A BRIEF HISTORY
In April 1800, Brigadier General Thomas Graham raised the first official embodiment of Maltese Troops in the British Army, which became known as the Maltese Light Infantry. This battalion of men was disbanded in 1802 and succeeded by the Maltese Provincial Battalions, the Malta Coast Artillery and the Maltese Veterans.
In 1815, Lieutenant Colonel Count Francis Rivarola was entrusted with the task of raising the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment following the disbandment of the Provincials, Veterans and Coast Artillery.
The Royal Malta Fencible Regiment was converted to an artillery regiment in 1861, and became known as the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery. Twenty-eight years later, the worthy predecessors of the Armed Forces of Malta came into existence following the formation of the Royal Malta Artillery on March 23rd, 1889.
“King’s Own Royal Malta Regiment of Militia” was formed in 1903, and was later disbanded in 1921. The regiment was raised for a fourth time in 1931 as the “King’s Own Malta Regiment“. Initially on the British Establishment, in 1951 it was transferred to the Malta Territorial Force before becoming part of the Malta Land Force on Malta’s independence in 1970. The regiment was disbanded in 1972.
1st Battalion, KOMR [1897-1921, 1931-1946, 1952-1972]
2nd Battalion, KOMR [1897-1921, 1940-1946, 1952-1972]
3rd Battalion, KOMR [1940-1945]
10th Battalion, KOMR (Territorial) [1942-1943]
The Royal Malta Artillery, more widely known as the RMA, is famed for the part it played during the siege of Malta during the Second World War. 1st Regiment RMA served in the British Army of the Rhine from 1962 to early 1970.
1970 – RMA becomes Malta Land Force (MLF) and becomes the responsibility of the Government of Malta.
With an Act of Parliament in August 1970, the Armed Forces of Malta came into being with some 500 officers and men plus equipment transitioning from the British Army to the Maltese Government’s responsibility. Around 100 other men from the Royal Engineers (Malta) also opted to join on their disbandment plus another number from the Royal Signals.
The established Malta Land Force (MLF) saw the merger of HQ Royal Malta Artillery (RMA) with HQ Malta Land Force (MLF) on October 1st, having received its regular compliment along with 1st Regiment RMA and the RMA Band. On this same day, a farewell was also made, on disbandment, to the 3/11th AD Regt. RMA (T) and to the 1 Battalion The King Own Malta Regt. which compromised the two remaining units of the Territorial part of the MLF.
The Maltese military successfully transitioned from an artillery regiment within the British Army, to a small defence force under the Government of Malta.
The collective experience of the highly skilled men, as gained over the years of peace and conflict, was immediately put to good use. This was particularly so in Explosive Ordinance Disposal on land and afterwards underwater, and in manning and maintenance of two ex-US Navy Swift class fast patrol boats, for anti-contraband and other inshore duties.
In 1971, 14 soldiers and members from the Malta Police Force were sent for 6 weeks training for helicopter pilot training in the Federal Republic of Germany on Bell 47 G2 helicopters. This heralded Maltese light army aviation on the local military scenario.
On May 22nd, 1972, volunteers were enlisted into the Emergency Labour Corps for one year, after which they were offered automatic engagement into the Pioneer Corps.
1973 – Armed Forces of Malta succeed Malta Land Force (new responsibilities included the raising of the Malta Pioneer Corps (MPC) and Dirghajn il-Maltin)
On April 19th, 1973, the title Malta Land Force was legally changed to Armed Forces of Malta (AFM). This was not merely a change of designation: it was meant to reflect the increased responsibilities and expansion of its manpower strength to some 4,000, organized into four major units (namely 1st Regiment RMA and three battalions of the Pioneer Corps). By the end of June, 1973, the 1st Battalion Malta Pioneer Corps was formed. These Corps in turn were replaced by the Dejma Corps, which operated between June 1981 to December 1989. Suffice to say that over 15,000 men and women served in the Corps over a period of sixteen years.
The AFM’s formation ties in as well with Malta becoming a republic in 1974. This was when 1 Regiment of the Royal Malta Artillery (RMA) was renamed as 1 Regiment, AFM. Initially, this continued their artillery role, with 2 Regiment formed as an engineers unit. In 1980, 1 Regiment became a mixed unit which included infantry, light army aviation and maritime responsibilities The light anti-aircraft artillery element was transferred to 2 Regiment. In 1992, there was a major re-organisation, which led to the formation of 3 Regiment, which remains predominantly reflected in its structure till this very day.
The AFM wears a single cap badge, based on that of the RMA, which consists of a gun (similar to that worn by the British Royal Artillery, but without the crown on top) over a Maltese Cross, with the motto “Tutela Bellicæ Virtutis” underneath as a scroll.
In March, 1975, the pioneers of 2 MPC were distributed between 1 and 3 PC. On formation of the new corps Dirghajn il-Maltin, HQ 2 MPC became the new corps HQ. The remaining two battalions now had a strength of approximately 1,650 men. On January 16th, 1975, the two remaining MPC battalions were amalgamated into one unit of 3,000 men.
1980-1988: The Armed Forces were divided into two separate units known as the Armed Forces of Malta and the Task Force, each commanded by a Colonel (The Dejma labour corps replaces the MPC/ DiM from 1981 to 1989)
What had hitherto been 1st Regiment AFM was on April 1st, 1980 placed under a separate command. It included an infantry company, the Maritime Squadron, and the Helicopter Flight, totalling to some 500 men. A number of Police personnel were also transferred to augment this strength, and help fulfill the role for which it was set up. Later, other military sections were absorbed into the new command: the Ammunition Depot, the Explosives Ordinance Disposal and the Airport Company.
On September 3rd, 1982 the first ever 70 female soldier were on parade after their basic military training course. In all, 300 young women were recruited into the Dejma Corps.
Between 1970 and 1986, no officer-cadet intakes were made. Prior to 1970, officer-cadets completed their training in the United Kingdom at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Camberley in Surrey. In April 1987, ten officer-cadets held their pass-out parade at AFM HQ in Luqa Barracks. Their locally organized training included five-months at the Italian Army’s Infantry and Cavalry in Cesano, Rome.
1988 – The two units were re-amalgamated into the AFM under the command of a Brigadier
Units forming part of the Task Force were re-amalgamated with units from 2 Regt AFM and the AFM Depot on May 11th, 1988. The Task Force colours (presented on March 28th, 1981) were later laid up in St. John’s Co-Cathedral, hanging among the Colours of former regiments in the Oratory.
Later, on June 23rd, 1988, new National and Regimental Colours were presented to the AFM. This was the first time the re-amalgamated AFM had their own Colours.
On February 4th, 1992, the AFM took delivery of its first ever fixed-wing aircraft. Five former US Army single-engined Cessna Bird Dog 19-F spotters were purchased for coastal patrol, maritime search operations and pilot training.
On April 2nd, 1992, a new Long Service and Efficiency Medal was presented to 253 officers and other ranks having over 18 years of service and a clean conduct sheet. Those with over 30 years service receive a medal with two clasps. A medal with one clasp is awarded to those having served between 25 and 30 years.
On May 1st, 1998, members of the Air Traffic Control Corps and others from the Airport Company (including the Luqa Fire Services and the Meteorological Office) were disbanded and absorbed into the Malta International Airport plc.
OF THE MALTA LAND FORCE
AND OF THE ARMED FORCES OF MALTA
Mjr Gen. J. D. Frost, C.B., D.S.O., M.C.
April 1965 to February 1967
Mjr. Gen. A. R. Leakey, C.B., D.S.O., M.C.
February 1967 to November 1967
Bgdr. George V. Micallef,O.B.E.
November 1967 to September 1972
Bgdr. Alfred Sammut Tagliaferro
October 1972 to April 1973
April 1973 to August 1975
Bgdr. Arthur J.A. Gera, M.B.E.
August 1975 to February 1980
Bgdr. John Spiteri
March 1980 to September 1991
Bgdr. Maurice E. Calleja
September 1991 to December 1993
Bgdr. Claude M. Gaffiero
December 1993 to December 1996
Bgdr. Rupert C. Montanaro
December 1996 to February 2004
Bgdr. Carmel Vassallo
March 2004 to January 2010
Bgdr. Martin G. Xuereb
January 2010 to November 2013
Bgdr. Jeffrey Curmi
Maltese Light Infantry (1800-1802)
The first two companies of the Maltese Light Infantry were raised in April, 1800, and these were placed under the command of Captain Weir of the Royal Marines, who was helped by the officers of the 89th Foot. In June the Regiment was at full strength and under the command of Brigadier-General Moncreiff. In July the Battalion was reviewed by Sir Ralph Abercrombie. The Regiment served in the blockade of Valletta and in all the assaults made against the French defences. On 4th of September, General Vaubois and his troops were forced to ask for terms of surrender, faced as they were by famine, sickness and rapidly diminishing stores of ammunition. General Pigot and Captain Martin, R.N., who had succeeded General Graham and Captain Ball respectively, took the salute as the French troops marched out of Valletta with all the honours of war, and on the following day the British troops entered Valletta. Two medals were struck to commemorate the blockade of Valletta. The gold medal inscribed Patria Liberata was awarded to Emanuele Vitale, Vincenzo Borg and Canon FS Caruana. The silver medal was given to all those who had served against the French during the period 1798 – 1800. It showed the recipient’s name on one side and Malta ai suoi difensori, 1800 on the other.
Very little is known about the history of the Maltese Light Infantry after the French had been driven out of the Islands. What is certain is that 300 men of this Regiment under Major Weir volunteered for service overseas and they were sent on an expedition to relieve a small British garrison besieged by the French at Porto Ferrajo in the Island of Elba. The expedition was successful and the beleaguered garrison was relieved. In the spirited action, the Maltese troops supported a force of Swiss Pioneers under the command of Colonel De Bersey. Ensigns Bartoli and Arena of the Maltese Regiment were wounded in leading the Maltese troops in a bayonet charge and their names should be remembered as the first of a long list of men from Malta “to shed their blood in the service of the British Crown in a Regiment that was part of the British Army on active service outside Malta.”
In 1802, the Maltese Light Infantry was disbanded on the expiration of the period for which the men had enlisted. Most of these men, however, enlisted again – this time in the newly formed Provincial Battalions. The Regimental Colours were presented to Major Weir whose connection with the Regiment has already been referred to. In the year 1884 Major Weir’s son – Dr Thomas Weir of Edinburgh – returned these colours to Sir Arthur Borton, then Governor of Malta, by whom they were presented with the proper military ceremonial to the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery during the parade held on the Palace Square. The Colours were then deposited in the Palace Armoury. An interesting point about these colours is the absence of the Cross of St. Patrick, which figured, on all King’s Colours after the Union of Ireland with Great Britain (1800).
The uniform of the Maltese Light Infantry consisted of blue-grey coats with red facings and gold lace, and nankeen trousers.
Maltese Provincial Battalions (1802 – 1815)
The Maltese Militia and the Maltese Militia Coast Artillery were succeeded by the Maltese Provincial Battalions. In the terms of the Treaty of Amiens (1802) it was stipulated that at least half of the Garrison of Malta should consist of Maltese troops officered by Maltese. The number of troops in the Garrison was then approximately 4,000 and instructions were received from London that 2,000 Maltese were to be enlisted in the new corps. In February 1803, however, Sir Alexander Ball, recommended that the force to be raised should consist of the following corps: –
- 2 Battalions of Infantry of 700 men each, called the Maltese Provincial Battalions;
- 1 Battalion of Artillery of 300 men, called the Malta Coast Artillery; and
- 1 Battalion of Veterans of 300 men, called the Maltese Veterans
The Maltese Provincial Battalions were the first Maltese Regiments to wear the red coat. The 1st Battalion had sky-blue facings and silver lace. On 13th November, 1804, the two Battalions were reviewed on the Floriana Parade Ground and were warmly commended in the General Orders issued on 14th November, 1804, for their “smartness, soldierlike appearance, conduct and steadiness .. which would be highly creditable to any Corps whatever”. Marquis Parisi commanded the 1st Battalion while Count Gatto commanded the 2nd Battalion.
Malta Coast Artillery (1802 – 1815)
Captain Vivian, with the rank of Major (he was at that time Inspector of Maltese and Foreign Troops) was given the command of this corps, which was divided into three companies of 100 men each and distributed in batteries round the coast. The men wore the same uniform as the British Artillery, dark-blue coats with red facings. the term of enlistment was five years. In the year 1806 an increase of 50 men per company was authorised. One of the duties of this corps was the prevention of smuggling.
Maltese Veterans (1802 – 1815)
The Corps of Veterans consisted of four companies. They were chiefly recruited from the old foot-soldiers of the Knights who had returned to Malta after they had been conscripted and taken to Egypt by General Napoleon Bonaparte. These men naturally felt a great hatred for the French on account of the ill-treatment that they had undergone while serving in the French Army of the Orient.
The officers of this corps were all Maltese, with the exception of the adjutants, who were English officers transferred from English regiments. Their duties included the guarding of public buildings and assistance to the Civil Police at the request of the Civil Government.
Royal Malta Fencible Regiment (1815 – 1861)
The general peace that followed the Battle of Waterloo was the cause of sweeping changes in the constitution of the local Forces. The Provincials, the Veterans and the Malta Coast Artillery were all disbanded and their place was taken by an infantry regiment called The Royal Malta Fencible Regiment, a force that rendered excellent service up to 1861 when the Regiment – as a mark of royal favour – was turned into an artillery corps. It may not be out of place to explain what was meant by the word “fencibles”, a term that has gone out of use in the British Army. Up to 1889 it was still used in Malta and originally, the word meant a kind of militia raised for the defence of a given district, the term of service being limited. The engagement was purely voluntary and service was restricted to the county in which the force was raised. Sometimes they were moved from their district.
Lt Colonel Count Rivarola, late of the Sicilian Regiment, Inspector of Police and Foreign Corps in Malta, was entrusted with the task of raising the corps.
The men were to serve in Malta and its Dependencies; they were to be subject to the Articles of War and they were to enjoy the privileges granted to the other King’s troops in Malta. The uniform was red with blue facings and gold lace. On the appointments were shown the Royal Cypher and the Arms of Malta. The right wing of the Regiment under Lt Col Count Gatto had four companies at Zejtun and Zabbar Gate ( afterwards they removed to Ricasoli); the left wing under Major Baron Testaferrata had three companies in the Grand Prison in Valletta, one company at St. Julians, one company at Marsaxlokk, one company at St. Paul’s Bay. The three latter companies were trained as artillery. In January, 1816, Lt Col Rivarola was officially appointed to the command of the Royal Malta Fencibles with Lt Col Count Gatto as second in command. Under the command of such a martinet as Col. Rivarola, the Regiment could not but attain a very high degree of efficiency, so much so that the Regiment was invariably placed at the right of the line on brigade field days as the battalion of direction. The Regiment was placed upon the establishment of the Regular Army in 1829.
The Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the affairs of Malta in 1836 advised the disbandment of the Royal Malta Fencibles and the incorporation of a part in the Police Force and another part in the Coast Guard Service. The Island would thus be relieved of the expense of keeping up the Regiment. This recommendation raised a storm of protest in the Island. It was stressed that there had been a promise by the British Government to provide for those who had served during the blockade of Valletta, and in the campaigns that followed. It was also pointed out that the Corps was provided for in the Treaty of Amiens. Her Majesty’s Government finally decided that the Regiment should be retained at the expense of the Imperial Government but only for duties of a purely military nature as part of the garrison responsible for the defence of the Island. This announcement was received with great rejoicing. A special parade was held at Floriana at which new Colours were presented and Colonel the Marquis De Piro, on behalf of the Regiment, thanked his Excellency Sir Henry Bouverie, then Governor of Malta, for the interest that the Commander-in-Chief had shown in the cause of the Regiment. The Regiment then parched to St. John’s Cathedral where the Colours were blessed by His Grace the Archbishop. There were dinners for the NCOs and men to which the NCOs and men of the Line Regiments then in Malta were invited. A dinner and ball by the Colonel and Officers of the Fencibles was held at the Union Club.
In 1855, Colonel Baynes, who commanded the Royal Malta Fencibles, applied to the Secretary of State for War and requested that approval be given to the suggestion that the Regiment should be made available for general service in order to enable it to join the Army then fighting in the Crimea. However, it was not considered necessary that this should be done, as the war was then drawing to a close.
In 1861, Her Majesty Queen Victoria, as a mark of royal favour, was pleased to direct that, as from 25th January of that year, The Royal Malta Fencible Regiment be converted into an artillery corps with the name of Royal Malta Fencible Artillery. As an artillery carries no Colours, those of the Infantry were deposited in the Palace Armoury at Valletta.
Royal Malta Fencible Artillery (1861 – 1881)
This corps came into existence when the Royal Malta Fencibles Regiment was converted into an artillery regiment. All ranks were given the option of serving in the new regiment or of retiring from the service. Only two men asked for permission to retire. All the rest expressed their wish to continue to serve as artillerymen. With the exception of waist-plates, the new corps was given the same uniform as that provided for the Royal Artillery. The Regiment was quartered in various forts and barracks on the Island.
In May 1875, the officers were asked to provide themselves with helmets. Apparently the wearing of this headdress had not yet become general.
In 1882, the Egyptian War broke out and a detachment of 100 volunteers under the command of Captain Portelli with Lieutenants Cavarra, Mattei and A. Trapani left the Island to take part in the operations. They were employed in the defence of Alexandria, which was being constantly raided by the Bedouins.
They were quartered at Fort Mex with detachments at the Rosetta and Damietta Gates. When Arabi Pasha’s troops were defeated at Tel-el-Kebir, the detachment formed part of Sir Evelyn Wood’s brigade, which advanced to Damietta. But Arabi had evacuated his troops and resistance gradually dwindled. In October, the detachment returned to Malta. The officers and men were awarded the Egypt Medal and Khedive’s Star and the Regiment was granted the privilege of the battle honour “Egypt 1882” on its appointments.
A gratifying mark of royal favour was the appointment of His Royal Highness Field Marshal (the Commander-in-Chief) the Duke of Cambridge to be the Regiment’s Honorary Colonel. Moreover the Regiment was increased to practically double its old strength – an indisputable proof of its efficiency.
On 23rd March 1889, when the Royal Malta Regiment of Militia was being raised, an order provided for the elimination of the word “Fencible” from the title of the Corps. The new designation was The Royal Malta Artillery.
KING’S OWN & ROYAL MALTA ARTILLERY
In 1889 at the same time of the forming of the Royal Malta Artillery, approval was obtained for the forming of a militia regiment on the island, the Royal Malta Regiment of Militia.
World War I
This regiment was very popular and in a very short time recruitment was such that a second battalion was formed. In Between 1914 to 1918 an element of the regiment formed from both battalions volunteered to serve in Cyprus on garrison duties during the First World War. A number of officers and men volunteered for service in Gallipoli and Salonika while several officers served at the Western Front and other theatres with British Line regiments together with 2 Malta labour Corps
The Royal Malta Artillery, and King’s Own Royal Malta Regiment Militia officers Although Malta’s did not have its own forces it contributed to the armed forces of the Empire where there were an Enlistment of 778 Maltese in the Royal Air Force and in the Royal Naval Reserve, and 1000 Maltese labourers (Maltese Labour battalion) were sent to the Dardanelles.
After 1921 the Royal Malta Artillery (RMA) started to formed part of the British Army and was used as a transport wing for the British and US Army. Their main role was to transport bombs and missiles, with the average age of a soldier in the Regiment being only 20 years of age.
In 1923 the Kings own Malta Regiment of Militia (‘King’s Own’ granted in 1903 by King Edward VII) was disbanded, retaining only a cadre company which formed the nucleus of the new territorial regiment raised in 1932, The King’s Own Malta Regiment.
World War II
The RMA played a major part in the defence of Malta during the Second World War. At the outbreak this regiment of territorial soldiers was embodied and during the course of the siege was expanded to four battalions, 1st , 2nd, 3rd, and 10th, rendering sterling service. The 1st and 2nd Battalions formed part of the Northern Brigade sector and the 3rd to the southern sector. The task of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions was the defence of the shores of Malta and Gozo. This was mainly the manning of the beach posts and depth post – generally one depth post and two beach posts were allocated a platoon of 30 men. The Regiment provided low air defence against enemy aircraft on all the airfields. The men also helped to unload the cargoes from convoy ships, guarded supply dumps and cleared runways and filled in bomb craters. The RMA was made up of the following:
Royal Malta Artillery (RMA) Regiments & Batteries
The Royal Malta Artillery HQ – Upper St. Elmo
1st Coast Regiment – Fort Rocco
2nd HAA Regiment – Fort Tigne
3rd LAA Regiment – Fort St. Elmo
5th Coast Regiment – Independent
5th HAA Battery – Delimara
6th HAA Battery – Mtarfa
7th HAA Battery – Luqa
8th Searchlight Battery – Mtarfa
11th HAA Regiment RMA (Territorial Unit)
14th HAA Battery (disbanded April 1943 & taken over by 5th HAA)
LAA – Light Anti Aircraft – used 40mm Bofors on low flying aircraft. Each Battalion was equipped with medium machine guns and operated Bren Gun Carriers.
On the 21st September, 1939 the 11th Regt., RMA was formed as a Territorial Anti Aircraft Regiment composed of two Heavy and one Light Batteries. The former were 20 and 21 Batteries, while the latter was 22 Battery, armed with 10 Bofors 40mm guns. On the 18th of March, 1941 the first (and only) RMA Light AA Regiment was formed.The 3rd LAA Regt, RMA took under its wings 22 Battery, as well as 30 Battery, better known as the Dockyard Defence Battery. The other was the newly-formed 10 Battery. Lt. Col. EJ Salomone was the first Commanding Officer of the Regiment, staying for the duration of the war.
7th Anti Aircraft Brigade – 1941 comprising of
3rd LAA Regiment
11th HAA Regiment
7th HAA Regiment RA
Members of the KOMR were frequently called upon to perform special tasks such as when in January 1940 after the Luftwaffe attacks on Grand Harbour and HMS Illustrious, they rescued the living and removed the dead from the devastated Cottonera area.
In a June 1941 report, 3rd LAA Regt., RMA, 11th HAA Regt., RMA and 7th HAA Regt., RA are shown as the components of the 7th Anti- Aircraft Brigade, under the command of Brigadier NV Sadler, RA. 3rd LAA Regt., RMA was disbanded at the end of the war, only to be reformed in September 1951 as a Territorial Regiment, along with the 11th HAA Regt.
When the British Army switched to guided missiles for defence against high-flying aircraft, 11th HAA was turned into a LAA Regt., and some time later it was amalgamated with 3rd LAA, to form the 3/11th Light Air Defence Regt, RMA as part of the post-Independence Malta Land Force.
The Regiment was given the battle honour “Malta 1940 – 1942” in 1957 and in 1959 was given the privilege to carry the George Cross on its regimental colours, the only regiment in the British Army so honoured.
Between 1962 to 1970 1st Regiment RMA served with distinction in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) where they were accommodated at Moore Barracks, Dortmund. They then moved on to Wrexham Barracks, Mülheim, where they served until 1978. Unfortunately, on being recalled to Malta the Regiment was disbanded and in 1970 RMA became Malta Land Force (MLF).