AIR DEFENCE BATTERY

1 REGIMENT AFM

BRIEF HISTORY

The Air Defence Battery can proudly claim to be one of those few sub-units in the AFM which could trace its origin to the advent of British rule in Malta through the lineage it has derives from through the Royal Malta Artillery (RMA).

By 1938, the RMA comprised one regiment of three coast battries. This was expanded in the Second World War to five regiments - 1st Coast Regiment (four battries), 2nd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment (four battries including one in Egypt) 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (four battries including the Dockyard Defence Battery), 5th Coast Regiment (three batteries), and 11th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment (three batteries), as well as 8th Searchlight Battery of 4th Searchlight Regiment Royal Artillery RMA and 14th Heavy Anti-Aircraft (Relief) Battery which formed part of 4th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment RA.

On Thursday 1st October, 1970, after 170 years of being part of the British Army and serving with distinction in peace and war, Malta established its own Armed Forces. The total of 500 officers and men of the RMA were retained by the Maltese government and all equipment it then held, including AA guns, radar, transport, etc.

This day also saw the disbandment of the Royal Engineers Malta, however the experience of the highly skilled men of this unit was not entirely lost, as the Government sensibly offered the personnel the opportunity to join the Force on an individual basis. About 100 men opted to join at this time. Also at a later stage, soldiers due to be redundant from the Royal Signals were given the same opportunity. On this same date, the territorial army units of the 3/11th Air Defence Regt. RMA(T) and the 1st Battalion The King's Own Malta Regt. were disbanded, looking back on a proud record of achievements.

And so the passing of the Malta Armed Forces Act in August 1970 set the stage for the establishment of the Armed Forces of Malta Land Force under a unified command. On 19th April, 1973, the title Malta Land Force was legally changed to Armed Forces of Malta (AFM).

Guns & equipment:

Bofors 40mm L/70 Automatic Anti-Aircraft Gun - entered service in the 1950s as a successor to the wartime 40mm L/60 which so many Maltese battries had used to engage Axis air forces over Maltese skies.

The AFM has the Type A L/70 which is fed from an external power unit. It has a high rate of fire of 300 rounds per minute. Elevation and traverse are electro-hydraulic with maximum elevation speed 45 degrees a second and maximum travers speed 85 degrees per second.

Augmenting the Bofors, the Battery is also equipped with the ZPU-4 14.5mm anti-aircraft heavy machinegun (AAMG). Having originally been fielded by Soviet bloc forces in the 1949, it is nowadays employed in second-line units defending airfields and other high priority targets. The ZPU-4 has a four-wheel carriage designed by Leshchinsky. The quad mounts of the ZPU-4 use the basic 14.5mm Vladimirov (KPV) heavy machine-gun quick-change barrel. Obtained from North Korea by the AFM in the 1980s, these AAMGS can be brought into action in 15 to 20 seconds but can, if required be fired with the wheels still in the travelling position.

25-pounder Saluting Guns:

The Parent Regiment of the present AFM is the Royal Malta Artillery. In the British Army, the Colours in a Regiment of Artillery is its guns. When om parade on ceremonial occasions, the 25 pdr. Saluting Guns are accorded the same compliments as the Standards, Guidons and Colours of the Cavalry and Infantry. The Guns became the Colours Regiment through the practice in early history of carrying the senior colour on the largest piece in an artillery train, which was designated the 'Flag Gun'. The Flag Gun was used until the end of the 18th Century and after this period the Guns themselves came to be regarded as the colours of the Artillery.

On 23rd June 1988, the then recently re-amalgamted AFM had their own Colours. The Guns continue to be used for saluting batteries for national festivities or for visting dignitaries' visits. They are also used for the Royal Malta Yacht Club's annual Middle-Searace start-off.

The Palace Tower Signal Station :

Under the Battery's direct aegis is the Palace Tower Signal Station (PTSS), or the Turretta as known by many. Located in the Grandmaster's Palace314 feet above the Valletta Grand Harbour's sealevel (13 storeys above road level), it originally was used to store the treasure of the Knights of St. John and was later changed by Grandmaster De Rohan into an astronomy observatory. The British naval authories later converted it in 1800 into a signal tower and has been operated by the AFM for the Ports' Department/Malta Maritime Authority since 1974.

In 1997 alone, the PTSS guided 4,693 ships in and out of Malata, as well as 1,00 yachts, plus 900 fuelling or ship-to-shore operations.

Manned round the clock daily, the station carries out three main tasks:



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Last Updated: July 2007