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
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
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.
"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
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.
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.
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
The first patrol boats of the battery
were supplied by the United States at the end of 1970. Both
class craft were built in the U.S.A. and were the Army's first
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Send any questions or problems regarding
this service to the administrator.
last modified: April 1997