A History of the British Army in Malta
Captain Ralph Smythe with the 30th Regiment in Malta 1800
The distinction of being the first British infantry to arrive in Malta to oust Napoleon's troops of occupation is shared between the 30th (Cambridgeshire) regiment, and the 89th regiment.
Both sailed from the Sicilian port of Messina on 6th December 1799, the 30th regiment on board HMS Culloden-74, and the 89th on HMS Foudroyant-80, their strength at embarkation being:
Officers Sgts Rank & File Women Children
30th Regiment 32 37 409 20 15
89th Regiment 32 28 414 42 Nil
Also on the Culloden were Surgeon-General Alexander Jameson, and Colonel Thomas Graham of the 90th regiment, who had been given the rank of Brigadier-General, by the Commander-in-Chief General Henry Fox, since he would command the British troops once ashore.
After landing at St. Pauls Bay on the 10th December 1799, the men of the 30th were initially based at Birchicara, and the 89th at Lija and Naxxar.
On the same day Graham set up his Headquarters at the San Antonio Palace, where Captain Alexander John Ball, Royal Navy who was governing Malta was in residence, and wrote to General Fox, based at Port Mahon, Minorca:
“SIR- I have the honour to inform your Excellency that the ships anchored in St.Paul’s Bay yesterday, and that the troops disembarked this morning, and marched into cantonments in the villages of Birchicara and Nasciar in this neighbourhood.
…... I will not say anything more about our situation here than I think it must remain a very critical one till reinforcements arrive, the more so as there is a necessity of separating so much these two regiments.........
The 30th Regiment moves tomorrow from Birchicara, into the villages of Casal Asciak and Zeitun, and a part of the 89th replaces them, three companies remaining at Nasciar.”
General Fox sent Lieut-Colonel Lindenthal, of the Sicilian regiment, to Malta, on the 6th December, with instructions to make an assessment of the situation and report back to him directly.
By the 10th December Lindenthal had carried out a rapid survey and sent the following letter expressing his views:
The forces forming the blockade by land at present consist of:
Two regiments of infantry.…...800 men
Marines .................................…….400 men
Maltese soldiers.................…..1,500 men
In case of a general attack we may depend upon 1,000 more armed Maltese. It is a pity we have not thought of forming this poor people into regiments; they are very much attached to us, and have really performed wonders.
The articles most wanted at present are a detachment of artillery, consisting at least of 3 officers and 50 men. There is at present only one officer here, Lieut. Vivion.”
The response was not encouraging. A Royal Artillery detachment comprising of one corporal, one bombardier and sixteen gunners under Lieutenant Samuel Reynell, reached Malta about 27th December. Even including these men, the total on Malta was still only 2 officers, 2 corporals, 1 bombardier and 23 gunners, and it was not until the 3rd of May 1800, that a further detachment of 30 NCO’s and men with Captain James Boag, Lieutenant Thomas A. Brandreth and Lieutenant David Story arrived on the transport Wakefield from Gibraltar, and landed at Marsa Sirocco.
However the following month, June 1800, they were reinforced by 102 NCO’s and men with Brevet-Major Flower M. Sproule, Captain-Lieutenant Thomas Charleton, Lieutenants Thomas S. Hughes and Thomas Gamble, plus 2nd Lieutenant Stephen J. Rawlinson disembarking from the frigate Seahorse.
By the end of December 1799, the bulk of the 30th regiment was stationed at Zejtun, with advanced posts at Zabbar, and the battery of St. Roque close to the coast. On their left were the men of the 89th at Gudja and Luqa, with advanced posts at Tarxien and responsibility for the battery in front of it. Next came the Marines, and then the Maltese insurgents completing the encirclement of the French forces in Valletta, Cottonera, and Forts Ricasoli, Manoel and Tigne, where they had taken refuge in September 1798, after the Maltese uprising.
Meanwhile General Graham had moved his headquarters from the San Antonio Palace to the Villa D’Aurel in the village of Gudja. This gave him a two-fold benefit. He was in direct contact with his men, but more importantly within the grounds of this estate was a 69 feet high stone watchtower from which more than half of the island could be seen, which included all the French positions. In his first letter immediately after landing, Graham had expressed his wish for more troops, which he repeated again on the 28th:
“ It would be desirable that the British troops should occupy this ridge from the sea at Torre della Grazia, to this place (Gudja), in which line there will be room for more, if any come from Minorca. I need not repeat my anxiety on that point, but I may be allowed to mention, if you could spare the 90th regiment (in case a larger corps under the command of a general officer cannot be sent), I should feel a particular satisfaction not only from the accession of number, but of quality of the troops, for I should be perfectly sure of their loyalty and attachment, and I am concerned to state that these two regiments, in which there are a great number of Irish of the worst description, cannot be so much relied on; three have already deserted-two of them last night from the advanced post of St.Roque- men who by their general good conduct had gained the esteem of the officers, never were punished, or had ever shown any signs of dissatisfaction. They have gone over from a mere principle of disaffection to the King’s Government.”
Prior to leaving Ireland for Sicily in 1799 about 250 Irishmen, who were in gaol for various crimes including rebellion, were given the choice of enlisting in the 30th regiment or being hanged, not surprisingly they all took the former option. It is certain that a number of the men had taken part in the Republican uprising in Wexford and surrounding counties during 1798, and it was two brothers who had been implicated in the Wexford rebellion who deserted from an outpost of the 30th, to join the French Republican forces.
These were not the only deserters. The French ship, Guillaume Tell 80-gun, left Valletta harbour during the night of 30th March 1800, in an attempt to break through the British naval blockade, but was captured early the next morning after a fierce battle. On boarding her, Captain Blackwood of the Penelope, discovered three deserters from the British forces. Two marines, one each from HMS Alexander and HMS Lion, plus Private James O'Connor of the 30th (Cambridgeshire) regiment. The marine from HMS Alexander though wounded jumped into the sea to escape but drowned.
The fate of the other two is shown by a letter dated 1st June 1800 from General Graham to General Fox:
“Sir, I have the honour to transmit to your Excellency the monthly return and the proceedings of a General Court Martial held for the trial of a deserter of Marines who was executed pursuent to his sentence on the 29th ult. James O'Connor of the 30th regiment whose sentence your Excellency returned approved was executed at the same time."
By the 1st of February, Graham was reporting to General Fox:
“... An increase of the sickness in the 89th regiment and in the Corps of Marines, made the establishment of a general hospital necessary, and I appointed Dr. Jamaison to act as physician to it, and Mr. Price assistant surgeon of the 30th regiment to do duty there...”
He moved the companies of the 89th which were at Luqa to Tarxien, as he felt that their sickness was being caused by the contaminated air from the marshes at the head of the harbour.
To make a reconnoitre and inspection of the French fortifications Captain William Gordon of the Royal Engineers arrived on 25th February by HMS Perseus.
General Fox was reluctant to send more troops to Malta in spite of Graham’s repeated requests. With insufficient men to plan an attack against the French, and no indication of further British troops arriving from Minorca, Graham proceeded with the plan of raising a regiment of Maltese Light Infantry, and in this endeavour was assisted by Admiral Lord Nelson, who appointed a Scotsman, Captain James Weir of the Marines, to command it.
Recruiting amongst the Maltese men was slow, from the beginning of April till the middle of May 1800 only four companies were formed, with another four in the process of being formed.
Officers from the 30th and 89th regiments, were called upon to join since Weir did not have authority to appoint Maltese officers.
From the 30th, Lieutenants William E. Fitzthomas, Philip R. Bulkeley, and Peter Dumas promptly volunteered, as did Sergeant Major Peter Wallace, and Sergeant Robert Thompson. Lieutenant Archibald Campbell acted as Assistant Engineer, until his death on 19th August 1800. Assistant Surgeon P. Campbell of the 89th, also volunteered for the newly formed Corps.
A few weeks later they were later joined by Lieutenants Samuel Bircham and Richard Hare of the 30th, with Lieutenants Samuel Hale, Hamilton McGrath, Patrick Agnew, plus Ensigns William Cowell, and James Brickell of the 89th. By September 1800 Captain Clement Edwards and Lieutenant John Vicary of the 48th regiment were also serving with the Maltese regiment.
Graham wrote to Sir William Hamilton, the British Ambassador at Naples on 19th May:
|“I have under my command only 2092 rank and file fit for duty of which 400 are newly raised Maltese, and above 700 are Neapolitans on whom I cannot place much dependence”|
By the summer of 1800 a fever was sweeping the island, and General Graham’s men began to be affected. Since the main hospital on Malta, the Sacra Infermeria, was located in Valletta, now occupied by the French, its facilities were denied to the British troops and Maltese civilian population. The two small hospitals in Rabat, the Saura and Santo Spirito were overwhelmed, so three churches plus a priory and seminary in Rabat were taken into use as temporary hospitals for the sick, as well as the house of Count A. Formosa de Fremaux at Zejtun.
Graham himself started to have eye trouble which was to afflict him throughout the rest of his life. Ball wrote to him:
“Sorry to hear your eyes give you pain. A little rest will recover their strength. I have observed you give them the strongest trial by being out in the middle of the day, and looking through your glasses, more than any of your officers”
In May 1800, Sir Ralph Abercrombie had been appointed Supreme Commander of the British Military Forces in the Mediterranean, and after discussions with Admiral Lord Keith and Admiral Nelson in Leghorn, decided to send more British troops to Malta. He arrived in Minorca on 22nd June and the following day about 1,500 men of the 35th (Dorsetshire) regiment, as it was styled at that time, with some companies of the 48th (Northamptonshire) regiment, set sail for Malta on board HMS Stately and HMS Niger.
The Stately also carried a small Royal Artillery detachment of two corporals and thirty gunners, as well as Major-General Henry Pigot who was to take over command of the troops on Malta. Sir Ralph himself arrived on the Seahorse, on the 17th July 1800, but after a few days he returned to Minorca.
In an effort to encourage more Maltese to join the Light Infantry regiment, General Graham issued the following stirring proclamation:
BRAVE MALTESE,- You have rendered yourselves interesting and conspicuous to the world. History affords no more striking example. Betrayed to your invaders, deprived of the means of resistance, eternal slavery seemed to be your inevitable doom. The oppression, the sacrilege of your tyrants became intolerable.
Regardless of consequence, you determined at very hazard to vindicate your wrongs. Without arms, without the resources of war, you broke asunder your chains. You called for assistance; the Powers acting in alliance for the support of civil society and of religion hastened to your relief; arms, ammunition, money, and corn have been supplied to you. Their ships have intercepted the succours of the enemy.
My master, the Sovereign of a free and generous people, sent me with a handful of men to assist you till a powerful force could be prepared for the reduction of La Valetta.
To arms then, Maltese ! Let the universal cry through the Island be “For God and our country” Who is there deaf to every sense of duty and of honour that will not gladly obey such a call?
Quit then your habits of industry for a few weeks; dedicate yourselves under the immediate direction of your own officers, and under the guidance of those whose professional skill and experience will direct your labours most beneficially, to the great and important object of the final conquest of your enemies.
A weak and dispirited garrison, unequal to the defence of such extensive works, cannot withstand your efforts. Success will reward your toil, and you will soon return to the bosoms of your families, proud, justly proud, of having saved your country.
Thomas Graham, Brig- General
Headquarters, Gudja 19th June 1800.
The companies of the 48th (Northamptonshire) regiment which had arrived on the Charon were disembarked on the 21st and marched to Gudja where they were quartered. Other companies of the 48th arrived from Leghorn shortly afterwards, on the 28th July, on board the ships Minotaur and Genereux, adding further strength to the besieging forces.
The British fleet continued the blockade of Valletta harbour to prevent supplies reaching the French garrison by sea, and on land they were completely surrounded by Maltese and British troops.
With food stocks running low, sickness spreading amongst his men, and with relief from France becoming unlikely, the French Commander, General Vaubois, who had been in control of Valletta since September 1798, sought a cessation of hostilities. On 5th September 1800 the Articles of Capitulation were signed between General Belgrand de Vaubois with Rear-Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve for the French and Major-General Henry Pigot with Captain George Martin, Royal Navy of HMS Northumberland.
A proud Captain Crosby Joseph Riddell, of the 35th (Dorsetshire) regiment wrote to his brother George, living in Berwick on Tweed, on the 6th September 1800 from Fort Tigne:
"My Dear Brother,
I have just a moment to spare to write a pleasant information that the Valette surrendered to the British troops yesterday, and I had the honour of taking possession of this Fort with 100 men and first hoisting the British flag on this island.
I am quite in good health and very happy at having got the Valette. I believe I am to remain in the command of this Fort some time. The vessel is now at sea by which this goes to Minorca. My love to my dearest friends."
On the same day the Kings Colour of the 35th regiment was flown from the ramparts of Valletta.
Captain Clement Edwards of the 48th regiment recorded in his diary:
"Sep 5th A flag of truce came in from the enemy offering terms of capitulation which were agreed to next day and the grenadiers took possession of the outworks of Floriana.
Sep 9th The regiment ordered to take possession of Valetta but from the boats not being ready to take on board the French troops we were forced to lay at Floriana this night and at 5 o'clock next morning we marched in, took possession of Fort St.Elmo and had the honour of hoisting here the British colours."
The Commander in Chief of the British Forces was anxious to see the several thousand French troops leave the island, since apart from the security point of view, it was a British responsibility to feed them. The main body of French soldiers were embarked on transport ships, and sailed on 8th September for Marseilles. About 200 Frenchmen were left behind on Manoel Island, but these followed shortly after.
With changed circumstances General Graham felt it necessary to apply for six months leave of absence, and left Malta on the 15th September, travelling to England via Sicily and Trieste. He had to relinquish the acting rank of Brigadier-General, and was to remain a Colonel for several more years.
He departed with the good wishes of the troops, as shown in letters sent to him by Lieut-Colonel John Oswald of the 35th, and Captain William Gordon, of Royal Engineers, both written on 4th October:
“Dear General, I cannot omit the opportunity that offers, to express my regret at losing the happiness of your society and the advantage of being under your command.
Though apprehensive that this would be the case, I still hoped some fortunate accident would occur to detain you where your influence and advice, if followed, could not fail of being most useful in thoroughly establishing us in this Island”
“Dear General, Amidst the universal regret here at your leaving this place, I much fear there will be more cause to regret your quitting Malta in regard to the interests of the Island.
I must confess I am a little doubtful myself how we shall go on..... I need not say how happy all here that were once under your command would be to serve under it again.”
The new commander, Major-General Pigot did not have the same sympathetic approach to the Maltese, which caused some unrest, and led to strife with Captain Ball. There were divergent views as to which country should have authority over Malta, as well as the terms and conditions of the British military intervention.
In later years some writers have mentioned that there were around 20,000 Maltese fatalities during the period of the French occupation, which seems highly unlikely. Apart from Maltese killed as a result of fighting with the French, it is correct that there was a shortage of food, and an outbreak of fever, both of which would have led to the death of many civilians.
However a more reasonable figure can be estimated by an extract from a letter sent by Captain Ball to Lord Nelson dated 25th March 1800:
|“The inhabitants in the country revolted against the French in the preceding month, whom they were besieging in La Valette, and what will appear astonishing 4,000 peasants with only 2,000 muskets kept in awe 6,000 regular troops.”|
The same year a senior British Army officer noted in his diary:
“Sir Alexander Ball who from his situation must have been perfectly well acquainted with every particular respecting the Island told me that the population of the two Islands was 97,000 a prodigious number for so small a compass more particularly as the S.W. of Malta is scarcely or very thinly inhabited.”
General Sir Ralph Abercrombie left England on 12th May 1800 on board the frigate Seahorse-38, accompanied by a fleet of troop transports and store ships, bound for the Mediterranean, but with the fluctuating military situation and shifting political alliances on the mainland of Europe, coupled with some dithering in London, the purpose of the expedition was changed several times over the next five months.
Plans for an invasion of Italy or southern France were finally dropped, and on the 24th October, whilst at Gibraltar that he received fresh instructions from London, which ordered him to assemble a force of about 15,000 infantry, and take them to a suitable port either on the islands of Cyprus, Crete, or Rhodes, or on the coast of Asia Minor; then in co-operation with the Sultan of Turkey’s forces, make a landing and recapture Egypt from Napoleon’s Army of the East.
The Rt. Hon. Henry Dundas, the Secretary for War, informed him that there were an estimated 13,000 Frenchmen in Egypt, and that a further 5,000 British troops would arrive on the Eastern coast of Egypt from India, so that Napoleon’s military resources would be fully stretched.
Sir Ralph Abercrombie had with him Lieutenant Aeneas Anderson, of the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) regiment, who kept a comprehensive record of all events during this period, which he subsequently published in 1802.
Malta was selected as the assembly point, and the build up of ships and men began in the middle of November, and continued throughout the next few weeks.
The first to arrive were the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) regiment on board three ships, the Hector, Romulus and Charon. The impressive sight of the Valletta fortifications, and relief at setting foot on dry land again was felt by officers and men alike:
An officer’s diary entry:
“On the 15th November, in the evening, we came to anchor in the principal harbour of Malta. The entrance here so narrow and opening into so fine a basin of water. The number and immensity of the works, cannon bristling in all directions together with the apparent beauty struck us all with astonishment and excited our curiosity. We were landed and quartered in the Capital, La Valetta, our men, 2nd Battalion, were put into noble Barracks at St.Elmo. After waiting on the General officer in command Major General Pigott, I went to the principal inn and bespoke a dinner for the whole Corps from Mr.Grandorge. He gave us a most superb Banquet consisting of two complete courses excellently dressed by a French cook. The 2nd course abounded in Game, such as Hare, Partridges, Woodcocks, Snipe and Quail with a profusion of pasty and confectionery, a Desert with quantities of ice, Grapes, Peaches, Nectarines and we drank upon an average a bottle and a half a piece of the Marcella and a red wine of Sicily.
When the bill was settled to our agreeable surprize amounted only to three shillings and sixpence a head everything included. To us who had lived so very indifferently having been on board 158 days since our leaving England this reception at Malta seemed to promise us an earthly paradise a land of flowing milk and honey.”
“Tuesday 18th November. This day witnessed the fatal effects of intemperance and cheap wines in the death of Corporal Booth, who, in leaning over one of the barrack room windows, lost his equipoise, and, falling into the yard, was killed on the spot”
They were followed by the 27th (Inniskilling) regiment, of which many men had contracted severe illness during their five-month journey to the Mediterranean. The austere conditions endured on their transport ships applied to many of the other troops:-
|“We were overcrowded. There was insufficient space on the decks, so the men could not all lie down at the same time. No bedding was provided, though some soldiers had a blanket. The ships leaked, therefore when it rained the men got wet. The food was of small in quantity and low in quality, salt pork with biscuit. The drinking water was often tainted by the barrels in which it was kept. A total absence of fresh vegetables, contributed to the poor diet.”|
Sir Ralph Abercrombie with his suite arrived on the frigate Diadem, and upon coming ashore occupied the Palazzo Parisio, in Merchants Street, Valletta, the same quarters as used by Napoleon during his brief stay on Malta.
Shortly after, 211 officers and men of the 23rd (Royal Welch Fusiliers), on board the Heroine with a further 310 on the Astrea, arrived at Malta on 24th November 1800.
On the 26th, Admiral Lord Keith with the second large convoy from Minorca, came into port. Several regiments were fortunate enough to be disembarked, and move into barracks ashore, like the 23rd (Royal Welch Fusiliers) regiment, 28th (North Gloucestershire) regiment, 54th (West Norfolk) regiment, 79th regiment, 90th Perthshire regiment, whilst the transport ships were cleaned, surveyed, and repairs carried out.
The men were marched to their barracks in Floriana, Valletta, and Cottonera, as well as Forts Ricasoli, Tigne, St.Angelo and Manoel, whilst many of the officers were accommodated in the private houses of wealthy Maltese.
The 79th regiment, Cameron Highlanders, were quartered just outside Valletta on the road leading to Floriana, and their numbers were boosted by the addition of 279 volunteers from the Highland Fencible Corps.
However, others were not so lucky, the 92nd (Highland) regiment, 8th (The King’s Regiment) had to remain on board their ships, but were put ashore for exercise as often as possible. At least they benefited from the availability of fresh provisions, so their general health improved.
On the 27th November, watched by a large number of eager spectators, Sir Ralph inspected the men of the 30th regiment, 48th regiment, and the 2nd battalion 35th regiment, on the Floriana parade ground.
“The troops on this occasion were dressed in complete marching order, and His Excellency, was pleased to pay particular attention to the manner in which the men carried their knapsacks; when he ordered them to be worn high, the pack raised upon the shoulders, that the weight must fall as light as possible on the chests, while, at the same time, the men may enjoy a more free use of their arms”
He expressed his satisfaction with all the men, but singled out the 30th regiment for special praise.
The accumulation of men and materials grew with the arrival of the 1st Royal Regiment, 2nd Queen’s Royal Regiment, 13th (1st Somersetshire) Regiment, 18th (The Royal Irish) Regiment, 42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment, 50th (West Kent) Regiment, 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment, plus Foreign regiments in British pay.
During the next four weeks the Commander-in-Chief spent nearly every morning, inspecting and preparing the men of the newly arrived regiments for the forthcoming expedition, then from noon till 3 p.m. gave audiences to his officers, and transacted other army business.
Fitness was essential since besides his musket, each man was expected to carry 60 rounds ball cartridge, 2 spare flints, 3 days bread, 3 days cooked pork, a canteen full of water, two shirts, one pair of shoes, two pairs of socks, and a blanket.
There had recently been some changes to the arms and equipment of infantry regiments. The old firelock was withdrawn and replaced by a flint musket which together with its bayonet weighed 11 lbs. 4 oz. Sergeants carried a type of pike, called a spontoon. It was a 9 feet long ash pole, topped with a metal spearhead almost 13” long, and a metal cross bar to prevent the point penetrating too deeply.
Meanwhile, on 10th December 1800 Sir Ralph Abercrombie appointed General Pigot as the supreme authority in Malta, which led to conflict with Captain Alexander Ball who had administered Malta on behalf of Britain since the 9th February 1799. This friction between Pigot and Ball continued until Ball relinquished his position on the island and rejoined his ship HMS Alexander, on 19th February 1801.
In a letter dated 9th December, sent to the Right Hon. Henry Dundas in London, Abercrombie said:
“I felt great delicacy in removing Captain Ball; at the same time I am obliged to place all the authority in the hands of Maj-General Pigot, and direct him to employ Captain Ball in the administration of the civil affairs of the Island until His Majesty’s pleasure is known.”
Ball clearly unhappy at this arrangement wrote to his friend Admiral Lord Nelson:
“General Pigot has conducted himself towards me in a manner highly indelicate, and unbecoming. I have been treated and considered as Chief or Governor of this Island by Your Lordship, Lord Keith, and Sir Ralph Abercromby, but General Pigot in the first standing orders has placed me in rank below the Town Major,who is a captain in the army.
I send you the printed Articles respecting me. All the officers of the army have spoken with indignation of the treatment, and pay the utmost respect and attention; I have not remonstrated with the General, but I believe he has been spoken to by Martin since which he has directed a guard to be turned out for me. I continue giving the General every aid, and so not allow his insult to affect the public operation, and I am sure that he is now satisfied that my assistance is absolutely necessary to him. We dine together and keep up and apparent cordiality.
I tell Your Lordship in confidence, what in a short time will be publicly known, that the General is the most unpopular man that ever commanded a garrison. I have the satisfaction to acquaint Your Lordship that the Maltese give me daily additional proofs of their confidence and obedience to my orders.”
Whilst Abercrombie was engaged in organising the Army, his colleague Admiral Lord Keith was actively preparing the fleet.
The supply of vegetables, fruit, poultry, fish, etc., was sought by the British, which the local Maltese tradesmen found attractive since the prices rose higher and higher, and the British paid without murmur. Large numbers of local men were employed by the Royal Navy in the dockyard, and on the numerous vessels anchored in the harbours.
Apart from the infantry there was a small detachment of the fledgling Corps of Military Artificers, 30 men, with Sergeant John McArthur, under the command of Captain Alexander Bryce, Royal Engineers.
With all the regiments assembled, final preparations prior to embarkation were put in hand.
The return for 10th December 1800 was as follows:
|Major General Ludlow|
|1st batt. Coldstream Guards||399|
|1st batt. 3rd Regiment||939|
|Major General Coote - First Brigade|
|Royals 2nd batt.||705|
|54th Regt. 1st batt.||598|
|54th Regt. 2nd batt.||597|
|Major General Craddock - Second Brigade|
|Major General Lord Cavan - Third Brigade|
|Marines of the Fleet||700|
|Brigadier General Doyle - Fourth Brigade|
|Brigadier General Stuart - Fifth Brigade|
|De Roll’s Regt.||543|
|Brigadier General Finch - Cavalry Brigade|
|12th Regt. Dragoons||500|
|26th Regt. Dragoons||500|
|Major General Moore and Brigadier General Oakes – Reserve|
|11th Light Dragoons||52|
|Hompesch’s Light Dragoons||141|
|40th Regt.Flank Comps.||240|
|Brigadier General Lawson - Artillery||477|
|Colonel Mants - Staff Corps||90|
|Colonel Smith B.N. - Seamen||500|
|A Grand Total of 17,489 men.|
Not included in this table was a battalion of 800 men of the Maltese Pioneers.
The 40th (2nd Somersetshire) regiment was composed of volunteers from the Militia who were to serve only in Europe, and could not be employed overseas. Sir Ralph was very anxious to take Colonel Spencer with him, so only the flank companies of both battalions were included, after they had agreed to serve.
On 19th December, all Army officers were ordered to board their ships, and were not allowed ashore again since the fleet was about to sail.
Early next morning, a signal gun was fired for the remaining officers to go on board, and the vast armada started leaving the harbour.
An officer disappointed at being left behind at Malta wrote:
“The next morning I got up to witness the sailing of the Fleet, it however overpowered me and I retired to the Library, whilst reading there, General Moore came from an inner room, tapped me on the shoulder and said I should be late for the Ships. When I apprized him of his mistake I shall never forget the handsome and feeling manner he expressed himself which if possible made my regret the greater for the 40th flank companies were attached to the Reserve which he commanded. They sailed with the good wishes of all and the envy of two thirds of those they left behind.”
It was a truly awe inspiring sight as the fleet of twenty sail-of-the-line, twenty seven frigates, and eighty four transports, got underway.
By five o’clock in the afternoon all the ships were clear of the harbour and sailing eastwards.
The destination was Marmorice Bay, Latitude 36’ 52’’ N, Longitude 28’ 31’’ E, about forty miles north of the island of Rhodes, on the Turkish coast, where provisions were to be obtained, and final training to take place prior to the attack on Egypt.
After a month of frenetic activity, those engaged in supplies and shipping was still very busy, but life for the soldiers left behind on Malta calmed down, and normal garrison duties were undertaken.
The garrison of British troops now consisted of the 1st and 2nd battalions 35th (Dorsetshire) regiment, the 1st battalion and three companies of the 2nd battalion 27th (Inniskilling) regiment, the 48th (Northamptonshire) regiment, 1st and 2nd battalions 40th (2nd Somersetshire) regiment, plus about 300 men of the Royal Artillery. A total of 220 officers, 231 sergeants, 99 drummers, and 4252 rank and file fit for duty.
Though willing to be included in the Egyptian expedition, the men of the 27th regiment were left behind as they were considered to be unfit resulting from the harsh conditions they endured on their journey from England. In the 1st battalion 327 men were fit for duty with 406 reported as sick, and of the 2nd battalion 104 were fit with 137 sick.
The other troops composing the garrison were the Maltese Corps with about 700 men, plus the Neapolitan infantry of about 600 men, and 130 men of the Neapolitan artillery.
Situated in the Strada Forni, Valletta, was a large public bakery, originally built by the Knights of Jerusalem. As well as having a large work force, 150 horses were constantly engaged grinding wheat for daily use. Each soldier in the garrison received a 2lb loaf, every second day, from this bakehouse. The Commissariat provided each regiment with a cart to collect the bread and deliver it to their various barracks.
In 1801 the celebrations for Queen Charlotte’s birthday were held over until the 19th January since the 18th was a Sunday.
The British colours were displayed on all the Forts, with the Royal Standard on Fort St.Elmo and The Palace. At Noon all troops were drawn up on the walls of their cantonments:
“On the La Valetta side were the second battalion of the 35th regiment, the second battalion of the 40th regiment, the 48th regiment and the Maltese battalion. When a Royal Salute was fired from the Saluting battery and succeeded by a running fire from the right, and ending up on the Valetta side with the left of the 35th.
It was then taken up instantly on the Ricasoli side by the first battalion of the 40th regiment and continued by the detachment of Maltese at the Palace of St.Angelo and by the first battalion of the 35th at the castle of St.Angelo, Vittoriosa, Bormula, and the other forts in succession.
This magnificent feu-de-joye was three times repeated, when a gun was fired from the saluting battery as a signal to the whole garrison and three heart-felt cheers immediately succeeded. These congratulations were answered by all the ships in the harbour with a royal salute and the customary cheering”
General Pigot made the day a ‘Festival of Mercy’ by ordering the release of all prisoners and a general remission to all men under sentences from court martials. Similarly, commanding officers of all the regiments cleared their guardrooms and confinements of offenders.
Throughout the evening, the front of the Palace and Main Guard were illuminated and a Grand Ball with supper was given by General Pigot to all officers of the Army and Navy, and eminent Maltese.
On St.Patrick’s Day, March 17th 1801, to celebrate the recent union of Great Britain with Ireland, the new Imperial Ensign was displayed from all towers, forts and cavaliers on the island. The troops were drawn up in front of the Palace, and at 10 o’clock as the Royal Standard and the Imperial Standard were raised, the men presented arms, officers saluted and the band played ‘God Save the King’. A Royal Salute was fired from the Saluting Battery.
Major-General Pigot gave a dinner to all officers in the garrison. This was followed, in the evening by a ball, to which a number of distinguished Maltese were invited.
The military duties were carried on with great strictness and guard mounting was a regular obligation. There were two fixed Field days per week, frequently attended by General Pigot, or his deputy General Moncrief.
The frigate Flora moored in Marsamuscetto harbour on 9th April 1801, bringing news of the British success in Egypt, but the excitement was dampened by the sadness felt when it was known that the ship also conveyed the body of Sir Ralph Abercrombie who had died from his wounds received in action.
Quarantine restrictions were enforced, and on the 28th April General Pigot issued the following order giving detailed instructions:
the remains of the late General Sir Ralph Abercromby K.B. Commander in Chief
of his Majesty’s forces in the Mediterranean, will
conveyed from the Chapel of the Palace which they now are, and
deposited in a vault prepared for them in the bastion of St.John, at
Major-General Pigot, anxious to pay the last honours to a Commander so much to be lamented, with every possible degree of respect and decorum, directs that the printed orders of procession which have been sent to each battalion, may be strictly complied with; and in conformity and addition thereto, the following arrangements will take place:
The flank companies and two hundred rank and file of the second battalion of the 35th regiment from Vittoriosa, and sixty rank and file of the first battalion of the 40th regiment from Burmola, will march from those places so as to arrive in La Valetta between eleven and twelve o’clock at noon.
Their dinners for tomorrow must be cooked this evening, and brought with them; and, on their reaching La Valetta, they will be conducted to the Auberge de Provence to dine and clean themselves.
Boats will attend at Ricasoli, at half past eleven o’clock in the morning, to convey an hundred and fifty rank and file of the first battalion of the 40th regiment from thence to La Valetta. These men must dine before they set out.
Major Weir will bring over three hundred rank and file of the Maltese corps from Fort Manoel, in the course of the morning. At one o’clock p.m. these detachments and the whole of the garrison of La Valetta and Floriana, off duty, will parade at the following places:
The guard of honour consisting of the flank companies of the 35th, 40th, and 48th regiments under the command of Colonel MacAllister in line, on the great parade fronting the Palace.
The detachment of the first battalion of the 35th regiment in front of the line wall opposite St.Elmo. That of the second battalion of the 40th regiment, in front of St.John’s church.
The Neapolitan troops in the Strada Mercanti. The detachment of the Maltese corps, in the Strada di St.Cristophoro. The 48th regiment in the rear of the general hospital. The second battalion of the 40th regiment in the regimental parade of the 48th. The second battalion of the 35th regiment, near the gate of the new bastion of St.Elmo.”
The following day, Wednesday 29th April 1801, at two o’clock, the great gate of the Palace opened and the funeral procession emerged. The coffin was on a Gun carriage drawn by artillerymen, and was preceded by a guard with arms reversed, four six-pound guns and two ammunition wagons, also drawn by artillerymen.
The bands of the 40th and 35th regiments with drums muffled playing a solemn dirge. They were followed by the Guard consisting of the flank companies of the 35th regiment, the Senior Field Officer with Arms reversed, and the band of the 48th regiment.
Lieut-Colonel Dyer, Aide de Camp, and the Garrison chaplain Dr.Pargeter came next, in front of the Gun carriage bearing the coffin, which was flanked by the Pall Bearers, Lieut-Colonels Clay, Kemmis and Browne of the 40th, Lieut-Colonels Baylis, Brown and Oswald of the 35th, Lieut-Colonel Bentham, Royal Artillery and Lieut-Colonel Gordon of the 48th regiment.
Following the coffin came Major-General Pigot, Brigadier-General Moncrief, Major-General Villettes, a grey horse fully caparisoned and covered with black, and the servants of the late General Abercrombie.
Officers from the Maltese Militia, the Maltese Light Infantry, and the Neapolitan battalion, together with officers from every British regiment in the garrison, as well as, the Royal Navy, Commissariat staff, Medical, Garrison and General Military staff also took part, the Maltese people were represented by principal members of the Civil Government.
A sepulchre had been excavated in the rock on St.John's Bastion at St.Elmo, into which the coffin was placed. From the time that the procession left the Palace until the interment, minute guns were fired from the Cavalier Bastions of Valletta, and by ships of the Royal Navy in the harbour.
A black marble tablet records his career in Latin, which translated reads:
"To the memory of Ralph Abercrombie, A Scot, Knight of the Order of the Bath, distinguished for probity and greatness of mind, celebrated for his prowess and military skill in the American and the Dutch wars, whom George III, King of Great Britain, invested with the supreme command of the land army in the Mediterranean, to the universal satisfaction.
In this capacity he conducted the Egyptian war and by single effort took possession of and held the whole coast of Egypt in spite of the strenuous opposition of the French armies. With the same success he repeatedly foiled and overcame their various attempts until engaging in the battle at the sanguinary conflict of Alexandria in the year 1801, on the 21st of March, whilst fighting in the foremost ranks, at the very moment of victory, he received a mortal wound in the chest.
He expired, to the general regret, on the 28th of the same month, in the 68th year of his age. As a general he was renowned for skill in military tactics, for wariness in council, determination in action and for unshaken fidelity to his King and Country. He was deeply regretted by the King and the people of Great Britain."
A more personal remembrance was recorded by a senior Army officer:
“I witnessed the deposit of the revered remains of the gallant Abercrombie, His Majesty never had a more worthy or braver man in his service. He closed his career at the age of 69 but with a constitution so robust and a vigour so little impaired by age or service that he did not appear more than 50 years old at the outside.”
Later a large memorial to General Abercrombie was placed in St.Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Whilst the British were engaged in increasing their forces in the Mediterranean area, the French signed an armistice with the Neapolitan Government in February, followed by a Treaty at Florence on 28th March 1801, which called for the removal of Neapolitan troops from Malta, so taking away an ally from the British.
This measure was put into operation by an Order issued on 4th May,
“His Sicilian Majesty’s troops which at present form part of this garrison are to embark tomorrow”
There were about 100 men of the Neapolitan Artillery, and 665 Infantry under the command of Colonel Fardella, when they actually left on the 6th and received a tribute from Major-General Pigot, thanking them for their services.
General Pigot left Malta himself, shortly after, on board the frigate Santa Teresa in May 1801, and a few days later his replacement General Henry Fox arrived on HMS Harlaem.
After the successful landings at Aboukir Bay, on 8th March 1801, additional regiments were sent out to join the British army in Egypt, so the harbour and dockyard facilities at Malta were kept constantly employed.
The 26th (Cameronian) Regiment, under Lord Elphinstone, sailed from Portsmouth on board the Madras-54 and called briefly at Malta. The 25th (Sussex) Regiment, as it was known at that time, was on board the Agincourt-64, as was Brigadier-General Graham, so during a short stay at Malta on 1st July, he had the opportunity of a reunion with his friends and colleagues, before sailing on to Egypt where they arrived on 9th July
The 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment left Exeter, under the command of Lieut-Colonel John Randall Forster, and marched to Plymouth where they embarked on 4th June 1801. They touched Malta en route, and arrived at the beginning of July.
Although most of the men of the 20th (East Devonshire) regiment had not engaged for service outside Europe, they volunteered for Egypt and the two battalions left Minorca in 1801 under their respective Senior officers, Lieut-Colonel Smyth and Lieut-Colonel Ross, and disembarked at Aboukir Bay on 17th July.
To boost the morale of the men, a passenger on the frigate Minerva, noted:
“The transports with Colonel Smyth, Colonel Ross and Major Power of the 20th on board whenever they came near us made their band play 'Rule Britannia', and gave three cheers, we also used to return the compliment, played 'The British Grenadiers' and manned the rigging to give them three cheers"
As Abercrombie had been told, the British planned to attack Napoleon's troops from two sides, so the 10th (North Lincoln) Regiment, with detachments of the 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers), the 86th Regiment, and 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment, plus Bengal Volunteers, Bombay Native Infantry, and Artillery, were ordered to leave India with General Baird, and sail up the Red Sea to the port of Cosseir. This force numbered about 2,000 British and 2,600 Indian troops.
They were joined in February 1801 by four companies the 61st (South Gloucestershire) regiment from the Cape of Good Hope, followed on 30th March by the remaining six companies under the command of Lieut-Colonel Carruthers, a total of just over 900 men.
From Cosseir (Quseir) the assembled troops set off on the 15th June 1801 on a remarkable 140-mile march across the desert to Kenna (Qena) on the banks of the Nile. This dramatic and arduous journey took them ten days.
After being in the garrison for six months the overall health of the 27th regiment had improved sufficiently for them to join the British troops, and they sailed from Malta with a convoy of store ships which was en route from England to Egypt in May 1801.
Whilst the Egyptian conflict was in progress, the British Government acted upon advice it had received and decided to appoint a Civil Commissioner for Malta. Mr. Charles Cameron was nominated for the post on the 14th May and arrived to take up his duties in early July 1801.
Although the British Government had issued clear orders that Maltese law would be applied to non-Maltese, General Pigot asserted that in the case of soldiers, whether they committed a civil or military crime, British law would be paramount.
So it was to be on 19th August 1801 when a Court Martial was convened at the Palace, Valletta, to try Private John Allary, of the 2nd battalion, 40th regiment on a charge murdering a Maltese civilian, Salvatore Zammit. Allary was acquitted on the grounds of insufficient evidence, but the Court took the view that there was a strong presumption of his being guilty. This feeling was discernible when the officers of the garrison raised a subscription for the Maltese widow. Allary later appeared before a Garrison Court Martial, where he was found Guilty of riotous behaviour and assaulting some Maltese civilians, for which he received a sentence of six hundred lashes.
The Malta garrison was reinforced by the arrival of the 63rd (West Suffolk) Regiment, from the Gibraltar garrison at the end of 1801. Once there it was joined by Lieut-Colonel David Boswell, who took command, and 340 limited service men from England. Lieutenant Stopford Sydney Cosby of the 63rd was immediately attached to the Maltese corps.
At this time a detachment from the 35th regiment, consisting of 150 men, commanded by Captain Fitzgerald, were stationed on Gozo.
With the capitulation of the French Army in Egypt in September 1801, the mass evacuation of the British troops started the following month. Nearly all went to Malta as the first stop on their journey to Gibraltar, England or Ireland.
The 89th left Egypt on the 10th September 1801, aboard the Minotaur and Northumberland destined for Corfu, but both vessels were damaged off Candia, and had to be diverted to Malta for repairs, before continuing their voyage to Gibraltar.
On 19th October the 23rd (Royal Welch Fusiliers) Regiment docked at Malta, on board HMS Renommee and the frigate Modeste, and sailed again on 15th November for Ireland.
The 92nd (Highland) Regiment also arrived on the 19th October, though only some of the men had a brief spell on land, since they also sailed on 15th November bound for Ireland. Captain Cameron of the 92nd said that two thirds of the men only spoke Gaelic, and the breakdown by origin showed about seventy percent Highlanders, twenty percent Lowlanders, and the other ten percent a mixture of English and Irish.
Since they were to join the Malta garrison, the 90th Perthshire Volunteers disembarked from the Europa on the 9th October 1801, and took up quarters in Fort Manoel.
The 30th (Cambridgeshire) Regiment left Egypt and returned to Malta in the same month, their strength was reported as 32 officers, 33 sergeants, 20 drummers, 319 rank and file fit for duty, 43 sick present, and 25 sick left in Egypt. They also disembarked and joined the Malta garrison, as did both battalions of the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment.
The four flank companies of the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment, arrived shortly after, and were once again united with the two battalions stationed on Malta, where they continued to serve.
The men from Egypt recounted Colonel Spencer's actions at Aboukir Bay, which has since become a regimental legend. After he had leapt onto the beach at the head of his men, a French soldier ran out from behind some sand dunes, came within a very short distance, raised his musket and took deliberate aim. The Colonel, his eyes flashing ferociously, immediately raised his cane, as he had not yet drawn his sword, and shaking it at the Frenchman shouted out in a thunderous voice "Oh, you scoundrel !" This unnerved the French soldier, who immediately shouldered his musket and ran off back behind the sand dunes.
Ophthalmia was very prevalent in Egypt and all the regiments suffered to some degree, but the 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment was affected more than most. The severity can be judged by the return for October which shows, 342 Officers and Men as sick, and only 253 Officers and Men fit for duty. They returned to Malta during November and also became part of the garrison.
The 18th (The Royal Irish), 42nd (The Royal Highland) and 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiments arrived at Malta during October 1801, and the men were put ashore, but all three regiments left during the following month.
The 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment on board the vessels Druid, Winchelsea, Blonde, docked in October but were at Malta for less than four weeks. They sailed for Portsmouth and arrived there on Christmas Day 1801.
The men of the 25th (Sussex) Regiment left Egypt during November and called at Malta on their way to Gibraltar.
In November the 50th (West Kent) Regiment arrived for a brief stay. Due to the ravages in their ranks caused by ophthalmia whilst in Egypt, the regiment received one of its nicknames, the "blind half hundred". They departed in January 1802.
The 2nd battalion 1st Royal Regiment, with the 44th (East Essex) Regiment left Egypt in November 1801, and after a short stopover left Malta in January 1802.
The return for November 1801 shows the following regiments present on the island:
|Officers||Sergeants||Drummers||Rank & File||Sick|
|2nd Batt 1st Royal Regt.||29||44||20||452||173|
|1st Batt 27th Regiment||33||27||16||470||186|
|2nd Batt 27th Regiment||34||35||18||443||158|
|1st Batt 35th Regiment||36||50||21||644||90|
|2nd Batt 35th Regiment||36||48||21||742||59|
|1st Batt 40th Regiment||29||35||13||474||117|
|2nd Batt 40th Regiment||31||37||14||459||58|
During November 1801 the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment received orders to prepare for departure. On 26th November 1801, the 1st Battalion embarked on board the Harlem. Five companies of the 2nd Battalion embarked on the frigate Ennis, with Lieut-Colonel Clay, and it was observed that at least one third of the men were drunk. The remainder of the battalion were on board the troop transport Charon with Lieut-Colonel Kemmis.
The 79th (Cameronian Volunteers) embarked at the same time, also on board the Charon, and though all the ships cleared the harbour on the 28th, they had to shelter off the island till next morning when the rest of the convoy joined them, and they all sailed for Minorca.
In December 1801, the 8th (The King’s Regiment) left Egypt, and called at Malta on their journey to Gibraltar.
Both battalions of the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment halted briefly at Malta in January 1802. The 1st battalion was kept on board ship, and sailed on 16th January for Gibraltar, with the 2nd battalion following a month later.
The greater part of the 20th (East Devonshire) Regiment had a pleasant three-week return voyage anchoring in Malta on 6th December, but two companies on board the Madras were nearly lost. The ship sprang a leak and it was only due to the pumps being continuously manned 24 hours a day for two weeks by the crew and troops on board that it arrived at Malta, where it was found to have about seven feet of water in the hold.
Since they were ordered for garrison duty at Malta, on disembarkation, the 1st battalion 20th regiment commanded by Lieut-Colonel George Smyth went into quarters at Vittoriosa, and 2nd battalion under Lieut-Colonel David Clephane to Isola Barracks. Shortly after arriving in Malta eighty men were sent to England suffering from ophthalmia which they had contracted in Egypt, since they were classified as irretrievably blind.
On 13th January 1802 the 30th (Cambridgeshire) Regiment embarked for England under the command of Lieut-Colonel William Lockhart, but Lieutenant Samuel Bircham, Sergeant Major Wallace and Sergeant Thompson remained behind to continue serving with the Maltese regiment.
The 13th (1st Somersetshire) Regiment arrived at Malta on 11th February 1802, with many men suffering from ophthalmia and dysentery. Since they were to join the Malta garrison, they disembarked and went into quarters at Floriana Barracks.
After being on the island for four months, the 90th regiment embarked on 25th February 1802, on board the frigate Alexandria and the transports Orpheus and Ranger for England, eventually arriving at Chatham on 15th April after a rough and long voyage. Also in February 1802, after a three-month stay, the 24th regiment left Malta.
From the Royal Artillery, R. Evan’s Company and G. Salmon’s Company left Malta in July 1802.
The regiments that were to remain at Malta settled down to the discipline of garrison life, and also did their utmost to rebuild the health of their men after the arduous conditions experienced in Egypt.
This is shown by Colonel Rowland Hill, when he issued the following Regimental Order to the 90th Perthshire Volunteers on 27th October 1801:
“As General Fox intends to inspect the regiment on Thursday morning, Colonel Hill desires every officer will exert himself for the good appearance of the regiment and take care that the men’s arms, accoutrements, and clothing are clean and in good order, that the blankets are well washed and neatly folded up, that the men’s hair is well tied and dressed at the sides, and that the officers themselves are properly regimentally dressed.
Uniform jacket, red waistcoat, and buff breeches, long gaiters, helmet, and regimental sword and feather. This regulation of dress to be strictly observed at all times till further orders. The officers are likewise desired to wear ‘Powder’ ”.
Apart from smartness in appearance, Colonel Hill also encouraged camaraderie and education amongst the non-commissioned officers and privates of his regiment, the 90th, as demonstrated by the regimental order of 17th November 1801:
“The plan adopted in Minorca for the Serjeants to mess together was so respectable and advantageous that Colonel Hill is desirous of establishing it again, and, in order to put it on the most comfortable footing, every encouragement and assistance will be given. The internal regulation of the mess will be formed by its own members, but subject to the inspection and approbation of the commanding officer of his regiment. Colonel Hill is likewise anxious to re-establish a school, and he promises every encouragement to those who are desirous of improving themselves by so useful an institution. The school and mess will commence immediately;
Corporal Anderson, who is appointed Lance Serjeant, will instruct the scholars in reading, writing and accounts. Assistant Serjeant Major McFarland will superintend the school, and likewise give his assistance in the management of the Serjeant’s mess.”
To commemorate their actions in the liberation of Egypt from Napoleon’s troops, medals were presented by the grateful Sultan of Turkey, and were distributed at Malta to the British officers by Lord Hutchinson. General and Field officers received a large gold medal worn with an orange ribbon, Captains and Subalterns were given a smaller medal of the same materials.
On the 23rd December Sir John Hely Hutchinson, who had taken over command of the troops in Egypt on the death of Sir Ralph Abercrombie, was invested with the Order of the Bath, by Admiral Lord Keith, at the Palace in Valletta.
Men of the Grenadier and Light Infantry Companies of the various regiments composing the Malta garrison lined the staircase, with regimental bands stationed in front of and within the Palace. The ceremony took place in one of the largest rooms, at the end of which a throne of crimson velvet and gold was erected. Lord Keith officiated in place of His Majesty, and was superbly dressed in a rich bejewelled uniform, with a diamond aigrette in his hat.
Mr. Cameron, the Civil Commissioner, carried the Sword of State, and General Villettes the Badge and Ribbon on an exquisite cushion. Post Captains of the Royal Navy in full dress uniform represented the Knights of the Bath.
The religious needs of the British forces were cared for by the Reverend David Peloquin Cosserat, who had been with the army in Egypt. He arrived on the frigate Vestal on 9th December 1801, and was appointed Chaplain to the Forces at Malta. The records of births, deaths and marriages were kept by each individual chaplain who performed the ceremony, in contrast to the system of parish registers which was the normal procedure in England. He was also called upon to hold Sunday services. There were no Protestant churches on Malta, so a room in the Palace at Valletta was adapted for services, whilst in the Cottonera district the services were held in the open air.
Initially based in Vittoriosa, he carried out his first baptism on Christmas Day 1801, when William Dixon, the son of Sarah and Sergeant John Dixon, of the 48th Regiment, was christened.
Amongst the funerals that he conducted early in his new position, was that of the long serving Drum Major of the 48th (Northamptonshire) regiment, Daniel Long, on the 3rd February 1802.
He officiated at many marriages including that of Ann Dady to John Pike, a Sergeant in the 1st battalion, of the 35th (Dorsetshire) Regiment on 21st May 1802, but sadly nineteen months later she died. Her tombstone is still in good condition, and can be seen in the Pieta Military Cemetery. She was only 24 years old, as poignantly expressed by her epitaph
"My life was short, the longer is my rest,
By March 1802 the Malta garrison was composed of the two battalions each of the 20th (East Devonshire), 27th (Inniskilling) and 35th (Dorsetshire) Regiments, the 48th (Northamptonshire) Regiment, the 63rd (West Suffolk) Regiment, and the newly arrived 13th (1st Somersetshire) Regiment.
A report of St.Patricks day, 17th March 1802, said:
"all the Irish regiments were excused from mounting guards and the men had permission to get as drunk as they pleased, and at a very early hour evident symptoms of inebriety were to be seen among the 27th and the Ancient Irish"
The structure of the Army establishment on Malta in place by April 1802 was:
Commander of Forces in the Mediterranean: General the Hon. Henry Fox
Aide de Camp: Captain Harcourt, 20th regiment
Aide de Camp: Lieutenant N.J. Green, 5th regiment
Aide de Camp: Lieutenant John Fox Burgoyne, Royal Engineers
Assistant Adjutant General: Major Phillips, 44th regiment
Assistant Adjutant General: Major William Gifford, 26th regiment
Assistant Adjutant General’s Dept: Lieutenant N. Craig, 30th regiment
Military Secretary: Major J. Brace
Deputy Quarter Master General: Lieut-Colonel George Airey, 8th regiment
Assistant Quarter Master General: Captain Vivion, Royal Artillery
Sub.Assistant Quarter Master General: Lieutenant Philpott, 35th regiment
Assistant Deputy Quarter Master General: Captain McLean, 92nd regiment
Assistant Deputy Quarter Master General: Lieut. Pierrepoint, 20th regiment
Storekeeper Quarter Master’s Department: Lieut. McKensey, 42nd regiment
Storekeeper to Quarter Master General: Richard Walker, Royal Artillery
Assistant Paymaster General: Captain William Brooke, 48th regiment
Deputy Judge Advocate General: Captain Hudson Lowe, Corsican Rangers
Brigade Major: Lieutenant Sutton, Queen’s German regiment
Brigade Major: W.H. Bunbury, 1st Battalion, 35th regiment
Chaplain to the Forces: Reverend David Cosseratt
Military Staff Malta Garrison: Major-General W.A.Villettes
Military Staff Malta Garrison: Brigadier-General J.Doyle
Aide de Camp to Maj-General Villettes: Captain Hamill, 40th regiment
Superintendent of the Coast: Captain Vivion, Royal Artillery
Town Major: Captain Morrison 40th regiment
Town Major: Captain Manoury, 35th regiment
Town Adjutant: Richard Williams, 35th regiment
Port Sergeant: Cornelius Tully, 30th regiment
Key Sergeant of Cottonera: J. Davis, 35th regiment
Provost Sergeant: William Hague, 35th regiment
Senior Assistant Inspector: Dr. William Franklin
Assistant Senior Assistant Inspector: Mr. Baillie
Field Inspector: Ralph Green
Surgeon to the Forces: Abraham Bolton
Surgeon to the Forces: Robert Grieves
Surgeon to the Forces: Edward Tegart
Apothecary: Joseph Thomas
Purveyor: Dr. Dickson
Deputy Purveyor: John Kemp
Deputy Purveyor: Joseph Gunson
Hospital Mate: William Reynolds
Hospital Mate: Clement Banks
Hospital Mate: William Iliff
Hospital Mate: Joseph Dyneley
Hospital Mate: Edmund Starkie
Hospital Mate: Edmund Elliott
Hospital Mate: Samuel Peacock
Hospital Mate: Samuel Howell
Hospital Mate: Isaac Silcock
Hospital Mate: J.W. Dakins
Rumour that a duel was in the offing rapidly spread throughout the British civilian residents and military officers alike, with a mixture of disbelief and alarm.
It resulted in Lieut-Colonel Baylis of the 2nd battalion the 35th regiment standing trial by Court-Martial, on Tuesday 18th May 1802 charged with:
“Willful murder of Captain Richard Charles Newman of the Twentieth Foot by having shot a pistol ball into the body of the said Richard Charles Newman and with the said ball given the said Richard Charles Newman a mortal wound in a duel near the bastion of St.Salvatore of the Cottonera Lines on the island of Malta on the fourth day of May in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Two of which mortal wound the aforesaid and said Richard Charles Newman did linger from the said fourth of May until the thirteenth day of the same month and on the said thirteenth day of May in the year aforesaid die”
Lieut-Colonel Baylis pleaded Not Guilty, and the prosecution opened with the reading of a sworn statement made by Captain Newman on 7th May, witnessed by Lieut-Colonel Robert Ross and Adjutant Lieutenant South, both of the 20th regiment.
“On the evening of the third of May 1802 I was walking with a lady under my arm (her name Mary Mount), near the Palace at Vittoriosa. Lieut-Col.Baylis came up and asked the lady how she did. She answered “very well” and thanked him. We passed on.
Lieut-Col.Baylis came up to us a second time and accosted the lady as follows “Mary I believe you are living with a damned rascal” I then said “Pray Sir, what do you mean” Lieut-Col.Baylis replied “You are a damned sneaking puppy and I have a great mind to break your head” and he immediately struck me with a thick stick across the arm and face and repeated the blows very often desiring me at the same time to draw my sword for a rascal.
I then told him “I know my duty too well to draw my sword on my superior officer”. Lieut-Col.Baylis then was pulled away by another officer. My hat was cut through and my arm bruized with the blows I received”
Asked if he had said anything to Lieut-Col.Baylis, Newman answered:
“None, I did not speak a word to him, except in reply to what he said. He came across from the other side of the street and I endeavoured to avoid him both times. I did not raise up my hand before he struck me and I did it then to defend my head from his blows”
The lady involved, Mary Mount, was called to give evidence and corroborated Newman’s statement of events, and added that the officer accompanying Lieut-Col.Baylis was Mr.Pick of the 35th regiment, who parted the two men.
Mr.Pick was the next witness, and claimed that he did not hear most of the words spoken by either man, until he heard Newman say “What do you mean Sir”, and raised his arm, to which Baylis replied “I mean this Sir” and struck out with his cane. After striking Newman several times, Baylis called out to him “If you are a man draw your sword” to which Captain Newman replied “I know my duty better” and on that they parted.
It was established that later Newman's second called on Baylis and arranged for a duel to take place the following morning.
The final witness to give evidence on the 18th was Private John Oakes, servant of Lieut-Col.Baylis. He described to the court the sequence of events involved in the preparation for the duel on the morning, 4th May 1802, and the duel itself.
When the court resumed on the Wednesday the 19th, Private John Cochrane of the 48th regiment gave evidence. He had been on guard duty at Fort Salvatore that morning, and heard two pistol shots. He climbed onto a wall to see what it was about, and saw a man lying on the ground. Lieut-Col.Baylis called out to him to bring some water, but Cochrane replied that he could not do so as he was on sentry duty.
Dr.William Franklin, Assistant Inspector General of Hospitals, and Edward Tegart, Surgeon to the Forces, testified that they had attended to Newman whilst he was wounded. Also, when the body was opened after his death, they found a pistol ball which had passed through the posterior part of the thorax and lungs, had fractured a rib, and lodged between the sixth and seventh vertebrae, and in their opinion was the cause of death.
With their evidence the prosecution case was concluded.
On Friday the 21st, the defence opened. The prisoner presented a written paper to the court, saying how regretful the whole episode had been, and that he had been on very good terms with Newman. He then refers to the lady:
“The young woman, Mary Mount, who is the immediate cause of my being thus unfortunately situation, left her friends upwards of two years since and attached herself to me.
We lived happily together since that period, until she became acquainted with the late Captain Newman who at that time visited my house on friendly terms. The deceased waited upon me and ingeniously told me that the young woman had proposed to attach herself to him, which after some previous arrangement was agreed to, and I parted with her determined never to look on her in any other light than as a friend”
His written statement then went on with his account of the encounter with Captain Newman and Mary Mount, and at its conclusion he called Mary Mount to give evidence.
Lieut-Col.Baylis asked her whether she had sent him a message about the 27th April, expressing her wish for him to obtain a passage for her to England, which she confirmed.
Two of Mary Mount’s female friends were then called to testify. Mrs. Anne Eaton, the wife of Private William Eaton of the 35th, confirmed that she had taken the message to Lieut-Colonel Baylis, and added “She was determined not to stop with Captain Newman; she was not happy.”
Mary Trumble stated “She said she was miserable and she was not sure of Captain Newman and she would not be long together, she gave no reason for it”
Lieutenant Peter Robinson, of the 20th regiment, told the court that on or about the 9th March he had gone to Lieut-Colonel Baylis’s quarters with Captain Newman to witness a settlement made on the part of Captain Newman to Mary Mount.
To end his defence, the prisoner called H.E. General the Hon. Henry Fox, and Brig-General Doyle to give testimony as to his character. After hearing from these two high ranking officers the court adjourned.
When it resumed at 10.30 a.m. on Saturday 22nd, a verdict of Not Guilty to the charge of Wilful Murder was announced, but the court added:
“Notwithstanding that the court has acquitted the prisoner Lieut-Colonel Baylis of the crime of which he has stood accused, the court cannot in duty to itself avoid expressing its marked abhorrence of the violent conduct of Lieut-Colonel Baylis in the transaction on the evening of the third of May 1802 that led to the message from Captain Newman which had so fatal a result - a conduct as highly disgraceful to civilised society and totally subversive of good order and military discipline”
The findings of the court martial were returned from England, with the following remarks attached:
“His Majesty according intirely with the court martial in the sentiment expressed in the said remarks with regard to Lieut-Colonel Baylis’s violent and unmilitary conduct in the transaction which led to the fatal event and in which it does not appear that any blame whatever was imputable to the deceased, has commanded me to intimate to Lieut-Colonel Baylis that His Majesty has not any further occasion for his service as a Lieut-Colonel in the Army, which I have accordingly signified this day to Lieut-Colonel Baylis who is at present in London”
The Reverend Cosserat conducted Captain Newman’s funeral on the 14th May, but General Fox had refused to sanction a burial with military honours.
Alarm quickly spread throughout the civilian population of Malta when they learnt that a treaty signed between Great Britain and France on 1st October 1801, included a clause confirming that the island would be handed back to the Order of St.John of Jerusalem.
The mass of the Maltese were very much attached to the British. Their animosity to the French was fully shown during the blockade, which for a considerable time they carried on without any assistance whatsoever. The British forces that ultimately were employed could not have forced the French garrison to surrender. The gallantry and perseverance of the Maltese, which they kept up over the two-year period, was a major factor.
The Maltese were naturally very anxious to know what would be their fate in the event of a Peace treaty being concluded between Great Britain and France, and with this in mind a deputation of Maltese, comprising Marquis Mario Testaferrata, Filippo Castagna, Don Emanuele Ricaud, Don Pietro Mallia, Michele Cashia, and Antonio Mallia accompanied by Antonio Casolani and Eugenio Formosa, arrived in London on 1st February 1802. Their mission was to overturn this proposal, and seek the protection of Great Britain.
The Peace Treaty of Amiens was signed on the 25th March 1802, which in Article X concerned Malta. There were thirteen stipulations to this Article, and those relating to the military are given in the following extracts:
“Article X. The Islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino shall be restored to the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, and shall be held by it upon the same conditions on which the Order held them previous to the war, and under the following stipulations.
4th. The Forces of His Britannic Majesty shall evacuate the Island and its dependencies within three months after the exchange of the ratification or sooner if it can be done. At that period the Island shall be delivered up to the Order in the state in which it now is, provided that the Grand Master, or Commissioners fully empowered according to the statutes of the Order, be upon the Island to receive possession, and that the force to be furnished by His Sicilian Majesty as hereafter stipulated be arrived there.
5th. The garrison of the Island shall at all times consist at least one half of native Maltese, and the Order shall have the liberty of recruiting for the remainder of the garrison, from the natives of those countries only that shall continue to possess Langues. The native Maltese troops shall be officered by Maltese, and the supreme command of the garrison, as well as the appointment of the officers shall be vested in the Grand Master of the Order, and he shall not be at liberty to divest himself of it, even for a time, except in favour of a Knight of the Order, and in consequence of the opinion of the Council of the Order.
12th. His Sicilian Majesty shall be invited to furnish 2,000 men, natives of his dominions, to serve as a garrison for the several fortresses upon the Island. This force shall remain there for one year from the period of the restitution of the Island to the Knights, after the expiration of which term, if the Order of Saint John shall not, in the opinion of the guaranteeing Powers, have raised a sufficient force to garrison the Island and its dependencies in the manner proposed in paragraph 5, the Neapolitan troops shall remain until they shall be relieved by another force judged to be sufficient by the said Powers.”
It was ratified by the British and French in Paris on the 18th April 1802, and the British proceeded to put it into practice without delay, as shown by a letter dated 30th April sent by Lord Hobart to General Fox:
“...His Majesty is graciously pleased to authorise you to restore, together with the Island, all the artillery and ammunition found therein, at the time they were conquered by His Majesty’s arms. Having carried these orders into execution it is His Majesty’s pleasure that you do cause to embark such of His Majesty’s troops or subjects as may be upon the said Island or its dependencies, together with all the artillery, stores, and other effects now there belonging to the King or any of His Majesty’s subjects.
The Officer Commanding His Majesty’s fleet in the Mediterranean is directed to co-operate with you in the evacuation of Malta and its dependencies and instructions relative the ultimate disposal of the troops under your command will be communicated to you by His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief”
In accordance with the Amiens treaty, each country sent a representative to Malta, the ideal choice for the British was Sir Alexander John Ball, and he was appointed to be His Majesty’s Plenipotentiary to the Order of St.John.
On Saturday July 10th it was reported that:
“Sir Alexander and Lady Ball arrived in the Penelope frigate and we expected great news, but were disappointed as he brought out no order for the evacuation of the Island, and we were left as much in the dark as ever.”
In 1802 by a plebiscite Napoleon was made First Consul of France for life. He considered the Treaty of Amiens a success. In Britain the peace was welcomed by the Government and people alike. To save money the armed forces were immediately reduced. The number of men in the army was cut by about fifty percent, whilst the navy shed about 40,000 sailors. Hundreds of officers from both services were placed on half pay.
By contrast Napoleon maintained his full army, and implemented an ambitious programme of building twenty-five battle ships per year.
The officers and men in the Malta garrison were affected by the imposed cuts in manpower, which meant that the 20th, 27th, 35th and 48th regiments had their 2nd battalions disbanded, so each became a single battalion regiment. Short service men were released and returned to England, whilst the others were transferred to the first battalion
When the second battalion of the 20th (East Devonshire) regiment was disbanded in September 1802, Lieut-Colonel Robert Ross, took full command of the regiment, and presented it with new colours. Lieut-Colonel Smyth formerly of the second battalion, left the regiment and joined the 82nd (Prince of Wales's) regiment on 14th November 1802. Prior to his departure from Malta he was presented with a sword by Lieut-Colonel Ross on behalf of the officers as an appreciation of his services with them.
The monthly return for December 1802 shows:
Sergeants Drummers Rank & File Sick
13th Regiment 33 22 531 50
20th Regiment 43 22 729 128
27th Regiment 43 22 920 88
35th Regiment 43 22 972 67
48th Regiment 21 14 220 49
63rd Regiment 21 14 197 20
Officers awaiting transport to England for reduction from the 20th were, Major Pawlett, Captains Thomas Ayler, Maxwell Close and Thomas Hunter, Lieutenants Alexander Rose, Joseph Hitchen, M.Cuthbert, William Adams, with Adjutant Robert Hodgson, Quartermaster James Robinson, Paymaster George Robertson, and Surgeon Archibald Arnott.
Leaving the 27th were, Captains Henry Standish, Jonathan Payne, James Wilson, S.Rawlins, William Corles, Jonathan Giles, Lieutenants Matthew Townes, William Wainwright, G.Foster, William Pratt, Richard Moore, Hon.W.Butler, ... Carey, J.P.Walker, Jonathan Tucker, Edward Lipscomb, Jonathan Smith, plus Ensigns, Jonathan Heatly, James O’Brien, and Edward Fitzgerald. Accompanied by Paymaster Jonathan Aldrich, Quartermaster Richard Marriott, Surgeon Thomas Collett, and Assistant Surgeons S.Jones and Richard Gibbons.
Those from the 35th were, Major Stickland, Captains Money, Cheyne, Fowden, Wilkie, Lieutenants Irwin, Betenson, Beard, Hair, McLeane, Daley, Wood, Jackson, and Armstrong. With Paymaster Craig, Quartermaster Steele, Surgeon Thorn and Assistant Surgeon Peach. The whole group departed from Malta during December.
As 1802 progressed Napoleon broke many of the conditions of the Amiens Treaty, without any response from Britain, but when he insisted that Britain evacuate Malta, as called for by the treaty, and hand it back to the Order of St.John, they refused. The British maintained that the safeguards called for by the treaty were not in place.
On 17th October, Major-General Villettes, the officer then in command of the British troops on Malta, was sent a top-secret letter from Lord Hobart in London, which told him:
“Circumstances have recently occurred which render it advisable that the former orders relative to the evacuation of Malta should be suspended, I am commanded by the King to signify to you His Majesty’s pleasure that you do continue to occupy the said Island with his troops until his Civil Commissioner shall notify you that the evacuation may take place; and if in the meantime any of His Majesty’s land forces coming from Egypt shall arrive in the port of Malta, that you do require the officer who may be in the command of the said troops to land such part of them as can conveniently be accommodated, and direct him to proceed with the remainder to Gibraltar.”
There were changes in the composition of the Malta garrison during the first half of 1803. The 13th regiment under the command of Brevet Lieut-Colonel George Kinnaird Dana, left their barracks in Floriana on the 3rd March 1803 and embarked for Gibraltar, but were soon replaced by the 61st regiment.
The bulk of the British troops had left Egypt by the end of 1801, but the 10th (North Lincoln) and 61st (South Gloucestershire) Regiments remained there, encamped near Alexandria. An outbreak of the plague in 1803 made it essential to leave quickly. They sailed on 7th March, but as an added precaution to prevent the disease being introduced to the island, they were detained in quarantine on board ship off Malta for six weeks. The 61st landed and joined the Malta garrison, whilst the 10th continued their voyage to Gibraltar.
In May, the 48th and 63rd regiments embarked on the transport ships Zephyr and Fame, and sailed on the 5th for duty in England and Ireland.
With growing concern of a possible renewed conflict with the French, it was essential that the men were kept physically fit and well trained. Lieut-Colonel Robert Ross of the 20th would frequently take his men out into the Maltese countryside for exercises, from five o'clock in the morning, till about one o'clock, or even later in the better weather. The fields in Malta being small and generally enclosed by stone walls about three feet high, were the ideal terrain for all the men to receive tuition as light infantry.
On 30th January 1803, Napoleon published a report about Egypt in his official journal, the “Moniteur” written by a Colonel Sebastiani, in which he stated that the Arabs, Greeks and Marmelukes were looking for freedom from Turkish rule, and that since the weak and disorganised British troops were leaving, the country was ready to be re-taken by the French.
He harangued the British ambassador, Lord Whitworth, blaming Britain for the mistrust between the two countries. However, the British government was now convinced that war was inevitable, and that in spite of the diplomatic moves he was making, Napoleon was only playing for time. They would not yield up Malta.
By April 4th the British government, angered by the delays and evasions of their proposals, made it quite clear that they would not evacuate Malta, and increased their demands, by requiring Napoleon to withdraw from the European territory he had acquired in violation of the terms of the Amiens treaty.
On 23rd April, the Cabinet sent Lord Whitworth final instructions. Ten years was to be the minimum term for the British to lease Malta, plus the other conditions already tabled. If these conditions were not acceptable then as British ambassador he was to leave Paris within seven days. The French countered that sovereignty of Malta should pass to Russia after Britain’s tenure, but this was not acceptable.
The British government was not prepared to allow Napoleon to continue dragging his feet, and on 16th May 1803 declared war on France. Recruitment for the army and navy was put in hand.
Lord Hobart, the British Secretary for War, informed Ball by a letter dated 16th May 1803, that the Neapolitan troops should withdraw immediately from Malta, and that the French General Vial, who was their Plenipotentiary to the Order of St.John, with other members of the French Mission, should also quit the island.
It also officially installed Ball as Civil Commissioner in place of Cameron, with the salary of £ 2,000 per annum, and continued:
“ And I am further to desire that you will proceed immediately with the formation of the Maltese corps directed in my secret letter of 6th November; according to the instructions therein contained.
In regard to the appointment of British officers, either to command these Corps or to serve in them with the native officers, you will receive special instructions in the course of a very few days.
The Army authorities on Malta were concerned at the small number of British infantrymen in the garrison, as expressed by Major-General Villettes in his letter of 26th May to London.
He had a total of 10 Field Officers, 27 Captains, 89 Subalterns, 27 Staff, 230 Sergeants, 109 Drummers, and 4542 Rank & File, under his command, serving in the Royal Artillery, 20th regiment, 27th regiment, 35th regiment, 61st regiment, and Watteville’s regiment.
Even though there was a shortage of manpower, it was necessary to provide some men for the defence of the neighbouring island of Gozo, and a detachment from the 20th Regiment, under the command of Captain James Bent was stationed there.
During 1802 the Maltese Light Infantry had been disbanded, but many men re-enlisted in the Maltese Provincial Battalions which were raised shortly afterwards, as called for by Paragraph 5 of Article X of the Amiens Treaty. This new Corps was composed entirely of Maltese citizens but recruiting was slow, as Governor Ball reported:
“.. but it is probably no less owing to the great increase of trade occasioned by the arrival here of English merchants from Italy, and the constant employ thus afforded to the lower order of people.
I trust, however, that the measure I have now adopted of requiring each officer to raise a certain proportion of soldiers before he can receive pay will effect the completion of the corps in the course of the ensuing winter.”
His intervention proved successful, as by October 1803 the two battalions of the Maltese Provincial Corps had a total strength of approximately 1,000 men.
With the return of war, Lord Nelson was made Commander in Chief of the British naval forces in the Mediterranean. He visited Malta on 15th June, and on 28th from HMS Amphion wrote to Rt.Hon. Henry Addington:
“I arrived at Malta on the 15th June in the evening. The French Minister, General Vial, had left in a Ragusa vessel in the morning. The Maltese are in the highest spirits and sincerely hope that they will never be separated from England.
I consider Malta as a most important outwork to India; that it will ever give us great influence in the Levant, and indeed all the southern part of Italy. In this view I hope we shall never give it up.
I carried out the orders of Lord Hobart that General Villettes was to hold 2,000 men at my requisition, if they could be spared from the defence of Malta, for the service of Sicily. The language of General Villettes was natural. The garrison appointed for Malta is not more than on the most economical number of men was judged sufficient, and, looking to the assistance of the Maltese in case of a siege, that these number of British troops were only sufficient for the ordinary duties, and that when the Neapolitan troops went away, the duty would be very severe, that the addition of Maltese troops when trained and formed would be little better than a well-formed Militia, and however much they undoubtedly would assist, yet they would not be counted as British troops.
However, that he should not hesitate in providing 1,200 men and a corps of artillery, to be under the command of General Oakes, a most excellent officer, for the service of Messina whenever I might call for them... On the 17th, at daylight, I left Malta”
The Neapolitan troops referred to in this letter were embarked on board British troop transports on the 14th July for their voyage to Syracuse and Messina, and confirmed to Lord Hobart by Villettes on the 24th when he wrote “His Sicilian Majesty’s troops have all been embarked for Sicily,”
To augment the small Royal Artillery presence, Charles Baynes’s Company of 8th Battalion, arrived at Malta from Portsmouth on 31st March 1804, bringing the total to over 300 men. By April the number had increased to around 460, and stayed at this figure for the next twelve months. Baynes held the rank of Captain Lieutenant and Captain but by General Order of 21st July 1804 the rank of Captain Lieutenant was abolished and replaced by that of 2nd Captain.
The British infantry regiments still in garrison, were the 20th (East Devonshire), 27th (Inniskilling), 35th (Dorsetshire) and 61st (South Gloucestershire) having a combined strength of around 3,800 rank and file.
The men of the 20th regiment in particular responded well to the continual training and exercises organised by their Colonel, as Captain John Colbourne wrote in October 1804:
"We lost too many of our men in the hot weather owing to their sacrificing so frequently to Bacchus. We are now about 800 bayonets in the highest order.
I really think there is no regiment in the service that has so much esprit-de-corps as the XX"
At this time it was considered appropriate to raise a regiment of Maltese infantry for general service, with British and Maltese officers, to be designated the Royal Regiment of Malta, and a General Order was issued on 30th March 1805 to this effect. Formation had in fact commenced the previous year on 7th December, when Major-General Villettes, then commanding all the troops on Malta, was appointed its Colonel, with the Hon. J.P. Dalrymple as Lieut-Colonel.
The first British officers to take permanent commissions with this new regiment were, Major John Hamill (ex-70th and 40th regiments), Major Augustus Meade (ex-48th and 39th regiments), Captain William Cowell (ex-89th and 58th regiments), and Ensigns Charles Plunkett and J.H. Bodner.
They were followed in January 1805 by, Captain John Philip Perry (ex-17th regiment), Captain James Brickell (ex-89th and 57th regiments), Captain Lewis Lazzarini (ex-15th regiment), Captain Charles de Haviland (ex-20th regiment), Paymaster and Adjutant Peter Wallace and Quartermaster Daniel Fraser who had previously served as a sergeant in one of the Maltese Provincial Battalions.
In April 1805 the Maltese Provincial Corps was composed of a 1st battalion under the command of Lieut-Colonel Parisi, and a 2nd battalion under Lieut-Colonel Gatt, with a combined total of 1066 rank and file.
To attract men to join the new Royal Regiment of Malta, they were originally offered a Bounty of ten guineas to enlist for general service and an unlimited period of time, or seven guineas for the fixed period of ten years. These terms were found attractive, and in May 1805 when the regiment appears in the Army monthly returns for the first time, it had 367 men which had risen to 450 by July. Conversely, the Maltese Provincial battalions show a reduction caused by men transferring to the new regiment, and their number was down to 741 in May, and 672 in July.
The concept of honour was still very strong amongst British officers, as expressed by Assistant Surgeon Grantham of the 27th (Inniskilling) regiment when he stated that:
|“He had received a blow and he could never think of receiving a verbal apology for such an insult. That there was one mode of settling the business that he had made up his mind to, and was determined to settle it in that manner”|
It arose from a trivial instance which should have been resolved without the necessity of a duel, which resulted in the death of Grantham and a fellow officer of the 27th being charged with his murder.
Lieutenant William Fairtlough, appeared before a Court Martial held in Valletta on 30th May 1805 charged with the wilful murder of Assistant Surgeon Richard Townshend Grantham, to which he pleaded Not Guilty.
The details of the dispute which occurred during the evening of the 22nd May were read to the court at the opening from a paper written by Grantham, and found in his room after his death:
“About nine o’clock this present evening I was coming to my room when I saw a light in the room adjoining the mess room and on enquiry found the mess waiter providing things for supper at Mr.Fairtlough’s. The waiter told me he wished the mess cruet stand but that he (the waiter) could not give it.
I told him he better acquaint Mr.Fairtlough so, he did, but the latter insisted on having it; Sometime after, I was coming to my room and seeing the waiter I asked him and was told he (Mr.Fairtlough) insisted, and had it to his room. I answered ‘very well’ and went to bed.
I had been asleep sometime when I was roused by a knocking at my door and when answered he (Mr.Fairtlough) wanted to come in. I opened the door when in a very insulting manner he said the mess waiter said I intended to get him fined £ 5. My answer to which was, I was surprized at his waking me and requested him to leave the room which we refused and spoke in a most insulting manner in the hearing of the sentry, but who says he knew nothing of what passed till he heard me desire Mr.Fairtlough to quit my room.
I requested him to save me the trouble of saying or doing anything unpleasant but placing his back to the door refused to go away. I took him by the arm and slightly pushed him when he turned and struck me in the face”
In evidence Paymaster James Dight confirmed that the statement was in Grantham’s handwriting. The sentry mentioned was Private Charles Cocks, but he told the court he did not hear what the officers said to each other as the door was only slightly open.
The third witness, Private Thomas McGraine, Grantham’s servant gave his version of the events relating to the duel. He was given a tied up greatcoat by his master, and instructed to take a coach to Porte des Bombes, and wait there.
When Grantham arrived he told McGraine to go into a field about four hundred yards to the right of the Porte des Bombes, and give the tied up greatcoat to Mr. Digan and then return to the coach.
McGraine heard a shot and went to the field again where he found Mr. Digan, Mr. McEntagart and Mr. Fairtlough standing and looking down at the body of his master, who was lying on his back, bleeding from the head. Mr. Fairtlough said to him “It was a bad morning’s work”. McGraine opened the greatcoat and found two pistols, one had been discharged the other was still loaded.
When Denny Corry Digan, Surgeon of the 27th was called to testify he related the events of the evening already known to the court, but added that when Grantham asked him that night what he should do, he “Begged him to go back to bed and that in the morning his mind would be in a greater state of tranquillity”
The prosecution case ended, the defence started with Mr. Fairtlough’s refuting the accuracy of Assistant Surgeon Granthams’s statement, probably due to his troubled state of mind, and showing it was at variance with the evidence of events that night as given by witnesses to the court.
He then called Lieut-Colonel Haviland Smith, commanding the 27th regiment who gave an opinion of his character, followed by five other officers who had known him for various lengths of time but who all confirmed that Mr. Fairtlough was of good character, not of an aggressive nature, and never caused trouble.
When the court resumed it was announced:
“The court having duly weighed the evidence given in support of the charge preferred against Lieutenant William Fairtlough with what he has adduced in his defence is of the opinion that he is not guilty of the charge preferred against him, viz of the wilful murder of Richard Townshend Grantham, and doth therefore acquit him”
It was during 1805 whilst on garrison duty at Malta that the 35th (Dorsetshire) regiment was re-named the 35th (Sussex) regiment, taking over the county name from the 25th regiment which itself was re-styled as the 25th (King's Own Borderers).
There was always a problem with drunkenness in the garrison, which often led to trouble between the British soldiers and the local Maltese. On one occasion, late in the evening on the 30th September 1805, Private William Williams of the 81st regiment went into a wine shop in Valletta, where he met some friends from the same regiment, and ordered a round of drinks. Giovanni Vassallo, a young Maltese who was engaged to the wine shop owner's daughter served them.
Some time later, all the soldiers walked out of the shop arm in arm, Vassallo ran after them and demanded payment, but Williams replied that he had already paid for the drinks, and an argument started. Williams threw a punch at Vassallo's head; Vassallo drew out a knife and stabbed the soldier in the stomach, causing serious wounds, from which he died later that night. Vassallo escaped, and although a reward was offered, he was never caught.
This tragic incident resulted in a Government Order dated 2nd October 1805, that wine shops had to close from sunset, but a couple of months later this ruling was eased. Customers were still not allowed to enter the premises, but could still buy drinks through a half open door.
At the beginning of 1805 the British government became anxious to protect the island of Sicily from Napoleon’s forces who already controlled part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies by occupying the Naples area. The French seizure of the Sicilian harbours and fortifications would be a grave threat to the British forces and influence in the Mediterranean
Consequently at the end of March 1805, Lieut-General Sir James Craig received orders to take 4 battalions of infantry, plus small detachments of cavalry and artillery to Malta, and assume command of the whole Mediterranean, with the exception of Gibraltar. He sailed together with his Aide-de-camp William Thomas Thornton, a Captain in the 46th regiment, aboard the Dragon, with a fleet of 37 transport ships, escorted by two men-of-war, the Lively and the Ambuscade.
The infantry regiments with him were the 58th (Rutlandshire), under the command of Lieut-Colonel Johnstone, the 1st battalion 44th (East Essex), the 1st battalion 81st, and the 39th (East Middlesex) regiment. The Royal Artillerymen were from W. Cary’s company, 8th battalion, on board Valiant, Prince, Canada and Majir.
They left England on 17th April, but their voyage was interrupted off Lisbon and further prolonged by the activities of the French fleet in the Atlantic.
Rumours circulated throughout the garrison of an expedition being prepared for landings on the European mainland to challenge Napoleon's troops.
At Gibraltar Craig changed quarters into the Lively, and was able to write to Earl Camden from Malta on 21st July:
“I have much satisfaction in being able to acquaint your Lordship that without any accident of any sort the convoy with the troops under my command anchored here on the morning of the 18th instant.”
To make room for the newly arrived British troops, the men of the Maltese Provincial Battalion, and Royal Malta Regiment vacated their barracks in the Cottonera district and were billeted in St.Dominic’s Convent, Rabat, the Magisterial Palace, Mdina, and St.Augustine’s Convent, Rabat
Sir James inspected the regiments of the Malta garrison, and those which had accompanied him from England. His opinions were sent to England on 15th August:
“Of the regiments that we found here the 20th, 27th and 35th are composed of wonderfully fine bodies of men. There is in fact little difference between them”
“The 61st is not unserviceable but by no means equal to the others. They have a considerable number of young lads that can but barely be said to be of an age to go on immediate service”
“The 39th is a tolerable body of men, but has much youth among them and the whole seemed to require a good deal of drilling and exercise.”
“The 44th is a wonderfully fine regiment generally speaking, young but by no means children. Stout - well made and in short one of the most promising regiments I have met with anywhere. The regiment is however extremely defective in discipline neither officers or men seemed at all trained, or to be acquainted with what they were about.”
“The 58th is a body of men but little inferior to the 44th and in point of discipline and movement not greatly superior to them.”
“The 81st is the worst body of men of the four regiments but by far the most perfect in their movements. Any regiment in Lieut-Colonel Kemps hands must be in good order.”
He then went on to report on the foreign regiments in British pay, Wattevilles, Chasseurs Britannique, Corsican Rangers, Royal Regiment of Malta, and the Malta Provincial Battalions. He was unable to remark upon Dillon’s regiment since they were stationed in Gozo and he did not have the opportunity to see them.
In September a Light Battalion and a Grenadier Battalion were formed from the flank companies of the regiments in garrison at Malta. Command of the Light Battalion was given to Lieut-Colonel Kempt of the 81st regiment who handed over command of the 81st to Major Plenderleath on the 15th September.
The newly arrived troops were to witness a dramatic event. Apart from carrying out the death sentence on a condemned man, a military execution was to create the maximum impression on all the troops present, and this was achieved with a never to be forgotten ceremony.
The 35th Regiment was stationed at Floriana barracks. During the evening of the 29th July, Private Joseph Scattergood drew a bayonet with which he at first threatened, and then struck and stabbed Sergeant Robert Culbert in the back.
At his Court Martial, Scattergood was found Guilty of intent to kill Sergeant Robert Culbert, and was sentenced to death by a firing squad.
A General Order dated 20th August contained the following instructions:
“The Regiments quartered at La Valetta and Floriana together with the 35th Regiment and 20th Light Dragoons and a picquet of 1 Captain, 2 Subalterns, 3 Sergeants, 1 Drummer and 60 Rank and File from each of the following corps, viz. 39th, 44th, 61st, 81st, Chasseurs Brittanique and Corsican Rangers are to attend the execution.
The 39th Regiment will be on the Parade at Fort Saint Manoel and will observe a private signal of the same kind from a Camp Colour on the sea line of Floriana.
The 35th Regiment will furnish a picquet of the same strength as directed for the other corps out of which the party for the execution will be chosen by Lot. This picquet will march in front of the Regiment when coming on the ground and will there receive directions for the marching the Prisoner on the ground.
No Drum is to beat or music to play either on going to or coming from the Parade. Major General Sir John Stuart will Command the Troops and Brigadier General Cole and Ackland will attend their respective Brigades.”
So it was shortly after dawn on the following morning of 21st August 1805, when all the regiments named were drawn up, and at 5.30 a.m., Private Scattergood was executed.
During this time, a detachment of British infantry, under the command of Captain James Bent was stationed on the neighbouring island of Gozo.
Sir James Craig’s main concern was the preparation for the forthcoming attack on the Italian mainland, but he knew would this action would deplete the strength of the Malta garrison, and leave the island vulnerable:
“The garrison remaining on Malta will be something better than 5,000 men of which 2,800 will be British - the remainder Maltese and other foreigners. I consider it of importance to the security of the island that the number of the former should at all times predominate.”
With all the troops embarked by the 31st October, Lieut-General Craig was able to report to London full details of his expedition prepared for sailing to the Italian mainland.
|Officers||Sergeants||Drummers||Rank + File||Servants||Women|
|20th Light Dragoons||20||16||4||311||7||24|
|Batt. of Grenadiers||28||38||32||641||8||22|
|Batt. of Light Inf.||30||38||16||640||10||25|
|Royal Staff Corps||1||1||-||18||-||1|
|Royal Corsican Regt.||26||24||10||703||11||24|
The Craig expedition sailed from Malta on 3rd November 1805, and apart from the dragoons and infantry, also included about 300 men of the Royal Artillery, belonging to the companies of J. Harris, C. Baynes, and R. Pyms plus a party of Artificers, comprising 1 Sergeant, 1 Corporal, 13 Artificers of the Woolwich Company, under the command of Captain C. Lefebure, R.E.
But the service of this expedition on the mainland was short lived. With the French army swarming down Italy, the British troops with Sir James Craig hurriedly sailed from Castellamare for Sicily and disembarked at Messina on 16th February 1806. The French continued their advance and occupied the whole of the Calabrian peninsular into the toe of Italy, leaving them only two miles across the straits of Messina from Sicily.
The regiments left behind to garrison the island were the 39th (East Middlesex), 44th (East Essex), and 81st but when General Craig wished to bolster the defences of Sicily he summoned the 81st from Malta, even though he was worried at leaving the Malta garrison with a higher percentage of unreliable non-British troops. On 4th April 1806 the 81st sailed from Malta.
Craig’s health deteriorated and he asked to be allowed to resign, which was granted, and at the beginning of April 1806 he handed over to Major General Sir John Stuart. Wishing to take the fight to Napoleon’s troops, Stuart led an expedition to Calabria in the foot of mainland Italy, and although achieving a great success at the battle of Maida on 4th July 1806, this victory could not be followed up and the British were forced to withdraw again to Sicily.
At about 6.15 a.m. on the morning of Friday, 18th July 1806 the town of Vittoriosa was rocked by a violent explosion, 370 barrels of gunpowder and more than 1,600 shells and grenades blew up in the Magazine. The houses in the immediate vicinity were demolished, and great devastation was caused over a wide area.
The largest number of dead and injured, between 200 and 300, was borne by the Maltese civilians who lived in the area, but the number of British troops killed was given as 14 from the Royal Artillery, 3 from the 39th (East Middlesex) regiment, with 23 Maltese soldiers from the 2nd Maltese Provincial Battalion.
The band of the 39th (East Middlesex) regiment, as it was titled at that time, was reported as playing "God save the King" close by, when the explosion occurred and apart from the two men killed instantly, most of the others received some injuries.
Amongst the British civilians killed were John Roscoe, Margaret and William White, with their three children Elizabeth (10 years), Thomas (5 years) and baby May (1 year), Henry Cowley and his three children Louisa (7 years), Philip (6 years) and Henry (3 years).
A Court of Enquiry whose members were Major General Patrick Wauchope as President, Brigadier-General Christopher Tilson, Lieut-Colonel Charles Phillips, Lieut-Colonel Arthur Brooke, 44th regiment, Lieut-Colonel John P.Dalrymple, Maltese Corps, Lieut-Colonel Samuel Dickens, Royal Engineers, and Major Boyd Horsburgh, 39th regiment, sat in Valletta, on Monday the 21st July.
The first to be called was Lieut-Colonel Bentham, the Commanding Officer of the Royal Artillery, who stated that he sent orders to Captain Gamble, the C.O. of the R.A., in the Cottonera District to unload a number of shells, lodged in boxes in the Vittoriosa Magazine. The word “unload” meant to remove the gunpowder from live shells. He also sent the Laboratory Sergeant over to Vittoriosa to give instructions and recommendations regarding this work.
Captain Gamble confirmed that he had received the order through Mr. Rutter of the Ordnance Commissary, so that the shells might be sent over to Sicily. He passed the order to Bombardier Anderson, the Garrison Gunner, and:
“Gave him most particular instruction cautioning him to be extremely careful and that he was to take the shells outside in boxes to as great a distance as possible from the magazine previous to unloading them”
When asked to give his opinion for the cause of the explosion he replied
|“The cause of it was Bombardier Anderson’s disobedience of my orders.”|
Gunner John Rowland was called, and confirmed that he had heard Captain Gamble give precise instructions to Bombardier Anderson on the 16th April. He was followed by Gunner Robert Cressy, who said that he had worked in the Magazine on the 16th. He unloaded several shells and seeing the danger of such work inside the Magazine remonstrated with Bombardier Anderson, but was told to “mind his own work.”
In reply to a question whether he was at the Magazine in Vittoriosa last Wednesday, the 16th, the Laboratory Sergeant, Robert Anson told the court:
“I was there having been sent by Lieut-Colonel Bentham to show Bombardier Anderson, the Garrison Gunner, the method I had adopted in drawing the powder from live shells.”
The Court’s findings were:
“Upon the reports of Lieut-Colonel Bentham and Captain Gamble it appears that the powder magazine in Vittoriosa in which the operation of unloading the shells was carrying on blew up on the morning of the 18th instant by which melancholy event the whole of the working party consisting of the Garrison Gunner, one non-commissioned officer and twelve gunners perished. The Court therefore are precluded from all means of obtaining any further evidence on the subject”
Sir Alexander Ball being responsible for the whole community immediately set up an investigating committee, comprising Pietro Paolo Sciberras Bologna, Marquis Giuseppe Vincenzo Testaferrata, Gregorio Mattei, and George Noble, to enquire into the causes of the accident and oversee the relief needed for the victims.
Although immediate action was taken to remove the dead and wounded, the work of clearing the debris and rubble from the damaged houses took over three months. A daily report of this gruesome task was kept, which recorded all the human remains recovered, as well as their livestock.
Written in Italian, and submitted on the 12th October 1806, these are extracts:
“In the execution of my duties, I am honoured to present to Your Lordships the roll of persons who died in the city of Vittoriosa, some on the streets being struck by stones, some under the stones and some buried beneath the fallen ruins on 18th July 1806 as a result of the gunpowder explosion, excluding those English people who were found under the roof of the Barrack Master’s residence, as I have not had any news of them.
Friday 18th July. The bodies of forty people, men, women and children were removed to the church of San Lorenzo in the said Vittoriosa to be buried.
Also, fifteen bodies of men and women, eight of the males being soldiers of the Gatt Regiment, were sent to the church of the Annunziata belonging to the Dominican Fathers to be interred there. Another four bodies were recovered from a house where there was an English inn and these were: Mr Enrico Cauli (Cowley) and his children, two boys and a girl.
Saturday 19th July. Twenty-two bodies were recovered and sent to the church of San Publius in Floriana. Thirteen of these were men, eleven of whom were Gatt Regiment soldiers. One of the buried was a sixteen year old called Salvatore Zahra. There were six women and three children.
Thursday 24th July. Eight people were found, including five men, three were a Royal Artilleryman, a sergeant and a corporal of the Gatt regiment. Three women who had been sitting in front of their own doorways, using spinning wheels. There was also a goat and a dog.
Tuesday 29th July. Four bodies were extracted, including a Royal Artilleryman, a Gatt Regiment soldier, and two women, one of whom was a daughter of Francesco Marmara.
From Friday 1st to Monday 4th August. Recovered the body of a woman, who was the daughter of the above-mentioned Marmara, one forearm, one human hand. Also one hen, one turkey, both alive and one turkeycock and one dog both dead. An arm and some pieces of human flesh and skin were found. One sheep, one turkeycock, two hens and a kitten were found. Also recovered, were two demijohns full of wine from the home of the above-mentioned Marmara.
Wednesday 6th August. Recovered the body of a woman named Catarina Xicluna.
Friday 8th August. A man named Giuseppe Darmanin was found under the rubble.
From Thursday 21st August to Wednesday 10th September. A quantity of large and small shells were delivered with grape-shot to an Artillery sergeant according to the receipt.
Wednesday 17th September. Recovered a man by the name of Giuseppe, the Maltese servant of the Barrack Master
From the Thursday 18th till Saturday 20th September. Recovered the body of a Royal Artilleryman, and 112 sacks of fragments.
From Saturday 27th September till Saturday 4th October. Recovered 288 sacks of fragments.
From the excavations the totals were, 149 dead persons and 853 sacks of fragments.
The number of individuals whose property was damaged by the explosion was ascertained to be 493, and at a cost assessed at 343,304 Scudies.
Lieut-Colonel Samuel T.Dickens of the Royal Engineers recommended the formation of three companies of Maltese tradesmen, under Military control and discipline. Two companies for service on Malta and Gozo and a third for general duties within the Mediterranean. Royal Authority was granted and these companies were formed on 1st May 1806.
Each of the companies for local service were made up of 2 Sergeants, 4 Corporals, 60 Privates, 1 Drummer, and 10 Boys making 77 in total. The Mediterranean company was larger with 4 Sergeants, 4 Corporals, 100 Privates, 1 Drummer and 10 Boys, totalling 119 men. Matteo Bonavio was appointed to the Maltese companies and styled Assistant Engineer. These companies were formed into a Corps with the title of Maltese Military Artificers
Private Evan Roberts an Artificer who had been brought from Minorca for service on Malta in February 1800, and had worked with Captain Gordon Royal Engineers, during the blockade of the French and remained on the island, joined this new Corps with the rank of Sergeant.
In July 1806, the Maltese Artificers totalled 160 men, 21 had signed on for ten years service in the Mediterranean area, and the other 139 three years service but limited to Malta and Gozo.
The two Maltese Provincial Battalions had been steadily losing men to the Royal Malta Regiment, and by September 1806 the 1st battalion only had 272 men, and the 2nd battalion 246, so in October 1806, they were consolidated into one battalion, under the command of Colonel, the Marquis Parisi. On the other hand the Royal Malta Regiment had grown to a strength of 806 men.
Having received a letter from Brig-General Graham, then in Spain, regarding the defence of Sicily, Ball answered on 14th September 1806, sounding him out on an interesting proposition, but nothing came of it:
“ I am very much flattered by your friendly note which you sent by Sir John Moore. The recollections of past times always bring to my mind your able conduct during the trying time of the siege of La Valette, and will ever make me take a lively interest in your happiness. I read with great satisfaction your opinion on Sicily. That it will be uphill work to protect a country that will do nothing for itself.
If negotiations for peace should be broken off and I can obtain the command in the East Indies or at Jamaica, I shall probably resume my naval career next year, and in that event I should be glad to know if you would accept of the civil government here. I mention this in great confidence to you.”
By early 1807, due to the efforts of Major-General Villettes and Sir Alexander Ball, the Royal Regiment of Malta was placed on the strength of the British Army, with an establishment of 1 Colonel, 1 Lieut-Colonel, 2 Majors, 10 Captains, 22 Lieutenants, 8 Ensigns, 1 Paymaster, 1 Adjutant, 1 Quartermaster, 1 Surgeon, 2 Assistant Surgeons, 1 Sergeant-Major, 1 Quartermaster Sergeant, 1 Pay-Sergeant, 1 Armourer, 50 Sergeants, 50 Corporals, 20 Drummers, 2 Fifers, 950 Privates, making a total of 1126 officers and men.
Whilst commanding the 1st battalion of the 44th (East Essex) in Malta, apart from the day-to-day cares with the regiment, Lieut-Colonel Arthur Brooke had a problem in his private life. His wife had been a passenger on board the frigate Amphion which was returning to England in July 1807 for repairs, under Captain William Hoste, who had been Nelson's protégé.
During the voyage an attachment developed between the dashing 26 year old Hoste and Mrs. Brooke, and even after arriving at Portsmouth in early August, he continued to see her in England. Her husband insisted upon her returning to Malta promptly, which she did, but kept in correspondence with Hoste, and met him occasionally when the Amphion called at Malta. By 1808 she was in Sicily with the regiment, and the liaison was ended but as his letters to his mother show, Hoste remained infatuated with her.
Meanwhile in the struggle against Napoleon, the British Government was anxious to increase the strength of the Army and therefore accepted a proposal from a Count Froberg to raise an infantry regiment of about 1,000 foreign troops to serve with the British. He was a Frenchman of the Royalist cause, named Gustave de Montjoie, but styled himself, the Count Froberg.
The regiment was due to be completed by February 1805, but recruiting was extremely slow, so by July of that year when Count Froberg’s Levy appears on the Malta garrison return, there was only one officer, a Dutchman Lieutenant Abraham Schummelketel, and ten men.
In an effort to increase recruitment Froberg switched his attention from Western Europe countries, to concentrate on the Balkan states. Here he was able to gather together a mixture of men from several nationalities, and as a result, by July 1806 there were nearly 500 privates, plus another 127 recruits undergoing Quarantine or in Hospital.
Though welcoming an additional regiment to the defence of Malta, General Villettes was concerned that this particular regiment had insufficient experienced officers, and although he was unaware of the dubious recruiting methods used in the Balkans, his premonition was well founded when he wrote on 3rd June 1806:
“It will ever be a very difficult task to maintain any sort of harmony between them and the inhabitants of this island who are extremely prejudiced against them for their being mostly from the confines of Turkey. If they remain much longer I am afraid some unpleasant disturbances might occur.”
To reduce the tension between the Maltese and men of the Froberg regiment, it was thought advisable to station them at the isolated Fort Ricasoli. However, since the Fort held a strategic position at the entrance to Grand harbour, a small Royal Artillery detachment of nineteen Gunners under Captain Fead, were based there.
In September 1806 fifteen officers of Swiss and German origin were commissioned, with Abraham Schummelketel promoted to Major, and all seemed to be going well in November 1806 when Lieut-Colonel James Barnes, transferred from the 4th Regiment, became the Commanding Officer.
A large group of around 230 Albanian recruits who had enlisted in February 1807, formed the largest single group of one nationality, and whilst on the surface all appeared calm, most of the officers knew that many men had grievances about their pay and conditions.
Matters came to a head on the 4th April 1807, when Lieut-Colonel Barnes left Fort Ricasoli about noon, and went to Valletta on regimental business. Around 4 o’clock that afternoon, Sergeant Blatter came to him and reported that a mutiny had broken out at the Fort.
In the Quartermaster’s room at the Fort, Adjutant Schwartz, Captain Baron Muller, and Lieutenant Muller, learnt from Corporal Schumaker of the 6th company that he had been approached to join a group of about 200 men of Greek and Albanian origin who were planning an uprising that evening when the officers were all together in their mess having dinner.
This information was passed to Major Schummelketel, who decided to try and defuse the situation by holding a meeting with the ringleaders, but he was overtaken by events.
Hearing that their plan had been betrayed the mutineers acted immediately. Five of the Swiss officers, Frederick Schwartz, Rodolphe de Muralt, Frederick Watteville, Seguesser and Baron Muller, confronted the men and tried to parley with them, but unsuccessfully. The mutineers attacked them killing Schwartz and Watteville, and seriously wounding Muralt. Major Schummelketel was bayoneted and left for dead.
There was fighting within the Fort between the officers with about 200 men who wished to remain loyal and about 300 mutineers, but by 3 p.m. the fighting had ended with the rebels in control and the others held as ho
During the conflict Gunner John Johnston of the Royal Artillery was on sentry duty and refused to let the rebels pass. He moved into the narrow passage which led to the powder magazine, and continued to fend them off, but was killed by a volley of musket fire.
General Villettes had the Fort sealed off on the land side, and removed all boats from the near the shoreline. The stand off lasted three days. Starvation and falling morale amongst the mutineers caused them to open negotiations, and put forward their demand to be allowed to return to their native lands, under the protection of the Russian consul, but this was rejected by Villettes.
Many of the men caught up in the excitement of the moment when the mutiny was in progress came to the conclusion that faced with a resolute General Villettes, their cause was lost and became even more demoralised. Therefore on the 8th when men of German and Polish origin overpowered the sentries and opened the Main gate, those who wanted to leave the Fort could do so. Nearly the whole regiment came out, and not more than twenty men remained inside. Those who had taken part in the mutiny tried to conceal themselves amongst the loyal men, but they were quickly identified and put under guard.
On the 10th, the small group which stayed behind thought they would improve their negotiating position and fired shot and shell across the harbour into the Valletta. However, it had the reverse effect, causing Villettes to decide that the Fort had to be stormed without delay. A scaling party was assembled, comprising Lieutenant de Clermont, of the Froberg regiment, 1 Sergeant-Major, 30 NCO’s and men of the Maltese Military Artificers, with 6 artillerymen and 30 other selected men.
They left Valletta at two o’clock next morning, and secured Fort Ricasoli without loss, although they were met with determined resistance by the mutineers, two of whom were captured. A small band of six mutineers retreated into the magazine, and threatened to blow up it up if their original demand was refused, which it was. During the night of the 12th the mutineers carried out their threat and blew up the magazine, killing three British sentries, William Fox and Lawrence Taafe, both of the 44th regiment and John Howell of the 89th regiment.
It was thought that the rebels had also died in the explosion, but in the confusion they had escaped into the countryside, where they were discovered some days later in a weak and emaciated state and taken into custody.
The British Military authorities set up a Court of Enquiry, which sat over three days, the 20th, 21st and 22nd April. The Court was composed of Brigadier General Christopher Tilson, as President, with Lieut-Colonel Arthur Brooke, 44th regiment, Lieut-Colonel Sir John Dalrymple, Maltese Corps, Major Cavendish Sturt, 39th regiment, and Major John Hamill, Maltese Corps.
On the first morning, most of the facts regarding the mutiny were given in the testimony of Major Schummelketel, who had been with the regiment since 1805 and therefore knew more of the regiment’s history than anyone else. He testified:
“On Saturday 4th April about two o’clock in the afternoon I was informed by Lieutenant Muller and Adjutant Schwartz that a plot was formed among the Greek soldiers to attack and make prisoners of the officers when collected in a body at the mess, and that when this had been accomplished, it was the intention of the conspirators to seize upon the gate of the Fort and hoist the Russian flag and immediately to write to the Russian Consul to send them a vessel to carry them to Corfu.
I heard a cry from without that all the Greeks had run to arms and were loading their musquets. I hastened to my apartment and by way of precaution took up my double-barrelled fowling piece which was charged with small shot intending to go into the midst of them to hear their demands.
I saw Mr.Schwartz between two artillerymen mortally wounded. I hastened to go downstairs but was prevented by two soldiers of the regiment who met me on the steps, of whom, one had his musquet loaded and the other was in the act of loading. The first at the distance of about eight paces from me, fired but missed me on which in order to prevent him from charging again I immediately fired one barrel at his face and the other at his hands.
Notwithstanding this the two rushed furiously upon me with their bayonets and butt ends of their musquets endeavoured to put me to death. They continued the attack for six or seven minutes when Mr.Preaux arrived to assist me.
I was enabled to return to my room. On arriving there I found Mr.Schwartz dead and an artillery soldier mortally wounded, and having been myself severely hurt in the contest with the two soldiers on the stairs and being faint from the consequent loss of blood, I laid myself down on a coverlet and drew another over me so as to conceal me entirely”
He went on the explain that a large group of men burst into his room, smashed the furniture and destroyed everything they could lay their hands on, but when they discovered him instead of killing him as he expected they carried him to the hospital.
The next witness was Captain Baron Joseph Mueller de Freidberg, who repeated the basic events of that afternoon, then continued:
“Corporal Schumaker and the leaders were in the Adjutant’s quarters. Major Schummelketel put the question to the Corporal that he was to be one of the chiefs of the plot that was to take place, to insist on his divulging the whole, on which he refused, denying all knowledge of the circumstance.
The Major on Corporal Schumaker’s still persisting in his ignorance of the business ordered him to lye down on a bench and ordered him to be beaten by two corporals when after receiving two strokes another man stepped forward and declared that if an interpreter was sent for they would declare all they know. This measure was adopted at Corporal Schumaker’s own proposal in order that it might not be known to the other chiefs that he was the informer against them”
The court then adjourned for the day, and re-assembled at 10 o’clock the next morning, when the first to give evidence was Lieutenant Joseph Muller.
He repeated the sequence of events that afternoon as already known, and took up his story from when he was in Quartermaster Furbenzer’s quarters:
“At this instant information was brought that a part of the regiment was under arms, all the officers immediately went out of the Adjutant’s quarters.
Immediately getting to my quarters I took up a brace of pistols which I had previously loaded for my voyage and ran out and when near the chapel I saw five or six men surrounding the Adjutant and attacking him some with sabres, others with bayonets and the adjutant advancing towards the chapel still defending himself with his sabre on seeing one of them run him thro’ the loins with a bayonet I immediately fired at him. I then heard several musket shots flying about me.
He was followed by Mr.Weber, the Surgeon, who when asked if he or any of his sergeants had heard complaints from sick men, replied:
“Yes I have. I have had a servant, a Greek of the name Giovanni Milo, who is also interpreter at the hospital who very frequently told me that he was very much afraid that something unpleasant would happen in the Corps.”
Next came Quartermaster Furbenzer, who confirmed that he had heard many men saying that they were enlisted under false pretences, and also that he had heard of plots for men considering desertion.
He was followed by Private Giovanni Milo, the Surgeon’s servant, who also testified that many men complained of false promises. He was enlisted with group of about seventy men himself, so was able to give his own first hand experience:
“They were promised thirty Turkish piastres a month besides this, food, and clothing, and were engaged to serve only as long as they wished themselves. The recruits received twenty piastres there and were to receive a doubloon here as bounty. I was to have received a doubloon here but never received more than eight dollars, which was the case of the rest of the men who came with me.”
Private Karilia Stireliana followed, and when questioned about the attestation replied:
“I did not understand it. It was being done in a language I know nothing of. There were between sixty and seventy men attested at the same time who were all under the same circumstances”
Corporal Schumaker, the man who had leaked the plot to the officers, was called. The court was still pursuing details of enlistment. He answered:
“I was present when several men were enlisted about sixty miles from Constantinople. I engaged to serve for 8 years, but the others were enlisted for different periods, some for three months, some for a year. The persons employed in recruiting were Captain George Moore of a merchant ship and others.”
Asked if he could give more information about this Captain Moore, he replied:
“He and another recruiter hired a vessel which lay near the castle of the Dardanelle’s. They then dressed themselves as gentlemen and went among the neighbouring villages where they gave out that their vessel was bound sometimes to Smyrna, sometimes to Corfu, Messina and other parts with a cargo and engaged the peasants to go on board as sailors.
After they got to sea they were told that they were to proceed to Malta as soldiers where they would received eight or nine dollars a month besides their clothing and provisions and they were to serve only as long as they pleased.”
“Myself and seventy or eighty others were engaged to serve at Corfu, for so long a period as we liked to remain and under promises of considerable pay and allowances. My brother (who for some time since deserted) who enlisted thirty two was assured that he should be an officer and continue as their commander”
Sergeant Francis Leonard followed and told the court details of how he came to enlist, and stated that he met Lieutenant Schwartz at Trieste. Schwartz told him that he was a Lieutenant in the Navy and offered to take Leonard to Malta where he would recommend him for a position as a clerk or similar. After four days at sea Schwartz suggested he became a soldier instead because it was more advantageous financially. He continued:
“Both at Corfu and Ragusa, I have seen him go on shore dressed in the uniform very like the dress of a Naval officer”
The next to give evidence was Private Tanasio Yorge, who told the court that whilst in the Lazaretto he together with others had refused to enlist, but were threatened that they would not have any bread sent to them until they promised to do so. Private Giovanni Milo also confirmed that from 212 men in quarantine with him at least half refused to enlist.
The final witness was Sergeant Janisier. He confirmed that when the Adjutant Schwartz came to the Lazaretto to measure the men and take their descriptions, they claimed they had been deceived. The Adjutant threatened to keep them without provisions unless they submitted and they slowly had their descriptions taken.
The court not feeling it necessary to call upon any further evidence closed their enquiry. Their findings were that:
|“a system of iniquity practised in the recruiting of that corps of the most culpable and even criminal nature”|
General Villettes’s letter to General Fox dated 12th April, gives this description of his actions:
“I proceeded yesterday morning to a very short trial of the most conspicuously notorious leaders, and in an hour afterwards 24 of them were executed in presence of the regiment (who are all disarmed and prisoners) and the greater part of the garrison. These ferocious savages in the last moments of their existence testified such horrid proofs of extreme depravity and barbarous profaneness, that it was quite shocking to the beholder, and the most disgusting scene possible for troops to be exposed to witness.
Their exhortation to their comrades in the regiment to seize every opportunity of repeating such acts of mutiny and their expressions of regret that they had not murdered every soul which had been in their possession could not but make a bad impression on a great number of them, which I am sorry to say is so considerable that out of 400 of that description of people still left I am afraid at least 150 are almost equally culpable, and no less savage villains than those who have suffered, and would certainly repeat some act of horrid barbarity if they were at liberty.
This last description of men are for the present separated from the others in close confinement, in one of the prisons of this town, the remainder generally supposed to be good men are in another place and also confined (tho’ less rigorously than the others) both for their own personal safety against the Maltese, who probably would not discriminate between them and the rest, and to quiet the minds of all the peaceable inhabitants.”
In his letter Villettes did not disclose the very horrific manner in which the executions had taken place on the Floriana Parade ground
Five prisoners were forced to hang five others, and then they themselves were hanged by another five prisoners. After these ten hangings, the balance were pinioned, handcuffed, and made to kneel on their coffins without being blindfolded, and were shot by a firing squad but several were not killed outright in the first volley, so rose, and attempted to run away, but were pursued by soldiers and shot down.
It was considered that some 350 men had reasonable grounds for discharge, so the regiment was disbanded in June 1807, and the men repatriated to the Balkan states. The officers and men who wished to continue army service were transferred to other foreign corps in British pay.
Lieutenants Frederick de Bibra and Johan Theodore De Misany, joined the Royal Regiment of Malta on 11th June 1807, as did Ensigns Johan Jacob De Misany and Philip Anton Prochaska. Surgeon Frederick Weber, joined the de Meuron’s regiment on 22nd October 1807.
General Fox was concerned at the reduction in strength of the Malta garrison due to the Froberg regiment being dis-banded and ordered the 2nd battalion of the 27th regiment, from Sicily without delay. It had been raised in Scotland during 1805, and on arrival in Malta was boosted by a fresh draft of 300 young men, aged 17 to 19 years old, and command given to Major Reeves.
On the 16th May 1808, a 15-gun salute heralded the arrival on board HMS Volontaire of the Count Beaujolais, and his brother the Duke d’Orleans, two members of the French Royal family who had fled to England for safety during the French revolution.
Men of the British garrison were lined up on the quayside with their bands playing, as the distinguished guests came ashore. They took up residence in Strada Mezzodi. Louis Charles, the Count Beaujolais was suffering from consumption, and it was hoped that the climate of Malta would restore him to health, but his illness was too advanced, and he died a couple of weeks later, on the 29th May, aged 29 years.
A state funeral was arranged for the 3rd of June, when he was buried in the chapel of the Langue de France, in St. John’s Cathedral, Valletta. Many years later, on Tuesday 5th December 1843, an impressive white marble mausoleum to him was erected in the cathedral, the work of the famous French sculptor, James Pradier.
His coffin was carried by twelve Naval officers dressed in heavy black velvet tunics edged in gold. Sir Alexander Ball followed the coffin accompanied by an array of Army and Naval officers, Maltese dignitaries, and local merchants.
On mainland Europe meanwhile the conflict continued, Napoleon had recently extended his empire by taking over both Spain and Portugal, but the British on Malta were predominantly concerned with the French forces in the south of Italy, and the threat to Sicily. On 24th May 1808 the flank companies of 1st battalion 44th (East Essex) regiment comprising 212 men embarked for Sicily and on the 17th September the remainder of the 1st battalion, 48 sergeants, 16 drummers with 878 rank and file followed. The regiment later formed part of the expedition from Sicily to the Bay of Naples, which went on to capture the islands of Ischia and Procida.
The British had a growing demand for recruits to their infantry regiments, which had led to the disastrous Froberg affair. In 1804 the total number of officers and men in infantry regiments was around 135,000 which increased to 160,000 in 1806, 206,000 in 1809 and continued growing till it reached 227,000 by 1813.
At this time the only British infantry regiments in the Malta garrison were, the 2nd battalion 27th (Inniskilling) regiment, 1st battalion 31st (Huntingdonshire) regiment and the 39th (Dorsetshire) regiment which had been known as the 39th (East Middlesex) regiment until 1807.
In those days a soldier spent a considerable amount of time on his appearance, as recorded by an officer of the 44th Regiment, whilst on Malta:
“The soldiers ordered for duty took some hours to make themselves up to pass muster for all the examinations for guard mounting, with pomatum (sometimes a tallow candle), soap and flour, particularly men of the flank companies whose hair was turned up behind, stiff as a ramrod.”
So the men were pleased when a General Order dated 20th July 1808, abolished the powdered queue (pigtail), but at the same time instructed officers to “take care that the men’s hair is cut close in their necks in the neatest and most uniform manner”
Another change in the Army was made in 1809, when the officers received a General Order from the Horse Guards, issued by the Duke of York, to overhaul the unsatisfactory purchase system which permitted wealthy young men, often under 18 years of age to obtain a senior officer rank. Before 1802 some 20 percent of new officers were under 15 years of age.
The Duke of York’s order was designed to make officers more professional, and made it clear that no officer was to be promoted to Captain, until he had served three years, none to Major until he had served seven years of which two must have been in the rank of Captain. No Major to Lieut-Colonel until he had served nine years. Further reforms followed which improved the quality of officers, training methods, and various other aspects affecting the men’s daily lives.
It was in May 1809 that the 2nd battalion 27th (Inniskilling) regiment under the command of Lieut-Colonel Haviland Smith, sailed from Malta for service on Sicily, in spite of the danger to Malta by cutting the number of British infantrymen based there to around 1,400.
This situation greatly worried General Villettes, the Commander-in-Chief, as the foreign troops on the island of doubtful reliability, and he was responsible for guarding over a thousand French prisoners of war.
His concern was increased in early October when Sir Alexander Ball was taken ill at San Antonio Palace and, failing to respond to treatment, died at 3.17 p.m. on Wednesday 25th October 1809.
On the Friday evening his coffin was taken to the Governor’s Palace in Valletta, where he was laid in state until the following Monday. The room was draped in black velvet edged with white. A black velvet covered catafalque was at placed one end of the room, on which the coffin rested.
The funeral took place on Tuesday, 31st October. From the Palace the cortege moved along the streets of Valletta, through Strada Reale, Strada Mercanti, Strada Tramontana and Strada Irlandese to Fort St.Elmo, where a tomb site had been cut into the bastion.
At the head of the procession was a light company of the 31st (Huntingdonshire) regiment, followed by a Royal Artillery contingent drawing eleven guns, with a Grenadier company of the 31st behind them. The next section was formed by men of the Maltese Provincial battalions, the Royal Malta Regiment and the Corps of Maltese Militia, preceded by the Maltese band.
After this military vanguard came a large number of representatives from a diverse range of Civil authorities, followed by the bands of the 39th (Dorsetshire) regiment and the Sicilian regiment, and members of the garrison and Royal Navy.
The carriage carrying Ball’s coffin was pulled by four horses draped in black led by four of his servants, and the carriage was flanked by twelve pall bearers, Baron P.P. Testaferrata, Baron Pasquale Sceberras, Captain Springer R.N., the Hon.H. Duncan R.N., Brig-General Bingham, Brig-General Mackinzie, Mr. Noble, Dr. Sewell, Captain Hargood R.N., Captain West R.N., Captain Eyre R.N., and Captain Lumley R.N.
Immediately behind the coffin came Major-General Oakes, as chief mourner, Mr.Edmund Chapman, the Reverend Francis Laing, and the aide-de-camp Captain Carey, with a group of fourteen close friends of the deceased.
The rear section of the procession was composed of foreign Consuls, British merchants and civilians, Royal Navy officers, and Army officers from the British and Maltese regiments.
On arrival at St.Elmo the coffin was lifted from the gun carriage by British seamen, placed into the prepared grave, which had been blessed in accordance with the rites of the Anglican Church by the Reverend John Castleton Miller. The tomb was then sealed with a large stone bearing a suitable Latin inscription:
ALEXANDER JOHN BALL, KNIGHT, BARONET
KNIGHT OF THE ORDER OF ST.FERDINAND
RAISED AMONG THE CAPTAINS OF THE
BRITISH NAVY TO THE THIRD DEGREE.
HE WAS COMMISSIONED WITH THE HIGHEST
AUTHORITY TO HELP THE MALTESE OPPRESSED
BY THE FRENCH DOMINATION AND FIGHTING FOR
A VERY CAUTOUS COMMANDER, WITH HIS EFFORT
AND FIRMNESS OF MIND, HE USEFULLY AND
COMPLETELY DEVOTED HIMSELF TO HELP THE
MALTESE TO FREE THEMSELVES FROM THE FRENCH
DOMINATION; AN HAVING DONE HIS DUTY WELL,
HE WAS APPOINTED ROYAL COMMISSIONER FOR MALTA
AND GOZO, AND ADMINISTERED TO HIS CREDIT WITH
JUSTICE, KINDNESS, AND MILDNESS THEIR CIVIL
HE WAS ALSO VERY CAREFUL TO FOSTER EDUCATION,
COMMERCE, AND AGRICULTURE, AND GOVERNED THESE
ISLANDS FOR TEN YEARS AS BEFITS THE PRESTIGE OF
HIS MOST SERENE MAJESTY KING GEORGE THE THIRD,
ENRICHING AND EMBELLISHING THEM WITH
NEW WORKS, BUILDINGS, ROADS AND GARDENS
HE LIVED FIFTY-TWO YEARS AND DIED ON 25TH OCTOBER
1809. THE GRIEF AND MOURNING OF ALL THE RIGHT-
MINDED PEOPLE WAS OBVIOUS AT HIS PUBLIC FUNERAL
WHICH THE WHOLE POPULATION ATTENDED
Having been held in high esteem by the Maltese, they promptly proposed to erect a monument to him, and on December 22nd a committee of sixteen leading Maltese Deputies submitted a letter to Acting Commissioner Chapman:
“Your Excellency, Having rescued us from the heavy hand of France having calmed our excited spirits, lacerated by the jealousy of political and conflicting factions, substituting a just and paternal Government in the place of a revolutionary regency, bringing from the farthest coast of the Black Sea abundant supplies of wheat in times of direst necessity, protecting our merchandise on the high seas, compelling our honour on shore to be respected whilst respecting our religion and our customs, beautifying our Island with gardens, edifices, roads, and planting immense numbers of all sorts of trees.
These and many other were the works performed in our country by the late Sir Alexander John Ball. We consider that we should deserve to be branded with the name of ingrates were we to omit after death this acknowledgement of our gratitude, which we had so often proffered to him whilst living.
Therefore, having decided to perpetuate his memory amongst us, the memory of this Father of the Maltese, by erecting a mausoleum, which will proclaim to foreigners his public worth, and will remind our children of the benefits which we have received at his hands and attest eternal proof of our gratitude.
We therefore beg to present to you herewith the design of this proposed monument and to express a hope that you will be pleased to select a site for it. We flatter ourselves that you will deign to accede to this request, for we have reason to know that you second all our honest undertakings, and moreover, that you have at all times proved to be a friend of the Maltese people.
The monument designed by the Maltese architect Giorgio Pullicino in the form of a small Greek temple was erected in 1810, and stands in the centre of the Lower Barracca Gardens in Valletta.
After Ball’s death, Sir Richard Keats was nominated as his successor but he resigned before taking up the post. The man selected to be the next Civil Commissioner was Major-General Hildebrand Oakes, who knew Malta well having served there from 1803 to 1804, and had been based there since 1808. The proclamation of his appointment was promulgated on 12th May 1810.
From Messina, Sicily, on 9th January 1810, General Sir John Stuart wrote to Major-General Hildebrand Oakes, then in command of the Army on Malta:
“I am preparing an official letter to you on what you will regard perhaps an unexpected topic - but nevertheless I think an important one. I mean the object of a proper and respectable place of public worship for the British army at Malta.
It certainly always struck me as humiliating that the buttery or scullery of the Palace should be the only obscure corner in the island in which the Protestant forms of devotion are to be witnessed and it always appeared to me that we seemed almost ashamed of what we were doing.”
It was however another thirty years before the feelings expressed in this letter were fully satisfied by the building of a Protestant church at the resolve of the Dowager Queen Adelaide.
When this letter was received the garrison was made up of the Royal Artillery Colonel Bentham, Royal Engineers Lieut-Col. S.J. Dickens, 1st battalion 31st (Huntingdonshire) regiment Lieut-Colonel Bruce, 1st battalion 39th (Dorsetshire) regiment Major C. Stuart, all quartered in Valletta, De Meuron’s regiment in Floriana barracks, with the Royal Regiment of Malta, the Sicilian regiment, and Maltese Provincial battalion stationed in the Cottonera district.
There was still an imbalance between British and Foreign troops on the island, only about 1450 British infantrymen, to 2100 in the foreign regiments. Although the 2nd battalion 14th regiment, under Lieut-Colonel Burrows, left England in March 1810 for Malta, and arrived on 23rd June, they only replaced the 1st battalion 39th regiment who sailed for Sicily the next day.
Similarly when the 2nd battalion 10th (North Lincoln) regiment arrived in August 1810, they took the place of the 1st battalion of the 31st regiment, so British troops were never in a majority over the year.
During the afternoon of 11th August, the ship carrying Lieutenant David Henderson of the 10th docked in Malta. He wrote a long letter to his father, who lived in Thurso, dated the 29th which gave details of the voyage, a description of the buildings and fortifications of Valletta. He went on:
“We are quartered in a palace formerly occupied by the Spanish Knights. It is a most beautiful large building and highly ornamented with sculptural ornament. Our mess room is a most elegant large lofty hall, the ceiling beautifully ornamented and the walls hung round with paintings of the different Grand Masters.
You may remember that I always predicted Colonel Shortt’s reign would be very short with the 1st Battalion. He is already on his return to England and sailed from here yesterday having arrived a few days before from Sicily. He has been exceedingly unlucky in falling into a scrape so very soon for it happened the very first day he dined at the mess.
Being the very first day of his dining at the mess and a large party there, he exceeded too much in wine and quite unexpectedly in consequence of some movement being observed among the enemies gunboats on the opposite coast, the drum beat to arms, and poor Shortt appeared at the head of his battalion in such an intoxicated a state that General White ordered him under arrest. He made some resistance and it is said that he drew his sword on Major Otto, who was ordered to put him under arrest. Next day he apologised and made such explanations that I understand Sir John Stuart was inclined to overlook it, but the two majors pressed the matter to their utmost against him, being resolved to get rid of him at all events.”
Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Lucien had decided to leave Europe for refuge in North America. With this plan in mind he had sailed on the first leg of the journey, from the Italian port of Civita Vecchia, and put into Cagliari on the south coast of Sardinia.
Here his movements were carefully watched and reported to the British, so when he embarked on an American vessel with his family and suite, Captain Barrie of HMS Pomone had already been alerted, and soon intercepted them. Lucien Bonaparte, together with forty others, was taken on board the Pomone, as a Prisoner of War, and the ship headed for Malta where she arrived on Thursday evening the 23rd August 1810.
Hildebrand Oakes was very put out, and expressed his feelings in a secret letter to the Earl of Liverpool on 28th August:
“The objections to receiving in this island and admitting to free intercourse with the inhabitants a member of the Bonaparte family with his numerous followers appeared to me so great and obvious that my first impressions were not to suffer them to land but to urge their being instantly conveyed by our fleet off Toulon where they might have been escorted direct to England according to their request.
It is moreover not at all improbable that in so numerous a suite as that of Lucien Bonaparte there may be spies placed by his brother about his person and of this indeed he himself acknowledged to me the probability.
He seemed very desirous to retire to the country but for the reasons above mentioned I thought it right to discourage this idea also the place he indicated (Citta Vechia) was the scene of a massacre of some French troops during the Blockade which the Maltese still remember with a lively satisfaction and where the name Bonaparte is still held in such execration for the sacrilegious plunder he committed (as it is indeed throughout the island) that I was apprehensive his person might not be safe.
I have placed him at Fort Ricasoli, a spacious and airy outpost where if he has not the superb apartments he may have been lately accustomed to he has at least very spacious and pleasant quarters.
I have withdrawn from the Fort all foreigners who occupied it and have placed there a guard of a Captain and Subaltern (Captain Marshall and Lieutenant Harold) with seventy men of the 14th Regiment.
My present force exclusive of 248 artillery is no more than 3306 rank and file of infantry, 1200 only of which are British soldiers, the remainder 331 Maltese, 947 Sicilians, 789 De Meuron’s regiment composed almost entirely of French deserters of various Nations whose fidelity has never yet been tried.
This garrison has never been so weak as it is at present. 5000 infantry and 500 artillery is I believe what was originally calculated and determined on. It is also a matter of serious reflection that we have seldom less than 800 to 1000 French prisoners to guard, which are brought in here by our Ships of War.
I therefore take the liberty of submitting to your Lordship’s consideration the absolute necessity of our receiving a reinforcement and earnestly request that at least 1000 more British infantry and 200 artillery may as soon as possible be sent hithe
Lucien Bonaparte continued to cause Commissioner Oakes concern, and by 1st October he wrote to his friend Lieut-Colonel Bunbury:
“I say nothing about my ‘Illustrious’ prisoner Lucien Bonaparte, you will know by all my official correspondence with Lord Liverpool, I only hope that I may soon be relieved from his presence on this island by orders from home, tho he is now living quietly at San Antonio and giving me little trouble, but it cannot fail to create a good deal of anxiety in having the care of such a prisoner”.
The wished for instructions arrived, and on 16th November a relieved Oakes wrote to Lord Liverpool:
“I have the honor to acquaint your Lordship that Lucien Bonaparte his family and suite are this day embarked on board the President frigate for the purpose of being conveyed to England.
The names and descriptions of the respective persons (thirty-two in number) are contained in the list herewith sent for your Lordship’s information.
His wife: Alexandrina Bonaparte
His children: Charlotte 15, Christine 12, Anne 11, Latitia 6, Jeanne 3, Charles 8, Paul Marie 2
His nephew: Andre Boyer
Tutor to the children: L’Abbe Charpentier
Physician: Pierre de France
Painter: Charles Chatillion
Friar: Father Maurice de Brescia
Servants: Genevieve Bacquet, Paluna Vangi, Rosette Sanetti, Catherine Metayer, Francesco Lunadei, Fernando Durando, Giovanni Rosetti, Lucia Chiappe, Domencio Lauzi, Serafino Vaselli, Giovannina Romazzi, Angiolina Romazzi, Luigi Alegini, Marianne Vespassianni with her father Vincenzo Vespassianni, her brother Luigi Vespassianni, and her 10 years old daughter Marguerite
Nicola Isuardy, formerly a Prisoner of War, but liberated and then taken into the service of Lucien Bonaparte.
A few months after resolving this diplomatic problem Hildebrand Oakes was faced with a trickier domestic one.
Captain Thomas Cochrane, also known as Lord Dundonald, was a 35-year-old officer in the Royal Navy, and his actions became the main topic of conversation amongst the military officers and British residents, during the first quarter of 1811. He had a reputation for bold unorthodox tactics in battle which nevertheless had proved very successful, and had a grievance against the Vice-Admiralty Court in Malta, as did many Naval officers, due to the exorbitant fees charged on their prize vessels, and he was determined to expose the scandal.
Having been refused sight of the Table of Fees, he entered the court room on a day when the judge was not sitting and after a fruitless search in the public area, went into the judge’s private apartments where he found the list and took it away, passing it to a brother officer for safe keeping.
On discovering Cochrane’s actions the judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court, John Sewell, ordered his arrest for contempt of court, which Cochrane denied. The Deputy Marshall of the Vice-Admiralty Court, John Chapman was sent to arrest him but as Chapman later stated:
|“Cochrane unbuttoned his coat and showing the end of a pistol said ‘Any man that shall attempt to lay his hands on me shall have the contents of this”|
Chapman clearly shaken by Cochrane’s reaction resigned his post on 24th February.
Cochrane was eventually arrested, but refused to walk, and had to be carried through the streets of Valletta to the Castellania gaol, located on the corner of Merchants Street and St.John Street, where he was housed in the Warder’s quarters.
He set out his viewpoint in a letter to Hildebrand Oakes, dated 2nd March:
“…I do protest against all acts of the said John Jackson, in the capacity of Marshall, by himself or by deputy, and further against John Locker, sinecure Registrar, and William Stevens, calling himself Deputy Registrar, the said John Locker having under the signature of the said William Stevens taxed Bills of Fees and expenses of the aforesaid Court of Vice Admiralty wherein the Fees of the said John Locker and William Stevens in their capacities of Registrar, Deputy Registrar, Examiner, Interpreter, etc, are made and examined by themselves and in which various illegal charges were allowed and suffered to be made by John Jackson, as Proctor, for attending, feeing, consulting, and instructing himself as Marshall; in which double capacity he acts…”
I do most solemnly protest against the said John Sewell for not complying with the Act of Parliament, which directs ‘That a table of Fees shall be suspended in some conspicuous part of the court in which the several judges of the Courts of Vice Admiralty hold their sittings.’
The authorities knew that they had a weak case, as they could not prove that he had taken the Table of Fees, nor did not want the abuses of the Admiralty court to be exposed. They tried to persuade Cochrane to accept bail, which he refused.
By now every member of the Navy and Army was aware of the conflict between Cochrane, seen as the innocent champion of rights, versus allegedly dishonest Government officials. His continued imprisonment was very much resented by the seamen with whom he was a very popular Captain, and the men were ready to riot and attack the prison unless he was released.
To de-fuse a tense situation, a plan was conceived which would allow him to escape. He decided to go along with the plan, and duly escaped from the Castellania on the 5th March, by climbing down a rope from a high window to the street below. On reaching the ground he quickly went down the steps of St.John Street to the quayside, where he was taken by boat to a vessel bound for England.
Hildebrand Oakes, wrote to a friend in London, on the 1st March
|“Lord Cochrane’s cause is espoused by the Navy in the warmest manner, especially by Captain Rowley, the Senior Officer of the Navy at present here, and Commissioner Fraser, in whose house he was arrested ”, but by March 7th he was relieved to write “…….. but I must confess I could not help feeling a great degree of satisfaction when it was reported to me yesterday morning while I was upon the Parade that his Lordship had made his escape from prison during the preceding night and that is was supposed he was out of the island.”|
The Cochrane affair had diverted Oakes from his greater concern, which was the security of the Malta. He was constantly trying to explain to Lord Liverpool, the Secretary of State for War, and repeated to him again in a letter of the 8th March 1811:
“ My garrison (excluding three hundred Artillery who cannot be used for this duty) consists of no more than 3,600 men of every description..……….
The constant increase of French prisoners (who will soon exceed the garrison in number) is a matter of serious alarm.”
By the end of the month any remaining tension between the civil authorities and the Royal Navy was eased when news of the British naval victory at Lissa was received. Four British vessels, Amphion-32, Active-38, Volage-22 and Cerberus-32, under the command of Captain William Hoste had overcome a larger and more powerful joint French and Venetian squadron in the Adriatic.
Amphion had been in Malta docks undergoing repairs for over two months at the end of 1810, so the officers and men were well known ashore. Hoste noted
“we are all gaiety at this place and nothing but masquerades and balls – no less than five next week. One would suppose that the Tarantula had made cruel devastation amongst the fair ladies of Malta, for dancing is the order of the day, and night too.”
Hoste’s rank did not warrant an official welcome but when the victorious British ships entered Grand Harbour on Sunday the 31st March, the bastions and houses overlooking Grand Harbour were filled with soldiers, seamen, Maltese and British civilians keeping up chorus of cheering and hurrahs. The next day, Hoste wrote to his mother
|“ If I was to tell you of our reception at this place yesterday, you would laugh at me and call me vain, foolish man….. Yesterday was the proudest day of my life………”|
and so commenced a round of celebratory fetes and balls.
An interesting insight into the British occupation at this period appears in a poem ‘Farewell to Malta’ written by Lord Byron, during his return to England from Greece. He stayed briefly on the island, then sailed on 2nd June 1811 aboard the Volage.
These extracts give his view of Army and Naval officers, and the military in general:
Adieu, ye females fraught with graces !
Adieu, red coats, and redder faces !
Adieu, the supercilious air
Of all that strut “en militaire” !
Farewell to these, but not adieu
Triumphant sons of truest blue !
And fallen chiefs, and fleets no more,
Proclaim you war and women’s winners
And now, O Malta ! since thou’st got us
Thou little military hot-house !
I’ll not offend with words uncivil
And wish thee rudely at the Devil.
But only stare from out my casement,
And ask ‘for what is such a place meant ?’
During this time there was the constant movement of British and foreign troops between Malta, Sicily and the Ionian Islands.
A detachment of the 35th (Sussex) regiment, about 300 men, arrived at Malta during March 1811, and were quartered in the Cottonera district, until they embarked on the 18th April bound for the island of Zante.
Eight companies of the 1st battalion 31st (Huntingdonshire) regiment, a total of 692 men arrived on 16th April 1811 and went into barracks in the Cottonera area for a short period, since they departed during August along with the 10th (North Lincoln) regiment.
From Sicily the 1st battalion 44th (East Essex) regiment returned to Malta and arrived on the 21st August to join the 2nd battalion 14th (Buckinghamshire) as only British troops on the island.
Ever since they returned from active service in Sicily, the Royal Regiment of Malta was finding it difficult to attract recruits, as young Maltese men could easily find well-paid employment due to the thriving commercial activity on the island, so in February 1811 orders were received from England for the regiment to be disbanded.
The official date of disbandment was set for the 26th April 1811, and thereafter most officers obtained transfers to other British infantry regiments, but some joined foreign regiments like De Meuron’s or Watteville’s.
Before leaving Malta, officers of the 10th (North Lincoln) regiment appeared before two Court Martials, though neither was of a serious criminal nature. Both were due to behaviour, which it was thought would undermine Army discipline.
In January, Captain Thomas Fothergill together with Lieutenants Charles McDonnell and Frederick Foaker, and Ensigns Fergusson and Allen were found Guilty of dancing with private soldiers and the wives of private soldiers. All were publicly reprimanded.
On 9th May 1811, Lieutenant H.J.Nixon was charged with:
“Scandalous and infamous conduct such is unbecoming the character of an officer in having publicly written divers indecent expressions on the external walls of the Officers Barracks, a place open to the view of the whole regiment and to all passers by thereby tending to degrade himself and lessen the discipline and respect necessary for the support of His Majesty’s Service.”
Exactly what was written was not disclosed to the court but it was stated that:
“Right hand side of the entrance to Auberge de Castille was indecently written upon, so much so that married officers have been under the necessity to go round with their wives to the other door of the barrack”
After considering all the evidence, the Court decided that there was insufficient proof, and he was acquitted.
Another officer faced a dilemma of a different nature. At a ball, Lieutenant George Clarges Hill, a young officer in the grenadier company of the 44th regiment, was introduced to the daughter of a Maltese merchant, and danced with her several times throughout the evening. Early next morning he was surprised to find her at his quarters, particularly when she told him that she had left her parents home in order to live with him. No doubt taken aback, he persuaded her to return home, and for her safety ordered his servant to accompany her. News of the girl’s folly was soon known, but the Maltese were impressed by Hill’s gallant conduct.
Early in 1812 Captain George Whitmore of the Royal Engineers arrived to take over from Lieut-Colonel Samuel T. Dickens, and during his stay became involved in many important projects.
As his diary later records:
“ I was now employed as Civil Engineer in several ways – remodelling the prisons, refitting the Palace which had been contaminated during the plague – particularly the Hall of St.Michael and St. George – and constructing the Hall of the Superior Court of Justice. There was indeed scarcely a public building in Valletta that did not bear my impress. I was successively employed on the public monuments to Colonel Edwards and Judge Zammit in the Upper Barracca which I planted and decorated as a place of recreation.”
On the 1st April 1812, the 7th battalion of the King’s German Legion, comprising 783 men disembarked at Malta and went into Fort Ricasoli for quarantine, but only stayed until the 7th July when they sailed for Messina.
The same day 1037 recruits for the Italian Legion, under the command of Major Burke of Dillon’s regiment, docked but were kept on board their transport ships, apart from about 90 men who allowed ashore. These were employed in making clothes, shoes, and other items for the men of their regiment. The whole contingent sailed again on the 28th May for Sicily.
Five companies of the 44th (East Essex) regiment comprising 12 officers and 443 men sailed for Sicily on 7th July 1812.
By the end of 1812 the garrison consisted of the Royal Artillery 392 men, Maltese Artificers 97 men, 2nd Battalion 14th (Buckinghamshire) regiment 984 men, 1st Battalion 44th (East Essex) regiment 913 men, all stationed in Valletta, De Meuron’s regiment 1043 men and the Maltese Provincial Corps 248 men based in Cottonera, and the Sicilian regiment 1012 men in Floriana barracks.
During 1812 Hildebrand Oakes had to deal with political agitation by the Maltese, which resulted in the British Government setting up a Special Commission. The three man Commission comprised A’Court, who had been Charge d’affaires in Palermo, and Burrows previously the Chief Justice of Dominica and Oakes himself. Their very thorough investigation looked into all aspects of Maltese law, justice, civil government, revenue collection, agriculture, quarantine regulations, trade figures, and included a detailed account of the island of Lampedusa undertaken by Captain Charles Berington of the Royal Engineers. The report was published on 12th October.
As a result of the Commission’s report, Lord Bathurst was able to write to Oakes on 15th May 1813:
“In the meantime you may consider yourself authorised to intimate in a private manner to the principal individuals in Malta, that, while His Majesty’s Government thus publicly mark the incorporation of Malta with the Dominions of the British Crown, it is not their intention to destroy the laws, which at present exist in the island, nor to make any other changes in the establishment and practice of the Court of Justice than such as to appear necessary to keep pace with the improved condition of the inhabitants, and as may effectually give to His Majesty’s Maltese subjects the fullest security in their persons and property”
Whilst the Commission was occupied to find a working relationship between the British government and Maltese aspirations, major events occurred in Europe. Russia declared war on France, and Napoleon invaded Russia. A peace treaty between England and Russia signed in July 1812, caused the Russians to change their policy on Malta. They no longer held their position that the island should be handed back to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, which paved the way for Britain to make preparations to take Malta under the British Crown.
In 1812 reports of the plague affecting Smyrna and Alexandria were received at Malta, so the authorities were extremely vigilant concerning vessels from Eastern Mediterranean ports. On 28th March 1813, a brig named San Nicola arrived from Alexandria, and in accordance with normal practice the crew were confined to the Lazaretto, and the ship kept moored in the Marsamuscetto Harbour.
On the 7th April, whilst in quarantine, two members of the crew died of the plague, but in spite of the tight restrictions, the disease was somehow carried to Valletta where the first victim was discovered on the 14th.
The Lazaretto was very quickly full of suspected cases, so the nearby Fort Manoel was taken over, but this also proved to be too small to accommodate all those considered infected, therefore the small island of Selmun in St. Paul’s Bay was brought into use as a Lazaretto.
Strong measures were taken by the government in an attempt to limit the spread of the plague, but these proved ineffective. By May it had reached Mdina and Birkirkara, probably carried by residents of Valletta who had fled the city, seeking refuge in the countryside. The disease continued to expand and eventually the whole island was affected.
The authorities wanted to tow the ship offshore and set her on fire, but this scheme was abandoned since a suitable compensation agreement could not be made with the owners.
On the 19th May instructions were issued ordering every inhabitant to stay indoors as much as possible, and a fix to the house door a list of those persons living there, and by the 29th May persons were prohibited from changing their residence.
In the middle of May all churches were closed, and the Bishop dispensed with personal attendance at Mass. Church bells were rung to announce the commencement of the service and the Maltese, wherever they were and whatever they were doing, could start their devotions.
However, the measures already taken did not seem sufficient and it became necessary to bring in further controls. The markets were closed down, shops shut up, all stray animals such as dogs, cats, pigeons, etc., were destroyed and it was under penalty of death for anyone to leave their house, except those involved in trying to combat the disease. Twice a day market carts went around the cities selling food at prices fixed by the authorities. Fifteen thousand persons were daily fed by the public and private charities.
A number of galley slaves were promised their liberty, when the plague was over, provided they were prepared to carry the dead and dying to the hospitals or cemeteries, and a Pioneer Corps raised from the men in prisons, mainly Frenchmen for similar duties.
The Civil authorities were overwhelmed and needed to be backed up by the military, but there were only about 1,400 British troops on the island to call on, the 2nd battalion 14th (Buckinghamshire) regiment, and seven companies of the 3rd Garrison Battalion. The latter comprised 20 officers, 50 NCO’s, 16 Drummers, and 649 Privates, and had the misfortune to arrive on 30th March, just a week before the plague struck.
On the other hand five companies of 44th (East Essex) regiment were very lucky. They returned to Malta from Sicily on the 6th February 1813, but received orders to re-embark again for Sicily on 24th March, so fortunately just missed the plague, and the remaining 5 companies embarked 10th May, thus the whole regiment was united on Sicily.
Lampedusa is a small island which lies between Malta and the North African coast, about 50 miles off Tunisia, and a small detachment of the 14th (Buckinghamshire) regiment, under the command of Lieutenant James Gordon, was also fortunate since they were stationed there.
Of the three foreign regiments on Malta at that time, De Meuron’s, about 1020 strong, embarked 5th May 1813 for North America, leaving behind the Sicilian regiment of about 1035 men, and a detachment of De Roll’s regiment numbering about 315 men.
The brunt of the hazardous duty therefore fell on men of the 14th (Buckinghamshire) regiment and the 3rd Garrison battalion, who were called upon to guard infected houses, and man the cordons that had been placed around the plague hospitals. They also had to furnish men to form foot patrols to walk around the city at variable times, to deter the inhabitants from breaking the curfew.
Supervised by Lieut-Colonel George Whitmore, of the Royal Engineers, barriers were erected across the streets of Valletta, so it was divided into eight districts. The Royal Engineers also put up wooden huts in the ditches below the bastions, allowing the inhabitants of the densely populated slum areas, like the Manderaggio, to be moved whilst their dwellings were cleansed.
A heavy burden also fell on the Army Medical Officers who worked in the Plague hospitals. They lived in special huts, and were separated from the troops. Before coming into contact with the patients, they rubbed their bodies with oil, then donned oiled silk gowns and gloves. They worked one month at a time, and afterwards went into quarantine in the Lazaretto.
Military posts were encircled by palisades wherever possible. Before mounting guard the soldiers were instructed to rub their bodies with olive oil, and when they came off duty their uniforms were fumigated, and the men washed themselves in vinegar or bathed in the sea.
With such precautions, and with the type of discipline which could be imposed on soldiers but not on the civilian population, the soldiers escaped the disease in the first few weeks. By the end of July, the civilian deaths amounted to 1,595 persons, and since their duties brought them into contact with Maltese, it was only a matter of time before some members of the British forces became infected.
Though Hildebrand Oakes wished to be relieved from the post of Civil Commissioner, he stayed on whilst the epidemic was sweeping the island, and by the time he left at the beginning of October, the worst was over. He sailed on board the Ethelred Transport on 9th October, for England, with a protective guard of 1 subaltern, 1 sergeant, 1 drummer and 25 rank and file provided by the 14th regiment.
In spite of a large number of demands requiring his personal attention during his period as Civil Commissioner, Hildebrand Oakes left an enduring legacy of his term in office. He gave instructions for the Public Library to be transferred from the ‘La Conservatoria’, where it had been since 1776 to the purpose built Bibliotheca building adjacent to the Palace in Valletta, where it has remained to this day.
Sir Thomas Maitland was not appointed to the post of Civil Commissioner, as his predecessors had been, but as The Governor of the Island of Malta and its Dependencies. The Secretary of State for War, Earl Bathurst wrote to him a letter dated on 28th July 1813, which included the following paragraph:
“ The circumstances of the present war have occasioned a material change in the actual value of Malta, as well as in regards to the importance of our holding a permanent station in the Mediterranean. As a military post, as a naval arsenal, as a secure place of depot for the British merchants, there is no spot in the South of Europe which appears so well calculated to fix the influence and extend the interests of Great Britain, as the Island of Malta.”
Maitland arrived on Sunday the 3rd October 1813, and took over control on the 5th. The newly appointed Governor took sterner measures to tackle the plague, which was still causing deaths throughout Malta, though it was already past its peak.
By the 28th October he was able to write to Colonel Torrens:
“Among the troops generally there has been little plague. The 14th regiment has conducted itself uncommonly well and has never been tainted in the smallest degree. The Sicilian regiment is in the same state. De Roll's is now healthy though it has been amongst them but the 3rd Garrison Battalion has had it, has it, and is likely to have it, owing to the miserable state it is in and which I am sorry to say I see little prospect of its ever getting rid of from the wretched condition in which I understand it to be in all points”
On 5th December 1813 in a letter to Viscount Sidmouth, Maitland reported:
“Though the regiments here have been generally healthy there was one, No.3. Garrison Battalion in which in October the plague had crept and there were four or five men seized in the course of a day or two. I immediately determined to remove the whole regiment and send them to a Fort where there were no inhabitants on the other side of the harbour.
Between April 1813 and March 1814, the total number of deaths from all causes amongst the military was 126 men. Although they had worked throughout the whole of the plague period, the 14th only lost 13 men, which is more or less the number expected in the course of a normal year, and so justifiably earned Maitland’s praise. Almost half of the total, 62 men, belonged to the 3rd Garrison Battalion, and 13 to the Maltese Artificers who of course would be in some contact with their families.
As autumn drew to a close the disease was waning throughout the island, with the exception of the village of Qormi (Curmi). Here the plague appeared to have become endemic due, it was alleged, to the inhabitant’s continual theft of infected property.
Governor Maitland wrote to Earl Bathurst on 28th January 1814:
“The village of Curmi is situated in the most unhealthy spot on the island in which the plague has been allowed to go great lengths antecedently to any effectual measure being adopted to stop it...... I determined to make it into a lazaretto of itself and it has been in that state since then........it is surrounded with two walls, the interior about twelve feet high, the exterior at ten paces distant about six feet and behind this last there is a regular chain of sentries.... the rest of the island has been perfectly free for fifty four-days.This (Valletta) and the surrounding towns close upon three months.”
A commission, consisting of the Adjutant-General and two regimental officers, was appointed to administer martial law within the cordon, for as long as the proclamation was in force, and a medical inspection took place every day until no further cases were found. The cordon was enforced by men of the 14th (Buckinghamshire) regiment, who also have the responsibility to supply the villagers with food on a daily basis.
By 7th March 1814 the island of Malta was declared free from the plague, though by this time it had spread over to the smaller island of Gozo. However, the traumatic experience ensured that the strict quarantine regulations remained in force, and when Felice Camilleri, one of the Maltese working as a guardian in the Lazaretto broke these regulations he was condemned to death. Fixed to the wall of the Lazaretto is a marble tablet with the following inscription written in Italian:
“This scaffold was erected
on the 26th March of the year 1814
to hang Felice Camilleri
one of the guardians of the Lazaretto
who had been condemned to death
for having broken quarantine
from the Governor for His Majesty
for having been the first person
condemned to suffer death
after the Sovereignty of these Islands was taken over
by His Royal Highness the Prince Regent
in the name and on behalf of the King”
The stern measures taken with the village of Qormi in December was successful and by the 3rd of June 1814, Maitland noted: “... and the village of Curmi itself has with the exception of one case been now ninety days clear”.
It was reckoned that the plague took the lives of just under 4,600 Maltese out of a population of about 100,000. On the 12th February 1815, Maitland was able to report to London:
|“ Last case of Plague in Valletta 20th October 1813, in the Lazaretto 31st January 1814, in Curmi 7th March 1814 and in Gozo 10th June 1814.”|
Though being kept busy with the onerous duties of combating the plague, some men nevertheless still found time to commit misdemeanours.
A General Court Martial was held in Valletta on 5th and 7th February 1814, when Private James Nottage of the 14th (Buckinghamshire), faced a charge of:
“Highway Robbery, on the 29th January 1814, between the hours of 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Isola, at which time and place the prisoner did forcibly and feloniously take from the person of William Thorn, HMS Kite, three Spanish dollars and some small money amounting to about seventeen shillings.”
The Court heard how Thorn had been told that “the Maltese were great robbers”, and he was anxious not to stay on the streets after dark. In his desire to find a lodging house he was led into a narrow alley where the prisoner and an accomplice robbed him.
Nottage put in a plea of Not Guilty, but he was found Guilty of the charge, and the Court sentenced “the said Private James Nottage to suffer death by being hanged at such Time and Place as His Excellency shall be pleased to appoint.”
Three days later at another General Court Martial in Valletta, Privates George Heathcoat and John Gane, of 3rd Garrison Battalion stood trial on the charge:
“Mutiny on the evening of Monday 7th February 1814, between the hours of 8 and 9 o’clock at Burmola at which time and place they did strike Lieutenant Evans of the 3rd Battalion.”
Both men pleaded Not Guilty, but the Court found otherwise, and the sentence was:
|“the Prisoners, George Heathcoat and John Gane suffer Death by being Shot at such Time and Place as His Excellency the Governor and Commander-in-Chief shall be pleased to appoint.”|
The 2nd battalion 14th (Buckinghamshire) regiment, was shortly to leave Malta. They departed on the 25th March, to join Lord William Bentinck’s expedition to the north-west coast of Italy, and were replaced by an under strength 2nd battalion of the 10th (North Lincoln) regiment, of 18 Officers, 32 Sergeants, 28 Corporals, 21 Drummers and 483 Privates, who disembarked on 24th March 1814, and went into quarters in Valletta.
With the abdication of Napoleon on 11th April 1814, it seemed as if peace had finally been restored to Europe, and he went into exile on the island of Elba.
Captain William Hoste, R.N., was on board the Bacchante, when she docked at Malta on 20th April 1814. He was very popular and well known on Malta, after his famous victory at the Battle of Lissa three years earlier. Being in a very sick condition, he was taken directly to the Governor’s Palace where he remained in bed for two weeks. His health did not improve much, and he could hardly stand when he went on board the Cerberus on 5th May, for the voyage to England. As the ship passed the island of Elba a signal was received from Portoferraio, so Hoste was able to write to his father:
“ that Buonaparte should absolutely be confined as a state prisoner in this horrible island for life, appears almost incredible. The man who, a few months ago, made all Europe tremble is now a prisoner in an almost desolate isle in the Mediterranean.”
These sentiments were premature however, since the following year on the 26th February Napoleon escaped from Elba on board the brig Inconstant and caused wide spread alarm throughout Europe. He arrived at Golfe Juan in the south of France on 1st March, and so began the period known as the Hundred Days, which ended with the defeat of the French army at Waterloo on 18th June 1815, thus ending twenty-two years of war between Britain and France.
Napoleon abdicated and left Paris on 29th June for Rochfort on the French coast, and onwards to the Ile d’Aix from where on the 14th July 1815, he sent a message to Captain Frederick Lewis Maitland of the Bellerophon on asking for passage either to the United States or England. Captain Maitland refused the first option, but agreed to the second, and took him and his suite on board.
Members of his suite included Lieut-General Savary (The Duke of Rovigo), Lieut-General Lallemand, Lieut-Colonels Resigny and Schultz, with Captains Autric and Mesurier, plus Lieutenant Riviere, and upon instructions from the Admiralty dated the 16th and 17th August, they were put on board the Eurotas destined for Malta. On arrival they were taken into Fort Manoel.
Governor Maitland wrote on the24th September:
“I therefore appointed forthwith the Commanding Officer of the 1st battalion of my regiment to be Commandant of Fort Manoel – who is an officer of high character and of equal good conduct and I apprehend of good temper. I deemed it absolutely necessary to keep the whole of them as strict prisoners of war till at least we get rid of the officers and men in a similar situation in this island.”
The officer was Lieut-Colonel Otto Beyer, who together with Lieutenant Holden as Adjutant, had 300 men of the 10th (North Lincoln) Regiment to guard these important prisoners.
The 1st battalion 10th (North Lincoln) regiment had just returned from Sicily on 9th June 1815 having been with Lord William Bentinck in Naples. On disembarkation from the Neapolitan ships, Geochrinia and Capri, they took up quarter in Fort St.Elmo, and were followed on the 13th June by the rest of the battalion.
When Napoleon abdicated in 1814, the victorious Powers and the French held a conference in Paris, which resulted in the Treaty of Paris dated 30th May 1814. Under Article 7: “ The Island of Malta and its dependencies shall belong in full right and sovereignty to His Britannic Majesty.”
In the summer of 1815 the Congress of Vienna was held, and attended by Austria, France, Great Britain, Norway, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Spain, and Sweden. Apart from the 1814 Treaty of Paris being confirmed, the seven Ionian Islands of Corfu, Cephalonia, Zante, Santa Maura, Ithaca, Paxo and Cerigo, officially known as the United Ionian States were placed under British protection. Sir Thomas Maitland had his area of responsibility extended when he was appointed Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, in addition to his duties as the Governor of Malta and Commander in Chief of the British Forces in the Mediterranean.
The 2nd battalion 14th (Buckinghamshire) regiment, arrived back at Malta on the 13th December 1815, having left in March 1814, for northwest Italy, where they liberated the city of Genoa, and remained there for a year, before moving to Marseilles in July 1815.
At the end of the year, with peace finally secured in Europe, the British Army did not require so many men, particularly infantry, and so reductions were implemented. A mixed group of 175 invalids and men from the 10th and 14th regiments, and 1st Garrison battalion, whose time of service had expired embarked for England on the 29th December. The 3rd Garrison battalion was re-named the 1st Garrison battalion, in April 1815.
Early the following year, on the 23rd January 1816 the two battalions of the 10th (North Lincoln) regiment were consolidated into one large battalion.
Men continued to arrive from Genoa, the Maltese Sappers and Miners on the 9th January 1816, followed by Captain Adye’s company of the Royal Artillery, and a detachment of the 31st (Huntingdonshire) regiment, on 18th February 1816. The remainder of the 31st regiment followed later that month.
Sir Thomas Maitland needed more troops on the Ionian Islands, and ordered a detachment of about 250 men of De Roll’s regiment, which had been part of the garrison since May 1813, to embark for the Ionian island of Zante, on the 18th February 1816
They were followed on 20th March by 4 officers with 105 men of the Royal Artillery, plus 4 companies from the 2nd battalion, 14th (Buckinghamshire) regiment. Four weeks later, on April 26th, the remainder of the 2nd battalion, under Colonel Montagu Burrows departed.
The Royal Artillery presence on the Ionian Islands was also strengthened when a further detachment comprising 7 officers, with 143 other ranks sailed from Malta on the 6th July 1816. At the same time is was found that the number of men in the Royal Artillery was above the peacetime establishment, so on 16th July, one officer and 73 men were ordered home.
The French officers who had been held in Fort Manoel since August 1815 caused a major embarrassment for the British military, as Maitland explained in his letter to London of the 3rd July 1816:
|“Savary and Lallemand escaped from Fort Manoel on the night of 5th April last, and boarded a vessel for the Levant, now believed to be at Smyrna.”|
With the two most senior officers gone, the Governor released the other men being held captive in the Fort. Colonels Planat, Resigny and Schultz were sent to Gozo, but he totally freed Mesurier, Auric and Riviere, and they boarded a Sicilian schooner bound for the Italian port of Genoa.
Though further active service in Europe was no longer anticipated in the near future, the men nevertheless had to remain fit and well trained. The Standing Orders of the Malta Garrison reflected these aims:
E x e r c i s e
No.4. When firing ball cartridges the men will occasionally have their packs on; the men are at other times frequently to be practised at firing blank cartridges with their packs on also.
No.8. It is particularly ordered upon all occasions when regiments exercise with blank cartridges that previous to their companies marching from their private parades each man’s ammunition shall be narrowly examined by the company officer that no mixture of ball with blank cartridges may take place. The blank cartridges being made up with blue paper ought undoubtedly with common attention do away the possibility of any mistake occurring.
No.10. The regiments stationed in Valleta and Floriana are to fire ball only on the ground near Fort Tigne. The regiments in the Cottonera district on the ground outside Fort Ricasoli facing the sea.
No.11 During winter months each regiment will once a week on such days as may be most convenient take a march into the country at least four or five miles out or comprising in time of not less than four hours from the period of their leaving their quarters until their return. On these marches every man is to parade in full marching order with his knapsack and great coat and every officer and soldier possible must be present.
Another exchange of regiments took place during August and September 1816. This time between the 35th (Sussex) regiment and the 10th (North Lincoln) regiment. A detachment of the 35th regiment arrived from Ionian Islands on 6th August, 11 officers, with 454 men with the balance of the regiment following between the 5th and 18th September.
The 10th regiment left for duty on the Ionian Islands in four detachments. The first on 12th August 1816, 5 officers and 120 men, the second on the 21st August of 14 officers and 422 men. The third sailed on the 10th September, and the remainder of the men and the band on 28th October on HMS Euphrates, and the Ellice transport.
Prior to the British administration, Italian had been the official language used by the Courts and Civil administration in Malta and it continued to be so for many years, even in the Malta Government Gazette. However, with Issue No.145 dated Wednesday 7th August 1816 Gazette, appeared for the first time with all information printed in English as well as Italian, in adjacent columns.
General Regulations for the Garrison at Malta stated:
“No.13. When a regiment is under the necessity of inflicting corporal punishment it is to be done as privately as possible and as much as can be out of sight of the inhabitants unless it is in consequence of any outrage committed against them.
Such punishment was the sentence of a Garrison Court Martial held in the Cottonera district on 25th November 1816. Privates Edward Reynolds and Thomas Pittman, of 31st (Huntingdonshire) regiment, were found Guilty of being absent from their posts whilst on guard at the Arsenal, and stealing a quantity of wood from the Arsenal. Each man was sentenced to 300 lashes. Private Joseph Kidwell, also of the 31st, received the same sentence as he was found Guilty of conniving with the robbery of the wood.
All three men underwent their punishment at 7 o'clock in the morning of 27th November at St.Clements Parade ground, in Cottonera. Major Bayly, 1st Garrison Battalion, in the presence of a detachment of the 31st and all the other regiments, supervised it. The surgeon and drummers were provided by the 1st Garrison Battalion.
It was not only the rank and file which caused trouble. The behaviour of some British Army officers gave offence to some Maltese attending performances at the Manoel Theatre, causing friction, which made it necessary for special Orders to be posted and enforced:
T H E A T R E O R D E R S
No.1. The Captain of the Main Guard will whenever the theatre is opened send at 8 o’clock a detachment of an officer, sergeant and fourteen men as a guard to that place of public amusement, from which detachment one sentry is to be posted at each of the stage doors, one on each side of the house, on each side of the house in the passage leading to the second range of Boxes.
No.4. The sentries of the theatre to carry their firelocks in the hands, ordered or trailed with unfixed bayonets.
The second range of Boxes was specifically mentioned since, it was the custom for British Officers’ Messes to have their boxes in the second tier at the Manoel Theatre. The remainder of the men were to stay within the theatre with undefined role, but would assist the civil police if requested to do so.
With the decrease in manpower that had taken place throughout the year, the garrison by December 1816 consisted of:
|Royal Artillery||205 men|
|31st Regiment||968 men|
|1st battalion 35th Regiment||807 men|
|1st Garrison Battalion||374 men|
|Maltese Sappers & Miners||72 men|
In view of the small number of men in the Royal Maltese Sappers and Miners, it was decided to disband this Corps. This was carried out by Lieut-Colonel Whitmore, of the Royal Engineers, and confirmed to London by General Layard on the 6th April 1817:
“I have the honor to inform you that agreeable to instructions received from His Excellency the Commander of the Forces, the company of Royal Maltese Sappers and Miners was disbanded on the 31st of last month.”
Apart from keeping the men fit and trained for action, their day-to-day lives were controlled by the General Regulations for the Malta Garrison. These included such items as:
No.7. It is most particularly directed that the soldiers do not bathe or wash their trowsers (sic) in the sea after seven in the morning before six in the evening in summer. The health of the soldier being of the utmost consequence the General Commanding recommends to keep the men as much as possible in their quarters during the heat of the day.
No.9. Any non commissioned officer or soldier who shall be found more than one mile from his quarters without a written pass from the commanding officer of his regiment or the adjutant, is to be immediately secured as a deserter, nor is any non commissioned officer or soldier to be out of his quarters or barracks from tattoo beating until sun rise in the morning without a written pass above mentioned.
No.10. No soldier on any account to work on Sundays.
No.19. Non commissioned officers or soldiers found drunk in the streets are to be immediately confined to the nearest guard and sent for by their respective regiments to be severely punished.
On top of their military duties, the men had their time filled with various other tasks:
13th May 1817
Regiments and Corps will commence on Monday next the half-yearly whitewashing of barracks. Commanding Officers will appoint proper men for performing this work under the direction of non commissioned officers that it may be completed as early as possible. Requisitions for lime, etc., to be made to the Deputy Asst. QuarterMaster General.
23rd June 1817
A guard of one subaltern and 20 privates with a proportion of non commissioned officers of the Royal Malta Fencibles will mount at nine o’clock tomorrow morning in St.John’s Church and follow the directions of Capt.Muller Friedburg, Deputy Insp. General of Police.
The 31st regiment and that part of the 35th regiment quartered at Floriana will be formed tomorrow morning at half past nine o’clock. The Right opposite St. John’s Church extending by Strada Mercanti, Vescovo, and Reale to St.Johns Church. Commanding officers will caution officers commanding companies to pay the usual compliments to the Bishop on his passing should He be in the procession.
This last instruction concerned the annual procession held in Valletta, to celebrate the birth of John the Baptist on 24th June. British troops were always provided on such occasions.
At daybreak on the 27th May the 31st (Huntingdonshire) regiment sent a detachment of one subaltern, with 4 sergeants, and 124 men to relieve a detachment of the 35th (Sussex) at Fort Manoel. On the same morning, a detachment of the 35th (Sussex) regiment quartered at Isola was augmented to two Captains, six Subalterns, 14 sergeants, 32 corporals, 4 drummers and 300 men.
The 35th regiment only stayed another four months. They embarked in two detachments on the 29th September and 11th October 1817 for England, 34 officers with 782 other ranks, after seventeen continuous years of active service in the Mediterranean.
The 36th (Herefordshire) regiment who sailed from Portsmouth, and disembarked on The 27th September, with a strength of 35 Officers, 42 sergeants, 21 drummers and 778 rank and file took their place.
Another instance of a Maltese young lady becoming infatuated with an army officer is recorded, when the following order dated 13th August 1817, was sent to Major Fearon of the 31st (Huntingdonshire) regiment:
|“I have received the command of His Honor the Lieutenant Governor Major-General Layard to direct that you will give the necessary orders to Lieutenant A. Beamish of the Regiment under your command to restore the daughter of Signor Nicola Attard to her Father immediately upon his application for her.”|
With the terrifying plague outbreak of four years earlier still fresh in the memory, the quarantine requirements were strictly enforced. The Malta Government Gazette of Wednesday 29th October 1817, reported:
We are sorry to have to announce a melancholy occurrence which took place in the Quarantine Harbour during the night of 20th instant.
An Officer in the Neapolitan service, commanding one of the gun-boats which had been sent in charge of the boats belonging to the coral fishery, was inconsiderate enough to leave his vessel at sun-set for the purpose of going on board a Sicilian gun brig, lying at a short distance, and with a view of returning between 8 and 9 o’clock p.m., contrary to every rule and principle of quarantine, and in defiance of the positive regulations of this Port, which require that all boats belonging to vessels in quarantine should be hoisted up by sun-set and not lowered again until after day light the next morning.
The boat in rowing to the gun-brig for the Officer, was challenged by the Sentinel on duty, to which they merely answered by shewing a light. The Officer, however, on returning to his gun-boat from the brig, was again challenged by one of the Sentries, but as he made the same answer, and called out that he was a Neapolitan Officer without paying any other attention whatever to the challenge, the Sentry, after a third attempt to bring the boat to, deemed it to be in his duty to fire in the direction of it, and the ball pierced the Sicilian Officer’s neck, and killed him on the spot”
The soldier on sentry duty, Private Owen Vernon, of the 31st (Huntingdonshire) regiment, was afterwards tried by a General Court Martial on 22nd October 1817, for Murder, as called for in such circumstances. The Opinion and Sentence was issued on the 24th October:
“The Court having maturely weighed and considered the evidence adduced on the part of the prosecution, as also the evidence for the Prisoner, together with what he has set forth in his defence, is of the opinion that he the Prisoner Private Owen Vernon 31st regiment is Not Guilty of the crime laid to his charge, viz: Murder – he having fired, when on Sentry, a musket shot on the evening of the 20th instant, on or about the hour of nine o’clock, which shot killed Ensign Gaspin Capaccio, Commanding No.64 gun boat of the Neapolitan Service, and does therefore acquit him the Prisoner, Private Owen Vernon, 31st Regiment thereof.
(Signed) J.T.Layard, Major–General, President.
(Signed) C.A.Bayley, Captain 36th Regiment, A.D.J. Advocate.
(Signed) Approved and Confirmed T.Maitland, Lieutenant-General”
In Autumn 1817 the 2nd battalion 14th (Buckinghamshire) left Cephalonia for Malta, where the men remained a few days, before embarking on the 11th October for England arriving at Portsmouth on the 24th November. As peace in Europe seemed to be firmly established it was decided to disband the 2nd battalion at Chichester on 23rd December 1817, when four hundred and twenty rank and file were transferred to the 1st battalion.
The 8th (or King’s) regiment arrived at Malta from Cork, on the 2nd March 1818. Ten companies comprising a total of 32 officers, 39 sergeants, 10 drummers, and 660 privates.
Prior to their first inspection by the Commander of the Malta garrison, the Commanding Officer of the 8th, Lieut-Colonel Roberton, assembled Sergeant-Major Binns, Sergeants Shanley, Kennedy, Crosby, Rogers, Carroll, Lance-Corporal John Hoare, and Private Quinn, for a meeting in the Orderly Room. To this gathering he intentionally but unwisely passed the remark “I wonder the men don’t report those damned rascally trowsers – but I wish they would report them”.
Since a Court Martial in Dublin the previous year, there was a certain coolness between Major Thomas Buck, and some of the other officers of the 8th, which continued after their arrival in the Malta.
On May the 1st, Captain Ball, who had recently joined the regiment, asked to see the Mess accounts. Major Buck, being the President of the Mess, ordered the Mess sergeant to produce the ledger. When it was brought in, some officers made comments which Major Buck heard and considered critical of his conduct. He was very indignant and said “ I will be damned if ever I sit at the mess table again” and left the room.
Lieut-Colonel Roberton called a meeting of officers at the mess the next day, and standing at the head of the table addressed them.
“Gentlemen, I have called you together to consult what is best to be done in respect to Major Buck’s late unpleasant business. I have been speaking to Major Buck myself this morning; and Major Buck desires me to say that he would not make an apology to any one – but that if any officer felt himself aggrieved he would give him any other satisfaction he chose to demand”
Several of the officers present at this gathering understood these words in a military context to mean a challenge.
Tension continued between the officers for the next few months and on 12th September, Lieut-Colonel Roberton ordered the arrest of Lieutenant Roger McSwiney, to face a General Court Martial.
Two days later Private James Cobourne, who had been Lieutenant McSwiney's servant for over four years, was called to the Orderly Room by the Colonel and asked what evidence he would give for the defence at McSwiney’s trial. During this conversation in reply to a question Cobourne complained about the pair of shoes he was wearing, and promptly found himself placed under arrest. As he left the Orderly Room the Colonel followed him and was heard by Private Patrick Hart to say “You’re a damned rogue and villain; I will make an example of you to all the regiment”
On the 18th September Cobourne appeared before a Regimental Court Martial, with a first charge of:
|“Disobedience of standing orders of the regiment in not having forwarded his complaint thro the officer commanding the company to the Commanding officer”|
He was acquitted of this charge but found Guilty of part of the second charge, namely:“Of making a frivolous complaint to the Commanding Officer relative to a pair of shoes”, For which he was sentenced to be confined to the Garrison cells for ten days, on bread and water. He had not made a complaint of any nature, but had answered a question put to him by his Commanding Officer. He served the sentence in solitary confinement.
The McSwiney Court Martial opened on 20th October 1818, when he faced the following charges:
“1st. For conduct highly subversive of Military discipline, in addressing a disrespectful letter, dated 5th Sept. 1818 to Lieut-Colonel Peter T. Roberton, his Commanding Officer, in which he falsely accuses him of partiality to another officer, and of unjust severity to him (Lieut. Roger McSwiney) in the execution of his duty; and in which he also falsely accuses Lieut. and Adjutant Price of conspiring with the Serjeant Major in returning men of the Grenadier company on Guard, when they were actually employed as shoemakers by the Serjeant Major.
2nd. For highly unofficerlike conduct, in reporting on the company’s state on the evening of the 26th August last, and at other times, Private Edward Handy, of the company under his command, present on parade, when to his, Lieut McSwiney’s knowledge the said Private Edward Handy was absent, without due authority. And likewise for giving leave to Private James Cobourne of the Grenadier company to be absent from parade on the evening of the 31st of August last, and making a false report of that circumstance to his Commanding Officer: and also for employing the said James Cobourne of the Grenadier Company to be absent from parade on the evening of the 31st day of August and making a false report of the circumstance to his Commanding Officer, and also for employing the said James Cobourne as his (Lieut.McSwiney’s) servant, without having obtained permission from his Commanding Officer for that purpose, thereby acting contrary to the standing orders of the regiment.
3rd. For highly disgraceful and unofficerlike conduct on the evening of the 10th September inst., in tampering with a non-commissioned officer of the Grenadier company, and making use of expressions to the said non-commissioned officer having a tendency to excite discontent; all of which conduct being subversive of military discipline and contrary to the Articles of War”.
The day before, Private Cobourne had been out drinking in Floriana but when he returned to barracks he was arrested again, and kept in custody. So he was being held a prisoner, without charge, when brought from the Guard House to give his evidence for the defence at the Court Martial.
Private John Condell, a man of known bad character, gave evidence for the prosecution, against Lieutenant McSwiney, but it was contradicted by defence witness Private Daniel Reilly, very bravely supporting McSwiney, as the Commanding Officer himself was acting as the Prosecutor.
Sometime between eight and nine o’clock in the evening of the 10th November there was a disturbance in the Barrack Room, when an argument took place between Condell and Reilly.
Reilly said to Condell “You go by three names in the 36th regiment, Rogue Condell, Thief Condell and John Condell, and for a fourth I will give you Perjured Condell, which has been proved this day at the Court Martial” and threats were made by both men.
Condell left the room and complained to Sergeant Mullins, who immediately arrested Reilly and put him in confinement, where he remained without any charge being made.
A vindictive act took place whilst Reilly was locked up. Mrs. Reilly and Mrs. Condell occupied adjacent small rooms, and Adjutant Price ordered Quartermaster Sutherland to turn both women out of their rooms. This order was acted upon, but whereas Mrs. Reilly was moved into the great barrack room, Mrs. Condell was moved into a better room normally given to a sergeant, “as good a serjeants room as any in the garrison of Malta”.
As a further indication of bias, John Condell was promoted to the rank of Corporal by Regimental Order dated 30th November, in place of Corporal Martin who was permitted to resign.
Whilst these events were taking place, the McSwiney Court Martial was still going on.
Cobourne, who had been kept in custody since the 19th October, was not told the charge, until one hour before he stood trial on the 13th November, so had been confined illegally for 31 days and nights contrary to the Articles of War. During that time he was not supplied with bedding, but only two boards and slept in his great coat to keep warm.
At his Regimental Court Martial on 13th November, Presided over by Captain Thomas Crosse, he was charged with:
“1.For making away with his great coat
2. For selling a pair of shoes though stating before a Court of Enquiry that the said shoes were worn out
3. For attempting to excite a complaint in the Grenadier company
He was found Guilty of the first two charges but cleared on the third for lack of evidence. The Court decision was to
“Sentence him the said James Cobourne to receive a corporal punishment of two hundred lashes in the usual manner at such time and place as the Commanding Officer shall think fit.”
Cobourne suffered this punishment, which was ruthlessly carried out, as witnessed by Captain William Cotter, Ensign Robert Mawdesley and Assistant Surgeon William Steele. Steele later testified: “There was a longer time taken between each lash. I have seen, when punishing a bad man, time taken as long between each lash, but not generally. The drum major put a longer interval in counting the lashes”
It was subsequently proved that the first and second charges were a sham. The great coat offence had taken place in Ireland ten months previously, and whether or not he lost or sold it, he obtained a replacement which he wore continuously thereafter. The pair of shoes he sold were not the same pair that he wore at the Court of Enquiry.
Reilly meanwhile was still held in the Guard House, until Lieutenant McSwiney heard about it and protested to the officers hearing his Court Martial. Reilly was released the following day without any trial or investigation, having spent nine days and nights in the cells, for no reason.
The final day of the McSwiney Court Martial was the 24th November, when he was cleared of the main charges brought against him, except for two minor matters of misconduct. He was sentenced to be “Publicly Reprimanded in such a manner as his Excellency the Commander of the Forces may be pleased to direct.”
The third charge collapsed when it was proved that men of the 36th regiment had mounted guard on the night of the 10th September, conclusively demonstrating that Private Condell and some NCO’s had not told the truth, whereas Cobourne and Reilly had.
Evidence given at this Court Martial brought to the notice of the Commander in Chief irregularities involving various aspects of the 8th regiment with the knowledge of, and tacit consent by, its Lieut-Colonel, so that when Sir Thomas Maitland confirmed McSwiney’s sentence he added:
“The Commander of the Forces withholds his opinion both on the subject of the observation made by the Court Martial relative to the conduct of Lieut-Col.Roberton and in regards to the evidence produced, and particularly that of Lieut. and Adjutant Price.
But His Excellency directs that the said Lieut. and Adjutant Price do forthwith proceed to England by the present packet and that he do, on his arrival, report himself to the Adjutant General in England.
The Commander of the Forces further direct that no order be issued in the 8th (or King’s) regiment without receiving the previous written sanction of the Major-General commanding, who is desired to keep the most vigilant and constant superintendence over the whole of its proceedings, and as it must be evident from the tenor of this General Order, that his Majesty’s 8th (or King’s) regiment cannot remain in the state in which it is at present stands longer than to allow due reference to England, he calls, not only upon the officers of that regiment, but on all officers in relation to it, to be most guarded and circumspect in their conduct, till his Majesty’s decision on the subject be made known.”
Barely a year in Malta the regiment was posted to the Ionian Islands, arriving at Corfu on 19th January 1819, where the serious events on Malta were followed up after consultations with the Horse Guards in London.
The officer in charge of Cobourne's second Regimental Court Martial, Captain Crosse retired on half pay before Roberton’s trial commenced on the 21st April.
Roberton faced a General Court Martial on eight charges.
The first charge was for being the Carrier of a challenge, or of a Message tantamount to a Challenge from Major Buck to the other Officers.
The second charge was concerned with misapplying rations. Lieut-Colonel Roberton arranged for QuarterMaster Sutherland to draw one ration for the Colonel’s servant, but in fact it was delivered to Mr.Smith the civilian Master of the Regimental Band.
The third charge dealt with the subversion of military rules and subordination in assembling the Pay Serjeants and suggesting that the men ought to complain about the quality of the Trowsers provided by the Captains, words tending to make the men dissatisfied with the conduct of their officers.
The Fourth charge was for his conduct in confining Private James Cobourne for making a complaint to him, whereas the private did not in fact make any complaint, but being asked a question had returned an answer to his Commanding Officer.
The Fifth charge concerned a breach of military regulations, in permitting Private James Cobourne to appear as a witness at a General Court Martial with his side arms on though he was a prisoner at that time.
The Sixth charge and possibly the most serious, was for gross abuse of his power and authority, as Commanding Officer of the 8th regiment, in his conduct towards Private James Cobourne “tyrannically, cruelly, and unjustly” were the words used in the charge, for the period from September until November, and shewing a misplaced partiality to Private John Condell, but having treated Private Daniel Reilly with undue severity.
The Seventh charge covered an array of irregularities in Regimental Court Martials. He permitted sentences to be carried out without having approved them, illegally changed sentences on his own authority, entered Court Martials in the Regimental Book with incorrect dates, and on occasions entirely omitted Court Martials from the Book.
The Eighth charge was concerned with allowing different prices to be charged for necessaries between the companies so causing discontent amongst the men, and irregular book keeping of regimental and private accounts. As an example the price for a pair of shoes was cited:
Grenadier Company 8 shillings.
First Company 5 shillings and sixpence.
Second Company 6 shillings and tenpence.
Third Company 6 shillings and sixpence.
Fourth Company 5 shillings and tenpence.
Fifth Company 5 shillings and tenpence.
Sixth Company 7 shillings.
Seventh Company 5 shillings and sixpence.
Eighth Company 5 shillings and sixpence.
Light Company 8 shillings and sixpence.
His trial ended on 28th May 1819, when He was found Guilty of all eight charges made against him and was sentenced to be cashiered.
The outcome of this Court Martial also had some consequences for the lower ranks. Sergeant McCann and Sergeant Weir of the Grenadier company were reduced to Privates. Quartermaster Serjeant Kiernan was removed from the regiment. Sergeant Major John Binns, Quartermaster Sergeant Gilbert Sutherland, Quartermaster Sergeant William Whitham, Privates John Ward, Mike Kelly, John Condell, and John Burns, were returned to England, to be discharged. Drum Major Sutherland, was later reduced to a Drummer due to drunkenness and other crimes.
Command of the 8th regiment was taken over by Lieut-Colonel the Hon.Gerald de Courcy.
Whilst the problems of the 8th regiment were common knowledge throughout the garrison, and took up much time for the military authorities, the daily routine for the troops continued in accordance with Garrison Regulations:
C H U R C H P A R A D E
No.1 On Sundays the troops in the garrison are to attend Divine Service at such hour as shall be specified in standing orders.
No.1. The non commissioned officers, drummers, and soldiers are to go to their quarters at tattoo, no man to be allowed to quit them before reveille.
No.2. The rolls to be called at tattoo beating, the absent reported, the lights extinguished.
No.3. Immediately after reveille when the men are dressed the barrack windows are to be opened and blankets and sheets shook and spread to air, if the weather will permit.
No.4 Nothing is to be under the soldiers beds, the men’s necessaries to be
always in the knapsacks, which are to be hung upon the pegs with the cloths.
No.5. The arms are always to be well flinted and clean, are to be in the racks
and the accoutrements in places allotted for them
No.6. No part of the clothing is to be hung out of the barrack windows, or upon the balconies.
Garrison Regulations specifically dealing with dress for officers and men stated:
D R E S S
No.3 The summers dress for the troops will be linen long pantaloons with black half gaiters made of black cloth. Commanding officers of regiments will in future order the linen purchased for making up long pantaloons to be unbleached and it is most positively forbid for the soldiers either with their linen pantaloons they already have in use or what may hereafter be provided, to use lime, pipe clay or chalk, as besides the unsoldierlike appearance it must tend to irritate any sore they may have upon their legs, it will always be mentioned in General orders the day the Army put on the summer clothing.
No.4 The officers on all duties and parades public as well as regimental are during the summer season to wear the lappels buttoned back with every button from the top to the bottom and hooked at the collar, and the sash and belt over the waistcoat. In winter they will wear the coat buttoned across from top to bottom and the sash and belt outside.
The re-deployment of troops continued. Four ships, the Northumberland, Richard Plaskett, Mariner, and Sarah, carrying the 28th (North Gloucestershire) regiment to Malta, arrived on the 14th, 17th and 22nd January 1818. However, their stay was very brief, since on 12th March 1818 they were ordered to the Corfu, and boarded the transport ships Minorca, Brailsford, and Regulus, for the voyage.
A detachment comprising 305 men of the 10th (North Lincoln) regiment, under the command of Major Trickey, was posted back to Malta from Corfu on 28th March 1818, and went into barracks at Cottonera, but it was not until a year later that the Head-Quarters and 5 companies which had served under Colonel Travers on the islands of Zante and Cephalonia, returned to Malta, the whole regiment being stationed in Fort St.Elmo.
The 36th (Herefordshire) regiment remained on Malta throughout 1818, whereas the 31st (Huntingdonshire) regiment completed their tour of duty and embarked for England on 3rd June, 24 officers, with 930 other ranks, landing at Deal on 22nd July 1818.
50 men of the Sappers & Miners with Captain Hulme and Lieutenant Boldero, of the Royal Engineers, disembarked on 23rd June 1818, but a month later on 25th July they re-embarked for duty on the Ionian Islands.
At the instigation of Sir Thomas Maitland, The Most Distinguished Order of St.George and St.Michael was established as a reward for meritorious service in the Ionian Islands and Malta, and he was invested as the first Grand Master, at Corfu on 17th November 1818.
The first investitures on Malta took place on Wednesday 16th December 1818. At 8 a.m. the Royal Standard was raised on the Governor’s Palace, and a Royal Salute fired by all the ships in the harbour, and from the saluting battery. By orders from Major General Layard, a large military parade assembled at 11 a.m., on Palace Square, comprising the 8th (or King’s) regiment with the 36th (Herefordshire) regiment together with their regimental bands.
About six hundred special guests were invited to witness the ceremony that was held in the Hall of St.Michael and St.George within the Palace, and as Sir Thomas took his seat on the Throne, a second Royal Salute was fired.
The recipients of the Knight’s Grand Cross were Sir Charles Penrose, the Naval Commander-in-Chief, Sir Giuseppe Borg Olivier, and Sir Raffaele Xerri. Sir Giuseppe Nicolo Zammit and Sir Richard Plasket, Chief Secretary to the Government, were made Knights Commanders. After each man had received his insignia, a Royal Salute was fired.
Throughout 1820 the 10th (North Lincoln) regiment and the 36th (Herefordshire) regiment were garrisoned on Malta. The 10th were quartered in the Cottonera district, with detachments based at Forts Manoel and Tigne, and at Fort Chambray on the island of Gozo.
Men from both regiments were present during an event unique in Maltese history, one of the most important criminal trials ever held there. Sir Thomas Maitland returned from Corfu on board HMS Glasgow on Wednesday 26th January 1820, to attend.
When it opened in Valletta the following day Charles Christopher Delano, the Master of the brig William from Liverpool, Thomas Thompson, the Mate, Benjamin Wilcock, Second Mate, John Lewis, the Cook, Mariners John Smith, Reuben Marshall and John Webb with the Ship's Carpenter John Curtis, appeared in Court before a Grand Jury comprised of Alexander Breck, William Henry Burgess, Edward Gingell, Joseph Greaves, David Howie, William Hutton, Charles Johnston, William Robertson, John Denton Sykes, William Walker, Robert Woolley, and Mark Denison as Foreman, charged with:
"Having feloniously and piratically assaulted the Brig Helen on the High Seas, with having forcibly entered into the said vessel, put the Master and mariners in fear of their lives, and with having taken therefrom sundry Bale Goods, and other articles, as specified in the Indictment "
It was alleged that the crew of the William had plundered the vessel Helen of Dartmouth, off the coast of Spain. After transferring the cargo, mainly bales of cloth to their own ship, they scuttled the Helen with her Master, Richard Cornish, and the crew locked in a hold below decks. They expected the ship to sink and no trace of her to be found. However, the crew of the Helen managed to escape from the forecastle and launched their damaged longboat.
They were rescued by a Dutch vessal which took them off Alicante where they re-entered the longboat. The Helen kept afloat and came ashore on the Spanish coast. The William meanwhile had reached Malta, where the men sold some of the stolen goods, before continuing to Smyrna. Details of the crime reached Malta, and after some of the stolen goods were identified, the Royal Navy sent a vessel to Smyrna where the William and her crew were apprehended, and brought back to Malta for trial.
They pleaded Not Guilty but after a three day hearing they were all found Guilty, and sentenced to death, which was to be carried out on 4th February. Since it was Piracy the manner of their execution and procedure, was officially published in the Malta Government Gazette of Wednesday 2nd February 1820:
"That the William brig, being the vessel in which the unfortunate convicts committed the flagrant and most atrocious act of piracy, be painted black, hauled out and anchored in the middle of the Grand Port of Malta,
viz:- that of Valletta ...............and that on Friday morning being the fourth of the month between the hours of eight and twelve, the aforesaid convicts be hanged and after hanging till they be dead, that they be cut down put in open shells and protected by a proper guard from His Majesty's ships, that they
be carried to the appointed place, viz:- Fort Ricasoli, where the body of the aforesaid Charles Christopher Delano, late Captain of the William, is to be hung in Irons on the right-hand Gibbet erected for the purpose in the north-west angle of the said Fort, the body of John Lewis, late Cook and mariner on board the same vessel, on the left hand Gibbet in the same angle, the body of Thomas Thompson, late Mate on the right-hand Gibbet on the north east angle of the said Fort and the body of John Smith on the left-hand Gibbet and the four remaining bodies be interred at the feet of the before mentioned Gibbets.... "
At ten p.m. on the night before their execution, Sir Thomas Maitland granted clemency to Reuben Marshall due to his good character prior to this atrocity, and to John Curtis on account of his youth and information given in his favour by Captain Delano.
At eight o'clock the next morning, in front of the whole Army garrison, and the crews of Royal Navy ships, plus vast numbers of Maltese on the bastions and houses overlooking Grand Harbour, the executions were carried out.
The soldiers stationed in Fort Ricasoli who were only yards from the gibbets had a constant reminder of this appalling crime. Sergeant William Wheeler of the 51st (2nd Yorkshire, West Riding) regiment spent some time at Fort Ricasoli two years later in November 1822 whilst awaiting his ship for the Ionian Islands, and records
"On a small out work, close to the water are four English sailors hanging in gibbets for piracy. My room is about one hundred yards from them, if it should be a windy night I am amused with the creaking of the irons every time I wake."
As a means of introducing the wider use of English, in place of the Italian language, the Lieutenant-Governor decreed in May 1820 that in future those seeking Civil Government appointments, or wishing to be advocates, solicitors, etc., would have to be able to speak, read and write English.
The Royal Artillery had a strength of around 120 men throughout the whole of 1820, but a change of infantry regiments was ordered in the autumn.
From their barracks in Macclesfield the 90th Light Infantry travelled down to Plymouth and embarked on three transport ships. The Aurora with a detachment of 175 men, arrived on the 28th October, followed during the first week of December by the Chapman and Nautilus with the balance of the regiment, 19 officers, 370 other ranks, with 60 women and 75 children.
They replaced the 36th (Herefordshire) regiment, whose Head Quarters and six companies, embarked on 5th December 1820 with Lieut-Colonel Cross for the island of Zante, leaving four companies on Malta under Major Swain.
At the New Year of 1821, the January Garrison was made up as follows:
|Royal Staff Corps||20|
|36th regiment detachment||247|
|90th Light Infantry regiment||496|
|A total of||1,520 men|
However, more British troops were needed on the Ionian Islands where a movement for Greek independence from Turkish rule was causing unrest, and would continue to simmer for many years to come. Around 3,000 infantrymen were stationed there at the opening of the year, but more were needed during 1821.
On 14th June the detachment of 36th (Herefordshire) regiment embarked for the island of Cephalonia. They were joined there in October by two companies of the 90th Light Infantry, who sailed on board HMS Seringapatam. In October also, the balance of the 90th, about 450 rank and file, were sent to Zante.
In May the 10th (North Lincoln) regiment comprising 26 officers with 601 men of all ranks left the island bound for Plymouth.
These regiments were replaced by the 18th (The Royal Irish) regiment, which arrived in April 1821, from Cork, with a disembarkation strength of 30 officers, 30 sergeants, 20 drummers, and 581 rank and file.
They were added to by the 2nd battalion 85th (Bucks Volunteers) regiment, 663 strong, which arrived from Portsmouth on July 11th, and followed in September a 96 man detachment, of the 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) regiment from Gibraltar. The balance of the 80th regiment, around 450 men, arrived in October.
So by the end of the year the garrison had undergone a complete change of infantry regiments. However, the three infantry regiments now on Malta, 18th (The Royal Irish) about 600 strong, the 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) with about 550 men, and the 85th (Bucks Volunteers) with about 600 would remain together throughout the whole of 1822 and 1823.
The August 22nd issue of the Malta Government Gazette carried a full report of Napoleon's death on the 5th May 1821 at St.Helena. The news was greeted with a sigh of relief throughout the civil and military communities. Even though he had been in exile for the last six years, he had been in the forefront of Republicanism throughout Europe for over thirty years.
On 28th November 1821, the Right Reverend D. Giuseppe Bartolomeo Xerri died, and for his funeral at the church of St.Augustine, Mdina, as customary British troops were called upon for this solemn occasion.
|“The procession was headed by military guard consisting of 200 men from the 18th and 80th regiments under the command of Major M'Neil of the 18th regiment”|
The men serving in infantry regiments on the Ionian Islands suffered considerably from bad health, especially those on Cephalonia where the 36th were based, so in 1822 a depot was set up on Malta at which they could recuperate. The first party comprising 155 invalids arrived in August. From each regiment were 8th (7), 28th (39), 32nd (16), 36th (81), 51st (10), and 90th (2). As the men improved they returned to their regiments, and others took their place, so the numbers from each regiment fluctuated. However, this venture was terminated in April 1823, when the invalid depot was closed down, so the 63 men with two officers embarked on the hired vessel Ann, for England.
On 27th January 1822 on board the Transport Fanny, 6 officers, 5 sergeants, 5 corporals, 6 bombardiers, 100 gunners, 9 women and 23 children arrived, making two companies of Royal Artillery for garrison duties.
They joined the 18th Regiment with 602 men, the 80th Regiment with 553 men and the 85th Regiment with 616 men. These three infantry regiments composed the garrison for the whole of 1822 and 1823.
In their off duty hours the officers of these regiments formed a dramatic society known as the Amateurs of the Garrison. Amongst their productions in January 1823 at the Theatre Royal were ‘The Cure for the Heart-Ache’ coupled with the farce ‘The Irishman in London’. The money raised by these theatrical productions was apportioned to various charities.
Sergeant William Wheeler of the 51st (2nd Yorkshire, West Riding) Regiment was travelling to join his regiment then based in the Ionian Islands. He arrived at Valletta on the 28th November 1822, on board the John Rickards, a merchant ship fitted out for troop carrying. On disembarkation, along with the other men destined for the Ionian Islands he marched to Fort Ricasoli, where he was quartered until 2nd March 1823.
|‘In getting out the baggage it was observed that several of the officer’s chests had been opened and money, plate and jewellery had been stolen to a considerable amount. A Lieutenant Brown, 80th Regiment and his lady had lost an immense quantity of valuable jewels.’|
Though the Army officers’ chests and baggage had been stowed safely in a hold under lock and key, the thieves had removed some boards from the partitioning between the crew’s quarters and the baggage hold. Being the prime suspects, the crew were taken ashore and held in prison whilst a thorough search was made. Though many of the missing items were found hidden in various parts of the ship, not all of them were recovered, but the crewmen were later released without charges being made, since none of the stolen property was actually found on them, or in their personal belongings.
Prior to the commencement of Lent on Ash Wednesday, it was the tradition for Carnival to be held. For many years it had been the custom that young boys, aged 6 to 15 years, from poor families after attending Divine Service at the Church of the Minori Observanti in Floriana, would pass to the adjoining Franciscan Convent, and be given bread.
On the 10th February 1823 all went as usual, but on the following day a combination of unforeseen events, led to a disaster.
Wheeler witnessed the tragic scene.
‘By some oversight the doors were not opened, the children in front, when they came to the bottom of the steps were buried alive by those who pressed from behind, in a short time the space from the doors to the top of the steps was one solid mass of human bodies...………….
.………….. When the place was cleared and the doors were opened the dead and dying were brought out into the streets, the scene that now took place baffles all description. The street for thirty yards each side of the door were strewed with children, some dead, others dying, and others shewing symptoms of recovering. Women running up and down mad with despair seeking their little ones, and to add to the misery of the scene it was dark. Hundreds of people were carrying lights..... I shall never forget this night..…………. upwards of one hundred were dead, and nearly two hundred were carried to the Military hospitals, some died on the road, many others expired during the night….....
Sir Parker Carrol, Colonel of the 18th who is in command during the absence of Sir Manley Power, has caused an enquiry to be made.’
A supplement to the Malta Government Gazette dated 14th February carries a full description of the tragedy, and adds:
‘The thanks of the Government are equally due to the medical officers Civil and Military who instantly on hearing of the accident proceeded to the hospital and assisted in the most zealous manner the medical gentlemen attached to that establishment – also to the Malta Fencibles under the immediate Command of Captain the Marquis de Piro’
In England at this period politicians of all parties were split on the question of Ireland, which was coupled with the issue of Catholic emancipation. At the same time religious observance in the United Kingdom, was spread over Church of England, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Congregationalist, Unitarian, and Quaker. So, the religious beliefs of the troops on Malta reflected this diversity.
Captain Thomas Bunbury, of the 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) arrived to join his regiment in Malta in 1823. In his memoirs he records:
‘At this period there were several families of ‘saints’ or over righteous people at Malta who kept aloof from those families who did not affect an over amount of goodness. The former were cemented together by a Missionary of the name of Jowett......, and as our Major would sometimes observe, in sowing dissentions amongst the brethren; for he did not appear to belong to the Church of England, although sent out and employed by the Church Missionary Society.’
The Reverend William Jowett had in fact been on Malta since 1815. It was intended to be his base for missionary work to the Levant, and although he had spent some time in Syria, he mostly remained on Malta where he became a controversial figure.
The Wesleyan Methodist Society representative based in the South of France, the Reverend Charles Cook DD., visited Malta, and found that Methodism was being regularly practiced by British soldiers at three places. In the quarters of Sergeant Everard in Senglea, and in two rooms hired by Methodist soldiers at Floriana and Valletta. He also learnt that a large number of men in the Royal Artillery were Methodists.
On his recommendation, a Minister was appointed, and in August 1824, the Reverend John Keeling arrived with his wife. They initially took a house in Burmola, and rented a suitable room as a place for worship in Isola, where he established a programme of Sunday Services, and class meetings.
The following month he purchased from the Government of Malta premises at No.55 Strada Britannica, on the corner with Old Bakery Street. Not only was this the first Methodist Church on Malta, but also the first church for the Protestant religion. However, the Valletta building was not churchlike in appearance, since at that time the law did not allow any buildings to be erected as churches except those of the Roman Catholic faith.
Captain Bunbury of the 80th further records that a Lieutenant complained to him that he had been grossly insulted by one of the drummers in his company. Bunbury made enquiries and discovered that:
‘the drummer had been flogged a few days before and the complainant going into the barrack room began to harangue the fellow on the enormity of his past life, which had thus brought him to the halberds. The drummer considered himself insulted by being taunted with the flogging he had received and turned round upon him to say that he had no right to do so, and ended by abusing him most grossly.’
Bunbury told the Lieutenant it was his own fault, and that in future he should not enter the barrack room for any other than military purposes, and only when on duty. It also transpired that the Lieutenant had brought a number of religious books and tracts with him which he now requested would be distributed. Bunbury made it clear that the Military Chaplain was the proper person to see to these matters.
His notes say:
‘His ideas (Major Maclean the C.O.) and mine were alike on the subject of religious fanaticism creeping into a military community. Nothing divides a regiment more into parties than a difference in religious observations, however trifling; particularly if they are constantly paraded before men's eyes by enthusiastic zealots. To create and perpetuate in his regiment a kindly feeling one towards another should be the principal aim of a Commanding Officer. If he does not shew the strictest impartiality to all men’s creeds, he is stepping beyond his duty and interfering in that of the spiritual teacher, authorized by the regulations of the service.’
However, religious observances were about to become a highly controversial issue
Since the very beginning of British rule it was common custom for British troops to be provided at religious ceremonies, or to fire salutes, and give due deference to the Bishop of Malta. Requests were made through the office of the Chief Secretary to the Government, who would forward them to the Military Secretary.
‘27th May 1823 The Chapter of the Con-Cathedral Church of St.John the Baptist in Valletta having applied to Government for the attendance of troops and for salutes on the Festival of Corpus Domini. I am directed by his Honour the Lieutenant Governor to request that the same be complied with as last year.’
Therefore when Hector Greig, Chief Secretary to the Government, sent the following letter such procedure had become routine:
To: Captain Charles Bayley, Military Secretary.
‘Chief Secretary’s Office, Valletta. 4th August 1823. I have the honor to acquaint you that application has been made to Government for salutes from Castle St.Angelo and St.Michael’s Tower on the 9th and 10th instant being the eve and anniversary of St.Lorenzo the tutelar saint of Vittoriosa. His Honor the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to grant salutes on the 9th inst. at Noon and on the day following at ½10.a.m. and in the evening during the procession from Castle St.Angelo accompanied by the tolling of the castle bell which his Honor requests you will order to be carried into effect but the situation of St.Michael’s Tower being in the vicinity of the Naval Arsenal his Honor cannot allow of any salutes being fired from that place.’
Bayley in turn signed it “Approved”, and forwarded it to Major Addams, the Commanding Officer of the Royal Artillery on Malta. Addams in turn sent a written order to Lieutenant Dawson, who was in charge of a Royal Artillery detachment at Fort St.Angelo, so that these salutes would be performed.
Dawson, who had been in the Army for sixteen years, wrote a letter to Major Addams containing this paragraph:
‘….I beg leave respectfully to state that I feel myself placed in a difficulty in issuing orders to that effect to the men under my command conceiving as I do that I should thereby become a party to an idolatrous act of worship committed by these assembled to pay honor to the above Saint and thus violate my principles as a Christian and Protestant.’
He asked to be exonerated from carrying out the order, and requested Lieutenant Somerville, the Adjutant of the Royal Artillery, to ensure that the Major-General would see his letter. Major Addams called upon Major-General Sir Manley Power and showed him the letter, to which the response was:
|‘Let Lieutenant Dawson refuse at his peril’.|
Addams forwarded this reply in writing, but Dawson was not content and wrote another letter to Addams which included this sentence:
‘……I hope unnecessary for me to state that I feel the duty of prompt and implicit obedience to my military superior but I hope it will be seen that the present order requires me to take a part in idolatrous ceremonies which are repugnant to my principles as a Christian and Protestant officer.’
Addams discussed the situation with Lieut-Colonel Raitt, the Deputy Adjutant General, and on his advice directed another officer to be at Fort St.Angelo, to carry out the order.
On the 9th August, fearful that the salute would not be fired, since he knew that the second officer, Captain Atchison held similar religious views to Dawson, Major Addams went over to Fort St.Angelo himself and arrived about half past eleven. He summoned Sergeant John McClelland, the Master Gunner, and discovered that neither officer had passed on the order. Addams therefore instructed the Sergeant to make preparations and at the appropriate time gave instructions to fire the salute. No action was taken against the two officers.
The Governor, Sir Thomas Maitland arrived back in Malta from Genoa on Sunday 2nd November, and three days later on the 5th he issued a General Order that: ‘…Captain Atchison and Lieutenant Dawson of the Royal Artillery be struck off all duties of every kind’. They were arrested on the 14th on orders from the Master General of Ordnance.
The Court Martial of Lieutenant George Francis Dawson, Royal Artillery, opened on the 1st March 1824, but with adjournments continued till the 22nd March.
The officers called to hear the case were:
Lieut-Colonel Augustus Warburton and Major Plunket de Bathe from the 85th regiment, Brevet Major Eyre Evans Kenny, Major James Maclean, Captain Thomas Bunbury, Captain James Butler, of the 80th regiment, and from the 18th (Royal Irish) regiment, Major Robert Percival, Captain Richard Weld, Captain Henry Pratt, Captain John Doran, with Lieut-Colonel the Hon.W.H.Gardner R.A. On the 8th March two further officers of the 85th regiment were appointed Captain Frederick Maunsell and Captain Matthew Forster. The President was Colonel Francis Rivarola, late of the Sicilian regiment, now of the Royal Malta Fencibles.
‘First Charge. Disobedience of orders, insubordinate and unofficerlike conduct when stationed at Fort St.Angelo in the island of Malta in hesitating and declining to carry into execution the orders he had received on the 6th of August last for firing salutes from that Fort on the 9th and 10th of the same month according to established usage and having written two letters dated 7th and 9th August to Major Addams, Commanding the Royal Artillery remonstrating against carrying the aforesaid orders into effect.
Second Charge. For writing a letter dated 11th August 1823 of a highly insubordinate nature and shewing a spirit of opposition to the authority of his commanding officer (Major Addams) for having given orders to Sergeant McClelland of that Corps to fire salutes at Fort St.Angelo on the 10th of August last, and for having ordered the expenditure of stores, or the execution of regiment orders, without such order, passing thro’him (Lieutenant Dawson), he well knowing that his own conduct and that of another officer, had led to the measures against which he was remonstrating the above conduct being highly subversive of military discipline and holding forth a most dangerous example to the British Army’
An additional charge was added by Brevet Major Addams:
‘For neglect of duty and disobedience of orders in not giving directions to the detachment under his command for firing a salute at Fort St.Angelo on the 9th of August last at Noon and in being absent from Cavalier St.Angelo (in the aforesaid Fort) without leave, when such salute was fired by the said detachment.’
Lieutenant Dawson pleaded Not Guilty to all the charges preferred against him.
Lieut-Colonel Raitt, Deputy Adjutant General appeared as the Prosecutor and read an opening statement to the court. Major Addams, Lieutenant Somerville, and Sergeant McClelland were all called and questioned by the Prosecutor and the Defendant regarding the chain of events which took place between the 4th and 9th of August the previous year.
When cross-examined, Sergeant John McClelland told the court that the strength of the detachment at Fort St.Angelo was eighteen Gunners, four NCO’s and Lieutenant Dawson, plus another ten men on other duties. He stated that a total of 30 petards were fired.
In reply to a question put to him by Dawson he agreed that a man had been sent by the priests from the church who told him that a signal would be given, and the bells would start ringing, for the Royal Artillerymen to fire their salute, but he added: “But I cannot positively swear that I understood him as he was a Maltese.”
On Thursday 18th March Lieutenant Dawson started reading his written defence statement, but after one hour the Judge Advocate General interrupted saying that the religious matters he had introduced were unconnected with the charges. Dawson resumed his statement, but was interrupted a second time for the same reason. After some deliberation the Court decided that religious quotations would not be permitted and the extracts from religious books already made would be expunged from the record. On hearing this decision Dawson, replied: “I must decline to go on with my defence”, and withdrew from putting forward any defence.
The Court resumed on the 22nd March, to announce their verdict, which was Guilty of the First charge, Guilty of the Second charge, but only Guilty of the first part of the additional charge, and:
‘….does sentence him, the prisoner, Lieutenant George Francis Dawson, of the Royal Artillery to be cashiered and rendered incapable of ever serving His Majesty in any military capacity whatsoever.’
Two days later on the 24th March 1824, the Court Martial of Captain Thomas Atchison, opened, with the same group of officers forming the Court. The charge was:
‘For disobedience of orders, insubordinate, and unofficerlike conduct in not carrying into execution the orders that were conveyed to him by letter from acting Adjutant Somerville, on or about 9th of August last desiring that he would give directions for firing salutes at Fort S.Angelo on the 9th and 10th of that month and for writing a letter dated 9th August addressed to Major Addams his Commanding Officer, hesitating and remonstrating against carrying the said orders into effect. The above conduct being highly subversive of military discipline and holding forth a most dangerous example to the British Army.’
As in the Dawson Court Martial, the prosecution statement was made by Lieut-Colonel Raitt, and Major Addams, Adjutant Somerville, and Sergeant McClelland, all gave testimony.
After adjournment, the Court re-assembled on 31st March and the defendant started reading his written defence statement, but after one hour the Court found it necessary to stop him as he was introducing religious matters. The Court closed to consider the line of defence being followed by Atchison, and on re-opening he was called upon to delete 34 lines from his statement, which the Court had found objectionable. Shortly after, the Court closed again for the same reason, and on re-opening declared that several pages containing religious material should be omitted since they were unrelated to the charges.
On 5th April, the Court resumed and gave their verdict that he was Guilty of the charge, and he was sentenced to be dismissed His Majesty’s service.
The proceedings of the two Court Martials were sent to London for confirmation, but the Judge Advocate General, J.Beckett, returned the papers to Malta:
‘Downing Street 31st May 1824.
I regret to be under the necessity of returning these proceedings in order that they may be revised. The grounds upon which a revision becomes necessary is this, viz: That the two officers above named, whose cases were brought under consideration of the Court Martial do not appear to have had a full, fair and legal trial.’
Accordingly, on 19th July, the original members of the Court Martial for Lieutenant Dawson, reassembled, with the exception of Major Percival who had died on the 8th of May.
Dawson was given his written defence statement, which he was allowed to read in full to the Court. He also complained about the length of time it had taken for the Court Martial to be held, and also that:
‘Although it was well known that in this case a Protestant British Officer was to be tried for alleged crimes springing out of those religious opinions which are identified with the constitution of his country and cemented by the best blood of her people that Officer should be brought before a Court having a President, who, tho’ deservedly respected from his rank and character, is himself a member of the Roman Catholic Church and consequently unable to estimate the principal grounds of the defence.’
Nevertheless, the Court passed the same Opinion and Sentence, as originally given.
The Court for Captain Atchison, re-assembled on 21st July, and on this occasion he was also permitted to read his statement in full, but the Court came to the same conclusion Guilty and to be dismissed His Majesty’s service.
This time the sentences on both officers were upheld by London, but the letter of confirmation dated 5th October 1824, sent by the Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of York, contained criticism of both Major Addams and Lieut-Colonel Raitt for their conduct.
Their indecision meant that the cases did not come to Court soon enough. Lieut-Colonel Raitt failed to report to Major-General Power the developing situation bearing in mind the Major-General’s earlier comment about Dawson.
Major Addams was criticised for being a passive observer rather than enforcing discipline in the Royal Artillery. He failed to report to the Major-General the disregard shown to his authority by two subordinate officers and ought to have placed them under arrest immediately. Instead, between August and November, he neither charged them, nor at any time expressed his disapproval of their actions. Due to his failure the two officers were not taken off duties until the return of the Governor.
Upon their return to England both officers continued to protest against the action taken against them.
Dawson left Malta in November 1824, and in February 1825, had a booklet printed by John Butterworth & Son, of 43 Fleet Street, London, which brought to the notice of the British public a full record of the Court Martial and his reasons for maintaining that it was not a military order but an order by a Roman Catholic priest which he refused to obey. On leaving the Army he took Holy Orders and died as Rector of Orpington, Kent, on 11th October 1850.
Similarly, in October 1825, Atchison arranged for Hatchard & Son, of Piccadilly, London, for them to print and issue a booklet on his behalf.
In it he states:
‘Roman Catholic Governments make the troops attend their Cathedral services under arms and a soldier is ordered to present arms and drop his colours as an act of outward worship to the Host.
It was usual when I was in Malta to order twice of thrice a year a grand Guard of Honour from the British regiments of the line of one hundred or one hundred and fifty men and officers, with the King’s colour of the regiment to which they belonged to attend High Mass in the Cathedral of Valletta, and our Protestant officers and men had not only to attend, but also to present arms, drop the King’s colours when the Host was elevated; thus doing the same acts of outward worship to this object which the Maltese troops and British Roman Catholic soldiers under arms with them did; for these military acts are substituted and intended for the same purposes by the Priests who directed them as the bowing down and kneeling of the Roman Catholics who are not under arms. A signal from the top of the church caused the Royal Artillery on the battery to join their salute to this worship. The Governor, or Lieutenant Governor at Malta usually attends the High Mass worship on these occasions and the Staff and principal officers of the garrison are ordered to accompany him’
‘King’s Army Regulation dated 1811 orders: No Roman Catholic soldier shall be compelled to attend the worship of the Church of England.’
Captain Atchison submitted a petition to the House of Commons in 1833 and continued for the rest of his life to over turn the Court Martial decision. He died at Manningham on the 4th December 1877.
In July 1823 Pope Pius VII fell over in his study breaking one of his thighbones, but due to his advanced age he never recovered from this accident, and died during the evening of 20th August 1823. The Archbishop of Malta arranged for a memorial service to be held, and accordingly an Order was issued:
‘Brigade Majors Office 22nd September 1823
Division Order No.1
I. A Guard of Honour consisting of one Captain, four Subalterns and one hundred and fifty rank and file of the 18th Royal Irish Regiment with a due proportion of non-commissioned officers, the band and King’s Colour of that Corps will parade tomorrow morning at Saint John’s Cathedral at a quarter before nine o’clock in red clothing under the command of the Field officer for the day. The men of this guard to be selected from the catholics in the regiment.
II. The Royal Artillery will furnish two field pieces for the above Guard which are to be placed at the entrance of the Cathedral of Saint John. Major Addams of the Royal Artillery will be pleased to make the arrangements.
III. Minute guns will be fired from the saluting battery (St.Angelo) tomorrow morning; further directions will be given to Major Addams for that duty.
IV. The whole of the Military Staff with Heads of Departments and Commanding Officers of regiments and corps are requested to be at the Palace at a quarter before nine o’clock and to appear with embroidered uniform and loose trowsers, a crape around the left arm.’
The next morning Masses were held from 5 a.m. until 9 a.m. when the funeral ceremony commenced. This Mass was attended by the Lieutenant-Governor plus his Staff, the Vice-Admiral, Commander-in Chief HM Naval Forces Mediterranean, and a large number of prominent citizens and officers.
For the imposing funeral service, the interior of St.John’s Cathedral was bedecked with black hangings, and an illuminated mausoleum, decorated with the arms and emblems of the deceased Pontiff, placed in the centre of the church. The men of the 18th regiment and their band formed a two line Guard of Honour from the mausoleum to the main door of the building.
During this Mass the saluting battery of Fort St.Angelo fired 81 minute guns, corresponding to the age of Pius VII. He had been elected as Pope in 1800, and on Sunday 2nd December 1804, had been present in the Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, for the Coronation of Napoleon and Josephine.
The new Pope was Leo XII and a Mass of Celebration was held on 1st November in St.John's Cathedral. On this occasion men from the 80th regiment formed the Guard of Honour, and had their band in attendance. During the chanting of the Te Deum, a 21 gun Royal Salute was fired by the saluting battery at Fort St.Angelo, and the batteries at Citta Notabile.
After breakfast on Saturday morning the 17th January 1824, The Governor, Sir Thomas Maitland, started his work as usual, and dealt with some official and private correspondence for England. Shortly after mid-day he left the Palace driving his barouche to call on Admiral Sir Harry Burrard Neale, with whom he stayed for about half an hour.
He then went to see the Reverend Le Mesurier, whose house was close to the Sarria church in Floriana. Having spent a pleasant forty-five minutes there, he got up from his chair to leave but sat down again immediately, since he felt ill. He was unable to see, and was helped onto a sofa, since it was clear that something was seriously wrong.
Dr.Broadfoot arrived and examined him. Sir Thomas said “I have no pain in my stomach, but a violent one on the back of my head, with a cold perspiration upon me. I never was attacked in this way before.” He was moved onto a bed, but shortly after became insensible and never spoke again. Dr.Grieves and Dr.Hennen were also summoned but in spite of all their efforts, he died at 10.35 p.m. The medical men agreed that apoplexy was the cause of death. Around midnight a detail of soldiers took his body from Reverend Le Mesurier’s house to the Palace in Valletta.
When the funeral took place on Wednesday, 21st January, the streets of Valletta were thronged with Maltese who had come to the capital from all parts of the Island. The principal streets through which the procession passed were lined with infantrymen from the 18th, 80th and 85 Regiments, whilst onlookers not only filled every available window, but many watched from the rooftops.
The cortege left the Palace at 2.p.m. and began its journey to St. Peters Bastion. The Pall Bearers walking alongside the coffin were the Hon. G. Vernon, Sir R.C. Xerri, Sir G.V. Testaferrata, Captain Bayley, Colonel Sir W.P. Carrol, the Right Hon. John Hookham Frere, Waller Rodwell Wright, Sir Paolo Parisio, Vice Admiral Ferrier, Captain Smyth R.N., Lieut-Colonel Raitt and Colonel Rivarola. Ahead of the horse-drawn hearse were the Guard of Honour, Sir Thomas’s horse fully caparisoned, the bands of the 18th, 80th and 85th Regiments, and the Physicians and Chaplains. Behind the coffin stretched a long line of dignitaries from all Departments of Government, the Military, the Royal Navy, and distinguished Maltese. Minute guns were fired from St. James Cavalier at the entrance to Valletta, and HMS Revenge moored in Grand Harbour.
After the service had been conducted by his friend the Reverend T.H. Le Mesurier, Chaplain to the Forces, another gun salute was fired.
Leaving their barracks at Worcester the 95th regiment embarked for Malta, with one detachment arriving on the 27th April, and the balance on 7th June on board the transport ship Surrey. They replaced the 18th regiment, which left for duty on the Ionian Islands.
Major-General Sir Manley Power, had assumed charge of the Government pending the appointment of a new Governor. The man selected by the British Government for the post was the 70-year-old Marquis of Hastings.
The frigate Phaeton entered Great Harbour at 9.30 a.m. on Monday 7th June 1824, and when safely anchored the shore batteries fired a salute to welcome the new Governor. Sir Manley Power and his Military Staff went on board. The party disembarked at eleven o’clock and were carried by the Government Barge to the landing place, where they were welcomed by Sir Paolo Parisio and Baron Sceberras Trigona.
They all then proceeded on foot from the quayside to the Governor’s Palace. The streets were lined by men from the 80th, 85th and 95th regiments, and were filled by Maltese enjoying the spectacle. Upon his arrival at the Palace Square he was greeted by the President of the High Court, Members of the Supreme Council of Justice, the Treasurer to the Government, the Superintendent of Quarantine, H.M. Judges, and other civil authorities.
Major-General Sir Manley Power, Commander in Chief of all British troops, carried out a half yearly inspection of the Malta Garrison. On 19th July 1824, he reviewed the 95th regiment, which had recently arrived under the command of Lieut-Colonel Brown, and expressed his satisfaction with them.
The strength of the 95th suffered from a considerable amount of sickness, five men died, including Captain Yorke, and a large party of invalids was sent back to England under the supervision of Assistant Surgeon Leonard. Several officers went home on sick leave during the summer of 1824.
A second inspection report, six months later, on 14th January 1825, contained criticism of Lieut-Colonel Brown's conduct, in particular certain improper measures concerning discipline. Sir Manley Power disapproved of:
"1. Marching men with labels upon their back for every description of crime.
2. Non-commissioned officers being sent to heavy pack-drill or to the Black Hole.
3. A practice of putting soldiers in a place of confinement called the Dry Room.
4. Non-commissioned officers being suspended from pay by order of the Commanding Officer.”
As a result of this report Lieut-Colonel Brown immediately applied for a year's leave of absence, which was granted, but he never returned. Major Hill became Brevet Lieut-Colonel and assumed temporary command.
By tradition in the British Army the Regimental Colours bore the regiment’s number and identity, as well as any badges and battle honours to which the regiment had a right. They served as a symbol of the regiment's honour, but also had a practical purpose during action by serving as a rallying point. Having them consecrated during a religious service added to the importance of the occasion and bestowed on them a deep respect. The 95th Regiment were presented with new Colours by the Marchioness of Hastings, the Governor's wife, on 13th April 1825.
On 26th November 1825, the Horse Guards approved the name of the regiment being styled the 95th or Derbyshire Regiment of Foot, and early in 1826 Lieut-Colonel Wylly from the 7th Royal Fusiliers, took command.
1825 had been a difficult year for the regiment, due to frequent changes of Commanding Officer, and lack of a competent Adjutant. Major-General Sir Alexander Woodford, who took over as the Commander of British troops on Malta in early 1826 from Sir Manley Power, arranged for the transfer of some non-commissioned officers from the 7th Royal Fusiliers, then in the Ionian Islands, to bring the regiment up to scratch.
Quartermaster Thomas Simpson was gazetted as an Ensign in April and made the Adjutant in May, Colour Sergeant Anthony Ellis became Sergeant Major, Sergeant Edward Keith became Quartermaster Sergeant, and Corporal Timothy Kilfoyle was promoted to Sergeant, and all subsequently joined the 95th with these new ranks.
The new Commanding Officer, and the appointment of these experienced NCO's had an excellent effect upon the regiment, so by the time of the November 1826 inspection report, it was recorded that: "The general state of discipline is very satisfactory."
During 1825 it was decided to establish a Maltese regiment and the Malta Government Gazette dated Wednesday 11th May 1825, gives a full report of raising the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment. It appears for the first time on the Garrison Returns for May 1825, and shows a strength of 494 men.
For many years the British residents and senior Army officers complained about the lack of a Protestant Church, and at last in the Autumn of 1825 steps were being taken to meet this need. Sir George Whitmore the Commanding Royal Engineer records in his memoirs:
|“At this time I was busied in my plans for a Protestant Church – its form was a Greek Cross, its position that portion of the Prison which terminated Strada Levante so that the first striking object which would have met a stranger’s eye on entering Valetta by the Marina Gate would have been its rich Ionic portico directly facing him and on the highest points of the visible ascent. The project was approved, the buildings occupying its site levelled and the foundations laid; the estimated cost being about seven thousand pounds. It was indeed a reproach to the English government that since our possession of this colony so rich in churches and with so many devolving on us (as the property of the extinct order of Saint John) we had not struggled to obtain better church accommodation than was afforded by a vaulted room on the ground floor of the Palace which had originally been a kitchen.”|
However, his optimism was short lived since the plans for a Protestant church were suspended, and later cancelled. The already laid foundations were torn up and houses for the local Maltese population were built on the land instead.
Throughout the year 1825 the Malta Garrison was composed of the 80th, 85th and 95th Regiments, but it was enlarged by the arrival of the 2nd battalion, Rifle Brigade, from Cork. They disembarked on the 1st and 6th March 1826, a total of 23 officers, 29 sergeants, 10 drummers, 24 corporals and 491 privates and were soon called upon to show their ability.
A sham fight was organised for Easter Monday, 27th March 1826. The 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, under the command of Colonel Brown, were the defenders of their Headquarters at Spinola Palace. The attackers were the 80th Regiment, Colonel Pitt, the 85th Regiment, Colonel Warburton, the 95th Regiment, Lieut-Colonel Wylly, and the Royal Malta Fencibles, under Major the Marquis de Piro. The umpire was Colonel the Hon.W.Gardner, Royal Artillery. A report says: “The whole scene was a military spectacle of most imposing nature.” The attackers were the winners, but victors and visitors alike were feasted by the Rifle Brigade during the evening with champagne, music and dancing.
A Methodist Minister, the Reverend John Keeling had arrived in Malta during August 1824, and had succeeded in obtaining a piece of land on the corner of 55 Strada Britannica and Old Bakery Street, where he erected a building for Methodist worshippers. The building was not churchlike in appearance since at that time the law did not allow any churches to be erected in Malta except for the Roman Catholic faith.
Though the main focus of the Reverend Keeling’s ministry was the British troops and civilians, from his arrival in 1824 he tried to spread Methodism into the local Maltese population, which led to hostility.
The Marquis of Hastings sent a report to London regarding a disturbance, which took place on 5th August 1826.
|“A Maltese who had been converted to Protestantism died in the hospital. Thro’ the management of that mischievous missionary, Mr.Keeling, a funeral was prepared which was to pass thro’ the principal street of La Valletta. The populace thought this a studied triumph over their religion, obstructed the passage of the corpse; and attempted to tear the coffin from the hearse. This happened so near to the Main Guard that the Captain Commanding detached a small party to prevent the outrages being carried further and the procession moved on to the burying ground. The soldiers, however, of the 85th Regiment were assailed with stones and one of them was considerably hurt. The speedy arrival of a strong detachment of the Malta Fencibles put an end to the assault on the troops, who would otherwise have been obliged to fire in their own defence.”|
That evening the Reverend Rule, the Methodist Minister in Cospicua, came across to Valletta for evening service, but on approaching the chapel saw a large crowd of people being kept at bay by British soldiers with their bayonets fixed. The chapel was lit for the service, but the Adjutant of the Regiment asked him to extinguish the lights immediately, since he feared the building would be attacked. Rule soon discovered the reason for the mob's anger, and recorded:
|“... Police officers and sentinels were posted both at my house and that of the Wesleyan Minister, until 11 at night, but a patrol paraded the city ALL night to keep the peace.”|
In 1826, Colonel Warburton of the 85th regiment received a letter from the Horse Guards, dated 25th July, which gave His Majesty's approval for the regiment to add to its Colours the words "Fuentes D'Onor" and "Nive" in consideration of their distinguished services in 1811 and 1813 respectively. This was followed on 6th September, by the approval of "Bladensburg" being added, following their outstanding conduct there in 1814.
A project successfully completed in 1826 was the conversion of the Market House which overlooks the Granaries in Floriana into an Army Officers’ Mess. Under the supervision of Sir George Whitmore it was completed between 1st June and 31st July.
Captain Bunbury records:
Augustus Warburton commanded the troops at Malta at this time. Lady
Warburton was very fond of giving musical parties and what with balls, fancy
dress balls, and masquerading during the Carnival, the opera and the
theatre, we passed our time very agreeably.
The opera was good and generally each Corps had a large box for the accommodation of its own officers. During Carnival, masked balls were held in the Opera House, and certainly the licence on these occasions was very great; persons of both sexes who otherwise would not have had the most remote chance of becoming known to each other, here in the dance became acquainted and frequently laid the foundation for many an after adventure; there seemed also to be a sort of tacit understanding that one day in every Carnival, a row was to take place in the Opera House between the giddy-brained youngsters of the Garrison and the Maltese of a similar temperament – many were the broken heads on these occasions.”
The Governor of Malta, the Marquis of Hastings was at sea on board HMS Revenge when he died on the 28th November 1826. His body was brought back to Malta by the frigate Ariadne, and after lying in state at the Palace, his elaborate funeral as befitting his rank took place on 14th December.
A comment on his period as Governor by an officer of the 80th Regiment says:
|“Malta was never more gay than when the Marquis of Hastings was its Governor, and his death was much regretted not only by the British Garrison but also by the Maltese inhabitants.”|
On Tuesday the 16th January 1827, the 85th regiment comprising officers, 476 men, 44 women, 64 children, embarked on board the Romney and Pyramus, and sailed on the 22nd for Gibraltar, receiving from Major General Woodford his appreciation for the time spent in Malta under his command, and his best wishes for their future success. They returned quicker than he could have envisaged, little over a year later on 25th March 1828.
Major-General Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby, arrived on 14th February 1827 from Corfu on board the Ariadne, to take up his appointment as Lieutenant Governor of Malta, but in accordance with health regulations went into quarantine at Fort Manoel with his family.
He was a distinguished Army officer having served throughout the Peninsular War during which he was badly wounded. At the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 he was severely injured and had been left for dead on the battlefield before being rescued and restored to health over several months.
Whilst undergoing quarantine on 15th February 1827 he took the oath of office. After receiving pratique on Wednesday 28th February he was driven by carriage from Manoel Island along the road through Msida, Pieta and Floriana, to the Governor’s Palace in Valletta, and upon his arrival at 10 o'clock the Royal Standard was promptly hoisted, and a salute fired from the batteries.
During 1827 the British army opened its ranks to Maltese men, and the following notice was issued by the Lieutenant Governor:
|“Lieutenant Governor having reason to believe that the terms on which His Majesty has been pleased to allow the enlistment of Maltese into the King's regular regiments have been misunderstood, deems it necessary to notify that Maltese recruits are admitted into the King's regiments serving in this island, on the exact same terms as natives of Great Britain, under the recruiting regulations of the Army, and that in consequence Maltese may enlist either for a limited period of service, or for life as they may judge fitting.”|
Lieut-Colonel Wylly, who had only assumed command of the 95th regiment about eighteen months earlier was taken ill in July 1827 and died on the 10th November. His funeral took place two days later, when he was interred in the Quarantine Bastion cemetery.
News of the great naval victory at Navarino which had taken place on 20th October reached Malta, and the 95th regiment were called upon to provide men to act as orderlies at Fort Ricasoli, which was prepared as a hospital for the injured men of the combined British, French and Russian fleets. There was great excitement amongst the military and civilians alike, when the ships clearly showing the damage incurred during the recent combat, came into Grand Harbour on the 8th November, and all the regiments in garrison paraded and fired a feu-de-joie to celebrate.
Five days later the hero of the hour Admiral Sir Edward Codrington was loudly cheered by his crew on the Asia as he disembarked and was rowed through the anchored fleet, to the Custom House quay where he was greeted by senior Government Officers and Military Officers, prior to meeting with the Governor.
The celebrations continued on the 3rd December 1827 when a very Grand Ball was held at the Auberge de Provence, for about 1,400 people. Count Heiden, the Commander of the Russian squadron was a popular figure amongst the high society gathered together that night. Lady Emily Ponsonby insisted on attending though heavily pregnant, and in fact shortly after arriving back at the Palace in the early hours of the 4th gave birth to her son Arthur Edward Valette, at six o'clock in the morning.
The 1st battalion of the 7th Royal Fusiliers, left the Ionian island of Santa Maura (Levkas), on 10th April 1828 on board HMS Revenge for Malta, but no sooner had they arrived when they were immediately ordered back to the Ionian Islands, leaving on the 23rd April, they landed on the island of Cephalonia on the 30th.
Five months later, they were ordered to Malta again, embarking on HMS Wellesley. They landed on 26th September 1828, and went into quarters in Fort Manoel. They took the place of the 80th Regiment which had embarked for the Ionian Islands on the 8th and 11th September
In 1827 the Garrison was composed of the 80th and 95th regiments, plus the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade, but with the changes of Regiments the Garrison Returns for 1828 show:
|2nd Batt.Rifle Bgde||542||542||530||518||529||553|
To distinguish them from the ordinary red-coated infantry the uniform of The Rifle Brigade was dark green with black buttons, a tradition that has continued. They were issued with a rifle designed by a London gunsmith, Ezekiel Baker, the barrel was 32 inches long, seven grooved, and with the rifling completing one quarter of a turn. This Baker rifle became the standard weapon for the British army. It was fully stocked and had a cheek rest on the butt, which was an uncommon feature for British weapons. The furniture was brass; the trigger guard had a rear-curving projection to afford a better grip, and a large brass patchbox cover was fitted to the butt.
The old smooth bore musket known as the Brown Bess had an effective range of less than 100 yards, but the Baker rifle was capable of great accuracy up to 300 and in the hands of an experienced rifleman even 500 yards.
The Catholic Relief Act of 1829 finally removed all restrictions on men of the Roman Catholic faith from holding commissions in the British Army although the 1791 Act was designed to relax the laws from discriminating against them.
Pope Leo XII died in Rome on 10th February 1829, and upon instructions from the Archbishop of Malta, the traditional Memorial Service held for the death of a Pope took place at St. John’s Cathedral. Men from the 95th Regiment together with their band formed the Guard of Honour, plus a detachment of Royal Artillery with two field guns. He had been in office since 28th September 1823. On 31st March a new Pope, Pius VIII was elected and a Thanksgiving Service for the appointment was held in St.John’s with the 7th Royal Fusiliers performing the ceremonial duties on this occasion.
The infantry regiments in the Malta Garrison throughout 1829 were the 7th, 85th, 95th and the 2nd Battalion the Rifle Brigade, but at the end of the year a changeover was made.
On 2nd December 1829 the first two divisions of the 73rd regiment embarked at Gibraltar on board the transports Lord Suffield and Stentor. The third division with the Headquarters embarked on the 8th on the Henry Porcher but ran into bad weather off Cape de Gato, so put back into Gibraltar in some distress. They sailed again on the 15th and upon arrival at Malta joined the earlier arrivals in quarantine.
ships were then used to transport the 95th Regiment to the Ionian Islands in
three divisions. The first under Captain Hall embarked on Lord Suffield,
on the 24th December, as did the second with the Headquarters under Major
Cockburn in the Stentor, while the third division commanded by Captain
Fraser embarked in the Henry Porcher on the 5th and 8th January 1830.
For the rank and file of the 7th, 73rd, 85th and Rifle Brigade the year of 1830 was one during which they spent much time performing duties at funerals and memorial ceremonies.
On Monday 22nd March 1830 the 85th regiment under the command of Colonel Warburton, together with their band were called upon to provide the ceremonial funeral party, which preceded the body at the funeral of Baron Georg Schlippenbach of the Russian Navy. He was the Captain of His Imperial Majesty's Frigate Alexandra, and a son-in-law of Vice-Admiral Count Heiden. Aged 47 years he had died on board his ship the previous Saturday. The cortege included many Naval officers from the Russian and British Squadrons including Vice Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm. Whilst the burial was taking place with full military honours in Msida Bastion cemetery, the British, Dutch and Russian ships in the harbour lowered their ensigns to half-mast, and HIMS Alexandra fired minute guns.
At Windsor Castle on 26th June 1830, King George IV died and the crown passed to his brother William, the third son of George III.
On Monday 26th July at 8.30 a.m. the Constituted Authorities and Civil Officers of Malta, together with the Bishop of Larada, the Commanding Officers of Corps, the Field Officers of the Garrison, the Chiefs of Religious Communities, and a great number of Nobility and Principal Inhabitants, assembled in the Hall of St. Michael and St. George in the Governor’s Palace for the purpose of Proclaiming His Most Sacred Majesty King William the Fourth, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Supreme Lord and Sovereign in and over the Island of Malta and its Dependences.
The Lieutenant Governor, Sir Frederick Ponsonby, together with the Bishop of Larada, The Chief Justice and Sir Ralph Crispin Xerri then went into the open space in front of the Palace where the Proclamation was read aloud by Frederick Hankey, the Chief Secretary to the Government. After the proclamation, a Guard of Honour presented arms and a Military band played ‘God Save the King’, and a double Royal Salute was fired from the batteries.
On 22nd July 1830, Colonel Maurice Charles O’Connell of the 73rd Regiment, was promoted to the rank of Major-General, and on the 25th August his farewell address was read to the regiment.
The Garrison throughout 1830 was:
In Rome Pope Pius VIII died on 30th November 1830, after less than two years in the post. His funeral ceremony was held in Malta on 19th January 1831 at St.John’s Cathedral. The 9 a.m. Mass was conducted by Don Pubblio de Conti Sant, and the funeral oration given by Don John Battista Delia. Amongst the congregation were Lieutenant Governor Ponsonby, accompanied by the Principal Civil, Military, and Navy Officers, HM Judges and Foreign Consuls. The Guard of Honour was provided by men of the 73rd Regiment, who formed an avenue from the church door to the beautifully decorated and illuminated catafalque. During the service 69 minute guns were fired corresponding to the aged of the deceased Pope.
Captain the Honourable Sir Robert Spencer of HMS Madagascar died at the end of November whilst the ship was in quarantine. He was the second son of Earl Spencer and a cousin of Lieutenant Governor Ponsonby. At 9 o’clock on Sunday morning 12th December his body was taken from his ship and carried by barge to the quayside at the Marina. The funeral procession was headed by the men from the Rifle Brigade together with their band, under the command of Lieut-Colonel Brown. The Lieutenant Governor was the Chief Mourner. Behind the coffin came the officers and men from HMS Madagascar, followed by a large number of Army and Navy Officers and Maltese Nobility.
The procession entered Valletta through Porta Reale then passed down Strada Mezzodi, to the lower Bastion of St. Michael for interment where the service was conducted by the Reverend David Morton, the Chaplain of HMS Madagascar. Three vollies were fired over the grave by riflemen from the Rifle Brigade, which closed the funeral ceremony. His memorial, a tall stone obelisk, the ‘Spencer Monument’ is now situated on a road island in the centre of the main road into Marsa.
On 12th December 1830, a detachment of 90th regiment, comprising 6 officers, 11 sergeants, 9 corporals, 2 drummers, 233 privates, 14 women and 43 children, sailed from Corfu but were wrecked on the coast of Sicily on the 18th. It was decided to send them briefly to Malta, so they were re-embarked on board HMS Madagascar arriving on the 26th December 1830, but had left by February 1831.
Patrick Moore, a soldier of the Rifle Brigade appeared in the Civil Court on 18th January 1831 before the Chief Justice, and judges Dr. Giovanni Vella and Dr.Giovanni Battista Satoriano charged with: ‘having knowingly, willfully, and maliciously killed his wife Mary Moore, by striking, beating, trampling upon, and kicking her, and throwing her upon the floor with great force and violence’.
The couple lived in Strada Botannico, Floriana, and the wife earned money by washing clothes. The court heard how on 22nd November 1830 after being on board HMS Windsor Castle she returned with a basket of clothes accompanied by a servant from the ship.
They went into Valletta to buy some tobacco and Mrs.Moore went drinking in a neighbouring wine shop. She returned home but a short time later sent for a quantity of wine which she drank quickly. According to the testimony of a girl who helped her with the washing, Mary Moore became so drunk she unable to walk across the room without falling over. In this state she was left sitting in a chair with her head supported by the bed, when the girl left to go to her own room which was on the floor below.
Shortly before 8 o'clock in the evening, the prisoner returned to the house, and soon after a noise was heard from their room. Patrick Moore called the neighbours into the room, and went immediately for the surgeon of the regiment, saying he feared his wife was dying, but she was found dead lying in the bed.
Four medical men were cross examined at great length as to the probable cause of death but since there were no external wounds or marks, nothing could be clearly established, but she had 15 broken ribs and her liver, which was diseased and flaccid from a habit of excessive drinking, was rent in two.
Lieut-Colonel Brown and several Officers said the prisoner had an excellent character, as a soldier he was a well-conducted and good-tempered man, and a good husband and father. The Chief Justice summed up the case, and pointed out several circumstances which excluded the probability of the prisoner having any premeditated intention to kill his wife. After two hours deliberation the Jury returned a verdict of Not Proven, and he was released.
The vacancy at the Vatican was filled by the election of Cardinal Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari, who took the name of Pope Gregory XVI on 2nd February 1831, and in Malta on Friday the 25th February a Thanksgiving Service was held in St.John’s Cathedral. At 9 a.m. a Solemn Mass was sung by the Most Reverend Dr. Don Saverio Caruana, and about one hour later Governor Ponsonby accompanied by Vice-Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm arrived with their Staffs to be present for the Te Deum. The Church was extensively decorated with an appropriate inscription over the main door. A Guard of Honour composed of men from the 85th Regiment (King’s Light Infantry) following the Roman Catholic faith, together with the Regimental Band and Colours were present in the Church throughout the whole ceremony. Whilst the Te Deum was being sung, a Royal Salute was fired from the batteries in Valletta and Citta Notabile.
The Coronation of King William IV and Queen Adelaide took place 8th September 1831. As a single man William had a liaison with an actress Mrs. Dorothy Jordan by whom he fathered ten children over a twenty year period. After ending this relationship he married Princess Adelaide of Meiningen, Germany, on 13th July 1818 when he was almost 53 years old, but none of their offspring survived.
On 20th October the 85th regiment embarked for England, on board HMS Kent and HMS Madagascar after having served in the Mediterranean area for over ten years, of which nine were spent in the Malta Garrison.
Colour-Sergeant Orton of 7th Regiment was on duty in St.Elmo Barracks, when Private Thomas Howarth entered the room, walked up behind him, lifted a loaded musket level with Orton's head and fired. The ball entered the back of his head, and passed out between the eyes. Death was instantaneous. Being immediately taken into custody, Howarth offered no resistance, saying only: "I have got my satisfaction and am content".
He had recently been confined to barracks for one month, and bore a grudge against the Colour-Sergeant who he felt was responsible. At the Court Martial held the next day, Thursday 6th November 1831, the 27-year-old prisoner pleaded Guilty; and after a short examination of the facts, was condemned to be hanged.
Two days later, in the presence of garrison troops and a large number of spectators, he was led to the scaffold which had been erected on the parade ground at Floriana. He was accompanied by two clergymen, Reverend Keeling and Reverend Temple, and one of them read out the following confession:
"As I am now about to suffer death, the just penalty of the law, as a murderer, I desire that this example may operate as a warning to all my comrades to avoid following my footsteps.
I am most heartily sorry for the poor widow whose husband I have murdered, and for the four poor little children whom I have bereaved of a father. All that I have is very little, but this little I leave for them. I have broken the laws of my country and the holy laws of God; and now most justly suffer their penalty. My crimes are so many and so great that I am unworthy to live any longer in this world.
In my childhood I was disobedient to my father and mother, and by sins broke the heart and shortened the life of my poor mother. I have profaned the holy Sabbath, playing in the fields, gambling and drinking with wicked companions when I ought to have been, and when my parents supposed I was in the church or at the Sunday school. I robbed orchards and committed other depredations upon my neighbours. I have been convicted and imprisoned twice for stealing, and was in danger of being transported for stealing a third time.
Since I have been in the army I have been habitually a drunkard and a blasphemer. I finally murdered Sergeant Orton of my own accord, without the instigation of anyone. I must now die, and with all my heart I do forgive all who may have injured me in any way and pray God forgive them. All I can do is commend my poor soul to God, praying that he may forgive my sins through the merits and mediation of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Lord, have mercy upon me! Lord, have mercy upon me! Lord Jesus, into thy hands commend my spirit. Thomas Howarth."
Though no doubt containing some of Howarth's feelings of remorse, considering the lack of education amongst the private soldiers at that time, the confession seems too polished, so it is unlikely to have been written by him. It is probable that one of the clergymen actually composed it.
Sergeant Orton was buried in Msida Bastion cemetery. He left a widow and four children.
HMS Barham entered the Quarantine Harbour on the 21st November 1831, and brought to Malta the famous Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott, who was a literary lion in his own lifetime. He was now 60 years old and rather infirm as he was recovering from a series of strokes. Lieutenant James H. Skene of 73rd regiment, the son of James Skene Senior an old friend of Scott’s, welcomed him in quarantine. During the three-week stay, the young man saw him regularly, and was able to take the elderly writer on tours around Valletta and the fortifications.
The Garrison in 1831 was composed of the Royal Artillery, 7th Regiment, 73rd Regiment, 85th Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade.
A second Scottish regiment was ordered to join the Malta Garrison, the 42nd (Highland) Regiment. They were to replace the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade.
Lieut-Colonel Hon. Charles Gordon of the 42nd Regiment arrived on the 1st February 1832, and from quarantine wrote to his sister the Hon.Alicia Gordon, living in Saville Row London, that we will shortly be going ‘into barracks in the town said to be magnificent.’ Instead of the word ‘barracks’, it would have been more precise to have used the word ‘palaces’, since these were the Auberges of the Knights of St.John.
Detachments of the 42nd Regiment, followed on 5th and 7th February 1832, on the transport Stentor from Gibraltar.
During his two-year stay Lieut-Colonel Gordon corresponded regularly with his sister, describing events in Malta, and asking for news of his various relatives and friends back in England.
After four months he told her that he been dining out nearly every night since his arrival, and was not concerned about the cost of reciprocating the invitations but the pleasure was at the expense of his health, and he would have to visit Carlsbad to recover !
Rather bluntly he asked his sister ‘What has become of your friend Lady Ann Dawson ? I think she would make a good wife for me though not a very handsome one’
After spending six years in the Malta Garrison, the Headquarters of 2nd Battalion, the Rifle Brigade sailed on 13th February 1832 aboard the Marquis of Huntley for Corfu. The second and third divisions sailed on 23rd February, on board the Silvia and William Harry.
The 42nd were soon joined in Malta by the 94th Regiment under the command of Colonel Paty. The Headquarters arrived from Gibraltar on 16th March 1832 on board the transport Prince Regent, followed a week later by a further detachment on the transport Stentor.
James Anton, who served with the 42nd Regiment during this stay in Malta, recorded some of his experiences, which included:
"The Easter custom of the Maltese in carrying their statues around the parish. The bearers of the Risen Christ statue ran along the street with their precious burden until wearied of their folly they restore it to the church from whence it was taken. On the morning of Easter Sunday (7th April), 1833 as the bearers ran towards the San Salvatore Gate the image fell and broke in pieces close to the place where a guard of Highlanders were posted and the superstitious crowd attributed the cause of the accident to the reluctance of the image to pass the heretical Highlanders"
"The troops stationed on this island are allowed to hire a native male servant for each barrack room on purpose to do any menial affair that may be required, such as carrying the breakfasts and dinners to the different guards, cleaning the rooms, etc. The medium wages given to each is about fifteen pence with breakfast and dinner. He has also the advantage of acquiring the English language which is not only serviceable to himself but may ultimately be serviceable to England by gradually introducing its language as that of the natives and thus uniting them more closely to the interest of Britain. It is to be observed that the soldiers charge themselves with the pay and subsistence of those Smatches, as they are called; Government is put to no expense whatever for their keeping."
At this time an Army officer enjoyed life to the full, a mixture of amateur theatricals, rackets, billiards, playing cards, racing, and crowding into smoky coffeehouses at night. Two officers of the 7th Fusiliers, Captain George Liddell and Lieutenant Edmund Henry Perry knew Benjamin Disraeli in England, and when he visited Malta they became his constant companions. Disraeli commented:
"They are both men of the world and good company ..... A visit to Gibraltar and Malta, our two crack garrisons has quite opened my eyes to the real life of a militaire. By heavens ! I believe these fellows are boys till they are Majors and sometimes do not even stop there."
The Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean, Admiral Sir Henry Hotham died on Friday night 19th April 1833, and his funeral was held on the 24th. Men of the 7th, 42nd, 73rd, and 94th Regiments lined the streets from Admiralty House in Strada Mezzodi, Valletta, to the Msida Bastion Cemetery in Floriana. The funeral procession was led by the seamen from HMS Alfred, HMS Madagascar, HMS Rainbow, HMS Pelican, and HMS Hind. Next came a Guard of Honour, provided by the Royal Marines commanded by Captain Burton. Naval and Military Chaplains walked immediately before the coffin. The Chief Mourners were his relatives and personal staff, accompanied by the Lieutenant Governor and Admiral Briggs.
On arrival at the cemetery the service was conducted by the Reverend Hugh Jones, the Chaplain of HMS Alfred. After the coffin had been lowered into the grave, three volleys were fired by eleven guns of the Royal Artillery. His widow was Lady Frances Hotham, nee Rous, by whom he had three children.
Everybody living in the Grand Harbour area was startled by a terrific explosion on 15th February 1834, when the English merchant schooner Meteor caught fire, exploded, and sank. A Coroner’s Inquest was held which was able to establish the cause of the tragedy. After the vessel arrived on the 13th it off-loaded 180 barrels of gunpowder in accordance with the port regulations, then on the 15th proceeded to discharge the other cargo, which had been stowed beneath the gunpowder barrels.
However, during the rough voyage several of the barrels were damaged and it was estimated that between 300 and 400 pounds of gunpowder leaked out onto and between the bales and barrels, which formed the other cargo. Captain James Waye obtained a clean signature for 180 barrels, and was satisfied. When a surveyor went on board he was shocked to see a fire in the cookhouse having observed the gunpowder scattered within the hold. Both the Captain and Mate denied that there was any gunpowder on board. Dissatisfied and conscious of the danger the surveyor went to the Marine Police, who came on board and were given the same reply by the Captain that he had discharged all the barrels of gunpowder. The Marine Police Superintendent ordered the fire to be put out and left Police Officer Vincenzo Sinerco on board to ensure that none were lit.
It seems that the Captain ignored the warning, and fires were lit. Since he was killed in the subsequent explosion it could not be established why the policeman did not enforce the no-fires order nor exactly how the fire actually ignited the gunpowder. The Coroner’s Jury was in no doubt that the accident was due to the imprudence and foolhardiness of the Master.
Eleven men lost their lives, Captain Waye, two seamen John McGowan and George Kearns, George S. Cowper who was supervising the landing of goods for Thomas Southwood & Co., Federico Debono a warehouseman with James Bell & Co., Police Officer Sinerco, and five Maltese Port labourers. Other crewmen of the Meteor were in hospital with injuries, the Mate Charles Walker had three broken ribs, John Adams a lacerated head, William Griffiths a broken arm, Archibald McKiller a wounded leg and eye. Four Maltese dockyard workers were also taken to hospital, Salvatore Brignone suffered concussion of the brain, Emmanuele Vella a fractured collarbone, Giovanni Pace a head wound and Giovanni Sancasan an injured hand. A Distress Fund was set up and a total of £ 471. 6. 7¾d. was collected and distributed amongst the families of the dead and injured men.
The 53rd (Shropshire) Regiment left Cork in March 1834 on board the troopship HMS Jupiter and after a voyage of 39 days, arrived at Malta in April. Besides the 17 Officers there were 481 Men, 57 Women and 84 Children. They were quartered at Fort St.Elmo, but were almost immediately attacked by a type of fever, resembling yellow fever, which was so virulent that at one time about one third of the men were in hospital. With Surgeon Dr.Maclean on leave the workload fell on Assistant Surgeon Dr. Bardin, who did his utmost for the sick men.
They replaced the 73rd Regiment which embarked on 12th April 1834 on board the Troopship Jupiter, bound for Corfu, 17 Officers, 466 Men, 60 Women and 94 Children.
Further changes in the garrison took place during the last three months of 1834. The 5th Regiment sailed on board HMS Romney from Gibraltar and anchored in Valletta harbour on the 17th October 1834, 19 Officers, 492 Men, 55 Women, and 74 Children.
About three weeks later the same troopship embarked the 94th Regiment, and left on the 5th November 1834 for Ireland. They arrived at Cove, Co.Cork on 21st December 1834, after serving in the Mediterranean area since 1824.
The 1st Battalion 60th Regiment, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps, under the command of Major Tempest, arrived from Gibraltar on 24th November 1834, on the Troopship Jupiter, 20 Officers, 512 Men, 31 Women and 70 Children. They were to replace the 42nd Regiment which embarked on the Jupiter, and sailed from Malta on 6th December 1834 for service on the island of Corfu.
Private James Grant was a member of the 5th Regiment’s 2nd Battalion Band. Often during the Peninsular War when the band was at the rear he would go forward to the front line take up a weapon from an injured soldier, and being tall would fall in on the right of the Grenadier Company. He took part in some of the fiercest encounters at Busaco, Sabugal, Fuentes d’Onoro, El Boden and Salamanca, the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo and in spite of being in the thick of the action emerged without injury. He was promoted to Sergeant Major in 1828, and had served in the regiment for 32 years when he died due to a fall on the 3rd April 1835, aged 45 years. He was buried in Msida Bastion cemetery, and the regiment erected a handsome monument over his grave.
In February 1835 the French Marshal Marmont, Duke of Ragusa, visited Malta. His full name and titles were August Frederic Louis Viesse de Marmont, born 1774, made Duc de Ragusa by Napoleon on 15th April 1808, and a Marshal on 12th July 1809. Had accompanied Napoleon to Italy, Malta and Egypt, but in 1814 fell out with him, joined the Bourbons, and later followed Charles X into exile.
He had encountered some of the officers of the 53rd Regiment when they were on opposing sides on the battlefield, but nevertheless he was invited to dine at their Mess. It was the first time he had received such an invitation, and related how Napoleon had made him a General Officer in Malta 36 years previously when he was about 24 years old. On the 25th February the regiment was specially drawn up for him to carry out an inspection. After the review he addressed them as follows:
"Colonel, I have to thank you for two of the most delightful hours I have spent for years; your regiment is superb! I have seen all the armies of Europe, and among them some magnificent troops; but the perfection you have shown me this day I have never seen, nor did I ever dream that it was possible to arrive at it. Sir, your soldiers are most admirably taught; every man seems to me capable of instructing a battalion"
During 1835, the whole 53rd Regiment was stationed at Floriana Barracks. In December it was transferred to the Cottonera district on the other side of Grand Harbour. Headquarters and two companies at were based at Isola Barracks, two companies at St.Francesco de Paolo Barracks, and two companies at Fort St.Salvatore.
For the family of Paymaster Thomas Pennington of 5th Regiment, the 4th August 1835 was a joyous day and one to remember. His two daughters married other officers of their father’s regiment. Agnes Charlotte to Ensign Thomas Eyre, and Harriet Isabella Adelaide to Captain Gilbert Champain. The weddings took place in the Government Chapel, inside the Governor’s Palace in Valletta.
A detachment of the 92nd (Highland) Regiment, arrived from Gibraltar on the 14th December 1835, but the balance of the regiment did not join them until February 1836. They replaced the 7th Regiment, Royal Fusiliers. The first division of the 7th left on the Transport ship Sovereign on 21st January 1836 for England, and the second division followed in March 1836.
The 1st Battalion, 60th Regiment, The King’s Royal Rifle Corps were quartered in Floriana Barracks, and it was there on the 22nd June 1836, that Private George Cochran shot Sergeant Daniel Davorn, who died of his wounds three days later. No motive was ever established for the crime and at his Court Martial the 28-year-old prisoner at once pleaded Guilty to the charge of murder. Cochran declined to put forward any evidence in his defence, and showed a desire for the proceedings to be speedily terminated. He was duly sentenced to death.
Before 6 o'clock on the morning of Monday the 27th June the unhappy event took place. All the troops in the garrison were drawn up to witness the execution, being joined by a very large gathering of the general public. Dressed in a black jacket and pantaloons, Private Cochran walked firmly from the St.Elmo Military Prison to the scaffold, accompanied by the Chaplain to the Forces, the Reverend John T.H. Le Mesurier. After the noose had been adjusted by the hangman, and the cap pulled over his face, he prayed alone for a short time before the sentence was carried out.
In the Summer of 1836 another change of regiments was made. During June and July the 53rd Regiment and 60th Regiment both left Malta for service on the island of Corfu. They were replaced by the 59th (2nd Nottinghamshire) Regiment and the 70th (Surrey) Regiment.
A few weeks later at 6 o'clock on Saturday morning, the 20th August 1836 all the off duty troops were formed into a square on the Floriana parade ground to witness the public degradation of two men sentenced by a General Court Martial to Transportation. Private James Edwards of the 5th Regiment, the Northumberland Fusiliers, and Drummer Patrick Ardle of the 70th (Surrey) Regiment. Edwards had been found Guilty of mutinous conduct in repeatedly and deliberately disobeying his superior officer, by refusing to go to drill, and for having a musket flinted and loaded in the barrack room without orders. His sentence was 14 years Transportation, since he had already been convicted of other crimes. Ardle had been sentenced to Transportation for Life, being found Guilty of insubordination by striking a Corporal who was carrying out his duty, with a drawn sword. He also had a criminal record, and was considered a bad character.
In October 1836 Sir Henry Bouverie took over the post of Governor from Sir Frederick Ponsonby who had retired on health grounds, and in fact died three months later in England.
One of his earliest official engagements was the presentation of new Colours to the 5th Regiment. This proud day in Regimental history was Wednesday 14th December 1836, when at 10 o’clock the whole regiment was drawn up in review order on the Floriana parade ground, under the command of Lieut-Colonel William Sutherland.
After carrying out marching manoeuvres the men formed three sides of a square open at the front for the service of consecrating the Colours. This was performed by the Reverend J.T.H.Le Mesurier, Chaplain to the Forces. A group of selected children, the sons and daughters of soldiers, all in new clothes and clean faces, repeated the responses. At the end of the service Sir Henry Bouverie handed over the new Colours to the Lieutenants, under a general salute from the square, and then addressed the regiment:
"Officers and soldiers of the Fifth Fusiliers I am happy that it has fallen to my lot to present you these Colours. I do it in the full confidence that they will never be disgraced by insubordination, by loss of discipline, or misconduct in garrison or in the field. The glorious deeds which are recorded in you annals, and inscribed upon these Colours will serve to incite in you the determination to equal them; to surpass them I believe to be impossible. The inspection which I shall this day finish of your regiment will I have no doubt furnish me with the opportunity of reporting my entire satisfaction with the interior economy and management of the regiment, as well as with your movements in the field; and I trust that while you remain under my orders and after you may have been removed to other commands, I may never hear anything that may cause me to alter the high opinion I have formed of you, not only here but in scenes of service of which I was myself a witness"
Lieut-Colonel Sutherland replied on behalf of the regiment, then put them through a variety of manoeuvres with remarkable precision and smartness; including a splendid advance in line, over the whole length of the parade, without an undulation in the dressing, and with the most perfect and unvaried uniformity of cadence. The business of the day closed with a general salute; and then the Governor followed by the regiment left the parade ground.
That evening His Excellency, Vice Admiral Rokeby and officers of his Naval Squadron, dined in the Officers Mess, and on Sunday morning the Colours were, according to the custom, taken with the regiment to Church.
Three months later the 5th Regiment sailed east to Corfu. The 1st division comprising 7 Officers and 224 Men, left on 15th March 1837, followed on the 28th March by the 2nd division of 10 Officers and 255 Men.
The 47th (Lancashire) Regiment had arrived in two divisions, the 1st division on 22nd February, and the 2nd division on 18th March.
Soldiers’ getting drunk was very common, but for one man it had appalling consequences. On Saturday night 15th April 1837, Private Alexander Chambers of the 5th Battalion Royal Artillery, went drinking with William Cope, a youth serving on HMS Revenge. Between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. in a highly intoxicated state they both got into a boat, not fully conscious of their actions, then presumably passed out. Next morning when they came to they found the boat had drifted and they were outside the harbour about 50 yards off shore. Not wanting the breaking waves to hurl them against the rocks, and with only one oar they managed to slowly pull away from the shore, but did not have full control the boat. They drifted out of sight of land the next day and continued drifting for another seven or eight days. Both men suffered from exhaustion, they had no food or drink, or shelter from the sun. Private Chambers limbs swelled up, his thirst was insufferable, and he was in great agony. Telling his companion that he could no longer bear the pain he threw himself overboard and drowned.
William Cope also suffering greatly lay down in the bottom of the boat, and continued to drift. Fate at last was kind to him since an Ionian Schooner Dea Pallade, on a voyage from Leghorn to Constantinople found him and took his almost lifeless body on board, it was the 25th April. The Captain, Gerasimo Pana, by diligent care and attention managed to restore the young man to reasonable health during their passage to Constantinople, where he was landed and made a deposition.
CHOLERA. The word caused fear and dread whenever it was uttered during the 19th century. It had appeared in several Mediterranean ports during 1836 and was reported at Naples in November of that year.
Out of the blue on 9th June 1837 several cases of severe illness appeared amongst the inmates of the Ospizio, a home for the poor and elderly, in Floriana. The Medical Officers quickly determined that it was cholera, and by Tuesday 13th June, of the 27 reported cases, 17 had already died. Troops hastily evacuated Fort Ricasoli, and the whole establishment of the Ospizio was moved there. But the disease grew to such proportions that the Medical Staff couldn't cope. Conditions deteriorated, nursing staff left, corpses were left unburied, and several of the staff who stayed caught cholera. Of the 537 old men and women, 442 died and were buried at Wied Gammieq cemetery just outside the Fort.
The Governor assembled a Committee to advise him what measures to take, but in spite of some precautions the disease spread throughout the whole island, often by Maltese leaving the densely populated towns to stay with relatives living in the countryside. So quite a number of deaths were recorded in Birkirkara, Zeitun, Zurrieq, Zeebug and Qormi.
Amongst the British Garrison the death toll between 17th June and 18th July 1837 was:
A Subscriptions List was organised which met with good support from the population generally. The Superiors of the Convents in Valletta promptly offered their co-operation and arranged for distribution of wholesome soup amongst the poor and delivered it to their homes. The daily distribution was around 1800 portions in Valletta, 200 portions in Floriana, and 1200 portions in Vittoriosa and Senglea.
On 23rd June Government Regulations were issued which were designed ‘for the prevention, as far as may be possible, of the spreading of the disease, of the nature of or resembling Cholera, which has lately appeared within these Possessions.’
The officer of 47th Regiment who died of cholera was Lieutenant Henry L.L. Kaye, on 27th June. Another officer of the Garrison who died in tragic circumstances was Lieutenant Gerard of the 70th Regiment. He was on leave in Egypt and was seen sailing late at night on the river Nile. Whatever happened is not known, but his body was found in the river and he had died of drowning on 9th September 1837.
Due to their concern about the local situation many people would not go outside their own house, but the Malta Government Gazette reported on 14th June that ‘The bastions were crowded with people, no less than the windows and terraces of the houses on shore from which a sight of the awful preparations could be obtained’. This was a report regarding the execution of Royal Marine Thomas McSweeney which took place on board HMS Rodney in Grand Harbour on the 8th. He had been sentenced to death for the murder of Lance Sergeant James Allen the previous February whilst HMS Rodney was off Spain. The MGG continued:
‘The rigging of every ship of the Squadron present consisting beside the Rodney, of the Caledonia, Asia, Vanguard, Russell, Ceylon, Rapid, Nautilus, Cutter Hind, and steam-vessels Medea, Spitfire and Firefly, was manned and so dead a silence prevailed that Captain Parker’s voice, as he read the sentence and warrant at the larboard gangway, was distinctly heard at some distance’
It was a few minutes before 6 a.m.
‘The noose had been already adjusted round his neck by the common hangman, and the end of the rope which was reaved through a block attached to the yard-arm was in the hands of a number of marines on the deck, and two seamen from each ship, waiting the concerted signal. Upon the firing of a gun, as soon as the warrant of execution was read, they launched the wretched man into eternity, by running him quickly up to the yardarm, a height of 60 or 70 feet. His death seemed to be instantaneous.’
Whilst the cholera epidemic was at its height a major event took place that was to influence the future of the British Empire and the World for more than sixty years. At twelve minutes past two o’clock on the morning of 20th June 1837 King William IV died just short of his 72nd birthday, after seven years on the throne. He was succeeded by his niece, the 18-year-old Princess Victoria, who had been born on 24th May 1819.
On Monday 10th July at 10 a.m. the Governor accompanied by the Archbishop of Malta, Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Briggs, the Right Honourable John Hookham Frere, Commanding Officers of the Garrison Regiments, the Chiefs of Religious Communities, members of the Nobility and leading citizens, assembled in the Courtyard of the Palace where William Sim, the Acting Chief Secretary to the Government read aloud the Proclamation ‘Her Most Sacred Majesty QUEEN VICTORIA, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Liege Lady and Sovereign in and over the Island of Malta and it Dependencies.’ The Guard of Honour presented arms, the troops gave three cheers, and a double Royal Salute was fired from the batteries. Immediately after this ceremony the Te Deum was sung in St.John’s Cathedral, as well as other churches throughout the island, and church bells were rung.
The Naval Squadron which was at anchor outside the port due to the cholera epidemic raised the Royal Standard and a Royal Salute of 41 guns was fired from the Admiral’s Flagship, the ships’ crews manned their yards and gave three cheers.
The cholera started to wane in August and declined even more during September. By 11th October 1837 it had ceased completely. From a population of about 120,000 persons, there had been 8,785 reported cases, from which 4,252 persons had died.
After a Court Martial held in November 1837 Lieut-Colonel Fuller, the Commanding Officer of the 59th Regiment, received a letter from the Governor in which he expressed his displeasure over a matter of discipline whilst the regiment were on Guard Duty. After posting Private Flanning as a Sentry at 5p.m. on the 20th November Lance Corporal Clarke returned to his quarters and fell asleep. When he awoke sometime between 10 p.m. and midnight he checked the Sentry on Duty and found it to be No.345 Private Thomas Jackson. In the meantime Private Hazard had also done a spell on Sentry Duty.
Although the three privates had all performed Sentry Duty, they were charged with leaving their posts without being regularly relieved, and Lance Corporal Clarke was charged with neglect of duty in not posting sentries correctly, since he should not have been asleep when on duty.
On 21st November 1837 the 77th (East Middlesex) regiment embarked at Cork on board the transport ship Jupiter for their voyage to Malta, and anchored in Grand Harbour on 26th December. Initially they were in Fort Ricasoli, Fort Tigne and Fort Salvatore, but on 13th January 1838 they were moved to Isola Gate and San Francisco di Paolo barracks, in the Cottonera district.
On the 10th January 1838, 14 Officers and 459 Men of the 70th (Surrey) Regiment embarked on board HMS Jupiter.
Throughout 1838 the regiments in the Malta Garrison were:
|Royal Artillery||135 Men||140 Men|
|47th Regiment||484 Men||475 Men|
|59th Regiment||490 Men||476 Men|
|77th Regiment||480 Men||479 Men|
|92nd Regiment||495 Men||457 Men|
The widow of King William IV, Dowager Queen Adelaide, decided to visit Malta during the winter of 1838 for health reasons, she was forty-six years old. On the voyage from England on board HMS Hastings she called at Gibraltar and Sicily.
Needless to say a forthcoming Royal visit caused great excitement in Malta, not only amongst the British residents but also the Maltese population. For the rank and file of the infantry regiments it would mean more time spent cleaning and preparing themselves and their equipment so that they would be extra well turned out when they performed the various ceremonial duties.
The HMS Hastings was towed into Grand Harbour by the HM Rhadamanthus, at 3.30 p.m. on Friday 30th November 1838. The weather was fine so the bastions of Valletta as well as St. Angelo and Senglea were crowded with spectators to witness this unique occasion. As the ship entered the harbour a Royal Salute was fired alternately by the guns of Fort St.Elmo and Fort Ricasoli located either side of the harbour mouth. Shortly afterwards a 21-gun salute was fired by each of the warships at anchor in Grand Harbour, HMS Princess Charlotte, HMS Asia, HMS Vanguard, HMS Bellerophon, HMS Minden, HMS Barham, HMS Carysfort and HMS Wolverine, whilst their crews in blue jackets and white trousers manned the yards. The Governor Sir Henry Bouverie went on board HMS Hastings to welcome the Queen and discuss the arrangements for her landing the next afternoon.
By 1.30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, the troops of the garrison were in their positions. The 77th Regiment was drawn up on the quayside and lined the route to Calcara Gate. The Royal Marines from the ships in Grand Harbour had been landed and continued the line from Calcara Gate, then men from the 47th Regiment and the 59th Regiment took their turn so that the line reached the entrance to Valletta at Porta Reale. On the other side of the gateway the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment were stationed along the Strada Reale as far as the square in front of the Governor’s Palace where the 92nd Highland Regiment formed a Guard of Honour.
At 2 p.m. a barge carrying the Queen and the ladies of her suite made it way between the ships in the harbour, towards the quayside where the Governor in his full dress uniform of a Lieutenant General and his Staff awaited her. As she stepped ashore a 21-gun salute was fired from Fort St. Angelo.
Three open carriages awaited the Royal party. As soon as the Queen and Lady Sheffield had seated themselves in the first one, Governor Bouverie mounted his horse, and with his Staff preceded the carriages towards Valletta. As they passed between the ranks of soldiers the men presented arms and their bands played ‘God Save the Queen’ The pathways behind the soldiers were packed with men, women and children all excitedly getting a view of the Queen, cheering, and waving their hats and handkerchiefs.
They eventually arrived at the Governor’s Palace where the Guard of Honour of the 92nd Highlanders presented arms, and their band played ‘God Save the Queen’, as the carriages turned through the principal gate into the courtyard. After a short stay at the Palace the Queen re-entered her carriage and returned by the same route to the quayside and to HMS Hastings.
Queen Adelaide’s suite consisted of The Countess of Sheffield (Lady of the Bedchamber), The Hon. Miss Hudson and the Hon. Miss Mitchell (Maids of Honour), The Earl Howe (Lord Chamberlain), The Earl of Denbigh (Master of the Horse), Captain Curzon (Gentleman Usher), The Reverend J. R.Wood (Chaplain) and Sir David Davies (Physician). The Earl of Sheffield and the Countess of Denbigh also accompanied the royal party.
On Tuesday afternoon, 4th December, the Queen left HMS Hastings to take up residence in the suite of rooms specially prepared for her in the Governor's Palace. This time the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment with their band was stationed on the quayside and the 59th Regiment was drawn up as the Guard of Honour in St.George's Square in front of the Palace. The ceremonial procedure on the quayside and journey to the Palace in Valletta was the same as the previous Saturday, nonetheless the footpaths and balconies were densely packed with onlookers. Shortly after entering the Palace she appeared on the Palace balcony overlooking St. George’s Square to acknowledge the cheers of the crowd.
Later that afternoon a group of senior officers assembled and were presented to Her Majesty. Colonel Cardew and Major Piper of the Royal Engineers, Colonel Wallace and Major Wright of the Royal Artillery, Colonel Elrington and Major Gordon of the 47th Regiment, Colonel Fuller of the 59th Regiment, Major Ramsay, Major Algeo and Major Tatton of the 77th Regiment, Colonel McDonald, Major Noel and Major Forbes of the 92nd Regiment, Lieut-Colonel the Marquess de Piro, Major Bussiett and Major Gouder of the Royal Malta Fencibles. Others holding Military posts were also included, Colonel Brown, Barrack Master, Colonel Balneavis, Town Major, Captain Lockhart 92nd Regiment, acting Military Secretary, and Lieutenant Best Royal Fusiliers, Aide de Camp.
During this audience, the Lord Chamberlain, Earl Howe, hinted that Queen Adelaide would like to review the 92nd Highlanders. Accordingly on the 12th December the officers and men of the Regiment were drawn up on Floriana parade ground, where they were able to show their marching and drill proficiency, all of which were fully praised by the Queen.
Many years before Adelaide married the Duke of Clarence (King William IV), he had formed an attachment with an actress, Dorothea Bland, known as Mrs.Jordan. By him over a period of twenty years, she bore ten children, whom he acknowledged, and were known by the name of Fitzclarence. The relationship with Mrs.Jordan ended in 1811.
None of Adelaide’s children survived infancy, but she became devoted to her stepchildren, and her niece, Victoria. She was also very devout woman.
At that time the Protestant community worshipped in the Government Chapel located in the Governor's Palace, which she felt was unsuitable. Within two weeks of her arrival she wrote to her niece, Queen Victoria:-
Palace, Valetta, 13th December 1838.
MY DEAREST NIECE,- The English mail going today gives me another opportunity to address you, and to name a subject to you which I think deserves your consideration, and about which I feel most anxious. It is the want of a Protestant church in this place which I mean. There are so many English residents here, it is the seat of an English Government, and there is not one church belonging to the Church of England...The consequence of this want of church accommodation has been that the Dissenters have established themselves in considerable number, and one cannot blame persons for attending their meeting when they have no church of their own.
I address myself to you, as the Head of the Church of England, and entreat you to consider well this important subject, and to talk it over with your Ministers and the Archbishop, in order to devise the best means of remedying a want so discreditable to our country. Should there be no funds at your disposal to effect this object, most happy shall I feel to contribute to any subscription which may be set on foot, and I believe that a considerable sum may be raised among the Protestants of this island, where all parties are most anxious to see a proper place of divine worship erected; without assistance from England, however, it cannot be effected. I therefore most humbly and confidently submit this subject to you, dearest Victoria, who will bestow upon your Protestant subjects of this island an everlasting benefit by granting them what they want most...
I hope this will find you quite well and happy, and that I shall soon again have the pleasure of hearing from you. Give my affectionate love to your dear Mother, and all my dear sisters, and believe me ever, my dearest Niece, your most devoted and faithfully attached Aunt, ADELAIDE"
It must have been uppermost in her mind, and without doubt she discussed the subject with the Governor, Sir Henry Bouverie, who probably made it clear to her that from his experience since taking office, funding from the British Government for such a project was unlikely to be forthcoming. Apart from agreeing with her views from the spiritual aspect, he could also see the employment benefit that the building project would bring to the island.
Without waiting for a reply from Queen Victoria, Adelaide made her own decision, as shown by extracts from the letter written by the Governor to the Secretary of State on the 6th January 1839:
"Since I had the honour of addressing your Lordship on the subject of the building of a Protestant Church in Malta, Her Majesty the Queen Dowager has expressed her determination to supply the funds required for the undertaking.
........On the part of the Government I have engaged to give up the site on which the house now occupied by Sir John Stoddart stands in the Strada Ponente. To this site there is no objection on the part of the Commanding Engineer.....On no other would a Church be built at so small a sacrifice of income and under the very unlooked for circumstances of the case I trust Your Lordship will approve of my having given orders to proceed with the pulling down of the building immediately, having engaged also on the Government to clear the site for the erection of the Church and Her Majesty being most anxious that the work should be begun without delay.
Her Majesty’s intention is to furnish the funds necessary for the building which is to contain 1000 persons, to be used by the Garrison who will have a separate Service and with sittings for the families of the Officers, and the Soldiers wives and children, as well as for such Officers and Seamen of the Fleet as may choose to attend the regular service, and the expense of which is calculated at from £ 6000 to £ 8000......
The Plan of the Church has not yet been definitely decided upon by Her Majesty, but plans have been called for and will soon be presented."
Lord Glenelg’s reply of February 2nd, approved Bouverie’s prompt action in arranging a suitable site and going ahead with the demolition of the present building.
The Malta Government Gazette published Ordinance IV of 1839:
‘An ordinance enacted by the Governor of Malta with the advice and consent of the Council of Government thereof for abolishing the censorship and for providing against abuses of the consequent liberty of publishing printed writings.’
His Excellency the Governor is pleased to direct that the Malta Government Gazette shall no longer be issued as a newspaper but it will be issued every Friday for the sole purpose of publishing all Laws, Ordnances, Proclamations and other Official Acts of the Government, as well as all Notices required by law to be inserted and published in the Malta Government Gazette.
15th March 1839
Chief Secretary to the Government
by Command of His Excellency’
This was a major piece of legislation since it lifted censorship that had been imposed by the Knights of Malta, and allowed the publication of newspapers and periodicals. Immediately this newfound freedom of the Press was put into practice.
When Queen Adelaide laid the foundation stone for her church on 20th March 1839, the impressive ceremony was described in the newly founded newspaper ‘The Harlequin’:
"On Wednesday last 20th of March p.m. Her Majesty Queen Dowager of England left the Palace accompanied by His Excellency the Governor and her Suite, to lay the foundation stone of the new Protestant Church. The day was fair and bright but very windy. Her Majesty as had been her wont since her residence here rode in a carriage of the country and was preceded by a band of the Garrison playing ‘God save the Queen’ and also, there preceded Her Majesty twelve clergymen of the Church of England, chiefly Chaplains of the Navy. A very large concourse of British residents and of the Maltese, had already assembled on the arrival of Her Majesty in Strada Ponente the site of the new church.....
All the officers of the Garrison and the Fleet were present in full dress, whose rich and massy uniforms cast an air of grandeur over the solemn scene. Her Majesty herself attired in a splendid dress of black silk velvet looked at once most graciously condescending and regal - and with His Excellency in grand uniform on her left and the lovely Lady Sheffield on her right, she took her seat on a chair of state, under a warm and commodious booth, richly carpeted, constructed for Her Majesty and the ladies. The Reverend Chaplain of the Forces, Mr.Le Mesurier, then opened the service by reading the 132nd psalm, which was responded to by the children of the military schools, and the company present.
Her Majesty afterwards descended with a firm step to lay the stone amidst the most intense anxiety of the spectators......Her Majesty assisted by His Excellency, Lady Sheffield, Earl Howe, the Chief Secretary the Hon.Sir Hector Greig, and Mr.Lankesheer the architect took the square of the mason and adjusted the stone as it was lowered down by pulleys over the cement lying beneath."
After completing this part of the ceremony, Queen Adelaide returned up the steps to her former position. A twenty-one gun Royal Salute was fired, and the Guard of Honour presented arms, whilst the band played the National Anthem. This was followed by the children from the regimental schools singing the 100th Psalm, and the ceremony was concluded by the Reverend John Cleugh, the Government Chaplain, reading a prayer, then the Lord’s Prayer and pronouncing the Blessing.
Just twelve days later on the 1st April, Queen Adelaide left Malta with the satisfaction of knowing that construction of her church had commenced.
With the freedom of the Press, The Malta Times first issue was on Sunday 5th April 1840. The Malta Mail commenced publication in 1842 and appeared until the 1st January 1857 when it merged with The Malta Times.
These newspapers carried reports of the debates in the English House of Commons, European stories, and items from other areas of the world where British troops were serving. The amount of Local News was small at first but increased with time, and being an important port in the Mediterranean listed ships’ arrivals and departures. They also contained a large amount of commercial advertising, both for products and services, as well as small ads.
The Baretto Junior Transport with 5 officers and 168 men of the 60th Regiment, under the command of Major Slyfield, was en route from Cork to the Ionian Islands, and four days distant from Malta, when a very sad event occurred. Mrs. Slyfield died on the 11th April 1840 from typhus, and in view of the cause of death she was buried at sea. The vessel arrived at Malta on 15th April 1840, and the small detachment of the 60th took up temporary quarters in Fort Ricasoli, whilst the ship's cargo was discharged, then re-embarked for the Ionian Islands. A small detachment for the 92nd (Highland) Regiment in the Malta Garrison also arrived on this vessel.
The 59th (2nd Nottinghamshire) Regiment left in three divisions for Corfu, the first on 15th April 1840 on board the Palmyra Transport, the second sailed on the 18th April on the Prince George Transport, and the balance of the regiment as the third division on 4th May on Baretto Junior Transport.
Mrs. Peebles the wife of the Adjutant Adam J. Laing Peebles, was safely delivered of a baby girl on board the Palmyra, the evening before the ship’s departure.
In the Summer of 1840 the 19th (1st Yorkshire, North Riding) Regiment was divided into six service and four depot companies. The service companies embarked at Cork on board HMS Vanguard under the command of Lieut-Colonel Thomas Hamilton, and docked in Malta on Sunday 4th October, the second division arrived on the 13th October on HMS Rodney.
In November Private Joseph Bailey, of the 77th (East Middlesex) Regiment, appeared in the Civil Court accused of ‘Having on 24th October feloniously discharged a loaded musket at Lance Sergeant Abraham Gilmour with intent to kill him or do him some body harm’. Evidence was given that about half an hour after the men had gone to bed and lights out, the defendant took a firelock from the arms rack and holding the weapon a few inches from Gilmour’s body, fired it. The ball entered the muscle under the right armpit, wounded his throat, and exited just below his collarbone, finally lodging in the pillow under his head. It seems that the Sergeant had reported Bailey a few days earlier for a breach of regulations. In his defence it was stated that Bailey often carried out foolish tricks during the night especially when intoxicated. He suffered from aberrations of the mind which grew worse when he consumed alcohol. He was found Guilty, but in view of the defence’s evidence he was sentenced to be confined in the Public Mad House. Sergeant Gilmour recovered from his wounds and resumed his place in the regiment.
The first division of the 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment arrived 20th December on the Somersetshire Transport from Cork, and the second on the 31st December by the Transport ship Cornwall. These two ships then embarked the officers, men, women and children of the 92nd (Highland) Regiment for their voyage to the West Indies.
Two officers of the 88th Regiment died early in 1841. Paymaster David Hay who was 64 years old died from natural causes, but the Adjutant, Lieutenant James M. Fowler, was accidentally drowned in Grand Harbour in June. Both were buried in Msida Bastion cemetery,
At the end of 1840 the 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade, consisting of six companies, sailed from Plymouth on the Transport Abercrombie Robinson arriving on 12th January 1841. Being a large ship it embarked the whole of the 47th (Lancashire) Regiment, under the command of Colonel Richard Goodall Elrington CB, for the West Indies, and sailed on the 11th February.
The Rifle Brigade’s famous march ‘Ninety-Five’ originated in 1842 during their service in Malta. Rifleman Goodall of the 1st Battalion, dressed as an old woman used to sing in the regimental theatre a comic song which so delighted his audiences that Bandmaster Miller turned it into a march:
"I'm ninety-five, I'm ninety-five,
And to keep single, I'll contrive;
It's needles and pins, it's needles and pins,
And when a man marries his trouble begins"
During the Victorian era, Bandmaster William Miller became one of the most famous figures in the British Army. He had joined the Rifle Brigade Band at the age of twelve, from the Band of 84th Regiment, and served a total of forty-one years with them.
At Aldershot after the Crimean War the "Ninety-Five" was played before Her Majesty Queen Victoria, who afterwards asked for a copy, as it had superseded the former regimental quick march, the 'Huntsman's Chorus' from Weber's Die Freischutz.
A small Presbyterian cemetery was opened in the Horn Works at Floriana, and was in use for about a decade from 1840. Most of the soldiers buried there were members of the 92nd Highlanders and the 42nd Highlanders.
This cemetery fell into disuse and became damaged over the years. It was cleared in 1965 and the few remaining headstones and memorials taken to Pieta Military Cemetery.
In April 1841, to mark the anniversary of the storming of Badajoz thirty years before, the 77th (East Middlesex) Regiment was inspected by the famous General Lord Lynedoch, now 93 years old, and received from him a glowing appreciation of their appearance and drill movements. As Colonel Thomas Graham he had arrived in Malta in 1799, as described in Chapter One.
The Transport ship Premier arrived from England on the 11th January 1842 with a small number of officers, men, women and children of the 77th (East Middlesex) Regiment on board, but a number of each category embarked at Malta and the ship sailed on the 28th January for Corfu. The second division of this Regiment left on the 5th February 1842, on the Boyne Transport, to Corfu.
Captain John Levick, now a civilian and a merchant by occupation, but late of the 59th Regiment and Royal Malta Fencibles was under the impression that Lieutenant Septimus Adams, an amiable young officer of the 88th Regiment, had insulted one of his daughters on the last day of Carnival, and felt it necessary to issue a challenge to the young man.
As a result a duel took place at Noon on Wednesday 9th February 1842, at Wied Gammieq near Fort Ricasoli, during which Adams was wounded and subsequently died.
Captain Levick and his second, Lieutenant Antonio Mattei of Royal Malta Fencibles were arrested. When he heard that Adams had died, Captain Edward Jeffreys of the 88th, who had been his second, left Malta for Naples the same evening. He was granted six months leave of absence, and later returned to his regiment in Malta.
Levick and Mattei came to trial at the Criminal Court on 10th March and were indicted on eight counts, but after some objections by defence counsel, relating to the number of witnesses to be called, it was adjourned until the 14th March. Upon resumption the defendants pleaded Not Guilty to all charges, and the Crown Advocate proceeded with the case calling 34 witnesses over a period of two days, but specifically drew the Jury's attention to provisions XXI and XXII of the current civil law in Malta that stated:
‘XXI. In duels, both the challenger and the challenged, and their auxiliaries and seconds shall be punished with condemnation to the Galleys for ten years, if death doth not ensue, and which punishment can be increased to a longer term than the ten years, in proportion to the excess committed.
XXII. But if death ensue, then the duelling parties as well as their auxiliaries, seconds and accomplices shall suffer the punishment of death.’
Medical evidence showed that the ball from Levick's pistol struck the middle part of Adams's forearm, fracturing the bone beneath, then passed into the left side of his chest, fracturing the ninth rib, and transversely perforated his liver, lacerating arteries, so causing a great loss of blood, which resulted in his death 32 hours later.
The defence led by Mr. Griffiths commenced on the morning of March 17th and endeavoured to destroy the credibility of the Queen's evidence given by Dr. Cross of the 88th Regiment since he was partly implicated in the affair, and further argued that the laws in Malta affecting duelling had fallen into disuse, citing examples of previous duels, which had been ignored.
The seven-man jury consulted for forty-five minutes, and when they returned to the Court their foreman, Mr. Crawford, declared that they unanimously found the eight counts in the indictment ‘Not Proven’. Captain Levick’s liberation was met with immense applause from the public present in the courtroom.
A Census was taken on 21st March 1842, but unlike Census Records in England, this Census does not show actual names and addresses but tables giving the total Population and Occupations. These are then broken down into Ages, Villages, and individual Occupations. Also the ability to speak or read English and Italian, were recorded.
The total population figures for Malta show, Males 48,359 and Females 51,798. Of these, 47,352 were Maltese men, 527 Englishmen, and 480 classified as Foreigners. The comparative Female figures are 50,818. 624 and 356. Almost a quarter of the population lived in Valletta, and around twenty percent in the Cottonera district.
Acting upon instructions from the Secretary of State in May 1842, a number of Roman Catholic priests were appointed to serve as Chaplains to the Forces:
Reverend Francesco Tonna, for Valletta, £ 35 to be paid by the Paymaster of the 19th Regiment
Reverend Antonio Pirotti, for Cottonera, £ 20 to be paid by the Paymaster of the 88th Regiment
and the following paid by the Paymaster of the Royal Malta Fencibles:
Reverend Giovanni Romei, for Floriana, £ 20
Reverend Giovanni Muscat, for the East Coast £ 10
Reverend Giuseppe Tonna, for the West Coast £ 5
Reverend Giuseppe Gauci, for the island of Gozo £10
The Malta Times of 15th November 1842 had the headlines:
‘EXTRAORDINARY DESPATCH FROM INDIA
On Sunday morning the Medea arrived from Alexandria bringing EXTRAORDINARY GOOD NEWS FROM INDIA AND CHINA. CABOOL IS TAKEN and MOST OF THE PRISONERS SAFELY RESTORED, and GUZNIE IS DESTROYED likewise.
Peace is concluded with China upon their paying 21,000,000 dollars and the English to be treated upon an equal footing with the Chinese. The Chinese have given guarantees for the payment of the dollars. The Treaty was signed on the 29th August.’
It then gives a very detailed account of the fighting in China and Afghanistan naming the regiments and officers prominent in the battles, which would be of great interest to the Military community on Malta.
The Peace Treaty with China was negotiated and signed by Sir Henry Pottinger, who many years later on the 18th March 1856 died in Malta and was buried in Msida Bastion Cemetery.
At the close of 1842 the Garrison was composed of:
19th (1st Yorkshire, North Riding) Regiment – 585 Men
88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment – 578 Men
1st Battalion Rifle Brigade – 585 Men
The Reserve Battalion of the 42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment arrived 1st January 1843 from England on the Resistance Troopship. Meanwhile the 19th (1st Yorkshire, North Riding) Regiment had received orders to proceed to the Ionian Islands to exchange with the 1st Battalion 42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment, so that they could be joined with their Reserve Battalion now stationed in Malta. The 19th embarked on the Resistance Troopship and sailed on the 9th January.
The 1st Battalion of the 42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment arrived from Corfu on board the Boyne Transport ship on the 16th February, in the middle of a controversy concerning a young junior officer.
On 7th February 1843 Ensign James MacLachlan, of the 42nd Regiment, appeared in Court before the Magistrate Harper, charged with having thrown something from the window of the Main Guard on Sunday night, the 5th, as the Host was passing, an offence of the greatest magnitude in a Catholic Country.
The Magistrate decided not to handle the case and passed it to the higher Criminal Court, where it was heard on the 20th, before Judges Dr. Satariano, Dr. Grungo and Dr. Chappelle. The evidence presented was confused and vague which was not surprising since the incident took place on a dark night, the street is very narrow, so from below little could be seen through a high window into a room lit by candles. The Ensign was not identified as the culprit.
The basic facts were soon established. Around 7.30 p.m. as a procession bearing the Host passed along the Strada Stretta, and beneath the windows of the Main Guard, a few objects landed on some of the candle carriers, who cried out and stopped. The objects were identified as orange peel and walnut shells. The evidence given by Padre Zammit stated ‘I conducted the Host and carried it on Sunday night. The men carrying the lamps suddenly stopped, when under the window of the Main Guard. I sent two persons to see what had happened and heard that something had been thrown from the window. From my particular position I could not take much notice being under the Canopy, I could see nothing. I ordered the procession to move on to the Church and if anything was found on the Canopy to bring it to me. Nothing was found. He later added the night was dark, not rainy but rather windy.’
Sergeant Peter McGregor of the 42nd Highlanders who was in the Main Guard gave his version of events. ‘A man in a state of intoxication came and complained that an officer had insulted him. I went to the officer’s room and told him a man had complained of him and said that the officer had thrown something at the Host; the officer said that he had throw nothing but shells and not from disrespect, they were broken nutshells, he did not observe what was passing’
Private William Gunn, MacLachlan’s servant, told the Court that he remembers the Prisoner sitting down to dinner in his room with two Naval Officers, and that dessert consisted on oranges, figs and walnuts.
Natale Mifsud stated that he had been a Smaitch for 13 years, and on the Sunday concerned had been sent to buy oranges, figs and walnuts by a Sergeant and Corporal. He also confirmed that the windows of the men’s’ room had no glass only iron gratings over them.
The hearing lasted about three and a half hours, at the end of which the Judges sentenced Ensign MacLachlan to six months imprisonment, but added ‘there was an absence of all malicious intent to profane the Holy Sacrament’.
Immediately several Petitions from the Maltese were presented to the Governor to have MacLachlan released, including the following:
‘We have learned with extreme regret that a young Officer belonging to H.M. 42nd Regiment is now lying in confinement under a sentence of H.M. Criminal Court adjudging him to six months incarceration for having interrupted a procession of the Holy Sacrament. That however much we depreciate similar acts again the faith of our forefathers we still cannot but feel that should that sentence be carried into execution the individual it relates to would be visited with consequences, which the Court either could not foresee or foreseeing could not avoid, where by the undue degree of punishment would be inflicted. We having reason to believe that this is the general opinion of the Clergy, and Laity in this Island, venture to submit this circumstance to your Excellency’s consideration and considering also the youth of the party condemned, the invariably excellent conduct of the Scottish regiments in particular which have served in these possessions, the lesson which the sentence also is calculated to teach to others as well also as the allowance which is under every circumstance due to the indiscretions of youth, whose conduct in other respects is honourable and peaceable and who by that conduct show that a momentary error is not be attributed to a confirmed wrong intention humbly pray that Your Excellency will be pleased to extend toward the Officer in question the exercise of the prerogative of Mercy vested in H.M. Crown. Signed:
Duke C. di Paganica, Marquis Testaferrata, Marquis G.F. Testaferrata, Marquis Gatt Delicata, Count Bald Sant, Count N. Bolognia, Baron P. Sciberras Trigona, Baron Azzopardi, Baron S. Gauci, Baron F. Gauci, Baron G. Testaferrata Abela, Baron C. Lorenzo Galea, Baron G. de Piro, Cav. Agostino Portelli, Ernest Fritschko, Austrian Consul, G. Ramirez, Consul of the two Sicilies.’
Sir Henry Bouverie however decided to seek a decision from England. Lord Stanley in his reply reiterates the Court’s findings that there was no intention of profaning the Host, and considering the numerous Petitions, including one from the Archbishop of Malta, says ‘ I have felt myself justified in recommending to Her Majesty the remission of all further punishment and I am commanded by Her Majesty to desire that immediately on receipt of this despatch the necessary steps may be taken for the releasing Mr MacLachlan from prison.’ This letter was received on 5th April, so he had been in prison for 44 days.
Dr. Martin, the Deputy Inspector at Bighi Naval Hospital, was considered an inoffensive man and enjoyed a high professional reputation, so his friends were puzzled and shocked when they heard that he had been shot by a sentry in HM Dockyard. The ball passed completely through his body, and he died about one hour later. He had been visiting Rear Admiral Sir J. Louis at his house in Dockyard Creek and as he was entering his boat shortly after Noon the incident took place. It was on Monday 6th March 1843. The shooting appeared to be totally motiveless, since the soldier involved, Private John Neyler of the 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment, never knew Dr. Martin, and in fact he had just taken over the Sentry Post.
Private Neyler gave himself up immediately and was handed over to the Civil authorities. In spite of a full investigation no reason was ever established for the shooting. It was alleged that Neyler boasted of having shot ‘a bloody smaitch.’ At the Criminal Court proceedings that took place on the 3rd April 1843, John Neyler, was found Guilty of the murder, but was later committed to the Lunatic Asylum.
On 1st April 1843 the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade left Malta for Corfu on board the Transport ship Boyne. This just left two infantry regiments in the Malta Garrison, the 42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment, and the 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment.
The following month a change of quarters was ordered. The Head Quarters of the 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment under Colonel Phibbs moved from Isola Barracks to Floriana Barracks, one company marched from Isola Barracks to Fort Ricasoli and a detachment to Fort Tigne. These movements were carried out on 2nd/3rd May 1843.
Private McClare of the 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment was brought before the Criminal Court on Friday 14th July 1843, charged with attempting to murder his wife by cutting her throat. He was found Guilty but only sentenced to one month in prison. This astonishingly lenient punishment was given ‘in consequence of the provocation given by his wife, whose heartless behaviour elicited the indignation of the Court and the contempt of the bystanders’
By a Garrison Court Martial Private George Green of the 42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment had been sentenced to receive 150 lashes. On Monday 9th October 1843 as he was receiving this punishment Drummer James McCullum had inflicted 18 lashes and was about to inflict the 19th when he fell down dead having ruptured a blood vessel in his heart. McCullum had been in the Army for about 25 years that he entered in a highly dramatic manner at nine years of age. His father was a NCO in the 42nd Regiment and fell at the battle of Corunna. His mother also fell having been cut in two by a ball. The child still alive was hanging on to her corpse, when he was found by an Aide de Camp of Sir John Moore, who lifted him up onto his horse and afterwards presented him to the Regiment. He was placed in the Royal Military Asylum at Chelsea; an institution founded by the Duke of York in 1803, for the education of orphan children of the rank and file, preference being given to those whose fathers had been killed in action. James McCullum was buried in Msida Bastion cemetery.
John Mara, a soldier with the 88th Regiment was the servant of Dr. Connell, the Regiment’s Surgeon. He died at the surgeon’s house, but the Magistrate Charles Harper was unhappy about the cause of death. Instead of allowing the usual doctor to make an autopsy, he was ordered by the Chief Secretary to the Government to have Dr. Galland make it. Although Dr. Galland was the Professor of Anatomy at the University he was an inexperienced pathologist. Initially he gave a verbal report confirming that the man had died of a stroke but in a written report stated that he found substances in the stomach that he would need to analyse before he could give a definite cause of death. Harper had already released the body for burial, so added a rider to his verdict, to which Governor Bouverie objected and Harper was rebuked.
24-year-old year old Private Charles M'Swinning, a member of the 1st Battalion, stationed in Fort St.Elmo, was in the barrack room during Wednesday evening, 10th January 1844, and without being observed by other soldiers placed the butt of his musket on the ground, the muzzle close under his chin, then touched the trigger with his foot. The ball passed through the roof of his mouth, carrying away part of the brain and the whole of his forehead, killing him instantly. When enquiries were made into the cause of his suicide, it was found that earlier someone had thrown a tumbler at a Sergeant, and although there was no firm proof, suspicion had fallen on the unfortunate M'Swinning.
At the start of Summer 1844 a religious controversy broke out within the 42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment, caused by a dramatic event that had taken place in Edinburgh on 18th May 1843 at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. On that day four hundred Scottish clergymen walked out of the ‘Established’ church and formed the ‘Free Church’. One of the major points of dispute between the two groups was that in the Established church the Minister was appointed by patronage, whereas in the ‘Free Church’ he would be elected by the congregation.
The Commanding Officer of the 42nd announced to the men that the Reverend John McKail, a Minister of the Free Church had arrived in Malta, and those wishing to attend the Free Church should give their names to the Orderly Sergeant, so that he could account for their absence from the usual Church Parade. Claims and counter claims were made by members of the Regiment, regarding their option to attend the Free Church, but the matter was resolved by an order from England. ‘The question of interference on the part of certain Military Authorities with the religious liberty of the gallant Forty Second has been so excellently set at rest by the Horse Guards which has ordered that no impediment be offered to the wishes of the soldiers of that regiment in attending the ministration of Free Church Clergyman’
On the 24th June 1844 a short visit to Malta was made by King Ferdinand II and Queen Teresa, of the Kingdom of Naples and the Two Sicilies. When they landed about 7 p.m. the 42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment under the command of Captain Charles Murray, was drawn up as a Guard of Honour on the quayside. The Royal party made its way to the Governor’s Palace in Valletta by carriages. When they arrived they were met at the entrance by Governor Sir Patrick Stuart, and a Guard of Honour formed by men of the 88th (Connaught Rangers) commanded by Captain W. Irwin. The following day both regiments, together with the Royal Malta Fencibles were on the Floriana parade ground to be reviewed by their Majesties. They arrived at about 6.30 p.m. and the troops performed several manoeuvres and drill movements, under the watchful eye of Lieut-Colonel Phibbs of the 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment. It was well after eight o’clock before the men left the parade ground and marched back to their barracks. The Royal Suite returned to their steam frigates Tancrede and Ercole in the Harbour around 9 p.m. and sailed next morning for Palermo in Sicily.
The building of the Protestant church which Queen Adelaide had supported so enthusiastically during the winter of 1839/1840 went ahead but after about twelve months problems began to arise due to the inexperience of the architect, Mr.Lankesheer. His plans for church were criticised as unsafe, and the project was placed in the hands of a Naval Architect, William Scamp, who was at that time building the Naval Bakery in Vittoriosa. He was forced to demolish most of the previous construction work of the church, and start again.
The original estimated cost of church was £ 8,000, but as William Scamp explained in his reports, considerable unforeseen extra expenses had to be met, so the final figure was around £ 20,000 which Queen Adelaide met from her own resources. It was hoped that the consecration could take place in 1843, but this proved to be impossible, and it was not until 1st November 1844 that the consecration service was held.
By 11 o’clock the church was packed. Amongst the congregation were the Governor Sir Patrick Stuart, Admiral Sir Edward Owen, Sir Hector Greig, Colonel Balneavis, Colonel Tylden, Colonel Bayley, Mr. Fletcher, John Aspinall, a large number of Naval and Military Officers, plus civilians.
The Bishop of Gibraltar, George Tomlinson, performed the ceremony, with the assistance of Archdeacon Le Mesurier, the Chaplain to the Forces, Reverend Thomas Gifford Gallwey, Chaplain of HMS Formidable, Reverend George P. Badger, and the Reverend Philip Mules. After the sermon Captain George Cumberland 42nd (The Royal Highlanders) Regiment and Captain Adams 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment, Lieutenant Bedford of the Royal Navy, together with Mr. William Leonard took the collection.
Two days later the Bishop carried out the first baptism, when the seven-month-old daughter of the architect William Scamp was appropriately named Adelaide Frances Melita.
It was suggested that when St.Paul’s was opened the Government Chapel in the Governor’s Palace would be used by soldiers of the Malta Garrison, instead of the Normal School, with any overflow going to St.Paul’s. When asked to make some financial contribution towards St. Paul’s the War Office, always keen to save money, did not agree, and proposed instead that a second service be held in the Government Chapel if the number of men attending one service was too great.
However, at this time there was not a problem since there were very few Protestants in the 88th Regiment, and the very large number of the 42nd Regiment attended the Free Church of Scotland.
At the beginning of May 1845 the Malta Garrison was distributed as follows:
42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment, 1st Battalion
H.Q. and 2 Companies, Left Wing Lower St Elmo
2 Companies, St. Francesco di Paola Barracks, under Captain Tulloch
1 Company, Fort Ricasoli
1 Company, Fort St. Salvatore, under Captain Campbell
42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment, Reserve Battalion
H.Q. and 6 Companies, Right Wing Lower St.Elmo
88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment
H.Q and 3 Companies, Strada Torre Barracks
1 Company, Cavalier St.James
2 Companies, Left Wing Lower St Elmo
A soldier from the Reserve Battalion, 42nd Regiment, Private Cameron was sentenced at a Court Martial to 14 years Transportation for striking Sergeant Veatch. He was held in prison awaiting a suitable time to send him to England, and by coincidence during the last week of December 1845 the Sergeant was on duty at the prison and accidentally met Cameron who stabbed him with a knife.
The wound was not dangerous and the Sergeant recovered.
In 1846 the Governor, Sir Patrick Stuart who was a strong Sabbatarian, when issuing the customary proclamation giving formal permission for the pre-Lent Carnival to be held, would not allow the wearing of masks on the Sunday.
The Maltese people felt that their ancient rights had been interfered with by a Protestant Governor to enforce a rigid observance of the Sabbath, to which the inhabitants of Roman Catholic countries were not accustomed.
Everything passed off well enough on the Saturday, but on the following day, Sunday, large numbers of Maltese from the countryside flocked into Valletta and by about two o’clock a mob of several thousand thronged the principal streets of the city.
Whilst the Governor’s proclamation was observed by the people, and no one appeared in masks or any kind of fancy dress, their horses, mules, asses, dogs, and other animals were led about decorated with ribbons, and other forms of ornamentation, as it was interpreted that the Governor’s prohibition did not extend to animals. At the same time several young men walked in a solemn procession along Palace Square opposite the Governor’s palace dressed in the conventional black suit and white necktie of the Protestant clergymen whilst each held in his hand a book resembling a Bible. It was at once seen that their action was intended as a silent protest of resentment against the supposed interference with the rights of the people.
Whilst all this was going on the bells of St. Paul’s Church were heard summoning the English residents to the usual Sunday afternoon service. Some rabble rousers shouted "To the Protestant Church ! let us pull it down !" and a crowd ran down Strada Teatro so within a few minutes the building was surrounded. The clergyman decided to proceed with the service in spite of the small number of worshippers within, and the uproar from the large gathering of people outside. The noise was such that the congregation could not hear either prayers, or sermon, and at any moment expected the crowd to rush into the church and attack them. However, there was nothing more than shouts, threats, and yelling for about an hour, then the mob moved back in the direction of the Governor’s Palace.
It has been suggested that the Reverend Henry Seddall in his account of the disturbances described above, was too biased since the official despatch takes a calmer view and merely states that the crowd:
‘endeavoured to insult the Government, not by masking, but by dressing up some of their number as Protestant Clergymen, and parading them with loud shouts and yelling about the Streets, around the Palace, and near the Protestant Church during divine Service.’
That evening however after the band of the 42nd Regiment had ‘Beaten the Retreat’ on Palace Square they were attacked by groups of Maltese youths and several instruments broken. Sir Patrick Stuart saw this fracas from the Palace windows and called upon the Police to restore order which they did.
It was not until 25th March 1846 that the good news arrived at Malta from India that the British had defeated the Sikhs at the battle of Sobraon in February, so forcing them to seek a peace, and thus ending the first Sikh War. At 1 o’clock a Royal Salute was fired from the batteries to honour this glorious victory achieved by British and Indian troops over the Sikh forces in India. The Union Jack flew from every flagstaff in the forts, and public offices in the Valletta, the men of war anchored in the harbour followed this example and a feu de joie was fired by men of the 88th Regiment in Floriana.
Quarter Master Sergeant John Gardiner of Reserve Battalion, 42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment completed his full period of service on 20th May 1846 and applied for his discharge. A farewell supper was given in his honour by his regimental comrades. His successor was John Shields, previously the Hospital Sergeant of 1st Battalion.
The French Royal Highness the Prince de Joinville, arrived 30th July 1846. A Guard of Honour of the 42nd Regiment commanded by Captain Archibald Campbell was waiting to receive him at the landing place and another Guard of Honour supplied by the 88th Regiment commanded by Captain Edward Norton was waiting at the Palace in Valletta.
The next VIP visit was from His Highness Ibrahim Pasha, of Egypt, who arrived on Sunday 2nd August 1846, on board HM steamer Avenger. A similar procedure was followed, the 42nd Regiment was drawn up at the landing stage, this time under the command of Captain Henry Drummond of the Reserve Battalion, and the 88th Regiment at the Palace, under Captain Edward Norton, to carry out the duties as Guards of Honour.
Whilst firing a salute to mark his arrival a Gunner of HM sloop Siren, was severely injured and taken to Bighi Naval Hospital. He had his arm blown off, due to the vent of the gun he had fired not being plugged on the second loading.
Lieutenant and Paymaster David Cahill of the 88th Regiment, on 28th December 1846, appeared before a Court Martial on the charge of:
‘Sending an intemperate and insulting letter to Surgeon James McGregor of the 1st Battalion, 42nd Regiment, dated 5th December 1846, unjustly accusing that officer of having propagated a falsehood concerning him by asserting in a conversation with Dr. Barry, Principal Medical Officer, the he Lieutenant and Paymaster Cahill had never been under military medical treatment in Malta and without having previously asked for an explanation from the said Surgeon J. McGregor and also for having afterwards refused to make a proper apology to Surgeon McGregor for having so accused him. Such conduct being unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman.’
He was found Not Guilty but the Governor made the following comment:
‘Although I consider the style and tenor of Paymaster Cahill’s letter to Surgeon McGregor to have been very improper and reprehensible, yet upon the whole, after an attentive perusal of the Proceedings of this trial and the extraordinary discrepancy of the Medical witnesses, on both sides, I approve and confirm the sentence. Paymaster Cahill to be released from arrest and return to his duty’.
The 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment arrived on the 2nd January 1847, from Gibraltar on the ship Herefordshire. After being stationed in Malta for five years, early in the morning on Thursday 14th January 1847, the 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment left their barracks, and marched through pouring rain to Calcara where they embarked at 8 o’clock on the transport Herefordshire. The Herefordshire towed out by HMS Hecla left port at 3 o’clock p.m. with soldiers from the other regiments left behind lining the bastions and vociferously cheering their departing comrades on their way to the West Indies.
One observer recorded the arrival of the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment in Valletta:
‘On Friday morning (15th) at half past seven we were pleasingly aroused by the sounds of martial music resounding through our streets which pealed with vivifying effect thro the intervals of roaring thunder and continuous rain during the whole of that morning. Strange that such unusual weather should have ushered in the landing of Her Majesty’s 54th Regiment who crossed from Fort Ricasoli and marched from the Marina to take up their quarters at the Auberge de Baviere vacated by the regretted departure of the 88th Regiment we hope that the newly installed troops may walk in many instances in the footsteps of their predecessors and reap the laurels of that commendation which was bestowed upon them at their departure by the Commander in Chief. We observed that one the of the men landed in irons yet trust that it augurs no evil omen towards their future good behaviour.’
Captain J. Hinton Daniell, Reserve Battalion, 42nd Regiment, appeared before a Court Martial on Friday 5th February 1847, with Colonel Rice Jones, Royal Engineers, as President. He faced two charges:
First. For having at appeared at the Battalion Mess in the Auberge de Castille at about half past six in the evening of the 20th January 1847, in a state of intoxication, and also improperly dressed. He being at the time Senior Officer of the Mess, such conduct being unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman.
Second. For having when in the above state unwarrantably placed in arrest Dr. William M. Muir, Surgeon of the 1st Battalion, 42nd Regiment. He pleaded Not Guilty to both charges, but was found Guilty of the first charge, and Not Guilty of the second. He was just admonished for appearing in incorrect dress at the Mess.
From 1818 to 1823 the number of infantry regiments was limited to ninety three but during 1824/1825 they were increased to ninety nine, with a new 97th (Earl of Ulster's) regiment being formed. This Regiment had been serving in Corfu, but in February 1847 they arrived for duty in the Malta Garrison. The 1st Battalion arrived on the 15th, on board HMS Vengeance, with the Reserve Battalion following on the 20th by the Troopship Resistance.
On the evening of 21st February 1847 after a brief illness, James N. Irwin, the Surgeon of the Reserve Battalion, 97th (Earl of Ulster’s) Regiment, died at the Military Hospital in Cottonera. He had recently arrived in Malta from England having been promoted to Surgeon with this regiment. but since the Battalion had only arrived less than 48 hours before from the Ionian Islands he had barely got to know any of his brother officers.
On 27th February 1847 the 1st Battalion 42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment sailed on HMS Vengeance 80 a man-of-war for Bermuda, but the accommodation on this ship was said to be wretched. Whether the Naval officers thought it beneath their dignity or not to transport troops, they had a reputation for haughtiness, one was alleged to have said to a soldier's wife ‘We can't have any brats squalling about the decks here’, ‘We're not a transport mind you’, said another.
Colonel Henry Frederick Lockyer, Commanding the 97th (Earl of Ulster’s) Regiment, formed part of the Malta Garrison, but was absent on leave at the time that his brother Captain Nicholas Lockyer R.N. of HMS Albion, died on Saturday 27th February 1847. Though a Naval occasion the regimental band of the 97th led the funeral cortege and off duty men formed up in line near Kalkara Gate to pay their respects to the dead officer.
In spite of being ready for sea on 7th March 1847, embarkation of the Reserve Battalion, 42nd Regiment, on the Resistance was delayed as they were not entirely free from measles, and there was the fear that once the men, women and children where on board ship, in the cramped conditions the disease may spread. One unfortunate soldier of the Reserve Battalion, was destined not to see Bermuda, Private Devon, was walking along the bastions watching the Resistance arrived in port, but was drunk and fell the 80 feet into the ditch beneath, and died of his injuries.
After their departure, His Excellency General Sir Patrick Stuart, issued a very complimentary notice in Garrison Orders, referring to the discipline and general good conduct of both Battalions during their four-year stay on the island. This praise was echoed by the public in Malta who had a high regard for the officers and men of the 42nd Regiment.
On St.Patricks Day 1847 a fight broke out between some soldiers of 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment and sailors from the Royal Navy. At their subsequent Court appearance, Sergeant James Barwick was sentenced to four months imprisonment, Privates James Mulligan and Henry Meade two months. Privates Charles Grogan, William Kelly, William M'Kendry, James M'Kendry and John Collins received between five and fifteen days imprisonment.
The first three named were a piquet, and evidence from witnesses showed that they were drunk, but in Court the Sergeant asserted that he was ‘still capable of doing his duty’ a nice distinction.
Since many of the officers and men were of Irish or Scots origin, the amateur players of the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment decided to give a performance in aid of the ‘Fund for the Relief of the Destitute Poor of Ireland and Scotland’. The show took place on Wednesday evening 17th March 1847, and the programme consisted of two plays, a melodrama entitled ‘The Innkeeper of Abbeville’, and in the second half a farce called ‘His First Champagne’. To keep the audience amused during the interval a Private sung a medley of comic songs, which were warmly applauded, and encored. The evening raised a respectable sum for this worthy cause.
On Saturday, 29th May, the Opera "I Lombardi" was being performed, but during the evening some officers of the garrison in the front row were guilty of slouching in their seats and putting their feet up against the orchestra partitions. They were hooted at by some of the Maltese audience seated in the Gallery. A disturbance ensued; the curtain fell; and the police were called. A crowd assembled outside the theatre to take the law into their own hands against the army officers whom they felt had behaved offensively. The Police however were successful in restoring calm to the situation.
During the following Monday evening’s performance, the officers were evidently determined to brave the opinion of the Maltese expressed the previous Saturday, and rested their feet against the orchestra partition once again.
At the conclusion of the performance and as the audience were leaving, the theatre-goers sensed trouble was brewing, in fact before reaching the corner of Strada Forni, a distance of ten paces, some Maltese youths set upon a young officer and knocked him down. His brother officers rushed to his assistance but only had their bare hands whereas the Maltese were armed with sticks, and bludgeons. Stones were also thrown from the terraces at the officers.
The Main Guard turned out, but was as immediately turned in, by Major Tidy’s order, and was afterwards strengthened by a picket. The Police took a few men into custody and by midnight the streets were cleared and order restored.
On Tuesday morning, four men Vincenzo Ferris, Henrico Sammut, G. Busitil and J.A. Mamo, were arraigned before the Magistrates charged with having been caught in the act of throwing stones in the row the previous evening. Ferris was sentence to 20 days imprisonment and Sammut to two days incarceration and a fine of five scudi.
The events of Monday night effectively brought the season to a close, as notwithstanding two other announcements, the Government ordered the theatre to be shut up, due to the emeute which had taken place that night. Reports of this disturbance reached England and a question was asked in the House of Commons regarding misconduct of army officers at Malta.
Private George Brown, of the 97th Regiment, thought he had found a way of leaving the army. He robbed Pay Sergeant Hooper of £ 17.10.0d. and at his trial on June 2nd pleaded Guilty to the charge but said as extenuating circumstances that he was tired of a soldier’s life and wanted to be Transported. His plan was unsuccessful however, since instead of Transportation he was sentenced to ten years in the Galleys with chains.
On Tuesday 8th June 1847, two officers of the 97th (Earl of Ulster’s) Regiment appeared before the Magistrates charged with an aggravated assault on Salvatore Saliba, the keeper of a wine shop at the Rope Walk, Burmola, a most disreputable locale. From the evidence produced it was very clear that one of the officers remained outside whilst the other went in. His purpose was to ascertain the type of wine being sold to his men, who had suffered much sickness and unusual mortality since their arrival. When he remarked that it was wretchedly bad he was grossly insulted and then assaulted. The Magistrates dismissed the charge against them.
Later that month three Privates of the 54th Regiment faced Garrison Court Martials on charges relating to drunkenness, and all were found Guilty. Sentences were Edward Rose deprived of a penny a day for 30 days and 3 months in prison with hard labour, Thomas Soden to be deprived of 1d per day for 30 days with 4 months imprisonment with hard labour, George Trimble deprived of 1d per day for 30 days and 4 months imprisonment with hard labour, and one month’s solitary confinement.
Apart from the crisis over the Carnival in 1846, Sir Patrick Stuart was never a popular Governor and when his request for leave was turned down he tendered his resignation in July 1847.
When Colonel P. Edwards, the Military Secretary to Sir Patrick Stuart departed from Malta, in September 1847, one of the local newspapers reported:
‘We fearlessly assert that there never was a man for whose departure the whole public cared less than for that of Colonel Edwards. By his treatment to the military he was by them held in extreme aversions, and all the evil consequences of Sir Patrick Stuart’s rule are attributable to his pernicious counsel. His acts caused Sir Patrick to be disliked, his influence over him blinded his better judgement and led him into error.’ He was replaced by the well-esteemed Major T.H. Tidy
The ‘Drumming Out’ from a regiment was not a common occurrence, but one took place on 11th December 1847.
‘One of those scenes so well calculated to deter the soldier from crime and to render him unable to endure the gaze of his former companions in arms was enacted on the St. Elmo Parade Ground on the 11th December at Noon.
Serjeant Edward Moote, and Private George Heskins, were sentenced by a General Court Martial a twelve month since, to undergo a period of imprisonment in the common gaol for a year and at the expiration of that term to be Drummed Out of the regiment for a crime too disgraceful and disgusting to particularise. Having completed the full term of imprisonment they were brought on the above day in custody to undergo the remaining part of their sentence. The regiment being drawn up in line on the ground and under arms, on the word being given, the rear rank took open order and the front rank faced to the right about.
The prisoners were brought out, each with a rope noose around his neck, then the serjeant was divested of his stripes and both of their facings and buttons; in this degrading manner they were marched up the living street thus formed of former friends and comrades, the band preceding them playing the ‘Rogue's March’ and the drummers following. On arrival at the end of the ranks, they were ignominiously saluted by the application of the drummer boys foot on their backsides, and thus, for ever were escorted from the regiment on which they had brought disgrace and infamy on themselves.’
The first division of the Reserve Battalion, 69th (South Lincolnshire) Regiment commanded by Lieut-Colonel William Blackburne reached Malta by the Blenheim on the 9th December after a rapid passage from Portsmouth of only 20 days, but underwent a longer than usual time in quarantine since it was reported that one woman and one child had died on board from smallpox on the outward passage. Other cases though fortunately not fatal were reported in the companies at Fort Manoel. The troops were admitted to pratique on the 5th January 1848.
Meanwhile the 1st Battalion under Lieut-Colonel Eaton Monins arrived on HMS Belleisle on the 13th December, without problems. The ship then embarked the 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment for duty in the West Indies, and sailed on Monday 27th December. On 5th January 1848 the second division of the Reserve Battalion arrived on the hired Transport Maria Somes.
The new Governor of Malta, Richard More O’Ferrall, was sworn in on 18th December 1847. This was the first time that a civilian had been appointed, and the fact that he was an Irish Catholic was welcomed by the Maltese. Lieut-General Robert Ellice was designated to command the troops in the Malta Garrison.
After their tour of duty the 97th (Earl of Ulster’s) Regiment, Reserve Battalion left Malta in two roughly equal divisions, HQ plus three companies departed on 21st January 1848 on board the Blenheim, the balance sailed on the Maria Somes Transport on 28th January 1848, all bound for the West Indies.
Lieutenant Francis Gamble Blood of the Reserve Battalion, 69th Regiment was at the opera on Tuesday night, 15th February 1848, but was not impressed with the performance of Madame Cervate, a Maltese. Another member of the audience, a druggist named Leopoldo Gargani, took exception to the hissing by the officer, and later assaulted him, for which he was fined 12 shillings by the Magistrate the following Saturday. An unbiased critic recalled "the only tolerable notes she has are her high ones, as to her low ones they are not even musical, she was however received with very considerable applause by her countrymen."
For an officer in the Malta Garrison apart from the occasional parade for important visitors they had plenty of time for recreation. Horse Racing, Cricket, and attending Balls where they could meet the local young ladies. The main highlight of the social calendar was the Carnival Ball given by The Governor.
In 1848 it was held on Monday 6th March, and by all accounts was one of the most delightful ever witnessed in Malta. Although no masks were admitted, the number of guests in fancy dresses was far more numerous than previous years.
Particularly impressive was Captain Henry O'Halloran, in the costume of a North American Indian Chief, with Surgeon Henry Scholes suitable dressed as his Squaw, both from the 69th. Lieutenant Hankey, also of the 69th, caught the eye as Figaro. All agreed, however, that the best display consisted of a quadrille of fourteen gentlemen, dressed in the military uniform of the time of Louis XV, divided equally between blue and white, accompanied by a similar number of ladies in costumes of that siecle, all under the under the direction of Miss. Ellice, the daughter of Lieut-General Ellice. The fourteen gentleman participating were, Captain Percival Fenwick, Lieutenant Frederick Fearon, Lieutenant Charles Carmichael and Lieutenant Thomas Harvey of the 69th, Lieutenant Dillon and Lieutenant Lawrence Reynolds of the 97th, Lieutenant Charles Brooke Royal Engineers, Lieutenant Murray Ferrers Royal Artillery, Captain Packenham Aide-de-Camp, Lieutenant Hobart of the Royal Navy, and prominent civilians, Mr. Lushington, Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr.H. Montanaro and Mr. Poujade the French Consul.
The 44th (East Essex) Regiment’s second tour of duty in Malta was in 1848. On 11th April of that year the 1st Battalion sailed from Cork on the Troopship Resistance, and docked in Malta on the 8th May, followed by the Reserve Battalion on the Belleisle, which arrived on 14th July, to replace the 1st Battalion 97th Regiment.
As the 1st Battalion 97th (Earl of Ulster’s) Regiment were preparing to leave Malta, a comment was made.
‘Until recently we never heard a complaint against the 1st Battalion 97th Regiment. About the Reserve Battalion this was not the case, the men in it were young and undisciplined and too leniently treated by their effeminate Colonel. It is the problems which the Reserve Battalion left behind them that are now causing the 1st Battalion to be despised by the Maltese.’
They embarked on 14th July 1848 under the command of Lieut-Colonel Henry Lockyer, on the Java Troopship and sailed the next day for Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Changes in the troops quarters were made on Tuesday 10th October 1848 probably due to the dread of appearance of Cholera, so the distribution then was:
44th (East Essex) Regiment, 1st Battalion, at Fort Manoel, with one company at Francesco di Paula Barracks, and one company at Fort Ricasoli.
44th (East Essex) Regiment, Reverse Battalion, at St. James Cavalier, Valletta,
one company at Casal Zeitun, one company at Casal Zabbar, and one company at Fort Tigne.
69th (South Lincolnshire) Regiment, 1st Battalion, at Floriana
69th (South Lincolnshire) Regiment, Reserve Battalion, at Fort St.Elmo
In an attempt to reduce the drunkenness amongst the men, on Monday the 16th October 1848, a Serjeant of 69th Regiment Reserve Battalion, accompanied by a Drummer and Fifer made proclamation at the corner of every street in Valletta that tradesmen, more especially the owners of grog shops, were not to give credit to any of the Privates of that Regiment beyond the amount of a day’s pay, at the risk of losing the whole amount.
Lieutenant William Henry Hotham of the 44th Regiment died on Tuesday the 5th December 1848, at the early age of 23 years, and was buried with full military honours in Msida Bastion cemetery. He came from a distinguished military family, his father was Captain The Hon. G.F. Hotham of the Royal Navy, and his uncle Admiral Sir Henry Hotham, who had been the Commander in Chief of Naval Forces in the Mediterranean, and died in 1833 and has an impressive tomb in Msida Bastion cemetery.
Adjutant John Colpoys, 44th (East Essex) Regiment enthusiastically promoted sports and athletic exercises being highly proficient in them himself, and under his influence men of his regiment always excelled at Garrison games.
In January 1849, he competed against H.R. Warrington, a Clerk of HMS Medusa, in a swimming race. The course was from the steps of Fort Ricasoli down Grand Harbour to the buoy off Fort St.Angelo. Colpoys won with a time of 20 minutes, followed by Warrington a few minutes later.
Private Brice deserted from the 44th Regiment in 1847, and seemed to have disappeared. However, it was known that he played clarinet extremely well which was to lead to his downfall. One day in early March 1849, a Corporal of the 44th was listening to the band of HMS Prince Regent when he recognised one of the clarinettists. Brice had joined the Royal Navy, and after some time became a bandsman. He was reported and arrested. At his Court Martial he was sentenced to be branded with the capital letter D and imprisoned for 84 days.
At 8.30.a.m. on Thursday 12th April 1849, on the St.James Cavalier Parade Ground, Private John Gallaghan, of the Grenadier Company, 1st Battalion, 44th (East Essex) Regiment who since enlisting in 1845, had been tried no less than eight times by Court Martial for robbery, and other crimes, was ‘Drummed Out’. His body bore the brand ‘D’ of a deserter, and the skin on his back was scored with marks left by punishment of being flogged with the cat. Details of his various Court Martials were read out by the Adjutant Colpoys, immediately after which Sergeant-Major McInnes, cut off the facings and buttons from his uniform. A placard was placed on his chest and back bearing the word THIEF, in large letters. The regiment then formed two inward facing lines, creating a street of men. A drummer boy advanced, and threw a belt over Gallaghan’s neck, so he was marched through the street, two men facing him with bayonets at the ready to prevent escape. The pipes played the ‘Rogue’s March’. On reaching the end of the two lines of men, he was handed over to a Sergeant, who took him on board the Troopship Apollo for his passage to England.
With the permission of Lieut-Colonel Charles Coote, the Sergeants of the Reserve Battalion 69th regiment assembled in their Mess on Wednesday evening the 14th April 1849 to bid farewell to Sergeant W. Assell, ordered home to be discharged having served for 22 years. After the supper Sergeant-Major Bernard O'Donnell presented their old comrade with an exquisite silver snuffbox, and addressed him in a very expressive and feeling manner.
After nearly fifty years of British rule in August 1849 Governor O’Ferrall introduced a major piece of legislation which for the first time admitted some elected members into the Council of Government. The eight representatives chosen by the Maltese were Reverend Filippo Amato, Monsignor Annetto Casolani, Dr. Adrian Dingli, Monsignor Leopoldo Fiteni, Giuseppe Pulis Montebello, Dr. Arcangelo Pullicino, Giovanni Battista Schembri, and Michelangelo Xerri.
Adjutant John Colpoys accepted a challenge from a brother officer, Lieutenant F.W.T. Caulfield, who had recently joined the 44th, to a swimming contest. Early at 6.30 a.m. on Monday morning 17th September 1849, bets were laid as the two men undressed at the Jews Sally Port on the Valletta foreshore. They had agreed to swim across the mouth of Marsamuscetto Harbour to the landing place at Fort Tigne on the Sliema side. For three quarters of the distance the men were neck and neck, but in the closing stages Colpoys drew ahead, but only won by about six yards, in a time of six and a half minutes.
The 44th (East Essex) Regiment was in the Malta Garrison throughout 1849, and many of their men appeared in the Magistrate's Court or Court Martials for petty crime.
Private James Thompson was sentenced to 50 lashes for "disgraceful conduct", and the punishment was carried out on 20th March 1849 in front of his own Battalion and groups from other regiments in the garrison. He had attempted an "unmentionable crime" in the expectation that he would be found Guilty and discharged from the Army, but in spite of being considered a bad character he was retained in the service.
Private Henry Archer, Private Thomas Body, and Private James Bearman were all found Guilty and sentenced to 40 days hard labour and stoppages of one penny a day for 30 days, for being drunk on Sentry Duty at St.Michaels in April.
Privates William Adamson and John Bradley appeared before the Magistrate on 1st October for creating a disturbance in Floriana, by throwing stones at the house of Mr. Short, and allegedly Adamson forcibly entered it. Bradley was freed due to lack of evidence but Adamson was convicted and sentenced to 20 days imprisonment.
Private Broughton received 84 days imprisonment and deduction of 1d per day from his pay for 12 months being found Guilty of drunkenness and making away with part of his necessaries.
Private McCourt and Private Heake, were found Guilty of breaking into the Canteen and stealing money from the till, in September, and sentenced to 50 lashes, 112 days imprisonment with hard labour and put under stoppages for the payment of £ 1.5.0d. The imprisonment was remitted by Colonel Rice Jones but the corporal punishment was inflicted.
Private Breslin, found Guilty of insubordination, in September, sentenced to 50 lashes which were carried out.
Private Hill, found Guilty of insubordination, in September, sentenced to 50 lashes which were commuted by Colonel Rice Jones, to 40 days imprisonment.
In November he was found Guilty of wantonly destroying his kit and necessaries, and was sentenced to 50 lashes, one year in prison and stoppages. He had twice before been leniently dealt with. The corporal punishment was carried into effect on Saturday 10th.
Private Joseph Bailey was charged with insubordination in October. Found Guilty he was sentenced to 50 lashes plus 156 days imprisonment.
Private William Hackford was charged for sleeping on his post in October. Found Guilty he was sentenced to 56 days imprisonment.
Private J. Forbes, charged with drunkenness in November. Found Guilty and sentenced to 56 days imprisonment, which was commuted by 20 days in view of his excellent general character.
Private James Bradfield found Guilty of habitual drunkenness, in November, and sentenced to 84 days hard labour and stoppage of a penny a day for 365 days.
Private John Hoghter, charged with insubordination in November. Found Guilty he was sentenced to 268 days imprisonment, and to spend 40 of them in solitary confinement, at intervals, but not to exceed 14 days at any one time.
Private Michael McCarthy, Private Francis McCaig and Private Thomas Jordan were all charged with being drunk on guard duty at the Jews Sally Port in December. They were all found Guilty. McCarthy sentenced to 112 days hard labour with stoppages of one penny a day for 30 days, McCaig sentenced to 84 days hard labour with stoppages, and Jordan 84 day’s hard labour with stoppages.
The 69th (South Lincolnshire) Regiment also spent the whole year in Malta, and had a number of men appear in the Magistrates Court or were Court Martialed.
Sergeant Andrew Murray, Reserve Battalion, assaulted Lorenzo Zarb with a drawn sword, seizing him by the collar and grossly abusing him. He was sentenced to two months imprisonment on bread and water, and reduced to the ranks.
Private John Neil was found Guilty of robbing Lieutenant Charles Gilbourne also of the 69th, of a gold watch and chain in July. He was sentenced to five years in the Galleys with a chain on his leg. Later orders were received from the Horse Guards that he should be dismissed the service.
Private Samuel Fieldhouse, had been found Guilty of being drunk on Piquet and habitual drunkenness. He was sentenced to forfeit one penny a day for 12 months, and corporal punishment of 50 lashes. This latter punishment took place on Friday morning 24th August in presence of troops in the garrison. He offended again whilst a prisoner by cutting up his kit, breaking a pair of handcuffs and damaging a tub. For these offences he was sentenced to 50 lashes, 12 months imprisonment with hard labour and stoppage of one penny per day.
Private Thomas was charged with insubordination in September. Found Guilty, and sentenced to 84 days imprisonment with hard labour.
Private Martin, in October found Guilty of being drunk at target practice and for being habitually a drunkard. He was sentenced to 56 days imprisonment with hard labour.
Private M'Guire, was tried in October for disobedience of orders, habitual drunkenness and insubordination, in wilfully damaging his knapsack and mess tin. He had been previously warned by his superior officers. Found Guilty he was sentenced to 50 lashes, 168 days imprisonment and deprived of one penny a day for 12 months. The corporal punishment was remitted by Colonel Rice Jones.
Private James Eagan, was charged with being drunk whilst a sentry at Vittoriosa Hospital in October, and for habitual drunkenness. Found Guilty he was sentenced to 56 days hard labour and to forfeit one penny a day for twelve months.
Private Rutherford was convicted on being drunk whilst on guard at the Victualling Office in November, but due to the intervention of the Adjutant who gave him a good reference, a light sentence of 33 days imprisonment and 1d per day deduction from pay for 30 days was imposed.
Private Hugh Montgomery, was tried for having refused to obey the orders of his superior officer in November. Found Guilty, he was sentenced to 14 days solitary confinement.
Private Reddin, found Guilty of drunkenness on duty in November. He was sentenced to 84 days imprisonment and to forfeit one penny per day for twelve months.
Private John Hanagan, was charged with sleeping on his post when sentry at Zabbar Gate in December. Found Guilty he was sentenced to 56 days in prison with hard labour.
In contrast to the number of men appearing in Court, Sergeant John Mahon, of the 1st Battalion, 69th Regiment, wrote several poems whilst stationed at Isola Barracks, Cottonera. His wife gave birth to a daughter on Thursday 11th October 1849, which inspired him to write:
TO A LADY
Maiden, of the laughing eye
Laden with love to thee I fly
Fairer thou than Luna's beam
Rarer than the choicest gem
Sweeter than the early dawn
Fleeter than the bounding fawn
Chaste as fair Penelope
Haste I bring my lay to thee.
Fair as is the mountain snow
(Care, oh! may'st thou never know)
What would I not give to sip
That soft nectar on thy lip ?
Can thy beauty fail to move
Man to see thee and to love
One glance of thine eye but give
None can witness it and live
Glad, sweet maiden, should I be
Had I but one smile from thee
Dearest I could life resign
Fairest but to call thee mine
Snatching from thy lips a kiss
Watching for such heartfelt bliss
Where thy witching smiles are given
There sweet maid I'd find my heaven
Bright the glances of thine eyes
Night before their light'ning flies
Would not I all care remove
Could I but possess they love ?
Mine, (oh could I call thee so)
Thine, I'd be thro' weal or woe
Now, while gazing on thy face
How, I love each winning grace.
Hark! tis beauty's voice I hear
Mark its cadence soft and clear
Driven forth, on midnight air
Heaven speaks thro' thee my fair
Beauty shines like th'evening star
Duty, sees it from afar
Maiden of the dark blue eye
Laden with grief, for thee I die.
But alas! this is my doom
Shut from out the rose's bloom
I, alas! can never be
Nigh the heaven I love to see
Yet, oh, may thy ruling fate
Get for thee a noble mate
Crown thee with perpetual love
Down life's stream whilst thou shalt move
This one was followed on October 19th, by "A Dream", and Friday 23rd November 1849, "My Emerald Home", which he set to music, and was on sale at the Goodenough’s Library.
John Gardiner died at his residence in Strada Forni on 13th October 1849. For a long period he served in the army having risen through the ranks from Private to Quarter Master Serjeant of the 42nd (The Royal Highland) Regiment. When his regiment was ordered to leave the island he retired on a pension and subsequently succeeded in a vacancy in the Barrack Department, from which he resigned, obtaining the position of Garrison Quarter Master Serjeant which he filled until his death. His funeral was a military one; the coffin was placed on an artillery carriage drawn by two black horses whose nodding funeral plumes gave a melancholy effect to the sad scene. A Union Jack was draped over the coffin on which were his cap, belt, and sword. The funeral cortege was preceded by the band of the 44th (East Essex) Regiment who also provided the firing party.
The funeral service was performed by the Reverend Hare in Msida Bastion cemetery, after which three volleys were fired.
Major John Moore of the 44th (East Essex) Regiment was going his rounds as Field Officer of the day at the prison, when on visiting one of the cells he was violent assaulted by Private Ward, of the Reserve Battalion. The same man, who had lately fired into the Powder magazine. Not content with the assault he observed ‘I haven't done with you yet old fellow ! I'll have your life yet, I suppose this will be another three months.’ The motive for this attack would seem to be a desire to be dismissed from the service, but the Major remonstrated with him on the folly of continuing his bad conduct. At a Court Martial held on 6th November 1849 Private Ward was found Guilty of striking the Major, and faced a possible death sentence. However, the Court’s decision was fourteen years Transportation.
As the year drew to a close the British residents and Maltese were saddened to hear of the death of Queen Adelaide. Many had fond memories of her visit to Malta during the winter of 1839/1840, and her gift of a church to Valletta.
The official announcement read:
London. Sunday 2nd December 1849.
This morning at 7 minutes before 2 o’clock Her Majesty the Queen Dowager departed this life at Stanmore Priory to the great grief of Her Majesty and of all the Royal Family, after a painful and protracted illness, which she bore with exemplary patience.
To be continued
For those of you with an interest in the British Army in Malta we recommend a visit to Fort Rinella.
The Fort was built in the 1880’s by the British to protect the entrance to Grand Harrour, and was armed with a single Armstrong 100-ton gun. It was the most technologically advanced cannon of its day, capable of firing a one-ton shell to a distance of 3 miles, and still pierce wrought iron armour of 65cm thickness.
This gun and its ancilliary machinery can be seen, as well as other items used by the Victorian soldiers of the Royal Artillery who were stationed there.
Fort Rinella has been restored by Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna (Malta Heritage Trust) and is now run by them.
Apart from guided tours which are made daily, on Saturday afternoons members of FWA dressed as soldiers in Victorian Army uniforms carry out a series of re-enactments depicting army life in the late 19th century.
|Back to Index|