Malta Dockyard

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HM Dockyard, Malta
Ensign of the Royal Navy animated.gif
Part of Mediterranean Station
Valetta in Malta
Site information
OperatorRoyal Navy
Controlled byNavy Board (1791-1832), Board of Admiralty (1832-1959)
Site history
In use1791-1959
Installation information
Resident Commissioner, Malta, Admiral-Superintendent, Malta Dockyard

Malta Dockyard or formally HM Dockyard, Malta was a Royal Naval Dockyard established in 1791, it was located in Valletta on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, previously operated by the Knights of Malta, became the main base for the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet. The Royal Dockyard closed in 1959. The Royal Navy did however retain Naval Base, Malta until 1979.


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. In 1791 the Navy Board appointed Captain Harry Harmood as its first Resident Commissioner of the Navy at Malta Dockyard, he additionally was also the Resident Commissioner of the Navy at Gibraltar Dockyard from 1791 to 1793. When Malta became a British protectorate in 1800, these facilities were inherited, and gradually consolidated, by the Royal Navy. With the loss of Menorca, Malta swiftly became the Navy's principal Mediterranean base.[1]

The dockyard was controlled by the Navy Board until 1832 when it was abolished responsibility for dockyards then passed to the Board of Admiralty. Resident Commissioner who were civil naval officers were replaced by Admiral Superintendents and Rear-Admiral Thomas Briggs was appointed the first Admiral Superintendent, Malta Dockyard from 1832 to 1838.

The Royal Naval 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]

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 Template:Ship, 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.[4] Then in April 1942 the Admiral Superintendent of Malta Dockyard reported that due to German air attacks on MaltaTemplate:'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."[5]

The dockyard was handed over to Baileys, a civilian firm of ship repairers and marine engineers, in 1959.[6] After Baileys were dispossessed by the Maltese Government[7] the dockyard was closed as a facility, but retained a naval base at Malta called HM Naval Base, Malta under the Admiral-in-Command, Naval Base Malta, additionally he also held the area command title Flag Officer, Malta.[8][9] and the Royal Navy withdrew completely in 1979 when the naval base closed down.[10] It was then managed by a workers' council between 1979 and 1996 repairing civilian ships.[11]

Administration of Malta Dockyard (Navy Board)

The dockyard was initially managed by a Resident Commissioner of the Navy Board from 1791 until 1832 when all Resident Commissioners at dockyards were replaced by Admiral Superintendents.[12]

Resident Commissioner of the Navy, Malta Dockyard

Master Shipwright, Malta Dockyard

  1. James Bray, 1810 - 1812.[13]

Administration of Malta Dockyard (Board of Admiralty)

Admiral-Superintendent, Malta Dockyard


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Coad, Jonathan (2013). Support for the Fleet: Architecture and engineering of the Royal Navy's bases, 1700–1914. Swindon: English Heritage.
  2. "Malta Harbour". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  3. Busuttil, Cynthia (26 July 2009). "Dock 1 made from ancient ruins?". Times of Malta. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  4. Macintyre, p. 169
  5. Macintyre, p. 224
  6. "Malta's Royal Navy Dockyard handed over". ITN. 1959. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  7. "Malta: British Documents on End of Empire edited by Simon C. Smith". Stationery Office Books. 2006. p. 417. ISBN 978-0112905905. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  8. Admiralty, British. (Spring 1962, Spring), The Navy List, Chapter: Flag Officers in Commission. London: H.M.S.O. p. 303.
  9. Admiralty, British. (Spring 1962, Spring), The Navy List, Chapter: Dockyards. London: H.M.S.O. p. 948.
  10. "Dockyard foreign ownership would take Malta to pre-1979 days – CNI". Times of Malta. 8 September 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  11. "Requiem for a Dockyard". Malta Today. 7 April 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  12. "Chatham Dockyard". battleships-cruisers. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  13. JOHN WOOD , RUI ARAJO & PAUL QUINN (2008) NOTES, The Mariner's Mirror, 94:2, 209-222, DOI: 10.1080/00253359.2008.10657056