The link between the Maltese Islands and the medical services of the British Crown was forged during the Wars of Revolutionary France. On 10 December 1799, British troops under Brigadier–General Thomas Graham, disembarked at St Paul's Bay to assist the Maltese in ridding the islands of the French. On 4 September 1800, the occupying troops were starved into capitulating and Britain took possession of the islands. Malta's destiny became subsumed with that of Great Britain which maintained a continuous military presence until 31 March 1979.
Countless medical officers served in Malta. Some married locally and made it their home. Others succumbed to disease and rest within its soil. A few attained international recognition, such as Sir David Bruce, who in 1887, while a Surgeon Captain at the Station Hospital Valletta, discovered the Micrococcus melitensis, the cause of Mediterranean Fever. The majority of medical officers, not being renowned for any major scientific breakthrough, are unknown to history, their memories cherished only by their descendants.
This site is a tribute to the Medical Department of the British Army in Malta. The material for this work was gathered from documents held at the National Archives Kew, the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine, the archives of the Army Medical Services, Prince Consort's Library, the National Library of Malta, Archives of the Imperial War Museum, as well as the medical journals and textbooks now accessible in a digitalised format.
I am extremely grateful to all who contributed by providing material and assistance. In particular I would like to thank Captain Peter Starling RAMC Curator DMS Museum, Mr Michael Rowe Military Medical Librarian, Mr Tim Ward Librarian Prince Consort's Library and his dedicated staff, Mr Alan Keighley of Malta Family History, the late Mr Joseph Bonnici of the National Library of Malta, and many others who have allowed me to use photographs from their family archives.
About the author
Colonel Walter Bonnici L/RAMC (retd) has done extensive research of the history of the Army Medical Services in Malta. He published his initial research in the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps and then decided that publishing on the web was a better way of communicating to the wider world the neglected but fascinating history of the RAMC in Malta.
Now residing in Guildford, Surrey he was born in Malta in August 1953 and educated at St Aloysius College. As an undergraduate in medicine and surgery between 1972 and 1977, he studied at the Royal University of Malta but qualified in London in September 1977 as the dispute between the Labour Government and the Malta Medical Association disrupted his final examinations.
He was commissioned into the RAMC in August 1983. He served in BAOR with BMH Münster, BMH Rinteln, 4 Armd Fd Amb Minden, 2 Armd Fd Amb Osnabrück, 1 Armd Div Tpt Regt Bünde, 40 Field Regt RA Bergen-Hohne and 47 Fd Regt RA Gütersloh; in England with 24 Armd Fd Amb Catterick, 23 Para Fd Amb Aldershot, 1st/Bn Coldstream Guards and 1st/Bn Welsh Guards in Aldershot. He deployed as a medical officer on regular tours to Belize, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Canada, the Gulf War 1990–91 (Op Granby) and in peacekeeping tours in The Former Republic of Yugoslavia (Op Grapple) and (Op Palatine), Iraq (Op Telic), and on the Green Line in Cyprus (Op Tosca). He was SMO Aldershot Garrison before retiring in August 2013.