The museum was set up primarily through the efforts of dedicated enthusiasts, founders of the National War Museum Association, and was opened to the public in 1975.
The museum building was originally a powder magazine. Around 1853 it was converted into an armoury, serving during the Second World War to train anti-aircraft gun crews. Fort St Elmo, renowned for its role against incredible odds during the epic 1565 Great Siege, was extended over the years into a formidable fortress. During the Second World War, it was once more the scene of heroic action by Maltese defenders against relentless enemy action.
A key feature of the museum is the numerous photographic panels depicting the harsh conditions prevailing in Malta during the crucial war years 1940-1943. These show clearly the hardships endured by the civilian population, the massive extent of war damage, the unhealthy living conditions within primitive underground shelters and above all, the heroic gallantry of a people who withstood the prolonged siege and the suffering it brought.
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