Grand Master Ramon Perellos y Roccaful.
Coastal entrenchments were the third category of fortifications
built in the 18th century. They formed integral part in the strategy
of the other coastal defences, i.e the coastal batteries and coastal
redoubts. Coastal entrenchments can be said that they are miniature
bastions in order for the infantry to have cover while in case
of invasion they are firing on enemy soldiers.
During their visit in Malta in 1714,
the military engineers Fontet and Arginy proposed the construction
of a number of coastal entrenchments. This idea was well under way
before the arrival of Philip de Vendome in 1715. In fact entrenchments
began to be built at Marsaxlokk, Marsascala, St. Paul’s Bay
and in tow area in Mellieha, i.e those of Qassisu and Armier, the
former defending Mellieha Bay while the latter facing Comino. Vendome
who had pushed forward the idea of building coastal batteries and
coastal redoubts, was also in favour of building coastal entrenchments.
He initiated a scheme of building further coastal entrenchments
such as those at Salina, Qalet Marku, Madliena and Birzebbuga.1
But, by 1722 the Hospitallers soon realised that
they had not enough troops to man all these fortifications. Therefore,
they decided that in case of an invasion they would retreat to
the Great Fault, i.e where the latter Victoria Lines exists. They
built inland entrenchments at Falca, Naxxar Bingemma and another
one near Madliena Tower.
There were many Knights who were against the idea of building
all these fortifications, but by 1723 the Hospitaller Congregation
of War accepted the expert’s report and began constructing
all these entrenchments. 2
Diagram of Louvier entrenchment at Armier, Mellieħa.
However, by 1761, the chains of entrenchments were
not all built as proposed by Vendome in 1716. In 1761 the French
military engineer Bourlamaque proposed an ambitious plan that
is to surround all the Maltese islands with entrenchment. It seems
that the plan was began and in fact coastal entrenchments were
built at Qawra, Spinola, St. Julians, Birżebbuġa, Marsascala,
between Fort Ricasoli and Zonqor Tower and Armier and Qassisu
at Mellieħa in. But soon the Hospitallers encountered the
problem of lack of money to build all these coastal entrenchments.
Two Hospitaller military experts had different
ideas about the building of these coastal entrenchments. Bailli
Fra Domenico Antonio Chisurilia warned the grand master about
the difficulties of building all these entrenchments and that
the Hospitallers had not enough men to man all these fortifications
as proposed by Bourlamaque. He calculated that 50 bastions connected
by curtains 200 paces long needed 5000 men to man them all. He
knew that the order had not all these sufficient troops. On the
other hand, Bailli de Tigne wanted to build 200 bastions connected
by very short curtain walls and armed with heavy guns of at least
24-pdr calibre. This meant that the Hospitallers needed 1600 soldiers
and a total of 9600 men to arm the artillery. 4
Grand Master Manoel Pinto
de Fonseca. (Source: Museum of Fine Arts).
After 1761, the construction of coastal entrenchments
did not go well and in fact with the death of grand master pinto
the project was stopped. This Grand Master was in favour of building
these coastal entrenchments and in fact he financed the building
of St. Julian’s and Spinola entrenchments. 5
According to the plan made by Bourlamaque Mellieha
coasts would be surrounded by coastal entrenchments. This meant
in theory that no enemy invasion forces would disembark their
troop ashore because they would not have enough space to do it
or because they would be under direct fire from the defenders.
He had a brilliant idea but was when you consider the size of
the Hospitaller’s forces; you immediately recognize the
difficulty of manning all these coastal entrenchments. If his
plan was implemented Mellieha coasts were to found themselves
surrounded by these coastal entrenchments. His plan was only implemented
at Qassisu and Armier. Plans exist that show the coasts of Mellieha
surrounded by entrenchments.
Although they are a miniature of the majestic bastions
and lines built in the fortresses they have to be conserved. Fortunately,
those at Mellieha village still survived but have to be restored
in order to be enjoyed by future generations.