaths among servicemen from other causes so that the Service war burials in Malta total 1512, of whom 181 are Maltese.
The majority of these burials were from the various hospitals which functioned there. In addition to the existing hospitals, No.90 British General Hospital was posted to the Island in April 1940 and was still there in December 1945. Nos.39 and 45 British General Hospitals arrived in September 1941 and January 1942 respectively, remaining until April and March 1944. Nos.161 Field Ambulance, 15 Field Ambulance and 57 Field Ambulance were stationed on the island also and 30 Coy. RAMC staffed the Command Laboratory.
Most of the casualties were buried in the naval and military cemeteries. These are Capuccini Naval Cemetery, Pembroke Military Cemetery, Mtarfa Military Cemetery and Pieta` Military Cemetery. At Pieta` are to be found war graves going back to the 1914-1918 War, when sick and wounded from Gallipoli and the Near East were brought to Malta. A few casualties from both wars are buried in civilian cemeteries in various parts of the island.
During both world wars burials were in collective or joint graves, although during the last war single graves were used to some extent when the air raids lessened as Malta is mainly rock and the earth shallow the graves were cut in rock. To mark the graves recumbent stone slabs - on which several inscriptions could be carved - were used instead of the traditional Commission headstone. For the sake of uniformity the same type of memorial was used on the single graves.
Those men whose graves, although known, are so situated that permanent maintenance cannot be assured, are commemorated individually on memorial plaques let into the base of the Cross of Sacrifice in Pembroke Military Cemetery. Their names number 52, although 53 names are inscribed in the memorial plaques as one who lies buried in Zurrieq (St Leo’s) Cemetery is also commemorated there. Nineteen Maltese servicemen are buried in other cemeteries.
The Malta Branch of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission tends to the graves of British Commonwealth servicemen buried in the four military cemeteries.
(Capuccini) Naval Cemetery, Kalkara
This cemetery, which once belonged to the Admiralty, is located near Rinella, a bay across Valletta in the Grand Harbour and is close to a Capuchin monastery from which it takes its name. It is in two sections, Protestant and Roman Catholic. There is a triangular 1914-1918 War plot in the Protestant section in which stands a granite Cross of Sacrifice which was erected after that war. Most of the 1939-1945 War graves too are in the Protestant section, in a plot near the entrance and there is another group in the Roman Catholic section but there are a few others in scattered positions in this burial ground.
Capuccini Naval Cemetery, known locally as the Royal Naval Cemetery, Kalkara, contains the largest number of 1939-1945 burials in Malta; they total 734. The ten Merchant Navy non-war graves are those of men whose death was not due to war service. The 1914-1918 War casualties buried or commemorated in this cemetery number 346. This figure includes six casualties whose burial in the cemetery was not verified until after the publication of the 1914-1918 register, and one who was buried in the island of Pantellaria, but whose grave was lost. This man is commemorated by a special memorial type E, which is inscribed to this effect, with the quotation “Their glory shall not be blotted out.”
The cemetery is planted with trees and shrubs, which include pines, cypresses, oleanders and hibiscus. Low hedges line the main paths and around the 1939-1945 plots are low evergreen hedges of atriplex halimus (tree purslane) which has leaves of silvery green.
Pembroke Military Cemetery, St. Andrew’s
This burial ground, which was controlled by the War Office, is to be found close to the Pembroke Rifle Ranges and the former St Andrew’s Barracks. It lies adjacent to the main road from St Julians to St Pauls. It was begun in 1908 by the military authorities, to serve the garrison and besides the 1939-1945 War graves contains nine 1914-1918 War graves. There are in all 318 casualties of the 1939-1945 War buried in the cemetery. In addition 53 servicemen, whose graves in other parts of Malta are so situated that permanent maintenance cannot be assured, are commemorated by name on marble plaques let into the plinth of the Cross of Sacrifice. A central plaque bears the dedicatory inscription which reads:
1939 - 1945
THE SAILORS, SOLDIERS AND AIRMEN WHOSE NAMES ARE
HONOURED HERE DIED IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY
AND LIE BURIED ELSEWHERE IN MALTA.
This cemetery lies on sloping ground and is terraced. On the top terrace stands the Cross of Sacrifice approached by flanking steps.
Mtarfa Military Cemetery
Just below Mdina, the former capital of Malta, lies Mtarfa Military Cemetery. This burial ground contains graves of both World Wars, the 1914-1918 War burials numbering 15 while the 1939-1945 burials total 262. The latter include six Service personnel and six members of the Foreign Office attached to the Prime Minister’s delegation for the Yalta conference, who were killed in a flying accident on the way to the Crimea. The civilians are included in the figures for non-war graves.
The 1939-1945 War graves occupy a considerable area in which a Cross of Sacrifice has been erected. Pencil cypresses and a group of flowering shrubs form a background to the Cross. In front of it, bordering the main path, a low hedge of bougainvillea has been planted. Around the boundaries and in various positions in the cemetery are trees of several kinds, including pines, false pepper, casuarina, lantana and Indian lilac. Elsewhere are flowering shrubs to give colour and beauty, among them spiraea, plumbago, oleander and bougainvillea.
Pieta` Military Cemetery
This cemetery is one of two in Pieta` and should not be mistaken with Ta’ Braxia (non-catholic burials). Pieta` was the principal garrison cemetery and is laid out in rectangular paved terraces and planted with trees and shrubs.
Along the main paths pencil cypresses have been planted to form avenues, while in the plots, between the blocks of graves, are beds of oleanders and lantana. Oleanders form a background to the Cross of Sacrifice and along the north-eastern boundary and elsewhere in the cemetery are trees of various kinds, including pines, palms, casuarina, and ceratonia or carob-bean.
Here are buried or commemorated 1,304 casualties of the 1914-1918 War, in a section which contains the Cross of Sacrifice. The 1939-1945 War burials number 180 and this total is made up by 135 soldiers belonging to the United Kingdom Army, 31 men of the Malta Forces, 14 Yugoslavs, and 1 civilian.