Coastal redoubts

Coastal redoubts are the second category of coastal defences built in the early 18th century. The most numerous types of fortifications of this period were the coastal batteries, which were generally built in vulnerable bays opposite each other and armed with cannons. On the other hand coastal redoubts were built in the middle of the bay in order not to let enemy forces disembark their troops ashore.

They operated as an infantry defensible stronghold to resist enemy troops. The idea of building this type of fortification was brilliant because if enemy soldiers were able to disembark their soldiers, they would overwhelm these fortifications quickly. The reason was because in the middle of the bay there was not fortification. But with the introduction of the coastal redoubt the situation was different because all the vulnerable points of the bay were defended by these coastal fortifications. 1

The country

The country which put forward this idea of building coastal redoubts wasFrance. Like the coastal batteries, they built a large number of coastal redoubts around their empire, especially at Quebec. This ex-French colony has much literature about its history, including also on its fortifications. In time of crises like that of the Seven Years War, the French administration built a number of coastal batteries and redoubts and they succeeded in repulsing the British invasion, although the city fell later. I like to emphasise as I had done in my article about the coastal defences of mellieha during the 18th century (for Maltese readers they can see my article Fortifikazzjonijiet fil-Mellieha tas-seklu tmintax: batteriji, ridotti u truncieri: Xebh bejn is-sistema ta difiza li nbniet Malta, ma dawk li nbnew fl-imperu Franciz matul dan iz-zmien in Imperial Band Club Mellieha Festa tal-Vitorja 2005) about the similar function that these fortifications had. Those built in the French colony succeeded in repulsing the invader while those built in Malta did not. 2

There were at least three different models of coastal redoubts. Those built in the village of Mellieha had a pentagonal platforms surrounded by low parapets and had a blockhouse at the rear of the structure. The majority of them were not armed with artillery and acted as defensive strongholds. The size too did not permit the use of artillery. The only coastal redoubt in Mellieha that was armed with artillery was the one built in the middle of Mellieha Bay which was armed with four 6-pdrs. Five out of eleven coastal redoubts were built in the village of Mellieha. This confirms the importance of the village in the Hospitallers’ military strategy. 3

There were two other types of coastal redoubts. The third category, which was not built in the Mellieha village, was similar to the French ones built in their colonies. This consisted of a structure similar to a tower and fitted with musketry loopholes in all the four walls. 3

1 Stephen Spiteri. Fortresses of the Cross: Hospitaller Military Architecture (1136-1798), A Heritage Interpretation Services Publication, Malta, 1994, p 539.
2 Charles Debono. “Fortifikazzjonijiet fil-Mellieħa tas-seklu tmintax: batteriji, ridotti u truncieri: Xebh bejn is-sistema ta difiża li nbniet Malta, ma dawk li nbnew fl-imperu Franciż matul dan iż-żmien”, Joseph Bartolo, Anthony Borg, John B. Gauci, Carmen Schembri, Anthony Schembri (eds), Imperial Band Club Mellieha Festa tal-Vitorja 2005, pp 110-111.
3 Spiteri, op cit, p 539.
4 Ibid, p 540.



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

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    About the village of Mellieha

    Mellieha is a rural village and tourist resort in the Northwestern part of Malta and derives its name from the Semitic root 'm-l-h' which in Arabic means salt. The name was probably derived from the ancient Punic and Roman salt-terns; historians indicated as lying adjacent to the large sandy bay at the foot of the village.
    Mellieha has been inhabited since early Neolithic times (3000 B.C). Several megalithic remains and tombs of this era and other primitive tools and fragments of pottery were found in various localities around this area, primarily at "il-Latnija" - a natural cavity used by several stone-age peoples - and at l-Gholja tax-Xemxija.
    During the Roman and Byzantine occupations (213B.C- 870A.D.), Mellieha's valleys were inhabited by troglodytes, who irrigated the land, adopted natural caves as their dwelling places and buried their beloved ones in Punic style burial chambers. Following the Arab conquest and during the medieval period (870-1530A.D.), the area was deserted, primarily due to the continuous raids of the Muslim corsairs.
    Notwithstanding the hardship experienced by the Maltese during the Reign of the Order of St. John (1530-1798A.D.), Mellieha's medieval chapel, dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary, was one of the most venerated places on the island. Several distinguished persons, such as grandmaster's, kings and bishops visited the shrine and pilgrimages to the sanctuary from all over the island were held frequently.
    In the late 17th century, the Knights built several fortifications along the coast, so as to protect the inhabitants. This venture brought about the gradual repopulating of the area, mainly by those who wanted to exploit the fertile valleys and the new enterprise of tunny net fishing. Under the British, in 1844, Mellieha was established again as a parish and since then it grew up into a modern town, of circa 6,500 people.
    Today, Mellieha is one of Malta's most picturesque tourist destinations. The town centre boasts of its splendid hotels, fine restaurants and traditional cute shops. It has a unique primary school, a majestic baroque church (built in late 19th century) and various cultural organizations, including band clubs, sports clubs, an orchestra, various religious societies, a parish community centre and an environmental pressure group. Since 1993, local affairs are being run by the Mellieha Local Council, an institution made up of seven councilors, elected every three years by the people.
    Mellieha's main festive season occurs in the first two weeks of September and reaches its climax on the 8th September. During these days various cultural manifestations are held, such as musical concerts, fireworks, folk singing, art exhibitions and the traditional religious procession. The town's people, ''Il-Mellehin'', are renowned for their laborious nature, their ironic sense of humour, and their friendliness and hospitality. Those who visit us, no matter where they hail from, do not merely enjoy themselves but feel at home.

    As long as Mellieha preserves its great archaeological and historic heritage, its unique natural environment, and its traditions and costumes, its people, "Il-Mellehin", can look forward to a bright future.