Italian and German Prisoners-of-War - WWII
This file contains the names of Italian and German prisoners-of-war in Malta during and after World War Two, and those who lost their lives by being shot down by the RAF or AA gunfire. They are aircrew from the Luftwaffe and the Regia Aeronautica plus a few from the Italian Navy. Those who were taken prisoner on land or from the sea often gave the names of their comrades who died, sometimes their bodies were found and they were given burial on Malta, whereas others were lost in the sea and never recovered. In some cases the man's body was so badly mutilated or fragmented in a crash that his body parts were buried close to the scene of the crash. During wartime the prisoners were held in the Corradino Military Detention Camp.
The E-boat attack on Grand Harbour carried out by the Italian Navy on 26th July 1941 ended with fifteen Italian dead, and three officers and fifteen ratings taken prisoner. They were housed in the Corradino Military Prison, but a week later on 2nd August 1941, they were taken on board HMS Manxman destined for Skye, Scotland.
The Orari was a 10,350 ton freighter, which had been part of the June 1942 convoy, and although damaged arrived at Malta. In early August she sailed for Scotland and had on board 29 captured German aircrew and some Italians. They were escorted by men of the Royal Navy from HMS Kingston and HMS Lance also returning to the U.K. She docked in the Clyde on 21st August where the prisoners of war were handed over to a platoon of Grenadier Guards.
During 1945 about 2500 German Prisoners-of-War were sent to Malta to help with the reconstruction of buildings and island's infrastructure. Many also worked on the land.
No.1 (Malta) Prisoner of War Camp was at Pembroke and No.2. Camp at Safi. The Camp Commandant of No.1 Camp was Lieut-Colonel Cocks, MC, Royal Artillery.
The German PoW’s wore khaki uniforms like British soldiers but with round blue patches on their shirts, battledress jackets, and trousers to indicate that they were PoW’s. They were housed in Nissen huts.
There was a high percentage of Roman Catholics amongst the German prisoners, so Lieut-Colonel Cocks had the idea of building a small Roman Catholic chapel on the site. Many of the men were craftsmen conscripted into the German Army and therefore had the necessary skills and ability to undertake such a project.
By the beginning of May 1946 it was completed, and on Monday the 6th, His Grace the Archbishop of Malta, Archbishop Gonzi, came to Pembroke to bless the newly built chapel. The Archbishop was greeted by Lieut-Colonel Cocks, and escorted into the chapel which was full to capacity with worshippers. One prisoner, Peter Francis Large, was confirmed by the Archbishop, who then proceeded to bless the building. He then spoke in English to the small congregation within the chapel, but his words were relayed to a much larger gathering outside. His address was translated into German by Captain Micallef-Trigona. His Grace said that hopefully it would not be too long before they were able to return home to their families in Germany.
Contained within the chapel were the Stations of the Cross, artistically and colourfully painted by a prisoner named Wagner, who was also responsible for the fine painting of the statues. The small bell was salvaged from a WWII blitzed Maltese church.
The bell in 2001
When the Archbishop left the chapel he passed between long lines of kneeling men all desirous of receiving his blessing, and afterwards whilst taking some refreshment was entertained by a band composed of German PoW’s. They played several popular classics, and as dusk fell a choir under the baton of a former music professor from Munich sang a selection of songs in German. After the departure of Archbishop Gonzi, the choir moved to outside the British Officers quarters where they continued their open-air concert.
About a fortnight later during the evening of 20th May 1946 groups of spectators lined the bastions overlooking Lascaris Wharf to watch the first batch of about 600 German Prisoners-of-War to be repatriated as they boarded the s.s. Empire Rival for Naples, accompanied by Lieut-Colonel Cocks.
In September 1946, the strength of No.1 Camp was two British Officers, twelve Other Ranks and 1141 Prisoners of War. No.2 (Malta) Prisoner of War Camp was closed on 10th September 1946, and 510 prisoners were transferred to No.1 Camp.
From the 1st January 1947, escorts with working parties were withdrawn and the PoW’s proceeded to their place of work under their own Squad Leaders. They carried out tasks at several military establishments as well as helping farmers on the land. On the 20th January the British Perimeter Guards were withdrawn, and the Germans provided their own guards.
Three months later during the night of 29th/30th April five men escaped, so the next day the British Perimeter Guard was re-introduced and manned by men of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Scots. However, by the 7th June they were again withdrawn.
By March 1947, one Officer and a further three Other Ranks were added to the British Staff and the prisoners numbered 1065. Lieut-Colonel Cocks reported that the morale of the Germans was generally good, though there were isolated cases of dissension regarding release dates and concern about families in Germany, which were overcome by him giving Welfare lectures. In March the previous year a German prisoner-of-war committed suicide at Imtarfa Hospital, by hanging himself with his braces. It was said that he had received news that his family in Berlin had all been wiped out.
The departure of prisoners continued 50 men in July 1947, 126 men in August, and 50 men in September, so by the end of December there were only 709 men remaining in the camp.
In the Autumn of 1947 a shop was opened in a Nissen hut which offered for sale a wide variety of items made by the German PoW's. Prices were cheap but the workmanship was first class. The goods were crafted from scraps of Bakelite, Perspex, metal, wood and stone, and yet the finished products were of a high standard.
For Christmas that year there were over 1,500 items for sale, including a large number of children’s toys, aeroplanes, model sailing yachts, trucks, etc, cigarette boxes, cigarette cases, ashtrays, cameos, photograph frames, book-ends, etc. With the money received from sales, the men were able to buy extra chocolate and cigarettes, but some used their share of the money to send parcels home to their families in Germany. Today a large display case in the National War Museum at Fort St. Elmo shows a wide range of items made by the PoW's.
At the beginning of 1948 three German Officers and two Other Ranks arrived from M.E.L.F., to aid with the documentation of the PoW’s, and by the middle of January preparations for the closure of the camp were in progress.
During 1947 due to the intervention of an Army Chaplain, the Reverend J.S. Naylor, a party of about 25 German Prisoners-of-War were allowed to join in the Evening Service at the Methodist Church in Floriana. They had their own clergyman, Pastor Dreus, who conducted part of the service in German for their benefit. However, as restrictions on aliens became relaxed they were able to acquire musical instruments and formed an orchestra, and so became a settled part of the community.
By the beginning of 1948 they were to return to their homes, many of which were located in the Russian Zone of Germany. Their final Service was on Sunday 25th January 1948 when Pastor Dreus said:
'We came to you as homeless weary men; you have given us the right to make this church our home. We came to you as embittered and despondent men; you have given us your trust and respect. Till the end of our days we shall be able to tell this in our own country'
The remaining prisoners, numbering 787 were embarked from Malta for Germany on 9th February, and on 17th February 1948 No.1 (Malta) Prisoner of War Camp was officially disbanded.
In April 1960 the Italian Navy Rescue and Salvage ship Proteo came to Malta and collected the remains of 121 German and 79 Italian dead of the Second World War who had been buried on the island, mostly in Pembroke Military cemetery. Each man was disinterred and his remains placed in a small metal coffin, and taken to Addolorata Cemetery, from where trucks took them to Parlatorio Wharf for loading.
The ship sailed for Sardinia where the coffins were re-interred in the St. Michele Communal Cemetery, Cagliari, Sardinia, situated about two miles outside the town of Cagliari. This cemetery contains the graves of Italian, German, British and British Commonwealth servicemen from the Second World War. There are 435 German dead from WWII, including those taken from Malta.
After the closure of the PoW Camp the chapel was taken over by the Roman Catholic Chaplain and used by British troops stationed in the Pembroke area. At the end of 1957 this chapel was blessed and dedicated to Our Lady and St. Boniface. The ceremony took place on Thursday 19th December, and was performed by the Right Reverend Monsignor Bernard Navin, Principal Chaplain and Vicar General of the Army, assisted by Father Gerald J. Seaston, the Senior Roman Catholic Chaplain to the Forces, Malta Garrison.
The chapel had been partly rebuilt and refurnished, having a trim garden and enclosed by a stonewall. Inside, the Stations of the Cross painted in 1946 by prisoner Wagner were still in good condition.
After the British forces departed from Malta in 1979 the chapel fell into disrepair.
By 1987 the large area at Pembroke formerly covered with the British Barracks of St. George's, St. Andrew's and St. Patrick's, had been redeveloped by a number of new housing schemes and therefore there was a growing population. The architect Richard England was commissioned to restore and enlarge the chapel.
The enlarged chapel
The subsequent plan which also provided a threshold piazza area, had the outside walls of the original chapel painted dark blue, whilst those of the new extension were painted light blue. The interior was also re-styled in a modern manner. The project won the 1991 American Institute of Architecture International Competition for Religious Architecture. The chapel was given the Maltese name of ‘Kristu Rxoxt’ – ‘The Risen Christ’.
The new interior
However, by 1999 the number of residents in the Pembroke area had increased even more and totally new facilities were needed, so the former PoW chapel that had been on the site for more than fifty years was demolished and the area cleared. Construction began of a much larger building complex called ‘Centru Pastorali Kristu Rxoxt’.
The new Parish Centre
Note: Special thanks to the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgrabeversorge for their help