WWII Pillbox Cleared for Demolition to Make Room for Apartment Building – Residents and Heritage Groups Protest

One of the World War II pillboxes in Malta, Naxxar.  Frank Vincentz / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia
One of the World War II pillboxes in Malta, Naxxar. Frank Vincentz / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia

A World War II pillbox in San Ġwann on the island of Malta has been cleared for demolition by the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage in Malta. The decision clears the way for the pillbox to be destroyed to make room for a block of apartments.

Heritage NGOs, the San Ġwann local council, and residents have all voiced their desire to conserve the “first-rate” wartime defense post on Sir Emvin Cremona Street.

The SCH said they have visited the site and found that the pillbox is in a “dilapidated and unstable condition.”

“The pillbox is not of such cultural heritage value as to warrant its preservation,” it said, without any objection to the application.

Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna, a voluntary, non-governmental organization dedicated to the preservation and study of Maltese cultural heritage, is among the objectors to demolishing the pillbox. They say that the pillbox was built by Royal Engineers early in the war as part of the third line of defense from the coast. It was built to be bombproof and to resist capture in the event of an invasion. In conjunction with other structures, it would serve to slow or stop an enemy.

Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna, in this objection, said that over 200 posts were built as part of this scheme. Today less than half survive, which makes it all more important to save and retain this example.

Heritage Malta and the San Ġwann council are also opposed to the apartment complex that is to include seven apartments, two underground garages, and two ground floor maisonettes.

The local council said: “The development shall result in the demolition of the present WWII defensive structure, which should be conserved and scheduled.”

“The building structure in question is a first-rate WWII defense post disguised as a traditional Maltese rural structure to fit in its rural setting.”

In a letter to the Times of Malta newspaper, Tony Cutajar of Wirt San Ġwann called on the public and other entities to submit objections and stated:

“Are we to forgo this wartime defensive vestige in the name of ‘development’ or are we brave and strong enough to make our voices heard and save what is left of our World War II heritage?”

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE