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.
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
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
"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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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last modified: JULY 2007