New & now
Meet the unofficial hero whose tactics helped the Knights of Malta win the 1565 siege
Several streets in Malta have been named after him!

Caroline Curmi

Spying tactics have evolved during the ages, but they have always been a significant part of warfare. For a group of local men, this involved infiltrating Turkish camps and carefully seeking out information which could later be relayed to the Grand Master Jean de la Vallette in the hopes of securing a win against Ottoman forces.

Four Maltese men played an instrumental role in this operation; Andrew Zahra, James Pace, Anton Cascia and Francis Xerri, but it is the fifth man of the group, Toni Bajada, that went down in popular history for his feats of bravery.

Once a prisoner of the Turks, Toni had used his time in captivity wisely and picked up the language. Little did he know that this skill would become invaluably useful during the Great Siege. Hand-picked by La Vallette himself, Toni, along with the other four spies would pass themselves off as Turkish soldiers, with his knowledge of the language undoubtedly facilitating the task of eavesdropping and siphoning crucial information from the enemies.

He is most celebrated for his incredible physical feats – not with a sword or bow, but with swimming. Indeed, during the sieges on Birgu and Senglea, he would swim between the two cities under the cover of darkness, relaying crucial information to the Knights and Maltese people. This arrangement continued for an extended period of time, after which he'd swim back to his original post to continue his mission for another day.

As popular history dictates, Toni is often remembered as the ultimate (but unofficial) Maltese hero during the Great Siege. Several streets across the islands have in fact been named after him, most notably an alley in Valletta while a book was published about his feats, penned by Emilio Lombardi. While the role he and his team mates played was instrumental in spinning a win for the Knights of Malta, there were many other Maltese civilians who served their cause with equal bravery.p>

Over 3,000 Maltese men joined the Maltese defence as soldiers, with many them falling in battle. Total civilian casualties reach 7,000 and the Knights of Malta too suffered great losses, with a bit more than a third of their troops succumbing to their injuries.

Here’s a thanks to all the brave men that risked and laid down their lives for us!

28th November 2023


Caroline Curmi
Written by
Caroline Curmi
When she’s not having a quarter-life crisis, Caroline is either drawing in a café, frittering her salary on sushi or swearing at traffic in full-on Gozitan. There is also the occasional daytime drink somewhere in the equation. Or two. A creative must be allowed at least one vice.

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