Malta restores forgotten war rooms, hewn into the rocks in WWII

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World War II tunnels underneath Malta being restored
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World War II tunnels underneath Malta being restored
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. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
A bathroom sink is seen in the War Headquarters tunnels, parts of which date back to World War Two, beneath Valletta, Malta, January 26, 2009. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Bed cots are seen in a corridor at the Combined Operations Centre, dating back to World War Two, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, January 26, 2009. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The NATO tunnels, dating back to the Cold War, are seen in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A rust-covered electric socket is seen at the NATO tunnels dating back to the Cold War in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Graffiti left by vandals covers the walls in the Briefing Room at the Combined Operations Centre, dating back to World War Two, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Labelled map fragments are seen in the map room at the Combined Operations Centre, dating back to World War Two, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A staircase leads upwards at the NATO tunnels, dating back to the Cold War, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A detail of a map of the Mediterranean is seen in the map room at the Combined Operations Centre, dating back to World War Two, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Details on a door leading to the map room at the Combined Operations Centre, dating back to World War Two, are seen in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
An electricity fuse board is seen in the NATO tunnels dating back to the Cold War, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A detail on a map is seen in the map room at the Combined Operations Centre, dating back to World War Two, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Part of a map showing the central Mediterranean is seen in the map room at the Combined Operations Centre, dating back to World War Two, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Electricity conduits and cables are plied onto a chair in the Filter Room at the Combined Operations Centre, dating back to World War Two, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A lantern is seen in the NATO tunnels, dating back to World War Two, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A reel of cine film is seen in the NATO tunnels dating back to the Cold War in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Bed cots are seen in a restored area of the Combined Operations Centre, dating back to World War Two, in the War Headquarters tunnels beneath Valletta, Malta, January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi SEARCH "LUPI TUNNELS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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VALLETTA, Malta, July 31 (Reuters) - 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 Two.

Malta is now restoring the 28-km (17-mile) of tunnels, planning to open a huge section to the public.

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.

Over the years, water and humidity have let rust and mould 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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