A Commemorative Masonry Arch for Finsbury Circus Park

On the 40th Anniversary of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM), 3 Regiment erected a Masonry Arch to commemorate this event.  The arch was manufactured by AFM Sappers of the 2nd (Engineer) Regiment in 1979 with the intention to assemble it at Finsbury Circus Park in London, United Kingdom, however this project failed to materialise owing to the financial constraints at the time.  For the AFM’s 40th Anniversary, it was deemed opportune to erect this arch so as to give tribute to all past Maltese sappers who served since 1800 to date, under both the British Administration and the subsequent Maltese Government.

The Masonry Arch at Safi Barracks under construction, September 2010, Courtesy of 3rd Regiment, Armed Forces of Malta.


Throughout the British era, following the insurrection against the French and their capitulation [i], the contribution of the Royal Engineers to the Maltese Islands evolved enormously with the result that their influence is still enjoyed today.  Their interventions modified the urban fabric, altered the skyline and redefined the Maltese landscape, but above all improved our standards of living and paved our way to Independence.  Apart from fortifications the Royal Engineers were responsible for the construction of hospitals, public buildings, roads, bridges, telegraphic communications, and drainage systems, amongst others [ii].  As His Excellency Sir Maurice Dorman G.C.M.G. G.C.V.O., said during his speech on the occasion of his visit to the Royal Engineers (Malta) on Tuesday 7th July 1970,


“…..much of what they did is now part of history and will disappear in time, but there is a great deal which is in use today.”


With the disbandment of HQ RE, Fortress Squadron and 72 (Malta) Support Squadron RE on 30th September 1970, the soldiers of RE Malta, although ceased to serve with the Royal Engineers, joined the Malta Land Force; [iii] fifty of whom were selected for the ‘Engineer Troop’ within the Logistic Unit.  The only RE officer to join the Malta Land Force was Maj. J. Calleja MBE who was appointed second in-command of the Logistic Unit.

The Final RE Malta Parade, Courtesy of the National War Museum Association, Malta.


On the evening of 8 July 1970 the Malta Land Force gave their first official Guest Night.  During this function Lt. Gen. Sir Noel Thomas presented a Silver Trowel, designed by Lt. R. Smitherman, RE of Fortress Squadron, to the Force.  This trowel was used by Col. Edward W. Durnford Commanding Royal Engineer on the 22nd May 1868, when laying the first stone of the Second Gateway of ‘Porte des Bombes’ which was designed in unison with the original structure by his son Capt. Arthur G. Durnford R.E.” This trowel had been kept in the office of the Commander Royal Engineers Malta from that date, and was presented to mark the association between the Sappers and the new Malta Land Force.  It is currently in the custody of the Armed Forces of Malta and is held at the Officers’ Mess in Luqa Barracks.  The mounting of the trowel bears the names of all Royal Engineer units stationed in Malta.  The following units in which locally enlisted personnel served, are displayed on the right plaque of the Masonry Arch;




24 FIELD COMPANY 1935 – 1943


1 & 2 ARTISAN WORKS COMPANY 1939 – 1946

127 & 128 BOMB DISPOSAL SECTIONS 1940 – 1946



The silver trowel presented to Col. (later Brig.) G.V. Micallef, O.B.E. Commander Malta Land Force by Lt. Gen. Sir Noel Thomas on 8 July 1970. Courtesy of the National War Museum Association, Malta

Commemorative silver trowel used by Col. Edward W. Durnford, CRE during the ceremony of the laying of the first stone of the second gateway added to the Porte des Bombes on 22 May 1868. Courtesy of the National War Museum Association, Malta

Commemorative silver trowel, Armed Forces of Malta, Officers’ Mess, Luqa Barracks. Courtesy of the Armed Forces of Malta


The Logistic Unit within the Malta Land Force, later designated the Armed Forces of Malta, was the first Unit to serve under a Maltese Government.  In January 1976 this Unit was re-designated as Engineer Unit within the same force up to March 1977, when it was replaced by the 2nd (Engineer) Regiment.  The latter was disbanded in March 1980 and was replaced by the 2nd (Support) Regiment.  With the reorganisation that took place in July 1981, the 2nd (Support) Regiment became the 2nd Regiment, which eventually in July 1992 was re-designated 3rd Regiment as is still known today.   The names of these Engineer units established under the Malta Armed Forces are also displayed on a plaque located on the left side of this Commemorative Masonry Arch.  This Arch also serves to give tribute to all sappers worldwide.

Author together with the Mason Team, Engineer Squadron, 3rd Regiment, Armed Forces of Malta. Courtesy of 3rd Regiment, Armed Forces of Malta


by Maj. R.C. Vella AFM, B.E.& A.(Hons.), A.&C.E. (C)2011


[1] NAR, Dispatch dated 5th September 1800, reporting the capitulation of the French Forces in Malta written by Major General H. Pigot, commanding His Majesty’s troops in the island of Malta to General Sir R. Abercrombie, KB. Commanding His Majesty’s troops in the Mediterranean and Egypt, state; “Sir, I have great satisfaction in acquainting you with the surrender of the fortress of La Valetta, with all its dependencies, after sustaining a blockade of two years.  The capitulation has been signed this day.  … I am happy to say, that I have experienced every support from Brigadier-General Moncrieff, and the officers of the British and Allied troops, whose conduct in every respect has been most exemplary.  The service of the engineer department, under Captain Gordon, has been carried on with great zeal and perseverance.”

[1] Vella RC; The Royal Engineers’ Contribution to Development of Architecture and Infrastructure of the Maltese Islands; Dissertation, University of Malta, 2009.

[1] Special Order of the Day issued by the Commander Malta Land Force, Brigadier G.V. Micallef CBE on the 1st October, 1970, “On this momentous day in the history of the Armed Forces of Malta I welcome into the Malta Land Force all those officers and men who until yesterday were serving in Maltese Corps of the British Army.  ... I welcome the Royal Engineers, whose history has been so closely linked with that of the Royal Malta Artillery.  Their achievements and their contribution to our Island are too well known to be mentioned here.  ... The task ahead is not an easy one, but we would not wish it otherwise.  From this day on our resolve must be to co-operate in forging the Malta Land Force into an organization worthy of its name in every sphere, so that the fine traditions which have been handed down to us will continue to be upheld.”



Maj. R.C. Vella AFM, B.E.& A.(Hons.), A.&C.E.

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