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Fortifications - Fort Campbell (Selmun)

A view of Fort Campbell from the road leading to the same fortification. From this distance the fort cannot be seen very clearly because of its thin walls

Pillboxes were not the only type of fortifications built at Mellieha in the years before the outbreak of the Second World War. There were other minor military structures but the most important fortification to be built in Mellieha, and the last fort to be built in Malta by the British, was Fort Campbell.


A rear view of one of the 6-inch guns guarding the approaches to St. Paul’s Bay. (Source: NWMA).

The main scope for the building of Fort Campbell was to protect the approaches for Mellieha and St. Paul’s Bays. That is because there were no defences to protect these two approaches and so, a decision was taken to build a new fort on Il-Blata, at the end of the Selmun promontory. Governor Bonham-Carter, while on tour around the Island, visited the site where Fort Campbell was to be built. Although the building of Fort Campbell is reported to have begun in 1937 it seems that till 1 December 1937 no work had been started on this site. 1 Probably the work started at the very end of the same year.

A bird’s eye view of Fort Campbell. (Source: The Fortifications of Malta 1530-1945: From the Knights of Malta to British rule).

The new fort was designed to mount two 6-inch guns.2 Bonham-Carter insisted that the work on this fort had to be hurried up,3 because after the Munich Crises of September 1938 4 it was seen that a war was coming, and all the fortifications being built had to be finished as quickly as possible.5 It is important to note that the design of this fort reflected the need to contend with a new threat in the form of aerial bombardment. So protection against air attack had become a vital consideration. 6

One of the machine-gun bunkers in the perimeter wall of Fort Campbell facing St. Paul’s Bay.

The main characteristic of the British fortifications of the late 19th century was the thick ramparts and ditches. But by this time these characteristics were abandoned in favour of thin walls. Therefore, Fort Campbell was built with a thin wall to resemble the field walls of the surrounding countryside, while the plan was broken up by an irregular trace designed to imitate the pattern of the adjoining terraced fields. Perimeter defence was provided by a number of machine-gun posts placed at irregular intervals and in other places there were few rifle loopholes.

Internally, the fort’s buildings were all scattered in order not to create any concentration. 7 The buildings of the fort included the command post, gun emplacements, water tank, direction posts, barrack accommodation and magazines. Its most important structure was the Battery Observation Post (BOP), which was situated roughly in the middle of the area and faced north. 8

Seven loopholes in a corner of the internal wall.

Fort Campbell had also Defence Electric Lights (Searchlights), which were situated a considerable distance away from the fort and situated along the shoreline to the north. There were three emplacements for searchlights, two of which were sited at the edge of the cliff overlooking the small island of St. Paul’s, while the third was placed closer down by the sea farther west. 9


The middle 6-inch gun emplacement facing St. Paul’s Islets

1 J. Manduca (ed)., The Bonham-Carter Diaries 1936-40: What the British Governor though of Malta and the Maltese, Malta, 2004, p 181.
2. Stephen C. Spiteri, The British Military Architecture in Malta, Malta, 1996, p 351
3. Manduca, p 225
4. E. Jablonski., A pictorial history of the World War II years, United States, 1977, p 19-20.
5. Manduca, p 225
6. Spiteri, p 351
7. Spiteri, p 353.
8. Spiteri, p 354.
9. Spiteri, p 357.



Researched and Written by: Charles Debono B.A.(Hons) History

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