As the dark war clouds were gathering over Europe, various preparations were taking
place in Malta. In view of this, on 14th July 1939, H.R. Moore, on behalf the ViceAdmiral, H.M. Dockyard, Malta, issued a memorandum for the formation of the
Dockyard Defence Battery. This battery was to be run on the same lines as the
“Factory Battalions”, i.e. to safeguard and defend the men’s place of work. The
following is the memorandum:
1. It has been decided to form a Dockyard Defence Battery, which will be manned by
both English and Maltese personnel serving in H.M. Dockyard.
2. This battery will be employed to man the Anti-Aircraft guns allocated to defend
H.M. Dockyard from attack by low flying aircraft.
3. Some points in regard to conditions of service still require to be settled, but the
following general arrangements have been decided.
(a) The peace time terms of service for men will be similar to those for Territorials in
England, i.e. four years with the option of an extension.
(b) During this time a limited number of drills will have to be attended, but these will
be carried out during normal Dockyard working hours, without deduction of
Dockyard pay and will not normally interfere in any way with the men’s leisure.
(c) At the outset, the uniform will consist of a cap and overall suit, which will be
provided by the Army Authorities.
I am making application to His Excellency the Governor for the provision of a
uniform for parade purposes which would also be supplied for the men free of charge
(d) All men will be given full Military status whilst on Military duty in Malta.
Men accepted in the Dockyard Defence Battery will not be discharged from the
Dockyard during war except for purely Military reasons.
(e) In war time it is anticipated that Military duty will be restricted to daylight hours
one day in every three days, during which period the teams will be called upon to
remain by their guns. Circumstances may arise which will necessitate variations of
extensions of this routine.
(f) Details regarding pay have not yet been settled, but it may be accepted that a man
will not receive less than his usual Dockyard pay.
4. Another point on which I have approached His Excellency which is of particular
importance is that adequate provision should be made for the dependents of any of
those men who should be unfortunate enough to lose their lives in the defence of H.M.
Dockyard. An announcement on this point will be made as soon as I can obtain a
decision from the War Office and the Admiralty, but men may rest assured that their
interest will be adequately safeguarded.
5. All personnel in H.M. Dockyard are asked to join this Defence Battery now, and to
give their names to Departmental Officers as soon as possible. In calling for
volunteers I wish to emphasise two very important points:(i) Today it is necessary for every one on us to do his utmost to serve the Empire to
which we belong – the more we can do to defend all parts of it (in our case Malta) the
less there is of us having war.
(i) The Dockyard is our means of livelihood. If it were destroyed, there would be no
more work for anyone – with no pay, our homes and our families would be
endangered. ….. By joining the Defence Battery, you are defending the Dockyard,
your home, and your families.
JOIN THIS DEFENCE BATTERY NOW, AND SHOW THAT THE SPIRIT WHICH
HAS INSPIRED THE INHABITANTS OF THESE ISLANDS TO DEFEND THEIR
HOMES AND FAMILIES IS AS STRONG AND DETERMINED TO-DAY AS IN THE
For Vice-Admiral Malta
On 24th July 1939, the Dockyard and Imperial Workers’ Union joined H.R. Moore’s
appeal, and issued the following appeal to the Dockyard workers:
It is the duty of every British citizen to cooperate in the defence of the Empire.
It is the duty of every patriotic Maltese to defend his Motherland.
It is the duty of every Maltese and English employee of His Majesty’s Dockyard to
assist in the Defence of his Dockyard and of his fellow-workers.
The Dockyard and Imperial Workers’ Union welcomes the scheme whereby a
Dockyard Defence Battery is to be formed and manned exclusively by volunteers
enrolled from among the personnel of the Dockyard. Details of the scheme have
already been published in the press, and the Managing Committee of the Dockyard
and Imperial Workers’ Union feels sure that the response from its members and
others will be generous and immediate.
Members wishing to make any suggestions about the scheme for the formation of a
Dockyard Defence Battery are requested to communicate with the General Secretary
“in writing” immediately, and if found practical, their views will be communicated to
Mr. L.G. Bolton, Superintending Electrical Engineer, who is taking a leading part in
Assist in the defence of your Dockyard, your fellow-workers and your families, by
manning your own Dockyard defences.
J. Olivieri Munroe
President, Dockyard and Imperial Workers’ Union
Dan. L. Camilleri
General Secretary, Dockyard and Imperial Workers’ Union
Over 5,000 men from every trade category answered to this call, and thus the D.D.B.
was formed in September 1939, with the Headquarters established at the Anti-Gas
School at Corradino. The Battery had double the usual strength, so that, when
hostilities started, the men could alternate between manning their guns and doing their
jobs. This arrangement functioned well and the men excelled themselves in both roles.
The Battery was officered by British Dockyard officials, who wore the Royal
Artillery cap badge, and was commanded by Major L.G. Bolton MC, R.A. The men
begun manning the guns during November 1939, so that on Tuesday 11th June 1940,
following the declaration of war by the Duce, Benito Mussolini, saw the effective
start of the Dockyard Defence Battery.
The Battery’s task was to defend the Dockyard, with guns at Magazine Bastion,
Bonded Stores Marsa, near Oil Fuel Tanks Kordin, Crucifix Bastion, Senglea Point,
St. Paul’s Curtain, Salvatur, on hill adjoining Parlatorio Wharf, and Floriana ramparts.
However further on during the course of the War, it served at the following sites:
Luqa and Hal-Far aerodromes, Fort Delimara, Hompesch Gate, St. Peter’s, San Anard,
Upper Barakka, Ta’ Cejlu and Tal-Borg. The Battery was equipped with Bofors,
Pom-poms and multiple heavy machine guns.
Cap Badge of the Royal Artillery
Cap Badge of the Royal Malta Artillery
For some time, the Dockyard Defence Battery formed part of the Royal Artillery. The
issue of 16th April 1940 of the Times of Malta, reported “The formation at present
known as the ‘Dockyard Defence Battery’ has been re-designated ‘30th Light AntiAircraft Battery, Royal Malta Artillery, (Territorial)”.
An Identity Disc belonging to a member of the
Dockyard Defence Battery
On 27th July 1940, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr A.V. Alexander, and the First
Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound sent a special message to Vice Admiral Sir
Wilbraham Ford, in which they praised the work of the Dockyard Defence Battery:
“It is requested that you will express to all officers and men both of HM ships and of
HM Dockyard, our admiration of the stout-hearted way in which they are facing the
continued air attacks of the enemy. The gallant endurance of the Maltese personnel
and of the citizens of Malta in general, ever since the outbreak of hostilities, command
universal respect. The good work of the Volunteer Dockyard Battery must be as great
a source of gratification to you as Vice-Admiral Malta as of pride to the officers and
men forming the gun crews.”
In his memoirs, Mons. Emmanuel Brincat, the Archpriest of Senglea, (who later on
during the war was awarded the MBE) states that he considered these men as part of
his flock; therefore he used to go round the gun posts to take care of the spiritual
needs of the men, while also, sometimes distributing sweets.
The Dockyard Defence Battery’s finest hour came during January 1941.
In early January, Operation Excess was assembled, consisting of four merchant ships,
three destined for Greece, while one was destined for Malta. This convoy was
escorted with a large part of the Mediterranean Fleet, lead by HMS Illustrious, the
Royal Navy’s newest armoured-deck aircraft carrier. In the meantime, the Luftwaffe
was sent down to Sicily. As the convoy entered the Mediterranean, it was attacked by
bombers from the Regia Aeronautica and the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe had singled
out HMS Illustrious as their prime target. During these attacks, the carrier was
seriously damaged after it was hit by six 1,000 kg bombs, and 126 of its officers and
crew were killed and 91 wounded.
HMS Illustrious limped into Grand Harbour on 10th January, and berthed at Parlatorio
Wharf, below Corradino Heights. Dockyard workers and medical teams toiled
tirelessly to save the ship and care for the wounded, as Malta prepared for the
inevitable attack on the Illustrious.
At about 2 o’clock in the afternoon of 16th January, 17 Junkers Ju88’s escorted by 20
Messerschmitt Bf110’s and 44 Junkers Ju87’s from the Luftwaffe, escorted by 10
Macchi Mc200’s and 10 Fiat Cr42 unleashed their first blitz over Malta, with HMS
Illustrious as their target.
Bombs rained down on the Dockyard and surrounding areas, but the carrier sustained
superficial damage, as it received only one hit, with Birgu, Bormla and l-Isla bearing
the brunt of these attacks.
During these attacks, the Dockyard Defence Battery had three Bofors gun positions in
l-Isla, one on the Macina bastion on the North West side over looking Dockyard
Creek, another on the New Bastion facing Corradino Heights and a third on St.
Michael’s Bastion over looking No. 3 Dock and close to the Dockyard Clock Tower.
There was also an eight-barrel pom-pom gun sited in the garden at il-Ponta ta’ l-Isla
facing towards the entrance to the Grand Harbour.
The attack on H.M.S. Illustrious on 14th January 1941
The attack on H.M.S. Illustrious on 14th January 1941
The Second Supplement of The London Gazette of 1st April 1941
The gun on St. Michael’s Bastion was in action against the enemy aircraft often, till
its crew ran out of ammunition. Of special mention was the heroic stand on that
fateful day on 16th January 1941. This gun was strafed, bombed and had very near
misses on the morning of Sunday 19th January. Even when all ammunition ran out, the
young men on that gun did not leave their post, but went on shooting with their rifles
against low-flying enemy aircraft.
It was during this blitz on the Illustrious, that three men of the Dockyard Defence
Battery were decorated for bravery shown. These were gazetted in the 4 th April 1941
issue of the Second Supplement to The London Gazette of Tuesday 1 st April 1941.
Lieutenant Francis William Angle RMA (T) was awarded the Military Cross.
This officer of the Dockyard Defence Battery was in charge of a MkV1A multiple
pom-pom gun which was situated in a most exposed position about 200 yards from
the berth where HMS Illustrious was when subjected to intense dive-bombing. He
stationed himself on the director tower, and by his excellent example and coolness in
the face of heave bombing, encouraged his men to fire the gun with telling effect on
Sergeant Leone Apap RMA (T) (No. 8129) was awarded the Military Medal.
In the temporary absence of his officer on duty elsewhere, as a member of the
Dockyard Defence Battery, he displayed remarkable qualities of leadership, initiative
and courage. During the intense dive-bombing attacks on HMS Illustrious, on 19th
January 1941, his Mk V1A pom-pom developed a series of faults which eventually
put the gun out of action. Instead of applying routine procedures, which would have
kept the gun out of action for some considerable time, he sent his detachment, except
for three, to a safer place, while he, with the assistance of the three, set about clearing
the faults. This he was successful in doing in a short time, whereupon he reassembled
his men, and once again went into action with considerable effect. This NCO has
consistently displayed a devotion to duty, which deserves commendation.
Bombardier Gerald Balzan RMA (T) (No. 8125) was also awarded the Military Medal.
During the intense attacks on HMS Illustrious, many large calibre bombs fell within a
few yards of the gun position, enveloping it in dust and smoke. Showers of debris fell
all around, and the NCO in charge of the gun became a casualty, together with two
The citation states “…..Balzan, however, showed considerable courage and initiative,
rallying the remaining three men.” By his action, Bdr. Balzan kept the gun in action
until the end of the raid, when he attended to the three casualties.
Later on during the war, during the period 22 nd to 28th March 1942, Sergeant Harry
Andrews RMA (T) (No. 8126) was also awarded the Military Medal.
During this period, him pom-pom gun position at Il-Ponta ta’ l-Isla, was subjected to
heavy bombardment. Throughout the engagements, Sgt Andrews displayed
exceptional coolness and courage. According to the citation this set ‘a fine example
and was an inspiration to the members of his gun crew’. His award was gazetted on
13th August 1942.
The Military Cross
The obverse of the
The reverse of the
The Military Cross was instituted by Royal Warrant on 28th December 1914. It is
made out of silver and is in the form of a plain Greek cross with splayed ends, on each
of which is the Imperial Crown. The centre of the obverse bears the monogram of the
reigning monarch. The Military Cross was originally awarded to warrant officers and
junior commissioned officers of the Army, including Colonial and Indian forces ‘for
gallant and distinguished services in action’.
The Military Medal was instituted by Royal Warrant on 25th March 1916. The
obverse of the medal, which is made out of silver, bears the effigy and titles of the
reigning monarch, while the reverse has the simple wording FOR / BRAVERY / IN
THE FIELD beneath a crown and the royal cipher, all within a wreath. The Military
Medal was awarded to Other Ranks of the Army, Colonial Forces and the Indian
Army for acts of gallantry.
The following members of the D.D.B. paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Cachia Loreto (8269), son of Mr. and Mrs. R. Cachia of Zebbug, was killed on 15th
June 1942, by an anti-personnel bomb on the road to Delimara. He is commemorated
in the Pembroke Military Cemetery.
Cauchi Seraphim (8109), son of Nicolo Cauchi and Michelina nee’ Camilleri, died on
09th May 1942 at the age of 29, when a Spitfire piloted by Sgt Gordon Tweedale from
185 Squadron crashed in Saviour Street, Lija. He is buried in Coll. Grave E.23 at the
Pieta Military Cemetery.
Dalli Theodore (8411), son of Anthony and Karmela Dalli of Zejtun, was killed on
11th April 1942 at the age of 29, when a bomb fell on Fort San Pietru. He is interned
in Coll. Grave L.15 at the Pieta Military Cemetery.
Faella Joseph (8217), was also killed on 11th April 1942, when a bomb fell on Fort
San Pietru. He is buried in Coll. Grave L.15 at the Pieta Military Cemetery.
Schembri Carmel (8096), son of Carmel and Angiolina Schembri of Marsa, died on
13th July 1942 at the age of 32, and is buried in Coll. Grave E.25 at the Pieta Military
Spiteri Joseph (8116), son of Joseph and Giovanna Spiteri, husband of Ines Spiteri of
Kalkara, died on 21st January 1942 at the age of 32, after he was hit by a car in Msida,
while delivering messages. He is buried in Coll. Grave 5.6.8 at the Pembroke Military
Spiteri Lawrence (8290), son of Rosario and Anne Spiteri, husband of Carmen Spiteri
(nee’ Bailey), was killed on 11th April 1942 at the age of 30, when a bomb fell on Fort
San Pietru. He is interned in Coll. Grave L.15 at the Pieta Military Cemetery.
The Dockyard Defence Battery was disbanded on 28th April 1941, when the members
were given the option of joining as regular soldiers in the Royal Malta Artillery which
took over the guns, or to return to their regular Dockyard jobs. The 30th LAA Bty
RMA (T) was thus absorbed into the 3rd light Anti Aircraft Regiment, Royal Malta
On 14th July 1942 for the first time since Italy entered the war, the whole battery
paraded together. Following an address by the Commanding Officer, a two minutes
silence was observed, and after that, the Battery was dismissed. The Commanding
Officer assisted by his officers then distributed each man with his discharge certificate,
and every recipient on receiving the certificate, shook hands with the Commanding
Officer and the other Officers. The men then went back to their Dockyard duties,
where they helped the war effort in other spheres.
Banner belonging to the Dockyard Defence Battery exhibited at the National War Museum
It is a great pity that while we have all sorts of memorials commemorating events,
personalities, etc., as far as I know, nobody has deemed fit to commemorate this small
but valiant battery.