X hits on this document





218 / 367

  • -

    190 -

In the 1860's, contemporary with the defensive measures being taken at Portsmouth and Plymouth, the British began to build a series of new forts on Malta placed well beyond the existing enceinte around the dockyard.18 Colonel Jervois had made the first proposal for a ring of detatched forts in 1866, an idea later to be adopted by most of the continental powers around their main in- trenched camps.19 The Maltese forts display a curious trait in British engineer- ing. Unlike French work of the period, they are not standardised, but exhibit a great variety of shapes, a feature which also characterized Jervois' designs for the coastal forts on the island of Alderney. To some extent there was a tendancy to match designs on each side of the Grand Harbour at Malta, so that some forts are twins, but the shapes varied from nearly square to fan-shaped, lozenge- shaped, regular hexagonal, rectangular and quite irregular. The Victoria Lines, begun in 1872, followed the high scarp which runs across the island cutting off the northern half and providing a long-range defensive screen for the dockyard. Of its three main forts, one was a broad pentagon and two others were con- structed around powerful central keeps. In all, seventeen forts and powerful works capable of providing their own close defence were constructed at great cost between 1866, when the government decided to rearm and refortify Malta, and the turn of the century. During that period £271,000 was spent on the de- fences.

By the 1880's monster guns were being installed to counteract the threat from their naval counterparts. At Malta and Gibraltar single-gun batteries mounting 100 ton RML guns with a calibre of 17.72 inches, fully mechanised and operated by pneumatic and electric power, were installed with much sweat and expenditure in four forts.

Finally, by the end of the century, a degree of standardisation was intro- duced in the ordnance of defence and barbette batteries mounting breach-loading guns, singly or in pairs, firing smokeless powder, safer to load from concealed positions, and laid from a distance, were installed in all the main batteries at the naval stations. In Gibraltar the 9.2 inch BL batteries climbed the Rock to the knife edge of the ridge and in Malta they were strung out on each side of the dockyard and the harbours, and overlooking the great bay on the south-east of the island. By the end of the century the process of renewal had reached its peak with the introduction of these standardised breach-loading guns and supporting defences in the form of mines, electric searchlights and motor torpedo boats. In relation to the size of the places occupied the expenditure by British standards was vast, and, some might say, wasted, for the stations were not attacked throughout the nineteenth century. But in general fortifications were easier and cheaper to maintain than a large standing army, and the Navy was provided with a number of safe anchorages in which it could re-fit, rest, re-stock with provi- sions and re-fuel its furnaces.

The twentieth century saw the run down of the Mediterranean fleet as

Document info
Document views1477
Page views1477
Page last viewedSun Jan 22 23:37:07 UTC 2017