Reuben Pace

Tuesday, 7 August

At daybreak a general assault was made on St Michael’s as well as the Post of Castile with so much shouting, beating of drums and blaring of trumpets that would have caused wonder had we not experienced it before.

The strength of the assailants on St Michael’s was 8,000 and those on the Post of Castile 4,000. They attacked simultaneously as was their plan and as we had anticipated. But, when, they let their trenches to come to the assault we were already at our posts, the hoops alight, the pitch boiling: in fact, all the materials for our defence were ready for action, and when they scaled our works they were received like men who were expected.

The assaults on this day were most daring and well fought on both sides with great bitterness and much bloodshed.

Although the assault on St Michael’s was most severe, the attack on the Post of Castile was not less determined. In fact the situation here became so serious that a knight of the habit, a man of position, went to the Grand Master (who was in the square with the reserves, waiting to be called where most required) and said to him: “Your Lordship, come to the relief of Castile because the Turks are coming in.” Unmoved the Grand Master turned to his knights: “Let us all go and die there, for this is the day.” Having said this, with admirable courage, he took his helmet from a page, and his pike from another, and went towards the Post of Castile followed by all the reserves.

When he arrived at the gate leading to the menaced position…he insisted and even wanted to mount the angle of the Cavalier of Castile on which the Turks had already gained a footing but this they would not allow him to do because it was so very exposed to the enemy artillery of both is-Salvatur and Kalkara; so he went to the low battery of Claramonte, pike in hand, like a common soldier; but when he looked up and saw the Post of the Spur of Buonainsegna full of Turks he took an arquebuse from a soldier, and, pointing it towards the enemy, called out: “There, boys, there.”

When the principal knights saw that we were no longer in danger they persuaded the Grand Master to retire from the place where he stood, surrounded by more than twenty dead.

The assault lasted nine hours, from daybreak until afternoon, during which time the Turks were relieved by fresh troops more than a dozen times. Since the Grand Master could not provide freshmen, he had given orders that, on days when assaults were made, many bottles of watered wine and bread should be freely supplied at all the Posts which were engaged. He also ordered that many barrels of salt water should be kept at all the Posts so as to afford relief to those who suffered from burns…

Victory was ours again but it was due to the divine agency rather than to human effort, for the enemy had intended this to be their final assault and no man who could fight had been left behind in the camp or with the fleet…

At the same time the news reached the Commander of the land forces that those who had been left behind at the Marsa had all been killed by the City cavalry and all the tents plundered. This news spread to the trenches where it grew until it was said that strong reliefs for us had arrived, and that if they did not retire in time they would all lose their heads. This false rumour had such an effect on the enemy that they all retired from their trenches waiting for orders from the Pasha or any of their officers. The first to leave were these facing the Post of Castile, and on emerging from the ditch, came under the fire of our arquebuses at the Post of Auvergne and many were so killed…

We soon learned, that the Sicilians, from their post, had been the first to detect our cavalry at the Marsa fighting…and had immediately reported it to the Grand Master who sent a vedette to the top of the clock-tower to verify the information.

Judging by the haste with which the Turks removed their dead (more than 2,000 must have been killed before St Michael’s) and their wounded (as we ascertained later) were twice that number. Before the Post of Castile more than 200 of their most distinguished men died; on our side we had sixty killed, but the wounded exceeded that number.

As soon as all the Turks had retired from St Michael’s, Colonel Robles, in the presence of all, went on his knees and gave thanks to our Lord for the great victory which it had pleased Him to grant us, and he sent a request to the Grand Master to have a Te Deum sung at San Lorenzo because we had been given one of the greatest triumphs which Christians had ever achieved.

The bearer of this message had no need to deliver it because he found the Grand Master in the church of San Lorenzo giving thanks to our Lord, as he always did after a Turkish retirement, and the Te Deum invoked by Robles was being sung with great solemnity. When it was over, a procession was made, and if it was not so imposing as those usually made by this Order, the tears of many men and women demonstrated its devotion.

When the Grand Master heard about the wide breaches in the Post of Castile, ready as he was to be first to die for his Order, he caused all the relics and all that was of value to be taken to St Angelo, and, in order to dispel any doubt, he ordered the bridge to be removed, thus making it clear to all, that there should be no retirement and that we should defend the Birgu or die in the attempt.


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