The Royal Marines in Malta

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Ghain Tuffieha Camp

This was the main camp and training facility used by the Royal Marines from before the start of the 20th Century. It was located on the eastern coast of the island around the bay of the same name and covered slightly more than two square kilometres. It would appear that, at that time, the complex comprised a camp and also the ranges. Whilst the range buildings were of local stone, the Royal Marines using the camp would live in a tented encampment.

Royal Marines Training Camp (Mediterranean) looking south. c.1917. (RMM)
Royal Marines Training Camp (Mediterranean) looking south. c.1917. (RMM)

The main purpose of the large area of land adjacent to the camp was as a training centre, which was later given the official title of Royal Marines Training Centre (Mediterranean). When ships of the Royal Navy came into Malta their Royal Marine detachments would come ashore for training, exercise, sport and sometimes accommodation. Malta was the headquarters for the Mediterranean Fleet and, therefore, there were always large numbers of ships in the harbour. Training would be carried out on the rifle ranges and the assault courses whilst the bay would be used to practise landings from small boats.

With the movement of 3 Commando Brigade to Malta in early 1952, demands upon the facilities at the Royal Marines Training Centre at Ghain Tuffieha, which still had to maintain the training regimes required for RM Detachments on ships of the Mediterranean Fleet and visiting ships, increased dramatically.

In addition to work on the ranges and assault courses there was a need for drill instruction for the numerous ceremonial parades that took place on the island. Gradually, with the reduction of ship's detachments and the size of the Mediterranean Fleet, this training load decreased. With the reduction in the number of men from the Brigade on the island at any one time, and the move of NATO Headquarters to Naples, the demands decreased even more.

40 Commando practice landing from LCMs at Mellieha Bay, 1962. (RMM)
40 Commando practice landing from LCMs at Mellieha Bay, 1962. (RMM)

Practice amphibious landings from small boats were also carried out in Ghain Tuffieha Bay but this activity gradually centred upon Mellieha Bay, particularly from the late 1950s. North of Ghain Tuffieha is an area called Ghadira which, in the 1950s, possibly earlier, was used for heavy weapons training.

From the end of the war until sometime in the 1960s training continued at Ghain Tuffieha. During the 1960s much of the camp was handed back to the Malta Government whilst other parts of the Royal Marines Training Centre remained in use until withdrawal in 1977, by which time the Lower Camp, once occupied by, amongst others, 45 Commando RM, was a holiday chalet village.