Royal Malta Fencible Regiment

Royal Malta Fencible Regiment (1815 - 1861)

The general peace that followed the Battle of Waterloo was the cause of sweeping changes in the constitution of the local Forces. The Provincials, the Veterans and the Malta Coast Artillery were all disbanded and their place was taken by an infantry regiment called The Royal Malta Fencible Regiment, a force that rendered excellent service up to 1861 when the Regiment - as a mark of royal favour - was turned into an artillery corps. It may not be out of place to explain what was meant by the word "fencibles", a term that has gone out of use in the British Army. Up to 1889 it was still used in Malta and originally, the word meant a kind of militia raised for the defence of a given district, the term of service being limited. The engagement was purely voluntary and service was restricted to the county in which the force was raised. Sometimes they were moved from their district.

Lt Colonel Count Rivarola, late of the Sicilian Regiment, Inspector of Police and Foreign Corps in Malta, was entrusted with the task of raising the corps.

The men were to serve in Malta and its Dependencies; they were to be subject to the Articles of War and they were to enjoy the privileges granted to the other King's troops in Malta. The uniform was red with blue facings and gold lace. On the appointments were shown the Royal Cypher and the Arms of Malta. The right wing of the Regiment under Lt Col Count Gatto had four companies at Zejtun and Zabbar Gate ( afterwards they removed to Ricasoli); the left wing under Major Baron Testaferrata had three companies in the Grand Prison in Valletta, one company at St. Julians, one company at Marsaxlokk, one company at St. Paul's Bay. The three latter companies were trained as artillery. In January, 1816, Lt Col Rivarola was officially appointed to the command of the Royal Malta Fencibles with Lt Col Count Gatto as second in command. Under the command of such a martinet as Col. Rivarola, the Regiment could not but attain a very high degree of efficiency, so much so that the Regiment was invariably placed at the right of the line on brigade field days as the battalion of direction. The Regiment was placed upon the establishment of the Regular Army in 1829.

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Sergeant Royal Malta FencibleRegiment

Private and Bugler Royal Malta Fencible Regiment

Officer Royal Malta Fencible Regiment

The Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the affairs of Malta in 1836 advised the disbandment of the Royal Malta Fencibles and the incorporation of a part in the Police Force and another part in the Coast Guard Service. The Island would thus be relieved of the expense of keeping up the Regiment. This recommendation raised a storm of protest in the Island. It was stressed that there had been a promise by the British Government to provide for those who had served during the blockade of Valletta, and in the campaigns that followed. It was also pointed out that the Corps was provided for in the Treaty of Amiens. Her Majesty's Government finally decided that the Regiment should be retained at the expense of the Imperial Government but only for duties of a purely military nature as part of the garrison responsible for the defence of the Island. This announcement was received with great rejoicing. A special parade was held at Floriana at which new Colours were presented and Colonel the Marquis De Piro, on behalf of the Regiment, thanked his Excellency Sir Henry Bouverie, then Governor of Malta, for the interest that the Commander-in-Chief had shown in the cause of the Regiment. The Regiment then parched to St. John's Cathedral where the Colours were blessed by His Grace the Archbishop. There were dinners for the NCOs and men to which the NCOs and men of the Line Regiments then in Malta were invited. A dinner and ball by the Colonel and Officers of the Fencibles was held at the Union Club.

In 1855, Colonel Baynes, who commanded the Royal Malta Fencibles, applied to the Secretary of State for War and requested that approval be given to the suggestion that the Regiment should be made available for general service in order to enable it to join the Army then fighting in the Crimea. However, it was not considered necessary that this should be done, as the war was then drawing to a close.

In 1861, Her Majesty Queen Victoria, as a mark of royal favour, was pleased to direct that, as from 25th January of that year, The Royal Malta Fencible Regiment be converted into an artillery corps with the name of Royal Malta Fencible Artillery. As an artillery carries no Colours, those of the Infantry were deposited in the Palace Armoury at Valletta.

(Adapted from Regimental History RMA and KOMR, History of the RMA, Historical Records of the Maltese Corps in the British Army

Illustrations by Chev Edward Caruana-Dingli)

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