A masthead lamp retrieved from the wreck of the Italian ship Marin Sanudo that was carrying supplies and two months' wages for the 44,000 German troops in Africa during World War II was presented to the War Museum in Valletta yesterday.

The wreck of the Marin Sanudo was located about 18 miles south of Lampedusa in March this year at a depth of about 80 metres by a team of English and Maltese divers led by technical diver and marine documentary producer Emi Farrugia.

Those attending the presentation heard of the problems faced by the War Museum, which occupies part of Fort St Elmo. They include a severe lack of space.

The Marin Sanudo was torpedoed on March 5, 1942 by the U-class submarine P31 which was based at Lazzarett in Marsamxett harbour.

P31 was one of a flotilla of 15 submarines in Marsamxett whose mission was to harass and disrupt the supply ships going to North Africa to assist Field Marshall Erwin Rommel during World War II.

The Marin Sanudo was carrying aircraft engines and spare parts, trucks, motorcycles, helmets and shoes among other items.

Although the brass lamp is British-made by a company called North Shields, the Marin Sanudo belonged to the Lloyd Triestino line.

The lamp was retrieved from the ship's store by John Womach and his son Paul during the technical dive on the wreck, and it was agreed that the lamp would be presented to the War Museum.

The lamp was received by Mario Falzon on behalf of the War Museum Association. Other members of the association who were present included Frederick Galea, Alex Randon, Joe Caruana, Henry Denaro and Ian Zahra.

During the presentation, held at the forecourt of the War Museum, Mr Farrugia said: "Any objects forming part of a shipwreck should first of all be left on the wreck as they belong there, but should any objects be brought up, then they should be placed where they can be appreciated by the public, that is in a museum".

Mr Falzon said the War Museum did not get much assistance from the authorities with the result that the exhibits were crammed for lack of space.

"A section of the museum had to be closed because of the dangerous state of the roof. Also part of the main hall had to be cordoned off because of the danger and although scaffolding for the restoration of the roof was hired a year ago, no works have been carried out so far.

"We are regularly refusing donations of exhibits because of the limited space. Recently we had to refuse a Sherman tank, which is a rare item. A fire pump which was donated to the museum cannot be kept in the museum building and the salt air is causing it to rust.

"Ideally, the museum should be moved to a complex at Ta' Qali close to the Aviation Museum and the planned Military Vehicles Museum.

"The War Museum is managed by volunteers and we often have to fork money out of our pockets to carry out certain maintenance work. The museums department does not even bother to send us cleaners to spruce up the place," Mr Falzon said.

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