3/11 Regt. RMA(T) IN THE INFANTRY ROLE‏

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Published on March 1, 2014

Author: ivanmconsiglio

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3/11 Regt. RMA(T) IN THE INFANTRY ROLE‏

3/11 Regt. RMA(T) 25 June 2012 3/11 Regt. RMA(T) IN THE INFANTRY ROLE by Capt. Patrick Caruana-Dingli michaelicl@yahoo.com In 1967 the Authorities realised that our role as Territorial Artillery Regiments within the Malta Territorial Force, with our obsolete equipment of LAA Bofors L70's and 3.7 Heavy AA Guns, had become untenable. A decision was taken to change the function of both 3 LAA Regiment and 11 HAA Regiment. I would tend to think that the incoming use of guided missiles for air defence was probably one of the reasons behind this.

Both Regiments’ three batteries were redeployed into three separate and different roles. In the case of my Regiment, 3 LAA Regt, 15 Battery was to become an infantry company, 22 Battery was given a Civil Defence role and 30 Battery would retain its Artillery role. As one can imagine, 15 Battery’s change of role to infantry was an upheaval of quite big proportions and required complete re-training. We had to start from scratch! Paddy Beacom, who was appointed to command the new Company, Charles Psaila and George Kissaun were sent off to the Infantry Training School at Warminster to be initiated into the dubious delights of becoming foot soldiers. George Pace Balzan, Joe Bonello, who unfortunately have both passed away, Joe Wismayer, Frank Mizzi , James Miller and the writer of this narrative were transferred from our previous duties in the Regiment into the new infantry company. Further to the training received by Paddy, Charles and George at Warminster, all the officers were given additional infantry training by The Duke of Edinburgh Royal Regt., who were stationed at the time at St Patrick’s barracks. One has to understand that the five of us who did not go to Warminster, had absolutely no inkling of what all this was about. The DERRs started by forming us into a Section, the most basic of infantry formations, eight men in all. The arms we carried were the good old .303 Lee Enfield and a Bren Gun. Training was carried out, together with a similar unit from 11 Regiment, during week-end camps on Majjesa Ridge and Ghajn Tuffieha ranges. This was a thing to die for, and I mean it literally. It was physically hard and I was surprised how we all survived. The training was carried out, in high summer, on Majjesa ridge, starting from Mistra and finishing at Upper Ghajn Tuffieha Camp, a good two miles of rugged terrain, ideal, for this sort of escapade. Suffice it to say that I used to return home with my web belt soaked with sweat, this having penetrated a vest, ‘il-famuza’ angora shirt, denim trousers and the belt itself. The belt was so wet that the blanco had returned to its muddy state! Nonetheless, it was a completely new experience and most of us thoroughly enjoyed it. Eventually we passed this ‘new experience’ on to the men in 15 Battery. I remember one event of note which is worth telling. This was an exercise to Gozo. It took place during a week-end camp held at Lower Elmo. Early afternoon, we set off, fully armed and kitted out (but no live ammo), in a convoy of three

tonners’ to Cirkewwa. On our arrival, we embarked onto Personnel Landing Craft (PLC) which were supposed to sail round to Ramla l-Hamra, where we were to disembark. This was the plan, but Mother Nature had other ideas, the sea was too rough for the much anticipated landing and we certainly did not want to lose some hapless infantry man to Its vagaries. So a decision was taken to cross over to Mgarr and we landed next to the Gozo Ferries. When night fell, we set off to reach our objective, the Ta’Gurdan Lighthouse. This is situated on a ridge in the North of the island overlooking the tiny village of Ghasri in an area called Ta’ Gurdan. Constructed in 1851 during the British period, the lighthouse was built to monitor and assist maritime traffic in the region. This was the first ‘real’ route march for the Company. The distance involved is about twelve kilometres and we passed through a couple of villages on the way. As it was very late at night, the streets were deserted but we could sense that we were causing a commotion and a lot of curious Gozotin eyes were peeping out from behind the louvered windows. We arrived at Ta’Gudan without incident just before daybreak. The attack was carried out at dawn, thunder flashes being our main fire power and of course, the objective was taken easily. Considering that the Lighthouse was undefended this was a foregone conclusion. Happy with our achievement, we marched back to Mgarr and made straight for the ‘al fresco’ kitchen set up by our cooking staff on the slopes below Fort Chambray. The menu was bangers, mash, baked beans and tea. After downing camp we boarded the PLCs and sailed back to Cirkewwa where we found the trucks waiting, all set to return to St Elmo. So ended a unique experience and as far as I am aware, there wasn’t a next time.

3/11 Regt. RMA(T) Updated 28 February, 2014 alexabela3@gmail.com

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