Targa Battery Open Day

The Mosta Local Council held an open day at Targa Battery on Sunday 13 May in an effort to attract people

and  muster support for the restoration and rehabilitation of this largely forgotten  British  nineteenth  century work of fortification.  The event, which was attended by the Prime Minister of Malta as well as various other public personalities, included a number of leisure, cultural, and educational activities.  These also included talks and lectures explaining the architectural significance  and historical context of the battery and the Victoria Lines. Visitors were also guided around the site.



Targe Battery and the Victoria Lines 


Targa battery is a small work of fortification that was built to help reinforced the defence of the escarpment known as the North West Front in 1887.   This defensive position cutting across the whole width of Malta was originally conceived simply as a string of three isolated forts and was intended to take advantage of the natural features provided by  the escarpment of the Great Fault. It was soon found necessary, however,  to strength the position with a number  of secondary works which were  built to plug in the gaps along the line.  The topography of the natural fault created many areas  of dead ground which could not be easily covered by the guns of the three main forts and at such places  new emplacement  for more guns had to be constructed.  Targa Battery, was one such work, and it was located at Mosta  at a place known as  Targa Gap, where  the escarpment was relatively shallow and easily approached, and more over, where  the whole area was commanded by the heights of Bidnija Hill to the north from where an enemy battery, once established, would have been able to inflict considerable damage on the defensive front.


Work on Targa Battery began in I887. A sizable work, the new battery had a pentagonal plan and was thrust forward from the main line of the escarpment  from which it was separated by its own inner ditch enfiladed by a single, centrally-placed caponier approached through an under- ground passage cut through the escarpment. An armoured gateway, protected by a guardroom  and a couple of musketry loopholes occupied the gorge of the work.  The gorge in fact was built in the form of an infantry redoubt  which  overlooked the battery since it was built  at a slightly higher level along the crest of the natural escarpment. This position was served by a parapet and a continuous multi-stepped  banquette. This was designed to enable the garrison or other troops stationed along the front to cover the battery from any flanking attack. It is not clear what the original configuration o f the redoubt was like since the redoubt was eventually integrated and combined with the infantry wall of the Victoria Lines. The inclusion of the Targa battery and its redoubt occurred during the late 1890s and may have involved considerable alteration of to the redoubt, as happened, for examples, when the left flank of the Dwejra Lines ( 1881) was altered to link up with the Bingemma Stop Wall.


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A Battery Never Armed


The armament originally proposed to be installed at Targa Battery was to consist of four 64-pdr RML guns. However, by  I888,  that is less than a year after the initiation of the construction works, the British military were having serious doubts about the usefulness and effectiveness of the battery.   Two  inspectors,  Maj.-Gen.  Goodenough  and Lt. Gen. Nicholson , even reported that it was doubtful whether the battery  should be completed at all. The then  Governor of Malta , Sir L. Simmons, however,  strongly advocated its retention, stating that since the work had proceeded considerably ,  there would have been little economy in suspending it. Consequently orders were given for the battery to be finished, although  no permanent armament was to be allotted to it. Nicholson and Goodenough recommended that quick firing guns were to be placed inside the battery instead, but only when required, and that the movable armament was to be increased accordingly.  Since there are no trace of any gun emplacements visible today, it can be safely assumed that permanent gun emplacements were never installed.

Unfortunately, there is not much information regarding this work except for a mention or two  in a couple of contemporary engineers’ reports.  Likewise, no original record plans have so far come to light in any of the major archives containing British 19th century fortress plans.  An initial outline concept plan, found in a document concerning the expropriation and acquisition of land required for the building of the battery,  for example,  shows a much larger defensive work than that which was eventually built.  The work itself, in its present state, also shows clear signs of various minor interior alterations which were made to the battery to convert it, perhaps in the pre-WWII period, to  magazine or storage area.  It is known that battery  was also used  by the Civil Defence for training and storage of equipment in the post-war period.   Hopefully further research will help provide the necessary information.


Military congratulates the Mosta Local Council for its efforts to preserve and rehabilitate the battery and augurs that all the organizations involved in this project  will be successful in mustering the necessary resources to accomplish the task. (C)




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