Underground facilities at the Malta Air Traffic Radar Station

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Underground facilities at the Malta Air Traffic Radar Station

This entrance leads down to two different levels. The upper level goes to the W/T Operator Room and to the Generators Room. Continuing straight down will take you to a lower level to the Equipment Room and the Operations Control Room.
This entrance leads down to two different levels. The upper level goes to the W/T Operator Room and to the Generators Room. Continuing straight down will take you to a lower level to the Equipment Room and the Operations Control Room.

This underground complex was excavated during 1941 to house the equipment of the first two radar systems in Malta, the A.M.E.S. No. 241 and No. 242. Originally both systems were housed on Crossley trucks. No 241 was installed at this site on March 1939 as the first experimental Radio Direction Finding System with the intention to go back to UK after six months.

The first photograph in the tour show the Equipment Room used between 1941-1942 for the RDF (Radar) and VHF Transmitting equipment. The landline disc-cases are original and are still in very good condition. The landlines were used to communicate with the War Rooms in Valletta, originally at St John’s Cavalier and in 1942 at Lascaris.

The second photograph in the tour is of the Operations Control Room were the received information from the Radar Receiver was plotted onto a table map and the information relayed to Ops War Rooms in Valletta.

The third scene is of the Generators Room which housed two Lister 20KVA diesel generators with a ventilation fan for each set and the exhaust pipe extending through the central tunnel onto the cliffs side. Also just outside the generator room one can see a small cabin excavated into the rocks which was used by a Wireless Operator using Morse Code to pass information to the War Rooms in case a break down in landlines develop. Later on during the war this was also used to communicate with the airborne Wireless Operators.

View from the cliffs of the Malta Air Traffic Area Control Radar consisting of a Primary and a Secondary System that is two separate Radar Systems incorporated together.
View from the cliffs of the Malta Air Traffic Area Control Radar consisting of a Primary and a Secondary System that is two separate Radar Systems incorporated together.

When WWII broke on September 1939, this system became the only operational system to give early warning of any air raids. In June 1940 it was joined by No. 242 and the two systems were adjacent to each other. As the enemy increased its offences the British decided to excavate this complex to house the equipment. No. 241 was moved to Għar Lapsi in 1942 and few months later also No. 242 was withdrawn from this site and installed in the area which today is occupied by the ex-Jerma hotel at Marsascala.

The MATS Area Radar Station at Dingli Cliffs.
The MATS Area Radar Station at Dingli Cliffs.

A third system, A.M.E.S. 504 was installed about half a mile west of these units and it was mainly a low level and surface detection system. While No. 241 and No. 242 used yagi fixed antennas pointing around the four quadrants, No. 504 was the first system to use the rotating radar antenna as we know it today.

A typical sub-station component, in this case a step-down transformer.
A typical sub-station component, in this case a step-down transformer.

With 504, two other systems were brought to Malta on the same ship, No 501 at Fort Tas-Silg,Marsaxlokk and No 502 at Fort Madliena, Bahar ic-Caghaq. These systems saved a lot of lives as they gave early warning of air raids from Sicily operated both by Italians and Germans.

Author: Major Tony Abela

This is a standard British Services Works Department, Electrical Division Notice used after the war. This particular one is assumed to have been in this very place since the early 1950’s when the old Operations Control Room was used as the High Tension Electrical Sub-Station which was fed straight from the Admiralty Power Station at Kordin, where today there is the China Dock. It is a Safety Warning Notice applicable to all High Tension areas.
This is a standard British Services Works Department, Electrical Division Notice used after the war. This particular one is assumed to have been in this very place since the early 1950’s when the old Operations Control Room was used as the High Tension Electrical Sub-Station which was fed straight from the Admiralty Power Station at Kordin, where today there is the China Dock. It is a Safety Warning Notice applicable to all High Tension areas.