On July 24th 2012, the new Breakwater Bridge completing the span of the West Breakwater in Grand Harbour, was inaugurated amidst a colourful display of lights. The steel bridge had been missing ever since it was destroyed during an Italian torpedo boat attack during World War II.
During the planning and building of the Breakwater by the British Admiralty, in the opening years of the 20th century, it was thought best to have a break in the larger, West arm (Valletta side). This would allow for greater aeration of the water within the port, and avoid stagnation.
Eventually it was decided that the West arm would be separated from the Saint Elmo foreshore and would be built 70 meters away from the shore. Obviously this necessitated a means of getting onto the breakwater’s arm from the foreshore, not least because there was a lighthouse to be manned at the end of the arm.
The original, Victorian bridge was a two-span steel bridge. This was destroyed when, at dawn, on the 26th July 1941, the breakwater was attacked by the E-boat unit of the Italian Regia Marina, when the Italians tried to gain access into Grand Harbour. Their attempt was, of course, not successful due to the heavy and brave counter-attack which involved gun-posts on both sides of Grand Harbour and beyond. However it inevitably left its toll, and the foot-bridge on the West arm was one of the casualties.
The replacement bridge which was recently inaugurated is not an exact replica of the earlier, Victorian two-span bridge. The present one is actually a one-span bridge, but is visually very similar to the original. It weighs in at 190 tons. The structure arrived in Malta from Spain, in a virtually complete and ready-to-place form. When the new bridge was hoisted into its rightful place - on Wednesday, 5th October, 2011 - the West breakwater was complete again after 70 years.
Author: Christine Tanti
Old Photos Courtesy of Mrs Yvonne Agius