Eight members of the first Bomb Disposal Unit of the Malta Land Force recently held a get-together.

The Explosives Ordnance Disposal (as bomb disposal is referred to in modern terms) Unit, a 12-member team, was first established at St Patrick's Barracks in 1970, as part of 1 Regiment RMA of the Malta Land Force.

Due to the rundown of the British Services, the responsibility for bomb disposal in the Maltese Islands devolved from the Fleet Clearance Diving Team of the British Navy, and the Malta Fortress Squadron Royal Engineers, to the Maltese EOD Unit of the newly fledged Malta Land Force.

Four of the members were ex-engineers, and the senior members received overseas training at specialist schools in the UK. The unit commenced their work with a very limited amount of mostly obsolete equipment and no real field experience

During its first years, the EOD team had a busy time. Apart from constant calls to recover and dispose of a great variety of dangerous unexploded ordnance, two particularly large projects involved the systematic search of vast areas for unexploded bombs below the surface, both areas having been prime enemy aerial bombardment targets during WWII.

These were the new extension runway at Gudja, including the adjoining parks, and Ta' Qali, where the National Stadium now stands, including its environs. A very substantial number of bombs was detected and disposed of in both areas.

It was also during the 1970s that the EOD Diving Team, originally comprising five divers, was established with the assistance of Italian Navy underwater EOD diving instructors. The role of the unit on land was further increased when it became responsible for disposing of improvised explosive devices (parcel bombs, letter bombs, etc.), and related searches during bomb threats, in various government and public establishments.

Most of the members remained on the strength of the unit until the end of their military service. Regrettably, of the original 12 members of the EOD unit, three - A. Montfort, J. Fenech and P. Camilleri - have since passed away, and another member, J. Fsadni, was unable to attend the reunion due to ill health. However, the remaining eight members spent an evening sharing more recent news, and reminiscing about - well, "the good old days".

After sharing most congenially so many of their younger years, sometimes facing danger, sometimes experiencing hardship, in this most unusual of occupations, the group enjoyed a happy and memorable meeting, hopefully to be enjoyed again at a future date.

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