Though not an erudite and detailed military history, the events chronicled here about the Maltese military are the most salient points that brought about several changes which under many diverse circumstances defined different duties geared to meet the country's exigencies, setting new foundations for a national armed force as we know it today.
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.
|Gunner - Malta
"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..
The efforts, work dedication and goodwill of all our predecessors throughout the years, have shown a commitment that went effectively demonstrated through the Force's administration, training, discipline and efficiency. The sound grounding of our past serves to encourage taking on greater challenges through which the Force serve our motherland. The versatility of the Maltese soldier, steeped in such military tradition and with the capability of applying himself to any role required or assigned, renders priceless service and honour to the nation at times of peace and conflict.
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