5 Reminders of the British Army in Malta

Updated: Jan 4

After the French had been expelled from Malta with British help in 1800, the island’s fate became unclear. According to the 1802 Treaty of Amiens, Malta was to be returned to the Order of St. John, but many locals were not keen on the idea and requested to remain under British protection.

Britain was naturally aware of Malta's strategic value as a military base, and eventually gained full sovereignty of the island through the 1814 Treaty of Paris. For the next century and a half, Malta was to become an island fortress, and while the Maltese were no strangers to foreign occupation, the British garrison was to be the largest ever.

With the British military base not closing down until 1979, it is no surprise that the legacy of the British Army is still evident around the Maltese Islands.

1. The Main Guard

If there is one building in Valletta that became synonymous with the British Army, it surely has to be the Main Guard. Originally built by the Knights of St. John in 1603, it served as a guardroom for the Guardia della Piazza - the Grand Master’s bodyguard. The British later added a neo-classical portico, crowned by a stone sculpture of the British Royal coat-of-arms, and a commemorative inscription.

The British Royal coat-of-arms and commemorative inscription.

The building was manned round-the-clock, with sentries pacing in front at regular intervals to provide security for the Governor’s Palace across the square. The Main Guard detail was provided by troops stationed at Floriana Barracks, from where they marched through Porta Reale and Kingsway, to St. George’s Square for the changing-of-the-guard ceremony.

The changing-of-the-guard [1]

The large upstairs hall also served as an Officers’ Mess. Over time, the walls of this room were covered with around 300 murals, consisting mainly of regimental