The Royal Malta Fencible Regiment (1825 – 1861)
On 16 February 1815, Lieut Gen Thomas Maitland issued a General Order where by the three Maltese Corps, that is, the Provincials, Veterans, and Coast Artillery, were as from 24 February 1815, to be incorporated into one corps, to be called The Royal Malta Fencibles. The pay of a private soldier was 8 and a half pence a day with a pound and a half of bread in rations and a small amount of fuel.
Count Francesco Rivarola Sicilian Regiment commanded the Fencibles from February 1815 to September 1829.
Count Francesco Rivarola was commissioned ensign in April 1795. He left Corsica with the British troops in 1796. Rivarola recruited a significant number of men for the Royal Corsican Rangers, or Sir Hudson Lowe's Regiment. In April 1806, he raised the whole of the Sicilian Regiment, which through his exertions, was in 1811 augmented to upwards of 1,000 men. Gen Hildebrand Oakes placed him in charge of the newly established post of Inspector General of Police during the plague epidemic of 1813. Rivarola also held the post of Inspector of Foreign Troops, previously held by Major John Vivion RA. In 1815, Rivarola was bestowed with the command of the Royal Malta Fencibles as a reward for his services during the plague.
The Royal Malta Fencibles consisted of ten companies, including three companies of artillery. The Right Wing of the Fencibles was commanded by Colonel Count de Gatto. It had four companies at Zejtun, Zabbar Gate Barracks and Fort Ricasoli. The Left Wing was commanded by Major Baron Testaferrata. It had three infantry companies and three companies of artillery. The infantry companies were at Strada Torre Barracks Valletta, St Julian's Bay with a detachment at Qawra, Marsaxlokk with a detachment at St Thomas Tower, and St Paul's Bay with a detachment at the Red Tower.
The officers of the Royal Malta Fencibles were transferred to this corps from the Provincials, and continued to serve therein under the control of the colonial department until 1825. The Fencibles was then transferred to the British establishment with annual provisions being made for it by Parliament in the Army Estimates.
The enlisted men served locally, and initially supported the police and guarded convicts. Later, the regiment was restricted to general military duties in the garrison, its former anomalies character of police force having been suspended.
On 25 January 1861, the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment became a corps of artillery with six batteries. On 23 March 1889, the word Fencible was dropped from The Royal Malta Fencible Artillery, and the regiment became the Royal Malta Artillery.
The Royal Malta Fencibles (1815 – 1825)
28 Feb 1815 The Maltese Provincials, Veterans, and Coast Artillery were disbanded and replaced with the Royal Malta Fencibles.
Mar The surgeon's rate of pay was 8 shillings a day, and 5 shillings 6 pence a day for an assistant surgeon.
21 Mar 1816 An assistant surgeon was dropped from the establishment of the Royal Malta Fencibles which had one surgeon and two assistant surgeons in February 1815.
31 Jan 1817 The Royal Malta Fencibles was reduced to just one surgeon. His daily rate of pay remained unchanged at 8 shillings. The assistant surgeons were discharged on a retirement allowance of 18 months full pay at their daily rate of 5s 6d.
The expense of maintaining the regiment was transferred to the Treasury of Malta. In 1838, its upkeep, which amounted to £12,000 a year, reverted to the British Treasury.
25 Feb 1817 Retirement of Colonel Count de Gatto.
Oct 1820 The Royal Malta Fencibles was reorganised into four companies. A company furnished detachments to Gozo and covered the west coast of Malta, another company guarded the east coast and provided detachments at Citta Vecchia and Cottonera. HQ Coy was at Strada Torre Barracks Valletta, near Porta Reale.
In October 1820 the surgeon's pay was 6s 8d a day.
11 Feb 1823 The Royal Malta Fencibles assisted in the disaster which befell the convent of the Minori Osservanti at Strada St Ursula Valletta. During carnival, it was customary for a large number of children to gather for refreshments at the convent. On this occasion a panic ensued, and as the boys rushed out of the convent through a half open door they were trampled upon and suffocated. 110 boys aged between 8 to 15 years were killed.
The Royal Malta Fencible Regiment (1825 – 1861)
May 1825 Strength 498 men. In May the Fencibles was reorganised into a regiment of six companies of 75 rank and file each, with an establishment of 25 officers and 504 other ranks. It was transferred from the control of the Colonial Department to the British establishment. The artillery companies were lost.
From 1825, officers of the RMFR were commissioned by the Crown. Commissions ceased to be granted by the governor and be gazetted locally. Their names started to appear in the London Gazette.
On 22 April 1834, in his evidence to the Select Committee on Military Establishments in the Colonies, Colonel Sir George Whitmore, Commanding the Royal Engineers, stated that
the Maltese Regiment is confined to police duties generally, the coast towers, Fort Chambray in Gozo, and in peace time the coast towers may be considered police duties. The men were detached around the coast of Malta and Gozo to protect the quarantine regulations and prevent the landing of contraband.
The pension granted to widows of medical officers of the RMFR was set at 7 shillings a day for a surgeon, and 3 shillings and six pence for an assistant surgeon.
Marriages in 1825:
- 3 Oct 1825 Widower CSgt Giuseppe Mulinari married Giovanna Barnes, widow of Sgt William Edward Barnes 1st/10th Regiment.
The Royal Malta Fencible Regiment makes its appearance in the Army List.
1826 Strength: 539 men. In 1826, an additional company was authorised.
Jan 1827 The RMFR was increased from six to seven companies following the reduction of a British infantry battalion. British reinforcements arrived on 24 June 1828 when the company of RMFR was disbanded.
25 Oct Strength: Rank and File (Effective) 539, Rank and File (Establishment) 560.
Appointments 15 Jan 1827:
- Lt Ellul promoted Captain with local and temporary rank.
- Ensign Mederico de Marchese Alessi promoted Lieutenant with local and temporary rank.
- Ensign Mattei promoted Lieutenant vice Lt Ellul.
- Vol. Cadet Gouder appointed Ensign vice Ensign Mattei.
- Vol. Cadet Luigi Consolal appointed Ensign.
- Vol. Cadet Rizzo appointed Ensign vice Alessi.
13 June 1828 General Orders HQ Valletta:
The RMFR having been placed on the establishment of the Army from 25 December last, the regiment will henceforth be mustered on the 24th of every month instead of the 1st, as hitherto, and the accounts and other documents required to be transmitted to the Secretary at War by regiments abroad will in future be transmitted direct without going through the usual local examination.
24 June The RMFR was reduced by one company on the arrival of British reinforcements. The Regiment was commanded by Count Francis Rivarola, and consisted of six Companies of 78 Rank and File each, with the following establishment:
- 1 Colonel — Daily Pay (Sterling) £1 5s 6d
- 1 Major — 10s 3d 1/2d
- 6 Captains — 7s each
- 6 Lieutenants — 5s 1d 3/4d each
- 6 Ensigns — 4s 1d 3/4d each
- 1 Pay Master — 7s
- 1 Adjutant — 6s
- 1 Surgeon — 7s
- 1 Assistant Surgeon — 4s 3d 1/2d
- 1 Quarter Master — 4s 3d 1/2d
- 1 Quarter Master Sergeant — 2s
- 1 Sergeant Major — 2s 3d 1/4d
- 1 Pay Master Sergeant — 1s 3d 1/2d
- 1 Armourer Sergeant — 1s 3d 1/2d
- 1 School Master Sergeant — 1s 3d 1/2d
- 6 Colour Sergeants — 1s 5d 1/4d each
- 18 Sergeants — 1s 3d 1/2d
- 1 Drum Major — 10d 1/4d
- 11 Drummers and Fifers — 10d 1/4d each
- 24 Corporals — 1s each
- 444 Privates — 8d 1/2d
The officer commanding had an allowance of 3 shillings a day; Field Officers and Captains were granted an annual allowance of twenty pounds sterling. Stoppages from pay for men admitted to the Civil Hospital amounted to 5d a day; stoppages for rations to officers and their non-soldier servants was 2d 1/2d for each ration. Each private soldier was rationed for 1lb 1/2 lb of bread, 1/2 pint of wine, and 2 lbs of wood a day for which he was charged 1 tari or 1d 8/12d for each ration.
Non-Commissioned Officers and men of the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment received the following items of clothing every two years. The clothing was issued to them on 25 December 1827, and was to last them up to 24 December 1829:
- 1 Coat
- 1 White Kerseymere Waistcoat with sleeves
- 1 Pair of grey cloth trousers
- 1 Pair of half boots
- 1 Cap complete
25 June The period of enlistment for the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment was altered to seven years. A two pounds sterling bounty was paid to every fresh recruit, and one pound sterling bounty to those re-enlisting. The net pay for Drummers and Privates amounted to 4/12d more than the net pay for equivalent rank in Line Regiments. The men of the RMFR were entitled to this increase as their rations were inferior to those received by soldiers in Line Regiments. When in hospital, however, their net pay was a 1/2d a day more than the net pay received by infantry in the Line. It was proposed that hospital stoppages be increased to 5d 1/2d a day to remove the disparity. When sick soldiers of the RMFR were admitted to the Civil Hospital, stoppage money from their pay was paid to the Purveyor of the Civil Hospital.
25 Oct Strength: 467 men (6 Coys).
23 Dec 1828 Captain Paolo Ellul was recalled from the retired list, and appointed Captain with temporary rank. He replaced Captain Bonello who died on 23 October 1828.
25 Sep 1829 Strength: 466 men (6 Coys).
Sep Count Francis Rivarola retired. The command of the Fencibles passed on to Lieut Col Giuseppe de Piro. He remained in post until 1847.
The following five children of Lieutenant and Adjutant John Levick RMFR and Teresa were baptised on 18 September 1830 by Archdeacon John Thomas Howe Le Mesurier Chaplain to the Forces.
- Jonathan Levick born 12 December 1821.
- William Levick born 5 December 1823.
- Annetta Levick born 16 September 1825.
- Susanna Levick born 18 April 1827.
- Emily Levick born 2 January 1829.
1 June 1831 Strength: Six companies, Rank and File 448 (Effectives), 468 (Establishment).
|Rank||Full Pay||Stoppages for Rations
When out of hospital
|Daily Net Pay||Stoppages for
Rations and Medicines
When in hospital
|Daily Net Pay|
|Sgt Maj||2s 3d 1/4d||1d 2/12d||2s 2d 1/12d||5d||1s 10d 1/4d|
|QM Sgt||2s||1d 2/12d||1s 10d 2/12d||5d||1s 7d|
|CSgt||1s 5d 1/4d||1d 2/12d||1s 4d 1/12d||5d||1s 0d 1/4d|
|Sgts||1s 3d 1/2d||1d 2/12d||1s 2d 4/12d||5d||10d 1/2d|
|Cpls||1s||1d 2/12d||10d 10/12d||5d||7d|
|Drm||10d 1/4d||1d 2/12d||9d 1/12d||5d||5d 1/4d|
|Pte||8d 1/2d||1d 2/12d||7d 4/12d||5d||3d 1/2d|
|Table I: On 25 December 1830 the allowance of wine was discontinued at Malta. (s = shilling, d= pence. There were 12 pennies to the shilling and twenty shillings to the pound sterling).|
The Royal Malta Fencibles was one of four Colonial Corps of the British Army. The other three were: The Cape Mounted Riflemen stationed in the Cape of Good Hope, the Royal African Colonial Corps stationed in Sierra Leone, and the Ceylon Corps based in Ceylon, which had a Cavalry, Rifle, and Invalid Company.
From 1832, hospital stoppage for all ranks in the RNFR was increased to 5d 1/2d a day. Previously sick soldiers of the RMFR had been admitted to the Civil hospital for which a stoppage had been made from their pay of five pence a day. The sick were henceforth received in the military hospital and their hospital stoppage was increased to bring them on the same footage as the stoppage of the British soldier.
1833 Strength: 24 Officers and 507 men.
The men were detached around the coast of Malta and Gozo to protect the quarantine regulations and prevent the landing of contraband. The average strength of the garrison, excluding the men of the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment, was 2,604 men and 100 Officers. The garrison had the minimum number of troops required to guard the Dockyard and the extensive fortifications. Any decrease in British troops was made up for by an increase in the Maltese Fencibles. The Maltese not only made good soldiers, but were cheaper to maintain than a British Battalion.
Burials in 1833:
- 19 Oct 1833 Adelaide Levick, aged 13 months, daughter of Lt and Adjutant John Levick. Lt J Levick became a lieutenant and adjutant in the RMFR on 24 Jan 1825.
1 Jan 1834 Strength: 467 men. The Corps had two English officers.
1836 Strength: 25 officers and 508 men.
Colours were presented to the regiment by the Governor Lieut Gen Henry Bouverie at the Floriana parade ground.
The regiment was commanded by Colonel the Marquis de Piro. From 1836, it ceased to be used as a police force and became fully integrated within the garrison.
29 Jan 1836 Lieut J. Galland was promoted Captain without purchase vice G. B. Virtu who retired. Lieut A. Matei was recalled from half-pay and appointed Lieut with temporary rank in the army vice Galland.
9 June-11 Oct 1837 Cholera epidemic in Malta.
31 July Death of Capt Muscat RMFR.
From 1838, the upkeep of the regiment, which amounted to £12,000 annually, reverted to the British Treasury.
The RMFR were tasked to maintain order among the sailors of the fleet and the
low description of Maltese and foreigners.
16 Feb 1840 Death of Capt Camilleri RMFR.
In February 1840 the RMFR had one surgeon and 1 assistant surgeon.
1 Aug 1840 The sick of the RMFR were admitted to their own Regimental Hospital. Hitherto, they had been treated in the Civil Hospital when a stoppage of 5d 1/2d a day was deducted from their pay and paid over to the Purveyor of the Civil Hospital. The pay of the private soldier in the RMFR was 8d 1/2d a day, leaving him 3d net pay after deduction of hospital stoppages. In May 1840, Major General Sir Henry Bouverie and the PMO Assistant Inspector of Hospitals Martin Montagu Mahony proposed to the increase the hospital stoppage to 6d a day, so as to place the sick of the RMFR on an equal footing with the British soldier. This increase, however left the soldier with a net pay of only 2d 1/2d a day. An English soldier in a Line Regiment was paid a shilling a day, and had 9 pence hospital stoppage deducted from his pay whenever he entered hospital, leaving him with a net pay of 3d a day.
The mean daily sick averaged only 22/1000, as opposed to 45/1000 amongst British troops. This was attributed to the men of the RMFR being of a different race and habits, and thus not as liable to be affected by sickness in the same proportion as troops from a more northern latitude1.
3 May 1842 The RMFR left their barracks at Strada Torre Valletta for the first time since 1815 and occupied the quarters vacated by the 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment at Floriana.
12 Aug Strength 532 men.
30 Nov An order dated Valletta 28 November 1842 authorised a Medical Board to assemble so as to award pensions to discharged men of the RMFR. The members were Brevet Major J. L. Smith RA as President, Capt Galland RMFR and Capt Fitzpatrick Rifle Bde. Medical officers were not eligible to form part of military boards.
The board having carefully examined the documents laid before them, and having heard the statement of Lieut Col Marquis de Piro commanding the RMFR, of the adjutant, and of Surgeon John Montanaro RMFR relating to the services, conduct, and causes of discharge of the named men of the RMFR recommended them for suitable pensions.
1843 The men of the RMFR were distributed as follows:
- Floriana – 21 officers and 438 men
- Gozo – 2 Officers and 86 men
- Casal Lija – 4 men
- East and West Coast – 2 Officers and 52 men
The RMFR provided the Coast Guard to prevent breaches in the revenue and quarantine laws, for which a yearly indemnity of £1,200 was paid over from the colonial treasury to the commissariat chest.
1844 Strength: 530 men.
11 Apr 1845 Capt James Galland RMFR transferred to 79th Foot vice Capt McCleverty deceased. Lieut Robert Douglas Clephane became Captain by purchase vice Galland who retired.
9 May Death of Maj Gouder RMFR.
6 June 1845 The following changes were made among the officers:
- As Captains with local and temporary rank:
- 11 Apr – Lieut A. Mattei vice Galland appointed to 79th.
- 10 May – Lieut G. Pettit vice Brevet Maj Gouder deceased.
- As Lieutenants with local and temporary rank:
- 11 Apr – Ensign W. Gatt vice Lt A. Mattei.
- 10 May – Ensign G. Cavarra vice Lt G. Pettit.
- As Ensigns with local and temporary rank:
- 11 Apr – J. Lazzarini Gentleman vice Gatt.
- 10 May – S. Piro Gentleman vice Cavarra.
May 1846 The RMFR moved from St James' Cavalier Valletta to Isola Gate and San Salvatore Gate Cottonera as part of the rotation of regiments in the command.
21 Feb 1847 The Royal Malta Fencible Regiment marched from the Cottonera District to Valletta where they occupied Strada Torre Barracks and St James Cavalier.
1 Apr The regimental strength was 578 men. An addition of twenty-seven recruits increased its strength to 605 men. There was one death in hospital from disease. Seven men purchased their discharge and 28 were released time expired.
The RMFR placed 18 soldiers on the East Coast, 34 on the West Coast, 87 in Gozo and Comino, and 4 in Casal Lia.
The RMFR had 25 officers, and 470 wives. The families received their medical care at the Civil Hospital.
16 July Major F. Bussiett CMG was promoted Lieut Colonel with local and temporary rank vice the Marquis Giuseppe de Piro CMG who retired upon full-pay. Captain C. Cutajar became Major vice Bussiett; Lieut F. Rizzo moved up to Captain vice Cutajar; Ensign G. Sesino became Lieut vice Rizzo; Gentleman F. G. Testaferrata became ensign with local and temporary rank vice Sesino.
A fifth of all hospital admissions were due to eye diseases. There were 34 venereal cases, 55 abscesses and ulcers, and 24 cases of influenza, 14 of which were classified as Common Continued Fever and the rest as Catarrh. There were in addition 19 cases of other fevers.
1 Apr 1848 The total strength of the RMFR was 569 men.
10 Oct The RMFR relocated to Cottonera following an outbreak of cholera.
1849 Strength: 391 men location at Isola Gate Barracks Cottonera.
1 Nov 1851 Strength: 516 men.
Jan 1852 Lt Col Francisco Busiett officer commanding and the officers of the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment entertained HE the Governor Maj Gen Sir William Reid, and proposed the health of Lt General Robert Ellice, who from that day was to retire from the command of the troops in Malta.2
Sep The regiment moved from St James Cavalier to Fort Manoel. It had detachments at Forts Ricasoli and Tigne. Strength: 516 Effective men, 564 (Establishment).
30 Dec Under Ordinance No ii of 1852 for the formation of a Maltese Militia Force the RMFR was to consist of seven Companies under their Captain Commandant Baron Sir G M DePiro. The establishment was for 639 officers and men.
There was to be a regimental school with a schoolmistress. Hospital stoppages for sick men was six pence a day. The pay of a private soldier was eight and a half pence a day.
The companies were: Great Harbour Coy (OC Capt Tagliaferro) 194 men, Marsametto Harbour Coy (OC Capt Testaferrata Olivier) 233 men, Floriana Coy (OC Capt Zammit) 81 men, Vittoriosa Coy (OC vacant) 31 men, Senglea Coy (OC vacant) 29 men, Cospicua Coy (OC vacant) 13 men, and Rabato of Gozo Coy (OC vacant) 89 men.
Apr 1853 Strength: 181 men.
The RMFR moved to Citta Vecchia as there was insufficient accommodation for the increased number of troops in the station.
Governor Maj Gen Sir William Reid recommended an increase in the pay of the RMFR to encourage enlistment. He considered the RMFR to be a valuable connecting link between the English and the Maltese, but the difference of pay between the British and Maltese soldier was felt more acutely since increase in commerce had greatly raised prices1.
12 Oct HQ Coy moved from Valletta to Isola Gate and occupied quarters vacated by 47th Foot which moved to Verdala Barracks. Two companies were at St Francesco de Paola, and another at Fort San Salvatore.
1 Jan 1854 Strength: 523 Effective men, 564 (Establishment).
27 Mar An Army Medical Board under the authority of Lt Gen James Fergusson Commanding Troops Malta, was convened to report on the state of health of QM Salamone RMFR. The Board was made up of Staff Surgeon Burrell William Henry as President, Surgeon Graves John Stewart 68th Regt and Assistant Surgeon John Eldon Young 62nd Regt as members.
Dec 1854 The Royal Malta Fencible Regiment (557 men) and the 14th Regiment (654 men) were the only two regiments to garrison the island when the Expeditionary Force sailed for the Crimea.
Strength: 546 Effective men, 564 (Establishment). The RMFR was kept as a reserve at the Inquisitor's palace until needed in the East. In 1855, Lt Col Baynes, commanding the RMFR, applied for his regiment to join the army in the Crimea, but his request was turned down.
1855 Strength: 564 men. Location: HQ Cottonera.
1856 Strength: 547 men. Location: HQ Cottonera.
1 Mar 1857 Effective strength 504 men, Established strength 564 men.
28 Aug Captain Antonio Mattei was promoted Major with local and temporary rank vice Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Carlo Cutajar, who retired upon half-pay.
1 Jan 1858 Strength: Rank and File 541 (Effectives), 564 (Establishment). Together with the 10 Coys of 28th Foot, the 6 Coys of the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment formed part of 2nd Brigade.
1 Mar Strength: Rank and File 550 (Effective), 564 (Established). Together with the the 6 Coys of 2nd/2nd Foot and the 10 Coys of 28th Foot, the 6 Coys of the Royal Malta Fencibles formed part of 2nd Brigade.
1 Dec Strength: 24 Officers, 36 NCOs, 13 Buglers/Drummers, 562 rank and file, 635 total all ranks. (Total garrison strength 4618 rank and file).
1 Jan 1859 Strength: 24 Officers, 36 NCOs, 13 Buglers/Drummers, 564 rank and file, 637 total all ranks. (Total garrison strength 4,537 rank and file).
1 Aug Strength: 25 Officers, 36 NCOs, 13 Buglers/Drummers, 561 rank and file, 635 total all ranks. (Total garrison strength 6897 rank and file).
In 1859, the Royal Malta Fencibles had 378 admissions (619.6 per 1000 of mean strength) with 5 deaths (8.19 per 1000 of mean strength).
1 Dec Strength: 25 Officers, 36 NCOs, 13 Buglers/Drummers, 555 rank and file, 629 total all ranks. (Total garrison strength 7,044 rank and file).
|Average Strength||Admissions Hospital||Deaths||Admissions/1000||Deaths/1000|
|Admissions into hospital and deaths during the year with ratio of admissions and deaths per 1000 of strength.|
1 Jan 1860 Strength: 25 Officers, 36 NCOs, 13 Buglers/Drummers, 563 rank and file, 637 total all ranks (Total garrison strength 7,018 rank and file).
The Royal Malta Fencibles had 120 admissions for miasmatic diseases, 35 for venereal infections, 52 for respiratory illnesses, 87 for digestive conditions, 96 for soft tissue injuries and 48 for accidental injuries.
In 1861, the Royal Malta Fencibles had an average strength of 605 men. There were 506 admissions into hospital (836 per 1000 of mean strength) with 6 deaths (9.92 per 1000 of mean strength). The admissions were 138 for miasmatic diseases with 1 death, 54 for venereal infections, 40 for respiratory illnesses, 3 for tubercular diseases with 1 death, 86 for digestive conditions, 101 for soft tissue injuries and 74 for accidental injuries with 3 deaths. One soldier was killed.
25 Jan 1861 The Royal Malta Fencible Regiment was converted to a corps of artillery and designated the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery. Lt Col Antonio Mattei who had commanded the RMFR became its first commanding officer.
- Rollo D, 1999. The Guns and Gunners of Malta. Malta: Mondial, p 14-15.
- Chesney A. G. 1897 Historical Records of the Maltese Corps of the British Army. London: William Clowes and Sons Ltd.
- Darmanin D. A. Helmet plates, badges and buttons at the Armed Forces of Malta Officers Mess.
- 1TNA:CO 158/165, Reid to New Castle dated 19 Jan 1853.
- TNA:CO 158/38, Count Francis Rivarola.
- TNA:WO 43/451, f 316-363, Royal Malta Fencible Regiment, 1 January 1829 to 31 December 1840.
- TNA:WO 334/10, Sick Returns and Reports of the Garrison of Malta from 1 January 1833 to 31 January 1834.
- TNA:WO 156/594. No 2, Marriage Register 1 January 1820 to 12 June 1839.
- TNA:WO 156/594. No 2, Baptism Register 2 January 1820 to 29 June 1839.
- 2The Malta Times No 467, dated 27 January 1852.