What did the Sovereign Order of the Knights of St. John (the Knights of Malta) do during WWII?

Discussions on the Allies and the Neutral States in general and the countries that does not have sections of their own.
Sid Guttridge
Posts: 10074
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

What did the Sovereign Order of the Knights of St. John (the Knights of Malta) do during WWII?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 13 Nov 2022 23:45

In Italy's campaign against the Turks in Tripoli in 1912, the Order provided a hospital ship.

In WWI it provided hospital trains, apparently on both sides.

However, what did it do in WWII?

Many thanks,


Posts: 32
Joined: 22 Dec 2010 18:47

Re: What did the Sovereign Order of the Knights of St. John (the Knights of Malta) do during WWII?

Post by casimiro » 25 Nov 2022 20:10

In World War II, the Knights of Malta certainly ran hospital trains on the eastern front. The Reverend Pirro Scavizzi, who brought to the Vatican information concerning German genocidal activities in Poland and Ukraine, served as a chaplain on one of these trains and made several trips to Russia. There are a couple of good histories of the Knights, but as it has been some time since I read them, I don't recall if the organization engaged in other wartime activities. One of the books is titled "The Knights Hospitaller: A Military History of the Knights of St. John."

User avatar
Posts: 5821
Joined: 07 Jul 2005 10:50
Location: Spain

Re: What did the Sovereign Order of the Knights of St. John (the Knights of Malta) do during WWII?

Post by Ironmachine » 26 Nov 2022 08:17

Activity of the Order of Malta in Poland during World War II:
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta had been active in Poland since the 12th century. The development of the Order’s Polish chapters was disrupted by the Partitions of Poland in the late 18th century. The Polish Association of the Order of the Knights of Malta was reconstituted in 1920 following the restoration of Polish statehood in 1918. During the inter-war period the Polish Association ran several charities and three hospitals in Poland. Already in 1928 guidelines were drawn up for the care of the sick and wounded in the event of war. With the threat of war looming in 1939 these arrangements were formalised in the summer of that year. Under a separate agreement with the Polish Red Cross the medical section of the Association was to function as an autonomous unit of the Polish Red Cross. The Association’s hospitals and ambulance service thereby secured inviolability and protection under the terms of the Hague and Geneva Conventions, and were authorised to fly the flag of the Red Cross next to that of the Maltese Order.
The outbreak of war on 1st September 1939 therefore found the Polish Knights of Malta ready to play their part in bringing help to the victims of the conflict. This chapter in their humanitarian work was to be extremely difficult and was to demand great courage. On 7th September the Association opened a 220-bed military hospital near Warsaw’s Old Town in a former aristocratic residence on Senatorska Street which housed a merchants’ guild (Resursa Kupiecka). Stanisław Milewski-Lipkowski, a Knight of Malta, was to be the hospital’s director throughout the war; Professor Julian Szymański, a former Speaker of the Polish Senate, was the senior physician/surgeon; and Barbara Glińska was in charge of the nursing staff. As the Germans tightened their siege of the city, the work of the Maltese Hospital grew despite acute shortages of food, medicines, bandages and then of electricity. The hospital’s ambulances managed to collect many wounded from highly dangerous and seemingly inaccessible places. The courage and dedication of the staff rapidly earned the admiration of the city’s population. The Polish Knights also suffered casualties while performing their hospital duties: Roman Chłapowski and Dominik Łempicki were killed by German bombs, while the Association’s honorary chaplain, Professor Canon Alfred Dobiecki, was wounded.
When Warsaw fell, the hospital’s staff were treated as prisoners-of-war, although they were granted freedom of movement. The hospital was initially placed under the jurisdiction of the German military medical authorities, and later under the civilian authorities running the city. A clinic established by the hospital in an adjacent building for poor needy Jews was closed by the Germans after two months. The Maltese Hospital continued to treat wounded soldiers sent to or returning from German POW camps, and in the spring of 1940 set up a convalescent home for officers in Milanówek, west of Warsaw. In May 1941 the hospital secured the right to treat casualties of aerial bombardment, which meant that it could remain permanently open. This provided the hospital with the perfect cover to become the main clandestine centre for treating and hiding wounded members of the underground Polish Home Army (AK) involved in sabotage and other operations against the Germans. It also trained nurses and other auxiliary personnel for the Home Army. Worthy of note is the role of the hospital staff in saving Polish children expelled by the Germans during their ‘ethnic cleansing’ operation in the region of Zamość.
The commanders of the Home Army allocated an important role for the Maltese Hospital during the Warsaw Uprising which broke out on 1st August 1944, and the hospital additionally provided staff for four small field hospitals in the Old Town. During the first two weeks of fighting the hospital changed hands repeatedly, and treated the wounded of both sides. On 14th August it was finally taken by the Germans who ordered its immediate evacuation; it was then relocated to the building of the Public Credit Bank on Zgoda Street in that part of the centre of Warsaw which was still held by the insurgents. The heavy bombardment of central Warsaw on 4th September inflicted grave losses among the hospital’s patients and staff. The hospital had to be moved further south to a building on Śniadeckich Street which had previously served as a German military hospital.
Following the capitulation of Warsaw on 3rd October, the Germans moved most of the remaining civilian population out of the devastated city. And so on 15th October the hospital was evacuated yet again, this time to a former factory building in the district of Piastów, west of the city centre, where it continued to serve the population until the arrival of Soviet-sponsored Polish forces on 17th January 1945. In the face of the new political realities the Home Army was formally dissolved by its commander two days later. The hospital’s director Stanislaw Milewski-Lipkowski was replaced by Dr. Jerzy Dreyza who had served as the hospital’s chief physician since 1940. The hospital itself was taken over by the Polish Red Cross. During its more than five-year-long existence the Maltese Hospital had treated over 15,000 patients. Still retaining its historic name, the Maltese Hospital was then moved out of Warsaw to the city of Częstochowa in south-central Poland. In September 1949 it was permanently closed down by the communist authorities; its assets and equipment were divided among local hospitals and other institutions.
On 7th September 1979, on the fortieth anniversary of the creation of the Maltese Hospital, a commemorative plaque was placed in the Garrison Church on Długa Street in Warsaw, in the presence of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the Primate of Poland, in honour of the hospital’s personnel and patients.
Source: http://www.apkmuk.com/index.php?option= ... Itemid=122

User avatar
Posts: 1174
Joined: 14 Jun 2003 03:38
Location: Riom Auvergne & Bourbonnais France

Re:Italian Army SMOM

Post by Loïc » 26 Nov 2022 16:05

The Italian Army has in its Medical Corps other than the usual military medical branch and Wartime Red Cross existing in others countries and Military Medical Services the special Corps of Sovrano Militare Ordine di Malta (SMOM) since 1877 and active in both World Wars

according to LA LOGISTICA MILITARE DELL’ESERCITO ITALIANO (1940-1943) VOL IV Tomo I available online
https://issuu.com/rivista.militare1/doc ... mo-i-testo
in 1940-1942 the SMOM personnel of the Italian Army gathered 450 men
91 officers of which 20 Knights including the colonel-director, 38 doctors, 8 chaplains, 20 secretaries, 5 pharmacists
36 NCO's and 323 others ranks

Hospital Train of the Knights of Malta sent to the Donetz 1942
https://www.orderofmalta.int/wp-content ... yout-1.pdf
https://digilander.libero.it/frontedese ... sanita.htm
durante la seconda guerra mondiale del 1940-45, con
3 treni ospedale che si spinsero in Germania, Russia e Balcani,
2 grandi ospedali a Roma e Napoli per un complesso di 600 posti letto,
un centro sanitario installato a Leopoli (Russia)
6 posti di soccorso installati a Roma e 2 nelle immediate vicinanze (Anzio e Divino Amore);

After a period of tranquility of over twenty years on 10 June 1940, when the 2nd World War broke out, the Military Corps once again mobilized its departments and still intervenes alongside the Military Healthcare. Three naturally more modern hospital trains come into service that will make numerous and long journeys, reaching as far as Germany, Russia, Albania and Croatia and France. A single hospital train, the IV, brings back 24,500 injured, sick or frozen people from Russia. The train reaches various locations close to the Russian front; in particular Karkov where a large field hospital already operates. In addition, two Territorial Hospitals are set up: the "Principe di Piemonte" in Rome with 250 beds which will ensure a total of 188,589 hospital days and the "Principessa di Piemonte" in Naples with 350 beds which will absorb a total of 200,000 hospital days. hospitalization. The Corps of Voluntary Nurses was established at the "Principe di Piemonte" Hospital in Rome. In addition, the "Casa Maria Beatrice" was born in Rome, which, the first institution of its kind, gathers blind children and large war-mutilated children. At the same time, seven large rescue posts are set up which will function at full speed during the bombing, rescuing thousands of wounded. The Order of Malta's Hospital in Rome is activated in an ancient 16th century building. Of considerable size, it has two operating theaters and numerous hospital wards. A hospital is also opened in a building inside the Quirinale. During the war, 19 Territorial Hospitals all served by ACISMOM spread throughout the country.
Many officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the Corps, even during the 2nd World War, fall under aerial bombardments and artillery fire, some are taken prisoner and taken to concentration camps in Germany, others die from illness contracted on trains or in places of Relief. At the end of the war, the hospitalization and care of the veterans of the prison begins. For this need, 18 Territorial Hospitals are set up with a total availability of 5,485 beds, which will remain in operation until 1961.

You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Sid Guttridge
Posts: 10074
Joined: 12 Jun 2008 11:19

Re: What did the Sovereign Order of the Knights of St. John (the Knights of Malta) do during WWII?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 16 May 2023 11:31

Hi Loic, Ironmachine and casimiro,

A belated thanks for your information and I apologise for taking so long to acknowledge your help.

I will be following it all up.

In appreciation,


Return to “The Allies and the Neutral States in general”