The Maltese Provincial Battalions
Two Maltese Provincial Battalions of 700 men each were embodied for garrison duty under the terms of Article X of the Treaty of Amiens dated 27 March 1802. This Article stipulated that half of the 4,000 strength of the garrison of Malta had to consist of Maltese troops under their own officers. The Maltese Light Infantry and two companies of the Militia Coast Artillery were disbanded in 1802, and the men encouraged to join the two Provincial Battalions.
Also raised in 1802, were one battalion of Coast Artillery of 300 men, and one battalion of Maltese Veterans of the same strength. The Corps of Maltese Veterans consisted of four companies composed of men who had served faithfully under the government of the Knights or during the blockade of the French, and of such others who were unfit for active service. The Maltese Veterans were commanded by the Marquis Pandolfo Testaferrata, who was succeeded by Baron Pietro Paolo Testaferrata in 1811.
The Provincials replaced the Maltese Militia Regiment raised by Major General Henry Pigot in January 1801. Pigot's Militia was made up of 900 men in three divisions, each of three companies. The 1st Division of the Maltese Militia was commanded by Count De Gatto, the 3rd Division by the Marquis Paolo Parisi.
On 8 February 1803, two battalions of infantry of 700 men each were organised into the Provincial Battalions. The men were enlisted for five years. This newly raised unit served locally as a police force and coast guard. In 1803, it was employed by Alexander Ball to repair roads, fences, and fortifications damaged by the extraordinary winter gales.
Alexander Ball had encountered some difficulty in raising men for his Maltese Corps. This was partly due to the great loss sustained by the island during the blockade when an epidemic disease proved fatal to many thousands of inhabitants of the country. In addition, the increase in trade brought on by the arrival of English merchants from Italy offered labourers an alternative source of employment. By requiring each officer to raise a certain proportion of soldiers before receiving their pay, Ball had hoped to complete the corps in the course of the ensuing winter. By 1 November 1803, 1,508 men had been enrolled. Captain James Vivion RA acted as Inspector of Maltese troops.
|Corps||Capt||Lt||Staff||NCOs||Drms||Ptes||Total NCO and Ptes|
|Infantry under Marquis Paolo Parisi (Fort Manoel)||7||15||6||79||20||435||534|
|Infantry under Conte Luigi Maria Gatto (Fort Ricasoli)||5||15||5||69||16||419||504|
|Coys Coast Artillery at Marsaxlokk and St Paul's Bay||2||4||2||20||0||150||170|
|Corps of Invalids and Police Guards||0||0||0||36||0||264||300|
|General Return by Capt J Vivion Acting Inspector of Maltese Troops dated 1 Nov 1803 of the Maltese Regiments of Infantry, Companies of Coast Artillery and Corps of Invalids (TNA CO 158/7).|
There were originally two battalions of Provincials, but in October 1806, they were consolidated into one battalion under the command of Colonel the Marquis Parisi. When the Royal Regiment of Malta was raised in 1805, the men of the Provincials were allowed to volunteer to that regiment, so that only enough men remained to muster one battalion. Thereafter, there did not remain enough men to even form one battalion which was kept up voluntarily. In 1815, there existed only 4 companies under the command of Conte Luigi Maria Gatto, who had commanded the 2nd Provincial Battalion.
The 1st/Maltese Provincial Battalion (1802 – 1815)
1802 1st Provincial
1802 Disbandment of the Maltese Light Infantry. Most of the 638 discharged men were absorbed into the Provincial Battalions.
1803 1st Provincial
5 July 1803 General W. A. Villettes reported to Lord Hobart that no steps had yet been taken to raise the Maltese Levy.
24 July Villettes reported to Lord Hobart that about 900 Maltese recruits had been now assembled.1 The men were placed at Fort Manoel.
14 Sep The two Provincial Battalions were raised under the provisions of the Treaty of Amiens. The 1st Battalion was commanded by Marquis Paolo Parisi from 6 November 1802 to 24 February 1807.
On 14 September 1803, Ball was able to report to Lord Hobart that:
the two Maltese Battalions, although not completed, are now embodied and attached to the garrison. The number enrolled amounts to upwards of 1,200 men. With respect to the appointment of Capt J Vivion and Maj Weir to command those corps, I beg to suggest that instead of being commandants, those gentleman should hold the situation of Inspectors. Capt Vivion at present acts as Inspector to both regiments.
Major General Villettes has upon all occasions readily afforded me his aid and advice in every thing relative to the raising of the Maltese Battalions, and I am confident that the utmost harmony will ever continue to subsist between the officers and men of the British Regiments and those of the Maltese Corps.4
In the selection of officers for the Maltese Corps, Ball was
careful to nominate one from each of the most respectable families in the island, whose attachment to the Government, will thus, I trust, be secured. The men were enrolled for five years for local service.
23 Sep Downing Street to Villettes:
The progressive reinforcements called to the strength of the Maltese regiments which have already been completed (together with additions to the garrison) will enable you to add considerably to the force you had originally destined for Messina and to afford further aid in the event of it becoming necessary for the safety of the Kingdom of Sicily.1
1 Oct 1803 The 1st Bn Maltese Provincials had 427 men, 1 surgeon and 2 assistant surgeons. On 1 November 1803, Ball reported that the number now enrolled amounted to 1,508 men spread across the two battalions. Maltese were also enlisting in the service of the Maltese Coast Artillery and Ball hoped that the number would soon be reached to complete that Corps.
Officers of the Maltese Corps commanded by Lieut Col The Marchese Paolo Parisi at Fort Manoel recommended by A Ball for approval in September 1803:
- Enrico Testaferrata
- Giuseppe Depiro
- Federico Ubaldini
- Marcello Ellul Cardona
- Salvatore Vella
- Giuseppe Bonavia
- Giuseppe Fabri
- Pietro Paolo Gauci
- Vincenzo Allegrini
- Luigi Larosa
- Giuseppe Salamone
- Saverio Mercieca
- Giuseppe Vella
- Ignazio Balzan
- Giovanni Battista Caruana
- Michele Muscat
- Giovanni Battista Bonnici
- Pietro Zammit
- Domenico Cursoni
- Giovanni Battista Virtu
- Antonio Muscat
- Pietro Wallis
- Franco Grech
- Chirurgi (Surgeons)
- Antonio Baldacchino
1804 1st Provincial
|Corps||Capt||Lt||Staff||NCOs||Drms||Ptes||Total NCO and Ptes|
|Infantry under Marquis Paolo Parisi (Fort Manoel)||7||17||7||40||20||487||550|
|Infantry under Conte Luigi Maria Gatto (Fort Ricasoli)||6||16||5||40||20||500||560|
|Coys Coast Artillery at Marsaxlokk and St Paul's Bay||3||6||0||15||0||285||300|
|Corps of Invalids and Police Guards||1||2||0||36||0||264||300|
|General Return by Capt J Vivion Acting Inspector of Maltese Troops dated 25 January 1804 of the Maltese Regiments of Infantry, Companies of Coast Artillery and Corps of Invalids (TNA CO 158/8).|
13 Nov Major General William A Villettes reviewed the Provincials on the Floriana parade ground. Eleven men served as marines on board the packet King George.
1805 1st Provincial
30 Mar 1805 Raising of the Royal Regiment of Malta which recruited most of its men from the two Provincial Battalions. Subsequently, in October 1806, the two Provincial Battalions were reduced to a single battalion under the command of Colonel the Marquis Parisi who commanded the 1st Provincials. Conte Luigi Maria Gatto commanding the 2nd Provincials was appointed commandant of the island's militia.
25 Apr Dispatch of Alexander Ball to Earl Camden dated 25 Apr 1805:
The two Maltese Battalions to be consolidated into one regiment for General Service in the Mediterranean with an English Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel and Adjutant. The 1st Provincial Battalion was at Fort Manoel.
1806 Maltese Provincial Battalion
1 May 1806 Maltese Provincial Battalion commanded by Lt Col Paolo Parisi had 275 men, 0 surgeon and 2 assistant surgeons.
1 Sep Maltese Provincial Battalion commanded by Lt Col Paolo Parisi had 0 surgeon and 2 assistant surgeons.
Oct A General Order directed the consolidation of the two Provincial Battalions into one corps and encouraged the disbanded men to enlist into the Royal Regiment of Malta. The Maltese Provincial Battalion was commanded by Colonel the Marquis Parisi.
1 Nov Maltese Provincial Battalion had 517 men, 1 surgeon and 2 assistant surgeons.
6 Nov The pay of a surgeon in the Maltese Provincial Battalion was 4 shillings per day; that of an assistant surgeon 3 shillings a day. In 1806, it was proposed to increase this to 6 shillings for a surgeon and 4 shillings for the assistant surgeons, and to set the establishment at one surgeon and two assistant surgeons.2
1807 Maltese Provincial Battalion
|Date||Rank and File
Fit for Duty
Officers and Men
|1 July 1807||466||6||585|
|1 October 1807||442||9||551|
|1 November 1807||443||7|
|Strength Maltese Provincial Battalion 1807|
25 Feb 1807 The men of the 2nd Provincial Battalion were placed on half-pay in consequence of the reduction of the battalion. The battalion was commanded by Marquis Paolo Parisi until 24 August 1811.
1 July Strength: 37 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 63 NCOs, 466 rank and file fit for duty, 6 rank and file sick, 585 total officers and men.
1 Oct Strength: 37 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 62 NCOs, 442 rank and file fit for duty, 9 rank and file sick, 551 total officers and men.
1808 Maltese Provincial Battalion
1 Feb 1808 Strength: 37 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 62 NCOs, 443 rank and file fit for duty, 7 rank and file sick, 551 total officers and men.
1 Aug Strength: 35 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 21 NCOs, 40 rank and file fit for duty, 96 total officers and men.
1 Sep Strength: 35 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 19 NCOs, 53 rank and file fit for duty, 108 total officers and men.
1 Dec Strength: 13 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 23 NCOs, 160 rank and file fit for duty, 196 total officers and men.
1809 Maltese Provincial Battalion
1810 Maltese Provincial Battalion
25 June 1810 Field officers present: 3; Captains present: 2; Subalterns present: 14; Rank and File (Effective): 212.
1811 Maltese Provincial Battalion
20 Aug 1811 Conte Luigi Maria Gatto was appointed to command the battalion after Marquis Paolo Parisi resigned his commission.
25 Oct Field officers present: 2; Captains present: 0; Subalterns present: 16; Rank and File (Effective): 261.
1812 Maltese Provincial Battalion
1812 The battalion had 249 men under the command of Conte Luigi Maria Gatto. Its HQ Coy was at Cottonera.
25 Oct Field officers present: 2; Captains present: 6; Subalterns present: 16; Rank and File (Effective): 251.
25 Dec Field officers present: 2; Captains present: 6; Subalterns present: 16; Rank and File (Effective): 249.
1813 Maltese Provincial Battalion
25 Feb 1813 The Provincials was under the command of Lt Col Conte Luigi Maria Gatto.
Field officers present: 2; Captains present: 6; Subalterns present: 16; Rank and File (Effective): 249.
25 May Field officers present: 2; Captains present: 6; Subalterns present: 16; Rank and File (Effective): 246.
1 June Proposed establishment on 1 June 1813 was: 1 surgeon and 2 assistant surgeons (subsequently reduced to 1 assistant surgeon) with pay of 5 scudi 6 tari (11s) for the surgeon, and 3 scudi 3 tari (6s 6d) for the assistant surgeon.
The battalion rendered valuable service during the plague of 1813.
25 Aug Rank and File (Effective): 142.
1814 Maltese Provincial Battalion
25 June 1814 The 1st Provincial Bn was reduced to four companies.
A Corps of Veterans was raised for public duties in 1814.
1815 Maltese Provincial Battalion
16 Feb 1815 Lieut General Thomas Maitland reduced the Maltese Provincials, the Corps of Veterans and the Coast Artillery and replaced them with the Royal Malta Fencibles. The officers of the Maltese Provincials were transferred to the Royal Malta Fencibles. They continued to serve therein under the control of the Colonial Office until 1825, when the Fencibles was transferred to the British establishment and annual provision was made for it by parliament in the army estimates. The duties of the corps were restricted to Malta, and included general military duties of the garrison, the former anomalous character of a police force having been suspended. The officers commissioned since 1825 were granted their commission by the Crown.
28 Feb The Maltese Provincial Battalion was disbanded under General Order dated 28 February 1815. By March 1815, the disbanded men of the Maltese Provincial Battalion were enlisted into the newly raised Royal Malta Fencible Regiment.
The 2nd/Maltese Provincial Battalion (1802 – 1806)
1802 2nd Provincial
14 Sep 1802 The 2nd Provincial Battalion was raised under the provisions of the Treaty of Amiens. It was quartered at Fort Ricasoli under the command of Conte Luigi Maria Gatto.
1803 2nd Provincial
1 Dec 1803 The 2nd Maltese Provincials had 480 men, 0 surgeon and 1 assistant surgeon.
Officers of the Maltese Corps commanded by Lieut Col The Count Luigi Maria Gatto at Fort Ricasoli recommended for approval by A Ball in September 1803:
- Filippo Testaferrata
- Luigi Sant
- Ignazio Bonnici
- Giovanni Battista Mirabella
- Andrea Trevisan
- Giovanni Carlo Galea
- Luigi Cauchi
- Giacchino Arena
- Claudio Bonello
- Saverio Metrovich
- Giuseppe Consolato
- Giuseppe Borg
- Giovanni Battista Desalvo
- Vincenzo Bonavita
- Fedele Galia
- Vincenzo ?Bavanz
- Saverio Schembri
- ?Barmo Trapani
- Giuseppe Ellul
- Salvatore Gellel
- ... Drane
- G A ?Hatzenbuhler
- Chirurgo (Surgeon)
- Giovanni Fenech
The Civil Commissioner Sir Alexander Ball RN,
was carful to nominate one officers from each of the most respectable families in the island, whose attachment to the government will thus I trust be secured.
1804 2nd Provincial
1 Jan 1804 The battalion strength was 502 men, of which 17 were sick and 11 on duty as marines.
1805 2nd Provincial
On 13 August Sir James Craig said of the 1st and 2nd Provincial Battalions:
The two Maltese Battalions may be reported together for they are exactly on a footing in every respect and both joined, would not in point of numbers form one good battalion. They are, however, a stout hardy race of men capable of any service in this climate, intelligent and easily trained, and as fencible Regiments for the service of this island, I think might be very useful.3
1806 2nd Provincial
1 May 1806 The consolidated Maltese Provincials was commanded by Conte Luigi Maria Gatto. It had 275 men, 0 surgeon and 1 assistant surgeon.
18 July 23 men of the Provincials commanded by Conte Luigi Maria Gatto were killed in the explosion of a gun powder magazine at Vittoriosa.
On 16 July Lt Col Bentham commanding the Royal Artillery in Malta ordered Capt Gamble, officer in charge of the artillery in the Cottonera District, through Mr Rutter, the Ordnance Commissary, to unload shells from the magazine in Vittoriosa, so as to move them to Sicily. Capt Gamble passed the order to Bdr Anderson, Garrison Gunner. Sgt Robert Anson the laboratory Sgt had been ordered to show Bdr Anderson how to draw the powder from live shells. Anderson was told to carry the shells as far as possible from the magazine previous to unloading them. The cause of the explosion was disobedience of orders by Bdr Anderson, but Capt Gamble was relieved of his command for failing to provide adequate supervision by a more senior officer.
A Court of Inquiry was held at Valletta on 21 July 1806. Gnr Robert Cresey, a member of the working party, declared that on the evening of 16 July he had assisted in the unloading of several shells in the magazine of Vittoriosa. He stated that the boxes containing the shells were opened with an iron chisel. That seeing much danger in carrying on such work in the magazine he remonstrated with Bdr Anderson who desired him to mind his own business. The magazine blew up on the 18th July killing the working party consisting of an NCO and 12 gunners.
Oct There were originally two battalions of Provincials, but in October 1806, they were consolidated into one battalion under the command of Colonel the Marquis Parisi. When the Royal Regiment of Malta was raised by Major General W. A. Villettes in 1805, the men of the Provincials were allowed to volunteer to that regiment, so that only enough men remained to muster one battalion commanded by Col Parisi. Thereafter, there did not remain enough men to even form one battalion which was kept up ever since voluntarily. In 1815, there existed only 4 companies under the command of Conte Luigi Maria Gatto, who had commanded the 2nd Provincial Battalion.
- 1TNA:CO 158/15, 24 July 1803, Villettes to Hobart.
- 2TNA:CO 158/12, f 225, 6 Nov 1806, Scheme for the increase of pay to the Maltese Provincial Battalion in letters of Sir Alexander Ball.
- 3TNA:WO 1/293. Craig to W Gordon dated Malta 13 August 1805.
- 4TNA:CO 158/7, 14 July 1803, Ball to Hobart.
- TNA:CO 158/18, 3 October 1812.
- TNA:WO 17/2122, 1806, War Office correspondence Malta 1806.
- TNA:WO 17/2119, 1803, War Office correspondence Malta 1803.
- Chesney A. G. 1897 Historical Records of the Maltese Corps of the British Army. London: William Clowes and Sons Ltd.