BRITISH DEFENCE OF HER NAVAL STATIONS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
[Dr. Quentin Hughes, School of Architecture, The University of Liverpool, Liverpool, England]
There was no clear cut strategic policy that directed the rise of British sea power in the Mediterranean. Rather it was a set of propitious circumstances which, taken advantage of, provided the means for the establishment of naval supremacy in the Inland Sea.1 Admittedly Cromwell had probably advocated the taking of Gibraltar but it was not until 1651 that the first permanent squadron was established in the western Mediterranean. The formation of the Levant trad- ing company had called for the protection of British maritime trade against the depravations of the Barbary corsairs and the Navy moved in to provide that pro- tection.
Ships needed convenient shore-based facilities for careening, victualling, repairs and later supplies of coal, and the naval stations, once established, re- quired a measure of protection against powers intent upon their capture or de- struction when the Navy was absent. With the near certainty that the Royal Navy could throw in reinforcements and supplies to any beleagured station 2 the home government, ever short of funds, found it hard to maintain large standing garri- sons overseas and inevitably resorted to a dependence upon permanent fortifica- tions which, if expensive to construct, could safeguard the place with minimum forces and small outlay.
This paper deals with the construction of these fortifications which display a degree of ingenuity and experimentation on the part of the young Corps of Engineers for which it has not previously received much credit.
Tangier, guarding the western approaches to the Mediterranean, came Britain's way almost fortuitously as part of a marriage dowry for Charles II, but it required tricky diplomacy and the convenient cry of help from the beleagured Portuguese garrison for the place to be taken and secured.
From the early years of the sixteenth century most European countries had adopted a system of fortification based upon the use of a continuous line of pen- tagonal bastions and curtain walls from which enfilade fire could be laid down across any front likely to be attacked. The system had its weaknesses only par- tially remedied by pushing forward a series of outworks which would take the first brunt of any attack. 3
The British found at Tangier a town defended by an ancient combination of tall towers and curtains, and Italian-style bastions placed at the most vulnerable points of attack. The British did two things to strengthen the defences.