In December 1803, Count Mountjoy Froberg was granted a Letter of Service to raise a regiment in Germany for service at Malta. During the Napoleonic wars the Secretary at War frequently issued Letters of Service to British agents on the continent empowering them to raise foreign troops for the army.
1805 Froberg Levy
1806 Froberg Levy
11 Apr 1806 Froberg Levy arrived at Malta.
June 1806 Strength: 483 rank and file, 12 Sergeants, 18 Buglers.
1807 Froberg Levy
4 Apr 1807 Mutiny of Froberg's Levy at Fort Ricasoli.
No sooner had the Maltese set aside the calamity of the explosion of the arsenal at Vittoriosa, that their peace and tranquility was shattered by the mutiny of Froberg Levy at Fort Ricasoli. The mutiny was in no way unexpected. It had its origins in the iniquities of the recruiting system, and in the widespread practice of suddenly raising poorly equipped foreign levees for overseas service, whose loyalty could never be relied upon.
Froberg levy consisted of a motley of about 300 Germans, Poles, and Swiss, and about 400 Albanians, Bulgarians, Wallachians, and Greeks. With such a cacophony of tongues it was not surprising that the officers could not communicate with their men, and that many of them were not properly attested, as the oath could not be explained to them. Those recruited at Constantinople had a justifiable grievance, which stemmed from the fraudulent means employed by Lt Schwartz, adjutant of Froberg's levy. The men were deceived by false promises and were deluded by extravagant descriptions of pay and allowances. Schwartz promised them a pay of fifty Turkish piasters and a bounty of a Doubloon. None however received more than 20 Turkish piasters. To some, it was held that they were to be officers and not privates, to others that they were being recruited to serve as sailors for the Russian Service at Corfu, while others were assured that their families at home would be supported.
Those recruited at Constantinople arrived in Malta against their will. While performing quarantine at the lazaretto the men protested about being forcibly brought to Malta and demanded to return to Corfu. Schwartz threatened to withdraw their bread and provisions until they submitted. They were then left for nearly two winters without uniforms, great coats, and arms, and without a paymaster or officers, which rendered them not only incapable of active service but also unsuitable for garrison duty. The men roamed about the streets of Valletta quarrelling frequently amongst themselves and the Maltese. To maintain order General William A. Villettes confined them to Fort Ricasoli, and only allowed a few men at a time to visit the city. This increased their resentment at having to serve under British Colours.
On Saturday 4 April 1807, about 200 Greek and Albanians decided to escape form Malta and return to Corfu. The mutineers rushed the mess and killed Lt Schwartz and severely wounded Major Schumelketel, Captain Watterville, and two other officers who had attempted to stop them. The mutineers tore down the British flag, claimed the protection of Russia, and trained the guns and mortars of Ricasoli onto Valletta. They then threatened to kill their hostages and fire on to the city unless they were placed on Russian vessels and returned to their own country or Corfu. General Villettes blockaded Fort Ricasoli in an attempt to starve the mutineers.
On 8 April the German and Polish soldiers who had dissociated themselves from the Albanians killed one of the conspirators who was about to blow up the magazine, forced the gates, and surrendered themselves to the troops before the place. The rest perceiving the hopelessness of their situation soon gave themselves up. A hard core of twenty to thirty soldiers, however, retreated into the powder magazine and lobbed mortar shells into the town. This caused widespread panic, forcing Villettes to storm the fort.
On 11 April, a number of men under the command of Lt Clermont scaled the walls and captured two of the mutineers. Five barricaded themselves in the magazine, while others escaped over the bastion and fled into the countryside.
The mutiny came to a dramatic end on the night of 12 April when those barricaded in the magazine blew themselves up, causing a considerable breach in the curtain towards the sea. After a very short trial, twenty four of the most conspicuous and notorious leaders were executed in the presence of the regiment.
Froberg Levy was disbanded in May 1807. Those who were improperly enlisted and who had no wish to serve in the British Army were returned to Corfu. The Germans, Poles, and Russian recruits not implicated in the mutiny were drafted into the Regiments of De Roll, Chasseurs Britanniques, and De Watteville.
- TNA:CO 158/15, War and Colonial Department and Colonial Office Malta, Secretary of State Despatches Military 1803–08.
- TNA:WO 1/293, 9 April 1807, Colonies Correspondence Malta 1802-1812, Villettes to Fox (Mutiny Froberg's Levy).
- TNA:WO 1/293, 23 April 1807, Colonies Correspondence Malta 1802-1812, Villettes to Fox (Mutiny Froberg's Levy).