ARMED FORCES OF MALTA

HISTORY OF THE A.F.M. - PART 1

1970 - 1975

In August 1970 the Parliament of Malta enacted Act No. XXVII which provided for the "Raising and maintenance of Armed Forces in Malta and to provide for matters connected therewith or ancillary thereto".

This act of Parliament was the beginning of a great historic event in the history of Malta. 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 great day was Thursday 1st October 1970 and on that day 500 officers and men of the Royal Malta Artillery ceased to be a part of the British Army. Although retaining free all the equipment it then held, including AA guns, radar and 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 new Force on an individual basis. About 100 men opted to join at this time. Also at a later stage soldiers due to be made redundant from the Royal Signals were given the same opportunity. And so the passing of the Malta Armed Forces Act in August 1970 set the stage for the new Malta Land Forces Act to receive its regular complement on 1st October. On that day HQ RMA merged with HQ MLF, implementing its full establishment and 1st Regiment RMA and the RMA Band came under command.

It was a busy day for the Force with all its officers being commissioned, the soldiers attested and all ranks having to take the Oath of Allegiance on the same day. The Force now contained both its regular and territorial components and consisted of:

Regular:- Headquarters Malta Land Force

1st Regiment RMA comprising

Logistics Unit comprising

Territorial:- 3rd/11th Light Air Defence Regiment RMA

Soon after its reorganisation the MLF experienced its first move, when in November, the 1st Regiment RMA followed soon after by Logistics Unit transferred to St Patrick's barracks, while those at Tigne were finally vacated by the end of the year. At the same time training was in full swing, including Explosive Ordinance Disposal on land and afterwards underwater. Also, appropriate personnel were selected for the manning and maintenance of two fast patrol boats on loan from the USA Government for anti-contraband and other inshore tasks. The Malta Land Force was now firmly established to provide whatever services were required of it, with the knowledge that the units from which it developed had already proved themselves over the years of peace and conflict.

On Saturday 26th September a ceremonial parade was held to herald and celebrate the events of 1st October. The Officers and men of the Royal Malta Artillery bade farewell to the British Army in the Independence Arena in Floriana, true to Military custom and tradition.

Important dignitaries present were:

His Excellency Sir Maurice Dorman GCMG GCVO
The Governor General

General Sir John Mogg KCB CBE DSO ADC
Adjutant General of the British Army

General Sir Robert Mansergh GCB MC BA
Director - Royal Artillery

The Hon Dr Giorgio Borg Olivier LLD
Prime Minister of Malta

H.G. Sir Michael Gonzi
Archbishop of Malta

Brigadier G V Micallef OBE
Commander Malta Land Force

General Sir Robert Mansergh inspected the troops on parade after which, various speeches and presentations were made. Following the advance in review order and the general salute, the parade ended with a march past in slow time, to the band playing the traditional 'Auld Lang Syne', followed by a fly-past by the Royal Air Force. In conclusion, the Governor General had received a message from H M Queen Elizabeth II congratulating the new Force and graciously assenting to remain as Colonel-in-Chief.

SPECIAL ORDER OF THE DAY

by

Brigadier G V Micallef CBE

Commander Malta Land Force

On this momentous day in the history of the Armed Forces of Malta, I welcome into the Malta Land Force all those officers and men who until yesterday were serving in Maltese Corps of the British Army.

It is fitting that I should start by welcoming the Royal Malta Artillery, which has given loyal and devoted service to the Crown at home and abroad, in its many roles, for over a century and a half.

Next I welcome the Royal Engineers, whose history has been so closely linked with that of the Royal Malta Artillery. Their achievements and their contribution to our Island are too well known to be mentioned here.

Finally I welcome those of the Royal Signals who today join the Force, although few in number they take their place as equals with former members of other Maltese Corps of British Army in continuing to write a facet of Malta's history.

It would be amiss of me were I not to mention today the other elements of the Malta Land Force, 3rd/11th Regiment Royal Malta Artillery (Territorial), 1st Battalion The King's Own Malta Regiment, the present Logistics Unit, the Finance and Records Office, all the civilian staff, and last but not least the permanent Military staff of the Force all of whom have given such devoted service, they I am sure, will wish to associate themselves with me in welcoming the regular component into the Force.

The task ahead is not an easy one, but we would not wish it otherwise. From this day forth our one resolve must be to co-operate in moulding the Malta Land Force into an organisation worthy of its name in every sphere, so that the fine traditions which have been handed down to us will continue to be upheld.

1st October 1970 G V Micallef

And so we move from the unique events of 1970 to the settling down period of the following year. We ended 1970 with a 'Special Order of the Day' by Commander of the MLF, so it would be appropriate to begin the new year with a message from the Governor General, Sir Maurice Dorman. It is of interest to note that his ADC at that time is now Commander of the AFM, Brigadier Claude Gaffiero.

Message from

His Excellency The Governor General

Sir Maurice Dorman, GCMG GCVO

"After its memorable farewell to the British Army last September, I welcome to the Land Force, the Royal Malta Artillery who bring to the new formation a long history and a high reputation for service both at home and overseas.

When visiting the Regiment, who were then operating in a transport role in Germany, I remember many tributes repeated to me by their colleagues of the British Army but, in particular, I still recall with pride the brief and fitting report of General Sir John Hachett, then Commander-in-Chief of the BAOR - "You ask me how the RMA are doing. They keep their vehicles running longer, they have fewer accidents, they are better disciplined, they are better liked by the Germans". What more could be said.

The Malta Land Force with its regular components from the RMA and the RE will draw strength from the past and, in taking up its new role, can look to the future with confidence. You will serve your country and your Queen with the same distinction in the future as you have in the past.

1st February 1971 Maurice Dorman

Governor General

On Monday 5th April 1971 the Maltese Flag fluttered for the first time on the two fast patrol boats leased to Malta by the USA.

The handing over ceremony took place at Sheer Bastion Wharf where the Malta Land Force had set up the HQ of the Maritime Troop.

Following Brigadier GV Micallef, MLF Commander signing the Certificate of Delivery, the US Ambassador, His Excellency Mr JC Pritzlaff made an address emphasising the goodwill that existing between Malta and the US.

The Ambassador deemed it fitting that in a small way the American people could return the loan of so many of Malta's sons and daughters to benefit the development of their native land.

An appropriate reply was made by Dr Vincent Tabone Minister of Labour, Employment and Welfare on behalf of the Malta Government and Father Patrick Cachia OP blessed the vessels. The ceremony culminated with the playing of the US National Anthem by the Band of the RMA.

In October 1971 the training program continued and an extract of the newspaper of the 25th recalls the following events.

SOLDIERS TO TRAIN IN WEST GERMANY

Valletta, Sunday October 1971

Some 14 soldiers of the Malta Land Force will leave next Saturday for Hamburg in West Germany. They will undertake six weeks of training on board patrol boats. The group which will be led by a Staff Sergeant, will include four gunners and two Sergeants.

It is believed that the soldiers and members of the Police Force who went to Germany some weeks ago for a course in helicopter piloting, have completed the first part of their training. Several of them are expected back next April after competing the course. meanwhile earlier this week, the Federal Government donated eight lorries to the Maltese Government.

The German Ambassador for Malta Baron Y Alexander von Wendland, officially presented the lorries to the Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Dr Anton Buttigieg, and to the Police Commissioner, Mr E Bencini.

In September 1972 the MLF said farewell to its Commander Brigadier G V Micallef and wished him a long happy and well deserved retirement. He was to be followed by Brigadier A Sammut Tagliaferro. The following extracts from the MLF Journal give a brief account of the military careers of these gentlemen.

Brigadier Micallef joined the Royal Malta Artillery at the beginning of the Second World War, though as a University entrant his regimental seniority was backdated to November 1938. During the war, Brigadier Micallef saw active service in Malta and Egypt and afterwards, in 1949, he graduated from the Staff College, Camberley.

After filling a series of regimental and staff appointments, the latter in England, Egypt and Belgium, he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel in January 1963 to command 1st Regiment, Royal Malta Artillery, in Dortmund, West Germany.

On his return to Malta he was next appointed Commander Royal Malta Artillery in the rank of Colonel and in the following year he was additionally appointed Commander, Malta Land Force. On 30th September 1969 he retired from the British Army but on the following day the Maltese Government commissioned him as Brigadier and confirmed him in his post as commander of the Malta Land Force. he was awarded the OBE in 1969.

It is thus with this proud and long record of service that Brigadier Micallef left the Regiment.

Brigadier A Sammut-Tagliaferro CBE was appointed Commander Malta Land Force, on 1st October 1972.

Brigadier Sammut-Tagliaferro was commissioned into the Royal Malta Artillery on 21st February 1939 and served in Malta during the Second World War. As a temporary major, he commanded 10 LAA Bty RMA from December 1942 up to May 1945.

Shortly after the war he graduated from the Staff College, Camberley, and spent fourteen out of the next twenty years of his service as a Staff Officer in Malta, Egypt, Singapore and the United Kingdom. During the other six years he commanded RMA Batteries and was also second-in-command of 2 LAA Regt. RMA.

Promoted Lieutenant Colonel in January 1966 he commanded 1st Regiment RMA in Germany for the next three years and after his return to Malta was promoted Colonel and appointed Commander Royal Malta Artillery. When, therefore, the British Government decided to sever as from October 1970, the British Army's long standing connections with the Royal Malta Artillery, it fell to Brigadier Sammut-Tagliaferro to plan and direct the withdrawal of 1st Regiment RMA from Germany and the transfer of the Royal Malta Artillery to the Malta Land Force.

Having retired from the British Army on 30th September 1970, he continued to serve with the Malta Land Force as its Deputy Commander, the post to which the Maltese Government had appointed him, a year previously. His promotion to Brigadier dates from 1st October 1972. He was awarded the MBE in 1943 and the CBE in 1970.

It is also interesting to note that in 1972 a history of the Royal Malta Artillery, specially written by Brigadier Sammut-Tagliaferro appeared in serial form in the MLF Journal. It was the first full length history of this distinguished Regiment ever to be published.

FAREWELL TO THE MALTA TERRITORIAL UNITS

Special Order of the Day

by

G V Micallef CBE

Commander Malta Land Force

On 1st October 1970 it was my happy duty, in a Special Order of the Day, to welcome the regular element of the Royal Malta Artillery and members from the Royal Engineers and Royal Signals into the Malta Land Force, acknowledged at the time, as a milestone and as the beginning of a new chapter in the history of our Armed Forces.

It is now my sad duty to say farewell to the two units that comprise the Territorial part of the Malta Land Force. The disbandment of the 3/11th AD Regiment RMA (T) and of the 1 Battalion The King's Own Malta Regiment takes effect tomorrow and as I look back on the proud record and achievements of the two units I cannot but express my regret that this step, inevitable as it is, has had to be taken.

The fortunes of all Forces change from time to time and ours are no exception. What is important is that the spirit fostered by your service has become an integral part of you and that you continue to take pride in the part you played in making your Regiments the distinguished units they have always been.

I wholeheartedly thank you all for the service you have rendered over many years and wish you every success and prosperity in the future.

G V Micallef
30.3.72

In 1973 the Malta Pioneer Corps was formed absorbing into their ranks personnel from the Emergency Labour Corps, which had started life in 1972.

A brief history if this development is of considerable interest.


/PART 2 - REFORMS: MALTA PIONEER CORP

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last modified: JULY 2007