First Maltese Army

First Maltese Army

The first Maltese Army set-up by a Maltese Government & Constitution was on 4th September 1798

Following the uprising and brief battle between the 2nd and 3rd September 1798 which led to the subsequent surrender of the French garrison at Mdina, a group of influential Maltese setup an ad-hoc government in a bid to increase the Maltese military actions against the remainder of the French occupying force.  This Maltese Congress immediately issued plans to formulate an army, which came to be known as – Le Truppe di Campanga or il Battalgione del Congresso.

Nine Battalions were formed stemming from the larger Villages at the time, with the smaller neighbouring villages providing men to the principal units.  The main battalions forming this first Maltese army were; B’Kara, Zebbug, Zejtun, Zabbar, Ghaxaq, Mqabba, Zurrieq, Qormi and Kirkop.  It is believed that up to 10,000 men formed the ranks of this Maltese army at the start of hostilities.

These Battalions were officered by Maltese and also had Maltese subalterns, a rank structure was created with the commander of this army holding the rank of Generale Commandante and this appointment was bestowed upon the renowned notary from Rabat Emanuele Vitale, the Head Quarters of this army was situated at Case Leoni in Sta Venera.

Whilst the majority of the battalions were not issued with any uniforms, records show that the Regiment of Bkara and Zebbug actually wore a uniform of local design and manufacture.  The Zebbug battalion even had its own military band.
Throughout the two year siege against the French these Battalions built a number of gun batteries and field fortifications and it is calculated that up to 12 positions were built by these men during this period.
With the capitulation of the French in September 1800 these Congress Battalions were disbanded and at the time around 2500 men-at-arms were still serving within this army, as the majority had returned to tend to their daily chores over the two year period.
Soldiers of the BKara Battalion who were under the command of Commandante Vincenzo Borg known as 'Brared’.  Details of the uniform were taken from an original painting commissioned at the time of the Blockade.
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