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Malta Dockyard

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Title: Malta Dockyard  
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Subject: Henry Codrington, Birgu, Royal Navy dockyards, Valletta Waterfront, Philip Watson
Collection: Birgu, Cospicua, Royal Navy Dockyards, Senglea
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Malta Dockyard

Valletta Harbour: Dockyard Creek (left) and French Creek (right) with the fortified city of Senglea between the two

Malta Dockyard was an important naval base in the Grand Harbour in Malta in the Mediterranean Sea.


  • History 1
    • Pre-1800 1.1
    • 19th century 1.2
    • 20th century 1.3
  • List of Admirals Superintendent of Malta Dockyard 2
  • References 3
  • Sources 4



The Knights of Malta established dockyard facilities within the Grand Harbour to maintain their fleet of galleys. These were spread between the cities of Senglea, Valletta and Vittoriosa.

19th century

When Malta became a British protectorate in 1800, these facilities were inherited, and gradually consolidated, by the Royal Navy. With the loss of Minorca, Malta swiftly became the Navy's principal Mediterranean base.[1]

The Royal Navy Dockyard was initially located around Dockyard Creek, and occupied several of the dockyard buildings formerly used by the Knights of Malta. By 1850 the facilities included storehouses, a ropery, a small steam factory, victualling facilities, houses for the officers of the Yard, and most notably a dry dock - the first to be provided for a Royal Dockyard outside Britain.[2] Begun in 1844, the dry dock was opened in 1847; ten years later it was extended to form a double dock (No. 1 and No. 2 dock).[1] Allegedly, marble blocks from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, were used for the construction of these docks.[3]

In the second half of the century the steam factory with its machine shops and foundries was expanded. Very soon, though, it was clear that more space was required than the crowded wharves of Dockyard Creek afforded, to accommodate the increasing size of ships and the increasing size of the fleet based there. The decision was taken to expand into the adjacent French Creek, and between 1861 and 1909 a further five dry docks (three single plus one double dock) were constructed there, along with an assortment of specialized buildings to serve the mechanized Navy.[1]

Naval Dockyard buildings
Factory building (1863) alongside No. 1 & 2 dock (Galley Storehouse and Sheer Bastion lie beyond). 
Galley Storehouse of the Knights of Malta, to which a top floor was added in 1804 to house a ropewalk. 
Early 20th-century machine shop (left) and boat sheds (right) alongside No. 7 dock and the adjacent wharf. 
Former Victualling Yard bakery building (1844), which now houses the Malta Maritime Museum

20th century

The armed trawler HMS Coral within a bomb-damaged Dry Dock No 3 during World War II[4]

It was an important supply base during the First World War and the Second World War. In January 1941 sixty German dive bombers made a massed attack on the dockyard in an attempt to destroy the damaged British aircraft carrier Illustrious, but she received only one bomb hit. Incessant German and Italian bombing raids targeted Malta through March, opposed by only a handful of British fighters.[5] Then in April 1942 the Admiral Superintendent of Malta Dockyard reported that due to German air attacks on Malta‍ '​s naval base "practically no workshops were in action other than those underground; all docks were damaged; electric power, light and telephones were largely out of action."[6]

The dockyard was handed over to Baileys, a civilian firm of ship repairers and marine engineers, in 1959.[7] After Baileys were dispossessed by the Maltese Government[8] the dockyard was closed as a naval base and the Royal Navy withdrew completely in 1979.[9] It was then managed by a workers' council between 1987 and 1996 repairing civilian ships.[10]

List of Admirals Superintendent of Malta Dockyard

The dockyard was managed by a Resident Commissioner until the Resident Commissioners at all dockyards were replaced by Admirals Superintendent at the end of 1831.[11] Admirals Superintendent included:[12]
Admirals Superintendent of Malta Dockyard

Flag Officer, Malta

Note: The post was vacant between 1963 and 1967


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Macintyre, p. 169
  6. ^ Macintyre, p. 224
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^


  • Macintyre, Donald, The Naval War Against Hitler, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971
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