ARMED FORCES OF MALTA

HISTORY OF THE A.F.M. - PART 2

THE MALTA PIONEER CORP

On 22nd May 1972, the first enlistments had been made into the Emergency Labour Corps, the period of enlistment being for one year. Volunteers had been enlisted into ELC in two Groups, the first from 22nd May to 22nd June 1972, and this was known as No.1 Group ELC. As volunteers terminated their one year engagement, they had the choice of automatically joining the Pioneer Corps. By the end of June 1973, the 1st Battalion Malta Pioneer Corps was formed. With its Headquarters set up at Fort St. Elmo. Also in June 1973, the 2nd Battalion MPC was formed at Tigne Barracks and this was mainly composed of new enlistments from outside through the Department of Labour while the 1st Battalion was carrying out transfers from the Emergency Labour Corps. In early July the 1st Battalion, having completed its transfer of 703 men from the ELC, also commenced enlisting new recruits from outside. In one month 600 NCO's and privates were sworn in at Fort St. Elmo, and 900 into the 2nd Battalion at Tigne Barracks.

On 21st July, twenty-four pioneer officers were sworn in and distributed amongst the Malta Pioneer Corps. In July, personnel of the No 2 Group of the ELC reached their one year engagement, and their transfer into the Malta Pioneer Corps commenced, and HQ ELC became HQ 3 Battalion MPC at St. Patrick's Barracks. Enlistments from outside into this Battalion was carried out simultaneously.

On 19th April 1973 the title MALTA LAND FORCE was legally changed to ARMED FORCES OF MALTA.

This was not merely a change of designation, it was meant to reflect the increased responsibilities and an expansion of its manpower strength to some 4000, organised into four major units, namely 1st Regiment RMA and three battalions of the Pioneer Corps.

GIFT TO THE AFM FROM LIBYA

On 4th June 1973 a C130 Hercules of the Libyan Air Force arrived at Luqa carrying a Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter, a gift from the Government of the Libyan Arab Republic, to the Government of Malta.

The Bell was a modern 5 seater aircraft powered by a light turbine engine. An extremely versatile machine, used extensively both in the civil and military fields.

It is fitting that a goodbye is said to 1973 with two interesting items. The following are extracts from the AFM Journal of February 1974:-

The Italian Military Mission has helped in five distinct sections: Military basic training, Engineering projects, Reorganisation of mechanical transport, Telecommunications and Training of Divers.

The first of these has now completed its task and the Italian contingent of seven Officers and twenty five senior Non commissioned Officers responsible for the basic training of some three thousand six hundred pioneers during the period 6th August to 8th November 1973 returned to Italy on 10th November.

Highlight of this quarter was the totally unexpected arrival at Luqa on 26th November of the hijacked KLM jumbo jet. The events of that night are too well known to need recounting here in detail. At 1710 hrs. on 26th November, just as the men had left barracks at the end of the day's work, the message came through that a hijacked KLM jumbo jet had landed at Luqa. We immediately dispatched armed parties to the airport to be ready to deal with any emergency that might have entailed the use of force. The incident made world headline news in which one kept on hearing on BBC about our troops surrounding the hijacked plane. To these troops it was a long, tense night relieved only by occasional snippets of news and a supply of minerals and pastizzi taken personally by Mayor H.A. Dandria. The troops' participation was called off at about 0400 hrs on 27th November when the successful outcome of the negotiations with the Hijackers which were being conducted personally by the Prime Minister, became obvious.

Any history, however light-hearted is always relieved by a human interest story. The April 1974 edition of the AFM journal provided a very good one.

In the late afternoon of Saturday 23rd February a message came through the Police Depot that a man was reported to be in difficulties in very rough seas off Wied iz-Zurrieq.

On receipt of this information a patrol boat, which at that time was off Dragonara Point, immediately assigned to a search-and-rescue operation off Wied iz-Zurrieq. The patrol boat was under the command of Sgt. E. Falzon.

At the same time, a helicopter on stand-by duties flew over the area awaiting the arrival of the patrol boat with which it was maintaining continuous radio communications. The pilot of the helicopter was Police Sgt. J. Smith, with WOI (RSM) C. Mansueto as his co-pilot.

When the patrol boat arrived on the scene, the helicopter directed it to the exact spot. The man was successfully picked up and appeared to be in a reasonably good physical condition. He gave his name as Cpl Hull of the RAF.

On arrival at base, where an RAF Medical Officer awaited him, Cpl Hull was taken to Luqa in an RAF ambulance.

The text of a letter to the Commander from Air Commodore A.H. Mawer, DFC, RAF, Air Commander Malta is reproduced below. This letter was published in General Orders with the Commander's own approbation on the professional manner in which RSM Mansueto, Police SGT. Smith and SGT. Falzon and members of the patrol boat crew, carried out this difficult rescue operation.

DISBANDMENT OF 2MPC

Because of the formation of the new Corps, the Dirghajn il-Maltin, pioneers of 2 MPC were distributed between 1 and 3 MPC in March 1975. HQ 2 MPC became HQ Dirghajn il-Maltin. The Malta Pioneer Corps benefited from this new organisation by the attachment to it of a number of well educated young clerks who were sorely needed. The remaining two Battalions now had a strength of approximately one thousand six hundred and fifty men each.


MOVE OF GOZO GROUP TO MALTA

In March 1975, at a time when there was a tremendous spurt to try and tackle the new drainage and sewage project in the North of the Island, half the Gozitan Pioneers began coming to Malta for employment on this project. With the Gozitan members of DIM the pioneers did for five months come to work daily in Malta on a vessel specially chartered for them. After working in Malta for five months they were re-allocated to full time employment in Gozo as from 28th July, 1975.

AMALGAMATION OF MALTA PIONEER CORPS

On 16 January 1976 the two remaining battalions of the Malta Pioneer Corps were amalgamated into one unit of three thousand men, with the HQ. at Fort St. Elmo. The Special Order of the Day by the Commanding Officer, Major R.J. Camilleri, RMA on this important occasion is reproduced below.


"I write to express my great admiration of the performance of Sergeant Falzon last Saturday when he and his crew rescued Corporal Hull from the sea near the Blue Grotto. Group Captain Armitage, who went to the scene when he heard that Corporal Hull was in the sea, saw the rescue and has told me of the very rough conditions prevailing. Only by seamanship of the highest order could the rescue have been made under those conditions, and we were fortunate indeed that Sergeant Falzon was near the scene.

"I should be most grateful if you would pass on my thanks to Sergeant Falzon and to RSM Mansueto and Police Sergeant Smith, the helicopter pilots, who skilfully directed the boat to the scene, and who dropped a life jacket with which the Corporal kept himself afloat.

We are all much indebted to the Armed Forces of Malta for this rescue, and we much admire the manner in which it was carried out. Very many thanks from the RAF in Malta".

MALTA PIONEER CORPS

SPECIAL ORDER OF THE DAY

BY

MAJOR R.J. CAMILLERI RMA

COMMANDING OFFICER

Fort St Elmo Friday 16th January 1976

On this day of amalgamation of both Battalions of the Malta Pioneer Corps, I would like to welcome all into the new unit.

I have no doubt, that in the same way as in the absorption of 2 MPC into 1 and 3 MPC's a year ago, each and every one of us will show and give wholehearted support and co-operation, in order to ensure that this amalgamation is carried out smoothly and efficiently. We must now work as one family and one unit, for the good of the Malta Pioneer Corps. Our motto must be: 'Honesty, Hard-Work and Efficiency'.

During recent weeks my staff and I have worked hard at the new organisation. Our aim has been to organise a unit into as efficient a force as possible taking our resources and tasks into consideration, while at the same time attempting as much as possible to minimise inconvenience to all.

I would like to take this opportunity in wishing ALL Ranks of the Malta Pioneer Corps and their families a happy and prosperous New year.

MEDICAL CENTER

The Medical Centre at Fort St. Elmo became operational on 14th April 1974. Surg Capt J.R. Grech MD MPC, the Battalion Medical Officer, had the task of seeing all those reporting sick each morning at the Medical Centre; after 'sick parades' sick visits at home were made. This considerably eased the administrative difficulties encountered under the old system, whereby pioneers reporting sick used to visit private doctors or district medical officers, with the result that dozens of different certificates from separate doctors had to be sorted out daily in order to ascertain who was actually sick at home.

HELICOPTERS

Since the end of January, 1975, the Libyan Air Force has provided a Super Frelon helicopter on a weekly basis. The main object of this helicopter is to patrol territorial waters and to assist with any emergency operations.

The entire parade ground, suitably cordoned off, was allotted to it as the existing helicopter pad was inadequate to cater for our own Bell B47 helicopters and for the greater manoeuvrability demanded by the Super Frelon.

Up to now well over 200 missions were carried out by our pilots in their Bell B47 helicopters. Most of these missions were patrols, staggered throughout the day, as well as surveillance liaison and anti-pollution flights. Keeping the life-line going between Malta and Gozo was an important, indeed vital task carried out by the helicopters. This included the carrying of blood plasma for the Victoria Hospital and photographic missions for the Department of Information.

Through the Agreement signed by the Italian and Maltese Governments, the helicopters are now being backloaded by Italian Military Aircraft to the Augusta works in Bergamo for major overhauls. Accompanying the first load - the Bell Jet Ranger - on 18th June, was RSM C. Galea, the warrant Officer in charge of the Flight Workshop, as well as other technicians.

November 1975 saw the emergence of 18 AFM Divers who received their diplomas. The following is an extract from the 'Times of Malta' of the 7th November 1975:-

DIPLOMAS FOR AFM DIVERS

Major Arthur J. Gera, Acting Commander of the Armed Forces of Malta, presented diplomas and badges to 18 AFM divers who had successfully attended diving courses at the Diving School Manoel Island. The presentation was held yesterday morning at the school. This was followed by a short diving demonstration by some of those who had received the awards.

The courses were held within the past two years and ended on April 15 this year. Full time instructors and supervisors provided by the Italian Military Mission who ran two courses for ordinary divers and one for standard divers. The AFM has 12 ordinary divers and six standard divers. Ten others, including three from the RMA, two from 'Dirghajn il-Maltin' have just started a new diving course.

The diving school is under the command of Major R.J. Camilleri, of the Third Battalion Malta Pioneer Corps, 17 of the divers who received awards yesterday belonged to the Corps. Of these Joe Demicoli received training at the Comex International Diving School of Marseilles and Edwin Bartolo underwent a diving course at the Malta Drydocks.

On the 5th March 1976 the 'Times of Malta' published an interesting account of the note and progress of the 150 men of the Maritime Battery.

The 150 men of the Maritime Battery of the A.F.M. can be truly said to be soldiers turned sailors. At present commanded by Major Peter Gatt, the battery's eight patrol boats are manned by officers and men who joined an army but later became sailors when the unit was officially born, early in 1971.

The first patrol boats of the battery were supplied by the United States at the end of 1970. Both "Swift" class craft were built in the U.S.A. and were the Army's first maritime equipment.

In 1972 West Germany supplied three larger vessels plus four Bell 47 helicopters. The 'fleet' of the Maritime Battery took over a small patrol boat built at the Malta Drydocks and later Libya made available two Yugoslav-built vessels - one as a grant the other as a loan.

COAST PATROL

The Maritime Battery is an important element in the main task of the Regular unit of the AFM, that is to patrol the coast by land, sea and air. This aimed at combating contraband, as well as constantly guarding against illegal entry and the pollution of our shores.

To carry out these duties the land patrols maintain unremitting all weather surveillance, working in conjunction with the helicopters and patrol boats. Guiding these three tentacles is a control room at St. Patrick's Barracks which is manned throughout the day and night.

Combined operations beyond the reach of land patrols, that is well out at sea, fall on the patrol boats and the helicopters. Such operations include the surveillance of Malta territorial waters, the protection of fisheries and, often, hastily mounted search and rescue operations and casualty evacuation.

The patrol boats are often called upon to keep the life-line going between Malta and Gozo transporting essential goods services.

Other duties performed by the Maritime Unit include the conveyance of VIP's and visiting delegations to Gozo or on harbour tours, assistance in a survey of Maltese waters, the laying of floats (kannezzati) for the lampuki season, and in conjunction with the Bomb Disposal Team, the destruction or safe disposal of bombs at sea.

Almost a thousand vessels have been investigated by patrol boats and a number of them escorted into Grand Harbour for further investigation. Together with the harbour anti-pollution team, the patrol boats have picked up 1,300 tons of flotsam and used over 4,000 gallons of detergent to clear oil slicks and patches.

The AFM has, since September, 1975, taken over responsibilities at the Valletta Palace Tower Signal Station.

In charge at the Tower is Staff Sgt. Bugeja whose men control the movement of all shipping in and out of Malta. A number of the soldiers at the Palace Tower have undergone a course in radio telephony at the Technical Institute at Paola.

In 1975 ship movements at Grand Harbour totalled 4,382 departures. In addition to this, the AFM Journal produced quite a dramatic account of the adventure of the Bomb Disposal Unit:-

BOMB DISPOSAL

The EOD (Bomb Disposal) Team discovered and destroyed about a hundred pieces of ordnance during this period. Most of the discoveries were made during clearance operations for the airport extension, but the Team was often engaged further afield: in an isolated spot at Wardija, in a well at Cospicua, at the New China Dock at Marsa, on the sea at Qalet Marku Bay and in another well, this time at Safi.

Certain discoveries, as that of a 4,000 lb German bomb (nicknamed 'Satan') involved the Team in formidable operations. The disposal of such hefty bombs was no simple matter, as these had to be exploded or dumped at sea with the aid of our patrol boats.

On six occasions, the Team were called out on a bomb hoax and on another they investigated and then destroyed a gelignite bomb.

NEW COMMANDER ON 1ST MAY 1976

Brigadier Arthur Gera was commissioned into the Royal Malta Artillery on 16th December 1949, from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. His first posting was to 8th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery RMA as Troop Commander and since then he held various regimental appointments both in Malta and Germany where he commanded 8 Battery RMA from 1966 to 1969. He also served as Staff Captain at Headquarters Royal Artillery, Malta, from 1957 to 1959 and was Aide-de-Camp to the Governor, and after Independence, the Governor General of Malta, from 1962 until 1965.

On his return from BAOR, he was appointed Brigade Major at Headquarters Royal Malta Artillery, a post he held until 30th September 1970, when the Royal Malta Artillery ceased to form part of the British Army.

In January 1971, he was posted to Headquarters Malta Land Force as General Staff Officer Grade 2 and on 1st June 1974 was appointed Principal Staff Officer.

Following the sudden indisposition of the Commander AFM, he was appointed Acting Commander on 2nd August 1975. On 1st May he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier and appointed Commander, Armed Forces of Malta.

Brigadier Gera was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 1970.

THE REVENUE SECURITY CORPS

The Revenue Security Corps was set up on Monday 2nd October, 1978, by the Ministry of Finance, with the aim of protecting Government property especially where Revenue was concerned.

The nucleus of the Corps consisted of fifty men from the Admiralty Constabulary (Malta), whose engagement had just been terminated. Its first commander was Major John Sultana, who was a Lieutenant at that time.

The Corps' primary commitments centred mainly with Customs duties. But at the end of 1978, the Revenue Security Investigations Section was formed. Its main aim was to help the Inland Revenue Department and collect dues.

At the end of 1985, the Corps was tasked with providing security guards for the Commercial Banks in Malta and Gozo. Security with the cash offices of the various Government Departments soon followed.

The end of 1992 heralded the formation of the Cash Escort Team, to provide security during cash transfers, on a professional basis.

The 180-strong Corps is still carrying out its duties and is renowned for the efficient way it handles its commitments.

The members of the Revenue Security Corps begin their recruitment by following a basic course in military skills, following which they undergo specialised training in the following fields.

Customs Ordinance

Income Tax Laws

Entertainment Tax Regulations

Criminal Law

Exchange Control Regulations

Drug Detection

Other Security Matters

Apart from the above, the RSC members undergo intensive training in the use of small arms. These courses are tailored to suit the particular situations relevant to the role of the RSC.

The Patrol Section, together with the Customs Department, has the responsibility to ensure that all excise duty is paid on imported goods and that merchandise subject to controlled importation or prohibited goods are barred from entering the country illegally. This involves continuous searches in containers, trucks, trailers, and boxes of every kind. Merchandise is checked and searched. Strict control and thorough searches help control smuggling.

These searches are also carried out on empty containers and vehicles as these offer abundant hiding places. Spot searches are also carried out during the loading/unloading of containers and while the latter are in transit.

The Cash Escort Team comprises a group of highly trained personnel who offer protection during the transfer of cash or valuables from place to place. This service is available to Government Departments and Parastatal bodies. This team undergoes specialised training in the field of Cash-in-transit security and Personal protection.

The Revenue Security Corps is often entrusted to destroy Government or seized property, by means of fire. These items include such things as local postage stamps, passports, crown corks and customs seals.

The Corps has a standing member in Government boards dealing with the printing of passports, postage stamps and banderoles.

The Revenue Security Investigations Section performs investigative work for the Inland Revenue Department and other parastatal bodies. It helps gather confidential information, trace PAYE defaulters and collect Government dues.

Security Guards are also provided to most of the Commercial Banks and Government Cash Offices in Malta and Gozo. These men provide a professional security service which is usually tailored to suit the client's needs.


/PART 3 - 1980/1985 - TASK FORCE

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