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.

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.

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

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

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

References:
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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    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.