ARMED FORCES OF MALTA

HISTORY OF THE A.F.M. - PART 3

1980 - 1985

Task Force

The formation of the Task Force officially took place on the 1st April, 1980. What had hitherto been 1st Regiment AFM was placed under the command of Colonel John N Cachia, whose appointment as Commander Task Force was published in the Malta Government Gazette Notice No. 203 dated 1st April 1980.

At the time of its formation, Task Force consisted of a Headquarters, an Infantry Company, a Maritime Squadron and a Helicopter Flight. The total strength at the time of formation was under 500. In order to augment this strength and allow the Task Force to fulfil the role for which it was set up, four Police Officers and a number of police personnel were transferred to this Force on the same day of its formation.

The roles of the Task Force were:

a. To maintain surveillance and security over the Maltese Islands and their Territorial Waters.

b. To assist in case of natural and other disasters.

c. To assist in the infrastructure of the Islands.

d. To provide security and investigation of criminal offences as empowered by law.

It was immediately apparent that the organisation and strength as it stood was not adequate to meet the role assigned to it. Steps were immediately taken by the Commander to embrace other military sections into the Force thus enabling it to maintain complete surveillance and security over the Maltese island and their Territorial Waters.

Within a short space of time the Task Force became responsible for the Ammunition Depot, the Explosives Ordinance Disposal Section and the Airport Company. This enabled the Task Force to exercise better control and to co-ordinate all the requirements necessary for its smooth running. Naturally, with these acquisitions the volume of work increased enormously and each member of the Force made an extra effort to guarantee success.

In July 1981 the Government opened up engagement in the new Corp. Id-Dejma . Recruits were enlisted for a period of 15 months. Of the total enlistments, approximately 560 men were recruited into the Task Force, smaller numbers were recruited into the Malta Police Force and 2nd Support Regiment AFM. By December 1981, therefore the strength of the Task Force had increased to approximately 1000; this being almost double that at which it stood on its formation. The Force was then adequately staffed to perform the duties which developed upon it.

Since 1981 there have been four Dejma groups enlisted and it is on these groups that Task Force depended for the main bulk of its manpower. Each group enlisted was adequately trained and prepared for its duties with the Task Force, although there were times when it would have been desirable to devote more time to initial training. However training did not end with basic training and further continuous training took place throughout their engagement.

The Task Force Colours depicting the emblem of the new Force incorporates the 'Wing', the 'Anchor' and the 'Rifle' which represents the three major Units.

It is quite impossible to cover all aspects of the Task Force let alone give a detailed account of all the work carried out. Task Force has been involved in all major incidents such as Hijack Drama of the Libyan Arab Airlines Aircraft in 1983, the capture of the contraband schooner Ciccolina in the Gozo Channel, the rescuing of children in difficulties at sea and many more incidents which are too numerous to mention.


A NEW EXPERIENCE FOR THE AFM

The Malta Armed Forces (AFM) made history when 70 young women on September 3rd 1982 marched in the first ever parade by female soldiers in the Island. In their first parade, the smartly-dressed girls showed they had already reached a fine level of drill, uniformity and discipline.

The parade was held to mark the termination of the girls' Military Training which lasted four weeks under the guidance of Captain M. Caruana Dingli.

This is the first group of girls who have joined the Dejma and ended their Military Course. In all, 300 young women were recruited into the Dejma.

CORPS OF DRUMS FOR AFM BAND

A newly-formed Corps of Drums, part of the Armed Forces Of Malta band was inaugurated on the 11th December 1982 by the Minister of Interior, Mr. Lorry Sant, during a display on Palace Square in Valletta.

The band accompanied by the Corps of Drums, left from in front of the Hotel Phoenicia, Floriana, marched down Republic Street and proceeded to Palace Square. The Minister accompanied by the bandmaster, Captain A. Chircop, Major R. Montanaro, and Col. John Spiteri, Commander of the AFM, inspected the bandsmen. The ceremony was followed by a band display.

Out of 82 bandsmen, 54, aged between 18 and 35, were enlisted in July after completing their basic military. In addition to performing band duties, all the members of the AFM band are fully-trained soldiers.

The AFM band was the largest military band ever to be formed by Maltese troops. It was also the first time regular forces of the AFM had a Corps of Drums section.

PASSING OUT PARADE FOR AFM OFFICER CADETS

Ten officer cadets in the armed Forces of Malta became Second Lieutenants in April 1987 when they held their pass-out parade at Luqa barracks.

This was the first such parade ever held in Malta. Prior to 1970, officer cadets held their parade abroad on completion of training there, and no officer cadet pass-out were held since 1970.

This parade was held on completion by the cadets of a year long course which included five months of training at an Italian infantry school in Cesano near Rome. This was also the first time, since 1970 that officer cadets had received training abroad. The officer in charge of the whole course was Lieutenant C. Farrugia. The parade was held before Prime Minister, Dr. Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, AFM Commander Colonel John Spiteri, and the Deputy Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Sammut Tagliaferro.

AMALGAMATION OF THE ARMED FORCES OF MALTA AND THE TASK FORCE

The organisation of the newly amalgamated Armed Forces of Malta on the 11th May 1988 consists of a Headquarters 1st Regiment, comprising all units formerly forming part of the Task Force, a 2nd Regiment and the AFM Depot.

The parade marking the amalgamation of the Armed Forces of Malta and the Task Force, was held on the Palace Square in Valletta. It consisted of two detachments, each of 60 all ranks from the AFM and Task Force, the Task colours and the AFM band.

The parade then accorded salutes to the Commander Task Force, Colonel Maurice Calleja, and the Commander AFM, Brigadier John Spiteri. Upon arrival, the Prime Minister Dr. Eddie Fenech Adami was accorded a National Salute.

After he inspected the parade, accompanied by the Parade Commander and the two Force Commanders, the Task Force Colours marched off the Square and the order given for the AFM and the Task Force to amalgamate. the Band struck up the 'Auld Lang Syne' while four buglers from the centre of the square played a 'moving' accompanying fanfare. The two detachments from the separate forces advanced in slow march towards one another and infiltrated each of the ranks, ended up in a symbolic unification of the two forces.

The 'amalgamated' detachment then marched past in fours in quick time, after which they Advanced in Review Order to accord another National Salute to the Prime Minister.

The parade then stood at ease while an address was made by the Prime Minister. At the end of his speech the Prime Minister was escorted by Brigadier Spiteri and Colonel Calleja to the dais for a final salute by the troops as they marched past.

THE LAYING-UP OF THE TASK FORCE COLOURS

Officers and men of the Task Force, which had re-amalgamated with the AFM, on Sunday morning took part in a parade during which the Task Force Colours were laid up at St John's Co-Cathedral.

The Colours now hang among the Colours of former regiments in the Oratory. The short ceremony started at St. John's Square where the parade, under Captain Carmelo Vassallo accorded salutes to Lieut. Colonel Claude Gaffiero, the former Deputy Commander of the Task Force and now commanding Officer of the 1st Regiment AFM, and Colonel Maurice Calleja former Task Force Commander and Deputy Commander of the AFM. Colonel Calleja inspected the parade which then presented arms as the Colour Party marched into the Co-Cathedral.

The National Colour, was presented to the Vicar General Mgr. Carmelo Xuereb, by Colonel Calleja, while the Task Force was presented to Fr. Patrick Cachia, chaplain of the Armed Forces, by Lieut.Col.Gaffiero.

The Colours had been presented to the Task Force by the late President Dr. Anton Buttigieg, on the 29th March 1981.

PRESENTATION OF COLOURS TO THE A.F.M.

National and Regimental colours were presented to the Armed forces of Malta by the Acting President Mr. Paul Xuereb during a parade held under a blazing sun on the Palace Square, Valletta on the 23rd June 1988. Taking part in the parade were four squads of 33 soldiers each and the band.

The National Colour presented showed a tower and a scroll with the words 'Forzi Armati' which means 'Armed Forces', superimposed with the Regimental Badge. The Regimental Colour showed the regimental insignia under which is shown the motto of the AFM "Tutela Bellicae Virtutis" on a scroll with the grenade symbol at each of the four corners and other scrolls showing the AFM battle honours.

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE REGIMENTAL COLOURS

The origin of the custom of carrying Colours goes back to the early days of history, when badges of identification were fixed to a pole which was held aloft on battle for the dual purpose of indicating position and acting as a rallying point. Medieval chivalry followed the same idea when armorial bearings were placed on their banners so that these could be seen well above the melee. When armies were beginning to adopt a system of regimentation at the beginning of the 17th century each company was allotted a Colour, a custom which persisted for about a hundred years.

Standards and Guidons have evolved from the banners of the knights of the Middle Ages. The Standard (a square banner) was then carried by a knight; the Guldon (an ensign or standard ending with a tall or point, now swallow tailed) being carried by a bannerette. When a bannerette was created a knight the point of his Guidon was cut off, thus transforming it into a Standard.

The Parent Regiment of the present Armed Forces of Malta is the Royal Malta Artillery. In the British Amy, the colours in a Regiment of Artillery is its guns. When on parade on ceremonial occasions, the 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.

Since the middle of the eighteenth century Infantry Regimental Colour were allowed two colours - the Sovereign colour and the Regimental Colour. The practice of carrying Colours into action continued until the beginning of 1881 during the first Boer War in South Africa, when the custom was discontinued because of the altered form of attack and the increased range of musketry.

This was the first time that the recently re-amalgamated Armed Forces of Malta had their own Colours.


/PART 4 - 1990/1995: BUSH - GORBACHEV SUMMIT CONFERENCE

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