Of the Malta Garrison
The 3rd
Garrison Battalion

The 3rd Garrison Battalion

The 3rd Garrison Battalion originated from the sixteen Battalions of Reserve which were raised in July 1803. In October 1804, these Reserve Battalions were re-named Garrison Battalions.

In February 1805, the sixteen Garrison Battalions were disbanded and replaced by three new Garrison Battalions. The 3rd Garrison Battalion was formed at Plymouth on 25 February 1805 from men of the 3rd, 8th, 9th, 10th and 16th Garrison Battalions.

On 29 October 1813, Sir Thomas Maitland, Governor and Commander in Chief of Malta, described the 3rd Garrison Battalion as being made up of old men, worn out in the service, and generally inveterate drunkards, and men of all descriptions incompetent for service.1

The Garrison Battalions were disbanded in 1814 but the 3rd Garrison Battalion was renumbered and a new 3rd Garrison Battalion formed in 1815 from invalids and Chelsea pensioners.

The 3rd Garrison Battalion

1812 3rd Garrison

23 Dec 1812 Sir Henry Bathurst, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, informed Sir Hildebrand Oakes, Civil Commissioner and Officer Commanding the troops in Malta, that: a battalion which has been formed by incorporating all the sergeants and rank and file of the Garrison Battalion whose service were not limited, will be prepared immediately for embarkation and will proceed to Malta accompanied by a number of recruits and Militia Volunteers belonging to the 1st and 14th Regiments.2

25 Dec Strength 7 Coys. Field officers present: 1; Captains present: 4; Subalterns present: 10; Rank and File (Effective): 694; Rank and File (Establishment): 840.

1813 3rd Garrison

3 Feb 1813 Bathurst to Oakes:

The Garrison Battalion of which seven companies are now embarking has been made up to about 1,000 Rank and File. A strong detachment is proceeding to join the 2nd Battalion/14th Regiment, and the increased proportion of British soldiers will enable you to send the remainder of the 44th Regiment to Sicily. You will make this detachment as soon as the last companies of the 3rd Garrison Battalion shall arrive at Malta. Your garrison will then be composed of 400 artillery, 90 artificers, 1,076 men of the 2nd Battalion/14th Regiment, 1,030 men of the 3rd Garrison Battalion, 1,010 men of the Sicilians and 250 men of the Provincials. A force sufficient for the security of Malta under the present situation of affairs.2

25 Feb Field officers present: 1; Captains present: 4; Subalterns present: 10; Rank and File (Effective): 694; Rank and File (Establishment): 1200.

Map of Floriana showing barracks, San Calcedonius plague hospital and plague burial ground.

1 Apr The 3rd Garrison Battalion embarked on 13 February 1813. Seven companies (901 men) of the 3rd Garrison Battalion under the command of Major Bayley disembarked at Malta on 1 April from HMS Regulus (509 men, 61 wives and 49 children) and from HMS Melpomene (392 men, 25 wives and 24 children).3

25 May Field officers present: 1; Captains present: 5; Subalterns present: 12; Rank and File (Effective): 749, Rank and File (Establishment): 1200.

During the plague of 1813, the 3rd Garrison Battalion guarded the extensive fortifications of Floriana. Regimental surgeon William Stafford recalls how three separate families lived under his quarters, and, even though they had had no communication with each other, members out of each family died from the plague. Stafford left an account of the horrors which he witnessed:

Floriana is the only outlet from Valletta to the country. All the people that died in the city, all the sick sent into quarantine or observation, infected clothes – the dead-carts, sometimes so full that the covers could not be shut down, and, from the pressure of the bodies on each other, the carts might be traced by the quantity of pest matter running from them, all the pest hospitals for the Maltese, places of quarantine and observation were in the ditches of Floriana under the eyes of our sentries, who frequently, at day break, saw heaps lying on each other dead, and during the whole of the day, numbers under the severe and last agonies of the disease.

The following men from the 3rd Garrison Battalion fell ill with plague and were admitted to the Pest Hospital in the Casa Santa or San Calcedonius Floriana:

An ex Voto of the plague of 1813
An ex-voto of the Plague of 1813 showing the pest huts outside Valletta surrounded by a sanitary cordon manned by troops. [From P Cassar An ex-voto of the plague of 1813. The Malta Historical Society, 1984 (55-64)]

After plague had appeared in its ranks, the 3rd Garrison Battalion was moved from Floriana Barracks and placed in quarantine at Fort Ricasoli. No soldier fell ill in September, but plague flared up again on 24 October. Sir Thomas Maitland attributed this to an NCO trafficking in stolen goods taken from infected houses. Both the buyer and the seller died, and other soldiers fell ill. Maitland maintained that the disease ceased immediately the infected articles had been got rid off, reasserting his belief in the importance of isolating the contagion so as to eradicate the plague.1

The battalion had 30 to 40 cases of tumour in the axilla attended with slight fever. Stafford treated them all with calomel and ungt hydr rubbed in the course of the absorbent. None of these died and none were thought to have had the plague.

25 Aug Rank and File (Effective): 735; Rank and File (Establishment): 1208.

25 Oct 1813 Rank and File (Effective): 719; Rank and File (Establishment): 1000.

1814 3rd Garrison

1814 Strength: 701 men. The men occupied Fort Ricasoli.

1815 3rd Garrison

Apr 1815 The 3rd Garrison Battalion was renamed 1st Garrison Battalion.

Strength: 663 men. The men were at Fort Ricasoli.

1816 1st Garrison

1816 The men were at Cottonera.

1817 1st Garrison

28 May 1817 369 men were detached to England.