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Malta Restores Forgotten War Rooms, Hewn into the Rocks in WWII


A rotary dial telephone set and clock are seen in the NATO tunnels dating back to the Cold War in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 28, 2017.

In a vast network of tunnels carved into the rocks under the Maltese capital Valletta, faded maps of the Mediterranean hint at the place's role in directing key battles in World War II.

Malta is now restoring the 28,000 square meters (300,000 square feet) of tunnels, planning to open a huge section to the public.

Part of a map showing the central Mediterranean is seen in the map room at the Combined Operations Center, dating back to World War II, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 24, 2017.
Part of a map showing the central Mediterranean is seen in the map room at the Combined Operations Center, dating back to World War II, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 24, 2017.

The compound, hidden under the picturesque port city perched on cliffs above the sea, was built by the British and served as the staging ground for major naval operations. The British military withdrew in 1979 and the compound was abandoned for almost 40 years.

German and Italian forces bombarded Malta intensively between 1940 and 1942 to try gain control of the Mediterranean, but did not manage to force the British out. During the Cold War, the tunnels were used to track Soviet submarines.

The NATO tunnels, dating back to the Cold War, are seen in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 28, 2017.
The NATO tunnels, dating back to the Cold War, are seen in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 28, 2017.

Over the years, water and humidity have let rust and mold spread. Some rooms have been vandalized, but traces of the military apparatus that once occupied the complex still remain.

Military cot beds, tangled cables and dust-covered rotary phones litter the rooms.

The Malta Heritage Trust, a non-governmental preservation group, began the multi-million-dollar restoration of the site in 2009.

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