THE Bridgwater Marsa Twinning Association is appealing for new members to help keep the link alive and thriving.

In April 2006 Bridgwater and Marsa first signed a twinning contract and became the first twinning link between Malta and England.

Since then the relationship has gone from strength to strength with annual visits aiming to recognise, respect and value each other's historical and social identities and raise awareness of the benefits.

One of the members of the association, Joseph Abela, gives us an insight into the history of our twin town in Malta and why twinning is worth getting into.

"Marsa is a small town of 4,500 people and the mayor is Francis Debano," Mr Abela explains.

"Marsa has excellent sports facilities including a football ground, horse racing course and Polo ground - the latter of which was popular with Prince Philip who played there when he was in the Navy when he was just an officer.

"Marsa has two parish churches including the majestic Holy Trinity Church, built by a rich Russian man who fled the Russian revolution and came to Malta - there is a statue of him next to the church.

"Being so close to the sea, the town is also home to a successful regatta boat racing club."

Mr Abela said the twinning association had left its mark on Marsa too, as just after the bond began, a playing field named in Bridgwater's honour was opened in Marsa.

A palm tree and marble plaque was put in place to commemorate the event.

"We are proud that whenever we go to Malta we are always trying our best to strengthen this link of friendship between us, whether through activities involving culture, history, food, language, heritage or sports," Mr Abela added.

"We have done other things over the years but we intend to do a lot more in the future."

Excavation in the Marsa harbour indicates the port had been used by the Romans for ship building.

Marsa was also mentioned in the great siege of 1565 when the Ottoman Empire attacked Malta but overcame the odds and won the battle thanks to the shrewd and courageous tactics of the grandmaster La Vallette.

In 1800 Malta voluntarily became part of the British Empire as a protectorate, a connection which lasted nearly 200 years.

Mr Abela is encouraging anyone who would like to join the Bridgwater Marsa Twinning Association to visit or visit the group's Facebook page.

You can also contact Mr Abela by calling 01278 256179.