On This Day…
On the 1st December 1922 Malta Signal Section became operational
The Royal Signals presence on Malta began with the formation of the Malta Signal Section during the Chanak Crisis, the period of tension between the United Kingdom and Turkey in 1922. The section was declared operational on 1 December; it comprised an officer (the Command Signal Officer), a Foreman of Signals and about 20 other ranks supported by British civilian (ex-service) telephone operators and a section of Maltese linemen for construction and maintenance. Captain O S D Wills, and Sergeant Allen, Signal Office Superintendent, and Signalmen Oliver and Sparrow, both linemen and despatch riders, were commended by His Excellency the Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Lord Plumer, during the Chanak Crisis.
Upgrading the military telephone
Substantial work to upgrade the military telephone network to a common battery system in 1930 resulted in the Foreman of Signals, Warrant Officer Class II (Quartermaster Sergeant) G H R Flynn being made an MBE—the work undertaken was described in detail in various editions of The Wire in 1930 and 1931.
Malta under threat
The threat to Malta from Italy came to the fore during the Abyssinian crisis in 1935—the island’s garrison was reinforced, defences, including anti-aircraft batteries, were strengthened and families were evacuated.
Just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, the Malta Signal Section was again reinforced becoming the Malta Signal Company. Work soon began to move the island’s war headquarters (and the signal office) underground at Lascaris inside one of Valetta’s sixteenth-century fortifications. In time Malta Command Signals was organised to have two companies—the Fortress Signal Company, responsible for the fixed line communications around the island, in particular to the various subordinate headquarters of Malta Command and to gun and searchlight positions, and the Garrison Signal Company, responsible for the infantry brigade signal sections—there were eventually four infantry brigades on the island. Additionally, a Special Wireless Section conducting intercept operations was active during the siege and later No. 8 Special Wireless Company was formed on the island to conduct wireless intercept operations during the Italian Campaign.
Malta Signal Squadron
In 1947 the unit was renamed the Malta Signal Squadron and in 1949 the first locally enlisted military personnel joined the unit. A second squadron, Malta Commonwealth Communications Army Network (COMCAN) Signal Squadron was created in 1954, part of the world-wide radio network linking the War Office with overseas commands. In 1959 they were renamed 234 Signal Squadron (Malta) and 235 Signal Squadron (COMCAN); that latter was disbanded in 1969. 234 Signal Squadron was disbanded when the British Army withdrew from Malta in 1979.